Defend Nature at Montgomery Canal

Ar gyfer y fersiwn Cymraeg o'r ymgyrch hwn, cliciwch yma

Plans are being made to restore the Montgomery Canal, in Wales - but part of the plan won't help nature recover

The Montgomery Canal is one of the most important canals for nature in the UK. Starting in Shropshire, it runs from Ellesmere to Llanymynech where it crosses the Welsh border into Montgomeryshire (north Powys), before meandering 24 miles through Welshpool to Newtown. While much of the English section of the canal is navigable by boat and connected to the main canal network, the majority of the Welsh section (with the exception of separate stretches in Llanymynech and Welshpool) remains unnavigable and isolated from the national network.

Wildlife thrives along the Montgomery Canal; much of it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and the Welsh section is also a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – a designation given to the most important sites in the UK for wildlife that are also of international significance.

A major restoration project on the Welsh section of the Montgomery Canal is about to take place. We agree that restoration is needed. The canal needs to be maintained to keep the levels of biodiversity that are present. Currently, it supports the largest and most extensive population of internationally rare, Floating Water-plantain in Britain. This is one of the reasons the canal has SAC designation.

Allowing the use of motorised boats would be disastrous for the canal's wildlife and would set a dangerous precedent for decision-making within Wales. 

Part of the restoration plan is to allow the use of motorised boats on the canal. This would be disastrous for the canal's wildlife. Permitting this sort of damage on a Special Area of Conservation would also set a dangerous precedent for decision making within Wales

You can defend this Special Area of Conservation (SAC) that is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The decisions are being made in the coming weeks.

Using our simple form, you can speak up for this important habitat! Tell decision-makers why nature matters to you and back our calls for sensitive, appropriate restoration and halt plans to allow motorised boats on the Montgomery Canal.

See below for more information to help you write your response. The more detail you give, the better.

Why is Montgomery Canal important for wildlife? >

Montgomery Canal is a special place for wildlife.The Welsh section is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This means there are laws in place to protect it. 

The canal has these SAC and SSSI designations because some of the plants and animals that call the canal home are rare. The nationally scarce common Club-tail dragonfly and the white-legged damselfly are both found living in and around the canal. 

There are many submerged, floating and marginal plants including the internationally rare floating water-plantain and the regionally rare grass-wrack pondweed that are part of a rich community of water plants. This amazing diversity of water plants provides many aquatic invertebrates and fish with shelter and food, in turn providing well-loved species such kingfishers and otters with a consistent food source. 

Restoration is important to keep the canal in good working order. Removal of invasive species, such as Nuttall's waterweed, stops it outcompeting the rare plants that live there. Also the integrity of the canal needs to be maintained. If there's no water, there will be no wildlife. 

Please tell Powys County Council and Canal & River Trust about these amazing and rare plants and animals. 

Why is motorised boating disturbing to wildlife? >

Motorised boat traffic on the Shropshire part of the Montgomery Canal has reduced the numbers of water plants and invertebrates that live in the water. This is because the water has become turbid (cloudy with mud) due to disturbance of the mud at the bottom of the canal. The motors on the boats and the speed the boats travel churn the water reducing the light levels and creates wake which breaks the rafts of floating plants up. Dredging to maintain the channel so it's suitable for boats also causes muddy water. Even a small amount of disturbance reduces the amount of floating water-plantain (Willby & Eaton 1993).

We know motorised boating will cause damage. Here is an example from part of the canal in Shropshire. The Aston Locks to Keeper's Bridge part of the canal was designated as a SSSI in 1986. It was restored and reopened in 2003 and by 2013 Natural England reported that the site was in an unfavourable condition due to the public access, associated disturbance and pollution. 

Pollution is also a reason that the Shropshire end of the canal has become unfavourable (Newbold 2001). Fuel and waste water can all end up in the waterway. Not only does this impact the plants and invertebrates, but also to birds, such as swans, that breed on the canal.  

Government guidance on SACs state that competent authorities such as Natural Resources Wales and any one holding public office (councillors and planning commitees) have a duty to prevent significant disturbance of the site's designated species from human activity.

Please ask Powys County Council and Canal & River Trust  to not allow motorised boating on the canal to prevent significant disturbance of this wildlife-rich waterway. 

What could work for Montgomery Canal? >

The Montgomery Canal needs to be restored and should be a place for people and wildlife to coexist. Motorised boating is not the answer to encourge people to visit and engage with the canal.

Low disturbance activities, such as canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, wildlife walks and horse-drawn boats would make the Montgomery Canal a desirable destination without causing the disturbance motorised boating would.

Please ask Powys County Council and Canal & River Trust to choose alternative recreational activities that do not cause significant disturbance to a canal that is a SAC.