Britain's historic freight canals have considerable, and sometimes controversial, wildlife interest, not only as aquatic habitats but also as corridors of multi-habitat strips, linking town and country. This article, updating a previous review in these pages (Briggs 1996), coincides with the creation of the Canal & River Trust (CRT), a new charity taking on management
Imagine an 18th-century canal in a state of romantic ruin, its clear water channel filled with a wide range of unusual aquatic macrophytes and invertebrates, alongside an equally diverse towpath. Since 1949 it has been the subject of half a dozen different Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designations, and today most is also a Special
Nature conservation issues on canals can be complex and controversial. The popular canal magazines almost invariably contain an editorial or news item grumbling about the activities of nature conservationists. These complaints, which arise partly from high-profile boating and wildlife conflicts and partly from a poor understanding of nature conservation needs, have persisted for many years.
The scene conjured up by a narrow boat winding its way gently along a canal through England's rural south is one that most people would regard with affection. Here it is possible to shun the pressures of life, to be at one with nature. And yet there is growing concern amongst naturalists that canal restoration,