Cheddar Gorge (South Side)

Cheddar

Crag information
Climbing Area: South West & Southern Rock Type: Limestone
Importance: National CRoW Land: No
Ownership: Private No. of Routes: 550
Within National Park: No Year Developed: 1925
Grid Reference: ST469541

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, and can be downloaded for free by clicking here: www.thebmc.co.uk/Download.aspx?id=807. 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.

Parking and Approach

Please only park in the long stay (paid) visitor car parks whilst at the crag. Parking in private staff car parks or any short stay shop car parks in the village will lead to bad relations with landowners and locals.

Group Advice

Cheddar Caves & Gorge do not allow commercial activity (i.e paid for instruction) on their land in the Gorge. Non-commercial groups for whom no money is changing hands are free to access the crags however, providing they follow the access advice above.

Area information

Once upon a time, climbing in this spectacular gorge was limited to the winter months, in part due to crags overhanging the road, loose rock, aging fixed protection and the overgrown nature of certain crags. These factors represented an unacceptable safety threat to the huge number of visitors enjoying the gorge during the summer. To address this, The Cheddar Gorge Climbing Project was conceived by M. Crocker in 2005 (part-funded by The BMC and The Climbers’ Club). A massive volunteer effort over the past 4 years has resulted in many of the buttresses and routes being restored to a climbable condition. In addition, The Longleat Estate also invested £1 million on rock-catch fencing, removing huge amounts of loose rock and destabilising trees. The project has proven to bee a great success and the Cheddar climbing scene is now a vibrant centre for locals and visiting climbers alike. Cheddar Gorge Climbers’ Code of Conduct Cheddar can be a complex place to climb, especially for the first time visitor. It has variable safety restrictions and routes/buttresses are available on different dates. Please don’t be put off by these arrangements, Cheddar is a great place to climb, but it is vital that ALL climbers familiarise themselves with these arrangements before climbing. Permission for climbing in Cheddar Gorge is subject to climbers abiding by a Code of Conduct - agreed with Cheddar Caves & Gorge (owners of the South Side), and The National Trust (who own the North Side) in 2005. KEY MESSAGES • Think ‘public safety’ at all times. Climbing has the potential to harm innocent bystanders particularly by dislodging rock or dropping kit. Please climb here with the utmost care and vigilance. • Cheddar Caves & Gorge have stipulated that climbers using the South Side cliffs must have civil liability (third party) insurance. Obtaining this is easy – simply join the BMC and benefit from the civil liability insurance cover that comes with membership. • Think about your own safety too, including the ever-present risk of stonefall, especially if someone is climbing above you. Wearing a helmet is strongly advised. • Come prepared: know when and where you can climb before arriving - stick to the agreed approach routes. Contact the BMC (Tel: 0161 445 6111) or use its Regional Access Database (RAD) web-site www.thebmc.co.uk/bmcCrag/ if in any doubt. • If you see a climber doing something they shouldn’t be, let them know straight away. • Members of the public will always be within earshot: please behave accordingly. The landowners welcome comments or enquiries, including about anything you experience on the cliffs that may give cause for concern; contact Cheddar Caves & Gorge (01934 742343) or The National Trust (01934 844518), as appropriate. In addition, the following link provides a map illustrating the car parks, individual crag locations and approved access routes; www.thebmc.co.uk/bmcNews/media/u_content/File/access_conservation/cheddar/Cheddar_map.pdf To ensure the continued success of the project, it is vital that all climbers are sensitive to the potential public safety implications of climbing here. Note that even though some areas have sport routes, the cliffs should be treated as you would trad venues, loose rock is still a possibility, so consider wearing a helmet and be careful where you sit beneath the crags. Access Routes to Main Cliffs Climbers should ensure all openings in the fences at the base of Shoot Gully and the Acid Rock/Sunnyside approach gully are closed. These have occasionally been left open and sheep have entered areas reserved for goats - this can transmit diseases. Failure to close the gates could compromise the new access arrangements. Photos Cheddar Caves & Gorge management wish that anyone taking photos for commercial use or on cliffs where there may be rock safety issues must first seek permission. This gives them the chance to offer advice and detail any requirements.

Weather Information

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