Introduction to Mid Wales Area Statement
Welcome to the Mid Wales Area Statement. Mid Wales...
Image by Peter Lewis
These Area Statements summarise discussions from the last couple of years. We are continuing engagement on Area Statements and are adapting our plans for future events and workshops due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please use the feedback boxes on each Area Statement page to find out more.
Most of the car parks and trails in our woodlands and nature reserves are open.
For updates on what’s open, see our page on visiting our sites during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism is a major player in the Mid Wales economy, through visitor spend and related employment. Activity tourism is rapidly growing in this area, due to its reliance on the natural environment. There are many tourism related businesses in Mid Wales, currently supporting around 10% of the Welsh tourism economy as a whole. In a rural and sparsely populated part of Wales, this income is vital to many local communities.
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However, if not managed sustainably, tourism can also be damaging to the environment. The ‘waterfalls country’ in the Brecon Beacons National Park, is one case in point. This beautiful landscape of rugged hillsides, wooded valleys and plunging cascades attracts around 300,000 visitors per year. This is an area of sensitive woodland species and rare trees. The sheer numbers of visitors, narrow road network, traffic congestion, lack of facilities, and littering is having a negative impact, not only on the protected site itself but also within the local community. There is a need to strike a balance between maintaining the unique features of the area but also ensuring that visitors continue to have a positive experience. It is an ongoing conversation between all concerned.
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The natural environment in Mid Wales offers us many ecosystem services, although the value of these is often not fully appreciated by society, which inhibits our ability to manage and protect our natural assets in the most sustainable way.
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Outdoor recreation can make a significant positive contribution to our physical health. Increasing levels of physical activity is known to help reduce the incidence of chronic diseases. Outdoor recreational activities are often free and provide opportunities for everyone, regardless of age or ability.
There is also increasing evidence that being in the natural environment can benefit people’s mental well-being. Our urban and rural green spaces, parks, woodlands, fields, mountains and water help us feel better both mentally and physically. Access to the natural environment can provide a range of opportunities in addition to physical activity, including companionship, meaningful activity, reflection, adventure and learning.
Mid Wales offers a wealth of opportunity for outdoor enjoyment of the countryside. Two national trails - Offa’s Dyke and Glyndwr’s Way - run through the area, as well as the stunning and rugged stretch of Wales Coastal Path along the Ceredigion coastline. Mid Wales has benefitted to the increased interest in mountain biking, establishing many organised and well managed trails, such as the Bwlch Nant yr Arian site near Aberystwyth. Footpath networks provide access into some of the most remote areas of Mid Wales, providing gentle enjoyable walks for all abilities.
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Many nature reserves in Mid Wales also provide access for all. Cors y Llyn National Nature Reserve near Rhayader and Dyfi Ynyslas National Nature Reserve are just two of the many special sites that can be visited anytime, for free.
Reconnecting people with the natural environment can create a healthier and happier society. There is vast potential to lessen our dependence on prescriptive medication using green and social prescribing as preventative healthcare. When people understand and value their environment, they are more inclined to protect and preserve it.
The main areas of focus under this theme are:
By giving this theme a particular focus, this Area Statement does not exclude any developing ideas or new ways of addressing matters that may arise. It is simply a starting point to develop work programmes, external projects and collaborative working.
Reconnecting people with their natural environment emerged as a key priority from the engagement sessions. Stakeholders told us that using the environment to tackle health and well-being needed to be an essential part of our society. It was recognised that in Mid Wales populations are sparse and social isolation can be a major contributor to poor mental health.
In this Area Statement, we would like to explore further opportunities to see how we can begin to address these issues. We want to work together across many sectors and, by doing so we hope to see:
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) worked on a range of information including the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) which forms part of our evidence base and the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy priorities. We also took information from the Powys & Ceredigion Well-being Plans and the Public Service Boards (PSBs) to find out their priorities and obtain their expert local knowledge.
We took the ‘bare bones’ of what we considered to be main issues for Mid Wales and let stakeholders tell us if we’d ‘got it about right’ during external stakeholder engagement workshops held in 2019/20. These workshops are only the start of the engagement work and we will keep the conversation going. Similar, ongoing engagement will be vital for us as this Area Statement matures and evolves.
In total, over 125 participants took part in the two workshops, from a wide range of backgrounds and interests. The purpose of the stakeholder engagement events was:
It is very clear from the engagement to date and the review of feedback that the Area Statement process is new for everyone involved, including Natural Resources Wales (NRW), and as such will require an adjustment in the way of working by everyone. The ‘new way of working’ represents a significant shift from how NRW has worked in the past, both internally and with stakeholders, in everything that we do.
Our engagement events encouraged discussions around the type of projects and areas of interest that stakeholders are keen to work on. We want to encourage and progress opportunities for collaboration. We hope that this will enthuse and enable different stakeholders to work together to achieve shared outcomes. Our next role will be to coordinate ideas going forward. We intend to engage further in order to help stakeholders understand why they have been invited to be involved and what it will mean for them and the area in which they live and work. We hope to develop a number of ideas into deliverable project plans for this area.
The next focus will be establishing a number of ‘peer group’ meetings for spring 2020 with key people in Mid Wales. We want to encourage those who took part in previous engagement workshops to share their views around a specific area theme. This will help us discuss with them how we can start to plan to deliver together what we have set out to achieve in the Area Statement.
It is not too late to still get involved if you have a good project or idea for a project! We expect further opportunities to arise as the engagement process continues. It is important to stress that the Area Statement belongs to us all - everyone who wants to be involved - and we would like to encourage as many as possible to come aboard.
We see Natural Resources Wales’ role as helping to facilitate and set up the peer groups at this stage, to encourage and enable different stakeholders to get together and identify priorities around the area themes on which they can progress actions into delivery.
Many of the participants from the engagement work to date have established working relationships with Natural Resources Wales and with each other. The engagement process allows for further opportunities to both grow established relationships and create new ones.
We need to tackle the issues around why so many people lack connection and empathy with their natural environment and explore new opportunities to increase enjoyment of the natural world, which will in turn affect our health and well-being as a society. We want to encourage more people to feel engaged with their natural surroundings and have their say in the management of their recreational areas. It will take long term commitment to realise real change. Collectively we need to develop a way to work together to tackle these issues as a society.
Good practice should be celebrated and learnt from. This can already be seen across the area in the numerous projects led by stakeholders. To build on this, the Area Statement directs us to share information and understanding and design innovative ways to address the challenges.
NRW has begun to identify networks where projects with similar outcomes can be joined together and worked on collaboratively. There is an intention in Mid Wales to bring together stakeholders who may not have traditionally worked alongside each other, but who together, can deliver outcomes which have multiple benefits. In Ceredigion for example, the Public Services Board has established a specific ‘Social and Green Prescribing Solutions for Health’ group. This group has the specific mandate to deliver actions that address health issues across the county, using the natural resources that are available.
Throughout 2020 NRW will continue to work with stakeholders to develop these networks and establish them as a new way of working in Mid Wales.
Conversations will continue as the next phases of the Area Statement process are established. Further events will be held and tailored towards specific themes and actions. NRW will also look to work with stakeholders to establish a group of likeminded people to help deliver this theme. This group will help and support each other through the establishment of the Area Statement in Mid Wales as a new way of working. They will identify improvements and come up with new project ideas going forward.
We have already identified opportunities relating to this theme, including:
The State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) uses evidence to assess Wales’ natural resources and measures how well these are being managed. Area Statements are a key part of that management.
This Area Statement will allow us to make decisions based on evidence that is shared. Gaps in evidence can be reviewed and added to through working together and using all available data to further the objective of each theme.
The underlying principles of SMNR are the essential element of the Area Statement process. Through engaging with stakeholders, we have been able to work together to identify the themes for Mid Wales. Conversations and discussions have given us an understanding of the issues and pressures faced by different stakeholders, sectors and communities. We hope that this approach signals a new way of working for Natural Resources Wales where we move away from ‘consultation’ and towards ‘collaboration’ and action on the ground, even if that remains an uncertain journey for many as we start out with the Mid Wales Area Statement.
Throughout the engagement process, it has become clear that this Area Statement needs to:
The way we work is key to the success of the Area Statement. We want to develop full co-production for this Area Statement, ensuring everyone has a chance to contribute to the process, work more collaboratively, challenge current practices, develop focus groups, tap into existing networks, share aspirations and develop common goals and actions together.
You can join us on Facebook! This Facebook group is one way for you to keep up to date with news and developments on the Mid Wales Area Statement. Anyone can join in the online discussion. The group is currently set to private, although we encourage you to spread the word amongst colleagues and contacts who you think would be interested. You will be asked three simple questions to join the group to ensure we keep the members and content relevant to the Mid Area Statement.
We will also be holding further events and developing specific groups and conversations around each of the Mid Wales themes. If you are already on our mailing list, you will be contacted about these. If you would like to be added to this list, please email email@example.com
We are only at the beginning of the journey as we work with people to improve the management of Mid Wales’ natural resources. If you would like to be part of this process, please get in touch with us.