March 2014 Community Walk

Upper Usk Valley Community Walks

Spring is officially here, so perhaps we may be blessed with some reasonable weather for the next Community Walk?

Sunday 30th March 2014 – meet at 2.00pm: Crai Village Hall

Continuing our tour of the Upper Usk Valley area, the next walk is based from Crai, taking in Fforest Fach hill and the Crai Valley.

Starting from Crai Village Hall, the route will take us along ancient bridleways and tracks, above the old Neath to Brecon railway, the embankments and bridge foundations of which are clearly visible as you turn into Crai. The Fforest Fach hill itself, sits above Cwm Crai and Cwm Treweryn, which both show evidence of glacial formation.

The Northern summit of Fforest Fach overlooks Sennybridge and Defynnog and offer’s views of the Crai, Senni and of course Usk Valley itself. Please follow the Facebook Page Upper Usk Valley for updates.

Cray - Google Maps

Crai and Fforest Fach Google Satellite View

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Around the Usk Reservoir

Upper usk Valley

The route around the reservoir

Any visit to the Upper Usk Valley is a delight with so many natural features including majestic mountains and meandering rivers and hidden lanes. One man made attraction has to be a visit to the Usk reservoir. Straddling the county boundaries of Powys and Carmarthenshire, the Usk reservoir sits in the shadow of the mighty Black Mountain/Mynydd Du. It is one of the great secrets of the west of the national park. Traditionally the majority of visitors go to either the central beacons or the east of the park. To the more discerning visitor there are so many gems to be discovered in the area known as the Upper Usk Valley and one of these is the reservoir itself. This area is far more remote and often bypassed by visitors who stick to the main roads. So there can be days when on a walk you rarely meet a soul.

The reservoir takes its name from the embryonic River Usk /Afon Wysg, which rises on the northern slopes of the Black mountain about two kilometres to the south west. From the reservoir the river flows for about 100 miles past the settlements of Trecastle and Sennybridge and onto Brecon then Abergavenny where it changes directions and heads south to Newport and out into the Severn. The river has played a key role in the shaping of south Wales as a major transport route along with the Brecon to Newport canal. Around the reservoir are several sites of archaeological interest including the Roman marching camp and a spring known as the Physicians Well.

The route around the reservoir can be accessed either from the car parks at the dam head or the forest car park at Pont’ar Wysg on the minor road from Trecastle to Llandeusant. Both are excellent starting points and the Forestry Commission (now known as Natural Resources Wales) along with the national park have excellent information panels. The circular route is on made up track and the ascents and descent are moderate so weather dependant accessible to most visitors. The circular route is just over 8Km or 5 miles. It is both a walking and cycling route and meanders through a mixture of woodland, mainly conifers but also some deciduous trees so there is a mix of habitats and associated wildlife. Recent woodland work has opened up great views of the reservoir and the Black Mountain itself. At the dam head you get a great view eastwards of the Usk Valley and Pen y Fan in the central Beacons and beyond. There are several picnic around the reservoir, so you can stop enjoy the views and have a great picnic too!

One of many picnic areas

One of many picnic areas

The reservoir and the River Usk are well know to fishermen. Along its one hundred miles you can regularly see a wide range of fish including salmon, trout and lampreys. Not surprisingly bird life is rich along the river and the majestic red kites  enjoy high numbers in this area.  A worthwhile extension to any visit to the Usk reservoir has to be a trip to Llandeusant to see the red kite feeding station where during the winter at 2pm and in the summer at 3pm you can see large numbers of these superb birds of prey.

The reservoir is close to the Upper Usk Valley settlements of Trecastle, Crai, Sennybridge and Defynnog where there are a range of quality accommodation including inns and self catering accommodation which are open all year round. Sennybridge has several shops, petrol stations and a post office and visitors are very welcome at the local pubs and Inns.

Chris Gledhill

Upper Usk Valley Signpost

Upper Usk Valley Signpost