THIS year it was Oswestry’s turn to host the Montgomery Canal Forum, which was held in the Aico Centre of Excellence on the outskirts of the town.
The impressive and modern venue saw a number of speakers outline the work carried out over the past year, which saw the official opening of the Crickheath basin just a few weeks before.
Shropshire Union Canal Society chairman David Carter outlined the work that had taken place that saw the basin opened to boat traffic and Tom Fulda, project manager, talked about the next phase of the project that will see a 750m section of canal restored.
Richard Harrison, the Canal & River Trust’s principal project manager, told attendees about their involvement in the next phase and outlined some of the difficulties still to be overcome, including some major engineering issues.
The local IWA branch chairman, Michael Haig, gave a presentation focused on the role of the association and the IWA’s Protect Our Waterways project and how its key objectives are being met with the restoration of the Montgomery Canal.
To recognise this work, Mr Haig went on to award the 2023 Tetlow Cup to the volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society for their outstanding efforts in reconstructing 600m of canal channel across former peat bogs.
The award citation states: “Both have been multi-year projects requiring enthusiasm, dedication and tenacity. The extension of the navigation by around two kilometres has also required very high levels of skill by the many volunteers who have given hundreds of hours to the project and has extended the boundaries of works normally considered suitable for volunteers.”
Michael commented: “We had a difficult decision this year, as the Montgomery Canal has played host to two massive success stories – the raising of almost £1 million to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge and the re-opening of the restored navigation through to Crickheath Basin.”
The award is made by the north-west region of the Inland Waterways Association, and this year had been nominated by the Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch of the IWA.
David Carter responded: “Our volunteers have worked tirelessly for eight years on a very complicated piece of construction work of a type not normally done by volunteers. In doing so, they have overcome a whole range of ecological, construction and logistical challenges. That they managed to complete the work to deadline, on budget and safely is to their very great credit.”
The Tetlow Memorial Cup, named after a former commodore of the Lymm Cruising Club, is an IWA regional trophy awarded to recognise the efforts of those who have gone above and beyond to ensure work continues to restore the waterways of the UK.
What was very evident at this year’s meeting was the emphasis on the environment and the environmental benefits to be enjoyed by reopening the canal. These sit alongside the economic and well-being benefits that will hopefully be on offer to the local community as work progresses. With the recent outcry by many wildlife organisations regarding the opening of further sections of the canal still in many people’s minds, the need to highlight the environmental benefits was essential.