Author Topic: Concreting Drws Cefn  (Read 182117 times)

Offline Ian Adams

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1150 on: June 13, 2016, 02:29:45 pm »
Alex +1

 :thumbsup:

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Offline royfellows

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1151 on: June 13, 2016, 02:37:42 pm »
Conservation reasons? - Is it fair to punish the many for the actions of the few?

This says a lot in a few words.
An old saying occurs, "Whatever you like to do there is always going to be a few people who will spoil it for the rest of us" or similar words

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Offline PeteHall

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1152 on: June 13, 2016, 02:48:07 pm »
I expect this to be ignored like all my other posts but it may explain why I have never been a fan of gates of leader based systems:

My main issue with a leader system is that it spoils one of the best aspects of caving which is exploration. I hate being led about caves, I want to explore on my own, perhaps push that one passage that people before me have never bothered going down. To me being led around a cave is akin to being a tourist not an explorer so for me that situation is never acceptable, I don't want to be just a tourist gorking at formations I want to explore.

That's also why I dislike gates where the keys have to be filled out by filing forms in triplicate, sending them money and waiting weeks to find out, that is another obstacle for the main aspect of caving which is exploration and this cave, this cave is still to be explored. Please stop putting barriers in the way. Perhaps the owner wants it locked because someone dug it without his permission but maybe a better compromise is a good will trespass fee to access this entrance not a bar that can never be opened except in emergency. (Even if I would likely fit under it). Still blocking the entrance with an easier to remove obstacle is no compromise it still is blocked!

Conservation reasons? - Is it fair to punish the many for the actions of the few?

Completely agree. Caving is by its very nature about exploration.

Not everone will agree though. Many "club cavers" seem more than happy to be lead on trips by other club members, so no real difference to a cave with a leadership system.

One day, I hope to explore Draenen, but like many, I am put off by all the politics. Maybe in a few decades it will all have blown over and we can get on enjoying the cave.  :)
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Offline alastairgott

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1153 on: June 13, 2016, 03:59:50 pm »
One day, I hope to explore Draenen, but like many, I am put off by all the politics. Maybe in a few decades it will all have blown over and we can get on enjoying the cave.  :)

Crack on and do it now, I went in almost 2 years ago, we only got past Indiana highway (as we went the wrong way at cairn junction and saw some very impressive [well preserved] cracked mud floors).

But still I'd go back as it gives you a thirst, not only to see more but a real thirst from how dry it is in there!

The pub being a, welcome and convenient, post caving treat.

Offline droid

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1154 on: June 13, 2016, 04:05:05 pm »
One day, I hope to explore Draenen, but like many, I am put off by all the politics. Maybe in a few decades it will all have blown over and we can get on enjoying the cave.  :)

It almost inevitably blows over eventually. New landowners/cavers and the situation resolves itself.

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Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1155 on: June 13, 2016, 05:57:49 pm »
Two of us did the round trip in the early days. Hadn't a clue where we were some of the time. Nice easy run down to Rifleman's is a good trip.

Offline NigR

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1156 on: October 13, 2017, 12:56:58 am »
The good news is that Drws Cefn is still open and has not been concreted. The bad news is that the PDCMG are still hell bent on permanently closing the cave by whatever means they can get away with. The following item is included in the retiring Secretary's report due to be presented to this coming Sunday's meeting:

"As mentioned before the postponed meeting, feedback for the "light touch" closure of Drws Cefn was not well received by NRW. It was felt that we were receiving rather contradictory advice from the organisation who had not supported a hard solution on grounds of potential changes to airflow, but yet had not then supported a much more open approach, seemingly on the grounds of fear of vandalism. As a result it was suggested that placement of a surface grille, entirely in keeping with the bat workers manual and other best practice, may be the best solution and may not require licensing. A proposal along these lines will be brought to the meeting for discussion and potential approval before any further work proceeds in this area."

Loosely translated, this is what Fleur is saying:

NRW know full well that if they give approval for this (or any open cave on access land) to be blocked then it will immediately trigger a full scale judicial review (something they very wisely wish to avoid at all cost). Hence they initially turned down the PDCMG's preferred "hard" option - a massive reinforced concrete wall blocking the entire passage, built to last forever and a day - and then told them not to bother applying for a license for a "light touch, more open" approach - a steel scaffold bar across the passage concreted into solid buttresses on either side. So now the PDCMG will have to make do with a mere grille on the surface, concreted into place all around.

This latest option will, of course, have the same desired effect as the earlier ones: closing the cave for all eternity and denying cavers entry to the longest system in Wales via a perfectly good entrance on Open Access land.

This action is being taken in accordance with the PDCMG's avowed "Single Entrance Policy", something which has been ruthlessly enforced ever since the cave's discovery in 1994. The second entrance was concreted back in 1999 and the PDCMG have been trying to do the same to Drws Cefn for the last eight years. Presumably, they will seek to inflict the same fate upon any further entrances that come their way.

The hope, no matter how slim, still exists that sanity might yet prevail.

If it does not, then all I will say is this:

Better get those mixers up and running right this minute 'cos you will need an awful lot of concrete!!

« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 01:08:21 am by NigR »

Offline andrewmc

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1157 on: October 13, 2017, 02:06:54 am »
One day, I hope to explore Draenen, but like many, I am put off by all the politics. Maybe in a few decades it will all have blown over and we can get on enjoying the cave.  :)

Seconded. I will not go down Draenen as the current access situation is a national embarrassment and I am not happy with the idea of going in either entrance. I would not want to give validity to the current PDCMG mess by applying for a permit, but I don't want to go in the second entrance either where a sensible access arrangement has not been made (but I totally understand the point of view of people who do either of those things and I do not judge them).

Offline NigR

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1158 on: October 13, 2017, 02:53:53 am »
Fair comment, Andrew and I respect your viewpoint. When you say "the second entrance" am I correct in assuming you mean Drws Cefn, which is in fact the third entrance (the actual second entrance was concreted shut by PDCMG in 1999)? If so, I can assure you that we did everything in our power to come up with any form of access agreement (never mind a sensible one!) but PDCMG would not budge a single inch. CSS had met with precisely the same response to their entrance at the Nunnery and, in retrospect, we were foolishly optimistic to think we could have done any better. Believe me, this organisation is impossible to deal with in its current form!

It is indeed a great shame that you feel unable to visit Ogof Draenen at the present time and you are clearly not alone: during a 23 week period extending from early spring until the end of August a mere 16 parties recorded their trips in the original entrance logbook and there was never more than a single party in the cave on any one day. Absolutely appalling figures for a system 70+km in length no matter how you try to view them!
« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 03:11:23 am by NigR »

Offline alastairgott

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1159 on: October 13, 2017, 11:20:53 am »
During a 23 week period extending from early spring until the end of August a mere 16 parties recorded their trips in the original entrance logbook and there was never more than a single party in the cave on any one day. Absolutely appalling figures for a system 70+km in length no matter how you try to view them!

You say that Andrew is clearly not alone. Yet you quote figures for spring and summer.
 Firstly, what is the significance of a 23 week period? it's not 5 months and it's certainly not 6 months.
 Secondly, spring and summer are slack months for caving. If you touch base with pretty much any club with a hut in the country they will tell you that they're less busy in these months.

I'm not sure how your figures compare with the three counties, I'd estimate that there were probably more trips into the three counties. (by a sheer guess on the permitted caves, I'd say treble).
 However, without the figures I cannot comment, but if the figure were only treble (68 trips). For the amount of entrances they would be absolutely appalling figures.

Offline NigR

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1160 on: October 13, 2017, 11:54:22 am »
The figures are for a 23 week period because that is the time since the pages were last changed in the logbook when a friend of mine checked them for analysis.

"Official" figures will in all probability be announced by the PDCMG Permit Secretary at Sunday's meeting. Based on past experience, there will have been a spate of trips in the weeks prior to the meeting and the party line will be trotted out that "visitor numbers are on course to meet the yearly average" or somesuch. This happens every time (in some years the figures have been conveniently massaged by directing traffic from events such as student gatherings into the cave).

The reality of the situation at Ogof Draenen is that hardly anyone ever goes down there, quite possibly for the same reasons outlined by Andrew earlier. For example, in another thread on this forum the trip to Dollimore's via the Last Sandwich was described as a "trade route". Well, visits there average out at about one per month at best: busy trade route isn't it?

Offline Rhys

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1161 on: October 13, 2017, 12:03:05 pm »
The figures are for a 23 week period because that is the time since the pages were last changed in the logbook when a friend of mine checked them for analysis.

"Official" figures will in all probability be announced by the PDCMG Permit Secretary at Sunday's meeting. Based on past experience, there will have been a spate of trips in the weeks prior to the meeting and the party line will be trotted out that "visitor numbers are on course to meet the yearly average" or somesuch. This happens every time (in some years the figures have been conveniently massaged by directing traffic from events such as student gatherings into the cave).

The reality of the situation at Ogof Draenen is that hardly anyone ever goes down there, quite possibly for the same reasons outlined by Andrew earlier. For example, in another thread on this forum the trip to Dollimore's via the Last Sandwich was described as a "trade route". Well, visits there average out at about one per month at best: busy trade route isn't it?

Serious question; Do you truly believe that visitor numbers are actually massaged? Why on earth would anyone do that? Who gains? What would they gain?

It seems like a paranoid conspiracy theory to me.


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Offline royfellows

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1162 on: October 13, 2017, 12:20:57 pm »

It seems like a paranoid conspiracy theory to me.


This is a general comment, not one necessarily relative to the thread, but intended as a 'reality check'

The word "conspiracy" more often than not included in a sentence with words such as "paranoid" or similar.
Conspiracies are very real, they happen, and anyone who cannot immediately think of one of several that have been blown open cannot be following the news.
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Offline NigR

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1163 on: October 13, 2017, 12:40:50 pm »
Rhys,

Yes, I do believe that visitor numbers have been massaged in the past. Obviously, it is the PDCMG who stand to gain most from this in terms of credibility. In reality, many cavers (as exemplified by Andrew and Pete above) have been put off visiting Ogof Draenen due to the toxic nature of the political situation brought on by the intransigence of the PDCMG over the years. As you might recall, we used to have a string of counters throughout the system to keep track of caver traffic (and were heavily criticised by the PDCMG for doing so, despite it being a very useful tool). Nowadays, we just don't bother: there would be so few hits that it simply would not repay the time and effort involved.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2017, 12:55:58 pm by NigR »

Offline Stuart France

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1164 on: October 19, 2017, 08:21:31 pm »
Chris Densham, the OUCC representative, presented a bird’s eye view diagram of the PDCMG’s latest idea for blocking Drws Cefn to cavers at their meeting last weekend, seeking approval.  Although it shows a removable bar, he said that ideally nobody would be given a key to it. View it at www.caveaccess.co.uk/draenen/drwscefngrilleproposal.jpg

Unfortunately nobody but myself in the PDCMG meeting was familiar with the Commons (Wales) Act 2006 which states:

“A person may not, except with the permission of [the Welsh Government], carry out any restricted works on land to which this section applies.  Restricted works includes those having the effect of preventing or restricting access to or over land… and in particular fencing… or works for the resurfacing of land.  Works are for resurfacing if they consist of laying concrete…  This applies to [all] common land.”

PDCMG would also need planning permission from the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.

As bats are accessing Ogof Draenen through Drws Cefn, as well as some other entrances in this general area, I find it hard to see how NRW could possibly fail to insist that PDCMG also need to possess a ‘bat licence’ in order to block a cave in such a way as the bats cannot fly freely through a new grille at an entrance.  This is the case because horizontal bars imply vertically downward bat flight, as per dropping something through a drain cover in the gutter at the side of a road, and horseshoe bats simply don’t fly like that.

NRW have already declined to process a ‘conservation’ bat licence made for this site, on the grounds that cavers using Drws Cefn do not pose any threat to the bats.  The PDCMG’s only other option is a ‘development’ class licence which is assessed against the IROPI criteria (imperative reasons of overwhelming public interest).

It is patently clear that there isn’t a cave conservation problem as the entrance has been open since 2010, after the gate disappeared, without consequences arising.  The number of cave visitors keeps falling: only 165 people in the past 11 months according to figures tabled at the PDCMG meeting.

It is hard to see how preventing cavers from using a cave entrance for reasons of a personal belief in ‘wilderness preservation’ or some such abstract idea could possibly be in the public interest.

With only 180 visitors per annum spread being across a 80kms cave system, say, it is a wilderness already with little chance of meeting anyone outside one’s own group.  The longest cave system in Wales is amongst its least visited.


Offline royfellows

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1165 on: October 19, 2017, 09:28:53 pm »
A point of interest re a 'bat licence'.
CMT had to obtain one from NRW prior to phase 2 of Cwmystwyth underground works, replacement of the second tube with the steel road. This was additional to the SAM consent covering all the works.
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Offline Ed

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1166 on: October 20, 2017, 10:10:15 am »
doesn't all the guff refer to "single entrance"  --- if the y are being so pedantic ---- no mention of multiple exits.

One way trips - in via the entrance out via any exit

Offline NigR

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1167 on: October 20, 2017, 10:24:41 am »
One way trips - in via the entrance out via any exit

What if some of the entrances had to be rigged first? Wouldn't be possible to just exit then, would it? In any case, if the PDCMG had their way there would be no other entrances to exit from; they would all be blocked or concreted.

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1168 on: October 20, 2017, 12:01:57 pm »
Any chance of a debrief on the meeting as a whole either publicly or by PM.  With my BCA hat on I do like to keep abreast of developments at Draenan as they may have possible implications to wider access issues.  I guess the minutes will take some time.

Offline NigR

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1169 on: October 20, 2017, 12:32:34 pm »
Minutes will hopefully be out earlier than usual as they have already been written up and sent to the new Secretary.

In brief, the meeting was generally better natured than might have been expected (particularly in view of recent developments) and there are grounds for cautious optimism. There is some new blood amongst the Officers (congratulations to John Stevens for finally getting there at the fourth time of asking!) and this augurs well. I am hopeful a more realistic attitude might begin to emerge in the none too distant future and this will certainly be of benefit to cavers everywhere.

Check out Stuart's previous post for a recap of some of the legal aspects discussed. I will be adding to these and covering several other specific topics in due course.

« Last Edit: October 20, 2017, 12:41:05 pm by NigR »

Offline Stuart France

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1170 on: October 20, 2017, 08:01:10 pm »
Any chance of a debrief on the meeting as a whole...

To add a bit more flesh to the bones perhaps I can add that the 165 visitors for the previous 11 months was the figure tabled by Sue Mabbett (i.e. the permit secretary who just retired and became the group's new secretary instead of Fleur Loveridge) was only for the PDCMG's logbook which is located about 15 minutes into the cave from its original gated entrance.

In the ensuing discussion on these lowly figures at last weekend's PDCMG meeting, those present speculated on how many more cavers are actually using Ogof Draenen who either chose not to sign the PDCMG logbook, or they had used one of the ungated entrances that don't have logbooks.

We recapped on the experiments carried out by myself some years ago that about 90% of cavers actually sign their logbook.  People were detected using my counters on dates that did not correspond with any logbook entries.  There are so few people using the cave that a little transgression of not signing the logbook stands out in counter data when there is seldom more than one group in the cave on any one day, even at the weekends.

We then tried scaling up that 165 logbook figure to 180 to extrapolate from 11 to 12 months, and we added in the imagined people who didn't sign the logbook even when they had walked right past it.  So our best estimate is therefore 200 visitors per year currently via the main entrance.  Impossible to say what the grand total including traffic via other unmentionable entrances might be.  The elephant in the room was of course these other entrances.

Mick Day, retiring chairman of 20+ years, didn't ever say a lot, leaning forward on his elbows with his chin in his hand much of the time, perhaps contemplating how things had come to be like this as he leaves that role.

He was not alone.  Several other leading figures said nothing or almost nothing throughout the whole 5 hour meeting.

Offline rhychydwr1

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1171 on: October 20, 2017, 09:37:06 pm »
Merci mawr, a five hour meeting  :o

Offline NigR

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1172 on: October 20, 2017, 11:55:54 pm »
During the course of the meeting, I tried to leave the NRW rep (Christina) in little doubt as to our intentions on the legal front should NRW be misguided enough to actually issue a bat licence to the PDCMG to aid them in their quest to permanently close Drws Cefn to cavers. Should this occur, we will have no hesitation in immediately invoking a full scale judicial review, the purpose being to clarify the law regarding CRoW and caving once and for all. We have already taken extensive (and expensive!) expert legal advice on this and are confident we would win.

Regarding the other "ungated" and "unmentionable" entrances quoted in Stuart's latest post, I would like to make it clear that this would naturally be the case with these too (so long as they are on open access land, of course). PDCMG and NRW, please take note.

Offline Stuart France

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1173 on: October 21, 2017, 06:01:44 pm »
NRW’s belief that the CROW Act does not apply to caving, thus framing its policy and advice to the public accordingly, remains a legitimate target for a Judicial Review initiated by cavers.  But people should not neglect commons law either.

The Law of Property Act 1925, section 193, says “Members of the public shall, subject as hereinafter provided, have rights of access for air and exercise to any land which is [an urban] common”.   The hereinafter means you can’t camp, light fires or drive a vehicle including bicycles on commons.

Air means air. Exercise means exercise. Air and exercise thus includes caving.  Most of the footprint of Ogof Draenen is urban common and thus within the ambit of s.193.

Commons laws are a nightmare for anyone wanting to prevent access to caves because of the inclusive “air and exercise” phrase, plus the ministerial consent needed for groundworks and changing of access arrangements.  See the Commons (Wales) Act 2006, section 38.

Defra has already lost a court case in which they argued that riding a horse on a common was not "air and exercise".  The judge decided it was, and added that tobogganing, having a picnic, picking wild berries and flying a kite were also examples of "air and exercise".  Pity he didn't mention caving too, but it's enough.

All members of the public have a right to apply for a court order to enforce the removal of unconsented works within the meaning of s.38 and the restoration of the land under s.41.

So, in practice, anyone “Concreting Drws Cefn” or doing something similar should anticipate enforcement action.

The issues above were given an airing in the marathon PDCMG meeting last Sunday. PDCMG said they were going to come to considered view and report back at their next meeting in six months or so time.  We are thus not at the stage of putting anyone on notice.  I hope not.


Offline David Rose

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Re: Concreting Drws Cefn
« Reply #1174 on: October 21, 2017, 06:26:02 pm »
I intend to write a summary very shortly of recent events at Draenen for the next BCA newsletter, including the current state of of moves to block Drws and emerging awareness of the state of the law, as discussed above.

Please would someone - preferably from PDCMG - who disagrees with Nig and Stuart contact me so I can quote their view?

Either PM me, put up a post, or send me an email. Fleur Loveridge and Chris Densham both have my email address.

Otherwise my report is, inevitably, going to look a little one sided. It would be helpful if someone could get back to me by the end of Monday.

Many thanks.