- River Usk
The River Usk ( _cy. Afon Wysg) rises in the Carmarthen Fans
mountains or Fan Brycheiniogof mid- Wales, in the westernmost part of the Brecon Beacons National Parkthen flows south-east through Brecon, Crickhowell, Abergavennyand the eponymous town of Uskpast the Roman legionary fortressof Caerleon, through the heart of Newportcity and into the Severn estuary at Uskmouthbeyond Newport.
The whole river has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (
SSSI). It contains estuary, with mudflats and salt marsh, lagoons, bog and marsh, varied grassland and woodland habitats along its course. Its flora and fauna is diverse and includes salmon, trout, otters, twaite, shad, lamprey, perch, sea trout, chub, dace and roach as well as kingfishers, heronsand other wildfowl and bird life. Dippers can be seen upriver along with red kite.
The Usk has long been a noted salmon and trout fishing river with a national and international reputation. Salmon of over convert|30|lb|kg|abbr=on|lk=on can still be caught. The river has the highest estimated salmon egg deposition of any river south of Cumbria and the Scottish rivers, and exceeded its spawning target. The river has recently been rated as the best
fly fishingwater in Wales for salmon and inside the UK Top Ten.
In history and legend
The River Usk has played an important role both in the history of
South Wales, and features in some local folk-tales.
Historically, the tidal reaches of the Usk has been used as a major shipping port for much of the last millennium, mostly because of its wide and deep mouth, and good navigable access from the
Severn estuaryand the Bristol Channeland thence access to home waters and further overseas.
Evidence of the Usk's long-standing use in transport and trade came in the form of the remains of the
Newport shipwhich were unearthed in July 2002. The medievalship, dated to around 1465, was most likely a trading ship, and may have sailed around much of Europe and beyond in its lifetime. Its presence in the Usk has confirmed what an important trading route the Usk must have provided to the many towns and villages along its route.
The Usk has also played a role in many local legends. The medieval text, the "
Rise of Gawain, Nephew of Arthur", links King Arthurto Wales. It recounts a humorous tale when Gawainpushes Arthur into the River Usk and the King is forced to explain to his wife Gwendoloena(Guinevere) why he is so wet.cite book | last = Wilhelm | first = James J.| title =The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation: XV Forward Mildred Leake Day| publisher = Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group |Chapter =XV by Mildred Leake Day ] Geoffrey of Monmouthwrites of Caerleonin the mid 12th century:
:"For it was located in a delightful spot in
Glamorgan, on the River Usk, not far from the SevernSea. Abounding in wealth more than other cities, it was suited for such a ceremony. For the noble river I have named flows along it on one side, upon which the kings and princes who would be coming from overseas could be carried by ship." ( Historia Regum Britanniae"History of the Kings of Britain")
It is not until the 13th century French prose romances that
Camelotbegan to supersede Caerleon, and even then, many descriptive details applied to Camelot derive from Geoffrey's earlier grand depiction of the Welsh town.""Camelot" in Norris J. Lacy, Editor, "The Arthurian Encyclopedia" (1986 Peter Bedrick Books, New York) 75-6.]
The valley of the Usk contains many sites of archaeological significance from
prehistoryand the valley has long been a trade route, settlement area and suitable avenue into Wales for successive invaders such as the Romans and Normans.
Rivers of Wales
Usk Valley Walk
* [http://www.uskvalleywalk.org.uk/photos.htm The Usk Valley Walk - photos]
* [http://www.gtj.org.uk/item.php?lang=en&id=25406&t=1 A trophy salmon from the Usk in October 1917]
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