Purely by entering a cave, cavers are one of the major inevitable sources of damage. The purpose of this Code is to make cavers aware of the measures that are necessary to reduce their impact on caves.

This code is divided into two sections. One relating to general cave visits and the other relating to the exploration of a newly discovered cave or section of cave.


General Cave Visits

1. Every caving trip has an impact. It is important to select a site to visit that is appropriate to the group and type of trip being undertaken. Certain caves are less susceptible to damage and more suitable for novices. Advice is available from the regional caving organisation or local clubs.

2. The party leader should be familiar with the cave and be aware of sensitive features.

3. Cave at a sensible pace for your party. You will see and enjoy more, and there will be less chance of damage to the cave and to yourself. This especially applies when you are tired and exiting a cave.

4. If there are novices on a trip, make sure that they are close to an experienced caver, so that the experienced caver can help them when required e.g. in difficult sections.

5. Keep your party to a small size.  Specific requirements may apply in certain instances and site specific Cave Conservation Plans may stipulate a minimum and/or a maximum party size.  In other cases the recommended party size should be no greater than six.

6. Cave as a team. Help each other through the cave and ensure that party members stay together.

7. Take care yourself and constantly watch where your party members are putting their heads. Warn your party members before they are likely to do any damage.

8. Keep tackle bags and packs as small as possible and transport them carefully.

9. Stay on marked or obvious paths. If no paths are marked or none is obvious take particular care. If in doubt don't proceed.

10. Learn to recognise cave deposits or features that may be damaged by walking or crawling on them.

11. Throughout a cave take care with the placement of hands and feet.

12. Wash your caving overalls and boots regularly so that the spread of bacteria and fungi is minimised.

13. If any damage or degradation is noticed report this to the appropriate body as soon as possible.

14. Restore any missing or old marker tapes. If not possible, report the problem to the appropriate body as possible. Also report any instances where tapes appear to be ineffective.

15. If it is necessary to walk on flowstone do not proceed. If others have appeared to have walked over it, confirm that this is the route before proceeding and then only proceed with the utmost care having removed boots and other clothing as necessary. Remember that someone may have previously mistaken this as the route and further damage should avoided.

16. Treat the cave biota with respect, watch out for them, and avoid disturbing them. Also avoid directly illuminating cave biota if possible.

17. If bones or other arch archaeological material are found this should not be moved unless under threat. Collection should only be undertaken with appropriate permission.

18. If you eat food in a cave ensure that small food fragments are not dropped as this may have an impact on the cave biota. One solution is to eat over a plastic bag to catch the food fragments. This can then be folded up and removed from the cave.

19. Ensure that all foreign matter is removed from caves. This includes human waste. If long trips are to be made into a cave ensure that containers for the removal of liquid and solid waste are included on the trip inventory.

20. When rigging caves with artificial anchors, e.g. tapes, rope etc, ensure that minimal damage occurs to the anchor site. For example protect frequently-used anchors such as trees with carpet, bags or cloth. Fixed anchors should only be used where natural anchors are inappropriate.

21. Where a Cave Conservation Plan is in existence abide by the recommendations contained therein for the conservation of the cave.


New Cave Or Extension Explorations

1. Scientific study must begin as quickly as possible. The existing microbiology of the new cave, both fungi, bacteria, and a world of protozoa, will almost certainly be irreversibly contaminated on the first trip. If cave microbiology has not been investigated, if cave microbiologists are available then include them on initial explorations so that they may collect uncontaminated samples.

2. Do not enter new cave or passage if you do not have the equipment required to undertake the minimal activities such as surveying, taping and photography.

3, Use the cave survey to ensure that all alternative routes are examined prior to crossing sensitive or fragile areas. It may be necessary not to enter some areas as they can be by-passed

4. If a sensitive area must be crossed reduce future damage by defining a distinct, minimum practicable width path.

5. Discuss taping within the party and ensure that all ideas are evaluated before marking is undertaken.

6. Make a full photographic record before any other work is undertaken or visits made likely to result in any damage or deterioration. Copies of the photographs should be placed in a suitable library for safe keeping and submitted to the National Cave, Karst & Mine Register for record purposes.

7. Instigate the production of a Cave Conservation Plan.