/ The BMC and Hillwalking - Q&A now live here
Carey is on hand today until 5pm
Cheers Dan. Hello everyone. Look forward to answering your questions.
When out in the hills I often come across public footpaths that go through fields. Sometimes (quite often!) a farmer or land owner restricts access by chaining gates, adding barbed wire etc. How does the BMC tackle this behaviour and maintain good relationships with farm owners?
Hi Beth. Thanks for your question. Firstly, rights of ways are protected by law, and if a landowner places a deliberate obstruction on a public footpath they could be committing an offence. The first port of call in that instance should be to contact the local highway authority.
However, there are other problems which may benefit from a more informal approach - say if what the landowner has done falls short of being illegal, but is still inconvenient. In this case you have two options. The BMC has a network of local volunteer access representatives - you can find the one nearest you and contact them. They are listed on our website here: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/list-of-bmc-access-reps
If you're unable to contact our local access rep, you can get in touch with one of our full-time access officers who deal with local access issues. In Wales this is Elfyn Jones - firstname.lastname@example.org. In England it is Rob Dyer - email@example.com.
In general the BMC tries to foster positive, productive relations with land owners and farmers. As far as possible we try and reach agreements on access through informal means. Much of the time problems simply stem from misunderstandings or lack of information. However you do have legal rights to access the countryside and if you find them wifully obstructed you shouldn't take it lying down. There is more information about what your rights are as a walker on our website.
Hope that answers your question!
Cheers! Very informative
What is the BMC's position on gaining better access laws akin to the Scottish Right to Roam?
No problem. Another option in the case of blocked footpaths is to contact the Ramblers: http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking/report-a-path-or-access-problem.aspx
I'm very pleased to see the BMC have appointed Chris Townsend as a hillwalking ambassador, are there plans for any more? I notice you have recently appointed 7 climbing ambassadors.
> I'm very pleased to see the BMC have appointed Chris Townsend as a hillwalking ambassador, are there plans for any more? I notice you have recently appointed 7 climbing ambassadors.
A question similar to the one I wanted to ask. I'm a climber and walker; bit disappointed to see the ambassadors as nearly all climbers. Does this misrepresent the BMC or is their focus all climbing?
We are of course supportive of better access laws wherever possible. This question has come up recently in Wales. The Welsh Assembly government recently announced its intention to overhaul the legal framework for access to the countryside in Wales. They are looking to simplify things and have mooted something resembling a 'Scottish' style open access system. An article explaining this in depth by our Welsh access officer Elfyn Jones is on the BMC website here: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/access-charter-for-wales
The BMC would be supportive of moving towards a 'Scottish' style access system in principle. This would benefit recreational users by extending their freedom to roam and also benefit landowners by simplifying and clarifying the laws surrounding access and occupiers liability. We are working hard to lobby the Assembly on behalf of our members to get our point of view across, but there has been a strong negative response to the assembly's proposals from the angling and landowning community. BMC members will need to make their voices heard if we are to get the type of access we want. We are looking into the best way of encouraging our members to put their point of view across.
In theory and principle we would be in favour of an open access system like Scotland's in England too. But we take the view that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW), which created open access land on 'mountain, moor, heath and down', despite not being perfect, was a huge advance on what existed previously. A 'Scottish' style system in England would be nice but it is a long way off.
Hope that helps.
With out trying hijack the thread, was does the role of BMC hillwalking ambassador encompass? will it involve "rambling in the malverns?" or be more focused to the upland areas?
Thanks for that, I'll read Elfyn's article.
I suspect the Landowners to be a bit NIMBYist and the anglers...[rolls eyes]
> No problem. Another option in the case of blocked footpaths is to contact the Ramblers: http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking/report-a-path-or-access-problem.aspx
How do you see the BMC and the Ramblers working together/ duplicating effort? Is there some sort of "articles of understanding" that says this is a BMC issue. but this is a Ramblers issue? I'm sort of aware that resources are limited but that in some circumstances a push from more than one body might be helpful
(Hmm. Maybe I,m rambling now..
And on a related issue, How do you persuade a land owner to improve access when thereis no statutory right? My experience is that land agents regard granting any access, even concessionary access, as economic madness.
Hi Stuart and Beth,
I totally see your point about the ambassadors. I can see how it looks.
The ambassadors scheme has been a while in development within the BMC, and it was always conceived as being aimed at young climbers in the 14 - 25 age bracket. It is funded by Sport England with quite a specific sport-minded aim, which doesn't really apply to hill walkers in quite the same way, as hill walking is not a competitive sport. The weighting in the ambassador scheme towards climbers reflects these origins. If you view it within the wider scheme of the BMC's work, you can see it has bolstered its hill walking work in other ways, including hiring myself!
However I did feel it was important to have a hill walking ambassador, and Chris Townsend is a great one to have as he has a profile and reputation that will go some way towards compensating for being 'outnumbered'. We will also be working with Chris in a slightly different way to the climbers. Numbers aren't everything!
The scheme is reviewed after two years, so perhaps there will be more hill walking ambassadors then if the BMC decides to change its tack on this.
so the ambassadors are a paid post? they are not chosen volunteers?
We already work closely with the Ramblers on a lot of things where our aims overlap - for example, the Welsh access review mentioned above, coastal access, wildlife and biodiversity issues, and CRoW. We certainly don't see ourselves in 'competition' with them and where we'll be more effective together we seek cooperation. I would urge anyone who cares about their access to the countryside to support the work of both our organisations.
In general, however, we focus more on the adventurous end of the walking spectrum - hill walkers, scramblers, etc - and have more to offer that type of person than the 'lowland' walker. Our focus is on the mountain environment in all its facets, and we cover a huge range of issues within that - conservation, safety, skills, wildlife, erosion, development, etc etc.
Yes, it is a paid post.
Our focus is on upland areas and high, wild places, so Chris's role as an ambassador will reflect that. In general, however, we support the whole transition into hill walking as well as the hill walking itself. Most people who get into hill walking start out by exploring the countryside in their local area, for example, which may or may not be hilly. We are keen to encourage an ethos of exploration and adventure which will lead to more ambitious things, and if that involves strolling in the Malverns - which may be very adventurous for some - then so be it.
Hope that answers the question.
It is possible to negotiate access agreements where there is no statutory right, and the BMC and other bodies have successfully done this in the past. My access colleagues will be able to provide specific examples. However yes, this is one of the basic deficiencies in the access system of England and Wales from a recreational user's point of view. If the landowner doesn't want it and the law doesn't say we can have it, then we don't get it. Contrast with the situation in Scotland and the Scandinavian countries, where you can - to simplify things - essentially go where you want as long as you behave responsibly. That doesn't mean it will always be perfect (Scotland has access problems too) but it does demonstrate why it's important for bodies like the BMC to continually work for improved access.
Is the BMC opposed in principle to the idea of outdoor activity companies paying something back towards the upkeep of the land that generates their income?
Just venturing out to obtain some food - see you all back here shortly!
So, really, on the one hand BMC are saying to hillwalkers 'come join us we are for you too, and thanks for the money' and on the other you aren't taking us seriously enough to warrant anywhere near comparable representation to your traditional climbing membership. CT's quality is very high but is he going to be 7 times as visible as the others...
As a hillwalker and potential ML I don't feel I have seen much value from the BMC. I talked to you at KeswickMF about the lack of hillwalking focused articles in Summit, and okay this one has been a little better than most but a casual flick through it still doesn't show a lot of visible commitment. With Chris on board is that going to improve...
The ambassador scheme is only one strand of the BMC's work which encompasses hill walking. There are many others. It is not the yardstick by which to judge the BMC. Access and conservation, lobbying parliament, provision of courses, publications, funding, safety advice, maps, media, local activism and my position are just some examples of other strands of work we do which benefit hill walkers.
The following link gives a small glimpse into some of the things we provide on the hill walking front: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/bmc-on-foot-supporting-hill-walking
There are more examples on the website.
And with more than a casual flick through of Summit you will find:
- Updates on our campaigning work to protect Stanage Edge (a walking destination as much as a climbing one), the appointment of keen hill walking MP Greg Mulholland as our link to parliament under the Sport England fellowship scheme, and the launch of the BMC Landscape Charter which sets out our responsibility to protect mountain landscapes from developments.
- Interview with Trail mountaineering editor and author of 'Britain's Highest Mountain Walks' Jeremy Ashcroft
- Full length feature by David Lintern on walking in the winter Cairngorms
- Interview with landscape photographer Dan Arkle
- Information on skills courses for hill walkers
- An article on how to avoid winter walking mistakes
- Pictures of the Lake District by filmmaker Terry Abraham
There is further content which is applicable to both walkers and climbers, some mountaineering, some skiing, and of course some which is mainly of interest for climbers. But overall I'd say there was a pretty good mix and it's not bad on the hill walking front.
We wouldn't be in favour making such a 'tithe' mandatory, but we certainly applaud companies seeking to 'give something back' to the environment and community on a voluntary basis. In reality some companies already do this - the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA), for example, is a coalition of 110 companies from around the world contributing to conservation projects. Other examples off the top of my head are Patagonia's 1% for the environment, Paramo's support for Trees for Life, or Berghaus's patronage of the Outward Bound Trust.
Don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but wasn't Llechwedd referring more to the outdoor adventure type companies running events "for free" on the hills, rather than the producers of clothing and equipment. I think there is an argument for these companies/groups/individuals to make some sort of committment early, rather than waiting for situations akin to the annual 3 peak problems to begin to crop up. The recent thread about charging individuals (possibly) for gorge access in the lakes because of the increased use by groups springs to mind
Llechwedd, please correct me if I've read this wrong.
Why not push towards a mandatory charge? Outdoor activity commerce profits from the resources that farmers, foresters and landowners have to put money into.
The examples you gave are a drop in the ocean- I can't say I've felt that any of the initiaitives you mentioned have made a blind bit of difference within the Snowdonia National Park where I live.
The BMC stance seems to be laissez faire capitalism in action and a sop to the mindset of those who fail to understand that the countryside is someones' shop floor. Indeed, in his magazine articles, Chris Townsend demonstrates a passion for the outdoors, but at the same time seems not to understand the commercial reality of upland forestry in the UK.
The good work of a few benificent national reatilers only tends to promote the notion that the countryside is some generic resource. It is rather different situation where money is directed back into the local community by organisations that benefit from that particular areas' resources.
Perhaps if the BMC is to be taken seriously at a regional/strategic level, it should consider getting real on this issue. Expecting non 'mountaineers' to take the BMC seriously requires that you speak with conviction, not blandishments.
spot on Mr Toad!
Yes, I may have misread Llechwedd's original post. I read 'outdoor companies' rather than 'outdoor *activity* companies'.
The bottom line is the BMC believes strongly that access to the countryside for recreational users is a basic right and should remain free. The BMC's Access Manifesto states that "Recreational visitors should not be required to pay for access to the countryside." You can read more of it here: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/Handlers/DownloadHandler.ashx?id=1094
We do not argue that access to the countryside for 'commercial' users should be charged. It might seem in principle a good idea to charge large commercial companies for accessing the hills but the definition of what counts as 'commercial' is very slippery. The skills courses run by Glenmore Lodge or Plas y Brenin or independent Mountain Leader trained guides could count as commercial, and they are activity providers, but they also fulfill an important role in skills training, education and safety. It's obvious that a film company doing an advert or similar in the hills is commercial but a local authority outdoor group teaching hill skills is not. There is money changing hands in both instances, but it is a matter of degree.
If you mean the types of 'mass' events run by charities around the Three Peaks etc, then it is perhaps a slightly different thing, but ultimately the decision for whether they should be charged is not ours to make. We exist to protect the freedoms of our members and not large scale charities or commercial organisations. When it comes to large scale challenge events we promote a policy of education and engagement with both the individuals involved and the organisers. An article exploring some of these issues here: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/the-three-peaks-challenge--what-do-you-think
We are very opposed to any exclusive use of hill/mountain land where a paying group or similar then has exclusive access to a natural feature to the detriment of other recreational users.
Sorry if all that is a bit obtuse but hopefully it throws some light on what you are asking.
just to lighten the mood a little, tell us a little bit about your hillwalking aspirations/targets/goals. Have you completed any of the many hill-lists out there or are you in the process of doing so?
This is touching on issues somewhat outside my remit, but I would make the point that farmers, landowners and people who live in the countryside already profit from the use of the countryside by recreational users, and the outdoor industry activity behind it. More walkers, climbers etc means more money spent in the rural economy. The Welsh Coastal Path is estimated to have brought £32 million to the economy in 12 months. Wales' National Parks are said to add £1 billion combined.
On top of that most of the outdoor industry is also based in rural areas, bringing additional commerce that way. Insisting that outdoor companies pay additional money to farmers and landowners strikes me as both unnecessary and potentially counterproductive as they already benefit considerably from the free use of the countryside by recreational users. That is my two cents anyway but as far as I'm aware the BMC does not have an official position on this point.
I'm afraid I'm not sure what you mean here. How does the BMC promote 'laissez faire capitalism'?
ACCESS should remain free. No problem with that.
The skills courses run by Glenmore Lodge or Plas y Brenin or independent Mountain Leader trained guides could count as commercial, and they are activity providers, but they also fulfill an important role in skills training, education and safety.
Skills training, education and safety aren't neccessarily learnt on courses. You can of course pay for them if you have the money and inclination. There's no 'could' about it- PyB is a commercially run centre, parasitic on the surrounding countryside.
But it is yours to deal with since they curtail the enjoyment of individuals who are often BMC members. Seems the BMC is more focussed on access to climbs than the blight of white Transits and litter.
We exist to protect the freedoms of our members and not large scale charities or commercial organisations.
But large scale commercial organisations impinge on the 'freedom' of your members. Is there a conflict of interest in that many high profile mountain people make their living from the hills through outdoor activity and they, rather than the rank and file majority are the true voice of the BMC?
When it comes to large scale challenge events we promote a policy of education and engagement
How far has it changed anything?
Payment should not confer any sort of proprietorial right, rather an acknowledgement of responsibility to put something back into that place, and not neccessarily something which will directly benefit the payer.
I'm afraid I'm not much of a list-ticker - I tend to value hillwalking as an opportunity to get away from things like numbers and lists! Munro-bagging and its equivalents seems a bit too prescriptive for my taste.
Having said that, I have been keeping a loose tally of the Munros - it's hovering around the 70 mark - and I've done most of the Wainwrights except a handful of the more obscure peripheral ones on the edges. Perhaps if I develop the list-ticking bug in later life I'll go back and do them. Or maybe loop them together in a long walk! I'm not averse to the idea of finishing all the Munros but I don't view it as an end in itself. I admire people who've done them all but I don't have a burning desire to get on with it myself, except in the course of exploring as much of Scotland as possible. Not yet anyway.
I get more excited about the prospect of long-distance walks. The Pacific Crest, the Great Himalaya and the Te Araroa trails are probably top of my lifetime ambitions at the moment. The most enduring experiences I've had have been long-distance walks abroad. In the UK, my favourite areas are the Lakes and north west Scotland - Assynt and Torridon in particular. The more scrambly the better.
When I'm not actually walking I try and write about it. I worked for an outdoors magazine for three years in which I wrote a lot and now at the BMC I'm trying to continue to develop my writing both for BMC publications (i.e. Summit) and in my own time.
Hope that gives you some idea! Always a subject I'm happy to talk about ;)
That's all for today folks. Carey is away for his tea now.
I think that was a really worthwhile and interesting session, so thanks to everyone who took part. And thanks Carey
I was a bit concerned with where you were going, but whilst I'm not sure I agree with everything you've said, this last sentence pretty accurately reflects my feelings about commercial (and yes, PyB and Glenmore Lodge are commercial) groups.
Shades of Garrett Hardin, if nothing else
Re Laissez faire capitalism-
leave it to the market - we applaud the good guys.
You seem to be using the argument that more visitors = more money= better. But there's no mention of the pressure that groups, either large or repeat attenders can impose in specific localities, or to the way that money spent is distributed.
Tesco use a similar tactic to bring a new supermarket to an area.
Some sectors of the rural economy undoubtedly benefit from walkers, particularly the visitors who stay overnight. Some farms benefit from B&B income. But not all.
In the honeypot village/town centres there'll be a mix of outdoor related businesses doing rather well out of visitors, and a good thing. But is there a benefit for the farmer whose land is on a popular route away from the honeypot centre- one who is unable to diversify because of planning restrictions imposed as the landscape draws the walkers to the unspoilt naturalness that he maintains.
There's a book which I find really thought provoking on the paradoxes and pressures on the rural environment which stem from modern mans' desire to connect with the 'natural' ( see pp 64 on)
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