GUIDE TO THE AFON CRAI
NAME OF RIVER: Crai.
WHERE IS IT?: Draining the Brecon Beacons on the opposite side of the hill from the Upper Tawe, this small river can be found near the A4067 road just over the hill from this other river.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: I started in the village of Felin Crai, and took out at the bridge (GR 903292), just after the confuence with the Usk river.
APPROX LENGTH: 6 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours or more.
ACCESS HASSLES: Unknown, but someone grumbled at me as I egressed the Usk at the end of this trip...this fellow clearly lives there as he has appeared everytime we arrived at this bridge.
Sam, Jack and Wayne Thorp add (Oct 02)...'Very difficult at present. Some local farmers dislike kayakers. They have strung barbed wire across the river every couple of hundred metres on the end of rapids. Several trees block the whole river. There is also an iron fence across the river. A make shift pipe also crosses the river which can be limboed under or kayaked over. A bridge has to be portaged. The banks are covered with barbed wire so portaging in hard. You cannot get all the way down the river due to barbed wire crossing the river.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: I paddled this alone in medium water levels, several days after heavy rain. There is a dam further up the valley, I have no idea what effect this has on the water levels...?
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: A bridge/ weir which has to be portaged (see below), some tree jams needing portage (Nov 1998) and there is a fall on the short Usk stretch at the end which is harder than anything on the Crai.
Alec (10/11/05)...'We had to hold down one wire across the river by a bend near the start of the river and had to portage one tree further down the river. No other problems with people or the river.'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: An easy and enjoyable trip. Continuous grade 2 rapids all the way keep the interest up, although the banks are high and there is no 'view' to be had of the surroundings. The river is quite narrow, so small groups only on this one. There were several tree jams to be portaged last year (after the big Oct '99 floods) and a bridge spannig the river needs portaging as the river sumps through it. In the final mile there are more lively rapids (grade 2+?) which take you down to the confluence with the Usk, a similarly small stream at this point. Directly around the first corner is a notable riverwide 1.5 metre fall (grade 3+) which should be inspected (and portaged if necessary) on river left.
OTHER NOTES: Recommended to small groups of novice WW paddlers seeking adventure...you could continue down the Usk from here until you reach the Sennybridge section
Steve Delaney (02.02.04) 'A pleasant surprise after the weekend rain. There was NO barbed wire or trees to note now either. There was an unpaddleable ford/bridge that had to be egressed and lots on dead sheep (obviously dumped!) on one of the steep banks. The 3+ fall does look nasty in flood but there is an easy enough chicken-shoot on the right, providing the line is right. The only problem we encountered was from the locals who seemed to come out of their house (by the get-in) looking pretty angry. Ive had enough of unreasonable farmers, so didnt stop to see what they wanted. Another row probably! Anyone got anything to add on this? Please note folks that this river is a salmon spawning area so it would be inadvisable to paddle this out of season and only when it is in flood.'
Sam, Jack and Wayne Thorp add (Oct 02)...'This would be a nice river if it were not for all the barbed wire and problems. We could not get to the best section of the river. This river would not be good for taking younger or smaller paddlers because most of the rapids end in barbed wire which has to be portaged and more barbed wire. The only thing we encounted on this paddle was a ruined neoprene deck caught on, you guessed it, more barbed wire. Do not bother with this paddle, it is not worth the hassle. There are better paddles in South Wales such as the Sennybridge section of the Usk.'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Mike Kelly, Steve Delaney, Alec and the Thorp family.