Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal: Pontypool to Newport

Welcome to the third day of our walk along this amazing Welsh canal. Having experienced the worst rain in our walking careers on the day before (seriously, it was awful), we are pleased to report that things improved a lot for this 10 mile walk from Pontypool to Newport. We experienced a different sort of canal walk than we are used to on this walk. The Mon & Brec had been idyllic so far. However, not far South of Pontypool, the canal stops being navigable. Large sections after this point have been removed or lost to development and much of it is in a state of neglect. But we enjoyed the walk all the same.

We began this stage of the walk where we left off last time, in the  Welsh town of Pontypool.

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This stretch of the canal was very busy with boats; many were moored up by the edge of the waterway.

DSC02847DSC02854One of the first features we came to was an aqueduct over the River Afon Lwyd, shortly followed by a small marina.

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Although this was quite an urban stretch of canal, passing under several roads and through a residential part of the town, there was lots of wildlife to be found. It was the time of year for newly-hatched birds and amongst those we saw were baby moorhens learning how to survive on the canal.

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DSC02863The first pub we passed was right on the towpath, and would have made for a lovely place to have a drink, if it were a little later in the day.

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The Open Hearth Inn, Pontypool

Instead we kept walking past some canal-side cottages and very soon got to another pub. It was still too early to stop for a drink.

DSC02891DSC02894DSC02895As we continued, the landscape started to become more rural as we passed by fields and forests. We then reached Cwmbran tunnel which we were able to see all the way through.

DSC02897DSC02899DSC02900DSC02904DSC02905After this we came across what looked like an abandoned marina on before coming across houses and roads again. We were now on approach to the town of Cwmbran.

DSC02910DSC02911DSC02912At this point, the canal narrowed and the water was diverted through a series of lock-gates and smaller channels. If we’d been navigating this canal by boat instead of foot this would be the point at which we could go no further. The stretch of canal through Cwmbran was where the original waterway was least visible. Large sections of it have been filled in or built over, mostly for the constructions of roads. Although we had read about restorations projects for this canal, it looked like restoring it would present some difficult engineering challenges.

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Start of unnavigable section, Cwmbran

DSC02916DSC02917The various charitable organisations such as the Canal and River Trust and the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals trust have invested lots of time and money into restoring this canal so that it can be enjoyed by everyone, but there is only so much they can do; sadly some canals will never be able to be restored fully as they have been filled in and the land used for other purposes, like here.

 

At the bottom of the hill the canal became carpeted in lily pads; a beautiful sight and a perfect place for moorhens to nest. You would not see these in a fully navigable canal. The stillness of these waters has allowed them to grow.

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The walk continues on the next page…

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