As stated in last Wednesdays post, Andy Lamb, the Wales Outdoors owner, was the catalyst and created the environment for the Brecon Beacons National Park Outdoor Environmental Charter to become adopted by all adventure activity providers working within the Brecon Beacons National Park and South Wales areas. This was some achievement given the resistence shown at the first meeting, called by Andy Lamb and the then Head Warden for the BBNP.
Once a few meetings had passed a document was produced detailing the commitment of providers to working with a sustainable approach and within guidelines set by the peer group of outdoor professionals and with countryside conservation advice from authorities such as the BBNP and the BMC.
There was a problem though. The charter was voluntary and had no teeth. No way to penalise those that signed up to the charter but worked outside of the guidance. So, providers could take the kudos and use this in their marketing while chasing the dollar and working with unsustainable or environmentally damaging practices.
Andy pointed this out on many occasions, naming those providers that flouted the guidance and for this he was marginalised. No one wanted to 'rock the boat'. Andy decided to remove himself from an active role within the charter group. At this time he highlighted instances of 'rule breaking' one of which was by naming 'Call of the Wild' as a company that was receiving publicity through the BBNP outdoor Environmental Charter through photo accreditation and yet this company was abseiling on the main wall of Dinas Rock which was against BMC policy at the time. Andy thought it best to be signed up to the charter but to have nothing to do with it's members, his peers.
From the charter group grew a short lived organisation, Beacons Active. This was managed by a couple of local operators and against Andy's advice they decided to take the charter group down a commercial route. Andy remembers discussing the associated problems of managing a group, many of whom saw themselves as non commercial operators, the LEA's for instance, that had from it's inception had a commitment to environmental protection but now was being used to generate income for some. Andy advised that this would end in disaster for the charter and that after any funding, supported by the BBNP, was used up, the group would fold. And this is what happened. The charter was no more.
No matter. The charter had been worked out, produced as a leaflet and delivered to all activity providers and Wales Outdoors continued to work well within it's guidelines.
Wales Outdoors went on to gain the Green Dragon Environmental Sustainability Award and to tweak it's provision to ensure that client numbers and locations used complied with the charter and were compatible with careful use of the environments within which outdoor education is delivered.
The main issue for the environment with adventure activity provision is client numbers. Some companies are all about numbers and so generating increasing income. Traditionally though the industry was staffed by outdoor professionals who worked with smaller groups and were not about vicious activity but were about education through fun activity in the outdoors. Wales Outdoors see's it's provision as falling into the latter category and long may that remain the case. More about pressure on particular activity locations and the re-adoption of the Outdoor Charter's principles by activity providers in future posts.