Hit & Run: Rods of iron vs the oars of steel

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The Independent Online

When Sir Ian "Beefy" Botham wades into a row you know you've picked a fight with the wrong gang. In the latest salvo in an apparent war over access to Britain's waterways that may one day be known as "paddlegate", the former hardman of cricket and keen fisherman has lashed out at the canoe-loving funnyman Griff Rhys Jones.

It's a waterborne controversy that has bubbled for days now after Rhys Jones, who campaigns for canoeists' "right to float", declared open season to "disturb" canoe-hating anglers. "I've met a lot of fisherman and decided that we should disturb as many as possible," he told BBC Countryfile magazine. An angry Botham called Rhys Jones's remarks "stupid" and "irresponsible" and predicted they would cause "an incident".

Just what kind of "incident" Botham imagines he did not make clear. Are we talking rod-to-paddle combat, maggot throwing or an all-out, no-holds-barred splashing war? And are Britain's tranquil waterways really a flashpoint of warring hobbyists?

"No fisherman would have any issue with canoeists who quietly pass by but many's the time I've been fishing on the Wye and a group have come splashing through the best salmon lies," says one anonymous angler. "There's plenty of space for them but too often they think the country is a vast theme park they should be given free rein to enjoy. At least fishermen buy expensive licenses that help keep the rivers clean, and are necessarily unobtrusive. I wish more canoeists would make the effort not to bugger up someone else's day. "

They're an angry bunch, these fishermen, it would seem. So what does the canoeing community think? Hit & Run struggled to find anyone who was available to stick an oar into the debate (the big fish at Canoe & Kayak magazine were on the water, apparently). Tamsin Phipps, head of the river access campaign for Canoe England, poured cold water on the furore. "I've canoed for 35 years and have never in my life met an angry fisherman," she says (she clearly hasn't encountered our anonymous angler).

While some suggest Botham has played into Rhys Jones's hands by adding to publicity for the latter's current TV series about rivers, it's clear tension is brewing on the water (even if fisticuffs are unlikely). "We think the lack of access to our waterways is a national scandal and that applies to everyone," says Phipps. "I get letters from anglers, too. We should all be on the same side here." Simon Usborne



Cast out from TV's garden of Eden

What will the people of the future think, when, come 2029, they land their space-copters in west London, take a moment to prime their hover-boards, and make what will undoubtedly be a journey of near-religious significance: to dig up the Blue Peter garden's time capsule? Rumours that the famed garden will be scrapped in favour of a virtual version may have been scotched, but it is confirmed to be moving with the programme when it transfers to studios in Salford in 2011.

Since the garden was unveiled by Peter Purves, John Noakes and Lesley Judd in 1974, it has provided many a hilarious ecological scrape for presenters, as well as creating a popular place for BBC staff to lunch. It was designed by Percy Thrower, considered by many to be Britain's first celebrity gardener, and has since supplied the final resting place of many a tortoise (George, Maggie and Jim – RIP) even finding space for an Italian sunken garden full of goldfish, a veggie patch and viewing platform.

But what will happen to these national treasures during the move, 200 miles up the M1? Will the tortoises be exhumed? And how will the garden be protected from acts of vandalism (sundial smashing, plants ripped up) from which it famously suffered in the early 1980s? Regional stereotyping aside, is a move to Salford really that wise? If the live tortoises end up jacked up on bricks, and the time capsule flogged off on eBay, the garden might've been better off in Second Life. Rob Sharp

New York state of mind – and body

A new study shows that New York is the thinnest city in America with a 42 per cent obesity rate, compared to a national average of 67 per cent. Who knew? Well, it is home to 'Sex and the City' and 'Vogue'; all those young hipsters, wannabe models and gay men probably weigh half the average Texan. But, glamour aside, it's also a pedestrian's city where relatively few own cars. It's also a status-obsessed one, and "the smaller the dress size, the larger the apartment" remains the Upper East Sider's catchphrase.

LA, home to stylist Rachel Zoe and her size zero 'Zoe-bots', must be annoyed to have been pipped to the post. It's the second slur on its dietary habits lately. Sarah Palin addressed the city's skinny citizens in her farewell speech: "Hollywood needs to know: we eat, therefore we hunt." A bizarre swipe; they're more likely to slay complex carbs than caribou. Harriet Walker

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