DORMICE, squirrels, birds and other wildlife along the Montgomery Canal are being given a major habitat boost thanks to a hedgerow-laying project organised by waterway and well-being charity, the Canal & River Trust.
In an initiative funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Trust staff, volunteers and a volunteer group from Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust spent a weekend on the Guilsfield Arm of the canal, near Arddleen in Powys, learning the ancient art of hedge-laying.
This training will now equip them with the knowledge and skills to re-invigorate hundreds of yards of overgrown vegetation boundaries between canal towpaths and farmers’ fields which are in need of some TLC.
The Guilsfield Arm of the canal has not been used for boating for many decades and is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to the number of rare species of flora and fauna which have colonised it. For the Canal & River Trust, which cares for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers in Wales and England, protecting wildlife is a key priority.
Trust ecologist Stuart Moodie explained: “The Montgomery Canal is one of Britain’s most important canals for wildlife. The creation of verdant, healthy hedges is vital for protecting wildlife habitats as well as providing an effective stock-proof barrier between agricultural land and the canal towpath.
“Hedges are great for linking habitats, providing a sheltered, protective corridor through the landscape. Nesting birds, butterflies, small mammals and amphibians all rely on hedges for food and shelter. Hawthorn, which forms the majority of canal hedges, provides great thorny protective cover, spring flowers for pollinating insects and berries in the autumn for the birds. Hazel was also growing in this particular section. This of course is the source of hazel nuts – the favourite food of dormice and squirrels.
“With many natural wildlife species currently in decline, it has never been more important to take active positive steps to protect our wonderful national wild flora and fauna. For people too, our beautiful waterways provide the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the natural environment and beautiful scenery.
“Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, our volunteers are being equipped to do a fantastic job. It is a win-win for everyone – they enjoy being in the fresh air, working on such a positive initiative, and wildlife habitats are enhanced for many decades to come.”
This hedge-laying initiative is part of a wider People’s Postcode Lottery funded national canal nature conservation project and also complements the £4 million Montgomery Canal restoration scheme to restore a section of the canal on the Shropshire/Welsh border.
Photos show 1. Hazel dormice, one of the many wildlife species who will benefit from thicker, healthier waterside hedgerows (Credit: Alamy Photography). 2. Staff and volunteers from the Canal & River Trust and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust on the hedge-laying training course. (Credit: Phil Pickin)