Chris Howell, our avid walker, interviewed founder Dai Powell of this remarkable Facebook Public Group ‘Walking the Brecon Beacons’ which has firmly put this National Park on the map in a matter of months with over 5,000 members. As a fellow walker, Chris has nothing but admiration and respect for this humble ordinary ex-miner and what he has achieved with this rapid success story which has taken him totally by surprise.
Tell us about your background?
I was born and bred in Aberfan and from a young boy walked with my father Graham around the local mountains. My grandfather was sextant of Aberfan cemetery when the disaster happened and we lost family and friends. Like my father, I worked as a miner until the Deep Navigation Mine in Treharris sadly closed in 1991. These days, I live in Merthyr and for the last four years, I have been walking the Beacons mostly on my own and have discovered many wonderful walks. To keep myself fit I walk every weekend and also attend my local gym Daleone Fitness in Merthyr.
What gave you the idea to start this Facebook group?
I realised that most other National Parks had a Facebook presence that actually offered help and advice for walkers, however Brecon National Park was lacking.
To be honest, I only started the group on August 3rd 2016 for a few friends and family to help, advise and educate them all about the Beacons. I never thought for one minute that we would have such a vibrant following and we even have members from all over the UK, most European countries, Canada and Australia, plus a lot of ex-pats.
How has the group page progressed and how can I join?
Well, firstly there is a huge influx of advice given from more experienced walkers other than myself, the photography is quite stunning and it’s great to relive everyone’s adventures. I couldn’t have done this without the help of Simon Williams, who is also an experienced walker and very capable on social media. We are now working together with local business to help them promote themselves on our page, for example we now have member discount cards for Go Outdoors stores.
Within the info page we have accommodation in the Beacons, our walks are listed as events, kit checklist and route cards. To join the group, you just search ‘Walking the Brecon Beacons’ on Facebook and ask to join; then once a member you can also invite your friends to join.
We understand you have even started your own walks?
Yes, our first walk was for intermediate walkers around the Brecon Horseshoe and we had 15 walkers attend. Then we organised a supervised beginner’s walk up Pen-y-Fan and had over 60 walkers attend! It was a pleasure giving people the confidence to start walking, many for the first time; giving them knowledge, help and advice on what to wear, basic essentials and health and safety tips. We certainly will have more walks for all levels and always the right quota of group leaders and first aiders.
Please be aware that at present the walks are free, however we do ask for donations because as we are growing we will need to buy more safety equipment and first aid.
What’s your favourite part of the Beacons and which season do you like to walk this route?
I must admit I love the Central Beacons when it’s snowing and relish the challenge of a difficult walk against the elements. I more often than not walk on my own and my favourite walk is to go on a night walk and wait for the sunrise, there is not a better sight.
What advice have you for novice walkers wanting to walk the Beacons?
Before walking the Beacons, look for local walking groups and build your stamina gradually by carefully choosing the right level of walk for beginners.
For instance, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal walk is flat in many areas, in particular at Goytre Wharf. Then, once you are ready for the Beacons, start with an experienced walker as the conditions can change for the worse in a matter of minutes. Never walk alone and buy the right equipment, we actually publish a checklist on our info group page which is also published in this feature. You don’t have to buy really expensive gear as there is plenty of helpful reviews online for cheaper products that are more than suitable.
What plans have you for the future?
We have already had patches for sale and plan to add other merchandise such as T-shirts later this year. We will have specific sponsored walks to help raise money for charities and also to help fund our own safety equipment and first aid.
In fact, we are busy organising a Ty Hafan Taff trail walk from Brecon to Cardiff and aiming to walk the 55 miles in 24 hours; we also welcome ideas from our members for future walks. Look out for our forthcoming walks and we have just set up a just giving page to raise money for the Brecon Mountain Rescue Team. Local independent businesses can now sponsor the main header picture for just £50 a week on our Facebook page. Finally my aim is to reach 10,000 members by the end of 2017.
For more information, please take a look at the Facebook page: