COLEG Meirion-Dwyfor’s newest outdoor education lecturer Alwen Williams won Ras y Moelwyn.

Alwen is a qualified international mountain leader, accomplished fell runner and former Welsh mountain bike champion.

Alwen has joined the teaching staff on the BTEC Level 3 Sport and Outdoors Activities course at Dolgellau, having previously been head of Physical Education at Ysgol y Moelwyn in Blaenau Ffestiniog.

A qualified international mountain leader and mountain bike leader, Alwen played football for Bangor City and Wales as a senior youngster before becoming interested in outdoor pursuits.

North Wales Pioneer: Alwen Williams is a former Welsh mountain bike champion.Alwen Williams is a former Welsh mountain bike champion. (Image: Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor)

She has won the Welsh mountain bike championship and is an accomplished trail runner, having previously won races such as the Betws y Coed Trail 10k and the Gold Rush in Coed y Brenin.

Last month, she finished as first female in the gruelling Ras y Moelwyn, a 10.5-mile fell race including almost 2,800 feet of ascent over the mountains near Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Alwen has travelled the world, including the Himalayas in India, Nepal, the Alps, Norway and Scandinavia. She also spent a year living in the Austrian Alps, where she skied in the winter and trekked the mountains in the summer.

So she brings plenty of experience into her new role as a lecturer at the Dolgellau campus.

Having taught one day per week since Christmas, Alwen has been part-time since Easter, and is enjoying her new role.

“I had been teaching for more than 20 years, and I wanted to use my outdoor qualifications a bit more,” she said. “I’m enjoying it - it’s totally different with older students post-16.

“I’m doing the two outdoor units of the course. In the first-year unit the students learn the skills needed for various activities on land and water, such as walking, climbing, navigational skills, mapwork and ropework, and they’ll be completing an expedition. Also they’re looking at the environment, and how the outdoors is promoted.

“The second-year unit is more on leading sessions, also looking at aspects such as health and safety, risk assessments and all the logistics, so they’re ready to go into the outdoors safely.

“The course is a mixture of learning in the classroom and outdoors. For example the students learn climbing skills in the first year, and then move on to lead sessions as part of their assessment in the second year.

“I enjoy seeing students develop skills and receive so many experiences outdoors. It’s about making the most of being outdoors and in the classroom. It’s not only about the outdoors either, it’s also about sport. Last week the second-years arranged a five-a-side football tournament for students at Dolgellau as part of their ‘planning events’ assignment.”

Alwen says there is increasing demand in the North Wales economy for people with sport and outdoor skills.

“This sector contributes so much in terms of the economy and is a sector that requires more and more individuals with relevant skills,” she says.

“It’s important in terms of the social value it provides and also in terms of physical and mental health and well-being.

“It’s a rapidly growing sector and we need more local experts in the field. The area has so much to offer on our doorstep, and it is essential that local people have the opportunity to enjoy it, and that there are career development opportunities there for them.”

She added that a range of jobs are available to those who have completed the Level 3 Sport and Outdoors Activities course.

Alwen said: “The course can lead to all kinds of jobs - it’s really wide open which direction they choose to go into because the course covers so many different units.

“Past students have gone on to become teachers, outdoor coaches, wardens, football coaches, nurses. Some have set up their own businesses or gone onto environmental science degrees.

“The college works very closely with Glan-llyn and many of the students go on to apprenticeships there. It’s about equipping people with the skills to develop careers that maximise what we have here on our doorstep.”