Coronavirus emergency puts a stop to Montgomery Canal events
The Coronavirus emergency has affected many planned Montgomery Canal events in the coming months. Most notable are the Montgomery Canal Triathlon due on 2 May and the monthly work parties of the Shropshire Union Canal Society. Other lost events include the planned presentation to the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Waterways at Westminster on 23 March, a week-long display of Shropshire canal projects at the Abbey Station Visitor Centre, Shrewsbury due to run from 28 April to 4 May, and the Montgomery Canal Forum on 27th April.
Speaking for the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group which promotes the next stages of restoration, Chairman Michael Limbrey said, "The next few months were going to be a busy time for the Montgomery Canal. The annual Triathlon has already received over 200 bookings from people who would cycle, run and canoe the canal from end to end. The SUCS volunteers on the restoration work parties were gearing up for busy summer to reline the canal to the newly-restored Crickheath Basin. Elsewhere there were plans for meetings to promote the next stages of restoration and, not least, for events at which we would be raising more funds for the next big project, the reconstruction of the last road blockage in Shropshire. It will be possible to resume some of these activities when the emergency is over but we shall have lost valuable time."
"The postponement of the Triathlon to next year will have been a great disappointment to entrants and to the organisers who were hoping it would raise funds for the canal. Some entrants have kindly donated their entry fees to the restoration; others have been happy to carry their entry forward to next year’s event on Saturday 8th May 2021 – that means there are bookings for next year's Triathlon thirteen months in advance!"
"Another cancellation is the Montgomery Canal Forum due on 27th April. This is an annual public meeting with news and updates about the canal and its restoration. It is hoped that the Forum can be rescheduled in the autumn."
"We are now starting to see the cancellation of rallies and shows where members of the public have been so generous with their support. We have recently heard of the cancellation of two events in June, the Welshpool Transport Festival which features activity on the canal, and the Historic Narrowboat Festival at Braunston, near Rugby, a celebration of traditional working boats. The story of the Montgomery Canal and its restoration always generates a lot of interest at these events and we shall miss the opportunity to raise funds and recruit volunteers."
"We do still have to raise funds to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge next year – and indeed to start some of the preparatory work later this year – so we can only appeal to anyone who can see the benefit of reopening the canal to Llanymynech and mid-Wales to support us through our website www.RestoreTheMontgomeryCanal.uk or www.LocalGiving.org/RestoreTheMontgomeryCanal."
Commenting on the suspension of their volunteer work parties Shropshire Union Canal Society Project Manager David Carter said, "Having finished all of the preparation work for the final phase of the channel it is bitterly disappointing to have to stop but, alas, we have no choice".
Updated information about events on the Montgomery Canal will be on www.RestoreTheMontgomeryCanal.uk/covid-19.html.
Planning permission a great step forward in restoration of Montgomery Canal, says Trust
Volunteers now being recruited
The Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust is pleased to have received planning permission for the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge, near Oswestry, Shropshire.
The Montgomery Canal was abandoned in 1944 along with other parts of the Shropshire Union Canal system and the old canal bridge on Long Lane was demolished when the canal lay derelict. The canal’s restoration started fifty years ago with a major work party in Welshpool drawn from local residents and canal enthusiasts from the Shropshire Union Canal Society and the Waterway Recovery Group (which adopted the name shortly after the event).
Current restoration supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund will see the canal reopened to Crickheath Basin, leaving two miles of dry canal in Shropshire. Schoolhouse Bridge is on this section and is the last road blockage before the Welsh border.
Michael Limbrey, Chairman of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust said, "A team from the local canal charities has been working together to promote the next stages of restoration. In the last three years our Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal has raised most of the money we need to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge though we are still keen to receive donations to complete the funding."
"We submitted our planning application in the summer with the help of the Canal & River Trust, which owns the canal, and permission has now been granted. There are a number of detailed conditions we now have to comply with and we then aim to start work next year."
"This really will be one of the most exciting projects on the Montgomery Canal and indeed on any of the canal restorations around the country. Canal restoration volunteers are very skilled and many are trained to use major pieces of equipment: they have restored many bridges, locks and weirs on other canal restorations and at times they have had to build bridges or other structures from scratch."
"We want to use these skills at Schoolhouse Bridge because the only way we can fund the rebuild is by using volunteers as much as possible. Volunteer teams will clear the site, dig out the old road embankment and install the foundations and abutments for the bridge. Then we shall bring in specialist contractors to install the arch before volunteers return to lay the base for the road which will be finished by more specialist contactors."
"I am delighted to say that Shropshire Council have been very supportive and have said we can close the road to allow this work to take place. They know of course that the restored canal can bring economic, social and environmental benefits to the area and it is for these very reasons that enthusiasts have been working for so many years to reopen the canal and that supporters have been so generous in supporting the appeal."
"Now planning permission has been obtained, we are pressing ahead with the design details for final approval. At the same time we are building up our team for the project itself. We have a core team to manage the work and would like to recruit local volunteers to assist with supervision or receive deliveries for the next working party and carry out other essential tasks to maintain progress. We could arrange any necessary training. Members of this team would be playing a valuable part in restoring this vital link on the canal, something to be proud of. Anyone interested should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org"
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We are delighted to receive a £5,000 cheque (see photo) towards the restoration costs. This came from the surplus from the 2019 Triathlon, run by members of The Friends of the Montgomery Canal, one of our constituent members. The annual Triathlon takes place along the whole length of the Canal. Details of the 2020 Triathlon which takes place on May 2 can be found at http://www.montgomerycanal.me.uk/fmcevents2020.html.
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Celebrating A Special Day – Donation
Thanks to a lady (who wishes to be anonymous), we have received a donation (with Gift Aid adding 25%) in lieu of a birthday present. Friends of the lady offered to make a donation to a charity of her choice instead of giving "yet another present". The lady very kindly nominated our Schoolhouse Bridge Appeal. One for you to think about?
Maybe also a suitable charity for retiring collections at a funeral? This happened after the death of renowned waterways journalist Harry Arnold, a keen Montgomery supporter.
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Further Fundraising Successes
Thank you very much to Red Ridge Outdoor Centre of Cefn Coch for a generous £2,000 donation in appreciation of their access to the Canal for canoeing and cycling activities.
Thanks too to the generosity of the very interested and enthusiastic members of the public at our stand at the Shrewsbury Steam Fair, including one supporter who handed over a cheque for £100 and another who donated £50 via our contactless card reader. Both signed a Gift Aid form, thus making their donations worth another 25%!
And, at the fund raising Vintage Tea Party of the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, a generous supporter made a Gift Aided donation of £100 through our 'Local Giving' account!
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We have been advised that we shall receive a significant legacy for a specific part of the restoration. A useful reminder to those thinking of amending or making their wills that a legacy can have a lasting effect. Depending on the circumstances, if 10% of the money left in a will goes to charity, there is a reduction in the inheritance tax bill. For more details, click onto our DONATE page and read about legacies.
This new legacy follows one for £70,000 from the Tony Harrison Legacy Fund through the auspices of The Inland Waterways Association.
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Life on the Monty film
To celebrate this year of restoration on the Montgomery Canal, the Canal & River Trust commissioned a 20 minute film showing the heritage, people and wildlife that make the Montgomery Canal so special. Watch the film on Vimeo.
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Welshpool Transport Festival
Nearly £500 was raised for the Appeal at the recent Welshpool Transport Festival. This came from a mixture of donations (all eligible for Gift Aid tax relief, thus adding 25% from the Government to what people kindly donated - included in the £500). The total included sums from the Welshpool Canoe Club and Shropshire Paddlesports.
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Braunston Historic Boats Festival
Another nearly £500 was raised the following weekend at the Braunston Historic Boats Festival in Northamptonshire, including Gift Aid. This sum included a generous £200 donation from Braunston Marina, the Festival organisers, derived from the car parking fees.
John Dodwell (Chair, Montgomery Canal Partnership) (2nd from right) and Fred Barrett (from the Shropshire Union Canal Society) (2nd from left) receiving a £200 cheque from Ivor Caplan (chair, Inland Waterways Association) (1st right) at the 2019 annual Braunston Historic Boats Festival on June 29. The money was generously donated by Tim Coughlan (1st left) of Braunston Marina, who organise the Event.
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Montgomery Canal Forum hears about current restoration and plans for the future
Over seventy people attended the Montgomery Canal Forum in Oswestry’s Memorial Hall on 21st May to hear report of developments in the restoration of the canal and plans for the future.
The meeting was opened by Cllr Steve Charmley, Deputy Leader of Shropshire Council who spoke of the value of the canal in economic and social terms, its health and well-being benefits, and his pleasure at the progress being made.
A presentation of the recent Inland Waterways Association report Waterways in Progress, by a video introduced by Association Vice-President David Suchet ('Poirot'), was followed by a report by Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust Chairman Michael Limbrey of the benefits brought by restoration of the Montgomery Canal so far.
Two more presentations showed what had been achieved under the current Lottery-supported programme to make the derelict section to Crickheath navigable again, including the creation of extensive new canalside nature reserves at Aston Locks and the work of the volunteers who have been working to reinstate this section.
These were followed by a presentation of the plans for rebuilding Schoolhouse Bridge near Crickheath, the last road blockage in Shropshire. Roger Bravey, who leads the rebuild team, showed how the project had developed so as to reconcile the need for a great input from volunteers, to keep the cost down, with the wish to do the work in the shortest time and to minimise the impact on those who use the road.
The last presentation was a tribute to waterway journalist and photographer Harry Arnold, a founder member of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, who had recorded the revival of the canal for more than fifty years.
Michael Limbrey said, "Waterways in Progress is a recent report which shows from other restorations across the country that restoring a canal can bring benefits to a community even before the restoration is finished. We have so many examples on the Montgomery Canal including two popular pubs on the Shropshire section, thriving canoe groups at Queen's Head and Welshpool and no less than three different boat trips – in Maesbury, Llanymynech and Welshpool. In addition, the canal is host to popular events like the recent Montgomery Canal Triathlon and Welshpool’s Transport Festival in June.
"The current National Lottery Heritage Fund programme, managed through the canal’s owners, the Canal & River Trust, is providing new nature reserves and another length of canal which in a couple of years’ time will mean an extra 1.3 miles added to the national waterway system. It was very valuable to see how much is being achieved by volunteers of the regular Shropshire Union Canal Society regular work party team as part of this programme."
"We hope to be rebuilding Schoolhouse Bridge next year. This will be one of the most significant volunteer projects on the Montgomery Canal for some time. Volunteers have been raising funds for the bridge through the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal over the last two years or so and I’m delighted that over £500 was raised through generous donations at the meeting."
"All this brings nearer the time when boats from across the country can return to mid-Wales."
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Successful Montgomery Canal Triathlon filmed for TV
Hundreds of people came to the Montgomery Canal on Saturday 18 May for the annual Montgomery Canal Triathlon organised by the Friends of the Montgomery Canal.
This annual event supports the restoration of the canal and involves:
- a 17-mile cycling section from Newtown to Pool Quay, including five road crossings where the canal was blocked after it was closed
- 11 miles on foot to Morton, south of Oswestry, with two more road crossings at blockages on the A483 and three more at minor roads
- final 7 mile section by canoe to finish near the junction with the Llangollen Canal, with the need to carry canoes past four locks which they may not use.
This year the event was being filmed as part of a series of programmes on the Welsh canals to be shown later in the year on BBC Wales TV – the Montgomery, Llangollen, Monmouthshire & Brecon and Swansea Canals. The programmes are to feature rugby legend Sir Gareth Edwards and his wife Maureen as they visit each of the canals.
Sir Gareth Edwards, assisted by the Mayor of Newtown & Llanllwchaearn, Cllr Sue Newham, started the cyclists at Newtown at 8.30am. He then followed the event at the changeover points, finally greeting the weary entrants at the end of the canoe section.
245 people booked a place on the Triathlon, many local to the canal, but others coming from further afield. In addition over 85 marshals, drawn from the membership of the Friends of the Montgomery Canal and their friends, were on hand at changeover points, and assisting at locks and road crossings.
Christine Palin, chairman of the Friends of the Montgomery Canal said, "The Montgomery Canal Triathlon is a wonderful event which people come back to year after year. We also have new entrants of course, and this year as well as local teams other entrants came hundreds of miles to take part. Among those who completed all three sections were more than one family with a child under ten years old, and at least one who took part was over eighty!"
"This year we had a truly international flavour as we offered entrants the chance to have their photograph taken, to be emailed to them, as they passed over the border from Wales into England and even more exciting was that we learned that a family had come from Switzerland for the weekend especially to take part in all three sections. They live in the Alps above Lausanne. They were delighted with the canal and its scenery and thought that the Triathlon was a brilliant idea to showcase the canal and its benefits to the community."
"This year the first participant finished in an amazing 4 hours and 13 minutes but others were arriving over five hours later. But that doesn’t matter, because our Triathlon is very much a fun event attracting groups of family or friends and at the end they tell us what a delightful event it has been."
"Obviously there is a serious side to the Triathlon. We want people to learn about the Montgomery Canal and the area it runs through, and to see what has been achieved and what still has to be done to take the restoration forward. The event raises money for the next stages of restoration: though we don’t yet know how much was raised we were presented by a cheque for £1,000 by the team from the Oswestry and Welshpool branches of the West Bromwich Building Society, and we are delighted with their support."
The organisers are grateful for help from so many businesses and organisations. The event was greatly assisted by a £2,000 grant from Tesco’s ‘Bags of Help’ scheme through their Newtown Branch. Other local businesses and organisations which provided help, support or sponsorship were Red Ridge Outdoor Centre, Arthog Outreach Outdoor Education Centre, NiBs, McDonald Landrover, Newtown and Welshpool Scouts, Morrisons, Sainsburys and Welshpool’s Tesco. There was generous assistance from Amberon, Bacchante Crafts, Wristbands Plus, Countyloos, Morton PCC. Finally, the event could not have been held without the help of Tanat Valley Coaches of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant and St. John Ambulance of Newtown.
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