The local Newry canal branch is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the opening of a new heritage centre and other initiatives.
The Sluicekeeper’s Heritage Centre is situated at Lough Shark on the summit level of the canal - about nine miles along the towpath from Portadown.
The location of the centre is fitting as the Newry canal was the first summit canal in the UK and Ireland, opened in 1742.
A historical guided tour app has also been launched, which is free to download, and has been supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
The tour stretches from Portadown to Newry with 34 stops giving historical and technical information about the canal, those who built it and those who worked on it over almost 300 years. The mobile app will be supported by exhibits in the Sluicekeeper’s Centre, and a website highlighting some of the documents and maps uncovered in the research.
Since January, volunteers from the Newry & Portadown branch of The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) have also been making new lock gates for the ends of the summit level at Scarva and Poyntzpass and these were installed last week.
Heavy rain has hampered progress in finishing the project but it is hoped that the sluice paddles and balance beams will be fitted to the gates in the near future.
This will re-water four miles of canal for use by canoes and small boats.
Branch chairman Peter Maxwell said, “Their is to encourage people to use the waterway and so gather support for more restoration of other parts of the canal.
“The new buzzword in waterways development now is Blueway. This is like a cycle Greenway but for canoes and small boats with launch and retrieve facilities, picnic and camping areas.
“We think the Newry canal is ideally suited to this type of activity and it would be a great way to draw in new visitors.”