Mosaic Community Champions enjoy a change of scenery in Snowdonia

Slate, sheep and the stunning scenery of Snowdonia provided an inspirational backdrop for volunteers from Newport, Cardiff, Wrexham, Bangor, Barry and Swansea on the latest stage of their discovery of National Parks in Wales.

Fifty people from black and minority ethnic communities gathered with National Park and YHA staff at Llanberis to celebrate their enjoyment of and involvement in some of Wales’ most inspirational places.

While some took on the challenge of a walk up Snowdon, others learnt about local industry and history at the Slate Museum and a tour of the Hafod Y Llan National Trust Farm. Other activities included Kayaking, an afternoon cutting the invasive rhododendrum plant and a nature and foraging walk, as well as debate and discussion on access to National Parks for BME communities.

The celebration event was part of the Campaign for National Parks’ Mosaic project, which aims to cement long-term engagement between under-represented groups and National Parks. Mosaic works in Wales with the three National Park Authorities, the YHA and volunteer ‘Community Champions’. ‘Community Champions’ are members of BME communities from urban Wales, who learn about National Parks and use their experiences to inspire others to enjoy and understand Wales’ stunning countryside.

Gwen Hester, who has lived in Newport for more than 40 years, was unaware of National Parks before she was recruited as a volunteer Community Champion for the Brecon Beacons National Park. She said of the event:

It’s been mind-blowing.  I’ve been so inspired with what I’ve seen.

Snowdonia Community Champion Dawn Archibald, of Wrexham, said

The history of this area is so rich.  We look at slates on the roof and take them for granted.  We think nothing of the woolly jumper we wear but this visit has shown me the hours of hard labour that’s gone in to make that slate and that wool.

Community Champions were given a taste of the local history and culture through the traditional telling of folk tales and songs in a live performance from renowned musician Gwilym Morus.  Zobia Zaman, Community Champion from Cardiff commented on the performance:

The tales reminded me of the stories my grandmother used to tell and it shows that no matter how different we are, we are all human.

Community Champions at the event will use what they’ve learnt over the weekend to inspire others to get into National Parks. Many focus on the health benefits of getting into the countryside. Zarin Rasul, a Community Champion from Cardiff, works with a BME carers’ group and is emphatic about how visiting the Brecon Beacons National Park helps her group to unwind from a stressful life. She celebrated at the weekend by challenging herself to climb Mount Snowdon. When talking about the walks she leads as a Mosaic Community Champion, she said.

Many of my group have a lot of stress going on in their lives. I take the group out for walks and to the [Brecon Beacons] National Park. It really helps them to de-stress.

Mosaic Champions and National Park Authority staff also took part in our annual ‘National Feedback Forum’. This year the focus was on how Champions can continue to promote the National Parks in the future and spread the message about how National Parks contribute to the health and wellbeing of those that visit.

Mosaic is funded by the National Lottery People and Places fund and this event also received funding from the Snowdonia National Park Sustainable Development Fund (CAE). Currently there are over 50 Community Champions across Wales who have introduced National Parks to close on a 1,000 people who had not visited them before.

Lisa Bainbridge, Campaign for National Parks’ Campaigns and Engagement Director said:

Through Mosaic, we are trying to encourage more diversity among the visitors to National Parks, so that everyone has the opportunity to experience and benefit from all that National Parks have to offer.  For some people this is just time to relax, experience nature and take a breath from the stresses of everyday life, for others it is about discovery and encouraging others to meet new and exciting challenges inspired by the wild and expansive landscapes of the National Parks in Wales.

Notes for editors:

1.    The Campaign for National Parks is the independent national voice for the 13 National Parks in England and Wales. Our mission is to inspire everyone to enjoy and look after National Parks – the nation’s green treasures.

2.    Mosaic in Wales is funded by the National Lottery People and Places Fund. The Campaign for National Parks works in partnership with the YHA and the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia National Park Authorities to deliver the Mosaic project for BAME communities.

3.    The Big Lottery Fund distributes half of the National Lottery good cause funding across the UK. The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need.