ACAUSE OF some confusion is the fact there are two rivers called Afon Honddu in Breconshire, one in the east of the county, in the Vale of Ewyas, the other, having risen on the high ground of the Mynydd Epynt, flowing southwards to join the River Usk at Brecon, fringed at the last of its 11-mile journey by the woodlands of Priory Groves. Defending the rivers’ confluence is Brecon Castle, originally built by the Norman knight Bernard de Neufmarche at the end of the 11th Century after defeating the Welsh rulers of South Wales, and now a hotel and restaurant, so worth bearing in mind when planning your visit. A town quickly followed and on the higher ground, immediately overlooking the Afon Honddu, Bernard founded a church and priory, which in the Middle Ages was famed for its great golden cross, though like much else it was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Renewal began in the mid 19th Century, resulting in the fine cathedral seen today, which is always worth a visit and includes the enjoyment of watching Blackbirds on the surrounding lawns, and even a foraging Green Woodpecker. Extending north from the Cathedral and clinging to the steep slopes above the Afon Honddu are the Priory Groves. Many a monk in medieval times would have followed the footpath and one hopes appreciated the birds encountered. Birds of the river, like Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Dipper and Grey Wagtail can be found. In the woodlands are summer visitors, like Blackcap and Chiffchaff, and the residents include Goldcrest, Nuthatch and Treecreeper.
1A short distance from the town centre is a bridge over the Afon Honddu on which to linger and hopefully enjoy sightings of Common Sandpiper, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher.
2Climb the hill, and note the Priory Well, a sacred spring, before taking the woodland footpath. This is Tawny Owl territory, though a late evening visit will be necessary to hear or perhaps glimpse it. The bats at such a time will include both Daubenton’s and Pipistrelle.
3Our most widespread migrant warbler, the Willow Warbler, is joined by other summer visitors to the woodlands, including Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Garden Warbler. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch and Treecreeper are also resident.
Birds of prey in the woodlands or overhead should be Buzzard, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk while one to look out for in the county is the Hobby.
4Sit quietly above the riverbank and, with patience, you may well enjoy a sighting of Otters
Grey Wagtail Dipper