A BARREL of ale that helped to reopen a section of canal and honour a tradition last month has passed by Whitchurch.

The historical standard practice was re-enacted when a barrel of Montys Brewery Navigation Pale was carried on the front of a narrow boat, all the way from Audlem on the Shropshire Union Canal main line.

It arrived in Crickheath Wharf, near Oswestry, just in time for the official opening of the latest restoration phase on the Montgomery Canal last month.

The narrowboat followed the route through Cheshire and onto the Llangollen Canal near Nantwich.

The barrel then passed through the rich agricultural lands around Whitchurch and Ellesmere, before joining the Montgomery Canal at Frankton Junction.

It had a stop-over at the Navigation Inn in Maesbury Marsh, an original canal-side pub, before it reached the “Navvies’ Work Site” in time for a Saturday evening barbecue at Crickheath Wharf Basin.


Russ Honeyman, Monty’s commercial director, said, “The volunteers and their communication network at the Shropshire Union Canal Society have done a brilliant job in the marketplace; it’s like having a team of sales representatives working for you.

“When we found out about this lovely old barrel-of-beer tradition, we could not fail but to support it.

“These volunteers work so hard in their own time and their effort gives so much value to the local economy and wellbeing of all the canal users.”

During the canal-building frenzy of the 18th and 19th centuries, it became customary for Canal Companies to reward the hard-working and hard-drinking "Navvies" with a barrel of ale upon completing a canal.

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In keeping with this rich tradition, the Shropshire Union Canal Society recently held a grand reopening ceremony in June, celebrating the restoration of a canal stretch leading into Crickheath Basin.

The event paid homage to the historic practice, sponsored by Monty's Brewery.

The canal restoration will be supported by real ale drinkers through Monty’s Brewery’s Navigation Pale, with commission on each pint of the ale, going to advance restoration of the next section.

The historic stretch of the Montgomery Canal, close to Oswestry, was once an important transhipment point for limestone from the nearby Welsh hills.