Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre
Our visitor centres and their surrounding areas are places where people can come to explore, learn new things and spend time in nature and the outdoors in a safe space. Visitors can come and learn about a wide range of topics, from conservation and biodiversity to folklore and local history and explore a wide variety of skill sets such as orienteering, geocaching and species identification.
Our centres are used by schools and community groups, colleges and universities as a curriculum resource and our centres are places for local businesses and indeed colleagues within NRW, to meet and have access to conference facilities and welfare provisions.
Visitor centres provide our visitors with a wide range health benefits, allowing people to physically exercise, be it a gentle stroll, a more challenging hike or a more specialised sport such as fell running or mountain biking.
Our centres are also hugely beneficial for peoples mental health, allowing them to escape from the everyday stresses or work etc. and unwind, be it watching the red kites being fed, finding a quiet spot to do some art or sitting in the peace watching the wildlife on our rivers.
A perfect place to socialise and meet like-minded individuals, some of our centres offer café facilities which provide visitors with an opportunity to re-energise and try locally produced food and drinks whilst indulging in the Welsh culture. Many of our centres provide play areas and activities for children of all ages and abilities and are great places to spend an entire day come rain or shine.
Nestled in the foothills of the Cambrian mountains, Bwlch Nant yr Arian is located 9 miles East of Aberystwyth and offers a wide range of activities from mountain biking, orienteering, walking and running; our trails provide stunning views taking in a variety of sights from forest and woodland to reservoirs and rolling valley hillsides.
We have horse routes, a corral, play areas and daily feeding of Wales’ iconic bird, the Red Kite. Our accessible lakeside trail gives great views of the kite feeding and has various activities along the way for all the family to enjoy from our interactive heritage interpretation to our much-loved Animal Puzzle trail.
We have two bird hides, one giving spectacularly close-up views of the red kites at feeding time and the other overlooking our bird feeders, which attract a whole array of woodland species in a perfectly natural setting popular with our visiting photographers.
We have recently been awarded with a ‘Travellers Choice Award’ from Tripadvisor, which means millions of Tripadvisor travellers have placed us in the top 10% of attractions in the world!
Our visitor centre is dementia friendly, equipped with disabled parking and accessible toilets. Staff have undertaken dementia awareness training and we have lots of projects in the pipeline to enable us to continuously improve our site to accommodate a variety of visitor needs.
Dealing with the Covid-19 lockdown
The visitor centre, car park and trails closed their doors to the public in March as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. We worked closely with the local police to ensure that the initial lockdown period was as safe as possible for the local community by enforcing the government guidelines on social distancing and staying at home.
Staff remained in regular contact and those who were able joined a rota to take turns to visit site, carry out security checks and feed the red kites daily. We made sure all staff had correct PPE and could safely visit to carry out these tasks and it reinstated a sense of purpose, especially for those who were not office based and couldn’t continue duties from home.
We have been very lucky as those visits to site were some of the most amazing experiences to date with regards to gloriously sunny days, hundreds of red kites feeding in a peaceful and beautiful setting and wildlife breathing a visible sigh of relief as the site remained quiet and unvisited for several months. These visits were a massive boost for the wellbeing of staff at a time that was difficult for us all.
As government guidelines were relaxed a little in August, we re-opened the carpark and trails and staff were on site a little more to ensure correct signage was in place and the site was safe for visitors. We have more recently managed to open our café facility as a takeaway service and allow access to some of our indoor toilets, which has enabled all staff to be back on site to carry out their roles.
It is our number one priority to keep our visitors safe whilst on site and we’ve been very active on our social media platforms to ensure we are communicating effectively with our visitors, so they know what to expect when they visit.
We’re constantly reviewing our strategy and risk assessments to allow more staff and visitors back to site, as it’s proven being outdoors has huge positive benefits on our wellbeing. To prepare to welcome back visitors, we devised a one-way system around the site, put up signage to remind visitors to socially distance and provided hand sanitising stations around the car park and centre itself.
We have ‘track & trace’ points up around the site for visitors to use and we closed off all areas that may encourage groups to gather, such as the hides, our decking and the centre building itself. The kites continue to be fed at different times each afternoon to avoid large groups of spectators. Since reopening, we’ve been complimented by many visitors on how safe the one-way system and signage has made them feel.
We welcome visitors to our centres all year round and will continue to do so, government guidelines permitting. Find out where your local visitor centre is and explore some further afield by visiting: https://naturalresources.wales/days-out/places-to-visit/our-visitor-centres/?lang=en