Peter Watts Posted on 16/09/2019
Volunteers are the life blood of the UK’s canal network, and few volunteer groups are as important as the local trusts and societies that advocate for their local canal with the support of Canal & River Trust. These groups were often formed in the post-war era when canal use was in decline but now act as willing workers for the waterways, either helping or managing maintenance and restoration projects or simply supporting and promoting local use of the canals. In the south-west, one such group is the Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust, who undertake on-the-ground restoration work while also running the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre and Café at the top of the 14-lock Cefn flight, helping to spread the love of canals one piece of cake at a time.
The trust oversees the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, which is the modern name for what were originally two canals – the Monmouthshire Canal and the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal – built to transport coal, lime and agricultural products. Both were abandoned in 1962 but have since been partially restored making 35 miles of canal now navigable, albeit disconnected from the rest of the network. That restoration started between Brecon and Pontymoile and a full restoration remains the prime objective of the trust. As they explain, “The trust’s vision is a fully restored and well-maintained canal running from Brecon to a new marina terminus at Crindau, Newport; from there branching north-west to a restored and working Fourteen Locks flight, to a new marina terminus at Cwmcarn.”
As well as working towards this goal, the Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust also runs a passenger boat for small school parties and families, and is restoring an eco-friendly community boat that will be operated by volunteers and can be used as a floating classroom as well as a promotional tool. The Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust holds regular events and walks at the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre, which has an exhibition space, meeting room, cafe and a shop containing work by local artisans and craftspeople.