Parking in the main car park at Usk, site of the Rural Life museum, nine of us set off through the streets of Usk. We passed a small but delightful garden created by local Girl Guides. Soon we found ourselves turning left to climb a fairly steep slope. It was a warm morning and we were glad of the dappled shade provided by trees around us.
Soon we were passing the back of Usk castle. At the entrance was an old sea bomb and behind it a face peering out of a tree stump from which it had been carved. The ruins of the castle overlook Usk and the river beyond. A medieval castle it fell into disuse 500years ago. It is open to visitors almost every day and entry is free with a donation box.
Climbing Beech Hill we were soon passing the site of the battle of Pwll Melyn, also known as the battle of Usk. This was part of the Welsh War of Independence against English rule that lasted from 1400 to 1415. The battle occurred in spring 1405 and the defeat of the Welsh rebels here was devastating. It included the loss of important leaders and men. A contemporary Welsh chronicle described it as a ‘slaughter’ and that ‘It was now that the tide began to turn against Owain and his men.’ According to historian J. E. Lloyd writing in 1933 ‘Pwll Melyn is the pond lying northeast of Usk castle …numerous skeletons were found in the pond when it was cleaned out. The pond is so called because the water is always slimy and of a dirty colour.’
But we were here on a beautiful May day with wall to wall sunshine and travelling north we passed a delightful pond with a wooden bench beside it which had a dog carved into the backrest and a carved bottle and glass resting on a ‘table’ at the front. Continuing north we took a solid footbridge across a stream, followed shortly after by a stile leading to particularly boggy ground. Two large horses showed interest in us as we each found our way across the mud. It was near here that we spotted an early purple orchid.
Coming up towards Trostrey Common we started to enjoy far reaching views. We continued climbing to our high point for the day above Hill farm and now
had 360o views. Stopping in an open field we relaxed in the sunshine and ate our lunch looking out across the valley with the river Usk somewhere below us.
The heat of the day was building as we turned south back towards Usk. We passed Trostrey Court (there is also a Trostrey wood). Trostrey Court House is a late 16th C gentry house, the current building replaced a medieval court. During the English civil war it was seized by the forces of Thomas Fairfax during the siege of Raglan castle. It remains a private house and working estate and the court is a grade II listed building.
Walking through a field of ewes with their lambs we caught a glimpse of a windmill, with vanes, in the distance and walking along a stretch of road we came closer to it. This is Llancayo windmill – ‘luxury accommodation, sleeps 12 and is available to rent £2250-£3850 a week!’
A field in the far distance was black and we wondered what the crop could be as the earth in this area is brown. Our best guess was flax in its early stages. We eventually arrived at a large solar farm – we’d seen the backs of the panels. Walking past it we were instructed ‘DANGER OF DEATH KEEP OUT’.
Passing a large piece of farm machinery trudging up and down a field, we made our way down to the banks of the river Usk. Shelter from trees and the freshness of the water both helped to cool us as we meandered with the river all the way to Usk and the stone bridge that crosses the river. An Usk Civil society blue plaque on a wall nearby declares ‘ Conigar walk (conigar from coney or rabbit warren, denoting a medieval enclosure to provide rabbits for food)… built in 1858 to commemorate the marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal, to Prince Frederick of Prussia.’
It had been a glorious sunny day, a bit humid at times, and a lovely walk – 9 miles with an 800ft climb. Tea in the café attached to the museum was much appreciated. Map 152.