Canal Boat - - This Month - NICK WALL Edi­tor

We must find a com­fort­able com­pro­mise to pro­tect in­tegrity of our tow­paths

There’s a bit of a de­bate go­ing on about wildlife and the rights and wrongs of man­i­cured tow­paths right now. It’s an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion.

When I were a lad in Branston (no, not Braun­ston, it’s near Burton upon Trent on the Trent & Mersey) I used to love play­ing around the lock. The lock-keeper (like most of them) was rightly proud of his cot­tage and sur­round­ings; the grass was cut reg­u­larly, flow­ers bloomed and the gates were al­ways well painted and clean.

But if you ex­plored along the tow­path the man­i­cured neat­ness be­came more wild, which to an eight-year-old was ex­cel­lent (mind you, the lock-keeper’s but­ter­fly col­lec­tion was fascinating, too).

It wasn’t a jun­gle as such, but there could have been apaches hid­ing in the lush bushes and you could creep up on birds, frogs and all sorts of wildlife in the long grass. And when it came to time to go home you could still ride your bike back along the tow­path in time to avoid a telling- off.

Mem­o­ries might of­ten be sepia tinted, but there seemed to be a pretty good bal­ance back then and what’s needed now is care­ful man­age­ment and a bal­ance be­tween the two.

So no bowl­ing greens stretch­ing for miles, or acres of bram­bles block­ing the mid­dle of the tow­path.

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