Walkers in Wales can now negotiate the stunning scenery of the Valleys or the beauty of the Brecon Beacons using a simple smartphone app, following a new partnership between Natural Resources Wales and ViewRanger.
Ten of the best walks and rides taking castles, churches and chapels have been made available to download for the first time within the ViewRanger website and awarding-winning app. The routes are designed to suit all ages and abilities and have also been published on the VisitWales.com website.
Jill Meyer of Natural Resources Wales said: “In working with Viewranger we’re making some of our routes available to a wider audience through digital media, for example accessible on a smartphone or tablet.
"The digital format provides people with key information, such as distance, how difficult the route is, ease of access and what can be seen along the way.
“Making it easier for the public to discover these routes and to enjoy the outdoors and the health benefits it brings are a key part of our targets. The added benefit of this is that encouraging recreation in Wales often provides a much needed economic boost for local communities.
“We are currently working with partners to put together a number of cycling and walking routes that link either to the Wales Coast Path or to one of our three stunning National Trails (Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Glyndwr’s Way and Offa’s Dyke). The walks can be viewed on the Visit Wales website or via my.ViewRanger.com where they can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet.”
ViewRanger offers an ‘off-the-peg’ solution to public bodies such as Natural Resource Wales to bring this information together. ViewRanger has two parts; a website my.ViewRanger.com that allows users to find relevant mapping and recommended routes and a smartphone GPS app that supports navigation in the field.
Google voted ViewRanger one of the Best Apps of 2013 alongside the BBC News and Financial Times apps. ViewRanger has millions of downloads and provides a robust platform for public-sector use.
Craig Wareham, co-founder of Augmentra the company behind ViewRanger, explains that the platform is widely used by tourist boards, as well as walking and cycling festivals to facilitate promotion of their routes.
“The public are used to slick websites and easy-to-use apps. It is difficult and expensive for the public sector organisations to maintain this quality.
“By partnering with us, Natural Resources Wales retains the ownership of the content but also has free access to the latest technology as well as a vast audience of people with a proven interest in the outdoors.”
Jill confirmed that the process of uploading the data had been straightforward.
“The existing GIS data was converted into GPX files and then uploaded into my.ViewRanger.com. We then check the routes, adding photographs and descriptions to enhance the user experience using the tools supplied, which were easy to use.”
ViewRanger has an extensive trail guide library with thousands of recommended routes from leading travel publishers, tourism organisations and local experts from the ViewRanger community. To promote its routes, Natural Resources Wales has a branded section within this guide showcasing recreation opportunities across Wales.
It is recommended that the route and maps are downloaded on to the phone before leaving home and then it can be used without the need for a mobile signal. The app’s active navigation uses GPS to help the user keep to the trail providing confidence for people who may struggle to read a map. We would advise people to take a back up map in case that battery runs out.
Jill adds: “Every year we contact our partners and contributors to check that the walks are still available and if they have new routes to promote. This is something we would do anyway, but with ViewRanger there are additional benefits for the public and for the regions as it provides up to date information which helps people to enjoy the countryside.
“We are also looking to add further routes across Wales beyond those linked to the National Trails and Wales Coast Path which allow people to experience our rich heritage and landscape.”