After the difficulties of planning through the time of Coronavirus restrictions the Montgomery Canal Triathlon run by the Friends of the Montgomery Canal on Saturday 4 September was a most successful event.
While many of the 117 entrants were from Shropshire and Montgomeryshire, others came from across the British mainland, some over 200 miles to reach the canal. The oldest to complete all 28 miles were over 80 and the youngest was under 10 years of age.
The event started at the new and unfinished ‘Severn Space – Gofod Hafren’, under development by Newtown’s new community trust Open Newtown. Local MP Craig Williams, an enthusiastic supporter of the canal, started the entrants off with the assistance of Newtown Mayor Richard Williams.
From Newtown participants cycled 12 miles along the towpath (part of national cycle route 81) to Belan Locks, south of Welshpool. This section involved three crossings of the A483 where the canal was blocked after closure, supervised by volunteer marshals.
At Belan, bicycles were swapped for canoes for a 5½ mile section through Welshpool. Welshpool Town Lock, the first on the canal to be restored, was by-passed by the more hasty who carried their canoes past the lock; others went through the lock in their canoes, carefully managed by the volunteer team – quite an experience in a small canoe.
The Mayor of Welshpool, Cllr Allison Davies came to cheer the canoeists through the lock at Welshpool and discussed with Town Council colleagues the opportunities the canal offers the town.
The canoe section finished at Crowther Hall Lock which was the start of the final 9½ miles on foot to the finish at Schoolhouse Bridge, Crickheath, south of Oswestry. This section included two more road crossings at blockages on the A483 and three more at minor roads as well as the border crossing at Llanymynech.
Christine Palin, Chairman of the Friends of the Montgomery Canal said, “Anyone who has planned an event through the months of Covid will know the uncertainty that continues until the event gets under way. This year’s Triathlon had to face all that with the addition of a changed format caused by a towpath closure north of this year’s finish, where the volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society are busy restoring a section of derelict canal. We had to run the event at a different time of year too, and this meant much effort by the Canal & River Trust and volunteers of its local adoption group to trim the towpath hedge and clear the worst of the weed in the canal itself. Our appreciation and grateful thanks must go to them and to nearly a hundred volunteers who helped on the day to keep the triathletes safe and guide them on their way.
“Despite all this, the event was a great success. Entrants were most appreciative of the organisation telling us that all our volunteers had been so friendly and helpful. There was praise for the area the canal runs through and many telling us they are now looking forward to the next Triathlon.
“On their journey participants could see restored canal, blocked bridges and a derelict section which has to be rewatered: the reopened 12 miles of canal through Welshpool with road blockages north and south and in Shropshire a couple of miles of dry and derelict canal.
“We hope that the recent Powys County Council bid for Levelling Up funds will allow more work on the section to the Powys border and that we shall soon be able to bid for funding for the canal in Shropshire too. In the meantime ‘Restore the Montgomery Canal!’ – a joint venture by the Friends of the Montgomery Canal, Inland Waterways Association and Shropshire Union Canal Society – has been working to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge, the last highway blockage in Shropshire, where the Triathlon finished. Previous Triathlons have enabled the Friends of the Montgomery Canal to make substantial donations to the appeal fund and we are delighted to have received more donations at this year’s event.
“The reconstruction of Schoolhouse Bridge is planned for next year. To keep the cost down volunteers will be used where possible and we are delighted to have had offers of help from Triathlon entrants. We are always keen to hear from anyone who would like to volunteer. Rebuilding the bridge in a matter of months will make it one of the most exciting projects in the years of Montgomery Canal restoration. The finished bridge will show the efforts of those volunteers and open the way to reopen the canal to the Welsh border.”
Michael Limbrey, Chairman, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, congratulated the Friends of the Montgomery Canal on their management of the event. “It takes many weeks of preparation to organise the entries and on the day manage the transport of people, bicycles and canoes which may all end up in different places. Then volunteers are recruited to steward the event, helping at locks and road crossings, providing refreshments and recording each entrant’s times of arrival and departure: for, though the event is not meant to be competitive, many people like to know how well they have done. All this is recognised by the fact that so many gave the event top marks and want to come again.”
The organisers are grateful to Tesco and Morrisons who provided chocolate and cereal bars to help people on their way and to Montgomery Water for essential bottles of water.