Extra length opened and new appeal for the Montgomery

Published: Wednesday, 07 June 2023

A FURTHER 1½ miles of the Montgomery Canal was opened last Friday, 2nd June.

The event also saw the launch of a new Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal for the next stages of restoration.

Steam launch ICTUS and VIPs Target of £250,000

With a target of £250,000 the appeal is again supported by television canal stars Timothy West and Prunella Scales who exclaimed:

“Volunteers working on the very special Montgomery Canal have successfully restored the canal to Crickheath—on time and on budget. Generous supporters’ donations have funded the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge, the last highway blockage in Shropshire. With just two miles derelict in England can you now help the volunteers to reopen more of the canal towards the Welsh border?” Above image by Graham Deakin.

The opening ceremony marked the completion of restoration to Crickheath, near Oswestry, Shropshire, adding to the national canal network.

Cutting the ribbonLocal MP Helen Morgan and Shropshire Council Leader Lezley Picton with other VIPs travelled the newest section to the new terminus at Crickheath Basin. Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society had cleared, shaped and lined a length of canal that had been dry and derelict for many years and contractors for the Canal & River Trust had constructed a new basin where boats can turn.

Volunteers from all over the country

Lezley Picton commended the work of the Montgomery Canal volunteers. She had met volunteers from all over the country, she continuing:

“They all have one thing in common, which I imagine quite a few of us here have in common as well, which is we absolutely love this canal.”

She and Helen Morgan then unveiled a commemorative plaque.

Other speakers included David Carter, SUCS Chairman and Crickheath Project Leader, Richard Parry, Canal & River Trust Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund trustee Julian Glover and John Dodwell, Chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership.

BasinExciting day

Michael Limbrey, Chairman of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, explained:

“This really was a most exciting day. For the first time for more than eighty years there were boats at Crickheath Basin, some of them even from the working days of canals. It was a day to celebrate the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Canal & River Trust and particularly the effort of volunteer work parties over many years—among other things this involved laying by hand some 67,000 concrete blocks to secure the new lining for the canal. Image by Pamela Mounter.

“There are many ways to celebrate at an event like this, the Shropshire Boatmen whose singing greeted the opening party, celebrated with a specially composed shanty Down to Crickheath Wharf.

“Crickheath really is an unlikely canal destination, yet it now joins places like Gloucester, Liverpool, Bath or York as the end of a journey for boating visitors.

“Having brought the canal to Crickheath the volunteers have already started work on the next section. There is no Lottery support for this so we are asking anyone who can to help reopen more of this special canal by supporting our latest Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal.

“I am delighted to say that the appeal got under way on the day of the Crickheath opening with a generous donation from a supporter of £1,000 which was increased by 25% through Gift Aid.

“Half a mile from our celebrations contractors are working on the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge, the last highway blockage in Shropshire. This project, funded by private donations from across the country, is part of just two miles of dry canal, all that is now left to restore in Shropshire.

“This work in Shropshire will complement substantial projects in Powys where UK Government Levelling-Up funding will build bridges so towpath users no longer have to dash across the road where the canal is blocked, create new canalside nature reserves to replicate the special habitat and safeguard rare and special flora and fauna, and restore the canal channel where it is in water but not capable of use.

“There are so many success stories around our canal network of reopened canals that add to the visitor economy, the conservation of plants and wildlife, safe towpaths for recreation and well-being, and historic structures from our first transport network. They all bring social, environmental and economic benefits and we are keen to see those benefits here in the borderland of Shropshire and Wales.”

RestoreGrant awarded

Just as news of the conquest of Everest arrived on Coronation Day 70 years ago, so on the same day, 2nd June—but too late for everyone gathered for the celebrationscame the news of further funding for the Montgomery Canal. A grant of £7,531 has been awarded from National Grid’s Community Matters Fund for towpath improvements which will be a great benefit to the many who use the canal towpath south of Oswestry.

The celebrations concluded on Saturday 3rd June when volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society, following a tradition of the 1800s when navvies were rewarded with a barrel of beer, celebrated with a barrel of Navigation Ale sponsored by Monty’s Brewery from Montgomery.

Restore the Montgomery Canal! is promoted by the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust with the Friends of the Montgomery Canal (the membership section of MWRT), the Shropshire Union Canal Society (Charity No. 245875) and Inland Waterways Association (Charity No. 212342), Shrewsbury District & North Wales branch.