AUTUMNAL reflections of golden leaves on the waters of the Llangollen Canal are a beautiful sight on a clear November day.
In years gone by canals have fallen into disrepair as railways and roads replaced canals as a means of transport.
But more recently they are becoming increasingly valued as a place to enjoy a walk and take in the sights of the countryside around.
“It’s incredibly beautiful around Llangollen,” says ecologist Stuart Moodie.
“Especially at this time of year. More and more people are realising it’s a great place to be.
“It’s the best canal in the country in terms of having the largest number of boat users, there’s 16,000 boats a year here.”
Over 2,000 miles of historic canals and rivers across England and Wales were handed over from British Waterways and the Waterways Trust to the Canal and River Trust in July this year.
The trust aims to help people who live by, visit or work on the area’s cherished waterways make them a haven for people and nature for generations to come.
Two projects have been launched to breathe new life into towpaths and riverbanks.
The first is to bring back the vole to the Llangollen Canal.
“They used to be one of our most common mammals and now they’re increasingly rare,” explains Stuart.
“They really need our help.”
Vole numbers have decreased by a shocking 90 per cent over the last decade, partly because of losing their habitats and partly because of the introduction of mink to the UK.
“Mink were brought over hear for a fur animal but they escaped into the countryside,” says Stuart.
“They’re excellent at hunting and water voles have been particularly hard hit.”
The trust is working to provide sheltered homes for the voles and is looking to raise £3,000 to carry out the project, which will be carried out along the Press branch of the canal, between Whitchurch and Ellesmere.
The scheme will involve cutting back overgrowth to create open water for the voles to swim away from predators such as mink and also providing a habitat of reeds for them to live.
“We want to get people involved with what’s going on,” says Stuart.
“We’re looking for donations but if people want to come and help out that would be good too.”
The second project is to raise £2,000 to plant a community orchard alongside the the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a World Heritage Site.
“We’re planting fruit trees there,” says Stuart.
“They do something for everybody, they look nice in the spring with the blossom and people can collect fruit from them at this time of year.
“The ones that fall to floor are a food source for birds and insects and the flowers provide nectar for bees in the spring.
“We’re looking to do a mixture of trees with rare varieties suited to this part of the country such as pear, apple, plum, greengage and damsons.
“All these used to be grown in people’s gardens near canals so we’re just looking to reintroduce them to the area.”
A volunteer group, the Aqueducks, have already begun to fill in gaps in the hedgerows by planting native fruit trees and the trust wants to extend the planting as far as possible along the canal.
To donate to the projects text either VOLE or TREE to 70007.
For more information about the Canal and River Trust, including how to visit, volunteer or donate go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk
See full story in the Free Press