/ Calling North East Climbers
At recent BMC North East area meetings there have been discussions about a clean-up of Crag Lough. See below for background and rationale.
The National Trust (land owner) has been consulted and is supportive of the idea.
A date has now been set for the clean-up:
15th – 16th September
The basic proposal is clean-routes on the Saturday and climb on the Sunday with a BBQ at Haltwhistle campsite on the Saturday evening. Beers in the Twice Brewed Inn are optional but recommended!
There will be a meeting art the Newcastle Climbing Centre (St Marks Church) on Thursday 9th August at 8:00 pm for anyone interested in helping out. If you cannot attend the meeting but are interested in volunteering or have any questions please contact me directly through this site.
I must apologise for the relatively short notice but is hoped that a significant number of North East climbers will be able to participate.
The crag is an extensive North facing Whin Sill Dolerite escarpment offering over 100 recorded routes the majority of which are in the perennially popular HS to HVS range. Although North facing the rock is generally clean, extremely hard wearing and does not tend to polish. The crag was one of the earliest to be developed in Northumberland and the classics at this fine crag bear comparison with the best outcrop routes anywhere. However over the last few years the crag has fallen out of fashion, with many climbers tending to focus on sandstone outcrops further North in The County. The relative neglect of the Whin Sill crags has resulted in increased vegetation on all but the very most popular routes resulting in the familiar cycle of less attention and further encroachment of vegetation.
The vegetation of concern tends to be grass and small shrubs encroaching on ledges and in cracks; unlike on sandstone, lichen formation in the winter months is not a significant problem. The timing of the clean-up towards the end of the season is to allow for the departure of any nesting birds and since the vegetation will not return during the winter months the benefits should be enjoyed throughout next year as well as the closing part of this summer
Unfortunately the erosion at Northumberland sandstone venues is a serious problem, especially on routes in the popular middle grades and it has been argued that that a clean up of Crag Lough may result in more mid-grade climbers making more use of this venue, thus taking some pressure of the sandstone, as well as improving the climbing there for it's own sake.
As if you needed another excuse to help out The BMC have kindly offered to provide the food for Barbeque on the Saturday evening.
Fingers crossed for the weather
Just a reminder that the preliminary meeting for the clean-up will be at the Newcastle Climbing Centre (St. Mark’s Church in Byker) this Thursday at 8:00 pm
BMC Access & Conservation Officer
Could anyone who is intending to participate email me (even if you have already done so) so we have a rough idea of numbers for food and any extra kit required on the day. Also let me know if you are a vegetarian or have any dietary requirements not compatible with a barbeque.
Details are more or less finalised and are given below. A lot of this has been covered before and most of it will be pretty obvious but I've tried to include everything for completeness.
The plan is to clean routes on the Saturday and enjoy the fruits of our labour by climbing on the Sunday. The BMC are laying on a barbeque at Winshields Farm Campsite on the Saturday evening as thanks for your efforts. There is a decent pub a very short walk away.
The Winshields Farm Campsite is 400 yards West of the Twice Brewed Inn on the Military Road (B6318)
Cost is £7 per person for camping, 50 p per car; there are ca 60 pitches, so space should not be an issue and booking probably not needed. If you don't feel like camping there is also a bunkhouse which sleeps 12. I would suggest advance booking if you plan to use the bunk house. There is also a YHA near the pub.
The crag is situated 35 miles West of Newcastle upon Tyne about half a mile off the Military Road (B6318).
Cars can be parked at the National Trust Steel Rigg car park; the crag is about a twenty minute walk from the parking.
The crag sits immediately below the Roman Wall (UNESCO World Heritage Site) on land owned by the National Trust, who are fully supportive of the clean up. The crag is also an SSSI. The scientific interest is in the geological formation itself rather than any flora or fauna living upon it, consequently removal of vegetation should have a positive impact on this aspect of the crag environment. Formal approval is pending from English Nature however no problems are anticipated.
The crag is a nesting site for birds, primarily Peregrines and Ravens. Whilst the birds have long since departed for this year, one or two ravens nests will still be present. These nests are often quite large and the ravens typically return to them each spring. If you find a nest in the middle of a climb it should not be removed, however obstructive it may be.
On the day
We will be meeting at the Steel Rigg car park at 9:30. There will be a short briefing from Dan Middleton from the BMC and/or myself at around 9:45. Dan will provide everyone with a short risk assessment which you will all be asked to read and sign. The assessment is really a matter of common sense. We will then head off en masse to the Crag at 10:00.
I think we'll get the barbeque going around 6 - 7 pm.
Litter is not a significant issue at the crag; the purpose of the clean up is to remove vegetation from holds, ledges and cracks. The problematic vegetation is most commonly sods of turf which can be fairly easily removed on abseil safeguarded by a prussik. This monsoon summer has really had an impact on the crag, the rate of growth has increased markedly this year making the need for some serious gardening all the more pertinent.
If you are fairly new to climbing and have any doubts what so ever about setting up abseil anchors and abseiling safely please don't be afraid to ask - there will be plenty of experienced folk to pair up with if needs be.
What to bring
Standard climbing gear:
basic rack for setting up anchors (including long slings),
small trowel (for ledges/flat holds),
a patio knife (for narrow cracks / a nut key will work nearly as well),
small nylon bristle bush (for cleaning away dirt and soil).
Anything which you bring for gardening and cleaning on abseil should have an attachment loop of some kind so it can be clipped to your harness with a krab.
I don't expect secateurs will be needed, however if you have a pair bring them as they may be useful.
Tom Parkin has made the very good suggestion of taking photographs of routes before and after cleaning, thus providing a visual record of what has been done for any interested parties such as English Nature and the National Trust. They could be also used to illustrate the good work done and spread the word amongst to the wider climbing community after the event.
Don't worry if you don't have everything on the list above. We will have goggles, gardening gloves, and a few trowels and patio knives for you to borrow on the day. We should also have some static abseil ropes which you can borrow if you don't fancy getting your nice shiny new sport climbing rope dirty.
I am trying to source a large barbeque for the Saturday evening, however if you have a large barbeque and would be prepared to bring it along, please get in touch with me. In addition I should be bringing a small gazebo in case of inclement weather. Something like this:
If you have something similar and rain looks likely then please bring it along.
If you have read this far, thanks! I don't think there is anything else, but if you have any questions please get in touch
Hope to see many of you on the 15th September
Hope all goes well and look forward to visiting there sometime soon.
Great to see things like this happenning in the community though! Maybe sometime soon, we can manage to get climbing outside, join in and enjoy the crag.
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