Walk from Ty Newydd to Brecon Basin
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is set in Brecon Beacons National Park with the Black Mountains as a spectacular backdrop. This is Welsh walking - a 5.6km waterside trail in the company of mountains and sheep, with the taste of real air to feed your boots.
The ‘Mon & Brec’ is isolated from the main canal network, leaving an intimate cohort of boats roaming to and fro at will. Once busy with boats laden with coal and iron, the canal now offers a relaxing escape, with wildlife to spot and birdsong in its trees and hedgerows.
Canal: Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal
Start: Storehouse Bridge OS Grid ref: SO085258 Postcode: LD3 7LJ
Finish: Brecon Basin OS Grid ref: SO047282 Postcode: LD3 7EY
Distance: 5.6km / 3.5 miles
Start: Head down to the canal and turn right along the towpath under Storehouse Bridge 158 (the B4558).
1. Your surroundings are moored boats on the opposite side of the canal and fields heading up the hill to a line of trees beyond the towpath’s lush hedgerow. The National Park’s highest peak, Pen y Fan, soars over the canal behind you.
2. Just beyond the beautiful stone bridge 159, the canal curves around the glorious setting of Cambrian Cruisers’ boatyard at Ty Newydd, overlooked by Pen y Fan’s distinctive flat peak. As you walk past the marina, turn to soak in 360-degree views around you, across fields of sheep to the Brecon Beacons peaks beyond.
3. The canal now runs through a dappled wooded stretch, with glimpses of the River Usk below to your right. Pen y Fan peeps through trees on the opposite bank. Keep your eyes peeled for herons, kingfishers and perhaps even a water vole or otter.
4. At Turn Bridge 162, cross the bridge then go through the gate to rejoin the towpath on the opposite side. On the bridge is a diamond-shaped signpost, one of many on the Mon & Brec Canal. A world without cars seems inconceivable today, yet of course canals preceded our carbon-burning polluters. With the arrival of the motor car, new pressure was put on bridges originally constructed for foot passengers or horse and cart. These signposts warned drivers of these new-fangled motors to be aware of the weight limit.
5. Passing popular moorings, the canal crosses Brynich Aqueduct. Built by engineer Thomas Dadford in 1797, the four-arched aqueduct elegantly carries the canal over the River Usk below.
6. The canal turns sharply westwards to Brynich Lock and lock house. A short detour along the road takes you to the bridge over the River Usk now on your left to see Brynich Aqueduct from a different perspective. Cross over the road and through the gate to rejoin the towpath next to the lock. The Taff Trail Cycle Route joins the canal towpath here.
7. The towpath is cooled under a canopy of trees on both sides, lush green in summer and ablaze with colour in the autumn. Occasional benches invite you to linger a while and listen out for soaring buzzards or red kites. Just before bridge 164, a conveniently placed bench has its back to the canal, facing one of the best views on the canal network - open country down to the River Usk and across to the mountains.
8. Road noise briefly intrudes as you walk under the busy A40, but soon quietens again. At Watton Wharf’s picnic area, a wooden statue of a horse pulling a tram tells some of the canal’s history. Limestone quarried in the hills was brought in boats along the canal. The rock was unloaded into burning hot limekilns (remains of these kilns are nearby on the canal side) to be broken down into quicklime, and transferred to barrels to be loaded onto waiting carts for transportation.
9. Go through the wooden stile and gate just beyond the wharf, taking care as the towpath shares a short stretch of road past Watton Bridge 165. The canal’s sloping grassy banks and a backdrop of houses signify your arrival into Brecon. Brecon is renowned for embracing the outdoors with cycling, hiking, scrambling, kayaking, caving, pony trekking and much more.
END: Beyond Dadford’s Bridge 167, moored boats indicate the walk’s end in Brecon Basin with a welcome café in the canalside theatre. Day boats for hire and a trip boat offer an alternative way to retrace some of your route.