Practice makes perfect - as seen on TV

Our location is Watton Kilns on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, with the beautiful Brecon hills as the backdrop. A perfect spot to deliver some heritage training.

Heritage Competency training is a new course that comprises two units. Unit 1 was developed by Nigel Crowe, national heritage manager and Judy Jones, heritage adviser and Unit 2 by Les Clarke, principle engineer.

The course is aimed at engineers, project managers, building surveyors and construction managers. The objective is to upskill colleagues who design, deliver and manage repairs to our precious historic estate so they have a full understanding of how best to conserve it. Kier, were the first group to do it and saw 40 members of staff trained in Heritage Competency and Practical lime and Stone repair training in the autumn of 2015.  

The site

The restoration of the kilns form parts of a bigger Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) project which includes Llangattock and Goytre kilns, all three a Grade II listed. The project relies on volunteer’s engagement to deliver the majority of the work to the kiln this will include vegetation removal and clearance, repointing and stone repairs. The budget for this project is tight so any support in helping to get things off the ground was very welcome by the project manager, Sarah Brice and local heritage adviser David Viner.

Surprisingly, it can be difficult to find a live site that doesn’t need scaffolding, water drained from a lock and is easily accessible to get materials to without incurring these expensive extra costs. In a lot of cases practical training takes place in our yards on boundary walls which does the job.

However, delivering practical training on a live site adds an extra dynamic. I feel it gives people a sense that there contribution is helping to fix a structure and they tend to engage a bit more in the training as there effort will remain in place for all to see for years to come.  

The team

To help deliver the course we asked Nigel Gervis who is the managing director of Ty Mawr, an award winning company in conjunction with The Trust heritage team. Nigel and his team not only run courses in heritage skills such as lime pointing and dry walling but he also supplies specialist materials for works to historic buildings. Ty Mawr, supplied the lime mortar for the repointing at the kilns. The mortar was mixed using Nigel’s local knowledge of lime mortars used in the area historical.


Kier are contracted to deliver millions of pounds of repairs to our historic structures and buildings. The heritage team work closely with their project managers and supervisors to ensure the work they carry out is to our Heritage Approved Standards. Therefore, it is vital they are aware of the history of the waterways estate and how we need to repair it using experienced heritage competent work force within the boundaries of law.

The training day was planned with Kier operations manager Kevin Leach and framework contract manager Francis Munnelly and fully endorsed by Eddie Quinn, operations director. The course was not only a training day but it also ended up being a team build and in some cases people getting to meet some colleagues for the first time. 

The practical

The day was broken into segments with the morning sessions covering the history of the waterways and legal compliance which Audrey O’Connor and Judy Jones delivered. Then in the afternoon we headed off to the kilns with tools and materials in hand. For this part Nigel Gervis and his stone masons Alistair and Ross came into their own. Alistair and Ross are stone masons with extensive experience working on historic buildings. They shared their expertise and knowledge in finding solutions to overcome masonry and structural repairs. They demonstrated good practice with regards to finishes, they went through the importance of using correct tools when working with lime and on historic structures. They covered topics such as after care and maintenance. There was really good interaction between the course leaders and the group with lots of questions and discussion. 

The film

We captured the training on film so please sit back and enjoying our short film shot in the beautiful Brecon.


Last date edited: 30 October 2015

About this blog

Heritage team

The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.

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