Man standing by canal Location: Brynich Lock, Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Meet Derek

"You'll have to do the maths to guess how old I am! I've worn well, someone said to me the other day. I'll tell you, I'm 82 years old, born in 1933. Believe me, it's true! I started helping along this canal when we first came to live in Wales, back in 1979.

I come here every day to help the Dragonfly trip boat work through this lock. But I'll give anyone else a hand while I'm here too. The trip boat goes from Brecon Basin to Brynich Aqueduct and back. It takes about two and a half hours, so it's easy for me to work out the best time to come and help.

In my youth, I climbed the mountains here, but not these days. I started coming to Brynich Lock and helping out because I was interested in canals. There weren't any canals where I lived before, and we never owned a boat, but my wife and I had holidays with the kids on the Thames and the Broads in the late 60s. We really enjoyed those boating holidays. But, I have to tell you, things have changed a bit over the years. In those days the sewage off holiday boats went into the water. And to think people used to swim in canals and rivers. Someone I knew in the 1970s was working on special equipment to pump sewage off boats. Eventually boats had to be converted to use this system. Canals have seen lots of changes over the years, and one of those is that they are cleaner today.

Just after World War II, canals were in danger of being abandoned. Luckily, people like Charles Hadfield, and others, realised there was a future for canals and battled on behalf of the waterways. I've seen historic photos showing many changes on the Mon and Brec Canal, and lots of things have changed since I've lived here. I knew the people who used to live in the lock cottage. They won awards for all the flowers they used to grow around the lock, but they've left now and the cottage has just been sold - so there'll be new people living there soon. Changes on the canals will never stop, but thankfully canals stay peaceful. People say to me how great it is on this canal. I just come up here whenever it suits me, and what a lovely sunny day it is to be here today!" 

Derek, Brynich Lock, Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal