Behind the locked doors of Bagshawe Cavern

Behind the locked doors of Bagshawe Cavern
After meeting for the obligatory full English breakfast  in Buxton, our convoy headed in the direction of Bradwell village, in search of Ye Olde Bowling Green pub where we were due to meet our ‘fixer’.
After a quick briefing of the cave system and an exchange of keys, we kitted up and headed to the entrance where some 130 manmade steps descending steeply into the cavern awaited us.
Our first port of call was Calypsos cave just off the main passage way; we spent a few minutes here scrabbling up into a small tube which ends fairly quickly at a dig. Returning to the main passageway to drop the kit bag off at The Dungeon, we continued our way down via the hippodrome to Top Stream Passage and the sumps.
We spent a bit of time here studying the survey, looking around and getting our bearings before retracing our steps in search of the glory hole and the first of the two locked gates that we had come to visit. Behind the first locked gate was Snake’s Pyjamas.  We crawled our way in, one by one, and admired the pretties seen on our left as we made our way up to the furthest point which we could squeeze up to.     
Back on the main passage we made our way towards our final locked gate of the day known as Coronation Crawl. This was a slightly bigger and more decorated passage then the last, so we split off in different directions to see what we could find. I climbed up into a tight rift on the right and crawled head first through water until I couldn’t progress comfortably any further, with the rest of the group returning from their little explores with similar result.
Before returning to the surface, and with time to spare, we thought we would rig the ladder and descend into The Dungeon, but not before we attempted to see if we could fit through agony crawl! This was short lived when it was soon apparent that I would be forced to remove my helmet to ‘maybe’ fit through! Not keen on getting stuck or having everyone laugh at me, we retreated back to The Dungeon pit and rigged the ladder.
The team did a grand job of rigging the ladder and soon we were lowering our test dummy (aka Kay) down the pitch. With the reassuring sounds of the rope being “free” it was our new recruit Ollies turn to descend. Ollie made easy work of the ladder and rope, and one by one we all reached the floor of the Dungeon.
It quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be going too far as the water levels for our route ahead were looking too high, and after wading in to chest deep water it was confirmed that we wouldn’t be able to explore the lower routes at all, so we quickly retreated to the dry banks and made our way out.
At this point we all agreed that we had seen what we wanted to see and we made our final ascent of the 130 steps to make our way out of the cave. After a quick change of clothes we made our way back down the hill to Ye Olde Bowling Green pub’s garden for some well deserved refreshments and sunshine.
Present: Mike, Lucy, Rich, Kay, Ian and new recruit Ollie

Trip report: Mike Bonner

Potholing – Where Big Men Get Into Small Holes

Potholing – Where Big Men Get Into Small Holes

The Dudley visit Eldon Hole in Derbyshire. With apologies to the Fast Show circa 1993 from which we stole the script, to the Buttered Badger Potholing Club, and to women cavers who everyone knows are equal to or if not better than their male counterparts.

This is a work of fiction and the Buttered Badgers mentioned bear no relationship to the actual Buttered Badgers. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s fevered imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

The video was taken on 13th November 2016.

Withyhill Cave

Withyhill Cave

On 1st November 2015 Dudley Caving Club members Phil, Ian, Brendan, Mark and myself set off for the Mendips to visit Fairy Quarry to explore Fernhill and Withyhill Caves. We explored Fernhill Cave but never got to see Withyhill. In fact I didn’t get home until 18 days later and didn’t see the inside of a cave for another 6 months. Last year I got to do Withyhill twice (15th May & 27th November) and managed to take some video. It’s a bit rubbish but the cave is fantastically decorated and hopefully the video gives a flavour of its beauty.

Grebe Swallet, A Parallel Universe!

Grebe Swallet, A Parallel Universe!

As Mendip Digfest virgins this year we eagerly scanned the list of diggers looking for willing volunteers/ victims for their dig,  to see which one seemed the most alluring.

Chris Binding’s looked most tempting; ‘Absolutely guaranteed to go’.

How could we pass by the opportunity to join a dig that promised so much? (Though ‘excellent picnic facilities’ was also a strong contender. )

We therefore met up with Chris on a lovely sunny morning to go and find miles of new , cavernous passage in Grebe Swallet.

On the way Chris gave us a potted history of the cave and pointed out how the landscape and geology of the area indicated that cave passage to rival Upper Flood was almost definitely waiting for us to just tap in and discover it.

In my mind’s eye I saw us emerging into huge chambers and having to be careful we didn’t get lost as we wandered past huge crystal white formations. ” Wow,  like a parallel universe! “ I exclaimed.

The entrance was heavily guarded by an army of slugs, which nearly cut short my caving trip , but the lure of fame and fortune won and soon we were underground.

Chris gave us a guided tour of the known cave and mine which was thoroughly enjoyable. As a big Willie Stanton fan I fully appreciated how much of his engineering had gone into the cave and how well it had served to protect delicate areas and historical artefacts.

Our role was to clear and make good two areas where Chris and the rest of the team had been ‘teasing’ the rock to see what lay beyond.

At the first location Chris spent his time mostly throwing rocks at Mark,  while I played with mud.
At Perdition the dig face and air space was limited,  so I stayed back out of the way while the boys took turns prising away at the heavy mud and rocks. Once they had both worn themselves out,  I was invited to  ‘Have a Go’.

Easing away at the mud and brittle calcite was quite fun! I was just getting into the swing of it when the boys got bored and decided that we probably wouldn’t be able to make any further progress that day. rolling the last few bits of mud towards me, to leave it tidy,   I found that my hand was now waving about freely on the other side of a calcited wall! A Void!

The next couple of hours passed in a flurry of activity as Chris and Mark sweated and cajoled the calcite wall and mud floor,  revealing a tantalizing decorated rift passage beyond . More of the mud floor was pushed aside until Chris could wriggle forward  into the passage to see where it led to . An exciting prospect lays ahead – the rift pinches in,  but a dark void can be observed beyond it – a Parallel Universe? ?

A quick guestimate of the amount of passage gained was about 5 metres,  which Chris thinks is possibly a Mendip Digfest record!
I certainly think there is about 5 tonnes of mud to be cleaned off the suits. ..

The rest of Digfest was really enjoyable too, lots of great people and plenty of fun and Potholer. Who can ask for more?

The Dig Face On Arrival (Photo Christopher Binding)
Mark Furtles with a Crowbar (Photo Christopher Binding)
And Creates A Filthy Hole (Photo Christopher Binding)
And Keeps Creating Till He Fits! (Photo Christopher Binding)

Chris crawls over the pit to check out the newly discovered passage (Photo Mark Burkey)

Trip report: Jess Burkey

Present: Christopher Binding, Jessica Burkey & Mark Burkey

That Sinking Feeling once again

That Sinking Feeling once again

On the Monday, the return trip to Top Sink to retrieve the ropes did not seem anywhere near as attractive as it did when we thought of it on the Saturday. Luckily we had managed to attract another member to our little group for this final trip of the long weekend. Jane, from UKCaving, offered to come along and be our model for the pitch shot.
As the three Dudley cavers slouched along through the boggy ground on the long trip to Top Sink, Jane was skipping along happily praising the lovely scenery.  With trepidation we approached the entrance – even without tons of kit the rifts would be hard going. Jane however still didn’t seem worried, and it soon became clear that at the various ‘pinch points’ in the rift where we three had to crawl and thrutch, being rather smaller she was waltzing  through upright, swinging her arms!
Once we reached Walrus Pot I went down first and set off along the second rift to de-rig Penknife pitch while Brendan started setting up lighting at the foot of the pot. After he got so cold in Long Churn, we had thought ahead, and he was wearing a waterproof jacket, which despite being wet through, did make a difference to body temperature.
When I got back to the bottom of the pot with the second rope, the photo shoot was nearly finished, with Jane on the rope, Mark hanging over the top of the pitch with his camera and Brendan jumping in and out of the waterfall with various flash guns and bulbs.
I viewed the climb back up with trepidation – the bottom half of the pitch would all be through water and I wished I’d remembered my pantin. However, it didn’t prove to be as bad as I feared; in fact Brendan and I both agreed that the water was quite refreshing!
The ‘crabwalk’ back to the entrance was not at all refreshing, but Jane ran through the rift with a bag and camera box and then came back for more!
A windy walk back to the van and a nice cup of tea at Jane’s was a good end to an excellent long weekend in Yorkshire.

Walrus Pot

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris & Jane Allen

Joining the dots for an Easegill through trip

Joining the dots for an Easegill through trip

After a tiring trip on the Saturday, we were all quite achy when we set off once again to Bull Pot Farm on Sunday, with the aim of completing the last leg of our through trip route-finding; Lancaster Hole to Wretched Rabbit. It was a beautiful morning, with sun in the sky and snow on the hills.
Taking some lessons from the amount of kit we carried the day before, we left two SRT kits tied to the end of the rope at the foot of Lancaster Hole and left the tripods in the van! The route finding went well and we made good progress.
We stopped for a quick photo at Bob’s Boss and Painter’s Palette, then passed Fall Pot, Montague East and West and Stake Pot, following descriptions we had printed out.
The highlight of today’s trip was a section of passage called The Minarets; a beautifully shaped and decorated tunnel where we stopped and took a few photos. Brendan however found that his camera lens had developed condensation on the inside from its dunking the day before, so again his photographic plans were foiled.
There seemed to be a lot of awkward climbs up and down, some with bits of muddy rope to help us. The longest of these had a long, muddy rope downwards which led to an even muddier rope upwards where I managed to get my cowstail caught on a knot and had to be rescued by Mark.
Eventually we were into passage that the boys recognized from previous trips and they romped off into the distance, leaving me to stumble my way over greasy boulders. After pointing out to them delicately and with hardly any swear words that I couldn’t learn the route if all I was looking at was my feet, they let me go ahead and soon I too recognized the way we were going.
Taking a shortcut to Wretched Rabbit we climbed out of the now far too familiar entrance. All the snow had gone and we were even out in time to join some local friends for dinner at a nearby pub. 

Bob’s Boss (Photo Brendan Marris)
The Minarets (Photo Mark Burkey)

Present: Jess Burkey, Mark Burkey, Brendan Marris

Brendan feels a bit Blue in Long Churn

Brendan feels a bit Blue in Long Churn

After a rather manic couple of weeks at work our boss asked if we fancied a couple of extra days off to make a long weekend. Jess and I contacted Brendan and so a plan was hatched to finish off our route finding in Ease Gill of the main routes. After a bit of faff Friday morning we eventually left late and arrived at Inglesport gone 11am.

As we hadn’t managed a lot of sleep in the last week, and we had some new toys to play with, it was decided we would just start the weekend off gently with a trip into Long Churn to have a play with the new flash guns and bulbs.

This culminated in a shot being taken from the top of Dr. Bannisters hand basin.

Looking down from the top we needed a little more reflection coming off the walls and Brendan began using his boot as a bucket to throw the water. After one successful go he slipped and nearly fell so I told him I would continue. Filling a welly I went to toss the boot full over the wall , slipped and tossed the whole lot over Brendan’s head. His response was to curse me loudly, turn, slip and fall in to the pool behind him! 
Once we had all stopped laughing, Jess climbed up onto the water chute so that I could get the shot, while Brendan waded into the pool with flash bulbs. One shot led to another, as these things do, and a few bulbs went off prematurely, so by the time I was fairly happy with the camera angle and lighting, Brendan had been in and out of the pool so many times his teeth were chattering.
With a bigger trip on the cards for the next day, we were quite happy to leave the water behind and set off to the Bradford hut to eat and relax.

Upper Long Churn (Photo Brendan Marris)
Upper Long Churn (Photo Brendan Marris)
Upper Long Churn (Photo Mark Burkey)
Dr. Bannisters Hand Basin (Photo Mark Burkey)

Present: Mark Burkey, Jess Burkey, Brendan Marris

Doing things the Wet Way in Swildons

Doing things the Wet Way in Swildons

It’s a little known fact that Wells Museum has an excellent Caving Exhibition, and each summer a photographic competition of Mendip caves is held. Mark and Brendan have both been placed highly in previous years, so Mark and I headed down to the Mendips to see if he could get any decent shots of Swildons Hole for this year’s competition.
Within feet of the entrance Mark had me climbing up and down through the water to position flashguns  (“Well there’s no point in both of us getting wet!”)  until one of the guns took on some water and blew up.  With some of the older flashguns also refusing to work, Mark’s original plan of taking photos of me lying in Sump 1 was abandoned, (Yay!) and we decided to try for a pitch shot on The Twenty.
We followed our noses along the dry high-level passages until we came to the stream way. When we got to the pitch we were surprised to find a group of young military personnel practicing their SRT, so while we waited for them to finish Mark sussed out a vantage point for the camera.
Whilst rigging the ladder pitch Mark tossed me the end of a rope to hold, and called something out, but I couldn’t make out what he said. To my surprise, he then pulled the rope out of my hands and threw the whole thing down the pitch! Apparently he’d asked me to attach my end to the P bolt… Good job we had another rope with us, and once we had retrieved the first one we were ready to start the photoshoot.
While Mark hung around with the camera I was Up the ladder, Down the ladder, Along the passage, Up the rift, Under the water, Up the ladder, Down the ladder.. . Smile! My worries about getting cold as I was already wet through were completely unfounded.
With time moving on and the mill to get back to, we derigged and made our way back out of Swildons along the Wet Way.

Swildons Hole Entrance Series
Swildons 20ft pitch

Present: Jessica Burkey, Mark Burkey

Bags and bags of fun in OFD

Bags and bags of fun in OFD
Sunday dawned and the realization that we were committed to going back to Splash Inlet and Marble Showers seemed a little less exciting, especially as we had been unable to coerce anyone to join us, we were taking even more camera kit in with us, and we were all tired and sore from our exertions the day before.
However, we made good time and soon were heading up the Skyhook pitch again. Taking the rope, SRT kits and bag of camera stuff with us, we again struggled through the tight rifty and crawly bits to make our way again to Splash Inlet and the passages beyond.

Taking a short detour to show Mark the crystals from the day before, we went to take some photos in a nicely decorated dry passage before heading to the much wetter Marble Showers. But alas! The water conditions were much lower than the day before, and where there had been a myriad of waterfalls and a good height to the stream itself on the Saturday, there was much less water flowing on the Sunday and it was far less spectacular. Mark and Brendan somehow still managed to make sure we were all completely soaked by the time they’d finished taking photos!

Heading back to the pitches we stopped for one more ‘quick’ photo and then we began our return journey. Once the second pitch had been derigged, we had 2 camera boxes, one large tackle bag, one smaller bag of camera equipment and 3 SRT kits to take through the awkward passages that we had struggled through earlier. Bags and bags of fun!

Once down the Skyhook pitch we made our slow and weary way back to the entrance, feeling tired but triumphant. This is a trip that is definitely worth a revisit (hopefully with more ‘mules’!) and would even make a great SRT exchange if there was a big enough group.

Jess at Marble Showers (Photo Brendan Marris)

Passage south of splash inlet (Photo Brendan Marris)

Marble Showers Series (Photo Mark Burkey)

Upper Marble Showers (Photo Mark Burkey)

Present: Mark, Jess & Brendan

Trip report Jess

Flood conditions cause a Splash or two

Flood conditions cause a Splash or two
Saturday saw Mark, Brendan and I heading up to OFD Top Entrance with camera gear, SRT kits and rope. We planned to visit a little-visited part of the cave called Splash Inlet, which involves 3 pitches and some route finding, with the promise of quite a bit of passage to be found.
We made good time to the Skyhook pitch, pulled the rope up after us, and from the top we made our way past the formations to the top of the first pitch down towards Splash Inlet. Struggling through tight, rifty traverses and along crawls with all the tackle quickly lost its appeal, and we wished we had a few more friends along to share the load.

Once down the pitch we rigged the second pitch from natural anchors and were soon at the start of Splash Inlet. Following the inlet itself was less than inviting as it involved a squeeze in water, so we decided to explore the other passages.

Heading right led us to some interesting passages, but it was when we explored the passage on the left that we really found some treasures. Brendan and I found some beautiful crystal formations up a tight rifty passage, but when we went to get Mark to show him, he had disappeared up some knarly horrible passage. When he came back, he was full of enthusiasm for what he had found, and insisted we follow him.

The passage turned out to be not as bad as it seemed, and after a few twists and turns we came upon the cause of Mark’s excitement – we were standing above the main stream way, at Marble Showers! Not only that, but as the stream was in flood conditions, the water looked absolutely amazing, pouring down from all directions.

Excitedly, the boys started planning camera angles, but as time was running away from us and they had left their camera boxes a few junctions back, we decided that we would leave all the tackle and camera gear where it was, and return the next day for a decent photoshoot, hopefully with more people to help carry the kit!

Aven Near Mutiny Junction (Photo Mark Burkey)
Aven Near Mutiny Junction (Photo Brendan Marris)

Present: Mark, Jess & Brendan

Trip Report Jess

Sundays play in GB

Sundays play in GB
Sunday morning saw me, Mark, Marc and Brendan back at the Priddy Good Farm shop for breakfast, this time with Chloe and Mark BURG… The plan was to go into GB, so we picked up a key from the Wessex.  Marc and Mark BURG… hadn’t been into GB before and were amazed how spacious it is compared to the caves we had explored the day before.
We followed the usual round trip route (apart from Mark who ended up climbing up the waterfall by mistake??) and explored every nook and cranny en route to the ladder extensions.  Once Mark had rigged the ladder, we all climbed up and were soon at the unpleasant duck. The water in this was fairly low, not enough to drown even Brendan, but enough to wet us all through thoroughly. Once through we started looking for the way up into the Great Hall.  Brendan pointed out the route, and while Mark went up the alternative overhanging climb, the rest of us did our best to push through the tight squeeze up into the huge chamber, with mixed success. A quick explore and photo of the chamber and it was time to head back down and onwards to Bat Passage.

This passage never fails to wow as it is immensely pretty, with pristine white formations. It is a real shame that some of these have muddy handprints on, and we discussed coming back on another date for a cleaning session.

On the way out of the cave some photos were taken in the main chamber, and then we were all out in good time for the drive home.

Entrance Climbs

The Great Chamber
Main Chamber

Present: Mark, Mark 2, Marc, Chloe, Jess, Brendan & Alli from the Shepton

Trip report Jess.

Fairy Quarry Wriggles and Giggles

Fairy Quarry Wriggles and Giggles
Saturday saw a good number of Dudley Caving Club enjoying a breakfast at the Priddy Good Farm Shop. As Keith often says, “No refunds once the breakfast is consumed” , so despite it being really chilly, off we went to Fairy Quarry to go caving.
Our first destination was the Fairy Cave to Hilliers through trip. Mike and Richard were keen to route find, so they went ahead of the group and we did our best to send them down all the tight horrible bits that weren’t the way on. 

The tight squeeze on the way to Hilliers was as wet and nasty as ever but posed no problems to the group (once Mark had rearranged his ribs) and soon we were at the connection with Hilliers. Pointing out that we were not far from the entrance to Hilliers, we nonetheless headed away from it and into the cave to explore it fully.

With the boys trying to remember what they had read in the survey (which they’d left in the car) Mike got sidetracked down a tight rift that went nowhere, much to the amusement of Lucy, Mark and Brendan, while Marc carried on with Rich to route find, with me following.

Marc has done a few trips with Dudley but perhaps Hilliers has not turned out to be his favourite… it could be described as “ a couple of hundred metres of boulder choke, with one or two places that you can stand up in”, and quite a few times he was heard to say “are you sure this is the way on?”

The Red Room at the end, though, is really quite spectacular, and there are some very pretty sections en route too.  Once Marc and Rich had had a good look round, we set off back towards the entrance, meeting the others on the way. When Rich heard how Mike had struggled to get back out of the rift, he was determined to have a go himself but found it easy compared to some of the contortions we have already been through.

With Rich leading the way we headed out. At one point I looked up to the left at a familiar-looking climb, but ignored it and followed Rich instead through ever more flat-out crawls, until he realized that we were heading towards the sump that links Hilliers Cave to Hillwithy Cave – oops! Turning back and looking again at the climb up, I remembered that it was indeed the entrance to Hilliers, so up we went.

After a short wait in freezing conditions, Kermit arrived to take the group into Shatter Cave, where they were very impressed by the lovely formations. Mark and I went off to take a couple of pictures back in Hilliers while we waited, but we soon got far too cold and were dressed and sitting in a warm van by the time the others got back. A very good day!

Hillier’s Entrance Rift

Present: Mark, Marc, Jess, Rich, Brendan, Mike, Lucy & Brendan

Trip Report Jess