The green and leafy cuttings and embankments of the historic Shropshire Union canal have become havens for wildlife, and walkers and boaters are now being urged to capture the birds, plants and animals with their cameras to provide a record of the wide variety to be seen.
Norbury Wharf, based at the heart of the canal, is urging customers who hire one of their boats for the week or the day, as well as those who take a trip on its new trip boat or simply walk the towpath and use the café, to send them their pictures of the many birds, animals and plants to be spotted along the banks.
Manager David Ray said: “Sometimes the prolific growths of trees and bushes can make you feel as though you are on a river, steaming into the interior of some tropical country in Africa or South America and birds and insects flutter through the leaves.
“There is so much to see around here that we wanted to demonstrate the great variety. To encourage people we're running a summer-long competition for the best photographs and we will offer the winners a day boat for a day to go out and explore even further.”
Keep alert and you could easily spot the bright blue flash as a Kingfisher patrols low over the water and on the banks you can see the sandy workings of the Badger, one of Britain’s largest and most popular wild animals.
High up in the canopy of the Grub Street Cutting you may see a roosting Buzzard as these birds of prey have become almost commonplace along the Shropshire Union Canal in recent years.
There is even a chance of seeing a rare Red Kite as the new breeding colonies in Wales as steadily spreading across the Shropshire hills.
Cormorants are another relative newcomer joining in the search for fish in the canal, and the Shropshire Union Canal has legions of Moorhens and every length of canal seems to boast a resident Heron who will flap majestically away as the boat approaches – a bird who seems to prove their descent from dinosaurs.
Swans, Geese, Mallards and other ducks abound on the canal and, in the summer Bumblebees and Butterflies, along with less attractive insects.
Along the banks of the canal the predators of the ground search for prey. Stoats and Weasels are sometimes seen but there is a possibility that you will spot an Otter or even a Polecat. In the summer there are also spots where wild strawberries grow, usually out of reach on the high rocky walls of the cuttings.
David added: “The canal has become an ever more important sanctuary for wildlife and a trip on a boat provides a unique way of spotting some rare residents, as well as getting a close-up view of the everyday inhabitants.
“We know there are lots of good photographers out there and we hope to be able to print up the best pictures and exhibit them in our shop and café to inspire even more people.”