Swansea Valley Canal     

The Swansea Canal project commenced when the Duke of Beaufort cut the first turf at Brewery Bank Swansea in 1792. It was funded by an investment of £56,000 and the canal ultimately ran between Swansea and the Hen-Neuadd basin in Abercrave, a total distance, excluding privately owned branches, of 26.2km (16.25miles). It was built to carry narrow boats 19.5m long, 2.3m wide and 0.9m deep, which could carry 22 tons of cargo. It had 36 locks that raised the water-level 118 metres. 

Aqueducts had to be constructed to cross five major rivers, including the famous three arched aqueduct over the Twrch at Ystalyfera. This aqueduct was the first to use hydrostatic cement and was built on a spur of dry land named Ynysdraw. The river Twrch was then diverted to flow under it. 

The canal opened to traffic in 1800 and a  variety of industries grew up along its path and used it as an economical means of bulk transport. These included coal, iron, copper, brewing, tinplate, chemicals, steel, pottery, lime and stone quarries, of which the most  significant were the huge ironworks at Ynyscedwyn and Ystalyfera. There was also a large trade in Alder-wood blanks for clog making.

In 1804 it was recorded that 52,235 tons of coal was transported down the canal, which represented 2,487 boat journeys, and by 1888 this had risen to 385,309 tons or 18,384 journeys. 

In 1872 the Great Western Railway Company purchased the canal and in 1947 ports and inland waterways were nationalised. The British Waterways Board took over the running of canals in 1963.

Aqueduct over the river Twrch at Ystalyfera

The route for the canal had originally been surveyed by a man named Shaxby (pronounced Sheasby) who had strong connections with Daniel Harpur the iron and mining  entrepreneur in Abercrave. 
Edward Martin another coal producer and agent for the Duke of Beaufort, was the consulting engineer responsible for Swansea North Dock and the nearby Neath Tennant Canal. He constructed a watermill to use the copious waste water from the Swansea Valley Canal canal and continued as consulting engineer until his death in 1818.

Old canal boat at Ystalyfera

From the 1890ís to the 1920ís trade steadily declined and in 1928 the lower section of the canal was abandoned. Between 1959 and 1981 more than ten miles of the canal, North of Swansea, was filled-in to make way for new roads and housing.

In 1981 the Swansea Canal Society was set-up to preserve and restore what was left of the canal and, with the help of local councils and the British Waterways Board, it has had some success,

There are substantial stretches of the old towpath between Abercrave and Pontardawe which can be walked, including the section between Ynysmeudwy and Pontardawe, where the canal is still navigable.         

Near Pontardawe