TODAY’S THE DAY – FRIDAY 8th NOVEMBER

The BBC will be transmitting the Swansea + Neath episode of the Canals series made with Gareth and Maureen Edwards. It is called Gareth’s Grand Tour’ and will be shown on BBC1 Wales at 7.30 pm TODAY


Latest News:

 

DREDGING: FUNDING APPROVED

The Society is thrilled to be able to make the following announcement:

The joint application by the Canal & River Trust and Swansea Canal Society for grants from the Rural Communities Development Fund [funded by the European Union’s European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and by the Welsh Government] has been successful! The canal between Clydach and Trebanos will be dredged by approved contractors under the supervision of the Canal & River Trust, starting in Autumn 2019.

The Swansea Canal should be a premier visitor destination. SCS volunteers are already repairing the historic structures along the waterway.

A beautiful but underused canal is being transformed into a major visitor destination. This will help support local businesses by raising the profile of the rural areas of Neath and Swansea as a base for tourism, with more money spent in the local economy by visitors.

With a trip boat, a boat festival, canoeing, disabled angling, high-quality interpretation of our valley’s heritage and the development of Clydach Lock the Swansea Canal will be an exciting place to visit, as well as offering healthy lifestyle activities such as walking and cycling.

 

Read the Press Release prepared by the Canal & River Trust:

Massive funding boost set to transform the Swansea Canal

Funding of over £320,000 has been confirmed to regenerate the historic Swansea Canal into a major visitor destination.

Glandŵr Cymru – the Canal & River Trust in Wales – the charity that cares for the canal, together with the Swansea Canal Society, has secured Rural Community Development Funding (RCDF) with the support of the Rural Development Programme teams in Neath Port Talbot Council and Swansea Council.

RCDF is funded through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Central to the project will be the dredging of almost a mile of the canal, between Coed Gwilym Park in Clydach and Trebanos, due to start in Autumn 2019. Over 6,700 cubic metres of silt will be removed from the channel – the equivalent of more than 8,300 bath tubs full of water – which will enable Swansea Canal Society to operate a trip boat, in addition to improving the canoeing sessions that they already offer.

The project will also deliver a programme of conservation repairs to be undertaken by Swansea Canal Society. Volunteers will renovate the historic structures along the waterway, reinforce banks and undertake other tasks including work to protect the biodiversity of the canal corridor.

The funding is the first part of a ten-year vision to establish the canal as a premier heritage, visitor and leisure destination. It is estimated that the project could help to generate up to £500,000 for the visitor economy each year across the region.

It comes at a time when Welsh government recognises that 60 per cent of the adult population of Wales would like to visit “the outdoors” more often. Research from Glandŵr Cymru shows that, as well as the health benefits offered by walking, running or cycling on the towpath, simply spending time by the water can help people feel happier and improve their life satisfaction. With many people living close to a canal or river, Wales’ waterways are uniquely placed to help people improve their physical and mental well-being.

·       Richard Thomas, Glandŵr Cymru director, says: “We’re delighted to have secured this funding, it’s hugely exciting to see what impact further improving the Swansea Canal can have for the Swansea Valley and surrounding area. We have seen from other areas that when we can bring a canal back into use then it can have huge benefits to local economies, as well as creating new opportunities for people to exercise and learn skills. It is a massive undertaking and requires expert engineering, ecology and heritage work, as well as a lot of hard graft. A special thanks go to the partners on this project, particularly the Swansea Canal Society who have done so much hard work to keep the canal open. We look forward to getting work underway.”

 ·       Gordon Walker, Chair, Swansea Canal Society: “It is excellent news that all the hard work by Swansea Canal Society volunteers has been recognised with this RCDF grant.  Our volunteers will be renovating the historic features along the canal. The dredging to be arranged by Glandŵr Cymru will transform the canal. The canoe hire operated by society volunteers will be greatly improved, as the water is very shallow at present. Swansea Canal Society will be able to run a trip boat to help promote the canal as a visitor destination for active recreation and heritage tourism. This will directly benefit the community and the local economy.”

 ·       Annette Wingrave, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development said: “The regeneration of our valleys areas is a priority for Neath Port Talbot Council and I am pleased that our RDP team were able to support Glandŵr Cymru and the Swansea Canal Society in securing this funding. Our rich industrial heritage is a tremendous asset and this investment will make a significant contribution towards realising the recreation and tourism potential of the canal. I would like to thank the Canal Society for their efforts and ongoing commitment.”

 ·       Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “We were delighted to help the Glandŵr Cymru with this funding application.  Swansea is undergoing major regeneration – and projects such as making the Swansea Canal more accessible will have an important role to play in the area’s future success.”

The Swansea Canal was opened in 1796, and the whole length of 16 and a half miles was completed by 1798. Today only five miles of the canal is still in water, from Clydach to Pontardawe and from Pontardawe to Ynysmeudwy. For the third year running, the Swansea Canal has been awarded a Green Flag in the Keep Britain Tidy Award Scheme, and it offers a green walking and cycling route, nestled at the bottom of the steep-sided Swansea Valley.

For more information: 

 

DREDGING: MATCH FUNDING OBTAINED

Swansea Canal Society (SCS) has been awarded £30,746 by the Landfill Disposal Communities Fund administered by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action. Together with £26,000 “donation in kind” provided as hours worked by our volunteers, £23,000 of this will be used to match fund the recent Rural Communities Development Fund grant of £321,000 secured by Glandwr Cymru (the Canal and Rivers Trust in Wales) in partnership with SCS in order to dredge a one mile section of the Swansea Canal from Clydach to the Trebanos Locks [see below]. The additional £7,746 will buy us many of the tools and equipment we need to carry out the preliminary work on the canal before the actual dredging begins in November 2019. The full list of tools and equipment comprises a) materials for undertaking repair of structures and bank reinforcement (£1500), b) motorised wheelbarrow (£2,700), c) post knocker (£395), d) hand tools (£520), e) lightweight aluminium scaffolding (£1,850) and f) native trees as whips and standards (£1,211).

Now only used commercially for industrial water supply, the canal has become very shallow. Weed growth in the summer makes even canoeing difficult, though the towpath is popular for walking and cycling. Coed Gwilym Park has car parking, toilets, SCS canoe store and a Heritage Centre as well as sporting facilities. Managing canals keeps them navigable and safe. Open water is lost to encroaching vegetation, so dredging is essential to maintain wildlife value. Plant communities soon recover and the habitat is kept suitable for species that would be crowded out. Areas of off-bank disturbed by dredging will be regraded to encourage plant regrowth. A mixed hedge and an avenue of trees, inspired by an historic local example, will be planted. Community benefits will include encouraging active lifestyle choices, with facilities like canoeing, cycling and walking the active travel route, a community boat, disabled angling, easier access to the countryside, lifelong learning opportunities.

Sustrans data shows that 15,888 people already use the towpath each year. SCS records show that 680 use canoes each year despite the shallow water depth. There is scope for involving far more local residents in walking distance as Trebanos has a population of approx 1,400 (UK National Statistics) with over 80% living within 400m of the canal. Clydach has a higher population, but only about 400 live close to the canal.

The project will transform the Swansea Canal into a premier heritage destination and centre for active recreation. Glandwr Cymru will dredge the canal. SCS volunteers will renovate historic structures and plant native trees. Further phases will develop leisure and learning opportunities including canoeing, trip boat, floating classroom and high quality interpretation.

An underused semi-derelict canal will be transformed into a top tourist destination, raising the profile of the Swansea Valley as a base for tourism in the rural economy. Drawing on the rich heritage of the Swansea Valley, the project will seek to create a strong brand identity, for example by using the iconic heritage image of a horse-drawn canal boat. As the Swansea Canal becomes established as a visitor destination, it will draw in increasing numbers of people from the wider Swansea Bay region. Supporting the local economy will increase employment opportunities. The community trip boat project is not part of the present application, but it supports the rationale for funding the canal regeneration. It will benefit communities facing disadvantage, with a focus on young people.

Quote from Cllr. Gordon Walker, Chairperson of Swansea Canal Society :

The natural beauty of the canal and towpath will be greatly improved by the restoration project. Our volunteers are doing a great job. With the large population of the Swansea Bay region within easy reach, the Swansea Canal will become a popular destination for visitors.”

 

The Swansea Canal Society is indebted to Canal & River Trust for preparing and publishing this enchanting and informative “Restoration Story”:

Mair’s Memories

We are transported back to the 1930’s as Mair shares her childhood stories of growing up alongside a canal in South Wales.

Mair DaviesMair Davies

Mair was born in 1932 and grew up in an early 18th century lock cottage in Ystradgynlais, South Wales. Today there is no canal outside the lock cottage due to the in-filling of much of the Swansea Canal over the past 50 years and the northern section is now the A4067 road. We sat down with Mair to hear her memories of what it was like growing up next to the Swansea Canal.

Lock Cottage today

I was born at Lock Cottage in 1932. My mother, Janet Jones, was also born at the house in the early 1900’s. Both 1 and 2 lock cottage originally belonged to my grandmother and my mother sold one of them and we lived in the other.

My sister and I used to walk up the road to school in Penrhos and we crossed the river and went up the hill. This top bit was called Ynys Uchaf (the top island) and Ynys Isaf was the lower island. We used to pick wild strawberries on the walk to school. They were only little ones but by the time we reached school (often late) our faces would be all red from the strawberries we’d eaten. Growing up in the house we all spoke Welsh to one another but when I went to school we were not allowed to speak Welsh, so I actually learnt to speak English at school.

Photo shows the old Canal side road which led to Mair & Eirlys’ school. Lock cottage can be seen in the background

A fond memory I have is of my sister and I when we would to go into the woods across from the canal and make lovely little houses out of ferns. We used to get an empty can of Ideal milk and use the water from the canal to pretend we were having cups of tea.

The lock outside Lock Cottage was full of eels – I’m not joking it was. One of the local boys who lived down Long Row would jump over the canal and say “Come on girls – jump.” Sometimes he would throw an eel out of the canal and we were petrified! I was only a little girl and once my mother was really furious with him because an eel landed on me and I didn’t sleep for weeks afterwards.

Family life along the canal

From being very little I remember the canal wasn’t working. It wasn’t used for anything as it was too shallow, only a few inches deep, that’s why I think they used it as a road. There were parts that were deeper and we were told never to go there, but where we were in the Ynys it was all shallow. My mother remembers it as a fully working canal, very deep with coal barges going along.

Between Ynys Uchaf and Ynys Isaf there was a big round part in the canal where the boats could turn, a winding hole. When my mother was little she would go to the winding hole and watch them turning the boats around because it was really, very clever how they did it. They were so heavy full of coal. She used to see the horses pulling the coal barges along the towpath and said it was a very busy canal.

My mother, used to throw something to eat to the men working on the coal barges, and she had a little window in Lock Cottage to serve people like a little shop selling chocolate, sweets and cigarettes. She was a really clever woman and there were only two females in the whole school who passed their eleven plus and my mum was one of them and my brother in law’s mum was the other one. Whenever my children needed help with maths they would always go straight to her.

When I was seven, I got appendicitis and had to have an operation at Swansea hospital. I then got moved to a convalescent home for two months to recover. When I returned home to Lock Cottage WWII was on and my mum had to go to work in an ammunitions factory. I continued my recovery at home and was put on bedrest upstairs. We didn’t have a toilet upstairs so my mother said to me “Don’t move! Call me if you want to use the bathroom or you will have to use the potty”. I was fed up of using the potty so off I went down the stairs and three steps from the bottom I fell right onto my appendix scar and it burst right open. So it was months of recovery again then and my mother didn’t have to go back to the factory as she was at home looking after me. After that we slept downstairs. We had to pull the bed down into the front room because I was too fragile to go up the stairs.

I loved living in a house next to a canal and I loved the lock. The water ran all day in the lock and when we had visitors they couldn’t sleep because of the noise but we couldn’t sleep when they turned the water off because we were so used to it. When we had visitors my sister and I used to sleep up in the loft. They finally turned the water off for good when they decided to finish the canal and then they started cementing it. It was horrible and I was really really sad. Life around the canal was lovely and the lock was lovely, really lovely.

The Restoration

The future of the Swansea canal is in the care of Glandwr Cymru The Canal & River Trust in Wales working in partnership with Swansea Canal Society formed in 1981 who are a dedicated group of volunteers who undertake a wide range of tasks on the canal – including weekly maintenance tasks, litter picking, historical talks and canoe hire. Future plans include the dredging of the canal allowing for a trip boat as well as uncovering and restoration of a buried lock at Clydach.

Map shows restored sections of the Swansea Canal

With so much of the original canal alignment lost over the years only glimpses of this historical transportation route which was once the motorway of its day remain. The canal cottages and aqueduct at Ystradgynlais and the abandoned locks along the A4067 remind us of the important role the canal once played in transporting industrial products along the Swansea valley.

Today the remaining canal sections either side of Pontardawe provides a green / blue corridor in an urban landscape connecting Ynysmeudwy to Clydach providing health benefits for walkers, joggers and cyclists whilst enjoying the heritage and wildlife of the canal. Built by the Swansea Navigation Company between 1794 – 98, in 2023 the Swansea canal will celebrate its 225th Anniversary.

 

 ABOUT THE SOCIETY

We are  a society run by volunteers who are all enthusiastic about maintaining, improving and restoring the canal. We are always looking for new volunteers to help us in a range of ways from administration, fundraising, working on the canal, to working on our Canoe Hire Project. All abilities and ages are welcome.

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If you would like to join us in any capacity, you will be given a warm welcome. Just go to the Contact Us page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

If you feel that volunteering is not for you, then perhaps you would like to support us by becoming a member. Whatever you decide to do, please come and visit the canal and take a walk or ride along it, and enjoy its beauty and the wildlife it supports.

Thank you for looking at our website and we hope you enjoy reading our blogs, looking at our photographs and seeing what we are doing.

 

 

Upcoming Events

Date/Time Event
12/11/2019
9:15 am - 1:30 pm
Work Party
19/11/2019
9:15 am - 1:30 pm
Work Party
26/11/2019
9:15 am - 1:30 pm
Work Party
03/12/2019
9:15 am - 1:30 pm
Work Party
10/12/2019
9:15 am - 1:30 pm
Work Party
17/12/2019
9:15 am - 1:30 pm
Work Party

 

SCS VIDEOS

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgwv1-kRgQYgelFffGbmDNA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDiWTl0BKps