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  • Writer's pictureJanice Gill

Magical Montgomery Canal (Walks & Wildlife)

Part 1 - Welshpool to Garthmyl

The Montgomeryshire Canal straddles the border between England and Wales, beginning at Frankton Junction on the Llangollen Canal and ending in Newtown Powys.

Couple enjoying a walk along the Montgomery Canal on a beautiful summer's day
Couple on the Montgomery Canal towpath.

Photograph by the Author

Here, I'm going to talk about the stretch of the Montgomery Canal that runs from Welshpool to Newtown, which includes areas of Special Scientific Interest and is a Special Area of Conservation for its internationally important aquatic plants.

This 15-mile-long section is wonderfully peaceful as the major portion isn't navigable but has been restored to allow walkers, cyclists, and an array of internationally significant wildlife to enjoy the waterway. The path itself is mostly hard-packed gravel but gives way to grass and earth verges in places.

We completed the entire length in one day, parking at Newtown, catching a bus to Welshpool, and starting our walk near the lock at Morrison's Supermarket. It's easy to break this walk down into more manageable stages, something I would heartily recommend.

Welshpool to Belan Locks

The first stretch took us out of town and quickly into the beautiful Welsh countryside. We had hoped to see an otter on the edge of town but were not lucky enough to catch sight of one this time.

Yellow flag iris with mating pair of damselflies
Yellow Flag Iris with Damselfly Couple

However, we were not disappointed with the variety of wildlife to be seen, with several varieties of Damselflies and Dragonflies abundant on the water. Masses of sweet cicely clothed the banks filling the air with an aniseed-like scent, while yellow flag iris was abundant along the water's edge.

After a mile and a half of peaceful wandering, we reached Belan Locks, where there is a pleasant picnic area and car park. If you have time, there are some old kilns to investigate below the picnic area. If you are looking for a shorter walk, parking here and walking to the Canal Museum at Welshpool and back is a 3-mile trip.

Clear canal water makes fish easily visisble.
Pike, Montgomery Canal

The canal runs alternately through wooded copses and open fields, giving a range of habitats for a variety of wildlife. Under the trees, the clear water makes it easy to spot the fish, both large and small.

As you pass out of the Belan area, you'll see the beautiful old chapel on the opposite bank that was built as a place of worship and a school.

Belan to Berriew

We spotted a variety of water birds on the route toward Berriew. A bend in the course of the canal with plentiful reeds on the far bank was home to a family of mute swans. We counted eight cygnets watched over by both parents in a picture-postcard setting.

Family of mute swans, eight cygnets looked after by two parents at a lush area of the montgomery canal.
Mute Swans on the Montgomery Canal

During this stretch was our first sighting of floating water plantain, for which the Montgomery canal is internationally important

We stopped for a very enjoyable meal at the Horseshoes Inn, which separates the canal from the A483 at this point.

Continuing along the next stretch towards Berriew, the towpath rises towards Berriew lock and keeper's cottage.

As you pass through, you may catch the drifting scent of coconut in the breeze. This is from Common Gorse, a member of the pea family, the spiky yellow-flowered, large shrub that dots the fields.

This area has more open fields, so you may spot a Red Kite circling effortlessly as it searches for dinner.

The Red Kite is an amazing success story that took it from near extinction to an estimated 1,800 breeding pairs today. It's a common site in Mid Wales to see its elegant soaring flight.

Herons are also a common site around waterways throughout the area. This beautiful, wading bird gets a bad rap when it steals prize Koi from a pond, but here it finds plentiful food in the clean, clear water of the Montgomery canal.

A grey heron marches through the edge of a field full of buttercups by the Montgomery canal
Grey Heron and Buttercups

Once the canal reaches Berriew, it has to cross the River Rhiw, which it does via a white-railing aqueduct. The aqueduct also spans the minor road alongside the river.

In the village itself, there are a few shops, a couple of pubs, and the unique Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture. A bus service runs between Welshpool and Newtown and has a stop here, making this a useful place to start or end your journey if you don't want to retrace your steps.

As you leave the aqueduct, there are two picnic areas, one at the towpath level and one by the river, where there is also a car park.

On the opposite side of the main road (A483) is Glan Severn Hall which now has a lovely cafe and houses the Naissance Experience.

The gardens had overgrown somewhat when I last visited but were being brought back to their former glory. The picturesque lake on the site is another stronghold for the rare floating water plantain.

Berriew to Garthmyl

Dragonfly bombarded by damselflies Montgomery canal
Dragonfly Bombarded by Damselflies

This short stretch from Berriew to the Nags Head pub at Garthmyl varies from a tree-lined avenue through fertile fields to open stretches with views across the landscape.

Garthmyl itself was once a bustling wharf area with kilns and warehousing. Little of the industry remains though some warehousing is still in use.

Here, we will end the first part of our journey at roughly the halfway point along our route.

This Montgomery Canal towpath is a fantastic pathway with good access for all. With little in the way of uphill passages, it's a joy to walk and allows time to savour the scenery, scents, and sounds of this glorious area of Midwales.

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