Seeing more of the UK has been on my to do list for quite a while now, so as soon as a rare sunny day came along it was time to start putting my plan into action. The family and I headed to Goytre Wharf, not far from Abergavenny in South Wales, for a leisurely but beautiful afternoon stroll…
Starting off at the Wharf, you can choose to head left in the Llanfoist direction or the opposite way to Pontypool, following a section of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal; this historic channel dates back to the very early 1800s and was originally used to transport ore between the ironworks and the forges. Nowadays it’s a lot more tranquil with canoes, barges and small boats using the waterway to meander through the Brecon Beacons National Park, but it also passes through Blaenavon where the industrial landscape (including the canal) was given World Heritage Site status in 2000 due to it’s historical importance.
There’s a selection of routes you can go on that all start at the Wharf, including a circular one hour traipse past the Saxon Church and Baptistry, through Goytre Hill Wood and back along the fields that line the sides of the canal. For those looking for a bigger challenge, the Wharf website offers a map of 8 mile and 14 mile routes – you might need more than an hour for those though!
If you’re not fussed about following a set plan however, just wandering along the towpath and turning back when you fancy is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. The paths were filled with cyclists as well as families enjoyed a stroll, and there’s a bike hire area at the Wharf if you prefer to explore on two wheels rather than two feet…
One of the nicest things about following the canal was seeing rural Wales and the animals and plants that live there; on a two hour round trip we spotted butterflies, herons, fish, dragonflies, wild flowers, blackberries, ducks, and, of course, sheep. Other visitors have also caught sight of the electric blue kingfisher, and looking out over the fields to the hills beyond is a reminder of how you don’t always have to go far to find beautiful scenery.
There’s even a cattery that looks out onto the river, but I’m not sure that counts as wildlife…
When you’re done walking, stop back off at Goytre Wharf and take advantage of the Waterfront Cafe, serving everything from golden toasted sandwiches to the traditional fish and chips on the specials board. If you’ve brought a picnic there’s plenty of space to sit, eat and watch the barges moor up in the basin.
It’s worth having a quick peek at the remnants of the old lime kilns near the cafe, still intact and well preserved – some even still have the holes at the top where the coal and limestone were poured back in the day. A statue now stands there of the workers that would’ve been busy in the kilns in the 19th century, and does well to remind you of just how much history and industry the South Wales area really does have on offer.
I can’t wait to do some more exploring of the area and the rest of the UK – I get so caught up going on lovely trips abroad, but often forget (and take for granted!) all of the beauty spots there are right on my doorstep.