AGM 2021 Outcomes

26 March 2021

The CNCC 2021 AGM took place on Zoom on 20th March

The meeting was attended by 33 people (not bad at all), including 16 of our member clubs, and had a busy and varied agenda.

After the usual housekeeping duties, we turned to the Officer reports, which highlight nicely the amount of work done behind the scenes to improve northern caving, and then the other agenda items. The following are just a selection of the highlights and discussions from the meeting.

Chair’s comments:

Andrew Hinde gave thanks to Tim Allen and Ben Wright who were stepping down at this meeting, and confirmed he too would be looking to step down next year. We would love to hear from anyone interested in being the next CNCC chairperson.

Andrew praised the advice the CNCC has given throughout the pandemic which has helped caving to continue within the law, without any issues having been raised by local landowners. Our guidance will continue to be adapted until restrictions are ended in June.

Andrew emphasised the amount of money the CNCC has in the bank (>16K), despite proactive spending over the past several years. With almost all our costs now covered by the BCA thanks to some recent funding rule changes, the need for us to hold large reserves is reduced. We welcome ideas for ways this money could be put to good use. We would also like to emphasise that if you or your club have a conservation, training, caving publicity or any other such project that will benefit northern caving, there are funds available to help and we urge people to get in touch.

Access:

Tim Allen discussed the situation at High Birkwith where access is being refused. This affects Calf Holes, Old Ing, Birkwith Cave and others, and follows a deteriorating situation since the new owners moved into the farm. Tim and Andrew recently attended the Cave and Crag Access Group, to raise these issues. We hope that post-pandemic, we can make some further progress here, subject to a volunteer coming forward for the role of Access Officer over the coming months.

Tim presented some issues with respect to BCA insurance. Historically, the BCA public liability insurance provided indemnity to any landowner who gave permission to access a cave on their land. This was always seen integral for reassuring landowners with respect to letting cavers on their land. The CNCC has found that this landowner indemnification no longer forms part of the understanding of the BCA’s policy. This has obvious consequences for several sites in our region, so we are working with BCA to see the previous policy understanding reinstated. Tim has kindly agreed to continue to see this matter through while we continue to search for a new Access Officer.

Conservation:

Despite a tricky year, we have seen some excellent conservation projects, including repairs to the walling and stiles around Alum Pot and Long Churn, wall repairs and graffiti cleanup around Yordas Cave and complete restoration of the entrance to Knackertrapper Hole. Kay Easton reported a strong pipeline of jobs for the coming year which is great news.

The Stories in Stone project ended this year after five years, involving 28 different conservation projects around the Ingleborough Dales. The final claim allowed us to purchase an 18V SDS drill and 18V angle grinder (each with two batteries), which will be available to support further conservation and anchoring projects. A fine legacy of an outstanding scheme. These, and all other CNCC assets will be listed on the new CNCC website once developed, so cavers can see what equipment we have available to borrow to support their own projects.

Training:

Ian Patrick has had a challenging first year in the Training Officer role due to Covid restrictions, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm. He updated us on a plan to run ‘Return to SRT’ workshops commencing after restrictions are relaxed. You will hear more of these once dates are confirmed. Over the last year, Ian has been working with our webmaster to create a simple online system for booking onto training courses; this was used successfully for the courses planned originally for February, which sadly had to be cancelled. Fingers crossed for spring and summer.

Equipment and Techniques (E&T):

Mark Richards has been our representative to the BCA’s E&T Committee since June. His proactivity has seen our involvement with the E&T revitalised. Over the past year, the CNCC has proposed that the BCA procure a batch of IC anchors for use nationally, which has now been agreed. While the new batch is being manufactured, the CNCC will happily supply our existing IC anchors on request to any other Regional Caving Council to support projects nationally. Meanwhile, Mark is pushing for some improvements to BCA E&T to try to make it a better national resource for anchor installers, which will ensure the knowledge we have gained on IC anchors and resins are passed on.

PR/Communications:

Matt Ewles reported an upcoming article in The Visitor magazine to promote caving, the use of our new mailing list for communicating with individual cavers, and the launch of our media page on our website, plus other initiatives. We are also producing a batch of framed caving photographs which can be distributed free to local venues (visitor attractions, pubs, cafes) to showcase underground landscapes and promote caving. If you have a contact at any venue in the Dales who would be amenable to prominently displaying such a framed photo, please get in touch.

Website and online services:

Gary Douthwaite has redeveloped the online cave booking system and has recently built a new system for managing anchor records which is being tested by our installers. He is also in the process of redeveloping the main CNCC website to modernise the coding and bring a fresher styling. Gary’s stats from Google Analytics never cease to fascinate; Who would imagine that in normal times we would achieve around 4000 downloads/month of our rigging topos and cave descriptions (>2000 in February despite lockdown); and that 60% of the 655 users of the online booking system users are using a mobile phone to make their cave bookings.

Officer and Committee Elections:

The same CNCC Committee were re-elected as the previous year:

  • Bradford Pothole Club
  • Craven Pothole Club
  • Earby Pothole Club
  • Grampian Speleological Group
  • Kendal Caving Club
  • Northern Boggarts
  • Northern Pennine Club
  • Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club
  • Uni of Leeds Speleological Association
  • White Rose Pothole Club
  • York Caving Club
  • York Uni Cave and Pothole Club
  • Yorkshire Subterranean Soc

We re-elected Andrew Hinde, Josh Young, Kay Easton and Ian Patrick as Chair, Secretary, Conservation Officer and Training Officer, respectively. Unfortunately, no volunteers came forward for the roles of Treasurer or Access Officer, which is a real shame after several incredibly positive years. This will obviously hinder our productivity in several areas, so if you feel that you can help would really appreciate hearing from you, and there is no reason we cannot co-opt someone to either of these roles for the remainder of the year, with support from your predecessor.

Dales water tracing:

We heard from Graham Proudlove, Phil Murphy and Tom Calpin on their work to produce a database for recording water tracing experiments across the Yorkshire Dales. The results were outstanding; An online resource for displaying, searching, and visually seeing (in map format) all recorded water tracing results. The team asked whether the CNCC would be interested in hosting this in some way, which received a positive response. Our webmaster is going to work with the team to make this happen, and we think you will be rather impressed by the results. Great work by Graham and the team. Watch out for more news on this!

Anchors:

Work to follow up on defective anchor reports has been ongoing as much as possible over the last several months while the caves have been quiet, with most reports now dealt with.

We debated a proposal to approve a small number of stainless-steel resin bonded anchors installed historically outside of the BCA/CNCC scheme. In the past we had ruled this out on liability grounds, but now that we have better systems for reporting and investigating defective anchors, good online guidance to cavers for checking anchors before use, as well as the means to test anchors if required, we would like to revisit this. An example cave is Dale Head Pot, which has been anchored to a high standard but outside of the BCA/CNCC scheme. This is a discussion that will be continued by our installers and revisited at a future Committee meeting.

We debated a proposal to re-anchor Diccan Pot. This achieved a mixed response, and the debate was welcomed. Diccan Pot has generated several reports of defective anchors over the past years. Furthermore, it is well known that the anchor placements in Diccan spans several generations and perhaps are not to the standard that would be expected today. The proposal would see removal of the old unapproved or defective anchors and replacement with new ones. As this is a significant project, CNCC approval would be needed, and some people felt the proposal needed revising on conservation grounds owing to the magnitude of the work, and some fine tuning was needed. We supported the proposal subject to it reaching a consensus amongst a meeting of all anchor installers, which will be convened over the coming month.

Anchoring of Mayday Hole, a new 130m deep discovery on Dowlass Moss (which you will certainly hear more about over the coming few months) was also approved. This joins our existing approved pending projects, Pay Sank and (Get Down) Shep Pot for anchoring this year.

Finally:

We would like to thank everyone who attended for making this a productive meeting.

Equally we would like to remind you that we move into 2021 with two vacant officer roles (Treasurer and Access Officer) a vacant club position on the Committee, and a vacant position for a Committee representative of individual cavers. Next year we will be looking to elect a new Chairperson too. The CNCC has only been able to deliver what we have over the past several years thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, and we urge anyone interested in helping to come forward.