CRoW

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
The BCA Countryside and Rights Of Way (CRoW) Working Group (WG) is seeking volunteers to help push forward its work to get legal recognition that CRoW Act applies to caving. This work is now focused on getting political action assuming a change in government in 2024 or ‘25. A recent debate in Parliament indicates that the Labour Party would be receptive towards such a change. The work will involve monitoring output from various bodies, drafting arguments, meetings with other organisations and lobbying. If you would like to help us or get more detail, then please PM me.
 

Stuart France

Active member
The BCA Countryside and Rights Of Way (CRoW) Working Group (WG) is seeking volunteers to help push forward its work to get legal recognition that CRoW Act applies to caving. This work is now focused on getting political action assuming a change in government in 2024 or ‘25. A recent debate in Parliament indicates that the Labour Party would be receptive towards such a change. The work will involve monitoring output from various bodies, drafting arguments, meetings with other organisations and lobbying. If you would like to help us or get more detail, then please PM me.
The next National Access Forum for Wales (NAFW) meeting is in Cardiff on Thurs 6th July (see pdf for agenda). There is an online option for which details have not yet been circulated. Anyone can attend these meetings, but not participate in the discussion there unless invited by the chair. Public attendees don't get the free lunch that is provided to invitees.

- The July meeting will be attended by the minister who may answer written questions sent in advance. The minister will provide an update on what remains of the Access Reform Programme (i.e. the one that caving was excluded from in 2020 that led to the judicial review case)
- I understand that the new Agriculture Bill Wales, which also gets an airing in this meeting, posits public access to farm land as a quid quo pro for future farming support schemes as part of 'sustainable farming'.
- A new Recreation Strategy is being developed by NRW and this is an opportunity for the Forum to hear more about its aims, objectives, process, work to date and opportunities for involvement in its development. I wonder, has it got an old strategy, and how was that flawed?

I'm not planning to attend it myself as Cambrian have been around the block enough already with questions put to previous ministers attending NAFW, and NRW has since largely walked away from caving in general, and NRW terminated the successful mines access scheme in particular, as did the Welsh Government at its behest; and the pair of them have generally been hostile and unhelpful from my viewpoint.

NAFW is not a 'forum' in the normal meaning of that word, where meaningful discussion takes place in an attempt to find agreed ways forward, and instead it functions mainly as a platform for NRW to talk about itself to such of the 100+ people on its mailing list representing the bulk of outdoors interests in Wales who attend.

It will be interesting, however, to see what the long-established Labour government does in Wales in due course if a future Labour government in England adopts more of a Scottish recreational access model.
 

Attachments

  • NAFW 75 Agenda 6 July 2023 Final .pdf
    36.8 KB · Views: 139

Fjell

Well-known member
In all these discussions I have never quite grasped why they are so actively hostile in Wales. Do you know why? I get the nature of the Welsh government in general, and is that all it is?
 
In all these discussions I have never quite grasped why they are so actively hostile in Wales. Do you know why? I get the nature of the Welsh government in general, and is that all it is?
I am not convinced that "they" are "actively hostile" [to caving] in Wales.

In the case of NRW, they maintain unencumbered access to Porth yr Ogof and caves in the Clydach Gorge, and have handed their long-established, albeit largely indirect, control of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu and the caves of Llangattock back to cavers...

The opposition by WG/NRW to recognition of caving as a legitimate activity under CRoW has almost certainly been a bureaucratic hangover from the DEFRA opinion - almost inevitable if there is no strong internal push for an opposing opinion, little or no organisational expertise in caving, and a scarcity of resources for a rather niche activity.
 
Actually, maybe free access to Porth yr Ogof may be down to the National Park rather than NRW, but NRW also provide access to the Sychryd Gorge (without much mention of its caves). The National Park, and the Geopark, don't make a big deal of caves and caving but do acknowledge their presence and probably direct quite a bit of work towards activity providers, DYO showcave, and caving clubs...
 

tomferry

Well-known member
Regarding nrw. I really struggle to see, how removing this cal access is a benefit. Just the cost of making knee bones secure would be huge ! I haven’t heard of many budgets going up …

Parc lead mine is so well traveled they will never stop people going. Cal was a brilliant thing we all had. it guided people away from a urbex style of mine exploring in these mines , to a more professional approach .
 

RobinGriffiths

Well-known member
I suspect most of the Welsh quango type bodies are running on fumes, and would prefer the quiet life. Unless they spot money making opportunities like Cadw often does.
 

Cantclimbtom

Well-known member
Regarding nrw. I really struggle to see, how removing this cal access is a benefit. Just the cost of making knee bones secure would be huge ! I haven’t heard of many budgets going up …

Parc lead mine is so well traveled they will never stop people going. Cal was a brilliant thing we all had. it guided people away from a urbex style of mine exploring in these mines , to a more professional approach .
Agree with all of this, but to be pedantic mine exploring hasn't (AFAIK) been included in caving for CRoW???
CAL was a great thing and we're indebted for all the hours spent by the directors.

That said I can think of a few YouTubers I'd like to see sent into Parc and other false-floored ones, there'd be a few less goontube videos on YouTube after that 😆
 

Stuart France

Active member
I am not convinced that "they" are "actively hostile" [to caving] in Wales.

In the case of NRW, they maintain unencumbered access to Porth yr Ogof and caves in the Clydach Gorge, and have handed their long-established, albeit largely indirect, control of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu and the caves of Llangattock back to cavers...

The opposition by WG/NRW to recognition of caving as a legitimate activity under CRoW has almost certainly been a bureaucratic hangover from the DEFRA opinion - almost inevitable if there is no strong internal push for an opposing opinion, little or no organisational expertise in caving, and a scarcity of resources for a rather niche activity.

NRW do not maintain unencumbered access to either Porth yr Ogof or the Clydach Gorge - NRW are not the landowner. The former is owned by the National Park Authority who have gone out of their way to be supportive of caving, and yes caving is represented on their Unesco Geopark Committee (myself at present on behalf of Cambrian Caving Council).

When I negotiated the 2015 access agreement to Ogof Gofan, this was done at a meeting at the Castlemartin army camp with myself alone representing caving, two staffers from the National Park representing 'recreation in general', the Major in charge of the army camp and his H&S officer representing the landowner, and two chaps from NRW representing conservation as the land in question is SSSI.

Each party made an opening statement, myself outlining the case for allowing caving which hitherto had been carried on cladestinely after a previous army commandant had banned it. NRW's Geologist for South Wales (I won't name him here but I'd like to make it clear that I'm not talking about the present person) started by saying in front of all these other stakeholders: "Caves are far too important really to let cavers into them". I can only thank him for his directness in setting out NRW's position on caving so clearly and for not faffing me about. The army position boiled down to "caving is like rock climbing but done in the dark", and as the latter is permitted then why not the former? The end result brokered by the National Park was an experimental caving access scheme which has remained "experimental", unchallenged and unaltered for the past 8 years.

ML is right to suspect WG/NRW will ape anything DEFRA. A past chairman of BCA told me that when he tried to negotiate directly in person with DEFRA officials about CRoW, that his meeting at DEFRA was icy cold, bordering on rudeness, and they placed caving beyond the pale (I paraphrase but you will get the jist).

If you've not seen it, then I'm happy to supply NRW's and WG's written defence statements in the recent CRoW judicial review as to why they didn't want CRoW to be applied to caving by the Court. These legal documents are not exactly very friendly towards caving, but are hardly State Secrets either, and so one good thing flowing from the JR case it is that it flushed these public bodies out from a position of 'ambiguous tolerance' which was their line at the Llangattock and OFD meetings which ML has referred to above.
 
Last edited:

Fjell

Well-known member
The military in my experience are always in favour of anything that sounds hard, nasty and thoroughly dangerous. I’ve been on military jollys. Once when I was supposed to be climbing I wandered off in the Pyrenees with some French cavers to push a nasty crack semi-naked and ended up covered in blood. Our dear leader thought it was just the thing.

Yeah, DEFRA. Always likely to be the nexus of evil. The biggie problem is that they prob have to revisit the landowner consultation all over again. Lot’s of work. Don’t want it. And they think cavers are more cuckoo than base jumpers.
 
Top