Thriving Llanelli by Alwyn Williams

Llanelli Family walk

“Now I have my new boots, I can walk the mountains with Grandpa”, said young Harri to his walking friend, Harvey. Both are 6 years old and have been keen members of Llanelli Ramblers since first coming along in their pushchairs. They are now among the junior leaders in the weekly family friendly summer evening walks programme.

The youngsters are not exactly taking over this lively South-West Wales group, but they are making their presence felt.

The Llanelli Ramblers Group is anything but small, as is has shown by its increasing membership, and there is no shortage of willing volunteers either. The Group’s programme is diverse; between four and six well attended walks each week, walking holidays and weekends away, social events, a Bank Holiday weekend family camp in a local country park, an annual Boxing Day fancy dress dip in the sea, and a post Christmas “Santa Trail”, to name just a few of the goodies on offer .

Even the older members have their own niche, using their bus passes to get to and from their own weekly walks. They have strict rules: no hills, no stiles, no mud and a friendly hostelry at the finish. It’s a popular formula!

One of the highlights of the Group’s calendar must be the Llanelli Ramblers Festival of Walks, held every year over the three-day late Spring Bank Holiday weekend. The Festival was set up by local Ramblers in 1995 to raise the profile of footpaths and to appreciate the surrounding countryside. Peter Davies, one of the Festival’s founders, said “The first event attracted just 19 participants over the three days.” Now, seventeen years later, still run by a team of enthusiastic volunteers, the Festival has become a major event in South West Wales and attracts walkers both from the U.K. and beyond, some returning time and again. Over the years the Festival has included visits to castles, bronze-age and Neolithic sites, former industrial areas and other important heritage sites. Each day’s menu has aimed to encompass the diversity of fine coastal, riverside and country ways. All set in a county embracing the wildest little known Western Brecon Beacons, beautiful rolling hills and lovely stretches of coast. The river Tywi, for example, links sea and mountain, passing through a variety of the pastoral, the grandiose and the eccentric, the remote and the wild, which can rival anywhere in the kingdom.

Building on the success of the summer evening walks, the Festival of Walks was extended in 2010 to provide walks that would encourage more family participation and give more children the opportunity to experience nature trails, survival courses, beach and wetland walks, orienteering, and bird and animal spotting. So, like Harri and Harvey, they would meet new friends, run up and down sand dunes, climb stiles, spot a buzzard or a red kite, remain still when a deer passes by, walk in the magical forest, picnic by the stream in the wood, collect shells and generally share the delights of the outdoors with family and friends.

And maybe get a new pair of boots to walk the mountains with Grandpa.

The 2013 Festival starts 24 May 2013.