30 climbers gathered together to rid Cheddar Gorge of as much of its litter as possible on 15 September, for what is to now become an annual climbers' clean up. The project was organised by two local climbers and long-term Cheddar enthusiasts Tom Powell and Eddy Cool, simply because they wanted to look after the place they love and to display the kindness and gratitude of the climbing community.
With rather short notice the event went out on Facebook and 30 climbers turned up on the day to pick some litter, each choosing a specific area of the gorge to sweep.
An ‘Ask A Climber’ stand was erected in the grassy plateau next to the sector called The Wave. This offered not only a central hub for rubbish collection and the offerings of free cake, but it also meant that non-climbers had an opportunity to meet with climbers and ask all of their burning questions.
Approximately 30 bags of landfill and mixed recycling were filled and some kind climbing souls helped by taking all of these bags to the local tip in their van.
The good news is that the climbing sectors were remarkably clean, which shows that in general climbers are a tidy bunch. However it was noted that one thing that tends to get left behind is cigarette ends.
With the standard exception of food packaging, especially fast food, the main blight was filled dog poo bags. Well done to all the litter pickers for holding their noses and ridding cheddar of the blight of discarded poo bags. What a disgusting job.
The Generosity of the community
A big thank you goes out to the BMC, who made the event official, helped to promote it, covered the event under the insurance and gave a budget so all the volunteers could be fed with treats and snacks throughout the day. Thank You to Cheddar Caves & Gorge staff and The National Trust who both gave us their blessings to run the event.
There was also a raffle and a whopping 15 raffle prizes that were kindly donated, some of which were incredibly massive ones and none of them were jam. Redpoint Bristol, Bloc Climbing, Banana Fingers, Dicks Climbing, Lattice and The Batch Campsite all donated and gave their time to the cause. It was truly wonderful to see so many businesses with a caring and progressive attitude towards the initiative.
The Final Thought
Giving Cheddar a thorough clear up is good for the environment, and it makes it easier on the eye, and more than that, it is a clear sign to the world that the climbing community cares and respects the places that it interacts with.
Cheddar is a unique crag with a long history of delicate access and special arrangements. Local activist Martin Crocker and the BMC have invested an unbelievable amount of time and energy to get it to where it is today and to foster good relations. Climbers are very much in the limelight in Cheddar and the message that climbers give out each time they visit the gorge can make or break the special access and relationship we have with our future climbing at the Gorge.
Acts of kindness and generosity and an awareness of the environment and those around us are very important to show that climbers will leave the world in a better place than when found it. It is up to climbers to look after the crags they use and to set a good example.
For a more in depth look at Cheddar Gorge access and the Cheddar Gorge climbers code of conduct look here. It is vitally important that climbers keep up their end of the bargain. What we have is a privilege and not a right, and it is very important for all climbers to stay educated and remember this.
What Comes Next
Next year the litter pick will happen again, and it will be bigger and better. Hopefully on the first weekend of October to celebrate the re-opening of the winter routes.
In the meantime I hope the event has left a warm and fuzzy feeling in people's hearts, stirred up some extra psyche and got people thinking about all the ways that they can use climbing to create positive change.
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