Your article: Improving conditions for canal’s rare aquatic plants

Machines clearing overgrowing reeds from Pocklington Canal.
Machines clearing overgrowing reeds from Pocklington Canal.

Special amphibious machines have been spotted on Pocklington Canal in recent weeks as part of a project to improve conditions for rare aquatic plants.

The machines have been clearing overgrowing reeds from the canal bed to enable more light into the water, improving its quality and giving important species of aquatic plants the opportunity to thrive.

The works have been carried out by the Canal and River Trust, the charity that cares for the nation’s historic waterways, supported by members of the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society. The project has been funded by Natural England and through donations to the Trust from members of the public.

Much of the canal is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it is particularly important for dragonflies and aquatic plants, such as flat-stalked pondweed and lesser water-plantain. As well as clearing reeds the project has also included some tree works which again will enable more all-important light into the water. The plants use light to create sugars which fuel their growth, the more light they have the more they can grow and thrive.

Phillippa Baron, ecologist for the Canal and River Trust, said: “Whilst some of these works may look a little harsh the project is actually really important for maintaining the special ecology of the Pocklington Canal. The machines are quite exciting, they’re like Transformers which we can drive down to the towpath and put into the water where we need them. Once there they can clear a channel in the reeds and that’s really important for allowing light into the water.

“We’re really grateful for the support we’ve had from Pocklington Canal Amenity Society and Natural England as well as the fantastic donations we’ve received from members of the public. Their support will be vital in helping us to protect this nationally important canal for many years to come.”

It is a particularly exciting time on the canal as a partnership of organisations, including the Canal and River Trust, East and North Yorkshire Waterways Partnership, East Riding Council, the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society and Natural England are working on a Heritage Lottery Fund bid which could see £500,000 invested in protecting the canal’s delicate ecology and historical features. The Pocklington Canal Amenity Society also hopes to raise an additional £250,000 to fit new oak gates at Thornton and Walbut Locks as well as dredging silt and weeds from the canal bed extending the navigable length of the canal from Melbourne to Bielby. For more details go to www.pocklingtoncanalsociety.org.