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Montgomery Canal

Montgomery Canal

The Montgomery Canal restoration is now reaching a momentum not seen for many years. The only cross-border restoration, 60% of the canal has already been reopened for navigation: 12 miles through Welshpool in mid-Wales and the section from the Llangollen Canal in Shropshire extended to 8 miles with the opening to Crickheath in 2023. All but the final length into Newtown is owned by CRT, nearly all is in water and most of the locks have been restored. The challenge is to tackle the Shropshire Gap: the final dry 2 miles in England; and nearly 5 miles from the border to the Welshpool section which is in water but obstructed. In Wales, significant work will be undertaken in 2024 by CRT with government Levelling Up and other funding for Powys County Council. Two minor road-bridges near Llanymynech will be reinstated, one the notorious Williams Bridge which was the subject of a vigorous campaign against demolition in 1980. Other work will include bank protection and dredging from the border to the first major trunk road crossing at Maerdy, and planning for that crossing and the next crossing at Arddleen. The remaining obstacles are two trunk road crossings – perhaps to be resolved by diversion or dropped locks/pounds – and the aqueduct over the River Vyrnwy, the biggest structure on the canal, which needs extensive repair. There is an opportunity for funding some of this work through an infrastructure programme from the governments in Cardiff and Westminster but funding is, of course, always highly competitive.

The Levelling Up grant will also provide new off-line nature reserves as the Welsh equivalent of the Shropshire reserves at Aston (by the A5) – essential under the canal’s Conservation Management Strategy which integrates habitat protection with restoration to navigation – and much-needed repairs to the minor aqueduct at Aberbechan, north of Newtown, vital for water supply from the River Severn.
Volunteers of three CRT taskforces help with maintenance along the canal including the largest – nicknamed the TRAMPS – in the Welshpool area but with members regularly seen volunteering at other locations along the canal. In Shropshire in early 2024, contractors completed the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge No 86, the last highway obstruction in Shropshire, and volunteers will follow with site remediation and landscaping. This project was funded by the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal – a joint promotion by the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, Shropshire Union Canal Society, the local IWA branch and Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust – which has been generously supported locally and across the country.
North of Schoolhouse Bridge, Shropshire Union Canal Society volunteers, who completed the CRT/Lottery project to the new Crickheath basin on time and on budget, moved to the dry section beyond Crickheath Bridge No 85, which again has to be profiled and made waterproof. The historic wharf wall has been rebuilt and work on the channel has started. At the same time the Restore the Montgomery Canal! team has switched the focus of the appeal to provide materials and equipment for the SUCS work parties. The appeal needs further funds to drive the restoration forward and it is hoped that supporters will continue donations through localgiving.org/charity/restorethemontgomerycanal or by cheque (payable to Restore the Montgomery Canal!) to Restore the Montgomery Canal!, Tixall Lodge, Tixall, Stafford ST18 0XS. 
While volunteers work on the dry section to the border at Llanymynech, the Montgomery Canal Partnership, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust and Shropshire Union Canal Society continue to work with Shropshire Council to seek more significant funding to match progress in Powys. One of the great assets of the Montgomery Canal is its range of listed and other structures which tell the story of the canal as a working waterway. A team of CRT and volunteers has started to review their condition and would be glad of more help.

Canal events for 2024 will include a celebration of the seven-year Schoolhouse Bridge project and the popular Montgomery Canal Triathlon, an important fundraiser. Scheduled for 18th May, it is expected that the triathlon will finish at Schoolhouse Bridge again, returning to the ‘marathon’ length of about 27 miles. As usual, entrants can take part in all or any of the three sections: by cycle, canoe and on foot. Bookings are due to open in February with more at themontgomerycanal.org.uk/friends/montgomery-canal-triathlon.

April 2024

Progress on the off-side bank at Crickheath.


Montgomery Canal near Carreghofa.