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.

Volunteers sought to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge

Five members of the Montgomery Canal project team

With the easing of Coronavirus restrictions plans are being made for the project to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge, the last blocked bridge on the Montgomery Canal before it enters Wales.

Restore the Montgomery Canal appeal logo

For the last three years the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal has been raising money to rebuild the bridge between Pant and Crickheath in advance of work on restoring the canal towards Pant and Llanymynech. At the same time a team of retired civil engineers, all volunteers, has been preparing the designs for the project.

The team believes that the only way the bridge can be rebuilt with the available funds is by using as many volunteers as possible to undertake much of the work and to engage specialist contractors only when necessary.

Five members of the Montgomery Canal project team
Volunteer team members (from left to right): Glyn Whitehurst, Ken Jackson, Mathew Dorricott, Roger Bravey – Lead engineer – and Chris Busnesll.

After a series of online meetings the volunteer team held a suitably distanced meeting at a nearby hotel to prepare for the start of work. The plan is to carry out some preparatory work this autumn, with Covid precautions, with the main reconstruction in spring 2021.

Michael Limbrey, Chairman of the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal group said, “Canal volunteers have a great record of building or rebuilding locks and bridges and the results can be seen on canal restorations across the country. These volunteers have the skills and qualifications to use serious pieces of equipment, as they do on the Shropshire Union Canal Society working parties restoring the dry Montgomery Canal channel to the north of Schoolhouse Bridge.

“So this is our call to canal volunteers – any volunteers – to come and join this exciting project. Starting next spring we have to build a bridge in the space of a few months so we can reopen the road as soon as possible.

“Unlike many restoration projects, this is for one season: seven months and the job is done.

“It will probably take just one day to crane the bridge arch into position – that will be very exciting!

“This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in joining a vital part of the project to bring the Montgomery Canal back to Mid Wales. The completed bridge will be a permanent reminder of your achievement.”

The team plans to start in September by fencing off the site and laying a temporary trackway so heavy vehicles can get past the site. Next spring the main project will start by removing the existing road embankment so a concrete base and walls can be created for the new bridge. Contractors will then install the bridge arch, with volunteers backfilling to road level so contractors can surface the road. Volunteers will finish brickwork facing to the bridge, install bridge parapets and other fitments and complete landscaping so the road can be reopened to traffic.

Ken Jackson from the project team said, “Now we have to build the volunteer labour force. This will be a mix of skilled specialist volunteers such as carpenters, steel fixers and bricklayers and general volunteers to support them and carry out general ground works and landscaping.
“We are looking for specialised volunteers to join the project to drive excavators and dumpers to excavate the site in March/April 2021, from May to prepare for concreting in June, and in July and September to brick the faces of the bridge.

“We understand that planning outdoor activities is difficult at the moment but don’t let that stop you registering an interest in working with the Schoolhouse Bridge team; and don’t worry if you haven’t done this kind of thing before, we will provide induction training, personal protective equipment and all the tools.”

For more on the Montgomery Canal visit www.themontgomerycanal.org.uk.

To register an interest in volunteering, please email contact@montgomerywrtrust.uk.

Pantfest comes to the Cross Guns

Cross Guns Inn, Pant, Shropshire

The Cross Guns Inn in Pant is to host their very first ‘Pantfest’, a charity funday on Bank Holiday Sunday 30 August.

There will be live music all day in the garden, from around 2pm – 8pm, featuring a number of different acts, as well as a raffle and car boot sale raising funds for charity.

This is a poster for Pantfest

The car boot sale will be held between 10am and 2pm in the pub’s car park with each stall/car costing £5, with all the money going to charity.

Said Maureen from the Cross Guns: “This is short notice as we were waiting to see what the current COVID-19 regulations were, but outside performances are now allowed, with social distancing in place, of course.

“We wanted to put on an event that is for the whole village as our way of saying ‘thank you’ to everyone who has been supporting us over the past few months.

“All money raised by Pantfest will be split equally between three local organisations. A third each will go to the PTA at Bryn Offa School, Pant Memorial Hall and the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal.”

Maureen added: “We wanted to support organisations in the village that are for local people. The village hall, like the pub, school and shop are at the heart of the village and if we can help to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge and bring the Montgomery Canal back in water in Pant, that will be a great asset for local people.”

Sunday lunch will be served as normal between 12 noon and 3pm and there will be selected other meals served throughout the day.

If you are interested in having a car boot stall or getting involved in Pantfest, please call Maureen at the pub on 01691 839631 and visit their Facebook page to find out more about what is happening on the day.