Preparing for the season ahead

Far-reaching views from the steep path leading to the summit of Pen y Fan

As usual there is a lot of work to be carried out on the footpaths leading to Pen y Fan. Preparing and sourcing materials for the repair work needed to battle the constant erosion of the footpaths and surrounding areas can be as challenging as the repair and maintenance work itself.

Sourcing the stone

Much of our time in the coming months will be spent sourcing stone, which must be old red sandstone; we are only allowed to use materials that are in keeping with the surrounding landscape. These materials must be as local as is physically possible -due to the area being designated as S.S.S.I (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and S.A.C (Special Area of Conservation). This means we will have to find suitable stone and then dig it out of the hillsides, beggars can’t be choosers! Sourcing stone this way keeps costs down and means we can personally select the stone we require every year. For every tonne of stone we collect, we are able to pitch another one square metre of footpath.

Every tonne of stone means one square metre of footpath
The stone quarries of Pen Milan and Cwar Mawr in the central Brecon Beacons
Every tonne of stone means one square metre of footpath

We also have the use of two old stone quarries located at Pen Milan and Cwar Mawr. There are approximately 15 small quarry sites which were originally used for supplying roofing tiles for the local area, as the logistics of bringing slate down from North Wales would have been unthinkable. The remnants of these quarries are made up of the rejected stone.

We are hoping to source around 60 tonnes of stone, which will then be dropped by helicopter to strategic places on several footpaths in the central Brecon Beacons. This stone will be used to extend some of the pitched paths in width, needed due to the ever increase of walkers, and to continue the completion of the steep paths to the summit.

Henrhyd, a unique landscape

The largest single drop waterfalls in South Wales
Henrhyd waterfalls in the Nant Llech Valley
The largest single drop waterfalls in South Wales

Elsewhere there are other preparations needed for the coming year, for instance at Henrhyd waterfalls in the village of Coelbren. The falls, which are the largest single drop waterfalls in South Wales, are situated in the Nant Llech valley, this area is also designated as a S.S.S.I. The damp, heavily wooded gorge, with its thin soils and steep rocky slopes, is a haven for shade and damp-loving plants like mosses, liverworts and lichen. But the geology of this site does also make delivering materials to site somewhat tricky, so materials have to be carried down by hand. This includes scalpings which are used to surface the paths, stone for pitching and timber to replace bridges, gates, fences and steps; everything seems much heavier here!

Henrhyd, a haven for shade and damp-loving plants like mosses, liverworts and lichen
Henrhyd is a heavily wooded gorge where you'll discover fungi and fauna
Henrhyd, a haven for shade and damp-loving plants like mosses, liverworts and lichen

To help keep the countryside accessible, a lot of hard work goes into maintaining our special places and Henrhyd is no exception. The popularity of this area and the recent heavy rains bring with it erosion, this means the repair and maintenance list continues to grow. Some priorities on the work list this year include replacing a section of steps leading down to the falls from the village side, resurfacing the car park and also resurfacing the steep footpath down from the car park, with “curb” stones to be dug in on the edges of the path to prevent further loss of surface material. We will let you know how we get on at the end of the season.

Come back next month where Sara, The Kymin Manager will be sharing what the team are up to over at the Georgian Roundhouse and grounds overlooking Monmouth.