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Access in Northumberland

 SteveSBlake 11 May 2020

Hello everyone

I hope you, your families and friends are well and avoiding the virus.  The PM’s announcement yesterday and the release of the guidance today has raised many issues. We are all desperately keen to get back outside and enjoy the sport we love, and the guidance,  with certain limitations indicates we can go climbing.

The reason for this missive is not to explain how to maintain social distance at crags, or mitigate the risk of an accident requiring MRT attendance. That’s a separate set of issues that need to be considered in addition to what I discuss below.  You might feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to go climbing, that you can mitigate the climbing risks to an acceptable level, and can manage the social distancing aspects. But,  that’s not what this is about.

I hope to draw your attention to ‘access’, how delicate it is to some crags and why we need to be very careful about how we as a community move forward.

Access to many of our prime crags is complicated.  Some examples:

The initial section of Bowden Doors, from Main Wall to the stile is not on Access Land. This section and the usual approach is all permissive.

In the case of Back Bowden the approach through the fields is on Access Land, but none of the crag is. Access to, and use of, the crag is permissive.

Kyloe Out of the Woods is on private land, there is a public footpath to it but that confers no right to climb on the crag. 

At Shaftoe, the crags are on Access Land, but the approach road is a Public Bridleway. The farmer allows cars along the lane and allows the use of the field for parking.

Kyloe in the Woods is private.

Howlerhirst, the crag is on Access Land, the approach is permissive.

Note also that the Forestry Commission ‘closed’ all of their local woodland and parking areas. What impact the new guidance will have on this is unknown at the moment. So the status of somewhere like Hepburn (FC ) is ambiguous even though it’s on Access Land .

The farming community remains understandably sensitive about people using public footpaths, stiles, gates and accessing their land in general.  In the majority of cases they cannot influence such use. Public footpaths and Access Land remain open, but in all of the above examples they could simply ban climbing, and remove that issue to the very bottom of the back burner.  Regaining access lost under those circumstances could be difficult.

I fear that if there are 13 cars parked at the  Bowdens or Kyloes or, indeed elsewhere with complex access this weekend, we could have problems of our own making.

You may question ‘why in these instances don’t we approach them and see if they mind?’ I think that would be very dangerous, remind them that access to the crags is in their gift and risk having it removed. As a community we need to be seen to be doing the right thing.

So what to do? It’s painful I know, but we need to be patient.  The issue isn’t about our perception of the risks and ‘rights’, but about how those who control the access to our crags see us. I’d strongly suggest avoiding the northern crags in particular and indeed any crag where either the approach or rock are not on Access Land. Check the guides, check the 1:25000 maps which show the Access Land Boundaries, check the BMC RAD and check the Natural England Access Maps web page for any temporary restrictions.

Best regards, stay safe, stay well and be patient.

Steve

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 JDal 12 May 2020
In reply to SteveSBlake:

Spot on. Wonder who gave it the thumbs down.

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 profitofdoom 12 May 2020
In reply to JDal:

> Spot on. Wonder who gave it the thumbs down.

There's always one. An announcement of 50 zillion pounds worth of diamonds being found under Brighton Beach, along with a note that it would all be shared equally around the whole UK population (making us all instant millionaires), would be disliked by someone for sure 

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 Andy Hardy 12 May 2020
In reply to SteveSBlake:

Is Jesmond Dene OK? 😉

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In reply to profitofdoom:

Blood Diamonds

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 joem 12 May 2020
In reply to SteveSBlake:

Well said Steve!

think I’ll keep my head down this weekend and leave my ropes and pads in the loft as it could get a tad chaotic. Not going yo comment on the rights and wrongs of houng climbing just think I’ll find the whole experience too stressful to be worth it.

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 profitofdoom 12 May 2020
In reply to The Pulsing Motorik of Neu!:

> Blood Diamonds

No - delivered by asteroid 110 million years ago

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 ianstevens 12 May 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Is Jesmond Dene OK? 😉

Is it ever? ;) 

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 Andy Gamisou 12 May 2020
In reply to ianstevens:

> Is it ever? ;) 

Is it still carpeted with used needles (as it was when I last tried bouldering there)?

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 ianstevens 12 May 2020
In reply to Andy Gamisou:

I live c. 10 mins walk away so have ben going past quite a bit on walks/runs. Doesn't seem to be (m)any. Few bottles but that's all!

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 joem 12 May 2020
In reply to ianstevens:

too many climbers down their these days ;)

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 Smith42 16 May 2020
In reply to SteveSBlake:

Went for walk round Jesmond Dene and popped in quarry for a look. It’s well chalked! I foolishly touched some holds to test the friction and my fingers started bleeding. Looked at floor and realised from the numerous broken bottles that someone must of been throwing them off the walls and there are shards of glass on the rock.
So that’s nice.  
Also see from logbook people have been out at Shaftoe.
Thought that was against farmers wishes or are we good to go? 

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 SteveSBlake 17 May 2020
In reply to Smith42:

Hi,

Access to Shaftoe and the other locations where access is sensitive or vulnerable should be avoided for at couple of weeks. 
If the situation develops positively and the infection rate declines we will be in a much more reassuring position and better placed to argue, or, reason with farmers and landowners that we pose no risk.

If A minority of people choose to prematurely visit these sensitive crags and the infection rate goes up, then the wider climbing community will probably be seen as part of the problem. 
I would strongly suggest avoiding the sensitive locations until we see a sustained decrease in the infection rate and we can argue we pose no risk.

Unfortunately there will always be some folks who genuinely haven’t got the message, and some who have, but selfishly decide to ignore it.

regards,

Steve


 

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 SteveSBlake 19 May 2020
In reply to SteveSBlake:

A bit of good news regarding access. Scottish Woodlands have confirmed Kyloe In is OK to visit. But - Please be careful........And if you get there and there's a ton of cars think about going somewhere else do not block the road or gate. The nearest crags where access isn't sensitive is the Hepburn area.

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