Author Topic: Some good news on cave access  (Read 37746 times)

Offline Badlad

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Some good news on cave access
« on: March 29, 2014, 10:33:47 pm »

The latest issue of Descent includes an article on cave access.  As part of the research for the article I corresponded with the Head of Profession for Access and Rights of Way at Natural England to better understand their position on caver access under the Countryside Rights of Way Act (CRoW), which applies to England and Wales.  An extract from the article follows below,


“What they [Natural England] have conceded is that cavers do have a right of access (under CRoW) to open caves and potholes on the sides of mountains etc., because they are in effect open to the air.  I believe this is the first time that anyone has obtained this view from Natural England or certainly realised the full implications. 

This means that cavers have a legal right of access to certain limited caves, on access land.  Although these caves do not offer the 'whole' caving experience they are a good place to practice skills and visit if time does not allow a longer caving trip.  So what caves are we talking about, certainly Hull Pot, Rowten and Jingling but there is little access restriction anyway on those caves.  More importantly this covers certain caves on fells that have a restricted permit system in place such as Leck and Casterton Fells.  It now seems clear that cavers have a right of access to the open shafts of Deaths Head Hole, Gavel Pot, Rumbling Hole, Cow Pot etc.  Where the exact line is drawn between open pot and enclosed cave is not clear and the reality is that it will be up to cavers to decide just how far they go.”


Access under CRoW does not require a permit or permission from the landowner.  There is no ‘closed season’ on the above mentioned fells under CRoW and members of the public may exercise their right to walk to all cave entrances and now to descend those that can be described as ‘open caves and potholes’.  Anyone with an interest may like to read the rest of the article.

Online Ian Adams

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2014, 11:05:18 pm »
Can you publish the correspondence please ?    :)

Ian
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Offline Jopo

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2014, 12:30:30 am »
Can you publish the correspondence please ?    :)

Ian

Badlad. Please consider very carefully if such correspondence should be published on a open forum.

Jopo

Offline potholer

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2014, 02:37:43 am »
Regardless of CROW, whose land are the parking areas on in certain places?

Landowner co-operation isn't necessarily just about people wandering over the land.

Offline Antwan

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2014, 08:48:15 am »
I read that as being able to decend the open air part of the cave i.e. The open shaft of Gavel, but not proceeding to the rest of the cave. In which case you wouldn't be able to do a massive trip.

Online Ian Adams

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2014, 08:52:16 am »
Is it "allowed" to copy the descent article here? (or place a link to it?)

Potholer has a point about parking - I would imagine that applies equally to anyone using the land under CRoW ?

Ian
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Offline Rhys

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2014, 09:06:04 am »
Is it "allowed" to copy the descent article here? (or place a link to it?)

That could potentially breach Descent's copyright and the editor may not be happy. Get their permission first.

Rhys


Online Ian Adams

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2014, 09:10:38 am »
Thank you Rhys.

What I am obviously trying to get at is, can we see all see what has actually been written "with our own eyes" rather than speculate (and debate? argue?) about what might or might not have been said and in what context.

Otherwise we are liable to see this thread go the same way as so many others and for a revelation with such potential profound consequences that would be a crying shame.

Ian
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Offline David Rose

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2014, 09:23:11 am »
Well done, Badlad. This moves a debate which had become a little sterile forward, in a very significant way. I hope other cavers will now begin to see that we should be uniting around this, and demanding more open access and an end to restrictive arrangements on CROW land once and for all.

Offline Pete K

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2014, 09:41:58 am »
Well done Badlad, an interesting development indeed.
With the BCA threatening to suspend my caving qualifications or sanction my club if I don't follow the party line, you'll have to forgive me for not running up the fells just yet. I'll wait and see what the BCA have to say on this information. Have you contacted the BCA CRoW Working Party?
Good job though, lets see if it sticks.

Offline Gollum

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2014, 09:53:49 am »
Well done Badlad, an interesting development indeed.
With the BCA threatening to suspend my caving qualifications or sanction my club if I don't follow the party line.

Sounds like your getting more like me Pete  ;D Don't let them bully you and never follow the party line. Whats the point in learning to rig if you don't follow your own line  ;)
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Offline blackholesun

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2014, 10:25:55 am »
Good stuff Badlad. I think it's very important to reach those outside this forum about this, and Descent is an excellent way to do so.

I'm not completely convinced about the first time thing, but that's somewhat beside the point and anyone can be forgiven from not wading through The Thread.

While we wait to get hold of the Descent and see whether the correspondence is published, I can provide an extract from an email I had with NE last year

23 April 2013
"It is the view of our Access Specialist that it’s pretty clear that in common parlance, the term “open-air recreation” wouldn’t be perceived to include use of areas under the ground. And this is what two different Defra lawyers thought (DEFRA’s view in 2001 referred to below). It might well be different where a large open cave sets in the side of a mountain, as for example sometimes happens in the Lake District. In such a case a person entering the cave still has a very real sense of open-air recreation. But once one is in effect disappearing down tunnels in the ground, it seems to me that one immediately loses that sense. "

Offline blackholesun

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2014, 11:11:36 am »
My last message seemed a little snarky at points. To clarify, I merely meant that, to those wanting to see the correspondence, this might be the sort of thing to expect.

I too, would like to see some of it, but there are a whole host of reasons why copying them here may or may not be appropriate.

Offline Badlad

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2014, 11:23:21 am »
I had a lengthy correspondence on the subject of access to caves with NE.  I won't be copying that correspondence on this forum although I have shown it to a number of confidents.  I have published on here and in Descent the crucial words about open potholes.  If anyone would like to see NE's view themselves then I suggest they write to this address.

Natural England
Open Access Contact Centre
Bristol
BS1 6EB

I agree I am probably not the first to obtain this view, and it has been hinted at in correspondence I know other cavers have received.  However, I haven't noticed anyone, especially from national or regional bodies, making this right more widely known.

For the period that Descent is current, I think it fair to let the article run there.  In a month or two I would be happy to send it out to anyone who hasn't bought the magazine if they are still interested. 

Offline TheBitterEnd

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2014, 12:07:30 pm »
Well done from me too. I think I quote correctly from the article when you say "cavers are their own worst enemies", I have simply never understood why, given a degree of ambiguity in the act, cavers seemed to be the most vocal in insisting that CRoW doesn't apply to caves*.

A good redressing of the balance!



*Conservation is an entirely separate thing and it is never a good idea to try to disguise one argument as another. The current permit system in the Dales does nothing, good or bad, for conservation and there are limited number of people who want to cave (try getting new members for a club) so it is highly unlikely that there will be increased foot fall. Non-cavers who want to "give it a go" are unaware of the permit system and so just go anyway.
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Offline Martin Laverty

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2014, 02:07:38 am »
I have to agree with TheBitterEnd that cavers are (often) their own worst enemies; a few feel a sense of entitlement to control others, some feel it a duty, while most just want the freedom to cave when and where they want as long as they cause no trouble to landowners or anyone else (with the possible exclusion of their mothers, adherents of the Mail and its ilk, and a few others...).

In the same issue of Descent is a link to a debate held at the University of Central Lancashire on "Access v the Environment: where do you draw the line" which those with time to spare might well have a look and listen to at :

http://breeze01.uclan.ac.uk/p4bytfh9mnz

It uses Adobe Connect (which will self install if you don't already have it) and is 2 hrs 17 minutes long, but you can skip around as it is no longer live. Most of the examples relate to the North West, but the ideas are widely applicable. The 20 minute section from 1hr 25min (There is no line!) is perhaps most relevant, challenging, and controversial in its idealist, and somewhat spiritual, solution...

As with CROW legislation, the debate does not explicitly cover caving (but the introduction included a picture of a caving group in a cave). However, it first address the American idea of wilderness which has, up to now, trumped sporting and some other environmental arguments over access to the multiple entrances to Ogof Draenen, and was probably implicit in BCA's infamous 2010 (re)statement of its position that CROW 'does not give legal access to caves, potholes or abandoned mines' (although, equally, it does not forbid access...unless, to quibble, you enter through a door, I suppose: fertile ground for a debate why we talk about cave gates and not doors, perhaps?)

I despair of  any sane native speaker of English who would quibble between 'open-air' and 'outdoor' in the present context (and any student of topology will see there is no distinction - QED). I can, however, see it as a way of prolonging the argument in the context of the passage of sumps...




Offline mmilner

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2014, 03:04:55 am »
I thought the article in Descent 237 by Tim Allen was excellent. Pretty much summed up the state of affairs atm, I think.

The term 'Open Air Recreation' speaks for itself. Any cave, pothole or whatever that is on CRoW land and is 'open to the air' like   the ones mentioned above should not need a permit or whatever. (Was  climbing specifically included? Can't remember now, have lost  track...)

But don't reproduce any Descent articles here as the editor (Chris) might not be too pleased and would most definitely infringe their copyright...

off now to finish reading my copy of Descent 237. (Excellent, as usual.)
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Offline ah147

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #17 on: April 01, 2014, 11:24:08 am »
Just to throw a spanner in the works from an uninformed mind...

Would an abandoned mine classify as "improved land"?

Offline Blakethwaite

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #18 on: April 01, 2014, 11:43:08 am »
Not sure that mine's have anything to do with CRoW. There are specific acts which cover them and I don't suppose the purpose of CRoW is to override technical regulations.

Offline TheBitterEnd

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #19 on: April 01, 2014, 11:44:57 am »
Not a "spanner in the works" but off topic. Mines are covered by separate legislation, The Mines and Quarries Act 1954. Mineral workings are excepted under Schedule 1 of the CRoW Act.

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Offline ah147

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #20 on: April 01, 2014, 12:12:42 pm »
Ahh OK. I did say uninformed mind :P

Online Ian Adams

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #21 on: April 01, 2014, 12:37:04 pm »
It is very heartening that this thread has remained positive and I do believe that "badlad" has taken a momentously positive step forward on behalf of cavers sat on both sides of the access fence.

I would like to personally thank you (sorry I don't know you personally) and I hope that your work develops and that we will all (all cavers) benefit with easier and better access arrangements in the good vein in which it is clearly intended  :)

Best Regards,

Ian Adams
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Offline Bob Mehew

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #22 on: April 01, 2014, 05:08:28 pm »
Not a "spanner in the works" but off topic. Mines are covered by separate legislation, The Mines and Quarries Act 1954. Mineral workings are excepted under Schedule 1 of the CRoW Act.
No it is a useful observation even though CRoW Schedule 1 states "Land used for the getting of minerals by surface working (including quarrying)".  I reckon that means 'open cast' style working not mining.  But you pushed my thinking along a bit.

Words are tricky things, so I am also reflecting long and hard on Sec 2(1) which states "...on any access land for the purposes of open-air recreation...".  One presumes that if the legal minds which drafted this statement meant 'in the open air on any access land for the purposes of recreation' they would have said so.  'Open air' appears to only modify / limit the meaning of the word 'recreation' and not the words 'access land'.  But it is going to take some while to come to any view.  I have just spent a total of 5 hours looking for helpful legal definitions without clear success.

Having said that, I am mindful that we do (well I do) want to retain good relationships with land owners because there are things which cavers want to do which clearly are not within CRoW, like digging on the surface of the land (see Schedule 2 l and m).  I did wonder whether to say anything as conducting debates on an open forum can be disruptive to such good relationships.

I guess I should also add that I take no responsibility for any one acting upon my current thoughts.  Yesterday evening I had quite a different view point, as Tim (not Tony) will tell you.

PS - I would have lost my bet on "I would offer high odds against a search of English laws finding something which mentioned "cave" and "damage" together".  Only because Lord Cave was a law lord.

Offline TheBitterEnd

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #23 on: April 01, 2014, 08:41:41 pm »
I guess that caving was a long way from the minds of those who drafted the legislation and my hunch is that they wanted to exclude vehicles, caravans, tents etc. However we are stuck with those words and ultimately only the courts can decide.

It also leaves me wondering what "closed air" recreation would be. Whilst I expect that Google would turn up some results I am not sure they would be relevant or be something I would want in my search history  :ang:
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Offline braveduck

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Re: Some good news on cave access
« Reply #24 on: April 01, 2014, 10:03:36 pm »
The opposite of outdoors and open air is indoors !
So enclosed air is also indoors. We seem to be looking for problems that don't exist.
Lets get a grip and move forward !