The Montgomery Canal was crowded for the annual Montgomery Canal Triathlon on Saturday 7 May. The event is organised by the Friends of the Montgomery Canal in aid of the canal restoration.

Entrants were sent on the first cycling section from the new Open Newtown hub by Richard Williams, Mayor of Newtown. The route followed the River Severn through the town and then joined the canal towpath where it is part of a National Cycle route 81. After some three miles of derelict canal there is water in the canal on a section blocked at four road crossings though all the locks have been restored by volunteers over the years.

The changeover to canoes took place at the picturesque Belan Locks. Though some entrants did not take part in all three sections of the event, Canal & River Trust CEO Richard Parry joined the event for this and the following section.

The section from Belan Locks was 5½ miles through Welshpool with two locks and two lift bridges on the route to Pool Quay. The Mayor of Welshpool, Cllr Alison Davies, met the canoes as a team of volunteers worked them through Welshpool Lock.

The final section was 9½ miles on foot. This involved no less than four road crossings before reaching the border at Llanymynech. Here the canal became derelict and dry for the last two miles to the finish at Schoolhouse Bridge, Crickheath, south of Oswestry, which volunteers have been working to rebuild.

Christine Palin, chairman of the Friends of the Montgomery Canal said, “We have been able to hold a ‘normal’ Triathlon for the first time in three years. We managed an event last year, with limited entries, at a later time of year. Regular entrants have been very pleased to return this spring though we have kept to the shorter course which proved very popular last year. At about 27 miles our Triathlon is still as long as a marathon.

“Again this year entrants have come from across the country, many returning because they have been before or because they have heard of it from people who have. They all compliment us on the event, so much that in our satisfaction survey at the finish only one person gave us less than 100%. We had about a hundred volunteer marshals at the event helping with transport, or at locks and road crossings, and so many of t hem have said too how much they enjoyed the event.

“The first participant finished in under 3½ hours but others were arriving over 4 hours later. But that doesn’t matter, because the Triathlon attracts groups of family or friends as much as people who are more seriously athletic.

“There is a serious side to the Triathlon: we want people to learn about the Montgomery Canal and the area it runs through, and to see what has been achieved and what still has to be done to take the restoration forward.

“The Triathlon finished at Schoolhouse Bridge, the last road blockage on the canal in Shropshire. A team of volunteers has been working for some time to rebuild this bridge: they have completed the formalities for the work and are raising the final funds for the project through an appeal which has been supported by people across the country and we were delighted with the donations in our appeal collection buckets on the day as, like other donations to the appeal each £1 will be matched to double the amount for the appeal fund.”

Entrants were presented with a locally-made polished slate medallion, coloured gold if all three sections were completed, with silver and bronze coloured medallions for two or one section.