Our Waterworks Project at the Ty Coch Lock Flight
The project was a partnership between Torfaen County Borough Council and the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust, with core funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Our Waterworks Project has restored 1.5km of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal by utilizing community volunteers and trainees.
Waterworks has met 100% of its aims which included: restoring the historic built structure of the canal using volunteers, restoring up to eight locks and associated mechanisms and landscape, providing training and skills development in canal heritage restoration techniques and maintenance, setting up of a workshop and training programme to construct lock gates and delivery of a wide range of complementary activities.
The project was delivered to the planned budget of £1.4million – with £325,500 volunteer time in kind accrued, as well as £60,000 staff in kind costs and £110,000 of match funding from various organisations.
Waterworks recruited over 274 volunteers from across the local community, the UK and Europe; with placements varying from in excess of 12 months down to as little as once week. In addition, there were many one off volunteer events with over 40,000 volunteer hours provide by enthusiasts.
Six locks were restored as part of the project by the volunteers with all work being carried out to the highest built heritage standards, using only traditional tools and materials to carry out the works. All of the project site is contained within a conservation area and includes a number of Grade II listed structures. Now the project has been completed structures which were once placed on the Council’s building at risk survey and classed as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘at risk’ have now been saved. The project has restored and reinstated an historic asset of national importance to the heritage and landscape of Wales and ensured it’s protection for generations to come.
Volunteers undertaking the project were able to undertake a mixture of ‘on the job’ and accredited training and learn employability skills such as: use of lime mortar, machinery skills, operational water management, woodland management, traditional carpentry techniques, traditional stone masonry and health and safety. Accredited training included national vocational qualifications (NVQ’s) in construction and practical environmental conservation. Various accredited short courses in health and safety, first aid at work, CPCS Cards and plant tickets up to 10 ton. Waterworks has developed a model approach to volunteer led waterway heritage restoration and training which can be used to continue the long term goal of regenerating the M&B Canal.
A unique aspect of the project has been the development and piloting of a new modular composite lock gate; which has been constructed in collaboration with Swansea University, The Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust and Kennet and Avon Canal Trust. The Canal Trust has established a social enterprise as part of this project to develop the product further and has received enquiries for orders from across the UK.
A complete range of complementary activities has been developed and has had high community involvement and interest including the creation of a family picnic site at Ty Coch, various archaeological excavations, trip boats events through the restored locks, National Lottery millionaire visits, various Canal Trust visits, walking groups, digital heritage trail, school visits, & volunteer canal awareness days.
The project has been popular with both local and national media including BBC Countryfile, ITV, Fishlock’s Wales as well as Channel 4 Canal Journeys, who also filmed on site. Both national and local press have covered the promotion of the project throughout, as well as specialist canal focused publications. A video posted onto Torfaen County Borough Council social media about the Waterworks Project received over 30,000 views in its first day from local residents. The project has been received positively at local events, as well as national conferences such as World Canal Conference, ERIH Conference, and Welsh Governments Cross Party Working Group.
Waterworks has been awarded a number of national awards including – National Waterways Award runner up in Education and Learning; Finalists in the first World Waterways Awards in the Guardian and Leadership Awards; Winner of the Preservation and Rejuvenation category in the Construction Excellence Wales Awards 2017.
Many thanks to the Heritage Lottery fund that made this project possible.
As part of the post project evaluation the video below was also produced promoting the achievements of the project.