The Canal & River Trust looks after the biggest nature trail in the country –2,000 miles of waterways in urban and rural areas that provide a vital blue-green haven for nature. This nature trail is uniquely local, accessible and free of charge - more than half of us live within 5 minutes of our nearest waterway, and 15 million people spend time there every year, walking, cycling, learning or finding a space to breathe.
But this nature trail, and our own connection to it, is under threat – the UK's wildlife is in serious trouble, with 60% of species in decline or endangered, and increasingly restricted to isolated patches. This issue is becoming catastrophic as our climate changes.
With the help of players of People's Postcode Lottery, Canal & River Trust are working to save our wildlife by keeping our ancient hedgerows flourishing with wildlife. Through a 600-mile survey and a small army of staff and volunteers, the Trust carried out the biggest ever health check of the nation's waterside hedgerows and identified ways that they could be improved as lifelines for wildlife.
The survey revealed gaps that need to be replaced with new hedgerow plants or areas to improve their condition. Volunteers were then trained to relay hedges and carry out coppicing of existing ones to restore them. Work is continuing across the country in places like Ashby, Coventry, Kennet & Avon and Trent & Mersey Canals.
"Our hedgerows provide an important corridor," explains Stuart Moodie, an ecologist at Canal & River Trust. "It's not good for species like butterflies, bats and small mammals to be confined to isolated 'island' habitats. They need to travel safely across the landscape. But many hedgerows have been neglected and destroyed over the decades. If we're to manage and protect them effectively, we need to know where best to concentrate our efforts."
Since 2012, Canal & River Trust have been awarded £450,000 from players. These funds have enabled the Trust to continue maintaining 2,000 miles of historic inland waterways in England and Wales, including canals, rivers, docks and reservoirs – along with historic buildings, archives and three waterways museums.