Delivery of the Society’s latest restoration project on the Montgomery Canal started in 2023 and carries on from where the last project finished. Continuing southwards towards Llanymynech restores the dry channel between Crickheath Bridge (bridge 85) at Crickheath Basin and Schoolhouse Bridge (bridge 86) at Long Lane, a distance of 750m. From an engineering perspective it is expected to be simpler than the last project with no significant subsidence in evidence. The first year includes a pilot scheme to inform detailed the design and specification, notably channel dimensions and waterproofing, which will be delivered in subsequent years.
The project is divided into three phases as shown below. Each has its own character and unique features.
Phase 1A covers the first 180 metres of channel south from Crickheath Bridge. This runs through the village with residential properties on both banks and features a former tramway wharf on the off side. In places, the wharf wall has already been repaired or rebuilt but 2/3 of the total length (over 100m) still requires work. A number of the large coping stones require replacement. Further details of the tramway, which ran to the canal wharf from Porthywaen Quarry, can be found on the Oswestry Borderland Heritage website here.
Phase 1B continues southwards from there through open country covering approximately half the remaining distance to Schoolhouse Bridge and is marked at its southern limit by overhead power lines. Works on Phases 1A and 1B will be undertaken concurrently based out of the Society’s compound at Crickheath. Drone footage travelling from Phase 1A to Phase 1B taken in February 2023 can be found here.
Phase 2 covers the remainder and is characterised by being in a cutting on both sides, the offside bank being rather steep in places. A further compound relocation to a site by Schoolhouse Bridge will be required to deliver this phase.
Preparatory work for this project commenced as far back as 2021 with clearance of saplings from the channel in Phase 1A during the late summer. Activity ramped up dramatically from summer 2022 with the erection of 440m of stock fence around the site and the establishment of the Crickheath compound which culminated in January 2023 with the relocation of the Society’s welfare and storage containers. Vegetation clearance from the channel in Phase 1B has continued apace during this period. Fuller details of progress month by month can be found in the Restoration Work Party Reports here.
The plan of works for 2023 has a heavy focus on completing the preparation of Phases 1A and 1B for the pilot scheme. Topsoil, which has accumulated over the decades since the canal fell into disuse, will need to be site-stripped from the channel before a water test is performed later in the year. Repairs to the wharf wall and wash wall south of Crickheath Bridge are also being undertaken.
Whilst there is a detailed programme of works for 2023, a programme for the project as a whole will only be possible once the pilot scheme activities are completed. The Society has raised a significant fund towards the project and further funding from external sources is being sought. The overall project timescale will be determined by funding and the final design.