The beacons were named after the fires that were lit on top of mountains during times of trouble, for instance to warn of the Spanish Armada during the reign of Elizabeth I. As well as being beautiful mountains, they are home to caves, waterfalls, forests and reservoirs. The moorlands are grazed by sheep and wild ponies. Secrets of their past are hinted at by Bronze Age burial cairns, Iron Age forts, Roman settlements, Norman castles and remnants of the Industrial Revolution. They offer a wealth of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, paragliding (especially off Hay Bluff – see photographs below), caving and star gazing – being an International Dark Sky Reserve. You can find out more by visiting the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority website here.
The mountain range is also used extensively by the MOD for training. The town of Brecon nestles among the mountains. Well worth a visit is the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh, containing exhibits from the Anglo-Zulu wars, including the battle of Rorke’s Drift; recreated in the film “Zulu”. It is also home to the 160 Wales Brigade and the famous Gurkha Company.
The Gurkhas are recruited from Nepal and have served Britain with distinction and valour since the Indian Rebellion of 1857 to the present day, earning 26 Victoria Crosses. The treatment of Gurkhas in Britain has been controversial with successive governments failing to represent the high regard the British people hold the Gurkhas in. There have been several hard fought campaigns to ensure Gurkhas receive equitable pension and residency rights. Since the recent abolition of the monarchy in Nepal there is also some doubt as to whether the British will be able to continue recruiting Nepalese into the Gurkha regiment.
Nepal itself is home to some mountains somewhat larger than the Brecon Beacons, including “Chomolungma”, better known as Mount Everest. Nepal is a poor but forward looking country, but there are signs that their economy is improving. Nepal has also abolished the death penalty and legalized same sex marriage. Tourism accounts for approximately 3% of Nepal’s GDP, wealthy people from the developed world flock there to enjoy the spectacular scenery, hiking and mountaineering. All too often hikers go missing in this vast wilderness and this is where search and rescue teams are essential.
SARDOGS Nepal is an organisation that employs and trains local Nepalese people to work with specially trained dogs. Not only do they mobilise when a tourist goes missing, but they are also there to help their local communities. Overlooked by the Western media, there have been devastating floods recently in Nepal, culminating in a landslide that has killed at least 155 people. 80% of people in Nepal live in rural areas, dependent on agriculture. It is the poorest of these people who live in the most dangerous areas, they have no choice but to return to their precarious homes. They have so little to start with and many have now lost everything.
You can find out more about the work of SARDOGS Nepal at their website here, you can also make a donation here. A donation of $10 (at the time of writing approximately £6.00) will pay for medicine and wound dressings for a person for 1 month; $20 (£12) will feed a family of 5 for 1 month; $50 (£30) will build a vital temporary shelter for a family who have lost their home. I hope that you will take a look at their website and consider making a donation, most of us could spare $10 which would make such a significant difference to the lives of others. The ever friendly SARDOGS Nepal can also be followed on Twitter @sardogsnepal where you can learn about the dogs, their handlers and see wonderful views of the beautiful Himalayas.