A club with heritage
Cave and Crag Club was one of the first to be founded in the aftermath of World War II. The main founder was Dave Williams who, with a small group of friends, started caving and climbing in North Wales and Derbyshire travelling by foot, bicycle or public transport.
On 12th February 1947 the Birmingham Cave and Crag Club was officially formed with nine members and an annual membership fee of 7/6. 1947 was the worst winter of the 20th century and early records mention meets to the Clent Hills and Ilam Hall with snow drifts up to a foot deep.
During the first three years the membership increased to 21 members with meets now spreading as far as South Wales, Yorkshire and the Lake District. A hut at Alstonefield in the Peak District was established, the club started its first cave dig at Gateharn Swallet and an overseas climbing meet in Chamonix was held.
The new members included several highly knowledgeable cavers that enabled the club to form links with the cave research group, The Peakland Archaeological Society.
Standards at this time were restricted by the lack of equipment and guide books so most members took part in all the club’s activities – caving, climbing and walking. Very few members had cars or motorbikes but the increased membership, together with help from others groups, enabled the club to hire a coach for the weekend every month – an important part of club activity for several years.
The first club newsletter was produced in 1950 and the dig at Gateham Swallet closed. 1951 saw the hut move from Alstonefield to Baslow.
The club hut at Pant Ifan was discovered in the mid 1950s by a group of club members climbing at Tremadog. See club hut section for a separate history of the club.
The rest of the 50s saw the club growing and a hut move from Baslow to Wetton and back to Alstonefield again. The 60s saw a big change in the club with the increased use of the car making people more independent. Equipment and standards also improved and members tended to specialise in a chosen activity. Many members were now married with families so a new annual meet was introduced, ‘The Family Meet’, to cater for all. The late 60s and 70s were characterised by high caving activity, including overseas expeditions. The club name changed to the Cave and Crag Club – removing Birmingham from the name better reflected the increasingly widespread membership. The Alstonefield Walk – still held annually in December – was introduced to the club’s meet programme at this time and remains one of the best attended meets.
In recent times the club has grown to a membership of around 140 which means that the family spirit of the club has been maintained whilst allowing a wide range of activities to take place. Club members are proud of the heritage of Cave and Crag and have celebrated several important milestones. For the 50th anniversary in 1997 there was a club weekend and dinner dance in the Lake District where there was a display of photos and slides covering the club’s history. Members from all over the world attended and a pig roast party at Pant Ifan later in the year completed the celebrations.
The death of one of our younger members in a climbing accident in the French Alps in 1998 affected the club greatly. In commemoration it was decided to effect a major improvement to the facilities at Pant Ifan bringing a significant number of club members together as they gave of their time over a 16 month period to complete the project. The improved facilities were officially opened in 2000.