SHROPSHIRE Union Canal volunteers saw the fruition of seven years of toil on arrival at the first work party in November.
The Canal and River Trust had commissioned a dredger and barge which, after some very tight manoeuvres to get them on site, were eventually craned into the 600 metres of restored channel on the Montgomery Canal near Crickheath.
This is probably the first time for 80 years that a working boat has operated in this stretch which is now full of water and looks like a canal, rather than a construction site.
The volunteers christened the dredger Tightanic due to the problems encountered during delivery with the very narrow access to the launch site. The vessels were hauled with ropes by the volunteers from the launch site at Crickheath Basin to Prices Bridge at the other end of the channel.
A small digger mounted on the dredger was used to remove the clay dam at Prices Bridge to expose all of the stop planks that had been holding back water from the national network.
Clay was then deposited into the accompanying barge which was then towed, on the return trip of 600 metres, back to Crickheath by the volunteers using ropes on either side of the channel. This volume of clay was then removed from the barge by an onshore digger and stored for further use.
Having begun this progressive continuation project, which has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, in 2015, then been laid off for two years or so due to the removal of great crested newts from the site followed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the time frame is actually closer to five years to complete the section.
CRT acknowledges that this has been one of the most challenging situations to be tackled by a volunteer group, due to subsidence, related geological issues and ground conditions.
A simple ceremony was held by the volunteers at their last work party in October to commemorate the completion of the work in the channel (see report on page 8), but the official opening will take place around Easter next year, when navigation down as far as Crickheath Basin will commence.
Some preparatory site work was also undertaken on the next section to be restored at Crickheath Wharf. Main channel work there will begin in January 2023, to link with the new Schoolhouse Bridge, which hopefully will be reinstated by the Restore the Montgomery Group by next year.