Saturday, January 02, 2016

Escape to Brecon beacons

I couldn't agree more Michael McIntyre that the last week of the year is the most confused one. You don't know what day it is, you don't know what is expected from you, this week and if you are in UK you obviously don't know how the weather gonna be. Although all the above were true, we actually knew one thing for sure, an escape definitely on the cards. After some deliberation and debate over location we found our escape: Talybont-on-usk, a small village near the bank of River Usk in South Wales. A small quiet village with loads of walks did fit our bill. So we packed our bags and started our journey...

Travel to Talybont-on-Usk
Its ages since I wrote a  travelogue. Hence let me say things have changed. "Us" now means its me and my wife along with others! and now in this land I can drive hence, the choices of escape has improved. Its nearly 2.5-3 hrs. drive to South Wales from Caversham. It was on Boxing day and we set off bit late in the day and found relatively empty M4. We took the toll road, and went straight to Wales. A40 to Usk valley was quite scenic.


Malt house in Talybont-on-Usk
Loft room in this 1820 built house
We had booked a family run B&B accommodation, Malt house in Talybont. Its a nice place, and river Caerfanell flows almost through the property, we could hear noise from the flowing river sleeping on the cosy bed. Weather on this part of UK during winter is quite unpredictable and we had prepared ourselves to the fact that we might have to stay indoor for few days. However to our surprise it wasn't that bad when we arrived in Talybont-on-Usk in the afternoon.

Remains of 200 years old Tramroad
       Its a village with loads of activities: few pubs, one river, one old Canal and several bike and walking routes and with some rich history. One particularly interested me, the history of tramways and the train road around the the valley, none of them are there at present but their existences are wrapped around the village. Tramways ran before 1850s, as popularity of the train grew, the tram line came to an halt in the second half of the 19th century, the train line experienced the same fate in the second half of 20th century when running train services in that part of Wales became non profitable! The waterway canal is also very old and heard stories about breaches once in a while, still its a tourist attraction and probably that is still keeping it alive. 

The walk
Walking route (map here)

Valley from Binnore Tramroad
One of the popular tourist attraction near Talybont-on-usk is ~400 meter long reservoir on Caerfanell river. The walk to the reservoir from Talybont is through the scenic Usk valley. we decided to take the Taff trail starting behind the white hart inn. This trail actually followed the old Brinnore Tramroad , although there are no tracks, but stones laid for the track are still there, we took that trail to go to the reservoir. Weather on 29th December was beautiful, a day before the storm Frank hit Wales. The trail passes through the scenic valleys, farms which forms the landscape. After initial climb for 15 min, the trail was pretty flat and easy. Saturated ground was bit of a pain, still in winter, a quiet trail with fantastic weather was already a rarity. The reservoir took almost 45-60 min. In the middle the trail bisects; we could either decide to go along the Taff trail or go to the reservoir, we did something in between. Reservior was not a huge one but of decent size to produce clean energy for the area. It was full. Again scenic Brecon hills surrounds the area.
Valley from the reservoir

Talybont reservior
From the reservoir we decided to follow the MTB bike trail crossing the Aber village. This is a asphalt road through the farms and straight climb till we reached the end of the asphalt road.
River Clydach flows along side the trail, rarely in India I had an opportunity to see a river from start to finish in couple of hours! well, Clydach gave us that opportunity, which we declined to take! After the road ended there are couple of farm house and multiple farm gates with direction for the bikers. Once we made to the soft ground, the over-saturated soft trail made
the walking bit challenging, but the trail was beautiful. We had to cross couple of small stream and Clydach. Eventually the trail lead us to another road inside the woods, we got to see a glimpse of Brecon's forest if not a full fledged forest walk. We wanted to complete the MTB trail, however it was already getting darker, even a sunny day couldn't be stretched beyond 16:00 . So we decided to the head back to Talybont through the farms. This stretch of the walk presented a different landscape. Fading sun brightening up before setting washed  the valley and painted it golden, rain soaked valley was soaking the sun, we too, it was blissful! Although farm animals didn't particularly enjoyed our alien chorus songs, we loved their presence. It was time to call the best walk of the year a day. We walked back to Talybont crossing the Canal and back to our hotel. The complete walk, with breaks took us around 4 hours and it was nearly 7.5 miles. 


Although few, pubs in Talybont are quite well known. On the first evening we had food in the All star inn,  appeared to be quite a popular place among the locals. Food was almost home cooked, fresh and tasty with very friendly staff. We had supper in white hart inn the next day. Food was as good as the all star. We dont know it was especially for that specific day, we were told the kitchen would close at 19:30. Price in both places were similar and we felt pretty reasonable.
Description of wonderful food wouldn't be complete if I dont mention the awesome breakfast that we had in the Malthouse. Heavy English breakfast with fresh juices, eggs and Honey from the farm, you cant ask for more. Thanks Mike for that.

Way back

Storm Frank had hit the shore in the night and the only option for us was to head back to Caversham. Although I thought drive through treacherous roads wont be nice but wasn't that bad. Because they were mostly empty untill we hit M4. 

we ended the year filled with tranquillity, it was a trip worth making and would love to come back to one of the breathing space of Britain