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Ambitious new Swansea inland waterway to Clydach planned linking River Tawe and canal network

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A report into the possibility of creating new ways to travel from the mouth of the River Tawe up the Swansea Valley and towards Neath was unveiled.

It was also revealed that funding has been secured for a new riverboat pick-up and drop-off point near the Liberty Stadium.

The report – PDF Document Copper Jack: New Destinations (PDF, 1MB) – was published by Swansea Community Boat Trust, a charity that operates the Copper Jack community boat on the Tawe and promotes the heritage, use and environment of the area’s inland waterways.

The report states that it is feasible, with significant funding and other support, to create navigable waterways as far as Clydach and Jersey Marine, with these linking up with existing canals.

The report has received funding through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, which is funded by the European Union and the Welsh Government. Support comes from the Swansea Bay Fisheries Local Action Group (SBFLAG), managed by Swansea Council.

Trust board member John Andrew Davies said: “The trust is delighted that the report and video helped the council get the funding for a landing pontoon at the Copperworks.

“Copper Jack cannot operate at the moment due to the pandemic, but when things improve the trust looks forward to running boat trips for the public from Swansea Marina to an exciting new destination.

“For the first time, passengers will be able to get off Copper Jack to enjoy the Copperworks experience, or visit the Liberty Stadium.

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“The report and video also highlight the potential benefits of linking the navigable River Tawe with local canals to create a 35-mile cruising inland waterway. 

“This ambitious proposal has been around for a few years now, so it would be great if key stakeholders already working hard to regenerate the canals of Swansea Bay could get together to agree a long term strategy to deliver this fantastic project, whenever some funding becomes available.”

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “We were pleased to support this report. The recommendations represent a positive output and help lay the foundations for future development and job opportunities for the Tawe.

“We’re already looking at future development opportunities on the River Tawe. This includes improving access to the river to encourage the public to travel by water instead of the road.”

At present, as part of its £1bn regeneration programme, the council is developing the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks Powerhouse, with world-class Welsh distiller Penderyn set to have a base there.

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The council also plans to work with a development partner to transform more of the copperworks site, the riverside site of the former St Thomas station and the area alongside the SA1 sailbridge.

Today’s report was commissioned by the trust and produced by specialist waterways consultants Moss Naylor Young. An accompanying video was produced by Swansea business iCreate.

The report recommends the provision of landing pontoons on the Tawe, initially at the copperworks quay.

The report and video supported an application by the SBFLAG to Welsh Government for the funding of the pontoon – and this was successful.

Surveys will now identify the best location for the pontoon, probably near the emerging Penderyn development at the Copperworks.  

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An ecology report has been carried out and, in due course, a planning application will be submitted for the pontoon. It could be installed as soon as the second half of this year. The cost will be up to £300,000 and it will mean the Copper Jack having a second embarkation point to twin with its existing site in Swansea Marina.

It could open up the possibility of a river taxi service.

Longer-term recommendations are for waterways route extensions to link the Tawe:

  • just north of the Liberty Stadium via a 5km stretch of upgraded waterway – through Nant Fendrod and Fendrod Lake – with the Swansea Canal at Clydach
  • from SA1 through Swansea Docks to the Tennant Canal at Crymlyn Basin

The routes for both proposed extensions are already protected by the Swansea Local Development Plan (LDP) which states that urban tourism would benefit from such improved attractions.

Work would include the creation of new locks and bridges plus extensive dredging and excavation. The work could cost more than £35m – and funding would have to be sourced.

The project will include engagement with various landowners and the recruitment of volunteers to clear parts of the existing waterways.

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The trust will continue to work with others to promote the new routes.

Historically, the Tawe was used by seagoing ships when Swansea was a centre of the world’s copper production industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.


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Dance

Doctors prescribe dance classes to keep patients on their feet

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet.

Five of the health board’s clusters – groups of GP surgeries working together within a geographical area – are backing the scheme as the exercise to music is proven to aid falls prevention.

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Each class is led by a trained dance teacher with participants encouraged to follow a range of routines, designed to develop their strength and balance, with the option of using a chair for support if their mobility is limited.

The Dance for Health programme is a collaboration between the health board, clusters, local authorities, and Aesop, an arts focused charity.

Alyson Pugh, Programme Manager at Aesop, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the health sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people aged over 65 through the medium of dance.

“During each class participants will move to a variety of music from all around the world. The classes are fun and vibrant, increasing fitness, mobility and strength.

“Afterwards, participants will have a good chance to get to know one another over a cup of tea or coffee. No previous experience is needed, everybody is welcome.”

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So far classes are held in Pontardawe, Morriston, Seven Sisters, Cwmavon and Briton Ferry, Upper Killay, Reynoldston, Mumbles and the Waterfront Museum.

Alyson said: “The health board asked for 12 classes across Swansea Bay and funded the management side while the GP clusters are funding the delivery of the classes. They wanted it to be grass roots up.

“Anyone can walk in but they wanted the main referrals to come from the virtual wards and local area coordinators and social prescribers, a whole community approach.”

Lizzie MacMillan (Image: Swansea Bay HNS)

Dance artist Lizzie MacMillan (left), a development officer for Dance for Health, said: “It’s for older people and people who are struggling a little bit with perhaps balance issues, mobility issues as well, so we are not expecting them to foxtrot along the floor on the first class or anything like that. It builds up over the weeks.

“We start off quite gently, just seeing where everyone is in the class – I like to gauge the class first of all to see if people are having problems with balance or perhaps giddiness or joint problems. I like to get to know each person in the class so that I can look after them and know their capacity for movement.

“We use the chairs quite a lot if someone is unsteady on their feet. They can still do a variation using the chair for support. We also do a standing variation if people are a little fitter or a little bit more able to push themselves further in the class.”

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster lead, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as it fits in perfectly with our goal of improving well-being and helping people remain fit and healthy.”

One participant, Pauline Anderson, said: “I’ve been to four or five classes. I thought I would try it to see what it’s like and it’s been very good.

“As you get older you become more immobile. I’ve been struggling with my knees and joints, so I have found it helpful.

“I would advise anyone thinking about it to just come along.”

Another participant, Betty Didcock, said: “I try to keep active as much as I can. I used to enjoy dancing when I was younger. I’ve made friends here. If you’re a bit shy, it’s a wonderful place to come to get used to talking to people. I’m a quiet one. I don’t always do it right but I have a go.”

While Amber Davies said: “I thought I’d come along to see what it was like. It’s important to keep busy and remain active. It’s also a good way of meeting new people.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Swansea

Swansea’s popular land train is back – and you can even take your dog for a ride!

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Taking your family for a day out along Swansea prom? Now your four-legged friend can join in the fun too by hitching a ride on the land train!

Officially known as the Swansea Bay Rider, the 72-seater land train runs along Swansea’s prom from Blackpill Lido to Southend Gardens in Mumbles giving passengers an incredible view of Swansea Bay as they travel along.

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Run by Swansea Council, the land train has been a feature of summer holiday trips for many years – whether it’s to soak up the sights in style, or hop on for a relaxing journey after a day of fun in the sun.

But did you know that dogs are allowed on board too?

The council has highlighted the little known fact that four-legged friends are welcome to ride the land train with their owners, as long as they are wearing a lead and are under control.

With more people than ever taking their dog on holiday or on days out, the land train is another fun activity that all the family can enjoy.

The Swansea Bay Rider is also fully accessible to wheelchair users.

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The land train runs every weekend from 23 April to 4 September, and daily during the school holidays between 30 May and 3 June, and again between Friday 15 July and Sunday 4 September.

The 30 minute ride from Blackpill to Southend runs 7 times a day at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm from Blackpill.

Return journeys from Southend are at 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

Can’t get enough of riding the land-train? How about becoming its driver!

Swansea Council are recruiting a land train driver on a zero hours contract for £19,264 per annum (pro-rata). Applications are open until 24 May on the council’s website.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Books & Literature

Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend

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From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.

In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.

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Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.

For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.

“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”

Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”

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David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.

“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”

The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.

“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!

“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”

The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.

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But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.

The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99

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