Access problems at Foredale Quarry raised their head last week and, for the time being, climbing has been banned at this location. The BMC and local climbers are currently trying to establish a new access agreement with the local residents and landowner but climbers are asked to keep away until something is sorted out.
This isn't the first time there have been problems here (UKC News report from 2008) so for a bit of background on the story we contacted Dave Musgrove who sent the following account:
Foredale was first seriously climbed on in 2004 when 7 impressive lines were cleaned and bolted on the main wall by two local activists. The quarry had been known about by climbers since the 1960s and mentioned in all previous editions of the guidebook but traditional climbing was never considered a serious option there because of the nature of the rock and particularly the top-outs which comprise a very loose and shattered band of rock extending between 3 and 6 metres all around the top edge.
Low visitor numbers in 2004/5 caused little conflict and initially climbers parked halfway up the track between the farm and a row of private cottages. The cottage owners seemed to accept a few climbers passing through their back-yard at that time and friendly banter was often exchanged. Parking on the track meant that contact with the farmer, Mr Pearson, was rare and the ownership of the land on the approach, or of the quarry itself, was not seriously considered. When the 2005 definitive guide came out there were only a handful of routes in the quarry but enough to spark an increase of interest and visitor numbers began to grow.
Residents of the cottages quite naturally began to question our use of their private road for parking and the farmer started to complain about climbers taking dogs across his land. By 2006 we had negotiated with Tarmac quarries to use a piece of their land near Arcow Quarry entrance (below the farm) for parking and had agreed with the farmer to provide BMC notices indicating the new parking place and the restriction on dogs. Some climbers, however continued to walk through the cottages' parking area so further negotiations with all concerned led to a new agreed approach up the grassy ridge well left of the cottages. Through 2006/7 and 8 development in the quarry and, co-incidentally on nearby Moughton Nab, increased the popularity of the area considerably. During 2008 a group of young climbers from the Skipton area camped in the quarry one bank holiday weekend and that seemed to incense the farmer even more. He immediately closed off access, whilst the campers were still up there. By co-incidence I arrived to climb that morning and witnessed a stand-off between several others in the car-park and the farmer who was effectively blocking the road.
The farmer was adamant that climbing was 'finished' and he put up his own notices to that effect. I eventually persuaded him to let me go and talk to the campers, brought them down and arranged apologies all round. After a few weeks of further negotiation, during which he also told me he was under increasing pressure from some of the cottage owners to keep climbers away, and after preparing several drafts of new notices he finally relented and the arrangement in place until last week were agreed.
No significant problems or incidents were then reported until last winter when he told me he was concerned about his gate at the entrance to the quarry being sometimes left open when it was supposed to be closed and often tied up by climbers when he'd left it open to allow his sheep access.
Six weeks ago I arranged, along with Mr Pearson, the YDNPA and the BMC Access fund to have a new gate built and to pre-empt potential damage to the wall at Moughton Nab, for a new stile to be made and installed. Mr Pearson seemed happy with this but did mention he was still getting pressure from some of the residents in the cottages to restrict access to the quarry. For the first time he showed me a sheaf of computer printouts relating to climbing at Foredale that he said he had been given by the residents. They had even found a link somewhere to it being mentioned on a German web-site. Then a week ago when he was given the print-out of courses advertised by a local climbing centre and he was incensed by what he perceived as someone else making a profit out of his land. All these events have now culminated in the cottage owners forcing the landowner to close things down.
Having spoken to several of the residents last week I do have sympathy with several of their concerns and in general it boils down to Foredale becoming a victim of its own success. The constant stream of climbers, particularly at weekends during the recent fine weather this spring and the volume of cars, sometimes overflowing the parking areas in the lane, together with occasional instances of argument and alleged rudeness when challenged – some climbers , despite all our notices still bring dogs, climb fences and fail to follow the prescribed access route – have all led to the current impasse.
It would be a great shame indeed if this fabulous and unique climbing venue were lost for good. Foredale has around 120 bolted routes, some up to 40 metres long. Moughton Nab has around 80 shorter but still popular bolt routes and a few now unfashionable trad lines. The views over upper Ribblesdale and Pennygent are superb. Negotiations are continuing but climbers are asked to keep away from both venues to avoid any further conflict until all avenues of compromise and alternative approaches can be explored.
Since last week the climbing centre involved has publicly apologised on a thread on the forums:
"We are saddened to hear that for a variety of reasons access to Foredale Quarry has been revoked.
When the issue was brought to our attention by this UKC post on Friday, we immediately removed the advertised Learn to Lead courses at Foredale Quarry from our website.
Our choice to deliver future courses at Foredale, for a maximum of nine people over the year, was based on our wish to distribute commercial climbing activity across a variety of venues to avoid over-use of any single venue. In this drive toward sustainability, the local residents were not taken into consideration and this is a failure on our part.
As the National Trust's official partner at Brimham Rocks and Malham Tarn, we were mortified to hear that we are linked to an access issue elsewhere in the Dales, given the levels of environmental and sustainability practice built into all of our outdoor courses. In this instance however, we have failed to consider the needs of Mr Pearson and the other residents and apologise for any offence caused.
We would have been happy to have discussed any issues with the local residents before this became a problem, and would value the chance to do so in order to provide reassurance that we will no longer use Foredale for any commercial activity. We have reviewed our policy on outdoor venues to ensure that no such oversight is repeated in the future.
As climbers, we are keen to ensure that access issues such as this one are resolved, not for the benefit of commercial enterprises such as ourselves, but for the benefit of all parties concerned. We would gladly offer support to any parties involved in order to resolve this situation.
Mike Lloyd – Harrogate Climbing Centre Manager