New photo shows how canal is shipshape again after latest stretch is restored
A stretch of the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire has reopened for boating and other users, marking the completion of the next phase of its restoration.
More than 85 years after it closed, a 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 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.
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 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 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.
“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 canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/go-boating/planning-your-boat-route/booking-your-passage-online.
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 www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.