Access to the crags in Castlemartin Range East in Pembroke will be significantly improved this August, the MoD have just announced.
For years Range East in Pembroke has been closed on weekdays for firing practice and military training to take place. This situation has often been frustrating for climbers who have had their mid-week visits limited to a few crags outside the range like Trevallen, St Govan's and Mother Careys.
The situation is more restrictive from 1 March to 1 August when many crags, including Mowing Word and Stackpole, are shut because of nesting birds. On some occasions the full area is shut and climbers can't even get to Trevallen and St Govan's leaving Mother Carey's as the only major option.
This year the MoD have acknowledged the fact that they use Range East relatively little during the month of August by designating a new zone inside Range East at the Stack Rocks end. For the first two weeks of August (up to 14th) climbers will be able to access all the crags from St Govan's Car Park all the way to Bullslaughter Bay at all times (shown on the map below as 'Range East St Govan's').
This effectively includes virtually all the best crags in Range East like Huntsman's Leap, Stennis Head, Saddle Head all the way to Mewsford. After the 14th the whole of Range East will be open for the next two weeks up to and including the Bank Holiday on August 31 which brings in additional like Crystal Slabs and Flimston Bay.
This welcome development has come as a result of careful negotiation by several groups including Lynne Ferrand who liaises between the MoD and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Cath Flitcroft at the BMC, and local climber Steve Quinton. It is also in response to a general government initiative to get the MoD to increase public access across all their military ranges. Over the next few years it is expected that this opening up should become the norm for August, plus a permanent check point is to be built on the Coast Path above Bullslaughter Bay which may indicate that this reduced Range East area can be used at other times.
This opening up of Range East means that those planning summer holidays this year would do well to consider Range East, with the new Rockfax guidebook due out early in August after the bird bans have been lifted, there has never been a better time to go.
Access to Range West is also significantly improved this year, with climbers being allowed in to the area at weekends and now during evenings when there is no firing. All climbers entering Range West have to attend a briefing at the military base first and it is best to check at the base to confirm that the area is open, as occasionally it may be closed for special exercises.
A full routes list for Range West is available on the Climbers' Club Website from the forth coming Climbers' Club definitive guidebook.