Go on a canal safari!

15 February 2023

Image of a mobile phone using the canal safari app

A new app will provide those visiting Wales’ Montgomery Canal with a real walk on the wild side this winter.

Just launched this month [January 2023], the free app, ‘Canal Safari’, has been developed by local conservation charity, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust (MWT). Part of a collaborative project called Canals, Communities and Wellbeing, the app aims to enhance the visitor experience by bringing them closer to the waterway’s wealth of wildlife.

“We’re so lucky to have the Montgomery Canal on our doorstep. Not only is it a vital resource for wildlife, it’s also a fantastic space for people to get closer to nature and boost their mental wellbeing in beautiful surroundings,” says Carla Kenyon, MWT Head of Health & Wellbeing. “Canal Safari is an exciting tool that will enhance a visit to this wonderful waterway by enabling users to discover about the birds, mammals and other wildlife that calls it home.”

Once downloaded to a smartphone, Canal Safari uses GPS signal to plot a user on an illustrative ‘map’ of the Welsh section of the canal, from Llanymynech to Newtown. As you walk along the towpath, your location changes accordingly. The app notifies you of nearby nature-themed points of interest, complete with fascinating facts and fabulous photography, for a fun, interactive experience.

Designed to enable people to spot, identify and record the wildlife found here, the app boasts at-a-glance facts and more detailed information on over 60 of the plants and animals most associated with the canal. It also signposts users to the nine Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves located just off the towpath or nearby. There are quizzes perfect for children and families to test their newfound knowledge, while access points that link up with Google maps make planning trips to different spots on the canal a breeze.

Photography lovers will be able to share pictures of the canal’s wildlife on Facebook and Instagram, and to involve others in the adventure, you will be able to invite friends to join you on a Canal Safari. What’s more, you can clock up your miles on each visit and keep logging your sightings to progress from Scout to Adventurer.

If that wasn’t enough, the app also has a strong conservation function at its heart. The Montgomery Canal in Powys is one of the best places in the world for a rare aquatic plant called Floating Water-plantain, Kingfishers are frequently seen here and it’s also a stronghold for Otters, a species currently experiencing worrying declines. Anyone using the app is able to record a sighting and these valuable records will help build up important data across the county and the UK as a whole.

It has been created thanks to a partnership project called Canals, Communities and Wellbeing, which aims to improve opportunities for access, recreation and nature-connectedness within the Montgomery Canal corridor in north Powys and the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in the south. Led by Powys County Council’s Countryside Access and Recreation Team, it’s a collaboration between Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Glandŵr Cymru, Canal & River Trust in Wales and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. Running until May 2023, it includes towpath improvements, enhancements to nature reserves, new visitor interpretation signage, promotional aerial films of the canals and guided wildlife walks.

The Canals, Communities and Wellbeing project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

To download Canal Safari, for Android or iPhone, visit www.montwt.co.uk/canals-communities-and-wellbeing-project

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