Urges to limit boat traffic to protect wildlife in restored Welsh Channel | Conservation

Conservationists are calling for only horse-drawn barges to travel along a section of the Montgomery Canal when it reopens, to protect rare aquatic plants and wildlife on the reclaimed waterway.

Naturalist and broadcaster Iolo Williams has joined the campaign to protect floating water banana, as well as dragonflies, crabs, kingfishers and otters in the channel between Arddlin and Llanymynech, which is unnavigable for canal boats for decades, but will be restored with £14m from the government levy fund.

The 33-mile Montgomery Canal runs from Newtown in Powys to Shropshire and originally carried limestone from Welsh quarries to fertilize farmland before being abandoned in 1944. During decades of disuse, sections of the canal came to support the largest plantain populations. floating water in Great Britain, and they have been designated a Special Area of ​​Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

So far, seven miles of canal have been restored and connected to the rest of the canal network. The leveling of funds will enable the Canal & River Trust-led project to build new road bridges and reopen a four and a half mile stretch between Arddlin and Llanymynech to motorized barges.

Proponents say the restoration will boost tourist receipts and spur broader regeneration. But conservationists warn that the propeller boats kick up mud and sediment and could destroy the floating water banana, a nationally rare and protected species.

Horse-drawn boats without a propeller are said to glide over the surface of the water and would leave the power plant unharmed. The plant could even benefit from this type of boat traffic, which would maintain the open water it needs to thrive.

Williams said the canal is a “fantastic resource” for wildlife in mid-Wales and asked the Canal & River Trust to work with activists.

“We’ve lost many of our pools, ponds and wetlands over the last 80 years – they’ve been drained and gone since I was a kid growing up here,” he said. “The canal has become increasingly important for much of our wildlife, not just the floating water banana but also dragonflies, frogs, toads, salamanders, perch, pike and bream, and it is the best area in mid wales for grass snakes. .

“I am all for restoring the canal but if they can do the horse drawn Montgomeryshire section that would be a huge help. It will bring in more money to the area – people will have to stop for the night – and having horse-drawn boats makes the pastime much more peaceful and relaxed. It will make you more popular.”

Simon Spencer, a local wildlife expert, said: “The canal is wonderful the way it is. No demolition needed. It is currently used by canoeists and the entire length of the towpath from Llanymynech to Newtown is enjoyed by cyclists, walkers and bird watchers. If it’s full of boats and oil film on the surface of the water, you won’t have as many people using it. Why spend millions on a few boat moves?

“If SAC is destroyed – and the current design is likely to destroy it – it will be the first SAC to be seriously damaged in Britain. All we ask is to leave the motorized boats behind.”

As part of the £14m restoration, the Canal & River Trust is proposing six hectares of open water nature reserve near the canal to offset the impact of motorized boats, with floating water plantains already being cultivated for translocation to the new bookings in 2024.

“We will be looking at what net biodiversity gains we can make and how we can bring adjacent habitats together,” said Jason Leach, head of external program delivery for the fund. “We are open and transparent and want to speak to as many people as possible.”

According to Leach, the reintroduction of horse-drawn boats is not practical because the towpath, which is 1.5 meters wide, cannot be shared by horses, walkers and cyclists. He said the seasonal movements of boats on the canal would not generate enough revenue to support the building of special horse-drawn boats, or stabling and feeding the horses throughout the year.

In the Rochdale Canal, which is also a SAC and SSSI and was restored and reopened in 2002, the floating water banana has increased in range since 2010 and is also thriving in a canal reservoir, Brun Clough, where it has been reintroduced.

The Canal & River Trust is proposing a cap on boat movements on the restored section of the Montgomery Canal, with the rare plants monitored as boats gradually increase to 2,500 annual movements on the now reopened sections.

Leach added: “Ultimately plants need disturbance and boats offer the best way to do that. This is the sustainable restoration of the Montgomery Canal for the environment and people.”

Powys County Council, a partner in the Montgomery Canal restoration project, said it “will provide long-term economic, cultural, wellness and recreational benefits to local communities, as well as improve wildlife and ecology along the way.” along the canal corridor.

A spokesperson said: “We are aware of the wildlife concerns that have been raised in recent weeks. These concerns are being taken seriously by the council and our partner, the Canal & River Trust, and (we) can assure you that any proposals will need to fully comply with habitat regulations to obtain the necessary planning and regulatory consents.”

Leave a Comment