Cockhill Beck #rudeoutdoors

A quick post to lower the tone slightly, after a few more serious posts.

Last week while out cycling to bag a couple of local trig points I noticed this stream on the map just off my route.

It’s very low level cartographic filth of course. But worthy of a tiny titter at least.

I’ve no info on how this stream got this name. Almost all streams around here are called Becks. It does makes this sounds like the kind of unfortunate nickname a Rebecca would get stuck with in secondary school, through no fault of her own (no slander on the imaginary Becky’s good nature is intended).

Much of Nidderdale sits in a lovely compromise between ‘rolling countryside’ and ‘proper hill country’, giving great views stretching into the distance for not too much exertion (by foot anyway, it’s a bugger on a bike!). My cycle ride didn’t quite cross the beck, but it’s only a short diversion. Here’s a great little walking route though which takes in the beck and the lovely countryside around Hampsthwaite.

With the new location I’ve changed the tag for these posts from #rudepeak to #rudeoutdoors. Please do suggest places to add to the map!

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Wye we need canoe rights recognised!

This post is a follow up to a post from a few weeks ago which looked at the difficulties canoeists face in getting their rights to navigate our rivers recognised. As much as anything it’s a plug for an excellent new research document looking at the Upper Wye produced by the dedicated folk at River Access For All, with much support from the Waters of Wales campaign.

The River Wye is recognised as holding public navigation rights below Hay on Wye. In 2002 the Environment Agency won a bizarre tussle to control the river as the navigation authority, after a group of business folk tried to resurrect a long slumbering company which owned the right to control the river’s traffic.

Above Hay however, the paddler’s right to navigate is much more contested. It’s another case similar to the River Trent at Kelham – a huge amount of clear evidence that there are public rights, but no way of having this officially recognised.

Officialdom has always looked the other way regarding the Upper Wye. Even the 2002 Wye Navigation Order attempts to wring its hands on the issue, stating that all of its provisions do not affect the existence or lack of existence of rights above Hay. A legislative boot into the long grass. The EA continues this noble tradition by using a variety of terms to describe the Upper Wye, currently stating (after pressure to more accurately reflect the true picture from British Canoeing and others*) “there is no confirmed legal right of navigation upstream of Hay Bridge“.

rafahayThe effect of this distancing from the issue by statutory bodies is to cement a status quo where canoeing is seen to be ‘not legal’. The knock on effect of this is to empower landowners and anglers to hassle canoeists on the river by stating ‘you have no rights here’. One landowner has recently decided to install charges for anyone wishing to navigate along ‘his’ river (I won’t legitimise that nonsense with a link.)

So, have a read of this excellent paper from RAFA. As per my last post regarding the River Trent, I’d be interested in any views on this – can anyone really reasonably contend there isn’t, on the balance of probabilities, a right for the public to navigate this river. I’d be even more interested to hear if anyone has any actual counter-evidence to this document. Evidence that goes beyond simply, WE LOUDLY DISAGREE, at any rate…

* The EA’s old (but still on their website) guide to canoeing the Wye talks of the Upper Wye being ‘non-navigation’ and of there being “no established public right of navigation“.

poshpicnic.JPGAs a slight aside, and to show how daft debates on public access can get, I once had a weeks long debate with the EA regarding the definition of a ‘picnic’ and how one may affect the public’s right to access the banks (below Hay). Never was the phrase ‘one sandwich short of…’ so apt! The wording on their website still doesn’t reflect (yet) the outcome of the picnicgate discussions!

Being Outdoors and Mental Health

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week. And along with the plethora of hastags, you’ll also see a plethora of outdoor organisations bestowing the virtues of getting outdoors for your mental health.

They are right to (scroll down for the but…). There’s a tonne of stats and figures out there proving it. But why bore ourselves with those?

Here’s a great video from British Canoeing showing how just this one sport has a massive range of potential for providing an outlet for people struggling with their mental health issues.

I’ve found being outdoors a massive help to me at times where my delicate brain is struggling. From times of heightened day-to-day stress, to more temporary challenges like dealing with grief, to the full blown assault of a serious bout of OCD. Whether its pulling on my boots and going for a quiet wander, getting on the bike and really getting out of puff (not hard for me on a bike!), or just sitting on Ullswater in my kayak, bobbing along and watching the mountains. Just being outside has helped distract my mind, put things in perspective, and sending me home feeling just that bit better than when I left.

The biggest challenge is sometimes getting out. But do. The days when I’ve struggled most to find the will to get outside, even if for a short walk from home round the park, are the days when I really got the most benefit from it.

But, this isn’t intended to be a ‘mental health and me’ post. So, here’s the but… I mentioned earlier! And for once I really don’t mean this to be cynical!

Sometimes the plug for the Great Outdoors (TM) as an answer to mental heath issues can come across, unintentionally, as though it’s THE answer. Maybe it will be for some. But for many of us, for most of us, it won’t be. It can’t be.

As much as it helps (and I truly believe it does) it doesn’t make the challenges we face with our mental health just go away. As much as being in the fresh air is great medicine (even being in the driving rain perks my soul up), it’s not a cure.

Why raise this? Because I think sometimes we forget how much people who are struggling feel pressure to ‘get better’. Most of us, idiots aside, now recognise that ‘just pull your socks up’ is a counter-productive, and wrong, message for people with mental health issues. But sometimes, even if it isn’t the intention, a focus on ‘just getting out there’ can come across in a very similar fashion.

So the point of this post is just a plea to anyone who is struggling to always remember. You are not a failure if being outdoors doesn’t help. You haven’t let yourself down if you couldn’t get out of the house. No-one expects you to recover after a spin round the block on your bike. We all do need help and support from other sources too.

I hope the tweets, Facebook posts and more from outdoor organisations do help get more people outside and finding the powerful benefits of both physical activity and the natural environment. But I hope even more that you can get all the help and support and help you need from the system and from those around it. My twitter, and I’m sure that of a great many other people in the outdoor community, will always have an open door to you, should you ever need any extra ears (or extra boots).