Report by Jim Thompson
Cavers: Bog (EPC), Pete Pollard (EPC), Nige Strong (EPC), Jim Thompson (EPC)
I’d decided it would be a good idea to get back down the lower series and have a decent look round, considering that I had been in Bagshawe about 30 times in the last 10 months, and only been in the Lower series once, when Stick showed Mike and I round on our first visit. I thought it would also be a good idea to have some background knowledge of the route before taking a couple of hot women down there in a few weeks time. Well, somebody’s got to do it!
It was to be Bog’s first time in the lower series, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for Pete to be introduced to Bagshawe too. Mr Strong made up the team, and I felt slightly relieved that someone else had turned up who would know the way round. Or not, as it turned out…..
We descended the steps down to the Dungeon, taking it slowly as I tried to show Pete all the bits of prettiness on the way down, the mined vein and the stemples in the roof, and we made a short detour into Calypso cave too. Upon reaching the Dungeon, Bog and Nige dropped the ladder down the pitch while I explained the morphology of the cave passage to Pete and told him about the dig. He looked unimpressed (about the dig not the cave)! At this point it may have been sensible to go down the ladder and check that the way out of the Dungeon was clear, but, eager to get caving we shot off back up the steps into Agony crawl. It’s strange how cave all seems straightforward and linear to me whenever I’m following someone. When I’d been here with Stick many months ago, I hadn’t paid any attention to the various possible directions in this low bedding. I squeezed on in the most likely looking direction, finding the going much tighter than I remembered it. At a little hole, I squeezed through and found myself wondering why lights had been fitted through here, away from the main cave passage. Hmm, actually, this was the main passage. Duh! I reversed the squeeze and Nige took the lead. We soon found ourselves dropping through the hole in the roof, the Hayloft, and we were finally in the Lower series at last. I knew that in order to reach the other exciting parts down here, the way on was to the right, so off we went, through Prospero’s cave, at one point stopping to admire the really metallic looking chert splattered all over the limestone. It isn’t really splattered, but looks like a load of metal melted amongst the rocks. We eventually reached another familiar sight- a big iron bar sticking out of the wall on the right. This was the entrance to Straw cave. I’m not sure how Straw cave got its name, probably something to do with farming I expect. The cave is a bit of a low crawl, decorated very nicely on the right hand side by a lot of straw stalactites and columns. From here, a climb down some calcited blocks leads down to a lake, and just beyond this a small stream flows in and away down the passage. We followed the stream, and entered a just lower than walking height, very straight phreatic tube. I think from looking at the survey that this may have been heading north, but I couldn’t be certain. Either way it ended in another pool of water. Nigel walked into this and nearly disappeared up to his neck!
It had become apparent by this time however, that we weren’t heading for the Dungeon. We headed back towards the phreatic tube, not really sure where we were or which was the way on to the Dungeon. We went round in circles, looking here and there, and following various prints in the mud and the polished flow and broken stal on the floor, to no avail. I took the leader’s role and decided we were going to retrace our steps back to Prospero’s cave because I had suddenly remembered, that the Dungeon was in the opposite direction to Straw cave! Feeling more confident now, I opted for the sporting route and went through the lake, having to go chest deep in the water, howling and panting with the cold. I thought we’d better find our way out now or we’ll be freezing! We passed a couple of features recalled from the way in, and appeared back next to the iron bar- right, now we were back on track. I headed straight off in the opposite direction to the one we had arrived in, finding a stooping sized, water-worn passage, the dark limestone being intersected by white bands. After some distance, the passage became muddy and gritty, and evidence of recent water flow showed on the mud’s surface. This then led to a steep bank of deep mud, which dropped into a scummy brown pool. Ah, the Dungeon! Sh*t! The water was up to the roof and not looking at all inviting. We should have gone down the ladder first! Oh well, off we went back up to Agony crawl, me going first through the hole in the roof as by this time Nigel’s lamp had failed. The crawl was just as enjoyable on the way out, and we were soon back in the main passage. We returned for the ladder, and Pete and I climbed down to see the water, up to the roof on this side too. When I bent to pick up the ladder at the top, my knee gave an almighty crack, which everyone thought was a rock or something, and I writhed in pain for a few seconds, before I’d realised there wasn’t any. In spite of this, I was feeling great after such an interesting trip, where we had managed to get a good look at a lot of the cave- it was probably a good thing that we’d been slightly disorientated for a while. I went at a run through the rest of the passage and stormed up the steps, not feeling knackered at all, which makes a nice change. We adjourned to the White Hart, where the beer was as welcome and refreshing as ever!