IT'S the only floating tea room in Gwent - and now the cafe on a barge at Pontymoile Basin is getting a much-needed facelift.

The Marina Tea Room is a popular spot with tourists and walkers alongside the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, but it is so small that only up to eight people can squeeze into it at one time.

In summer, its owners Susan Phillips and Steve Rowlands put up outdoor seating for hundreds of visitors who come from as far afield as China, Germany, France and Spain to enjoy a Welsh cake or bowl of cawl at the side of the canal.

Now, it is closed until February for a £2,000 facelift - laying new flooring inside the tea room and ensuring the boat remains weather-proof externally.

Mr Rowlands, 53, and his partner bought the barge tea room five years ago. He had spent 30 years as at BAE Systems in nearby Glascoed.

But after a holiday to Tenerife which the couple did not enjoy, they decided to take their breaks on the water, buying a small crusier for the canal.

They loved the life so much that when the previous owners of the cafe, which has been at the basin for around ten years, sold up, they decided to give running it a go.

"It was by accident," said Mr Rowland. "It was one of these things that crept up. We did it as a trial run and it went from there.

"I was a team leader at BAE Systems, so it was a huge change for me.

"We would not close down for so long if we were having the refurbishment. We get a lot of walkers in here during the winter. Last year, we had a couple of weeks off at the end of December and beginning of January, and opened up again."

The couple have moved into the Toll House, beside the basin. And between March and October, they run day boats for hire on the canal.

"It doesn't matter what season it is, the basin is absolutly georgeous. It's such a beautiful place," said Ms Phillips "You come into the basin and its a different world."

She says many people are surprised when they find the basin - hidden in a corner of Pontypool. She said many more people are coming to know about the area though, the Ms Phillips says the area could compete with Usk and Abergavenny for tourists.

"We have so much in Pontypool - we've got the ski slope, the museum. It really should be advertised a lot more," she said.