Boats necessary for ecology

Published: Wednesday, 27 August 2014

I WAS somewhat surprised by the article stating that the Environmentalists wish to close the Ashby Canal, writes Mike Stone, Chairman of the Grantham Canal Society, (GCS) and he makes the following points:


1. Angling: The angling clubs at the east end of the Grantham Canal have welcomed the movement of craft as it improves water quality by ‘stirring up' the bottom silt which (they say) enhances and gets oxygen into the otherwise stagnant lower water. Since the GCS has been operating its trip-boat and maintenance craft the fishing has improved.

Stopping boats add to problems

2. Long-term effects: canals are artificial waterways and unlike streams and rivers, do not naturally clean themselves. Some lengths of the Grantham which were dredged 15 years ago are now so shallow that you can walk across the canal. Silt, from land drains has washed into the canal and has been added to dead vegetation. Local residents who encouraged the ‘leave natural it is better environmentally' now complain about the smell in hot weather generated by the rotting vegetation and stagnant mud. No boats will only add to Natural Englands' longer-term problems.

Silt drowned the species

3. SSSI: There is a four mile stretch of SSSI on the Grantham that was designed to protect a particular water loving plant. The order from Natural England, or its predecessors, was 'leave it alone and let it thrive'. So nothing has happened on that length for about 10 years. The silt carried in the slight water flow has choked the strongly growing reeds forming a solid mass that has effectively drowned the important species in the mud. It is seen growing no longer! Only now has it been realised by Natural England that the section should have been dredged regularly to permit a steady flow of water through the area. Money has recently been raised to undertake the work. Too little, too late?

4. Legal position: As the Ashby was a canal identified in the 1968 Act and indeed was still in commercial use at that time can any canal simply be closed, if it is still used, without an Act of Parliament? In this instance surely the land owner, CaRT, has rights which exceed those of a government quango however important. If owners' rights can be extinguished by an outside body then we all need to be very worried. Not just for canals but for many other sites as well.