Over £250,000 has been secured for the restoration of a length of the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire.

National charity Canal & River Trust, working in partnership with the Shropshire Union Canal Society, has received £177,625 in funding from the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The grant, secured through Shropshire Council, has been further boosted by additional funding of £76,250 from the Shropshire Union Canal Society and the Restore the Montgomery Canal! Public appeal.

This £253,000 funding will secure the next phase of the volunteer-led restoration to restore a further 360-metre section of the canal from Crickheath towards Schoolhouse Bridge, which was levelled nearly 60 years ago. Schoolhouse Bridge has just been rebuilt with money raised through the Restore the Montgomery Canal! public appeal, removing the final public highway block and unlocking the potential for full navigation of the canal.

The volunteers will be managed by Shropshire Union Canal Society, building on their experience and success in restoring the canal to Crickheath Basin, which was reopened in June 2023.

The Montgomery Canal closed to boating in the 1930s following a serious breach of the banks near Frankton Locks in Shropshire. At a time of dwindling freight traffic across the canal system, rather than repairing the canal, it was left unrepaired. It was officially closed by the then owners London, Midland, and Scottish Railway via an Act of Parliament in 1944.

In 1969, following decades of decline, the restoration of the canal started with the ‘Big Dig’ in Welshpool and, since this date, volunteer organisations have been working to reopen the entire 35 miles of canal. 12 miles around Welshpool were restored in the 1970-90s but are not yet connected to the rest of the canal system.

The work to date has ensured that all 35 miles of towpath are accessible, with eight miles of canal in Shropshire made suitable for boating between Crickheath Basin and Frankton Junction where the canal joins the Llangollen Canal.

Nicola Lewis-Smith, from Canal & River Trust, said: “This funding takes us one step closer to fully restoring the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire. Hundreds of volunteers, with support from the Canal & River Trust, have campaigned and worked tirelessly over many years to make this dream a reality and we’re getting nearer to our goal of having the canal back open.

“The restoration of another section of the Montgomery Canal will bring benefits to local people and businesses through regeneration, jobs, and leisure opportunities, as well as improving corridors for wildlife.”

Lezley Picton, leader of Shropshire Council, said: “Shropshire Council was delighted to be able to help access funding for this exciting project.

“Opening up the canal through Shropshire will help drive tourism and bring economic benefits to communities along the waterway, as well as enhancing the wonderful countryside and habitats.

“We look forward to seeing the developments and wish the volunteers well with the project.”

John Dodwell, chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership, said: “This new grant will help to close the “Shropshire Gap” – the two miles of dried out canal between Crickheath and the Welsh Border at Llanymynech. It complements restoration work being undertaken in Powys under the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund. It is very pleasing that the match funding is coming from the voluntary societies in addition to their members being volunteers on the actual work.

“It shows us putting to good use the donations from the public and I urge the public to keep donating so the volunteers can continue. This is a good example of working together with the Canal & River Trust.”

David Carter, from the Shropshire Union Canal Society chair, said: “The Society has been restoring the Montgomery since 1969 and is delighted that this funding will enable us to extend our work. The next section is a technically challenging length of channel being historically leaky.  Additionally, it will be rebuilt incorporating water vole friendly “soft banks”. Our enthusiastic and experienced volunteers are greatly looking forward to the challenge.”

For more information on the project visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/about-us/where-we-work/wales-and-south-west/the-montgomery-canal-restoration-project

To find out more about Canal & River Trust including how you can donate money or volunteer with us and support our work visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk

Crickheath Basin opening June 23 (Grum).

Lining the canal March 24 (CBS).

Another milestone March 24 (CBS).