A BUSINESSMAN famed for his work at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct has been forced to put his tour boats up for sale.

Peter Jones, proprietor of Jones the Boats, has ferried tens of thousands of passengers over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct since he started his operations at the attraction in 1982.

But a blueprint for the Trevor Basin near Llangollen has meant he has not been able to renew his long-term lease with the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT).

Peter, 83, and his son, Howard, ran their last day trips from Trevor across the viaduct last November and have since demolished their on-site cafe to make way for future developments.

Up to 12 staff have been laid off with the closure of the business as Peter has opted for retirement after struggling to find an alternative canalside location for his long-serving boats, Eirlys and Tommy.

Border Counties Advertizer:

Eirlys and Tommy are up for sale

"We looked at other places to operate but there was nowhere suitable where you could have a decent business. Once the lease was finished that was it and I suppose our business was the aquaduct - you can't really go elsewhere to do this as it won't be anything like as an attractive a prospect," said Peter.

"The CRT has said there will be boating operations in the plans, but no-one really knows what that covers.

"It will be very sad to see the boats go. A lot of people have enjoyed travelling in them and seeing the sights. A lot of local ladies will be sad too as many started their waitressing careers in Eirlys, our restaurant boat. We've had her since e started in 1982."

Peter's contribution to the North Wales local tourism industry was recognised when he received a special award at the recent Go North Wales Tourism Awards.

Organisers said people like Peter were the backbone of the booming visitor economy and he would be sorely missed.

As well as fond memories of shuttling daytrippers across the “stream in the sky” for more than a quarter of a century, Peter recalls visits from celebrities and TV crews keen to capture the breathtaking scenery 127 feet above the Dee valley.

TV naturalist Iolo Williams and Countryfile's Julia Bradbury as well as John Craven and Michaela Strachan are among those who have visited Jones the Boats.

"I would have carried on and I was quite happy to do so as my son was in the business. He's having to look for employment elsewhere as are all the others," revealed Peter.

"I had a 25-year-lease, but it is up at the end of March. It does seem odd that I didn't get a look-in when we were operating trip boats. Other attractions like the Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich have a trip boat."

The Trevor Basin Area Masterplan has earmarked a new visitor centre around the aquaduct, built by Thomas Telford, while the plans include facilities for private boaters and boating businesses as well as footpaths, cycleways and extra car parking.

After taking a short break Peter says he and his wife, Rosemary, will look for something else to occupy their retirement.

But first he is inviting offers for his beloved boats and hopes to find someone with a similar commitment.

Restaurant boat Eirlys is his oldest vessel. The 70ft narrowboat is around 40 years old and comes equipped for dining with 48 seats/tables, while Tommy is a 65ft boat with 20 seats and tables.

Anyone interested should call Peter on 07775 840444.