Cromford Canal—SSSI or what?

Published: Wednesday, 14 April 2010

MY DAILY commute takes me alongside the formerly restored stretch of the Cromford Canal between Ambergate and Cromford, and for the past three or four weeks, extensive works have been going on involving heavy diggers and other machinery, writes Paul Burke.

From the amount of silt dumped in a nearby field, it seems that radical dredging is being carried out, and I would guess that this is associated with work brought on by the discovery last summer of the unsafe condition of the aqueduct over the railway. There has also been extensive cutting back of trees growing in walls and embankments.

Very welcome

It is very welcome that work is finally being done on this stretch, after its slow but complete decline since the restoration of the 80s, and though I sincerely hope the contractors know what they are doing, it will be nice to see this beautiful canal once more with a good depth of water.

But I can't help thinking that one of the reasons for the dereliction has been the very protection of the site as a wildlife haven, without understanding that a canal is a manmade, dynamic environment, and that had it been treated as a canal, kept navigable (and used by trip boats and trailboats), and dredged at regular intervals, this heavy intervention might not have been necessary.

Too greedy over conservation

I'm sure some conservation expert will pop up to tell me that there's nothing water voles and dragonflies like better than having their environment drained and churned up by caterpillar tracks every thirty years or so, but perhaps had the canal been kept in good order, the little inhabitants could have coexisted with a small number of happy boaters without too much friction. It seems to me that by being too greedy over conservation, the wildlife lobbyists have achieved the worst possible outcome.