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The ‘Mon & Brec’

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2009

Ian L. Wright

With its recent reopening after a major breach, Ian L. Wright looks at the earlier history of this scenic Welsh waterway

Of all the canals in South Wales, the Brecon & Abergavenny is the only one that survives completely intact. Opened through the Vale of Usk from Gilwern to Brecon in 1800, the canal acted as a local distributor of coal, limestone and burnt lime for building and agriculture. In 1812 a junction with the Monmouthshire allowed it access to Newport and so to compete in the iron and coal export trade. After suffering many years of decline, the B&A is now a successful well-used recreational waterway. It owes much to its unique position within a National Park and to joint funding of maintenance costs from the two county councils and British Waterways. The canal remains today very much the same as when first built. It lacks one or two of its original cottages, and its gallows-type drawbridges have been replaced by safer ones of steel, but thanks to a lifetime of horse haulage, many green towpath edges are still undamaged by the wash from powered craft. The remarkable 25-mile level bet…

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