The successful reopening of the canal to Crickheath in June 2023 marked a big step forward in the Shropshire Union Canal Society’s quest to close the ‘Shropshire Gap’, the unnavigable section of the Montgomery Canal (the Monty) between Crickheath and Llanymynech, on the Welsh border. At present this section, which was abandoned in the 1930’s is generally derelict, (but the course of the canal is already owned by CRT!) and it will take much hard work – and money to finally make the term Shropshire Gap, redundant – but they’re working on it!
Towards the end of 2022, it became obvious that the Society’s approach to communications was becoming outdated. Just as the canal network was the ‘web ‘of the 19th century, the internet is now the main communication route for the 21st. As part of the ‘legacy’ element of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant to the Society, we were offered training in the use of modern internet media and a small team of volunteers took part. The resulting Communication Group now meet regularly and is intent on getting the message out through all possible means.
In the words of the Society’s Chairman, David Carter, “Through these communications, the society is now able to show potential grant givers, and the world at large, that we are a professional outfit with the experience and expertise to deliver specified work on time and on budget. It also helps us tell our story to the public and make them aware of all the advantages of restoring canals in general – and of course – the Monty in particular”.
David listed some of the achievements of the volunteers in 2023 that the team has been bringing to the attention of a wider audience”.
- The success of the restoration project to Crickheath, formally opened in June ‘23
- The progress being made towards carrying out the next phase.
- Our enhancement work along the canal in the Ellesmere area and our need for new volunteers to help.
- The launch of a major appeal by the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust with a target of £250,000
- Our success in attracting grants from Oswestry Rural Parish Council, National Grid and the Association for Industrial Archaeology and the importance of these grants to our work restoring the canal towpath and the tramway wharf wall at Crickheath.
- Our appointment by the CO-OP in Oswestry as one of the ‘local causes’ that members can choose to receive distributions from the CO-OP Local Community Fund raising about £1500 in the first year.
- Our pioneering partnership with Monty’s Brewery who have produced a new beer, ‘Navigation Pale Ale’, that generates a donation for every pint sold. The success of this beer in pubs in the Shropshire Union area, raising around £1000 in a few months, has encouraged Monty’s to produce a bottled version, available via their website, https://www.montysbrewery.co.uk/
The agreement with Monty’s Brewery is of particular interest as it is the first ongoing sponsorship deal the society has entered into with a corporate partner and opens the door to other such agreements. The PR element of this deal is as valuable as the money it generates from Navigation IPA as the beer was featured in a presentation at the House of Lords, no less.
The Society was formed way back in 1966, with a mission to protect and enhance the canals of the historic Shropshire Union system across both England and Wales and, over the years, it has grown and developed, taking on bigger challenges as it matured into a professional organisation capable of working on complex engineering projects such as rebuilding the Montgomery Canal across an unstable peat bog just north of Crickheath. Its technical and managerial skills were recognised by C&RT some time ago and the Society is now the prime contractor for the restoration of the canal from Crickheath to Schoolhouse Bridge and beyond.
If you feel you could contribute to the publicity team and the restoration in any way, please find out more at https://shropshireunion.org.uk
Crickheath Basin opening 1 June 23 (Grum)
Crickheath Basin opening 2 June 23 (Grum)
Crickheath Basin opening 3 June 23 (Grum)
Monty’s Navigation Pale Ale (CBS)
Tramway Wharf Wall (CBS)
Digging just south of Crickheath Wharf (SUCS)