Author Topic: Access for Intermediate School Cavers  (Read 719 times)

Offline jasonbuckley

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Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« on: November 14, 2017, 08:45:52 am »
I've been bringing small groups from a school I used to teach at to the Mendips to go caving for several years, instructed by Andy Sparrow. I run an outdoor ed company but these trips are just for fun. We usually go to Goatchurch and Pierre's Pot, then Swildon's to Sump 1 the first time they come, and then the follow-up trip the next year for a slightly smaller group who have got the taste for it is the Bath Swallet-Rod's Pot through trip and Swildon's to Blue Pencil Passage.

After that it gets rather tricky - they don't really want to go down Swildon's again because they feel they've "done that" and want a new challenge, and so many caves have access restrictions for novices or commercial groups.

I can understand why it's very sensible to limit the one-off trips that most groups do to a few honeypot sites like Goatchurch and Swildon's, but this group rather fall through the gaps. Not many school groups return repeatedly and need something beyond the standard weekend. The trips have to be run with a professional instructor, but the group aren't complete novices any more either and need a good challenge for a sporting day's caving. The blanket ban on commercial groups doesn't really fit with the practicalities of getting young people more into caving if you're not a caving parent.

The school is in South London so Mendips are much easier to get to than Derbyshire. Any suggestions for other caves that don't have access restrictions, or is there perhaps another way I could do it? Such as enrolling them as youth members at a club that has access privileges to some other caves, but still having Andy as the instructor? Or getting special permission for a third- or fourth- time group to get access to somewhere special.

Just seems a shame not to be able to build on their enthusiasm by putting a really good sequence of escalating (descending?) trips together. I've got one lot who are in their last year of school, and ideally I'd like to run a final trip with them, hook them up with a club and encourage them to maintain the interest when they go off to university.

We could go further afield to Wales or Derbyshire if necessary but it's harder for a weekend. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Online MJenkinson

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2017, 09:17:52 am »
is it "really" a commercial trip? It's outdoor ed for school kids, surely even the most ardent of pencil pushers can see this isn't the same thing as a stag do or birthday party.

And they aren't really novices are they if they have done Blue Pencil (in a sense of they hopefully know not to be grabbing stal and not to be running around like lunatics)?

have you emailed whoever is the Mendip access body for advice?

Offline Badlad

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2017, 09:23:49 am »
With access to many caves restricted to the over 18's this is big problem when you want to encourage young cavers into our sport.  There are many discussions on this forum on the subject. Hopefully your appeal will encourage someone from one of the Mendip clubs or access bodies to work out a solution for you.  However, Mendip is a relatively small caving area with a limited number of caves to suit your needs.  I expect the answer is, as you suggest, and to go to another region.  If you are going for a whole weekend then even a trip to the Yorkshire Dales should not be out of the question. Lot's to do up here and the journey is all part of the adventure.  Good luck

Offline mikem

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2017, 09:26:37 am »
Most clubs won't accept juniors unless their parents are members - some clubs wouldn't take outdoor instructors if they could get away with it! However, South Wales doesn't take much longer to drive to if you're using the M4.

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Offline PaulW

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2017, 11:34:06 am »
If they are off to uni and caving really is their thing then advise them to look for a uni that has a caving club. There are a fair few around. Have a look at the CHECC website. If no one else popa up here about it i can give you contacts

Offline PaulW

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2017, 11:34:55 am »
Eastwater?£

Offline tony from suffolk

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2017, 11:58:28 am »
Eastwater?£
My first thought too.
"Aim low, achieve your goals, avoid disappointment"

Offline Andy Sparrow

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2017, 10:15:35 am »
I In the last few weeks I have had the same conversation with two different people.  Both take teenagers caving regularly offering not just one-off experiences but a developing programme which gradually builds their experience in a variety of caves.  These are not 'commercial' trips by any definition.  Both these persons used to offer GB cave as a grand finale and reward to those reaching the age of 16, and both are bitterly disappointed of the recent rule change that bans unders 18s from that cave. 

We are told that all under 18s were required to submit a consent form to CCC, and that as none had ever been submitted it was assumed that nobody under 18 was entering the cave, and that a rule change was simply reflecting reality.  This is nonsense.  Of course many unders 18s have been taken to GB but either people were unaware of the required consent form, or simply couldn't be bothered to indulge what might be perceived as irritating and pointless bureaucracy.

Going back to the original post - I (or instructors employed by me) have been leading these groups.  The sessions would certainly be defined by CCC and others as 'commercial' and therefore expressly forbidden in a number of caves. 
Andy Sparrow



Offline David Rose

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2017, 12:02:43 pm »
This is not the first time this issue has surfaced on the forum. I have expressed my own frustration at the dire situation in southern Britain, in relation to my son, Daniel, who though still only 13,  has done many caving trips (must be around 50 by now) and is proficient at SRT.

The Yorkshire Dales, as Badlad has said, are fine: there is tons to go at. But Mendip is a repressive disaster area for young cavers. Other than the really easy stuff at Burrington Combe, your chpice is liimited to  Swildon's, Eastwater (not really the most fun trip I can think of), Manor Farm - which is often filthy, and prone to bad air, and Thrupe Lane Swallet (a nice trip, but they do need to be able to do SRT). And, er, that's it. All the caves in the GB area are closed to under 18s (and Daniel would have no trouble with Longwood, Rhino Rift  or even Charterhouse). Ditto Upper Flood, St Cuthberts, Reservoir Hole, (I think),  the Fairy Cave quarry systems, and just about every other worthwhile cave in the area.

South Wales also has restrictions. I think you're supposed to be 16 for Aggie - which would be an ideal system for younger, careful cavers.

I see no reason for some of these restrictions. If youngsters are being led by a responsible adult(s) and the party is small, why are they banned from GB, Longwood and St Cuthberts - where they're going to be with an accredited leader in any case?

And we worry that the average age of cavers keeps on getting older! Come on BEC and other Mendip clubs. Please revisit this issue and think about changing the rules.

Online MJenkinson

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2017, 12:08:07 pm »
Get up to the Dales. Sorted. Long drive but what about advance train tickets to somewhere like Lancaster on a Friday night?

I am sure you could convince some friendly cavers (with enough notice) to even assist with transport when there to avoid renting a mini bus.

Offline Judi Durber

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2017, 12:25:23 pm »

We are told that all under 18s were required to submit a consent form to CCC, and that as none had ever been submitted it was assumed that nobody under 18 was entering the cave, and that a rule change was simply reflecting reality.  This is nonsense.  Of course many unders 18s have been taken to GB but either people were unaware of the required consent form, or simply couldn't be bothered to indulge what might be perceived as irritating and pointless bureaucracy.


Whenever I took experienced older teenagers into GB we always filled in the forms provided by the Wessex and paid the subs due.  Was that not the 'consent' form?  Didn't it ever get back to CCC?  If there was more to fill in then why weren't we asked for it at the same time?
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Offline BradW

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2017, 12:26:23 pm »
South Wales also has restrictions. I think you're supposed to be 16 for Aggie - which would be an ideal system for younger, careful cavers.


I don't think this is true about Aggie. I have been on a trip with a youngster present led by someone who ought to have been aware of any limitations - it might be worth checking the rules, David, before suggesting something that may not be true.

Offline BradW

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2017, 12:28:49 pm »
http://mlcmac.org/llangtwg.htm

I thought so, if you led the trip, David, you could take someone under 18.


Offline BradW

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2017, 01:18:38 pm »
So, let's move on from the issues that have come up since the OP - which are a distraction, really, from the issue raised. I know it's tempting to take an innocent request for help and use it to push a wider agenda, but let's look at the original request.

The "We've done that cave" mentality worries me,especially when used in the context of Swildons Hole. Swildons is not a small cave, and there are quite a few trip options for keen youngsters, which widens a bit for the more confident ones.

Repeated visits to the cave, with a variety of trip options, will instill a number of things. A familiarity with the cave is the first thing. You can even get the more confident members of the group to help lead, by trying to remember how to tackle obstacles, or find the correct route. All of which, should be done under close supervision. This inspires confidence and builds a sense of "ownership" and responsibility for the cave. Apart from in severe weather, I would say Swildons was eminently suitable for this.

I would never encourage a "we've done that cave" mentality. No good caver should lose interest in a cave simply because they have been there a couple of times before, especially the larger caves which have few access limitations.

So, perhaps revisit the nature of the trips you are doing, and think of a way to add variety to the trip even though the cave is one visited before. Set a target which might not be a physical location, but perhaps each caver in the group might like to achieve something for themselves, and above all, inspire a sense of teamwork which makes the trip that much more enjoyable.

Before you know it, the youngsters will be old enough to move on anyway.

Offline David Rose

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2017, 02:30:07 pm »
OK, BradW,  I'm pleased to note what you say about Aggie.

But the Mendip point stands. Yes, Swildon's is a great cave. It was my first, very many years ago (48, to be exact) when I was 10. There are few finer streamways than Swildon's 1.

But if the Mendips are your nearest area, as they happen to be mine, it is very frustrating not to be able to take a teenager anywhere else for a challenging trip. In fact, Daniel can lead down to sump 1, and did so in January when we took a friend who hadn't been caving before. But he's been down the cave at least 15 times now, and with the best will in the world, it has got a little too familiar - for both of us. And given that I'm not going to suggest diving sump 4 with him, there's not a lot else we can do down there. (He has done sump 1, and been to sumps 3 and 4 via Blue Pencil.)

Meanwhile, tantalisingly inaccessible, are several other superb caves where he would have a great time, and which are closed for no good reason.  This isn't a "we've done that cave" mentality. This is a simple point: access restrictions oin the Mendips are, in my opinion, unjustifiably strict for younger cavers.

They should be reviewed.

Offline David Rose

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2017, 02:31:09 pm »
PS. He has done Eastwater, Thrupe Lane, Goatchurch etc.

Offline JohnMCooper

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2017, 02:31:32 pm »
Quote
Whenever I took experienced older teenagers into GB we always filled in the forms provided by the Wessex and paid the subs due.  Was that not the 'consent' form?  Didn't it ever get back to CCC?

Although MU5 says the age limit is 18 the form signed actually says 16. (I believe CCC Ltd are currently looking into reprinting the form but I have no definite information on this.)

The undercopy of the form does NOT get back to CCC. It is retained in case it is required.

Offline BradW

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2017, 02:47:30 pm »
OK, BradW,  I'm pleased to note what you say about Aggie.

But the Mendip point stands. Yes, Swildon's is a great cave. It was my first, very many years ago (48, to be exact) when I was 10. There are few finer streamways than Swildon's 1.

But if the Mendips are your nearest area, as they happen to be mine, it is very frustrating not to be able to take a teenager anywhere else for a challenging trip. In fact, Daniel can lead down to sump 1, and did so in January when we took a friend who hadn't been caving before. But he's been down the cave at least 15 times now, and with the best will in the world, it has got a little too familiar - for both of us. And given that I'm not going to suggest diving sump 4 with him, there's not a lot else we can do down there. (He has done sump 1, and been to sumps 3 and 4 via Blue Pencil.)

Meanwhile, tantalisingly inaccessible, are several other superb caves where he would have a great time, and which are closed for no good reason.  This isn't a "we've done that cave" mentality. This is a simple point: access restrictions oin the Mendips are, in my opinion, unjustifiably strict for younger cavers.

They should be reviewed.
My points were specifically and solely to answer the OP. If you have issues beyond that, then you are, dare I say, using the OP as a platform for a wider issue.

Offline David Rose

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2017, 03:08:12 pm »
The OP is surely addressing the same issue: Unnecessary age restrictions that render some caves inaccessible to young intermediate cavers. I'm being very careful here. I'm saying they should be reviewed. If there is a good, inescapable reason for them, well, let's see it stated.

I have, to date, yet to see anyone do that.

Offline BradW

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2017, 03:20:45 pm »
Perhaps we need to know a bit more of what Jason does, who he is, how it is funded? Some simple searching has identified for me some useful info.

I think perhaps David and I are approaching things from different directions.

I am saying "how can you use the resources currently available to better effect?"

David is saying "how can we increase the amount of resources available?"

The first doesn't rock a delicate boat, that commercial enterprises will be very much aware of, which is why I think my approach is probably better, and I also think it produces better cavers. But it is just my opinion. It is a better thing, as far as I am concerned, to work within the existing framework if you ultimately want to change it by degrees. Others think revolution is better. Is a confrontational approach really a good thing ultimately? Trying to embarrass good cavers and well-meaning institutions into fundamental alterations to their modus operandi will I think simply be met with stout resistance.

Where David takes his son as an individual will not necessarily be relevant when considering commercial / instructed cavers.

Offline David Rose

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2017, 03:38:35 pm »
BradW's last point is true. But I'm not sure that Jason is really a commercial enterprise. Not that I have anything against people doing guided caving: far from it. I think they provide an essential service, and an excellent way for those who might otherwise never try caving to get into it. I am all for the new opportunities created at Wookey, and for the work done by people such as Andy Sparrow. Who, by the way, is (I think) the last person in the country from whom one can rent caving clothes and gear - a REALLY useful service for anyone who wants to introduce novices to the sport.

Nor am I suggesting there should be a revolution, or trying to denigrate any cavers and institutions. I just think the age restrictions in place at certain caves are onerous, and should be reviewed.

Offline Jenny P

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2017, 04:22:32 pm »
Derbyshire isn't that much further to come and there are plenty of caves to go at and almost no restrictions to worry about.  All you need to do is ask the landowner for permission and pay a small goodwill fee or, in many cases, you don't even need to ask but just make sure you carry a "Derbyshire key" (a large adjustable spanner) to undo the bolted down lids which protect some of the shafts.  All the information you need is on the DCA website at www.theDCA.org.uk.

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Online bagpuss

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2017, 04:33:19 pm »
What are the rules for Waterwheel or Sludge Pit? Would either of those be possible? I also have a bit of a soft spot for Lionel's hole, which although without pretties can make a 'sporting' trip if you can follow the round trip, and has no restrictions.
I've been out of the caving loop for some time, but has Hunters Lodge Inn swallet re-opened after the damage? Tynings Barrows Swallet is another option which springs to mind, although bad air was a problem on one occasion we visited there. How about singing river mine? Mangle hole has no access restrictions, but getting in via ladders requires people to be confident with these in a more confined space which isn't easy. It's worth a trawl through the latest Mendip Underground as there are other options.

Offline JohnMCooper

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #23 on: November 15, 2017, 04:41:35 pm »
Although both MU5 and the CSCC web site say to apply to the Charterhouse Centre for the key to Waterwheel I believe it is now a standard CSCC key.

Sludge Pit is a standard CSCC key. Leave your goodwill fee of £1 per person in the tub a few feet inside the entrance.

Online bagpuss

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Re: Access for Intermediate School Cavers
« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2017, 04:44:39 pm »
Although both MU5 and the CSCC web site say to apply to the Charterhouse Centre for the key to Waterwheel I believe it is now a standard CSCC key.

Sludge Pit is a standard CSCC key. Leave your goodwill fee of £1 per person in the tub a few feet inside the entrance.

Do CSCC have any rules re led groups or under 18's?