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Birks Fell Cave access update

CNCC

Active member
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Anyone who has been following our goings-on over the last several months will know that we have been looking into the current access situation at Birks Fell Cave in Wharfedale. This is one of the few access-land caves in northern England where a dated permit system still exists that requires advanced planning and caving club membership if wishing to obtain landowner-consented access.

Progress is being made to resolve this, and a report can be found here: https://cncc.org.uk/news/20211221-birks-fell-access

In particular, it seems the land around Birks Fell may even have been donated to National Trust by a caver, adding insult to the current situation.

We hope to bring more news early next year.

This is a useful time to remind everyone that for most of this year, the CNCC has been without an Access Officer, after no volunteers came forward. Other Officers have been doing their best to drive access forwards, but this has been a real blow to us after so many years of positive progess via Johnny Latimer and Tim Allen. This has hampered our ability to progress on some of the bigger issues such as High Birkwith. Our AGM will be 26th March and we need a volunteer with a little time to spare, who is familiar with northern caving, and passionate about improving access. If you think this could be you, please email secretary@cncc.org.uk as soon as possible.

Photo; Birks Fell Cave entrance, by Gary Douthwaite

 

IanWalker

Member
those interested in the extents of national trust's wharfedale land holding may be interested in the following GIS map

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/follow-the-history-of-our-places-with-land-map

a cursory cross-reference to northern caves and cncc website shows entrances in the same holding (same field even?) that don't require written permissions in advance. i believe this shows how irregular the old birks fell arrangement is.
 

mrodoc

Active member
I cannot see that donating land to the NT can be insulting to anyone. The NT is a broad church and I am sure many cavers are members even if they don't agree with all their policies. Down our way they probably protected us from having a cable car across Cheddar Gorge.
 

andrewmcleod

Active member
mrodoc said:
I cannot see that donating land to the NT can be insulting to anyone. The NT is a broad church and I am sure many cavers are members even if they don't agree with all their policies. Down our way they probably protected us from having a cable car across Cheddar Gorge.

I don't think it was meant that donating land to the NT was insulting, just pointing out the unfortunate irony of land donated (very reasonably) by a caver to the NT ending up in a bad access agreement for cavers, whereas other NT sites have very reasonable access agreements.
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
I suspect some folk have taken "adding insult to injury" somewhat too literally.

It's just an expression of minor frustration; it doesn't mean anyone's flinging insults around.

On a separate point, us outdoor types have a lot to thank the NT for, regarding access generally. Many crags are on their land and we climbers have enjoyed easy access for a very long time.

I'm sure the CNCC is able, tactfully and efficiently, to get the best out of the Birks Fell situation, in due course. (And thank you to those individuals actually doing all the work on our behalf.)
 

NeilC

New member
Pitlamp said:
I suspect some folk have taken "adding insult to injury" somewhat too literally.

It's just an expression of minor frustration; it doesn't mean anyone's flinging insults around.

On a separate point, us outdoor types have a lot to thank the NT for, regarding access generally. Many crags are on their land and we climbers have enjoyed easy access for a very long time.

I'm sure the CNCC is able, tactfully and efficiently, to get the best out of the Birks Fell situation, in due course. (And thank you to those individuals actually doing all the work on our behalf.)

Indeed, and to be fair to the NT, it may be that their hands are tied in this case. I know the NT warden for Upper Wharfedale slightly and I understand from him that it took them many years to be able to open up Redmire Woods to public access because they acquired the land with a sitting tenant, who refused to allow access, and was within his legal rights to do so. Now I don't know whether this also applies to Birks Fell Cave, but given the proximity of the two sites, it's certainly possible.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
I think mrodoc is overblowing the use of one word.  The point being made is that Birksfell official access is now one of the most restricted in the Dales.  It is on access land which has good general public access routes close by but still has a closed season and a written permit system for caving.  Perhaps a better word is ironic, it is ironic that this should be the case when it was a caver who donated the land to the NT.

When I was access officer it was on my agenda to renegotiate this but I never got round to it as I concentrated on areas with more caves.  It does look like now, CNCC is looking at this and I expect one way or another access will change here.

It is true to say that the NT consults with the tenant farmer on these matters.  Last time this was looked at he agreed to changing the closed season from six months in the winter to two months (or was it three) in the spring.  Unfortunately from CNCC point of view this makes little sense when no other activity is restricted on this land.  Policy would also suggest it is not possible to continue to support these sort of older access systems. 

I should state that I support CNCC but am no longer in any active role.
 

CNCC

Active member
It's funny how people interpret things very differently.

We thought this was such a positive story but maybe it did not come across correctly. The devil is in the detail of the wording  ;)

For clarity, Andrewmc's interpretation is how it was intended, and Badlad has suggested better terminology.
 
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