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The Warehouse, Gloucester.


Some of you may have heard of the proposed artificial cave being proposed as part of the indoor climbing centre called The Warehouse in Gloucester.  The proposals involve the construction of a horizontal and vertical "cave" system behind the climbing walls. This will offer pitches up to 13 metres as well as horizontal/vertical combinations of varying degrees of difficulty.

John Cliffe and myself attended a presentation on the scheme at The Warehouse on 14th July, this was also well attended by local cavers and others.

The proposals are well put together and would offer, in the vertical context at least, good training facilities provided that any training was carried out by an appropriately qualified (CIC) instructor.  There is an acute shortage of good facilities for SRT training in the country and the NCA Training Committee can see no problem with supporting this side of the proposal.

It is the horizontal side of the proposal where we have difficulties.  With the main "target" market for this facility being stated as for youngsters in full time education, concern has been expressed by John Cliffe and myself, by local cavers and Gloucester Cave Rescue about the consequential effect on local caves and mines.

Whilst the proposal will offer an as realistic as possible "cave" environment it cannot duplicate the hazards found in "the real thing" and must, for safety reasons, offer easy access to all parts of the system which are not, of course, available underground.  With caving equipment easily obtainable the dangers are:

that youngsters having experienced one or two trips may be tempted to visit local caves with inadequate equipment lighting, etc.

that those having gained experience in an artificial environment may attempt trips which may be beyond their capabilities or without regard to flooding or other hazards.

that access arrangements may be compromised by such trips.

that conservation issues may be ignored by such trips.

Whilst any approval could be conditioned by a request that those seeking further "real" caving experience be directed toward local clubs, there is no guarantee that this would be effective. For instance, The Warehouse already offer "real" caving trips on a commercial basis and there is no reason to think that these would be deferred in favour of local caving clubs.

The NCA will receive shortly a request for support or otherwise from The Sports Council.  It does not wish to tread on local or regional toes on, what is, a complex matter where feelings may run high.

The NCA Training Committee on behalf of the NCA therefore seeks your views urgently on this matter prior to a final decision on whether to support or otherwise the application.

Please forward your comments either to me or John Cliffe at the addresses below.

Alan Butcher
NCA Training Officer.

John Cliffe,