In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the vital role canals play as wildlife habitats. Each stretch of trees or reeds is a permanent pocket habitat in its own right. They are more than that though, they are wildlife corridors. Take Worcester. The canal runs through a built-up environment full of the cities present business sites and reminders of its industrial past and yet for most of its length it provides a varied wildlife habitat. It links the River Severn with the wider Worcestershire countryside. It allows for migration. It allows for interaction. It allows the spread of species.
This is important because the experience of conservation work everywhere is that reserves alone do not succeed. What happens over time is that species become isolated. They decline and eventually the decline becomes irreversible. What is needed are corridors which link the habitats together. That is what the canal is and why it is worth preserving and enhancing.
In September 2016 the Worcester Canal Group held a Wildlife Week. It was focused on a mile long stretch of canal, roughly from Lowesmoor Marina to Bilford Locks. There were special events, a wildflower walk, two bat walks and a moth breakfast. At the same time we asked people with an interest in the canal to keep a record of the wildlife they saw that week and let us have the results.
It was very successful in demonstrating that there is wildlife to be interested in and there are people who are interested in it. In all, more than seventy people took part and a wide range of organisations took part. What the Worcester Canal Group Wildlife Week showed was the importance of the canal as a wildlife corridor.
Following from this a series of activities have been undertaken such as clearing brambles at Lansdowne allotments in a planned way to create hidden clearings attractive to birds, slowworms and other wildlife. This has shown that as a wildlife habitat the canal does not end at the towpath and that if people with an interest work together significant results can be achieved.
Since then David Morgan of the Canal and River Trust has convened the Worcester Canal Corridor Group. This is working on many things such as repairs and public safety. Lots of organisations and interested individuals are involved. Wildlife is one of the things the group is taking action on.
As part of that we would like to carry out a second monitoring exercise. We want to build on the work of the wildlife week in two ways. Firstly by comparing that autumn with this spring. Secondly by extending the area surveyed. This Easter we would like to survey the canal from Diglis Basin to Sixways Stadium.
One other thing, seeing no wildlife and recording the fact is just as important as seeing lots of wildlife. We know that there are bottlenecks and stretches which are not friendly to wildlife, knowing where they are will be a real help in future work.