In the second part of his column on Horseshoe Quarry, Henry Folkard looks at the management issues of owning a SSSI used for recreation, and the implications of ownership for the BMC.
So, Horseshoe was ours. Could we go climbing and forget about everything else? In a word, no. And it quickly became apparent that the BMC could usefully employ at least one full-time person who was an expert on land management, landowner’s liability, conservation, SSSI legislation, The Mines and Quarries Act, health and safety, risk assessment, fencing, bolting, geotechnology, litter picking and public relations. But with no spare staff capacity this work looked set to fall on local volunteers.
Apart from the climbing, what confronted us? Well, virtually everything done on a SSSI - whether you own it or not - has to be consented by Natural England. There were weighty matters of liability concerning land abundant with both natural and manmade hazards. Some of the land adjoins a highway, with associated issues. What were we to do with our very own mineshaft? How is any work to be resourced if your budget is nil?
A small local management team took a few key decisions early on, like limiting access to pedestrians but welcoming members of the public. As champions of open access, the BMC led by example and dedicated all its land under CRoW early on - including Horseshoe. We sorted out the very inadequate parking arrangements with huge help from a local company. We called in the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to advise on conservation and working with volunteers. We met with local landowners: we don’t own or have right of access to the northern end of the quarry, nor land above the main climbing faces. We discussed plans with the National Park Ranger and the Vision Project - without them we would have achieve little. An RSPB employee made observations about bird life. Everyone was immensely helpful and the cost to the BMC has been minimal.
Key features of our management plan are to retain and enhance the character of a site which offers every habitat from bare areas to climax vegetation. This involves shrub clearance, woodland management and improving wetland areas. A botanical survey will soon be completed. As part of the open access agenda we plan to improve a desire line established by visitors and local people. This will be expensive and an application has been made to the Derbyshire Aggregates Levy Grant Scheme.
And what about the climbing? There are two big questions here. Do we rebolt, and do we trundle two large unstable columns of rock? We have consent from Natural England for both (the formal position is that placing even a single bolt requires consent). And the BMC Land Management Group’s decision is “yes” on both counts.
Horseshoe is unquestionably popular with climbers. This alone must justify the decision to acquire it, but there has also been a very positive spin off for the BMC - in confronting firsthand the problems of land ownership and demonstrating to other landowners that recreation and conservation can coexist.
So, the question for BMC members is this: should another opportunity to acquire a similar old quarry for climbing arise, would it be right for the BMC to abandon its policy of not owning land and say a resounding yes? In this day and age is this how we can best serve our members evolving interests
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