Podcasts breathe new life into National Park walking experience

Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority has turned two of its most popular and interesting locations near Craig-y-nos Country Park in the Upper Swansea Valley into downloadable podcasts for visitors to find out more about the area’s rich cultural heritage as they walk.

Produced by InHeritage and Audio Trails, these are the latest additions to a series of audio trails and podcasts by the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority, with six produced in the last three years.

Three of the new podcasts, designed to complement the newly published walk card, ‘The Rise and Fall of Penwyllt’, focus on the childhood memories of three former residents – Phil Lewis, Hubert Bengree and Alan Doyle – who grew up in the famous brick and lime works village before the area suffered a massive economic downturn. Visitors will gain a fascinating insight into this once vibrant Welsh community as they walk back in time to explore home life, community life and industrial life during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

The fourth 20-minute podcast explores the National Park bog conservation project at Waun Fignen Felin dubbed ‘Black to Green’.  Also located in the Upper Swansea Valley above the Dan-yr-Ogof National Nature Reserve, Waun Fignen Felin has undergone massive restoration over the last five years to try and rejuvenate the eroded peat bog using locally sourced gorse and heather mulch.   Highly publicised by BBC1’s Countryfile, the work is regularly undertaken by Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority staff with the aid of helicopter airlifts to access this remote location.  Narrated by National Park staff who work on the site, the podcast takes walkers on a conservation journey about the bog and the surrounding landscape above and below ground.

Trish Doree, Interpretation Officer for the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said:  “Bannau Brycheiniog National Park has a history that is rich, diverse and highly topical.  Memories of industrial working conditions and severe winter weather with snow so deep that the hedgetops were used as paths will offer visitors a chance to keep those memories alive and enhance their walking experience in the National Park. It’s also a great opportunity for people from all over the world to learn about our landscape and cultural heritage by downloading and listening to them through our website, which may help them plan their journey to the Bannau Brycheiniog before they arrive.” 

Cllr Krishn Pathak, Member for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said:  “This is a wonderful opportunity to find out more about Wales’ industrial heritage and the addition of these new podcasts will make this area more inviting for our visitors.  This is such a great and up-to-date way of making the most of the natural assets and countryside that the Bannau Brycheiniog has to offer.  I’m so lucky to be living in such a beautiful place and it will be nice to share this with the rest of the communities in the National Park and our visitors.”

All visitors need is an MP3 player or an iPod, to experience these self-guided walking tours which are suitable for the whole family to enjoy.  Further information can be found at www.breconbeacons.org


Pictures: Copyright of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority
For copies of the photographs please visit our website or contact me directly.

Memories of Penwyllt podcasts

Craig-y-nos Country Park and Penwyllt are located in the Upper Swansea Valley (USV), off the A4067 main trunk road from the city of Swansea in the south to the village of Sennybridge in the north. The Country Park sits in the bottom of the valley, dominated by the Cribarth (known locally by some as the Sleeping Giant) to the west and the limestone hills to the east whose karst landscape features pavements, caves and quarries – it was the exploitation of this area’s natural resources which allowed the rapid expansion of Penwyllt during the early 1900’s.

A few miles to the south of Craig-y-nos lies the shared boundary of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park and Fforest Fawr Geopark, located in south/mid-Wales. Beyond this are the most densely populated areas of Wales, encompassing the country’s largest cities and capital, just an hour’s drive away.

The importance of the Country Park as a resource for these urban populations, in terms of health and well-being, is immense, but many do not venture beyond its boundaries and are unaware of the wider area’s rich industrial heritage and the lives of the people who lived and worked here.

The Country Park is also a key gateway providing opportunities for the promotion of enjoyment and raising awareness and understanding of the Park’s special qualities. It is also important for the NPA to secure the Country Park’s long-term future by raising its profile, attracting more visitors to the site and thereby generating more income.

In view of the above, a new walk card entitled The rise and fall of Penwyllt, from the Country Park to Penwyllt and back has just been produced with interpretive content focusing on the people who lived and worked there and reads as follows:

From bustling industry to tranquil countryside. This walk provides an insight into the fascinating lives of the men and women who were Penwyllt.
Penwyllt can be a bleak and inhospitable place, but the former community was, in general, a happy one and is affectionately remembered in the memoirs of its former residents. From the 1870’s through to the early 1900’s, the village expanded quickly as demand for lime and silica grew to meet the needs of agriculture and heavy industry.
However, life was tough – severe winter weather was common with snow so deep that the hedgetops were used as paths. Working conditions were dangerous – one man lost an arm crushed by the brickworks’ trucks, some were badly burnt inside the limekilns or poisoned by the burning coal and lime fumes, others lost their lives when unstable gunpowder, used for quarrying, exploded prematurely.
Lodgers joined homes already overcrowded with expanding families to supplement meager incomes and oil lamps provided the only source of domestic lighting. Despite these difficulties, the people of Penwyllt considered themselves fortunate, for work was readily available, the air was generally clean, basic housing was newly built, and there was room for gardens big enough to grow food – a huge contrast to the heavily polluted and cramped conditions suffered in the industrialised valleys to the south.
As technology advanced, the demand for lime and silica declined and the community’s fate was sealed – the brickworks were closed by 1940 whilst the lime works struggled on for two more decades. By the 1980’s the village was almost deserted, the land sold off and many of the buildings demolished.