Photo: Montgomery Canal at Maesbury Marsh by Dave Dunford
(un-restored parts -17miles, Canal almost entirely owned by Canal & River Trust, minor parts in other ownerships)
The Montgomery Canal runs for 35 miles from Frankton Junction near Ellesmere in Shropshire, to Newtown in Powys. Formerly part of the Shropshire Union Canal network, the Montgomery Canal was abandoned after a breach in 1936. Restoration started with a ‘Big Dig’ in Welshpool in 1969, and since then has received considerable support and assistance from IWA with volunteers from WRG and Shropshire Union Canal Society restoring many structures, including the locks at Frankton, Aston, Carreghofa, Burgeddin, Brynderwen and Newhouse.
As well as having one of the best collections of listed locks, bridges and other canal-age structures, the canal has considerable ecological interest which is an integral part of the restoration: IWA contributed the original nature reserve at Aston Locks, created by WRG in 1995 as their largest such project to that date, thus allowing the opening of the restored canal to Maesbury.
Restoration has strong support on both sides of the border, largely due to the considerable contribution made by volunteers over many years in work parties and with professional engineering, construction and other skills. A substantial bequest from a local member enabled IWA to fund the Aston reserve and IWA is assisting the Schoolhouse Bridge project with a significant grant from the Tony Harrison Legacy fund.
Restoration is promoted by a partnership led by Canal & River Trust, and including the local authorities, heritage and wildlife groups, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, IWA and Shropshire Union Canal Society. The Restoration Trust also has a subsidiary Friends of the Montgomery Canal which promotes support along the line of the canal: The Friends organise the popular Montgomery Canal Triathlon each year, bringing visitors and raising funds for the restoration.
In autumn 2016 the restoration won a £2.53million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a £4.2million plan building on the Montgomery’s ecology, built heritage and communities that includes extending navigation from Gronwen Bridge to Crickheath. In addition, plans are well advanced to restore Schoolhouse Bridge, the last remaining road blockage in Shropshire, which will help the canal to reach the Welsh border at Llanymynech. IWA’s local branch is an active member of the team running the Restore the Montgomery Canal! Appeal.