They have been described as the forgotten mountains of Wales, overshadowed by their big brothers in Snowdonia and their popular cousins in the Beacons.

Now, the Cambrian Mountains could be in for a boost, if campaign groups have their way. Cambria Active wants the area in mid-Wales covered by the hills to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

AONB status would give the mountains, described as the backbone of Wales, extra legal protection for conservation and preservation. An attempt was made in 1965 to turn the area, which includes Pumlumon, Elenydd, and Mynydd Mallaen, into a national park. Two years ago, the Cambrian Mountains Society also started its campaign to have the recognised as an AONB.

The term Cambrian Mountains has evolved from a general description of the principality’s uplands to a more specific term for the area bounded to the North by Snowdonia and to the South by the Brecon Beacons.

Most of the land in the area is above 300m (984ft) and comes under control of Powys (50 per cent), Ceredigion (40 per cent) and Carmarthenshire (10 per cent). Hill-farming and forestry account for most of the land. The highest point is Pen Pumlumon Fawr, at 752m (2467 ft).

The Countryside Council for Wales is responsible for any designations as AONB. It is presently looking at methods of assessing areas for status and once this has been done, it says it will apply the designation to any Welsh land which satisfies the requirements.

Cambria Active principally promotes mid-Wales as a tourist area. Its membership is mainly of businesses and it attends trade shows to raise the profile of the region. The Cambrian Mountains Society is a charity which promotes preservation and enhancement of the landscape, archaeology, cultural heritage, biodiversity and geodiversity of the mountains.

It says that, because the area has no official designation, national and local authorities have tended to neglect the Cambrian Mountains and leave them prone to piecemeal development and exploitation.
AONB status, which is of a lesser level than national park, gives protection to flora, fauna and geological features, while still being administered by existing local authorities. Grants are available for projects which safeguard traditional farmed landscapes and features such as hedgerows, flower meadows and woodland, while discouraging draining and ploughing of pasture.

Existing Welsh AONBs are: the Gower peninsula, parts of Anglesey, the Clwydian range and parts of the Lleyn peninsula. The Wye Valley straddles the Welsh-English border.

Cambrian Mountains Society

Cambria Active