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.
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.
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!
Cambrian Heritage Railways, with sites in Oswestry town centre and Llynclys, has taken delivery of two Pacer train carriages from Porterbrook, the rolling stock finance and asset management company and long-time supporter of community rail.
The acquisition was organised following discussions between the Chester Shrewsbury Community Rail Partnership and Porterbrook CEO Mary Grant.
Sheila Dee, Community Rail Officer for the Partnership, explained that during conversations some months ago Mary was interested in the range of projects we were involved in and the Partnership’s support of the reopening of the line between Gobowen and Oswestry that was being promoted by Cambrian Heritage Railways (CHR).
Sheila said: “Our work with Cambrian Heritage Railways has focused on assisting them on the bid to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railways project earlier this year and introducing a community rail service.
“We have also discussed arranging a community rail working party involving Porterbrook and local volunteers interested on working on the Pacers when the conditions allow.”
Speaking about the donation Mary Grant said: “I was really excited when Sheila told me about the plans for the heritage railway linking Gobowen and Oswestry. Porterbrook is always keen to work with community rail groups and I am delighted that we have been able to make available some of our retired Pacer trains for this very worthwhile project.
“I very much look forward to visiting Cambrian Heritage Railways to see these trains as they embark on a new life serving both local people and visitors to this beautiful part of Shropshire.“
Cambrian Heritage Railways Chairman Roger Date said: “We are immensely grateful to Porterbrook for all their help in allowing us to acquire these units and to the Community Rail Partnership for making the introductions and working with us so positively over the past 12 months. Being a part of the Community Rail Partnership has assisted us with our aspiration to deliver a community rail service and bring economic benefits to the area.”
According to Cambrian Heritage Railways, timescales for a possible reopening of the line to Gobowen are hard to predict and are subject to government funding, but local people can support the proposals by keeping up pressure on their local and national politicians.