BRITAIN'S canal system, which only forty years ago was considered by many as a stinking and dangerous chain of stagnant pools, has now become one of the country's leading wildlife sanctuaries - and scientists are trying to find out just how important it is.
This summer,British Waterways, which owns most of the system, has launched an appeal for canal users - boaters, walkers, anglers and cyclists - to take part in a nationwide survey to create the first-ever comprehensive list of wildlife species that thrive on the canals.
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which passes through Airedale and lower Ribblesdale, is one of the most important waters in England, now busy with narrow boats and other leisure users.
But only 40 years ago, the Springs branch in Skipton, once a major artery for quarry traffic from behind Skipton Castle, was a stagnant waste, full of tipped rubbish and weed. Then, there were local demands for it to be filled in because it was not only an eyesore but also a potential danger to children.
More than half of England's population live within five miles of a canal, say Inland Waterways, and they need up-to-date information on wildlife to plan further biodiversity management plans.
For more information, see www.waterscape.com