Canal volunteers tackle nuisance invasive weed on Leicestershire’s waterways

VOLUNTEERS have been helping the Canal & River Trust to tackle a nuisance invasive weed on Leicestershire’s waterways.

The volunteers have been helping the Trust, the waterways and wellbeing charity, to remove Floating Pennywort from the River Soar at Cossington and Loughborough.

Floating Pennywort, which was originally introduced into the United Kingdom in the 1980s as an ornamental plant for garden ponds, is capable of growing up to 20cm in a day and is able to double its weight in as little as three days.

If left unchecked the plant can spread in large clumps over the surface of the water smothering local plants and depriving the water of both light and oxygen which endangers the fish living beneath. It can also block overflow sluices, causing flooding, and restrict boating by clogging up propellers.

One of the ways to stop the weed causing problems is to physically remove it and local volunteers have been rolling up their sleeves and helping the Trust to pull it out using grapple hooks, rakes and nets.

One group was made up of patients from Arnold Lodge, which is run by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Arnold Lodge has adopted its local stretch of the River Soar meaning that volunteers from the unit are out regularly helping the Canal & River Trust with a variety of tasks ranging from litter picking to planting trees.

The second group are volunteers from the Canal & River Trust’s Loughborough Towpath Taskforce who removed the weed from the river in the Bishop Meadow area of the town. The Trust has Towpath Taskforce drop-in sessions in the town every Wednesday, meaning people can give as much or as little time as they can to help with a wide variety of tasks on their local river.

Richard Bennett, environment and heritage manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Our waterways are really important places for people to escape to, with research telling us that spending time by water makes us feel happier and healthier, so it’s important that we take action to protect them from alien species.

“Floating Pennywort is a particular menace, and if we didn’t tackle it then it would choke our waterways and cause real damage to our native wildlife.

“That’s why the efforts of the Arnold Lodge volunteers and our Loughborough Towpath Taskforce have been so important. Together they’ve pulled out large quantities of the weed which, if left, could have multiplied in size and wreaked havoc so we’re really grateful for their help.”

To find out more about the work of the Canal & River Trust, including how you can support through volunteering or making a donation go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.

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