You might think everything goes quiet here on the Mon & Brec during the winter, as there are no boats for tourists to hire. Do you think we take a few months off? No chance. For us it’s the busiest time of the year – finishing building our new boat so it’s ready and tested for early March, re-painting every other boat plus making any additional modifications, marketing for the next season and letting our two luxury canalside cottages which are open all year round. Oh, and we hope to find time for a holiday….

It’s also the time of year when the Canal & River Trust (CRT) team responsible for the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal work flat-out on planned maintenance work. Each winter they, along with specialist contractors, undertake a series of restoration and repair works in order to keep this 200-year-old waterway, and the structures along its length, in good working order. It’s a meticulously planned operation that swung into action on Monday 3rd November and will all be done and dusted before March 2015, when holidaymakers return to cruise the canal.

One man in the thick of it for the next few months is Operations Supervisor Kevin Phillips. He knows every inch of this waterway, warts and all, having worked here for over 31 years.

Kevin Phillips, Canal & River Trust's Operations Supervisor

‘I started as a canalman back in ’83, working ‘on the bank’, which meant I got my hands dirty learning how this waterway functions, and doing maintenance work and emergency repairs.’ Now, with 11 staff and a wealth of local knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of the Mon & Brec, Kevin and the canal seem inextricably linked. ‘There’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst the staff; they’re like family’, says Kevin. In fact, he’s a familiar face to everyone along this waterway – boat hire companies, residents and dog walkers. What he doesn’t know about the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal probably isn’t worth knowing!

Philip Turley, part of Canal & River Trust's team working on the Mon & Brec Canal           © Canal & River Trust

This winter Kevin and his team are focussed on works that include investigating leaks, re-pointing bridges, repairing the bank and installing new stop plank channels (i.e. the grooves in the canal banks where planks are placed to hold back water and enable just a section of the canal to be drained).

Chris Burroughs, part of Canal & River Trust's team working on the Mon & Brec Canal    © Canal & River Trust

Full details of the work being undertaken on all the UK’s waterways that are managed by CRT can be found in the Notices section of their website. You can even receive email updates from CRT every time there’s a new Notice or update added for a waterway. Just sign up for a free account, select which waterway or waterways you want to be kept informed about and then login and update your preferences whenever you like.

Visit this blog again over the winter and we’ll update you on how Kevin and his team are getting on.

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