Snowdonia offers arguably some of the best facilities in the world for mountaineering, climbing, canoeing, cycling and walking. At this time of year, the mountains are heaving with people who've come to enjoy the great outdoors.
Yet most of the people to be found making the most of the glorious scenery are from everywhere else in the world except North Wales. Local people, it seems, may not be taking full advantage of their environment especially when it comes to engaging in outdoor pursuits and more importantly taking economic advantage of the boom in the climbing industry.
For Iain Peter, Chief Executive of The National Mountain Centre, Plas Y Brenin, at Capel Curig, this is frustrating. He shows Helen Mark around the centre where groups of English school children are experiencing a taste of canoeing and dry skiing and explains why he would like to see a team of Welsh speaking mountaineering instructors working at the centre. Instead at the moment, he says, the only Welsh speakers are to be found working in the kitchens or the equipment rooms because somehow many local Welsh people feel that the mountains are off limits to them.
He would like to see outdoor pursuits being taken more seriously in local schools and for local people to wake up to the economic advantages of working in the tourism and leisure industry.
The National Mountain Centre
A few hundred yards down the road from Plas Y Brenin, Helen meets local man Ken Jones in the graveyard of St. Julietta's Church where the bodies of many English climbers who died on the moutain are buried.
He explains why until recently mountaineering might have seemed something only the mad English elite did to the locals who were wary of the mountains, especially if they had to make their living mining the slate from them. Instead, says Ken, local people enjoy running and that is one of the reasons why he started up the Snowdon Race in 1976. Local people have embraced the ten mile run up Snowdon and back and do it every year to improve on their times.
Although tourism is welcomed in the area, Ken is concerned that the environmental damage to the mountain footpaths by the thousands who come from outside Wales every year to walk must be minimised.
Helen takes a mountain walk with Margaret Fearnley who has returned to live near to where she was brought up near Bethesda. Margaret has been a keen walker since she was a young woman but adds that as children they were not encouraged to go into the mountains.
Her belief is that until recently the equipment needed to do serious mountain walking - boots, sticks, jackets, would simply have been unaffordable to local people, and she feels that while many schoolchildren from outside the area are encouraged, even funded, to come to various outdoor pursuits centres to learn how to climb and canoe, local children miss out. Perhaps the education authorities within Wales don't feel they need the same help because they live there, she thinks.
At the far edge of Snowdonia National Park, near to the coastal town of Harlech, Helen goes to meet the Chairman of Snowdonia National Park, Caerwyn Roberts. As a farmer, Caerwyn knows the value of teaching young people about the environment and has been opening Merthyr Farm up to school groups for over a decade. And yet, he concedes that all the children who visit come from outside Wales.
He himself admits to taking his beautiful surroundings for granted, but does worry that unless young people in the area start looking to the tourism and leisure industries more seriously as a way of making a living in order to be able to stay in the area.
He hopes that local partnerships can be formed to encourage young people of a school age to begin outdoor pursuits at an early age, and that more Welsh speakers will be employed as wardens and guides in the park.
Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri
Alan Pritchard is one such Welsh speaking warden in the National Park. As a former shepherd in the moutains, he has changed careers to become an adviser to visitors. Yet he regrets not having the sports training that he sees children from outside the area getting and hopes that his children will receive more encouragement in school to take up climbing and mountaineering and take full advantage of the wonderful facilities on their doorstep.
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