Author Topic: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves  (Read 4053 times)

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« on: August 20, 2020, 05:53:21 pm »
At least four Mendip caves have suffered attempts at a break-in recently. Padlocks partly cut through probably with an angle grinder or smaller battery-powered cutter. Can people please keep an eye open for others acting suspiciously or report lock damage to the appropriate club or management.
Same with the rubbish dumping. All a great shame. I don't want to name the caves in case it encourages others to try again. No doubt the damaged locks will be replaced at great expense.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2020, 06:50:53 pm »
Given the abilities of modern portable angle grinders, that sounds like a warning, grudge etc, not an actual attempt at a break in. Even 19mm hardened steel, as found on high-end motorcycle locks, takes a minute or two maximum. I can't see any 50mm Abus lock as commonly found on caves to be any sort of serious deterrent or match for even an old battery powered grinder.
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Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2020, 07:07:51 pm »
The only secure way is to place the locks where they are not freely accessible. For somebody like me who has struggled for half an hour fiddling to open a lock I cant see its a darn nuisance.

Offline Badlad

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2020, 07:31:20 pm »
If it is cavers vandalising locks, as has happened before and elsewhere, then it is very difficult to stop.  A hearts and mind campaign may be best.

If it is non caving vandals then I suggest their main interest is one of curiosity.  "What is hiding behind that locked manhole or gate?"  Treasure?  I suggest a tidy sign explaining why the gate is there would probably help a lot.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2020, 11:26:55 pm »
There is a notice outside the cave with a phone number to ring too for further information so that is not the explanation.

Offline Jenny P

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2020, 01:15:30 pm »
One solution to the problem, if the landowner agrees, is to replace a lock with a gate which is bolted shut but requires a large adjustable spanner to undo the nut.  This "Derbyshire Key" system has proved its worth for many years in the Peak District. 

Most ordinary curious walkers won't carry a large adjustable with them but someone intent on entering the site will know that they can do so relatively easily and will do so without causing any damage.  DCA has found that although the nuts are sometimes thrown away, they are easily replaced, so the site can be kept secure and there is no temptation to the vandals because they will know how to get in if they really want to, whereas casual visitors will be kept out.  Combine this with a helpful notice and there is normally little trouble.  (One of the few sites kept locked in the Peak District has repeatedly had the lock broken and the gate vandalised but, having persuaded the landowner to give the "Derbyshire Key" system a go, there have been no problems since.)

The problem with installing locks which can only be reached through a hole in the door - as OR complains - the vandals may have recourse to an oxy-acetylene cutter to remove the door altogether or cut a chunk out round the lock so that it cannot be locked at all.  This actually happened in the Peak District some years ago and, following the wrecking of the gate itself, the site was walled up and there is now no access at all.

If the owner insists on a lock (either combination or with keys) or if the requirement is to protect something fragile within the cave or mine, then you have no choice.  However, it might be worth persuading the owner to consider the Big Nut and Bolt arrangement to see if this will work.

Offline Speleotron

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2020, 02:47:23 pm »
I'm amazed that somebody went to the trouble of using oxy-acetylene to get into a cave! Do they think the farmers are hiding treasure down there or something?
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Online PeteHall

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2020, 03:17:10 pm »
Not sure oxy-acetylene is any more effort than an angle grinder, if you have a portable set-up and you don't need to carry it far, but it's a hell of a lot quieter if you didn't want to draw attention.

Have a look at the Norpex door in Nenthead mines. Someone dragged a gas axe to the back of Rampgill Level to cut the thing off. Now that was some serious effort!
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Offline GarDouth

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2020, 03:33:17 pm »
I completely agree with Jenny. The "Derbyshire Key" system should be the standard go to for all caves that need to be made secure to casual passers-by. I realise this isn't suitable in ALL locations but there are certainly many that could have this solution.

In my experience the land owners will usually go with whatever option is recommended by cavers. If cavers say it needs a padlock then the land owner will say that's what they want. They may never have been presented with an alternative option.

As Badlad says, information also goes a long way. Just a sign saying it's a cave is not good enough. Explain WHY it's locked and HOW to get legitimate access. I have met plenty of people who think there is only an exclusive clique of cavers allowed access to some caves and it makes them bitter so they'll go and just cut the lock off. If you provide a simple and accessible way to get legitimate access, in general, people follow it.
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Offline Jenny P

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2020, 03:34:18 pm »
Not sure oxy-acetylene is any more effort than an angle grinder, if you have a portable set-up and you don't need to carry it far, but it's a hell of a lot quieter if you didn't want to draw attention.

Have a look at the Norpex door in Nenthead mines. Someone dragged a gas axe to the back of Rampgill Level to cut the thing off. Now that was some serious effort!

That's what happened at Clayton Adit in the 1970's.  The vandals kept breaking the locks so DCA hid the lock behind a hole in a 3/8 steel plate door.  The adit needed to be kept locked because there was a caravan site nearby and adventurous kids could wander up the adit in wellies though ankle deep water, not realising that there was a 900 ft. deep flooded shaft hidden under the water in the main chamber.

We had a notice at the entrance explaining why it was kept locked and giving phone no. and address to obtain a key, which was free of charge.  However, the vandals backed a landrover up to the door and cut a chunk out of the door and the frame so it impossible to lock it.  So the landowner, despite being sympathetic to DCA and cavers in general, had no choice but to wall up the adit altogether.

Offline mikem

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2020, 06:46:32 pm »
Box mines was on a Derbyshire key system & now there is no access due to all & sundry being able to get in (but not find their way out)...

Offline Jenny P

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2020, 07:02:09 pm »
It's really sad that vandals at some sites can create so much havoc, leading to complete closure to all.  Don't know why some sites should be so "attractive" in this way but it does seem that in a case like this there is no way of protecting the site other than walling it up.  Box Mines and Clayton Adit are just two in this category.

Luckily this isn't true of most sites but you may just have to accept that some will be lost in this way - the site is still there, even though it's no longer accessible.

Online Roger W

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2020, 07:41:16 pm »
I guess it's important to keep a good record of such sites -exactly where they are, what there is there, and how they were blocked off - with a view to r-opening them in the future.
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Offline NewStuff

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2020, 07:55:50 pm »
Box mines was on a Derbyshire key system & now there is no access due to all & sundry being able to get in (but not find their way out)...

How about you ask for people for mines and caves on the Derby key system, and ask how many are freely accessible. You'll find it works in the vast majority of cases. If you decide to key everything and vet everyone, you'll find the reason this post exists will ebcome far more common again.
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Offline mikem

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2020, 08:38:41 pm »
The problem with that argument is that most of the leader only caves are still stunningly beautiful, the locked caves are still nice & the open access ones are pretty much trashed (unless they are really difficult to get into)

Online PeteHall

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2020, 09:05:23 pm »
The problem with that argument is that most of the leader only caves are still stunningly beautiful, the locked caves are still nice & the open access ones are pretty much trashed (unless they are really difficult to get into)

But when were the trashed ones trashed?

A lot of damage was done a long time ago. Attitudes to conservation have changed.

And yes, nothing like a natural barrier. We deliberately left a mine we'd dug open chest deep in water as it was right by the road. If you are serious enough to brave the water, you are probably going to be ok :thumbsup:
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Offline mikem

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2020, 09:33:28 pm »
Well, Hunters' lodge inn sink was only a couple of years ago & they had to borrow the key to get in. Browns folly was also getting trashed regularly at about the same time. Painter's palette in easegill was definitely cavers only & they managed to walk all over it (until it was taped off), even though there was plenty of space to walk around.

(I refer the honourable gentleman to the current state of littering in the general countryside...)

Offline pwhole

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2020, 11:00:54 pm »

And yes, nothing like a natural barrier. We deliberately left a mine we'd dug open chest deep in water as it was right by the road. If you are serious enough to brave the water, you are probably going to be ok :thumbsup:

That method worked at a mine we opened up (in Derbyshire) many years ago too. It wasn't chest deep but you needed waders to avoid wet feet. We gated that with a Derbyshire Key setup, and that still seems to be working OK, despite there still being no access allowed - or ever applied for. As far as we know, the landowner still doesn't know it's open - or if they do, they've recognised a responsible group at work and let it be ;)

Offline Fulk

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2020, 11:19:12 pm »
mikem:
Quote
Painter's palette in easegill was definitely cavers only & they managed to walk all over it (until it was taped off), even though there was plenty of space to walk around.
When I was a kid I was taken on a trip through the Easegill System by BPC members and we were utterly gob-smacked and bemused by the action of well-known cavers (a different party) who walked straight through the Painter's Palette in a passage that's about 4 metres wide. Indeed, one of them said (and I'm quoting from memory of something that happened decades ago) 'This used to be a nice formation before people started to walk throuth it'. The word 'MORONIC' doesn't do them justice.

Still, it has recovered to some extent, at any rate:


Offline NewStuff

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #19 on: August 22, 2020, 08:07:09 am »
Well, Hunters' lodge inn sink was only a couple of years ago & they had to borrow the key to get in. Browns folly was also getting trashed regularly at about the same time. Painter's palette in easegill was definitely cavers only & they managed to walk all over it (until it was taped off), even though there was plenty of space to walk around.

(I refer the honourable gentleman to the current state of littering in the general countryside...)

If you're locking stuff based on 2 cave systems, a mine that was going used to keep the trashing by chavs in one place, and ignorant fucks chucking stuff out of car windows, you're going to find replacing locks and gates get's really expensive, really quickly. It's a depressingly sad indictment on Mendip that you're lagging years behind North Wales in terms of access and not having your shiny stuff cut up. That's not an achievement you should be bragging about.
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Offline mikem

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #20 on: August 22, 2020, 09:04:18 am »
No, they are locked due to every cave that's been left open having suffered unnecessary damage over many years, including those in the Dales & South Wales (don't know Derbyshire or North Wales well enough).

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #21 on: August 22, 2020, 09:07:04 am »
One of the sites with a vandalised lock was a very important archeological site. That in a cave not particularly long. I cant see cavers doing that in such a well-known cave. Cavers from outside Somerset really don't get the difference between us and more rural caving areas up North. One part of the cave systems remaining ungated in Fairy Cave Quarry is Balch Aven Series. Recently we noticed mud deliberately hand smeared over some fine formations. Not an easy cave to access as there is an awkward climb inside. Mr O'Doc went there and cleaned some of the mud off with a pressure washer. Just ask yourself if this would have happened with a gate on the cave. No doubt the other fine caves there would have been despoiled if left open. So we have a "warden"  system at FCQ and Reservoir Hole. Now that really gets the goat of the anti gate brigade. We get all sorts of bad press over that. That at least makes somebody on each logged trip responsible for any damage. We saw on my other post how negligent so-called cave photographers have become. Anyone with a mobile phone is now a cave photographer. As for cost for lock upkeep that is covered by the minimal trip fee of £2 at FCQ and Reservoir Hole which I am sure cavers don't mind paying. At both FCQ and RH caves are locked at the insistence of the landowner both of which are commercial concerns wishing to protect their " assets ". Yes, their caves. We don't own them. Only with their goodwill can we visit them at all.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #22 on: August 22, 2020, 09:18:20 am »
No, they are locked due to every cave that's been left open having suffered unnecessary damage over many years,

Every cave that's been left open?
Kindly fuck off and think before you type, you're so far beyond stretching the limits if credulity it's stupid.
If you want to loc, gate and control, at least have the stones to say so... this act and sham is pathetic.
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Offline mikem

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #23 on: August 22, 2020, 09:39:51 am »
If you actually look around you'll see muddy handprints all over the place in regularly visited sites. The majority of Mendip caves aren't locked, just the finest, or those where landowners have asked for them. Several insist on holding the keys themselves, others don't want to be bothered by cavers knocking on their door, but all local clubs have keys, which visiting cavers can easily borrow if they ask. Leader caves have to be planned a bit further ahead.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Vandalised Locks on Mendip Caves
« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2020, 09:54:09 am »
If you actually look around you'll see muddy handprints all over the place in regularly visited sites.

On *EVERY* cave? You were saying that every cave not locked up has been vandalised. Again, Take a look at yourselves, and look at the rest of the island. You're the only ones that have this issue. Do you really think that Mendip is the last bastion of cave preservation and everywhere else defecates in caves, vandalises formations, snaps stal etc? Mendip is stuck in a bygone age and it just can't get it's collective head around the new fangled ways, I mean, they couldn't possibly work, because that's not how Mendip does it, so it's not the right way to do things. That's exactly how you come across.

You'll also find there is a lot of supposition that certain Mendip groups actively encourage locks where derby keys would be just fine with landowners, as all they want is to discharge the pitfalls that happen with accessing the system by the general public. Most landowners don't care about what groups have keys, who issues them, the politics off the community... they just want to stop accidental access and lawsuits. Given the actions of a lot of the common members in the CSCC and Mendip, you'll find no-one will be surprised when it comes out that is actually the case.
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