Gorge climbing under threat after groups caught in restricted areas

PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 June 2014

Cheddar Gorge is a climbing hot spot.

Cheddar Gorge is a climbing hot spot.

Archant

CLIMBING in a scenic area of Somerset could be under threat because of a minority of people being caught in banned areas.

Cheddar Gorge is a favourite spot for climbing enthusiasts, but the activity is limited to certain areas to help keep people safe, both on the rocks and below.

But over the past month, there have been a number of incidents involving people being caught in areas where climbing is prohibited.

On one weekend, staff at Cheddar Caves and Gorge (CC&G) had to approach eight groups using restricted areas - prompting a warning that the sport could be banned from the beauty spot altogether.

A spokesman for the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) said: “If there isn’t a big improvement to the situation, there is now a serious risk that CC&G could withdraw the permissive access they allow climbers to the south side crags for everything other than the winter season.

“The BMC is working with CC&G to try to do everything we can to make climbers aware of the access restrictions.

“CC&G do not want signs up marking the restricted areas at this time as they don’t like excess signage within the gorge, which would impact on the aesthetics of the place.

“We are exploring other options with them but, ultimately, it’s up to all climbers to take responsibility and make sure we’re not climbing where we shouldn’t be.”

Cheddar Caves and Gorge director Hugh Cornwell said climbers should read the BMC guidebook or look online to see which areas they can use.

He said: “The vast majority of climbers are responsible and carry public liability insurance.

“We expect everyone who climbs to be suitably insured and that really is important. You cannot simply climb wherever you wish.”

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