That's not strictly true though, is it? Unspoilt? Secluded? Sure, this is true if you get away from the honeypot sites. Exploration - yes, and increasingly more so as people flock to explore the same areas as everyone else. You can find yourself in a large mass of other people all finding themselves at the same place, at the same time.
The land has been under the stewardship of man for thousands of years and the signs are there if you know where to look. Bronze Age man stripped the woodlands leaving burial cairns and standing stones in their wake. Iron Age man constructed massive hill forts and the romans constructed roads and made camp in the inhospitable landscape. Stalking, shooting, sheep grazing - all have left their mark and continue to do so. And now the tourists, walkers, mountain bikers, mountaineers, outdoor practitioners and, dare I say it, the trail bikers. All are putting a massive strain on this fragile eco systems.
One group looks after the Black Mountains while another looks after the central Beacons. There is the chance to be out on work parties every week but I try to get out once a month if I can. One day a month. It's not a lot really. There's a real mix of people from all over, all brought together by their passion for the area and their desire to see its beauty preserved.
So once a month I meet my colleagues in a car park somewhere. We grab some tools and head off into the hills on a predetermined footpath. Much of the bigger construction work has been done by wardens and contractors. I can't think of many volunteers who can fly helicopters for the required airlifts. We're just there to make sure they're kept in good condition and make notes of areas that need more work that is beyond our scope. We clear drains and dig channels, trying to persuade the rain to flow off the path and down the hillside. It's the water that causes the damage, it flows down the ruts caused by many feet and takes the soil with it creating deeper ruts. Just don't get me started on the ruts created by the trail bikes...
The photo top left shows volunteers working on MacNamara's Road a carriage way constructed in the early 1800's supposedly so a local squire could easily visit his mistress who was squirreled away at the head of a remote valley. The photo top right is taken on Cwm Bwchel above Llanthony Priory. If you walk this path there is still evidence of the medieval causeway constructed by monks to ease their journey on the way to the valuable fishing at Llangorse. Constructed paths, softened by time. How many romans roads, drovers paths and tramways do we walk down without realising it? We're just doing our bit and trying to protect the natural habitat, just like those who have passed before us.
Below left is a picture of what happens on an unprotected stretch of path just off the summit of Hay Bluff, heading towards Twmpa. The rain has got into ruts, people have walked round the puddles wearing out the vegetation. More rain, more puddles. Sheltering sheep, more feet, more rain, more feet. This is the result. There's nothing the volunteers can do with this stretch, it'll have to wait for the National Park to have the resources and the man power. But that costs and the authority already has to spread its dwindling funding widely. Oh, and there's a photo of a trail bike, but that rant will have to wait for another day now.
If you can give some time then volunteering opportunities with the Brecon Beacons National Park can be found here:
Volunteering With BBNP
Other schemes take place in the other national parks throughout the country.
The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has started a campaign called Mend Our Mountains, a crowd funding initiative to support projects in nine national parks.
Mend Our Mountains