Much of the work of the DCA involves gaining and maintaining access to caves and mines in the region. An essential part of this is ensuring that the delicate underground world that we explore is suitably protected from damage. It is important, when visiting these caves, that we should recognise this and treat them with due care, and abide by the various access agreements set out in this section. That way we and others may continue to enjoy them.
Cave Conservation Code
The Cave Conservation Code provide an easily remembered set of principles that when followed will help us preserve the underground world.
- Cave with care and thought for the environment.
- Disturb nothing whether living or geological.
- Avoid touching formations.
- Keep to marked routes and never cross conservation tapes.
- Take nothing but photographs.
- Do not pollute the cave, leave nothing behind.
Minimal Impact Caving Guidelines
The BCA has published Minimal Impact Caving Guidelines, these detail the measures that cavers should take to reduce our impact on caves when on purely recreational trips and when exploring new ground (including digs)..
Attitudes to conservation
The following is from the 2012 DCA Handbook, written by the then conservation officer Dave Webb:
DCA has a mandate to give priority to the conservation of caves and mines, and more emphasis than ever is given to this topic both in discussions, and practical work in the field. This in turn reflects the increasing importance expressed nationally by the British Caving Association, and internationally by the European Speleological Federation, on the vital need to conserve our natural and mining heritage for future generations to enjoy and study.
The attitudes of cavers towards the value of the contents of our underground world change only slowly, and it does not seem long since newly discovered caves were vandalized almost as soon as their discovery was made known. It is a constant battle to maintain open access while at the same time protecting the contents from accidental or deliberate damage, and we need to give serious consideration to how and what we wish to hand down to future generations. It is inevitable that change will occur and we should be prepared to accept that more extreme conservation measures will be needed if we wish to be genuinely proud of what we hand down.
Use of underground sites by non-cavers
Caves are understandably viewed as an exclusive source of sport and recreation for cavers, but they are also of great value to other special interest groups who have an equal right to benefit from the unique opportunity they present for study and research. For example, cave sediments can provide a unique source of information on past climates to geologists and climatologists, and biologists need access underground to study the specialised plant and animal inhabitants.
Neither the DCA nor cavers own the land upon which our caves and mines are found. Consequently we are entirely dependent upon landowners, and especially those who grant us the privilege of access to them. Many landowners are becoming more appreciative of the value of sites on their land, and much goodwill can be generated by openly demonstrating an understanding of their legal obligation to protect land designated as SSSIs or managed under a Stewardship Scheme.
Practical Conservation and the DCA
Cavers sometimes question the need for DCA to exist at all - but without DCA the unique partnership with Natural England would not have been possible, and we would not have received the funding that has enabled a decade of demanding conservation work to be completed. That the work has been completed at all is down to the commitment of a small minority of cavers who forego valuable caving time to turn up, often in dire weather and filthy conditions.
DCA policy on fixed aids (abridged version)
The installation of fixed aids is carried out by a team of specially trained installers whose priority is, of course, safety. They will also be aware of the need to have regard for conservation of the cave or mine when choosing a site for the aid.
Prior to the installation of any fixed aid the Conservation Officer shall be notified, and his recommendations must be followed.
Following failure to agree recommendations, the matter shall be brought before the next Council Meeting for resolution.
Much more detailed advice and information on conservation, SSSIs and the Monitoring Scheme appears in an extended section in the new “Caves of the Peak District”, and in the new DCA/NE leaflet “A Guide to Good Practice for Digging on SSSIs”.
Dave Webb. August 2012.