Report by James Wood
Cavers: Jules Barrett (EPC), Mark Harrison (EPC), Toni Murphy (EPC), Jon and Sam Pemberton (EPC), James Wood (EPC)
After the previous attempted trip had to be rethought due to the excessive numbers, Sam was determined to arrange a trip and have a look round. He had spoken to the nursing home a week before and they didn’t appear to be too restrictive. A quick phone call on the day to confirm and we were in. We all met in the car park at 18:30, Sam and myself arriving earlier to collect the key and open up the entrance (a scaffolding bar across a manhole cover).
It was decided to do the trip on ladders, due to the previous trip being awkward on SRT. Mark and Jules set about rigging the 18m entrance pitch. Mark was first to descend the ladder, belayed by Jules, followed by myself, Jon, Sam, Toni and then Jules. Who was belayed from the bottom of the pitch by Mark. Unsure of the way on and failing to remember the description, Mark had a quick look straight ahead over the calcited boulders, coming back to report he was unsure. I had a quick look down to the right of pitch, were after a few metres it went into a tight crawl, with a hole in the calcite, which went nowhere. We rigged the blind shaft, corrected by Jules when he met us. We de-rigged the pitch and continued past the shaft. Jon meanwhile had another look where Mark had been, he managed to find the way on. A slide over calcited boulders leads to a small chamber, to the right a rift which leads to the second pitch (6m). Jules rigged the ladder down the pitch, using rope around a thread to the right. Mark was again first to descend crawling back under at the bottom. Next was Jon who after the descent continued on in the rift which after a distance leads to a large chamber, where it ends. Next I was to descend and followed Mark, then Jon who continued on after Sam, Toni and Jules followed and went down under the wet muddy crawl. Tight in places the crawl shortly leads to ‘The Pearly Gates’, a squeeze through stal. Continuing on to the right it opens out, where Mark firstly climbed down, I followed not as tricky as it was made out to be. A hand line was tied by Jules to a small bridge at the top of the climb, if needed for the ascent. Toni was next to climb down, Jules, Jon, and Sam followed. Now all in the rift chamber, one by one we climbed up the calcited boulders ahead to a smallish pool, with some pretties. Higher up, in the chamber were some nice formations and ‘the boulder of doom’. We all followed the rift on, which required a short climb down. Straddling the drop in places to a lower level we carried on to the end of the rift. Jon at this point was attempting to climb down into the lower level, I joined him. Jules found a more suitable down climb, further back towards the chamber and climbed down to find a dig. Jon and I decided to climb back up to have a look where Sam had previously been. Back towards the large rift chamber under calcited boulders, I climbed through a rift to a small chamber that was quite wet and relatively clean and mud free. First I had a look to the left to find some wood holding up some boulders, easier access could be gained from the other side. I went round and climbed down into a small chamber, on my hands and knees at this point. To the left looked quite tight but I didn’t have a look where it went. I followed the flat out crawl to the right after about 15m I got to a muddy pool of water, 90° right was about a 1m climb up. The crawl continued on to the left to end after about 3-4m, where the mud/silt was roughly 10-15 cm from the roof of the tube. Although it has been reported to draft here, the air was very still and the steam from my breath wasn’t being carried. I crawled back out to meet Sam. We both then go back into the main chamber, to meet Jon. Toni, Jules and Mark had already started to make their way out, the climb up where the hand line was now fixed came in useful to pull up on. Mark waited for us at the top of the pitch, where he and I de-rigged. We then continued back to the entrance pitch where Toni and Jules had already ascended by this time. A belt was lowered down for Jon, Sam and I, which got caught further up where Mark climbed up to a ledge to retrieve it. Jon, Sam, Myself and finally Mark ascended the ladder belayed by Jules. Jules, Mark and Sam de-rigged and locked the lid back down.
Between the group we managed to cover pretty much all of the cave, a worthwhile trip, which remains unspoilt from traffic. Not like the usual Stoney caves.