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Important - Access to Caves in Cheddar Gorge

Ed W

Already posted in the Cheddar show caves thread, but thought this was important enough to have its own thread.  Graham Price has posted the following to CSCC members today, please take time to read. CSCC is on the case and it is hoped that this will be solved in the near future, but please comply with Graham's requests in the message to avoid further complicating the issue,

Access to caves in Cheddar Gorge

Further to the decision by Longleat to close the show caves and suspend their operations in Cheddar, they have notified CSCC that with immediate effect caver access to all caves on Longleat property which includes the whole south side of the Gorge, is no longer available. This includes all caves and digs, and affects sites such as Reservoir Hole, Spider Hole, Goughs Cave, Long Hole, Great Oones etc.

Longleat are not adverse to reinstating caver access subject to an access agreement with CSCC. Negotiations to formalise an access procedure were started at the request of Longleat a few years ago but were never concluded.

Discussions have recommenced and both parties are hopeful of a favourable and positive outcome, however in the meantime all the caves are closed.

Longleat will be keeping a presence in the Gorge for maintenance purposes, but this is all. Approaches should not be made to Longleat or any of their representatives as permission to visit any of the caves will be denied.

Graham Price
Conservation & Access Officer
Council of Southern Caving Clubs

The Old Ruminator

Well-known member
I think that currently the less said by cavers the better. Contact was made about three years ago with Longleat but it all petered out. I suppose we all thought that it would go away. Perhaps we should think more about the devastating effect it will all have on Cheddar. The largest restaurant closed. The show caves closed all accompanied by some 40 job losses. Add to that the self-contained holiday park up the road. The closure of the railway line and the big mothballed hotel at the bottom of the gorge. Add C-19 to the mix and it all looks bad for the little town.

Ed W

Can't disagree about the impact on Cheddar village and the businesses and the potential harm from too much speculation.

This thread is merely to let cavers know to stay away from the caves on the south side of the gorge for, hopefully, a short while.  I can't comment on the previous contact between CSCC and Longleat a few years ago but the situation appears to be very hopeful and this is top priority for CSCC officers at the moment.

Things are happening and rest assured that news will be circulated as soon as there is any.


Well-known member
I presume climbing has also been prohibited for the time being. If not why not? I would suggest if so the BMC and BCA might be better off combining forces.  And you up north are worried about cave access?

On a separate tack the closure of the show caves could be interpreted as a ploy to put pressure on the authorities to allow the construction of the cable car system in the gorge they have been wanting to put in for years against significant opposition.


Staff member
Excellent comment mrodoc.  As a representative from 'up north' I can share the frustration and disappointment when long standing access arrangements are turned upside down by a change in the circumstances of land ownership.

I have long banged the drum at national level for a need to engage with our sister activity organisations such as the BMC.  It is usually only when 'shit happens' that you realise the strength and need of these relationships.  There are probably two major problems with your suggestion.  One is that CSCC have made it very clear that they do not want BCA interfering in local affairs, and secondly the BCA C&A officer is new to post and has yet to forge relationships with sister activity counterparts.

I would suggest that this is best handled at local level anyway.  BMC have both local and national access officers who are much better resourced than us cavers.  I'm sure the CSCC rep will be aware of who to contact and probably already has.  The BCA have helped with this anyway by increasing the public liability limit into line with what Longleat were asking for when the Cheddar issue was first mentioned at BCA council several years ago.  This was at a cost of some 8-10K to the members BTW.

'Up north' the CNCC and other caving reps meet with the BMC once a year at the Cave and Crag Access Group forum run by YDNPA.  We usually have separate issues to discuss but it is good to know the contacts and we have helped each other out from time to time. 

One of our four key missions is to establish beneficial relations with landowners and outside organisations, so we do try to do that as our limited resources allow.  Anyway if I can be of any help you only need to ask, probably best via BCA C&A group.  I hope it all works out and access is soon restored.

Ed W

MROdoc said
I presume climbing has also been prohibited for the time being. If not why not?

The issue is, as stated in Graham's original statement, that Longleat want a formal access agreement for the caves for some time.  The closure is due to such an agreement not being forthcoming.  New people are involved in the discussions on both sides and things are looking optimistic.

Climbing has not been banned as Longleat have a formal access agreement in place with BMC.


Well-known member
If that is the case Ed, any idea why the same arrangement the BMC was not adopted by CSCC.  I cannot see much difference between climbing outside or inside the gorge except that the general public are more at risk from climbers than cavers (dislodged rocks etc.).

Ed W

That is a good point MROdoc, and I should have added to my previous post that I agree with you and Badlad that we should be doing more to work with other like minded sporting associations when it comes to access.

I was only elected as CSCC Chairman two weeks ago and this issue cropped up over the weekend (at least I first heard of it over the weekend) so we are very much still in the fact gathering phase and I hope it will be possible to provide more clarity very soon.

Sorry if I am sounding a bit evasive, but things really are in the early stages at the moment and I really don't want to say anything that may be incorrect.


Well-known member
Ed I appreciate situations are usually  more complex than they seem. It is just as well a public and long establised footpath runs along the gorge on the Longleat site or I could see that being monetarised. You can get up the Longleat owned side of the gorge by using the footpath rather than paying to use Jacob's Ladder but most tourists probably don't know that. Charging access to natural features is not of course new. Becca Falls on Dartmoor are a good example as is St. Nectan's Glen near Tintagel. Whether you agree with it or not it is a fact of life around the world.


Well-known member
Minion said:
Is there a source of info on the extent of the land owned by Longleat, and the caves in that area?
Pretty much the whole of the south side from Cox's cave to spider hole (there may well be other minor caves beyond these).

Andy Farrant

Active member
Has there been any progress with Longleat for access to the caves in Cheddar Gorge? And does anyone know if/when the Cheddar Caves are opening to the public again?


Active member
This was published on Thursday