Potholes on the canal towpath near Gilwern are creating such a hazard for cyclists and users of mobility scooters that one local resident has called on MP David Davies to take up the issue with the Canal and River Trust.
Ironically, the problem seems to be a direct consequence of the canal network’s recent rise in popularity as a tourist destination.
A spokesperson for the Canal and River Trust says that while everything possible is done to compensate for the wear and tear on the towpaths that this additional ‘footfall’ causes, providing a pristine surface wouldn’t be in keeping with the outstanding natural beauty of the National Park.
Earlier this month, riding on his mobility scooter, Geoffrey Keyte had accompanied his wife Marlene on an outing along the towpath from Gilwern towards Govilon.
Their afternoon out, he told the Chronicle, was ruined by the many potholes they encountered, which were virtually impossible for his scooter to negotiate.
“On one occasion my scooter nearly slid down into a ditch!” he said.
He felt the solution would be for the Canal Trust to tarmac the complete length of the towpath to eliminate the problem, ‘making it easier - and safer - for cyclists and people, like me, on mobile scooters’.
“Our MP, David Davies, has written to the Canal Trust to voice my concerns. Hopefully they will begin to act responsibly in improving the towpaths, sooner rather than later.”
Nick Worthington, waterway manager for the South Wales and Severn at the Canal and River Trust, said he was sorry to hear that Geoffrey and Marlene felt disappointed about their experience along this beautiful stretch of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.
“Whilst we’ll be looking more closely at what we can do to fix the pot holes, and speaking with MP David Davies about his and Mr Keyte’s concerns, this does highlight the fact that our 200 year old towpaths weren’t designed for the huge growth in popularity we’re seeing these days.
“This is a wonderful thing, of course, but as a charity with over 2,000 miles of towpaths to look after we’ve got a huge job on our hands.
“The Canal and River Trust is funded primarily as a navigational authority, which means that we rely on the help of others – especially partnerships with local authorities and amazing volunteer efforts - to create the kind of towpaths that people need today.
“The towpath of the 35 miles of navigable Mon and Brecon Canal has been substantially improved in the last seven years, thanks to an incredible amount of investment from our partners, and we have received more funding for towpath improvements than any other rural canal in England and Wales.
“Although we make necessary improvements to the structure of the canal bank and towpath surface, we’re keen not to tarmac the whole towpath as it wouldn’t be in keeping with the outstanding natural beauty of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
“We do hope people who enjoy the canal will continue to support us so that we can continue to make improvements.”
MP David Davies told the Chronicle, “Mr Keyte raises a valid point, although I can understand there is a fine balancing act here. With our waterways enjoying a popularity boom, everyone wants the towpaths to be more accessible for all users.
“At the same time, I know there are some people who would not want to see 200 year-old towpaths tarmacked over.
“I would be very happy to work with disabled groups and Glandwr Cymru to look at what compromises can be found to improve access without undermining the beauty of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal itself.”