Stop 20: Nature Reserves

This ‘offline’ nature reserve safeguards wildlife should the canal re-open to boat traffic.

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The Montgomery Canal has been subject to ongoing restoration for many years. However, restoration and subsequent use of the canal has the potential to impact upon the protected biodiversity interest, most notably the rare aquatic plants which are particularly sensitive to water quality.

To mitigate for this and secure the future of the canal, a framework strategy for the sustainable restoration and future use of the canal was written. As part of this ecological mitigation strategy, an agreement was made for the creation of a number of nature reserves, which would serve to safeguard the wildlife interest from impacts resulting from the restoration and re-opening of the canal to boat traffic.

There are currently seven nature reserves along the length of the canal. Three of these reserves: Aston Locks, Rednal Basin and Weston Arm are along the English length. Wern Clay Pits, Guilsfield Arm, Whitehouse and Brithdir nature reserves have been created along the Welsh length.

These are classed as ‘offline’ side reserves which remain hydrologically connected to the canal via a feed. They were developed to help conserve the valuable aquatic, woodland, grassland and scrub habitats associated with the canal corridor and in particular, designed to retain the populations of the rare and sensitive aquatic macrophytes, including Grass-wrack pondweed and the legally protected Floating water-plantain. They also serve as a protective buffer from major pollution incidents.

Under attack from foreign soldiers!

However, not all aquatic species are good for biodiversity. One of the key issues encountered in the reserves is the control of invasive species. Here in Brithdir nature reserve, the presence of water soldier is a key concern. This is a free-floating aquatic plant which surfaces in summer as large florets. It is native to some parts of the UK but not to this part of Wales. Due to its aggressive and competitive nature, water soldier tends to rapidly take over and out-compete many of the native and rarer species that are more sensitive to environmental conditions.

It is important to manage these kinds of issues to preserve the long-term conservation value of these nature reserves and secure the protection of our valuable aquatic plant populations. The ongoing management of these reserves is implemented through the preparation of management plans, which fundamentally set out the correct management prescriptions for each reserve to conserve the key habitats and species, and ensure the reserves fulfil their original conservation purpose.

Last date edited: 17 July 2015