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30  May

Canal will enhance the north Powys area

08/05/2024 @ 04:42


The multi million-pound work happening along the border stretch of the Montgomery Canal will enhance the north Powys area as a whole, it has been claimed at the latest Forum.

A packed Montgomery Canal Forum at the Royal Oak Hotel in Welshpol heard reports of developments in the restoration of the canal and plans for the future.

The theme of the Forum was how the Montgomery Canal is helping the Borderland to be a great area to live work, play and visit.

A series of presentations was started with an update by John Dodwell, Chairman of the Montgomery Canal Partnership who highlighted the achievements of the last year including the reopening of the canal to Crickheath by local MP Helen Morgan, the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge – funded entirely from donations from private individuals, companies and trusts – and the efforts of volunteers.

Volunteers of the Waterway Recovery Group – which visits projects across the country – had come to the bridge site over Easter to progress the clearance and reclamation of the site adding to the work of the volunteers of the Welshpool TRAMPS at that site, and volunteer working parties of the Shropshire Union Canal Society have been restoring the canal channel to the bridge.

John finished by emphasising that the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal was still looking for support to help future volunteer restoration, through online donations at or through the new Grand Draw –

Louise Nicholson from Powys County Council spoke about the Levelling Up Fund projects in the county, reminding the audience that in addition to the canal, works were to take place at the iconic Welshpool warehouse, Y Lanfa, and elsewhere in Powys.

She explained that in addition to the dredging works between Llanymynech and Maerdy, the programme includes new nature reserves, new bridges to replace those blocking the canal south of Llanymynech, and repairs to Aberbechan Aqueduct (without which the water supply from the south would be at risk). 

A presentation by Tom King, ecologist for the Canal & River Trust, which owns the canal, showed the meeting the importance of the Canal’s ecology with a number of rare and protected plant species to be found in the Canal.

He showed how left to itself the canal would be filled with aggressive weeds and eventually dry up and how current works on the canal are designed to safeguard its ecological value.

He explained the conservation measures taken during dredging followed by environmentally friendly bank protection works using coir rolls. The Canal & River Trust works closely with Natural Resources Wales with the work on the canal and in the creation of canalside nature reserves which will provide additional habitats for valued flora and fauna.

Russ Honeyman of Monty’s Brewery of Montgomery explained how his business is supporting the restoration work with donations from the sales of their Navigation Pale Ale, raising about £1,200 so far. He added that the Oswestry-based Henstone Brewery is the latest sponsor offering a 10% donation from sales of its five gins, three rums and no less than 11 whiskies.

Finally, Ryta Ward told the meeting about the plans of the Heulwen Trust which offers people who are less able free trips along the canal in Welshpool. When launched by the then Prince of Wales in 1975, it was the first such trip boat and in the years since it has carried about 100,000 disabled and other passengers.

The Trust is now buying a replacement boat for its ageing fleet and also possibly a shorter and smaller “Wheely” boat. The Trust’s activities are supported by the annual Country Music Festival to be held at Welshpool from July 18-21.

The Forum concluded with a lively question time.

Michael Limbrey, Chairman, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, said, “The Forum showed again how the restored Montgomery Canal will give our area an asset for residents and visitors. The benefits of a canal are well known: the Montgomery Canal has a busy towpath, canalside pubs, paddlesports and wildlife as well as s special canal-based events like the Montgomery Canal Triathlon on May 18 or the Coracle Day at Welshpool on June 22. 

“Across the country, councils and developers see canals as a great way to enhance an area.

“That can be the case in the Shropshire and Powys borderland too where the reopened canal will help the area to be attractive for people who live and work here, and an amenity for recreation and well-being for them and for visitors too.”