The Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals’ Trust, whose main base is the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre at Newport, is a local, registered charity, run by volunteers. The Trust runs the Centre, educational projects, and leads restoration initiatives with its local Council partners.
The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal runs for 40 miles from Brecon to Newport with a branch, the Crumlin Arm, running up to Cwmcarn. It is navigable for 35 miles, as far south as Five Locks in Cwmbran. The Trust’s mission is to restore the canal to a navigable standard all the way into Newport and back up to Cwmcarn. The Newport terminus will be a new marina/basin at Crindau, where the canal would be linked via a lock to the River Usk.
The Trust has bought an old canal-boat, which it is re-modelling for use on the canal as a Community Boat resource. It will seat 36 passengers, be eco-friendly, being driven by electric motors, and have a wheelchair-lift. It is also unusual in having a motor at both ends, so can travel in either direction without the need to turn around. It will be operated by Trust volunteers on the navigable section of the canal.
Other than for the Trust’s small, 12-seater boat and a commercial trip-boat at Brecon, no other excursion boat is available for all members of the community to experience the canal by water and to enjoy its picturesque tranquillity, whilst learning about its history and ecology.
A larger boat will allow the Trust to cater for those needing a wheelchair, and accommodate a whole school-class on board, in effect, functioning as a floating classroom. It will also help to raise the profile of the canal and assist the Trust in its mission to promote and restore it.
Having originally been built by trainees at Birkenhead in 1989, and operated on the Neath Canal for many years, taking families and disabled passengers for trips, in its latter years it was the target for sustained vandalism and was condemned to end its days in a scrap yard. There it lay for over two years until the Trust rescued it.
The boat, therefore, required a substantial amount of work, including steelwork repair and re-paint. Re-fitting the boat to bring it up to modern safety standards and make it suitable for use by the community, including those using a wheelchair, will cost a considerable sum of money, and take some time to achieve.
The Trust has been fortunate in securing the donation of materials and services from local companies, SSE Power, for workshop, fabrication welding and electrics; Hempels for paints; Enersys Power for high-power batteries; Ty-Mawr Building Products for cabin insulation; Promat Marine for fireproof cabin linings; Noel Fitzpatrick for vehicle use; and Herons Rest Marina for working space and launch site.
The venture was initially supported by SSE Power, who provided a workshop and undertook some fabrication and welding work at Usmouth Power Station. However, with the closure and sale of the power station, that work regrettably ended. The dream of the Trust appeared to be at an end.
SIMEC have stepped into the breach and offered to help the Trust complete the boat.
Wyn Mitchell, MBACT Vice-President, said: ”We are extremely grateful to SIMEC for their generous assistance. The boat will be a superb long-term asset for the local community, to enable them to enjoy this beautiful waterway, and learn about its history and ecology.”
Further information about the Trust and their project can be obtained at www.mbact.org.uk