The BIG DIG 40th Anniversary 17/18 Oct. 2009

Final arrangements ? Biggest volunteer effort since 1969

Volunteers are putting the finishing touches to the arrangements for Big Dig 40,
a commemoration of the start of the restoration of the Montgomery Canal forty
years ago.

Details recently finalised include:-


Unveiling the commemorative plaque and,

a vintage bus service to view the work of volunteers.

Unveiling the commemorative plaque will be the central feature of the events on
Saturday 17 October. The plaque commemorating the start of restoration will be unveiled by four people who took part in the events of October 1969.

Representing the groups involved:-


John Dodwell, representing what was to become the Waterway Recovery Group
(though it did not formally adopt that name until the following year). John is
Chairman of the Commercial Boat Owners' Association and has recently been
appointed to the Government's advisory body on waterway matters, the Inland
Waterways Advisory Council.

Mrs Nancy Millington of Welshpool, representing the local community volunteers
who opposed the idea of building a by-pass along the line of the canal. Nancy and her

late husband Claude have been long-time supporters of the restoration of the

Montgomery Canal, and she is the bookings secretary for the Heulwen Trust, the

first charity in the world to provide canal boat trips for disabled children and adults.
Mrs Pat Wilson, representing the Shropshire Union Canal Society. Pat has twice
been Chairman of the Shropshire Union Canal Society: she and her late husband
Geoff and their children all took part in the working party in October 1969 and
with their converted narrowboat have remained involved in waterways ever since.

Harry Arnold, waterway journalist and photographer, representing the committee
which organised the 1969 weekend. Harry was a founder member of the Shropshire
Union Canal Society and is a Vice-President of the Inland Waterways Association.


    The BIG DIG first took place at Welshpool over the weekend of the 18th and 19th of October 1969 when the canal was first threatened by a new road scheme.

    Over 300 local residents and canal enthusiasts got together to over that weekend to clean out the canal through Welshpool and start the long  and active campaign and ongoing restoration programme to restore and reopen the Montgomery Canal for the benefit and enjoyment of all.

    Volunteers from both local communities and across the country continue to play their crucial rolls in the ongoing restoration of this wonderful asset.


Guests at the unveiling will include Lembit Opik MP and representatives of local councils

in Shropshire and Montgomeryshire, British Waterways and the volunteer organisations.

After the unveiling there will be a repeat of the final event of 1969 with the
Mayor of Welshpool, Cllr Ann Holloway, being taken through Welshpool on a small
boat, followed this time by a flotilla of about a dozen boats including Heulwen,
steam and motor boats, a cara-boat and canoes.

Following these proceedings, invited guests will be given a brief presentation by
Andrew Stumpf, who will shortly be taking up the post of British Waterways' Head
of Regeneration, Wales & West.


On Saturday at Welshpool, organised by Friends of the Montgomery Canal with the
assistance of IWA, there will also be - boat trips run by Heulwen Trust from

Welshpool Town Lock from 10am -  canalside displays, stands and children's activities at Welshpool Town Wharf and Central Car Park, and Powysland Museum, from 1pm
accompanied by a band from Welshpool High School.

Other activity over the weekend includes working parties by the Shropshire Union

Canal Society continuing the project to restore the canal south of Redwith and the

Waterway Recovery Group clearing a further dry channel section of vegetation and
obstructions, with over 120 volunteers expected.

On Sunday 18 October there will be a free vintage bus service from Welshpool to
join conducted walks along the towpath to see what the working parties have been
up to between Redwith and Pant, departing from Welshpool Visitor Information
Centre (Central Car Park) on Sunday at 10 am and 2pm . Anyone using this service

is advised to wear footwear suitable for a towpath walk.



        The Shropshire Union Canal Society work group who are currently working on the Redwith to Crickheath restoration section and will be holding an extra weekend work party at Redwith.

        Please come and visit to see the extensive work that they have and are completing along this section and give them your support.



        The Waterways Recovery Group, also involved with the canals restoration from the start, will be holding their annual reunion weekend on the Montgomery when they expect over 100 volunteers. Main work scheduled for this weekend will be the clearing of scrub and small trees from the canal bed between Crickheath and Waen Wen Basin  near Pant ready for the restoration.



       The Friends of the Montgomery Canal and the IWA are planning to mark the  commemorative event in Welshpool itself with a flotilla of boats to mark the fact that the first boat went through the town at the end of the big dig itself.


 Trust Chairman Michael Limbrey said, “The Big Dig in October 1969 was one of the
first big working party weekends in the country and the only one in Wales.
Unlike the others, this was a combined effort with volunteers from the local
community as well as canal enthusiasts from across the country. They believed
that the restored canal would be good for Welshpool and would make a valuable
addition to the national waterway network.
"Volunteers have never stopped work in the years since 1969 and over 150
volunteers will make this weekend the biggest volunteer effort on the Montgomery
Canal in forty years. It is with the efforts of these volunteer working
parties, as well as major publicly funded projects, that half the canal has now
been restored.
“There are still some challenges for the restoration, including the dry length
to Pant where volunteers will be working this weekend to prepare to bring the
canal back to life as a living waterspace which will be an amenity for
residents, and visitors.
"This weekend will be commemorating the start of the restoration, celebrating
the achievements of volunteers since, and showing that the Montgomery project is
very much alive.”
The weekend will be co-ordinated by the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust
and will involve the groups involved in the restoration project – Friends of the
Montgomery Canal, Inland Waterways Association, Shropshire Union Canal Society,
Waterway Recovery Group and British Waterways