My story

By D.T Baker

Having been born and brought up in Pontnewydd.
I have always had contact with the canal.
My mom and dads home is in Glenside in upper Cwmbran
And the canal was at the bottom of my garden.
Over the years I’ve seen many, many changes.
but most upsetting of all has been the vanishing wildlife.
Back when I was about eleven or twelve.
the canal was bursting with life.
More frogs than you could ever count,
Sticklebacks, dragon flies, newts and a million
Other life forms swam in the canal.
The water was clear and the plant life grew well.

As the years went by the frogs got less and less.
And along with them went the newts.
I would say up until about 1985 if you were lucky
you would find the odd pocket of frogspawn.
I can remember finding a small patch of it.
just up above the Top Bridge End pub that year.
I took my son Andy along with my new video camera
Up to see it. I still have the video; I think that must have been
One of the last times I ever saw frog spawn in the canal.
as when I went to the spot a year later about the same time of year.
no frogs could be found anywhere.

This must have been round about the time someone in their wisdom
decided to put an assortment of large fish in the canal for sport.
Of course that was the death bell for anything that was left.
And within another year the canal was dead of all life.
Apart from very large fish and some toad tadpoles
That the large fish can’t eat; you’ll find nothing else,
Oh on a good day you might see a few dragon flies.
Then as a matter of course because the canal became empty
Of life. Other birds and small creatures that depended on the canal
For their food also died. And the larger birds and larger creatures
Who depended on the smaller ones either moved away or they died too.

Now all we are left with are a few dozen ducks and some swans.
Their only source of food being the grass and plants along the canal
and the bread and sometimes corn that people feed them with.
as they swim in and out the rubbish and shopping carts that fill the canal.
Some parts of the canal although dead, apart from large fish.
look like a picture postcard. If you walk the canal above five locks
On a summer day it’s very pleasing to the eye.
But follow the canal down from five locks and apart from the odd spot
The canal is nothing but a rubbish tip. With ducks and moorhens
And until last year a lovely pair of mute swans.
Tried to bring up their young in amongst the rubbish
and the duckweed that gets thicker and thicker every year.

This brings me to the story of the wonderful pair of mute swans.
that lived for many years on a small piece of canal in Old Cwmbran.
About 1995 I got my first digital camera and started taking pictures
Of the pair of swans and the families they have had over the years.
i’m sure they got to know my camera and me, as they posed
for me very often. And I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures
on my computer and the walls of my home that I have taken.
The Swans even had their very own fan club.
As people who saw my pictures on the Internet
Sent me emails asking about them.I sent them all
updated pictures of the young swan family as the grew up.
Having talked to some of the locals who have lived near the canal
for many years. I was told that back when the canal was in use.
They had at least fifteen to twenty pairs of swans nesting on that part
Of the canal at any one time. And that my swans as I liked to call them
where the only ones left out of all the swans that nested there.

Well that was until last year,
When a thug decided they had lived there long enough.
And smashed the male swans head in with a brick.
leaving the poor female to sit her eggs alone,
This she did for some weeks. The local people in their kindness
fed her and gave her water as best they could. Then about a week
before the eggs were due to hatch a dog or maybe a fox.
myself I think a dog, as I have never seen any foxes in that part of town.
attacked her on the nest ripping out her tail feathers.
She must have fought very hard but gave up in the end.
She was found the next morning in a bad way.
Swan rescue was called and she was taken away.
I found out a few weeks later that she had died of shock.
What became of the eggs I have no idea

Money was collected and a substantial reward was offered.
but the thug or thugs have never been found.
The people or person’s who killed that swan.
took something very special from Cwmbran that night.
That can never be replaced.
Every day young mothers took their children down to feed the swans.
and the older generation who had been doing it since childhood.
made a point of getting up every morning and going down the canal
to feed them. And remember the old days when that bit of canal
buzzed with life.


the canal at five locks upper cwmbran
It’s a sad fact but no more swans will ever visit that part of the canal.
even if the female swan had lived she would never have gone back.
as the male swan picks the nest site
My message to the person or person’s who killed my swan.
Remember this old but very true saying.

2 comments so far...

Berenice in NZ July 18, 2008, 03:53 AM
Your foto's and above story real gems. Being an outdoors person myself and tramper of over 55 years, I'm really enjoying your webpage and put it on my 'favorites' to enjoy over successive visits instead of all at once :-)
Dennis T Baker (Cwmbran South Wales) March 28, 2010, 10:55 AM
thank you so much my friend
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