My search for ways to investigate and ultimately enjoy the surrounding area around Tamworth had led me to contemplate a while back, travelling on the areas rivers(a canoe not a yacht!). This has been held back by many things, thinking about it too much, lack of watercraft,lack of experience, the appearance of that series by Griff Rhys Jones and looking like a desperate copycat, the weather, fear, and the lack of a sancho panza to accompany me on the trip. But most of all is the doubt of whether it was legal or not. After looking at the legability issue it turns out that most rivers are non-navigable and thus considered trespassing if you venture out onto the river.The riverbed belongs to the person who owns the adjoining land. The river Tame and Anker fall into this category which is a great shame.All is not lost though as there is a heart lifting organisation campaigning for British rivers to be made navigable- The Rivers Access Campaign
They make some really good points and I´ll only highlight a few below:
i)In England and Wales unlike elsewhere in the world the public cannot assume the automatic right to access the rivers. Only 2% of rivers in England and Wales are accessible.
ii)Canoeists do not harm river fauna and English nature stated that is no significant impact to wildlife from the passage of canoes.
iii)The access situation is not a canoeing v fishing issue. All over the world fishing happily coexists with canoeing. In Scotland where access to rivers has been opened up there has been no harm to angling interests.
Tamworth and the surrounding area are particularly rich in rivers. It’s the very reason why Tamworth is situated where it is at the confluence of the Rivers Anker and Tame, and to illustrate this Tamworth derives its name from one of those rivers. Tamworth and the surrounding area like so much of lowland England is a sort of ´river-world´ it´s presence is everywhere, it shapes and defines its landscapes. Rivers were also very important economically and numerous mills were situated along the rivers, starting with the saxon watermill excavated in the 70´s on the river anker and ending with Alders Paper mill. In Victorian and Edwardian times the Tame was an area for recreational boating, why did this stop?
Delving into Staffordshire past track archives here is more evidence of the fine tradition of boating on Tamworth rivers
river Anker boathouse, Tamworth, 1900-1930
woodcut engraving, Tamworth 1843, notice the mill behind Ladybridge
river Tame near Tamworth, 1788-1855(c)
Canoeing down the river would be a great way to experience the landscape,the socio-economic importance of the river means many sites are along the rivers, imagine leaving alvecote pools, down the quiet unspoilt Anker, below the old railway bridges,sailing past the picture perfect castle and not so picture perfect towers, onto the ladybank and moathouse and after somehow negotiating the ´waterfall´ onto the meadows and woods in Hopwas, Tamhorn, and Elford. All this with the right training and equipment as rivers like the sea shouldn´t be underestimated. Sounds perfect? well you can´t do it.