A petition for the Cambrian Mountains to achieve Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status has exceeded 12,500 signatures, and has been handed over to Senedd officials on the steps of the Welsh parliament building.

The handover team - which included 13-year-old Tilly Elliott and 14-year-old Joe Loughman - is now urging the Senedd to prioritise the issue of protecting the Cambrian Mountains for the benefit of future generations.

TV naturalist Iolo Williams, Cambrian Mountains Society president has backed the campaign from the Cambrian Mountains Society, and describes the area as the last true wilderness in Wales - an area that’s not only strikingly beautiful but also rich in biodiversity and heritage.

The mountains form the backbone of Wales, and extend through three counties: Ceredigion, Powys and Carmarthenshire – yet despite their distinctive character and extraordinary beauty, they have no formal protection.

Dwynwen Belsey, Cambrian Mountains Society spokesperson said: “The public’s support for protecting this unique area has been overwhelming. Action, however, is long overdue, and the area urgently needs AONB status, so that these exceptional landscapes can be maintained and enhanced.

“AONB status would, for example, enable conservation groups to replant traditional oak woodland – replacing what has been lost. We would also work with farmers, to ensure that their traditional association with the land - an association that goes back 1,000 years, but is now in danger of being supplanted by commercial interests - can be retained and enhanced for the next thousand years.”

The campaign for AONB status has been backed by numerous high-profile supporters including Iolo Williams, who is the Cambrian Mountains Society’s president; Sir Simon Jenkins, former Times editor, current Guardian columnist, and former chair of the National Trust; celebrated author and award-winning journalist, Neil Ansell; and BBC broadcaster and writer, Mary Colwell.

The Cambrian Mountains are hugely important for biodiversity. The remote Elenydd area is internationally important for its blanket bog.

The remote mountainous areas in mid Wales also provide a hugely important habitat for threatened breeding birds such as the golden plover and curlew.