IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch

1 October 2023

The Prize is awarded each year to a person, society or trust who has made the most significant contribution to the restoration of an inland waterway.

John Dodwell is Chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership, which brings together 14 diverse groups (including the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust (MWRT) and IWA which all share the common interest of completing the restoration of the Montgomery Canal. John has nominated the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal to receive the £1000 cash prize which accompanies the Christopher Power Prize.

Part of the award citation reads: “The Trust’s record for accessing substantial new sources of funding is outstanding, largely thanks to John’s in-depth knowledge of funders coupled with his skill in preparing bids. The funding of the restoration of a canal that runs through two different countries – each with its own unique legislation and grant regimes – is a great challenge.”

The photo shows John Dodwell at Byles Lock on the Montgomery Canal – by Michael Limbrey

As one of the founding trustees of Canal & River Trust in 2012, John was guest speaker at the 2013 AGM of IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch. At the meeting he told of his love of the waterways started in his youth when he spent time ‘messing about on the River Thames.’ His early volunteering activities included taking part in canoe ‘protest’ trips, involvement with many navigation restorations including the Stourbridge Canal and the Upper Avon, a leading role in the campaign around the 1968 Transport Act and taking part in the Big Dig Weekend at Welshpool in 1969.

John had joined the IWA in 1961 and later, as a chartered accountant, he was appointed General Secretary (equivalent nowadays to CEO).  He was in post from 1971 to 1974, during which time IWA prevented the breakup of the inland waterways into regional water authorities.  He then returned to industry (which included property companies) and brought up a family, interspersed with hire boat holidays.  Since 2001, John has owned historic tugs (some with 3’ foot drafts) and he was chair of the Commercial Boat Operators Association (2006-11).  In 2012 he became a founding trustee of the Canal & River Trust and subsequently received an Outstanding Achievement Award from CRT on his retirement from that post in 2017.

His interest in restoration of the Montgomery Canal was re-ignited in 2009 by the 40th anniversary of the Big Dig and he says he regards the restoration as ‘unfinished business’. John became chair of the Montgomery Canal Partnership in 2014 and when asked why he took on the role, he said: “The Montgomery attracted me because of my previous involvement; the earlier work done by Graham Palmer of WRG (a great friend from the Stourbridge days); and because (a) it is in single ownership without parts having been sold off; (b) there are known water supplies; and (c ) there are – comparatively  – no enormous engineering challenges and the engineering solutions are all known.”

With a laugh, John added: “Thus, it is easy! But one of the many funding problems is that it is a rural canal and so doesn’t attract the support which urban restorations can gain.

The citation for the Christopher Power Prize concludes with mention that: “other major restoration groups have praised John’s willingness to share his deep knowledge of SSSI’s and to offer his support in a discreet way.  John is a highly effective ambassador for the wider inland waterways restoration movement.

IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch offers its congratulations to John on his award which, unfortunately, he was unable to receive in person at the AGM.

[The photo shows John Dodwell at Ashton Attack in March 1972  –  by John Foley]