A group led by TV presenter Iolo Williams has launched a campaign to have the Cambrian mountains designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The landscape, once called the "Green Desert of Wales", stretches across Powys, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, nestled between the Eryri and Brecon Beacons national parks.

Despite its name, the area is more hilly than mountainous, and it's considered one of the last areas of remote wilderness in the south of Britain, with few roadways and a very sparse population.

The Cambrian Mountains Society (CMS) wants the area classed as an AONB in order to secure legal protections for its plants, wildlife and water. It has launched an online Senedd petition in support of the campaign, which can be found here, and will be distributing paper copies to local towns, hospitality businesses and at events over the summer.

"The Cambrians are the last true wild area of Wales, one of the last places in our land where you can truly lose yourself in nature," said Iolo Williams, President of the AONB.

Lorna Brazell, the group's secretary, said: "Despite its extraordinary beauty, mid Wales is the only region in Wales without any protection whatsoever for its iconic landscapes. 

The National Wales:  Foel Fadian, Cambrian Mountains. (Picture: VisitWales) Foel Fadian, Cambrian Mountains. (Picture: VisitWales)

"With changing patterns of farming and forestry, including ancient farms being bought up to be planted for so-called carbon offsetting, and increasing levels of tourism during and since Covid, this unique space risks being eroded haphazardly.

"The need is clear: to think holistically to ensure this important resource is properly safeguarded for future generations to enjoy."

The campaign is supported by local MS James Evans, the Conservative shadow minister for Mid-Wales.

"The Cambrian Mountains are at the heart of Mid Wales, and an outstandingly beautiful landscape," the Brecon and Radnorshire member said.

"In recent years, we have all realised that outdoor spaces for the people of the United Kingdom to enjoy and explore is extremely important to both the physical and mental well-being of the population.

"I believe the Cambrian Mountains need recognition, and I will work with organisations such as the Cambrian Mountains Society to ensure its profile is raised."

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AONBs give natural spaces status as conservation areas, granting some legal protection from development, similar to National Parks but smaller.

Currently Wales has five AONBs - Ynys Môn, the Gower, the Wye Valley, the Llŷn Peninsula, and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley.

The Cambrian mountains were the subject of an unsuccesful National Park bid in the 1970s.

"People have been shaping the Cambrian landscape for at least 2,000 years through farming, droving and mining, but because the area is so remote the impacts have been local and small-scale," explained CMS trustee Brian Davies, whose family has lived and worked on the western fringes of the Cambrian Mountains for at least five generations.

The National Wales: The Gower is one of Wales's five existing AONBs. (Picture: VisitWales)The Gower is one of Wales's five existing AONBs. (Picture: VisitWales)

"It used to take days on foot or horseback to get from one place to another – you can try it yourself on the Cambrian Way, which I first walked in 1964 before it was even named, across the hills from Llandovery in the south to Commins Coch in the north. 

"These hills are still a marvellous place of open spaces and peace even today. 

"With all the proposals for larger developments currently being made, that looks set to change unless we think, and act, now."

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