Green Friday - sustainable crag use, part 1

Posted by Cath Flitcroft on 10/09/2009

Climbing and walking groups come in many shapes and forms, even a small gathering of friends could be called ‘a group’. Thoughtful planning, effective group management and an awareness of good practice are essential to help protect the often fragile environment in which we carry out our activities.

Outdoor activity centres, schools, universities, youth groups, club meets and the armed forces often take groups to the mountains and crags, and an awareness of others and the environment is essential. The ‘plan, do and review process’, used widely in outdoor education, can work extremely well when developing a group’s relationship with the natural environment.

Plan your day, manage your group
Thoughtful planning, effective group management and an awareness of good practice can nip many potential problems in the bud. Choosing an appropriate crag should always be a primary consideration and this should balance your group’s size, structure and needs with the size and environmental sensitivity of the crag. If necessary, the BMC Access Reps can advise group leaders on the suitability of their intended venues in England and Wales.

Here are some issues to consider:

Access information: Ensure you are up-do-date with current access arrangements and advice. Guidebooks provide the primary source of access information although they are never absolutely up-to-date. BMC Access Reps, the BMC Regional Access Database and local outlets (shops, climbing walls, outdoor centres etc) should be contacted if you are in any doubt about current access arrangements.

• Access restrictions: Familiarise yourself with any specific group use advice already agreed between BMC and landowners – check the websites and any on-site information. Respect seasonal access restrictions and do not disturb wildlife or livestock.

• Education: Make use of environmental education opportunities such as signs or countryside interpretation boards at crags. Timetable a group briefing session into your schedule.

• Footpaths: Always use the recognised approach tracks and descent paths rather than cutting across quiet countryside or over private land.

• Codes of practice: Some crags have specific good practice advice and codes – read any notices/leaflets at the site carefully before taking your group onto the crag.

Venue choice and options: Large numbers of climbers at certain cliffs can increase the impact on wildlife as well as detracting from the experience. Some landowners have restrictions on group size, and dominating an area may antagonise other climbers.

• Site selection: Select cliffs or routes of an appropriate standard for your group. Do not abseil down popular rock climbs or climbs of recognised quality (always check the guidebook first). Would artificial structures, less popular crags (e.g. minor quarries or outlying crags) or the indoor wall satisfy your needs?

• Timing visits: Avoid taking groups to the most popular areas at weekends.

• Group size: Ensure that your group is a manageable size. Larger groups are more difficult to control. Consider spreading large groups over a number of sites – two groups of 6–10 people may be much less intrusive than one group of 15–20.

• Overcrowding: Respect the needs of other climbers and do not monopolise popular cliffs, buttresses or bays. A system of rotating around different routes (rather than staying on one route all day) could add variety to your day and help to reduce possible conflicts.

• Liaison with other groups: Could you reduce overcrowding at the crag by agreeing that different groups will use different crags?

• Transport and parking: Traffic congestion and limited parking facilities can often present problems. Ensure there will be sufficient parking at the crag you intend to visit or consider a longer walk-in option. Is there the possibility of taking public transport?

• Commercial activities: The CRoW Act 2000 places some limitations on commercial activities taking place on open access land. For more details check the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs website.

Green Friday - sustainable use, part 2 provides advice on good practice for groups, to help minimise damage to the crag environment.
 



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