After four years of preparation, work started this week on the programme to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge on the Montgomery Canal south of Crickheath, near Oswestry.

The initial phase of the project involves enclosing land at the bridge site generously provided by adjoining farmers. A trackway will be laid to allow larger vehicles to by-pass the site when the lane is closed with a diversionary route provided for this popular section of the towpath.

Later in the autumn the water main in the lane will be diverted through these fields, thanks again to more support from the landowners.

The project to reconstruct the bridge is scheduled to start in March 2021 and will involve closing the highway through the summer while the bridge is rebuilt to modern highway standards.

Speaking for the Restore the Montgomery Canal! group, Chairman Michael Limbrey said, “This really is a red letter day for the Montgomery Canal. The project to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge is possibly the biggest volunteer-led project of the restoration so far and has involved the local canal charities combining to raise funds and plan a complex civil engineering project, the reconstruction of a highway bridge. And with the highway closed while the project is under way, we have a very specific need to make sure the project is finished in twelve months’ time.

“This project is essential if we are to open the canal to the Welsh border. Planning and fund-raising started over four years ago and we have been overwhelmed by the support of so many people who can see what an asset the reopened Montgomery Canal will be.

“The start of this project followed a successful weekend of activity by the volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society on the lottery-supported project to rewater the canal to Crickheath Basin, which will be the next point at which boats can turn. It has been many years since volunteers have worked on two Montgomery Canal projects for so many days in succession.

“The work of the volunteers this week brings into focus our ambition to restore the Montgomery Canal through to Llanymynech and mid-Wales, restoring the connection to the national canal network that was lost over eighty years ago.”

The Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal is run by the local canal charities supporting the Montgomery Canal restoration. Volunteers on site this week include members of the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, Shropshire Union Canal Society, the Inland Waterways Association’s Waterway Recovery Group and the Canal & River Trust’s Welshpool adoption group.