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Groups in gorges - reconciling conservation and recreation

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Published on Sep 29, 2010

With more and more people enjoying the outdoors, some of the beautiful wooded ravines and gorges of Wales have become popular venues for activities such as gorge walking, canyoning and kayaking. These sites often have special European conservation status, which we have an international and legal obligation to protect.

Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) Upland Ecologist, Barbara Jones, stressed that: "Wooded Gorges are nationally and internationally important from a conservation perspective because of the rare plants which grow there in the highly humid environment provided by the almost constantly running water, retained within the gorge by a dense woodland canopy. Whilst we don't want to stop access to these beautiful gorges, we need to ensure that activities on these sites are not damaging to the important and special wildlife and environment which is so attractive and so important for conservation."

To try and find a blalance between conservation and recreation, CCW and the Splash Water Recreation Challenge Fund for Wales have jointly funded a 15 minute educational film. The aim is to make the DVD freely available to outdoor outdoor education and recreation providers across Wales as a teaching aid for groups as part of the preparation for visits to these magnificent places, as well as providing general information on how to avoid damage and minimise their impacts.

Speaking for the Environment Agency Wales, Matt Strickland, said: "We want people to have the opportunity to get out there and responsibly enjoy the fantastic rivers, lakes and coastal areas we have in Wales."

"Making the most of places like this will not only give local people the chance to enjoy their local waters, it will be an added attraction for people visiting Wales which is so important to our economy.

The idea of a short educational film was inspired by Ray Woods' (Plantlife) Keynote presentation in April 2008, at a seminar of interested bodies organised by CCW at Plas y Brenin. The seminar encouraged delegates to explore the issues and find innovative solutions to the concerns from conservation bodies side that recreational activity in gorges was causing damage to rare and special plants.

Snowdonia-Active took that idea, developed a proposal and secured funding from the EAW SPLASH Fund and the CCW to produce the film. Working with North Wales based 2rays production company, and the renowned lower plant life expert Ray Woods of Plantlife, the film delivers a clear message about how special and vulnerable these gorges are and how to minimise the negative impacts of outdoor recreation within them.

Chris Wright of Snowdonia-Active believes: "Time and time again it has been shown that if outdoor users can be made aware of the special nature of the venues that they use, they will take positive steps to minimise the impact of their activities."

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