We recently completed the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in the form of a 45 mile walk over 4 days that took us through some outstanding Welsh countryside including the Brecon Beacons National Park. Starting at Brecon, the main waterway makes its way south, following the River Usk for much of its journey, to the city of Newport.
There is also a branch of the canal called the Crumlin Arm which historically allowed passage of boats from Crumlin Basin down to Newport. The northern most part of this branch has been infilled to allow construction of the Crumlin Viaduct and then later the A467 road. We spent our fourth day completing the Crumlin Arm having finished the main canal on the first three days.
We arrived at Brecon by bus, having first taken the train to Abergavenny, to start our 13 mile walk on day one.
The area around the canal basin was thriving with visitors; there is a busy community arts centre, which houses the town’s theatre and a cafe. There were also boats for hire and many locals enjoying a stroll along the waterway.
We set off along the towpath, admiring all the canalside property as we went. An information board told us that the canal at Brecon was completed in 1800 and was mainly used to ship coal, limestone and lime and also timber, crops and beer. In one direction the canal connected the town with industrial Newport, and in the other direction, a tramway linked it with Hay-on-Wye in Herefordshire. Sadly the waterway was only used for about a hundred and fifteen years before the highly successful railway system rendered it obsolete.
Shortly after this we passed under the A40 bridge and found ourselves in a much more rural setting, with the Brecon hills visible in the distance. The river Usk runs alongside the canal at this point and we took a short detour down the bank to get a closer look at a pretty weir we had noticed from the towpath.
Back on the path, we arrived at the first lock of the journey, Brynich Lock. Here the canal passes under the road, and you can turn right to walk over the river bridge to give beautiful views of the Usk.
If you look to the East another bridge is visible – after returning to the canal path we found out that this is an aqueduct allowing canal boats to pass over the river.
It was a beautiful day and our trail passed through shady forested areas alongside open fields and past many wildflowers. We saw several narrowboats as well and before long reached a marina, whose entrance was guarded by two nesting swans. Just after this we were lucky enough to see a heron who had made a nest in an abandoned barge.
The adventure continues on the next page, click below…