It’s an ongoing discussion, likely done now…

I would like to complain about Adventure Activity companies causing a danger to traffic in their parking just south of Ystradfellte. This was the state of play on Saturday near the small diesel station

As you can see parking was taking place on both sides of the road, by Call of the Wild clients, and also well up hill of the diesel station for quite some distance. 

This is a manageable situation and exists because of the greed of one or two activity providers, and working in an area that 25 years ago was regarded as to fragile and pristine for such activity. How things change. 

I would like to know your opinion on such parking and use of the location and also what action will be taken to remedy such. 

After many pokes and a wait of TWO MONTHS I got this response

Thanks for your email.  I apologise for being slow to respond to you.  As you may appreciate I and the other Wardens are extremely busy at the moment dealing with the high number of visitors in the area, and also access and countryside management projects and tasks.

I contacted SWOAPG and Call of the Wild. The minibus was parked near to the chapel vestry as this facility is hired by COTW for their clients to change, thus putting money into the local economy, and making sure that local people and visitors are shielded from people getting changed and prepared for gorge walking.  The most of the  clients are driven to the site in the minibus, and those that don’t come in the minibus are asked to park in the adjacent field.  COTW also have toileting provision for their clients The roadside parking has now largely been stopped in this location since the Wardens have worked with Powys Highways and the safety measures have been put in place.

Call of the Wild do adhere to the concordat with the ratio of on gorge walkers with the cap on numbers using the Mellte is 48 not 50 people as you quoted. Coincidentally the ratio of 2 instructors to 12 customers is the one that they adhere to and is included in their license for the provision of activities to under 18’s and one they apply to all groups.  

The National Park Authority works closely with SWOAPG, with many of their members carrying out voluntary litter sweeps, and assisting with path maintenance etc in the Waterfalls area.

I hope that this answers your points.

My final response (not quite)

I do appreciate you are busy but we all are and timely responses to emails is important. 

I am glad that subsequent to my email you have been in touch with Call of the Wild and that you have also been working to manage the situation and that parking on the verges at this location ought now be a thing of the past. I’ll be monitoring as the year progresses. 

The cars pictured and the subsequent week of a group changing on the roadside I believe are the responsibility of Call of the Wild and that matter was not addressed. Were Call of the Wild admonished? I must say that each and every complaint I have made about that company, including evidencing higher than allowed quotas in the Sychryd and changing in the car park there, goes unpunished, and in this instance, that is the same outcome. I wonder what the managers of Call of the Wild do/have to achieve this level of immunity. 

I think quibbling over two spots of 50 misses the point. Jon Young the BBNP Environmental Officer of some years back, was wholly against gorge walking in the Mellte and for very good reasons. Gorge walking there used to be against BBNP policy. It is for this reason that I parted company with SWOAPG who pressured for this high quota in such a fragile environment. I find it disingenuous that they regard themselves as environmentally responsible while bowing to pressure from a couple of large providers who demanded such. 

As for staff to client ratios that is open to debate as that ratio is not what I see on the ground. But, that is each business’ responsibility to manage and simply my advice that it ought to be more strictly enforced. 

But Not Quite

Thank you for your email the contents of which have been noted. 

Briefly, prior to the commencement of gorge walking a detailed lower plant survey was carried out and this report formed the basis of the gorge walking map and the agreement with SWOAPG for trained members to use the gorge.  Subsequent surveys have taken place to monitor the impact of gorge walking activities on the lower plant communities.  These surveys have found no negative impact on the lower plants and as a result the activity has been permitted to continue.

Wardens continue to monitor the traffic and parking in and around the waterfalls/Ystradfellte/ Pont Nedd Fechan area, and we work with the Police and County Highways departments to try to regulate the impact of visitors on the community.  However the additional impacts of the pandemic the situation in that area in particular and the wider national park are affecting rural communities.

My actual final response

There are other concerns regarding large group impacts on the area associated with gorge walking. For instance, have you in mind a day in the beginning of July where 30 companies rock up with between 10 and 20 clients each? It’s a strong possibility… What impact has this on the community and more importantly upon other visitors to the area. One reason I refused to use Blaen y Glyn for gorge activities was my concern over impacts on other users to the location. This concern is another reason for me never using the Mellte apart from at Loonies Leap.  

I think we’ll have to remain in opposition here. I am with Jon Young and I believe that use of the gorge is an economic decision, for some, rather than one that is about protecting the environment or the ‘atmosphere’ of the place. 

As for this year… I have received a good deal of traffic regarding the closure of Pont Melin Fach and all of it is asking for the car park to be re opened. I am witnessing now no substantial increase of use of the area over and above years prior to the covid nonsense and would ask for any car parks closed to be opened in an attempt to allow normality to prevail. 

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Walk leader @ Wales Outdoors, life model @ Cardiff Life Models and poet @ Self Published I opened the first mountain bike hire business in the Brecon Beacons National Park in 1995. Since then my business, Wales Outdoors, has grown and morphed and is now the most active and most popular guided walks and adventure travel provider in Wales. Andy has been a volunteer co-ordinator, guided walks programme organiser and part time central area warden for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, chair of Brecon Beacons Tourism, a Duke of Edinburghs area co-ordinator, a Princes Trust social inclusion manager, the catalyst for the Brecon Beacons National Park Environment Charter and a key motivator for the inception of the outdoor activity peer group, SWOAPG. Join Me! for a walk or two :)