Hire a canal boat for a canal holiday on the Montgomery Canal
Hire A Canal Boat are delighted to offer canal boat holidays along the Montgomery Canal – a waterway with outstanding natural beauty and one of the finest narrowboating holidays that you and your family and friends can take. Before taking the plunge and hiring a narrow boat from us why don't you take a little time out to get an idea about what you might experience on canal narrowboat holiday on the Montgomery Canal.
The history of the Montgomery Canal
It is probably best to introduce the Montgomery Canal as 'work in progress' as currently, it is a waterway that is undergoing a restoration process. When this is eventually completed, the canal may grow to rival its exceptionally busy sister, the Llangollen, in popularity. It is a very rural canal that orks its way through the flat, open countryside of North Shropshire, passing along the Severn Valley and then through to the mountains of mid-Wales - perfect for your narrow boat or canal holiday..
The canal meets the Llangollen close to the attractive town of Ellesmere in the Shropshire 'Lake District'. From here it descends to through River Severn through a dozen locks before climbing along the river valley, courtesy of a further 'Baker's Dozen' of locks to the expected post-restoration terminus at Freestone Lock. There are in fact two derelict locks beyond Freestone with the original canal terminating in Newtown.
The Montgomery Canal is 35 miles (56 kms) in length and was originally created in three stages. The initial section was in effect a branch of the Ellesmere Canal, its purpose to serve the commercial transport needs of the limestone quarries at Llanymynech. This section also includes the Weston Arm, originally intended as the Shrewsbury mainline though actually terminated 11 miles short and subsequently abandoned in 1917.
The second main section to be built, the Montgomeryshire Canal was planned to pass via Welshpool and be completed at Newtown. However, financial pressures meant this did not happen and it was terminated at Garthmyl, near Montgomery, seven miles short. The third stage completed the waterway albeit some twenty years later.
The difference between this canal and others across Britain is that it was not primarily driven by the need to distribute raw materials for industry and/or the resultant manufactured goods. Much of the finance was provided by landowners who wished to improve their land. Agriculture was the driving force and its need for lime to balance soil acidity in the Upper Severn Valley to produce better crops. Limestone was transported from the quarries to the various lime-kilns sited along the canal. Burnt lime was then distributed by boat directly to the landowners.
The tendency of the River Severn to flood and a poor standard of construction through low investment lead to a number of engineering problems in the late 18th century. Engineers had to carry out repairs several times, particularly to the Vyrnwy and Berriview Aqueducts.
During the Napoleonic Wars, the demand for lime increased and the price of grain rose leading to the Canal Company beginning to show a modest profit. However, as industry developed in Newtown, the demand for coal did not and losses became the norm. In 1845, the waterway became part of the Shropshire Union Canal though was then acquired by the London & North Western Railway. Warehouses, new quays and a barge dock were built at Ellesmere Port and the firm operated a major carrying business. However, by the 1920s, the railway had taken most of the trade and the canal fell into serious decline.
In 1936, a major canal breach occurred close to the Perry Aqueduct and the owners deemed it unviable to repair. In 1943, the canal was legally abandoned on the basis that there had been no trade or traffic for a number of years.
Dereliction continued until the 1960s when serious discussions about restoration began in earnest. In 1968, work began on the section through Welshpool, carried out by the volunteers from the Shropshire Union Canal Society. This was joined to the 7 miles 'Prince of Wales Length' north of Welshpool in 1992.
Then in 1995, a section connecting the Montgomery to the Llangollen via Frankton Locks was opened. After that, a brand new aqueduct was built over the River Perry and the canal from it restored to Queen's Head. This particular section crosses a large peat bog as well as including the site of the aforementioned breach in 1936. Volunteers continued to work and in April 2003, once the three Aston Locks were restored, the 2.5 mile section between Queen's Head and Gronwen was opened.