Situated between south and mid-Wales, in the United Kingdom, the Brecon Beacons National Park contains some of the most spectacular and distinctive upland formations in southern Britain covering an area of 1347 sq km (520 sq miles).
Two thirds of this area is comprised of Old Red Sandstone rocks. They form four distinct blocks of hills which are cut through by major river valleys, such as the Honddu, Grwynne Fechan and Fawr, Usk, Taf Fechan and Fawr, Hepste, Mellte, Nedd, Tawe, Twrch and Sawddee.
In the east of the Park are the Black Mountains, with a high point of 811 metres at Waun Fach. They also form a natural border with Herefordshire, in England.
The Central Beacons dominate the skyline to the south of the town of Brecon and rise to 886 metres at Pen y Fan, the highest point in southern Britain. Further west lies the sandstone massif of Fforest Fawr, comprising a series of hills known as 'Fans', with Fan Fawr being the highest point at 734 metres. Water rushing southwards from this area has formed steep river valleys with spectacular waterfalls.
The most westerly block of sandstone is Y Mynydd Du, The Black Mountain, culminating in the summit of Fan Brycheiniog at 802 metres and contains the two enchanting glacial lakes of Llyn y Fan Fach and Llyn y Fan Fawr.
Along the southern edge of the National Park the geology alters, and outcrops of limestone and millstone grit predominate. The limestone scenery contains many ridges and screes and in some areas the land is pockmarked with hollows known as shakeholes of swallow holes. Beneath the surface there are magnificent caves and passages, often adorned with stalagmites and stalactites. The millstone grit produces a tough, rather sombre landscape which is often waterlogged but is largely responsible for the formation of the famous waterfalls area of the Park.
The landscape of the Brecon Beacons National Park has recently been officially recognised as one of the most important geological areas in Europe. In October 2005, the Fforest Fawr Geopark within the National Park was awarded membership of the highly prestigious European Geopark Network and given UNESCO Global Geopark recognition.
The Brecon Beacons is the first National Park in the United Kingdom to achieve Geopark status, and is also the first Geopark in Wales
The two statutory purposes of the National Park Authorities, as defined in the 1995 UK Environment Act, are to: conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the park and to: promote opportunities for the enjoyment and understanding of its special qualities. The act also gives the National Park Authorities a duty to: "seek to foster the economic and social well being" of their local communities "without incurring significant expenditure in doing so"
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