Road diversions for canal restoration

As many people will know, work has started on preparation for the reinstatement of Schoolhouse Bridge over the Montgomery Canal between Pant and Crickheath.

In the first week of November, contractors will be drilling an underground route through the fields and under the canal bed, avoiding the bridge site, ready for Severn Trent Water to make the connection to the existing main and to cut off the supply across the bridge site later in the month.

Severn Trent has notified residents in the immediate area that they may close the road while the connections are being made. And they have suggested an alternative route via the A483 and B4398 but those with local knowledge may use alternative routes through lanes by the canal. Residents should, however, be aware that there may be extra traffic on these lanes for a short period.

How a future Schoolhouse Bridge could look

The project to reconstruct the bridge is scheduled to start next spring and will involve closing the lane while the bridge is rebuilt to modern highway standards.

After the crops were harvested last month, the bridge restoration team were able to access the final field by the bridge site. They fenced the area to be used for the project and then created a bypass track for the use of any heavy goods vehicle which would not be able to use alternative routes past the bridge site when the road is closed.

The work involved volunteers using hired machines to drive fence posts, lay the track and roll the track surface. The materials for this work were generously supplied by the Tudor Griffiths Group at cost as will those for the bridge itself next year. Tudor Griffiths himself has been interested in the restoration for a long time: he provided the land for the nature reserves by Aston Locks, near Queen’s Head, and many years ago he volunteered when the Inland Waterways Association’s Waterway Recovery Group was restoring the locks themselves.

Speaking for the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group, Chairman Michael Limbrey said: “This final stage of this year’s volunteer effort at Schoolhouse Bridge has been a modest project compared with what we shall be doing next year but it has shown what canal volunteers can do.

“The main work starts next year. We have to excavate the old embankment across the canal and construct the reinforced concrete base and abutments for the bridge. Contractors will then install the bridge arch – and it will be really exciting when they crane the arch into position. The final stages will involve building up to road level, surfacing, kerbing and landscaping. This will be one of the major canal restoration projects of 2021 and it has to be completed in a matter of months.

“We are always on the lookout for more volunteers to help us next year, especially anyone with construction site experience – though that’s not essential. With enough volunteers signed up we would not need everyone on site every day and of course the project will only be running for a limited period. It would be great to hear from anyone who would like to help this exciting project.

“We are particularly keen to bolster the site management team for next year: this could be valuable experience for a younger person looking to build up a CV, or an opportunity for someone between jobs or retired or approaching retirement.

“We are very grateful to local landowners for generously allowing us to use their land and to Shropshire Council and the Canal & River Trust for their support and assistance over the years we have been planning this project. The rebuilt bridge will remove a major obstruction to our ambition to reopen the canal to Llanymynech and into mid-Wales, restoring the connection to the national canal network that was lost over eighty years ago.”

The Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal is run by the local canal charities supporting the Montgomery Canal restoration: the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, Shropshire Union Canal Society and the Inland Waterways Association.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact project team member Ken Jackson via email on kgjackson@btinternet.com.

Meanwhile, readers may well have seen the Charity Garden Stall in Pen-y-Garreg Lane and the organisers want to say a very big thank you to everyone who contributed to or made a donation. £200 has now been paid into the Restore the Montgomery Canal campaign, and as a donation is eligible for gift aid making a total of £250.

The organisers still have a few of the donated books which hopefully will be sold at canal events next year and if still locked down they will be reopening the stall next Spring!

Pantfest success

Cross Guns Inn, Pant, Shropshire

Last month’s Pantfest held at The Cross Guns Inn in Pant has been hailed a success – especially given the difficult situation pubs currently find themselves in due to COVID-19.

Cross Guns Inn, Pant, Shropshire
The Cross Guns Inn, Pant

The Cross Guns has announced that almost £250 was raised by and for three local organisations – the PTA at Bryn Offa School, Pant Memorial Hall and the Restore the Montgomery Canal! Appeal. All are to receive £60, with donations on the day to the canal group adding another £65.

Although the car boot part of the day didn’t pull in quite as many people as was hoped, the afternoon music event was very well supported.

Said Maureen from the pub: “We are really pleased at how the day went and it’s great to be able to support these local organisations with cash raised on the day. Due to the COVID-19 regulations at the time, we had to arrange the event at pretty short notice, but it was great to welcome more people into the pub’s gardens for the first outside performances of the year.

“Pantfest was our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the whole village for their support during the early part of the year when we were only open for takeaways.”

Recent changes to the regulations for pubs mean that the Cross Guns, along with all other pubs in England, will have to close by 10pm and will be restricted by law to table service only.

No table bookings of more than six are allowed and groups won’t be able to mingle with other people. You will need to give your contact details for future tracing if an outbreak is detected.

Staff will have to wear masks, as must customers if they are not sat at their table to eat or drink.

Added Maureen: “Times continue to be difficult for us all, but we are aiming to keep the Cross Guns at the heart of the community.”

If you want to find out more about the three local organisations, please visit: Pant Memorial Hall, The Montgomery Canal or Bryn Offa PTA.