South West Wales

Volunteers helping to restore historic Swansea canal

Workers restoring Swansea canal
Image caption Workers restoring Swansea canal

Volunteers are helping to restore the historic Swansea Canal as part of a project to bring the full length of the waterway back into use for boats.

Work includes rebuilding canal-side walls and clearing vegetation off locks.

Built by the Swansea Canal Navigation Company between 1794 and 1798, the canal runs 16.5 miles (26.5km) from Swansea to Hen Neuadd in Powys.

But since 1958, parts have been abandoned, sold off and filled in.

"It could take many, many years - decades - before we can see the first boats go down the full length of canal because there's so much work to be done," said Joe Coggins, from Glandwr Cymru, the canal and river trust in Wales.

"These are small building blocks and the work being carried out this week is part of the wider project."

The canal was built primarily to carry coal down to Swansea Docks with the main cargos of coal, iron and steel making the enterprise profitable.


The canal was sold to the Great Western Railway in 1873 and it continued to make a profit until 1895.

A period of decline followed with commercial traffic ceasing in 1931 but horse-towed maintenance boats continued until 1958.

Parts of the canal were then abandoned, sold off and filled in.

Glandwr Cymru inherited a central section of the canal, approximately five miles between Clydach and Ynysmeudwy.

The five locks in it are not navigable with gates removed but weirs are used to ensure water supply to Mond Nickel works at Clydach.

The canal is now popular among towpath users and the Swansea Canal Society is doing the restoration.

Swansea Canal Society and the Waterway Recovery Group are doing the work along the canal, supported by Glandwr Cymru.

"We are responsible for our section, caring for it and keeping it open," Mr Coggins added.

"This work is a great example of where we've gained support with these volunteer groups."

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