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Wye Valley - access considerations

 Rick Sewards 12 May 2020

Hi everybody

In view of the new guidelines that come into force for England from tomorrow, I wanted to let you know of the specific issues that affect crags in the Wye Valley.  It’s going to be quite a long post, so apologies for that, but please read if you are considering climbing in this area in the near future.

First, please read the BMC advice on climbing in England and Wales https://www.thebmc.co.uk/can-i-start-climbing-and-hill-walking-again  Lots of good advice there, which I’m not going to repeat, but in addition to that there are local issues as follows.

Wynd Cliff and Wyndcliff Quarry - these are both in Wales, so subject to Welsh law which does not at present permit driving any significant distance to exercise, and so these crags are off-limits to non-locals.

The rest of the crags are in England, although of course for many people on the other side of the Severn the usual route to them takes you through Wales for a short distance.

Wintour's Leap - the quarry gate access is not available at the moment, so please don’t try to approach this way.  At some point during the lockdown there was an attempt to break the lock (I think - and hope - not by climbers) and it needs repair (again); there is currently a chain lock round it.  Instead, I would recommend anyone climbing at Wintour’s Leap to park on Lancaut Lane if there is space and walk in via the ruined chapel.  This has the advantage of being less conspicuous to local residents than parking in the village. In addition there are both ravens and peregrines nesting on Fly Wall, so please do not climb on any routes to the right (south) of Flyhole (VS 4b) (signs are in place).  The path under Wintour’s Leap is well-used by locals for walking and running, so if we want to maintain access please act with consideration at all times, and always remember it is a nature reserve.  Finally, I shouldn’t have to say it but no camping and no fires - now or at any other time.

Ban-y-gor - again part of the same nature reserve, and we nearly lost access to the entire crag due to thoughtless behaviour recently. There is a a signed restriction for the whole of the Main Cliff due to nesting peregrines - please respect this.  The path underneath the crag is generally very narrow, so social distancing may require patience and consideration (rather like driving on a single track road with passing places).

Shorn Cliff - the big problem is parking.  The usual (and most extensive) parking is in Tintern which is on the Welsh side of the river and parking here to climb would certainly be against the law (and I don’t think it would be a defence to say you were planning to climb in England!). The limited alternative parking on the English side near Tintern Quarry, described in the Lower Wye Valley guide, is currently barricaded off - do NOT park at the entrance to the track by the cottages.  That just leaves the carpark a mile further north (GR ST 559 993) - the approach from here is described in the Wye Valley Supplement, or you can work it out from the OS map.  This is open, but it’s not that big, and if full that’s it - it was surprisingly busy this evening (I rode up on the bike to check).  Finally, Shorn Cliff is a horrible place to be rescued from at the best of times, and as we know this is the worst of times, so please be careful!

Symonds Yat - at present the Forestry carpark is closed (along with all the other big Forestry car parks in the FoD), and as there isn’t really any alternative I don’t advise driving here to climb at the moment.  This will hopefully change soon - Forestry England’s website says that they are planning to re-open all their carparks but they need to do some preparatory work and the Yat carpark is listed as being closed for tomorrow - I will let you know when that changes.  In addition, please don’t climb on the White Wall (Motorway Madness (E3 5c) to Night Nurse (E1 5b) inclusive) - this isn’t yet signed or confirmed (no-one has been there because of lockdown) but peregrines were nesting there last year.

Shakemantle Quarry (Ruspidge Slab Quarry) - as usual, there is a nesting restriction (the whole crag) for peregrines.

These are the issues I know about - peregrines could be nesting anywhere and if they are then avoid them, warn others at the crag and let me know.  And please be careful!

Rick

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Thanks for the up-date. 

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Thank for the comprehensive update Rick. The gate must be becoming the bane of your life. 

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

This is incredibly helpful - thanks Rick

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Thanks Rick, much appreciated

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Good work! I was wondering about the Wye Valley, so it's good for people to have it outlined what's feasible or otherwise, not that I have plans to climb myself anytime soon. 

I recall there's another entrance to Wintours Leap, by parking near Woodcroft, then walking 200m south along the road, to a green stile on the RHS, which leads to the Offa's Dyke Path, from where there's a trail that leads back to under Fly Wall.

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Thanks for the update Rick.

> ...we nearly lost access to the entire crag due to thoughtless behaviour recently...

Is it possible to know what happened here? Ban-y-gor is my such an amazing crag, it's be such a shame if access was lost.

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 Mbowell 13 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards: Thanks Ric

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 bpmclimb 13 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards:

> Wynd Cliff and Wyndcliff Quarry - these are both in Wales, so subject to Welsh law which does not at present permit driving any significant distance to exercise, and so these crags are off-limits to non-locals.

Hi Rick, thanks for taking the time to put that together.

As you say, the latest rules would seem to rule out Wyndcliffe Quarry for anyone travelling there by car, whether from England or Wales; unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be stopping people. After the brief hiatus I mentioned on the other thread, climbers started appearing again a couple of weeks ago. Today I saw a vehicle parked opposite the Quarry and heard climbers at work, and on my way back saw a different vehicle parked behind the cones.

Your post seems to imply that locals can now climb at WQ, if able to do so without using the car, presumably - which would make me one of the (very few) climbers to qualify; however, I thought there were additional reasons for not climbing there, related to worries about future access. Was it not specifically mentioned in that context in a recent BMC briefing?

So far I have completely avoided using WQ, and despite being able to get there on foot, I'm willing to continue with that; but seeing the rules flouted in such a blatant way on a daily basis, with (apparently) no consequences, no enforcement of any kind ....... part of me wonders why I bother. Maybe I should just join in?

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 Rick Sewards 13 May 2020
In reply to stevieboywonder:

> I recall there's another entrance to Wintours Leap, by parking near Woodcroft, then walking 200m south along the road, to a green stile on the RHS, which leads to the Offa's Dyke Path, from where there's a trail that leads back to under Fly Wall.

Hi Steve

Yes, there is the southern approach you describe.  The only slight problem with it is that there is 100m of fairly narrow fenced in path from the road, so you may need to turn around and let people through, but otherwise it's OK if you're parking in Woodcroft village.  But I would ask that people first go for the parking on Lancaut Lane and only if that is full park (carefully) on the main road in the village.  We've got to recognise that some people in the village will not be pleased to see climbers back and so anything we can do to make our visits more low-profile is preferred.  There is also the Easy Way Down but it isn't that easy with a big sack and approach shoes.  

In terms of local reaction to climbers, we are very obvious (nobody else has big sacks - no-one is through-hiking the Offa's Dyke Path at present!) and how we act could have big consequences - so please be the one who jumps off the path and heads more than 2 meters off to the side to wave that elderly couple through!

Rick

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 Rick Sewards 13 May 2020
In reply to dougcope:

> > ...we nearly lost access to the entire crag due to thoughtless behaviour recently...

> Is it possible to know what happened here? Ban-y-gor is my such an amazing crag, it's be such a shame if access was lost.

Hi Doug, the Wildlife Trust became seriously unhappy about some over-zealous cleaning and new-routing activity, plus some instances of wild camping and litter - described here https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/crag_access/ban-y-gor__important_access_information-656960?v=1#x8501627

Which brings me back to the point about Wintour's Leap and Ban-y-Gor both being part of a nature reserve and SSSI.  Please don't do anything at either crag that would jeopardise relations with the Wildlife Trust - if a route is heavily overgrown at the moment leave it and do something that isn't.

Rick

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 Rick Sewards 13 May 2020
In reply to bpmclimb:

Hi Brian

In relation to Wynd Cliff and Wyndcliff Quarry, it seems very clear that the law in Wales currently does not allow people to drive to the crag to go climbing, hence I wanted to make it clear that they remain off-limits for non-locals. I was deliberately vague about whether you can climb there if (like you) you can get there under your own steam, as it's not entirely clear at the moment - the BMC are not themselves sure (see https://thebmc.co.uk/can-i-go-climbing-and-hill-walking-in-wales) and I believe are currently negotiating (along with other sports bodies) with the Welsh Government.  

For Wyndcliff Quarry, the sensitivity is not so much any previous access issues - it's the fact of it being very public and your experience that climbing there during the lockdown was going down badly with local residents.  People parking underneath the crag and climbing there are still very publicly breaching the Welsh lockdown rules as they currently stand and so may not do us any favours in the future. 

Cheers

Rick

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

I think what I like best about Ban y Gor is the noise of the peregrine's giving it some from the far end of the crag. It's the natural aspect that makes it a good crag in my opinion.

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 MarkH55 14 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards:

Hi Rick,

Thanks for all time and effort you put into Wye Valley access work

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 bpmclimb 15 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards:

> People parking underneath the crag and climbing there are still very publicly breaching the Welsh lockdown rules as they currently stand and so may not do us any favours in the future. 

.... or, in the much shorter term, themselves. Their cars are very vulnerable to some local "punishment". Four flat tyres would be inconvenient, to say the least ....

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 Mark Storey 17 May 2020
In reply to bpmclimb:

Hi Brian

Passed WQ today. No cars and no climbers that I could see.

There was a blue VW Transporter parked up at the forestry barrier that is now about the only place to park for the Black cliff crag. If you're not a climber then nobody would bat an eyelid. If it was climbers then that is possibly the most discreet crag in the area and for once in a blue moon it will be dry.

 We could have the crags in the valley to ourselves as I can walk (or more likely cycle there)!

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 bpmclimb 17 May 2020

Hi Mark. Yes, all quiet at WQ for last couple of days. That forestry barrier parking place is occasionally getting used by walkers - a couple got out of their car the other day as I was passing and asked for tips where to go. I think they were after Livox Quarry, after seeing some recent posts and pics somewhere - I put them off

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

It's worth also considering that if you're coming from England via the M4 to climb at Ban-y-gor then you're going to have to drive through Wales - albeit a short distance - to get there. Not sure what the view of the Welsh police would be on this, but I wouldn't be surprised at being told to turn round if you're unlucky enough to be caught. Obviously you can still get to the crag via the A48, but I'd imagine for a lot of people (myself included) this would be a pretty lengthy detour.

Fingers crossed that things improve and the rules get a little more consistent across the whole of the UK soon.

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 Jem Cowen 20 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards:

Many thanks Rick (remarkably clear and concise for someone in your line of work ;)

I'd especially echo the point about giving consideration to how actions might be perceived by others in the present circumstances. There's been a notable increase in local antisocial behaviour currently - Woodcroft quarry gate damage, Lancaut church vandalism, bin thrown over Easy Way Down, Glos Wildlife Trust COVID signs pulled down & other local examples. There were campers at Lancaut during full lockdown (reported & evicted), whilst campervans have been seen regularly on Lancaut lane in the evenings. A tent with fire pit was spotted in Lancaut reserve a couple of days ago. Whilst there's no proof these were climbers, it would be easy for locals and the local wildlife trust to draw their own conclusions, with potential implications for access and escalation to police involvement (it's a criminal offence to cause damage in a SSSI). It's in everyone's interest to stick to current guidance and observe landowner rules (especially no camping/fires in the Lancaut/Ban y Gor reserve) whilst I'm pretty sure Rick will be grateful for climbers doing what they can to promote a positive image and minimise his headaches!

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 Phil Murray 20 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards:

Hi - I tweeted Gwent police today as I live in Bristol & was hoping to drive M48- Chepstow (not stopping!) - A48 - Forest of Dean, but they said that's not essential travel, so will not be allowed. So any climbers from Bristol etc. would have to go round via Gloucester to get to the English side of the Wye valley in any case. (or just wait until Wales eases).   I did do this trip a week ago & was fine, but won't be trying again. 

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 John2 20 May 2020
In reply to Phil Murray:

The word is that the Welsh police are stopping cars that do not have a Welsh registration plate (i.e. a registration starting with the letter C).

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 springfall2008 22 May 2020
In reply to John2:

> The word is that the Welsh police are stopping cars that do not have a Welsh registration plate (i.e. a registration starting with the letter C).


Many people in England and have essential work travel into Wales, I somehow doubt they are just stopping all English cars. Maybe the one with kids in back and the beach towels showing!

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 Rick Sewards 22 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards:

Hi everybody

An update for the bank holiday weekend.  First the good news - Symonds Yat carpark appears to be open according to the Forestry England website.  No idea if the toilet block or the Log Cabin is open - work on the assumption that they (like most facilities) are shut.  I also don't know what the evening closing time is.  I'll be going there on Sunday but if anyone is there tomorrow (or has already been) and can give an earlier update that would be great.  As I said before, I'm assuming that peregrines are nesting on Strathdon (E1 5b) as they did last year, so please please don’t climb on the White Wall (Motorway Madness (E3 5c) to Night Nurse (E1 5b) inclusive) - I will check this and signpost it if they are there on Sunday - but please either report on here or email me if you see them anywhere else - they could be anywhere.

Parking is still difficult for Shorn Cliff - I have put signs up on the Tintern Quarry track entrance (with a map) indicating the best carpark (at grid ref ST 559 993) and the approach from this carpark (essentially you cross fields to join the Offa's Dyke path above the cliff, close to the Devil's Pulpit - then right on the OD path, first left and left again!).  Please DO NOT BLOCK the Tintern Quarry track.

I can echo what Jem has said about a general increase in antisocial behaviour around Wintour's Leap.  Most of it is not climbers, though sadly I believe the owners of the tent that pitched for most of last weekend - with a fire pit - were climbers. So at the risk of repeating myself, and over-using block capitals, NO CAMPING AND NO FIRES anywhere in the vicinity or Wintour's Leap or  Ban-y-gor.  A similar message (also in block capitals...) is on the signs I've placed on the approach and by the locked quarry gate. Speaking of which, this is still locked and please DON'T CLIMB OVER THE FENCE (sorry about the shouting again...) - a slightly longer (and very pleasant) walk-in for the moment is a small price to pay for maintaining access in the long term.  

Finally, driving through Wales (even for a short distance) to get to the crags on the English side does still break Welsh lockdown rules - I've no idea of the likelihood of being stopped but it is possible.   Wynd Cliff and Wyndcliff Quarry, and the Tintern parking for Shorn Cliff, remain off limits for non-locals for the same reason.

Rick 

Post edited at 23:58
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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Thanks Rick. Sterling work, hope you manage some routes at the Yat on Sunday. 

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In reply to Fatclimber:

Thanks for your work Rick.

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 bpmclimb 23 May 2020
In reply to Rick Sewards:

Thanks for the update Rick - very helpful.

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Thanks for all the hard work! 

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Rumour on chepstow Facebook last weekend was that the police did stop one in every few cars coming up the a466 link road, and I saw 5 police motorbikes while riding past wyndcliffe one evening. I've never been stopped on a shopping trip, but then I haven't driven down to the motorway exit.

Keen for a climb on the English side if anyone is available!

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 bpmclimb 11:48 Sun
In reply to Stone Muppet:

Yes, recently we've been aware of some more police activity on the A466. The closure of the main Forestry car park at Wyndcliff was all very well, but parking here and there nearby really needed to be more discouraged as well: what we're seeing now is cars parked in every little pull-off and blocking every Forestry gate entrance between St Arvans and Tintern. There may be the odd climber, but we think it's mostly walkers.

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 bpmclimb 18:54 Sun
In reply to bpmclimb:

> Yes, recently we've been aware of some more police activity on the A466. 

Update: there was a lot more police activity on the A466 today -  interviewing people still in their cars, or just returning/leaving, and they came up onto the tiers at Wyndcliffe Quarry, to ask climbers if they were parked below - if they had arrived by car. 

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Hi all

Symonds Yat update: Firstly, the peregrine nest on White Wall has been confirmed and signposted - please don’t climb on the White Wall, from Motorway Madness (E3 5c) to Night Nurse (E1 5b) inclusive.  The car park and toilet block are open, the Log Cabin is closed but due to re-open on the 1st of June.  The car park closes at 9PM, and has gone up to £7 for a full day, which may need some forward planning in gathering together sufficient coins (especially if you haven't paid for anything with cash for the last two months...).  There's an online paying option (with Paysmarti) but little or no mobile signal at the carpark to make it work!  A wander up to the Log Cabin area might solve that problem.   Otherwise all is green and pleasant, and absolutely no mud (though the ball-bearing effect of the very dry ground is occasionally just as unnerving!).

Rick

Post edited at 21:48
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In reply to bpmclimb:

> Update: there was a lot more police activity on the A466 today -  interviewing people still in their cars, or just returning/leaving, and they came up onto the tiers at Wyndcliffe Quarry, to ask climbers if they were parked below - if they had arrived by car.


I also saw a police car turn into Lancaut as I passed on Sunday - no idea why though there were vans parked on the junction with the main road so maybe antisocial parking? people staying over? or perhaps something else altogether, this is wild speculation of course, but it's notable given that people are allowed to drive to exercise on the English side.

It's entirely possible it's nothing to do with climbing but highlights the importance of climbers conducting ourselves well at the current time, particularly given the sensitive access at Wintours/Ban y Gor.

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In reply to Rick Sewards:

Hi Rick,

Do you know how long it's likely to be to fix the Woodcroft Quarry gate?

Do you know how/why the parking next to Tintern Quarry has been shut and if it's going to be resolved soon?

Cheers

Post edited at 09:42
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 HannahC 13:39 Wed
In reply to Stone Muppet:

We’ve climbed at Wintours 2 Sunday’s in a row. The first Sunday there was an astonishing number of vans parked up. Last Sunday am there was none... 

I had assumed that the police has moved on van campers and your post pretty much confirms that theory 

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