Monday, 14 February 2011

Caffyn on Rivers

In 2007, the Rev'd Douglas Caffyn wrote a paper arguing that there is a Right of Navigation on the River Avon by virtue of Statute, Historic Use and Dedication. 

The University of Sussex has awarded Douglas a Doctor of Philosophy degree for his subsequent thesis to establish the extent of river transportation in the period 1189 - 1600. He has now published this thesis, together with his earlier work “The Right of Navigation on Non-tidal waters and the Common Law“ These, together with a more accesible booklet titled "Boats on our Rivers Again" are available at

Douglas Caffyn has concluded in his opinion that:- 
  1. From 1189 to 1600 there was a public right of navigation on all rivers which were physically usable.
  2. Rivers were more navigable in the period 1189 to 1600 than they are now.
  3. A right of navigation can only be extinguished by statute, statutory authority or the section of river becoming un-navigable.
  4. There is, therefore, a public right of navigation on all unregulated rivers which are physically usable.
This is clearly a significant contribution to the access debate and a presumption in favour of  public access to inland waters nationally

Please note, however, that in the case of the River Avon there are additional factors that support the right of navigation, as discussed in the original paper