Award-winning actors and TV canal stars Timothy West and Prunella Scales are supporting a new £250,000 appeal to restore the next section of the Montgomery Canal.
Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust chose the opening of the canal’s recently restored section, to Crickheath, near Oswestry, to launch the new Restore the Montgomery Canal! Appeal.
West and Scales who said: “Volunteers working on the very special Montgomery Canal have successfully restored the canal to Crickheath on time and on budget.
“Generous supporters’ donations have funded the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge, the last highway blockage in Shropshire. With just two miles derelict in England, can you now help the volunteers to reopen more of the canal towards the Welsh border?”
Michael Limbrey, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust chairman, said: “For the first time for more than 80 years there were boats at Crickheath Basin, some of them even from the working days of canals.
“It was a day to celebrate the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Canal & River Trust and particularly the effort of volunteer work parties over many years.
“Having brought the canal to Crickheath, the volunteers have already started work on the next section. There is no lottery support for this so we are asking anyone who can to help reopen more of this special canal by supporting our latest Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal.
“I am delighted to say that the appeal got under way on the day of the Crickheath opening with a generous donation from a supporter of £1,000 which was increased by 25% through Gift Aid.
“Half a mile from our celebrations, contractors are working on the reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge, the last highway blockage in Shropshire. This project, funded by private donations from across the country, is part of just two miles of dry canal, all that is now left to restore in Shropshire.
“This work in Shropshire will complement substantial projects in Powys where UK Government Levelling-Up funding will build bridges so towpath users no longer have to dash across the road where the canal is blocked.
“The funding will also create new canalside nature reserves to replicate the special habitat and safeguard rare and special flora and fauna and restore the canal channel where it is in water but not capable of use.
“There are so many success stories around our canal network of reopened canals that add to the visitor economy, the conservation of plants and wildlife, safe towpaths for recreation and well-being and historic structures from our first transport network.
“They all bring social, environmental and economic benefits and we are keen to see those benefits here in the borderland of Shropshire and Wales.”
The opening ceremony marked the completion of restoration to Crickheath, near Oswestry, adding add a further 1.5 miles to the national canal network.
North Shropshire MP Helen Morgan and Shropshire Council leader Councillor Lezley Picton, with other VIPs, travelled the newest section to the new terminus at Crickheath Basin.
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society (SUCS) cleared, shaped and lined a length of canal that had been dry and derelict for many years and contractors for the Canal & River Trust constructed a new basin where boats can turn.
Lezley Picton commended the work of the volunteers from all over the country. “They all have one thing in common, which I imagine quite a few of us here have in common as well, which is we absolutely love this canal,” she said before unveiling a plaque with the MP.
Other speakers included David Carter, SUCS chairman and Crickheath project leader, Richard Parry, Canal & River Trust chief executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund trustee Julian Glover and John Dodwell, Montgomery Canal Partnership chairman.
The opening coincided with news of further funding for the Montgomery Canal. A grant of £7,531 has been awarded from National Grid’s Community Matters Fund for towpath improvements which will benefit people who use the canal towpath south of Oswestry.
The celebrations concluded on June 3 when SUCS volunteers, following a tradition of the 1800s when navvies were rewarded with a barrel of beer, celebrated with a barrel of Navigation Ale sponsored by Monty’s Brewery from Montgomery.
Restore the Montgomery Canal! is promoted by the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust with the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, SUCS and Inland Waterways Association’s Shrewsbury District and North Wales branch.
Montgomery Canal Forum, which is open to the public, will be held at 2.30pm on Wednesday, June 21, hosted by Aico, Maesbury Road, Oswestry.
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