A narrowboat legend was honoured at a glittering ceremony to celebrate a record year in the North Wales tourism industry.
Over the years Peter Jones, proprietor of Jones the Boats, has ferried tens of thousands of passengers over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which is a World Heritage Site.
But after more than 25 years, the 83-year-old has decided to retire and he was given a Special Recognition Award at the Go North Wales Tourism Awards.
According to organisers North Wales Tourism, people like Peter were the backbone of the booming visitor economy and he would be sorely missed.
Revenue from tourism had rocketed to £3.2 billion, visitor numbers were at an all-time high and £100 million of investment was being ploughed into the region to make it an even more attractive destination.
Peter, who was based in the Trevor Basin, near Llangollen, has many fond memories from more than a quarter of a century of traversing Thomas Telford’s masterpiece and the Llangollen Canal.
The UNESCO-listed aqueduct known as the “stream in the sky” carries a thin ribbon of boats and water all the way across the Dee Valley at heights of up to 127ft above the valley.
At Pontcysyllte, it’s a bit of a squeeze, being only four inches wider than a narrowboat’s regulation 6ft 10in.
Over the years Peter has become something of a TV star and has clocked up TV and radio appearances on programmes like Countryfile and Border Country.
But he was utterly speechless when he was called to stage to receive his award.
Peter said: “I came as a guest and had absolutely no idea. I’m retiring but along with my wife Rosemary, I’ll find something to do, you can’t just stop.
“We ran two canal boats, Rosemary and I. As well as running trips across the Pontcysyllte aqueduct we had a dinner boat. I can say in all honesty that our Sunday lunch trips were legendary.
“I’m going to miss it but time moves on and perhaps it’s time to do something else. Rosemary and I are going to have some free time we can spend together and we will be out and about enjoying North Wales ourselves.
“I have to thank our staff. We employed 12 people and everyone has worked so hard. This is a wonderful, if unexpected, award.”
There was glory too for the Plassey Holiday Park, in Eyton, near Wrexham, who won the Go Best Caravan, Camping or Glamping Award.
The judges felt Plassey offered visitors the ultimate in luxury when it came to outstanding accommodation and five-star leisure facilities.
Managing director John Brookshaw, says the holiday park which is nestled in 250 acres of park and woodland in the picture perfect Dee Valley, is going from strength to strength.
He said: “The last two years we have put in a huge amount of work developing our obvious potential. This award comes courtesy of a fantastic team effort with everyone determined to give our visitors the best experience possible.
“We employ 62 staff and everyone is committed to being the best we can possibly be. This award means so much and I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved.”
Jim Jones, the managing director of North Wales Tourism which represents more than 1,500 members, said: “The sheer volume and quality of entries this year has underlined why North Wales is increasingly being recognised as a truly world class destination.
“I would like to congratulate all the winners but I would also like to stress that all the nominees have played an absolutely vital role in wat has been a phenomenally successful year for tourism in North Wales.
“This event really showcases the very best of North Wales and we have seen so many amazing entries.
“It is a clear indication to me that the quality of the tourism offer here is improving every year.
“We already had the raw material in the form of our breath-taking scenery and stunning coastline and now we have the infrastructure to match.
“We are not resting on our laurels though. The competition will not stand still so we must always strive to get better year on year.”
The Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, was delighted to be there.
He said: “I’m delighted to join the north Wales tourism industry in celebrating the best of what the area has to offer – the winners and finalists for the awards do an exceptional job of putting Wales on the map and giving people reasons to choose Wales as a holiday destination. Da iawn bawb – Llongyfarchiadau.”