Grow Wild has an Aquatic Plant Adventure

If you live near a river or canal, you may be familiar with the sight of aquatic plants along the banks as you walk past. But how many opportunities do you have to get a water level eye view to discover the unseen parts of this habitat? Ben, Grow Wild’s North England Engagement Manager, joined a canoe our run by The Conservation Volunteers' Hollybush Conservation Centre in Leeds for a closer look.

As I arrived with our photographer Steph at the lock on a mild Sunday morning, about five minutes’ walk from Hollybush Conservation Centre in Leeds, there was already a gathering of excited adventurers putting on their life jackets. I chatted to the families patiently waiting their turn whilst the first canoers – Joanna, Nicola and children - were climbing aboard, and soon the tour took our band of intrepid explorers down the waterway.

Aided by a handmade canal map, the journey highlighted areas of particular interest that we might not have noticed if we just walked along the towpath. Returning around 20 minutes later, adults were as happy as the children, as they recounted the plants they found and the dragonfly darting in front of the boats. There had even been some singing!

People in a kayak smiling at the cameraPeople enjoying their kayak tour. Photo credit: Steph Lynch

I spent the afternoon at the locks talking to people as they disembarked from their journey, while Steph captured all the action upstream. It was brilliant to hear how much people reported seeing anew: the most common feedback was how different the canal looks when you’re able to see it at eye level. People not only enjoyed the boat ride but had noticed the variety of plants, insects and birdlife that make their home on the waterway.

"It was brilliant to hear how much people reported seeing anew."

These tours have been organized by Hollybush Conservation Centre (part of The Conservation Volunteers) for their Grow Wild funded Aquatic Plant Adventures project. Supported by volunteers from Leeds Canoe Club, this final event aimed to give curious passers-by of all ages the chance to hop into a canoe for their own adventure. Many people had come to Hollybush especially for the kayak trips, whilst other passengers saw the kayaks as they walked past and stopped to find out more.

Two kayaks with people in them sighted through the green branches of a treePhoto credit: Steph Lynch

The team at Hollybush have worked for years to connect people with nature in urban Leeds. John, Aquatic Plant Adventures’ project leader, knows how important it is to get new people interested in the natural heritage of the city. These canoe tours are one of many varied activities he and the team have developed that help people become inspired by the nature on their doorstep.

At the end of a packed day, I headed back to the conservation centre and stopped in at the photography exhibition being displayed in Hollybush’s roundhouse. Throughout summer, the Aquatic Plant Adventures team have asked local people to capture images of plants, animals and landscapes on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. They hoped to receive submissions that highlighted the wonderful natural heritage of the waterway, and they were not disappointed! Just like the canoe trips, these images helped to bring the aquatic world closer to visitors to show how varied and diverse life on the canal can be.

"We could lose a valuable home to urban biodiversity."

A sense of wonder and intrigue is so important for encouraging people to value the natural habitat around them. Without that interest, waterways and other habitats could get overlooked and we could lose a valuable home to urban biodiversity.

Grow Wild has been thrilled to support Hollybush Conservation Centre in their work this year, and we hope that we can see more creative ways to encourage people to explore their environment in future!

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Aquatic photography

Alongside the canoe tours, Holybush ran a photography competition for people inspired by aquatic plants and nature. Here are the winning photographs.

Wildlife category winner: Scott Martin

A brown toad glistening in the light

Waterplant category winner: Mark Hewitt

Reed and lily pads n a cloudy day

Waterscape category winner: Ewa Kawlec

Green diffused light through the trees onto a placid river


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