Back in the early days of 2003, The Outdoor Partnership commissioned a study which showed that only 4% of full-time outdoor activity centre instructors working in north Wales had secondary schooling in Wales and spoke fluent Welsh.
English was heard as the everyday language of outdoor activities and this alienated a large proportion of the north Wales population, who traditionally saw outdoor activities as something only tourists participate in.
We wanted to change this!
Our Club Development programme has been a huge step in addressing this.
Running since 2005, by developing local residents’ skills and qualifications it has opened the outdoor sector to people who wouldn’t have had the opportunity before. By training thousands of club volunteers who support hundreds of community-based outdoor activity clubs across Wales, we have gone some way to changing this where local clubs and groups provide activities in the local environment and through the medium of Welsh.
A recent study by Calum Muskett;
found that by 2019, the number of full-time outdoor activity centre instructors that spoke fluent Welsh has increased to 25%.
Bant â Ni (‘Let’s go!’) is a project designed to create and support a network of outdoor instructors and enthusiasts who are either first language Welsh speakers or who are learning Welsh. The project came out of a need identified by TOP Development Officers in both Swansea Bay and Mid Wales regions that many stakeholders in their areas were struggling to find providers who could deliver outdoor activities through the medium of Welsh. This included Mentrau Iaith and Welsh-medium schools. Welsh-speaking instructors do exist but there is no central database where clients can search for suitable providers. We also identified there is limited support for outdoor instructors who would like to develop their working Welsh in an outdoor specific environment.
The idea behind Bant â Ni is to create a network and organise informal activity sessions where participants can develop their Welsh speaking skills in an immersive setting , i.e. through running or participating in an outdoor activity. There are also the social and networking opportunities which naturally come out of such sessions and in turn enhance the learning opportunities and employment potential for those involved.
So far we have held three Bant â Ni engagement sessions, in paddleboarding, climbing and caving. These provided an opportunity for individuals to practise their language skills and their activity skills! And there is always some nice food involved!
Clwb Mynydda Cymru is a Welsh language club established over 40 years ago, with the aim of promoting and enabling mountaineering and mountain walking through the medium of Welsh. The club has affiliated with us at The Outdoor Partnership for many years. In recent years there have been concerns about the future of the club. As happens with many clubs, they recognised the need to attract new members and to protect the longevity of the club.
The committee came together, and alongside suggestions from the members, introduced some changes in the provision of the club; a wider variety of walks (distance/severity), graded walk descriptions, well publicised taster sessions for general public to come along on walks, and developing a new club App.
The club was successful in gaining lots of new members who breathed new life into the club. This included a number of younger members and members wanting to learn more and develop skills in order to volunteer and lead club walks.
The Outdoor Partnership worked with the club with this task. Identifying several members that were suitably experienced and keen to embark on the Mountain Leader Training course, we went about working with the club to organise a course especially for these members. Mountain Leader training courses run in Welsh are few and far between, so we worked with a local provider and instructors to arrange a bespoke course for the group. This allowed for everyone to be able to undertake a Mountain Training course in their native language and enjoy the confidence that brought to the fore.
The aim is that by upskilling these members, the whole club membership gains better knowledge, and the newly trained leaders will go on to become regular club walk leaders. This will hopefully secure the longevity of the club for many years to come, ensuring another generation of local, Welsh-speaking mountaineers are able to enjoy the mountains safely.
Many thanks to Snowdonia Mountain Skills, Merfyn (Smyrf) Jones – Hike and Bike Snowdonia and Dewi Emlyn for their help getting this course going.