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Canal history

The Mon & Brec Canal has a fascinating history. Alasdair and Sarah from Beacon Park Boats, together with local artist Michael Blackmore, have produced a limited edition book about the story of the canal.

A brief history

In the 1790s two canals were being planned for this part of Wales so the companies decided to link them at Pontymoile Basin, near Ponypool. The two arms of the Monmouthshire Canal (from Newport to Pontnewynydd, and Newport to Crumlin) were opened in 1799. The Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal (from Brecon to Pontymoile) was fully open by 1812. The canals linked with over 200 miles of horse-drawn tramroads to convey coal, iron and limestone to the busy port of Newport and to other towns in South Wales and the Midlands.

After the canals were purchased by the Great Western Railway in 1880 they became known as the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal and by the 1910s trade on the canal had virtually ceased. Later in the 20th century the Monmouthshire Canal stretch was adversely affected by road and bridge building but the original Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal survived as a water feeder, although it was no longer navigable.

By the 1950s the Inland Waterways Association was campaigning to restore the canal, and in 1970 it was reopened to navigation from Brecon to Pontymoile, with an additional 2-mile stretch to Five Locks, Cwmbran reopening in the 1990s.

Cordell Country

The Mon & Brec’s fascinating heritage includes the 375-yard Ashford tunnel, an aqueduct, five lift bridges (including one where the traffic stops for you), plenty of stone bridges, several historic wharves and lime kilns. So important is the canal that it forms part of Blaenavon World Heritage Site, along with such other attractions as Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, Blaenavon Ironworks and Cordell Museum. Llanfoist Wharf, which is the location for our holiday cottages, dates back to the early 1800s and features in Alexander Cordell’s bestseller, Rape of the Fair Country. Located within Blaenavon World Heritage Site, it was built to transfer pig iron from the tramroad, which came down the side of the Blorenge mountain, to the canal, and then across the world via the port of Newport. Originally a hive of industry, Llanfoist Wharf is now a tranquil spot nestled amongst the trees. The Grade II-listed buildings and a replica dram reminds visitors of its past. One of our holiday lets, Wharfinger’s Cottage, was originally the home and workplace of the man in charge of the wharf.
Family holidays