Volunteer Lengthsman is a long standing Environment Wales registered project with the aim of involving local people in the work of the National Trust in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The project helps to form a more permanent volunteer resource of local people to care for, and have input into the management of, their local National Trust property. This is done through the adoption of a length of footpath, which will become the volunteer groups’ responsibility. The National Trust provides the group with the training and support they need to enable them to do this.
The term Lengthsman was traditionally attributed to people that cared for and maintained byways leading to their communities which is a role that the current volunteers are undertaking. As part of the restoration process the National Trust Volunteers use traditional methods to reinstate land degraded by human activity in ways that prevent further erosion of the soil and loss of vegetation. The land cared for as part of the project includes: Abergwesyn in the North, the Kymin in the East, Lanlay Meadows in the South and Henrhyd Falls and Coelbren Falls in the West.
The Trust acknowledges the support provided by the Volunteer Lengthsmen and cites that they are only able to manage the vast area with considerable volunteer help. Vic Heard is one such volunteer whose role it is to help maintain about one mile of footpath on the route from Pont ar Daf to Pen y Fan.
He first discovered the opportunity to take part in the project and the role of Volunteer Lengthsman from a sign advertising the opportunity while walking in Cwm Llwch. He got involved as he loves walking and was looking for something to do when he retired. Vic then got in touch with Simon Rose via the advert. Simon then met with Vic and showed him the length of path that he would be caring for and what needed to be done.
The job of the Volunteer Lengthsman involves working along the length of path making sure the drainage channels on the side and across the path are clear to ensure water runoff. The volunteers can undertake minor repairs but they ensure more serious issues are reported back to the Access Warden. They also keep the area tidy by picking up litter which is often left by walkers to the site.
Vic spends 3-4 hours, one day per month, volunteering at the site. He says of his role that:“It’s satisfying to be doing something useful. After a largely office career it’s nice to work outside in beautiful surroundings and it’s enjoyable to talk to and help the many visitors passing. Most stop for a chat and many say thank you for the work I’m doing.”
As Volunteer Lengthsman Vic has some top tips for others wanting to develop a similar role:
- Make sure you have the right equipment;
- Ensure you make time to do it when the weathers good;
- It’s hard work so you need to be reasonably fit but it’s well worth doing;
- I’d recommend it to anyone who loves the outdoors and wants to help preserve it.
For more information about the Volunteer Lengthsman project please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or for volunteer opportunities please visit the National Trust website at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/ways-to-volunteer/