THE Canal & River Trust has given a major boost to rare aquatic flora and fauna on the Montgomery Canal, one of Britain’s most picturesque canals, with a £320,000 dredging and vegetation management programme.
During March and April, over 1¼ miles of un-navigable waterway has benefited from a major excavation of the overgrown channel, removal of dead and fallen trees, trimming of overgrown trees and vegetation, and extensive bank repairs.
This will create clearer, more oxygenated water, which in turn promotes the growth of healthy plants and animals. Amongst the species to benefit will be the endangered water vole, as well as dragonflies and the rare aquatic plant Floating Water Plantain Luronium natans.
Funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the work is being carried out in two sections between Refail Bridge 129 and Bridge 132, just south of Berriew, and Maerdy Bridge 102 to Bridge 103 in Arddleen. Both are designated as a Site of Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Mark Weatherall, project manager with the Canal & River Trust, said: “It is vitally important to keep the Montgomery Canal in good health. If the water channel becomes choked with weeds, the water quality quickly deteriorates and becomes stagnant.
“By creating deeper, clearer fresh water channels, plants can flourish and create healthy habitats for fish, insects and small mammals. Biodiversity is greatly improved and the deeper channels actually inhibit the growth of weeds in the main channel resulting in better water flows throughout the canal.”
The work is being carried out by contractors, Ebsford Environmental and will be completed by the end of April.
Known for its outstanding natural beauty, wildlife and heritage, the Montgomery Canal runs for 35 miles between England and Wales and is currently only partly navigable. This current dredging project runs alongside a much larger HLF-funded £ 4 million project which involves restoring to navigation 1¼ miles of the canal, from Welshampton to Crickheath in Shropshire, and the creation of a new three-hectare wildlife habitat within Aston Locks Nature Reserve.
A winding hole is also being created, enabling boats to return to this part of the canal for the first time since 1936 when the canal was closed.
The project includes access improvements to the canal and nearly five miles of towpath upgraded. A comprehensive programme of community events and activities is also under way.
The Canal & River Trust works with 15 partner organisations which make up the Montgomery Canal Partnership. The Partnership aims to restore the canal fully within the next decade as a haven for people and nature.