​Important Pre-Season Messages – Waterfalls Country & River Wye

To All Members

Two important messages for the start of the 2018 season:


Additional Guidance for Waterfalls Country (attached as a pdf)

“Waterfalls Country” is under increasing pressure from both tourism and outdoor activity. The landowners, Natural Resources Wales and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, are keen to see the existing SWOAPG Concordat arrangements for Outdoor Activity Providers continue – but have asked us to emphasise the following key points to minimise our impact this year on local communities (in addition to the existing Code of Conduct guidance).

Let’s keep earning a welcome for responsible outdoor activity in this precious area!

·         Parking, Changing and Toileting: please continue to be extra-vigilant about your clients’ parking, toileting and changing arrangements – especially in Pontneddfechan and at Clyn Gwyn where facilities are extremely limited. No-one should be changing or toileting ‘in the fresh air’ in car parks, around Pontneddfechan Community Centre or at Clyn Gwyn layby. Please make appropriate arrangements for your clients to change discreetly and to use ‘proper’ toilet facilities (e.g. public toilets near the Angel, Pontneddfechan and at Cwm Porth; and BBNPA should be providing portable toilets at Gwaun Hepste car park from Easter).

·         We are also hoping to provide a toilet at Clyn Gwyn for providers’ use this season, but in the meantime please ensure that you offer toilet opportunities before or after travelling to this venue!

·         Cwm Porth Voluntary One-Way System for Providers: to ease traffic congestion at Cwm Porth, please could all Providers adopt a voluntary one-way system with effect from 1 April 2018 (especially with minibuses and at peak usage times): Turn right out of Cwm Porth Car Park! (see attached map).


River Wye Glasbury-Hay

·         Only a few of you requested a SWOAPG-led meeting to discuss the issue of charges for paddling through LLanthomas Fishery from 1 April – so rather than try to arrange a special meeting at short-notice before Easter, we’ll include discussion on this at our Emergency General Meeting on 19 April (6.30pm at Garwnant – register here).

·         We are aware of considerable evidence (e.g. being gathered by British Canoeing) that, despite Mr Maynard’s claims, there is a Public Right of Navigation on this stretch of the Wye. However, this could only be confirmed for certain through a court case (or new legislation) – so anyone using the river may still risk being accused of trespass (unless they comply with Mr Maynard’s payment scheme).

·         In the meantime, providers should therefore make their own decision whether to comply with Mr Maynard’s scheme (although we believe it would set an exceedingly unhelpful precedent for anyone to pay Mr Maynard for the privilege of passing through his property on the river), to avoid this stretch of river altogether, or to accept the risk of confrontation (in which case we recommend checking that your legal expenses insurance cover you against accusations of trespass).

·         We will continue to liaise with Powys County Council, Canoe Wales and British Canoeing as the situation develops.

SWOAPG Emergency General Meeting, Garwnant 19 April

The South Wales Outdoor Activity Providers Group is holding an Emergency General Meeting at Garwnant Visitor Centre, 6.30pm Thursday 19 April to:
  1. Inform and discuss with members the latest activity news in the Brecon Beacons and South Wales (including updates on Waterfalls Country and River Wye issues);
  2. Consider the introduction of membership fees, following the withdrawal of our core Visit Wales funding and the results of our recent Membership Survey; and
  3. Consider changing our legal structure to become a Company Limited by Guarantee.
The formal agenda and papers for the meeting (including a summary of our survey results and our proposed new Articles of Association) are attached.
All Members and Supporters are encouraged to come and make their voices heard.
If you plan to attend, please register here so we know who to expect. For further information, contact swoapg@gmail.com.

Fwd: Charity Abseil Easter Monday 2nd April 2018 at Dinas Rock

To all Members:
Please see the message below about a Charity Abseil at Dinas Rock on Easter Monday, which will affect Providers who may have been planning to use Dinas Rock that day:
​This event “has been organised by Mrs Lowri Francis to raise money for a Defibrillator for the Glynneath Community and being run by C​all of the Wild. We will be setting up the main wall from 08.00 and hope to be complete by 16.00ish depending on numbers on the day. The main activity area will be around the far end of the car par near the rock table, the main wall and its base.​ S​hould anyone wish to participate then they should contact Lowri at lwfrancis@outlook.com for further details and a time slot. All clearances have been obtained and we have been given the go ahead by NRW. ​We apologise for any inconvenience this may have to other users it is for a good cause and helps the local community. ​Thank you in advance.”
Dave Thomas, Call of the Wild​

River Wye Glasbury-Hay: Operators’ Meeting?

We have received the following message from British Canoeing, following their annual meeting with River Wye Canoe Hire Operators:

“I met the hire companies yesterday and also spoke to Sian Barnes from Powys CC to get an update on the situation with Mr. Maynard at Glasbury. She met with Mr. Maynard earlier this week to get a better understanding of what his issues are. Basically they are:

He has an issue with the canoeing companies who operate for “hire and reward” on this section of river. He does not have an issue with private individuals, or voluntary groups such as clubs, scouts etc. paddling the river. He wants to address the balance of commercial use on this section of river as he seems to believe that the level of commercial canoeing is damaging his commercial interests. I think the meeting with Powys was just to establish facts not to negotiate or find a solution. We both agreed that the canoe hire operators need to be involved in this dialogue.”

If you believe it would be helpful for South Wales Outdoor Activity Providers Group to arrange a meeting for our Members / Other Operators to discuss how to approach Mr Maynard’s proposals to charge for access on the river through his property, please let us know at swoapg@gmail.com by Sunday 18th March.

SAFETY ALERT – Unstable rocks at Sychryd Cascade / Will’s Hole Cave Entrance

Some of our members have alerted us to a significant potential hazard halfway up the Sychryd 'cascade' climb / at the entrance to Will's Hole cave, next to the obvious, upright metal girder (see photos):
"We noticed that there were some loose rocks on the left directly above the big metal girder. We investigated a little and there are a pile of rocks/boulders that wobble when pushed that are all being held up by a small stack of rocks on the lower side. We agreed that they appear to pose a threat to gorge groups coming up the waterfall climb (similar in nature to the threat of rock fall on way into Porth yr Ogof) and to cavers as access could be blocked if they were to fall."
Pending further investigation, providers should make their own risk assessments and exercise extreme caution in this area – perhaps in particular avoid 'hanging around' with groups in this natural 'holding area' during the ascent.

Re: Canoeing Access from Glasbury to Hay-on-Wye – Landowner Proposes Navigation Charge!

To all Members:
Canoe Wales has just confirmed (https://www.facebook.com/CanoeWales) that “CW members have access to legal expenses cover to…defend any civil action relating to material property, owned by a third party or for which a third party is responsible, arising out of an alleged or actual negligent act or omission or any nuisance, trespass or criminal damage…which causes or could cause physical damage to such material property or pecuniary loss to a third party…In other words, our insurance covers all members for civil claims against them for trespass (which would include incidents where paddlers believe they are not trespassing, but others claim that they are!). Paddlers should still do whatever they can to minimise conflict if they are accused of trespassing, but can be reassured that our insurance cover is available to help them if needed.”
Providers using the Glasbury-to-Hay stretch of the Wye after Easter might wish to assure themselves that their own public liability insurance provides similar cover…

Important Changes to SWOAPG affecting All Members

Dear all,
I hope you would all agree that the South Wales Outdoor Activity Providers Group has provided a very useful function since its inception in 2010, when it was setup primarily to manage the Waterfalls Area Concordat and our Environmental Charter. Since then, the Group has gone on to provide other services to members, including facilitating the Brecon Beacons Reservoir Passport Scheme as well as the e-mail alert system, highlighting commercial opportunities and representation of members’ interests at local, regional and national access and tourism forums.
Without SWOAPG – and its part-time, paid coordinator – it is probable that access to the Sychryd and Mellte gorges for activity providers would have been lost; access to Dwr Cymru reservoirs would not have been gained or maintained; and activity providers in South Wales would not have had a voice within the outdoor sector in Wales.
We have been fortunate until now that our ‘core funding’ has been provided by the Welsh Government through Visit Wales, although for the first time in 2017 the amount of funding they provided was less than the cost of employing our Coordinator – who currently devotes around 7 hours per week to providing essential services including access liaison, regional representation and communication with members. However, we have now learned that in March 2018 this funding will cease completely so SWOAPG will have to find other sources of income if it is to continue to operate as it does now.

Access for providers to the Waterfalls area is currently managed under the Concordat agreed in 2010 between SWOAPG and the landowners – Natural Resources Wales and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. Members who were around at the time will remember that the landowners were under severe pressure to prevent damage to their sites under conservation legislation. The Concordat was seen as being the only way of facilitating access by groups whilst preventing such damage and managing the impacts on local residents. If SWOAPG was to stop managing the Waterfalls Area Concordat, Natural Resources Wales has told us that providers’ only option to gain access to the gorges would be to apply to them for a standard permit for each visit to the gorge, costing at least £50 per year plus £2-3 per person (+VAT); involving considerable paperwork; and requiring 12 weeks’ notice for each visit.
We believe that the services we provide – including facilitating ‘easy’ gorge access – are invaluable to our members, but we now find ourselves in the position of having to raise our own funding if we are to continue this work. The Steering Group has considered several options, including using volunteers instead of a paid Coordinator (which would make it hard, if not impossible, to sustain our current services); charging for our training workshops (which until now have mostly been free); introducing a ‘gorge passport scheme’ (which we are not keen on); and introducing a membership fee (which is currently our ‘preferred option’). However, since we are only your representatives, we don’t believe we are able to make a final decision without first hearing your views on these options – and your other ideas for how we might ‘make ends meet’ in a very short space of time.
We should therefore be grateful if you could fill in a short online questionnaire (click here) by Sunday 11th March so that we can make the best decision possible. We will provide the results of this survey to members, then hold an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) at Garwnant on Thursday 19th April for members to discuss and vote on the best way forward.
This change in our circumstances also provides the opportunity for us to change our legal structure to become a Company Limited by Guarantee (which was agreed in principle by Members at the 2014 AGM) – which will help to maintain our support from the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water; will enable us to apply for more sources of grant funding; and will better protect Members against any potential liabilities that the Group might face in the future. We therefore intend also to propose this formal change at the EGM.
We hope to hear from many of you through our online survey and to see many of you at the EGM, but if you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the Coordinator at swoapg@gmail.com.
Emyr Rees (Chair)
on behalf on the SWOAPG Steering Group