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Call to respect and protect great Welsh outdoors this summer

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As the school gates close and as more and more people seek opportunities to holiday closer to home, visitors to Wales’s great outdoors are being urged to continue to protect and respect the communities and countryside locations they are looking to explore and enjoy this summer.

The call from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) comes as Wales’ nature reserves, National Parks, coastlines and other outdoor visitor sites look set to speed to the top of destination lists once again following the further easing of coronavirus restrictions.

NRW’s sites have already seen a significant increase in visitors since lockdown was eased in March. And while the majority of visitors leave no trace behind, many sites have been bearing the brunt of the behaviour of some visitors who show little to no regard or respect for the areas they have come to enjoy.

Forest floors have become makeshift car parks and campsites, and litter has spilled into areas far beyond bins and designated toilet areas.

With the safety of visitors and those who live and work in the neighbouring communities in mind, NRW will be working with the police to increase patrols of hotspot sites across Wales and will not hesitate to take enforcement action in a partnership approach to reduce the risk of such occurrences from happening again this summer.

Volunteers litter picking in woodland (Image: Keep Wales Tidy)

Richard Owen, team leader for estate recreation planning and land stewardship at NRW said: “The further easing of coronavirus restrictions coupled with periods of warm, fine weather will no doubt prompt people to put Wales’ renowned beauty spots at the top of their day trip and holiday destination lists this summer.

“While we are delighted to welcome people back to our sites to relax and recharge the batteries, we must maintain a balance between the wishes of individuals to enjoy the outdoors and the responsibilities each and every one of us has to protect nature and to respect our local communities.

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“We want to do everything we can to ensure people can visit our sites safely, which is why many visitors to some of our most popular sites, like Newborough Nature Reserve on Anglesey, Coed y Brenin and Llyn Geirionydd will see an increase in patrols from our wardens and police officers over the coming months.

An abandoned shopping trolley in woodland (Image: Keep Wales Tidy)

“The vast majority of those that visit our sites behave responsibly and, with the summer now well and truly underway, we hope that will continue as we head into the busiest part of the year.”

One of the most prevalent issues experienced in the Welsh countryside is the impact of wildfires and fly camping – the term given when campers pitch tents or park campervans or motorhomes without the landowner’s permission.

The issues have been on the rise in Wales’ national parks, forests and nature reserves since lockdown restrictions have eased, leading to environmental damage and public health concerns.

With the impacts on wildlife and communities still very much a concern this summer, NRW is urging people to follow the Countryside Code and to consider its own recommended six steps to a safe return and do their bit to minimise pressures on open spaces and landscapes this summer.

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Six steps to a safe return

Before you visit:

  • Plan ahead– check what is open and closed before you set out. Pack hand sanitiser and face masks.
  • Avoid the crowds– choose a quiet place to visit. Make a ‘plan B’ in case your destination is too busy when you arrive.

While you’re there:

  • Park responsibly– respect the local community by using car parks. Do not park on verges or block emergency access routes.
  • Follow guidance– comply with site signs and Covid 19 safety measures to enjoy your visit safely.
  • Take your litter home– protect wildlife and the environment by leaving no trace of your visit.
  • Follow the Countryside Code– stick to trails, leave gates as you find them, keep dogs under control, bag and bin dog poo, do not light fires.

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Tourism

Farming union urges Welsh Government to grant holiday let exemptions to diversified farm businesses

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to Welsh Minister for Finance and Local Government, Rebecca Evans MS urging the Welsh Government to seriously consider an exemption from the revised letting criteria for diversified farm businesses.

In his letter, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “To date, the FUW strongly believes that the implications for diversified farm businesses have not been fully considered while making the decision to increase the number of days a property is actually let from 70 to 182 days during any 12 month period to be eligible for business rates.

“It should be remembered that the Welsh Government has encouraged farmers to diversify over recent years to make farm businesses more resilient in light of future changes to agricultural support policies, and that in what is believed to be the vast majority of cases, the conversion of farm buildings into dwellings has only been possible for self-catered accommodation purposes under Section 106 conditions.”

FUW say that it is clearly understood from its members that for many diversified farm businesses, actually letting self-catered accommodation units for at least 182 days per year will be practically impossible given the nature of farming – which generates the largest proportion of income for such businesses – and the sheer competitiveness of the holiday let market.

“In light of the above and given that farmers who have genuinely diversified into on-farm accommodation provide the same type of accommodation as speculators from urban areas who invest in properties to let them out, and people wanting a second home who subsidise payments by letting it out as an AirBnB or something similar without reducing Welsh housing stocks or causing house prices to rise, such businesses must be supported in light of current and future challenges rather than being burdened with further barriers and stricter thresholds,” he said.

“Therefore, now that the Welsh Government has decided to increase the letting criteria to 182 days, the FUW would stress the need for self-catering accommodation units which are located on agricultural holdings or subject to Section 106 conditions to be exempt from such changes.

“I urge you as Minister for Finance and Local Government to seriously consider the above as you keep measures to address the impacts associated with second homes and short-term holiday lets under review and seek to avoid any unintended consequences,” he added.

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(Lead image: FUW)

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Tourism

Tourism fund helps new Swansea accommodation providers

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Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has seen for himself how Welsh Government funding is helping local entrepreneurs develop new, high-quality accommodation in Swansea and Mumbles.

The Oyster House, Mumbles has opened its doors in time for half-term, after receiving loan funding of £2m from the Wales Tourism Investment Fund. The 16-bedroom boutique-style hotel and restaurant has created 29 full-time equivalent jobs.

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Developer James Morse said: “Having developed phase one at Oysterwharf and seeing the number of visitors it attracted, I realised an upmarket boutique hotel was needed in Mumbles. The hotel and restaurant, which are operated by City Pub Group, provides individual designer-style rooms with sea and village views and luxury fittings and equipment.”

In Swansea city centre, Llyr Roberts saw a gap in the market for a city centre hostel and opened the Cwtsh Hostel in November 2021. It has recently received a five-star hostel grading from Visit Wales, making it the only five-star hostel in South Wales. The hostel was supported through the EU-funded Micro and Small Business Fund.

Llyr Roberts and Vaughan Gething MS at Cwtsh Hotel in Swansea City Centre

It caters for backpackers, explorers, families, schools and freelancers and has pod and private accommodation, electric bike hire and offers guests and visitors introductory Welsh classes. Mr Roberts said he sees the project as an opportunity to grow and diversify the visitor market in the area.

He said: “Cwtsh Hostel wants to make Swansea a destination and attract people from all over the world to the area. Money from the Welsh Government has made the dream of opening a City Centre Hostel a reality while creating 7 jobs in the process. Backpackers and tourists on a budget now have a home in Swansea and I’m sure they will promote Swansea to people all over the world.”

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething, who visited both businesses, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to support these two very different accommodation businesses in Swansea – both delivering very high-quality products and expanding on what the area has to offer, as well as creating jobs and supporting the local economy.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult couple of years for the visitor economy. However, the outlook for the summer looks much brighter and research shows there is higher confidence levels in the sector and the public anticipates taking more overnight trips in the next 12 months than in the previous 12 months.

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“I wish these two businesses every success for the future.”

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Pets

According to 73,000 pet owner reviews, Swansea is one of the pet-friendliest holiday destinations in Wales!

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dark yellow labrador retriever lying on the sea shore

More and more pet parents are taking their furry friends on holiday with them, but finding out which locations are the pet-friendliest can be difficult.

Holidaymaker demand for pet-friendly destinations has soared in recent years; in 2021, Airbnb reported a 65% increase in searches for pet-friendly holiday lets on the site.

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As such, Petplan analysed over 73,000 reviews made by pet owners on Booking(.com) to find out which locations in Wales and Great Britain are the best locations to go on holiday with your pet.

75.6% of pet owners who had holidayed in Swansea left the highest-rated reviews (7 and above) on Booking(.com) – meaning Swansea is one of the best holiday destinations for pet owners in Wales!

Monmouthshire ranks as the best destination for holidaymakers with pets with 83% of highly-rated reviews from pet owners. 

Powys ranked as the 2nd pet-friendliest holiday destination in Wales with 82.2% of positive reviews and Blaenau Gwent ranked in close third (81.1%). 

Herefordshire is the best place in England to go on holiday with your pet with 88% of highly-rated reviews from pet owners.

Perth and Kinross is the best location in Scotland for holidaying with pets (85.3% of highly-rated reviews). 

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Pet owners ranked The Scottish Highlands as having the best restaurants (93%), Cheshire as having the best quality rooms (100%), and Cumbria as having the best views (83%). 

Before you set off on holiday with your furry friend, check out our top tips to make travelling a much smoother experience for humans and animals alike.

1. Do your research before you travel

If you’re thinking about taking your pet on holiday, it’s really important that you do some key research beforehand. Before you book a hotel, make sure that it’s definitely pet-friendly.

If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll need to look at any entry requirements for the country you’re visiting. Requirements vary by country: for example, some require rabies vaccinations or tapeworm treatment. Legally, all dogs in the UK should be microchipped, so if you’re taking your dog on holiday you should also keep their microchip certificate on hand.

Researching the documents you’ll need to have on hand when you travel, like a pet passport or health certificates, will make crossing borders and getting through customs much smoother. Quarantine times for pets can be very lengthy if you’re travelling internationally and your pet doesn’t meet entry requirements, so research this thoroughly beforehand.

If you’re flying by plane, be sure to check the airline’s policy about travelling with animals and their history of handling pets.

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2. Prioritise your pet’s wellbeing and safety

Your pet’s health and wellbeing is really important, so before you make any travel plans, consider whether your pet would be a good candidate for travelling. Consider your pet’s temperament and how well they cope with travelling, prolonged periods away from home, new people, places, and experiences, and how well they are trained. Look into alternative options like leaving your pet at a boarding centre or finding a house sitter if you feel that your pet would find accompanying you on holiday stressful.

If you do choose to take your pet with you, pet insurance should cover your pet in case a trip to the vets is needed while you’re on holiday. If your pet is prone to motion sickness and travel anxiety, it may be worth discussing with your vet any possible medicines that will ensure your pet has a more comfortable journey.

If your pet has existing health issues, a vet can discuss this with you and prescribe enough medication to last your entire holiday. A vet will also be able to advise of any recommended vaccinations and treatments to protect against potential health risks endemic to your destination.

3. Pack appropriately for your pet

Before you head off, put together a pet travel kit containing all the things your pet will need on holiday. You’ll want to include enough food and treats for the duration of your trip, your pet’s favourite toys, comfortable bedding, leads and harnesses, waste bags, and first aid supplies. If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll also need to pack relevant documentation (like health certificates and pet passports) for them.

Make sure your pet has fresh water available at all times, too; if you’re travelling in the car, a ‘no spill’ water bowl or bottle might be a worthwhile investment.

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4. Prepare a suitable travel carrier

If you need to use a travel carrier for your pet, give them some time to get used to the carrier before you hit the road. The travel carrier needs to be well-ventilated and spacious enough for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

Make sure that you place the travel carrier somewhere out of direct sunlight and away from cold draughts, and that it’s secured by a seat belt. It’s a good idea to place your pet’s favourite toy and a comforting blanket inside the carrier as well.

5. Give your pet ample rest stops

There’s nothing worse than being on a long road trip and needing to use the loo. If you’re driving a long way, make sure you stop frequently to give your pet time to stretch their legs and go to the toilet. If you find a safe place en route, play some energetic games with your pet so that they can burn off some energy before getting back on the road. If you’re flying abroad, make sure your pet has time to go to the toilet before it’s their time to board.

6. Try to keep a regular routine

It will be much easier for your pet to adjust to travelling if you keep their routine as close as possible to what they’re used to. Try to feed them and take them out for toilet breaks and walks at the same times you would do at home. Make sure that fresh water is always available to them, which is especially important if you’re holidaying in a hot climate or you’re doing lots of energetic activities.

7. Watch for signs of stress

While some pets may find travelling a breeze, others may find the experience stressful. Be sure to watch out for signs of stress or motion sickness in your pet so you can make them more comfortable. If you’re on a road trip with a dog, watch out for excessive panting, yawning, dribbling, vomiting, or restlessness.

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If you suspect your dog is anxious, take frequent breaks on your trip. Getting your dog used to short car journeys first (with the help of positive reinforcement) can make it easier for them when it comes to going on a longer road trip. Specially designed travel sprays can also be effective at helping your dog feel calmer in the car.

If your pet is prone to travel sickness, make sure to feed them a light meal before you set off on your journey. Consult your vet before travelling to see if there is any medication that might be able to help your furry friend feel better.

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