August 2019 – Controlling erosion and maintaining footpaths

Airlift unloading scalpings on the summit of Pen y Fan

Helping to look after the countryside and keep it accessible to all is an important part of our conservation work. This month's blog from Lead Ranger Rob looks back over a busy summer of airlifts and footpath repair work, always with the support from our volunteers and visitors.

Up, up and away.. eventually

To carry out the vital repairs needed on our upland sites, we rely on helicopter airlifts to move stone scalpings to the footpaths.  This year our helicopter airlift was split into two work sites. One was in the central Brecon Beacons and the other was at the Skirrid near Abergavenny.  Unfortunately, with a summer of mixed weather, our planned airlifts were delayed by over a month. This meant we could not landscape and revegetate in May as originally planned but had to wait until mid-August.  So, we are keeping our fingers crossed that the grass roots will be deep enough to contend with the winter weather this year.

In the central Brecon Beacons, it was quite a feat, with 200 tonnes of scalpings in 1 tonne skip loads being lifted to the summit of Pen y Fan.  This was then spread out to define a route and build back up some of the ground that had eroded away.  The other work site we focused on was the ridge to the summit of Ysgyryd Fawr (Skirrid).  We airlifted 70 tonnes up on to the ridge and have begun to cut out a route, landscape it and spread these piles out along some of the steeper sections.  Our aim as always is to create a hard-wearing surface to protect the surrounding area from erosion and to give grip for walking boots on steep paths.

Across both sites, my thanks go to our tenant farmer in the Tarell Valley and Huw from the Skirrid Farm for loaning us spaces to store and airlift the stone scalpings from. 

Summit path after restoration
Detail of the Pen y Fan summit path after restoration in the central Brecon Beacons
Summit path after restoration

Many hands make light work

Once again, we have seen an increase in visitor numbers to our properties, and with that an increase in externally organised events, both day and night.  Helping to look after the countryside and keep it accessible to all is an important part of our conservation work.   We thank those individuals who do organise the event with our guidance and support and who also contribute.  These donations then go towards the erosion control and footpath repair works needed on our sites in central Brecon Beacons, Skirrid and Sugar Loaf.  If you’re an organiser wanting to run an event or activity in the future, follow the link for more information on how together we can assess the activity/event and agree a way of working that minimises the impact upon the environment, local community and other users.

From airlifts to archaeological surveying, come back for Upland Ranger Huw’s blog next month where he’ll be detailing what survey work the team completes in the winter months when the bracken has died down on our sites.

Our volunteer groups this year have included the Skirridians, Strode College, Bath University and National Trust Working Holidays.  It is with thanks to these volunteer groups that we have been able to landscape, wheelbarrow materials around, spread these materials and compact them down, and clear out ditches and drains on the footpath network.  With the support of these groups, we have also been able to dig in side stones proud of the surface, along some sections of the Pont ar Daf footpath, thus preventing further loss of stone scalpings and then creating a slope, encouraging our many visitors to stay on the defined path.  We have also been working on the footpath to and from the summit of Corn Du.  Next time you visit, you’ll notice a post and rail fence next to the path line.  This is not a hand rail as it may seem, but a fence we have erected as a temporary measure to protect the revegetation work needed. 

Detail of curb stones on an upland footpath
The curb stones on the Pont ar Daf footpath leading to the summit in the central Brecon Beacons
Detail of curb stones on an upland footpath

Our Meet & Greet volunteer team always give a warm welcome at the Pont ar Daf hut.  But they also walk up to the summit of Pen y Fan most days litter picking and never come down empty handed.  We’re passionate about keeping the central Brecon Beacons tidy and know that we’re not alone. So next time you visit, please help look after this iconic landscape by taking your litter home.

Welcoming more visitors 

Once again, we have seen an increase in visitor numbers to our properties, and with that an increase in externally organised events, both day and night.  Helping to look after the countryside and keep it accessible to all is an important part of our conservation work.   We thank those individuals who do organise the event with our guidance and support and who also contribute.  These donations then go towards the erosion control and footpath repair works needed on our sites in central Brecon Beacons, Skirrid and Sugar Loaf.  If you’re an organiser wanting to run an event or activity in the future, follow the link for more information on how together we can assess the activity/event and agree a way of working that minimises the impact upon the environment, local community and other users.

From airlifts to archaeological surveying, come back for Upland Ranger Huw’s blog next month where he’ll be detailing what survey work the team completes in the winter months when the bracken has died down on our sites.