Brecon Beacons gets its name from the lighting of fires on mountaintops to warn of attacks by the English
This ancient practice continued into the 19th century but for entirely different reasons. Rather than signalling fear they were lit as a sign of celebration. From royal birthdays to military victories, not much of an excuse, (but plenty of effort) was needed to carry tons of wood to the top of the hill for a fire. Most recently beacons were lit across the country to celebrate the millennium and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
A natural landscape?
The framework of the Brecon Beacons landscape was created in the Ice Age by ice hollowing out glacial valleys and great bowl-shaped corries from the mountainsides, such as the one pictured above. But the detail of the landscape has been widely shaped and changed for millennia by humans, as is the case over much of the UK. We have few, if any, truly natural landscapes left.
In the Brecon Beacons, significant human impact began in the Middle Stone-Age (8,000 - 6,000 years ago), when hunter-gatherers cut down scrub and burned the land. This created small grassland areas which encouraged grazing animals for them to hunt and eat.
Most of the original forest that once covered the area had been cleared by the end of the Bronze Age (2,750 years ago). The Celts settled the area, building hill forts and it was even conquered by the Romans. From the late 1400s there is evidence of charcoal burning, iron making and coal mining in and around the park and in the nearby Forest of Dean.