Last year’s bicentenary of the final opening of the Montgomery Canal to trade in Newtown was marked at a meeting of the Montgomery Canal Forum in the town last week.
While most of the engineering works had been completed earlier, it was not until 1821 that the final water supply and other arrangements were in place for the regular narrowboat trade to Newtown.
This trade continued until the canal was suddenly closed in 1936 due to a breach in the bank at the northern end.
Supporters, council representatives and others interested in the canal attended the meeting which opened with an update from Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust chairman Michael Limbrey.
He highlighted the powerful strategy for the canal which was used an example to other restorations across the country.
His presentation highlighted that the strategy manages restoration not just for boaters, but also for its valuable collection of canal-age locks, bridges and other structures, special habitats and recreation and well-being for visitor and local communities.
Jason Leach, head of external programme delivery for the Canal & River Trust, which owns the canal, spoke about benefits associated with the successful restoration of the Droitwich Canal in Worcestershire.
He described preparations for Montgomery Canal projects supported by UK Government grants totalling £15 million.
Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive, spoke about the canal in the context of tourism, an important part of the region's economy.
Stuart Owen from Open Newtown gave an enthusiastic presentation of achievements to re-energise the town’s green spaces and future ambitions.
Mr Limbrey said: “While the forum looked back to the completion of the Montgomery Canal to Newtown 201 years ago, really we were looking forward to all that is about to happen along the canal as it comes back to life.
“With over half reopened and the towpath open for all 35 miles, the emphasis is now on reconnecting the isolated section in Welshpool with the national canal network.
“Those works will include extensive new nature reserves specially constructed for the restoration, adding no less than 17 acres of significant new space for wild plants and wildlife.
“The coming months will see the start of the long-awaited Schoolhouse Bridge project in Shropshire, removing the canal’s last highway blockage in England and Shropshire Union Canal Society work parties completing their lottery-supported project to reopen the canal to Crickheath Basin, the next point where boats can turn.
“What will all this mean for the local area? Our speakers told the forum how important visitors are to Mid Wales, bringing nearly £1 billion to the local economy.
“There are many places around the canal network where people gather with a coffee or a pint and watch the boats go by and there are so many opportunities for places like that along the Montgomery Canal.
“We could not have the achievements so far, nor what will be happening in the near future, without the huge support from the local community and further afield.
“Supporters from the local area and right across the country took part in the Montgomery Canal Triathlon in May, volunteers from far and wide have come to join restoration working parties.
“In the same way, supporters from Scotland to the South Coast have made donations to the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal. We are grateful to them all.”
Picture caption; Michael Limbrey speaking at the Montgomery Canal Forum in Newtown.
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