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There’s been a lot of work taking place behind the scenes over the last couple of months, and now we’re starting to see the fruits of this labour with the dredging specialists ready to start work next week.
Normally the Canal & River Trust carry out dredging to keep our network of canals open to boats, but in fact all of the dredging on the Pocklington Canal is taking place in the non-navigable upper reaches of the canal. So why dredge an area you can’t take a boat along? The (possibly surprising) answer: to help our wildlife!
More or less all of the 9.5 miles of the Pocklington Canal are designated for wildlife, with three separate Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) covering its length. One of these is the Pocklington Canal SSSI, which stretches from Canal Head off the A1079 to Church Bridge near Melbourne. This mostly covers the upper half of the canal, and is all non-navigable to boats.
The Pocklington Canal Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) was designated on account of its aquatic vegetation, plants with curious names such as soft hornwort, flat-stalked pondweed, narrow-leaved water-plantain, flowering-rush, blunt-fruited water-starwort, fat duckweed and fan-leaved water-crowfoot. However, this diversity of aquatic plants has been in decline over the years, in part due to dominance of common reed and over shading by trees. Dredging will create areas of open water, helping to reverse this decline and in turn see an increase in other wildlife such as dragonflies.
Back in September 2016, staff from the Canal & River Trust and Natural England met to decide upon the areas that would benefit the most from dredging. In each of the areas identified, a channel will be created within the canal, so that we will see a deeper area of silt dredged and removed (and so removing the roots and seedbank of the reeds) to leave open water surrounded by a fringe of reeds.
It’s important to note that we’re intentionally not dredging the full width of the canal, as the reeds provide an important nesting area for birdlife. This dredging is taking place in the cold months on purpose. In a week’s time, Land and Water will begin dredging a section of the canal between Coates Bridge and Bielby Arm. This work is being carried out in February to ensure we do not disturb any birds looking for nesting spots as the weather warms up. It will be interesting to see the changes over the coming months as we start to see the return of the warmer weather!
Pocklington Canal – a gem in the landscape has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we will be restoring Church Bridge and Swing Bridge No 7, restoring the special wildlife habitats along the canal and running a series of exciting community events and activities to showcase the rich heritage of this idyllic rural East Yorkshire canal.