A Year in the Beacons: Spring, the pandemic and the National Park

A year ago, the whole of the UK was entering lockdown. The numbers of cases of coronavirus were on the rise. We were all told to stay home.

As spring started to bring the Brecon Beacons back to life, the National Park was closed for the first time since the foot and mouth crisis. Visitors were turned away and the area was cut off by roadblocks.

The first wave of the pandemic clashed with the farm's busiest time of year

At the Phillips family farm, the start of the pandemic coincided with their busiest time of the year. For five generations, this family have grazed their sheep on the southern slopes of Pen y Fan. And each spring, they welcome hundreds of new arrivals to the flock. 

For a programme which was following people living and working in the Brecon Beacons throughout the seasons, coronavirus presented a new challenge.

Traditional ways of working stopped. Filming techniques had to change. Everyone was fearful for their health and that of their loved ones, and for many, their livelihoods were also under threat. 

The Glanusk Estate has been closed to visitors during the pandemic

At the Glanusk Estate, coronavirus halted 100% of their business. Being heavily reliant on tourism and events, estate owner Harry Legge-Bourke had no option but to close the gates. 

“The place is looking stunningly beautiful but the way I can show it to people is online, to say what a wonderful place this is. How do we get through this next 18 months? You take out another loan after another loan after another loan because the banks might turn around and say no, Harry sorry, you’re already in debt enough”, he said.

As spring began to bring the Beacons back to life, the coronavirus pandemic hit

Although still ‘on call’, the Mountain Rescue team was effectively stood down. Access to the mountains was cut off and not even locals could access the hills. 

“We’re all used to seeing each other on a regular basis. We’re like a big family. And I miss them terribly”, said volunteer Jess Moon-Bowen.

But some things simply couldn’t change. On the farm, work continued. Mountain Rescue moved their training online. And at Glanusk Harry began to hope for a summer season - full of visitors.

You can see how the people of the Brecon Beacons coped with the pandemic on Monday 22 March at 8pm on ITV Cymru Wales.

Catch up with the series so far with episode one here, and episode two here.