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* Not for publication or broadcast before Thursday, May 20 *
Television wildlife expert Iolo Williams launched Coed-y-Brenin Forest Park into the digital age today (Thursday, May 20) when he officially opened more than five miles of MP3 audio trails.
Visitors to the Forestry Commission Wales venue in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park can now stroll through the woods with the face of Welsh wildlife for company as Iolo's dulcet tones pick out points of interest along the way in a set of pre-recorded guides.
People can download the guides from the Forestry Commission Wales website onto their MP3 players or Ipods before leaving home to enjoy walking along any of four trails which highlight different aspects of Coed-y-Brenin's wildlife and rich industrial heritage.
The audio trails - the first to be set up in Welsh Assembly Government woodlands - are the brainchild of Forestry Commission Wales recreation ranger Graeme Stringer, who first saw the potential of using technology to enable people to learn more about the great outdoors back in 2007.
Walkers can follow the route and switch on their players at MP3 marker posts to learn fascinating facts appropriate to where they are standing and then press the pause button to admire the scenery around them.
Graeme said, "I came upon this as a way to draw younger people into the woods and make the Forest Park more accessible to a younger audience.
"The MP3 trails complement our information boards and leaflets and hopefully will bring Coed-y-Brenin's history and surroundings to life in a different way from the more traditional methods."
The soundtracks were funded by Meirionnydd-based charity the Rock Trust and written by Dan Boys, who runs audiotrails.co.uk, a company which has created audio tours for more than 50 rural locations in England and Wales.
The audio guides will shed light on facts linked to Coed-y-Brenin such as why the Romans invaded Britain over 2,000 years ago and how greasy fingerprints changed the world.
The audio trails are:
1. The Afon Eden trail. This is the only one which sets off from the Visitor Centre and features the forest wildlife and droving history as you meander down to the river and back.
2. Ty'n Y Groes. Forestry Commission Wales local area manager Aled Thomas guides you through the tallest trees in the Forest Park as he unravells the mysteries of forest management.
3. Tyddyn Gwladys. Step back in time to learn about the gunpowder works and gold mine in Coed-y-Brenin.
4. Glasdir. Another time travel experience taking you back to the copper mines and the park's industrial heritage.
Most of the trails are suitable for families and pushchairs and certain sections of the trails run along all-ability paths. Full details can be found on the Forestry Commission Wales website.
In addition to the audio guides, visitors can also download the written scripts and trail maps from the Forestry Commission Wales website before coming to the park. Alternatively, they can download the information from the Visitor Centre computer on arrival, or there are a small number of MP3s available at the Visitor Centre for hire.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages the 126,000 hectares/311,000 acres of woodland owned by the Assembly Government.
To download the audio trails or for more information on the woodlands of Wales, go to www.forestry.gov.uk/wales.
Media enquiries to Clive Davies, Forestry Commission Wales, on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email@example.com