Beacons Outdoor Instructor Association And The Environmental Charter
Well, it's there isn't it and we should do our best to protect it, the environment that we share, that is.
Perhaps as long ago as 1997, or at least thereabouts, Andy Lamb, the Wales Outdoors owner, was thinking unsustainable use of the environment by adventure activity providers working in the Brecon Beacons National Park. At this time there was no policy, no group, no protocols and even no advice by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.
In 1999 Andy undertook a survey of all communities by mailing the parish councils (snail mail as internet was in it's infancy) and asking a series of questions about the impact of group working on the community and the landscape. Andy also asked the same question of the larger bodies such as the BBNP, Forest Enterprise, The Countryside Council For Wales etc. This survey he then collated and came up with a list of sites being used by activity providers and a list of suggestions to improve the use at these sites.
Andy used these survey results as a basis to develop an outdoor instructors association for individual instructors and commercial providers (the Local Education Authority centres has their own group that heads of centres attend). Andy chatted to peers and had several who were on board and so, with the assistance of the BBNP Wardens Service he called a meeting which was held at Danywenallt, Talybont on Usk, which a the time was owned by the National Park.
Unknown to Andy the NP Wardens Service had invited not just the commercial providers and individual instructors but also the heads of the LEA's and officers from government agencies with little connection to environmental issues such as the Adventure Activity Licensing Authority.
Despite this full meeting of the great and the good in the Welsh Outdoors Andy went ahead with his plan and laid out his vision for an environmental best practice code that would underpin the work of signed up commercial providers and instructors working within the Brecon Beacons National Park. Andy also floated the idea of a minimum day rate for sessional staff, co-working and creating a 'brand' for promotion of excellence in outdoor activities in the area. The working group name was The Beacons Outdoors Instructor Association, a bit clunky but it was open to be changed to something more poetic.
Andy was given a hard time by all in the room, with the heads of centres saying they had environmental policies in place, with others being worried that if we became visible we would have access to activity locations removed from us, that who was he to suggest a minimum rate of pay, that we didn't need more paperwork and policies... Worst of all the peers that had agreed with him at meetings in cafes and were in support of the plan faded into the background offering no words of support.
The thing is, this was to be a voluntary code of practice that encouraged peer working and knowledge sharing. Andy wasn't asking for a compulsory code and he wasn't asking for LEA's to be members.
This meeting raised Andy's profile in Outdoor Education in Wales but for the wrong reasons. He had begun the process a few years too soon. The people that populated the industry were not ready to positively look at a collective approach to working through problems or enhancing provision and to perhaps compromise their provision at some activity locations. And they certainly didn't want to look at what they were paying some of their junior staff.
And so the BOIA never amounted to much. Andy was left as the sole member as the original group of providers slipped away into the mist, unwilling to face the collective strength of, in the main, the heads of centres who it seems wanted to monopolise their misguided sense of delivering the very best in adventure activity provision.
However... This bold move by Andy did lead to something positive. It eventually led to the main aim of Andy's BOIA being encoded and adopted by all adventure activity providers working in the Brecon Beacons National Park and the wider South Wales area. More about The Brecon Beacons National Park Environmental Charter next Wednesday...