If you have been along the Montgomery Canal towpath past Crickheath recently, you have almost certainly seen the dramatic advances in the restoration of the canal.
Volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society (SUCS) have been working for more than five years on this current stretch to clear the route of the canal and line it with waterproof membrane material and concrete blocks. In addition, they have rebuilt the towpath meaning it is now compacted and solid underfoot, which will be of benefit to local walkers and cyclists.
Reaching Crickheath and getting the canal back in water means that when officially opened in Spring 2023 boats from across the UK will be able to cruise the completely restored northern section of the Montgomery Canal and turn round at Crickheath.
According to Tom Fulda, SUCS’ Restoration Project Manager who lives in Pant, opening the canal to Crickheath is a huge success achieved by hundreds of volunteers who have given their time freely. “The Montgomery Canal restoration is one of the biggest voluntary projects on the canal network and our volunteers have invested thousands of hours’ work to get it to this stage.”
Like many local residents, Tom has been interested in the progress of the restoration for a number of years. “I am often asked when the restoration will be complete and I have to answer that it’s down to two main factors. Ground conditions, which determine the way we rebuild the channel, and funding. Although, we are all volunteers we still have to pay for materials, so we are always on the lookout for new funding.”
So where next for the Montgomery Canal Restoration?
“Towards Pant,” says Tom. “Our sights have already turned to the stretch of canal from Crickheath Wharf to Schoolhouse Bridge on Long Lane. We have already cleared areas of unwanted vegetation, and the overgrown coping stones of the old Tramway Wharf at Crickheath were exposed so we could assess the remedial work needed there. Canal & River Trust have engaged consultants and contractors to check the prevailing ground conditions”
This preliminary work is essential to determine the shape of the restored channel. And, according to Tom, as this restoration nears Pant and Llanymynech, it’s a great opportunity for locals to get involved in the restoration.
“We are always looking to encourage new volunteers to work on the channel construction, and also people to donate to help us buy the materials we need. As I have mentioned before, we would complete this so much more quickly if individuals or local businesses could raise significant funds to enable our work.”
Says Tom: “The success of the current Montgomery Canal restoration is a great testimony to the skills, perseverance and sheer hard graft of hundreds of volunteers over the years.”