They are the base from which the BMC grows, where local action starts and ideas get kicked about (in a friendly way). One of their purposes is to inform local climbers and walkers of developments in the wider outdoor world. They also act as a mouthpiece for the opinions of the locals in such matters as crag access, conservation issues, and national debates (e.g. windfarms, local road building schemes). They are also increasingly the forum for getting local crag clean up events started, organised and funded.
And after the "business" there's usually refreshments in the form of chips and butties, and a guest speaker is often in attendance with slides of their latest derring do adventure.
Where is The Winking Man? Being a new Peaksie - just shy of three weeks old, I had no idea. Directions were given by a friend that followed back roads avoiding the urban Buxton. It was a gray, cold and damp summer evening more like late October than early June. Sheffield was flooded again. I now know where Harpur Hill is, but have yet to visit. Onto the A53, a fast road with a speed limit of 50mph. I overshot the pub and saw some pointy rocks in the distance. Ramshaw I believe.
The Winking Man - Country Pub and Nightclub. The entrance to the car park was guarded by a St.George Cross and Union Jack flags. Was this a British National Party meeting? No, a BMC Peak Area Meeting.
I was seated between Mark Vallance (founder of Wild Country) who has been going to these meetings since 1974 and Rab Carrington, the President of the BMC. 40 or so climbers in attendance. Mark told me that attendance never used to be so high. Must be the chips, and the fact that Martin Kocsis - the BMC's Volunteers' Officer, has modernised Area meetings: there are no overlong debates about nothing of importance nor are they constipated by old fashioned meeting etiquette. It's down to business at the sound of a bell, time limits for those who drone on too much or get off topic; but there is usually much lively debate and of course the serious stuff, access updates and progress reports.
So in a nutshell, the highlights of last nights BMC Peak Area Meeting.
Access - Henry Folkard
Backdale Quarry on Longstone Edge. Quarry operators MMC are appealing to the House of Lords against the Court of Appeal decision that ruled in favour of the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) that stopped the quarrying. It will go to appeal if all the Lords are not unanimous in their decision to uphold the Court of Appeal decision (I think that is what I heard).
There were lots of detailed technical stuff about Peak District National Park Authority, Wildlife Trusts, consortiums, asset reviews, off-road-use, 4x4's and trail bikes (the police are coming down hard on them!).......Henry Folkard knows his stuff and is involved in constructive dialogue with many individuals and organisations in the Peak, he never stops working for us.
Flag this up: Harpur Hill: DO NOT PARK IN THE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE. You will get clamped. There are signs there but they are obscure. PARK IN THE VILLAGE AND USE THE FOOTPATH TO THE QUARRY.
NO DOGS AT BAMFORD - You may get escorted off the estate by a gun-carrying gamekeeper and will jeopardise access if you take a dog off the footpath.
There is a big pile of rubbish at Lawrencefield, someone needs to cart it away.
Guidebook Update by Jon Garside, BMC/MLTE Training Officer, standing in for Niall Grimes - Guidebook Co-ordinator.
Short and sweet this one: The Roaches guidebook reprint update is set for publication at the end of July. Then Grimer will continue with the programme: From Froggatt to Black Rocks, Over The Moors, Cheshire Area Sandstone, Leicester Climbs, Peak Limestone and Lancashire Rock.
National Council Update
The articulate and energetic Mike Pinder retired, after serving beyond 5 years as a National Council Peak Area representative. Much thanks and appreciation to Mike. Chris Moore, the other National Council Peak Area representative needs a new playmate, Julian Materna will volunteer in the interim.
A discussion about using a designated Peak crag, currently out of vogue, as a test-case to re-invigorate some of limestone crags.
There is concern that several Peak limestone crags are suffering from neglect; they are out of vogue, not in fashion. Cliffs such as Stoney Middleton, High Tor, Central Buttress of Water-cum-Jolly and Chee Tor. As Neil Foster pointed out, 'climbers are missing out on some great climbing experiences', experiences that you won't get at the popular bolted Harpur Hill or Horseshoe Quarries.
John Fullwood described the bad state of fixed gear on Central Buttress at Water-cum-Jolly. Rab Carrington proposed that climbers looked closely at some cliffs and reported back on what can be done to make neglected cliffs more attractive to climbers.
The challenge is: What can be done?
- Encouraging more media coverage and attention of neglected but good cliffs and their routes.
- Local climbers to seek out neglected routes, climb and clean them, then spread the word to others if they are quality.
- Replace rotting fixed gear with new fixed gear: pegs or bolts, whatever is appropriate.
- Web based list of recently cleaned up routes.
- Sympathetically clean up overgrown routes and access paths to cliffs.
- More coverage in visually appealing guidebooks to sell areas and routes to climbers
Maybe lessons (and mistakes - grid bolting and the bolting of gear routes) can be learned from other areas, such as Cheddar Gorge, Chapel Head Scar in the South Lakes, and certain Yorkshire Limestone cliffs, where crag 'redevelopment' has taken place.
Some in the room did think however that no matter what was done, it is sport climbing and bouldering that are now in vogue and many limestone crags, once hives of activity in the 80s, will lie dormant.
This discussion lasted quite some time, over an hour. An important issue I think. The meeting was very ably chaired by Matt Heason and his little bell. Apparently Martin Kocsis bought a job lot of these desk bells for Area meetings and they are instrumental in the smooth running of an Area meeting. I've also witnessed Al Phizaklea, chair of the Lakes Area Meeting, deftly use one too. Perhaps chairs of Area meetings have to go on a BMC desk bell ringing training course.
Go along to your next Area meeting if you can. Don't be afraid if you haven't been to one before. I'm an alien to the Peak but was made very welcome. I even got to voice my opinion, not very well, but it was good to be part of the discussion.
OK OK, I know gray should be grey.