Visitor Information

Nature

The River Usk hosts a number of fish species including the chub, dace, roach and bullhead but is best known as a trout and salmon river. Sewyn (sea trout) also enter the river to spawn, though in smaller numbers than salmon.

Twaite and the very rare allis shads are other fish which migrate up the river to spawn in the spring. Once abundant these two species are becoming scarce in the river Usk. The river and sea lamprey also come into the river to spawn. There is also a small resident brook lamprey population. In all three lamprey species the jaws are replaced by suckers, which enable them to become attached to other fish from which they feed.

Otter are found throughout the river Usk. However the water vole is now scarce, due mainly to predations from the North American mink.

Several species of bat may be seen in the late evening swooping over the canal and river. These include the pipistrelle, daubenton’s bat and the rare lesser horseshoe bat. These bats roosts in caves on the hillside above Govilon and fly down to the feeding areas around Govilon. Bats follow natural linear features when crossing roads or open areas, which they prefer to avoid. But if there are no linear features, they sometimes fly dangerously low and can be hit by traffic. The recent improvements of the A465 road through Govilon saw two farm bridges removed. The bats had used the path of these bridges to cross the road safely. To overcome this new purpose-built “bat bridges” of wire-rope mesh between two poles were erected where the old farm bridges had stood. Look out for them as you travel along the Heads of the Valleys Road

Common sandpiper, grey and yellow wagtails, little ringed plover, wood warbler, pied flycatcher, sand martin and redstart can all be seen along the River. Dippers inhabit the fast waters of the side-streams and the flashy kingfishers and Herons the slower waters of the main river and the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. The cormorant and goosander, are also found. . The common buzzard is present in large numbers and the red kite is now more frequent. Ravens and peregrine falcons are also present at times above the village and the moorlands beyond support small numbers of grouse

The river supports a bewildering range of upwinged flies (mayfly family), including the rare Potamanthus luteus. Caddis flies, stone flies, several rare crane flies, Hawthorne flies and numerous others flying insects are seen on or by the river.

Other invertebrates are the Atlantic stream crayfish and the fresh water pearl mussel, both declining species and specially protected. Swan mussel are commonplace within the canal.

The bluebell are a common site in late spring on the valley sides especially in the beech woods bordering the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal. Other spring flowers in abundance are the cowslip and primrose. You may see the occasional spike of the early purple orchid in undisturbed locations. Other orchids in the wider Usk valley are such gems as the common spotted orchid, bee orchid, green winged orchid, twayblades and, adjacent to the tidal reaches, the marsh helleborine.

Along the river bank there are lilac patches of dame’s violet, nettle-leaved bellflower and, on the roots of ash and alder trees, the parasitic toothwort. Rare or uncommon riverside species are two species of hawkweed, three species of dandelion, the globe flower and the wild onion. Undesirable Victorian introductions, which over the years have become serious pests, are the Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed. The Hogweed can grow to 5 metres, and should be avoided as the sap can cause a severe rash.

The moist climate is ideal for ferns and most of the common British species are represented. Lower members of the fern family such as the adder’s tongue and moonwort are found. Mosses, liverworts and lichens are very well represented and several rare species are present. The Blorenge mountain above Govilon is one of Monmouthshire’s top sites for bryophytes (source).

There are many magnificent examples of the common and sessile oak woods. The small-leaved lime, the wild service-tree and black poplar are native rarities. The area around Govilon has some fine examples of Beech woods. Many of the trees are festooned with the mistletoe, a common parasite.

Supported by Dafydd Vaughan