Te very real threat of a total ban on climbing on the South side of the gorge loomed.

Q Social distancing while climbing at the busy roadside spot, Horseshoe Bend.


As climbers we need to ensure we keep access open in Cheddar Gorge! To help prepare watch our film on BMC TV that covers the important things you need to know when climbing here. These include: public and personal safety and the need to carry civil liability insurance, knowing where you can climb, where you can park, and what you must do to respect the area.

on the Caves staff was removed and everyone was happy. Martin continued in the role of “climbing warden” until 2016 when I took over from him. My experience has been, almost without exception, a really positive one, with climbers expressing their appreciation of the work of the BMC. Those climbers inadvertently out of bounds have always been apologetic, appreciated my explanations and readily moved on.


We’re in the process of creating short videos on how best to climb in popular destinations. There’s the just-released Cheddar Gorge film and we’ve already got one on climbing in Portland and two on top roping and bouldering on the Southern Sandstone in Kent. Lots more will be coming soon! Check them all out here:

Sadly this year things slipped a lot. Perhaps not surprisingly given the restrictions on travel, pent up frustration at being denied the outdoors for so long and a loss of the sense of time bought on by the pandemic. The Whitsun period had always been very quiet for climbing in Cheddar, with most climbers travelling away to avoid the hordes of visitors. But this year was very busy. Too many climbers were climbing in places that were restricted. Most were very apologetic when I talked to them, but a pattern emerged – they had not read their guidebooks, had not looked at the signs I’d put up and had not checked the BMC’s Regional Access Database (RAD) and so did not know that they were putting access for all into jeopardy by their action. I spoke to 50 climbers, most of whom were very apologetic. Other climbers also told me of people they had seen climbing off piste, and many had themselves suggested they stop, so the number of contraventions is even higher. Should the trend continue, we risk being able to climb here at all. We must take responsibility, know when and where we can climb and stick to the agreement. Should we ever lose access to this great place it will be because of climbers, and the only losers will be climbers. It’s in our own hands. The summer season continues until the end of the month.

From 1 July restrictions still apply but some areas have been newly opened up. Routes from the Reservoir Walls up Gorge are being trialled as open all year round and access has been given for evening climbing on Ginsberg, Yew Tree and Horseshoe Bend. Please check the access arrangements before you start climbing.

Words: Mark Courtiour

Mark is the BMC access rep for Cheddar Gorge and has been crucial in ensuring we all are allowed to climb on these iconic cliffs. While Cheddar is now his local crag, Mark has spent the last 40 years climbing all over the UK and Europe. Some of his favourite spots are the Verdon Gorge, Pembroke, Portland and of course Cheddar!

SUMMIT#98 | SUMMER 2020 | 35


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