At present, a lot of effort is being given to the CRT/Lottery project to restore the canal to Bridge 85 at Crickheath. Volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society have spent much of 2021 profiling the canal for waterproofing. Efforts focussed on reforming the banks over areas of subsidence, including stabilising by surcharging the underlying peat with containers filled with water. With that process completed, the volunteer team will resume laying waterproof lining protected with blocks.
Completion, planned this year, will link up with the already restored Crickheath Basin, making a further 1¼ miles available from the current limit of navigation at Gronwen Wharf near Maesbury. In the meantime, the volunteer team has been preparing for restoration of the section south of Crickheath.
Work is also underway on Schoolhouse Bridge (No 86). The volunteer-led project to rebuild the last highway obstruction on the Shropshire section, run by the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group (IWA, SUCS, Friends of the Montgomery Canal and Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust), has final engineering approvals after five years of preparation and fundraising. The bridge reconstruction involves closing the public road, excavating the present embankment, constructing the new bridge with flexi-arch segments and then completing the road across the bridge for reopening – all within a few months. Formal agreements with Shropshire Council and CRT are due to be signed in January 2022 and work should start in the spring.
Finally, the Montgomery Canal Partnership and Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust have been working with Shropshire Council to obtain updated reports on the benefits and costs of restoring the remaining 2 miles of dry canal to the border village of Llanymynech, which will open opportunities to seek funds to match the efforts in Powys.
The Montgomery Canal Partnership and Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust have been working with Powys County Council and CRT Wales to extend the 11-mile section centred on Welshpool through to the Welsh border at Llanymynech.
With the support of local MP Craig Williams, Powys County Council and CRT have obtained £15.4m from the UK Government Levelling Up Fund. The grant is for channel and bank works from Llanymynech to the A483 Trunk Road blockage at Maerdy, the reconstruction of two minor road-bridges near Llanymynech, and the establishment of new nature reserves (an essential feature of restoration under the canal’s 2005 Conservation Management Strategy as the canal has the highest level of ecological protection).
A further grant under the UK Community Renewal Fund will cover the planning for restoration through the Maerdy and Arddleen trunk road blockages. This project could be covered by funds proposed in the Mid Wales Growth Deal, a joint plan for development across Powys and Ceredigion supported by the UK and Welsh Government, of which the Montgomery Canal is one of the key features.
Finally, the Montgomeryshire MP and Welsh Senedd Member, supported by Powys County Council and Newtown Town Council, have started planning to realise their long-term ambition to restore the canal to its original destination. This final section includes a number of obstructions, but the towpath is fully accessible and there are opportunities for use before full restoration.
Plans for 2022 also include the Friends of the Montgomery Canal’s popular triathlon, which is scheduled to take place in May.