A procession of historic vehicles crossed the new bridge a few days before the road formally re-opened to traffic. After many years of effort, and 10 months spent by bridge contractors on site, completion of the new Schoolhouse Bridge (Bridge 86) was achieved in January 2024. The former embankment across the line of the canal was the last highway blockage on the Montgomery Canal near Crickheath in north Shropshire.

Councillor Vince Hunt, Chairman of Shropshire Council, cut the tape to allow the vehicles to cross, noted that the old bridge had been levelled by the highway authority in the 1960s. He congratulated the volunteer team, who had spent years bringing the construction to completion, and the contractors, Beaver Bridges of Shrewsbury, whose work was tested by the historic vehicles crossing the bridge.

Leading the way was a 1931 Sentinel Steam waggon, followed by a 1910 Burrell Traction engine, a 1954 Citroen, a 2008 Morgan 4/4 Sport, and a 1979 Lomax three-wheel kit car.

Michael Limbrey, Chair of the Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal which funded the project said, “Schoolhouse Bridge was the biggest obstruction in the Shropshire Gap, the remaining dry section of the canal in Shropshire. Restoring the bridge was always going to be a challenge, so local canal charities, trusts and individuals got together to raise the funds, for what in the end, turned out to be a £1 million project, funded entirely from private sources. We were delighted to receive donations from near and far including charitable trusts like the Tarmac Landfill Communities Fund, the Inland Waterways Association and the Walker Trust. We are most grateful to them all.

“As well as all the funding, our volunteer team had to arrange the engineering design and legal documentation, with many hundreds of pages needed to meet regulatory and technical requirements. The project was greatly helped by Shropshire Council and the Canal & River Trust. Volunteers have helped on site, some coming many miles to do so, and they will be back in the coming weeks and months to clear and landscape the site.

We are all very proud of Schoolhouse Bridge, the biggest volunteer-led project in the years of restoration, and a vital step in opening up the canal to the Shropshire border. Our challenge now is to reopen the canal through Schoolhouse Bridge to the Welsh border at Llanymynech.”

 After the success of the appeal to rebuild the bridge, the Restore the Montgomery Canal! Appeal, is now raising more funds so that volunteers can continue restoring the canal channel beyond Crickheath, reopened last year, up to the new bridge. Donations will be welcome at https://www.localgiving.org/appeal/montgomerycanal.

Mr Limbrey, who is also President of the local Branch of the IWA added, “I’m sure that the restored Montgomery Canal will be a great asset for the borderland area. It is already part of popular towpath routes joining market towns and historic locations and has a remarkable collection of canal-age locks, bridges and other structures.

See the video report of the event and previous work to build the bridge here.

[The photo shows a procession of historic vehicles over the new bridge – taken from a video by Alan Wilding]