We have had a report of climbers active on the Coralized Wall at Cheyne Cliff in the last few days. The wall is covered by a restriction for nesting birds until June 30 which is clearly marked on BMC RAD, UKC Logbook, in the Rockfax guidebook and by permanent signs at the crag.
This restriction has been well respected by climbers for the last 25 years since the routes were first put up so it would be a shame to spoil this now. Please don't climb at this crag until after June 30 and if you see anyone climbing here then politely point out that they shouldn't be.
The restrictions are obviously highly important to not break but the other factor is the instability of this section of the crag.
Most of the left (edit - doh) hand side, just left of Drowning On Dry Land, fell down dramatically only a few years ago and the whole section was lose and dangerous. Even walking underneath it feels dodgy. I know it is climbed on fairly regularly outside on the restrictions, but it is a bit risky now. If the Coralized section went as well, a helmet ain't gonna do much!
I don't know if this was the same incident; even if it wasn't, though, it may give some useful context.
Often there are peregrines nesting on the main cliff. They're highly visible and probably 95% of the birder and public attention to peregrines on Portland is focused on them. Every year there are scares about climbers disturbing the nest. Although such scares go down well on social media and in the local newspaper, in my experience, they have little basis in fact. I live less than five minutes away. In the last 20 years I've never seen climbers on the Corralized Wall in the bird ban months.
On Saturday, I saw a post on a local climbing group on Facebook, forwarded from a local non-climbing group, saying there were climbers down there, the peregrines were going ballistic and somebody has spent something like an hour fruitlessly phoning the police. Concerned about the birds, I immediately went out to have a look. Nobody there. Nobody leaving the crag. But some people were visible at the close to Cheyne end of Dungecroft quarry. To a non-climber, this might seem like climbers on Cheyne and, as it happens, I know that the birds can be disturbed by people walking along the cliff-edge at this side of Dungecroft. This is usually day trippers from the local car-park, not climbers. A few years back, John Leonard and I put up some barrier tape and signs, asking people not to go near the cliff-edge and risk disturbing the birds.
Anyway I went across to Dungecroft and bumped into the loveliest group of young people you could ever hope to meet. I politely explained the situation, that they weren't knowingly doing anything wrong (Dungecroft isn't bird banned) but told them about the scare about the birds and asked them not to go near the edge. They were absolutely fine with this, bless them.
(Sorry this is so long - but you'll soon see why!) Then went home and reported back firstly to the climbers' FB group (all fine), then the local FB group. On scrolling down the latter (I hadn't looked before, had been literally straight out the door), I was horrified - something like 150 posts, some highly abusive. Anyway, I explained the situation and it seemed to calm down. Then the original guy came on, saying the climbers were down there at 8.30 am. (I'd gone for a look at 2.15) and being a bit passive-aggressive to me. A couple more trolls started and - no surprise - the thread got pulled. The next day (yesterday) a similar thread about local boy racers also got abusive and also got pulled. As a mate said, "The pitchforks are out!" And they are, well and truly.
OK - what to do? Yesterday I went out and put up four very amateur signs (on the ground) in Dungecroft, asking people - climbers and non-climbers - not to go near the edge and explaining why. I think such signs (but better ones!) probably need to go up, every year in the nesting season. Obviously in order to ab in to Road Rage sector (not bird-banned) you have to go near the edge. As long as people are quiet, I don't think that's a problem. Of the relevant bit of cliff-edge, it's about the furthest back from the birds.
More importantly, please be aware of local sensibilities. There are lovely, reasonable people here, there are people frightened of the outside world and inevitably there is the odd headbanger. Most of the time, as climbers, we are highly visible. Cheyne Weares car-park has been closed for a year and that was really our fault - hard-core climbers in vans shitting all over the place. Please be especially well behaved in the choke point parking areas of Reap Lane and the Climbers' car-park at Weston.
Two last points - one view is that, by discussing the problem, you're publicising the nest and increasing the likelihood of thieves. As mentioned above, the nest is already well-known. Getting down there is trickier than it looks and would take quite some time, in which a prospective thief would almost certainly be seen by the locals. Thankfully the birds seem pretty safe.
The last thing is more personal. I've put this up if only as important context. Last year, someone I know, respect and like very much ended up as 'piggy in the middle' between climbers and the locals on social media. I simply haven't got the energy for anything like that and he certainly shouldn't have had it to deal with. So I don't want to be drawn into protracted debates or anything like that.
Mick (Can't believe this is so long! You could be half-way up The Nose by now.)
Thanks very much for that Mick. I did suspect that the person reporting it to UKC was potentially talking about other areas nearby that aren't banned. It also sounds like the report may well be linked to the ones you spotted on FB.
The UKC Logbooks have 1 logged ascent on The Nook (banned but well away from the nest) since Jan 1 this year and none on the Corazlized wall. That could well have been a mistake since they didn't log other routes on that crag the same day. Obviously, people knowingly breaking bans may well avoid logging their ascents (curiously, they often still do in other areas I have noticed) but The Cuttings has 100s of ascents logged every weekend.
My impression working on the new guide is that Portland has finally begun to realise that climbers may be occasionally annoying when parking their cars but also a valuable commercial asset. We have about 3 times as many adverts from local businesses this time compared to the 2012 book.