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A new entrance grill to secure Axe Hole

One of DCA’s main areas of activity is assisting cavers and landowners make the entrances to caves and mines safe. This might be required when there are public rights of way nearby or when there is a risk to a farmer’s livestock. Often this means installing some form of gate or lid. DCA is very pro-access and has always worked hard to avoid the need for locks and keys. Where some sites have been locked, this is because the landowner will only permit access if that is the case. These sites are very few and are often located in very public areas or where there are conservation concerns. Wherever possible, a non-key/code system is used. The ‘Derbyshire Key’ locking system is one of the common systems that we use to secure sites but allow access to cavers. The ‘Key’ in this case is a large adjustable spanner. A lid or gate is secured with a locking nut or bolt that can be removed to gain access. This has the benefit for keeping members of the public safely out but does not restrict access to cavers and explorers (who have a spanner!). DCA, alongside partner organisations like caving clubs and the Peak District Mines Historical Society, have successfully used this method to secure sites across the area. It is importantly also recognised and accepted by large organisations like the National Trust and Natural England, with whom DCA works closely to manage cave and mine sites. We rely heavily on local cavers reporting missing locking nuts or bolts so we can keep landowners happy, so please let us know via the website if you find a missing locking nut. 

Why do DCA gate or lid things at all? Well, there are certain legal duties that all landowners have that cover the safety of both visitors and trespassers on their land, so in many cases it is legally necessary to install some types of safety barrier.

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Investigating a shaft

DCA will also work with caving clubs and digging groups to provide support with materials and skills assistance for their projects. Recently the DCA has completed stabilisation and lime pointing work on ginging in a large engine shaft for a local club. The club has since bought and fitted a lid with a Derbyshire Key system. We have provided steel grill, plastic twin wall pipe and volunteer labour to assist in numerous projects over the years. We are happy to be consulted about providing assistance to members’ projects. What we can’t do however is go around putting lids on everything that people have dug open. Before you start a project, make sure you have the funds or skills to make it safe. Where you struggle with these things, you should have a chat to the DCA Projects Officer to see what support we might be able to offer. Like all aspects of DCA’s work, the projects are completely volunteer led, so resources are not infinite. We’d always be happy to hear from more cavers looking to help us.

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Pointing ginging in an engine shaft

Finally, it is worth a note about funding. We pay for this work in several ways. DCA has direct members who contribute to the funds we have available for all our work. There is a Cave Discovery Fund that can be used to support groups making new discoveries. The National Trust and Natural England have paid costs for some projects completed on their land. In most cases though, access and conservation works are reimbursed to DCA by the British Caving Association. If you wanted to know what you got from your BCA membership apart from insurance and a plastic card, here is your answer! BCA fund a large part of the activities of all the Regional Caving Councils. Like volunteers, our funding is not infinite though. Cavers should not assume that DCA can and will pay for work and materials needed to make digs secure and safe. As was said above, before you start a project, make sure you have the funds or skills to make it safe. DCA will help when we can and it is in the interest of cavers, but digs and projects should really always be started with an understanding that you will need to make it safe. 

So if you fancy helping with projects or have one and you think you’ll need some help, contact the DCA Projects Officer or come along to any of the regular meetings we have.

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