Two leading charities, the Canal & River Trust and Chester Zoo, have joined forces to deliver a 15 month green biodiversity and wellbeing project to boost wildlife and work with local communities along the Shropshire Union Canal near the zoo and around Chester city centre.
Dozens of local volunteers from Upton, Blacon and surrounding areas are getting involved in the project to help remove harmful floating pennywort weed from the canal, learn hedgerow management skills, paddling skills, develop new community gardens and create better habitats for pollinators.
The canal runs along the northern edge of the zoo and is home to a biodiverse collection of plants, animals, fish and insects. Thanks to a grant from Chester Zoo, arranged through the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, Canal & River Trust ecologists are hoping to preserve and protect the wonderful wildlife along the blue green corridor, with help from local community volunteers.
Wild flower meadows, fruit trees, and edible plants will be installed in pocket parks along the canal and new hedges will be laid in winter. Wildlife will also get a boost with the installation of several bird and bat boxes, and volunteers will be encouraged to carry out wildlife surveys.
Wirral Scouts, Port Sunlight Fishing Club, Chester University students and the Café 71 Spider Project mental health charity are just a few of the groups who will be working with the Trust along the towpath and on the water to improve the canal environment for people and wildlife.
Tom King, ecologist with the Canal & River Trust, said: “We are delighted to work with Chester Zoo and other partners on this brilliant Green Recovery Challenge Fund project to engage with local communities and improve the environment around the beautiful Shropshire Union Canal.
“Research shows that being by the water makes you happier and healthier. This project should help to make the canal greener, cleaner and more biodiverse, which will benefit the waterway users as well as create a green/blue corridor from Chester Zoo to south Chester. The canal will be better for wildlife and will allow animals and plants to move between key nature sites like the zoo and Countess of Chester Country Park.”
This canal improvement project is funded by the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund was developed by Defra and its Arm’s-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.
Hannah Brooks, Chester Zoo’s Community Engagement Manager, added: “With more than one million species at risk of extinction, including many on our doorstep here in the UK, there has never been a more pressing time to stand together for nature. Empowering people to create more much needed safe spaces for UK wildlife to survive and thrive and enabling wide-ranging local communities to connect with nature is part of the transformative change we need to make in order to fight back and reverse this decline. That’s exactly what conservation zoos likes ours, alongside our partners, can facilitate. The time for action, is now.”
For more information about how to volunteer or donate to the Canal & River Trust, please visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.
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