Author Topic: Letter by Malc Foyle to the Wessex Journal- posted here with permission  (Read 3054 times)

Offline tamarmole

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It never ceases to amaze me that in a tiny, overpopulated country like ours that we, as a society, allow individuals to own large tracts of land for their sole, personal benefit and gain with little if any societal benefit.  In the words of Gerrard Winstanley (17th century digger) "The earth is a common treasury for all".

Offline Cap'n Chris

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It's known as owning stuff. Quite common in a capitalist economy. Thank goodness we don't live in a socialist hell.

Offline andrewmc

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There are plenty of people willing to moan about the CSCC.

But unlike many of the ACBs etc., they are at least maintaining the pretence of democracy. I say 'pretence' only because it isn't really democracy if only one set of people volunteer (and that's not the volunteers' fault!).

If you don't like it, convince a few clubs and stand for a position! You could even (if you wanted) try and change the CSCC constitution.
Or you could even just turn up and cause trouble by vetoing everything, if you can convince a club to let you. There are something like 40 CSCC clubs, but the vast majority never turn up. It wouldn't be too hard, if you had the numbers, to institute electronic voting or even individual membership (I would suggest that you agreed with the BCA that every BCA individual member has the option to join the CSCC but membership would automatically be revoked if they became an individual member of another regional council; the other regional councils could then, in the fullness of time, follow suit). Apart from the veto of course, which you'd have to get rid of first (but you could probably just dissolve and reform the CSCC with a new constitution).

You could do anything - IF you are willing to stand behind what you believe and put the work in (and can convince others of this). I am reticent to criticise volunteers, even if I don't agree with them, who have stood up and done jobs that no-one else has volunteered to do.

Offline Pete K

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Somebody a while back asked why caves were closed on Mendip.
TO be honest mrodoc, I was really interested in the specifics for each closed site. There are often general comments thrown around about landowners being wary of people on their land etc. but very few (if any) specific examples that I have heard.

Quote
One (tongue in cheek suggestion) is the BCA continues with the CROW case but sets up a fighting  fund to buy the land over all the caves we might risk losing access to down south. Seems only fair!
Appreciate that this isn't a serious suggestion, but the issue here, much like the issue of exorbitant access fees is that it sets a very dangerous precedent. If BCA (or any caving body) were to buy a site to secure an access that had been denied, other landowners may see an opportunity to demand a huge sum of money or the will close their site too. Currently, there is more financial incentive for landowners to allow access (Prid is a good example, but many other landowners charge a trespass or parking fee), than there is to deny access. If BCA had a dedicated fund for buying closed caves, there would be a strong incentive for landowners to effectively ransom their caves.

Just to come back on this point quickly. The BMC have purchased land for climbing for a number of years and as far as I am aware, what you suggest has not come to pass for them. They do have a significantly higher membership and budget, so buying caves may not be possible for other reasons anyway.

Offline fi

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Most farmers don't seem to be keen on selling a small part of a field... remember, it's their land and any attempt to force them to give access across it may well have a detrimental effect (same as if someone tried to force you to let all and sundry walk across your garden).

Offline mrodoc

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What it would be good is to have specific support from BCA (rather than a regional body) when dealing with organizations such as councils or governing bodies. We have a very promising dig site in Devon on Highways land but local cavers are scared of asking permission to dig there despite my suggesting that a proposal with a risk assessment might do the job.  There are sites we know of (OR knows one) where our regional representatives appear unable or unwilling to assist with such issues. I know this is just a forum but perhaps somebody knows BCA's position with this.

Offline Fjell

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The BCA probably has enough cash in the bank to buy 20 acres of good farmland, or half the Pennines. You can then lease it back to a farmer. This sort of thing goes on all the time in farming. You should see what a hodgepotch of fields some farmers operate. Some are miles apart.
The BMC has bought several crags.

Offline PeteHall

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Can we please leave out the comparisons of farm land to a private garden  :wall:

Yes, as far as ownership goes, the two are alike (except that one is typically owned by a (family?) business, the other by an individual), but the comparison ends there.

A private garden is a tiny piece of land immediately adjacent to your home, it is part of your home, no different to your front room, but without a roof.

Agricultural land by its very nature occupies huge areas of open countryside, it is not used to dry the laundry, store your bike, let the kids play unsupervised, leave the family dog/ cat/ rabbit/ guinea pig, relax in a hot tub, have a BBQ, wash your caving kit, sun bathe etc.

Agricultural land is a source of income for a farmer, they have a private garden too just like the rest of us (only probably a lot bigger than most as space is less of a premium), the two are separate and very different.

I'm not suggesting that this in any way devalues the ownership, or rights of the owner, however the implications of access are very different.

And let's be clear, nobody is trying to force them to allow access anyway. On CRoW land, there is an established right of access already, where public footpaths exist, there is an established right of access already. Where neither of these apply, access arrangements are negotiated in such a way as is acceptable to both sides.

If a land owner really didn't want cavers on their land, they would be very unlikely to sell it regardless.
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Offline PeteHall

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We have a very promising dig site in Devon on Highways land but local cavers are scared of asking permission to dig there d

Off topic, but drop me a PM with the details if you like. We have plenty of contacts at Devon Highways and may be able to get something in front of a sympathetic pair of eyes...

You may need to design the entrance as an access manhole, and go through a formal adoption process, but that shouldn't be too challenging. I have caving colleagues who could probably assist with this process.
The distance between stupidity and genius is measured only by success.

Offline 2xw

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Quote
You could do anything - IF you are willing to stand behind what you believe and put the work in (and can convince others of this). I am reticent to criticise volunteers, even if I don't agree with them, who have stood up and done jobs that no-one else has volunteered to do.

You may well have changed your mind by the end of your term.

Offline mikem

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This isn't his first year on BCA council.

Offline mrodoc

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Can we please leave out the comparisons of farm land to a private garden  :wall:

I am glad to see somebody else voice this opinion. This comment has been thrown at me in the past (in relation to hang gliding in fact).

Offline Bob Mehew

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Apologies for being off topic but
I know this is just a forum but perhaps somebody knows BCA's position with this.
BCA's constitution states at sub section 10.1 that "The Association shall not interfere in the affairs of a Member unless specifically requested to do so by that Member. The Association shall not mediate between Members unless requested by them in writing to do so."  But if DCUC and what ever club / potential ACB was involved, invited BCA to help, then I am sure it would provide support.  And that would include financial support via the RCC, see https://british-caving.org.uk/wiki3/lib/exe/fetch.php?media=about:documents:accounts:bca_regional_council_funding_2020.pdf  .  What I suspect at least one region would object to is BCA itself negotiating an access agreement directly with a land owner.  If you don't ask .....

Offline 2xw

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This isn't his first year on BCA council.

I know, I was there. That just makes his comment more surprising

Offline mikem

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Thing is the "new blood" has managed a lot of changes, to the point where neither side is happy now - one lot thinks it hasn't gone far enough, the other too far!
« Last Edit: June 29, 2020, 02:49:00 pm by mikem »

Offline mikem

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Can we please leave out the comparisons of farm land to a private garden  :wall:

I am glad to see somebody else voice this opinion. This comment has been thrown at me in the past (in relation to hang gliding in fact).
Legally the situation is exactly the same though, you are presumably trespassing. However, if you cause damage (crash landing / digging) it becomes a criminal offence. Morally it's not so great.

Offline mrodoc

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Actually that has made me think. I wonder if CROW applies to hang gliding or paragliding? If not perhaps BCA could combine forces with the BHGA or whatever it is called nowadays. A sort of up and under approach ;)

Offline Robert Scott

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  If we want continued (and improved) access then we need to look at what we can do for the farmer (cash for access isn't everything). 
The one thing that people with ill-intent such stealing a quad from a farm don't want is to be spotted by other people. So if the farmer has honest cavers crossing the land it might deter thieves or spot them in the act. There's something to offer.
Apologies for diverting from the intent of Malc's letter.

Offline tamarmole

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The BCA probably has enough cash in the bank to buy 20 acres of good farmland, or half the Pennines. You can then lease it back to a farmer. This sort of thing goes on all the time in farming. You should see what a hodgepotch of fields some farmers operate. Some are miles apart.
The BMC has bought several crags.

Possibly even closer to home are the activities of the Cambrian Mines Trust who (amongst other things) managed to acquire ownership of Cwmystyth mine in mid Wales which was a "no access" site and who now operate a very positive access policy.

Offline mikem

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If there's no perceived value in a mining site then owners are often keen to offload the liability.

Offline Jenny P

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Interestingly, the stickiest landowners in the Peak District have been the local Wildlife Trusts, who have sufficient money to buy large chunks of land which are of interest to both cavers and climbers.  Cavers were refused all access to some sites on their land because we did not have the £5 million public liability insurance cover their solicitors insisted on - at the time the BCA insurance cover was £2 million.  Once the BCA cover was upped to £5 million, bingo, we were in!  Luckily the BCA cover is now £10 million, so that gives us a bit of leeway until the next round of solicitors insisting to their clients that only £15 millions is worth having!

The other thing the Peak has going for it is a very far-sighted National Park Authority and a major landowner (Chatsworth Estates) who are very willing to allow access and whose attitude rubs off on their tenant farmers and also on the National Trust and Natural England in this part oif the world.  That's why, in most cases where a site needs to be "locked" to prevent perceived danger to the public, DCA has been able to persuade owners/tenants to allow the "Derbyshire Key" system, i.e. a gate/lid held secure by hefty nuts which require a large adjustable spanner to undo them so keeps the general public out.  Occasionally the nuts go missing but are easily replaced and those who want to "break into" such sites can do so by using their own spanner so there's not so much incentive to damage the gate/lid.  It certainly beats the lock and key system and is far cheaper to run but it does depend on the local tenants/landowners being willing to accept that it's just as secure.  There are a few sites where the owner does insist on a proper lock and key but luckily there are only a few.

It sounds as if, unhappily, the landowners/tenants on Mendip have insisted on a lock and key system, which does create problems for whichever caving organisation tries to run it.

Offline NewStuff

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It sounds as if, unhappily, the landowners/tenants on Mendip have insisted on a lock and key system, which does create problems for whichever caving organisation tries to run it.

The sticking point is more that while some system may be required by the landowner, it's certain organisations that push for a lock and key system, to keep the archaic status quo.

It goes without saying that will be vehemently denied by Mendip's one-man excuse crew, however, anyone with the modicum of sense required to look at all the other restrictive shenanigans ongoing in and around Mendip, will see that it's actually a very likely scenario indeed.
Permission? Wassat den?

Offline The Old Ruminator

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It sounds as if, unhappily, the landowners/tenants on Mendip have insisted on a lock and key system, which does create problems for whichever caving organisation tries to run it.

The sticking point is more that while some system may be required by the landowner, it's certain organisations that push for a lock and key system, to keep the archaic status quo.

It goes without saying that will be vehemently denied by Mendip's one-man excuse crew, however, anyone with the modicum of sense required to look at all the other restrictive shenanigans ongoing in and around Mendip, will see that it's actually a very likely scenario indeed.

Oddly enough it all seems to have worked perfectly well up to now. Er unless that is an excuse of course.

Offline mikem

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Box mines had a Derbyshire key system & just look what happened there...

Unfortunately padlocks have been the norm for so long that it's what landowners now expect.

Offline Jenny P

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Box mines had a Derbyshire key system & just look what happened there...

Trouble is that there are always a few who will bust any system, however sensible, just 'cos they want to prove they are really macho.  We have had just one site in the Peak where something like this has happened and we've struggled to try to keep it open.

 

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