The anglers are coming and royal plant returns

August 2017 - The Canal & River Trust's team of spin doctors churn out largely self-congratulatory press releases every week, you can read them on their website if you are interested. Now and again there is something on interest to boaters and Peter Underwood has been sorting the wheat from the chaff.

If you are one of the hundreds of boaters planning to pass along the Shropshire Union Canal this week – and especially next weekend – C&RT is delighted to tell you that you'll be meeting hundreds of dedicated anglers.

Nearly 500 of the nation’s top anglers are holding practise sessions this week and will be out in full strength next weekend for the Angling Trust Division One National Championship.

The Canal & River Trust is working alongside the Angling Trust and Hodnet Angling Club to host a major championship along 'the Shroppie' around Market Drayton on Saturday 19 August – the largest single one day event in the angling calendar.

It is also the middle of the school holidays and the busiest time on the Shroppie, with hire boats racing around the Four Counties Ring and other boaters taking their annual summer cruise.

A total of 490 competitors will be populating a 15 mile stretch of towpath, complete with the usual barrowload of gear and bait required by match fishermen.

Some 49 teams, each fielding ten anglers, plus a number of advance practice matches, will be on the towpath and C&RT claims 'the contest is set to give a major boost to the local economy'.

The Trust boats: “This month will be the pinnacle of the fishing year for Canal & River Trust national fisheries & angling manager John Ellis and his small team. Their work involves managing £40 million of fish stocks across the canal network, organising agreements with over 250 angling clubs and encouraging more people, especially youngsters, to take up the sport.”

Apparently, spectators are welcome at the competition to pick up a few angling tips as they walk along the towpath 'but it’s important everyone takes care and respects the wishes of the competitors'.

C&RT does acknowledge the potential for conflict between boaters and fishermen and says: “We thank everyone for their patience. It can get rather crowded with boaters on the water and walkers on the narrow pathway, so it’s particularly vital to ‘Share the Space’ and be considerate to other users.”

Meanwhile, on another canal, it is plants that are occupying C&RT – specifically the restoration of the rare plant, Royal Fern, to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal this month after a 'remarkable rescue'.

It's part of a canal habitat improvement project Making Special Places for Nature. The plant, believed to be the Huddersfield Narrow Canal’s only surviving Royal Fern specimen, was saved in 1992 when the canal was being restored by Huddersfield Canal Society in preparation for its reopening in 2001.

Canal Society ecologist Dr Bob Gough noticed the Royal Fern had been discarded during the excavation works and managed to scoop up the plant from the water.

He took it home to his terraced house in Failsworth and has carefully nurtured it in a black plastic plant pot in his back yard for the last 25 years. A few weeks ago Tom King, one of C&RT's ecologists, heard about the rare Royal Fern and invited Dr Gough to return the plant to its natural home.

Tom said: "Dr Bob Gough has done an amazing job to keep alive this Royal Fern in a plant pot in his back yard for 25 years. It was only a chance conversation that led me to even know about its existence.

“There are currently no other known examples of Royal Ferns on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Six miles of the canal are protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so it is fantastic to return one of the original plants back to the canal bank.

“Royal Ferns like damp, humid, conditions so we are constructing a special bankside planter to give it the best chance to establish a new colony in Mossley.”

The re-planting of the Royal Fern, Osmundia regalis, is part of the Canal & River Trust’s wider 12 month project, Making Special Places for Nature, funded by a £350,000 award from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. This involves improving vulnerable wildlife waterway habitats across 10 key sites totalling 400 hectares.

Photos: (1st) Anglers enjoying a fishing match, (2nd) Bob Gough with the rare Royal Fern.

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