VISIT | Wander the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal at Goytre Wharf | Monmouthshire
A Wander along the Towpath on the Mon and Brec
Explore the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal near Abergavenny
Uncover the industrial legacy of the canal whilst investigating the pretty canalside places of Gilwern – Govilon – Llanfoist – Llanellen – Llanover - Goytre Wharf
Even flat canal paths make for delightful waterside wanders
"...The waterways of these industrial places now made living..."
When people talk about canals being the motorways of the Industrial Revolution, they are not joking. Functional corridors of water for canal boats, steamers or even sail boats.
Journeys that allowed trade in goods to be moved around the country from port to place, from place to port. Along the waterways. Through the locks. Up stepped flights.
Communities of the canal people – gypsies, boatmen and women, families employed on the canal fringes. The colour. The business of business. In early British history, rivers were the lifeblood of trade in expertly designed and engineered passages of water that directed vessels between industrial hotspots and out again.
Ponies pulled boats. Steamers chugged. Sails billowed. Poles pushed onwards and back again. This life was more than just a transport system.
But of course – trade is about economics. It is about buying and selling – of profit and indeed cost. The canals began to see their ending. In fragile degradation, their time-consuming, labour-heavy links became phased out – rail and road, not water were now the running boards of trade.
Those watery communities were left to exist in quiet anonymity and slow decay. Some canals became merely dank undercarriages of the highways. Some canals were filled-in and were gone. Some just emptied of the water that once made it majestic.
But then after death, comes re-birth. The gentle sowing of seeds. The care of the broken pieces that could be glued back together. A re-awakening. Those who loved the canals of old. Those who believed in the communities that once beloved themselves in local towns and villages. And now not so much industrial as restorative, not so much about profit than about shared enjoyment, shared belief in these watery patches of freedom. A journey which could now be made by any who walked the canalside, who played on its surface or lived on their own canal boats out of choice.
Which brings us neatly to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal near Abergavenny. It is a fascinating and pretty tramp out to the Canal from the town. It is by its own necessity set apart from Abergavenny itself for reasons of height and gravity. It instead makes its way past the delightful Goytre Wharf.
The Mon and Brec as it’s more commonly known, was once two different canals run by two different companies. The Monmouthshire Canal at 11 miles long between Newport and Pontymoil built in the 1790s, and its 11 mile branch Newport to Crumlin built in 1814; then the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal – all 33 ¼ miles linked Pontymoil to Brecon built between 1793 and 1812. Built for coal, for iron and for the supplies that fed the industrial engines of South Wales. The wonderful thing about the canals of Wales is that due to their geography, following the valleys and turns, there were plenty of locks and of course aqueducts.
The canal outside of Abergavenny heads north toward Brecon and joyfully into the National Park of the Brecon Beacons. The shadow of the all-mighty Blorenge, the high peak above you near Aber hides the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Blaenavon which the canal passes through. A monument to industrial heritage of Wales and Britain. But below it, where the canal drops down it are about nine miles of stops along the Mon and Brec.
Gilwern – Govilon – Llanfoist – Llanellen – Llanover - Goytre Wharf
The canal footpaths tempt you to walk farther, take in more of the landscape and the little pieces of canal history still left behind from its industrial past when coal was more the carriage of these canals rather than people. The canal connected communities in the past and it does again.
There are now around 35 miles of this fine Welsh canal to navigate and peruse. The rest of the canal destined to be the heart’s desire of many a canal enthusiast for years to come. But life has returned to part of the Mon and Brec. The working and living of a life around these watery routes. These are now elegant strips of water – now a song of freedom and a joy to those who are endeared to its heritage and their functional engineered design but looking at a future not a past. Where the canals become like leafy village lanes and junctions as town parks or village greens. Where the Industrialists left a legacy not of industrial work but of leisure – a walk, a ride, a paddle. Uniting communities once again. And for those who love the canals, the beginning of their journeys to restore them.
Directions and Map |
Find parking off the A4226 at Llanfoist near Abergavenny.