Work to move last obstruction in restoration of Shropshire side of canal gets underway

After setbacks and delays, work is finally underway to move the last highway obstruction on the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire.

Councillor Vince Hunt cuts the first sod at the Schoolhouse Bridge reconstruction
Councillor Vince Hunt cuts the first sod at the Schoolhouse Bridge reconstruction

Schoolhouse Bridge, near Pant, is to be reconstructed as part of a multimillion pound scheme to reopen the canal.

The bridge, on a country lane south of Oswestry, was blocked many years ago after the canal was abandoned and is the main obstruction on the derelict section to the Welsh border at Llanymynech.

To tackle the bridge, the local waterway charities came together to organise its reconstruction. As well as running a series of local and national fundraising appeals which have raised over £1 million, experienced volunteers prepared the bridge design, obtained all the technical approvals and negotiated with the Canal & River Trust, Shropshire Council and adjoining landowners for the formal agreements needed for the work.

Contractors Beaver Bridges of Shrewsbury were appointed to rebuild the bridge and the first sod was cut on Monday.

The project is expected to last until the late summer.

The start of the bridge works was marked by the cutting of the first sod by Councillor Vince Hunt, Chairman of Shropshire Council.

Michael Limbrey, chairman of the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group which has promoted the project, said: “We are delighted that our contractors are starting to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge almost six years to the day after we launched our appeal for the project. There have been complications on the way – a world-wide pandemic was one – so the start is later than we had hoped. Fortunately our neighbours have been very understanding and we are very grateful to them.

“Rebuilding the bridge is a £1 million project, the biggest volunteer-led project of the restoration so far. We owe a huge thank-you to supporters in the area and across Great Britain who have supported the project with monthly donations and individual gifts, grants and legacies.

"The appeal has also received generous donations from the Inland Waterways Association, the Friends of the Montgomery Canal and the Shropshire Union Canal Society as members of the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group.

"We have also been assisted by a grant from Tarmac Landfill Communities Fund, supplies from TG Builders Merchants, Oswestry, and support from Shropshire Council and the Canal & River Trust who have helped our team get the project to its start and by Beaver Bridges who will be carrying out the work for us.

“The bridge reconstruction and the opening in June of the section to Crickheath restored by volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society will together mark a significant step for the restoration as too will the major works being undertaken in Powys with Levelling-Up funding."

Mr Limbrey said that the start of this project dovetails with other key restoration events taking place on the canal, such as the Levelling Up Grant funded works in Powys, where the first section of dredging has been completed, and in Shropshire the formal reopening of the canal to Crickheath Wharf (about half a mile from Schoolhouse Bridge) on June 2. This is the culmination of many years of work by volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society assisted by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and others, including canal societies.

He added: “The revived Montgomery Canal will safeguard the canal’s valuable built and natural heritage, provide an amenity for recreation and well-being for residents and visitors and bring economic opportunities as the canal opens up for visitors. We look forward to the day when we can realise the ambitions of local authorities, communities and businesses as boats from across the country visit the borders of Shropshire and Powys.”

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