The charity making life better by water

Heathland restoration

We're working to restore heathlands along our canals.

Heathland describes an area where the soil is generally sandy, acidic and low fertility, unsuitable for growing crops. Water drains away easily and the plants which thrive are mostly grasses and low-lying shrubs such as gorse. In England, most heathland was created by human activity in prehistoric times.

Heathland is one of the UK's rarest and most threatened habitat, with around 85% lost over the last 150 years to development and agriculture. It is an important habitat to a number of priority wildlife species such as the small heath and small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies, amphibian species like the adder, grass snake and slow worm and birds including the night jar and woodlark.

Along the Walsall Canal and Anglesey Branch Canal we have heathland on land next to and on the towapth. The aim of the project is to preserve and extend these historic heathlands.

Calluna vulgaris

Anglesey Branch

We're been working with volunteers to harvested two large baskets full of seed heads of Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) which will be used to expand the heathland further along the Anglesey Branch Canal as part of the heathland restoration.

The area around Chasewater reservoir is now a Country Park but is also part of an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). The site contains several types of habitat, including wet and dry heath, fens, swamps and low nutrient standing water.

It also provides an ecological stepping stone for species to move between the heaths at Sutton Park (9km south) and Cannock Chase (1km north).
The Chasewater SSSI area is carefully maintained to keep its habitats viable.

This includes thinning out tree cover, checking nutrient levels in the water, and preventing the gorse from becoming too overgrown. Without these interventions, it would gradually revert to woodland, and given enough time, to forest.

Walsall Canal

The area between Clayhanger Common and Bentley Haye is being managed to help the heathland thrive. A key part of this involves creating patches of ‘islands' of heath that are just a few hundred metres apart. Heathland species can then use these as stepping stones enabling migration, courtship and genetic variation. Without these little patches, the larger areas of heath would remain isolated and vulnerable to any drastic changes such as such as flooding.

The work is heavily dependent on volunteers, who help by thinning out tree cover, planting heathland species, and conducting wildlife surveys to measure effect.

Last Edited: 06 April 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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