Waterfall Country Partnership
Stakeholder Manager Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park
We are a group of local people and employed officers coming together to take action on key issues facing the Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country area.
Our membership is necessarily broad, we have representatives from the relevant Unitary Authorities, community groups and land managers like the National Trust, the National Park Authority and Natural Resources Wales. We work to manage the area as a visitor destination which brings benefit to the environment and community.
We were formed some time ago and at that point our focus was strategic, bringing together key agencies to combine thinking on how the area should be collectively managed into the future. However, the pandemic saw such an increase in visitor numbers to the Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country – way beyond the carrying capacity of the existing infrastructure- that our focus by necessity was very heavily orientated toward re-mediating the impacts such visitor levels bring. This action-orientated approach has proved successful in making key changes but there is still more to be done.
The challenge comes in managing the Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country’s popularity in relation to the capacity of the area to safely accommodate the numbers that visit. In recent years the Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country area has become a site of over-toursim, that is visitor numbers are now causing harm to the area at a rate and degree that urgent action is needed.
Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country is perhaps the National Park’s most biodiverse area, influenced by the ravines and gorges that cut through this temperate rainforest and Special Area of Conservation. Stakeholders have developed a shared understanding of Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country’s sensitivities, including a management plan, codes of conduct and a Waterfall Area Safety Advisory Group. Visitor pressure is monitored in relation to footpath carrying capacity, which in turn affects ecological carrying capacity.
A huge conundrum to the partnership is the question of visitor access. We want and welcome visitors to the area, we know that this area is cherished by many visitors and locals alike, but the numbers coming to the area has gone past a tipping point of safety. These visitor numbers are damaging to the fragile ecosystems that make up the environment of the Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country, and also damaging to those who live in the host communities that get swamped by visitor cars each year.
At present the only real viable way for visitors to come and enjoy Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country is by private car. Not only does this create huge levels of parking pressure within small rural villages, but also generates significantly towards our GHG emissions and air pollution. The numbers of cars create chaos and disrupt the special qualities of the Park. The emissions impact on the nature and biodiversity crisis.
Providing Community Benefit
The visitor economy has the potential to contribute significantly to the income of the area and its surrounds, especially the more deprived areas of the upper Neath valley. At present, for whatever reason, visitor spend is exceptionally limited and the areas see little economic benefit from the levels of visitors that pass through each year.
We want to create a future where the waterfalls are a sustainable visitor destination. Managed in partnership, and contributing towards the local visitor economy. Meeting this vision is dependent upon the continued work of this partnership long into the future. Only in pooling the resources we have are we going to be able to make visiting Bro’r Sgydau / Waterfall Country a safe and enjoyable experience.
Y Bannau: The Future
Y Bannau: The Future is well aligned with the values of the Partnership. We believe that we already make a significant contribution towards the goals of the Plan and we hope that we can raise the profile of sustainable visitor management as acting for nature, water and climate as well as for people and place.