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The charity making life better by water

Managing offside vegetation

We manage the vegetation on the offside of our waterways (the opposite side to the towpath) to make sure boats can travel without obstruction.

Cutting back offside vegetation

We try to ensure 2 boats can pass each other safely in appropriate locations and boaters can see clearly ahead. This includes cutting vegetation away from the water but also cutting it to a minimum height of 3.5m so boats can pass underneath. It's a huge task that costs us around £1.7 million a year.

The locations are determined through customer comments, our own inspections of the waterways and known pinch points or navigable hazards – so it is important that customers let us know if they encounter vegetation that is causing an obstruction to navigation.

Offside vegetation

We have had a recent drive to manage many of our waterways' offside vegetation. We are still working on this and will have to return to many areas in future. This huge task is vital for us and we cannot keep everything clear all the time. There may be a cycle in offside vegetation growth you see on the waterways as and when we can afford it and instruct our contractors out to do work. On some waterways, our volunteers are helping us keep on top of offside vegetation meaning it is kept back for longer and we can do more with the limited funding we have. We are keen to roll this out to other waterways and get this vital help from our great volunteers. Check our volunteering pages for details of how to get involved during the winter and make a difference to our waterways.

When we're cutting back offside vegetation we aim to keep the cut material on site. It is very expensive for us to remove cut branches or logs offsite, so we put the branches in piles on the bank. We try to get these as tidy as possible and out of the way of boaters or public access. These piles are also good for different species as rotting wood provides habitat for small mammals, insects, fungi and birds.

Our waterways provide vital habitat for wildlife such as fish and kingfishers. While we need to manage offside vegetation for navigation, we aim to protect and enhance our habitats to benefit wildlife. For example, we aim to provide perches for kingfishers and vegetation cover to benefit various bird species and fish.

Last Edited: 11 November 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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