Yesterdsay Ms Markontour and I caused a tail-back on the route down Mynydd Llangyndir, bringing our bikes to a halt in the middle of the road to stand awestruck as a majestic Red Kite circled directly overhead. It was a great display, but it turns out that the kite’s desire to check out all and any movement on the ground was almost its undoing. These massive birds, with their black and white wings and unmistakable orange/red breasts made themselves easy prey for farmers armed with guns, and they were hunted to near extinction in nineteenth century Britain.
Fortunately, Red Kites are now protected and flourishing again, at least in this beautiful part of south Wales. Markontour is hoping to see a lot more of them, as this was a reconnaissance trip before moving the little narrowboat we own with a friend to the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal. It was a wrench to abandon the Trent and Mersey and the Midlands, but a bank holiday weekend cycling the canal path (and checking out the odd mountain along the way) from Gilwern to Brecon has convinced us that we made the right decision.
The canal bisects the Brecon Beacons National Park, running north to south towards its eastern border. It’s a slightly confusing name as the Brecon Beacons themselves are only one of four mountain ranges in the national park area. More confounding still, the western and eastern extremities are respectively host to a Black Mountain and The Black Mountains. No matter, “that which we call a rose would smell as sweet by any other name” etc.
To the south the Beacons blend into the valleys that once used the canal to send coal and iron ore to the port of Newport, although the waterway no longer stretches this far. Indeed, enough decades have passed since the decline of extractive industries for the Beacons to have reverted to greenery. We traversed about two thirds the length of the canal this weekend and found nothing but emerald beauty, punctuated by energetic bluebells and water-side pubs.
At pretty much any point along the canal’s length there is a chance to take a small diversion and cycle or walk up a mountain. The trip up Mynydd Llangyndir this weekend was steep but well worth it. Not only were there magnificent views and awesome raptors, but we also enjoyed a picnic spectacle of a farmer and sheep dog efficiently rounding up a well dispersed straggle of sheep and funnelling them into the next field in what seemed to take a matter of seconds. One moment the view was speckled with white fluffy dots, the next it was just a green rectangle.
All in all, our introduction to our new home-away-from-home couldn’t have been more perfect if someone had painted it. I can’t wait to get back and maybe there will be kites waiting to greet us.