What do you expect in return for your subscription? Or do you support the BMC just because you think that it’s a worthy cause?
Let’s consider three recent calls on access volunteers. After heavy rains earlier in the year, access to one crag was affected when a footbridge got washed away - what was the BMC doing about it? Crossing the stream higher up by boulder hopping was the simple answer - we don’t keep a stock of footbridges.
Then there were complaints of trundling rocks from the top of the crag - and with good cause. But how does the BMC police the tops of crags 24/7? Finally, trial bikers, with no right to be there, were intruding at a climbing venue where we have no right to climb. Should we have been better placed to respond to these incidents? Was the expectation that we should have been able to do anything about them unrealistic?
Next, tree felling and keeping routes clear of vegetation. When people climbed trad routes more frequently, no one needed to worry about routes overgrowing; it was something that looked after itself. Is it really the BMC’s problem that you cannot see Fang Left Hand / Molar any more for all the ivy?
Then what about in-situ gear and abseil stakes? There are no more than a couple of venues in the country where the BMC installed them to start with. But now should it be the BMC’s role to maintain them, wherever they are? And if it were, should the BMC also charge for their use, much in the same way that climbing walls charge?
The BMC access team cannot do absolutely everything. Perhaps the problem is the examples are very evident things, which directly affect members, who want to go climbing when and where they choose. Conversely much of what the BMC does is not so immediately apparent, even if at a more strategic level it is of far greater benefit. Like all the lobbying on CRoW, or work on provisional maps, or negotiating access during foot and mouth, on coastal access in England and Wales. Days spent working with others on Rights of Way Improvement Plans will directly affect all hill walking members. The effort is unseen, as is championing the cause for better funding for National Parks, whose costs have to be met somehow - or should our subscriptions be increased to help upkeep of places where we like to play?
We cannot take everything for granted and expect whatever we want to happen as if by magic. So, have we got our priorities right? And if not, how should we change them? One thing’s for sure, the amount that access representatives can do for fellow climbers and walkers is inevitably limited by the number of people who volunteer to help. Can we count on seeing you at the next crag clean up?
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