/ Lament of the Cheddar MC
It is such a great resource and Martin has put a huge personal effort into making the place an accessible climbing playground for all abilities, so I shared his concern.
We had a great day mixing the Sport and Trad and doing routes on both sides of the Gorge, the place must be one of the most impressive inland crags we have outside the mountains.
As the venue is within day tripping distance of many urban centres I'm interested as to why more climbers are not using the place. Any theories? Any reasons why you do or don't like the place?
Personally I suspect that getting to grips with the access arrangement discourages a few, but in fact there are plenty of options year round.
Shut the road and i'll go.
For me, it's gloomy and - in my mind - often damp. Much prefer Avon Gorge personally.
Second time I went, I did Corrie and assumed (probably incorrectly) I'd done the best line there.
In short, there's nicer places around to my mind and those within a stone's throw of the gorge itself, ie Avon.
Mind you, I now live in Cornwall and don't really go beyond Devon with any sort of regularity.
> Shut the road and i'll go.
That'd only mean folks grumbling about the walk in!
Even gave myself an unexpected adrenaline rush with the last route of the day - "Easy Pickings" VS 4b, straightforward I thought, a pleasant number to wind down on. Within minutes I was gibbering whilst contemplating hard 4c moves with only a blindly placed cam to prevent me decking, manned up and made it though ...VS my arse!
Re Cheddar, for me it is purely that the most interesting (long) climbs have no access during the summer. I find most of the single pitch short sport routes a little uninspiring compared to the big routes there, which to me are what Cheddar is all about. It seems like having a car park directly beneath one of the best bits of rock in the country is a little short-sighted on the part of the Cheddar owners - they would get more visitors if the rock was open to climbers all year round.
Off topic, but I'd also like to see the Avon Gorge road closed. Bristol are missing out on an opportunity for a unique nature and leisure reserve. It would be really picturesque without the A4.
Not off topic at all. It would be just great for many if the Avon and Cheddar roads both closed.
Yeah i struggled on Easy Pickings - didn't it used to get Severe?
I'm sure the day i did it a freind also led it and thought it was possibly E1 5a!! I think HVS 4c is about right.
Whilst contemplating the move up from my dubious cam I was swearing "That is not a F**king 4b foothold!"
COLD. It's so goddam cold.
The gorge acts like a wind tunnel, often shaded and so it's only a summer venue for me really.
Also, I don't particularly enjoy the style of climbing. It's all very technical and awkward side pulls. But maybe i've always just picked the wrong routes?
Would be interested to hear some climb recommendations? Obviously there's coronation street. A few people mentioned raw deal but that's the only lines I've ever heard of.
Though if you said I want to climb E1 - E3 in avon gorge/the wye, people will be able to rattle of a list of must do routes.
Some of the big Sport routes are also worthy of attention, have done Stone Cold Fever and Goats R Us, but imagine Castles Made of Sand and Space Tourist are also similarly entertaining. It is a shame that quite a few of these routes are Winter season only.
I've never been drawn to the place for climbing because of the view stated above: damp, cold and windy. I also don't like limestone, it gets polished easily (although I don't know about the state of Cheddar gorge) and doesn't feel as solid as say gritstone. Limestone has the wonderful property of providing a 50/50 chance of slipping off great footholds after even minor polish which, although I'm being a bit sensationalist, has never appealed to me. I'm a trad climber and as limestone feels weaker it just doesn't have the same solid gear placements as other rock types I find. All adds up for a very stressful experience. Heard about access restrictions being difficult etc too.
Just giving the 2 cents of a climber who is capable but has never actually put out the effort to climb there. Hope that's an insight to (possibly) a recurring opinion?
Before March - generally too cold
April till the next set of access restrictions come in - great
Fully restricted access - done all the ones I can and not much sport choice.
Having said that I like it in that short interim period, are some great climbs there. Shakin like a leaf is as good as any of the nice Portland 7as.
Coming from London I would also say for sport its not much closer than Portland and with less choice.
I'm a Cheddar fan, there are some amazing routes there. Ahimsa is one of the best E3's I've ever done
Maybe a better guidebook would help?
or one where the cover stays on :P
Ditto. I've not been out much this winter at all otherwise I'd have been putting my hours in. Looking forwards to the summer evenings.
And Ahimsa is mint. Twilight is pretty good too and I hear very good things about Dream Cruise.
Folk who can't be bothered to try, or who go to the wrong bits at the wrong times of year or whatever - that's their loss really, but I can't help feel a bit sorry for them missing out!
> COLD. It's so goddam cold.
God, you guys are soft. You want to try a few hours at Ramshaw at the moment.
I used to live in Nailsea and climbed at Cheddar quite often. It's a tropical paradise.
> Shut the road and i'll go.
Why would that change your mind?
To be fair, given that there's a crag in cheddar facing to every point of the compass, how folk can claim its always shady and always windy beats me as well. Assuming the sun is out there will always be a crag in it, and there's always going to be somewhere out of the wind as well...
Why was he checking and how did he check? is a legal requirement for the gorge?
> Why would that change your mind?
I just don't like the noise, same reason i struggle with Avon. I started climbing in the Mountains away from the rat race and although now i do spend a lot of time in grot-hole quarries, its mostly new routing or guidebook work. For leisure i want peace. Out on the end of Brean down is my favorite place at the moment (locally).
Part of the access conditions is having 3rd party liability cover.
This place is great; I wish I could climb there more often. I think it is off the beaten track for a lot of people. I think you have the scope for better topos in a guidebook. I imagine a series of A4 fold-outs attached to the guide book.
If I lived closer I'd climb there more often but it's a climbing style I don't really enjoy. I've not spent much time at Wintours for the same reason.
Some overrated classics and the most inspiring routes being winter only don't help either. If I'm traveling that far I'd usually go to Avon first.
I do appreciate Martin's efforts though and I'm surprised that the numbers are falling.
In terms of checking, you are supposed to carry BMC membership card or similar, but Martin did have a chunky envelope with the full BMC membership list to check against with him yesterday.
Are you referring to Crocker's 2009 "Cheddar Gorge Climbs" here? I think the topos are pretty decent actually, although I have (like many) been afflicted by the detachable cover syndrome!
I'm a Cheddar regular. Choose your day and time of day and it's great to climb there all year round. As for the routes, there are absolutely stacks of great ones, trad and sport. I could come up with a long list. But if it's not your thing, fair enough.
That's funny - I always much preferred Cheddar to Avon! I don't think there are any routes around to challenge the best at Cheddar until you get to the SW sea cliffs.
> Part of the access conditions is having 3rd party liability cover.
Although that only applies to the South side.
Whatever Cheddar Caves would have you believe, the North side is CROW land and does not require BMC membership or insurance
> Although that only applies to the South side.
> Whatever Cheddar Caves would have you believe,
They don't misrepresent the situation at all, and far too many people ignore the basic insurance requirement.
I've driven through there - wasn't impressed. Seemed cold and damp while Avon was nice and sunny. I suppose I'd like to do Coronation Street someday, but the road running beneath any area is sort of a deal breaker for me so I don't bother with Avon either.
I live in London and after driving through there I just can't find a reason to go back. I can be there in around 2 hrs so it is close by London standards, but I'd rather go to Portland, Swanage, Peak District, or other Somerset crags. Just more of a chance that I'll get on a good route w/ some sun exposure. And if I have more than a few days I'm in the Lake District, N Wales, France or Spain.
Finally, I understand the access issues, but having some guy come around and check my name off some list would ruin my experience. For me, climbing is about getting away from that sort of thing.
> They don't misrepresent the situation at all, and far too many people ignore the basic insurance requirement.
I have, before, been climbing on the North side in Summer and been asked by Martin whether I was a member of the BMC.
When I asked why, I was told it was an Insurance requirement.
I know Martin and I don't buy that for a second
Yes, but I don't believe you
Hopefully there's enough devotes to keep it ticking over until it becomes popular. It would be an enormous loss if it was allowed to get back to it's previous state.
Panto auditions don't start till September! ;-)
For me, I've never had a guidebook to inspire - mainly because many of the more accessible developments never quite made it into the Avon and Cheddar guide as I discovered after I'd just bought it ! That coupled with the continued fug surrounding when where and what is climbable its just never seemed worth the effort of a trip from Cambridge
Yes, i think a new super duper CC guide is what is needed!!
I love cheddar, climb there often and think the content (if not the construction) of the sport guide is excellent.
I agree that a lot of the roadside 6's are pretty mediocre and often polished, which I suspect puts a lot of people off. However there are some great routes on some of the non-roadside crags which don't seem to get much traffic, maybe people can't be bothered or perhaps most people just aren't aware they are there.
In my opinion Cheddar really excels in the 7's, which would account for a smaller user group than an equal spread of quality and quantity across the grades. It also seems to be a similar situation with the trad - I am under the impression that the best trad is E3-E5ish, but I've not really done any trad in Cheddar so am not qualified to comment on this.
Agree with previous comments about the access arrangements, this is reasonably complex and may put off occasional visitors.
Are you aware of Martin Crocker's superb photo guide?
I became aware of one only after I'd just shelled out for what I thought was the definitive "Avon and Cheddar" guide for a club trip down that way ! somewhat pissed off to find that the brand new hot off the shelf guide I'd just bought especially for updates on Cheddar (I already had the previous Avon and Cheddar guide)was completely useless in that respect.
Always seems the way - I remember buying the one before this version of the Wye Valley guide when it came out for a trip to Symonds Yatt only to find a note at the end of the guide saying it was going to get covered in a separate book.
How "hot off the press" was the A+C guide when you bought it?
It came out in 2004 and was up to date then.
Martin C then did all the new developments and brought out his guide some years later.
I like Cheddar a lot - lots of good sports routes in my range in the 7s - haven't been there this year mainly due to not being available on the weekends when it would have been dry.
The road with all the tourist buses / guys revving their cars spoils the atmosphere for me. But the climbing is fantastic and I will definitely be there a lot more if/when the weather improves.
When I was down there last which may have been 2005 there was apparently some new Cheddar supplement available if you knew where to look... sounds like it might have been a forerunner of the guide you describe. Who publishes it ? I've not seen it on the shelves.
As far as I remember Martin Crocker's Cheddar project was well under way if not finished at the time of the then new Avon guide so I was probably hoping for a bit more and haven't seen anything since to inspire me to make the trip.
Thats the one I found in google but its not what I saw when I was there last. Any idea who stocks it ? having been bitten with buying guides that don't do what I hoped/expect I'd really like to thumb through one first.
As a CC member I guess I should have been more aware of the Cheddar guidebook situation but why isn't it a CC guide ?
Oh yes they do...
Not sure why it's not a CC guide, but not sure why it should be either...
I'm not falling for that!
P.S. "BEHIND YOU!"
Maybe people don't climb there because.
Full access is in winter only
They aren't members of the BMC or don't have insurance
They don't getting harrased to show insurance
It is over rated as a venue - though some very good individual routes
It is not worth the drive
Parking in summer is a nightmare
None of these reasons particularly relate to me. I just don't like it, it was my local crag for a while and I am glad I live nearer better venues now.
Having said all that. If some winter routes came in like they did 20 years ago, I would pay a visit ;-)
I think Cheddar's great and have always had a great time there, whether it be a big 'day out' route or pottering around on sports routes of an evening. Walkie Talkies are handy (as they are at Avon) but for position it's hard to beat. As far as cold goes, it's nothing a pertex jacket and a little down jacket won't fix most of the time. The weather this year however meant I didn't get down there, but then again I didn't do much anywhere :o(
Parking at Costa's is free; it is accross the rooad from the coffee chain.
Just under Lion rock.
I've been recently, unfortunately just outside of the winter season so not able to look at some of the routes I fancied. There aren't a shortage of routes though and I had a good day, if pretty cold.
Despite the in-laws being just down the road, it's not my first choice escape crag. I think it's the combination of traffic noise and the bolted anchors for trad routes which, while probably necessary for preventing damage, do reduce the feeling of adventure a bit.
The setting is impressive though, great views and an imposing feel.
I'd have expected it to be CC because Martin Crocker wrote the Cheddar section for the not so definitive guide. Only having it stocked locally is a problem for travelling climbers, isn't it ? they won't see the guide to decide its worth buying without travelling to cheddar - which I think is a problem. CC guides are generally more widely available.
Only downside is the binding - I don't think I've seen a well used copy where the spine has not detached. It is not a risky investment - even if you don't have the chance to thumb through it first.
P.S. I'm not on commission!
I don't really climb there because
- most of the best lines are only open in the winter, and mostly face north.
- some of the "good" low grade routes in the CC book are horrific.
- the really good climbing is too hard for me.
- you have to buy insurance to climb on the good side.
- there's a bloody great big road there.
- It can be hard to find free parking.
- I could get to Wintour's or Shorn cliff in the same time.
I find it curious why people wouldn't climb there, I must say. "It's cold" - f*cksake, buy a duvet jacket, what's the problem? It's like Yosemite compared to somewhere like Wintour's Leap. Still, there's no doubt the climbing is a bit challenging, and I guess that's the answer.
For myself, it's the same distance from London as Swanage and the latter has much more reliable weather, would be the reason I don't go more.
Surely the shite sport stuff must still be popular, isn't it? Or have the local shite sports climbers now climbed all of it?
Here's a list I compiled of selected stuff in the mid grades:
If you extend the band a little then classics like Coronation Street, Sullenburger, Simba as well as Sports lines like Goats R Us, Stone Cold Fever, Space Tourist and Castles Made of Sand are within reach of most active climbers.
Also thought Opt Out (which I did at the weekend) at 6b+ was one of the better single Sport pitch routes I've done in the UK.
Haven't you just answered your own question? Sure, if it was the only option then we'd all climb there no matter how cold it was. But since there are a number of options that are in season more often and more comfortable on any given day, we choose those instead.
The limestone is of the dusty, slippery type you find at Llangattock; Horrible compared with the clean, rough rock at, say, Wintours Leap.
Also, I did Mourning Glory after it was cleaned (but was unaware of the fact as it hadn't hit the news yet). 400ft of mud and tree roots was all that was left.
Had always been too frightened to try Coronation Street so never went back again.
Can't say there was ever any traffic noise though. Place always seemed like a morgue.
> The limestone is of the dusty, slippery type you find at Llangattock; Horrible compared with the clean, rough rock at, say, Wintours Leap.
> Also, I did Mourning Glory after it was cleaned (but was unaware of the fact as it hadn't hit the news yet). 400ft of mud and tree roots was all that was left.
> Had always been too frightened to try Coronation Street so never went back again.
> Can't say there was ever any traffic noise though. Place always seemed like a morgue.
This is exactly what I mean - some of the roadside rock is dusty/slippery/unpleasant, but a lot of people seem to assume this is what all of the climbing at Cheddar is like and don't bother to explore beyond the popular roadside crags.
There is a lot of much better quality rock available elsewhere, even in the lower grades - for example have a look at Sunnyside on Acid Rock where there is a lot of decent stuff in the mid 6's, sections of it on clean pocketed quasi-euro limestone. I think I may have 'Opt Out' specifically in mind, which someone mentioned a couple of posts back.
That, I think is the problem. Chicken and egg. Without an easily accessible guidebook people aren't going to decide to climb at Cheddar. Bit like Trevor rocks - totally mediocre sport climbing but the readilly available and inspiring Rockfax has turned it into a popular venue.
I'm sure you're right. Utopia and Sceptre always sounded hugely appealing.
Mourning Glory was cleaned by either the gorge owners or local council in the mid/late 90's. When I did it there was no rock on the first two pitches and the upper pitches had been completely removed, exposing fresh pink rock scars that went at about HVS. Sould have realised something was up, but after years of heavy gardening in the Wye Valley we had come to think of this sort of thing as 'normal'!
Slightly off topic, but since the guidebook situation has kept cropping up in the thread (and Martin tends not to post here), here is a potted history of the last few years.
The 2004 A&C CC guide was,as far as is humanly possible in a work of such huge scope, up to date on publication. However, work started almost immediately after on the great 'Cheddar Restoration Project', into which the BMC and CC&G sunk a large sum of money, generously supported by the CC and several local businesses, organizations, and individuals. Equally, Martin and his team put a huge physical effort into the work.
In 2005 Martin asked me if the CC would support him in producing some topos to the principal restored areas. We agreed to provide paper and ink for the purpose and I laid out a small booklet for him to print and staple himself. A year later so much more had been achieved on the crag that a proper book was obviously needed. The reasons that CC&G rather than the CC published were, first that CC&G made Martin an offer that he could not refuse and that the CC could not match, and second that it was not then CC policy to produce selective guides (which it was, rather than a genuine supplement) – times are a'changing!
Although the project was designed as a two-year one, the restoration and development continued apace for some time to come and by 2009 a further book was needed.
All three publications were supported by the CC (not least with the loan of two of its principal gb workers – excluding Martin that is).
For the future, I have expressed the hope to Martin that the CC will get the title back when the time comes for a new guide, but in reality CC&G, as the crag's owner and manager, have the upper hand.
It is well known that a new guide to Avon is being prepared and should be published shortly after the current restoration there is complete. Thereafter, the Cheddar volume of the 2004 guide will continue to be available on its own until such time as it is superseded.
I should also add that some 60 routes at Cheddar are described in the CC South West Climbs Vol 1 (published last year), more than half of them trad in the V Diff to E3 bracket, and the access situation is reproduced in full.
Hi John, thats interesting background. It would be great to see the Cheddar guide more widely distributed but it doesn't sound like its likely to happen anytime soon.
Shame Martin seemed cool on your Goats/Doomwatch link - sounds like it would be an awesome line, although the linking ground would need some major cleaning I suspect. I looked upward from the end of Goats with much the same thought, but thought it a bit green and bushy ahead. Well illustrated in this photo:
It might put the whole route into the winter season category though which would be a shame as Goats is one of the best summer season routes available to the mid grade climber.
I've had a couple of trips to Cheddar over the years, doing Coronation Street, Sullenberger and a couple of the long sport routes, all have been very good. So I end up thinking they were great must get down there again but never quite getting around to it (which I suspect happens to quite a lot of climbers).
This thread has led to me wondering what is it that means I've not been back (apart from my probable/perceived lack of fitness to get on Crow!). I climb at Swanage so it's probably not the loose rock issue, although I wouldn't actually want to drop a rock on a tourist myself (however much I might want to see a few of them under a large boulder). The access situation is a minor point, the new guide is quite good in this respect but does need studying. The traffic is a bit off-putting, also explaining why I've not done much at Avon either. Too many routes to do elsewhere. There's more sun at Swanage with just as good/exciting routes. The last part of the journey (from heading west down the M4) seems to take ages, Avon or Wye Valley are quicker to get to - unless someone can suggest a quick/easy route from the M4 that I've not found. And missing the local knowledge on a good pub close to either a cheap campsite or a suitable dossing spot.
But must try to get back this year!
I like the pub in whatever that twee village beginning with P is called that you get to by going out of the Gorge the other way from Cheddar village. It probably isn't particularly near any camp sites, though.
There is a camp site in Priddy http://www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk/siteseekerlite/aspx/details.aspx?id=9000 but there are also many, many caving huts, most of which are more than happy to have guests whether you're a caver or not.
Try http://www.wessex-cave-club.org/ http://www... http://www.shepton.org.uk/ among others.
Those are indeed the nearest pubs on that side. Pub update:
* The New Inn is currently closed (looking for an owner!)
* The Victoria does really good beer, and has roaring fires, but the food is very 'average'
* The Hunters is as 'unique' as it's ever been. I don't like it.
But... Word to the wise - take the 10 minute drive from Cheddar to Churchill (north) and go to The Crown. Amazing pub.
No trip down Swilden's was complete without a pint of Butcombe and a warm by the fire in the Victoria.
Sadly, many such trips remained incomplete after crawling out of the ground at 3 in the morning to find the pub very closed!
> No trip down Swilden's was complete without a pint of Butcombe and a warm by the fire in the Victoria.
The wood burner on the right of the door (as you enter the pub) is a beast!
That's a great little list, thanks for creating that. Are any of them climbable at the moment, of do they need to wait till autumn?
Access to the listed routes (S = Summer Season; W = Winter Only; A = All Year Access)
Demonic Arete S
Coronation Street W
Dinner Date A
Opt Out S
Goats R Us S
Stone Cold Fever W
Space Tourist S
Castles Made of Sand W
Beverly's Wall S
Back in Black S
The Numb Ones S
So plenty to get started on before Autumn! :-)
I don't think Consolation has summer access.
Yes - as ever with Cheddar it's easy to lose track! However, although the 2009 guide doesn't claim to be definitive it does specifically include all the South Side summer access routes. In fact while including most Top End stuff that one might actually want to climb, it has nothing on Reservoir Walls to the left of Heavy Metal Eurotrash. This, I think, is the area directly above the reservoir itself and I suspect that there would have been some fear of damage to the (covered) reservoir structure had normal rock removal operations been undertaken there; I recall, for instance, that most of the right wall of Consolation's lower groove had a somewhat unstable appearance a few years ago. As far as I'm aware the 2009 agreement has superceded the earlier relaxed situation above Shoot Gully, which anyhow didn't allow access in June.
This thread seems as good a place as any to mention (as another Cheddar local) that the "Summer Season" designation always seems unnecessarily confusing to me for crags and routes which are specifically *banned* in high summer but accessible in autumn/winter/spring.
"Three season" or "Off-peak" might have been a better term.
Three season" or "Off-peak" might have been a better term.
Agree 100% - the access is complex enough without adding layers of confusion with poor terminology. Both the alternatives you propose would make more sense.
Having climbed at Cheddar on Sunday I'm even more mystified - it was an unpleasant enough day weatherwise and The Wave does seep a fair bit, including the route we came to do, but still one could have a pleasant enough day. But I was very struck by the sheer mass of attractive clean rock around. I've no idea why locals wouldn't be ramming the place on summer evenings.
What's with the grades on the Wave, by the way? How could anyone possibly imagine that The Minstrel was the same grade as Crystal Gale? I would have said there was about an entire French number grade between them.
I think it suffers from a bad reputation and bad weather, this year especially so. It has been very moist for most of the winter season (not helped by me working when it wasn't). There is also very few easy beginner routes, which if you are in a group of mixed ability as I often am doesnt help. it is a wind trap and yes while something will always be in the sun, often it is only in the evening for a short while.
That said it is greatly under utilised, I love the climbing, great atmosphere.
I still think more popular than a few years ago, we were one of 3 parties out today mid week on a very windy day.
I am local but often struggle for partners due to antisocial work mainly. I have not been able to find a local club, maybe I have been looking in the wrong places, I wonder I a local club would increase number of locals out in the evenings? Certainly think would help me I doubt im the only one!
A few more people out, on the stuff other than road side crags, will make a big difference.
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