THE long-awaited reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge on the Montgomery Canal is now underway following the cutting of the first sod by Coun Vince Hunt, chairman of Shropshire Council.
He said: “This has been a long time in coming and will advance the joining of both ends of the Montgomery Canal which is wonderful for tourism in Shropshire and will be a much-needed economic boost for this part of the county.”
The event was attended by representatives of the Restore the Montgomery Canal team, which has promoted rebuilding this last highway blockage on the canal in Shropshire, with other canal volunteers, local property owners, the contractors and a councillor from the local parish council. Sadly, Coun Joyce Barrow was unable to attend.
Michael Limbrey, chairman of the Restore the Montgomery Canal group, said: “We are delighted that our contractors are starting to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge almost six years to the day after we launched our appeal for the project.
“There have been complications on the way – a worldwide pandemic was one! – so the start is later than we had hoped.”
He continued: “Rebuilding the bridge is a £1 million project, the biggest volunteer-led project of the restoration so far. We thank supporters in the area and across Great Britain who have supported the project with monthly donations and individual gifts, grants and legacies.
“The appeal has also received generous donations from the Inland Waterways Association, the Friends of the Montgomery Canal and the Shropshire Union Canal Society, and members of the Restore the Montgomery Canal group. We have also been assisted by a grant from Tarmac Landfill Communities Fund, supplies from TG Builders Merchants, Oswestry, and support from Shropshire Council and the Canal & River Trust, who have helped our team get the project to its start and by Beaver Bridges who will be carrying out the work for us.” The work will continue until late summer.
Michael said that the bridge reconstruction and the opening in June of the section to Crickheath restored by volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society would together mark a significant step for the restoration.
“The start of this project dovetails with other key restoration events taking place on the canal, such as the Levelling Up Grant funded works in Powys, where the first section of dredging has been completed, and in Shropshire the formal reopening of the canal to Crickheath Wharf (about half a mile from Schoolhouse Bridge) on June 2.
“This is the culmination of many years of work by volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society assisted by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and others, including canal societies. We look forward to the day when we can realise the ambitions of local authorities, communities and businesses as boats from across the country visit the borders of Shropshire and Powys.”
Richard Hinckley, Beaver Bridges sales director, said: “As a local business we are very excited to be conducting these prestigious works with the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust and to continue the excellent work to date and contribute to the future legacy of the canal.”
Within days of the event, the contractor had removed the old road embankment which had blocked the canal for 60 years or more and is the main obstruction on the derelict section to the Welsh border at Llanymynech.