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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Protest over 'blocked' canal link
Paul Johnson and protesters
Protesters dressed as 'Rebecca Rioters'
Male canal boat owners dressed in women's clothing have protested at the lack of restoration to a section of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal.

The boatmen said they were trying to resurrect the spirit of the Daughters of Rebecca, a 19th rebel group who protested against road tolls.

They think council plans to restore Cwmbran town have overlooked the possibilities of its canal.

Torfaen council said it recognised the importance of the canal.

Members of the Goytre Boat Owners Association dressed in 19th century women's clothes "attacked" the end of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal.

It runs into a five-mile non-navigable section north of Cwmbran at Five Locks to Llantarnam to the south.

They used the same costume as 19th century anti-road toll protestors, known as the Daughters of Rebecca, whose "Rebecca Riots" helped open up the roads.

Canal boat on Monmouthshire and Brecon canal
The canal is closed off just north of Cwmbran

The boaters are hoping to achieve a similar end on the canal.

The protest has been planned for 12 months, and while "light-hearted" in style, the message was quite serious.

Regeneration work is being carried out on the sections to the north and south of the blocked-off section.

In March, it was announced that a section of the 32-mile long canal would be restored using a share of 1m from the European Union and a mooring basin built within a housing development at South Sebastopol, near Pontypool.

Boaters now want the "missing link" around Cwmbran to be reopened.

Paul Johnson, chair of the owners' association, told BBC Wales: "I think it's a jewel in the crown of the south Wales area.

"This canal is the prettiest in the UK and it's such a shame we can't use it all."

Torfaen council said it did "recognise the importance of the canal and is involved in a number of projects.

It added: "All of the council proposals for developing Cwmbran town involve use of the canal as a feature to help in the area's regeneration."


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