Ashby Canal

Just over six miles of the 22 mile-long navigable section of the Ashby Canal is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Take a ramble along the towpath at this special nature site, located in Leicestershire, to see our wonderful green engineering.

Ashby Canal Ashby Canal, Leicestershire

Why it's so special

Completed in 1804, this now tranquil canal was used to transport coal from important coalfields around Moira and Measham to the main canal network via the Coventry Canal at Bedworth.

Following the decline of the coal industry and subsidence from mining, the northern section was eventually closed in 1966 and since closure the final eight miles were infilled.

This navigation meanders through flat rural countryside and is our only lock-free canal. Over the decades the remaining navigable section has become home to an abundance of wildlife and was eventually designated a SSSI, by the former Nature Conservancy Council (Natural England today), in 1988.

It was recognised for the diversity of aquatic and emergent plants it supported, as well as its insect life and deemed one of the most important water bodies of its type in the East Midlands. Nine species of dragonfly were recorded, along with the water shrew, the rare native white-clawed crayfish and the nationally important water vole.

The plan

The introduction of green bank protection at various offside locations along the canal is just one example of how the Trust and Natural England will help manage and improve this special wildlife site.

This enhancement not only protects against bank erosion but also provides a valuable habitat for the elusive protected water vole, along with a marginal fringe of native plants for canal wildlife to thrive.

What we've done already

Thanks to the support though funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery:

  • Created an offline nature reserve between Snarestone and Moira.
  • Additional water vole habitat has been created through green engineering – west of Shakerstone.
  • Sensitive tree management to reduce shading - west of Shakerstone.

This SSSI starts at Carlton Bridge, north west of Market Bosworth and finishes just north of Snarestone.