Volunteering with the Brecon Beacons' lengthsgroup

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One of our longest established groups is the Brecon Beacons' lengthsgroup.  It's a small band of dedicated walkers who help maintain the mountain paths of the central Beacons. 

What do they do?

They help to maintain the footpaths. This involves clearing out culverts and ditches and keeping loose stones off the path. There are also opportunities to get involved in survey projects. They report any major problems to the National Trust Access Wardens.

Why do we need a lengthsgroup?

The National Trust owns over 10,000 acres of the Brecon Beacons. This includes Pen y Fan (the highest peak in southern Britain), Cribyn and Corn Du. They're all very popular with walkers. Large numbers of hikers, coupled with the wet weather and heavy grazing of sheep, lead to problems with erosion.

To combat this problem, they pitch the paths with stone, dig drainage ditches alongside the path and construct culverts across trails to take any water away.

This process is very time consuming. Without regular maintenance, these footpaths would quickly deteriorate and the work would've been a waste of time. This is why the lengthsgroup has such a  vital part to play in the conservation of the Brecon Beacons.

Where do the lengthsgroup volunteer ?

Each individual has his or her own stretch of footpath on the Brecon Beacons (the footpaths are marked on maps of the area). The length of the path will depend on how much you think you can do. Some paths require more effort than others.

How much time will you have to commit?

On average the lengthsgroup tries to get out once a month. They spend less than a day on the hill, depending on how much needs doing, the weather and how energetic they're feeling. We do appreciate that you may have other commitments at times and won't be able to attend to your footpath every month. On the other hand, if you have lots of spare time, you may want to do more than one day a month. The choice is yours.

Do you need any specialist equipment?    

The National Trust will provide you with tools for the task. These include a spade, a mattock, a trowel, a lump hammer and a rake if you need it.  We also supply a small day rucksack containing a basic first aid kit, a silva compass, a whistle, a head torch, a survival bag and a 1:25,000 map of the central Beacons. These can be borrowed from the base camp.

Do you receive any training?

The assistant access warden will accompany you on your first visit to your footpath. There'll be a talk on safe use of tools. You'll be shown what routine maintenance involves. From time to time there may be training days, funded by Environment Wales grants. This may include first aid, mountain safety or other topics relevant to your volunteer work.

Do you work alone or in a group?

Generally each lengthsgroup member operates alone (unless they manage to persuade partners or friends to accompany them). If you'd prefer to share the task with a partner this can be arranged. The whole group meets twice a year for a chat and a progress report on how the project is going. This is an opportunity to meet up with the rest of the group for a free lunch.

To find out more, please email Simon Rose.