It is generally accepted that restored waterways are good for local economies. The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) claims the national network generates some £2.6 billion to the British economy but even a partially restored canal like the Montgomery is already having an increasing effect on business in both Powys and Shropshire. The Montgomery Canal, or “Monty”, runs from Frankton Locks on the Llangollen Canal, just west of Ellesmere, for 36 miles to Newtown in Powys and is slowly being restored thus extending the stretch navigable from the national canal network.
Clearly the biggest projects in 2023 to benefit the area have been the completion of the canal to Crickheath Basin in June this year, approximately four miles southwest of Oswestry, and the current building of nearby Schoolhouse Bridge. The canal to Crickheath was funded in the majority by the National Heritage Lottery Fund at £2.8 million and Schoolhouse Bridge by fundraising from individual donors and grants at £1 million.
For both of these projects, much of the money spent went to local suppliers whether it be plant and equipment, stone aggregate or materials. Volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society (SUCS) were also frequently seen in the B&Bs and pubs of Llanymynech and the main contractor rebuilding Schoolhouse Bridge for the Friends of the Montgomery Canal are Beaver Bridges from Shrewsbury (this is on target for completion in Autumn 2023).
The next project for volunteers from SUCS is to complete the canal through to Schoolhouse Bridge and restore the historic Crickheath Tramway Wharf. This will cost a further £250,000 for which fundraising is underway. Over £100,000 has already been raised and a further grant is being discussed as we speak.
The most innovative funding source has come from a partnership with local brewery, Monty’s from Montgomery, who are donating part of the revenue from each pint consumed of their new “Navigation Pale Ale” to this fund. Launched in May of this year, the new beer has found favour with drinkers in many pubs that are close to the line of the canal in Powys, Shropshire and Cheshire and word is spreading. It has been so popular on draft that they have now started to sell it in bottles as well with a trial batch being sent for an event in the House of Lords no less.
The hospitality industry, which has a strong presence in the area, is one certain to benefit from a fully restored canal and Pauline Downing, Manager of Marton Pool Holiday Home Park in Shropshire said, “Caravan sites attract potential owners, firstly by offering holiday homes and pitches that are good value in a well run, pleasant site and secondly, by what the local region offers in terms of both the natural and built heritage. The restoration of the Montgomery Canal for boating, wildlife, and free activities such as walking and cycling will be a unique selling point for parks in the catchment area of the Upper Severn”.
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