TECHNICAL FORUMS > Cave Conservation
Using tape in Caves (was Agen Allwedd Trashed ?)
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The Old Ruminator:
Oh dear I see this turning into a rant. I have been caving in Agen Allwedd for over 50 years.This weekend I had a nice photo jolly up to Cliffs of Dover. Well that was the plan. To say I was horrified is an understatement. Main Passage is festooned with garish tape rather reminiscent of roadworks on the M4. Perhaps the traffic cones are soon to arrive. That made much of Main Passage impossible to photograph. Perhaps worse still is the appearance of fixed aids ( two scaffold poles ) in the entrance series. If you cant do a simple short traverse and climb without a scaffold pole you should not be caving. Then there are the notices re bats fixed to the wall. Surely one larger notice by the log in shelf would be enough. Maybe we shall soon see Keep Left signs all the way in. Notice that my topic has a question mark. So this is entirely my personal view. I always thought that cave exploration should take you as close as possible to the environment seen by the first explorers. The cave as it should be not as a tourist attraction for wannabee cavers. The tape in Main Passage is mostly where the roof is low so would not be walked on in error. In any case if one was bent on vandalism the tape would be no deterrent. Perhaps somebody here would like to justify their own form of vandalism.
I think the main issue is the terrible inconsistency in the approach to conservation. I am joining the rant to say that in the well preserved caves of Western Australia, trail markings are obvious but unobtrusive. Some of the taping in UK caves has been done very unsympathetically to the environment e.g. in Fairy Cave Quarry, in some caves where trails or guidance is needed there is none, and some of the damage in well known caves can only be described as depressing. The road tape used currently in Aggy deteriorates with time and looks really messy as well. I am surprised any fixed aids have been installed. OR is in his 70's. If he can manage without the fixed aids this suggests that the sort of person who they have been installed for perhaps shouldn't be in the cave at all!
The Agen Allwedd problem arises from people who are now in the retired age bracket or sadly no longer with us who walked all over the pristine mud floors in Main Passage in the 1950-60s when there was absolutely no need to do so given the ease of keeping to the same central line. This is before conservation tape was invented. The same goes for parts of OFD - the exploration push predates what we regard now as normal practice for conservation.
Laying conservation tape has been and continues to be an immediate and effective tool to establish and maintain agreed lines for paths through caves to leave the ground to either side untouched. I really can't comment on colour schemes but most folk would consider bright colours suitable for the purpose for which it was intended which is visibility.
Conservation tape isn't a subject for a rant as it is plain common sense to most folks, and it's a good job the above haven't visited other Welsh caves yet with 'access installations' to put it broadly, and Ogof Draenen which holds the Welsh record for miles of conservation tape.
Miles and miles, yards and yards of so called 'conservation' tape is both ugly and a very outdated method of cave conservation. There have been huge improvements over recent years in conservation education and that together with subtle signage and occasional in situ prompts such as reflective arrows should be just as effective and far less obtrusive than the rather counter productive tape.
There is certainly a view amongst cavers which would agree with the OP.
We should learn from examples around the world. I cannot believe British cavers are a special breed apart who cannot see a well indicated trail or paths marked by thin unobtrusive line. The photographs shows some subtle path markings also accompanying some invisible monofilament line that does the job just fine. Much better than ugly jarring brightly coloured tape. I notice nobody's come to the defence of the scaffold poles so far ;)
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