HUNDREDS of people enjoyed a free event to thank the community for all their help following an arson attack at a Newport canal centre.

The heritage weekend at Fourteen Locks Canal Centre was opened by Newport mayor John Guy, and featured free heritage walks, boat and steam train rides, face-painting and other activities for all the family.

The centre ran the free event to say thanks to all the groups which helped the centre to get back on its feet following a fire at the end of last year, which caused £66,000 worth of damage.

Phil Hughes, the canal centre manager, said: "This weekend’s events were a thank you to the local community for all their help following the fire.

"It’s been a fantastic day, really, really good. I couldn’t even tell you how many people turned up, but it’s been hundreds. The place has been absolutely heaving with people, it’s been manic.

"We’ve had three of the volunteers facepainting all day and they haven’t been able to stop, not even for a cup of tea.

"The whole centre has just been overrun with families. The local WI and scouts have had their own stalls up in the centre too, which is good as it gives them the chance to raise some money for their various projects.

"We just can’t thank everyone enough."

The Canal and Heritage Centre was originally built as a musuem in the late 1970s at the top of a unique stretch of 14 locks along the canal, and has been run by volunteers of the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust since 2000.

Thanks to the help of the local WI, scouts and schools in the area, who helped in the clear-up and created new decorations, the centre managed to open just six weeks after the fire. A man was jailed for the arson in March this year.