The Pocklington Canal forms part of an area that is of considerable importance for wildlife with three Sites of Scientific Interest plus international protection. The Pocklington Canal is one of the Canal & River Trust’s top sites for spotting wildlife on its waterways.
The canal has natural banking and has more aquatic plants than most of our canals. Reeds along the margin of sections of the canal provide a habitat for nesting birds. Swans and their cygnets attract a great deal of interest and nests can sometimes be seen on the canal. Moorhen often manage to hide their nests in the vegetation lining the banks. With patience and luck, water voles can sometimes be seen.
In the 1980s, thirteen species of damselflies and dragonflies were officially recorded on the canal and since then, other species have been found. Damselflies and dragonflies are abundant between June and August and need the warmth of the sun to fly. The Pocklington Canal is regarded as particularly important for the red-eyed damselfly. The male is easily recognised by its prominent reddish brown eyes and blue band near the tail.
Yellow water lily grow prolifically on the surface of parts of the canal and they are at their best in June and July. The canal supports many aquatic plants including less common ones such as fan-leaved water crowfoot, hornwort and lesser water plantain. Distinctive canal plants such as arrowhead and flowering rush can easily be seen at the right time of year.
The rural canal attracts a wide range of birds and these are better seen from the towpath rather than a boat. Birds are protected by a Special Protection Area and Ramsar site. Near where it joins the River Derwent, the Pocklington Canal borders Wheldrake Ings, a National Nature Reserve. The Ings land floods in winter and is of considerable importance for wintering wildfowl. Thus the Pocklington Canal is only part of the special environment of the Lower Derwent Valley.
The Pocklington Canal is good place to see barn owls. These are commonly seen at dusk but sometimes fly during the day. They have been helped here and in the Lower Derwent Valley by provision of barn owl boxes. Birds of prey can often be seen and with luck you might spot a kingfisher, moorhens or grey heron – birds that have a strong association with waterways.
Kingfishers are unmistakable, producing a flash of iridescent blue when they fly along the canal. Look for them on branches overhanging the canal. Grey heron can occasionally be seen on the bank beside the canal. The distinctive call of curlew is among the fascinating sounds to be heard on the Pocklington Canal even when they cannot be seen. Take your binoculars and a camera.