Footpath work on the Brecon Beacons

Over 350,000 walkers tread the footpaths of Pen y Fan every year, with numbers more than doubling in the last five years.

Our team of rangers and volunteers are dedicated to maintaining the footpaths to protect this living landscape and ensure that everyone can enjoy their visit to this iconic location.

The harsh climate in the central Brecon Beacons and high number of walkers mean that these footpaths are subject to erosion that we need to actively manage.  

How have we tackled the erosion?

Turn back time to the 1980s before we started repairing the footpaths and the slopes of Pen y Fan were covered with vast erosion scars.

Vast erosion scars once covered the slopes of the central Brecon Beacons
Erosion scars on the slopes of Pen y Fan in the central Brecon Beacons, Powys
Vast erosion scars once covered the slopes of the central Brecon Beacons

For the last thirty years, our team have embarked on an ambitious programme of upland path repair. 

They’ve created 15km of defined stone pitched paths within the 70km footpath network that criss-cross the central Brecon Beacons, built 400 drainage ditches, introduced 500 culverts and re-vegetated an area as large as 30 football pitches. 

Our rangers, Rob and Huw are up on the mountain on a regular basis keeping up with repairs. In summer you’ll find them closer to the peaks, working on the high sections of path, and in winter, on the lower slopes, closer to the car park.

" Our aim when defining the footpaths is to control the erosion using traditional techniques to prevent further loss of soil. Huw, our team of volunteers and I create a stable footpath so people feel comfortable and can continue to enjoy walking. I get a great sense of achievement watching the land slowly recover."
- Rob Reith, Lead Ranger, Brecon Beacons

Controlling footpath erosion within the Brecon Beacons is a cyclical process and you’ll find the team continually have to balance re-visiting sections of footpath, which need to be re-done every five years and starting work in new areas. 

What methods do we use?

We use a method called stone pitching, a method that has been in use since Roman times. Individual stones are placed in the ground upright and stabilised by packing tightly with smaller stone and soil. 

Once the path is constructed, the surrounding areas are landscaped, banks sloped and the whole area re-vegetated. 

How much does this cost?

Every year we spend around £100,000 constructing and maintaining the footpath network in the central Brecon Beacons. 

This year with the increase in walkers, there is an urgent need to repair additional sections of footpath. We’ve re-launched the Brecon Beacons fundraising appeal campaign to carry out this essential work in what may be the busiest tourist season ever in the Brecon Beacons.

Joining the team as a volunteer

Throughout the year we work with groups of volunteers to repair sections of footpath and have individuals who regularly join us to get involved in the footpath maintenance.  

For more information about volunteering with the team, read our Volunteering article