Key figures from mountaineering joined the Welsh Minister for Heritage and Assembly Members in Cardiff on 3 March to recognise the successes of Welsh mountaineering and to highlight the economic and health benefits it brings to Wales.
The lunchtime reception for the BMC was hosted by John Griffiths AM at the National Assembly for Wales. The event, which was the first of its kind for mountaineering, celebrated opportunities the Welsh landscape provides for climbing, hill walking and mountaineering. It also enabled the BMC and others in the mountaineering sector in Wales to raise their profile amongst Assembly Members.
Alun Ffred Jones, Minister for Heritage, said that he knows the BMC do a great job of promoting the interests of mountaineers. The Minister said he is more than happy to co-operate with the work the BMC does and hopes future relations will be fruitful. He highlighted the work of the North Wales Outdoor Partnership, who were present at the meeting, as being a good model for involving local communities and said it was a pity this had not been extended to other areas.
John Griffiths AM said: “I am very pleased to be hosting this event and to be welcoming the British Mountaineering Council and its guests to the National Assembly for Wales for the first event of its kind to be held here.
“Wales has some of the best locations for mountaineering and rock climbing in the world. From the sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire in West Wales to classic rock climbs in the Llanberis pass via the chalk marks on iconic routes pioneered by legendary climbers like Joe Brown and Don Whillans on one of the world’s greatest mountain crags, Clogwyn Du’r Arddu on the flanks of Snowdon.”
“As an active hill walker I am fully aware of the great health benefits getting out into the Welsh mountains can bring - be it a gentle stroll up the diminutive Sugar Loaf in Abergavenny, or a more adventurous hike to Pumlumon in the solitude of mid Wales, to a demanding scramble in the rugged splendour of the Glyders.”
BMC Chief Executive, Dave Turnbull said that the opportunities that mountaineering provides are a lot wider than some people imagine. It's very inclusive and accessible, and the BMC's work is as much to do with young people, climbing walls and supporting hill walkers as it is about extreme climbing. He made the case that the mountaineering sector perhaps deserves a little more financial support from the authorities in Wales than it has received up to now.
Dave Turnbull said: “We are delighted to have this unique opportunity to place mountaineering on the political map in Wales. The BMC does a lot of work in Wales to ensure people can access the superb mountain areas of Wales and to help protect them for future generations.
"The BMC has recently established a 3-year post, based in Wales funded from our own reserves. We are looking to the authorities in Wales for support for this to continue. We are keen to work closely with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure people are able to use the mountains and coasts of Wales in a responsible way."
Caradog Jones, the first Welshman to summit Everest, spoke about the enjoyment of climbing and the economic opportunities for communities in climbing areas.
There are over 100 climbing sites along the Welsh coast, which carry between them some 8,000 rock climbing routes. The BMC works closely with landowners and conservation organisations to manage access to these sites to bring benefits for both conservation and recreation – allowing the public to enjoy their sport whilst at the same time protecting key wildlife species.
As a key priority for increasing public access, the BMC is urging the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to pursue the framework powers outlined in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Currently, the WAG is committed to creating an All Wales Coastal Path but there is no indication of when a wider, area based approach to open air recreation might be adopted (as set out in Clause 310 of the Act). Evidence suggests the vast majority visitors to the coast are in search of a full coastal experience, therefore the notion of the All Wales Coastal Path could be enhanced by ensuring that a legal right of access to relevant land around the path, for the purpose of open air recreation is also implemented.
With the BMC's Access Officer for Wales, Elfyn Jones, now firmly in place, the BMC hopes this event sets in motion many more successful meetings with Assembly Members to ensure the interests of climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers continue to be understood by decision makers in Wales.
In conjunction with the BMC event you can share your favourite mountain in Wales on the Sports Council for Wales Facebook page.
In the run up to the event, ITV Wales featured two news items:
Caradog Jones was interviewed for BBC Wales "Good Evening Wales" drive time programme. Listen again (03/03/2010 - go to 2:14.27secs).
You can read a report of the event on Snowdonia-Active.com.
Download the media pack containing a full press release and photos
Read about the Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones' recent visit to north Wales