Revealing the buried secrets of Swansea Canal

Hidden within a steep-sided Welsh valley lies Swansea Canal. A joy to explore and loved by many, it’s a canal immersed in history. Local volunteers are working hard to restore it, uncovering its former glory.

Man & horse on canal A canal rich in history (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

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Completed in 1798, this 16.5-mile canal was built to serve collieries and the iron and copper works of the Tawe Valley. Over the past 50 years, the canal has seen many of its original sections filled in, mostly due to the creation of main roads. However, since the early 1980s, hundreds of volunteers have been involved in restoring it to its original state.

Involving the local community

Recognition of this hard work has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year the Swansea Canal Society received one of the most prestigious volunteer awards in the UK, the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The society is one of just 230 organisations to receive the award this year. This illustrates how hard the volunteers have worked, not only on the restoration of the canal itself, but also the emphasis on inclusivity and community which is at the heart of all of their work. From encouraging the involvement of volunteers with special needs and working closely with clients of Whitethorns Intensive Day Service in Morriston, to joining forces with the Waterway Recovery Group, the society’s sheer commitment to involving everyone in the restoration of the canal is evident and impressive.

These volunteers, from a variety of backgrounds and skill sets, are all working towards achieving the long-term aim of the society: to link up the Swansea Canal with the Neath and Tennant Canals. This will create over 35 miles of navigable waterway, with the Prince of Wales Dock in Swansea at the heart of the newly linked navigation.

Swansea Canal Society join forces with the Waterway Recovery Group (Photo: Swansea Canal Society) Swansea Canal Society join forces with the Waterway Recovery Group (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

The battle of knotweed

Japanese knotweed, an invasive species, grows widely across the Swansea Valley. Our own recent efforts have been focused on dredging the canal and removing the intruding vegetation, in order to allow many native species to take back land that is theirs. Unfortunately, recent studies by researchers at Swansea University have found that complete eradication of the plant is not possible, so it’s now a question of sustained control and management.

Despite the resilience of this alien species, however, Swansea Canal remains a haven for wildlife, including a variety of water birds and eels. The restoration project takes this strongly into consideration and works to preserve and enhance these important habitats.

Swansea Canal Society dredging the canal (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

The hidden story behind the hidden lock

There is a quietly kept story behind the infilling of the hidden lock that is located in Clydach. This section of the canal was filled in during the 1970s and was soon built over. The canal disappears for approximately 130 metres running underneath a council highways depot, which was built in 1973. The engineer responsible for infilling this part of the canal was John Evans, who, believe it or not, is the father of our director for Wales & the South West, Mark Evans.

John Evans grew up in Llandeilo and was the assistant divisional surveyor for Glamorgan County Council in the 1970s. The council bought the canal on the premise that they had to pipe it and cover it over in order to extend the depot. Lock 7 was filled in with a pipe to allow water to pass through,

then it was backfilled with crushed stone and surfaced with tarmac. As they were doing this work, John Evans helped to ensure the lock would not be lost forever by pointing the stone work in the lock, putting a protective slab over the top and adding an inspection chamber.

John is now working closely with the Swansea Canal Society to provide advice on how to restore the hidden lock. What was once only a glimmer of future hope for John, is now becoming a reality.

John Evans with waterway operatives from the Canal & River Trust (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

Working together

Anna Finn, our strategic programme delivery manager says, “The work that the Swansea Canal Society is doing in partnership with Glandŵr Cymru (the Canal & River Trust in Wales) has been absolutely amazing to watch over the last few years, since I joined the organisation. Working with the local community, they have made such a difference to the five miles of navigable waterway that remains, working towards the long-term ambition of a fully restored canal. The waterway is a haven for wildlife and a perfect place to take your canoe or paddleboard for a day out on the water, as well as being ideal for a rural walk and exploration of South Wales.

“The society’s receipt of the Queen’s Award was incredibly well deserved, and they also recently received an award from Glandŵr Cymru for the 50,000 hours they have collectively given to restoring this historic canal since 2012. We look forward to being able to celebrate properly with them next year and are also very excited to see the impact that their latest project restoring the hidden lock will have.”

To find out more about Swansea Canal, please visit our webpage.

Datgelu cyfrinachau cudd Camlas Abertawe

Yn gudd ar waelod dyffryn serth mae Camlas Abertawe. Yn bleser i’w chrwydro ac yn annwyl i lawer, mae’n gamlas sy’n llawn hanes. Mae gwirfoddolwyr yn gweithio’n galed i’w hadfer a datgelu ei hysblander gwreiddiol.

Man & horse on canal A canal rich in history (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

Cwblhawyd y gamlas 16.5 milltir o hyd hon ym 1798 ac fe’i hadeiladwyd i wasanaethu pyllau glo a gweithfeydd dur a chopr Cwm Tawe. Dros y 50 mlynedd diwethaf, mae’r gamlas wedi gweld sawl rhan wreiddiol ohoni’n cael eu llenwi, yn bennaf wrth greu prif ffyrdd. Fodd bynnag, ers dechrau’r 1980au, mae cannoedd o wirfoddolwyr wedi bod yn helpu i’w hadfer i’w chyflwr gwreiddiol.

Cynnwys y gymuned leol

Nid yw’r gwaith caled hwn wedi mynd heb gydnabyddiaeth. Yn gynharach eleni, derbyniodd Cymdeithas Camlas Abertawe un o’r gwobrau gwirfoddoli mwyaf breintiedig yn y DU, sef Gwobr y Frenhines am Wasanaeth Gwirfoddol. Mae’r gymdeithas yn un o ddim ond 230 sefydliad i dderbyn y wobr hon eleni. Mae hyn yn dangos pa mor galed y mae’r gwirfoddolwyr wedi gweithio, nid yn unig ar adfer y gamlas ei hun, ond hefyd y pwyslais ar gynhwysiant a chymuned sydd wrth wraidd eu holl waith. O annog cyfranogiad gwirfoddolwyr ag anghenion arbennig a gweithio’n agos gyda chleientiaid Gwasanaeth Dydd Dwys Whitehorns, i gydweithio’r Grŵp Adfer Dyfrffyrdd, mae ymrwymiad llwyr y gymdeithas i gynnwys pawb yn y gwaith o adfer y gamlas yn amlwg a thrawiadol.

Mae’r gwirfoddolwyr hyn i gyd, o gefndiroedd a setiau sgiliau amrywiol, i gyd yn gweithio i gyflawni nod hirdymor y gymdeithas, sef cysylltu Camlas Abertawe gyda Chamlesi Castell-nedd a Thennant. Bydd hyn yn creu 35 milltir o ddyfrffyrdd mordwyol, gyda Doc Tywysog Cymru yn Abertawe yn ganolbwynt i’r cyfan.

Swansea Canal Society join forces with the Waterway Recovery Group (Photo: Swansea Canal Society) Swansea Canal Society join forces with the Waterway Recovery Group (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

Y frwydr yn erbyn clymog Japan

Mae clymog Japan, rhywogaeth ymledol, yn tyfu’n eang ledled Cwm Abertawe. Mae ein hymdrechion diweddar wedi canolbwyntio ar garthu’r gamlas a chael gwared ar y llystyfiant ymwthiol, er mwyn galluogi i lawer o rywogaethau brodorol adfeddiannu’r tir. Yn anffodus, mae astudiaethau diweddar gan ymchwilwyr ym Mhrifysgol Abertawe wedi dangos nad yw’n bosibl cael gwared yn llwyr ar y planhigyn, felly mae bellach yn fater o ddal ati i’w reoli.

Er gwydnwch y rhywogaeth estron hon, mae Camlas Abertawe yn parhau i fod yn hafan i fywyd gwyllt, gan gynnwys adar dŵr a llyswennod amrywiol. Mae’r prosiect adfer hwn yn ystyried hyn yn ofalus ac yn mynd ati i warchod a gwella’r cynefinoedd pwysig hyn.

Swansea Canal Society dredging the canal (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

Y loc cudd

Mae stori nad oes llawer yn gwybod amdani y tu ôl i lenwi’r loc cudd sydd wedi’i leoli yng Nghlydach. Llenwyd y rhan hon o’r gamlas yn ystod y 1970au a buan iawn yr adeiladwyd drosti. Mae’r gamlas yn diflannu am tua 130 metr gan rhedeg o dan ddepo priffyrdd y cyngor, a adeiladwyd ym 1973. Y peiriannydd a oedd yn gyfrifol am lenwi’r rhan o’r gamlas oedd John Evans, sydd, yn rhyfedd ddigon, yn dad i Mark Evans, ein cyfarwyddwr yng Nghymru a De-orllewin Lloegr.

Magwyd John Evans yn Llandeilo ac ef oedd syrfëwr adrannol cynorthwyol Cyngor Sir Morgannwg yn y 1970au. Prynodd y cyngor y gamlas gyda’r bwriad o osod pibell i gludo’r dŵr a’i gorchuddio er mwyn ehangu’r depo. Llenwyd loc 7 gyda phibell er mwyn i’r dŵr allu llifo drwyddi, yna fe’i llenwyd yn ôl gyda cherrig mâl ac yna tarmac ar yr arwyneb. Wrth iddynt wneud hyn, helpodd John Evans i sicrhau na fyddai’r loc yn cael ei golli am byth drwy bwyntio’r gwaith carreg yn y loc, a rhoi slab amddiffynnol arno ac ychwanegu siambr arolygu.

Mae John bellach yn gweithio’n agos gyda Chymdeithas Camlas Abertawe i roi cyngor ar sut i adfer y loc cudd. Mae’r hyn a oedd yn ddim ond llygedyn o obaith at y dyfodol i John bellach yn dod yn realiti.

John Evans with waterway operatives from the Canal & River Trust (Photo: Swansea Canal Society)

Cydweithio

Meddai Anna Finn, ein rheolwr darparu rhaglen strategol, “Mae’r gwaith y mae Cymdeithas Camlas Abertawe yn ei wneud mewn partneriaeth â Glandŵr Cymru wedi bod yn hollol anhygoel i’w weld dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf, ers i mi ymuno â’r sefydliad. Gan weithio gyda’r gymuned leol, maen nhw wedi gwneud cymaint o wahaniaeth i’r pum milltir o ddyfrffordd mordwyol sydd ar ôl, gan weithio tuag at uchelgais hirdymor o adfer y gamlas yn llwyr. Mae’r gamlas yn hafan i fywyd gwyllt ac yn lle perffaith i fynd ar eich canŵ neu fwrdd padlo am ddiwrnod allan ar y dŵr. Mae’n ddelfrydol hefyd ar gyfer taith gerdded wledig a chrwydro de Cymru.

“Roedd y gymdeithas yn llawn haeddu Gwobr y Frenhines. Maen nhw hefyd wedi cael gwobr gan Glandŵr Cymru yn ddiweddar am y 50,000 o oriau y maen nhw wedi’u rhoi gyda’i gilydd i adfer y gamlas hanesyddol hon ers 2012. Rydym yn edrych ymlaen at allu dathlu gyda nhw’n iawn y flwyddyn nesaf ac wedi cyffroi’n lân i weld effaith eu prosiect diweddaraf yn adfer y loc cudd.”

Am ragor o wybodaeth am Gamlas Abertawe, ewch i’n gwefan.

Last date edited: 18 October 2021