Caving and ConservationCavers are often drawn to the activity because of the historical context of the environment they are exploring. Caves are quite unique in their composition in that they’ve been formed over many thousands of years and over time, this process creates the fascinating passages which we are able to explore and they become home to many interesting creatures. Sediments are deposited and calcite formations develop.

Why is Caving Conservation Important?

It’s ironic that, as we pursue our fascination with caves, the lure of so many people visiting the cave over time causes deterioration but, fortunately, this process is very slow and many hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years could elapse before there would any noticeable change because of our presence.

However, we all have a responsibility to respect the conservation of the underground environment so that it can be preserved for many generations to come so that they, too, can gaze in wonderment at the many natural ‘treasures’ which caves possess. The British Caving Association has produced a set of guidelines all cavers should follow, which sets out good practice we should adhere to in order that caves can be preserved and enjoyed by ourselves and by many generations that follow us.

The Cave Conservation Code

This sets out the guidelines we should all follow.

We must remember that people’s experience of caving and our speeds of navigation are very different. We should always remember that someone in a group has to be the slowest, no matter how experienced or new to caving we all are, and it’s the slowest person who should dictate the pace we all go at. If it’s the strongest person who is dictating the pace, then some people are going to get tired more quickly than others which puts them at risk of not only damaging themselves but, in their urge to keep up, they may damage the cave too.

Large groups should be split up into smaller groups of between 4 and 6 people. In addition to making the trip safer, smaller groups have less of a damaging impact upon the caving environment.

When navigating the cave, you may come across an area which has been taped off. This may be due to essential maintenance work and it’s important you respect that and not go beyond the tape’s boundaries.

You’ll see so many beautiful rock formations within a cave but some are extremely fragile so you should never touch them. Although archaeologists may be seen digging in caves, they will have been authorised to do so in order to glean more information about the cave and/or to try and unearth some important archaeological remains. However, you should never dig or disturb anything in a cave unless you have the express permission to do so. Likewise, many scientists of other disciplines may be carrying out experiments inside a formation and there may be scientific equipment inside the cave. A lot of money and time will have been spent on this research so you should never touch any equipment you find inside the cave.

You will often be able to take photographs inside a cave but make sure you know the guidelines first. There may be bats present and flash lighting will disturb and unnerve them. You must always remember that bats are endangered and are a protected species by law.

Finally, you should never remove anything from a cave which you’ve not taken in there yourself. In fact, the only thing you can take out and which you must take out is your own litter so make sure you carry a suitable bag or container for this.

Following these guidelines will ensure that you have a minimal impact upon the cave itself and you will be adopting good practice in order that those who visit the cave tomorrow and many future generations to come can enjoy the same experiences as you.