Andy Moon - Volunteer and creator of Friends of Codnor Park Reservoir and Cromford Canal group talks to us about setting up the group and his work at Erewash.

“Back in May 2016 I approached Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to ask if I could clear some of the reed that was dominating the canal to restore a better balance of open water and aquatic vegetation. I’m a local chap who loves walking the dog along the towpath every day and watching the variety of wildlife that can be seen there. In particular I noticed the kingfisher was becoming scarcer since the open water was being taken over by reed and it could no longer hunt the small fish that live in the canal.

I had also seen some evidence of water vole there but it was patchy and again they were very hard to spot. Having done some research I knew that a mosaic of open water and short bankside vegetation, along with some areas of reed would offer the best habitat for many wetland birds and animals but the Trust seemed very short of resource to carry out the practical works required.

I was given the go-ahead to do some work and it became a weekly mission to clear a little more each time.

I saw results very quickly and within a few months I had cleared between two of the existing locks and water voles were appearing all along the channels I had created. At this point I set up a Facebook group – Friends of Codnor Park Reservoir and Cromford Canal, simply to share photos and to encourage more local people to care about their patch”.

Andy was soon joined by more local people who wanted to volunteer to help care for the canal and the wildlife that lives in it. Together they have carried out numerous litter picks, helping clear the canal of years of accumulated rubbish and junk that had been dumped there, cleared up dog poo and installed their own dog waste bin, cleared bankside vegetation such self-set willow and alder scrub that was out shading the water vole burrows and compromising the integrity of the stone work of the canal structure and also building a safe wooden boardwalk to replace dangerous stepping stones leading across the canal to the old Ironville Forge. We have also seen a considerable drop in anti-social behaviour as more people take a pride in their patch and discourage others from illegal trail bike riding or fly tipping.

One of Andy’s team’s biggest achievements to date was to clear the old Portland Basin, a turning point for narrow boats, of many large self-set willow trees. These were clogging the entire width of the canal preventing water from flowing freely and casting huge amounts of shade and leaf litter. This task took a number of work days and hard physical labour to cut and winch the trees away and create a ditch network through the clogged vegetation. The basin is now a haven for wildlife with water voles continuing to extend their range south along the canal towards the main meadows part of Erewash Meadows Nature Reserve, where they have been seen historically.

In May 2017 this growing volunteer team became more than just a name on Facebook and established themselves as a constituted group. Their aim is to have a five year plan to restore the ¾ mile Derbyshire Wildlife Trust owned section of the canal back to full health for wildlife, keeping it in water all year round, having a range of habitats for threatened species such as water vole, water shrew and kingfisher, fundraising to cover volunteer training, insurance and other support and working with us to submit a multi-faceted bid to restore the Portland stone bridge, improve access and signage along the canal and engage local people in the ongoing care of this important historical feature.

They are a fantastic example of a proactive, well run and dedicated team of volunteers who work tirelessly for wildlife and wild spaces in their local community and know how to get the job done!