Stop 16: Safeguarding Structures

The Welsh section of the Montgomery Canal is lined with fascinating structures including bridges, locks, lock cottages, and the Vyrnwy, Berriew and Aberbechan aqueducts.

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Many of the canal’s structures required impressive architectural and engineering skills to build and are a living testament to the remarkable creation of the canal network. It is important that the industrial heritage of these landscapes is safeguarded and conserved.

The heritage value is increasingly protected through designation of the canals and built structures as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas, which highlight the need for great care and attention in conserving and restoring them, using traditional materials and techniques.

Bridging the gap

Over time, these structures have evolved into unique wildlife habitats; integral to the survival of many species. Many bridges are still of original stone arch construction, and it is often these older more traditional structures which are a hidden treasure for wildlife. Bat species such as Pipistrelle, Noctule and Daubentons are the most widely known fauna that use our bridges, roosting in tiny crevices and cracks in the stonework and lime mortar.

Larger voids may be used for more important hibernation and nursery roosts. By night they commute along the canal corridor; feeding on the rich insect life. All bats and their roosts are protected by law. They are a key consideration in any proposed maintenance or repair works to our structures.

What lies beneath?

Standing beside water, these structures support a diversity of other fauna including the legally protected white-clawed crayfish, which take refuge in the submerged crevices in the stone walls of bridges and locks.

The rare freshwater sponge is another special feature of this canal, attaching themselves to surfaces such as lock gates and bridge walls. Both of these species are considered to be indicators of good water quality, and have been recorded in the undisturbed non-navigable welsh section of this canal.

Sometimes, the role these structures play in the biodiversity of the canal environments can be less obvious. Dense ivy growing on the bridges provides a safe place for nesting birds, whilst the damp stone walls and crevices provide a specialised environment for mosses, ferns, liverworts and lichens to flourish. Lichens are thought to be the oldest species to live on our built structures. It is vital that all work to maintain our structures seeks to preserve their value to wildlife.

Last date edited: 17 July 2015