Malham has been experiencing its usual seasonal surge in popularity over the last few months and we’re now entering the most popular time of year for Kilnsey. Unfortunately, poor parking and thoughtless behaviour by a small number of climbers could result in access problems for everyone.
Access to crags like these is a privilege, not a right as the King of Malham – big Steve McClure – reminds us in the video below. Whilst climbers have always enjoyed access to these and many other crags, future access is not necessarily guaranteed.
Climbers must self-regulate as a community, encouraging our peers in a positive way to behave responsibly, else we risk endangering access as we know it to crags around the country. In most cases, it only takes a small effort on our part to ensure we're not causing problems for others and help keep our crags accessible.
In this impassioned message, BMC ambassador Steve McClure asks that we not forget the behind-the-scenes work that goes on that maintains access to some our most treasured climbing venues.
WATCH: Steve McClure: don't take crag access for granted on BMC TV
Crags aren't just for climbers
Let's not forget that these aren't just internationally important crags, but also working and living landscapes. Farmers and local residents go about their day-to-day lives and, especially in the case of Malham, are often popular tourist landmarks where visitors come to see the UK’s natural wonders. Consequently, there are many different interests beyond climbing and it is important to think about non-climbers and how your behaviour might impact their experience.
Rob Ashford, area ranger for Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) highlights some recent issues at Malham: “The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has received a number of complaints from local farmers around Malham about climbers parking on The Cove Road and climbing over dry stone walls to access Malham Cove. We appreciate that quick access to Malham Cove isn’t easy, but we would like to remind climbers that the Cove Road is used by a number of heavy goods vehicles for access to local farms around the entire area and that any parking on the road can cause major disruptions. There is a restriction on parking along The Cove Road from Malham village for three miles. There have also been reports of individuals climbing over dry stone walls from The Cove Road to access Malham Cove which has been causing damage to the walls and creating extra work for local farmers.”
A similar story is unfolding at Kilnsey, where climbers have contacted the BMC to report poorly parked cars partially blocking the narrow road below the crag which could easily lead to tensions with local residents and farmers. There are good options for parking near Kilnsey and Malham which will not cause any problems for other road users but these come with a slightly longer walk to the crag. The longer walk is certainly worth it to maintain good relationships between local people and climbers and continued access.
It goes without saying that climbing over dry stone walls using anything other than stiles or gates is considered incredibly poor form. It will almost certainly enrage farmers if they see someone doing it as it will probably damage the wall, cost the farmer time and money to repair and could mean livestock can escape.
Not all of these reported instances are necessarily being caused by climbers – as already mentioned there are many other visitors to these places who might be less knowledgeable about countryside etiquette than the average climber. We are however a very easily identified group and the message at these and other venues is very clear – we need to up our game and make sure everyone at the crag is doing the right thing when it comes to these peripheral issues like parking and approaches. It can be easy to give them little thought when we’re focussed on the main event – the climbing itself. But it is exactly these sorts of seemingly boring things that will mean the difference between continued access and conflict.
Kilnsey Access Notes
Be prepared to walk a little further along the road if the obvious limited area below the cliff is full. Attempting to park additional cars here will block the road for the large farm machinery that operates in the area – if in doubt, park elsewhere.
There is a large layby 200m beyond the cliff on the right and there is usually plenty of roadside parking on the lane leading across the river to Conistone about 400m to the south.
The landowner finds quickdraws left in place on projects an eyesore - please remove your kit between attempts if possible.
Malham Access Notes
The land used to access the crag doesn’t fall within designated open access land, so we are reliant on the goodwill of the landowner for continued access and good behaviour by climbers is vital.
The site is a popular tourist landmark and working landscape as well as an internationally important crag – don’t forget about non-climbers and how your behaviour might impact their experience.
Park in the village, either in one of the limited roadside spaces or the pay and display car park. Do not park on Cove Road beyond Town Head Barn as the road is not wide enough and this causes major issues for local residents and farmers which could cause access problems for climbers in future.
Use formal access points and public rights of way to get to the crag – don’t climb over walls or fences as this can cause damage that is costly to repair and strains relations with farmers and landowners.
There is a seasonal restriction at Malham to protect nesting peregrines. The birds often change their nest site from one side of the Cove to the other so it is essential you check the RAD (www.thebmc.co.uk/rad) before heading onto either of the wings during spring and early summer.
Use the public toilets next to the pub instead of the bushes
Rock out this summer!
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