In Pictures: Montgomery Canal officially re-opens with a sea shanty as boat slices through ribbon

A stretch of the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire has reopened with a sea shanty sung as the first steam powered passenger narrowboat cut the historic ribbon.

A narrowboat sailed through to cut the ribbon
A narrowboat sailed through to cut the ribbon

A ceremony in the sunshine on Friday marked the completion of the latest phase of its restoration.

Among a host of people at the ceremony was North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan, who praised the work of volunteers.

Ms Morgan tweeted: "What a wonderful sunny day for the grand reopening of the newly restored stretch of the Montgomery Canal at Crickheath.

"A huge thank you and well done to everyone involved - how appropriate that it's Volunteers Week."

North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan, centre, with representatives from Shropshire Council including leader Lezley Picton, right

More than 85 years after it closed, the one-and-a-half-mile section of canal between Maesbury and Crickheath has now reopened thanks to the support of volunteers and funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It means that 21 miles are now navigable again.

The historic moment

The Montgomery Canal closed in the 1930s following a serious breach near Frankton Locks in Shropshire. At a time of dwindling freight traffic, rather than being repaired the canal was officially closed in 1944.

Following decades of decline, the restoration of the canal started with the ‘Big Dig’ in Welshpool in 1969. Since then volunteer organisations have been working to reopen the entire 35 miles of canal from the Llangollen Canal via Llanymynech and Welshpool to Newtown, Powys.

The work has ensured that all 35 miles of towpath are accessible and 60 per cent of the canal has now reopened for boating with 13 miles of canal in Welshpool in mid Wales and eight miles in Shropshire now navigable.

A narrowboat sailed through to cut the ribbon

Along the newly restored section, boaters can now navigate from Frankton Locks, where it meets the Llangollen Canal, to Crickheath Basin. The route around Welshpool is restored but this is not yet connected to the rest of the system.

The latest section has involved 300 days relining the canal to make it watertight. This has involved 100 work parties, mainly at weekends. The volunteers dug out and moved around 15,000 tonnes of material during the work to be able to install 36,000 square metres of liner to create a watertight seal on the canal bed.

A narrowboat sailed through to cut the ribbon

A new three-hectare wildlife habitat has also been created within Aston Locks nature reserve to provide a secure environment for aquatic plants, such as the rare Floating Water Plantain Luronium natans. The nature reserve will also provide homes to a range of wildlife including damselflies, dragonflies, otters, and water voles.

Richard Parry, chief executive at the Canal & River Trust, said: “What these volunteers have achieved, with support from Canal & River Trust, is inspiring. They have worked tirelessly to restore this section of the Montgomery Canal from a derelict channel to a wonderful canal that boaters, walkers, and cyclists can now use and enjoy. I would also like to thank National Lottery players for supporting this wonderful project.

A narrowboat sailed through to cut the ribbon

“There is still plenty of work to do with the volunteers starting on the next phase of the restoration from Crickheath Basin to Schoolhouse Bridge as well as the restoration of the canal in Wales which is being funded by the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. As a charity with increasing cost pressures, it’s important we secure external investment to help us restore, protect, and preserve our historic waterways to ensure that we don’t see the decline that took place in the early 20th Century.

“Restoring the entire section of canal has never been closer and I’m looking forward to the day when boaters will once again travel from England to Wales along the Montgomery Canal.”

David Carter, chair of Shropshire Union Canal Society, said: “Our volunteers have worked tirelessly for eight years on a very complicated piece of construction work of a type not normally done by volunteers. They have overcome several major challenges including very bad ground conditions, a high water table, the need to relocate the resident Great Crested Newts, and covid lockdowns. That they managed to complete the work to deadline, on budget and safely is to their great credit.”

John Dodwell, chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership, said: “It’s marvellous to see put into place another part of the jigsaw to restore the 200 years plus old Montgomery Canal. It’s special built and natural heritage offers so much to local people and more widely; both donations and volunteers come from many parts of the country. The restored canal is also a boost to the regional tourist industry as visitors come to the area to spend their money.”

Thanks to £14million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, the Montgomery Canal is being restored to the Wales-England border, meaning, once completed, navigation by boat will be possible between Llanymynech and Maerdy. The project will last two years and includes dredging the canal to a navigable standard whilst also improving the conditions of the canal for rare floating and other water plants and rebuilding two minor road bridges.

Boaters wishing to travel along the Montgomery Canal need to book passage through Frankton Locks. This can be booked online at

For more information on the work of Canal & River Trust, including how you can donate money to support our work or volunteer with us visit

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