The Montgomery canal is to be re-opened on Monday 17 August after emergency repairs were carried out to a leak in the embankment near Queen’s Head in Shropshire.
The leak was adjacent to Aston Nature Reserve in the middle of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and repairs had to be carried out sympathetically to minimise disturbance to habitats, plants and wildlife.
The work included the protection and where necessary, relocation of reed warbler nests, under special licence from Natural England, a fish rescue of over 600lbs in weight of fish and ensuring that the work had minimal impact on the protected reeds beds – all carried out under the watchful eye of ecologists.
The work was carried out by the Canal & River Trust which is responsible for the 2,000 miles of historic waterways across England and Wales, in close consultation with Natural England. The Montgomery canal is one of the jewels in the crown of the Canal & River Trust and the leak in the 200 year old canal highlights the challenge of looking after the waterway.
The canal was closed on the 9 June and since then 120 metres of steel piles have been driven down five metres into the bank to strengthen it and stop the leaks.
Canal & River Trust project manager Marc Evans said: “This was a particularly difficult site to work on because of the sensitive ecological issues, but the repair has now been completed with the minimum of disturbance.”
Trust ecologist Sara Hill said: “Being a Site of Special Scientific Interest it is important that all of our activities are sensitive to the protection and conservation of the important habitats and species that this site supports. This site is renowned for its aquatic plant interest as well as the fringing reed beds which provide an ideal nesting habitat for birds, particularly reed warblers. All works were designed and undertaken with this in mind.
“Fortunately this is the tail end of the breeding season for this species which minimised the need for our intervention. Only a very small number of nests had to be moved out of the way of where the work was taking place, to a safer place further back in the reeds.
“Other work that we over saw included the fish rescue, which was very successful and the wide range and weight and types of fish highlighted the healthy waters that they live in.”
During the closure local firms developed new ideas to ensure customers could still access the canal and businesses in Maesbury, with a horse drawn trip boat offering extra cruises to enable people to continue to enjoy a boat trip on this particularly idyllic section of the canal while it was cut off. The Navigation Inn also offered a taxi service for boaters arriving at the temporary end of the navigation at Queen’s Head.