Montgomery Canal Forum: Just Add Water

The Montgomery Canal Forum on 18 June was very well attended, packing the
Council Chamber in Welshpool Town Hall.

Michael Limbrey, Chairman of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, opened
the meeting noting that on the wall of the Council Camber was a record of a
Trust meeting there 20 years ago commemorating the 200th anniversary of the
first work on the Montgomery Canal.

Speakers at the Forum showed the value of the canal to their businesses. Mark
Baggett explained how he and his partner had looked for a canalside property,
intending to set up in business on another part of the canal system, but had
found the Navigation Inn at Maesbury Marsh. They had intended to stay for three
years, had now been there for eight, and had no intention of leaving!

Iain Campbell told a similar story of establishing Canal Central in what had
been an undeveloped site beside the canal at Maesbury Marsh. Today Canal
Central acts as village shop and tearoom with other people running bicycle and
canoe hire there, and the new horse-drawn trip-boat an added attraction. Both
speakers told how their businesses benefited from visitors to the canal, and
both bring people to visit the canal.

Finally, Steve Evison from Underhill Farm in Pant, told of the development of
their exploration centre where they host holidays, bushcraft courses, ‘eco’
birthday parties, wildlife and heritage exploration, naturalcrafts and other
activities, many of which - such as early morning and evening canal safaris -
link closely with the canal.

Trust Chairman Michael Limbrey said, "The meeting had the title Just Add Water
because a length of the canal in Shropshire is dry after sixty years of
dereliction, but perhaps instead we should have called it Just Add Boats.
Restoring the canal to Llanymynech and into Wales will bring boats which will
bring life to a canal adding to what visitors experience, and most importantly
adding to the benefit to canalside businesses. Since the restored Droitwich
Canal opened last summer there has been a substantial increase in the number of
people using the towpath, and after only six months it was halfway to its 5 year
target for boating visitors.

"Our speakers told us of their experiences, what they add to the canal and how
it benefits their businesses and the local community.

"This was followed by British Waterways' Head of Enterprise Julie Sharman
telling us about the final arrangements for the transition of British Waterways
to the new charity, the Canal & River Trust in July.

"Finally, the meeting heard about the exciting events on the canal this year -
the successful Montgomery Canal Triathlon Challenge on 2 June, with 180 people
taking up the challenge to cycle, canoe and walk the whole canal from Newtown
to Welsh Frankton. Later this summer there will be the Pool Quay Canal
Festival, on 7/8 July, and Maesbury Canal Festival on 1/2 September, which will
again bring visitors from across the country to visit the borders of Shropshire
and Montgomeryshire."

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