Waterfalls Country / Sychryd & Mellte Gorges Access Update Spring 2019

As we approach the start of the ‘busy’ season, I thought it would be worth a quick reminder of some key messages for users of ‘Waterfalls Country’ – and particularly the Sychryd & Mellte gorges, where we are introducing new arrangements for identifying groups in the gorges (see later):

Trees in the Mellte at Craig y Ddinas

Please be aware there are currently a number of trees in the Mellte at Craig y Ddinas (see attached photographs) – BBNPA and NRW are aware of these and hoping to remove them when they are able.

Parking, Traffic, Changing & Toileting

    • Parking in the area remains a pressure, especially at peak weekends: please continue to park considerately!
    • Please do not use the Angel Inn car park to meet clients etc. after 10.30am
    • Please continue to use the voluntary one-way system around Cwm Porth / Ystradfellte, especially at peak times
    • As always, please make every effort to prevent ‘public’ changing and toileting – this continued to be an issue last year and is one of the biggest risks to our continued access to this area…

Cwm Porth Emergency Phone

    • While the emergency telephone at Cwm Porth is out-of-order, providers using the area should be prepared to go in search of a mobile phone signal in the event of an emergency.

Access to Loonies’ Leap / Gunpowder Works

    • We have not received any recent updates on the potential closure of the lane at Pontneddfechan Village Hall. However, we encourage all providers to continue to manage groups carefully along this lane, so as to cause minimal disruption to local residents and to vehicles visiting them – and if the gates are closed at any point, to heed the following advice (we appreciate that the return to Dinas Rock over the top of the hill will be inconvenient, but we ask all providers to respect these environmental & safety concerns and regard this as the only alternative route until further notice):
    • If the river-right access is ‘lost’, groups are asked for the time being to return from Loonies’ Leap up the Gunpowder steps and retrace their route back to Dinas Rock. Groups should not return to Pontneddfechan using the path on river left, until this route can be assessed by a lower plant specialist – nor should they stay in the river downstream of the upper (Loonies’ Leap) footbridge (Along the path there are records of a number of rare bryophytes and lower plants including the scare turf moss, found in only a few sites in the UK and very sensitive to trampling so could easily be lost; In the river requires crossing the NRW weir, which is not designed to be walked over. The weir is very slippery and any fall is likely to result in injury. The rest of the river back to Dinas is shallow and groups are likely to walk on exposed gravels and sensitive mossy stones at the edge of the river).

Gorge-Walking Concordat, Codes of Conduct and Rules

These are all available via our website, for any providers wishing to remind themselves of material covered on our Code of Conduct training sessions.

Identifying Groups in Gorges – New Arrangements

Following concerns raised by BBNPA and NRW about unauthorised providers using the gorges, we will be introducing the following new arrangements to help identify legitimate users from 1 April:

    1. We encourage all Providers to mark at least some of your client’s buoyancy aids in each group clearly with the name of your business / organisation.
    2. e will be issuing Providers who meet NRW’s gorge-use criteria (including renewal of SWOAPG Full Membership!) with credit-card-sized ID cards which are to be displayed prominently when gorge-walking:
        1. In Vehicles at car parks (we will provide a ‘starter set’ of windscreen holders for this purpose); and
        2. On Group Leaders in the gorge (we are not prescribing how you should do this – they might for example be attached to the leaders’ bodies, bags or buoyancy aids – but we will be providing free-of-charge a ‘starter set’ of transparent armbands which have been recommended to us following a brief trial by one provider: we can’t offer any guarantee that these will work for you, but can provide details of how to obtain more of them – or you are welcome to try your own alternative methods).

      If you have not received your expected ID cards within the next couple of weeks, please contact me – and please do let us know how you get on with different methods of displaying them!

    1. BBNPA and NRW are planning to conduct some ‘spot-checks’ to assess the effectiveness of these arrangements and the extent to which unauthorised providers might be using the gorges
    2. We’ll be installing new signs (see attached) in the Dinas changing screens and Village Hall to alert clients that their providers should be properly registered (and remind them to take all their belongings and litter with them!).

I hope you find these arrangements helpful and not too much of a burden – and wish you all a great 2019 season!

Steve Rayner, South Wales Outdoor Activity Providers Group Coordinator

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