The fifth Montgomery Canal Triathlon on 7 May was a great success with over two hundred people taking part, including groups from many local organisations and others from as far as Lancashire, Staffordshire, Hampshire, Bristol and Sevenoaks.
Notable entrants from the Canal & River Trust, which owns the canal, were Chief Executive Richard Parry, Andrew Stumpf (CRT Head of Wales), and Ani Sutton, CRT North Wales & Borders Development and Engagement Manager. The youngest entrant was just ten years of age, and the oldest was 73. For the first time, several disabled people took part too.
The event was started by Cllr Richard Edwards, Mayor of Newtown, who saw entrants off on the first stage, a 17-mile towpath cycle ride to Pool Quay, north of Welshpool – the volunteer who acted as ‘sweep’ for the first part of this stage then went off to compete in the Market Drayton 10K run.
There followed an 11-mile section on foot from Pool Quay to Morton, south of Oswestry. This section included some recently-resurfaced towpath, with rougher conditions through the unrestored dry section at Pant, finally passing the length currently being restored by volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society.
The Triathlon was completed by seven miles in canoes, finishing at the Weston Arm, below Frankton Locks.
The organisers were grateful to many friends who helped provide canoes and kayaks for entrants who were not able to bring their own, including PGL at Baschurch, Red Ridge Activity Centre from Cefn Coch, Chris Bushnell and Sue Teurena; to Eric Neville Catering of Welshpool for catering materials; and to Morrisons and Tesco in Welshpool who provided bottled water for participants. Catering en route was provided at Pool Quay by Morton Church Choir, and at Frankton by Angeline Hankey and family.
The first entrants started at 8.30am, and the last arrived at the finish at 7pm. A local couple tackled the whole course on foot, starting before the other participants and taking 11 hours for the 35 miles. All entrants were presented with medallions of local slate: gold for those who had completed the whole course, and silver and bronze for those who completed two sections or one.
The event was organised by the Friends of the Montgomery Canal who received help from other Montgomery Canal organisations in stewarding road crossings, working locks, and helping entrants at other points on the course, including staff from Tesco who assisted where the canal passes their Welshpool store, and a team from Canal & River Trust who helped with the administration at the conclusion of the event. In all, about sixty stewards helped to make the event a success.
Christine Palin, chairman of the Friends of the Montgomery Canal said, “We were delighted that the Triathlon went so well. We do of course have to limit the numbers to make the event manageable, so that it is not too crowded for people to enjoy. The event was fully booked, with many returning after taking part in previous years. Others joined us on the recommendation of friends, and all contributed to an event which everyone enjoyed.
“The Montgomery Canal Triathlon shows the delights of the canal and the area it passes through, starting in the valley of the Upper Severn and ending in rural Shropshire. It is one of the leading events on the canal, and is now followed by other triathlons on other waterways.
“We hope that everyone who joined us was able to appreciate the beauty of our canal and its borderland area, and we hope they will come again. We are very grateful too, for the help of sixty stewards who helped make the event a success.
“We are currently working to see if funds can be raised for next stages of restoration. Funding is not easy these days, but experience on other canals shows all the social, economic and environmental benefits of a reopened canal. We look forward to the days when mid-Wales can see these benefits from joining the Montgomery Canal to the rest of the waterway network.”
The next major event on the Montgomery Canal will be the Canal & Food Festival on Saturday 2nd July which promises coracle racing, canoeing, angling, boat rides and entertainment.