Why the BMC is a highly commended campaigner

Posted by Carey Davies on 25/11/2015

The BMC has been highly commended as ‘Campaigner of the Year’ in The Great Outdoors Awards. Here are some examples of how we campaign for walkers and climbers like you.

A huge thanks to everyone who voted for us in the awards run by The Great Outdoors magazine, which celebrate the products, people and organisations that contribute to Britain’s enjoyment of the hills and mountains.

The BMC was highly commended in the publicly voted 'Campaigner of the Year' category, a very welcome recognition of  the central role of our campaigning work in what we do. 

This work goes on all the time, with our access and conservation team achieving successes for walkers and climbers on a weekly basis. Here are some of the broad-brush highlights from the past year or so:

Strengthening support for the outdoors in government

MPs from the Mountaineering APPG and the BMC walking together in the Peak District

A vibrant outdoor culture brings health, wealth and happiness. Over the last year we have constantly trumpeted this message to policy-makers and politicians, in conjunction with supportive MPs in the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mountaineering.

Our six key proposals for the outdoors have been at the heart of our message. Before the May general election, we launched the Outdoor Election campaign, which argued for tangible measures for the improvement of access and the conservation of our countryside, enshrined in a long-term strategy for outdoor recreation. 

This work is having an impact. In a recent packed Westminster debate on the value of outdoor recreation the BMC was mentioned multiple times and sports minister Tracey Crouch said:  “The potential for outdoor recreation is massive… We are at a unique moment in time, and it is important that all Departments join together to recognise the importance of sport and physical activity to everyone.”

Easing our impact on the crags and mountains

The BMC-backed Three Peaks Partnership is trying to ease the impact of challenge events on Wasdale

We want everyone to be able to experience the outdoors. But as walkers and climbers we have an impact on the places we enjoy, and in order to keep those places open, we have to take responsibility for this.

The BMC promotes this on a daily basis through the Regional Access Database, which issues advice for cliffs and crags in England and Wales. But our conservation and campaigning work is often focused on easing our impact in the hills.  In an effort to tackle the litter, noise and disruption caused by the famous Three Peaks Challenge, the BMC’s Access and Conservation Trust has funded the Three Peaks Partnership website and on-the-ground repairs to Scafell Pike, among many other things. We’re also just about to launch some important new guidance on planning challenge events. 

There are more exciting plans in the pipeline, too: ACT is planning a major campaign around the maintenance of upland paths to launch in the coming months, and next spring we will be supporting the excellent Mountain Magpie initiative to clean up the growing problem of litter on Britain’s most popular mountains. 

Standing up for climbers' freedoms

Pembrokeshire cliff climbing

Climbers are generally very happy to agree to restrictions to their access to cliffs and crags based on the need to protect wildlife. But in the past, many conservation bodies adopted a more “precautionary principle” – in other words, not allowing any access for recreation until it could be proven beyond doubt that public access would not have a negative impact on the flora and fauna. 

In no small part thanks to the work of the BMC, many bodies now adopt the “least restrictive options” approach to restricting access for climbers when it is required.

For example, for many years access to climb at Range West in Pembrokeshire (over 10 kilometres of coastline) was only allowed between the end of July to the following February – ostensibly to protect nesting birds. But following negotiations and campaigns by the BMC, access is now allowed all year with specific seasonal restrictions applied only to those few cliffs where the birds actually nest.

Speaking up for landscapes

The Peak District: precious 

We need beautiful landscapes. They enrich our culture, provide inspirational environments for healthy lifestyles, and are integral to tourism and rural economic growth. Yet the landscapes we love are under increasing pressure, with our green spaces, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty under growing threat from speculative development.  

We have a dedicated web page to help prepare local areas to object to proposals that they feel are a threat to our most treasured landscapes, and earlier this year the BMC put its weight behind the call for Landscapes for Everyone, which aimed to emphasise the importance of landscapes to our wellbeing, environment and economy. And in September we came out against a very specific threat: National Grid’s proposals for a 24km-long line of 50 metre-tall pylons inside the Lake District National Park. Along with the Friends of the Lake District and others, we are saying no to the pylons and calling for National Grid to adopt its own alternative solution, routing the cables offshore.

Putting safety first

Snow business: a still from our BMC TV winter skills videos

A big part of the BMC’s role (along with our partner organisation Mountain Training) is to promote awareness of strong safety practices, preventing unnecessary accidents. 

We do this in many different ways including publications, press releases and lectures, but we are always looking to keep on top of new platforms. This year we ramped up our skills-focused online video content through BMC TV with films on basic hill walking skills with Chris Townsend, scrambling ropework with DMM and AMI, and comprehensive series on winter skills with DMM, AMI and Lowe Alpine.

Hundreds of BMC members were also given the chance to improve their hill walking, scrambling and winter skills directly last year through our subsidised Active Outdoors courses in Snowdonia, with everything from a basic Head for the Hills course to more advanced Scrambling EssentialsWinter Skills in Wales and Ready to Rock courses.

WATCH: How to practice an ice axe arrest, on BMC TV

Don’t just take our word for it. In the recent parliamentary debate on the outdoors Graham Evans MP praised the BMC as “an amazing outfit that puts safety first.”

Campaigning for an Open Wales

Llyn Bochlwyd from Tryfan in Snowdonia

We think there are opportunities in Wales for Welsh Government to improve access to the coastal margin, to woodland, and to all valley sides and rough grazing areas where there are many rock climbing and hill walking opportuntities. So back in early 2014 we launched the Open Wales campaign to encourage the Welsh government to improve and simplify access to the countryside. It received huge support from climbers and walkers, and since then we’ve built on this momentum, encouraging Welsh ministers to extend and simplify access to the outdoors and responding to an important consultation. Watch this space for important updates soon.

See the full list of winners in The Great Outdoors Awards


The Access and Conservation Trust

The BMC's charity  the BMC Access & Conservation Trust  promotes sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside by facilitating education and conservation projects across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

By educating climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy outdoor recreation while minimising their impact on the landscape, conserving the UK’s upland resources, and campaigning for improved access rights, ACT enables future generations to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and the physical, mental and social benefits they bring to individual lives and society in general.

READ: More about the recent work of ACT

WATCH: the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign film


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