Waterworks has engaged and trained community volunteers to restore a 1.5 km disused section of the M&B Canal including six derelict locks, three listed bridges and a range of other heritage structures. Funded by the Heritage Lottery, the project has been led by a partnership between Torfaen CBC and the MB&ACT.
The project has developed an innovative and cost effective model of canal restoration and heritage construction training by harnessing the skills and enthusiasm of the local community. It has restored the historic fabric of the derelict canal to a high heritage and environmental standard through the professional supervision and training of volunteers working on a full time basis with minimal use of external contractors.
The project has also worked with Swansea University to develop and pilot new modular, steel lock gates. This pioneering design addresses problems of sustainability, cost and installation associated with traditional gates. A comprehensive programme of accredited training in heritage construction skills has been delivered to volunteers in conjunction with local training organisations. Over 270 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds have taken part in the restoration, participating in activities including stone masonry, carpentry, using lime mortar, manufacture and fitting of lock gates, landscaping and habitat improvement.
A key focus and challenge has been the provision of training and work experience to young people not in education, employment and training and the long term unemployed. This has helped volunteers gain the confidence and skills to enter employment or go on to further education and training.