Many of you may have seen comments in the press and on social media about the impact of canal restoration on wildlife and biodiversity.
With our partners the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust seeks to make the Montgomery Canal a place which meets the needs of all users. A high priority is the protection and enhancement of its ecology.
By law, restoration has to be carefully managed from an ecological standpoint before any work begins. Current plans include over 16 acres (6.8 hectares) of new reserves along the canal around and north of Welshpool.
We welcome news that Powys County Council and the Canal & River Trust (which owns the canal) have set up an Ecological Forum of wildlife experts to advise on the proposed works.
We know wildlife can flourish on UK canals and none of us want to destroy that. Our vision for the Montgomery Canal is one which combines respect and care for nature along with managed access for human activity.
Simply leaving the canal alone is not an option. After closure many years ago, long stretches have dried out and others lost much ecological interest. By their very nature canals are small, enclosed spaces that left unmanaged would become, at best, strips of undergrowth and brambles or stagnant water. Many of us can remember such canals in the 1960s and 70s.
Canals open to boat traffic support a wide range of wildlife from iconic swans, otters and water voles to many fish species and birds that depend on them such as herons. This is only possible with human intervention. The Rochdale Canal, for example, was restored 20 years ago and rare plants still thrive.
Canal restoration, correctly undertaken and monitored, can:
- manage or remove invasive species
- provide extra habitat, especially if it is scrubland brought back into water
- see hedgerows being recreated or repaired
- leave off-side banks undisturbed as nature corridors
- create new nature habitat
- minimise silt disturbance by propellors through dredging to the right depth
- create new opportunities for people’s well-being and fitness.
We appreciate that, as with any human activity, there can be negative consequences of restoration which is why we are fully committed to enhancement to protect or increase biodiversity.
Boat movements on the Montgomery Canal are already limited and we support the increased use of canoes and electric boats. However, boat movements on the Monty would be modest compared to the exceptionally busy Llangollen Canal. Any increase in boat numbers will be gradual and will be monitored to ensure there’s no adverse effect.
Successful restoration can lead to economic opportunities with responsible tourism leading to a greater understanding and care for the natural and built environment.
Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust/Ymddiriedolaeth Adfer Camlas Maldwyn