Chunky and Caver Keith Wow The Wessex

Chunky and Caver Keith Wow The Wessex

After dinner speakers R us

Only 9 days before the event Les Williams contacted Mark and asked if he was free on 21st October as he needed an after dinner speaker for the 83rd Wessex Cave Club Annual Dinner. Having not been able to find a suitable excuse Mark then contacted me and asked if I would be one half of a double act.

The slot was scheduled to last for 15 to 20 minutes. Mark’s idea was basically for us to trade insults between short compilations of Caver Keith videos. It seemed a half decent idea so for the next 8 days we honed the script and assembled the videos. However neither of us were really confident that it would work with a large unfamiliar audience of about 90 people.

Les said that he could provide a large screen, projector, amplifier and speakers as the Hidden Earth equipment is held in the Wessex stores. All we had to provide was ourselves and a laptop loaded with the presentation and videos.

What could possibly go wrong?

Suitably suited and booted we arrived early at the venue but had to run across the carpark through a cloudburst courtesy of storm Brian. The equipment was already in place so we fired up the laptop, connected the video cable and plugged in the amplifier. The projector worked fine but the audio stubbornly refused to work. With the clock ticking relentlessly to the start of the meal it seemed that our ‘well-rehearsed’ presentation was doomed to failure. With only minutes to spare we diagnosed the problem. The 3.5mm jack plug was not going into the socket on the laptop far enough to make contact and there wasn’t a spare lead! Fortunately I had bought a bluetooth speaker so we connected it up and placed a microphone in front of it. The sound wasn’t perfect but it looked like the show was back on. Phew!

Pre-show Nerves

When I said ‘well-rehearsed’ presentation I may have been slightly embroidering the truth. Cobbled together might have been a more accurate description. During the meal we found out that over the years the great and the good of the caving world had addressed this long established club. The names that every ever knows – The Clive Westlakes, The Martin Farrs, The Sid Perous, The Gavin Newmans and alike, and who are we? Did anyone know us from Adam? To emphasise the point the person to Mark’s right during the meal said, “Who is Caver Keith?” – enough said. So to say that we were a little nervous would be an understatement.

At the end of the meal were a number of toasts and then it was down to us.

The Presentation

Mark started with, “During the history of the Wessex Cave Club we understand that you have been addressed by all of the big names in caving.”

I replied, “But unfortunately tonight we’ve got us.” It got a small titter from a couple of the audience.

We then played the Potholer Sketch. It’s one of my favourite videos and I know that Mark rates it highly too. The odd smile played on a few faces but there were no laughs. It wasn’t going well!!!

I then said, “I was introduced to Mark about 8 years ago. I can remember the day vividly. He walked into the windmill like he owned the place and my first impressions were … “. I left a suitable pause and continued with, “What a fat bastard.” The place erupted with laughter. Perhaps we were going to be able to pull it off after all.

The exchange of insults continued with Mark slagging off my videos and me slagging off his acting ability. We then played a compilation of video clips entitled “Nah … He Can’t Act” showcasing Mark’s acting, starting with the famous Corset video and concluding with the title, A Star Is Born. Having broken the ice with my ‘Fat Bastard’ remark the bonhomie from the audience continued.

After another exchange of insults we played the third and final video clip compilation entitled “Highlights from the Video Vault” which featured humorous clips of both of us, including Brendan being blown up on the firing range, me stuck in the Lobster Pot, my return to caving following my accident and crashing my drone down Eldon Hole. This elicited laughs in all the right places.

The conclusion revolved around Mark suggesting that it was about time I gave up making videos and me storming off saying that if that was his attitude I was off to find my next ‘big star’ and shouting, “Les, Les come and be in my videos.”

We did get applause, thanks and some very nice comments prompting Mark to post on Facebook, “After dinner presentation with Keith Edwards done and we didn’t get lynched or nuffink!”

Would we do it again? Possibly if our egos were massaged enough.

25 years ago at Welsh’s Green Swallet

25 years ago at Welsh’s Green Swallet

Green Swallet [NGR ST 5506 4771] is something for the connoisseur. A couple of
short drops lead to low crawling-size passages with an ample supply of mud, much
like caving in liquid cement, there are some tight squeezes to negotiate along
the way too. It is, however, probably the longest known cave in the world in
Blue Lias Limestone and there are some fine selenite crystals to be seen.

dug by persons unknown in the 1930s and by Wessex Cave Club in 1961. A new
phase of excavation began in 1979, continuing to 1989 when the first
breakthrough was made.

October 1992, there was a period of sustained effort by myself, Graham ‘Jake’
Johnson, Rich Blake and Tony ‘J’Rat’ Jarratt, occasionally aided by others, to
‘push’ the current end of the cave. Eventually, there was a tantalising glimpse
into ‘black’ space beyond, it looked good and we were excited.

my personal logbooks:

28/10/1992 with Jake and J’Rat

night’s bang cleared some stuff, one quite large boulder. I still couldn’t
squeeze through, but did get a better look and it does look good, nice strong
draught and what looks to be, hands and knees size passage going away, can only
see 8 – 10 feet. Jake was in raptures when he came back from drilling and
charging. We also shifted all the spoil back to the aven. J’Rat, also cordoned
off some fine selenite crystals. Another 1.5 hours trip.

29/10/1992 with Jake and Murray Knapp

strikes again!

some hammering, chiselling and barring, I finally managed to squeeze through
into new passage, 15ft. x 15ft. x 3ft, high. Waited for Jake and Murray to pass
through and then exploring brand new cave.

the squeeze, you enter a bedding plane and then, a T Junction, the right-hand
leg closes-down after 15ft., to the left, hands and knees crawling, up to 6ft.
wide and very well decorated, leading for about 40ft. to another T Junction.
The left-hand side leads for about 40ft.of crawling, with stal and selenite, to
a blind chamber, 10ft. x 5ft. x 3ft., with a dripping crack and nice float
calcite on the edge of a pool. The right-hand leg [of the T Junction] goes for
about a left turn and then, 15ft. to boulder break-down, some shoring
and a bit of work here will lead to another breakthrough next trip. This small
passage has the largest selenite crystals I’ve ever seen and some very nice
stal and rusticles.

entry squeeze is going to be left awkward because the whole area contains some
very delicate formations. It also makes all the work worthwhile.

30/10/1992 with Jake, J’Rat and Rich

for more discoveries!

take too long to get to the break-down, this time we had some short scaffold
poles for a bit of shoring-up. Jake soon removed, what appeared to be a
chock-stone, and then squeezed through into more spacious open passage. The
way-on continued for about 60ft. until reaching more, big block break-down,
Rich managed to get in a further 15ft. to a dig, very squalid as well, so
that’s about it for a while.

new section doesn’t have any stal but, it does have some large selenite

the breakthrough, several surveying trips were made with Trevor Hughes, the new
extension survey length was 76 metres, we had guesstimated it as 230ft.(70m),
so we were quite close. While we were at it, the entire cave was surveyed.

November, again on a Wednesday evening.
Vince, Jake and myself surveyed 97m of passage that evening. The Compost
Corner legs were most remembered – Vince managed, most successfully, to ensure
that for virtually every survey station, to read the compass, I had to bung my
somewhat hirsute chin into the mud, revenge I suppose for making him do all the
outward trip backwards.” (Hughes, 1998).


V.J. Personal logbook 1990 to 1992

A., Taviner, R. and Witcombe, R. 2015. Mendip Underground: A Cavers Guide (5th
Edition). Mendip Cave Registry & Archive

T. 1998. Welsh’s Green Swallet – the Survey (Or The Mud-Pile Strikes Back) in Belfry Bulletin, 495 p22-25. February 1998

Mud, Water and Zombies…

Mud, Water and Zombies…

Team: Gian Ameri, Stuart Bennett, Derek Cousins, Duncan Hornby, Kevin Munn, Pam Munn, Phill Thomas, Morgan Specht, Helen Stewart, Claire Vivian, Jo White, Tarquin Wilton-Jones

Dates: 14th -15th October 2017


Staying at the TSG in Castleton is extremely convenient. Not only are you within walking distance of the great Peak Cavern, but you are also incredibly close to a large number of pubs and eating out options. The downside is the lack of parking. But the feel of being literally right in the centre of the town is great!

Saturday began with rough plans being made of trips into Peak Cavern.

Last minute preparations.

Almost Ready, getting changed at the TSG “chapel”.

We decided on 2 groups, one which would go and have a look at the fantastic Main Streamway and Lake Passage including Buxton Water, Far and Ink sumps and the other team would do a slightly longer trip including the main stream, the Galena Circuit and a visit to Moss Chamber. Some of us had been to Peak before, but none had visited Moss Chamber or done the Galena round trip

The two teams at the entrance of Peak Cavern.

The two teams at the Treasury Passage junction.

A little further on is Surprise View, a simple fixed ladder leading down to the Main Stream way, at this point the groups went their separate ways and only bumped into each other once.

The photos below are a mixture of each group’s adventures taken by various people.

Claire in the Tube (photo by Morgan).

Duncan at the Lake Sump with a multitude of steel beams, scaffolding bars, and divers tanks! (photo by Morgan).
Tarquin puzzling over the many water pipes in the Main Stream inlet passage.

One group visited Moss Chamber, an hours diversion off the Upper Gallery passage, mostly hands and knees crawling, a squeeze through an eye hole and a final refreshing dunk in water right at the end. This chamber is famous for where an accident lead to the body of Neil Moss, being cemented into a too tight rift that he had become trapped in. Despite the sombre feel to this location it also has some of the nicest flowstone formations in the system.

Claire in Moss chamber.

Different angle (by Morgan).
Derek at the Far Sump.

Derek in the Main Stream way.

Helen in ‘The Tube’.
Duncan passing under the low arch at the Muddy Ducks (on the way out).

We all had to be out before 4:30pm as the show cave was running some sort of spooky tour in the evening. The show cave had some rather amusing ghosts and ghouls in odd locations…

Claire admiring a formation in the ceiling…

In the evening Jo White and Stuart Bennett joined us for some pub grub, on the Sunday Jo went to a BCRA meeting and Stuart joined the P8 trip.


Due to time constraints the group split into two teams: one for P8, the other for Giant’s Hole.


Derek had previously visited P8 some years ago and had enough equipment to descend P8 on ladders. Neither Claire, Duncan, Helen or Stuart had visited P8 before and with limited time we opted for P8. The entrance is a sinkhole taking a small stream and we were soaked from the moment we entered!

The team at the entrance of P8.

P8 has a Yorkshire pot feel to it as we followed the stream to the first pitch. With the ladder rigged we got a proper soaking as we descended! The second pitch was much nicer as the ladder was out of the waterfall.

Helen descending the second pitch and this was the dry one!

Stuart showed off by finding an alternative route down which he free climbed and avoided any soaking!

We then explored downstream and reached a sump after a flat out crawl in a pebble bed. Derek thought there was more to the system so we had not found the other sump which is as far as non-divers can go. Unfortunately time was against us so we decided to exit the system.

So there is definitely more to see and if tackled as an SRT trip I suspect much drier! The topo guide that was lying around at the TSG hut indicates there are several alternative high level routes that can be followed to avoid a soaking.

Giant’s Hole- The Round Trip: Tarquin, Gian, and Morgan

All photos in this section by Morgan

We found the description of the guide book more than a little tricky to decipher. So we sought advice from several TSG members and this was the sketch of the round trip in Giants they came up with!

The sketch for Giants Hole.

What an easy start to the trip, less than 10 minutes drive from TSG and a five minute walk to the entrance. £5 per person though!

Gian and Tarquin at the entrance of Giants Hole.
There are some spectacular spaces in Giant’s- this is Tarquin looking up into Boss Aven.

The first obstacle is Garlands Pot a 9m pitch which leads immediately into the 400m long Crab walk a very a meandering and constricted rift.

Gian on his first ladder descent using his harness – which he rightly points out is far safer than wearing a belt.
Morgan with rock on both sides. It gets even tighter at the Vice, a restriction in the Crab Walk.
Occasionally the Crab Walk opens up – Gian patiently posed for me in this “S” bend.
The Round Trip offers a good variety of sporting challenges. There are a few tricky climbs in the upper series.

After the Poached Egg junction you eventually arrive at the Giants windpipe. For those who like crawling on your stomach, through water, this is your place to be! The sign is a bit intimidating but it’s alright. There is a 20 foot wet section. When we went through the water was not too high, if you get your head on the right angle you can still breath with a wet cheek and chin!

Entrance to Giants Windpipe.

After the pipe you can traverse above the Crab Walk. We chose to go beyond the fixed abseil ring (as there was no rope), go through a thrutchy calcite squeeze, and over some wider section of rift passage, eventually descending back to the lower route just before reaching Garland’s.

Gian pictured carefully moving along the top of the rift.

We climbed back up the ladder at Garland’s Pot, packed up and started to exit the cave. Tarquin climbed up to explore the “Old Upper Cave” on the way out. I decided not to join him as it did require negotiating more tight meandering passages while ascending. He thought it was well worth it.

All in all a fantastic trip. Sporting, wet, clean (unlike Peak Cavern!) and took a bit less than 4 hours!

Incident 82/2017 – Oct. 21st Sat. 14.15 – Trow Gill, Clapham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 82/2017 – Oct. 21st Sat. 14.15 – Trow Gill, Clapham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A walker (f, 51) slipped on the wet cobbly track, and sustained a fracture to her lower right leg. The team were called to assist, but as the weather conditions were poor, and the casualties party had little to shelter her with, they moved her down to the office of the Ingleborough Show Cave. Team members provided casualty care and conveyed the casualty down to our Depot in Clapham,

Incident 81/2017 – Oct. 18th Wed. 15.33 – Above the track to Trow Gill, Clapham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 81/2017 – Oct. 18th Wed. 15.33 – Above the track to Trow Gill, Clapham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A CRO member driving back down towards Clapham, to collect more members to assist with incident no 80, got out of the Land Rover to open the gate near Ingleborough Cave and heard/saw a quad bike bouncing and rolling down the steep hill towards the track, behind him. He reported this on the radio, then went to investigate. He found  the driver (m, 49), unconscious at first …

Incident 80/2017 – Oct. 18th Wed. 14.10 – Clapham Bents (side of Ingleborough), Clapham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 80/2017 – Oct. 18th Wed. 14.10 – Clapham Bents (side of Ingleborough), Clapham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A school-girl (10) on an outdoor education residential visit was reported to have fainted, while walking to the side of and well below the Ingleborough to Little Ingleborough path. When she was persuaded to stand up again, she fainted again. A CRO team drove to the bottom of Trow Gill, then walked 2 km up to her party and brought her down to Gaping Gill, by stretcher.

Incident 79/2017 – Oct. 14th Sat. 16.16 – Top of Watlowes (‘The Dry Valley’), Malham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 79/2017 – Oct. 14th Sat. 16.16 – Top of Watlowes (‘The Dry Valley’), Malham, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Team members spent much of the day in West Kingsdale, on practice incidents, alongside cave divers and active cavers (non-team members, willing to assist on any protracted cave rescue). Towards the end of the exercise, but with two groups still underground, a call was received from Yorkshire Ambulance Service, to which available CRO members responded. A walker (f, 56) had taken a fall on the steps that lead into the…

Incident 78/2017 – Oct. 11th Wed. 14.23 – Malham Cove, Malham, North Yorkshire – Local Incident.

Incident 78/2017 – Oct. 11th Wed. 14.23 – Malham Cove, Malham, North Yorkshire – Local Incident.

North Yorkshire Police asked for assistance in recovering a body from the base of Malham Cove. The deceased was carried across a very fast-flowing beck, then driven down to the village where she was handed over to the undertaker. Meanwhile, a small group of team members went to the top of the Cove to check the edge for any personal possessions or evidence. FATAL Volunteer hours: 50

Incident 76/2017 – Oct. 7th Sat. 13.00 – Three Peaks path, above High Birkwith, Horton in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 76/2017 – Oct. 7th Sat. 13.00 – Three Peaks path, above High Birkwith, Horton in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A Three Peaks walker (f, 32) slipped on the muddy path between the Old Ing and Nether Lodge tracks, fracturing an ankle. A companion rang the Police and while the call was being transferred from Lancashire Constabulary to North Yorkshire Police, a member of RAF Leeming MRT chanced by. He called CRO, direct, then stayed to help. After pain relief and immobilisation, the casualty was carried to a road ambulance

Why Do People Go Caving?

Why Do People Go Caving?

A question we often hear asked; and of course, the answer is the same as to the question of why people climb mountains – because they (the caves) are there! If you are not a caver then going to view the film ‘The Ario Dream’ at the forthcoming Kendal Mountain Festival from the 16th to 19th November would be a great way to see why people do go caving …

Hidden Earth 2017

Hidden Earth 2017

The weather wasn’t first class, but the atmosphere and talks were. For those of you yet to visit it, Hidden Earth is an annual conference on caving. Whilst this might sound boring, it isn’t in the least. The talks range from expedition reports, to regional round-ups and videos alongside a caver-run bar, stomp and a caving and SRT obstacle course. In short, it means you can cave around the world from your seat in the auditorium and gain a good idea of where you would like to visit. Fantastic! You also get to meet up with cavers from all over the UK. Hidden Earth is always ably organised by Les and Wendy Williams along with a whole host of helpers from Mendip and other caving clubs across the UK. The conference venue alternates between being in the North and the South. This year it was the turn of the South and Hidden Earth was in Churchill.

We camped on the sports field of the school. It is always interesting to wake up on Saturday morning in a sea of tents in Mendip and then head through a throng of people to listen to a talk on a distant corner of the world such as Mexico, Mulu, the Philippines, Meghalaya or Australia. It’s great. I love it.  

The campsite at Churchill Academy

SWCC was particularly well-represented there this year. There were plenty of us attending to listen to talks and meet up with friends (nice to see Barbara and Alan at their first HE). But there were also many members with a more deep involvement who helped with the organisation, gave talks, or entered the competitions.

The trade and exhibition hall.
Antonia and Claire on the SWCC club stand

 Jo White gave a talk on the Yorkshire Dales Cave Monitoring Project to an attentive audience.

Jo giving her talk to a packed room

We also had plenty of competition entrants. Arwen had 2 entries in the cartoon competition and received a merit for one of those.

Arwen with her winning cartoon – she was awarded a merit.

Jess Burkey won the cartoon competition with her poster on the joys of being a cave model.

Jess’ winning entry in the cartoon competition
Jo entered the photo competition for the first time with several photos, including a portfolio of Dachstein ones. It was the photo of a delicate ice formation which won her the prize for best newcomer.
Jo’s entries in to the photo competition; including her winning ice formation one

And then there was the video salon which was co-ordinated by Andy and Antonia Freem. This year’s winning entry was Keith Edwards’ Opening AV presentation, which you can watch here:

Not forgetting Jo White’s excellent performance in the SRT events in the SpeleoOlympics. Where she was the fastest lady on the SRT obstacle course and also earned the prize for the best woman in the SRT competitions. Well done everyone!

Don’t forget to join us there next year!

Hidden Earth Photo Winners

Hidden Earth Photo Winners

With tough competition from many excellent photos it was pleasing to see Mark Burkey, Jo White and Duncan Hornby win awards across various categories in the Hidden Earth 2017 photo competitions, here they are!

Category: winner of colour shot and delegate vote print, © Mark Burkey, 2017
Category: winner of monochrome print, © Mark Burkey, 2017
Category: winner of best newcomer print, © Jo White, 2017
Category: merit digital photo, © Duncan Hornby, 2017

A special mention goes to Mark Burkey who was awarded the prestigious Giles Barker award, which is the 2nd year in a row this has been won by the SWCC!
The Giles Barker award

So get snapping!

Hidden Earth 2017

Hidden Earth 2017

Hidden Earth is the name for the British Cave Research Association’s (BCRA’s) annual caving conference and Dudley Caving Club had some modest success in competitions at the conference last weekend.
Mark Burkey won several photo categories. Well he would, wouldn’t he!
Jess Burkey won the caving cartoon competition.
Keith Edwards’s Hidden Earth opening video won in the video salon. Oh and he also got a prize for the best artwork produced digitally.
And finally Mark Burkey was presented with the prestigious Giles Baker Award which is given to a person connected with any aspect of cave photography in recognition of his or her excellence and contributions to the field. Incidentally Mark is the second Dudley member to receive this award. Brendan Marris was awarded it in 2011.

Hidden Earth 2017 Opening Video

Incident 75/2017 – Sep. 30th Sat. 20.30 – Simon Fell, Ingleborough, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 75/2017 – Sep. 30th Sat. 20.30 – Simon Fell, Ingleborough, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A lone walker (f 25) reported herself lost and benighted whilst descending from the summit of Ingleborough. CRO team members and a search and rescue dog were deployed to search the eastern flanks of the hill. During eventual telephone contact with the missing person, additional information was gleaned that enabled CRO to estimate her location to be on part of Simon Fell. She was found safe and well

Incident 73/2017 – Sep. 23rd Sat. 12.41 – Blea Moor bridleway, Ingleton, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

Incident 73/2017 – Sep. 23rd Sat. 12.41 – Blea Moor bridleway, Ingleton, North Yorkshire – Mountain Rescue.

A Three Peaks walker (f,42),suffering back pain, could not continue beyond the Blea Moor signal box, so her companions used its phone to call for an ambulance. The ambulance crew parked by the viaduct and while they were walking the three quarters of a mile to the casualty, their control called CRO. The CRO vehicle picked up the casualty, her companions and the paramedics, returning them all to the road …

Incident 72/2017 – Sep. 21st Thu. 14.36 – Colt Park, Ingleton, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue.

Incident 72/2017 – Sep. 21st Thu. 14.36 – Colt Park, Ingleton, North Yorkshire – Animal Rescue.

Following a search of mixed grassland and limestone pavement by farmers and local volunteers from Natural England, an in-calf, pedigree heifer was reported missing from a small herd near Colt Park, Ribblehead. A further search of woodland and mixed terrain by farmers and CRO members yielded no result, so the search area was widened with CRO-s first use of a drone-mounted video camera.

9th September 2017

9th September 2017

I was on a digging trip to the Gower this weekend, but a team did go to HR and Tav supplied the following report: “HR – 09.09.2017 Tav, Jon, Matt, Jake Jake texted that he would meet us at the dig so t’other three made their way up to the Tuck Shop, which was a scene of devastation. There was big pile of rocks on the floor with a couple of alarming lumps hanging out of the roof. With just three diggers we ‘ummed and ahhed’ a bit about the wisdom of carrying on and had just about decided to knock the session on the head when Jake arrived, which swung the pendulum back in favour of digging. We set about removing the spoil – Jake loading, Jon on the slope, Tav on haul and shuttle and Matt on the surface. 45 loads of rock and gravel were duly removed – a mere fraction of the stuff that remains in the Tuck Shop. Loads still to clear but the face (according to Jake) is ready for another bang. Raining on the surface so we applied the ‘old’ adage … When rain clouds form round Pen Hill mast, It’s quick lads, to the Hunters’ fast”