TOTAL LOCKS: 0 - 2
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 7 HOURS (14 HOURS IN TOTAL)
This journey is a blaze of colours that change with the seasons under its intimate tree-lined route. A quiet commune with nature, but it’s not just that. Remains of kilns and tram roads remember times when coal, iron and limestone were brought to the canal from the hills. The forces of the Industrial Revolution were loaded onto boats to be transported by canal down to sea ports to then be hurled across oceans to the world beyond.
The marina at Goytre Wharf is set in a huge woodland site with glimpses of sheep-filled fields through the trees (the name itself means ‘place in the woods’). On the edge of Blaenavon Industrial Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site, Goytre Wharf has some of the best preserved limekilns, now Grade II-listed, used to create lime from coal & limestone. The canal and wharf here once teemed with canal boats being loaded with the finished product.
Heading northwards, trees line the canal as it hugs the hillside before countryside views over the valley of the River Usk open up to the east. These are big views with mountains, cormorants, red kites, sheep and rolls of Welsh grass.
Llanfoist Wharf is where the Blaenavon World Heritage Site meets the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal. Arriving at Llanfoist Wharf today is like discovering an oasis in the middle of the woods, a leafy cocoon humming with peace. It’s hard at first glance to imagine this historic wharf was once a flurry of less leisurely activity, and to see this canal as a busy export route to Newport.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution, iron and coal were transported from the ironworks at Blaenavon along horse-operated tram roads down to the canal, and then stored in canalside warehouses before being loaded onto canal boats. The wharves and canal at both Llanfoist and Govilon form part of the Blaenavon World Heritage Site. Blaenavon was once one of the world's most important producers of iron, coal and steel. If you cross beneath the canal at the Wharf, it is possible to follow tracks of the former tram roads up into the hills and join the circular Iron Mountain Trail around major industrial sites of the World Heritage Site.
The canal continues through a wooded cutting before reaching Govilon where lines of moored boats indicate your arrival at Govilon Boat Club and Bailey’s Warehouse at the former terminus of another tram road from Nantyglo Ironworks.
Another wooded stretch leads towards Gilwern where the main A465 ‘Heads of the Valleys’ road noisily encroaches. Once under the main road at bridge 102 and round the corner, peace is restored as you approach this busy village, with its boatyard and pubs. The canal disappears into the trees again until glorious views open out by bridge 110. Look out for the giant Redwood tree just beyond bridge 113 – its trunk is so huge you’ll struggle to stretch halfway round in a hug.
Moored boats surround the historic buildings and limekilns at Llangattock Wharf. Limestone was brought down by tram road from the quarries above then loaded onto canal boats. The canal is once again engulfed by trees with glimpses of scenery beyond. Follow the path from bridge 116 or 117 through Llangattock and across a field to reach the main road and river bridges. It’s then a short hop across the stone-arched bridge over the River Usk to the pretty market town of Crickhowell (described as the ‘glittering jewel in the vale’). The bridge is Grade I-listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument – there has been a bridge on this site since medieval times and it is claimed as the longest stone-arched bridge in Wales. It is also unusual in having 12 arches on one side and 13 on the other (a quirk created in the 1820s by combining two of the arches on the upstream side into one!)
Once you have taken time to explore the cultural and shopping highlights of Crickhowell, it’s time to head back to the boat to continue along the wooded route to Llangynidr. Your choice here is whether to turn the boat just before bridge 131 and take a leisurely walk up the lock flight to the well-placed pub, or enjoy the experience of working through the first lock before turning to retrace your journey back to Goytre Wharf.
Max: 5 People
Max: 8 People