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.
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.
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.”