A CANAL boaters’ tradition is returning to Torfaen on the August bank holiday weekend.

Traditionally, boat crews that arrived at the southernmost end of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal would mark the occasion by signing the Boater’s Signing Books at the Open Hearth pub in Griffithstown, and the Crosskeys pub at Five Locks, Pontnewydd.

The tradition was upheld for more than 30 years, but eventually tailed off – with both books being lost over time as the Open Hearth changed hands and the Crosskeys pub turned into a private house.

There have been attempts to find the books and recover the records of boats names, crews and any funny ditties and comments, but without luck.

Bridge 45 to Five Locks, a Facebook group set up in August last year, has commissioned a brand-new Boater’s Signing Book to be made. It is being sponsored by the Open Hearth’s new landlord and landlady – Gareth Hobbs and Kirsty Smith.

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The new Boater’s Signing Book will be kept at the pub and all boaters that arrive at the southern end of the canal are invited to cruise to the Open Hearth from as far away as Brecon, sign the book, enter the details of their boat, crew and whether or not they made it all the way under Bridge 46 to the end of the navigable part at Five Locks.

Mr Hobbs and Ms Smith were so pleased to have been invited to be custodians of the new Boater’s Signing Book and immediately offered to be the sponsors of the book and facilitate the re-instatement of this much loved and very popular Boater’s tradition.


Mark Sullivan, spokesman for the Bridge 46 to Five Locks group, said: “Reinstating this old tradition of signing the Boater’s Book is another step in raising even more awareness of the beauty of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal here at the southern end.

“We are very proud to have this magnificent canal running through the heart of Torfaen. Through the combined efforts of everyone involved, the canal can be nurtured back to life and its full potential respected and reached.

“With this book, we hope will come a new, clearer strategy to help maintain this wonderful green corridor within reach of all within Torfaen.

“We thank wholeheartedly those that have joined us and those that have supported us over the last 11 months.

“We all look forward to seeing our aims achieved with all of you on board and get navigation restored to Five Locks and potentially, who knows how far beyond.”

Mr Hobbs said: “We are thrilled to be the custodians of the new Boater’s Book and look forward to welcoming all those that travel our way down the beautiful Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. We always look forward to seeing the different canal cruisers and narrowboats that travel down and our daughter loves welcoming them by waving to them as they cruise past.

“We have enjoyed welcoming many boats in the past that have moored alongside the Open Hearth. We love to hear the stories of where the crews have come from and tales of their adventures along the way as they relax and enjoy a drink and some good food.

“It will be lovely to be able to look back through the Boater’s Book over the coming months and years and remember those that stopped by and enjoyed the beauty on offer in our lovely part of the world.“

Bridge 46 to Five Locks was set up to bring pressure on both the developers of the new housing estate at Bevan’s Lane and Torfaen County Borough Council to keep the integrity of the canal intact, maintain the towpath and restore navigation under Bridge 46 to Five Locks. There are more than 2,500 members in the group from all over the world.

There will be a presentation of the book at the pub on Saturday, August 28 at 10am. It will be attended by the landlord and landlady of the pub as well as Mark Sullivan, Phil Hughes, Brian Boon, Ruth Kedward, Jackson Kedward, Tracey Leake-Jones and Steve Hale from the Bridge 46 to Five Locks group.