Montgomery Canal Forum: Report

Sixty people attended the Montgomery Canal Forum at Oswestry Golf Club, at Queen’s Head near the Montgomery Canal, on Monday, 3rd July.

The Forum followed the official launch event for the current phase of Montgomery Canal Restoration at Aston Locks. This launch was arranged by the Canal & River Trust and was attended by representatives of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the main funder for the project, Shropshire Wildlife Trust who assisted with a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, and others who helped with funding. Further details of this event shown on https://vimeo.com/224226502

The principal presentation at the Montgomery Canal Forum was from Jason Leach of Canal & River Trust who showed the successes of other canal restoration projects, particularly the reopening of the Droitwich Canal in Worcestershire, a project which he led.

Alan Roberts illustrated the work of the volunteer group which has adopted the canal in the Welshpool area, the Thursday Restoration And Maintenance Project Supporters, better known as TRAMPS. These volunteers maintain vegetation, improve the towpath, and generally ensure that the canal is tidy and attractive for visitors.

On behalf of Cracker the boat-horse, Tim and Dave Barker gave a double-handed presentation of horse-boating, based on the trips they provide at Canal Central, Maesbury Marsh: the only horse-drawn narrow-boat trip in England, they claim.

Finally, John Dodwell, who chairs the Montgomery Canal Partnership, highlighted the work of the volunteers, some of whom come many miles to work on the Montgomery Canal.  He then outlined plans to tackle the derelict section of canal beyond the end of the current lottery-supported project at Crickheath.

This next stage of restoration is the subject of the appeal launched by the Sheriffs of Shropshire and Powys in April. The Forum was told that the appeal had reached £133,300, two-thirds of the cost of rebuilding the remaining road bridge obstruction of the canal in Shropshire. To support the appeal a collection at the end of the meeting raised over £1,200 thanks to the support of two generous donors both matching the money raised.

Michael Limbrey said, "Restoring a canal is a long-term project but offers so many benefits. We see that from the number of people who use the towpath, and the enthusiasm of others who bring their boats down the Montgomery Canal from Welsh Frankton.

"There is now a real momentum for the revival of the Montgomery Canal. On Monday morning we inspected the site of the last of the nature reserves which will protect the valuable ecology of the canal in Shropshire. The Forum in the afternoon brought together councillors and officers from local authorities on both sides of the border, as well as supporters of the restoration and visitors interested to learn more about the restoration and what it can mean for our area.

"We know that the restoration will bring many social, economic and environmental benefits, adding to what the district already has to offer residents and visitors.

"Events like the Montgomery Canal Triathlon and volunteer working parties bring people from across the country to see more of the canal and the area.  We look forward to the day when boats will be able to reach Llanymynech and mid-Wales from across the national canal network."

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