Swansea Canal Society receives the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

The Swansea Canal Society has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK. It is the MBE for volunteer groups.

Regenerating the Swansea Canal as a community asset for active recreation and as a heritage visitor destination.”


The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, such as a community shop in Cornwall, a group working with refugees and vulnerable people in Stirling, a thriving community arts centre in County Down and our own environmental group based on and around the Swansea Canal.


The Swansea Canal Society is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.


Representatives of Swansea Canal Society will receive the award from Mrs Louise Fleet, HM Lord-Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, later this summer, as soon as the pandemic permits. Furthermore, two volunteers from the Society will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.


The Society is run by volunteers that come from all walks of life. We feel privileged to encourage volunteers with special needs, particularly the clients of Whitethorns Intensive Day Service, Morriston who work tirelessly to keep the canal clear of litter. In recent years we have welcomed working parties from the Waterway Recovery Group that have been particularly active in supporting our efforts to restore Trebanos Lower Lock. We also host volunteer work parties from commercial organisations.


Although on-site work is suspended currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Society is very “hands on” in that we pride ourselves on physical hard work every Tuesday when we undertake various restoration tasks. For example, until COVID-19 intervened, we were busy restoring the bank in several sites between Clydach and Trebanos by laying down concrete filled bags and topping these with either flat stone or earth. Another, never-ending activity is litter picking. The Society operates a vibrant programme of canoe and kayak hire for the benefit of the entire community that, sadly, is also not able to open at the moment. In addition to the physical activity, much work goes on in the background including seeking grant funding to support our work.


None of the activities of the Society would be possible without close collaboration with Glandŵr Cymru – the Canal & River Trust in Wales - that owns the canal. The Trust gives permission to work on the canal, helps to design and supervise projects, provides much of the materials used in restoration and offers continuing expert advice and support.


Gordon Walker, our chairman, says “I am delighted that our group’s work to bring the Swansea Canal back to life for the community through its heritage, wildlife and navigation has been recognised. I’d like to pay tribute to the hard work and commitment of the Society’s volunteers, our friends from Whitethorns and everyone else who contributes so much time and effort to the canal. None of this would be possible without the wonderful support of Glandŵr Cymru.”


Richard Parry, chief executive of Glandŵr Cymru adds “The Swansea Canal Society is a fantastic group of volunteers whose love for, and commitment to the Canal, and its role in the local community shines through in everything they do. They also make it tremendous fun – and by giving their time and energy they are making a vital difference to the health and wellbeing of everyone who uses the canal today. Their enthusiastic work to restore it for greater use is inspiring. This prestigious recognition is well-deserved and Glandŵr Cymru sends huge congratulations to everyone in the Society.”


Unfortunately no new photographic evidence, but here’s a taste of what we’ve been doing over the last year:

 Still Repairing an Arch  Still Laying Bags & Dredging
 Still Community Gardening  Still Sale of Craft
 Still Gareth & Maureen Edwards  Who We Are

For more information, visit the QAVS and London Gazette web pages. #QAVS2020


And finally, none of this would have been possible without the continuing support and encouragement from our volunteers, our members, our friends, our colleagues, users of the canal and above all the local community. This award is for you all.

Thank you so much for making it happen.


Latest News:





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.



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.




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.



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Towards 1994 – YouTube