After the canal was mostly abandoned in 1944, water cascades were created and over the next 40 years nature took over creating a very special wildlife site.
The 20-mile-long Huddersfield Narrow Canal originally opened in 1811, with 74 locks and UK’s longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel, to allow commercial goods such as wool and cotton to be transported across the Pennines.
In the 1980’s the Greater Manchester section was designated a SSSI by the former Nature Conservancy Council (Natural England today). It was deemed the best examples of flowing eutrophic water system in Greater Manchester at the time. The main habitats present were standing and running water, swamp, tall fen and marginal vegetation.
The open water communities were recorded as particularly diverse and prolific, a feature which may be attributed to the good water quality of the canal. The SSSI also included the largest population of the rare royal fern within Greater Manchester, along with rare invertebrates including native white-clawed crayfish.
Several plants recorded are nationally rare including floating water-plantain, autumnal star-wort, grass-wrack pondweed, long-stalked pondweed and hairlike pondweed. Fourteen species of mollusc have been recorded and there is a strong population of the fresh-water sponge.
The canal is now experiencing a build-up of silt, an introduction of non-native invasive species and possible decline in water quality. Even the adjacent developing woodland has affected the diverse wildlife, by shading out the rare aquatic plants preventing them to thrive.
Many plants and animals are still left but numbers are reduced. But thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we are now starting to manage this special area for wildlife and visitors to enjoy for futures to come.
Thanks to the support though funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery:
This special nature site starts near Portland Basin, Ashton under Lyne and extends as far as Mossley.