Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Obscure Canals

When I first developed an interest in canals as a young lad I lived in rural west Wales far from any navigable inland waterway - or so I thought. A parallel interest in local history however soon revealed that the district had once been a major coal producing area and with that had come a network of canals and early tramways, which I set about exploring.

One of the earliest was Kymer's Canal, built in 1766 to link the mines with the Gwendraeth estuary near Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire. The canal terminated in a dock, called Kymer's Dock, which in 1972, having been disused since 1809, looked like this
The canal restoration movement, however, has not passed west Wales by and by 1990 the dock had been restored as an industrial monument and now looks like this:

In the early nineteenth century Kymer's Canal was incorporated into the much longer Kidwelly and Llanelly Canal which extended further up the Gwendraeth valley and also had a branch to the then new harbour at Burry Port some five miles further east. This branch crossed the River Gwendraeth on an aqueduct, built in 1815 and seen here in 1972.
It's not appeared on Captain Ahab's "Aqueducts of the Inland Waterways" website yet, but no doubt one day it will.
The canal only reached Llanelly (the present-day "Llanelli") by means of a connecting tramroad from Burry Port and by 1865 had turned itself into a railway company and built the "Burry Port and Gwedreath Valley Railway" (the spelling of "Gwendraeth" was wrong on the incorporating act of parliament!). The railway served the valley for another 117 years and I was privileged to travel on the locomotive (one of three!) that hauled the last coal train down the valley in 1981


Captain Ahab said...

With your permission that omission may be corrected in the very near future!
Capt A

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I'm from West Wales (though a little further North) - I had no idea there were once canals there.

Wouldn't if be great if Wales had a navigable canal network - it would b quite a cruise!

Sue, Indigo Dream

Starcross said...

Permission Granted!

I too was surprised just how many canals once operated in what is now rural west Wales and how many remains can still be found.