What is your favourite wild flower?

Chances are many people would vote for the beautiful nodding bells of Endymion non-scriptus, the much beloved Bluebell. At their absolute best right now in the month of May. The Upper Usk Valley probably has more than its fair share of fantastic bluebell woods and if you are in the area do seek them out and be amazed by both the sight and scent of these wonderful flowers. Particularly associated with ancient woodland it is protected under UK law and should not be picked or uprooted.

Bluebell flowers are rich in pollen and nectar, and are chiefly pollinated by bumblebees. Bluebells synthesise a wide range of chemicals with potential medicinal properties.

Did you know?…..In the Bronze Age, people used bluebell glue to attach feathers to their arrows. Bluebell sap was used to bind pages to the spines of books and the Victorians used the starch from crushed bluebells to stiffen the ruffs of their collars and sleeves!

These images were taken in the Crai Bluebell Woods by Carole Gledhill.

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Click on the link if you would like some more details about the fascinating bluebell.

 

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A walk on the wild (weather) side

Brecon Beacons Walks, Upper Usk Valley

Upper Usk Valley Community Walk Group

Our first Community Walk completed, big thanks to the 18 people who extracted themselves from the cosy surroundings of home, especially after a stormy Sunday morning.

A very pleasant mix of people came along, covering all ages and with some having travelled from Llanwrtyd Wells and Brecon to join us in our scenic surroundings. The route took in an ancient track past Maesydd Farm to the weir at Abersenni, with the Afon Senni flowing at an impressive rate.

It was then up to Twyn y Gaer – an iron age hill fort overlooking Defynnog & Sennybridge and offering great views over the Central Beacons and the Carmarthen Fans as well as the Senni & Crai Valleys, and unfortunately some great views of the incoming weather too!

Brecon Beacons Walking

Hail storm hurry’s group to Pub!

The exploration of the fort itself was cut short by some ominous grey clouds and we descended the final part of the route back to the Tanners Arms, Defynnog with the accompaniment of a hailstorm, sleet and even a clap of thunder, which made for a complete contrast to an hour or so of pleasant sunshine!

You can see more photo’s from the walk on our Upper Usk Valley Facebook Page.

Very pleasant to have everyone’s company and that everyone enjoyed – we look forward to the next walk on February 23rd in Trecastle.

Defynnog Walks

Twyn y Gaer Walk Route

Dark Skies in Winter

With the iminent return of BBC’s Stargazing Live we thought we’d share some of our own dark meteor showerskies experiences in the Upper Usk Valley, part of Brecon Beacons National Park.

The long nights mean that the planets, stars and moon become visible from early on, within a few hours of darkness, clear skies can produce an amazing show, with many of the more famous constellations at their height during the winter months.

In the Upper Usk Valley, we have the 2 darkest locations within the Brecon Beacons Dark Skies Reserve area, so where better to witness these wonderful overnight shows and to discover more about the dark skies around us, with clear views and very little light pollution.

Not only are the stars in clear view, but December offers a great opportunity to see meteor showers (or shooting stars) with this year’s Geminid Meteor Shower peaking on the 13th & 14th December.

Taking advantage of some clear skies, Carole Gledhill of Madog Fechan Barn, a Brecon Beacons National Park ambassador explains more…..

One of the absolute joys of living in the Upper Usk Valley (UUV) is the lack of light pollution and easy access to sheltered spots from which to observe the night skies. Brecon Beacons National Park recently became only the fifth destination in the world to be granted prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve status and Crai was awarded Dark Sky Discovery Site, Milky Way Class recognition in 2012. You can find out more about the Dark Skies movement at www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk

The Upper Usk Valley is very fortunate to have several Dark Sky Ambassadors residing within its boundaries and many accommodation providers have equipped their properties with telescopes and binoculars. It is hoped to host stargazing events in the UUV in 2014.

What sort of events would you like to see happen?

At certain times of the year the stargazer can look forward to meteor showers and last weekend it was the turn of the spectacular Geminids, named after the Gemini constellation, the direction from which its parent asteroid, 3200 Phaethon, originates. As this asteroid passes close to the Earth, bits of debris will crumble in the upper edges of the atmosphere, vaporising as lights in the sky.

We set ourselves up late at night outside Madog Fechan Barn in Crai, wrapped up warmly and seated on deckchairs, just the right angle for viewing the stars! No need for telescope or binoculars, the meteors were very bright and easy to spot streaking across the sky. We do provide 4 pairs of astronomy quality binoculars for our guests to use, along with insulated mugs and blankets to make the experience more comfortable. Then it was just a matter of turning our backs to the moon and allowing our eyes to become accustomed to the dark and we didn’t have long to wait to enjoy the spectacle of reportedly, 100 and 120 meteors every hour at its peak, although unfortunately a number were obscured by patchy clouds and we weren’t counting anyway!

Did anyone else catch the Geminids this year?

Why not share your experience here?

Having quality dark skies is as much an attraction to residents and tourists as it is a massive boost for tourism operators in the Upper Usk Valley. Do your bit and keep outside lighting to a minimum to help preserve our wonderful dark skies.

Click Here to find our more about the stargazing events in 2014 maybe an ideal time to plan a visit to the Upper Usk Valley and witness these incredible spectacles!

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