RAUK - Archived Forum - commerce before wildlife again

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commerce before wildlife again:

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ben rigsby
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Joined: 27 Apr 2010
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View other posts by ben rigsby
Posted: 05 Dec 2010

"while the world was being forked by fascist regimes, they talked of windmills and psychedelic dreams"
Crass, 1979.

to put leisure boating and profits before our rapidly-diminishing natural world is both vanity and folly dont you think? habitat both here and elsewhere in the world is being lost or fragmented at an unprecedented rate and millions of people are starving or dying of disease. yet here in good old Blighty, money is being thrown at some rose-tinted vision of "the good old days". a misty-eyed view of a long-gone era of narrowboats and ornate rosary artwork.

as canals go, the Thames and Severn was unsuccessful. it kept leaking and rapidly declined commercially with the advent of the GWR- which runs alongside it for much of its length. the waterway opened in 1789 but was mostly abandoned by the turn of the last century. in many places it is infilled, even built upon. or simply reeded up/overgrown.
however, there are many stretches still in water. one 3 mile rural section ive walked countless times. both by day and after dark returning from the pub - with my torch in hand and sometimes the worse for wear!
ive had some memorable wildlife encounters but ive very rarely met another human being at night. unsurprisingly!

in addition to all the expected species for this type of habitat, ive spotted declining or less-common fauna and flora like GLOW-WORM, DAUBENTONS BAT, WATER VOLE, ADDER, TOOTHWORT and ORANGE (not INDIAN/HIMALAYAN) BALSAM.   

its a GREAT place to see grass snakes!

the Thames and Severn Canal was built across the Cotswolds to link the Severn river with other waterways at Lechlade and mainly supplied wool and coal. it spans 30 miles and from what ive read, it currently falls into the twin categories of "brownfield site" and "wildlife corridor". IE it is a long-disused industrial-usage site and a vegetated lateral feature providing much cover. it passes through countryside and village/town alike.

as it stands, i thoroughly recommend it as a peaceful walk taking in a diversity of species and habitats.

not for long though.

the Cotswold Canals Trust is spending millions of pounds restoring it. for humans that is, not wildlife.

instead of reopening it for vanity and commerce, it would be great to see the canal managed sympathetically for the existing wonderful species it has. removing ALL vegetation, clearing banks and using it as a road for nostalgia fans on a picnic is surely a major disturbance to existing populations. it doesnt seem beneficial to wildlife to me. as i said elsewhere though im no expert so id welcome any views/info from those in the know.

i HOPE im wrong.

as ive mentioned, the current state of the Thames and Severn varies from still-in-water to built upon and healed-up with no scarring.

a similar restoration project is being undertaken further south of here - for the Wilts ands Berks Canal. a waterway in similar disrepair.

the Canal Trusts plans will go ahead with or without my approval of course. i can only hope that in the long run theyre doing whats right in disturbing established habitat. perhaps im underestimating mother natures powers of recovery. ill say this though, if similar proposals for brownfield, wildlife corridors/habitats occur in your area; take an interest and speak up.

heres a few Thames and Severn Canal pics to aid illustration of my points and hopefully further your interest. if any!

examples of stretches in water. the CCT wants to make these wider;

sometimes the canal is infilled either side of a lock providing a pond. it was in places such as this i found my first amphibians. Cerney Wick;

you can see the railway embankment and the canal are metres away here. side by side they provide a great spot (among many) to encounter basking or swimming grass snakes. Thrupp, stroud;

the towpath is easily negotiable for 90% of the length but heres some examples of infilled/RTW (returned to woodland) or RU (reeded up) sections of canal;

here we see the T and S pass by Daneway Banks/Siccaridge Wood SSSI. rare grasses, adder, wood ant etc found here. not to mention tasty St Georges Mushrooms aplenty in spring!

nearby, is the 2 mile long Sapperton Tunnel. 2nd longest canal tunnel in the country. longest tunnel of ANY kind at time of construction. there is no towpath inside. to negotiate it, boat owners laid upon their backs on the barge and used their feet to move along the wall. this was known as "legging". imagine doing that for 2 miles in the dark! the Sapperton Tunnel is blocked by rockfalls in many places and now finds gainful employment as a bat roost. will they remain when the canal reopens?? the tunnel will surely require lighting.

as ive said previously the canal trust has major, expensive engineering obstacles to overcome in order to achieve its aims. among many the A38 dual carriageway and this, the M5 motorway. which the Cotswold Canals Trust intends burrowing under. like some kind of corporate water vole;

this used to be Brimscombe Port. a large water basin where unloading/weighing of goods and boat-repairs took place;

this pic highlights the canals prowess as a linear highway with much-needed cover for species such as natrix when compared to the surrounding, vegetation-free farm landscape. the waterways connecting POWER;

stand on the road bridge at Ashton Keynes Water Park facing the mini-roundabout and look LEFT for existing canal that the CCT dont like;

or cast your eyes RIGHT for restoration work in progress;


ben rigsby40520.0116782407
ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337

View other posts by ben rigsby
Posted: 14 Dec 2010

"ffor by power of Lockes, Rains and ffountains, They'l make Boats to dance, upon y'mountains"

Thomas Baskervile. 1670s. when contemplating a proposed canal cut across the Severn vale and the Cotswold escarpment.

i forgot to include a pic or two of Cotswold Canals Trust-approved, "fully restored" sections of canal for comparison with the established wildlife habitat pics i posted above. have another look at the examples in the previous post and then these below and see what YOU think.

here goes;

T and S canal, Ebley, GLOS.

aquatic, marginal and bankside vegetation providing cover and food for insects,birds, grass snakes (common along the undisturbed stretches) and mammals etc removed, banks kept cut short and liberal use of high brick walling and steel girders to shore the bank up. instead of the original clay puddling liner. even the most determined water Supervole will have a job tunnelling through brick and metal. or finding any food come to that. less water vole, less options on the natrix prey menu etc etc. no vegetation, less of the insects, birds, fish etc that have been here for many generations. i used to see glow-worms quite often. in the grass along the towpath.

dominoes falling.


pics showing girders/new brick walling on opposing bank and vegetation/trees this side cut to the quick. marginal reeds/irises now missing, from deep water lillies have been removed. theres still some elodea present at the moment. that at least, has been here since the canal was working. there are records of it being a problem for barges.;

plenty of mallard and coot at this spot. they came right up when they saw me, expecting a handout. very tame and obviously indicating they get a lot of their food from humans throwing bread etc and not the canal environment.

Josiah Clowes, when constucting the canal, did NOT instruct his navvies to use chicken wire and other mesh;

workmen laying down grit and widening the towpath. which, again, is totally inauthentic (inaccurate as "restoration") for the T and S canal. this is partly to discourage vegetation growth of course. horses wont be using it to tow barges this time around though. thats for sure;

thanks for letting me take your pic guys. at least its given you work i suppose.

i hate to sound like the grumpy old git that i am and i dont want to spoil boating enthusiasts fun, but i feel this canal restoration project is;

1. TOO EXPENSIVE; its costing millions that could be better spent elsewhere helping people or wildlife in need/research.

2. HARMFUL TO ESTABLISHED ECOSYSTEMS; much of the canal has been left fallow for 100 years or so and a lot of species are currently doing well there. the Canals Trust is opening up what is basically another new road across the countryside for traffic and people to disturb and harm established populations of flora and fauna. some rare or declining as i listed previously. including several herps- as well as grassies, the canal (in a section without any water) directly passes adder country, ive found palmate newt, common frog and toad in places and my father remembers crested newts in it when he was a boy.
permission to reopen the canal was given decades ago. i guess in the days before proper ecological impact surveys were deemed necessary.
the CCT has the right of compulsory purchase of land too.
some of the canals former route is now privately owned pasture. in such places there is little sign it ever stood. just some marks on the ground.

3. UNNECESSARY. we dont need the T and S for transport in the 21st century and one look at the INLAND WATERWAYS MAP OF GREAT BRITAIN (pub Collins) will show you that boat-going holidaymakers are already flush with many options. youre never far from a canal or navigable river.
the CCT cynically uses pics of striking and charismatic animals like badgers and dragonflies to alluringly promote itself as nature-friendly. i guess they learned a trick or two from oil companies like Esso with its tigers. make no mistake though. the restorations mouthiest proponents are often barge owners, boating people or businessmen like hoteliers. theyre not wildlife lovers. i know this because being very interested in the canal myself, i talk to them quite often. they know im against this project.

4. BEING CONDUCTED INAUTHENTICALLY. restoration means putting something back exactly as it was. often very painstakingly and with a lot of love.
the canal mostly had a traditional clay puddling lining. a bit of concrete here and there in the areas that leaked the most.
there were no steel girders walling the banks up.
my dad doesnt put plastic hands on a 17th century grandfather clock when he returns it to working order. he makes brass ones himself if theyre missing.

if the CCT was a fan of this "historic canal" it would want it to look like it did during its (short-lived) heyday.
its more places to sail their boats theyre after.
or cash from tourism.
to hell with everything else.

well ive had my little self-righteous rant and im gonna shut up now. its happening and thats that. look, learn and try not to cry folks.

yours, ben

ben rigsby40528.0852893519
Senior Member
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
No. of posts: 860

View other posts by Suzi
Posted: 14 Dec 2010
Public accessability will be something that looms large in this I expect. It might be a condition of getting some of the funding. 
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Joined: 27 Feb 2007
No. of posts: 694

View other posts by AGILIS
Posted: 15 Dec 2010
great pics Ben yes I have the same feelings about these
so called river trusts whose main ambitions are to
straighten out natural rivers and put paths all around
them , all so they can introduce their powercraft into
tranquil rivers and surrounding areas , with the usual
excuse that there was historical navigation rights on
these rivers, yes but for horse drawn barges that used
to transport goods in days long gone not for cruise
ships. This is another encroachment into whats left of
natural countryside more habitat disturbed or I should
say destroyed for ever. I remember the Great Ouse that
had some bends and shallow fish breeding areas near
Tempsford that was canalised and straightened up by the
boating brigade in the early 1970s ,I am not a luddite or
against progress but there is a quality of life that most
of us aspire to,and we should keep the encroaching
urbanisation at bay for the benifit of future generations
Keith AGILIS40527.3728472222
ben rigsby
Senior Member
Joined: 27 Apr 2010
No. of posts: 337

View other posts by ben rigsby
Posted: 16 Dec 2010
keith. canals, and increasingly rivers nowadays, are just roads in a different guise.
like you said.
instead of an artic, you get a cruiser.
funny how more people dont spot that and object.

Senior Member
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
No. of posts: 860

View other posts by Suzi
Posted: 16 Dec 2010
As a kid I used to go sea trout fishing with my Dad in the Lake District in a lovely little river. Water voles would often be out and about on the opposite bank and there was purple loosestrife and other attractive waterside plants. For some reason the water authority canalised the river and took out all the deep holding pools for the trout and spoilt it for wildlife and flora. The sea trout never stayed as the pools had gone and I guess its value for leasing for fishing plummeted. This was in the 1960s so disregard for what's there has been going on for a long time.

- commerce before wildlife again

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