“A well oiled machine”, was how Francesca Bell, Community Development Officer for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority [BBNPA], described the collaborative effort that underpinned this, the sixth such visit to Craig Y Nos. The BBNPA staff, Criw Craggy volunteers and Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees [HBTSR ] volunteers planned the details for the day by email but given our familiarity with each other and the site, we trusted the process and knew all would be well on the day. Risk assessments by Francesca for BBNPA and Melrose for HBTSR were completed, shared and with the weather forecast for sun, we looked set for a good day out. We also knew that having had a great day out in September 2019 in torrential rain that we’d manage and enjoy ourselves whatever happened.
PHOTOS SHOW SETTING UP
The other, and arguably the most important, partners in this venture were the various volunteers who support people seeking sanctuary in Swansea, Thanuja, Jeni , Kelly and David who shared details of the event and gave people seeking sanctuary the confidence to catch the T6 bus out of the city for an unknown destination. Thanu and David met participants at the bus station and helped ensure the correct bus was boarded and the driver knew where people wanted to go. On this occasion, we opted to use the Traws Cymru bus service as we thought Covid regulations would restrict the numbers on any bus and we hoped people would catch any of the first 3 buses of the day and return home on any 3 buses in the afternoon. I’ll admit to unfounded anxieties about people being stuck in Craig Y Nos if numbers returning exceeded bus capacity……
The great benefit about the collaboration was that we knew that BBNPA and Criw Craggy would provide shelter, electricity, water, tables, chairs, activities and knowledge of the site leaving HBTSR to provide food, drink and liaise with our prospective guests.
Monday 19th July was set to be the hottest day of the year so we were able to scrap the wet weather plans and concentrate on shade provision. Most helpers were in place by 9.30 allowing for gazebo erection, placement of ground sheets and blankets under the trees and a makeshift kitchen set up in the shade with hot drinks manufacture in the pavilion. A welcome desk [ a pasting table with a tablecloth!] was set up below the car park with Lawrence, Robert and Margaret completing the Covid contact tracing details and reimbursing bus fares and Amanda and Rowland meeting the buses and welcoming people as they arrived. Bottles of water were handed out from the desk and then the short walk was escorted to the pavilion for drinks, biscuits, cake and fruit.
FIRST GROUP ARRIVING, JACKIE FROM CRIW CRAGGY, GUYAN AND OUR INTREPID PHOTOGRAPHER M
With the staggered arrival times the first group had time to explore a little on their own [and play football] but when the second group arrived and were rehydrated, we were able to take a short guided walk down the Rhododendron tunnel and around the lake before returning for lunch. Melrose and the band of volunteers had turned the pavilion and shaded area into a banqueting hall that was full of delicious looking food. We were delighted to have the expertise [ and food] of Guyan to run this efficiently. The third group arrived in time for lunch and had a longer walk after others had left. The extreme heat curtailed some of the planned activities but beautiful natural bookmarks and bark rubbings were made and several trips to the river to paddle seemed in order.It was lovely to see one young boy absorbed playing with sticks and creating an imaginary world.
Alan’s time line tape showing world development in visual form [ who knew that the whole of mankind”s time on earth was so short compared with the various rock development periods ?] was enjoyed by a number of the volunteers as well as the guests.
As the time to leave drew near, there was time for a walk to the river for a final paddle and to see other lake. The ducks were fed and the Cafe gave us a good deal on ice creams so all guests [ and Lawrence!] had one before leaving.
PHOTOS SHOW THE WALKS, MELROSE AND OTHERS IN THE ‘KITCHEN’ AND ARTWORK WITH STICKS.
As always the bare details of the day don’t capture the energy, friendship and fun. A visitor to the park came over to ask about what was going on. She said ‘ I just felt drawn to come over. I had to find out what was happening. The bright colours, the inclusivity of all ages, and sound of happy people made me stop and I’m so glad that I did. I hope to meet up with you again and maybe volunteer in Swansea. ‘ For some of our guests this was a first trip out of Swansea since March 2020 and feeling welcomed, wanted and entertained made it a day to remember. As the last bus was awaited a lady with a small child said, ‘‘I don’t speak very good English and the only word I know is thanks but it doesn’t seem enough.’ I reassured her that it was and then faced the same issue when trying to thank all the collaborators; ‘thanks’ doesn’t really seem enough for contributing to such a wonderful, magical day out for so many people, guests and volunteers alike.
PHOTOS SHOW JACKIE AND PARTICIPANTS HEADINNG INTO THE RIVER, THANU THANKING JACKIE, SIMON AND ANNE AND THE TIME LINE TAPE
The day was also an excellent opportunity to tell people about our group as several people called either at the welcome desk or the pavilion and some good contacts were made. We also had over £60 in donations and witnessed useful networking taking place. This was also a good day to show off the park, the work of the wardens and the volunteers and to start planning for how to make this beauty even more accessible in a sustainable way.
One of the BBNPA board members, Chris Coppock, came to see what was happening and sent a lovely tribute
“In my hybrid capacity as a seasoned BBNPA volunteer and board member I was delighted to drop in to the rather wonderful gathering of refugees, third sector associates and officers from the Authority as the Park hosted a brief but, I believe, rich experience for a group of people who are very much in need of respite and solace.
The setting for the food and conversation share, under the trees by the Patti pavilion, was delightful and in common with all of us yesterday the sun shone in abundance. The park was also full of walkers, families of picnickers and birdwatchers.
What I thought was really inspiring about the day was the collaborative framework (if I have got it right) that enabled this event; bringing together Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees, Criw Craggy (the independent CYN friends group established by myself and other BBNPA volunteers four or five years ago) and the committed workforce from BBNPA.”
BBNPA staff , Francesca Bell, Amanda Brake, Alex Norman. Alan Bowring.
Criw Craggy Volunteers, Simon Amatt, Anne Amatt, Jackie Thomas.
BBNPA Board Members Chris Coppock, Aled Edwards.