International recognition for y Bannau Brycheiniog is egg on the face for the naysayers
With the New York Times praising y Bannau Brycheiniog in its list of the best places in the world to visit, there could be no better proof that the right decision was made to use its authentic name and that a precedent has now been set.
Featuring at an impressive number 18 on the list, the national park has been commended for the return to its original name which took place in April of last year – seeing its English name scrapped in favour of Bannau Brycheiniog to underline its commitment to Welsh culture, language and heritage.
The change also came about as a response to the climate emergency. In Welsh, Bannau means ‘peaks’ while Brycheiniog is reference to the old kingdom of Wales’ fifth century ruler, Brychan.
Its former English name was a reference to wood-burning, carbon-emitting beacons, which no longer fitted with the park’s eco ethos.
The name Bannau Brycheiniog is first attested in the sixteenth century, and ‘Brecon Beacons’ first occurs in the eighteenth century as “Brecknock Beacons”.
The New York Times praised the national park for the decision to use its Welsh name only, and for ‘conserving Welsh culture amongst scenic mountains’.
Journalist Susanne Masters wrote: “Reclaiming the name Bannau Brycheiniog for a beloved national park in Wales last year was more than a linguistic change to Welsh from English; it was a shift to spotlight the Welsh culture of the 520-square-mile park, formerly known as Brecon Beacons. The park’s emphasis on the relationship between nature and local culture is also shown in a new logo.”
Commitment to the future
“Instead of the burning brazier of Brecon Beacons, the logo now has an ancient Welsh crown set within a green forest under stars, a reflection of the park’s commitment to a future where planting native trees restores temperate rainforest, the revegetation of peatland captures carbon and the dark sky is protected from light pollution.
“While visiting Bannau Brycheiniog, ‘the peaks of Brychan’s kingdom,’ make use of the park’s public transport and bike rentals, including the Explore Wales Pass for trains and buses, or take in the views by hiking through waterfall country from the village of Pontneddfechan.”
Welsh actor, Michael Sheen featured in a moving short film to launch the name switch from Brecon Beacon’s National Park to Bannau Brycheiniog back in April 2023 – describing it as “a name from our past, to take us into our future.”
The short film entitled ‘Cynefin’ was written by Welsh novelist, poet and playwright Owen Sheers, and begins with breath-taking shots of the park’s rivers, woodland and mountain walks as Sheen wanders through the rugged landscape.
Looking back at articles featuring the name Brecon Beacons, its use couldn’t look more outdated or more inappropriate for the Cymru of today. And don’t get me started on the trend from people over the border who Christened it ‘the Brecons’.
Back last year, articles appeared in print and online with businesses claiming it would damage the region and its ‘Beacons’ named businesses – and yet, here we are today with one of our national parks featuring in one of the most important and most-read news publications worldwide.
A priceless PR move, with y Bannau firmly planted in the minds of American and worldwide tourists and their deep pockets.
Back in April 2023, too, Catherine Mealing-Jones, the park’s CEO, said: “Given that we’re trying to provide leadership on decarbonisation, a giant burning brazier is not a good look.
“Our park is shaped by Welsh people, Welsh culture, and as we looked into it we realised the brand we’ve got and the name we’ve got, it’s a bit of a nonsense, it doesn’t really make any sense – the translation Brecon Beacons doesn’t really mean anything in Welsh.
“We’d always had the name Bannau Brycheiniog as the Welsh translation and we just felt we needed to put that front and centre as an expression about the new way we wanted to be celebrating Welsh people, Welsh culture, Welsh food, Welsh farming – all of the things that need to come with us as we go through this change in the management plan.”
To me, there’s something so refreshing, so ‘right’ about calling it ‘y Bannau’ or ‘y Bannau Brycheiniog’. It’s the original name, after all.
And reassuringly, if ‘Brecon Beacons’ ever slips the net, the vast majority of the Welsh public seem behind the name change and won’t hesitate to remind any perpetrator!
Sadly, however, the ‘Haven’t we got more important things to worry about?’ or ‘What is this gobbledegook?!’ crowd still exist online and wait eagerly to pounce upon any post.
The timing couldn’t be more appropriate either, with a swell of opinion pushing to change the name of Wales to Cymru, as evidenced by the popular Senedd petition.
If there were a better gauge for how this could impact Cymru’s standing on the world stage, save perhaps for independence, then I’d be hard pressed to find a better example.
X User, Mrs Eff, said: “No point calling it Cymru when nobody’s even heard of Wales? Well it worked for #BannauBrycheiniog, didn’t it.”
While former Plaid leader, Leanne Wood shared the news, saying: “Here’s hoping all the ‘you mean Brecon Beacons’ brigade will now bore off!”
Bore off they won’t, unfortunately, but the mood in the air has changed.
The guards are changing. Cymru is changing and it’s unstoppable.
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