A moment of carelessness, perhaps caused by fatigue, can ruin formations and sediment deposits that are thousands of years old. Always look before you touch or tread. When leading others, your planned trip should be appropriate for the capabilities of the group.
Recommended routes through may be marked and areas of the cave or sometimes whole passages may be taped off to protect formations, items of scientific interest or simply to preserve untrodden areas of cave for future generations. Stay on the correct side of the tape, keep to the route and if in doubt, don't proceed.
Protect cave wildlife and do not disturb bats
Many creatures live in caves and often go unnoticed by passing cavers. The environment is fragile and care must be taken not to disturb it by, for example, dropping food or polluting water. Bats are among some of Britain's most endangered species and are given special protection in law. If seen in a cave they should be left alone and passed as quickly and quietly as possible.
Do not pollute the cave, leave nothing behind
Except under exceptional circumstances, nothing that is taken into a cave should ever be left in. Take out all litter, food and waste. Because of the toxic waste produced by carbide lamps, this type of lighting is now discouraged and electric lighting is preferred.
Archaeological and other remains should not be disturbed
The cave environment often contains important palaeontological and archaeological remains. These may include industrial and pre-industrial
artefacts. They should not be disturbed and only investigated by competent specialists.
Do not interfere with scientific equipment
To study the cave environment it is often necessary to leave expensive and fragile equipment underground. Disturbing this may damage the equipment and destroy valuable work.
Set a good example for others to follow
One way to pass on good conservation practices to others is through education and setting a good personal example. Be responsible, show an interest and understanding of caving and demonstrate the cave conservation code in action.
Avoid touching or damaging formations
It is sometimes tempting to touch formations because they look so inviting. This should be avoided because the formations will be soiled. Each individual caver may notice no difference from a single touch but hundreds or even thousands of grubby fingers will completely ruin beautiful formations. It should be remembered that formations are not always made of pretty crystals; they may be mud, sand or rock and all should be treated with the same respect.
Take nothing but photographs
Nothing, except for litter left by the careless, should ever be removed from a cave. Broken formations and other geological specimens including rocks should be left untouched.
Comply with any access requirements
Different caves have different rules both for obtaining access and for the correct way to behave in the cave. These rules are designed to help with cave conservation and every caver should support this aim by following any guidelines. Group leaders should make certain that the whole group understands and follows any guidelines.
Respect the rights and privacy of land owners
All cave entrances are on land belonging to someone. Sometimes cavers have special access arrangements with statutory conservation bodies, but more often we rely on the good will of the land owner. Always remember that the land owner has the right to deny access; respect their privacy and comply with any access conditions or risk losing access for all.
Follow the Minimum Impact Caving Code and Code of Ethics
These Codes are designed to advise on the best means of protecting the cave environment and access to it.