The BMC now owns Horseshoe Quarry. But what does that mean? Henry Folkard, Peak Access Rep. has the answers.
Q. How much of Horseshoe does the BMC own?
A. The map below gives a rough idea. It includes the entrance area, Main Wall and the Upper Tier plus a narrow strip above it and land behind Doodah Buttress. Climbers have always called it Horseshoe, but the formal name is actually Furness Quarry.
Q. What about the rest of it?
A. The Africa Buttress - Chocolate Blancmange areas and land above them are in separate ownership. Land behind the Main Wall Upper Tier (apart from our narrow strip) is in a third ownership. There is no right of access to any of these areas, for any purpose, even where routes are described in the guidebook.
Q. Is it open access?
A. It is our intention to dedicate the entrance and main climbing area for open access, and to dedicate a concessionary path through the remainder to link with the existing public footpath network- for people on foot only. We intend to keep it as a place for quiet enjoyment.
Q. What about dogs?
A. No problem, providing there is no conflict with sheep or cattle.
Q. And cavers?
Q. Who actually manages it?
A. A small local management group of Henry Folkard, Chris Jackson, Huw Perkins and Dave Williams and Mike Hunt with some Head Office support and cajoling from Access Officer Guy Keating. We report through the Land Management Group to the Access and Conservation Group and Management Committee. We are also grateful for a lot of help from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Bob Bennett, Sophie Milner, Gary Gibson, the National Park Ranger and Ecology Services and Steve Furness - and will doubtless be asking for more.
Q. What’s the management plan?
A. Steady on. The weather’s nice and we’ve been climbing or on holiday. But it’s a good question and we are working towards one. We have taken expert advice on the ecology from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the National Park Authority among others, and confirmed what we thought, that it’s a very good site indeed for all sorts of flowers, amphibians, birds, butterflies and snails. Incidentally it’s also part of the Stoney Middleton Dale SSSI. The broad aim is to demonstrate how recreation, conservation and farming can live side by side, and we therefore want a management regime that can enhance them all. This implies a programme of late summer/autumn grazing and creating (nature is doing this already) a mosaic of habitats. Paradoxically the bare and sparsely vegetated areas are of particular importance. We will retain some blackthorn, and an area of ash woodland but not allow scrub and tree growth to dominate. All this begs a lot of questions about the intentions of neighbouring landowners, and availability of the right sort of herbivores.
Q. What else?
A. We will need a working party at some point to clear some roadside trees, spread some hardcore in the entrance area and so on. At some point we will take away the ugly gate, but will need to do something else to prevent wheeled access. We have decided not to try and renovate the old quarry buildings in the undergrowth because we judge them to be unsafe and the bank behind them to be slipping. Some stretches of dry stone wall may also need repair. We will erect some kind of permanent notice at entrance points, but unfortunately those we have put up so far have been comprehensively vandalised with alacrity.
Q. Is the climbing safe?
A. You can never say climbing is safe. The BMC participation statement makes it clear that climbing is an activity “with danger of personal injury and death”. That said, the objective dangers at Horseshoe are essentially no different from those on any crag anywhere. The two most obvious relate to rock stability and fixed gear, but as with any site there are many other natural and man made hazards - like friable and unstable crag tops, loose uneven descent paths, caves, pot holes and digs.
Climbers have to make their own judgment each time they visit any venue, and the fact that a route seemed solid the last time you were there can be no guarantee to future stability. Next time you go to Horseshoe just stand back and take a fresh look before accepting the familiar as solid. A line of bolts up a loose pillar does not imply the pillar is stable or safe to climb as of now. There is potential for catastrophic collapse on parts of the Main Wall, and also on the Upper Tier above - with consequential spillover onto routes, belayers and bystanders below - but that does not make it fundamentally different to say Huntsman’s Leap or Bwlch y Moch.
Fixed gear comes with no guarantee. It has evolved over time - different bolts, staples and lower offs placed over different years by different people with different levels of expertise. So what you use is for you to judge. The BMC offers no quality assurance, and carries out no inspection. There is no policy for blanket replacement or standardisation.
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