It is generally accepted that restored waterways are good for local economies, in fact the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) claims the national network generates some £2.6 billion to the British economy, but even a partially restored canal like the Montgomery is already having an increasing effect on business in both Powys and Shropshire. The Montgomery Canal or “Monty” runs from Frankton Locks on the Llangollen Canal, just west of Ellesmere, for 36 miles to Newtown in Powys, and is slowly being restored thus extending the stretch navigable from the national canal network.

Clearly the biggest projects in 2023 to benefit the area have been the completion of the canal to Crickheath Basin in June this year, approximately 4 miles southwest of Oswestry and the current building of nearby Schoolhouse Bridge. The canal to Crickheath was funded in the majority by the National Heritage Lottery Fund at £2.8 million and Schoolhouse Bridge at £1 million by fundraising from individual donors and grants.

In both these projects much of the money spent went to local suppliers whether it be plant and equipment, stone aggregate, and materials, with the volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society (SUCS) involved being seen frequently in the B&Bs and pubs of Llanymynech. The main contractor building Schoolhouse Bridge for the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, are Beaver Bridges from Shrewsbury which is on target for completion in Autumn.

Future Projects and fundraising

The next project for the volunteers from SUCS is to complete the canal through to Schoolhouse Bridge and restore the historic Crickheath Tramway Wharf costing a further £250,000 for which fundraising is underway. Already over £100,000 has been raised and a further grant are being discussed as we speak.

The most innovative funding source has come from a partnership with local brewery, Monty’s from Montgomery who are donating part of the revenue from each pint consumed of their new “Navigation Pale Ale” to this fund. Launching in May this year, the new beer has found favour with drinkers in many pubs that are close to the line of the canal in Powys, Shropshire and Cheshire and word is spreading. It has been so popular on draft that they have now started to sell it in bottles as well with a trial batch being sent for an event in the House of Lords, no less.

The hospitality industry, which has a strong presence in the area, is one certain to benefit from a fully restored canal and Pauline Downing, Manager of Marton Pool Holiday Home Park in Shropshire said, “Caravan sites attract potential owners, firstly by offering holiday homes and pitches that are good value in a well run, pleasant site and secondly, by what the local region offers in terms of both the natural and built heritage. The restoration of the Montgomery Canal for boating, wildlife, and free activities such as walking and cycling will be a unique selling point for parks in the catchment area of the Upper Severn”.

The volunteer team at SUCS are continually looking for other businesses to work with in the area with a gin distillery as the next priority but if you feel that your business would benefit from an association with the Montgomery Canal, get in touch – and make it happen.

Crickheath Basin opening. (Picture credit: Graham Mitchell)

(L-R )Pam & Russ Honeyman, Les Green. (Picture credit: Leslie Green)

(L-R) Les Green, Russ & Pam Honeyman.  (Picture credit: Leslie Green)