Two and half miles of the Montgomery Canal in England is designated as an SSSI. This special nature site is located between Aston Locks and Keeper’s Bridge, near Queen’s Head, Oswestry.
The Montgomery Canal is 33 miles long and passes from England into Wales, from near Oswestry in Shropshire to Newtown in Powys, passing through the town of Welshpool.
The canal was built in sections finally being completed in 1821. The main purpose of the canal was to transport agricultural goods including lime, derived from the limestone from Llanymynech Hill. It also carried passengers in purpose built ‘fly-boats’. The canal was still operational in the 1920s but was in decline and finally a breach near Frankton Junction closed it.
Over the years sections became land-locked, open water was reduced and nature had a chance to take hold. The section in England retained its water and became one of the best locations for aquatic plants in Shropshire, with a rich variety of submerged and floating aquatic plant species historically recorded. The fringing reedswamp and fen habitats add to the diversity of the site, where reed warblers can regularly be heard and seen in amongst the tall reeds throughout the spring and summer.
It was recognised officially for its important nature status and designated a SSSI in 1986 by the former Nature Conservancy Council (Natural England today).
Since 1969, a series of restoration projects with major input from voluntary groups, local authorities and the Trust have proceeded to restore sections back to navigation and in 1996 boat traffic returned.
Work to protect the diverse wildlife habitats will need to continue as they are under pressure from increased siltation, shading and poor water quality.
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