Posted on 16/09/2019
Earlier this year, boats returned to a section of the Montgomery Canal near Oswestry on the Welsh border for the first time since 1936 thanks to a four-year restoration project. This was the result of a partnership between Canal & River Trust and volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society, one of many great local societies who protect and support canals across the network. The society has been working since the early 60s to restore the Montgomery Canal, having been formed in 1964 with the intention of restoring the Shrewsbury & Newport Canal, which had closed in 1944. After these plans were rejected, they renamed themselves the Shropshire Union Canal Society and focused on the Montgomery Canal, which was part of the wider Shropshire Union network. They had their first success in 1969 at Welshpool and haven’t looked back.
The Montgomery Canal, known affectionately as ‘the Monty’, crosses the Anglo-Welsh border and connects the Llangollen Canal to Newtown. Intended to support agriculture, it also carried lime, limestone, stone and slate after completion in 1821 but closure was considered as early as 1875 even though it was still profitable. However, following a breach near Frankton Junction in 1936 the canal was effectively abandoned and formally closed in 1944. The fight back started in the 1960s and, between 1969 and 2006, the Shropshire Union Canal Society restored ten locks in Wales and then began working on other stretches. These days, seven miles of the canal between Frankton Junction and Gronwyn Wharf are navigable and connected to Canal & River Trust’s network, while a large central section around Welshpool is also navigable but remains isolated from the rest of the system.
The latest restoration upgraded five miles of towpath and restored over a mile of canal between Maesbury and Crickheath, creating a dedicated turning point for boaters. Two nature reserves were created parallel to the canal at Aston Locks to provide a home for aquatic flora and fauna removed from the canal while it was made navigable. As the society and Canal & River Trust continue to work towards connecting the two sections of canal, the society’s initial intention to revive the Shrewsbury & Newport Canal has also been reactivated. In 2000, the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust were formed and they are working with Canal & River Trust on restoring this long-lost stretch of waterway.