Norwich pub canoe trail leader responds to safety concerns

Canoeist Nick Hannington is operating Pub and Paddle trips through Norwich city centre.

Canoeist Nick Hannington is operating Pub and Paddle trips through Norwich city centre. - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

It is a new initiative combining two of Norfolk's finest points – pubs and the Broads. But a new canoe trail has sparked safety fears for some.

Once upon a time, Norwich boasted a pub for every day of the year.

And while that may no longer be the case, the city's reputation as a haven for ale lovers lives on.

Seeing so many people sitting by the river at Easter, keen canoeist Nick Hannington decided to merge the two, creating Pub and Paddle, canoe trips out of the city via waterside inns.

It is an idea which, with the weather now reflecting the season, has caught the eye of stag and hen dos, groups after a day out and even the national press, who described it as a 'pub crawl of Norwich by canoe'. And with glowing reviews and trail spots booked up, there is clearly a demand for the idea.

But, unsurprisingly, it has attracted some concern from social media users and boaters worried about the risks of combining canoeing with regular pub pit-stops.

But Mr Hannington, a canoe craftsman, said, despite the business's name, alcohol does not have to be a part of the experience.

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'I can't stop people from drinking, but I definitely don't encourage it and in fact I do discourage it,' he said.

'I know that it's called Pub and Paddle, but that's simply a name. It's about seeing another side of the city and promoting canoeing. Pubs are a nice place to stop, but people don't have to drink while they are there.'

He said many of their hen and stag dos chose the trail as a daytime activity ahead of a night out.

'We also have some that book because they are looking for an option that doesn't revolve around drink,' he said. 'Never, when I talk about it, do I mention alcohol. That's not what we are focusing on.'

Under the Broads Authority Navigation Bylaws, a person could face a fine, or even prosecution, if they 'navigate a vessel whilst under the influence of drink or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of taking proper control of the vessel'.

PC Paul Bassham, of Norfolk police's Broads Beat team, said: 'It's not a good combination to have alcohol and be on the water, but it's always good to promote the city and promote the waterways and it's always nice to see that happening.

'We would just remind people to wear their lifejackets and be careful. Canoes can easily be unstable and there are plenty of dangers if you fall in.'