South West BMC update - Ansteys Cove

 PRoberts 25 Mar 2021

Dear Climbing Community,

In response of the recent ground works at Anstey’s Cove that sparked a thread on UKC – UKC forums ‘Crag Maintenance vs Landscaping’, it brought the attention of the unsanctioned work at Anstey Cove, Devon into the public domain. The thread was widely discussed from climbers all over the UK and there were concerns of access issues being caused by such work in a SSSI conservation area.

The South West BMC Chair- Mark Kemball, acted swiftly and called a ‘Special Issue’ meeting on January 27th to solely discuss Anstey’s Cove ground works and its implications. The meeting was conducted via zoom and saw 94 attendees, including Rob Dyer (BMC Access & Conservation Officer, England) and Dave Turnbull (BMC Head of Access).

In Summary, the meeting’s agenda was not to address the quality / validation of the work as this judgement should be left to the landowner/regulator.  

The issues discussed and key outcomes of the meeting included:

The increased numbers of climbers during the Covid-19/Lockdown periods, putting added pressure on the local environment.

The BMC will initiate an informal approach to the owner (Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, TCCT) to make them aware of the current situation, with the aim to work closely with them and the local climbing community, as an ongoing process.

The BMC does not condone any crag restoration without firstly obtaining the landowner permission as well as a discussion with the wider climbing community. Crag restoration work should be discussed at your local BMC area meeting before commencing.

In addition, an Ansteys Cove working group has been created by the BMC SW area consisting of local volunteers to help and assist TCCT and monitor the situation.

Full minutes of the meeting are available on the BMC website.

Further to this meeting The BMC have drafted a Crag Restoration Code which should be referred and adhered to before undertaking any restoration work. Anstey's Cove

Crag Restoration Code:

Every crag is different – there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach but there are some general principles to consider:

 · It’s good to talk: discuss your ideas with your local BMC Access Rep or BMC Access Officer before starting work. They can help to establish if there are any known issues that should be considered and help put a plan of action together.

 · Nesting birds:

o Avoid carrying out work, especially anything involving tree or scrub clearance, between March-August in case birds are nesting.

o Check the RAD for seasonal restrictions for crag nesting birds before starting any work on or around a crag. If any restrictions are in place limit work to outside of the nesting season.

 · Legal designations: many crags are covered by legal designations for conservation, geology or heritage features. These include Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAM) and many more. These don’t necessarily stop climbing or restoration work taking place, but do mean there may be interest features which need to be considered and avoided. Sometimes a formal process of gaining permission from Natural England, Historic England or Natural Resources Wales is required.

 · Landowner permission: depending on the access agreement in place, permission may be needed from the landowner. Failing to gain this before starting work could result in lost access.

 · Other users: climbers are rarely the only visitors to areas crags are located in. Be mindful of those other users, how they might view any changes you want to make and importantly, consider other people’s safety at all times when carrying out work.

 · Visual impact: consider this carefully and limit the visual impact of any work that takes place. Often only relatively small changes are needed to make routes climbable, leaving the surrounding area untouched and undisturbed – for example, avoid indiscriminate vegetation removal.

Part of The BMC’s core values is to protect our crags and mountains, and campaign for improved access and promote environmental sustainability. There is the upmost importance to seek wider community sanction before under-taking any restoration work as often there can be more zig saw pieces to the bigger picture.

As the evenings get longer and Covid restrictions ease, remember to respect your local environment.

Happy Adventures

Paul Roberts

Ansteys Cove Working group- Lead

BMC SW Climbing Wall Rep

Association of Mountaineering Instructors 

In reply to PRoberts:

I just want to thank Paul for taking this on. 

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