Fieldwork for NEA prep

A short while ago we met the girls from St Paul’s Birmingham in Newton, Porthcawl for a day of fieldwork to prepare them for setting up their individual NEA projects (Non-Examined Assessments) for A-level geography. It was a bit of an exercise of how much can you cram into one day’s fieldwork, but to be fair we got loads done. Plenty of taster ‘experiments’ to give a feel for fieldwork, and to identify some of the issues and compromises associated with doing fieldwork at this level. It’s also a well established fact that students struggle with setting up the right sort of sampling strategy in their own fieldwork, so much of the plan was to examine different sampling methods and evaluate how they performed in collecting representative reliable data.

To that end we started with a systematic measurement of beach height beside a groyne, to allow us to assess whether sand was accumulating on the up-drift side (or eroding on the down-drift side). The groynes here are a little odd, made from boulders and with unusual bulbous ends, but we found an acceptable method for collecting reliable data and discussed the benefits of increasing or decreasing the number of measurements. We all agreed that in this case, with an expected gradient/rate of change down the beach, that systematic sampling was the only way to go.

We then relocated further down drift to an area of storm beach to investigate the best approach to assess the sorting of stones down the beach profile. While we agreed that a systematic sampling method would be adequate, the results may not be as clear due to the additional sorting that was evident around the high tide berm. The answer was a stratified sample with stones collected at every major gradient change. This necessitated measuring the beach profile as well, but they’re all good skills! FYI, in this case, the larger stones were found at the top of the berm, rather than the top of the storm beach, but we all agreed that more stones needed to be measured for a truly representative sample.

The next mini project was a comparison of biodiversity between two areas of the Newton Burrows sand dunes. Obviously the usual approach might be to carry out an interrupted belt transect, especially when measuring the progress of succession is the main aim. However, Newton Burrows is quite an unusual system, slightly over stabilised, with a lot of slacks that have reached climax and very little mobile sand, so we carried out random samples on two 20m grids either side of a path, using a random number generator. This had nothing at all to do with wanting to demonstrate random sampling -obviously! It actually worked reasonably well, allowing clear comparison between the two zones, using species number as a rapid way to assess the difference. However we did agree that the usual systematic sample would allow us to investigate further the reasons for the change we’d seen.

Then it was back to the bus for lunch before heading into Porthcawl to look into regeneration and the quality of the built environment. Regeneration is an issue that’s been rumbling on in Porthcawl for ages, which appears to be coming to fruition at long last, so it was good to get views on how the town is at present. Here we discussed the relative benefits of all three sampling strategies, making use ofgrids or transects or even a census-style approach, but ultimately a stratified sample using nodes was the way forward. Using a mixture of Survey123 and ArcGIS’ Field Maps apps we collected as many questionaires as we could, and went to nodal points on the high street to carry out a built environment assessment based on the Philadelphia CCD Streetscape survey in addition there was a liveability survey to complete later. The point here was to use the apps, as well as identifying some of the pitfalls in this style of fieldwork, such as getting a reliable sample when collecting questionnaires.

We crammed a lot in, but the weather was kind and the girls were super keen, which helped massively, and just shows how much you can do when you get on with it! Hugely impressed, given this was their first real experience of off school site fieldwork. Well done, and hope the individual projects go well.

Bushcraft Sessions this Summer

Bespoke Family Bushcraft Poster
As you may have seen elsewhere on this site, this summer we have decided to do something slightly different, and are offering bushcraft sessions for family groups. There are details on that page of what you can do, ranging from firelighting to foraging based in the woods at Trewern Outdoor Education Centre. Trewern is in Cusop, near Hay-on-Wye, so this is perfect if you’re looking for family activities if you live in, or are holidaying in Hay, the Golden Valley, the Black Mountains, and parts of the old counties of Brecknock and Radnorshire.

We are taking bookings from families and a few friends: up to 6 people in total, so that we can tailor the day to what you want to do and your previous experience, whilst giving enough space to use tools safely. It also keeps things simple from a Covid-19 perspective -which can’t be bad*! We will build your session around your choice of activities, whether it’s a full- or half-day -just drop us a message on social media or here and we can make arrangements from there. Sessions start at £75 for a half day for up to 6 people; bookings taken up to 24 hours in advance.

*see our full risk assessment here


Starting this month we will be offering CPD workshops for the Mountain Training Association (MTA), which is the awarding body for all mountain qualifications in the UK. The workshops will be targetted at award holders and aspirant award holders to enhance their knowledge of the environment that they/we work and play in. They will draw on the knowledge built up from over 15 years of providing field studies in the Brecon Beacons and will cover explorations of the glacial landscape, upland ecology and geology using the sites we use on a regular basis.

The first is going to be on 29th May in Craig Cerrig Gleisiad near Libanus, and will focus on the geomorphology of the corrie, in particular looking at landforms from the late ice age and immediately after. It’s a great place to explore the effects of ice on the land, and how the landscape has evolved as the climate changed. More complex than some of the more classic corries, but that just gives us loads to talk through! That doesn’t mean geology and ecology will be ignored, and when an opportunity to discuss flora and fauna, an outcrop or a specimen presents itself, that’s just what we’ll do. My workshops always take the form of a walk with talks when they’re relevant, at least partly led by participants’ questions. We also chat as we go along, so there’s always a chance to clarify things, find out more or just share experiences.

Open to members of MTA minimum number 3, maximum 6. Details available on tahdah, the MTA candidate management system: send me a message for the link.

More workshops to follow, dates and content TBC.


It’s been coming for a while, and I have finally managed to spend some time updating these pages. There is now a new section under KS4 for the New for 2016 GCSE Geography specifications. While the prime focus for fieldwork will undoubtedly be the investigations in river or coasts and urban or rural, there is a lot of scope for field-trips adding value to the other areas of the syllabus, whether developing skills or case studies/located examples.

We are lucky to have some great locations on our doorstep, and while the changes will mean a slight change in how we address the fieldwork, we are in an ideal situation to make the most of our experience to use tried and trusted studies to deliver relevant teaching out of the classroom for large parts of the new specs. As ever, the list of options is not intended to be exhaustive, and new material is always being developed in response to teachers’ needs, so please feel free to ask if there’s something you’d like to try that you feel would be relevant.

We can offer a completely tailored field-trip, with as much or as little creative freedom for your students as you need. As such, we have a comprehensive selection of worksheets ready prepared, and full risk assessments for all studies, however we also have the flexibility to respond to input from students, reflecting the increased autonomy the new specs are looking for. The link above will take you to the landing page for the new section, and from there you will be able to find the list of studies suitable for each specification. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to use our contact page.

A similar update will be available shortly for A-level Geography, followed by the international qualifications and GCSE and A-level Sciences.

Bushcraft Activity Week 2016

Summer’s come again, and our attention has turned to the school holidays. We are pleased to announce we’ll be holding our usual week of bushcraft activities at YHA Danywenallt in Talybont, during the first week of August (Monday 1st-Friday 5th) this year. There will be the usual mix of bushcraft sessions, including shelter building, firelighting, pioneering, tracking and exploring, foraging, and backwoods cooking, plus teambuilding games and generally having fun outdoors.

Sessions will run from 2-5pm each day. Entry is £5/session (discounts for multiple bookings), and the target age 7-11. Everyone welcome! It is essential that you phone 01874 676677 to book your child’s place. We always ask that adults either stay on site, or within easy reach please. The activity will go on in most weathers: participants need to be prepared, and be ready to come home potentially smoky, dirty and a little bit worn out! Every day will include some form of foraging for wild food, team building games, and may involve a camp fire.

  • Day 1 will be an exploration of the area around the hostel, with geocaching, foraging, and various challenges as we go.
  • Day 2 is practising bushcraft building, using little more than sticks and string. We’ll make bridges, and build useful gadgets for your campsite.
  • Day 3 will be a firelighting session, learning to light a fire successfully and safely, without matches. We will then cook something simple.
  • Day 4 is a shelter building session, using a combination of found materials and old tent parts.
  • Day 5 is party time! We’ll have a campfire going, cooking something a bit special, playing some games and generally having a good time.

BAW Poster Summer2016.jpg

Gold DofE Residential at YHA Danywenallt

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This coming half term (Tuesday 31st May – Saturday 4th June 2016), YHA Danywenallt National Park Study Centre is running a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Residential in conjunction with the Brecon Beacons National Park. The theme of the week is conservation, and in addition to fulfilling the criteria for their Residential, participants will earn the John Muir Award (JMA) at Discovery level by the end of the week. At this point we don’t know exactly what the conservation work will be, but the programme (shown below) will also involve team challenges, exploring the area around the hostel through geocaching, and creating a video to share their experiences (a criteria for the JMA). It’s a great week, learning to build independence, forging new friendships, and generally having a good time, all the while putting something back.

So you can see what sort of thing goes on, the video produced by our first DofE JMA week is here:

Details are on the flier below. If you’re interested, either make contact through our contact page, email or phone the hostel on 01874 676677.

DofE Programme


A sneak preview…

In February we mentioned that the new specifications would bring about a few changes to the fieldwork that we offer. The table below gives a sneak preview of the the sort of thing we’re thinking about and the sections of the syllabi that they apply to. In addition to the fieldwork investigations and skills papers, there is considerable scope for ‘enrichment’ fieldwork, developing case studies and exemplifying content. At the moment these are just sketches of ideas, but give an indication of what is possible and coming soon. Shaded rows mark studies that have yet to be developed (i.e. locations as yet unknown, details of fieldwork to be decided), whereas the colourless rows show studies that exist already and will require only a little modification. As we finalise the details for each exam board and specification, separate tables will be drawn up, which will include more information….keep a look out! In the meantime, if you’d like any information, please drop us a line using the contacts page.

You can also view this document in Google Docs by following this link:

Coming soon…new for 2016

So…all of the new GCSE Geography specifications by the main exam boards have now been accredited by OfQual, and soon we’ll be updating this site to reflect the changes that are coming for September this year. We’re planning to offer studies that fulfill the requirements for UK case studies and examples where appropriate, as well as mandatory fieldwork investigations and general curriculum enrichment. For the majority of specifications it looks like we’ll be offering river or coastal fieldwork for the physical options, and urban or rural for human geography, with the option of biogeography for some, plus tourism or resource management (water/energy/food). We’ll be looking to cover as many of the skills required as we can, including using maps at a variety of scales, geological maps, GIS, appropriate statistics, making cross sections, making transects, using suitable equipment and sampling methods, and applying the specified route through enquiry. A set of tables of fieldwork for each specification will follow shortly….watch this space!

P.S. As and when the A-level specs are accredited too, a similar set of options will be produced. At that point the science fieldwork options will also be updated to reflect the changes that have already taken place.

This Summer at YHA Danywenallt

Later than planned, here is the news…….(cue morse code/printer noise à la Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam):

YHA Danywenallt has quite a full 8 weeks (!) of activities planned for this summer (’cause not everybody’s school holidays are the same…). To start with, we have activity days every Tuesday, starting this week (21st July) and finishing on 1st September. Details of each week’s activity will be posted on Facebook but in general, the sessions will run from 2-4pm, and will involve spending time outdoors, playing games, exploring our surroundings, finding out about the natural world, building and creating things, foraging, cooking and eating, and above all, having a good time. Each session costs £5/child, and will be suitable for 7-11 year olds, or thereabouts. We will carry on in most weathers, and so each child needs to come dressed for the conditions, as well as being prepared for activities which could get them smoky, dirty and maybe even a bit wet. Wellies and waterproofs are par for the course! We also ask that a responsible adult is available for emergency purposes, which means either staying on site, or not going too far please.

We’re also running a full week of bushcraft activities from Monday 3rd August. Sessions during the week will be slightly longer, still for 7-11 year olds, at £5/session (possible discounts for booking 5 or more sessions). The programme looks like this:

Monday 3rd August – a Woodland Wander 1-4pm. Come to find out what lives in our woods and on our hills, learn to navigate and explore the area.
Tuesday 4th August – Shelter Building & Pioneering all day (two sessions: 10am-12.45 & 13.15-16.00, can be booked as single sessions, or come for the full day). Spend the morning building a shelter, then use rope and poles to make camp more comfortable and more interesting in the afternoon.
Wednesday 5th August – Firelighting 1-4pm. Come and learn how to build a safe and useful fire, then cook on it without modern utensils.
Thursday 6th August – Pioneering and Shelter Building all day (two sessions: 10am-12.45 & 13.15-16.00, can be booked as single sessions, or come for the full day). We’ll use the morning to build something to launch an egg, then in the afternoon learn how to make a quick shelter.
Friday 7th August – Party 1-4pm! We’ll cook up some food and drink on the fire and play some of our favourite games from the week.

With all sessions it’s essential please to phone the Hostel on 01874 67677 to book your place. For more details, contact: ( will also work).

To complete our summer, we’ve also got a number of Gold DofE Residentials running, please see the post from May for details.


May Half Term at YHA Danywenallt

May half term flyer

Just a final push for anyone that’s looking for something to do with their children this coming half term. We’ve got two activity afternoons happening at the hostel, the first a bushcraft day on Tuesday 26th, and the second a family fun day (for want of a better term) building dragons on Friday 29th. The bushcraft day is 2-4 and we will be exploring our local woodlands for signs of life, doing some traditional woodland craft and finishing by the fire. Entry is £5. Follow the link for further details, or ring 01874 676677 (also the booking line).

Build a Dragon Day 2 is all about crafts and games on a dragon theme (dragons that are Welsh, from cartoons, film or book characters and anywhere in the imagination). If there’s a way we can make an activity about a dragon we could well be trying it out, so there will be classic games with dragon-y twists! We’ll also be joined by the Fragon team, who use dragon stories to help children with numeracy and literacy, and developed a number of games to fit in the Fragon Universe. We’ll be there from 1-5pm and entry is £2. There will also be a cafe. Again, please follow the above link for details, and ring 01874 676677 to let us know you’re coming.

We look forward to seeing you!