UK Caving

WHERE THE CAVES ARE - The Caving Regions => Mendip => Topic started by: The Old Ruminator on August 20, 2020, 05:53:21 pm

Title: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 20, 2020, 05:53:21 pm
At least four Mendip caves have suffered attempts at a break-in recently. Padlocks partly cut through probably with an angle grinder or smaller battery-powered cutter. Can people please keep an eye open for others acting suspiciously or report lock damage to the appropriate club or management.
Same with the rubbish dumping. All a great shame. I don't want to name the caves in case it encourages others to try again. No doubt the damaged locks will be replaced at great expense.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 20, 2020, 06:50:53 pm
Given the abilities of modern portable angle grinders, that sounds like a warning, grudge etc, not an actual attempt at a break in. Even 19mm hardened steel, as found on high-end motorcycle locks, takes a minute or two maximum. I can't see any 50mm Abus lock as commonly found on caves to be any sort of serious deterrent or match for even an old battery powered grinder.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 20, 2020, 07:07:51 pm
The only secure way is to place the locks where they are not freely accessible. For somebody like me who has struggled for half an hour fiddling to open a lock I cant see its a darn nuisance.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Badlad on August 20, 2020, 07:31:20 pm
If it is cavers vandalising locks, as has happened before and elsewhere, then it is very difficult to stop.  A hearts and mind campaign may be best.

If it is non caving vandals then I suggest their main interest is one of curiosity.  "What is hiding behind that locked manhole or gate?"  Treasure?  I suggest a tidy sign explaining why the gate is there would probably help a lot.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: mrodoc on August 20, 2020, 11:26:55 pm
There is a notice outside the cave with a phone number to ring too for further information so that is not the explanation.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Jenny P on August 21, 2020, 01:15:30 pm
One solution to the problem, if the landowner agrees, is to replace a lock with a gate which is bolted shut but requires a large adjustable spanner to undo the nut.  This "Derbyshire Key" system has proved its worth for many years in the Peak District. 

Most ordinary curious walkers won't carry a large adjustable with them but someone intent on entering the site will know that they can do so relatively easily and will do so without causing any damage.  DCA has found that although the nuts are sometimes thrown away, they are easily replaced, so the site can be kept secure and there is no temptation to the vandals because they will know how to get in if they really want to, whereas casual visitors will be kept out.  Combine this with a helpful notice and there is normally little trouble.  (One of the few sites kept locked in the Peak District has repeatedly had the lock broken and the gate vandalised but, having persuaded the landowner to give the "Derbyshire Key" system a go, there have been no problems since.)

The problem with installing locks which can only be reached through a hole in the door - as OR complains - the vandals may have recourse to an oxy-acetylene cutter to remove the door altogether or cut a chunk out round the lock so that it cannot be locked at all.  This actually happened in the Peak District some years ago and, following the wrecking of the gate itself, the site was walled up and there is now no access at all.

If the owner insists on a lock (either combination or with keys) or if the requirement is to protect something fragile within the cave or mine, then you have no choice.  However, it might be worth persuading the owner to consider the Big Nut and Bolt arrangement to see if this will work.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Speleotron on August 21, 2020, 02:47:23 pm
I'm amazed that somebody went to the trouble of using oxy-acetylene to get into a cave! Do they think the farmers are hiding treasure down there or something?
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: PeteHall on August 21, 2020, 03:17:10 pm
Not sure oxy-acetylene is any more effort than an angle grinder, if you have a portable set-up and you don't need to carry it far, but it's a hell of a lot quieter if you didn't want to draw attention.

Have a look at the Norpex door in Nenthead mines. Someone dragged a gas axe to the back of Rampgill Level to cut the thing off. Now that was some serious effort!
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: GarDouth on August 21, 2020, 03:33:17 pm
I completely agree with Jenny. The "Derbyshire Key" system should be the standard go to for all caves that need to be made secure to casual passers-by. I realise this isn't suitable in ALL locations but there are certainly many that could have this solution.

In my experience the land owners will usually go with whatever option is recommended by cavers. If cavers say it needs a padlock then the land owner will say that's what they want. They may never have been presented with an alternative option.

As Badlad says, information also goes a long way. Just a sign saying it's a cave is not good enough. Explain WHY it's locked and HOW to get legitimate access. I have met plenty of people who think there is only an exclusive clique of cavers allowed access to some caves and it makes them bitter so they'll go and just cut the lock off. If you provide a simple and accessible way to get legitimate access, in general, people follow it.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Jenny P on August 21, 2020, 03:34:18 pm
Not sure oxy-acetylene is any more effort than an angle grinder, if you have a portable set-up and you don't need to carry it far, but it's a hell of a lot quieter if you didn't want to draw attention.

Have a look at the Norpex door in Nenthead mines. Someone dragged a gas axe to the back of Rampgill Level to cut the thing off. Now that was some serious effort!

That's what happened at Clayton Adit in the 1970's.  The vandals kept breaking the locks so DCA hid the lock behind a hole in a 3/8 steel plate door.  The adit needed to be kept locked because there was a caravan site nearby and adventurous kids could wander up the adit in wellies though ankle deep water, not realising that there was a 900 ft. deep flooded shaft hidden under the water in the main chamber.

We had a notice at the entrance explaining why it was kept locked and giving phone no. and address to obtain a key, which was free of charge.  However, the vandals backed a landrover up to the door and cut a chunk out of the door and the frame so it impossible to lock it.  So the landowner, despite being sympathetic to DCA and cavers in general, had no choice but to wall up the adit altogether.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: mikem on August 21, 2020, 06:46:32 pm
Box mines was on a Derbyshire key system & now there is no access due to all & sundry being able to get in (but not find their way out)...
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Jenny P on August 21, 2020, 07:02:09 pm
It's really sad that vandals at some sites can create so much havoc, leading to complete closure to all.  Don't know why some sites should be so "attractive" in this way but it does seem that in a case like this there is no way of protecting the site other than walling it up.  Box Mines and Clayton Adit are just two in this category.

Luckily this isn't true of most sites but you may just have to accept that some will be lost in this way - the site is still there, even though it's no longer accessible.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Roger W on August 21, 2020, 07:41:16 pm
I guess it's important to keep a good record of such sites -exactly where they are, what there is there, and how they were blocked off - with a view to r-opening them in the future.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 21, 2020, 07:55:50 pm
Box mines was on a Derbyshire key system & now there is no access due to all & sundry being able to get in (but not find their way out)...

How about you ask for people for mines and caves on the Derby key system, and ask how many are freely accessible. You'll find it works in the vast majority of cases. If you decide to key everything and vet everyone, you'll find the reason this post exists will ebcome far more common again.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: mikem on August 21, 2020, 08:38:41 pm
The problem with that argument is that most of the leader only caves are still stunningly beautiful, the locked caves are still nice & the open access ones are pretty much trashed (unless they are really difficult to get into)
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: PeteHall on August 21, 2020, 09:05:23 pm
The problem with that argument is that most of the leader only caves are still stunningly beautiful, the locked caves are still nice & the open access ones are pretty much trashed (unless they are really difficult to get into)

But when were the trashed ones trashed?

A lot of damage was done a long time ago. Attitudes to conservation have changed.

And yes, nothing like a natural barrier. We deliberately left a mine we'd dug open chest deep in water as it was right by the road. If you are serious enough to brave the water, you are probably going to be ok :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: mikem on August 21, 2020, 09:33:28 pm
Well, Hunters' lodge inn sink was only a couple of years ago & they had to borrow the key to get in. Browns folly was also getting trashed regularly at about the same time. Painter's palette in easegill was definitely cavers only & they managed to walk all over it (until it was taped off), even though there was plenty of space to walk around.

(I refer the honourable gentleman to the current state of littering in the general countryside...)
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: pwhole on August 21, 2020, 11:00:54 pm

And yes, nothing like a natural barrier. We deliberately left a mine we'd dug open chest deep in water as it was right by the road. If you are serious enough to brave the water, you are probably going to be ok :thumbsup:

That method worked at a mine we opened up (in Derbyshire) many years ago too. It wasn't chest deep but you needed waders to avoid wet feet. We gated that with a Derbyshire Key setup, and that still seems to be working OK, despite there still being no access allowed - or ever applied for. As far as we know, the landowner still doesn't know it's open - or if they do, they've recognised a responsible group at work and let it be ;)
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Fulk on August 21, 2020, 11:19:12 pm
mikem:
Quote
Painter's palette in easegill was definitely cavers only & they managed to walk all over it (until it was taped off), even though there was plenty of space to walk around.
When I was a kid I was taken on a trip through the Easegill System by BPC members and we were utterly gob-smacked and bemused by the action of well-known cavers (a different party) who walked straight through the Painter's Palette in a passage that's about 4 metres wide. Indeed, one of them said (and I'm quoting from memory of something that happened decades ago) 'This used to be a nice formation before people started to walk throuth it'. The word 'MORONIC' doesn't do them justice.

Still, it has recovered to some extent, at any rate:

Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 22, 2020, 08:07:09 am
Well, Hunters' lodge inn sink was only a couple of years ago & they had to borrow the key to get in. Browns folly was also getting trashed regularly at about the same time. Painter's palette in easegill was definitely cavers only & they managed to walk all over it (until it was taped off), even though there was plenty of space to walk around.

(I refer the honourable gentleman to the current state of littering in the general countryside...)

If you're locking stuff based on 2 cave systems, a mine that was going used to keep the trashing by chavs in one place, and ignorant fucks chucking stuff out of car windows, you're going to find replacing locks and gates get's really expensive, really quickly. It's a depressingly sad indictment on Mendip that you're lagging years behind North Wales in terms of access and not having your shiny stuff cut up. That's not an achievement you should be bragging about.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: mikem on August 22, 2020, 09:04:18 am
No, they are locked due to every cave that's been left open having suffered unnecessary damage over many years, including those in the Dales & South Wales (don't know Derbyshire or North Wales well enough).
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 22, 2020, 09:07:04 am
One of the sites with a vandalised lock was a very important archeological site. That in a cave not particularly long. I cant see cavers doing that in such a well-known cave. Cavers from outside Somerset really don't get the difference between us and more rural caving areas up North. One part of the cave systems remaining ungated in Fairy Cave Quarry is Balch Aven Series. Recently we noticed mud deliberately hand smeared over some fine formations. Not an easy cave to access as there is an awkward climb inside. Mr O'Doc went there and cleaned some of the mud off with a pressure washer. Just ask yourself if this would have happened with a gate on the cave. No doubt the other fine caves there would have been despoiled if left open. So we have a "warden"  system at FCQ and Reservoir Hole. Now that really gets the goat of the anti gate brigade. We get all sorts of bad press over that. That at least makes somebody on each logged trip responsible for any damage. We saw on my other post how negligent so-called cave photographers have become. Anyone with a mobile phone is now a cave photographer. As for cost for lock upkeep that is covered by the minimal trip fee of £2 at FCQ and Reservoir Hole which I am sure cavers don't mind paying. At both FCQ and RH caves are locked at the insistence of the landowner both of which are commercial concerns wishing to protect their " assets ". Yes, their caves. We don't own them. Only with their goodwill can we visit them at all.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 22, 2020, 09:18:20 am
No, they are locked due to every cave that's been left open having suffered unnecessary damage over many years,

Every cave that's been left open?
Kindly fuck off and think before you type, you're so far beyond stretching the limits if credulity it's stupid.
If you want to loc, gate and control, at least have the stones to say so... this act and sham is pathetic.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: mikem on August 22, 2020, 09:39:51 am
If you actually look around you'll see muddy handprints all over the place in regularly visited sites. The majority of Mendip caves aren't locked, just the finest, or those where landowners have asked for them. Several insist on holding the keys themselves, others don't want to be bothered by cavers knocking on their door, but all local clubs have keys, which visiting cavers can easily borrow if they ask. Leader caves have to be planned a bit further ahead.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 22, 2020, 09:54:09 am
If you actually look around you'll see muddy handprints all over the place in regularly visited sites.

On *EVERY* cave? You were saying that every cave not locked up has been vandalised. Again, Take a look at yourselves, and look at the rest of the island. You're the only ones that have this issue. Do you really think that Mendip is the last bastion of cave preservation and everywhere else defecates in caves, vandalises formations, snaps stal etc? Mendip is stuck in a bygone age and it just can't get it's collective head around the new fangled ways, I mean, they couldn't possibly work, because that's not how Mendip does it, so it's not the right way to do things. That's exactly how you come across.

You'll also find there is a lot of supposition that certain Mendip groups actively encourage locks where derby keys would be just fine with landowners, as all they want is to discharge the pitfalls that happen with accessing the system by the general public. Most landowners don't care about what groups have keys, who issues them, the politics off the community... they just want to stop accidental access and lawsuits. Given the actions of a lot of the common members in the CSCC and Mendip, you'll find no-one will be surprised when it comes out that is actually the case.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 22, 2020, 10:08:45 am
Crikey Newstuff there is no need to rant and swear. Your remarks etc show clearly that you are dead against any form of access control. " Permission whats that then ? ". I really hope that you are in a tiny minority.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 22, 2020, 10:54:02 am
Need? Absolutely. Playing nice gets you nowhere with certain members of the "anti access" brigade. As evidenced by the recent CSCC/BCA shenanigans. You should also know I've never said I'm against all locks, gates etc. If they're absolutely needed, and it's not at the behest of some individual/club/group on a power trip. Sadly the latter seems to to be happen with worrying regularity. If CRoW applies to a cave (ignoring DEFRA's idiotic stance), then that's exactly what Section 26 is for. You'll find I'm in the majority, it's just I'm more vocal about it, and I don't really care that I'm on whatever passes for an unofficial blacklist on Mendip. Others do care about not being able to access keys given some of the politics on there. Derby keys should be the norm, and deviated from if there is a need or absolute insistence on a lock, that is not pushed by a club determined to gatekeep.

As for my sig, if you can't recognise it's tongue in cheek to all the accusations of me pirating systems and chopping locks, then I'm afraid a Sense of Humor transplant is beyond my abilities.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 22, 2020, 11:40:19 am
Hi Newstuff. Are you on a blacklist on Mendip ? If you are I am unaware of it particularly as I don't know who you are. Of course, you are welcome to your views and to express them here. That's what a forum is all about. Yes, I am sorry if I misread your subtle irony. Maybe I would contradict your bit about clubs controlling access as that is quite rare on Mendip. I can only think St Cuthberts at the moment as the BEC own the land where the cave entrance is. That then is their right. Our current access " restrictions " work very well locally. No backlog of trips. Everyone appears to be happy. Some might even appreciate my dry humor as I act as warden and recount the history and geology of the caves. Ok, I might slow things up a bit ay my age but that I put down to conservation care. When Willie Stanton found the pure white moonmilk vandalised in Reservoir Hole he permanently sealed the entrance though relented sometime later. FCQ was closed for some 20 years but delicate negotiations with the landowner reopened the caves. Really we are still on a knife-edge there and any issues will find the caves closed again. In life what works works and any messing about usually leads to problems.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Mike Hopley on August 22, 2020, 12:53:21 pm
When someone has a different opinion, you should be capable of disagreeing without telling them to fuck off.

Holding a strong opinion is a bad (and childish) excuse for rudeness. It's self-indulgent obnoxiousness disguised as "strong principles" and "speaking truth fearlessly".

I'd like to think I'm stating the obvious here.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 22, 2020, 01:34:40 pm
Hi Newstuff. Are you on a blacklist on Mendip ? If you are I am unaware of it particularly as I don't know who you are.
Apparently so. I've been told more, but that would likely reveal who told me so that's as much as I'm willing to say. Doesn't bother me a jot. The fact that a blacklist can actually exist as a thing is more worrying. Most cavers do not have my ability to open a lock without any damage, or even signs it's been opened, and should they get on the wrong side of the wrong person because the moon was waning or they support a different football team, or other equally asinine reasons, means they don't get access. Now if we're being open and honest, it's a thing that happens and eveybody knows it, despite protestations that such a blacklist does not exist.

When someone has a different opinion, you should be capable of disagreeing without telling them to fuck off.

Holding a strong opinion is a bad (and childish) excuse for rudeness. It's self-indulgent obnoxiousness disguised as "strong principles" and "speaking truth fearlessly".

I'd like to think I'm stating the obvious here.

As stated, the recent shenanigans show us that playing nicely does not get you anywhere. The "anti" brigade are certainly playing  hardball with a thin veneer of civility over the top. I prefer not to pretend. I'm done being civil, I've played nicely for a few years out of respect to a couple of people that asked. It's obviously not working. I myself am a perfectly reasonable man. If nasty tricks were not being played, I wouldn't need to express myself in this manner. But this is where we find ourselves, and this is how I'll be.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Pitlamp on August 22, 2020, 01:45:21 pm
I don't think you've got the right end of the stick, NewStuff.

I'm a northern caver but I've never had any difficulty on my visits to Mendip when it comes to access. I've always found the local cavers to be friendly, helpful and encouraging. So I find it difficult to understand what you're trying to explain.    :shrug:

Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Bob Mehew on August 22, 2020, 02:18:53 pm
all local clubs have keys, which visiting cavers can easily borrow if they ask.
My understanding is keys are not available at the moment with all club huts being effectively bared for non members.  Could that be the reason for for OR's orignal post about "At least four Mendip caves have suffered attempts at a break-in recently"?

As for the state of Mendip caves - when did CSCC last have a push on cave conservation?  Sad to say that only one RCC has conservation on its home page.  Education is not the sole answer but it does help.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Ali M on August 22, 2020, 04:05:59 pm
Keys are available, but perhaps not as readily or as easily as in "normal" times. PM me for further info.
I have always found the CSCC extremely supportive re conservation issues providing both tape and Pig tail risers.  :)
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Mike Hopley on August 22, 2020, 07:29:23 pm
If nasty tricks were not being played, I wouldn't need to express myself in this manner. But this is where we find ourselves, and this is how I'll be.

How exactly do you think rudeness on a forum is helping, though? What does it achieve?

You're tarring reasonable people with the same broad brush. You're not hitting your targets, who are different people who don't care about your opinions at all.

It's easy to be angry and strut on a forum, but by itself that doesn't achieve anything positive.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Badlad on August 22, 2020, 08:46:01 pm
To try and get back on track - why do people think four gates have been vandalised recently?  Is it by disgruntled cavers or just non caving vandals?  What can be done to prevent repetition of the problem as it can get very expensive?
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Bob Mehew on August 22, 2020, 09:03:48 pm
What can be done to prevent repetition of the problem as it can get very expensive?
Although as Ali says, keys can be made available, you need to be in the know.  My guess is there are a fair number of cavers who cave on Mendip but are not linked to the 12 or so clubs who hold keys.  I also can't find any information on the CSCC web site on how to obtain them in the current circumstances.  Is the CSCC system fit for purpose in the current situation which looks like going on for many months to come?

At least CCC has a back up system for access to the keys other than via club huts.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: PeteHall on August 22, 2020, 10:27:29 pm
One of the sites with a vandalised lock was a very important archeological site. That in a cave not particularly long. I cant see cavers doing that in such a well-known cave.

My speculation is that this is a reference to Aveline's Hole.

An easy walk into a gigantic entrance, right beside and in full view of a busy road. Less than 50 yards from where hundreds of tourists park.

The casual visitor would easily be forgiven for thinking that the cave must continue a long way past the rather large and not particularly sturdy looking grill a short distance in.

If I am right about the cave, I'm with TOR; this certainly wasn't cavers.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Oceanrower on August 23, 2020, 02:05:03 am
Avaline's Hole must, surely, hold some kind of world record as the shittiest hole with the most amount of unnecessary stainless steel fencing shoved inside it...
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 23, 2020, 05:54:06 am
but by itself that doesn't achieve anything positive.

We've shown that being reasonable doesn't get you anywhere, so unless I plan on lying down and doing fuck all, this is what's left. Granted, it isn't all, or likely more than a handful, of Mendip's cavers. But enough of them that have an influence on gates, access, and politics are smearing peoples impression of the whole area by actions taken.

Avaline's Hole must, surely, hold some kind of world record as the shittiest hole with the most amount of unnecessary stainless steel fencing shoved inside it...

Ooohh... careful... that's the special baby of 2 of the most sensitive  stick-in-the-muds going. Word has it that they don't take kindly to the odd rumour doing the rounds that maybe the pictures suddenly appeared shortly before they were "discovered"... as no-one had seen them before in the vast expanses of that system....  ;)
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 23, 2020, 08:47:32 am
If you belong to a Mendip club at the moment you should be able to get a CSCC key. Some of us regulars have our own copy anyway. In my case more for the car park at FCQ. The route to access for warden led caves remains the same as stated in Mendip Underground. You apply to the keyholder who then sends out an email to all of the leaders/wardens. Clearly there may be a reluctance during the pandemic for such volunteers to come forward particularly for clubs coming from further north. It has been stated that virus transmission is far more active in closed humid areas than outside. ( ie caves ). Certainly, there is more heightened tension and angst about at the moment in all walks of life and that may well be reflected in our hobby. Many are now bored being on furlough so are wandering about looking to fill their time. It's no good going to the coast down in the SW now as on a good day its packed. I really hope people don't see us as a closed shop on Mendip. All bent on control and power. We try to be protective and limit damage to our caves. Essentially they are not great passages you wander down like in South Wales and Yorkshire. Our cave environment is far more fragile. I have taken many trips over my 55 years. I don't " lead " people by the nose. I ask them what they want to do. We had some Belgian cavers over recently. I took them into Shatter Cave. They had a wonderful time on Mendip and were very gracious in their thanks. Newstuff please dont give the impression that you are a beligerant anarchist. Getting a poor reputation never helps anyone though I rather think that you might be playing to the gallery at times.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: andrewmc on August 23, 2020, 09:10:44 am
I've not been caving that long, but while a small number of sites suffer from damage by non-cavers, I think the worst damage is (and always has been) by cavers.

Mendip tends to have lots of cavers, and lots of caves with easily damaged formations in fossil passage. Yorkshire - in general - has much more robust cave passage, but I would like to see more tape in some places. In South Wales, many of the cave systems (e.g. OFD) have been heavily trashed (look at the passages around Top Entrance, for example) but some are now recovering via the application of tape and better conservation education.

I agree that Mendip does love their keys where a Derbyshire key would also work in most cases, but it's also important to recognise that access is quite fragmented in Mendip - it's not like there is one body keeping everyone out. The CSCC give away their keys to pretty much anyone, the leader-led clubs take anyone who asks down their caves, Fairy Caves do their thing, Charterhouse caves have some of the most stringent restrictions in the country, and they all argue with each other.

Your position is not the majority, Newstuff - it's at the extreme end of the pro-access grouping.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Alex on August 23, 2020, 10:23:02 am
Since I left a largest club several years ago (too much politics and not enough caving), I no longer have any links to any of the clubs in Mendips. Though I know from the past the physical location of some of the keys, if the huts are closed or no one is there, how would one even acquire one now? No for me it's just easier just to avoid the entire area, except for hidden earth of course, when there's no one wanting to cave there anyway.

You can see why it seems from the outside it's like a exclusive club based on who you know, otherwise the Derbyshire key would be used more frequently or combination locks that can at least be requested quickly by e-mail rather than a psychical key that has to be collected physically using a special Masonic hand-shake (Well elbow bump now lol).

I remember a few hidden earths ago there was a cave wanted to look at, no mention of a gate in the guidebook so off I went solo. After a horrible muddy crawl that no member of public would ever do, there was a gate in the floor on the way on for some reason, waste of time that trip was. 
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Ali M on August 23, 2020, 10:55:32 am
Alex - I have been issuing midweek keys to people for over 30 years from our house in Priddy and hopefully this has been of help. I am happy to assist anyone who contacts me. Brian Prewer also does the same. The Mendip Caving clubs are happy to issue keys at weekends, while midweek CCC Ltd keys (G.B. & Longwood) can be organised via the CCC Secretary. As Nick stated many cavers have easy access to the Mendip key anyway. There should be NO problem in getting a guest key for the locked non leadership caves, but it might take a bit of prior organisation. We all do our best to help with keys, permits and information.

Re the recent incidents there has been very noticeable increase in the number of people on Mendip over the last couple of months and several non-caving incidents such as break-ins and attempted thefts etc have been reported.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 23, 2020, 10:59:45 am
Combination locks have to be accessible and more prone to vandalism. Mendip Underground gives clear instructions on access
( another being prepared ). Difficult times at the moment so hopefully things will get better. Any doubt re access just ask here. I am sure somebody will know.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Pitlamp on August 23, 2020, 12:23:30 pm
NewStuff - you said above: "We've shown that being reasonable doesn't get you anywhere".

I really don't feel that comment is fair. The experience of a great many cavers is that being reasonable is exactly what does help achieve what you want. The Mendip cavers are a great bunch and I'm at a loss to understand why they'd have reason to be anything but helpful with anyone who makes a reasonable request about access.

Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Jenny P on August 23, 2020, 12:44:13 pm
The important thing to be gained from this discussion is that there is no "one size fits all" in terms of access to caves.  It depends on so many things: the wishes of the landowner; whether the cave (or mine) has fragile features which can be easily damaged, even accidentally; whether leaving it open constitutes a danger to the general public; whether the site is part of a show cave; and much more. 

It also depend on the type of cave: a large open live streamway which regularly floods clearly needs little protection from damage.  Some sites have features which are of importance to science, although this may not be apparent to the casual caver who may accidentally cause damage.

The Derbyshire Key system has been shown to work quite well in many circumstances but it isn't the only system and does mean that extra measures may need to be taken if there is a particularly fragile section in the cave.  Locks and a wardening system may be necessary, possibly for only part of a cave system.  Physical difficulty of access, such as deep water or a very tight section, helps protect some sites.

Education does help and we need to do more of this, though cavers do now seem to be more aware of conservation issues.  Most cavers don't want to be told what to do, but are more likely to act responsibly if they understand the reasons for a restriction.

Most of us would want access to be as free as possible for all cavers.  However, what is vitally important is to ensure that, if there are restrictions of any kind in place, the reason for the restrictions should be made known as widely as possible. Also that the regional body should try to ensure that information is easily available on how to obtain the necessary keys, permits, permissions, etc. or whatever is required to access the caves, even if they themselves do not control access. 
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: 2xw on August 23, 2020, 12:48:34 pm
We should note the relevant section of the CSCC website which, while could do with minor improvements, is good:

https://access-guide.cscc.org.uk/
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: aricooperdavis on August 23, 2020, 06:00:47 pm
That is good, could do with some cosmetic polishing maybe, but very simple and easy to use. Most of the regional councils seem to have a database like this - I'd love to see this effort combined in a national cave-access database; it would certainly make life easier for visiting cavers, and also give new explorers a nudge in the right direction of how to go caving considerately.
</off_topic>
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Bob Mehew on August 23, 2020, 06:07:34 pm
The Mendip cavers are a great bunch and I'm at a loss to understand why they'd have reason to be anything but helpful with anyone who makes a reasonable request about access.
We should note the relevant section of the CSCC website which, while could do with minor improvements, is good: https://access-guide.cscc.org.uk/
But to quote back from https://cscc.org.uk/wiki/doku.php?id=access:access_news (https://cscc.org.uk/wiki/doku.php?id=access:access_news) posted on 1 August, being the first port of call for someone who does not have the personal connections that Ali M or OR (or myself for that matter) have

"Keys
Currently most Mendip Huts are closed and are therefore unable to issue keys.  The WCC and the BEC have opened to a limited degree.
What facilities are being made available are only to members or guests of members. Do not just turn up without prior arrangement."

Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Ali M on August 23, 2020, 06:51:07 pm
Point taken, but it does no harm to contact the Caving Secretary's of the clubs by email.  I am sure that the clubs will try their best to be helpful.  :)
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 23, 2020, 07:01:47 pm
I think to start with when lockdown eased up we did not want a rush of trip applications and disappointed people. Therefore the freedom to visit sites might have trickled out a bit. It would have been rather silly to have posted here " Mendip is now open and free to visits from all ". The Covid issue still applies and possibly caves are not the best place to be with people you don't know.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Badlad on August 23, 2020, 07:58:56 pm
I don't think all cavers are part of the caving community or club scene, as great as that community is for many.  I think there is a minority who don't want to be part of it either but do enjoy caving.  I've come across a few of these groups and they just come to the sport in a different way to many of us.  For those outside, access may look very different from the cosy, rose tinted picture that some paint and experience.  Just a thought...
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Ian Adams on August 23, 2020, 10:21:40 pm
Badlad has a good point …. (and is being very diplomatic – perhaps to the degree that his point could be missed?)

Access to (locked) caves may well be easy for those “in the know” (lots of different ways to be “in the know”) but may well be impossible for those who are on the outside ….


Here is a scenario;

The first obstacle that a “caver” needs to overcome is to know that a cave might actually need permission to enter (how many uninitiated folk might see a cave entrance and assume they can go in with a torch?)

The second obstacle might be to consider whether a cave requires permission to enter (or not) – assuming they considered the first obstacle.

The third could be to know who to approach if permission is required? (ie. who has the key?)

The fourth might be “how do I get the key”?


For cavers outside of “our” community, it is entirely possible they would not know to even consider any of the questions above.

Before each of us joined a club, how many of us wandered around (with friends) sticking our heads in various holes? How many had a gate? Did any of us know who to approach to get past that gate at that time? Did any of us know the names of any clubs or know of the existence of an access body?

There are also cavers who understand our “community” but who might not know who to approach (I think Newstuff has a club that is outside of the BCA and (as an example) does not benefit from the BCA’s (insurance?) policy that all member clubs must facilitate reasonable access to other members clubs (I am not certain that is correct and will welcome a correction). Such clubs/groups may not know of regional councils, access bodies, contact protocols et al.

There are also cavers who are IN clubs, and IN the “know” who still find themselves “locked out” because they didn’t know; for example;

... After a horrible muddy crawl that no member of public would ever do, there was a gate in the floor on the way on for some reason ...


I think the point that Badlad is making is; How could any of these “cavers” have known that there was an impediment or known what to do about it?  (again, please correct that if it is wrong).

As much as that is obviously not uniquely a CSCC/Mendips issue, it does strike a chord that the more something (anything) is locked down and micro-managed – the more you will encounter this (above) problem.

Ergo, it is more likely that vandalism will occur.

Badlad … please correct any mis-understanding I arrived at.

 :)

Ian
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Pitlamp on August 24, 2020, 07:05:56 am
I'd broadly agree with both you and Badlad - but I'd also argue that anyone with an interest in caving should probably be regarded as one of the caving community, whether or not they're in what many of us might consider the "mainstream".

Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 24, 2020, 07:11:39 am
Some locked Mendip Caves have clear signs with a telephone number. We have signs on the caves, on the car park gate, and the quarry gate. Hardly a case of innocent ignorance there.

Anyway --

Gone Caving

(https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/50262107282_bba580257b_c.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2jzuroA)IMG_3168 (https://flic.kr/p/2jzuroA) by Nicholas Chipchase (https://www.flickr.com/photos/96466079@N05/), on Flickr
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: mrodoc on August 24, 2020, 12:25:30 pm
Why cannot people just be patient? Things haven't changed since I started caving in the 60's when there were caves with rules and regs.  I started caving young and if a cave wasn't accessible at that time we would do something else. Building up experience is a wasted activity and by the time I was able to access some of the locked caves I realised why there was controlled access as it was nice to see cave formations that hadn't been damaged.  By being patient I got to the point where cave access ceased to be a problem. In a couple  of cases persons holding the keys decided they could trust me to be an ex officio leader.  In others I gained enough experience of the caves to become a leader. I was then putting back something into caving.  It is a bit ridiculous to state that nobody can find out about access to caves. If I could manage to do it (as a 17 year old teenager)  by writing letters (remember those) in the 1960',s I am sure most people have the nous to find out how to access a particular cave in this day and age. I hesitate to use the phrase 'do they need spoon feeding?' Although we joined a club when we started caving we didn't (my father me and schoolfriends) didn't actually go club caving in our first few years of exploration.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: PeteHall on August 24, 2020, 01:14:43 pm
If I could manage to do it (as a 17 year old teenager)  by writing letters (remember those) in the 1960',s I am sure most people have the nous to find out how to access a particular cave in this day and age. I hesitate to use the phrase 'do they need spoon feeding?'

I suspect it's actually the opposite to spoon feeding these people want.

I suspect that the types of people cutting off locks to explore a cave that has contact details provided for access probably don't want permission. They want to be able to blame the system for keeping them out and make their social media post look more exciting for the fact that they broke in.

I don't think there is any helping these sort of people. Except perhaps making an extremely high security decoy gate to a non-site and spreading rumours about what had been found inside and that it was so good nobody is allowed to visit; with a bit of luck, they'd focus their efforts elsewhere  ;D
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: A_Northerner on August 24, 2020, 01:53:06 pm
I suspect that the types of people cutting off locks to explore a cave that has contact details provided for access probably don't want permission. They want to be able to blame the system for keeping them out and make their social media post look more exciting for the fact that they broke in.

I agree there's certainly some people like this, to whom the act of breaking in is most of the fun of exploration. I imagine that some of them wouldn't even consider going in an ungated cave or mine as there's no challenge in it!
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Mike Hopley on August 24, 2020, 02:35:48 pm
Musing on Badlad's thoughts a bit:

I have a caving mate who started out as an urbexer. He ended up joining a local club because that gave him access into mines that were "controlled" and gated by the club. Then he got into caving and particularly SRT.

Before joining the club, he was considering just cutting off the locks. He has an anarchic streak and is easily riled by any double standards, condescension, or elitism.

Despite that, he's a really nice, considerate, and principled person. He's conscientious about safety and conservation, and receptive to education from people who treat him with respect. We've gone on Mendip trips that require keys, and he's been very appreciative of how helpful the key holders were (and they really are helpful, at least in my experience).

People's behaviour is governed by their personal principles and their social groups. When you're "outside the tent", things look very different. Imagine if you know a bunch of urbexers, but never met a caver. How might your outlook be then?

There's a lot to be said for finding ways to bring people "inside the tent" -- even if they don't want to come all the way in, but just loiter in the porch (as it were). It opens lines of communication.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Ian Adams on August 24, 2020, 04:53:42 pm
People's behaviour is governed by their personal principles and their social groups.


So true … and there are many examples of it on “youtube”.  There is a particular group of lads (I can’t recall the channel name) who make a point of “breaking into” into abandoned premises including tunnels and mines (and a cave). Their entire raison d’etre seems to be the publication of “triumphs”.

Anyway, the point being made (originally by Badlad) seems to be that it doesn’t really matter what “you or I” think … it is what is in the mind of the beholder. “We” may well think that arranging access is easy, or that patience may (or will) yield dividends …. The beholder may not even be aware that a question surrounding access exists at all … for instance, most of the caves in the Dales are just open holes … how would a group of friends wild camping know that they need a permit to enter (some of) the caves or that CNCC exists?

Mr Ruminator’s frustration is very clear and we would all (most probably all anyway) stand at his side to defend against damage to formations.  The solution (if there even is one) has to embrace the “thinking processes” that evolve in the minds of the people trying to gain entry.

Generally speaking, I wonder if the damage caused at “gated” caves is more/less/the same as damage caused at ungated caves?  It is probably an unanswerable question but it would be interesting to know.

Ian


Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Fishes on August 24, 2020, 05:58:59 pm
As an outsider I have never had any problems getting access to places in Mendip. It really isn't so difficult.

Lack of access information can't really be used as an excuse these days as most of us carry a device around that gives access to more information than you will ever need. If a simple search doesn't find it then you can always come to somewhere like UK caving and ask for help. In general access is easier now than it has ever been, although covid 19 is complicating matters at the moment.

If one or two locks were damaged then it might be down to ignorance. If a large number are damaged then I suspect it is down to someone with an agenda. They clearly don't care about anyone else or their property. This is criminal damage that can put ongoing access at risk.

The problem here is not Mendip access policies, gates and locks. It is a stupid, selfish individual or group who only care about themselves or their agenda.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Cap'n Chris on August 24, 2020, 08:23:05 pm
Ignore the rabid nutter. Don't feed it. Meanwhile it's worth pointing out that the C20th problem of not knowing how to gain access has been totally superceded in the C21st by the internet. The signs I commissioned and installed at FCQ were specifically done to appease the nutter brigade as they are on every entrance of note and provide easily readable and actionable instructions on what an interested party can do to gain access. Can't really make it easier than that. Anyone who has issues with it clearly has issues and is beyond help.

The caves there are jewels and a Derbyshire key would be a disaster for their well-being.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: NewStuff on August 25, 2020, 03:44:24 pm
Ignore the rabid nutter. Don't feed it.

Ah, the ex-moderator, appears. What disability are you faking this time?
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: glyders on August 25, 2020, 06:30:40 pm
As someone who rarely (if ever) can plan ahead for a trip due to work and family committments that change all the time, I find the need to arrange to get a key difficult. I can't remember the last time I knew more than an hour before that I was able to go on a personal caving trip - it must have been at least 12 years ago going by the age of my eldest.
So, I don't get to go in lots of lovely caves. But you know what, it's not a problem. Sure, if I could go online and fill something in and get a combination lock code immediately, that would be wonderful, but I get why the gates are there.
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Pegasus on August 25, 2020, 08:45:44 pm
Administrator Comment Cap'n Chris / Newstuff, please - It's been a long day, thank you :)
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: The Old Ruminator on August 25, 2020, 09:24:28 pm
Happy and Jolly Mendip cavers today. No key required.

(https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/50267818748_e04336e1e4_c.jpg) (https://flic.kr/p/2jzZHd9)P8250026 (https://flic.kr/p/2jzZHd9) by Nicholas Chipchase (https://www.flickr.com/photos/96466079@N05/), on Flickr
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Roger W on August 25, 2020, 11:23:45 pm
No need for a key there - your bus pass will get you in!
Title: Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
Post by: Alex on August 26, 2020, 01:01:41 pm
Quote
As someone who rarely (if ever) can plan ahead for a trip due to work and family committments that change all the time, I find the need to arrange to get a key difficult. I can't remember the last time I knew more than an hour before that I was able to go on a personal caving trip - it must have been at least 12 years ago going by the age of my eldest.
So, I don't get to go in lots of lovely caves. But you know what, it's not a problem. Sure, if I could go online and fill something in and get a combination lock code immediately, that would be wonderful, but I get why the gates are there.

That my man (having to sort it out in advance) is my biggest problem with gates with keys and of course advanced permits in general (which thankfully are becoming a thing of the past up here in the Dales, I really do love the CNCC booking system)!