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NRW/WG have terminated the CAL agreement (again!)

It does seem a pity that Cave Access Ltd was so named as it has only ever been concerned with mines, which have more well-defined legal liabilities attached: the NRW solicitor, albeit senior and specialist (in what?) certainly doesn't seem to have appreciated the difference.
As far as caves go, NRW seem to me to be very accomodating having, for example, given up any pretence of active involvement with managing the caves of Llangattock while, in the adjacent Clydach Gorge, maintaining fixed aids (3 pairs of hefty bolts) to enhance safety on the approach to Ogof Clogwyn (as noted in Descent 288)...

cap n chris

Well-known member
As a general principle, the concept of "needing" a licence to go caving is a very worrying development, as it could have repurcussions elsewhere which we'd not want as a caving community. It would set a precedent which may go on to bite hard.

But thanks for keeping us all well informed about this problem - I certainly don't wish to interfere from up here in the Dales.
[Mods may wish to split this into another thread as it is probably a major digression]

I feel compelled (perhaps misguidedly) to observe that the principle of needing a licence to go caving, as a potentially worrying development, is perhaps little different from clubs needing every single member to join BCA before they are allowed to engage in any event/cave trip/social etc.. I don't think any real precedent(s) would be set by imposing a stricture that is little different to those which already are in place.

The offshoot of any such requirement is only likely to become an issue when the ever-increasing non-club caving world engages in their activities without the slightest observation of any prerequisites whatsoever. Therein lies the issue for current and future access provision. The internet has come of age and caving/mine exploration exists outside of the traditional structures, even BCA.


Well-known member
The difference is that the cheap BCA insurance has been facilitated by cavers for cavers - and brings many advantages. Being licenced by some random outside agency is the thin end of an extremely ugly wedge.

I could go into great detail but I'm not going to because, like you Chris, I don't want this topic to be hijacked.
I could write to the Minister in charge of the Landscapes, Nature and Forestry of the Welsh Government now to complain about the wrecking of an agreement that has worked faultlessly for 8 years with no complaints from either party to the other, but I'd expect to be asked to wait for NRW to make a concrete response (not a PDCMG-style one I hope). So I think we should give NRW a bit of time to present their ideas now the notice period for the previous agreement is over and their solicitor has set them up to deliver alternative ideas.

As to "licences", this is fairly normal practice to allow something to be done on someone else's private land. We are not talking about licences in the sense of individual cavers being licensed to cave like they are to drive a car. The PDCMG has a licence to cover Ogof Draenen access over Pwll Du Conservation Ltd's private land. What I had negotiated in 2014-15 for mine explorer access was in the form of a Property Deed which is much more serious legal instrument for land access over which NRW and WG perhaps later had remorse about signing.

The problem I have is when the sites we are interested in are on publicly accessible land where members of the public have access rights for recreation. I know the Forestry Byelaws prevent unpermitted mine access so that underground explorers are not treated as equals with walkers, runners , cyclists and equestrians (unless they take their horse down a mine) but that is a fault in this day and age with those byelaws and those should be reformed rather than circumvented using Deeds or licences or whatever legal instrument.

Folks, we have the same problem with caving on CROW Access Land too: walkers can do things we can't, allegedly, and we had the opportunity last year to put WG/NRW into the High Court to argue their case in front of a judge, i.e. that caving isn't an open air recreation and so it should be treated differently in law from similar non-competitive outdoors pursuits. Whatever the chance of us having a success then, we had some chance of success, and you-know-who just gave up after spending a load of money and allowed the other side to walk out instead of having to win their case in open court. This has served to embolden NRW and to make things more difficult for us. If NRW thinks bat groups are more likely to start a judicial review case and remain more resolute than cavers have been, then no prizes for guessing whose music NRW will dance to.
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Staff member
Regarding your last paragraph, Stuart - keep on banging that drum - and on, and on....🥱
I'm just being honest, open and realistic about the position we are in with NRW and what this implies for future dealings. I'm one of the three people who set up CAL and I'm assuming that I'll be dealing with NRW again in due course.

I was hoping, and I still am, that constructive suggestions from the caving community would appear here. CAL has received some good ideas privately by email; we're grateful for them, and it's fine if folks prefer to engage with us in that way.

But surely nobody can seriously think that the way the CROW case was brought to an end was going to be helpful. It's now the elephant in the room that the BCA illuminati don't want to talk about. The discussion about it has been erased. I don't see how that resolves anything.