Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A walk into Whitchurch

How times change. Thirty years ago towns were busy trying to fill in the decaying remnants of their dirty and unwanted canals. Today those that succeeded in replacing them with car parks or drive-throughs are looking with envy at those who failed. Or who had the foresight not to try.
Today the little Shropshire town of Whitchurch would dearly love a canal arm to bolster its faltering local economy with tourists from the Llangollen a mile distant. Unfortunately the arm was closed in the 1940s and the land largely sold off in the 1960s save for a few hundred yards from the main canal. With some foresight the local councils did see the benefit of trying to resurrect it in the 1980s and put a stop on any building over the land that would prevent the canal's return.
Unfortunately, all that has resulted is a nettle-filled linear wilderness surrounded by modern housing estates.
There are very realistic plans to extend the arm a short way further into this and to create a small mooring basin a handy step closer to the shops, and rather bolder ones to go further and build an inclined plane. Given the snail's pace of progress on the former one wonders whether Whitchurch will still be around to witness the latter.
The reason for my pessimism is not just the potential cost of building such a waterway super-structure in the present and foreseeable future but also seeing the evident decline in the current town.
It's probably no different to many similar little country towns: a pleasant mix of fine church, elegant large houses and one or two decent local shops interspersed with too many empty shop fronts and decaying houses of all ages and sizes. Signs in windows speak of a campaign to 'Keep Tesco In The Town Centre'. If, as it presumably wants to, the store migrates to the edge of town then what reason there was to shop in High Street will vanish and Whitchurch will slip away with it. Whatever happens to any canal plan.


Andrew Denny said...

Whitchurch council just declined to support the trust in extending the arm! Story in WW August issue.

Starman said...

Perhaps they'll declare the nettle patch a nature reserve instead!