I overnighted in the waterfalls area and so was early waiting for my group of four Airbnb clients for one of my 5 Star ‘And’s Amazing Eight Waterfalls Walk’s’. Usually there is plenty of parking at Pontneddfechan still available by 1000 but by 0845 I noted that the parking was all but all used up.

I investigated.

Yes, it was another charity walk. I took some photos and after my day was over and having noted a few other things about the days provision for Tenovus, a Welsh cancer charity, I wrote to Tenovus with these observations:

‘I was in the waterfalls area of the BBNP on 8/8/21 and noted that by 0845 your clients had taken most of the parking at Pontneddfechan and in a pretty shoddy manner (there appeared to be no coordinated effort to have people park respectfully and to minimise the impact of your presence). 

Further, we came across one group of your charity walkers and they were on the most dangerous section of path with pretty poor footwear choices and as a group of well over 30 with just two members of staff guiding them. This I feel is an abuse of the location and poor risk assessing. 

What if any impact assessment was made by Tenovus re the location (Pontneddfechan) and the environment of on other users of the area. 

My four Airbnb clients all remarked on the inappropriate clothing/footwear for the day, the size of the group and on taking the group to the most dangerous section of path where there was no way that the attending staff could have monitored and assisted people on an individual basis. 

I look forward to your response in due course.

Tenovus responded thus:

‘Thank you once again for your recent communication and taking the time to raise your concerns regarding our Walk the Waterfalls walk.

I have now had the opportunity to review the event both internally and externally and, while there are always opportunities for improvement, I have concluded that I am satisfied with the way the event was held and run.

In review of your complaint, I have reassessed our risk assessment, the communication with the National Resources – Wales, communicated with the qualified instructors involved and been in touch with the third-party outdoor activities company that supported the event and do feel reassured that both our organisation and kind supporters did their very best to be respectful to the environment they were in, followed guidance and acted accordingly. While I was not in attendance myself, I have also taken the opportunity to review the photos taken, spoken to individuals and have been unable to find evidence of anyone not suitably dressed or prepared for the event and its weather conditions.

These group events can feel a little overwhelming at times and so we do closely monitor and control the level of participants and, I can assure that we did have less than the quotes thirty attendees in your email and, with both the attendance of Tenovus Cancer Care staff and four qualified instructors there on the day the supervisor ratio was in excess of what is required.   

With reference to the parking situation you have mentioned, I have also taken the opportunity to review, and while it has been a little tricky to quantify, I have become aware that there were a number of large walking groups that had arrived before us and had set-off prior to our group undertaking the walk,  due to that, I cannot unfortunately, with any clarity comment on who was parked where, however given the number of our participants I can confirm that the number of vehicles involved from our event was sufficiently low to allow for plenty of others to make use of the parking available.

I do remain grateful for you taking the time to raise your concerns as such observations are so useful in consideration for future events.’

To which I responded:

I feel that some one is misleading you here. The parking was poor and as I was at the location from about 0830, having overnighted nearby, and waited for my group and not leaving until 1015am, I think I would have noted other large groups. There were no other large groups.

I encountered the Tenovus group at the dangerous path. I counted from the lead instructor to the back marker (I only noted two leaders and your leaders cannot be counted as such in a mountain environment, they are participants) over thirty people. This is a very large group on a very difficult and dangerous path and walking it in the dangerous direction, with all drops being walked or climbed down to. 

If you believe old trainers are suitable footwear for such terrain then all I can say is ask mountain rescue what is in their opinion the main cause for accidents and incidents in the area… 

If you believe walking with a group of over thirty on a single file path which at times is no wider than 1 foot with a drop of 100 feet of to the right and with at times a sloping path leading to that drop is either respectful or appropriate I would again refer you back to mountain rescue and indeed to the mountain leader training board. Because it is not respectful of other users who have to wait patiently for all to file past and have a loss of wonder and isolation visited upon them by the size of the group they encounter and because it is not respectful to the envirnoment which in my opinion should not be used in this way by any group. 

I never expected you to raise your hands and apologise for the poor management of this event and the decision to deliver it in the first place but I must say I am constantly amazed by the innability for anyone nowadays to accept responsibility and to admit that perhaps they should have thought things through a little better before embarking upon a particular project. 

Your charities use of the countryside as a playground for fundraising is flawed and you ought to re think such use.

It was my clients who prompted me to write to you. They all, independently and immediately, stated that they were shocked to see such a group in such a location. 

And we appear to have left it at that…   

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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 :)