Volunteers working to restore lost sections of the Swansea Canal have enlisted an unusual ally – the engineer tasked with filling in the canal back in the 1970's.
Swansea Canal Society, working with Glandŵr Cymru – the Trust in Wales – made contact with John Evans as one of only three men alive who knows how the historic canal was buried in 1973, having been the engineer appointed by Glamorgan County Council to take on the project.
He’s now on board to help the restoration effort, and has been advising volunteers on how best to bring Lock 7, now the site of an old highways depot, back to life.
Martin Davies, a trustee of the Swansea Canal Society, said: “John has shed new light on what happened on the day the lock was buried. He had to reduce the height of the lock chamber sides by five feet and remove a quarter of its length to level out the ground surface for a new council depot, but so sure was he that one day the lock would re-emerge that he repointed all the surviving stone work. It was then buried together with one hundred yards of piped canal. We hope that the Society and the Canal & River Trust can restore both lock and canal and reward John's act of faith."
The Swansea Canal originally stretched the sixteen miles between Abercraf and Swansea, and like many of the UK’s inland waterways fell out of use, closing to commercial traffic in 1931. The following fifty years saw much of the waterway filled in, leaving only six miles and six – out of an original thirty six – locks in water.
The restoration effort has been boosted by the huge commitment of local volunteers, who have clocked up over twenty five thousand hours’ work on the waterway in the past three years alone. The Swansea Canal Society has also recently been awarded a ‘Green Flag’ to recognise the canal’s environmental value to the local community.
Nick Worthington, waterway manager at Glandŵr Cymru, said: "Swansea Canal Society have made huge progress in the restoration of the canal, and we’re really grateful for the massive amount of work they put in. Getting one of the original engineers on board is a big step towards bringing lost parts of the waterway back into use, and the recent Green Flag award shows how much the canal already brings to the community."