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
Emyr Rees (Chair)
on behalf on the SWOAPG Steering Group

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

To all Members:
Some of you will already be aware of the proposals made yesterday by Geoff Maynard to charge for passage of canoes through his property on the Wye between Glasbury and Hay. Canoe Wales has made the following statement and (since our Coordinator and the Canoe Wales Waterways & Environment Officer are one-and-the-same person!) we will be working closely with them to get the best advice to Members between now and Easter.
From Canoe Wales: "At a meeting convened by Powys County Council on 22 Feb to review the arrangements for launching canoes at Glas-y-Bont common and paddling to Hay-on-Wye, Geoff Maynard (the owner of Llanthomas fishery at Llowes) announced his intention to charge all paddlers passing through his fishery with effect from 2 April 2018 – based on his belief that there is no legal right to navigate this stretch of the river. Mr Maynard left the meeting immediately following his announcement, but Powys County Council staff intend to discuss his proposals with him as soon as possible.
"Canoe Wales believes that there is a Public Right of Navigation on this stretch of the Wye and that Mr Maynard therefore has no right to impose such a charge. However, this has not been confirmed in law, which can only be done through legislation or a court case. The Welsh Government’s proposals to extend CRoW access land to include rivers would not resolve this particular question, since it largely concerns the use of the river for commercial purposes, which are excluded from the CRoW legislation.
"We hope that Powys County Council will be able to facilitate a sensible resolution to this matter before the end of March and we will keep our Members informed of progress.
"If the situation is not resolved, organisations, groups and individuals using the river will need to make their own judgement after Easter whether to pay Mr Maynard’s charge, to avoid his stretch of the river, or to risk being pursued by ‘security staff’ and/or sued for trespass. We will endeavour to provide advice as soon as possible to assist paddlers in making this decision."

Access to Gunpowder Works & Loonies’ Leap from 5 March

To all Members:
As you should all by now be aware, work will start soon to stabilise and restore the gunpowder works near Pontneddfechan. Work will start on 5th March and ​​will result in some access restrictions in the area until at least September:
  • Access to the ​​footpath on ​’river right’​ of the Mellte between the two footbridges (the lower one at SN915081 and the higher one, just below Loonies’ Leap, at SN918083)​ will be closed for at least two weeks at the start of the works, but groups will still be able to walk between the bridges using the path on ‘river left’. ​​If, for any reason individual providers have unique special circumstances, for instance groups with disabilities, where they need to use the West bank between the footbridges, a solution is available. However this will involve liaising with the works contractors to sign a disclaimer, attending a ‘toolbox talk’ and agreeing suitable dates and times to be escorted along the footpath.  Contact us if you really need to be able to do this!
  • ​​Access from Pontneddfechan Community Centre to the lower bridge will remain open throughout.
  • Access to ​​the ​’river right’ ​path upstream of Loonies’ Leap (to and beyond the main gunpowder works buildings) will be closed for the duration of the works.
  • ​​Access to the Loonies’ Leap ‘high’ jump will be maintained from the upper bridge, via a fenced-off walk through to the jump point. This will be slightly narrower than normal, just above the platform, since scaffolding will need to be erected around the nearby building which will be undergoing work. However this will not prevent access to the jumping off point.
  • This work is due to be completed on 31st August but Brecon Beacons National Park Authority will then be carrying out tree-felling operations until November.
  • BBNPA has informed local residents of the planned operations (see attached) and are organising an open day for volunteers who might like to get involved with the project on 10th March (11am-3pm in Pontneddfechan Community Centre) – see the attached poster. ​​Please consider going along to this Open Day and getting involved with the project, as it would be great to see Outdoor Providers making a positive contribution!
We will continue to liaise with BBNPA and the contractors and will notify Members of any significant changes to these arrangements. In the meantime, please contact us with any questions or concerns.
PS: we are organising an ​​Activity Day for Residents (especially youngsters) in the Waterfalls area (most likely on Sunday 17th June) and would welcome any Providers who are willing and able to give up some time to come and run activities on that day. Although SWOAPG will coordinate the overall day, providers will be responsible for managing the activities they offer under their usual Operating Procedures, Risk Assessments and Insurance. ​​Please let us know as soon as possible if you are willing and able to help with this. ​​Call of the Wild and Mountain & River Activities have already signed-up but there’s plenty of room for more!

Saturday’s Swansea Valley earthquake / Torpantau tunnel (2 separate issues!)

**NB these two news items are unconnected in any way – it's mere coincidence that we're reporting them in a single Alert!!**
Torpantau Tunnel
We have received a report from Storey Arms Centre (thanks, Ryan Stamp) that a new bulge on the southern wall of the tunnel was noticed two weeks ago, along with some new blocks on the tunnel floor (see attachment). It is approximately 50 metres in from the northern entrance, in the first course of blockwork. Water can be seen flowing in the void made by the bulge, with cracks running through the blockwork. Members using the tunnel should be aware of this new development and monitor the area for any further changes.

Saturday's Earthquake
We have received the following report from Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, who will be carrying out appropriate checks – but Members should be alert to the possibility of rock movements affecting caves and slabs. Particularly vulnerable areas could include the the approaches and interior of Porth yr Ogof (including the roof slab of the Great Bedding Cave), the Gunpowder Works remains and some sections of roof within the silica mines behind Dinas Rock, as well as loose rock at Dinas Rock, Cribarth and Penwyllt and other locations further afield where individual rocks were 'near-critical'. Please make appropriate assessments and exercise due caution in these and other vulnerable areas.

Please let us know if any of you discover anything that we should pass on to Members.

From BBNPA: "The earthquake struck at 2.31pm on Saturday and was followed at 3.09 and 4.27 by two small aftershocks. The quake measured 4.4ML on the magnitude scale – the ML means ‘local magnitude’ often referred to as the Richter magnitude. The scale is logarithmic so a quake of magnitude 4 is ten times more powerful than one rated at 3. The original quake was felt over a wide area of Wales and England though the aftershocks are likely only to have been picked up by seismometers. The depth was calculated as 7.4km which is relatively shallow.  

The British Geological Survey (BGS) gave the epicentre as at 51.776 degrees north, 3.837 degrees west (Ordnance Survey grid reference SN 733102) beneath Bryn Melyn/Mynydd Uchaf which is near the northern edge of the South Wales Coalfield. That puts it about 2.8km southwest of the village of Cwmllynfell and 3.6km outside of the National Park and Geopark and in the NW corner of Neath Port Talbot unitary authority area. 

This is the largest earthquake to have been felt on the British mainland since the 5.2ML Market Rasen earthquake of 27 February 2008. There have been a cluster of relatively significant earthquakes (in British terms!) around the lower Swansea Valley over the centuries, the last major one being the 5.2ML Swansea Earthquake of 1906, an event which occurred just 3 months after the much larger, more well-known and more devastating quake in San Francisco. Others over 5ML were recorded near Swansea in 1727 and 1775. A 4.2ML quake occurred beneath the Bristol Channel in 2014 and was felt in our region. Other quakes emanating from within Wales and which hit the headlines include the Llŷn Peninsula quake of 19 July 1984 and the Sennybridge quake of October 27 1999.

An earthquake usually results from movement on a geological fault and represents the sudden relief of strain that has previously built up along the weakness. The BGS records numerous faults in the area – indeed the fact that this is a part of the (now largely industrially inactive) South Wales Coalfield means that the area has been geologically surveyed in considerable detail. Numerous N-S aligned faults are known and date from several hundred million years ago – they were active at that time as the coalfield was being stretched in an east-west direction. A notable one is the westerly-dipping CwmllynfelI Fault which runs north from Cilmaengwyn in the Swansea Valley beneath Bryn Melyn (epicentre) and extends to Herbert’s Quarry on the Black Mountain where it peters out to the north. It is not known however whether this event can be related to a known fault or else relates to a previously unknown one. 

The Swansea Valley itself follows the line of the Swansea Valley Disturbance, one of Britain’s major geological structures being a belt of faults and geological folds running NE from Swansea Bay towards Brecon and beyond and active during the Caledonian and Varsican orogenies (mountain building periods) of 450-400 million and around 300 million years ago. Dr Tony Ramsay, scientific director of Fforest Fawr Geopark has recently collaborated with other geoscientists into unravel more detail about earth movements associated with the Disturbance and an academic research paper is anticipated soon.

Britain has been a seismically quiet part of the world for a long while but our part of the Earth’s crust still experiences stresses related both to the continued opening of the Atlantic Ocean and to the ongoing Alpine Orogeny i.e mountain-building in southern Europe."

Future Alerts from SWOAPG

To all members, observers & associates:
Please note that, in future, Alerts from SWOAPG will no longer appear on our website, but will continue to to be sent by e-mail to all Members and will continue to be posted (automaticallly, and normally within 24 hours) on
We are introducing this change to simplify our internal processes and we hope that it will not have any significant impact on our members.
If it is critical to you that alerts are still posted on our website, please let us know so we can review this decision.