Why your narrowboat holiday is heaven for wildlife spotters

September 19, 2017

The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal winds its way through some of the best countryside in Britain for spotting wildlife.It passes through a swathe of the Brecon Beacons National Park, a 520-square mile park established in 1957. The park includes Pen y Fan, the highest point in Southern Britain, with 66% of its area in Powys and 11% is in Monmouthshire.The park is also the home to some of the UK’s rarest animals.

What could you see on your narrowboat holiday?

A Kingfisher On The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal


Herons, mallards, moorhens, swans, and kingfishers are among the birds you could spot from your deck during your narrowboat holiday. If you’re lucky you might spot a rare lapwing which breeds and roosts on farmland, moorland, and grassland. They can be spotted by the iridescent green colouring on their backs, crests on their heads, and distinctive peewit call.If you visit in the spring, you may see a little ringed plover on the gravel banks of a river or lake. They have been known to visit the River Usk between Brecon and Talybont. Perhaps you could take a short trip there in a bid to spot them. If you visit moorland – such as the moors on the Blorenge or the slopes of the Sugarloaf mountains – you may see a nightjar. This mottled grey and brown bird stays on the ground during the day and has a churring sound. In the summer, you might see, or hear, a reed warbler in the reeds along the canal bank. Although there are red kites in the Beacons, they are more likely to be found to the west of the park or among the mountains.


Among the dragonflies and butterflies, you may be lucky enough to see a Marsh Fritillary butterfly. These orange, cream, and brown checked butterflies are now very rare in the UK. They have been known to live in the grasslands in the south of the Beacons park. Rare brown hairstreak butterflies love blackthorn hedges and they have also been known to live in the park area.

Amphibians and fish

Alongside the frogs and toads you may spot, watch out for greater crested newts which can be found in stone or log piles or hedges. They’re rare and protected by law. You might also see white-clawed crayfish, a sort of freshwater lobster native to the UK. It is under threat from alien invaders the signal crayfish which also spread crayfish disease.


Otters can be found in most of the rivers in the national park and are regularly spotted in the River Usk around Brecon, Crickhowell, and Llangynidr – just a short walk away from the canal. If you see a five-toed paw print in the mud of a river bank, you’ve spotted an otter track.On nearby grasslands, watch out for rare brown hares. On your walks watch out for distinctive yellow-orange furred dormice. Be careful not to disturb them as that’s against the law. You may also spot badgers and wild rabbits. One of Britain’s most endangered species, the water vole is believed to be living in the park. Sightings are rare, though, so you’ll be very fortunate to see one on your trip. To get a better chance of a view, go down to the Gwent Wildlife Trust centre at Magor Marsh where they have been introducing water voles back into the wild.If you’re a bat lover, it’s a great patch for spotting the rare lesser horseshoe bat which is known to live in the Usk Valley. You may also see tiny pipistrelles, greater horseshoe bats, or noctules – known for their powerful flying at night.

Would you like to hire a relaxing Road House narrowboat to experience the beautiful wildlife along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal? Call our friendly team on 01873 830240. Find out more about out boats.

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