Updated: 6th January 2021
The third national lockdown is upon us and this sees a return of the Government message to ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ as the country tries to stop the spread of the virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed. As with the March 2020 lockdown, leaving home is now only permitted for a limited number of reasons.
Some of you will be wondering about provisions for exercise, potentially including caving, during lockdown.
The restrictions include provisions for exercise during lockdown to help people maintain fitness and to support wellbeing. However, this exercise must only be taken alone, with your household/ bubble, or with one other person, and it must be in your immediate local area (defined as your village, town or part of the city in which you live).
For the vast majority of us, who either prefer to cave with a group of friends, or would need to travel away from our immediate local area to go caving, this means venturing underground is sadly off the cards for the duration of this lockdown. Instead, we advise that the next several weeks provide a much better opportunity to repair oversuits, clean equipment and plan your summer adventures instead.
For the small number of people who live on the doorstep of our caves and are intent on visiting them as part of your exercise, we urge you to respect the restrictions on who you can exercise with, and to ensure your exercise regime is low risk and well within your capabilities.
We can’t wait to bring you better news over the coming months and to see a return to caving in our region very soon.
Updated: 1st January 2021
As of 31st December, much of our region has moved to a higher Coronavirus tier. North Yorkshire has been moved up to Tier 3, and Cumbria and Lancashire to Tier 4.
The CNCC would like to remind you that caving is still permitted in both Tier 3 and 4 areas as exercise in an outdoor public place. The key difference between the tiers with respect to caving lies in the number of people you can meet for your trip. If caving within a Tier 3 area, groups of up to six can still meet. However, if caving within a Tier 4 area, this is restricted to same household/bubble or alone plus one other person.
Sadly outdoor recreation is not included in the list of permitted reasons for travelling between these two highest tiers.
What does this mean for caving in our region? Groups of up to six travelling from North Yorkshire may still go caving within North Yorkshire. North Yorkshire includes the caves of the Three Peaks, Kingsdale and Masongill. Be aware that the tiers will be reviewed in mid-January and may change. Leck Fell and Casterton Fell only just fall into Lancashire and Cumbria respectively.
Caving in a Tier 4 area would only fall within the rules if doing so as part of your household/bubble, or alone plus one other person, travelling from the same tiered local area.
The CNCC believes that the provision of outdoor recreation in all tiers is intended to support fitness and mental wellbeing. We therefore support cavers in continuing to take advantage of these freedoms where they feel comfortable doing so and using common sense (particularly if visiting the popular caves that straddle the county/tier borders; our Three Counties System). Please use the online booking system to facilitate social distancing between groups if caving on Ingleborough, Leck or Casterton Fells. Remember that a rescue would expose the cave rescue volunteers to elevated risk, particularly as the new Covid strain moves across the country, so cave well within your capabilities, choose lower risk trips, and be mindful of the winter weather conditions including the hazards of sudden snow melt.
These tightening of restrictions through the first quarter of 2021 are not unexpected. However, we hope that spring/summer will see greater return to normality.
Updated: 28th November 2020
Lockdown II is coming to an end and after 2nd December, England will return to the three-tier system of Coronavirus restrictions. The Government have now published details on what tier each area will initially be in.
Northern England will be entirely Tier 2-3, with the major caving areas of North Yorkshire and Cumbria falling into the more liberal Tier 2, and Lancashire into stricter Tier 3. This may change as tiers are due for review every two weeks. Within both of these tiers, the ‘rule of six’ applies to meetings in outdoor public spaces. This means that across our entire region, caving in groups of up to six people will once again be permissible, which will no doubt come as welcome news for those keen to get out and about with their friends.
Although travelling between differently tiered areas seems to be discouraged, the language of the guidance stops short of totally prohibiting this, leaving this decision to personal judgement of the risks involved.
Furthermore, there is no reason that club huts in Tier 2 areas cannot reopen to visitors from same households/support bubbles for overnight stays.
Caving promotes a healthy, active lifestyle. We therefore encourage people to take advantage of these new freedoms and to get back to enjoying responsible caving if they are comfortable doing so.
Please use the online booking system for caves on Ingleborough, Leck and Casterton Fells to avoid encountering other groups. Use common sense in other areas and check the CNCC website for up to date information. Cave well within your capabilities, remembering that your fitness may not be what it was pre-lockdown, and consider winter weather conditions and the suitability of your trip. A cave rescue incident would be complicated and would expose our cave rescue volunteers to elevated risk from the virus.
We wish you all a happy return to caving, in what, we hope, is the beginning of the end for the pandemic.
Updated: 3rd November 2020
The UK government have announced a new lockdown for England from Thursday 5th November to Wednesday 2nd December. The details of this lockdown can be found here:
The guidance emphasises staying at home, but with a few exemptions, including “to exercise outdoors or visit an outdoor public place - with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household...”. In terms of travelling you should “avoid travelling in or out of your local area, and you should look to reduce the number of journeys you make” but you may travel “for exercise if you need to make a short journey to do so”.
Clearly there are lots of subjective terms in this (‘local’, ‘short’ and ‘exercise’) which leaves interpretation to the individual.
However, the allowances for outdoor exercise and travelling to public places seems to suggest a desire to keep the nation enjoying safe outdoor recreation, perhaps in the belief that the risk of virus transmission between those participating in outdoor pursuits only within their household is low, and the physical and mental health benefits of ourdoor exercise are high.
Caving, being an outdoor activity and exercise, and one which can take place in public places (including all caves on CRoW access land) could reasonably be considered a permissible activity.
If you are continuing caving over the coming month, what is clear is that it must be within a household, bubble, or between two people from different households, and we suggest that it should be within your nearest caving region.
We suggest avoiding caves where obtaining permission would typically involve calling on the landowner, or the approach means passing through farms or residential areas. There are plenty of great caves in our region that can be visited within these suggestions. Use the online booking system for Ingleborough, Leck and Casterton Fells to help avoid meeting others in your chosen cave.
Finally, remember that a rescue under the current circumstances would be complicated and would expose our cave rescue volunteers to high risk from the virus, particularly as the R-number is high in our region. Cave sensibly, pick a trip that is within your capabilities and presents few hazards. Pay particular attention to weather forecasts as winter is upon us and water levels are high.
Updated: 20th September 2020
On Monday 14th September, the UK Government introduced the ‘Rule of Six’ to combat the spread of Coronavirus. This effectively limits all gatherings, indoors or outdoors, to a maximum of six people irrespective of households and including children.
The Government have however issued specific guidance relating to outdoor sports, of which caving is specifically listed.
For many of us, the ‘rule of six’ will have little impact on our caving habits, as many caving groups will be six people or under for practicality reasons. However, the guidance does allow for more than six people to gather for the purposes of caving (as well as a large number of other outdoor sports) on the condition that the event is organized by a club or ‘similar organisation’ and providing an appropriate risk assessment is in place to address Covid-19 risks.
We therefore advise that caving can still continue at present, but with some additional considerations.
We recommend, for simplicity, that groups meeting to go caving are limited to six people where possible, and of course, different households within those groups should continue to observe the sensible measures we have all become used to now (e.g. social distancing).
However, if you wish to hold a caving event with more than six people, for compliance with Government regulations, this should be organized through a club or ‘similar organisation’ and an appropriate risk assessment should be in place. The is no definition of ‘similar organisation’ or ‘club’ so some common-sense interpretation may be needed that maintains the spirit of the guidance for advanced planning, risk assessment and mitigation and of course the social distancing and hygiene procedures we have all become accustomed to.
Our amazing caves are there to be enjoyed, but we urge you to explore them responsibly and with additional thought for safety and Government guidance, which may change soon given the concerns about a second wave.
Please remember that a cave rescue at present would have many additional challenges, and expose the rescuers to an elevated level of risk than usual. Consider your choice of trip very carefully with respect to the capabilities of your team and the weather forecasts.
Council of Northern Caving Clubs
Updated Monday 29th June 2020
Following the easing of lockdown and several changes to government advice in England cavers have been returning to their favourite underground places. Most of the caves across the region are accessible and cavers should refer to the more detailed access information across the website. In Scotland different rules apply.
The Covid 19 virus is still a danger to all of us and anyone feeling unwell or displaying any of the well-publicised symptoms of the virus should stay at home and follow medical advice. It will be necessary to take Covid precautions for some time to come.
From the 4th July we expect pubs, accommodation and other businesses to open up across the areas although within the limitations of government guidelines. More club activities will take place such as the opening of tackle stores, some trips and even a limited amount of club hut accommodation.
The CNCC still advise all cavers to:
BE CAUTIOUS - Take heed of guidebook warnings, fitness, skill levels and most importantly weather forecasts.
CAVE WITHIN THE CAPABILITIES - of your whole group and lower your grades where necessary.
BE CONSIDERATE TO ALL YOU MEET - Pay particular attention to where you park and get changed. It may not be appropriate to call at farms or dwellings as you have before – seek advice from local cavers.
We have had no complaints from landowners or local communities so far and some gratifying expressions of support where we have been invited to help. We ask everyone to help us maintain and improve the positive opinion many locals have of cavers especially where they have benefited from our assistance. As always Cave Rescue will respond to an incident but they may respond with limited personnel and need to take many extra precautions. Even a simple incident has much greater implications than in normal times.
The online booking system for Ingleborough, Leck and Casterton Fells is open again. Please use it to keep a distance from other groups. Elsewhere, please be prepared to change your objectives if other groups are present but make sure to amend your call-outs accordingly.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Ukcaving for more information.
Stay safe and have fun.
CNCC Access officer