Volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society (SUCS) have been looking back over 2023 with pride.
Dave Carter, SUCS Chairman said: “Last year will go down in the society’s history as a great year, we had funding from many sponsors, especially the National Heritage Lottery Fund, but without our team of volunteers who turned out in all weathers and worked so hard, none of this would have been possible. The challenge now is to keep this rate of progress going in 2024 but I think, as Tom Fulda takes over as project manager, this is assured”.
The work of SUCS volunteers had not gone un-noticed and in June the society was awarded the Tetlow Cup, an IWA regional trophy for outstanding services to the waterways.
David continued: “Without doubt the crowning achievement was the opening of the canal from Pryces Bridge to Crickheath Bridge within the time limits set by The National Heritage Lottery Fund, within budget, and all despite the Covid Lockdowns. As a further length of the Montgomery Canal was now open for navigation, SUCS with Canal & River Trust (CRT) held a splendid opening ceremony.”
Attention then focussed on the Crickheath Wharf to Schoolhouse Bridge section with work on the now crumbling wharf wall, a wash-wall, and an unsafe towpath to be tackled. The project began with a design brief from CRT engineers coinciding with the fundraising team being granted £14,400 from the Association of Industrial Archaeology for new coping stones for the wall and £1,300 from Oswestry Rural Council for the towpath.
Work dismantling the wharf, including removing some enormous trees, was completed by SUCS volunteers. The project got a great boost as experts from the Cheshire branch of the Dry-Stone Walling Association stepped up to use their expertise in the restoration of the wharf wall. With well attended work parties, SUCS volunteers completed work on the wash-wall by Crickheath Bridge and on the towpath improvements. All this activity went on as the plant operators began the profiling of the canal bed.
Fundraising remained a vital activity as the push to complete the canal to Schoolhouse Bridge continues and in June 2023, an appeal was launched to raise £250,000 towards the first section of the restoration and by the turn of the year some £125,000 had already been donated. If you would like to donate online, you can do so securely here – https://localgiving.org/appeal/MontgomeryCanal/
Work behind the scenes to raise funds and public awareness was supported by a wider communications team with individuals focussing on social media as well as tradition press outlets whilst the exhibition team was joined by new members. A new website was launched and ”hits” on social media have steadily increased.
The successful launch of Navigation Pale Ale in casks produced over £1,000 in donations and led to a decision to sell the beer in bottles in time for the Christmas 2023 market.