National Cave Conservation Policy

Caves form a unique and vulnerable part of our natural and archaeological heritage. Their conservation is important for many reasons. As a nationally rare and integral element of our natural heritage, caves are worthy of conservation in their own right. There is a moral duty to conserve them for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Caves also constitute a valuable scientific resource, providing evidence of human cultural change and the development of our landscape as well as changes in our climate. Current concerns about global warming only serve to increase the importance of cave research in helping to understand the impact of past climatic changes, so that predictions can then be made for the future.

If caves are to be conserved for the future, action must be taken now. To achieve cave conservation there must be a close working relationship between owners, cavers and the statutory conservation agencies. It is through such a partnership that both the external and internal threats to the cave environment can be mitigated. The caving community must also accept more responsibility for the practical conservation of features underground.

In consultation with the statutory conservation agencies and the caving community, a national cave conservation policy has been formulated. The resulting policies are reproduced here. The full policy is published as a separate document, along with a Cave Conservation Handbook, as detailed below.

Cave Conservation Policy

The aim of this document is to set out a policy on issues affecting cave conservation and to propose a number of initiatives to take cave conservation forward. Throughout, factors affecting cave conservation are discussed resulting in the development of the policies reproduced here.

This document has been produced in consultation with and has the support of all the statutory conservation agencies and sets out the policy of the National Caving Association (NCA) and cavers to cave conservation.

Cave Conservation Handbook

The Cave Conservation Handbook includes and builds upon the policies set out in the policy document. It contains considerable background and specific cave conservation related material, much of which is essential to the implementation of the national cave conservation policy. Each caving region is looked at in detail and a number of appendices are included which provide a valuable reference source for anyone interested in, or involved in cave conservation.


National Caving Association Conservation Policies

Quarrying and Mining

The NCA opposes quarrying or mining where it is likely to cause significant damage to known or probable cave passage or have a detrimental impact on a cave system by, for example, altering the hydrological regime or causing pollution.

Landfill and Waste Disposal

The NCA opposes any landfill or waste disposal scheme which would have a detrimental impact on any cave or result in the destruction or loss of a natural karst feature such as a depression or doline, where these caves or features are of scientific or recreational value.

Land management practices

In general the NCA opposes any land management practice which will have an adverse impact on any cave, cave system, or karst feature of scientific or recreational value. Where there is sufficient evidence of a likely adverse impact, the NCA will urge the relevant statutory conservation body or local planning authority as appropriate, to enter into a management agreement with the land owner or manager.

Water Extraction

The NCA encourages careful consideration of any proposal to extract water from a stream that feeds a cave system, or from boreholes, as to any possible effects on the system.

Access

The NCA believes that careful consideration should be given to developing the most appropriate form of access management to ensure both the conservation of the cave and its continued use.

Usage

The NCA supports moves to encourage novice groups to avoid sensitive caves and focus activities on those sites which are capable of sustaining their pressure. Restricted access to parts of caves which are particularly vulnerable may be justifiable. Consideration may have to be given to agreeing specific sites as "sacrificial caves" where conservation interests are no longer the prime consideration.

Exploration

The NCA advocates that the potential benefits of any dig should always be weighed against any disadvantages. This procedure ought to be organised by cavers, either under the auspices of the appropriate Regional Council or through a club which has an access agreement. In the case of open-access caves a liaison group of the interested parties ought to be established. Because of the problem of 'pirating' of digs, confidentiality must be a consideration.

Where digs take place, care must be taken to minimise the damage done. Excavations should be kept to the absolute minimum. Speleothems and deposits of archaeological value should be left undamaged where possible. If unavoidable, removed speleothems must be recorded in their context and made available for research. Sections cut in sediment should also be sampled, recorded, or made available for research.

Litter

Particularly through education, the NCA supports moves to reduce the leaving of litter in a cave. We also support the 'cave adoption scheme' where clubs and cavers take responsibility for a particular cave, monitor its condition, and undertake regular clean-ups.

Graffiti

The NCA does not condone the leaving of any graffiti underground, including waymarking. It must be actively discouraged through education and strict control of parties by their leaders.

Carbide

The NCA actively discourages the continued use of carbide in inappropriate locations. Cavers should be made aware through education where the use of carbide is appropriate.

Scientific work

The NCA supports all scientific work carried out to proper scientific standards, where that work does not affect other scientific work. The results of such work should be made available to the wider community wherever possible.

Rescue

The NCA supports essential measures necessary during rescues to preserve life, subject to a careful analysis of the situation at that time.


Conservation Initiatives

If caves are to be conserved for the future, action must be taken now. To achieve cave conservation there must be a close working relationship between owners, cavers and the statutory conservation agencies. It is through such a partnership that the threats to the cave environment can be mitigated. The caving community must also accept more responsibility for the practical conservation of features underground.

Cave conservation must be looked at in a systematic manner so that the desire to conserve features is integrated with the other legitimate uses of caves.

In drawing up the national Cave Conservation Policy a number of iniatives have been proposed. These are:

Further details about the National Caving Association, the policies of the Association, and how to obtain copies of the above and other publications can be obtained from the NCA, Monomark House, 27 Old Gloucester St, London, WX1N 3XX.

Financial assistance toward the production of this leaflet has been received from English Nature, Country Council for Wales, Joint Nature Conservation Committee and English Heritage.


Cave Conservation Policy (ISBN 0 9525520 0 0)

The aim of this document is to set out a policy on issues affecting cave conservation and to propose a number of initiatives to take cave conservation forward. Throughout, factors affecting cave conservation are discussed and, where appropriate, the policy of the Association is highlighted.

The pressures affecting the conservation of caves are considered in detail. A number of initiatives are then proposed, including the production of site specific cave conservation plans. A separate section deals with the statutory country conservation agencies - English Nature (EN), Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and their Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC, also at BirdCare), and the forms of statutory and other protection that can be offered to individual sites, such as National Nature Reserves (NNRs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Regionally Important Geological/geomorphological Sites (RIGS).

Finally the statutory archaeological conservation agencies - English Heritage (EH), Cadw, and Historic Scotland and the protection of important archaeological sites as Ancient Monuments (Scheduled Ancient Monuments or SAMs) are considered. Appendices cover the Cave Conservation Handbook and how to obtain a copy, gives listings of cave and karst SSSIs and SAMs - these are further expanded upon and more detail is given in the Handbook, and a brief glossary is included.

This document has been produced in consultation with and has the support of all the statutory conservation agencies and sets out the policy of the National Caving Association (NCA) and cavers to cave conservation.

Copies of the policy statement are available at 5.00 each or free of charge to clubs and individuals actively involved in cave conservation.

Summary Leaflets

A leaflet summarising the key points of the policy is available. It is hoped that these will receive very wide circulation to all members of the caving community and to all other key groups and interested parties.

Copies of the leaflet are available upon request, free of charge.


Cave Conservation Handbook (ISBN 0 9525520 1 9)

The Cave Conservation Handbook includes and builds upon the policies set out in the policy document. It contains considerable background and specific cave conservation related material, much of which is essential to the implementation of the national cave conservation policy. Each caving region is looked at in detail and a number of appendices are included which provide a valuable reference source for anyone interested in, or involved in cave conservation.

If you are involved in drawing up a Cave Conservation Plan there is an appendix to guide you through the procedure. There are also guidelines for the formation and running of conservation committees and the implementation of Conservation Plans. Other appendices cover more practical aspects of conservation and include items on how to mend broken formations, advice on removing material from caves to study and what to do if you find archaeological remains. Also included is advice on how to take photographs for conservation monitoring purposes and how to store and preserve these for future reference.

An assessment of how planning law might be relevant is included and specific examples of tipping and quarrying are considered. The responsibilities of the different types of statutory authorities are listed as are contact addresses and telephone numbers. Other statistical data includes lists of all the cave and karst SSSIs, and cave Ancient Monuments.

The Handbook is available in a ring bound, loose leaf format, to allow for updating. Due to the very nature of the publication and the information it contains, it is anticipated that the content of certain sections will change on a regular basis. To maintain the usefulness and useability of the Handbook amendment sheets will be issued as necessary.

The Handbook is available to subscribers at a specially discounted price of 10 per copy for clubs, cavers and others actively involved in cave conservation and at 20 per copy to institutions and other parties. The price includes two sets of amendments when available.


Order Form

Quantity Item Value
 Cave Conservation Policies (5 each)  
 Conservation Policy summary leaflets Free
 Cave Conservation Handbooks (10 each) 1  
 Cave Conservation Handbooks (20 each) 2  
 Lost Caves of Britain video (10 each)  
 Protect Our Caves leaflets Free
 'Bats underground - A conservation code' leaflets Free
 'Legal Aspects of Access' booklet (1.30 each)  
Total

Notes:

  1. Discounted price applies to clubs, cavers and others actively involved in cave conservation.
  2. Full price applies to Institutions, public companies and other parties.

Please send me/us the above items.

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Send completed orders to National Caving Association, 3 The Acorns, Oakhill, Bath, Somerset, BA3 5BT. In case of queries please telephone (01749) 840795.


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