Brecon Beacons National Park to be known as Bannau Brycheiniog in major rebrand

  • Video report by ITV Cymru Wales Rural Affairs Correspondent, Hannah Thomas.

The Brecon Beacons will now be known as Bannau Brycheiniog as part of a major rebrand of the national park.

The park authority has changed the name to coincide with the launch of its five-year plan to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and help locals and visitors thrive in the park.

Bannau Brycheiniog is home to south Wales' highest summit, Pen y Fan, as well as the Black Mountains, the National Showcaves Centre for Wales and Waterfall Country.

It is hoped the name change will help to promote and make more accessible the Welsh language and culture.

It comes after Snowdonia National Park Authority voted to use its Welsh name, Eryri, in November last year.

Some 4.4 million people visit Bannau Brycheiniog every year, bringing £278 million to the economy.

Explaining the strategy, park authority chief executive Catherine Mealing-Jones said: "National parks were imagined back in the post-war era when people wanted big, open spaces for their health and wellbeing.

"This plan is very much taking us almost back to that. National parks are there for everyone to enjoy, for the communities that live in them to benefit from and thrive.

"But also we're asked by Welsh Government, and it's very much part of our purpose, to really show some leadership in tackling the nature and biodiversity crisis, and also the climate emergency."

Chief executive Catherine Mealing-Jones took up the post in July 2021.

The Welsh Government declared a climate and ecological emergency in 2019.

Since 1970, 73 species in Wales have become extinct and 666 have become threatened, according to a 2020 report by WWF Cymru.

"We're just at the last point where if we start to take concerted action we can still make a difference on those issues," Ms Mealing-Jones continued.

"We've done a lot already in this park but there's still an awful lot to do, and that's why the plan is there - to inspire action."

"We really hope that people will use the change of name as an access into Welsh language and culture, which is another thing that we'd really like to promote.

"I really hope this plan is going to put us on the map and I think people will start to understand that this park, which is so close to some of the big populations in Wales and England, will become a place where people come to really feel hope about the future."

Environmentalist Peter Seaman, a former park authority member, is concerned over the delivery of the plan.

However, some locals have expressed concern over whether the authority's plan goes far enough.

Environmentalist and former authority member Peter Seaman lives near Brecon and said: "I think its ambitions are correct and I strongly support its ambitions, but I do worry about how it's being delivered.

"For a number of years it's talked about dealing with climate change, reducing carbon emissions and enhancing biodiversity. Those are very fine and laudable aims, but I'm not sure it's happening at ground level.

"For example, the River Usk is the most polluted special area of conservation river in Wales, it originates in the national park, it flows through the national park - that's a terrible indictment of the way we're treating our environment.

"Another issue is the lack of curlews in the area. Curlews once were common across the national park, nesting in the area on the high moors, now they're very rare as a nesting bird.

"So that illustrates a range of problems which the national park authority, and other people - the community, the Welsh Government - must tackle."

Weaknesses in leadership and governance and poor management and delivery of targets within the authority have previously been highlighted in reports by Audit Wales.

The chief executive said she has taken these reports "extremely seriously", adding that new members have been appointed to create a more diverse workforce.

She added that visitors and locals can expect to see the authority continuing to restore nature and using the new brand to attract more partnerships.

Judith Harvey manages a team of around 10 wardens who look after the park, promoting education, community development and conservation.

Warden manager Judith Harvey has worked for the national park for more than three decades and said she has seen it change drastically in that time.

"The national park itself has got much busier, and there are much more people visiting either as day visitors or coming to stay for a short time," she said.

"There are much stronger pressures in terms of biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change. This time last year it was very hot and dry and we had massive fires on the mountain, and they are devastating to the whole ecology of the mountain.

"I've seen nature conservation rise in importance as the pressures on declining species have grown, so it's a bittersweet feeling really."

Low rainfall and record-breaking temperatures left rivers and reservoirs in Bannau Brycheiniog at exceptionally low levels in 2022.

Brycheiniog was originally an independent kingdom in south Wales in the Early Middle Ages. Brychan Brycheiniog was a legendary fifth century king of Brycheiniog.

Ms Harvey expects use of the new name to be gradual, but hopes people will adapt.

"It's not actually a new name. We've been Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog since the park was designated 66 years ago," she said.

"It's very important that we reflect our Welsh culture and the Welsh language, we must support it.

"It's all part of our local distinctiveness. We are in Wales, we're in a Welsh-speaking part of Wales, especially in the west of the park, so it's fully appropriate that we should be Bannau Brycheiniog."