The south side of the gorge is privately owned by Cheddar Caves & Gorge and forms part of the Longleat Estate. It is not Open Access land under the CRoW Act (2000), unlike the National Trust owned land on the north side of the Gorge.
Cheddar is unique in the fact that many of the crags are directly above a busy road which forms part of a major tourist attraction in the area. Unlike many crags, where a dropped piece of gear or rock is unlikely to have any impact on a member of the public, in Cheddar it has far greater potential to injure a visitor or damage a car.
Because of this, for climbing on the south side the year is split into three seasons according to the number of visitors to the gorge. During the busiest periods, all crags on the south side are closed, during the moderately busy periods only the restored routes (which have been cleared of loose rock as far as possible) on the south side are open, and during quiet periods all routes are open. These seasons are based on school and public holidays so change slightly every year.
Anyone climbing on the south side of Cheddar Gorge must carry civil liability cover of at least £10 million. This comes as standard with BMC or MCofS membership or can be organised separately. BMC/MCofS membership cards or details of your individual policy must be carried as proof of cover whilst climbing on the south side of the Gorge and the climbing warden and CC&G staff carry out frequent checks. Civil liability is also recommended for anyone climbing on the north side of the Gorge, but is not a requirement.
The BMC produces the Cheddar Gorge Access Calendar which has full details of which areas can be accessed during which periods. This should be considered required reading for any climber visiting the Gorge, regardless of which side or area you plan to climb on. Please note the different 'open' seasons on the calendar for restored routes compared the all other routes on these crags.
The latest guide to the Gorge - 'Cheddar Gorge Climbs' (M. Crocker, 2009) – has a definitive list of restored routes on the south side as well as routes on the north side. It is available from The Gorge Outdoors shop in Cheddar village, as well as other climbing and outdoor shops in the area.
Restrictions apply from
From 16th March to 30th September each year there are restrictions to which crags climbers can visit for public safety reasons. During this period, there are times when there is no access to any routes on the south side (during holiday times when visitor numbers increase) and quiter periods when climbers can acces restored routes only (which are relatively clear of loose rock). The full details of this is available on the Cheddar Gorge Access Calendar which is produced each year before the start of the restriction period.
To ensure continued climbing access to the South Side of Cheddar, it is crucial that climbers follow this negotiated agreement to the letter. Past instances of climbers unknowingly tackling closed crags/routes has caused problems for Cheddar Gorge & Caves (the landowner) in the past and future issues could result in access losses. It's up to us as climbers to self regulate and keep access in Cheddar open - if you see someone climbing where they shouldn't be, politely let them know.