Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

C is for canal

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal seems to have escaped the attention of naturalists. Why this should be is as mysterious as the whereabouts of Lord Lucan. A linear chiseled water body vaguely connecting the River Usk Special Area of Conservation, along the margins of the South Wales coalfield, through urban and rural and on to the Brecon Beacons National Park, it joins the dots on the page marked nature conservation sites in Wales in the NRW staff handbook. Birders, botanists, entomologists, freshwater ecologists and the newly branded citizen scientists should be crawling all over it, but alas this doesn't seem the case. Is it that naturalists are as old fashioned as a pipe smoker and that there's not enough to go around? Whatever the reason there's surely a bestseller there for someone who can articulate the romanticism of this feature.

Anyway, last Wednesday I grabbed my chicken sandwiches and stormed out of the office vowing to myself never again to sit in doors on a day that was sunny and promised so much for a red data book naturalist. So I headed for the canal just south of Pontypool for a walk that was little more an 100 metres either way along the towpath. 

Although the marginal vegetation was still waiting to burst into flower, the ribbon of greenery supported much to please. The first of the years odonata were on the wing with a number of azure and blue tailed damselflies patrolling. Reed beetles were aplenty along with a number of hoverflies and aquatic molluscs. A very mobile great pond snail moved in consort with several tadpoles and there were many small fishes in the shallows. A gentleman stopped to remove dog mess from his footwear and in doing so took the opportunity to tell me of a basking terrapin further up the canal. And then it was back to attack my inbox with renewed determination to fight the good fight for future generations. 

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