Yesterday I met up with a number of photographers, members of the flickr WFC group, WelshFlickrCymru; all flickr members living in, or with an interest in Wales are welcome to join. We meet now about twice a year although in the early days of the group it used to be every two months. Yesterday we met at Burry Port on the South Wales coastline, a small hardcore of just fourteen photographers of the 2,700+ members of the group, but it was just like the old days, nearly everyone knew one another and we enjoyed a very friendly get together on a very humid day with the sun hidden behind light cloud.
Although Burry Port is only just under an hour away from my home I have never visited the place, driven through many times, but never stopped. The harbour area where we met is steeped in history, a very complicated history which I shan’t go into here, but there are many relics from the past which are attractive to photographers of our ilk, rusty iron, remains of wooden structures in the water, the pier and its iconic round red and white lighthouse, and of course the harbour itself with its myriad of private boats moored in the old outer harbour, now a popular marina.
I took 63 photographs, mostly similar scenes in a few choice locations, the decayed posts in the water were one of my favourite subjects but on our way back to the car with the tide dropping rapidly I noticed an iron structure on the beach which hadn’t been visible earlier in the day at high water; it just had to be investigated.
So, what is this then? To me it looks like the gunwale of a flat-bottomed tub-boat or canal barge and it more than likely could be. It’s about ten metres long from the point nearest the camera to the end of the curve which would have been the stern or the bow of a (probably) reversible canal boat. The Pembrey Canal was built to bring iron ore from the Kidwelly & Llanelly Canal to furnaces at Pembrey and was completed about 1824. This was later superseded by an extension of the Kidwelly & Llanelly Canal to Burry Port in 1835 and so the Pembrey Canal fell out of use about 1840. The K&L canal was closed in about 1865 and much of the canal bed was turned into a railway. Boats used on the lower sections of the canal into Burry Port were capable of carrrying 20 tons and the dimensions of the structure in the sand would seem to suggest this could very well be the extant remains of one of the canal barges. If so, an important relic of a long-gone South Wales canal.
To conclude, here is my favourite photograph from the day, taken at the end of the pier of the old harbour of one of the decaying wooden posts to be found at the high-water line. Taken on the Canon 5D with my 14mm Canon prime lens the soft light of the day allowed me to bring out much detail in the darker areas of the image. Although I had other lenses with me, the 14mm stayed on my camera all day, it’s very that rare conditions are perfect for it to be used, the bulbous front end is prone to flare.
For those interested in the history of the Pembrey and Kidwelly & Llanelly Canals, you might like to browse a copy of Charles Hadfield’s “The Canals of South Wales and the Border”, out of print for many decades, the work first published in 1967 provides a brief but detailed account of both the canal’s histories. Copies available through your local library.
Since writing the above account, I have discovered the following note in a publication:
“One of the most interesting relics is a string of iron canal tub boats on the eastern face of the east breakwater; it is believed that they were siezed from Carway Colliery in 1870 to recover a debt owing to the railway company. They are about 20ft long with a 5ft beam and flat sterns. They were probably pulled along the (Kidwelly & Llanelly) canal in trains”.