Author Topic: Access - what is best practice  (Read 7612 times)

Offline Badlad

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Access - what is best practice
« on: November 03, 2015, 05:49:39 pm »

I was recently asked to give an example of a cave access system which demonstrates best practice.

What is best practice?

Quick and easy to gain permission? Non restrictive to types of cavers? Management of conservation and public safety? What else?

Who does it best?

Offline Goydenman

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2015, 05:58:46 pm »
Ones where cavers have built relationship with the farmers/land owners and enabled all year round access for all other cavers. Only restrictions being to shut any gates into fields and be sensible parking ?????????????

Offline Alex

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2015, 06:05:54 pm »
As Goydenman says.
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline badger

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2015, 06:49:33 pm »
a very open ended question. 
with a 100 answers.

Offline bograt

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2015, 08:16:54 pm »
I would go for one where all the negotiation and preparation has been done before hand, Landowner happy, Access Body happy, any Regional Bodies happy, the caver just has to turn up at the cave and go down --?

All the caver has to do is remember to take an adjustable spanner and BE SENSIBLE!!

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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2015, 08:22:37 pm »
I reckon it might be impossible to define. Best practice from what viewpoint might be a good starter. Best practice from the general body of cavers' viewpoint would be access where it's free, easy, non-bureaucratic, parking/changing facilities etc.. Best practice from a conservation point of view would be at the other end of the spectrum.

Offline bograt

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2015, 08:47:51 pm »
Good point Cap'n

Context is all important, so is region from the point of view of attitude.  :thumbsup:
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Offline Badlad

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2015, 09:09:13 pm »
Sorry I'll narrow it down a bit.

The question was aimed at what cavers think of as best practice.  Let's assume that there is harmony between the Landowners, Cavers and the Access Controlling Body on this one.

I agree that the Derbyshire key arrangements are excellent, but I was thinking more of controlled access systems that are run by a group, council, club, or association.  I believe there are between 20-30 Access Controlling Bodies in the UK - Which are good examples of best practice, especially with regard to how cavers in general perceive them?

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2015, 09:21:22 pm »
Thank you - makes responding FAR easier!

I'm biassed, but regionally (SW) I think the ACBs that do a good job, both for cavers and conservationally for the cave(s), are: BEC/St. Cuthberts Swallet, MCG/Upper Flood Swallet, FCQMC/Fairy Quarry Caves, CCC/Longwood, Charterhouse, Rhino, GB Cavern. There are others. In terms of caver-friendliness, though, the easiest ACB/goodwill arrangement is probably Swildon's Hole, where a token gesture of a solitary pound gets you across private land to gain entry into 10km of passage.

Offline Fulk

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2015, 10:46:43 pm »
How about free and unfettered access to the caves of East Kingsdale as a good case in point; you just roll up and go caving.

Offline bograt

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2015, 11:01:51 pm »
How about free and unfettered access to the caves of East Kingsdale as a good case in point; you just roll up and go caving.

Sounds wonderful, doe's it really happen?--
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Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2015, 07:21:29 am »
Here's an unusual example from my own experience (which I think I've mentioned before on this forum but which is germane in this topic). Many years ago I was fairly active for a while on Mendip. I was in the Wessex one day and mentioned how it'd be good to have a trip in Reservoir Hole. This was met with disdainful guffaws from the large group of Wessex members in the hut at the time.

They said I'd got no chance - the only way in would be to persuade Willie Stanton to let us have a key. Even local cavers had been repulsed (they said) so I might as well forget it.

I didn't know Willie Stanton and he didn't know me. But I wrote to him (as it said in published access information) and got a lovely letter back immediately which could not have been more helpful. On the agreed date we went to his house to collect the key and he gave us loads of useful information. We had a great trip and when we returned the key that evening we had a long and enjoyable conversation about the cave. He was a fascinating bloke to chat with.

Badlad's post above mentioned how cavers "perceive" access arrangements. The above is perhaps a good example of how incorrect perceptions can (paradoxically) be a good thing. Reservoir Hole at the time received very little traffic (good for conservation) because only those who really wanted to see it would make the effort of writing a simple letter.

I wouldn't necessarily give too much weight to how cavers "perceive" access arrangements as this isn't always a good indicator of the real situation. There are more important aspects to focus on.

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2015, 07:28:08 am »
Good point Cap'n

Context is all important, so is region from the point of view of attitude.  :thumbsup:

 :thumbsup: Spot on Bograt.

There is a massive North/South divide in mindset. In the northern region it goes back to the Lancaster Hole incident which set a red line on gating.

I can't explain the attitude down south but it's obviously very different.

Offline ah147

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2015, 08:25:30 am »
Holme Bank is owned by a commercial business.

First time you want access, turn up during office hours and fill out an indemnity form (only necessary for the person booking out the key).

After that? Ring up, key will be left in an accessible place. More notice is good but he'll move heaven and earth to try and get you in sometimes!

He's even dropped off his personal key at my house when I booked late one evening and he was driving past.

Small donation to charity for access too, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

If you want to get in when another group is in, he puts you in contact with each other to make arrangements.

I can't think of a better way to administer access to a gated site.


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Offline Peter Burgess

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2015, 08:29:58 am »
There is no "best practice". It's all a matter of individual preference. No one system is going to be necessarily better or worse than another. Unofficial unwritten access agreements might be good in that they don't require any formalities, but might be bad in that they can be withdrawn at any time without notice. A leader only system might be good in that the cave is really special and superbly preserved and you get special treatment from the leader, but might be bad in that access is limited. It's not a question that can possibly be answered with any confidence. So why are you asking?

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2015, 08:40:49 am »
I can't explain the attitude down south but it's obviously very different.

I'll have a go!....

Mendip is tiny - only about 160sq km - and it is within a half hour drive of the cities of Bath, Bristol and even less time for the residents of Wells, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet and Weston-super-Mare, plus the villages on the flanks. It is a weekend playground for a combined diaspora in excess of 650,000.

The caves are not extensive nor too numerous and most are in different private ownership or on nature reserves administered by various organisations, there are no long walks to reach any of them.

Combine the above with a strong conservation ethos and it is easier (I hope) to see why some are gated and locked; many are not.

Prior to the interwebnet it was a tad of a palaver to gain access; nowadays it is FAR easier.

Offline jasonbirder

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2015, 09:03:20 am »
I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you Cap'nChris as you talk alot of sense...

But I suspect the catchment area of Sheffield, Derby and Manchester surrounding the Peaks is significantly larger than that around the Mendips...and it is nearly all within a National Park and yet there is more of an open and easy access philosophy there...

Offline Peter Burgess

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2015, 09:06:20 am »
So why are you asking?
May I hazard a guess that it is in connection with the CROW news item in the recent BCA newsletter?

Offline caving_fox

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #18 on: November 04, 2015, 09:10:31 am »
How about free and unfettered access to the caves of East Kingsdale as a good case in point; you just roll up and go caving.

Sounds wonderful, doe's it really happen?--

Absolutely!
The only downside is that most of the caves are fairly simple (ish) SRT to the sump and back.

As a caver: the best practise for me is somewhere like Kingsdale/Swildons where I can just turn up when I feel like it, and go caving. The more caves like this there are, then the less likely it is that I'll be stuck in a queue because it's the only one easily 'open' in the area.

2nd would be places like OFD/CCC controlled where it's simple and open to obtain the key. More or less turn up on the day with a club and ask.

Anything that involves emailing/writing beforehand, let alone receiving a key in the post, is distinctly a 3rd option, but better than secretive if you know the right person type solutions.

As a conservationist, which I'm not but I like pretties as much as anyone else, then obviously some equitable scheme of reducing access to 'manageable' numbers is understandable, hence I've no real complaints about permit/keys.
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Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2015, 09:22:30 am »
Good point Cap'n

Context is all important, so is region from the point of view of attitude.  :thumbsup:

 :thumbsup: Spot on Bograt.

There is a massive North/South divide in mindset. In the northern region it goes back to the Lancaster Hole incident which set a red line on gating.

I can't explain the attitude down south but it's obviously very different.

Yes - Bograt has an excellent point there. And yes, the Mendip scene is quite different from up here in the Dales.

That Lancaster Hole "incident" was more of an "extended period" - and is a fascinating aspect of British caving's history. I knew the late George Cornes very well and his tales of that era were both hilarious and thought provoking.

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #20 on: November 04, 2015, 09:24:47 am »
I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you Cap'nChris as you talk alot of sense...

But I suspect the catchment area of Sheffield, Derby and Manchester surrounding the Peaks is significantly larger than that around the Mendips...and it is nearly all within a National Park and yet there is more of an open and easy access philosophy there...

It is marvellous :-)

Offline Fulk

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #21 on: November 04, 2015, 09:47:38 am »
Quote
How about free and unfettered access to the caves of East Kingsdale as a good case in point; you just roll up and go caving.

Errr . . . I meant West Kingsdale.  :-[

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2015, 11:41:32 am »
I can't explain the attitude down south but it's obviously very different.

I'll have a go!....

Mendip is tiny - only about 160sq km - and it is within a half hour drive of the cities of Bath, Bristol and even less time for the residents of Wells, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet and Weston-super-Mare, plus the villages on the flanks. It is a weekend playground for a combined diaspora in excess of 650,000.

The caves are not extensive nor too numerous and most are in different private ownership or on nature reserves administered by various organisations, there are no long walks to reach any of them.

Combine the above with a strong conservation ethos and it is easier (I hope) to see why some are gated and locked; many are not.
...

Your only talking about Mendip. And what you say only partly explains the 'southern mindset'.

Much of the Dales is within an hour or so's drive of both the second and the fourth biggest conurbations in the UK. (Manchester and West Yorkshire)

I'm not familiar with any UK caving region outside the Dales but I guess there must be caves in Wales that are as remote from centres of population as most Dales caves and are quite difficult and long caves. So most of what you say won't apply.

Offline meanderthal

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #23 on: November 04, 2015, 12:10:12 pm »

I'm not familiar with any UK caving region outside the Dales but I guess there must be caves in Wales that are as remote from centres of population as most Dales caves and are quite difficult and long caves. So most of what you say won't apply.

I would have thought even more so. Using the above example of Manchester, Sheffield and Derby you have a combined population of 3.35 million. Compare this to the entire population of South Wales (Bristol Channel to Camarthen in the West and Brecon in the North) being 2.2 million.

Some caves, such as Lygad Llwchwr are well over an hours drive from the cities and many (black mountain, pant mawr, llangynidr) involve long walks. Most of these caves have no access restrictions whatsoever and many are rarely visited. Having said that, many of the caves are not so far from the larger urban sprawl of the valley towns (eg Ogof Rhyd Sych and Merthyr or Dreanen and Bleanavon). It is mostly these caves which are gated/have access restrictions.

Additionally, the population of the Brecon Beacons is ~10,000 higher than the Yorkshire Dales and around 6000 lower than the Peaks. Couldn't find data on Mendip.

Population data from Wikipedia...

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #24 on: November 04, 2015, 12:52:48 pm »
In which case I have absolutely no idea.

Offline Simon Wilson

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #25 on: November 04, 2015, 12:55:49 pm »
O.K. let's not get too far off topic and let's not get pedantic.

Let's just say that the caving region of South Wales is probably slightly more remote from large numbers of people than is the Dales.

I am saying that there is a big difference in attitudes to access and the proximity to population is not a significant factor in explaining it.


Offline ttxela

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #26 on: November 04, 2015, 12:56:07 pm »
Isn't there a cave/mine somewhere that you access from the cellar of a pub? That seems like best practice to mje  :beer2:
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Offline AR

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #27 on: November 04, 2015, 02:03:24 pm »
Isn't there a cave/mine somewhere that you access from the cellar of a pub? That seems like best practice to mje  :beer2:

Hodgkinson's Hotel in Matlock Bath may be the one you're thinking of. A close second to my mind is the  small mine in someone's back garden about a minute's walk from the Barleymow, takes about half an hour to look round then it's back to the pub for beer and chip butties! :thumbsup:
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Offline Oceanrower

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #28 on: November 04, 2015, 09:12:24 pm »
Hunter's Lodge Inn Sink is in the car park.

Is that near enough?

Offline Bob Mehew

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #29 on: November 05, 2015, 05:56:58 pm »
I may be considered paranoid but committees running ACBs could change character, albeit not overnight.   What might be easy access today may not be so next year or in 10 years time.  Best practice in my view should include a cast iron guarantee that access will always be available and be subject to the will of all cavers.  The past 50 years has had a number of close calls where cliques or persons have dominated a given scene and access become restricted to greater or lesser extent.  But I also am aware of a fair number of restricted access situations having been opened up.   

Offline David Rose

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #30 on: November 06, 2015, 09:39:58 am »
One of the things that frustrates me is the age restriction imposed at many sites - including  all the Cheddar area caves such as Longwood and GB; Aggie and many others, where visitors must be at least 18. My son (almost 12) has become a keen and capable caver. We live in Oxford. If we want to cave somewhere doable in a day we are left with very few options: with the best will in the world, wonderful as it is, Swildon's Hole can get a little over familiar. My best practice would remove these curbs.

Offline droid

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2016, 05:38:32 pm »
Go to the Peak then.
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Offline andrewmc

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #32 on: January 10, 2016, 01:08:54 am »
Rather than getting tied down in the actual messy pragmatic details of reality, I am going to try and consider what you might want from an access scheme. How you actually achieve whichever of these you decide you want is left as an exercise to the reader... :read:
I'm going to start from the assumption that these decisions are being made by a body which has absolute control over the cave (they can give access to anyone or no one as they see fit).

Firstly, you need to decide a principle on which to decide access matters; I propose this could be either:
a) access should never be granted unless it is shown the access _should_ be granted, or
b) access should be granted unless it is shown the access _should not_ be granted.

Then there are various possible motivations for allowing or denying access. You may wish to restrict access:
1 ) for specific significant conservation reasons (delicate formations, bats, scientific interest etc, not just polish)
2 ) to prevent queuing/'too many people'
3 ) to prevent use commercial groups
4 ) to prevent use by the 'general public' (to allow only 'cavers' to use the cave)
5 ) to prevent use by the general caving population in such a way to give preference to your own club/group etc, either in return for managing access or as a reward for effort expended in the cave
6 ) to prevent use by less experienced cavers for non-conservation reasons, where that cave is suitable for novices
7 ) to prevent use by 'non-cavers' for safety reasons (dangerous entrance area)
8 ) to prevent use by, in general, anyone, for safety reasons that apply also to cavers (dangerous cave)
9 ) to prevent anti-social behaviour such as littering
10 ) to allow only your own organizations and other specific people to carry out a generally beneficial activity such as digging

I'm sure people can think of more...

I think access should generally be generally be granted unless it is shown that it shouldn't be (b), although I can see arguments for (a). I think everyone would agree on (1). I would only agree with (2) if a completely fair an equitable system was designed that didn't benefit, for example, people who were in clubs/knew the access people/were known in the caving community/were more experienced. (3) I am not sure about; provision should be made for both commercial and non-commercial activity. (4) I am not able to justify on its own - if there are safety considerations etc then that's different. I would hate to think that you can only be a 'caver' if you wear an oversuit, belong to a caving club and 'cave' in a prescribed fashion... (5) I would in general disagree with, but if that's what you want then at least state that openly. (6) I would also disagree with; if there is no objective reason not to have novices in a cave then I would argue everyone should have the same right of access regardless of experience (I can think of specific reasons though). (7) seems reasonable to a degree but things like the notices at the entrance to Porth yr Ogof (not actually been in the cave, just seen the 'you will die if you are not a caver!' signs) would be preferable to me than just a gate where possible. (8 ) needs to be treated with EXTREME caution, as in general people should be allowed to do risky but not excessively things (like cave!) but if the cave is a deathtrap and this is not obvious then some kind of restriction (even if again only a sign) seems reasonable. (9) is also a tricky one; I think there are sometimes existing laws and powers to deal with this? but sometimes some people do just go and ruin it for everyone else. (10) makes me concerned; I prefer to think that we all share rights and responsibilities for caves, and that while it is obviously rude (and therefore worse than illegal in Britain) to steal someone's dig, I don't like the idea that it is "XYZ's" cave.

To me 'open' access implies that a novice but keen and competent caver from a distant country who speaks no English should be able to read a (translated) description, rock up to the cave and get on with caving. If the guidebook 'tackle requirements' includes 'adjustable spanner' then that seems fair to me - it is easy for anyone to obtain, and it doesn't make any difference who you are or who you know.

PS As a side note it was a surprising, at first, how different caving access and climbing access are. In climbing a significant fraction of venues have 'unknown' legal status in terms of access (but have historically been fine). Some very popular venues are known to be technically trespassing but are basically OK-ed by the BMC because there has never/rarely been a problem, with the caveat 'if asked to leave do so. A photo of you climbing in front of the 'no climbing' sign at the popular Tirpentwys bolted sport crag (so about as obvious as British crags come) is de rigeur... There is a large section in the Rockfax Dorset guide (a high-quality professionally published guidebook) detailing the bits of climbing around Lulworth owned by an estate who do not allow climbing with the text on every page (paraphrasing) 'climbing is not allowed, this information is for completeness only! Outside of I think a single venue close to London, there are no climbing crags where climbers pay anything to climb. I assume the major difference in caving is that it is much harder to blow a crag up than just block up an entrance...

Offline RobinGriffiths

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #33 on: January 10, 2016, 01:36:04 am »
I'm going to start from the assumption that these decisions are being made by a body which has absolute control over the cave (they can give access to anyone or no one as they see fit).

Nice. Sounds like Maxwell's Demon.

Also I think to add to your first list: reasons to allow/deny access is simply
* To control access - as an end to itself, however perverse.

Robin

Offline Dave Tyson

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #34 on: January 10, 2016, 11:45:24 am »
Something which is relevant but hasn't been mentioned before is access to information. e.g. surveys. Although the situation has improved over the years and sites like cavemaps.org have helped considerably there still a lot of significant information which is kept hidden and out of reach to the ordinary caver/mine-explorer.  Mine surveys, in particular, tend to be thin on the ground - although mine abandonment plans can be found these often bear little resemblance to the current topology :-(

I am sure a lot of this was due to clubs wishing to control access to any areas on their patch and keep the results of man-hours of effort surveying to themselves. Who knows, if another group 'B' studied the survey then they may be able to dig a different entrance and  circumvent access restrictions by group 'A'. There is also the 'if you want the info then you have to join our club' tack to gain new members - although for some clubs even membership will not let you see the 'crown jewels' - you have to be a member of the inner-cabal.

I don't think there is an easy solution to the problem,  but if the BCA could persuade clubs to donate copies of surveys,  sources of information etc to the BCA library then that would be a start. Ideally everything should be freely available on the web, but the existing copyright laws fail to help, especially in the case of orphaned works. Maybe club librarians could make a New Years resolution to look through the historical stuff and make it available either directly or via the BCA library. In the case of documents where the author has died 'ophaned documents' then just bite the bullet and publish!

Dave


Offline martinr

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #35 on: January 10, 2016, 11:52:32 am »
.........make it available either directly or via the BCA library......

You mean like this? and this

Offline Dave Tyson

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #36 on: January 10, 2016, 12:13:23 pm »
.........make it available either directly or via the BCA library......

You mean like this? and this

I knew of the Mendip registery,  but had totally forgotten about the cave registry archive -  so it was useful to have reminder!

Sadly neither have any stuff on North Wales...

Dave

Offline Jenny P

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Re: Access - what is best practice
« Reply #37 on: January 11, 2016, 06:35:48 pm »
For the record, the Peak District National Park is completely surrounded by conurbations and it's been said that there are about 19,000,000 people living with an hour's drive of the National Park.  So DCA has a right job on its hands when it comes to access and satisfying, not only the CLUB cavers, but the very many cavers who belong to no club and just want to go caving with minimum hassle whenever they feel like it.

The Derbyshire Key system does work very well in that it satisfies safety concerns re. non-cavers having accidents down the hole and it's easy to include a large adjustable spanner in your caving gear.  However, this does fall down where the owner insists on some other system, which may vary from:
1.  call and ask permission - usually freely given;
2.  call and ask permission and pay a small trespass fee - quite common and causes no problems;
3.  go through some kind of permit system required by the owner, normally because of insurance requirements, conservation issues, concerns about liability, etc. - luckily not very common in the Peak but, given that it's more hassle, you can usually get your trip with a bit of prior planning.

As Bograt says, we don't have that much "Access Land" in the White Peak where the caves are and almost no caves which would be affected if CRoW were to be confirmed as applying to cave access.  However, there is a long tradition in the Peak of insistence on access rights when it comes to walking the moors (don't forget the Great Trespass before the War when some chaps went to gaol for trying to insist on their rights to walk in the open air), which is probably why Derbyshire cavers have voted at DCA meetings in the past solidly in favour of access to caves being a right under CRoW.