Major path repair work was carried out at two heavily used sites in the Brecon Beacons National Park last month, an operation that involved airlifting hundreds of tonnes of material.
Challenging weather conditions and the altitude of the sites meant that using a helicopter was the only option for the access work, which included improvements to the Offa's Dyke National Trail and the Beacons Way routes trodden by thousands of walkers every year. More than 100 tonnes of stone and 50 tonnes of gravel were helicoptered onto Bwlch Blaen Twrch on the Black Mountain, while 100 tonnes of gravel was also lifted onto the Offa's Dyke National Trail on Hatterrall Hill in the Black Mountains. Both sites are protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), meaning that work had to be carried out sensitively to avoid damage to the surrounding habitat.
Paul Sinnadurai, Senior Ecologist and Policy Advisor for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority said:
'The Black Mountains SSSI is one of the largest Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the Park and includes some of the largest known areas of eroded upland. Eroding peat bogs are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions owing to the volumes of carbon that are released to the atmosphere or into streams. Erosion has a range of causes including footpath erosion by walkers and pony trekkers, historic management, wildfires and atmospheric pollution, each of which contribute to declining conditions on the hill. So rejuvenation work of this kind will not only help reduce that trend but will also recover conditions on the hillside, which will see heathland plants and grassland recolonisation and improved peat formation processes underway. This will also improve grazing conditions for livestock.'
Richard Ball, Access Officer for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, added:
'This year we have used Rights of Way Improvement Plan funding to improve sections of the Offa's Dyke National Trail, the Beacons Way and a number of other paths in the National Park.'
'All of these paths are heavily used and the works are designed to improve the visitor experience as well as protecting habitats.'
The project was funded through the Authority's continuing Rights of Way Improvement Plan programme, a scheme which is grant aided by the Countryside Council for Wales and the Welsh Government. The Authority received £72,159 through this grant scheme in 2011/12 and more repairs are planned for the coming financial year.