BMC Position Statement: Aldery Cliff

Posted by Rob Dyer on 04/05/2017
Aldery Cliff in it's current state
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Following reports of significant unsanctioned work having taken place at Aldery Cliff (a BMC owned crag near Buxton), the BMC's Land Management Group met at the crag to discuss the situation. The following is a position statement from the group about the work.

BMC was alerted to the news of large scale works having been undertaken during the winter and apparently continuing. The individual responsible has been identified and requested to desist. He has agreed to do so.

Aldery Cliff is owned by BMC. BMC’s Land Management Group (LMG) has a pro-active management plan for all BMC owned crags. LMG is comprised of individuals with specialist expertise including survey, land management, access, conservation, geo-engineering and legal and can also call on the expertise of the BMC Technical (equipment) officer.

 Where management involves minor maintenance that is carried out variously by BMC officers, volunteers or contractors as appropriate. If the work required is substantial it is standard practice to specify the proposed work and consult with the relevant Area Committee. In either event a method statement will be produced and the specified work undertaken according to plan. Where the work is suitable to be undertaken by volunteers LMG welcomes the involvement of interested persons. No work should be undertaken on BMC land holdings without LMG consent and approval of the specification and work plan.

The work recently undertaken at Aldery was done without the knowledge or consent of LMG. LMG had planned to undertake minor pruning of vegetation, removal of some trees and scaling of some loose rock this spring/summer. However the work actually carried out is on a significantly greater scale than intended and is more extensive than LMG considered necessary or desirable. Large quantities of rock and vegetation have been removed from both under, on and on top of the cliff.  It appears to have been carried out without an assessment of potential impacts and has changed the character of the crag significantly, as apparent when viewed from across the valley on High Wheeldon. There is nothing to be done about this and it will take time for nature to restore the cliff to something approaching its previous state.

Unfortunately some of the trees removed from the top of the crag had previously been used for belaying and no natural substitute is available. The individual responsible has therefore taken it upon himself to install a number of bolted anchors, both at the top of the crag and on some intermediate ledges. Given that this is a trad venue, and a clear departure from the long established ethic of the crag, a discussion and agreement within the climbing community at an area meeting is the minimum requirement before carrying out such work.

Some of the newly fixed equipment has been inspected by the BMC Technical officer and found to be deficient. The equipment  used is  not designed for climbing purposes and so has no load rating, uses components made from multiple types of metal which will speed up the corrosion process (indeed rust was already observed formed on some components) and are not adequately installed. They represent a danger either immediately or in the foreseeable future and will therefore be removed imminently.

This will result in there being no satisfactory belay station at the top of many of the routes on the main face. Users should consider placing ropes around trees beyond the top of the crag before leading climbs to provide a safe anchor. Climbers are advised NOT to belay to the steel cable up the left side of the crag and along part of the top of the crag. The fixing of that cable is not adequate for belay purposes and could result in a serious accident if an anchor point failed. It may nevertheless provide a helpful hand line in descent and has been left in place for that reason.

The BMC has not been provided with any explanation for why this work was undertaken. It is prepared to accept that the individual was well-intentioned albeit misguided. Why he found it appropriate to proceed without any communication with BMC is incomprehensible, particularly given BMC notices displayed at the bottom of the cliff. LMG considers this intervention unacceptable and strongly cautions against any repetition. LMG will be consulting Peak Area Committee regarding a long term solution to the belay issue. Meantime a copy of the technical report on the fixed equipment is attached.

BMC landholdings are owned and managed for the benefit of climbers, walkers and the general public to enjoy quiet recreation on foot. This does not imply a right to undertake large scale crag work without consultation with the BMC first. The BMC and LMG are very keen to work with volunteers to help improve the crags we own, but the message is clear – please contact the access team, share your thoughts with us and we can formulate a plan for any work that might be needed together.

READ: Aldery Cliff: Update on vigilante caretaker

MORE: BMC owned and managed sites

MORE: View Aldery in the new BMC Regional Access Database


The Access and Conservation Trust

The BMC's charity  the BMC Access & Conservation Trust  promotes sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside by facilitating education and conservation projects across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

By educating climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy outdoor recreation while minimising their impact on the landscape, conserving the UK’s upland resources, and campaigning for improved access rights, ACT enables future generations to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and the physical, mental and social benefits they bring to individual lives and society in general.

READ: More about the recent work of ACT

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8
04/05/2017
Good. A strong statement that, hopefully will discourage other acts of vandalism.
04/05/2017
Can't find the attached technical report on the fixed equipment.
04/05/2017
Maybe a stronger statement about the suitability of the bolts should be put on the RAD now they have been inspected.
4) Anonymous User
07/05/2017
Is there a date set for the prosecution of the person who did this? If not, is the BMC capable of owning and caring for the site?
07/05/2017
Thanks for making the link to the technical report work. Makes interesting reading!
09/05/2017
In response to Anonymous 7th May I can't see that the climbing community would benefit from a prosecution and I think it would be better if this energetic and zealous person was asked to assist during LMG-directed crag cleanups.
7) Anonymous User
09/05/2017
Re: prosecution and comment number 4. What criminal offence has been commited? Malicious damage? The BMC LMG themselves admit that the individual had the best of intentions, so I doubt very much that would stick due to a lack of intent. The only recourse to the courts would be a civil action, i.e. to sue for damages. This would cost the BMC considerable amounts of money and may well fail. I therefore agree with comment #6 that it is in no-one's interests to prosecute; lets learn from it, move on and redirect the perpetrator's energy.
8) Anonymous User
10/05/2017
This is horrible - will trees be replanted at the top to replace the ones removed? It is possible to plant more mature ones, and whilst these won't provide a ready natural belay it won't be long before they establish?

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