Pembroke: 2018 success and 2019 Range West

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 07/01/2019
Huntsman's Leap. Credit Stefan Morris

Climbers and wildlife both had a great year at Pembrokeshire in 2018. With some great ascents, a successful bird and seal breeding year and climbers sticking to the agreed restrictions, it was a "win-win" for all! Read on also for details of the 2019 Range West access briefings.

Review of 2018

At the annual Pembrokeshire Climbing Liaison Review Meeting, the conservation bodies reported a  succesful year for wildlife on the Castlemartin Army Ranges. With not a single reported instance of any infringements of the agreed climbing restrictions, the National Park and MoD were keen to praise climbers for their co-operation and for sticking to the climbing agreements throughout 2018. 

On Range East, seven pairs of Choughs succesfully reared 16 chicks (the highest number for some years) and a pair of Peregines also succesfully reared young. Elsewhere on the Ranges, Guillemot and Razorbills colonies also did well as did the Kittewakes, which are now regarded as nationally scarce and are on the RED list of birds of conservation concern in the UK. 

 A total of 171 climbers attended the annual Range West briefings but only a record low of only 225 climbers actually went into to Range West to climb. Hopefully more people will go in to Range West this year to enjoy the superb climbing (as well as some desperate adventures, Range West probably has the best collection of low grade and utterly unique sea-cliff climbing in the UK). At least 68 seal pups were counted along the coast in the autum, again a record and climbers are reminded to avoid abseiling in to coves where seals may be present and to give young seals and breeding seals a wide berth (at least 100m). Seals normally breed in the autum months from late August until early November. 

Despite being a fully operational and busy firing range, St Govan's cliffs were open for 231 days in 2018 (a 71% increase on 2017) while the rest of Range East was available to climbers for 132 days. The MoD are also introducing a trial of mobile "guardhouses" for 2019, meaning that if only part of the ranges are being used, then only that section will be closed (for instance if military training is only hapening beyond Saddle Head, than access will be allowed up to that boundary, even during mid week). 

Range West 2019 

All climbers wanting to climb here in 2019 must attend a safety briefing. Range West is a live firing range and unexploded ordnance and other dangerous military items are found on parts of  Range West. The dates for the 2019 briefing are:

Thursday 07/03/2019 at 18.00

Saturday 09/03/19  at 10.00am

Thursday 18/04/19 at 18.00

Good Friday 19/04/19 at 10.00am

Thursday 23/05/19 at 18.00

Saturday 25/05/19 at 10.00am (also part of the Annual Pembroke Climbing Festival - details to follow!).

And by special demand, an extra August briefing  on Thursday 08/08/19 at 18.00, to take advantage of the month long shut down of the Ranges.  (There is no firing at all and full access for briefed climbers to Range West for the whole of August). 

All the breifings are held at the Castlemartin Army Camp, postcode SA71 5EB. As usual turn up about 10 minutes early to allow for parking (next to the big Chieftain tanks!) and to get through the security gates. 

There is no military training or firing (and therefore there will full access for climbing, subject to the usual conservation restrictions) between the following dates:

Saturday 13/04/19 to Sunday 28/04/2019 and Thursday 01/08/2019 until Monday 02/09/2019. 

Finally, some tips to help both climbing and conservation... 

All of the cliffs along this dramatic and spectacular coastline are within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as well as being the nesting grounds of many protected seabirds, they also have many scarce and rare plants growing here, so please do not uproot or remove any vegetation from the cliffs.  

Overnight camping or vanning is not allowed in any of the car parks - please use the established (and incredibly cheap and good value) campsites with facilities at Bosherston and surrounding areas. 

Do not place any belay stakes on these cliffs - if you think belay stakes are required contact the BMC who will arrange for a specialised MoD unexploded ordnance team to scan the area for old bombs and to ensure no rare plants or archaeology is disturbed. 

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park produce an annual leaflet detailing the current and up to date agreed restrictions for 2019, available at the car parks (and also here when available).  The BMC Regional Access Database is also the definitive source of information. 

There were a number of avoidable accidents in 2018 - please ensure before abseiling in to a sea cliff that you have the means to climb or prusik out again! And in the event of an accident or incident contact the Coastguard by dialling 999 and when a helicopter is being used for a recovery or rescue, ensure all bags and loose debris  (as well as yourself!) are fully secure (the downdraught is enough to blow over a fully grown adult). 

WATCH: Steve McClure climb Choronzon (E10 7a) in Pembroke on BMC TV:


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Anonymous User
10/01/2019
Hi there,

Can a briefed climber sign in a non briefed climber or would both have to attend a briefing?
Elfyn Jones(author comment)
10/01/2019
Hi - In reply to the question about signing a non briefed climber. Unfortunately that's not possible- everyone who enters Range West in recent years, (including the military themselves) have to attend an annual safety briefing.

Anonymous User
16/01/2019
It seems mountain climbers enjoy a lot more freedom than river-walkers! The Llechryd to Cilgerran walk along the Teifi has been permanently closed by Pembs CC on health and safety grounds because the bank was eroded in one or two places by a recent storm. Can-t imagine the BMC accepting that people should not walk up Snowdon because it might be a bit slippy in bad weather!

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