Upcoming SWOAPG workshops

SWOAPG has 3 workshops planned in the next few weeks:
  • 16 May 4.45-7pm Dinas/Sychryd Code of Conduct Training, for Providers who are signed-up to the NRW Waterfalls Country Concordat (one free space will be available to Providers who have paid for 2018 Full Membership)
  • 3 June 9-5pm (TBC) Mellte Gorge Rescue Workshop
  • 8 June 9-4.30pm Geology Workshop, with Alan Bowring of Brecon Beacons National Park, looking at how the hills near Cribarth are linked to the sea!
Each workshop costs £25 per person. Attendees must be either 2018 Full Individual Members or staff from 2018 Full Corporate Members or existing Level 2 or 3 Members / Observers or their staff.
Advance booking is essential!
Full details & booking via the links here.

Important news for gorge users: SWOAPG Membership and Dinas/Sychryd Code of Conduct Training

SWOAPG Membership: “Full Membership” Fees now due

At the SWOAPG Emergency General Meeting on 19 April, Members voted unanimously for the introduction of Membership Fees to ensure SWOAPG’s continued operation, following the withdrawal of Visit Wales funding.

 All Providers who wish to continue using the Sychryd and Mellte gorges under the NRW Waterfalls Country Concordat (or who simply wish to fully support and benefit from SWOAPG’s work) should complete an Application for Full Membership by 31 May (costing £75 until 31 March 2019), for either:

  • Full Individual Membership for Outdoor Activity Providers who are individuals aged 18+, e.g. freelancers or sole traders; or
  • Full Corporate Membership for Outdoor Activity Providers who are organisations or partnerships, including companies, associations, charities, clubs and other incorporated bodies, operating for-profit or not-for-profit.

We will also soon be making available the following membership categories for Providers and other organisations who wish to support SWOAPG but do not require all the benefits of Full Membership:

  • Extra Staff Membership – free of charge for staff of existing Corporate Members (providing additional contact points within the business / organisation)
  • Associate Individual & Corporate Memberships – £25 per year for Providers who do not need or want all membership benefits (no access to the NRW Waterfalls Country Concordat)
  • Youth Membership – free of charge for e.g. freelancers aged under 18
  • Supporter – free of charge for organisations and individuals who support SWOAPG’s aims and objectives, but are not Outdoor Activity Providers
  • Subscriber – free of charge listing for e-mail alerts only
Dinas/Sychryd Code of Conduct Training
Any providers wishing to use Sychryd gorge, who do not currently employ anyone who has attended this training, must attend one of our Code of Conduct Training workshops before using the gorge (which is also suitable as a ‘refresher’ for previous attendees). The next workshop will be:
  • 16th May, 4.45pm at Dinas Rock. £25 per participant (one free place for each Full Member).
Please e-mail swoapg@gmail.com to reserve your place.

Valleys Landscape Park – engagement events

The “Valleys Landscape Park” is a Welsh Government initiative to invest in the South Wales Valleys (defined broadly as the area between the M4 and the Brecon Beacons, from Swansea in the West to Newport in the East). Among the aims of the project are making better use of the natural resources in the area for recreation – so
South Wales outdoor activity providers could be well placed to both advise on and benefit from the project.
The Welsh Government is holding three ‘stakeholder engagement events’ in April, which providers with an interest in this area are encouraged to attend: see details below…

“Good Afternoon,

 In his role as Chair of the Valleys Taskforce the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services will visit three areas across the valleys to discuss his proposals for a “Valleys Landscape Park” with community stakeholders.    

 The aims for the proposal are to invest in the Valleys’ natural and cultural assets, empower local communities, offer outstanding and accessible recreational opportunities, engender community pride in the Valleys and enhance Valleys town centres as vibrant places, with attractive green spaces, which support local economies. 

By implementing the actions set out in the plan the Valleys will become a place where communities are empowered, and the local environment is easily accessible, widely used and at the heart of Valleys life.

These events will provide stakeholders with the opportunity to shape the proposal for the Valleys Landscape Park and to influence decisions around statement sites across the Valleys and local community projects with potential for development.

 An agenda is attached.

The dates and venues for the events are included below:

 16 April          Dare Valley Country Park              17:30 – 19:30

 26 April          Bedwellty House and Park            17:30 – 19:30

 30 April          Pontardawe Arts Centre                 17:30 – 19:30

If you are interested in attending one of these events please contact the Valleys Taskforce Team at TalkValleys@gov.wales 

Free illustrated talk on the former Gunpowder Works at Pontneddfechan – 19th April

From Brecon Beacons National Park Authority:

As part of our Lottery Funded Project to save the remains of the former Gunpowder Works at Pontneddfechan, join us for a FREE illustrated talk by Archaeologist Fred Hamond who will bring to life the history of the site from its humble beginnings through to it becoming part of the corporate giant ICI.

Where: Pontneddfechan Village Hall, Min Yr Awel SA11 5ND

When: Thursday 19th April 7pm

For more details​, ​contact explosivetimesproject@beacons-npa.gov.uk or 01874 620481.

 pdf icon gunpowder_poster_the-history-ilovepdf-compressed.pdf

SWOAPG Emergency General Meeting, Garwnant 19 April

Just a reminder to ​register here if you’re planning to attend the​…​

South Wales Outdoor Activity Providers Group Emergency General Meeting at Garwnant Visitor Centre, 6.30pm Thursday 19 April.

The agenda will include:

  1. Brief updates / reminders of​ the latest activity news in the Brecon Beacons and South Wales;
  2. ​Discussion and Vote on Membership ​Fees;
  3. ​Discussion and Vote on ​forming a Company Limited by Guarantee​; and
  4. Discussion on Clyn Gwyn toilet arrangements and the Glasbury-Hay “Paddle-Permit”.

​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.

For further information, contact swoapg@gmail.com.

Outdoor Recreation Network Event 18 April: monitoring participation in outdoor recreation

The Outdoor Recreation Network is putting on an interesting event around emerging trends and changing technology for assessing participation in recreation activity, which might be of interest to some SWOAPG members.  Details included on the flyer attached.

Skills Survey & Apprenticeships

Regional Learning and skills Partnerships skills surveys

Outdoor Providers in South West & Mid Wales might like to complete the following survey to ensure that 'skills for the outdoors' are adequately reflected in Welsh Government thinking: http://www.rlp.org.uk/business-survey-2018/ The survey is open until 4 June. Apologies for missing a similar SE Wales survey in March.

Apprenticeships in Wales are available for anyone over 16 years of age, and can help you take on new staff to grow your business.  Did you know that apprenticeships are also available to you if you are self-employed or have staff already employed who would like to gain new skills?  The simplest way to find out how an apprenticeship can help your business, is to register your interest on the link and you will be contacted by someone from a training provider in Wales who can tell you more – with no obligation.




Another Welsh Government initiative is The Business Online Support Service (BOSS) offering free online training which can be done as, where and when you want – for example IT, Marketing, Finance courses.




For more information on skills – this is the link to the tourism skills page – including other available training and funding support available to businesses in Wales.



FREE IOL Wales events coming up…..

IOL Wales/Cymru would like to invite you to come along to some FREE events coming up in Spring and Summer.  
Details below. 

There are a series of FREE TO ATTEND IOL Wales/Cymru events coming up.

The events are free but you do need to book as places are limited.

NEW TO THE LIST – 10 May 2018 

Working with Diversity in the Outdoors – and Interactive Learning Event  (Book ONLINE

Venue: Atlantic College, St Donats, Vale of Glamorgan, CF61 1WF

Time: 19.00 to 21.00

An interacive learning event where attendees get to ask questions of a pannel of students from different cultures, backgrounds and ethnic groups. It’s a great chance to learn about how diversity can effect us in our delivery and provision of outrdoor learning, a reminder of the benefits of our programmes to such groups and also the chance for attendees to ask and probe a little bit deeper into the areas of diversity that may be sensitive to talk about. Attendees will be asked to submit questions they have in advance which the panel will prepare answers and facts to assist practitioners in their work.

Presenter – Tom Partridge

Tom is the Head of Atlantic Outdoors at UWC Atlantic College, an IB world school founded by Kurt Hahn and the brith of the UWC movement. The college is home to students from over 90 nationalities, a massive range of diverse backgrounds and groups. This event will be facilitated and contrubuited to by a small group of students.

The café bar will be open from 18:00 offering light refreshements and drinks

This workshop is free to everyone and not just IOL members – but you must book.

26 April 2018

Bike Ride Social (Book ONLINE)   

Venue  Nant Bwlch yr Haearn, Llanrwst Gwynedd, LL27 0JB

Time      18.00 tea and coffee and Nant B-H 18.30 Bike ride Some time late – pub

This is a chance to meet people and get some exercise.  Staff from Nant BH will be along to offer advice on routes and a place to refresh yourselves afterwards.

This session is free to everyone and not just IOL members – but you must book.


12 May 2018         

Fostering a Connection (Book ONLINE)   

Venue: Meet at Caban café, Brynrefail, Gwynedd, LL55 3NP and then Coed Dinorwig

Time: 11.00 to 13.30

The ‘Fostering a Connection’ course was designed by Lun Roberts (ER Outdoors), Jim Langley (Nature’s Work) and Joe Roberts (Natural Resources Wales) to meet the needs of outdoor providers wishing to engage their clients with the environment and to foster their connection to it.  The full course takes a day, costs £50 (£30 concessions) and includes a manual.  This taster is free and gives you an insight into the philosophy behind the course and a chance to try out some of the activities in the manual including quizzes, games, phone app testing, folk tales, bush craft and much more.  Connection takes place on many levels (intellectually, practically, emotionally, spiritually, through our senses, through our creativity, etc.) and the activities on offer reflect this diversity.  We are not trying to teach field studies or asking people to become walking encyclopaedias of flora and fauna. Instead we offer games and activities which can be fitted seamlessly into existing outdoor courses.

This taster session is free to everyone and not just IOL members – but you must book.

21 June 2018 

Working alongside choughs (Book ONLINE)

Venue  Green Room, Beacon Climbing Wall, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 2BD

Time   18.00 to 20.00

Adrienne Stratford tells us that she is often referred to as the ‘mad chough lady’.  She has certainly dedicated a fair bit of her life to exploring the habits of these amazing birds.  Since 1991 and alongside Tony Cross she has been engaged in a long term study authorized by the British Ornithological Trust which has resulted in her knowing most of the chough populations in North and mid-Wales on a first name basis.  More recently she has been working with the North Wales Environmental Outdoor Charter Group to educate outdoor providers on how to minimize detrimental impact on the birds.  If you missed those session this is your chance to hear Adrienne speak about her work and findings and to ask questions.

This course is free to everyone and not just IOL members – but you must book.

13 July 2018 

Fire lighting through the ages followed by a Bar BQ (Book ONLINE)

Venue Meet at the southern end of the car park at Dinas Dinlle, Gwynedd, LL54 5TW and then on the beach

Time  18.00 to whenever feels right for you to leave

David Philips from Coastal Wanderer will demonstrate (and give you the opportunity to try out) fire making techniques from different periods of pre-history.  Then we’ll make use of said fire to cook food and sit around to tell stories.  Sausages, fish and tofu kebabs provided please bring a salad or a pudding to share.

This session is free to everyone and not just IOL members – but you must book. 

More Guidance on Public Changing; Tree Overhanging Sychryd; and Porth yr Ogof Information

A few more information messages – apologies if some of these are a little late…

Public Changing

Following our recent request / reminder that providers “make appropriate arrangements for clients to change discreetly”, we were asked for further guidance on what is considered acceptably ‘discreet’ – so here are some additional thoughts from Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, for areas where there are no changing facilities available (particularly in ‘Waterfalls Country’, but this guidance surely applies wherever we work):

“Providers should use vans as screens to the maximum extent; and manage their group so that horseplay or other unreasonable behaviour does not form part of the changing procedure – and certainly there must be no nakedness on display. As long as toileting is done elsewhere and sufficiently large towels are used for changing, then I guess we cant ask for much more given the lack of facilities. Clients should act as if their grandmother is watching!
Large Tree Hanging over Sychryd Gorge
We have been alerted to “a very large tree that looked like it was ready to fall, positioned right on top of the main cliff and overhang in the top of the Sychryd Gorge (by the main climbing area above the cascade falls). If it were to fall it would land on top of the path that many groups use.” NRW will be taking a look at it, but in the meantime please take appropriate precautions in this area (in addition to the ‘loose rock’ precautions notified recently).
Porth yr Ogof Cave Rescue / Risk Advice
A rescue of one of our members’ clients took place in February. They had got their leg stuck in a crack in a block. The leader spent a reasonable amount of time attempting to extract the limb before the rescue team were called in the interest of the student’s welfare, since the rescue team were more likely to have experience with trapped limbs. The team worked in a very professional and concise manner and freed the student relatively quickly though not easily. Many thanks and credit to the rescue team members. Those present were very impressed. The student is now fit and well and took part in the rest of the week’s activities.
This was an unusual incident and the student involved was quite small and thin in character. Many will recognise the block (see attached picture). The head level tube in the right wall of the main entrance (sometimes called the wormhole) leads to an exit point by a large block. Exit can be made right at the same level through a puddle to a standing area. Exit can also be made left into the by-pass passage. Its also possible to climb up and over the block straight ahead.
The danger now apparent is that when undertaking this manoeuvre, those with very slim limbs may let the right one enter the crack which is then vulnerable to being trapped. This will be something cave leaders may want to take into account as a now “foreseeable” event.

Porth yr Ogof Works Update

Following a recent meeting at Porth yr Ogof with the BBNPA Estate Warden, please find below an update of planned surface work in the vicinity of the cave.
1. Letterbox Aven destabilisation by water run-off from road
Water running off the road is carving a surface channel down to the fenced area at Entrance F above the Letterbox. With help from a SWOAPG Working Group, BBNPA plans to:
  • Open the drainage channel on the river side of the approach road to take most water off into the area above the main entrance closest to the car park
  • Close the drainage route under the stile to stop water finding its way to the River Right escape route
  • Create a raised open drain running diagonally from the point where water leaves the road on the Letterbox Aven side and take the remaining water from the road into the area of brambles adjacent to the road
  • Fill the existing channel that has been cut by water and tidy up this area
  • Once this is all complete, work will be undertaken to fill the voids between the large boulders at the top of letterbox aven to provide long term stability
2. Surface route between the first gate after the road leading to Entrances I & J and Resurgence
This route has become wider and muddier every year. Work will be undertaken with help from a SWOAPG Working Group to create a clear route which avoids the muddy areas and travels across the harder surfaces to enable this area to recover.
3. Escape Route River Right
Following the substantial rockfall here, the current recommendation is:
  • To remind everyone that this is an emergency exit only
  • The route is passable, but only with extreme care. The large rock perched in the slot on the climb up is not as stable as we would like and to pass it, group members are exposed to the drop on the river side of the route.  If Leaders are not happy to use this route then care should be taken to avoid being caught out by weather conditions which prevent crossing the river to leave the cave River Left
BBNPA will consider whether the perched rock can be removed. This will require consultation with the Landowner before undertaking any work here. In the meantime, the fallen tree blocking the bottom of the escape route will be removed.
4. Log Jam Dam in river
The log jam in the centre of the river in front of the main entrance will be removed with help from a SWOAPG Working Group. This dam is causing water to be diverted to the left in high water and it undermines the bank River Left, which is not a desirable situation. Other trees in the river will be removed at the same time where practicable.
5. Entrance D1
This is the entrance accessible form the back of the Maze consisting, from the inside, of a sandy crawl followed by a climb up through a slot between boulders to the surface. The slot is currently blocked by boulders, but more worryingly, there is a considerable amount of loose earth and very large boulders perched above it following the landslide. It is strongly recommended that Entrance D1 is avoided for the time being until a decision is made on whether to undertake remedial works here.
SWOAPG will be arranging a Working Party to help with these works, so if you or your colleagues are able to help, it would be greatly appreciated.


South West Wales: Coasteering Concordat & Parking Information

Coasteering Concordat Sign-Up & Site Briefing

Providers wishing to offer coasteering in South West Wales from 1 April must complete the annual sign-up to the Coasteering Concordat, via the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter Group (POCG) website. All information will be checked and you will need to provide an ALAA License number and an insurance document clearly showing £10,000,000 cover.

Once you have signed up to the concordat, you will also need to go through a site briefing with Paul Renfro (contact paul.renfro@pembrokeshirecoastalforum.org.uk), who will explain the changes to sites this year and the site guides.

 This must all be done before using any of the venues.
Parking in Pembrokeshire
There will be a parking fee this year at Abereiddi both for providers and public (£4 / car, £4 / trailer and £10 / minibus). The top field will
again be used for parking and will have the same charges as the lower car park. 
There will be a drop-off / pick-up system in place that will be managed by the car park attendant. This will allow people to drop at the bottom car park and then park at the top. There is no longer a booking system in place for parking. This means that no spaces will be guaranteed, however no one will be turned away as parking in the top field is ample.
Other car parks around the National Park now require permits for commercial / trailer parking. Please check with the National Park or contact Paul Renfro for information and a map of car parks where fees apply.
Marine Code App
The POCG Marine Code app contains information on wildlife, geology and fun facts for the area; as well as information on restrictions and a live location feed. Available now from App and Play stores!