Waterways ‘Oscar’ joy for Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal partnership

Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Glandwr Cymru The Canal & River Trust in Wales, partners and local residents who make up the MonBrec200 community partnership are celebrating after scooping first place in the community category of the Waterways Renaissance Awards.

Led by an independent panel of experts drawn from across the engineering, environmental, architecture and regeneration sectors, the awards are regarded as the ‘Oscars’ of the waterways. The MonBrec200 partnership, which fought off competition from projects from around the UK to scoop the title, was recognised as engaging the wider community, contributing to raising community spirit, being accountable to the local community and fostering social cohesion. 

Throughout 2012 the partnership organised a series of events to celebrate the canal’s bicentenary with the help of residents living in communities along the waterway. The festivities began in February with a peal of bells chiming at 30 churches along the 52-mile stretch of canal in a ‘wave of sound’ recreating the waterway’s official opening back in 1812.

Photographers and dog lovers were encouraged to take pictures of their pooches in, on or along the canal as part of the Canal Dog of the Year competition, while special ‘Canalman’s Lunch’ sandwiches and a ‘Beacons to the Sea’ ale paid a tasty tribute to the historic waterway. Other festivities included photographic exhibitions, family events, guided walks and charity cycles, all paying homage to a historic landmark that has played an important part in life in the Brecon Beacons and beyond for two centuries.

A year of celebrations drew to a close in December with a spectacular ‘Lighting up the Canal’ event starting at Brecon’s Canal Basin. Residents from Crickhowell, Llangattock, Llangynidr, Talybont-on-Usk, Pencelli, Llanfrynach and Brecon attended community workshops to make their own floating lanterns which they cast onto the canal, while large crowds turned out to see an eye-catching life size, walking, lantern Shire horse, and swimming glowing swans.

Carol Williams, Tourism Growth Area Project Officer for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, said: “This series of events marking the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal’s 200th anniversary really brought our communities along the canal together. What was most apparent was the sense of pride that people showed in celebrating the waterway and its heritage. 

“Winning this national prize in the Water Renaissance Awards is testament to how these celebrations have bonded communities and left a lasting legacy.”

Dr Mark Lang, Non-Executive Chairman of Glandwr Cymru, said: “The MonBrec200 bi-centenary celebrations were fantastic. It was a community led project that brought the towns, villages, schools and groups along the 52 mile canal together to celebrate its unique role in local life and history.

“It had a really positive effect on local business and organisations, who do so much to make this part of Wales so special. What’s impressive is the number of events and projects run by local people, that were started to mark the celebrations, now continuing – there’s a real legacy.”

Other bodies who have participated in the MonBrec200 community partnership include Powys County Council, The Brecon & Radnor Express, Brecknockshire History Forum, Adventa/Monmouthshire County Council, Torfaen County Borough Council, Arts Alive Wales, Forgotten Landscapes and the Monmouthshire, Brecknock & Abergavenny Canals Trust. A number of MonBrec200 events were part-funded by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority’s Rural Alliances and COLLABOR8 projects.