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Walkers in the Dyfi Valley are celebrating the arrival of several new pieces of furniture for the New Year.
Not the kind they can sit down on, but beautiful and easy to use gates.
As well as three new wicket gates at Cemmaes/Cefngadair there are two wicket gates and a bridle gate at Aberhosan.
In good time for a romantic stroll on Santes Dwynwen Day, there are also new kissing gates at Machynleth - four by the Garsiwn and three on the common by the Golf Course.
Ecodyfi has been working with Powys County Council, Machynlleth Town Council, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government’s Department of Economy and Transport to improve access to town and village footpaths in the area.
Ecodyfi, the Dyfi Valley community regeneration company, has a longstanding interest in promoting walking and cycling and other forms of sustainable travel and transport.
During 2007 it also launched the local Mentro Allan outdoor activity and health research project, which promotes opportunities to be active outdoors.
Mentro Allan Co-ordinator Teresa Walters and Head Countryside Warden for Powys, Rab Jones, have been finding out which walking routes local people use or would like to use, so that they can identify where improvements are needed in order to get people out walking.
In the Machynlleth area, Town and County Councillor Michael Williams has been providing additional support.
"I know the footpaths well, and local people come to me with their ideas," he said, "so I hope that I can help Teresa and the Powys Rights of Way team find the best focus.
"Health is a particular area of interest for me, and walking is a fantastic aid to health and wellbeing, so I’m delighted to see this project being offered to the people of Machynlleth.
"I’m also very pleased to be involved in this kind of partnership work: it’s a great way to learn about and meet the needs of the community.
"Although the County Council has a statutory responsibility to keep rights of way maintained, the reality is that we don’t have the manpower or the funding required to maintain rights of way at the level we’d all like.
"Working with Mentro Allan means a little more focus and a little more cash."
15 Mentro Allan projects across Wales, which are funded through a Big Lottery grant and with additional funding from the Countryside Council for Wales, are working with local partners to build up a national picture of exercise patterns and what the barriers to becoming more active are.
Local project partners for Mentro Allan Bro Ddyfi are CAMAD, Coed Lleol, US Mach, Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin, Sir Trefaldwyn Play Montgomeryshire, NPHS Inequalities in Health project, Bro Ddyfi Communities First, Powys County Council, Tir Coed and NCH Sure Start.
Teresa told us more about the project: "It’s a health research project - we want to know what gets inactive people more active outdoors.
"So we put on activities – gardening, cycling, woodland skills, walking, survival skills, for example – and give people the support and opportunities they need to change their activity patterns.
"One reason that people don’t walk in their local area is because they don’t know where to go. Another is that they don’t find it easy to get there.
"That’s why we’re working with the Council: Rab and his team have been putting in high quality, easy access, self-closing gates and making sure that the rights of way are way-marked, as well as doing clearance work.
"This year they have created accessible circular routes in Aberhosan, Melinbyrhedyn and Glantwymyn, as well as around Machynlleth.
"We’ll now do our bit to inform people about where they are and encourage them to use them."
Anyone wishing to get active and involved in the project, or to become a research participant (which means logging your weekly exercise once every six months) can contact Teresa at ecodyfi by phoning 01654 703965 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling in to ecodyfi’s office at Ty Bro Ddyfi, Machynlleth (opposite Maengwyn Café).
Notes for editors:
Mentro Allan is a collection of projects in Wales supported by the Big Lottery Fund and a national partnership.
The programme targets specific groups that are generally less active than the wider population.
Each of the projects will be funded for four years to increase the physical activity levels of its target group, making best use of the local natural outdoor environment close to where people live.
The programme will collect evidence on the effectiveness of specific interventions designed to increase people’s levels of health-benefiting physical activity.
The Bro Ddyfi Mentro Allan programme will encourage individuals in the Dyfi Valley to increase their levels of physical activity, using a variety of settings in the outdoor natural environment, while researching what worked to make this change and why.
Our main target group is the broad population who experience rural isolation and who live sedentary lives.
We are particularly concerned with individuals suffering from loneliness and social exclusion as a result of poor access to services and a dispersed population pattern, though activities will be open to all residents.
Our next target groups are: parents of young children, especially young parents; 11-18 years olds, especially those at risk of social exclusion; people with mental health issues, especially those not in regular contact with support groups and services.
We will target residents of the Machynlleth, Cadfarch, Glantwymyn and Llanbrynmair areas, but residents from other parts of the valley will be welcome to join in.