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Using tape in Caves (was Agen Allwedd Trashed ?)

The Old Ruminator

Well-known member
There seemed some insinuations that photographers are a bit of a pest. That they should put up with roadworks tape in their photos. Well I for one certainly wont and for me it spoils the look of any cave photo. AA has been overdone to a point of nonsense . Do we yet know who was responsible ? Not only had the horse long left the stable but the lurid tape just ruins the good bits that have survived ( IMHO ). We had to protect areas of The Frozen Deep from the very first day and eventually used fairly innocuous white rot proof electric fence tape after removing the more traditional orange tape which looked horrible. Even then it was just to mark the pathways we had devised rather than tape off every nook and cranny. Our fixed aids, if you like, were two platforms added for safety reasons on unstable pitches. Both had large unsafe boulders on where any line or ladder would hang. When you start adding fixed aids just for the convenience of less athletic cavers ( and at 74 the climbs posed no problem to me ) you are in danger of creating a caving culture that expects such things. A process that once started that could easily proliferate in AA and other caves. To my mind both Shatter and Withyhill on Mendip have been over taped. Sometimes the actual damage done is insidious. Pillar Chamber in Shatter lost its sparkle years ago. Not so much from tape transgression but by dust from passing cavers clothing. As for shutting passages and caves forever that too goes against all that I believe. Sure have more control and " open days "but shutting things permanently is just daft. That brings me back to those pesky photographers. I have photographed every dig and discovery I have been involved with for nearly 60 years. More folk should do the same for how else are we to know what happens over the passage of time. I am still digging twice a week at different sites. Still taking the photos. Still doing the odd trip.


Active member
In the past there were some good threads about taping

One of the better was the following https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=16892.0



Huge said:
I wasn't 'implying' anything, sorry Jenny. I mentioned that in response to an earlier post which said that extensive taping was somehow old fashioned and that education and signs were what's needed. We don't know if the damage mentioned in OFD and Draenen was deliberate (I've heard it said a couple of times that The Trident was damaged when someone tried to climb behind it, up to a high level passage and fell). What was definitely deliberate in both cases, was the crossing/ignoring of tapes and getting too close to the formations, with the consequences that we've seen, disastrous in the case of the calcite raft. There's nothing that can be done to prevent deliberate vandalism but thankfully it does seem to be extremely rare.

We need to use all types of measures to minimise the change cavers make to caves and tape is a very important part of that. Taping is a change in itself but it's better than the general degradation that occurs without it. Reflectors may be appropriate in some places but my experience is that the worn path tends to be wider as people don't tend to stick  closely to a direct route between each reflector. So tape, reflectors, signs, education and even access control all have their place.

The story I have heard is that the tip was broken off, taken home and then the culprit identified by checking the day's trip cards followed by a visit from the SWCC 'heavies.'  I'd love to know what the true story is. I assume someone must know.

I haven't been in Aggy for a long time and due to Covid, I won't be again for a while yet but I don't remember taping being too over the top. Has it been renewed or added to much in the last few years?

As to tape, I'm with Huge on this in that I think it is a necessary evil. It would be great if education and signs would protect the caves but this really can't be relied upon. You will always have those who don't understand or interpret the 'education' in different ways to others. Some will err on the side of caution whereas others will think it's okay to wander over to a get a better look. This of course is something that will still happen with tape as there are always those that want to get a closer look or get that different photo. I did know of one person that advised newcomers that conservation tape was 'for guidance' so I dread to think what might have happened without tape. The thing is, most people tend to judge everyone else by holding a mirror to themselves when in reality there will be a lot of people far less considerate or thoughtful than them. Some will be okay with being told to keep to the centre, don't touch formations, don't take anything etc. and will heed this advice and proceed as you would. Then there are those that nod and wander off but then completely forget or misunderstand the advice. It's these that need the 'in your face' indicators that mark out lines of demarcation that shouldn't be crossed. This group may be small in number but the damage they can cause is cumulative and irreversible. Then of course there are the complete w@@kers that take no notice and go off to do their own thing and grab a couple of souvenirs at the same time. Unfortunately there is very little that can be done about these.
So, I believe that in general, tape has done what it was supposed to do or at least minimised or slowed the rate of damage that is seen in most South Wales caves. I have often wished I could see the caves without tape but I'm willing to forgo that if it offers even a small amount of protection.

cap n chris

Well-known member
The Old Ruminator said:
...Our fixed aids, if you like, were two platforms added for safety reasons on unstable pitches.

The hideous platforms in Frozen Deep have been described by caving colleagues as "the contents of a builder's skip nailed to the wall". They're an abosolute disgrace in an age of SRT and technical bolting alternatives, frankly.


Active member
I'm jealous. I would love to have discovered a HUGE chamber with lots of formations that I could potentially reach without buying a long haul ticket to south Asia. So, they've built a couple of useful but aesthetically imperfect platforms with the kit they had to hand. Why is this a problem compared to the scale of the achievement?

If the wider caving population wants to make them more beautiful (and want to pay), that's up to them. From the pictures I've seen, the platforms don't detract from the pretty bits....

The Old Ruminator

Well-known member
I cant say that I agree with my old mate the good Cap'n. Many cavers are still not adept at bolting and SRT though no doubt he would like to earn a few quid by training some more. As stated the platforms were put in place to avoid dangerous parts of the climb not as fixed aids which we see randomly placed in AA. Access to High Country required hauling up gear from the bottom whether that be a ladder or anything else. I cant say that I like this snobbery regarding ladders and SRT. Still that's another long running argument and going right off topic.


Well-known member
The Old Ruminator may be happy to hear that the scaffold pole aids have disappeared from the Aggy entrance series. He'll probably be less happy that the conservation tape is still there in the Main Passage though.