The Canal and River’s Trust are asking families and children to get out and visit their local canal or river during the summer holidays to monitor the wide range of wildlife the waterways are home to.

The Canal & River Trust’s Great Nature Watch campaign is asking people to record all the wonderful wildlife they see there. Records can be submitted by downloading the Trust’s free mobile app: eNatureWatch. All sightings are vitally important and help the Trust to monitor and protect the species that live along the waterways and enhance their habitats.

Mark Robinson, national ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, says: “By taking part in the Great Nature Watch you can help us monitor the numbers of all species living on waterways, which is essential when looking after and maintaining a 200 year part of our industrial heritage.

“With the warmth of the summer sun, canals are now alive with dragonflies, butterflies and bees. This is also a plentiful time for birds, with food abound, as the young leave the nest and take to the wing. This makes the school break a great opportunity for families to get out and explore their local canal or river, and find out what’s living there.”

The Trust’s analysis of water vole sightings dating back to 1970 has highlighted an inexorable decline in water voles over the last 45 years, with the last 15 years showing the most dramatic decline and the species disappearing from 15 counties and districts. 

Between 1970 and 1999 water voles were spotted on nearly 269 miles or 53 different locations, of our 2,000 miles of waterways. Between the years 2000 and 2015 this dramatically decreased, with sightings on just 141 miles, or 38 locations, a reduction of nearly 50%.

 The north of England, predominantly Yorkshire and Cheshire, has seen the biggest decline with 80% fewer sightings since 2000.

The decline is largly due to habitat loss from development, agriculture and pollution, as well as the threat from American mink, which have bred profilfically since escaping, and sometimes being deliberately released, from from fur farms in the 1970s.

Mark Robinson, national ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, says: “While there have been positive steps across the country to reintroduce them and protect their habitats, by the Trust and other organisations, we have to do more if we are going to stop the water vole from going the way of the dodo.”

People can download the free Great Nature Watch mobile app, eNatureWatch (or search Canal & River Trust in the Apple App Store/Google Play Store). Anyone can take part and record as many sightings as they like between now and October.

The Great Nature Watch remains open until the end of September. Anyone can take part and help support the Canal & River Trust’s environment team in monitoring and caring for the local waterway wildlife. For further information on Great Nature Watch please visit
Additionally, the Trust has created an activity book to encourage families to make the most of their local canal or river this summer. The activities included range from making canal collages, windmills and leaf boats, to spotting wildlife, deciphering bird song and cloud gazing. A sticker sheet allows for challenges to be ‘marked off’ when completed. To receive the free guide, visit or text ‘Sunny’ to 70060.


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