The SWOAPG office doesn’t have any windows (it’s in my attic!), so I have to go outside to see the view – but what a view! It’s very strange to see the ridge of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du on a sunny weekend day with no people queuing for the summit. But these are indeed strange times, when we can’t even go out to the hills, rivers, cliffs and caves to explore and enjoy the landscape we all love.
Like many of you, I had quite a bit of outdoor work lined up over the next couple of months that has simply evaporated, so I was very relieved by the recent announcement of the Self Employed Income Support Scheme. However, payments won’t be made until June and will be based on 80% of past earnings, which will still leave a financial hole. I am very lucky to be supported by my family (my wife is still earning, working part-time from home; and my in-laws – who jointly own our farm – have stable pensions); and I have plenty of DIY building work on the farm to keep me busy (not to mention all the admin I need to catch up on)! And we’re all healthy – for now at least. But I know that many of you will not be so fortunate and may be struggling to make ends meet; may be suffering from illness; and will be wondering quite how this thing is all going to pan out.
This is a difficult, unprecedented and worrying time for us all as individuals, as an industry and as a nation. What we do know is that our landscape will still be there and people will still want to get out there any enjoy it – perhaps more thane ever – when this crisis is over. So if we can get through the next few weeks…months…year…there should be light at the end of the tunnel.
The SWOAPG Directors and Steering Group are acutely aware of how difficult things are and would like to do what we can, with our limited resources, to help ease the pain. Most of us (and the many partners we deal with) are still coming to terms with our own personal consequences, but once things settle down a little we hope to be able to resume ‘business as usual’ and to continue to:
- represent the interests of Outdoor Providers nationally and regionally in matters that affect us – including the impact of the current crisis and extending access for Providers to the Welsh countryside (we will, for example, keep in close touch with our partners in WATO and the Outdoor Alliance, who are fully engaged with the Welsh Government’s access reform programme);
- liaise with landowners and managers around local access issues (we will continue working with NRW about possible developments at Pontneddfechan; with the Wye & Usk Foundation about their ideas for Glasbury-to-Hay; and with Dwr Cymru Welsh Water around potential extension of the Reservoir Passport Scheme);
- provide training resources that enable Providers to ‘add value’ to their clients (we are, for example, discussing with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority the possibility of some online geology resources and the like); and
- keep you informed about issues affecting our industry (we have, for example, just posted a summary of the support available from Governments to businesses, employees and the self-employed during the current crisis).
If there’s anything more that you feel we should be doing, please let us know. In the meantime, we wish you all well and hope that you and your families stay well and safe, ready to emerge anew when the ‘all-clear’ is given.
Steve Rayner, on behalf of SWOAPG