The Chainbridge and The Usk Valley (11.5 miles) - By Clifford Strover
This walk covers the Usk Valley walk with a return along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal so has no major climbs but does feature some short inclines and can begin at either the pay and display car park at Goytre Wharf or the free car park in the woods below, which you can access off the A4042 Pontypool to Abergavenny road.
(Note: paragraph numbers and letter relate waypoints on the map)
S – Start at the track just outside of the car park in the woods turn left and walk down to the gate and across the field.
1 - Cross the A4042 taking care as this is a fast and busy road. Cross over the stile and bear right across the field over the stile and into the woods.
2 – When the path meets the forest track turn left along it and follow it to the bottom of the woods. When the track turn hard right at the bottom of the woods look for a footpath on the left.
3 – Emerge from the woods on a minor road, turn right, cross the bridge dated 1931 and take the path on the left cross the field just afterwards. Pass under the railway bridge, pass the sewerage works and keeping left pass down into Mill Farm.
4 – The path becomes unclear through the farm but the OS marks it as keeping left across the fields and past the duck pond. It is then possible to turn left through a gate and onto the farm drive. This follows the path as close as possible to the OS mapping. Follow the farm drive to the road and keep walking down the road. If you choose to visit The Foxhunter Inn it is a short distance back along the road, back past the farm by the railway. Continue down the road cross straight over at the cross roads, passing a very old petrol station on the right. Continue along the road to The Chainbridge. The Chainbridge is so called because it is a form of suspension bridge supported by chains. Cross over The Chainbridge, the Inn is the other side, however before the Inn turn left up the road signposted to Bettws Newydd.
6 - Keep up the hill past a house on the right. As the wood runs out on your left you will see the signpost for the Usk Valley Walk, take this path and follow the Usk Valley Walk north. The walk is clearly marked. The path dips in and out of the woods above the river Usk. Keep to the meadow below the large Bryn-Derwen House and cross back into the woods.
7 – The OS map shows the walk as keeping beside the river however it is sign-posted as passing up higher, passing to the left of Trostrey Lodge. Pass through the gate by the Lodge and keep following the path staying high up. In the field behind the lodge you will come across a ranch style fence which extends across part of the field. Follow the way marks, passing through the left-hand side of this. A few yards later the Usk Valley Walk descends to the left, back into the woods, this happens before the field boundary. At the end of the woods the path becomes a broad track along beside the river with views west to the ridge of Mynydd Garnclochdy and the Blorenge. When the path meets a track turn left and keep alongside the river. This is the edge of the estate of Clytha Castle. There are plenty of benches to sit on and admire the river, which at this point is wide, shallow and in parts noisy.
8 - As the path goes north it re-enters some woods with pleasant meadows on the other side. You will see the path diverge to the right as the river bends left, however keep beside the river on the tracks and follow it as far reasonable. Eventually the path runs out and you will need to follow the road for a short distance. Although this is a minor road it is busy and the vehicles travel at speed so take care. You will however be rewarded with an excellent view of the Sugar Loaf.
9 – As the road turns left you will see a house on your right and a sign post for Llansantffraed Court and a little further on the left a minor road. Turn left down the minor road and follow it to the T junction at the end. You will get your first views of the Skirrid to the North along the road. At the end of the road turn left along the B4598. On the other side of the wide bridge look for the footpath on the right. Follow the path alongside the Usk. To the north you can see along the ridge of the Skirrid.
The river along this stretch up to the railway is popular with anglers and wild swimmers.
11 – As the river arches away to the right go straight across the field picking up the river on the other side. Passing under the power lines but with a good view of both the Blorenge and Sugar Loaf.
12 – Pass under the railway on the other side keep right and follow the track by the river. Do not attempt the marked footpath as it is not passable, the track by the river is a more pleasant path anyway. At the far end of the track at the end of the field look for a stile at the top of a short incline about 100 yards in from the river bank. Cross into the next field and follow the path to the road.
13 – At this point you may wish to take an alternative path though the Llanover Estate, made famous by Lady Augusta Llanover who was a great collector and preserver of Welsh folk culture. There are many stories about her, for example how she made her servants perform traditional Welsh dances to entertain her visitors and how she had a significant input into the traditional Welsh costume. The original hall has been demolished with only the foundations of the stable block remaining. Her husband was Benjamin Hall who oversaw the construction of the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster. Although nobody knows the origin of the name “Big Ben” it is possible that the this may be the source.
I prefer to turn right and follow the path to the church. In the churchyard aim for the corner diagonally opposite to the lynch gate you entered by and follow the path across the fields to the minor road.
14 – Carefully cross the A4042 at the stagger junction, left then right, and follow the path uphill to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. The canal was completed to Brecon in the early 1800s. The last section being financed by Richard Crawshay, one of the family who had significant interests in the iron works on the Blorenge and is one of the Crawshay family famous as industrialists who developed the Welsh Valleys. The canal was thus important to ship the pig iron from Garn Ddyrys, the original iron works, to the docks at Newport.
15 – Turn left on to the canal and follow the towpath to Goytre Wharf.
16 – At the Wharf you may stop for refreshments before following the track back to the woods.