Stormy Sunday Stroll

Usk Reservoir Walks

Wandering down towards the Usk Reservoir

I guess after our experiences so far, the title might be a more apt name for our Community Walks!

9 hardy souls ventured out on Sunday, all well equipped and ready for a couple of hours of thorough testing out of waterproofs and boots. In fairness, only around 30 minutes were actually spent out on the open moorland, experiencing a thoroughly natural and very efficient exfoliation from the elements, with plenty of shelter in the forestry for the rest of the walk and a change of start point to ensure some added shelter at the start and finish.

To quote local Brecon Beacons Ambassador, Carole Gledhill:

There is some perverse kind of pleasure in being out on open moorland in this kind of weather. Not sure why but there it is, that’s what we experienced on the community walk this afternoon! I expect it was the good company.

Initially venturing through Aled’s “20 metres of mud”, the route took us North of the Usk Reservoir, heading swiftly to the edge of the forestry and a brief description of the many hidden elements of Mynydd Myddfai and the Roman Road over Mynydd Bach Trecastell including ancient earthworks, cairns and the Roman Marching camps at Y Pigwn and Waun Ddu – the walking with Romans app is available from the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android)

brecon beacons mountain ponies

Mountain Ponies doing their best in the weather

Having being ignored by some equally unimpressed mountain ponies, we ventured over the moorland, eventually dropping back into the forestry some 100 metres from Physician’s well – try finding this spot without some local knowledge – where a few braved a taste of the healing waters.

Now nicely sheltered from the wind and drizzle, we wandered through the forestry, witnessing some brief views above the reservoir itself, before the cars and some dry conditions appeared.

Sadly we were finished too early to visit the Castle Coaching Inn, though we would like to take this opportunity to wish John, the landlord well as he goes into hospital for surgery this week.

Let’s hope for better health for John and better weather for our next walk on Sunday 30th March, details will be posted here.

Physician's Well usk reservoir

Usk Reservoir and Physician’s Well route map

Thanks to all that came along, we hope other’s will join us when the weather improves…..no wonder the Roman’s went home!

Reconstruction on the Roman fortlet at Waun Ddu:

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Community Walks 2014

Usk Reservoir Car Park

Car Park next to the Usk Reservoir

The next Community Walk is on Sunday 23rd February 2014, starting from the Usk Reservoir Car Park and Picnic area at 2.00pm.

Sunday 23rd February – Meet at 2.00pm

Usk Reservoir Car Park

This month’s route takes us out on to Mynydd Myddfai, exploring the wilder side of the Upper Usk Valley area, with stunning panoramic views over the Towy and Usk Valley’s as well as tempting glances towards the Carmarthen Fans and the source of the Usk itself.

Dropping down off the common, we will enter the shelter of the forestry surrounding the Usk Reservoir, stumbling across the hidden Physician’s Well, the renowned healing water’s used the Physician’s of Myddfai, before trekking back through the forestry above the reservoir, quietly enjoying the peace and hopefully seeing woodcock, jay’s and woodpeckers on our return to the Car Park.

Some of the route involves walking on open moorland, therefore boots or wellies are required, the open moorland can be cold, so wrapping up warm is advisable, you may also want to bring a small drinking vessels if you feel like braving the water’s of the Physician’s Well.

Post walk gathering will be at the Castle Coaching Inn, Trecastle, where they may be the opportunity to warm up next to the open fire.

These free walks are being organised by Trecastle based activity provider – Expeditions Wales who run walking and camping activities for well over a 1000 people a year – so you’re in safe hands!

Upper Usk Valley Community Walks

Upper Usk Valley Community Walks

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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