Committee Outcomes - October 2020

24 October 2020

The CNCC Committee met over Zoom on Saturday 17th October.

This was probably one of the best-attended Committee meetings we have had in a while, with about 25 people attending including our Officers, Committee, and several other participants. The photo above was taken at the end of the meeting after several people had left.

There were a number of matters on the agenda and we had a really productive discussion.

Covid 19: One of the early agenda items was a short presentation by our clubs on how the Covid-19 situation has impacted them. It was reassuring to hear that most clubs had come to very similar solutions and that caving had resumed in various forms. It was also great to hear that some caving club huts were starting to reopen to guests as well as members, albeit in a limited and Covid-safe capacity. The enthusiasm to get back to caving remains strong.

Anchors: We talked about anchors and a proposal from ULSA to buy more to maintain our stock reserves. Of the 650 IC anchors we bought a couple of years ago (custom manufactured in the UK) we have now installed about 200 of them across an assortment of sites. The CNCC Committee agreed that there was no immediate need to purchase another batch as we have a healthy stock remaining, but instead we would work to encourage the BCA to purchase them, so that they could be available to all regions, not just the north.

Co-opted Officers: We welcomed Mark Richards as our new representative to the BCA E&T Committee, while at the same time thanking Geoff Whittaker who has stepped down as online booking system administrator (he was previously also our Ingleborough, Leck and Casterton permit secretary, and played a very significant role in our modernisation of cave access).

BCA: We also thanked Tim Allen for his work as our representative to BCA’s National Council, which he was stepping down from. The CNCC have taken an extremely proactive role in the BCA over recent years, supporting and firmly pushing a modernising, pro-CRoW, pro-caving agenda which we feel is what the north needs (but which some other regions have been pushing back on). We are seeking a volunteer to take over Tim’s role and continue this positive interaction with BCA.

Access: On the subject of CRoW, we were briefed on the latest news from the BCA’s efforts to seek a judicial review into the decision of the Welsh Government to exclude the activity of caving from the scope of its Access Reform Advisory Group's work on legislative reform. The judge has refused to allow judicial review on the grounds that the Welsh Government's decision is not justiciable. The BCA, through CRoW convenor Dave Rose, intend to appeal this decision. Only if this appeal is won can the substantive issue of whether caving comes under the CRoW Act be put before a court.

Student Caving: Rob Watson presented a rather excellent document aimed at summarising the popular northern caves for students. This document allows for an at-a-glance comparison of their relative wetness, SRT difficulties and navigational challenges of the various trips as well as providing links to resources for navigational guides, conservation, and access information. We agreed to work with Rob to help refine the document and provide a link to it from our website.

Training: Our Training Officer, Ian Patrick, gave an update on work to establish CNCC-sponsored training workshops. Poor Ian has picked a bad year to start in this role, but hopefully we can get some of these workshops happening next year in a Covid-compliant way. Likewise, intentions to set up a couple of anchor installer training sessions, have been put on hold until face to face meetings can be organised with greater confidence in their viability.

Promoting Caving: Our PR Officer, Matt Ewles, is arranging for a selection of caving photos to be printed and framed to help promote caving at a number of public venues across the region (many thanks to Mark Burkey and Gary Douthwaite for allowing their photos to be used).

Birkwith: The current access challenges at Birkwith were discussed. Sadly, the situation there has continued to deteriorate. The CNCC will be looking to our Local Access Forum and the National Park for assistance in addressing this matter. The caves of Birkwith are important sites, not least for introducing people to caving, and we will be doing everything we can to restore access. At the moment the landowner is asking all cavers to stay away. Therefore, any approach to these caves should be made from Selside or Horton, keeping exclusively to access land or public rights of way, and away from the farm.

Conservation: Finally we discussed an application for funding from the Grassington Mines Appreciation Group who have been planning and getting all necessary permissions for a major project on Grassington Moor to fence-off a number of disused shafts, while preserving access to them for the future. We were impressed by the efforts they had gone to, and their professionalism in approaching the project, and £2000 of funding was agreed to support this work.

Summary: Overall, it was an enjoyable and productive meeting. More than anything, it was great to see so much positivity, something which is not to be taken for granted these days!

All CNCC meetings are open to everyone to attend. For obvious reasons we don’t publically post the Zoom joining details, but if you are interested in attending and are not on our usual mailing list then just contact our Secretary and he will forward you the details ahead of each meeting.

Stay safe and happy caving over the winter as best we can.

Council of Northern Caving Clubs