Wales is home to three National Parks – the closest Welsh destination for anyone travelling from the South of England on a camping tour is the Fforest Fawr Geopark, or the home of the Brecon Beacons. Protected as an area of outstanding beauty and environmental significance since 1957, the land receives funding from local and national government to ensure its maintenance and upkeep, while offering outdoors enthusiasts the chance to explore the area with ease. The Brecon Beacons have seen their current formations exist through the movements of the last ice ages, with the mountain range holding local remains of the Bronze Age humans and tools dating back to pre 2000BC. Geological formations in the area typically display escarpment ridges, cwms and valleys, exposing ancient sea beds and notable sea level changes – evidence of climate change and powerful glacial movement.
The Brecon Beacons are thought to be named as such due to the ancient tradition that saw early settlers lighting the tops of mountains with contained signal fires to ask for help, warning of invaders or impending danger. While the Brecon Beacons are steeped in legend and tradition, the area remains a pilgrimage for any hiking, scrambling and climbing enthusiast or VW-T campervan tourer – with many beginning their short weekend trips around the UK visiting the Brecon Beacons for fantastic outdoor adventures. The Brecon Beacons is home to highest peak in South Wales, ‘Pen y Fan’, a deceivingly challenging 2907 feet, yet to the East and West the confusingly named Black Mountain ranges offer their own dramatic peaks to conquer. The locality of the park makes it in easy access from the rest of England and Wales. The area covers 521 square miles of stunning inland scenery – typically showcasing red sandstone peaks, mountains, cols, ridges and valleys, hiding secret waterfalls and gorges that provide the stunning natural habitats for endangered and rare UK wildlife.
Waterfall Country – Merthyr Tydfill
Perhaps the most revered waterfall site in the National Park, Waterfall Country is hidden in the southern incline of the Fforest Fawr, west of Merthyr Tydfill. There are over 200 species of fern, moss and liverwort in this spectacular, enchanting area. With over 25 miles of pathways around the fast running rivers and streams, the waterfalls have been created over many thousands of years through a perfect combination of sandstone and outcropped lime channeling the four rivers that make up the River Neath. A magical way to spend a day exploring, the jewel in Waterfall Country has to be the Snow Waterfall, 27m high and part of the tributary River Hepste. A natural path has formed that actually allows visitors to walk behind the cascading curtain of water.
The Willow Springs Campsite is close to ‘Waterfall Country’, ideal for campervanning and tenting tourers to stay nearby, giving families and couples easy access to this outstanding beauty spot that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
PEN Y FAN
The highest point in the Central and wider Brecon Beacons National Park, the summit of Pen y Fan is deceptively tricky for beginners, even slightly out of season. With high winds rather normal at such heights and ice or snow often at the summit, care should be taken when attempting to climb this peak.
The stunning area of Pen y Fan is conserved by the National Trust to help combat erosion of the area from walkers. The thousands of feet that travel up and down the paths take their toll, and the summit is also used for special forces in the UK military for training purposes.
On a clear day the red sandstone summit can provide views to the Bristol Channel, Exmoor and the Gower Peninsula, and the name broadly translates to the Mountain’s peak, heralding its champion height within the surrounding area of mountains. The summit was marked since the Bronze age, with a well preserved grave with remnants of artifacts, human remains and ancient flowers that were used in commemoration burials. These sorts of ritualistic remains were typical of the Bronze Age (around 2000BC) and this particular cairn grave’s special location means that the National Trust protects it with a sign atop.
The central Beacons have a number of static camping sites, with caravans for hire and room for motorhomes and campervans. The Penyrheol Barn Farm is great base to discover Pen y Fan and the surrounding six similarly-shaped peaks of the central Brecon Beacons, able to host up to five mobile campervans for electric hookup and majestic views of the mountains. Prices start at an extremely reasonable £9 per night.