River Usk

River Usk

The River Usk ( _cy. Afon Wysg) rises in the Carmarthen Fans mountains or Fan Brycheiniog of mid-Wales, in the westernmost part of the Brecon Beacons National Park then flows south-east through Brecon , Crickhowell, Abergavenny and the eponymous town of Usk past the Roman legionary fortress of Caerleon, through the heart of Newport city and into the Severn estuary at Uskmouth beyond Newport.

Environmental significance

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, herons and 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 fishing water 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 estuary and the Bristol Channel and 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 ship which were unearthed in July 2002. The medieval ship, 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 Arthur to Wales. It recounts a humorous tale when Gawain pushes 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 Monmouth writes of Caerleon in the mid 12th century:

:"For it was located in a delightful spot in Glamorgan, on the River Usk, not far from the Severn Sea. 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 Camelot began 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 prehistory and the valley has long been a trade route, settlement area and suitable avenue into Wales for successive invaders such as the Romans and Normans.

ee also

*Rivers of Wales
*Usk Valley Walk


External links

* [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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