Achievements of canal restoration – activity on the canal – plans for the future
This year’s Montgomery Canal Forum will be held at Open Newtown’s new Riverside Venue on Monday, 20 June 2022 at 2.30pm.
After the disruptions of Covid, the Forum will mark last year’s bicentenary of the final opening of the canal to Newtown.
Principal Speakers will be Val Hawkins, Chief Executive of Mid Wales Tourism and Jason Leach Canal & River Trust’s Head of External Programme Delivery. Jason led the recent highly successful restoration of the Droitwich Canal in Worcestershire and is now working with his team on the multi-million Levelling-Up Fund projects for the Montgomery Canal. There will also be news of events along the canal and plans for future restoration works in Shropshire and Powys.
The Forum is organised by Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust which since 1980 has brought together the public and voluntary organisations interested in the canal’s future.
Michael Limbrey, Chairman of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust said, “The Montgomery Canal was built by three different companies and was opened to the roadside hamlet of Garthmyl in 1797. It took some years to complete the extension to Newtown where we are holding this year’s Forum. Newtown was the furthest limit of the Shropshire Union network in mid-Wales and the section into the town was not finally opened for business until 1821. Obviously it wasn’t easy to commemorate the bicentenary last year but we can’t let it pass unnoticed.
“After years as a ‘branch-line’ of the national waterway network the Montgomery Canal was closed in 1936. Over the years of restoration more than half the canal has been brought back into use – eleven miles through Welshpool currently cut off from the national canal system, and seven miles in Shropshire connected through to places as far as London, Birmingham and Manchester.
“Restoration ensures the protection of the Montgomery’s unique ecology as well as the special collection of canal-age locks, bridges and aqueducts.
“In Shropshire volunteers are working on the lottery-supported project to extend the canal to Crickheath near Oswestry and to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge, the last road blockage before the Welsh border. Our recent appeal for the bridge is continuing to receive generous donations from supporters across the country – for which we are most grateful – a massive help as we face the horrendous challenges of inflation in the construction sector.
“In mid-Wales, UK Government grants for Powys mean that more road blockages can be tackled as a major step to extending the Welshpool section to the border at Llanymynech.
“The benefits of restored canals have been seen all round the country. Many reopened canals are now popular parts of the waterway system, often with honeytrap sites bringing people who enjoy watching the boats. One of the most successful restorations has been the Droitwich Canal in Worcestershire: our principal speaker Jason Leach was Project Manager for that restoration and is proud of the benefits it brought for residents and visitors. Visitors are so important for Mid-Wales and Val Hawkins of Mid Wales Tourism will be able to tell us of the benefits of bringing boats back to Mid-Wales.”
The Forum is a public meeting open to anyone interested in the restoration and development of the Montgomery Canal for present and future generations.
The Forum venue, Open Newtown’s new Riverside Venue is a sustainably designed and built, iconic, low energy gateway to Newtown’s green spaces. It was the starting point of the recent Montgomery Canal Triathlon and is near the Council car park at Back Lane, Newtown SY16 2NH.
The Forum will be an opportunity to discuss any issue concerning the future of the Montgomery Canal and what it can contribute to the area.