Usk Trip

It's not often I get to spend my days getting wet with 10 men but during the first weekend of November I ventured to Crai in Wales to paddle the River Usk. Our party included Simon Terry, Gwylim Williams, Liam Challis, Neil Woodley, Seb Coombe, Ruari Fangman, Mike Brockley, Kent Stead, Hayden Pugh, Gariel Hemery and Ruari's mum, Jane. Our base was a tiny bunkhouse called Cwm Uchaf run by a wonderfully helpful lady named Felicity. We arrived late on Friday night and warmed ourselves with beer, wine and cider while planning our paddling and playing a few hands of poker. A word to the wise, Seb is competitive and seems to know what he is doing when it come to poker so no amount of dramatic bluffing (while spilling your drink over other players), stealing chips on your way back from the bathroom, or maverick betting will help.

Saturday - Sennybridge to Aberbran Bridge

Very few of us got a good night's sleep thanks to the chorus of snoring and sleep talking - the perils of sticking 9 people in 5 bunk beds in a confined space. We cooked food in groups so as not to overload the cooker because there were signs that using too many sockets for the toaster, cooker and microwave would probably cause meltdown. As poker losers, Gwyl and I were up first to make tea, followed by Liam and Neil who cooked us a fantastic fried breakfast, with Mike valiantly cleaning up afterwards. Simon managed to get out of doing anything much that morning, lucky thing!

After a relatively faff-free wake up we were ready to go in good time, and despite an initial map reading blunder from Mr Woodley which meant some quick manouvring on a narrow country lane, we managed to unpack the boats and get in up-river form Senny Bridge. Our first drop went smoothly and it was just a matter of floating with the current for larger parts of the way over a rocky river bed. We amused ourselves with bird watching, seal launching down anything with a slight incline, and playing in tiny waves (yes, it was that exciting). We met up with some university clubs on the more interesting parts of the river which were small drops and rapids. Our swim count reached 3 on the first day with Hayden, Ruari and myself taking a dip. To say it was cold was an understatement and no amount of thermals seemed to work, thank God for Gabriel and his tomato soup! We rewarded ourselves with a curry that evening and an early night, with the really hard core paddlers staying up until about 10.30pm.

Sunday: Talybont to Llangynidr (including Mill Falls)

Our aim of getting up at 7am was put on hold as people's alarms went off and we ignored them, favouring an extra hour in bed as new snorers had emerged in the night and had to be silenced by pillows (just used for throwing, not smothering). We arranged breakfast in the same way as the day before, with even Simon helping to make a mess. After which began the big clean up to get all traces of 11 kayakers and their kit out of the bunkhouse by 11am. This was easily achieved and so began our second day of paddling, which began much the same as the first had ended, on flat, slow water. It was a warmer day though and there were some better sections to play around with, including Mill Falls. We arrived at Mill Falls at the same time as the university groups. Gabriel, Seb, Gwyl and Ruari played in the waves, while the rest of us, including Mike, Kent and myself simply negotiated it and parked up for lunch. Neil managed a rather impressive pilata roll in plain sight of everyone (shocking), and Ruari managed to beach himself on a rock whale style. Simon attempted to triangulate our position with his new phone which impressively told us that we were...somewhere in Wales, genius. After a weekend of quiet floating along, Mill Falls gave everyone what they needed and we then floated further downstream to the get out point. There is no doubting that the Brecons are beautiful, but my single lasting impression of the Usk is that it is very rocky, as you can see from the bottom of most of the boats we took.

Thanks for a fun weekend!

- Jen