The environment team in the North-East are trialling a new method of highlighting ecologically sensitive areas to our mowing contractors.
One of the challenges we’re trying to solve in the environment team is how to get the best of both worlds. We want an ecologically rich canal corridor, with wildflowers, wildlife and a variety of things for visitors to see and enjoy, while maintaining a safe and visible canal bank for boaters and anglers. It’s a delicate balance to maintain, and one we sometimes don’t get right.
Our mowing regime is split into a number of ‘specifications’. These are agreements on how often and how wide the towpath should be mown. Some are mown frequently, right up to the water’s edge for boaters to safely get on and off their boats. Some are mown less frequently, with a narrower cut, to allow reeds and wildflowers to grow. These are often for long lengths and our contractors have maps to show them where each specification begins and ends.
But what do we do if there’s only a small patch we want to maintain for wildlife, in a stretch we’re mowing more for boaters? And how do contractors tell when the specification changes if there isn’t a landmark around to help?
An answer to this is through new blue-topped posts, which have been installed on the Rochdale Canal, Calder & Hebble Canal and the Pocklington Canal in the North-East and the North-West.
It’s a visual reminder to the contractor that there is a change of mowing regime, and it’s also a signpost to mark wildlife hotspots for visitors. This could be for a single important plant species, such as bee orchids, or it could be for the general wildlife value.
Depending on the feedback from this trial, future work could include installing very simple symbols on existing posts to highlight what to look out for, in addition to installing more posts across the country.
If you’re out and about on these canals, keep an eye out for the new blue posts, and let us know what you think.
Have you spotted any wildlife whilst you were on our canals? Log it on our Great Nature Watch app!
The Canal & River Trust has top team of committed experts and enthusiasts, who help to protect our waterway environment and improve it for both people and nature. Follow this blog to find out more about the hugely varied work they carry out.See more blogs from The environment team