Like normal Brecon Beacons Paddleboarding – but in the pitch dark!
As the Brecon Beacons National Park is a designated IDA Dark Sky Reserve, we thought it would be rude not to take advantage and enjoy a peaceful relaxing paddle and admire the amazing starry skies above.
Probably the most popular place to paddle in the Brecon Beacons is the
Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. Originally built to transport goods from Brecon to Newport, there are still 35 miles of navigable waterway. Now only used for recreation, our favourite stretch to paddle is from Brynich Lock and across the longest aqueduct on the canal. You can join this paddle in the daytime for stunning mountain views by clicking HERE.
Once we learned the Park was a Dark Sky reserve, the next logical step was to paddleboard the canal at night and find a nice open stretch where we could see the stars!
Setting off into the Sunset!
We complete our final safety checks to make sure all buoyancy aids are fitted well and everyone has their headtorch with them. Launching from the rubber step created as part of the Brecon Beacons water trails, we head west for about 150m before a 90-degree bend in the canal takes us across the Brynich Aqueduct, spanning the river Usk as it meanders through the countryside.
We try to set off about 30 minutes before sunset so we can get underway in the light and don’t forget to take anything we might need with us! We also get to see some fantastic colours and amazing mountainous views, as the sun sets behind Pen-y-Fan off to our right.
Entering Bat Country
As we peacefully cruise along the canal, with not another soul in sight, the trees start to form a loose tunnel around us. We can hear the sound of rushing water off to our left as the River Usk bubbles over some rapids formed by a broken weir. The trees close in tighter, leaning over the canal from both sides, and there’s a fast and gentle whoosh past our heads. We start to catch glimpses of feeding bats as they flit about us, catching flying insects on the wing, attracted to the lights from our headtorches.
Our journey carries on in this style for a few hundred metres before slowly the trees and canal banks flatten out on our right and open fields sweep away towards the tallest mountain in South Wales, Pen-y-Fan, and its neighbour, Cribyn, visible on the horizon as a beautiful silhouetted vista.
Ducking under one more bridge, it’s time to check the skies. Depending on the time of year, we might have some stars already, or it might be worth exploring the canal a little further before turning back after it’s properly dark.
Things are Looking Up
Just past this bridge, there is a great open space with views of the skies in all directions, providing fantastic views of the Milky Way and more stars and constellations than you can shake a stick at! I point out the commonly known constellations first – Ursa Major and Cassiopeia, and the North Star, halfway between them. Turning around we can see Orion’s belt on this trip, and looking nearly straight up – the newest constellation to my repertoire – the Dragon!
We sit/ lie on our boards so we can get a better view of the sky (and so we don’t fall into the canal!) and relax, taking in the silence of the night and the beauty of the starlit sky above us.
A shooting star screeches silently across the sky and snaps me back to reality – ‘Sorry folks, it’s time to head back now’! Happy, if reluctant murmurs of agreement come from the other paddlers and, almost sleepily, we return to our knees and feet and start the slow paddle back to the start.
I never know if it’s the sleepiness of lying on the boards, or the zen-like state that sitting on a paddleboard and staring at the skies can put you in, maybe it’s the sadness of having to leave it all behind, but the start of the return journey is taken is relative silence, paddleboarders all lost in their own thoughts.
If you fancy joining our next DarkSky Aqueduct click this button to find upcoming dates.
Full Moon and Star Gazing on your Board!
Not sure about paddling through the night? How about a Sunset Sea Paddle from Porthcwal, South Wales? See what you don’t want to be missing with this blog…
If you’re a group of 4 or more, you might get a discounted rate! Drop us a message at email@example.com or call or WhatsApp 07859795785