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CNCC Statement on access issues at High Birkwith

CNCC

Well-known member
To all northern cavers;

Over the last few years we have been keeping you informed about the ever-evolving situation with respect to cave access around the High Birkwith area near Penyghent (including Calf Holes and the Red Moss Pot to Birkwith Cave system).

Following some recent unsuccessful efforts to restore consented access post-pandemic, the CNCC has issued a statement to summarise the situation and our suggestions moving forward. We recommend that anyone considering caving here in the foreseeable future should read this statement to be fully aware of the situation.

Statement link below:


Measures taken includes clear identification of the access requirements and challenges on a cave-by-cave basis, and an appeal to you, as a caver or caving club, to get in touch with the Yorkshire Dales National Park to express your concerns directly. We are pursuing other access initiatives in the area which will benefit from the National Parks receiving public pressure about losses of access such as this.

The access details on our website for all the major High Birkwith area caves has been updated to reflect our statement.

The route descriptions on our website for Old Ing Cave, Dismal Hill Cave, Birkwith Cave, Browgill Cave and Calf Holes have also been updated to help anyone visiting these caves to have a more enjoyable trip.

Best wishes
CNCC
 

CNCC

Well-known member
In our 'Response to High Birkwith access situation' statement above, we urged the following;

Finally, we are urging you to write individually, or as a club, to the Yorkshire Dales National Park to express your concern about the loss of consented access to these sites. We suggest citing examples of your historic access, and/or include your perspective on the impact to visitors of the National Park that arises from the loss of access. Emphasising the importance of these sites as novice-compatible caves to initiating public engagement with the National Parks is a worthwhile angle. Alternatively, you may have a different, more personal angle to put forward.

Ensuring the National Parks are aware of the strength of feeling on this matter will be very helpful to us in exploring other avenues and alternative solutions to this situation.

There are various contact details on the YDNP website.

A massive THANK YOU to everyone who has been in touch with the National Park, either in a personal capacity or as a club/group. We understand that quite a lot of correspondence has been received and it is being noticed at high level. Not only does this get the matter onto meeting agendas, but it also helps us in the other initiatives we are currently pursuing to improve the situation.

So, if you didn't contact the National Park thinking it wouldn't make any difference... we can assure you this is not the case!

Please do keep writing/emailing to express your concern. Citing of personal stories about these caves is particularly helpful, and in particular, emphasising the importance of these caves to introducing people to caving. There may be a tendency for the National Parks to suggest that this loss of access is inconsequential given the many hundreds of other caves in the National Park, but as we all know, the caves of High Birkwith are some of the best for introducing people to caving; and perhaps even a lifelong passion for outdoor recreation.

Naturally, CNCC has sent a letter to the National Park; But hearing from individuals and clubs, by email or post, will help drive the importance of this matter home.

Whether the National Park are able to help in this matter, we don't know, but they are very well placed to try!
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Thanks for this latest update.

The original post advises us to obtain contact details from the YDNP website.

But would it be better if we had a specific name to address this directly to (the officer dealing with this case)? Does (s)he he have a direct email address? If someone could post definitive information here on contact details (i.e. make it easy for everybody) then perhaps more communications would be made?
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, info@ is fine. Your letter will be noted. If you'd prefer a name use David Butterworth, Chief Executive. He is a nice chap and sits at the top.

It was confirmed to me today that emails were being received and taken notice of. That is a good response. I tabled a question to today's YDNP LAF meeting so this issue is now well on the radar. It doesn't mean that the NP will be in a position to do anything but if they weren't written to then there would be even less chance.
 

aricooperdavis

Moderator
I've had a reply which was sympathetic but noted that 'As there is currently no statutory access to caving, access needs to be through voluntary agreement'.

The correspondent did note, though, that 'It is possible to apply to the surveying authority (in this case NYCC) to claim an unrecorded public right of way if that right of way meets certain criteria. Further detail on this is available at https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/definitive-map-public-rights-way '.

I presume, given that the landowner has previously authorised access, this route is not available?
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Different landowner though. (Although he did allow caving access briefly before some non caver really upset him.)

I got what I suspect was the same reply as you, from a Rachel Briggs "on behalf of David Butterworth".

At least we got a replies . . . .
 

grahams

Active member
The Ramblers site states the following:

Claiming a right of way using user evidence
In order to make a claim for a right of way based on public use, the law (section 31 of the Highways Act 1980) requires that you’re able to show all of the following:

A period of at least 20 years’ uninterrupted use by the public. This is counted backwards either from the date when the public’s right to use the way was called into question (for example, when somebody locked a gate across the path) or, if the public's right to use the path hasn’t been called into question, from the date of your DMMO application.
Use must be 'as of right', which means without secrecy, force, or the express permission of the landowner. But there's no need for the public to have believed it was a right of way they were using, or for the landowner to be aware that public use was taking place, provided he could be aware of it if he chose to look, i.e. not by stealth.
Use must be by the public at large, not just certain tenants or employees of an estate.
Use must follow a linear route.
In some circumstances it may be possible to establish a right of way on the basis of use by the public over a period less than 20 years under common law.


As far as I can see, all of those conditions are met. Calf Holes even has its own stile.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
Access to Calf Holes is still consented as far as I know. Different owner to that of Browgill for example. Ownership boundaries were not well understood until quite recently. (by cavers)

As I understand it the owner at High Birkwith closed all access routes on his land for one day last year. This was precisely to prevent any claims of rights of way.

Plus - you are then getting into the murky world of claiming a right of way to a cave and then into it. Once underground, ownership is well laid out in law, but rights of way underground would be a whole new ball game.
 

CNCC

Well-known member
We are pleased to confirm with the landowner that parking for cavers at Low Birkwith Farm remains available (as originally advertised in CNCC Newsletter #10). We were not sure whether this arrangement was still available (especially after the Pandemic, and all the issues at High Birkwith) however, our chairman has called up and confirmed that cavers are very welcome.

Low Birkwith Farm can be reached via the farm track (navigable to most vehicles) on the left just before you reach High Birkwith Farm.

Please park in front of the stone barn wall where there is an honesty box for payment attached to the wall as shown below.

Low Birkwith parking 1 (Andrew Hinde).JPG


Low Birkwith parking 2 (Andrew Hinde).JPG


The fee is £5 for cars, £15 for minibuses. Please bring an envelope and put the cash into this, write your registration number on the front, and post this into the honesty box.

There is no need to call at the farm, but if anyone is around in the farmyard, do say hello (they are very friendly).

Parking at Low Birkwith means it is less than 1km (15 min walk) to most of the High Birkwith area caves via a footpath that runs initially along the side of Coppy Gill to High Birkwith Farm (cutting the corner and avoiding a walk back along the farm track). This is instead of the 3km approach from the free parking on Alum Pot green lane at Selside.
 

richardg

Active member
We are pleased to confirm with the landowner that parking for cavers at Low Birkwith Farm remains available (as originally advertised in CNCC Newsletter #10). We were not sure whether this arrangement was still available (especially after the Pandemic, and all the issues at High Birkwith) however, our chairman has called up and confirmed that cavers are very welcome.

Low Birkwith Farm can be reached via the farm track (navigable to most vehicles) on the left just before you reach High Birkwith Farm.

Please park in front of the stone barn wall where there is an honesty box for payment attached to the wall as shown below.

View attachment 14862

View attachment 14863

The fee is £5 for cars, £15 for minibuses. Please bring an envelope and put the cash into this, write your registration number on the front, and post this into the honesty box.

There is no need to call at the farm, but if anyone is around in the farmyard, do say hello (they are very friendly).

Parking at Low Birkwith means it is less than 1km (15 min walk) to most of the High Birkwith area caves via a footpath that runs initially along the side of Coppy Gill to High Birkwith Farm (cutting the corner and avoiding a walk back along the farm track). This is instead of the 3km approach from the free parking on Alum Pot green lane at Selside.
Well Done!!
 

IanWalker

Active member
We are pleased to confirm with the landowner that parking for cavers at Low Birkwith Farm remains available (as originally advertised in CNCC Newsletter #10). We were not sure whether this arrangement was still available (especially after the Pandemic, and all the issues at High Birkwith) however, our chairman has called up and confirmed that cavers are very welcome.

Low Birkwith Farm can be reached via the farm track (navigable to most vehicles) on the left just before you reach High Birkwith Farm.

Please park in front of the stone barn wall where there is an honesty box for payment attached to the wall as shown below.

The fee is £5 for cars, £15 for minibuses. Please bring an envelope and put the cash into this, write your registration number on the front, and post this into the honesty box.

There is no need to call at the farm, but if anyone is around in the farmyard, do say hello (they are very friendly).

Parking at Low Birkwith means it is less than 1km (15 min walk) to most of the High Birkwith area caves via a footpath that runs initially along the side of Coppy Gill to High Birkwith Farm (cutting the corner and avoiding a walk back along the farm track). This is instead of the 3km approach from the free parking on Alum Pot green lane at Selside.
Parked at Low Birkwith for the first time this weekend - would recommend. Nice firm dry parking / changing area (not the shitty farmyards you sometimes encounter). Very friendly farmer who was happy to chat. Even got his tractor and jump leads to restart our motor with a flat battery.

FYI - the wooden stile at the woods between Low and High Birkwith is in a terrible condition, as is the one into Calf Holes.

FYI FYI - dead sheep at Calf Holes entrance (currently in the river but no doubt will soon be washed into the cave)
 

huwg

New member
Parked at Low Birkwith for the first time this weekend - would recommend. Nice firm dry parking / changing area (not the shitty farmyards you sometimes encounter). Very friendly farmer who was happy to chat. Even got his tractor and jump leads to restart our motor with a flat battery.

FYI - the wooden stile at the woods between Low and High Birkwith is in a terrible condition, as is the one into Calf Holes.

FYI FYI - dead sheep at Calf Holes entrance (currently in the river but no doubt will soon be washed into the cave)
Sheep update, one 10m upstream of entrance by side of stream, and one slightly downstream of entrance. Hard to miss the smell.
 

Fjell

Active member
Sheep update, one 10m upstream of entrance by side of stream, and one slightly downstream of entrance. Hard to miss the smell.
Carnage.

WRT claiming paths, this is the main reason landowners put up signs, not necessarily because they actually care if you are there (usually). On the other hand trespass is not actually a crime, they can technically sue for the value of enjoying the view or something - so obviously never. It is zero consequence if you have a thick enough skin.

There is a history of cavers writing guide books that state you need to ask permission from such and such farmer. Bit of an icky problem that you would think.
 
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