Llanymynech access problems

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 30/03/2010

Recent developments, poor behaviour by some climbers and the rise in popularity of this excellent site have caused concerns for the owners of this Nature Reserve. Negotiations are underway to protect access to this nationally important climbing site, but some new restrictions could be imposed.

Climbing has taken place here since at least the 1950s, and today there is a great mixture of some long traditional routes as well as some of the longest and best quality accessible sports routes in the Midlands. However the site is also a Nature Reserve (managed jointly by the Montgomery and Shropshire Wildlife Trusts) and has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1953. This means that some activities (called "Operations Likley to Damage the Special Interest") need formal consent from Natural England, and that carrying out these activities without formal consent can be illegal under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. This is quite a comprehensive list and includes such things as spreading fertiliser, burning vegetation, but also includes activities such as carrying out engineering works such as drilling (including bolts!), modification or clearance of loose rock or grading rockfaces.

Up to now relations between the Wildlife Trusts and climbers have been exemplary, and the Trusts are very keen and committed to continue to allow climbing at this site. However a number of incidents, leading to complaints from visitors and Wildlife Trust members have occurred here in recent months, that have led the Wildlife Trusts to review these arrangements. These incidents include climbers seen abseiling off Black Walls during the agreed bird restriction period, vegetation being stripped from the far side of Red Walls (beyond the arete of "Clematis") despite there being a permanent restriction on climbing here, and some incidents of rock clearance which have seen large blocks dislodged near to passing visitors to the reserve.

There are particular concerns that the new sports routes at "Foreigner Wall" are increasing traffic to this area and that the bee orchids and pyramidal orchids that grow at the base of this wall are being trampled and potentially destroyed by climbers. This is also a potential site for the rare Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly.

On the "Welsh" part of the reserve, Montgomery Wildlife Trust have concerns that the developments at "Cream Wall" are in an area where there was an agreement for no climbing developments in the last West Midlands guidebook. However their main concern here is one of liability, as surveys have shown that this face is especially loose, and liable to collapse at any time and one route ("Past Your Eyes") has recently had a serious rockfall. They have been instructed by their insurers and legal advisers to ensure that they take steps to prevent public access to these walls, and a certain amount of fencing and bunding works have occurred.

It is absolutely crucial to protect access to the main parts of  Llanymynech that climbers adhere to the agreed restrictions, and until a longer term solution is found do not develop any new routes here.  Negotiations are underway with both Wildlife Trusts to agree a longer term solution to these issues, but unfortunately, at this time it does seem that we may lose access to some routes in the short term while negotiations continue. 



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