Penarth ramblers walk along River Usk looking for Kingfisher

A SECOND attempt by William from Penarth and District Ramblers to spot the elusive Kingfisher along the River Usk resulted in a ‘no show’ but for the eighteen walkers who joined him, a fabulous day’s walking lay ahead.

Beginning from Usk or Brynbuga on a beautiful summer morning they headed out of town passing the ancient Three Salmons Hotel and the remains of the railway station before locating a narrow footpath leading down to the overgrown banks of the River Usk.

This tidal river rises high in the Brecon Beacons before making its way south to eventually reach the Bristol Channel at Uskmouth. 

Pausing to view the newly constructed water extraction plant that feeds water to Llandegfedd Reservoir some two miles to the west, they managed to catch glimpses of the river through the undergrowth spotting wagtails, cormorants and a grey heron.

Walking beside fields on the riverbank they got their first view of Sugar Loaf Mountain away in the distance before heading inland near the impressive Llancayo windmill. Built for Edward Berry, it possibly dates before 1850 when it was used to grind wheat and it has now been lovingly restored and is used as luxury holiday accommodation.

On past the huge solar farm which has zero carbon emissions and is therefore the cleanest form of renewable energy, they crossed the B4598 near Pantycolin Farm heading uphill and into Ash Wood.

Bright sunshine greeted them as they emerged from the wood into a grassy valley for a stop to partake of morning refreshments before the long steady climb to the aptly named Hill Farm.

Catching their breath they were able to enjoy the fantastic views towards Blorenge, Sugar Loaf, Ysgyryd Fawr and the Black Mountains and towards Edmund’s Tump and Garway Hill.

A stile led them into a meadow with a stream and descending they arrived at the pretty15th century church which is dedicated to Saint Aeddan at Bettws Newydd. Entering they were able to view the intricate carved oak rood screen which is over 2,000 years old before returning to the churchyard to view the ancient yew trees.

This native conifer was in Roman times used as an antidote for adder bites and the only part of it which is not poisonous is the red berry which attracts birds. The branches that touch the ground take root so the tree is regenerated, and it is no wonder that the yew was seen as a sign of immortality and also a sacred symbol of Christianity, as often churches were built on sites that already had yew trees.

Making their way into the village and passing the 16th century Black Bear Inn, the quiet lane led them down to Pont Kemeys or Kemeys Bridge also known as the ‘Chain Bridge’.

After the original bridge was washed away by floods in 1690, a solid oak bridge was built only to be replaced in 1829 with an iron bridge held up with sturdy chains hence its nickname. 

Crossing the river and joining part of the Usk Valley Walk they stopped for lunch on the riverbank whilst soaking up the sunshine before William recited a poem entitled ‘All in June’ by his favourite poet W.H. Davies.

Refreshed and continuing their journey through thick riverside undergrowth, a climb led towards the wooded Graig y Pandy and from this position high above the steeply wooded riverbank they were shaded by majestic old oak trees.

Tramping through open fields towards Great Estavarney, they headed downhill and across the brook, then on through Usk Island Park before re-crossing the Usk over the picturesque five-spanned stone river bridge to return to their start point. 

Despite not catching even a quick flash of the electric blue of the Kingfisher they had a great time, so maybe it will have to be third time lucky!

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