Having just concluded an enjoyable, though somewhat eventful seven day vacation on the “Mon and Brec” canal (short of Monmouthshire and Brecon) I thought I’d write a little piece about the enjoying seeing Britain at what is very much the “macro” level – at 2.5mph or slower! I’ve also attached some better quality photos taken with a camera rather than the earlier ones taken with my blackberry!
The Mon & Brec’s claim to fame is that its the only canal on the system that is not connected in any way to any of the other canals in Britain. Built some 250 years ago to serve the burgeoning Industrial Revolution in South Wales, the canal carried limestone south to Newport and the coast returning with materials, goods and even cattle.
The current navigable length is some 35 miles from the market town of Brecon in the north to Pontypool, just north of the M4 highway in the south. Most canals in my experience are built in valleys or through flat areas so, unusually, the “Mon and Brec” maintains its altitude by following the contour of the mountain from initially running east to Abergavenny and then south to Pontypool.
Besides the sheer beauty of the landscape, the attraction of the “Mon and Brec” is that there are just five of the dreaded “locks” in the 35 mile stretch which makes it suitable for a beginner. There are also a couple of aqueducts and the 350yd Ashford tunnel that is just four feet high. So it has all the traditional features of an old canal but its pretty easy for the novice “Barge Captain” to navigate. The canal is, however, often narrow, shallow and winding calling for considerable powers of concentration even though you will only be travelling at around 2.5mph! You must remember you have a 40-55ft boat, a narrow channel and even a text message can send you into the side bank and calling for your “crew” to fend off with poles etc.
Most evenings along the route you will find yourself moored up near a pub although other nights you may find there is no pub or store nearby and you will find yourself cooking dinner, literally in the middle of nowhere as you will see from the photos, with no other people and absolute silence except, at dawn, the birds ! And while on the subject of wildlife there was proliferation of squirrels and we even saw mink, while amongst the birdlife included many ducks, colourful kingfishers and herons.
The weather in the third week of October was fantastic – jus a little rain on Tuesday afternoon but otherwise dry, usually sunny and brrrrrrrr at night ! But the boat had a brilliant furnace and was really cosy in the evenings !
So, if you fancy visiting Britain but not trying to see literally everything the country has to offer in a week, this is a relaxing break and a good way to mix with the “locals”. But its not without its perils…..Gladys, the dog, fell in as a result of her obsession with squirrels and I managed to fall in too…very embarrassing!! There’s more of that in my Blog if you’re interested !
The company I used was www.cambriancruisers.co.uk based near Brecon – contact JONATHAN or CAMILLA on +44 1874 665315 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lets Tour England
The Narrowboat + Gladys the dog!
The Boat in the morning mist
Just before sun up
Sunrise on the Mon and Brec
Wow – what a place to wake up?
Early morning on the Mon + Brec
Mon & Brec Canal
Monmouth & Brecon Canal
Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
Bridge 69 on the Mon & Brec
Looking down and across the valley on the Mon & Brec
Entering Ashford Tunnel on the Mon & Brec Canal
Ashford Tunnel on the Mon & Brec Canal – 350yds long!
Electric Drawbridge at Talybont-on-Usk
Aqueduct on the Mon + Brec
It seems so wierd floating 100ft above the river!
The dreaded locks
The lock near Brecon