Aldery Cliff: Update on vigilante caretaker

Posted by Peter Burnside on 07/04/2017

Aldery Cliff in the Peak District is one of the eight crags that the BMC owns and manages for climbers. Recently, some substantial cleaning work occurred without BMC permission.

NEW: BMC Position Statement on Aldery

Just over a week ago, the BMC was made aware that substantial work had been carried out at Aldery without our knowledge or permission. A number of mature trees (secondary woodland) along the cliff edge have been felled, some quite extensive rock de-scaling (removal of loose rock) has been carried out and a number of new bolt belays have been installed. 

This work was not agreed by the BMC and, until it was raised at the Peak Area meeting on 5 April, had not been discussed by the local BMC Area. It appears that the work carried out has been to a high standard, but the question remains whether this type of work is seen as an improvement or over-sanitisation of a traditional and much-loved climbing venue. There are strong opinions being expressed both ways.

Before the next steps can be taken, several issues need to be investigated and facts to be ascertained. However, the BMC is disappointed that there was no consultation with the Peak Area or the BMC Land Management Group beforehand.

The BMC is in an unusual situation as a landowner: it holds crags for the primary purpose of allowing access for climbers and could be liable for any fixed equipment on the land.  As the new anchors placed here have not been placed by, or sanctioned by, the BMC, climbers are asked to take care when visiting the crag.

There may be loose material on the routes and the newly-installed bolted lower-offs are of an unknown quality.

The management of the BMC’s owned and managed crags is carried out on a day-to-day basis by BMC access officers, supported by local volunteers, often with a local management group, who carry out routine visits, litter clearance, erosion control, path maintenance and route clearance.

This is overseen by the Land Management Group (LMG), a formal BMC committee of expert volunteers including a chartered surveyor, a geo-technical engineer, a solicitor, a barrister and a conservation land manager, as well as BMC officers. The LMG advises on liability, maintenance plans, budgets, contractor processes, legal consents for work and associated matters.

The LMG meets in late April, and Aldery will be an important item. Further advice and a follow-up statement will be made shortly afterwards.

The BMC and Aldery

The BMC was gifted Aldery Cliff over 25 years ago, after friends of club member John Midgeley raised the necessary purchase price as a memorial. In order to maintain and manage the site for climbers. Situated near the village of East Sterndale, the crag is an old quarry and a good deal of loose rock still remains. In line with all BMC-owned crags (where legally possible), the site was dedicated as open access under the CROW Act, ensuring a right of access for climbing and reducing the BMC’s liability as a landowner.

Following a substantial rock fall in 2013, under guidance from a professional geo-technician, the BMC identified a number of issues relating to unstable rock and carried out some remedial work. This included reducing tree height, removing some trees that were directly causing instability and removing some loose rock.

As part of our ongoing maintenance work, the BMC also carries out annual ground works, such as strimming the car park, boundary maintenance and annual site inspections. The boundary fence is scheduled to be replaced once a contractor can be found who is willing to work on the steep slope beside the descent path.

The BMC owns eight crags

The BMC owns Crookrise Crag, Horseshoe Quarry, Aldery Cliff, Harrison’s Rocks, Stone Farm, Craig y Longridge, Wilton 1, and part of Tremadog. 

The BMC asks anyone who wants to carry out any work at a BMC owned or managed crag (whether vegetation clearance, installing fixed equipment or clearing loose rock) to contact the access team at the BMC office first. 

READ: BMC Position Statement on Aldery

MORE: BMC owned and managed sites

MORE: View Aldery in the new BMC Regional Access Database

VIEW: Photos of the recent work on Facebook:


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1) Anonymous User
07/04/2017
You say that "It appears that the work carried out has been to a high standard" however the bolts appear to be some type of industrial lifting eye and have been tied off as an "American Death Triangle"
There have also been concerns over conservation issues expressed by several people.
Rob Smith
10/04/2017
I'm also concerned that the BMC appears to have been rather blasé about this. I think, particularly in the light of your section 39 agreement with the peak park, that this needs treating more seriously.

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