Grantham Canal dredged in bid to help rare wildlife

Dredging on the Grantham Canal.
Dredging on the Grantham Canal.
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A dredging project aimed at improving water quality and encouraging rare aquatic plants to thrive on the Grantham Canal between Harby and Redmile is under way.

The Canal & River Trust is using a special amphibious digger to clear the canal of reeds and ensure a healthy flow of water for other aquatic plants to thrive.

Reeds are clogging Grantham Canal.

Reeds are clogging Grantham Canal.

The works are part of a wider project to improve 10 sites of special scientific interes across the Trust’s national canal network. The ‘Making Special Places for Nature’ project has been made possible thanks to a £350,000 award from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

This 7km section of the canal offers ideal conditions for a variety of important aquatic plants, many species of breeding birds and water insects. The canal is home to a variety of different dragonfly and damselfly species as well as aquatic plants such as Flowering Rush, Arrowhead, Lesser Water Parsnip and Gypsywort.

However, with reeds and non-native invasive plant species beginning to dominate the open water and out-compete some of the aquatic plants that make the canal so special, the Trust is stepping in to give them a helping hand.

The two-week project will involve removing silt and reeds from the centre of the canal to create a four metre channel of open water. With fewer reeds choking the middle of the canal more sunlight will also be able reach the water allowing more fragile plants to thrive. A fringe of reeds will be left alongside the canal bank to provide habitats for reed and sedge warblers.

As well as the dredging, the Trust is hoping that local people can help tackle Water Soldier - a plant that usually grows in garden ponds which, if left unchecked, can also clog up the canal. It’s looking for local volunteers that may be able to spare some time to help clear the plant from the water.

Imogen Wilde, ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, said: “These works are really important for the rare aquatic plant species and will help to make the canal an even more special place for wildlife.

“It’s important to remember that the canal is a man-made environment and so sometimes it’s necessary to step in and give nature a helping hand. By tackling some of the dominant plant species in the middle of the canal then we’ll be able to improve conditions for other, rarer plant species but also dragonflies and other wildlife.

“Once the works are complete the canal will be in much better shape. It will be able to support a much more diverse range of plants and other species and that can only be good news for the many people who head to the canal to get away from it all.”

The ‘Making Special Places for Nature’ project is a 12-month programme to improve vulnerable wildlife habitats across 10 key sites totalling 400 hectares – a combined area greater than the City of London. The improvements span reservoirs and canals in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Berkshire and mid Wales. It will benefit water shrews, voles, otters, bats, dragonflies and other rare fauna and flora.

To find out more about the work of the Canal & River Trust, and how you can get involved, go to {http://www.canalrivertrust.org.uk|