In March 2020, our volunteers downed tools as lockdown began. By early June it became apparent that, after months of lockdown, Snowdonia would soon be reopening to the public. In anticipation of large numbers of people flocking to Snowdonia the National Park Authority, Snowdonia Society, and the Outdoor Partnership joined forces to shape a rapid response.
We needed a whole new team to support the work of National Park Wardens. The new team would be a regular and visible presence, giving advice to visitors on how to visit safely and responsibly, and helping to keep Snowdonia cleared of litter. Thus the ‘Welcome Back’ volunteer scheme was born. By early July our volunteer work had restarted with a bang.
An intense spell of work went into planning how the scheme would work. The ‘Welcome Back’ teams were to target the popular honeypot areas of the National Park – at Ogwen, Llanberis, around the Snowdon massif and Bala. An enthusiastic response from volunteers saw over 100 people register to take part in just a few days. Snowdonia Society staff, along with these amazing volunteers, were out on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays every weekend from July 10th to the Bank Holiday at the end of August.
In total, they worked over 840 hours – a tremendous effort. These generous people gave up their free time to offer advice and information. Visitors and local people alike were grateful for their efforts, in particular their heroic efforts to keep some of Wales’ most beautiful and iconic places clear of litter.
Over 500 bags of litter were collected. Common items included fruit peel, ice lolly sticks, cups, plastic bottles and straws, along with barbecues, discarded tents and human waste.
The rapid response by volunteers this summer sets a superb positive example, but it also highlights how we need to change some visitors’ expectations and behaviour. Snowdonia isn’t a theme park, a festival or a city centre. We need more people to think and act as they would in a place they care about; nobody wants litter dumped on their own doorstep. We need all visitors to see it as normal to expect to take their litter home, and we must inspire more people to think how they can help our volunteers to keep Snowdonia special.
A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone who contributed to the ‘Welcome Back’ scheme this summer, you’ve made such a difference!