Crickheath Wharf reopened

Crickheath Wharf on the Montgomery Canal was officially reopened for boating and other users recently, over 85 years since it closed.

The ribbon on the new section was cut from a steam tug carrying VIP passengers including Helen Morgan MP and Shropshire Council leader Lezley Picton. A specially written song about Crickheath Wharf was sung by the Shropshire Boatmen as the ribbon was cut.

The Montgomery Canal closed in the 1930s following a serious breach near Frankton Locks in Shropshire. At a time of dwindling freight traffic, rather than repairing the canal it was officially closed in 1944.

Following decades of decline, the restoration of the canal started with the ‘Big Dig’ in Welshpool in 1969. Since this date, volunteer organisations have been working to reopen the entire 35 miles of canal from the Llangollen Canal via Llanymynech and Welshpool to Newtown.

The work to date has ensured that all 35 miles of towpath are accessible and 60% of the canal has now reopened for boating with 13 miles of canal in the Welshpool area and eight miles in Shropshire now navigable.

Over the last eight years 169 volunteers spent many hundreds of hours restoring the canal and have spent over 300 days relining the canal to make it watertight.

A new three-hectare wildlife habitat has also been created within Aston Locks nature reserve to provide a secure environment for aquatic plants, such as the rare Floating Water Plantain. The nature reserve will also provide homes to a range of wildlife including damselflies, dragonflies, otters, and water voles.

Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal & River Trust, said: “What these volunteers have achieved, with support from Canal & River Trust, is inspiring. They have worked tirelessly to restore this section of the Montgomery Canal from a derelict channel to a wonderful canal that boaters, walkers, and cyclists can now use and enjoy. I would also like to thank National Lottery players for supporting this wonderful project.

David Carter, chair of Shropshire Union Canal Society, said: “Our volunteers have worked tirelessly for eight years on a very complicated piece of construction work of a type not normally done by volunteers. They have overcome several major challenges including very bad ground conditions, a high water table, the need to relocate the resident Great Crested Newts, and covid lockdowns. That they managed to complete the work to deadline, on budget and safely is to their great credit.”

John Dodwell, chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership, said: “It’s marvellous to see put into place another part of the jigsaw to restore the 200 years plus old Montgomery Canal. It’s special built and natural heritage offers so much to local people and more widely; both donations and volunteers come from many parts of the country. The restored canal is also a boost to the regional tourist industry as visitors come to the area to spend their money.”

Beer arriving by boat.

John took the opportunity of the reopening to launch a new fundraising campaign to restore the Montgomery Canal past Crickheath towards Pant.

It was the custom when the canals were first dug in the 1800’s to reward the navvies with a barrel of beer. This tradition was observed when over 70 volunteers and supporters enjoyed a barrel of Navigation Ale sponsored by Monty’s Brewery from Montgomery.

Thanks to SUCS Publicity for the photos.

Posted in Crickheath, Montgomery Canal, Pant, Shropshire, Shropshire Council.