After a number of setbacks and delays, work has just started on the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge, the last highway obstruction on the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire.
The bridge, on Long Lane between Pant and Crickheath, was blocked many years ago after the canal was abandoned and is the main obstruction on the derelict section to the Welsh border at Llanymynech. To tackle the bridge, local waterway charities came together to organise its reconstruction. As well as running a series of local and national fund-raising appeals which have raised over £1 million, experienced volunteers prepared the bridge design, obtained all the technical approvals, and negotiated with the Canal & River Trust, Shropshire Council and adjoining landowners for the formal agreements needed for the work.
The start of the bridge works was officially marked on Monday 24 April 2023 by the cutting of the first sod by Cllr Vince Hunt, Chairman of Shropshire Council.
The bridge itself is being built by contractors Beaver Bridges of Shrewsbury on a project which will run through to late summer. They have closed the road and fenced the site.
Michael Limbrey, Chairman of the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group which has promoted the project, said, “We are delighted that our contractors are starting to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge almost six years to the day after we launched our appeal for the project. There have been complications on the way – a world-wide pandemic was one – so the start is later than we had hoped. Fortunately our neighbours have been very understanding and we are very grateful to them.
“We owe a huge thank-you to supporters in the area and across Great Britain who have supported the project with monthly donations and individual gifts, grants and legacies. The appeal has also received generous donations from the Inland Waterways Association, the Friends of the Montgomery Canal and the Shropshire Union Canal Society as members of the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group. We have also been assisted by a grant from Tarmac Landfill Communities Fund, supplies from TG Builders Merchants, Oswestry, and support from Shropshire Council and the Canal & River Trust who have helped our team get the project to its start and by Beaver Bridges who will be carrying out the work for us.
“The bridge reconstruction and the opening in June of the section to Crickheath restored by volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society will together mark a significant step for the restoration as too will the major works being undertaken in Powys with Levelling-Up funding.
“The revived Montgomery Canal will safeguard the canal’s valuable built and natural heritage, provide an amenity for recreation and well-being for residents and visitors and bring economic opportunities as the canal opens up for visitors. We look forward to the day when we can realise the ambitions of local authorities, communities and businesses as boats from across the country visit the borders of Shropshire and Powys.”
Richard Hinckley, Beaver Bridges Sales Director said, “As a local business we are very excited to be conducting these prestigious works with the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust and to continue the excellent work to date and contribute to the future legacy of the canal.”