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Cambrian Mountains left in a 'tourism black hole'.

Byline: By Sally Williams Western Mail

Shelley, Wordsworth and Turner found artistic inspiration there. Its rocks have helped solve the questions about the Earth's formation. And yet the Cambrian mountains have fallen into "a tourism black hole", it is claimed. Members of Cambria Active - a group of 60 business people and accommodation providers in mid Wales - are now aiming to reclaim their "lost land".

They want to see the rural region which stretches between north Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Powys and is sandwiched between the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia national parks given Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) status.

Richard Tyler, chairman of Cambria Active, said the level of protection would put the Cambrians on a par with the Gower Peninsula in South Wales and the Cotswolds in England.

He told the Western Mail, "The Cambrian Mountains have been something of a black hole that people tend to drive through to get to other places in Wales. Covering 400 square miles, it is one of the largest wildernesses left in the UK.

"The problem is that it is sparsely populated and those of us who live here have to shout louder to get heard. We don't want to end up in a queue to get up a mountain like they do in Snowdonia but we could do with a higher profile."

Roger Stevens, owner of Lasswade Country House Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, said the area suffered from such a lack of promotion that even people living nearby are often unaware it exists - let alone tourists from abroad.

He said, "Visit Wales spend all their time promoting the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia so even people living in Swansea and Cardiff don't know where the Cambrian Mountains are. As a result we are a forgotten area and have been left underdeveloped.

"It is one of the oldest ranges on the face of the Earth and the Cambrian period is one of the earliest periods recorded in geology. It is home to the red kite and Plynlimon is the source of the River Severn and the River Wye, that is rich in salmon, trout and otters.

"We would like to see the creation of a North South road link to make the area more accessible. I can't understand why the Cambrians don't have AONB status already."

In the early 1970s, the Cambrians looked close to becoming a national park after spending seven years going through the designation process. Around 460 square miles of wild country between Machynlleth in the north and Llandovery in the south were on the brink of being accepted. The area had first been suggested as a park in the 1930s and was on the list of parks-in-waiting when the legislation was drawn up in the 1940s. By 1972 the Welsh Office was expected to rubber stamp designation, but the Cambrians got the thumbs down, amid rumours of political dark dealing.

Professor David Bateman, chairman of The Cambrian Mountains Society (CMS), said the Cambrian Mountains have lost out on opportunities generated by the tourist pound as a result.

He said, "Sadly, the area seems to be a dumping ground, somewhere that suffers from more than its fair share of wind turbines.

"Whatever happened in the 1970s, we didn't get a fair crack of the whip. It seems high time now that somebody put that right."

A Visit Wales spokesman said the area was a "huge natural asset" that featured in its brochures that promote cycling, walking and horseriding worldwide.

He said, "Tourism will grow as more and more people take up outdoor pursuits.": The Cambrian Mountains-the Shelley connection:Poet Percy Shelley was almost 19 when he was invited by his uncle to stay at Cwm Elan near Rhayader, in the Cambrian Mountains. He walked to mid Wales all the way from the family estate in Sussex. He was impressed by the wild and romantic surroundings, as shown in his surviving letters of the time, "Rocks piled on each other to tremendous heights, rivers formed into cataracts by their projections, and valleys clothed with woods, present an appearance of enchantment."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 17, 2007
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