Responsible tourism in Snowdonia

The Easter Bank Holiday in 2019 was a warm one in Wales. The sun was out and the clouds had parted to reveal blue skies. No better excuse to attempt to summit Mount Snowdon (1,085m), you might think. But, unfortunately, you wouldn’t be alone. Crowds at the summit of Snowdon snaked all the way back down the 11km Pyg Track to the overflowing Pen y Pass car park.

A lack of facilities, including toilets and rubbish bins, meant that not only were the walking tracks to Snowdon’s summit overcrowded and becoming eroded, but they were also covered in litter – teams of volunteer wardens collect over 400 bin bags full of litter every year. Not only does this pose a very real threat to wildlife, and looks unsightly, but new scientific research also states that plastic pollution on Snowdon is becoming an extremely scary environmental wake up call.

This national landmark is a massive draw for tourism. It’s estimated that almost £70 million every year is brought into the Snowdonia area alone. This is great news for the local economy, but at what cost to the surrounding environment?

Safety in Snowdonia

It maybe common sense, but how common are the following safety precautions in your normal holiday preparations? If you are hiking, biking or on the water, it is always best to tell someone where you are heading. It may sound obvious, but it is amazing how many people do not bring maps or a compass, or are unsure how to use them. And wear the proper footwear. So many accidents are caused by bad shoes. Bring a basic safety kit with you if you are in the mountains, which should include a fold up foil shelter. Warmth and water are key. A whistle, torch and first aid kit can save a life. If you are on the water, wear buoyancy aids, and make sure they are properly fastened, especially on children who can slip out of them more easily.

And always check the Met Office website for a detailed weather forecast before you set out. And, if you are in the mountains, or indeed on the water, turn back if the weather turns bad. The mountains and water will be there tomorrow. Just make sure that you are too.
What you can do
Remember that the Snowdonia Mountain Rescue Service is run by volunteers and not a nationally subsidized emergency service. So only call them if it really is an emergency. The same goes for the local lifeboat service. These are brilliant charities to support if you can, and you can check out their websites to make a pre or post holiday donation. It is all very much appreciated.

Take a quick glance at the Snowdonia National Park summer and winter safety videos. Watch them with your children too, as they are often good at reminding adults about taking precautions. And check out the superb Adventure Smart UK website run by a team of Snowdonia savvies for up to date tips and weather warnings.

Dogs are not always Snowdonia's best friend

It is a privilege to have access to so much land in this magnificent part of the world. But dogs can be a big issue. For example, cattle can react dramatically to dogs, especially when there are calves around. And this is even when the dogs are on a leash. If cattle do pursue, release your dog and concentrate on your own safety first.

The law is that you must keep your dog on a short lead on most areas of open country and common land between 1 March and 31 July, and at all times near farm animals.

Be wary of ground nesting birds and other wildlife as this Park is protected with good reason. There is also a temptation not to clear up dog mess when you are in rural areas. However, remember that other people may walk where you have walked so, if in doubt, take it away with you. And never leave the plastic bag sitting on the side of a path.

Responsible tourism tips

Snowdonia is bursting with farmland and so if you are self-catering do resist the urge to pack up the car with food. Time your visit with a farmers’ market, or check with your accommodation where their nearest local producers can be found. Research in advance with this excellent Farm Shop website. Don’t overlook the quarries in Snowdonia. They may not be picture postcard and won’t feature on tourist board home pages but they have an industrial beauty the likes of which we see in derelict power stations, transport museums, or canal systems. The villages surrounding these quarries are often left off the tourist map, and yet talk to any of them and you will find out just how proud of their quarrying heritage they are. Over 95% of visitors come to the Park by car. Public transport is not perfect, but it is possible. The best mainline stations are Bangor or Llandudno. Check out the Conwy Valley line which will take you down the line into Snowdonia National Park. The Cambrian Lines also link with Porthmadog. For more detailed journey planners, check out the invaluable Traveline Cymru website. And to get around the various Snowdon trails, the bus service is great although not so easy outside the peak seasons.
Ifer Gwyn, Principal Policy Officer at Snowdonia National Park:
“The railway lines are like a silver thread running through the natural trails and with 95% of people coming here by car, we would love to see more people using the facilities that we have. Natural and man-made.”
Mount Snowdon is charity central and, if you are coming for an event, consider extending your stay for a couple of days and spreading your money locally, not just funneling it all into a non-local charity. If every charity walker/runner spent one more night in a b&b and bought one more dinner locally, it would create a hugely positive impact for residents, food producers, publicans…the list goes on.  Mount Snowdon obviously gets lots of attention, but also lots of visitors. August it the busiest month with the Llanberis Path the most popular. Although the Park Authority maintains trails brilliantly, it is worth spreading the load to other peaks too Accessibility can be an issue in the mountains, but Snowdonia is tackling these issues providing accessible trails. It is also spreading the word among local businesses with its impressive Snowdonia for All movement. Find out more by getting in touch with our responsible tour operators or the excellent Eryri Ramblers Don’t even think about bringing your jet ski to Snowdonia. They are not allowed in the National Park but kayaks and canoes are welcome, as long as you stick to the Waterside Code, downloadable from Canoe Wales Mountain bikers are advised to stick to Snowdonia’s superbly managed mountain bike trails. Many will drift off piste, of course, and consequently a voluntary agreement exists on Snowdon's bridleways not to cycle on them between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from 1st May - 30th September.  There is a lot of talk about keeping the mountain trails clean, and rightly so. But the waters here are protected too, with very fragile ecosystems that are habitats for many of our wilderness wonders, such as otters and rare fish. So, clear up all your rubbish, don’t throw fruit peel or stones in the water and, if you are bathing, wear eco friendly sun creams and other products. We like the campaign run by the people living around Lyn Padarn lake in Llanberis called Loving Our Lake, which recently fought to have its beloved waters designated as official Bathing Water. They have a great blog and a strong community feel. You will see few plastic bags flying or floating around the National Park following the compulsory 5p charge on plastic bags in 2009 throughout Wales. So bring your reusable bags with you. Although it is vital to keep hydrated, plastic water bottles are a no no so please remember to bring refillable ones. Or treat yourself to a new one from one of the many outdoor shops here. If you are going on long hikes, it is worth investing in a water bag or backpack, with a tube attached for easy access. Camping should generally be confined to authorised sites but if wild camping you must, where possible, get permission from the landowner first. Otherwise, stay out of sight of houses and roads, do not light fires and of course, leave absolutely no trace of your visit. Check out conservation charity, Snowdonia Society and all they do in the region.
Snowdonia National Park Authority:
“As most of the land suitable for wild camping is not owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, we are not therefore in a position to directly permit wild camping. We advise everyone who wishes to go wild camping to have landowners' consent.”
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Hefin Owen] [Safety in Snowdonia: David McDermott] [Ifer Gwyn quote: Herbert Ortner] [Snowdonia National Park Authority quote: MelsBrushes]