Birks Fell Cave Poll

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Have you visited Birks Fell Cave in Upper Wharfedale in the last couple of years?

Please respond in our one question poll...

Thanks :)

A gentle bump to keep this at top of the list for a few days.

Birks Fell Cave is an excellent trip (in my opinion one of the finest in our region). I was lucky enough to enjoy a trip last August bank holiday and loved every minute of it; such variety.

Birks Fell remains on a permit system. Negotiations over the last five years have managed to reduce the duration of the closed season but have failed to make any progress in bringing this CRoW-land cave towards landowner consented open access or a more flexible solution (e.g. the online booking system).

As we progress to a point where Casterton Fell will soon be on the Online Booking System (more news soon hopefully), this means Birks Fell will be one of the few CRoW-land caves in our region where permits are still required (and need to be obtained in advance and shown at the farm on-route to the cave).

Negotiating easier landowner-consented access here could be challenging. Furthermore, our permit statistics over the last several years have shown a steady decline in requests for access to Birks Fell (see newsletter 4 from June 2016 ( for some stats).

At the time of writing it appears only one club has applied for a 2020 permit.

Is this decline due to a loss of interest in Wharfedale in general, or Birks Fell Cave? Or are more people accessing the cave without a permit? We know Birks Fell is a tricky situation as it needs settled weather and low water, something which happens not too often, and when it does happen people are keen to take full advantage of with minimal notice, meaning advanced permit caves are officially ruled out. Instead, in dry conditions people flock to Diccan, Meregill, Black Shiver, Sleets Gill etc.

Is it just that so many other caves are now open access or easy to book last minute, that poor old Birks Fell with its requirement for advanced permits gets overlooked?

We are keen to get some idea for the number of visitors Birks Fell actually receives to know whether this should be a priority job for CNCC Officers over the coming year, or whether resource might be better diverted elsewhere to benefit more people.

Additionally, would more relaxed access requirements at Birks Fell encourage you to put it on your meets list, or consider it as an impromptu trip when the forecast is good? We'd love to see more people enjoying this splendid cave.

Matt Ewles, CNCC Secretary

I had some trips in here decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed the cave, an excellent spot. I am hoping to get a trip if we have a summer this year. The problem of needing to be in a club and getting a permit in advance are big hurdles to me as I am currently a DIM. Some of the peeps I do cave with are members of clubs, so I am hoping to get on a trip that way.
The online booking systems for Leck Fell etc. are really good and easy to use, so I am looking forward to the expansion of this style of booking. Open access and ensuring the cave of choice is available is a great way to go  ;D

Ian Ball:
Inclusion in the black book is usually enough to keep me away.

It's certainly on my list but it's hard enough planning trips - let alone weather sensitive ones with an advanced permit requirement.

Sod it, I will go and apply for one now actually.


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