SYRPG Stand at the International Canoe Exhibition February 2001
Buying the Rapids
The Threat that started it all
In late 1996 the previous landowners were considering how they could earn money from the Rapids - one of their more favoured options being to dredge them to make them more suitable for fishing. They approached the British Canoe Union (BCU) in Nottingham and offered to lease them the use of the Rapids for £7,000 per annum for the next 3 years.
A crisis meeting of about 50 local paddlers was called to discuss how the BCU should respond. It was the unanimous opinion of those present that taking up the lease was impractical because of the free navigation rights. Raising the money would also have been very difficult and after 3 years there would be nothing to show for it.
However it was agreed by everyone present that it would be in the interests of the sport generally if the Rapids could be bought and preserved in perpetuity for the use of canoeists. To achieve this the Symonds Yat Rapids Preservation Group (SYRPG) was formed made up of senior paddlers from several local Canoe Clubs, the BCU and the WCA.
The Launch of the Original National Appeal
The initial estimate of the cost to buy the Rapids, stabilise them and to set up an endowment fund to pay for their ongoing maintenance was £250,000. A National Lottery Sports Fund bid was lodged and a national appeal launched to raise the vital partnership funding required for the bid to be successful.
The national appeal was launched with a raffle at the International Canoe Exhibition held at the NEC in Birmingham at the end of February 1998. The objectives of the appeal were not to create a new facility but to protect and improve an existing one. Requests for donations and letters of support went out to clubs and companies throughout the country. The appeal featured regularly in the canoeing press and was reported on by local television as well as in a number of local newspapers.
The Purchase of the Rapids
The appeal eventually raised in excess of £50,000 and in March 2003 the Environment Agency contributed £50,000 and the BCU Maurice Rothwell Trust a further £25,000 to enable the Option to Purchase negotiated with previous owners to be exercised. Canoeists now own the River Wye from the upstream limit of the fishery to 304 metres downstream from the head of the island (including the double bank fishing rights along this section river). The purchase of the Rapids was announced at the 2003 International Canoe Exhibition at the NEC and was reported on BBC Midlands.
However during the 5 years of the appeal there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes in addition to fund raising...
- The Option to Purchase was negotiated with the previous owners in April 2000 and a professional Water Hydraulics Engineer engaged to design the in-river works. The measurement of water levels on the Rapids began in November 2000 but was held up by the River Wye being in spate during the winter and by the restrictions following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001.
- As the Rapids are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are designated as a SSSI and SACs, English Nature asked for a professional survey of the local Riffle Beetle population to be commissioned by SYRPG to help them assess the impact of the project. The survey was completed in September 2000 and the report submitted to English Nature and the Environment Agency. The indications are that the invertebrates will not pose a threat to the project.
- SYRPG began applying for planning permission and land drainage consent from Herefordshire County Council and the Environment Agency and also consulted with the Forestry Commission and the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. MS Powerpoint Presentations were made to meetings of the two local parish councils (Goodrich and Whitchurch) during early 2003 to reassure them about what SYRPG were planning to do.