Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:53 UK
A wonder of the Welsh waterways
Fourteen Locks Centre
Visitor numbers are booming at the centre in Rogerstone

A unique part of Newport's industrial heritage is hailed as a tourism success thanks to a new visitor centre.

The Cefn Flight of the Fourteen Locks is part of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and was a vital transport route for coal and iron in the 19th century.

A new extended visitor centre opened at Rogerstone in May 2008 and visitor numbers this summer are already 50 percent up on its first 12 months.

Plans are also underway to restore the next two pairs of locks in the flight.

The original Monmouthshire canal was authorised by parliament in 1792 with the Cefn Flight of Fourteen Locks completed by 1798.

The Fourteen Locks was part of the Crumlin arm of the canal which ran from Crindau to Crumlin Bridge, built under the supervision of engineer in charge Thomas Dadford Junior.

Although it ceased to be used as a commercial waterway in 1930, the canal's historical significance means that it is now protected by CADW as an ancient monument.

The Flight rises almost 51 metres over less than a kilometre and has one of the steepest rises for a major run of locks. The locks are unique as each pair has a separate top and bottom gate.

Position of top gate lock 18
The locks are unique as each pair has a separate top and bottom gate

There has been a visitors centre at Fourteen Locks since the late 1970s. However in 2000 after the National Trail boat festival, the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust started to work alongside Newport council to try and raise money for canal restoration and they became involved in the running of the centre.

The Trust now leases the Fourteen Locks Centre from the council and in May 2008 a new and improved visitors centre was officially opened.

The centre houses an exhibition space providing extensive information and resources on the history of the Monmouthshire Canal company.

There is also an education officer based at the centre who runs a project to in Education Through Restoration working with schools and colleges on interactive projects as they look at the history and restoration of the Fourteen Locks.

The area is popular with walkers and cyclists and in addition there is a dedicated bridle path for horse riders.

Phil Hughes

The canals trust are working to systematically renovate the locks on the waterway and are currently working to restore locks 17 to 20.

Lock 21, which lies just above the centre, is the most recently restored lock and took almost two years to restore. It was a laborious process as it had to be totally rebuilt as it was infilled with dirt and needed to be constructed stone by stone.

Phil Hughes, the manager of the Fourteen Locks Centre is extremely pleased with the success of the new visitors centre.

In the year since the centre opened from May 2008 to May 2009 they welcomed over 35,000 visitors. That figure has already been exceeded over the summer months of 2009 by more than 50 percent.

The trust intends in time to restore all of the Fourteen Locks with the ultimate aim being to make the canal re-navigable all the way through to Brecon.

The visitor centre is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm seven days a week. For more details call 01633 894802.

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