As I walked along the tow path back from the Henley Regatta start towards the finish this morning I was appalled to see that the towpath has been blocked in front of the land which adjoins Upper Thames Rowing Club where they have their boat house. The public footpath has been rerouted around the back of a number of trade stands that are now blocking the footpath and covering the majority of that piece of ground. The re-routed footpath is badly uneven with loose rubble stones which I think is an accident waiting to happen. When I asked security there guarding the enclosure I was told that it was within the land owners right to block the path and that as the council had done nothing to repair the path in the past 7 years they no longer had control of the land or footpath. I was also told that the footpath was rerouted in the interest of health and safety. In reality, has it been done as part of a money making operation?
The sign on the fence (above) does not look official. Surely it should be on Wokingham District Council headed notepaper?
Upper Thames Rowing Club Statement on their website:
In recent years bottlenecks on the towpath during HRR have made the towpath dangerous at peak times, to the extent that people have ended up in the river and tempers have frayed. In hot weather people have passed out and the delays, which can last for up to two hours, have made the towpath unpleasant. The emergency services have become increasingly concerned by congestion caused by picnickers sitting on the towpath, effectively blocking the route.
It is in this context that UTRC are trialling a new, wider pedestrian pathway across its land that will re-route pedestrians twenty metres back from the river along a hundred metre stretch and back onto the towpath before Old Blades. No one is being directed onto Remenham Lane.
UTRC incur costs in excess of £30,000 as a result of Health and Safety provision that has to be provided during HRR regardless, including footpath lighting, lifeguards, safety boats, First Aid, security and marshalling. These costs are compulsory. The police and EA are supportive of anything that improves safety and makes their job easier. We all want the safest possible regatta and daily meetings take place during HRR between licensees and statutory bodies to ensure the event run smoothly.
Towpath 4 runs from Henley Bridge to Old Blades. Bye-laws created in the 1950s allow for pedestrians to be re-routed along Towpath 4, which is the basis for the enclosures further upstream.
UTRC continues to do its best to make HRR run as safely as possible for the greatest number of people and makes every effort to contribute to the success of the regatta. Here’s to a safe and enjoyable HRR.