Update on Montgomery Canal progress expected later this month

Canal fans will be offering a belated bicentenary celebration when they get together later this month.

Volunteers have been making good progress on Montgomery Canal
Volunteers have been making good progress on Montgomery Canal

The Montgomery Canal Forum will be meeting at 2.30pm to mark the bicentenary + 1 of the final opening of the canal to Newtown at The Elephant & Castle Hotel, Broad Street, in Newtown, on Monday, June 20.

The occasion - delayed because of Covid - will also give the forum a chance to look at the achievements of canal restoration, activity on the canal and plans for the future.

Principal speakers will be Val Hawkins, chief executive of Mid Wales Tourism and Jason Leach the Canal & River Trust’s head of external programme delivery.

Mr Leach led the recent highly successful restoration of the Droitwich Canal in Worcestershire and is now working with his team on the multi-million Levelling-Up Fund projects for the Montgomery Canal.

There will be presentations about Montgomery Canal projects under recent multi-million UK Government grants, the successes of the restored Droitwich Canal; the Montgomery Canal as an asset for Mid-Wales tourism and Open Newtown’s plans for sustainable community projects in Newtown.

There will also be news of events along the canal and plans for future restoration works in Shropshire and Powys.

The Forum is organised by Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust which since 1980 has brought together the public and voluntary organisations interested in the canal’s future.

Michael Limbrey, who chairs Montgomery Waterway Restoration said: “The Montgomery Canal was built by three different companies and was opened to the roadside hamlet of Garthmyl in 1797.

"It took some years to complete the extension to Newtown where we are holding this year’s Forum.

"Newtown was the furthest limit of the Shropshire Union Canal network in mid-Wales and the section into the town was not finally opened for business until 1821. Obviously it wasn’t easy to commemorate the bicentenary last year but we can’t let it pass unnoticed.

“After years as a ‘branch-line’ of the national waterway network the Montgomery Canal was closed in 1936.

"Over the years of restoration more than half the canal has been brought back into use – 11 miles through Welshpool currently cut off from the national canal system, and seven miles in Shropshire connected through to places as far as London, Birmingham and Manchester."

Mr Limbrey added: “Restoration ensures the protection of the Montgomery’s unique ecology and its special collection of canal-age locks, bridges and aqueducts.

“Volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society are working to finish the weatherproof lining for the lottery-supported project to extend the canal to Crickheath near Oswestry.

"This year should too see the start of the project promoted by the Restore the Montgomery Canal group to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge, the last road blockage in Shropshire.

"The recent appeal for the bridge is continuing to receive generous donations from supporters across the country for which we are most grateful – they are a massive help as we face the horrendous challenges of inflation in the construction sector.

“In Mid-Wales, UK Government grants for Powys mean more canalside nature reserves and plans to tackle more road blockages as a major step to extending the Welshpool section to the border at Llanymynech."

He added that the benefits of restored canals have been seen all round the country.

The forum will also be an opportunity to discuss any issue concerning the future of the Montgomery Canal and what it can contribute to the area.

It is a public meeting open to anyone interested in the restoration and development of the Montgomery Canal for present and future generations.

It had been hoped that the forum would be held in Open Newtown’s new Riverside Venue, a sustainably designed and built, low energy gateway to Newtown’s green spaces, which was the starting point of the recent Montgomery Canal Triathlon, but the building will not be available in time.

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