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Llyn y Fan Fach from Bannau Sir Gaer
Llyn y Fan Fach from Bannau Sir Gaer
The Black Mountain

Origin of the Cambrian Way

The Cambrian Way was conceived by Tony Drake in 1968 and developed with help of a survey committee. The Countryside Commission was enthusiastic as to future designation as a national trail but there was much opposition from farmers, conservationists, mountaineers, the rural counties of Wales, and Snowdonia and Brecons Beacons national parks, whilst the Ramblers' Association and Youth Hostels Association strongly supported.

An officially designated national trail has to be on public rights of way. Much of the route proposed was across open moorland where access was permitted but was not actually a right of way as shown on the Ordnance Survey maps. The likely opposition from some landowners to creation of new rights of way and other factors influenced the Commission to abandon the project in 1982, following which Tony Drake produced a practical guide and handbook, following a line on public rights of way or where there was permissive or de facto access. Over 7000 copies have been sold and it is now at the sixth edition.

Since 1982 the Cambrian Way has been in a state of limbo, not merely that it is not a national trail, but is still officially opposed. Meanwhile, walkers who have tackled it have been ecstatic as to the experience, and some are at a loss what to do next.

When the Countryside Council for Wales (successors to the Countryside Commission) considered the Cambrian Way in 2000, it was decided that the time was not ripe, at least until the access to mountains and moorlands took effect. Other objections were said to be still valid, notably public safety and erosion. In 2001 the Foot and Mouth crisis highlighted the value of walking tourism to the economy of Wales. The access provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 have meant that the public has a legal right of access to vast areas of Wales including all the sections of the Cambrian Way that were permissive or de facto access. All this means that there is a case for at least some recognition of the Way's existence, even if not as a National Trail with all its razzmatazz. Marking on Ordnance Survey maps at 1:25,000 scale will be sought, but walkers will still need the sketch maps in the guidebook. The Ramblers' Association strongly advocates recognition of the Cambrian Way.


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