Report by Jules Barrett
On the 9th and 10th of February 2008 a very successful Bradwell Dale and Bagshawe Cavern clean-up took place involving around twenty Derbyshire cavers. The project was initiated by DCA Projects Officer Wayne Sheldon who mentioned at an SSSI Cave Conservation Monitoring meeting in January 2008 that a clean-up of Bradwell Parish Cave and Walker's Grotto was long overdue. Litter and old digging debris needed to be removed from outside and inside both caves and since I have a particular interest in the Bradwell area I agreed to organise the clean-up. Natural England offered to pay for a skip and Bagshawe Cavern would also be included. Bagshawe Cavern has been through many guises beginning life as a working lead mine, later becoming a show cave and more recently the late Peter Revell offered 'adventure caving trips' whilst allowing independent cavers and commercial groups access at a cost of £5 per person. Peter was a friend and supporter of the Eldon Pothole Club and members of the club have a substantial interest in the exploration and conservation of the cave/mine complex. When custodianship of the Cavern passed to Peter's daughter Amanda, DCA Chairman Bob Dearman and members of the Eldon Pothole Club sought to work out a viable access agreement that took into account the needs of the Revell family and the conservation of the cave/mine whilst promoting use by independent cavers and local outdoor education organisations. Bagshawe Cavern is now open to any competent, experienced and suitably equipped cavers who provide documentary proof of public liability insurance and pay a £2 per person fee.
Before Bagshawe Cavern can be used by members of the Peak Instructed Caving Affiliation (PICA) it has to pass a safety inspection by the organisation's consultant engineer. In October 2007 the mined section of Bagshawe Cavern was inspected and a number of recommendations were made regarding work that must be carried out to stabilise the roof of the entrance stope. John Taylor, Sam Townsend and others were keen to get on with the job and with plenty of cavers around for the clean-up weekend it would be a good opportunity to get started. The plan was to cast a number of reinforced concrete slabs in the roof of the stope which would protect anyone from debris that might fall from above. On a trip earlier in the year PICA Chairman Phil Baker had suggested that Bagshawe would make a better trip without the old show cave lights and armoured cable. We planned to remove all that on the weekend. Sam Townsend also pointed out that there was lots of old junk in the mine workings at the bottom of the entrance stope so we would try to get that out as well. All this meant a huge amount of work and we would need as many cavers as possible to achieve it all. I spoke to loads of local cavers in the preceding weeks and received an excellent response to a thread that I posted on the ukcaving.com web forum. Phil Burke and Dan Hibberts offered materials and equipment for use in the Bagshawe entrance stope and Nick Williams offered the use of his trailer and various other items of equipment. Jim Alder agreed to organise the Bradwell Dale clean-up, John Taylor, Sam Townsend and others would get stuck into the roof of the Bagshawe entrance stope and Bob Dearman and I would concentrate on cleaning up Bagshawe Cavern. We had an excellent trip with John Barnatt and Terry Worthington on the Thursday evening assessing the archaeological interest in the mined sections of Bagshawe Cavern. John requested that we take plenty of photographs of the stope before starting work and Rob Eavis, who takes excellent photos, was lined up for the job.
Around twenty cavers from the Eldon Pothole Club, SUSS, Crewe, TSG, Orpheus and NUCC met at Bagshawe at 9:00 a.m. on the Saturday morning. Andy Davis has a mobile catering van and had brought hot bacon rolls for breakfast and soup for lunch; a superb and much appreciated contribution! After a quick chat in the car park we made short work of a bacon roll each and got going. A team headed down to Bradwell Dale to start collecting litter from Bradwell Parish Cave and Walker's Grotto. A second team went into Bagshawe armed with crowbars and bolt croppers to start levering out the old show cave lights and cable and transporting it all to the bottom of the Bagshawe steps. A third team began work stabilising the roof of the Bagshawe entrance stope. By midday all the show cave lighting was in a large pile at the bottom of the Bagshawe steps and attention turned to the junk in the old mine workings. The following hour was spent adding this to the huge pile that was rapidly filling the chamber at the bottom of the steps. It says a good deal about how hard everyone worked that Andy nipped up the steps to put the soup on and then came back into the mine to help drag more stuff out. Lunch was called at 1:00 p.m. and the Bradwell Dale team joined us for soup at Bagshawe.
After lunch the Bradwell Dale crew went back with a trailer to bring the rubbish up to the Bagshawe car park whilst the Bagshawe teams went back underground. The mountain of cable, lights and rubbish that had accumulated at the bottom of the steps was parcelled up by Brendan and Ann and passed out of the cave by a line of cavers. This wasn't as easy as it might sound as most people had to ascend and descend at least ten 'Bagshawe steps' with each parcel. Meanwhile the team shoring up the roof of the stope continued with that making excellent progress. At 3:00 p.m. a break was called for and the Bradwell Dale team arrived with a trailer full of rubbish. This went into the skip filling it completely! By 4:30 p.m. all of the rubbish was out of Bagshawe and a few of us went for a quick trip whilst the others finished removing the cables and lights from the entrance stope. By 6:00 p.m. we had cleared up and headed to the White Hart in Bradwell for a well-earned drink.
On Sunday morning I arrived at Bagshawe to find Jim halfway through moving the enormous pile of cable, lighting and mine debris from the entrance up to the car park. This got finished and then we started on a clear up of the area around the Cavern removing a load of junk and having a good sweep around. In the afternoon Bob and I took down part of the car park wall and rebuilt it to allow larger vehicles in. During the week we also separated out all of the metal and a scrap man came to collect that along with the cable. This left us with just the full skip which was collected the following Thursday leaving a much tidier Bagshawe Cavern.
Everyone involved worked really hard to tidy up the Bradwell Dale Caves and Bagshawe Cavern and the results are tremendous. Bradwell Parish Cave and Walker's Grotto are now clear of litter and old digging debris. Bagshawe Cavern looks like a new cave without the old and obsolete show cave lighting and the mine workings at the bottom of the steps are clear of rubbish for the first time in possibly hundreds of years! The final task that remains is to complete the SSSI Cave Monitoring form which will show a vast improvement for these three particular caves. Finally, a good start has been made towards making the roof of the Bagshawe entrance stope safe so that the cave can be opened up to novices, giving us one of the best novice trips in Derbyshire.
The cavers involved on the ground and behind the scenes were: Jim Alder, Jules Barrett, Phil Burke, Bob Dearman, Andy Davis, Katie Dent, Rob Eavis, Dave Harley, Dan Hibberts, Charlie Johnson, Keith Joule, Andy Norman, Jen Plucknett, Wayne Sheldon, Brendan Sloan, Ann Soulsby, John Taylor, Sam Townsend, Dave Whiteley, Nick Williams, Zak Williams and Claire Youens.
For information about the SSSI Cave Conservation Monitoring Scheme, cave monitoring forms and Peak District cave surveys visit: www.peakcavemonitoring.org.uk.
For access and other information about Bagshawe Cavern visit: www.eldon.org.uk/bagshawe_cavern.html.
Click [here] for Rob Eavis's excellent photos from the weekend.