Restoring a canal is like being on the road to enlightenment; one does enjoy moments of serenity, but full restoration is often but a dream too far. However, being on that road is reward in itself for our efforts improve the environment as well as help with our mental wellbeing.

The road to enlightenment is long and hard and remember to take a packed lunch and a warm helmet liner on your journey. (Paraphrased from a quote by Anne Lamott) And, so it is with canal restoration as I found out some fourteen years ago when I first picked up a shovel, wondered a canal bed, helped install a newt fence, and called myself a Navie.

The Shropshire Union Canal Society, restoring the Montgomery Canal, were then at Redwith Bridge (83) south of Maesbury, near Oswestry, Shropshire, and welcoming me into the fold, (as I’m sure all restoration organisations do) and thrust a staff in my hand and pointed a laser theodolite at me to get a level to work to but, my thoughts were rather grand at the time and I imagined that we would be at the Welsh border, nearly four miles away, in no time. I was thinking like a civilian. Everything was too rushed; I had to get into the tempo and rhythm of the project and learn the basics of restoration – unrealistic optimism is essential but a realistic, almost scientific approach to what is in front of us is also necessary, and we must concentrate on, and enjoy, the day to day, the fellowship, the fun, the fresh air, and a common cause.

In June 2023, Crickheath Basin (by bridge 85) was formally opened adding another couple of miles to the network and almost contradicting my comments about but there is still far to go and we will face many challenges as the road, or canal, stretches out before us, but I think there will be people up to the task to progress, step by step, block by block, cup of tea by cup of tea towards the enlightenment and that’s probably as close as anyone will ever get to enlightenment.

If you’re interested in waterways, wildlife, and fulfilment, it may be the very thing for you to do so why not look up your nearest project and get on down – won’t regret it! For more info go to

Crickheath Basin opening June 23 (Picture: CBS).