Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust

Looking after our canals since 1984

Category: Backpacking

Mon & Brec Canal – Heaven for wildlife spotters

If you’re an avid wildlife spotter, then a visit to the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is a must-visit. Better known as the Mon & Brec Canal, the park is one of the most beautiful with peaceful waterways. The canal is one of the best locations in Britain for spotting wildlife. The canal passes through the Brecons Beacons National Park and remains home to UK’s rarest animals. This is another reason to visit the area.

While this area in South Wales underwent an Industrial Revolution, the upper section of the Mon & Brec Canal did not experience much commercial success. The beauty of the area saw some restoration done in the 1960s. It is now one of the best and beautiful cruising waterways in the UK. You can easily cruise through the canal without much traffic even at the height of the season.

The canal covers most of its route in the Brecons National Park where you enjoy the outstanding natural beauty. The 35-mile canal follows tree-lined courses of the River Usk. This location is a heaven for wildlife spotters, walkers, nature-lovers, and cyclists. There is a lot to explore and enjoy.

What you can expect to see on your holiday in Mon & Brec Canal ?


There are rare birds in the canal making this location an exciting choice for birders. Some of the birds to see include the herons, moorhens, mallards, kingfishers, and swans. If you’re lucky, you can even spot the rare lapwing. The lapwing breeds and roosts on the farmland, grassland, and moorland. The lapwing is easily spotted by the iridescent green coloring on the back, head, and crests. It also produces a distinctive peewit call.

However, be sure to carry a birding binocular to experience these birds from your kayak or boat. There are just a wide array of bird species to watch in this beautiful location.


There are also beautiful insects flying by the canal banks. Among the insects to see include the dragonfly and butterflies. You can also be lucky and spot the rare Marsh Fritillary buttery.

Amphibians and fish

 The Usk River is also a habitat for fish and amphibians. You can see frogs and toads on the river bank. Along the hedges and log piles, you can spot crested newts.  You might also be lucky and see the white-clawed crayfish. There is a lot to see whether on a boat or simply walking by the banks of the river.


 Lastly, you can be sure of seeing some of the rarest mammals along the canal. Otters are easily seen along the river banks. The otters are easily spotted in River Usk with just a short walk. You can also see an otter track which has a five-toed paw print.

Near the river grasslands, you can see the rare brown hares. As you walk along, you can also spot the yellow-orange furred dormice. However, be sure to watch from a distance and never disturb them. This area is also blessed with one of Britain’s endangered species, the water vole. Sometimes, sightings are rare but worth it if you’re lucky.

This is not the end when it comes to viewing mammals. If you happen to be a bat lover, then the Usk Valley is your perfect location. You can also see noctules, greater horseshoe bats, and tiny pipistrelles.

Other interesting scenes to see in Mon and Brec Canal

Apart from wildlife, there is a lot more to see and enjoy in the Mon & Brec Canal. While the Canal is fairly short, it is full of engineering ingredients. There are many fine stone bridges, a fine four arch masonry, and a number of lift bridges along the route. You can also enjoy some short tunnels giving you lasting memories.

In some of the places, you can see places where the feeder narrow gauge tramways bought their limestone, coal, and iron ore. This is a canal full of wildlife, amazing scenes, and rich history. The disused lime kilns are clearly visible down to the canal wharves. There are several canal lifts that were built when the canal was undergoing restoration. You can even ride in an electrically powered lift bridge.

Activities to do in the Mon & Brec Canal

Apart from spotting wildlife and enjoying the great scenes, there are several activities to do in the area. You can hire a bicycle for a great day of biking. Cycling as a group is a fun activity to enjoy in the area and one cycling lovers must try. You can also enjoy some horse riding and a kayak or boat ride.

Visiting the region also gives you a chance to explore nearby communities and enjoy some local diets. There are also excellent eateries and entertainment spots nearby to have a great time. Walks along the canal are common with canal side pubs, craft centers, and museums.

What to bring on a backpacking trip?

Deciding on what to bring on a backpacking trip can be quite challenging. In most cases, you find yourself with a small backpack and a lot of things to carry. However, you don’t have to carry everything that you think you might need. You must first decide on the essentials and what you can do without.

Deciding on what to bring starts with knowing where to visit and how many days you will camp. Is the place remote and how is the weather forecast? The more remote the place is, the more food, clothing, and gear you will need. The camping tent you bring is also determined by the place you will camp and weather conditions there.

Below, we discuss some of the main things to bring on a backpacking trip.

Backpack with rain cover

A quality backpack is among the first essentials to buy. This is where you’re going to fit all your gear, food, clothing and other personal items. You can prepare for a backpacking trip without a backpacker. Make sure you choose a waterproof backpack or one that comes with a rain cover. This will help protect your gear, food, and clothing from water leakages in case of rainfall.
There are varieties of backpacks out there to choose from. Make sure you choose one that is comfortable to carry, extremely durable and well-designed. You can go for a small backpack or a bigger one depending on the number of items you plan to carry. This again depends on the number of days you plan to camp. However, always aim to pack light.

Backpacking tent

A backpacking tent will provide you with shelter on your campsite. Again, there are varieties of tents to choose from. You can choose a 1-person, 2-person, 3-person or 4-person capacity depending on the number of people on the trip. If you plan to camp as a group, each person can carry their backpack and a tent. The choice usually comes down to what best works for you.

You also need to consider the season of the year and choose a matching tent. Some ultralight backpacking tents are designed for a 2-seasons while others serve well in all 4 seasons.

Food checklist

Did you know food tastes better when on trips? The reason might be more hunger due to long hiking and trekking days in the wild. When it comes to packing food, you need to consider the number of persons on the trip and the days you will spend on the trip. In addition, consider the distance of the camping site from the nearest shops.

You can choose two categories of food. Go with instant foods that require no preparation since they come in handy when hungry. You can also choose foods that require preparation like powdered sauce and pasta. It is always good to have options when it comes to your food choices. You also need to carry drinking water with you. However, remember you will need water for bathing, washing clothes and preparing food. So, make sure you don’t camp further away from a water source.

Clothing checklist

This is one area where people tend to mess and add unnecessary weight to their camping trip. You only need to bring two or at most three sets of clothing on your trip. However, make sure you have enough socks and underwear every day. One set of cloth is for sleeping and is the only set the needs to remain fresh and clean.
When it comes to hiking or trekking in the woods, you have to do with a single set or two at most. After all, there is no need to wear fresh clothes only to sweat after a few minutes.

Hygiene and toiletries

Toiletries might seem small but usually take a lot of space and are quite heavy. Toiletries like deodorants, makeup and shampoo are useless on your trip and occupy unnecessary space on your backpack. Go with basic things like toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, wipes, and sunscreen. There is no point looking all fresh in the backcountry.


While some people think this is an unnecessary waste of space, photography gears are necessary. What is the point of a backpacking trip if you cannot bring some memory home with you? Make sure you have a small camera and a solar charger with you.

Medical checklist

It is worth packing a small first-aid kit with you and some basic medicines. Get a pre-assembled first aid kit with personal medicines such as asthma inhalers. You can also add painkillers, disinfectants, mosquito repellent, bandages, etc. You don’t want a small headache running your day just because you didn’t carry some painkillers.

Final verdict

In conclusion, the best advice when it comes to backpacking is to pack light. You only need to carry the essentials. Carrying a heavy backpack is an added inconvenience that ends up making the trip boring and tiring.