Newport U3As Cycling Group had a delightful September ride along the towpath of the Mon Brecon Canal. It was sunny but breezy as they started from Bettws Lane. The first stop was at the Ty Coch flight of locks between Newport and Cwmbran. These locks have been recently restored as part of a scheme drawn up and managed by the Mon Brecon and Abergavenny Canal Trust. Over 200 volunteers have worked on the project over the last 4 years, many gaining skills that have helped them in their search for permanent employment.
The group had a pre-arranged tour of the site guided by Richard Dommett and Wyn Mitchell. Richard had managed the restoration scheme for the Trust. They walked around pound where barges had queued to enter the lock system. The area around it has now been laid out as a picnic area. We saw a kingfisher perched at the water’s edge. Elsewhere archaeologists have excavated an underground saw pit and the foundations of a workshop and cottage and it is hoped these will be incorporated in the next stage of development. The standard of the restoration work is impressive. Stonework has been renewed and new lock gates installed. In the interests of ease of installation and longevity, the gates were made of prefabricated metal parts which were assembled on site. Richard pioneered the design and it is hoped that it will be used by other canal restoration trusts. He showed us plans for a future phase of the development of the site. Maintaining the momentum of the current scheme is of course dependent on funding, which is sought from a range of sources. Timothy West and Prunella Scales were filmed at the site for the next series of Great Canal Journeys for Channel 4. It is hoped that this will help in maintaining interest in the potential for future development of this section of the Mon Brecon Canal.
There were a few spots of rain as the Group rode on up the canal and several inclines to overcome but the sun reappeared as they reached the Open Hearth PH. Here they enjoyed lunch on the canal side picnic tables. The effort made in reaching the Open Hearth was rewarded with a succession of downhill stretches on the return journey.