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Shroppie Fly Paper

Branch Calendar 2015 Please act promptly - photographs needed by May 1st! For the past three years the calendar has been a great success, selling out well before the New Year and making a good profit for the branch. In fact it was our best money-raising project last year. So once again we are inviting you to send in photographs for the 2015 calendar. All photographs must be taken within the branch area, that is from Doveway Bridge on the southern end of the Shropshire Union to Barbridge Junction, the Middlewich Arm, the Llangollen and Montgomery Canals, the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals and the river Severn north of Bewdley. We will attempt to choose a cross section of images from all the waterways in our area so don't restrict your entries to one area. But please no more than 6 photographs per person so choose your best pictures. Images must be submitted in digital format at 300dpi minimum. We need 12 landscape pictures for the months and one very colourful portrait picture for the front cover. Every photographer whose picture is chosen will receive a complimentary copy. The photos will not necessarily be judged on their technical merit. We want to create another exciting and interesting calendar which will appeal to everyone, not just boaters. However please be aware that our customers like to see places they have visited, and particularly like evocative scenes and wildlife. We need photographs showing waterways life in all seasons and preferable at a location we have not used before. This year's calendar can be seen on the branch website.

Please send the following information with your photograph: ¬ Full name (which will appear on the calendar), address, email and telephone number ¬ Title of photograph ¬ Location of photograph ¬ Time of year the picture was taken (so it can be used for the appropriate month)

Please send your photographs to: by May 1, 2014.

Examples from the 2014 calendar. Please send us more of your finest photos for our next year's calendar and help raise funds!

FRONT Webster 2014 Shroppie FlyCOVER Paper IMAGE: Silver birch Blushes Page at Crack of Dawn, by John Spring

The Editor's cut... An analysis of the branch's position and relative health would certainly include, under 'strengths', our area's popular cruising waters and our iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site. It would also point, under 'opportunities', to the vigorous canal societies and their energetic restoration efforts, which we admire and support wherever possible. As ever, though, there have to be some negatives on the other scale of the balance. Under 'weaknesses', the branch membership is spread over a very wide geographical area (from Telford to Anglesey) that lacks a central urban focus and presents real challenges in finding activities and venues that will attract member support. While under 'threats' lie the decline in branch membership and the perception of competition, both locally and nationally, from CRT's "Friends" recruitment campaign. All these items are touched upon in this issue of your newsletter, which we hope you will enjoy as the evenings lengthen and more clement cruising weather arrives. There are towpath improvements from Horseshoe Falls to Trevor, another lottery bid win for the SNCT at Wappenshall, approval for a new canal basin at Whitchurch, the return of WRG work parties to our area on the Newport and Montgomery canals and our vice chairman's annual report presented to the recent branch AGM. Plus a terrific collection of festivals scheduled for the coming season (at most of which the branch will have a presence), work parties lined up in Middlewich and Newport that need your support, our really exciting brewery visit - "book your place now!" calls the social secretary over my shoulder - and our lock wind at Hurleston, where we would love to see some of you and would really welcome some donations of books, produce or other items that we can sell to boost branch funds. There is plenty more as well, such as our popular competition to find suitable photographs for the 2015 branch calendar. You will need to act fast, though - the closing date is May 1. Finally I would like to join with the secretary and the rest of the committee in welcoming Fiona Pearson as our new navigation officer, replacing Carolyn Theobold. So if you notice anything amiss while you are out and about cruising or walking along the canals please mention it to Fiona who will be making regular reports to CRT. Fiona (contact details are on page 4) also welcomes positive comments when things are going well. When we spoke to CRT regarding boats going aground during last year's lock wind at Hurleston, the response we received stated "We do not have records of any previously reported problems in this area and our hydrographic survey data (the information which we use to prioritise dredging on a national basis) does not identify that this length requires main line dredging. I would encourage all of your members to report things and the greater the number of reports received really does help us to prioritise our dredging programme." So over to you – if you see or experience a problem, please let Fiona know.

Next copy date: June 15, 2014 Spring 2014

Printed by Downstream Ltd, Nantwich

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The Branch Committee President Chairman Vice Chairman Region Chairman Secretary & Membership Sec. Treasurer Heritage & Planning Officer Webmaster Newsletter Editor Social Secretary Navigation Officer Committee Members

Branch Web pages

Michael Limbrey, Fulshaw House, Llanymynech SY22 6EN 01691 639992 Position Vacant David Aylwin, Wyndcliff, Pen y Garreg Lane, Pant, Oswestry SY10 8JS 01691 830403 Alan Platt, Argoed, Pen y Cefn Road, Caerwys, Flintshire CH7 5BH 01352 720649 Dawn Aylwin, Wyndcliff, Pen y Garreg Lane, Pant, Oswestry SY10 8JS 01691 830403 Denis Farmer, 8 Kingbur Place, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0DL 01270 811157 Peter Brown, 34 Waterside Drive, Market Drayton TF9 1HU 01630 652567 Alan Wilding, Priory Lodge, 154 Longden Road, Shrewsbury SY3 9ED 01743 359650 Michael Haig, 7 Barnton Edge, Stone ST15 8ZR 01785 813550 Val Haig, 7 Barnton Edge, Stone ST15 8ZR - contact as for Newsletter Fiona Pearson, 1 Inglis Road, Park Hall, Oswestry SY11 4AN 01691 662109 Hugh Appleton, Ann Appleton, 1 Maes Dinas, Llanfechain, SY22 6YR 01691 828124 Janet Farmer, 8 Kingbur Place, Audlem CW3 0DL - contact as for Treasurer Gerallt Hughes (General Secretary Committee for Wales) Ty’n y Coed, Arthog, Gwynedd LL39 1YS 01341 250631 Susan Wilding, Priory Lodge, 154 Longden Road, Shrewsbury SY3 9ED 01743 359 650

Shroppie Fly Paper The Shroppie Fly Paper is the newsletter of the Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch of The Inland Waterways Association with a membership of about 330. Nationally the IWA has about 16,000 members and campaigns for the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways. For further information contact any committee member. Copy for the Shroppie Fly Paper is welcome by email, on disk or in manuscript form. Photographs may be in any common computer format or as prints. Please supply a stamped addressed envelope if you require photographs to be returned. ‘Letters to the Editor’ intended for publication are invited, as are comments for the Editor’s private guidance. Copy and letters submitted for publication may be edited. The Inland Waterways Association may not agree with the opinions expressed in this Branch newsletter but encourages publicity as a matter of interest. Nothing printed may be construed as official policy unless stated otherwise. The Association accepts no liability for any matter in this newsletter. Any reproduction must be acknowledged. The Inland Waterways Association is a non-profit distributing company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No 612245. Registered as a charity No 212342.

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Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch - Annual Report 2014 The branch has held six business meetings in the past year at the Narrowboat Inn, Whittington. In the previous year we varied the location and time of these meetings in the hope that more members would be able to attend. This met with some success, so the committee would like to revive this approach and your suggestions for suitable venues will be much appreciated. Branch membership has become an issue of concern. For many years the numbers were fairly stable at around 380 but recently these have gradually dropped. In a national initiative the IWA is offering one year's free membership to anyone hiring a narrowboat for a week and to those attending WRG work camps. In the branch area just under 50pc of these complimentary memberships continue after the free period. So while it is good that the new Canal & Rivers Trust is recruiting volunteers, we need to persuade all those who appreciate the waterways, particularly the young, of the importance of an independent, campaigning organisation. With this in mind the branch attends most of the waterway related events in our area. We also attend the CRT user group meetings and we assisted CRT at the Grindley Brook lock dewatering open day. The biggest fundraiser this year was, once again, the branch calendar (which sold out well before the new year) and our thanks are due to the 12 sponsors. Further funds are raised through our branch stall's sales of paperbacks and produce (mainly cakes and jam) at the lock wind and various canal festivals. These efforts, together with some generous donations at the lock wind, have enabled us to offer match funding to the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals' and the Montgomery Canal's bids for Heritage Lottery grants, both of which were successful. We have reserved money to help WRG with its planned work in our area and we have also offered to help with publicity costs for the Maesbury Canal Festival, Norbury Canal Festival and the River Severn Event. We have maintained an active social events programme during the year featuring social evenings, visits, talks and our winter walk. We would like to encourage as many members as possible to attend these events as they are part of the life-blood of the branch. The branch magazine remains a core communications medium for the branch. As with most voluntary organisations we are under pressure to reduce costs and a Spring 2014

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greater uptake of 'soft copy' (email or web) would help, but so far only a handful of members have opted for this. The magazine is only published three times each year so for more up-to-date information don't forget the branch web-page,, and our Facebook page, We continue to monitor planning applications that affect the waterways and have commented on a number of these, including plans for two new marinas at Wrenbury (the one at Ellesmere not having progressed to a formal planning application as yet). We have held meetings with senior CRT staff to discuss marinas, congestion and planning issues generally and we now await the report of the joint working party on congestion. The committee started the year with 13 members. Unfortunately during the year the branch chairman, Carolyn Theobald, had to leave us and Janet Farmer, who has done a splendid job for many years, stood down as social secretary. Michael Haig (newsletter), Val Haig (social) and Fiona Pearson (navigation) have joined the committee. Thanks are due to the committee members, particularly Carolyn and Janet, for all their hard work and also to all the members who regularly volunteer to help at our events. Finally, we wish Ann Appleton a speedy recovery and hope to see her at meetings again soon. David Aylwin - Vice Chairman

Region Chairman writes First, congratulations to both the Montgomery Partnership and the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust for their successful bids for HLF Heritage Lottery funding, for Phase 1. This does not guarantee granting of the full fund applied for, but provides funds for the necessary technical work for Phase 2, and is a strong indicator that the latter will be successful. We also look forward to welcoming WRG back to the branch area with their scheduled camp in the summer on the S&N. This highlights the fact that within our branch we have two of the major Shroppie Fly Paper

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restoration projects in the country, and one hopes that the funding drought for restoration may be at an end now that the economy appears to be in better shape. Talking of droughts, we are unlikely to experience water shortages this year! As I write the south and west of England resemble a vast boating lake, and the weather seems unremitting as storm follows storm. The Environment Agency seems embroiled in recriminations and their funds are fully committed to flood relief. Although government finances are a dark art as far as this taxpayer is concerned, I would think that there is next to no attention being paid currently in the EA to the transfer of EA navigations to CRT, since this would rightly involve a significant dowry to persuade Canal and River Trust to take on this extra responsibility. This is a missed opportunity as far as the IWA is concerned, as this would be a major step to achieving the Waterways Conservancy dream first promoted by Robert Aikman, whose centenary occurs this year. This may be remote as far as the branch is concerned, but there are serious worries about whether the principle of navigation will effectively survive in East Anglia. The Canal & River Trust is now maturing and one can sense that some changes to its original governance system are in the air. What is apparent is that there is a growing realisation by CRT that the Waterways are best served by CRT’s resources and professionalism working in partnership with the expertise and enthusiasm of the IWA and the canal and restoration societies. There is an excellent working party involving CRT and IWA’s Restoration Committee working together on that topic nationally and locally our neighbouring branch is working with them on the Chester waterways initiative. These are excellent moves, as the way forward must be for us to work together with CRT. This involves a change in attitude from the old approach where British Waterways was too often regarded with some hostility. We will not ease up in our approach, where justified, to be critical of CRT as a service provider, but in many fields we must work together. As this is the season of AGMs, and I think it appropriate on behalf of the members to express our appreciation of the hard work carried out through the year by your committee. The year has been an eventful one for the branch and its health is largely attributable to the immense amount of effort spent by your committee on behalf of the waterways; more help is always needed so please do not be backward in coming forward. Rumour has it spring is approaching, and with it we get our boats ready, clean the walking boots, or dig the bike out of the back of the garage. However you enjoy the waterways, have fun. Alan Platt Spring 2014

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Membership Matters We are delighted to welcome the following new members who have joined the branch since the autumn edition of this magazine and look forward to meeting you all at one of our forthcoming events. Mr & Mrs Buckley from Machynlleth, Mr & Mrs Fletcher from Nantwich, Mr Forester & Ms Callender from Ludlow, Mrs Mackett from Hubberts Bridge near Boston, Mrs Mortimer from Bryneglwys, Mr Steed and family from Bridgnorth, and Mr Torrens from Whitchurch. We especially need volunteers to help with the Triathlon, our annual lock wind and the Maesbury Canal Festival, so please get in touch if you are able to help at one of these or at our other events. Dawn Aylwin

Audlem Gathering of Historic Boats This year’s Gathering of Historic Boats at Audlem, part of the Audlem Festival of Transport, is on Saturday and Sunday, July 26-27 – the first time it has been held over two days. This will help spread the large number of visitors who attend and, hopefully, improve the opportunities to view the boats and chat with the crews. In the five years since the event was started, it has grown to become one of the major gatherings of historic narrow boats in the country, one of the few in the north and the only one to take place within a flight of locks! The display of about 300 historic and classic cars, motorbikes and lorries on the village playing field close to the canal is still only a one day event on the afternoon of Sunday 27th. Both events are free for visitors and for historic boats to enter, though there is a small charge to enter vehicles. Previously many visitors and boaters have told us the event has been extremely enjoyable, probably because of the informality and lack of commercial stands. At 21 boats, bookings are ahead of this stage last year, so it looks as if the event may be full - the maximum number of boats is 43. Contact Audlem Mill on 01270 811059 to enter a boat. Mooring for visitors will be available between Locks 11-12 (48 hours) or below Lock 15 (14 days). Peter Silvester Shroppie Fly Paper

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BOOK NOW - ACTION REQUIRED! Visit to Joule’s Brewery, Great Hales Street, Market Drayton Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 7.00pm Members and guests who wish to join us on our tour of the Joule's Brewery on Tuesday, May 6 need to book their places by Friday, April 4 at the latest. We need a minimum number of 30 participants for the visit and must firm up our provisional booking at the beginning of April – committing the branch to the tour. So unfortunately, if we do not have 30 confirmed participants by Friday, April 4, we will most likely have to cancel the visit, with all the administrative burden of issuing refunds for those who have signed up and paid, not to mention the disappointment! If you wish to join us, please email me, Val Haig, with your reservation at as a matter of urgency. After receiving a booking confirmation from me please promptly send your payment for £8 per person by cheque made payable to IWA Shrewsbury & North Wales Branch to our Treasurer, Denis Farmer, at 8 Kingbur Place, Audlem CW3 0DL, or by bank transfer to the branch bank account, which I will give you when you make your booking. So please, don’t delay any further! Make your booking today for this oneoff opportunity to explore this great local independent brewery and have an enjoyable, informative and social evening with the branch! Don’t forget that the date is the day after the early May Bank Holiday weekend and the Norbury Canal Festival. So if you are planning on boating back from the festival through Market Drayton this event could make a perfect stop-over on your cruise. We look forward to seeing you for a super evening!

ONLY £8 PER PERSON! 7.00pm: Registration & ale tasting in the Mouse Room 7.45pm: Brew House tour (five flights of stairs involved!) 8.20pm: Recover with more ale, followed by Brewer's Supper (included in the price) of a giant soft white bap, filled with roast pork from the Joule’s herd at Fordhill Farm, with homemade stuffing, apple sauce and Joule’s Ale gravy 11.00pm: Mouse Room & Brewery Tap bar closes

Reserve your places today - email Note: If numbers exceed 50 then tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and we will start a waiting list. Due to previous problems with cheques not being honoured – yes, it has even happened to your branch – no cheques will be accepted after April 21 and only cash payments can be accepted thereafter.

Spring 2014

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WWT gets go-ahead for Whitchurch canal basin Over 13 months after submission, Shropshire County Council has approved Whitchurch Waterway Trust’s planning application for a new canal basin on the Whitchurch arm. The detailed conditions attached to the approval can be viewed at and include measures to protect wildlife, the recording of any original canal features found during construction, and investigation and remedial actions for any ground contamination found. Of these conditions, those relating to possible ground contamination are of most concern. So far no contamination has been found, but we have been recommended to undertake further sampling, which is hoped to be completed within the next few weeks. The estimated cost for construction of the new basin stands at £650,000, which includes a construction contingency of 7.5% and an additional contingency of 8%. The estimate includes about 25% for excavation works involving moving or removing approximately 5,000 cubic metres of soil and 35% for the construction of the basin itself. The Trust is actively working on plans for fund raising. To attract new members the Trust is temporarily offering a half price membership deal - people can now get involved and show their support for the scheme and join for £5 for adults, or two years with one year free. Family membership is being halved from £15 to £7.50. Membership enquiries can be made via the trust web site An ongoing report on the issues associated with construction of the new basin, actions to mitigate associated risk and status of issues is available on the WWT website (see Incidentally, for those with an interest in history, there is a link on the Canal History and Walks page of the website to some interesting aerial photos of the Whitchurch Arm as it used to pass the gasworks and enter the town in 1938 before it was infilled. The new basin will be considerably further from the town than the site of the photos and there are no current plans to extend the canal that far. Helen Brockman Shroppie Fly Paper

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Disappointing turn-out mars meeting What happened? A glorious, if cool, sunny morning for St David's Day in a lovely Welsh marina holding its annual open day with boat trips and family fun activities... a knowledgeable and entertaining speaker telling us about the ambitious restoration efforts fronted by David "Poirot" Suchet... an excellent lunch in the marina's comfortable function room... and the branch's annual general meeting, the yearly opportunity to report to the branch membership. Attendance? Nil, aside from your committee! According to membership records, almost 90 members, about a quarter of our branch total, live within 25 miles of Chirk and many much closer but, disappointingly, none chose to attend. The support of our members is critical to the well-being of the branch. We really hope that other branch events in the year ahead are better supported or our future activity programme will be in jeopardy. Val Haig

Other news in brief Marina developments – the planning application for the marina in Wrenbury village has been withdrawn. The Wrenbury Heath application is still outstanding, according to Cheshire East Council’s website, although the decision had been scheduled for January 8. At the time of going to press, there had been no formal planning application for the prospective development at Ellesmere. Llangollen towpath improvements – Glandŵr Cymru, the Canal & River Trust in Wales, is repairing 1,500 metres of towpath along the Llangollen Canal so that visitors can continue to enjoy the route throughout the year. The £220,000 project has been made possible thanks to funding from the Welsh Government’s sustainable transport programme, TAITH, and support from Denbighshire County Council and Sustrans Cymru. The works include widening and resurfacing the towpath along the World Heritage Site between Horseshoe Waterfalls and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, adding to the 16km of towpath that have already been improved. The towpath will be closed throughout the works, which are expected to take approximately six weeks to complete. Hurleston bottom lock – as we go to press, unfortunately it is too early to have the results of CRT’s detailed survey of the lock walls and brickwork. Spring 2014

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Around in the Chamber How often do you get a chance to walk along the bottom of a staircase lock chamber? On January 12, Canal & River Trust offered just such an opportunity at Grindley Brook, and it was a tremendous experience. The origins of the Grindley Brook staircase locks, and indeed the other 16 locks on the navigation to meet the Shropshire Union main line at Hurleston Junction, stem from the decision at the turn of the 19th century to abandon a connection from Frankton to Chester via Ruabon and instead link with the then Chester Canal at Hurleston. The 4½ mile section from Tilstock Park to Grindley Brook was built by John & William Hughes and the final 10 miles, including the locks at Grindley Brook, by John Fletcher and John Simpson. This part of the canal was opened in 1805, at the same time as Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Although many early canals had staircase locks, where the bottom gate of one lock is the top gate of the next, it was soon recognised that they wasted water and caused delays. It is therefore surprising that a staircase of three locks was built as late as 1805 in a location where it would have been quite possible to build single locks if a slightly different line had been adopted. A group of visitors is shown the maintenance works on CRT's Grindley Brook Open Day Photo: Geoff Harris

On CRT’s Open Day over 500 other enthusiasts donned hard hats and high viz waistcoats, descending into the locks in groups of ten, accompanied by a representative from CRT to explain the maintenance work taking place.

The quality of the craftsmanship in the locks was something to behold. The brickwork on the bottom and sides of the locks and the stone carved to form round culverts between the locks was wonderful. Some changes had been made since the locks were completed – during BW's era one pair of gates had been replaced in metal, and the sides of one of the locks had been reconstructed in concrete. During January’s closure some of the gate and side paddles were being replaced with a plastic composite instead of wood, ash and oak being hard to source. In due Shroppie Fly Paper

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course the metal gates will revert to wooden construction, as the cost of craning heavy steel in and out makes wood a cheaper option over a 25 year life expectancy. Due to the flow of water from the Horseshoe Falls on the river Dee – the Llangollen's primary source of water (flow rate around 6 million gallons a day) – the floor of the locks was remarkably clean and showed the concave brickwork at its best. However, in the road bridge hole, immediately below the staircase, there was a vast collection of rubble and rubbish, including a pair of weighing scales, a mobile phone and the inevitable windlasses – but no shopping trolley. Of course, it is all a far cry from the 19th century. For most of its existence, Grindley Brook wharf served only the local farming community. It was also the canal wharf nearest to Malpas. There was a limekiln in the triangle of land between the top locks and the wharf; limestone brought from Froncysyllte was burnt here, principally to make quicklime for spreading on the fields to increase their yield. The other bulk product handled at the wharf was coal, probably from Chirk. Not being very common today, staircase locks can present something of a dilemma for some boaters and with 60 to 100 boat movements per day at peak periods lock keepers are usually present during the main season to assist with navigation. The keepers might feel they recognise some of the following incidents recorded in the 1870s, though not the last mentioned, hopefully! A certain Thomas Jones was charged with wilfully damaging a lock, when instead of winding a paddle down he let it drop, which broke it. He had to pay 4s.3d damages and 6s costs. ‘Lock rage’ was clearly a known problem then too – another boatman, Harry Owen, violated the byelaws in trying to go through the staircase locks when he should have given way to Edwin Hanner’s boat. Pleading guilty, he was fined £1. In a more serious event, one Edward Hammonds, captain of the Star, was threatened by three labourers, who said they would kill him and throw him into the canal. The three pleaded not guilty, but said they had mistaken him for another man. The magistrates bound them over £5 each to keep the peace. Fortunately the 2014 Open Day was an altogether calmer affair. CRT's organisation, with the help of IWA Shrewsbury & North Wales Branch, was first class. As at the recent Beeston Lock Open Day, CRT chief executive Richard Parry attended the event and he and his team, led by waterway manager Wendy Capelle, must be delighted with the outcome. Sue Russell, with contributions from Peter Brown Spring 2014

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Wappenshall Wharf wins Heritage Lottery Fund support Ambitious plans to restore the canal warehouses at Wappenshall in north Telford have received a boost with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announcement that it will support a full award of almost £1million with a phase one award of £72,000 to fund the development of deatiled plans for the project. The Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust (SNCT) will restore the magnificent canal-side warehouses and wharf at the junction of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals at Wappenshall to create “Thomas Telford’s Wappenshall Wharf”. The site is important and appropriate as the Shrewsbury Canal was Telford’s first canal and the Newport Canal was his last, although in fact the warehouses themselves are not attributable to Telford but to surveyors and contractors to the Duke of Sutherland's estate. Work is planned to start in the autumn of 2014 and will be completed within two years.

The warehouses at Wappenshall Photo: Richard Knisely-Marpole

Besides essential conservation work to restore the warehouses, the project will include a centre to honour Thomas Telford. The restored buildings will include a cafe and a space for community use and for business meetings and other events. SNCT volunteers and members of the public will also be able get involved in many ways. As well as acting as guides once the project is completed, there will be opportunities to learn new skills during the build phase too. The project will create many jobs during the restoration and some permanent employment once open. Wappenshall Wharf was built between 1835 and 1838 as a loading point for goods to be transported by canal and it acted as a "half way house" for narrowboats travelling between Norbury Junction and Shrewsbury, some 24.5 miles. After the Shrewsbury and Newport canals were officially closed, the buildings were used as a coal merchants up till 1967 and then by a truck repair company until 2009. Telford and Wrekin Council’s Cllr. Eric Carter then led an initiative to buy the site and lease it to the SNCT. John Myers Shroppie Fly Paper

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More WRG activity boosts restoration progress The IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) has continued to support local canal restoration projects and has announced details of its Summer 2014 work camps. WRG volunteers returned to the Montgomery Canal in early November to tackle another obstruction, this time at Pant, where the railway bridge across the canal has been replaced by an embankment which will have to be removed if boats are to reach Llanymynech once more. Since the canal was formally abandoned in 1944 it whas been obstructed in many places, bridges were dropped and lengths of the canal simply dried out. Although many obstructions have been removed in the years of restoration and half the canal is now open for boating, much remains to be done. The WRG team spent the weekend investigating the embankment, clearing vegetation and discovering the remains of the old bridge, to see what will be involved in clearing the line of the canal. WRG volunteers have been involved in the restoration of the Montgomery Canal for over forty years and it is hoped this latest visit will help speed the removal of the railway embankment at Pant.

WRG is raising funds to purchase a new excavator. Will we see it at Meretown? Photo: IWA/WRG

Later this year WRG will be arriving on the Shrewsbury & Newport Canals to support the restoration work being undertaken by SNCT. A work camp will take place from August 16-23 offering a variety of tasks working at Meretown Lock at Islington, Shropshire. Volunteers will undertake lock clearance work, removing soil from the chamber, as well as profiling around 200m of canal bed and creating a temporary dam. They will also have the chance to carry out stonework, lime mortaring and scrub clearance work in and around the lock. Any readers interested in joining this or any of the other WRG working holiday camps can find out more at canal_camp_dates. Michael Haig Spring 2014

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IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch Diary 2014 April 6 - May 4

Canal Art Exhibition at Audlem Mill.

April 14

Branch Business Meeting at 7.00pm at the Narrowboat Inn, Whittington. Members are very welcome to attend but please reconfirm the date and time with any Committee member in advance.

April 17-21

Nantwich Jazz, Blues & Music Festival.

May 2-5

Norbury Canal Festival. All boats welcome - boaters' meal and goodie bags. For boat bookings contact harbourmaster Ray Buss at or 07981 334282.

May 6

Branch private tour of Joule's Brewery, Market Drayton. Places limited and must be pre-booked and pre-paid. See page 9 for booking details. Book now at

May 10

Montgomery Canal Triathlon. We still need volunteers to act as marshals for the walk sector from Llanymynech to Welsh Frankton, in particular a 'sweeper' (to make sure no one gets left behind). Can you help? Contact Dawn Aylwin 01691 830403

May 23-26

Audlem Festival - music and arts events across the village.

May 24-26

Crick Boat Show, Crick Marina, Northants.

June 1

Audlem RNLI Festival, OverWater Marina. A family fun day featuring the ‘around the island’ raft race, Cheshire’s services including Fire & Rescue, Police and Police Divers demonstrating water rescues and promoting water safety, and the historic fly-boat ‘Saturn’. Please come and support the branch stand.

June 2

Montgomery Canal Forum, Cambrian Railway Works, Oswestry - see page 21

June 6-8

IWA National Campaign Festival, Tower Wharf, Chester. Details from Rally Secretary, Lesley Taylor on

June 8

Shrewsbury River Festival, Quarry Park, Shrewsbury. For details see Continuing last year's "Pirates" theme, it's a day of family fun while at the same time learning about water safety awareness. Please come and support the branch stand.

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June 9

Branch Business Meeting at 7.00pm at the Narrowboat Inn, Whittington. Members are very welcome to attend but please reconfirm the date and time with any Committee member in advance.

June 13-15

Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival.

June 21

North West Region Social Meeting, Castlefields, Manchester. Details coming soon - see north_west/north_west

July 20

Aqueduct Church Minshull Marina Open Day. Please come along, enjoy the fun and support the branch stand.

July 26-27

Audlem Festival of Transport and Gathering of Historic Narrow Boats. For boat bookings call Peter Silvester at Audlem Mill on 01270 811059. Space is limited to 43 historic boats. See page 8.

August 2-3

Branch lock wind at Hurleston bottom lock. We really do need your help, not only to wind locks but also to provide lots of things to sell. Any surplus fruit and vegetables from your garden, home-made cakes, pies, pickles and jam are very popular and last year we ran out of supplies. If you can spare the time we would welcome your contributions and especially your presence. A little more help would be appreciated even if it is just an hour or two! Contact any Committee member.

September 6-7

Maesbury Festival. Can you help? Please see the appeal for volunteers on page 30.

Sept 20-21

Whitchurch Gathering of Boats. See page 21 for more details.

NEW! WORK PARTIES! GET INVOLVED! Jointly with IWA North Staffordshire and South Cheshire Branch, and supported by CRT, we have agreed three work party dates to improve the appearance of Wardle Lock, Middlewich. The work parties will take place on April 30, May 14 and May 28, all Wednesdays, from 10.00am to 4.00pm. It can be helpful to have some idea of possible volunteer numbers, so if you are coming along you may like to inform Bob Luscombe on 07710 054848 or There is plenty of on-street parking in the vicinity of CW10 0JJ. Again jointly with IWA North Staffordshire and South Cheshire Branch, we are supporting Shrewsbury & Newport Canals Trust for theit first himalayan balsam bash on Saturday, July 12 from 10.00am at Black Shed, Water Lane, Newport TF10 7LD. Contact John Myers on 07711 858986 or Please bring gloves and wear suitable footwear for working by the canal.

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Boating in the Beacons “Sebastopol?” She was used to the odd places we had been to on boat trips – on the BCN they often started with 'W'. She knew that Sebastopol was a place in the Crimean War, but not that it was a suburb north of Cwmbran where the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal passes from CRT to Torfaen Council. We had started from Gilwern Wharf on the electric boat, Brecon Castle, one of two two battery-powered weekly-hire boats on the canal and indeed the whole system. Boating by battery was a novel experience: quieter than diesel and of course no exhaust; just a hum from the motor and its fan and the turbulence from the propeller and rudder. The drawback was the need to stop to charge: overnight is best. There are charging cabinets along the canal, more on the popular length from Gilwern to Brecon than to the south; each asks for 100’ to be left for the electric boats – though a Cruising the Mon & Brec Photo: Eileen Limbrey hirer at Talybont, who had left a gap little longer than our boat, did say that he didn't think anyone would be using the charging point! The story of the Monmouthshire & Brecon is very different from the Montgomery's, yet both were contemporary, built by more than one company, with the canalbuilding Dadfords, and used feeder tramways. The difference is that the Monmouthshire Canal, and to a lesser extent the Brecon & Abergavenny (they were amalgamated in 1865), had a busy past serving heavy industry, connected to collieries, quarries and ironworks. In the end though, both came into railway ownership and saw their last commercial traffic in the 1930s. You can never cease to be impressed by the early canal builders, who achieved so much without all today's gizmos. Though the ten miles to Newport were heavily locked, today’s 35-mile Mon & Brec is very much a contour canal. From Cwmbran it is 25 miles before the first lock, No. 64 at Llangynidr, where there are another five with one more a couple of miles from Brecon. It would be interesting to understand why the contour the builders chose is up to 250' above the valley floor – it can be quite a climb when you come back from the Shroppie Fly Paper

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shops or the pub! At times the canal (the only one completely in a National Park) winds through meadows, but elsewhere – particularly several miles along the side of Blorenge hill – the canal is nearly straight, high up a wooded hillside. In spring, with the leaves just budding, we had a spectacular view across the valley, but if Aged Dog had gone down the hillside, as she nearly did, neither she nor I would have been able to get back up the steep slope! Whether straight or winding, the canal follows the valley of the River Usk, between the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. Many streams off the hills supply water, leading to tight bends as the canal turns into each valley, then hairpins over an embankment or aqueduct back to its original line. The canal has a reputation for breaches and repairs; the latest work at Llangattock looked very raw. The canal is well used: there are half a dozen hire companies, day boats and a trip boat at Brecon. The towpath is used by cyclists, walkers and joggers – they all overtook us easily! – and there are walks along old tramroad routes. Last year there was a crowded Photo: Michael Limbrey calendar of events for the 200th Cruising the Mon & Brec anniversary of the canal’s completion; the canal has also hosted the Welsh Waterways Festival – perhaps it should come here one day. This year there is to be an exhibition of Welsh Canals at Swansea’s National Waterfront Museum from 6 July to 13 October, with a special Canal Day on 3 August; and the Glamorganshire Canal weighing machine, for many years a feature at Stoke Bruerne, returns to South Wales – can we hope that Welshpool’s iron lock gates will too come home one day? The canals of Wales provide many contrasts: in our area there are four border crossings, in the south the canals run up the valleys from Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, Pembrey and Kidwelly; the canals of South Wales are largely in urban areas with a need for regeneration, the Llangollen ends in a town with an international reputation as a place to visit, and the Montgomery has always been a rural ‘branch line’. The Welsh Assembly takes considerable interest in the canals of Wales, encouraged by CRT (though most South Wales canals are not CRT’s). The IWA has long had a Committee for Wales and there is a CRT Partnership for Wales, with Spring 2014

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representatives from the two partnerships which include Wales. At a recent meeting in Cardiff, Alan Platt and I heard presentations highlighting the importance of tourism to Wales and the connection between canals and tourism. As soon as those last few English miles of the Montgomery Canal are finished, we hope that it too can make its full contribution to the life and economy of Montgomeryshire and Wales. It is over forty years since I first visited the Mon & Brec and it was then in course of being reopened. So I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time. I was not disappointed, even by Sebastopol. Michael Limbrey

Autumn Talk 2013 Over 30 branch members and guests attended the autumn talk in November, delivered by TV documentary maker and presenter Richard Vobes. Richard, who had travelled from his home in Worthing, Sussex, to be with us at the Narrowboat Inn, Whittington, spoke entertainingly about his chance discovery of the abandoned Shrewsbury and Newport Canals and his subsequent introduction to the restoration work being undertaken by SNCT. Peppering his talk with amusing anecdotes describing his introduction to filmmaking (through sneakily observing the antics of a crew of stunt artists making a promotional film) and early career as a TV film extra (often cast as a policeman in shows such as The Bill and Poirot), Richard outlined the historical enthusiasm and production values that inform his work and how he goes about achieving his objectives. After Richard’s speech he kindly drew the winning tickets for the raffle held on the night, and we also raised funds from the sale of further copies of the branch’s 2014 calendar, which has sold very well this year. Attendance on the wet November evening, boosted by a good number of supporters from SNCT and Friends of the Montgomery, was the highest in recent memory and we are grateful as always to the proprietors and staff of the Narrowboat for their hosting and catering arrangements. It was certainly a squeeze in the pub’s Harrison Ford Room, but from audience reaction afterwards the evening was a great success. Val Haig Shroppie Fly Paper

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Whitchurch Gathering of Boats 2014 September 20-21, 2014 We would like to welcome all readers to the Whitchurch Boat Gathering being held on September 20 and 21, 2014 on the Whitchurch Arm of the Llangollen Canal at Chemistry. The cost of attending the rally has not increased for a number of years so if you would like to come with your boat the entry fee is still £12.50. A social evening for boaters to include a meal is £6.50 per person and starts at 6.30pm. We supply everything except chairs, drinks and glasses so please bring your own. If you trade from your boat there is an additional fee of £12.50. Stall holders are very welcome too. The fee for commercial stalls is £20.00 and for charities and societies the fee is £10.00. If you just want to come along to see the decorated boats and stalls it won't cost you a penny and car parking is free in the nearby carpark. Details are available on our website where forms can be downloaded. Booking forms can also be obtained by contacting Lindsay Green, Chemistry Farm, Whitchurch. SY13 1BZ or telephone 01948 662779/07968 339335 or e-mail

Montgomery Canal Forum Restoring the Montgomery Canal This year's Forum will be on the theme of Restoration, from earliest days to the latest rewatering and beyond. The Forum will be held at 2.30pm on Monday 2 June 2014. We shall be at Coffee Express, a spacious location in the historic former Cambrian Railways Works, Gobowen Road, Oswestry SY11 1HS. Coffee Express are being very generous to us with these arrangements, and we hope you will try their light-bite refreshments, and perhaps a coffee, beforehand. The best way to reach the venue is to approach from the A5 Oswestry by-pass using the Gobowen (B5069) or Whittington (B4580) roads. After their junction there is a row of modern housing known as 'The Carriages', immediately after which you turn left across the railway track, to park in front of the striking railway building. Take care to enter the door to Coffee Express, rather than their children's Fantastic Funhouse next door! Michael Limbrey Spring 2014

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Tyrley Tattle In the last edition of the Fly Paper I said that we were looking forward to the replacement of the bottom gates of the top lock. A large crowd of workers from CRT duly arrived at the beginning of November and within a couple of days the whole area around the lock was fenced off and multicoloured shutters had appeared along the fence in front of the houses. This was ostensibly to protect the windows from flying debris as there was some worked planned which involved cutting some of the concrete around the lock.

Tyrley Top Lock, fenced off and dewatered Photo: Richard Hall

While the pound below the lock was drained to enable the fitting of the new gates, a problem was identified with the wash wall along the towpath. Serious subsidence had occurred along the edge of the towpath and it became apparent that, although the wall was intact and sound, it had been undercut by wash from passing boats and the soil behind the wall had leached out causing the ground above to subside.

This presented CRT with something of a challenge because of the difficulty of access. It was eventually solved by craning a tracked dumper truck over the bridge on to the canal bed and then using it to transport concrete from a ready mix truck by the bridge along the pound to underpin the wall. The gate fitters really deserved a medal for having to work in the terrible conditions. Not only did it rain on practically every day of the work but on one day floodlights even had to be brought in as it was too dark to see to work in the bottom of the lock. On the Sunday of the last week of the stoppage a man from CRT came round to our houses to tell us that the stoppage had been extended for a week even though the gates were finished. This was to enable contractors to modify the lock ladders - the start of a national programme to upgrade existing lock ladders which didn’t have sufficient clearance from the lock chamber wall to allow a safe foothold. The upgrade consisted of removing completely one of the existing ladders and cutting a channel in the brickwork behind the other one so that the rungs had a better foothold. The handrails at the top were also changed to ones of a new design which promise to be more stable when misused for roping boats using the lock. Shroppie Fly Paper

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CRT also took advantage of the extended stoppage to investigate and deal with the badly leaking gates on the bottom lock. We were away for the Christmas period and hoped that we had missed the worst of the wet and windy weather but it was not to be. The Tyrley area suffered from its share of the rain and the gales, especially towards the end of February when we had a night of very damaging wind. We lost a greengage tree, fortunately not our favourite variety, and one of the bee hives had a narrow escape as the top of the tree landed across its roof but without causing any damage. Another smaller tree behind the same hive was also uprooted but that fell out of the garden and didn’t cause any damage. One rare pleasant sunny day, I took the boat south as far as Goldstone Wharf and saw several trees which had been blown down by the side of the canal. In particular one huge ash, with three trunks, had fallen right across the canal just north of High Bridge (No.57) and although two men from Fountains, the CRT contractors, had been working at it all day there was still a lot of it to remove but passage past it was possible. Despite the relatively mild winter, The drained pound below Tyrley Top Lock which has kept our bees too active Photo: Richard Hall and therefore needing extra feeding, the frogs have not yet appeared for their annual mating session in the pond. Last year, after the cold winter, they didn’t appear until the middle of April although in some years they are here as early as February. Perhaps they expect a cold March! The fox, who has been a regular visitor, has not been seen since Christmas, perhaps tempted away by rabbits further afield. Rabbits are still plentiful, despite a recent outbreak of myxomatosis to which they must be getting immune, but fortunately they are mostly absent from our garden. Now we await the spring, of which signs are gradually appearing. The snowdrops are magnificent and daffodils are starting to appear. The mirabelle tree is bursting into life already which one might expect of a native of the Crimea. Richard Hall Spring 2014

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Winter Walk The weather forecasts in the days leading up to this year’s Winter Walk on January 4th were full of dire predictions for a drenching, but in the event the rain stayed away and ten members and guests completed the almost four-mile towpath walk from Nantwich to Barbridge, seeing canals built by no less than four different canal companies. Starting at Nantwich Aqueduct, the walk followed the last few hundred yards of the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal on its route north from Autherley Junction. Completed in 1835, it was Thomas Telford’s last major work, designed as a direct and easier route from the industrial Midlands to Ellesmere Port. By Nantwich Basin the B&LJC joins the Chester Canal, a ‘first generation’ canal authorised by an Act of The walkers advance past Nantwich Basin Parliament of 1773. The original Photo: Dawn Aylwin intention was for the Chester Canal to meet the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich in order to attract traffic to and from the Potteries, but Parliament would not agree. Approval was obtained to build to Middlewich, but 100 yards short of the T&M, with a branch to Nantwich. In the end only the Nantwich line was built, the section from Bunbury to Nantwich being the last to be completed in 1779. The Chester Canal was a financial disaster and the company struggled to survive, until in 1794 a group of shareholders saw that the proposed Ellesmere Canal might be the salvation of the older company. The Ellesmere and Chester Canals finally merged in 1813. Nantwich Basin was the original terminus of the Chester Canal — because of the levels of the land it would not have been practicable to continue it for a further threequarters of a mile to the town centre. A warehouse and a limekiln were erected here, and arrangements made for land transport to Wheelock on the Trent & Mersey, Market Drayton and Newport. After the B&LJC opened, the link with the Midlands meant that trade at the basin increased. A significant traffic was limestone from Trevor Rocks; this was unloaded here and stored until required by the ironmasters of East Shropshire. Shroppie Fly Paper

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Hurleston Junction is well known to modern leisure boaters as the entrance to the Llangollen Canal, but its origin is rather more haphazard. The Ellesmere Canal was originally intended to go from Shrewsbury to Chester via the Ruabon and Wrexham area, with branches (amongst others) to Llanymynech and Whitchurch. However, after the lines from Frankton Junction to Trevor, Llanymynech, Weston Lullingfields, Quina Brook and Tilstock Park (a little short of Whitchurch) had been built or contracted for, the company found itself desperately short of money. As a consequence, the proposed line from Trevor to Chester was abandoned, and a link with the Chester Canal was substituted by extending the Whitchurch branch through Wrenbury to Hurleston Junction. This opened in 1805, at the same time as Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The feeder canal from the River Dee at Horseshoe Falls past Llangollen to Trevor was completed in 1808, thus also solving the water supply problems to the summit section of the Chester Canal. The bottom lock of the Hurleston Flight is notoriously narrow, and many traditional boats are unable to get up it. To some extent this is historical, as these locks were built slightly narrower than those on the B&LJC, as was noted in 1887 when it was reported that some steel boats built at the railway workshops at Crewe could work from the Midlands to Ellesmere Port but were slightly too wide to use the ‘Welsh Branch’. Recent surveys by the Canal & River Trust (CRT) have shown that part of the upper section of the lock wall on the towpath side is bulging by just over two inches, though this is partly compensated by the offside wall (rebuilt in the 1970s) leaning slightly outwards. CRT plan to check that the bricks are not hollow; if the bricks are satisfactory, then CRT will try to shave some half an inch off the highest part of the bulge when the flight is drained for gate replacement in the next few months. The united Ellesmere & Chester Canal opened the branch from Barbridge to Middlewich in 1833, so linking their canal to the national network. The main traffics were clay from Ellesmere Port to the Potteries, the boats returning with finished products for export, and agricultural products from west Cheshire and north Shropshire to Manchester. Once the B&LJC opened in 1835, this and the Middlewich Branch provided an easier through route from Birmingham and the Black Country to Manchester. After the walk, the intrepid hikers and other members of the branch enjoyed a sociable lunch at the Olde Barbridge Inn. (Adapted from the historical notes for the walk produced by Peter Brown) Spring 2014

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Boat movements down – for the second year running Every year the Canal & River Trust publishes statistics of the number of times each lock is emptied.§ This is not the same as boat movements, of course, as a descending boat followed by an ascending boat is only one emptying of a lock. For a narrow lock, if boats arrive randomly, the lockage should be increased by about a third to get the number of boat movements. The statistics for our area are:

Wheaton Aston Tyrley Audlem Cholmondeston Hurleston New Marton Aston Pool Quay

2011 7,286 6,112 5,163 8,394 7,517 9,432 1,725 108

Lockage 2012 6,822 5,544 5,001 8,029 7,156 9,198 1,583 173

2013 6,021 5,060 4,451 7,662 6,642 8,255 1,256 93

Movements 2013 8,000 6,700 5,900 10,200 8,800 11,000 1,600 100

Nationally, the picture is mixed. Usage in the midlands and the north is generally down, whereas usage south of about Rugby–Napton is generally up. There seems no simple reason for this variation; it is certainly not explained by stoppages. The year 2013 was typical in terms of weather, whereas the main part of the summer of 2012 was wet and the Olympics could have been a factor. Is it the economy: is this evidence that the south was recovering whereas the midlands and the north were not? On the other hand, is it because our area has a disproportionate number of hire boats, and hiring has reduced whilst private boating has increased? Peter Brown §

CRT Annual Lockage Report 2013:

Forty years on … 1974 was an important year on the waterways. Taking advantage of the need to empty his loft, our branch president, Michael Limbrey, has trawled through the archives to unearth some miscellanea of the time... There were openings: o The Upper Avon to Stratford was opened by the Queen Mother, complete with Shroppie Fly Paper

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an ode by IWA Vice-President Sir John Betjeman – IWA will of course be back at Stratford this summer to celebrate. o Also opened were the Caldon Canal (inaccessible from the north as Harecastle Tunnel was closed), Hungerford Lock on the K&A, the Ashton/Peak Forest to the top of Marple Locks, as well as Whixall Marina, on what was called 'the Welsh Canal' ( – a bit unfair on the Mon & Brec and other canals of South Wales). In IWA: o There was to be a reorganisation – membership had nearly doubled in three years (though treasurer Ken Goodwin was forecasting a deficit for the year). In the North-Western branch, one of seven making up the IWA, the Merseyside & South Lancashire and Manchester sections became branches, soon joined by the new Stoke-on-Trent branch, with the final two branches to follow, Lancaster/Blackburn and Shrewsbury. o IWA Secretary John Dodwell left; now he is a trustee of Canal & River Trust. o Tom Rolt died at the age of 63. He had been IWA's first secretary and was of course the writer of Narrow Boat, with the local connection commemorated on our plaque at Frankton Locks. In view of the status he now has, it is worth quoting from the tribute of Lionel Monk (IWA National Chairman for over twenty years): “We did not always see eye to eye, however, concerning waterway matters. He was sceptical about keeping the whole network in being.... He had little belief in the contribution that could be made to the waterways by pleasure boats.” o WRG appealed for 2,500 books of Green Shield stamps to buy a Smalley Excavator ( – the machine was later used by SUCS at Carreghofa). On the Montgomery Canal: o The Prince of Wales opened Welshpool Lock, accompanied by Lord Davies of Llandinam, Sir Frank Price and Mrs Pat Wilson, Chairmen respectively of Montgomery Waterway Restoration Group, British Waterways Board and Shropshire Union Canal Society. Others present were IWA National Chairman John Heap, Ken Goodwin, Graham Palmer, Harry Arnold and Charles Quant, all founder members of Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust. o Restoration of Welshpool Lock had taken three years and was achieved 'entirely by voluntary labour working under the organisation of SUCS assisted by WRG'. The volunteers' contribution was continuing with a 2-week WRG work camp at Pool Quay and SUCS clearance of the towpath of the entire 7-mile length north of Welshpool to be restored under the auspices of the Prince of Wales' Committee. o The Montgomery Branch of SUCS was running water-jet propelled trip boat Powis Princess in Welshpool. Spring 2014

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o An appeal was launched to restore the rest of the canal £300,000 … if only! Elsewhere in the branch area: o British Rail obtained consent to demolish the canal warehouse in Howard Street, Shrewsbury – it survived. o A letter to Waterways World suggested that the proposed move of Longden-onTern Aqueduct to Ironbridge Gorge Museum would mean the end of any hope of restoration of the S&N – it wasn't, and it didn't. o On their third summer tour, Mikron Theatre Company called at The Jolly Tar, Barbridge, The Bridge, Audlem, The Talbot, Market Drayton, The Wharf, Shebdon and The Hartley Arms, Wheaton Aston. And finally ... o Shortage of water – can you imagine? – led of the closure of Wigan Locks and Napton Locks. o The Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council recommended the upgrading of 145 of the 600 miles of remainder waterway. In making the recommendation, IWAAC Chairman John Barratt – later chairman of MWRT – referred to the undoubted value of these waterways as a national heritage and recreational asset. o Anglo-Welsh started offering centrally-heated hire boats. o There was concern about the proposed extension of the M40 by the Oxford Canal south of Banbury. o Anderton Lift reopened after £¼million repairs – it was to close again for major restoration nine years later. o British Rail excursions from London, including a trip across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, cost £2.30; and the price of Waterways World went up to 25p. Let's look forward too ... We shall soon see the completion of the towpath improvements from Newtown to Llanymynech. That's fine for towpath users, but what is a canal without boats? While they say that most canal visitors are not on boats, we know it is the boats that bring life and interest to the canal, explaining its heritage and structures. The Maesbury Festival will bring that life and interest to the canal in Shropshire, but will again remind us how much is missing from the canal in Wales. And it is after all in Wales that the restoration started. So a number of us have been working on ideas for an event in Welshpool in 2015. The branch has been heavily involved in previous events there, such as the Festivals in 1996 and 2008, now we are hoping for something different, highlighting the story of boats and the canal. It would be really exciting to bring in new people with new ideas, rather than relying on ‘the usual suspects’: could you spare some time over the next year to help us? Shroppie Fly Paper

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Tugboat Ted Without nb Leo, life is very different for us bears but we still like to keep an eye on what is happening on the waterways, particularly in Audlem where we live. It has been a strange winter. While we have been waiting for the "frozen paws" syndrome all we have heard about are rising water and flood levels. Our sympathy has been for those people in the affected areas, in the meantime we are grateful for dry paws! The humans seem glad of the comparatively good local conditions and most days have been able to fit in some outside activity. The Farmer family energy levels are modest compared to some, making us particularly impressed with volunteer work - sometimes arranged by CRT, sometimes by Audlem (ADAS) volunteers. Bulbs have been planted and general tidying up taking place along the canal side - all making spring something to especially look forward to. Seeing all this activity inspired us to tidy up in the car park at the back of us - it was good to uncover shooting daffodils bulbs which had become overgrown and generally to get rid of the debris. We think it's impressive that CRT has been so successful with their volunteer programme and if it inspires others, like us, it must be good. Inevitably, there is less going on in the winter months. The walk in January seemed popular with reasonable conditions - the humans joined the group for lunch at the Barbridge Inn which was good. We always hope when the February Quiz Night is organised that it won't be affected by snow or ice. February 14th this year was clear of both but gale force winds were forecast and half the country seemed to be under water - would anyone want to turn out for a romantic Bears settle in for the quiz Photo: Janet Farmer Valentine Quiz? In fact Ethelted and I presided over about 20 who braved it and we had a good evening at the Narrowboat Inn. The "MEDDs" (Michael, Elaine, David, Dawn) gained top score and the chance to set the questions next year. We're starting to get rather excited about a very different social event coming soon - an outing to Joule's Brewery in Market Drayton - details elsewhere. We are not sure if bears are allowed but the humans certainly hope to be there. Also various rallies, starting with Norbury in May and ending with Whitchurch and Maesbury in September. A lot happening to attract friends and acquaintances. It's always good to meet up! Spring 2014

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MAESBURY CANAL FESTIVAL September 6 & 7, 2014 A heartfelt thanks to everyone who has volunteered to help at the festival in September. We still need someone to oversee the management of the road probably one of the least favourite jobs! However we don't expect the volunteer to stand on duty all day but to check periodically that those who have promised to do a two hour stint have actually turned up and know what to do. So please get in touch if you are willing to take over this responsibility. One recent change to our plans involves the trip boat. Even though it has not been running for some time, we have been promised that the horse drawn boat will be available over the weekend and will be taking passengers down the new length, which should be opened in May. You won't be able to take your own boat down but you will be able to be one of the first people to cruise down to Pryces Bridge. An opportunity not to be missed. Boaters are gradually booking in and we now have more trading boats that ever before - hope we can accommodate them all against the tow path! A bit of extra dredging might be needed. Alongside the usual cheese and canal-ware boats you will be able to select your favourite sweets and jewellery. And of course Saturn will be present to add interest and colour to the event. If you plan to come by boat please remember we are restricted to 30 boats which will be accepted on a first come basis so don't leave it to the last minute to book in. Early days but stall holders are already booking in and I'm especially pleased that a number of demonstrators will be coming: Derek will be working at his lathe; Maureen will be offering you the opportunity to weave your own dragonfly, snail, caterpillar, twirly thing or headband; Deborah is travelling from Devon and will be demonstrating rag-rugging and will also give you the chance to 'have a go' and make a corsage, poppy, owl or lobster; weather permitting Dave will once again set up his 50 yard long rope walk and he has also promised to donate one long button and one button & wings (tipcat) to raffle or auction. No doubt by the time the Shroppie Fly Paper is published the list of demonstrators will be much longer. You can keep up to date on For quiz enthusiasts the 'Brain of Monty' can now be purchased for £1 and details are on our web‑site. Early reports suggest that it is even harder than ever but don't blame me - I just used the tie‑breakers from 2012. Just 40 questions all with 'MONT' in the answer somewhere. The winner will be announced at the festival so plenty of time to do any research. For further details please contact: Dawn Aylwin - 01691 830403 or

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Canal Art Exhibition Audlem Mill, April 6 to May 4, 2014 Every year, Audlem Mill in Cheshire hosts an exhibition of what is probably now the largest number of canal paintings assembled anywhere. The 2014 Canal Art Exhibition from 6 April to 4 May, organised in conjunction with the Guild of Waterway Artists, will include paintings, and some photographs, by many of the best canal artists in the country. The 2013 exhibition featured at least 160 works. Most of the Guild members were represented, including painters Sarah Pressland, Dusty Miller, Helen Harding, Sylvia Hankin, Lesley Pearson, Penny Taylor-Beardow and Louise Moore (also photographs), linoprint arist Eric Gaskell, and photographer Chris Nugent, as well as paintings by others such as Tony Lewery (perhaps better known for being an expert on Rose & Castles painting), Dave Holloway, and Malcom Davies and local artists including Sheila M Webster. The exhibition always attracts many hundreds of visitors from all across the country. Most come by car, but some make it by boat! Quite a few visitors have said that they now plan their season’s boating to make sure that they are on the Shroppie at the right time, and of course they can also then enjoy the other delights of Audlem, which is a quintessential canalside village. The Canal Art Exhibition is just one of many events at Audlem Mill during 2014 which will be of interest to boaters. There will be exhibitions of needlework and canal related items, and there is also the gathering of about 40 historic narrow boats on 26/27 July, organised by Audlem Mill as part of the village’s Festival of Transport, which also has around 300 old vehicles on the second day – completely free days out! Audlem Mill, one of the oldest and best known canal shops, is at Audlem Wharf, close to bridge 78 on the Shropshire Union Canal. For visitors by boat, there are moorings right outside the Mill. Further details of Audlem Mill events will be posted at or phone 01270 811059

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Shroppie Fly Paper - the newsletter of the IWA Shrewsbury District & North Wales Branch