GUIDE TO THE AFON HONDDU
NAME OF RIVER: Honddu.
WHERE IS IT?: Draining the Black Mountains, it flows down to join the Usk right in the centre of Brecon.
PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS: We put in at the bridge in the village of Llandefaelog, although there is certainly more paddling upstream. Takeout just after the confuence with the Usk river, above the bridge on river left or one hundred metres below it on river right.
APPROX LENGTH: 5 miles.
TIME NEEDED: 2 hours.
ACCESS HASSLES: Matthew Gilbert (November 2002)...'I paddled the Honddu this weekend and thought I would add a note on access. We met a farmer at the get in (Llandefaelog) who seems to own most of the land along the river. He seemed quite happy that we were paddling the river and in fact was asking us how he and his kids could get into paddling themselves. He also said he was a salmon fisherman and had no problems if we were paddling during the season or not. As he put it, salmon are a wild fish and no boat is really going to upset them. As I say, he was very friendly, even offered us a chainsaw to remove trees, although i have no idea what the landowners further up/ down are like.'
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: We paddled this in medium high water, after plenty of rain. The river was brown where it discharged into the River Usk.
GRADING: Continuous 2+ then continuous 3 in the final mile.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Several tree jams needed portage (Nov 1998) and trees overhanging the river were a notable hazard. There are several weirs which need checking beforehand.
Becs Davey (Dec 2003)...'Lost count how many portages needed - there were many trees across the river. But the main danger was the barbed wire, we did the river in quite a flow and the wire varied in height from the eye balls to deck height. Very dangerous indeed. Recommend you paddle the river with wire cutters!'
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: An enjoyable trip, my girlfriend loved it! Continuous grade 2 rapids from the start, tree limboing and small breakouts mean that this is a trip for more experienced paddlers than the grade might suggest. We made a few tree-jam portages on this upper stretch, this was directly after major floods (debris piled up on top of bridges!); hopefully the river is now clearer. The first significant obstacle is a weir with several channels to choose from, inspect on river right. However, when we were there a tree blocked the whole weir forcing a portage. The river picks up width and power in the final mile. First it falls over a series of rock ledges, making a long rapid down to a 1 metre weir drop with waiting stopper. Then as you enter the town of Brecon, the river splits above a bridge...going river right offers a steep rapid under the bridge, going river left leads you over some weir ledges. Your choice! The town buildings literally wall the river in, giving the sensation of paddling a gorge..the final rapid is a small weir ledge with grabby stopper, put some speed on and you're through it and flowing into the River Usk before you know it...take out as above.
OTHER NOTES: Recommended to (small groups of) intermediate paddlers wanting a change from the River Usk...I have not paddled the section of the Usk directly below this point, I understand it is flat/ easy for some way downstream??
Anybody considering the Honddu upstream of this section will want to read Reg Morris' comments...'The river was running brown and fast at the bottom into the Usk at Brecon, and looked promising - but appearances can be deceptive! At the intended get in at Lower Chapel the river banks seemed to be garden and there was no parking, so we drove up to the next possible spot. We put in at GR022367, at the confluence of the tiny Nant Fawr stream (after asking permission to cross a couple of fields). The problems began almost immediately, with tree blockages. Later there were fences and at several points single strands of barbed wire at throat height. We made 10-15 portages on the way down. At one point, below the recommended get-in at Llandefaelog (I am fairly sure) there were 10 or more trees blocking the river for 100m or so, and a very boggy portage along steep banks. At this point we were hailed by some country gents and told that we were paddling into a shoot. This proved to be the case, the birds were being driven right across the river. Some cunning ones flew low but still attracted hails of small shot at paddler head height. Trying to paddle even grade 2 while avoiding branches, ducking shot and trying not to look like a pheasant is definitely not recommended! Finally it became too dark to see the single strands of wire that continued to cross the river in places so we followed the sounds of cars to a road somewhere near Llanddew, just outside of Brecon - we were too tired to care. The guides say there are some good stretches and even hint at grade 3 on this river; well we didn't find them!'
CONTRIBUTED BY: Mark Rainsley, also Matthew Gilbert, Becs Davey and Reg Morris.