I suspect that little is generally known about the work of various dedicated organisations who strive to maintain and improve the landscape and natural environment along the Cromford Canal. With the emphasis on work local to Crich Parish, I’d like to mention the few that I know about and have been involved with on a voluntary basis since I moved into the area six years ago.
Derbyshire County Council is responsible for the canal and the High Peak Trail as well as the historical sites along them, such as High Peak Junction. A (sadly) ever-reducing number of volunteers work with the full-time Environmental Team based at Middleton Top. The main thrust at the moment is to try to combat the vigorous reed growth in the canal, which if allowed to persist, will bring the flow of water to a stop and result in the canal silting up. Trees and shrubs would quickly establish in the canal bed. The aquatic life would be gone – no more little grebe, ducks, coots, moorhens, fish and frogs, kingfishers, and no more swans!
The water voles, of which there were several small populations, have sadly already been wiped out by predation from mink and other small mustelids as well as being worried to death by dogs off their leads. (I’m sorry to mention that, but it is a request of those who maintain the canal that dogs are kept on a lead. Otherwise they are in and out of the canal, which degrades the canal edge, and are a threat to wildlife. I quite understand the desire to let a dog off its lead but the situation is comparable to that of a free-running canine in a field of sheep and lambs. Enough said.)
Friends of Cromford Canal is another organisation with quite a few volunteers whose intention is to see that the canal does not deteriorate further and if anything can be enhanced. As many will know, there is even a navigable section with a tourist barge running regularly through the summer from Cromford Wharf to High Peak Junction.
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust also has a band of dedicated volunteers ho are very active in this area, as well as many other wonderful sites in and around the White Peak. Their projects are very varied and the volunteers are able to try their hand at all sorts of necessary skills: dry stone walling, woodland management, pond restoration, hedge laying and many others. Duke’s Quarry, local stone walls, wildflower meadows, woodlands, and of course the anal, have all benefited from the volunteers’ help.
Surveys are also ongoing in and around the Crich area, again substantially supported by volunteers. National butterfly and bee surveys have been running for some few years now, gathering data to produce scientific reports on species populations. I have been involved in the butterfly survey for a couple of years and I have to say have found it both very educational and interesting.
The benefits to me as a volunteer have been considerable in nurturing a strong link with my local landscape and how it all works, as well as meeting so many like-minded and interesting individuals.
If you have any interest at all in the future of your local environment I would highly recommend having a chat with a representative of any of the above organisations. All are easily contactable and details can be found with a quick Google search. Hope to see you out there some time?