Breaking new ground on protecting waterways

Pocklington Canal.
Pocklington Canal.

A ground-breaking agreement between Natural England (NE) and the Canal and River Trust sets sail a new way of working to improve the environment of our inland waterways.

Meeting on the banks of the scenic Pocklington Canal – the focal point of an ambitious £460,000 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) designed to engage communities in protecting its delicate ecology and historical features - NE Chief Executive James Cross and the Trust’s Chief Executive Richard Parry signed a Memorandum of Understanding, cementing their mutual collaboration to protect England’s canals and make them more accessible to the public.

The Pocklington HLF bid, to be submitted in November by the Trust, supported by NE and partners, will enhance and protect the special wildlife of the canal making it more accessible to visitors. Forty years ago the canal had declined into abandonment and disrepair, only narrowly escaping fate as a dumping ground for treated sewage sludge. Thanks to the work of local volunteers and campaigners it was saved from its fate, and is now almost completely protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Designated for its rare aquatic plants, breeding birds and outstanding variety of dragonfly and damselfly, it is a success story which NE and the Trust hope to replicate across the canal network – as they work together to encourage communities to take a more active role in canal management. Mr Cross said: “Our waterways have a strong role to play in nature conservation, providing a special, shared space for people and nature, where neither takes precedence. Ultimately we share many of the same goals as the Trust, to restore and maintain ecological networks and to promote public understanding and enjoyment of a healthy natural environment. The agreement will help us to jointly meet those goals and improve our inland waterways for the benefit of all.”