Alasdair and Sarah were delighted to welcome Welsh Government Minister John Griffiths AM to Beacon Park Boats last week. As the minister with responsibility for natural resources in Wales, John Griffiths was invited by the Canal and River Trust (CRT) to view a successful canalboat holiday business on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal which has attracted thousands of visitors to Wales, boosting the local economy.
View from the canal towpath across the Usk valley towards Abergavenny
The Canal & River Trust is keen for the Welsh Government to understand the importance of the Mon & Brec as a leisure resource for visitors and the local community, and as a significant contributor to the wider economy. As part of the visit Andrew Stumpf, Head of the Canal & River Trust in Wales, showed John Griffiths the recently completed work to restore a section of the waterway following a landslip back in January this year. Fortunately, the disruption to cruising on the canal was minimal, and, on the plus side, there’s now a lovely new view point across the Usk valley where the landslip occurred!
The visitors included (from left to right in the above photograph) CRT engineer responsible for the work on the landslip site Simon Hughes, CRT Public Affairs Officer Wales Laura Lewis, Alasdair Kirkpatrick, Welsh Government Minister John Griffiths, Sarah Kirkpatrick, Chair of the All Wales Partnership Mark Lang and CRT Head of Wales Andrew Stumpf. The day’s discussions will have helped the Minister to understand that this well-used, 200-year old feat of engineering has a cost attached to it - a cost which the Canal & River Trust (formerly British Waterways, now a charity) is finding harder and harder to fund. Certainly, the Canal & River Trust are looking to the Welsh Government for financial support to guarantee the canal’s future.
The work to restore the Mon & Brec after this year’s landslip at Llanfoist cost £1.4m. This comes on top of £8m of engineering works to repair a huge breach at Gilwern in 2007/8. A 200-year old canal inevitably requires investment to keep going: the proposed solution to prevent further breaches is to re-line every section of the canal that is on an embankment with a liner and concrete. This engineering solution is likely to cost £70m but is the best way to guarantee the long-term future of this much-loved waterway.
One of Michael Blackmore's illustrations from our book "200 years of The Monmouthshire and the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canals"
Originally, the Mon & Brec Canal was lined simply with puddled clay but, in its day, it was a huge engineering project, skilfully undertaken. We’re so fascinated by the history of this canal that we’ve published a limited edition illustrated book about it!