Cannibals, caves and climate change

Cannibals, caves and climate change

In 2019, The University of Bristol Spelaeological Society (UBSS), one of the oldest caving clubs in the country, celebrates 100 years of cave and archaeological exploration and research. On the 9th/10th November, to mark the occasion, the society is hosting a weekend of presentations and fieldtrips celebrating its past, present and future. UBSS member Professor…

Aveline’s Hole: A new twist in an old tale

Aveline’s Hole: A new twist in an old tale

New samples taken for DNA analysis from human bone from Aveline’s Hole by Natural History Museum researchers have thrown up surprising results. Graham Mullan reports on their findings. Aveline’s Hole, Burrington Combe, Mendip, contained the largest assemblage of Mesolithic human remains yet found anywhere in Britain. The cave was excavated in the 1920s by the…

Seek and ye shall find – the discovery of Beard’s lost passage in Bleadon Cavern

Seek and ye shall find – the discovery of Beard’s lost passage in Bleadon Cavern

A dig in Bleadon Cavern on Mendip has revealed more pieces to a mysterious puzzle … In 1833, a survey was carried out of Bleadon Cavern by John Heel but was, in all likelihood, drawn up by William Beard who had been investigating the area from 1828. This survey was first mentioned in more recent…

Ritual protection in the Chaldon Quarries – health and safety in the 16th century

Ritual protection in the Chaldon Quarries – health and safety in the 16th century

For the first time, curious chalk inscriptions on the walls of an ancient stone quarry in Surrey are being systematically recorded, as part of a wider research project to better understand the long and hitherto hidden history of this important source of stone for London. Many of the chalk inscriptions have been identified as ritual protection marks (RPM).

Training: Cave Surveying Group Therion Training Course

Training: Cave Surveying Group Therion Training Course

The BCA Cave Surveying Group have just announced an Intermediate Therion training course. The scope of this training course is to improve the skills of people who ideally as a minimum have attended a CSG Paperless Surveying training course or are currently using Therion for their mapping projects. The course is not aimed at people…

News: Chaldon Quarries, Surrey – Radiocarbon Dating Results

News: Chaldon Quarries, Surrey – Radiocarbon Dating Results

In January 2018, we reported that the Wealden Cave and Mine Society had been awarded the opportunity to get free radiocarbon dating work performed on archaeological samples from the Reigate area. By the end of March, the results were available, but disappointingly, two of the three samples submitted did not contain sufficient carbon to provide…

News: Cave Scientist Gina Moseley Receives €1.2 Million Research Prize

News: Cave Scientist Gina Moseley Receives €1.2 Million Research Prize

Dr Gina Moseley from the Innsbruck Quaternary Research Group will receive one of this year’s prestigious Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) START prizes. The START programme is an Austrian initiative to support and strengthen outstanding research projects in science and humanities. Gina, a member of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society and current Symposium Lecture Secretary…

Subterranea Britannica: Budapest Weekend 12th and 13th May, 2018

Subterranea Britannica: Budapest Weekend 12th and 13th May, 2018

Subterranea Britannica group enters the Kőbánya cellar system, 35 kilometres of underground quarry. Photo: Peter Burgess I was once an active member of Subterranea Britannica, usually abbreviated to “Sub Brit”. Its quirky interest in man-made and man-used subterranean space appealed to me, and my own interests in old mine and quarry workings fitted in well….

Wealden Cave and Mine Society Wins Radiocarbon Dating Award

Wealden Cave and Mine Society Wins Radiocarbon Dating Award

In the summer of 2017, I was made aware of a scheme to encourage community archaeological groups to submit material for radiocarbon dating. The scheme is known as the Community Archaeology Radiocarbon Dating (CARD) Fund, and there is a simple online application process for suggesting suitable items for dating. The Wealden Cave and Mine Society…

News: Bristol Students Surveying in Co. Clare

News: Bristol Students Surveying in Co. Clare

At the beginning of the summer break of 2017, six members of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society (UBSS) travelled to County Clare on our annual Ireland expedition. Our main objective was to continue the re-surveying of the Coolagh River cave which was started last year. We also had the secondary objective of continuing survey…

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.

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!

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!

Earby Pothole Club on bikes for charity!

Earby Pothole Club on bikes for charity!

September 30th will see members of the Earby Pothole Club joining friends to raise money for the Preston based Specialist Mobility Rehabilation Centre (SMRC) in a ride that starts in Preston, stopping overnight in Clapham in Yorkshire before returning the following day. SMRC is part of Lancashire NHS and donations will go to a trust…

Walking and trampolines

Walking and trampolines

19-20 August 2017 Team: Toby Dryden, Duncan Hornby, Barbara Lane and Claire Vivian A super fast journey up to North Wales by Toby, Barbara and Claire directly contrasted with the 6 hour epic drive had by Duncan. Nevertheless, we were all together to enjoy food and a pint on Friday evening. We stayed at the…

Caves in an Ancient Land – 17th ICS Conference, Australia

Caves in an Ancient Land – 17th ICS Conference, Australia

It was never going to be cheap, but it sure was a lot of fun! Two members of SWCC (Claire Vivian and Duncan Hornby) headed to Australia in July for the 17th ICS conference. We also attended the pre- and post- conference excursions (i.e. 2 weeks of caving with local cavers!). Our first stop was Margaret River, south of Perth.

Margaret River pre-conference excursion

The caves are hot in Western Australia and get hotter as you go further in! Lightweight overalls a must, often stripping down to just a t-shirt. Fortunately caving is relatively easy with few technical aspects.

The Margaret River pre-conference excursion team.

We visited 7 caves during the Margaret River excursion, with the jewel in the crown being Easter Cave; incredible formations from start to end and we were only allowed to see half of the cave! Below are a few photos that came out best and don’t do justice to the sheer number of delicate and impressive formations.

Helictites, Easter Cave
The Question (which is: Does the formation touch the roof or not). Photo: Tim Moulds

The Lemon, Easter Cave Photo: Tim Moulds

The Epstein Formation, Easter Cave.
Claire at the Helictite Table, Easter cave.
You have to be careful passing through Easter Cave as almost all of the formations are within touching distance

Best way to describe Easter cave, is get all of the UK’s finest formations and line them up, that is just the entrance series to Easter cave… Seriously it’s that well decorated!

Yet, not to be totally overshadowed were Strong’s and Crystal Cave. Whilst not as profusely decorated as Easter, they also contained some magnificent formations.

Duncan wearing the Judge’s Wig, Strong’s Cave.
Looking up underneath the Judge’s Wig, Strongs Cave.

Christmas Star extensions of Crystal cave

This pre conference excursion was run by the Western Australian Speleological Group and we thank them – especially Tim,Greg and Luana – for their time and organizing an amazing excursion.

Crazy cavers at the WASG hut. Rob, Duncan, Claire, Tom, Luana and Greg

Conference week (23 – 29 July)

It was much cooler in Penrith near Sydney and our accommodation was a caravan park 30 minutes walk away from conference venue. It was sunny and t-shirt weather in the day, yet, thick coat time at night. A dedicated marquee held the poster displays, club stands and the speleo olympics. Presentations were held in the main Panthers building.

Pete and Angie Glanvill attempt the speleo olympics.

It was not all work and no play, we attended a mid-week dry canyoning trip in the Blue Mountains.

Claire at the top of the second pitch,dry canyoning in the Blue Mountains.

Our canyoning team (there were actually two other groups following different routes)

The conference week past in a flash ending with the traditional banquet. This started with a traditional Aboriginal welcome followed by food and much drinking. A slightly sad event as we were saying our goodbyes to new friends.

Jenolan Caves post-conference excursion

But it was not over! On the Sunday we met up at the Panthers event site, crammed ourselves into the back of a “trooper” and headed to Jenolan in the Blue Mountains for a week of caving!

Caves House, Jenolan. We stayed in a hostel behind the main building.

This excursion was larger with about 20 people attending with 10 different nationalities! The organizers had arranged a week of sporting caving and access into the show caves.

Decontamination was taken very seriously, with peoples kit sprayed to kill off any fungus that could potentially cause white nose syndrome.

Rigorous decontamination was carried out before anyone’s equipment went underground.

We were very privileged as one cave (the highly decorated Barralong) issues only 2 permits a year and the ICS excursion took them both!

Cave pearls in Barralong
A huge curtain impressively lit within the show cave, helectites grow from the wall.

Tuglow was to be the week’s “main event” with the entire group visiting the system in one hit, splitting up into several groups: the photographers doing the “gentle trip” and the full on “mega trip” with a guaranteed misery promised with an icy cold swim! Of cause the mega trip was a red rag to a bull to us and Claire and I eagerly signed up! Getting there involved a river crossing.

The original date for Tuglow was brought forward for fear of overnight rains swelling the river crossing.

Tuglow entrance involved abseiling (100m in 2 pitches), a high traverse above the stream with a sh*t scary bold step, big chambers, more abseiling, a “refreshing” dip (for the first time ever, being short actually meant that Claire did not have to swim!), then ladders up and out through fantastic flowstone chimneys. We were the last out and did a quick stomp up and over the ridge back to the cars to find a nice cup of tea on the brew. To top off an awesome day our excellent Australian hosts provided a BBQ back at their cavers hut!

Claire in the mainstream way of Tuglow, probably the best sporting trip in our visit to Australia.
Mark at the impressive gour pools in the main stream of Tuglow.
The gang at the cavers hut for a BBQ (Photo: Leda Zogbi)

Our last trip was Spider Cave, a trip made serious due to 3 very tight squeezes. Rescue beyond these would be impossible. A fourth squeeze, a very unpleasant tight flat out crawl gives access to a chamber with the unusual Palantear formation.

 Csaba the Hungarian photographer preparing his shot, he has specialised in 3D photos, Spider Cave.

Duncan with The Palantear

Like the previous two weeks, our Jenolan week passed in a blink of an eye and it was all too soon to head home. We were dropped off in Sydney and did some last minute sightseeing, the Opera House and Sydney Eye tower. It was then back on the planes for a soul crushing 24 hours of travel.

This post conference excursion was run by the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Speleological Society and we thank them – particularly Andrew, Peter, Mel, Dan, Mark, Steve and Chris – for their time and organising an amazing excursion.

Oddly Sydney does not look so big when looking down from the tower…

Here is the proof showing Claire and I were on the opposite side of the planet!


Duncan – For me it has to be Easter cave and the stunning formations it held, another “highlight” was passing the fourth squeeze in Spider cave in Jenolan, right on the limit of what I can physically fit, not a place to lose your head! The lowlight, well I guess that was when I blew $5 on a “pokie” in Panthers in less than 30 seconds…

Claire – The caving and making plenty of new international caver friends. These conferences are a great way to meet more cavers and get access to special caves that would be pretty much impossible otherwise. My favourite caves were the blindingly pretty Easter Cave in Western Australia and the fun, varied, sporting trip in Tuglow (Jenolan Caves). Ooh! And I mustn’t forget the kangaroos! I saw loads of them, including a field full of around 40 wild ones at one point, but it still wasn’t enough. Even briefly seeing a Huntsman spider (read VERY big spider) was a highlight as I won’t forget that in a hurry. I was also delighted that Spider Cave did not live up to its name and be filled with spiders. Lowlight was the over 24 hours of travelling time to get there.

Local Update

Local Update

Once again, plenty has been going on at and around SWCC. We recently had new provisional member, Lucy, spend a week in South Wales for some caving and walking fun. She met many new cavers, saw places she had not visited before in OFD, visited the Neath…

Caving in Yorkshire is awesome!

Caving in Yorkshire is awesome!

Trip date: 17th-18th June 2017

Team; Stuart Bennett, Bob Hall, Elaine Hall, Duncan Hornby, Helen Hooper, Andy Jones, Richard Sore and Claire Vivian

Everyone arrived in Yorkshire on the Friday to stay at the excellent Bunkhouse at Hardraw run by the SWCC members Helen and Andy. Duncan managed to break his record of getting to Hardraw now taking no less than 8½ hours to get there…

Hardraw Old School Bunkhouse in the glorious sunshine.

Whilst having a cheeky pint in the Green Dragon, Richard and Stuart arrived looking just as frazzled from their long drives. With a fairly early start and knackered from driving it did not take too much for everyone to retire!

Saturday – Meregill Hole

The SWCC group split into two groups; the advance party rigging pitches 1 and 2 but going no further and the rest following an hour later to complete the rigging to the bottom. The reason this was done was that Andy had two clients (Ariana and Lee) who were on an improver SRT course. They were improving their skills and a full trip to the very bottom would not have been appropriate. Andy gave Duncan the opportunity to rig pitches 1 and 2 which he jumped at under his watchful eye, dispensing best practise and advice. Bob joined the advance party and went no further than pitch 2 as he was recovering from a shoulder injury.

An excellent description and rigging guide can be found on the CNCC website here.

Andy and his SRT clients (Ariana and Lee) at Meregill entrance.

Andy abseiling the first pitch.

Stunning rays of light in the Mere entrance.

Pitch 1 was relatively easily to rig as it was at the surface, pitch 2 had an “interesting” traverse line that lead to the pitch head. It is high up near the roof and you find yourself desperately trying to jam yourself into any place that will hold you as you attempt to rig.

Lee passing the deviation on the second pitch.
Bob arrives at the base of the second pitch.

Whilst waiting at the base of pitch 2, to our surprise 3 Wessex cavers came shooting past and overtook us. Stuart, Claire and Richard arrived and Duncan joined their team. Bob, Andy, Ariana and Lee then returned to the surface. Apparently Andy put them through their paces getting them to repeat some of the skills they were learning, so no rest for the wicked!

Stuart and Richard continued rigging the pitches, made more fiddly with the Wessex rigging in place. Big pitches and several hanging re-belays made for a “lonely” trip until we all gathered at the base of pitch 5. It was at this point the Wessex team blasted past us on their way out…

Aware of time we decided to keep the exploration short. With various options lying ahead Stuart who has visited this cave before announced he had “not been this way” and this was reason enough to give it ago. I now know that if Stuart says “not been this way before” that is reason enough not to go there! A painful hands and knees crawl with SRT kit was not what I wanted! Almost at the point of turning around I could hear Stuart ahead saying he was in a stream way which eventually rejoined the obvious stream way which we had ignored.

Stuart in the Meregill stream way.

The team (Duncan, Claire, Richard and Stuart) near the base of the 5th and final pitch.

After our team photo we headed out; again a lonely journey as we strung out waiting for each pitch to clear and people derigging. We de-rigged the pitches we had rigged. I was secretly pleased with this as poor old Richard and Stuart dragged out the heaviest bags from the deepest parts of the system, kudos to them! As I (Duncan) had rigged the 2 pitches at the entrance I was the last out and was welcomed by a glorious sunny evening with spectacular vistas that only chapel-le-dale can offer.

We got back to the cars, quickly changed, Bob had been a trooper and waited for us, then a mad dash back to Hawes for food. We were joined by Jo White and the rest of the evening was spent in the Green Dragon in Hardraw talking about Richard’s pants, a topic that just kept on giving…

Sunday – Roaring Hole

A rigging guide can be found on the CNCC website here.

Due to time constraints Sunday had to be a short trip and Roaring Hole in Chapel-le-dale fitted the bill. We said our goodbyes at Hardraw and headed over to park up and change. The weather was glorious and was promising to be a scorcher.

Stuart came over but the weather was just too good to get him underground, so only Duncan, Claire and Richard entered Roaring Hole.

The entrance is within a section of limestone paving just off the main track.

Duncan, Richard and Claire at the entrance of Roaring Hole.

At the car we had re-evaluated what we planned to do and with time against Duncan and Claire we decided to just do the first pitch and get as far as we could before turning around.

Looking out or Roaring Hole – saying goodbye to the sunlight.

Duncan installing rigging at the first pitch.

The first pitch is a nice friendly pitch with easy access, no desperate hanging rebelays as in Meregill the day before.

Duncan about to descend the first pitch.

There is a wide ledge for the second half of the first pitch which allowed us to take a few action shots.

Claire descending the second part of pitch 1, Richard in background.

We continued our exploration passing through boulder chokes seemingly held up by rusting scaffolding poles.

Duncan near some pretties.

We passed through a few damp patches and finally arrived at Masons Chamber where a rather tight and awkward squeeze into more boulder choke had to be passed. No problem for Claire, a bit more worrisome for Richard and I!

Richard in the squeeze out of Mason’s Chamber.

We eventually got to what we believe is Slab Climb which would have required using a bit of kit to get down safely. This turned out to be a suitable turn around point.

We retraced our tracks and exited into scorching sunshine.

Ingleborough in the sunshine.

We said our goodbyes and then Duncan and Claire made a dash for Newbury so Claire could catch her connecting train. Richard met up with Jo and they visited Mistral to pick up some data loggers.

News: Generous Gift to SECRO in Memory of the late Paul Dold LRPS

News: Generous Gift to SECRO in Memory of the late Paul Dold LRPS

Paul Dold’s death last year in a diving accident in Cornwall shocked his many friends in a way only the unexpected death of someone with such a huge appetite for life can. A Justgiving campaign set up in Paul’s memory raised over £7,000 for Horsham District Scouts, Cornwall Air Ambulance and cave rescue, with over…

South Wales Caving Club – blog 2017-05-29 18:57:00

South Wales Caving Club – blog 2017-05-29 18:57:00

North Wales Mines Weekend. Anglesey. 13-14 May.
Team: Bill Buxton, Graham Christian, Brian Clipstone, Howard Dare, Peter Dennis, Kevin Diffey, Andy Dobson, Dave Dobson, Spencer Drew, Andy Freem, Antonia Freem, Mark Hampson, Barbara Lane, Fred Levett, Malcolm Lloyd, Harvey Lomas, Dave Mullin, Angie Peacock, Allan Richardson, Claire Vivian.

First of all, thanks to Allan for organising this! We stayed at the Anglesey Outdoor Centre, the weather was amazing and it was Brian’s 70th birthday. All this provided the perfect backdrop for a weekend filled with mine exploration and good company. 

Anglesey Outdoor Centre

Saturday we all arrived bright and early at the Parys Mountain carpark. Three members of the Parys Underground Group (PUG) had kindly agreed to take us all in to the mine – no mean feat with almost 20 people wating to go underground! We divided in to 3 groups, one group would do Parys-Mona, the second would do Mona-Parys and the third would explore the upper levels of Parys. I did the Mona to Parys trip and it was a goond one. This was a pretty active trip with a couple of ladders, hand-lined climbs, crawls and wading through water. And plenty to see in the form of Copper Sulphate crystals, snotites, snotite curtains and Bronze Age workings.

The team muster at the entrance to Parys mine
For modern day Parys Mountain, it all began on 2nd March 1768 when a large vein of copper ore was discovered there. Copper was mined at Parys Mountain and then taken down to Amlwch Port where it was processed further before being shipped to Swansea and also around the world. Indeed, the mine later developed into one of the largest copper mines in the world, the largest, some might argue. Apparently, so influential was Amlwch and Anglesey copper that the British navy under Lord Nelson used the metal for sheathing its ships and for use in manufacturing cannons. Incredibly, it seems as far back as 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age, local people had discovered traces of copper here and on the trip we were shown evidence of Bronze Age workings (dug out using pebbles).

The through-trip was mainly dry, but there were some sections of water that were waist deep and the connection itself, which was the drainage level between Mona and Parys mines, was constricted and the water was slightly higher here. I was bending at the waist to walk through the passage and the water was a couple of inches below my face. We were told that the water level varied here and at times it was necessary to remove your helmet as there would be only a few inches of air space. The water in the mine was also incredibly acidic (pH of 2 in places; tap water would be around 7) and there were regular wash stations to clean eyes if any happened to splash in your face. I know this doesn’t sound good, but it didn’t cause us any problems in there. 
Above ground is a surreal, alien, landscape with red, yellow and brown hues of ochre. When the light catches it, it is radiant and almost pretty really.

The Great Opencast

Angie crawling through some workings
Fred wading through the lower levels

Bill, Howard, Malcolm and Harvey near a very acidic pool (Photo: Barbara Lane)

Interesting formations. (Photo: Barbara Lane)
Copper Sulphate crystals
Some of the team in Parys Mountain (Photo: Barbara Lane)
Spencer on the summit of Parys Mountain

Trip time: 4 hours.

The afternoon saw us head off to the coast for some exploration. Several of us went to South Stack to look at the lighthouse. It was then time to help Brian celebrate his birthday! How many people can see they had their birthday meal in a yurt with 20 of their friends!

Angie and Claire near South Stack lighthouse (photo: Barbara Lane)

Happy Birthday Brian! (Photo: Angie Peacock)

Road trip to Llandudno and the Great Orme! The morning saw us head in to Ty Gwyn mine, which was right on the seafront. We had some very strange looks from people as we were standing there in caving kit and then disappeared down a manhole in the middle of the promenade! Members of the Great Orme Exploration Society were generous with their time and helped us out by leading trips, or providing advice and a survey. This was a nice short trip, around 1 1/2 hours. Plenty of artifacts to look at and mud to stomp about in.

Getting ready to enter the mine.

Ty Gwyn was first opened in 1835 and during its working life produced over £100,000 worth of copper. It finally closed in 1853 after many years of continuous flooding. Copper still lies below sea level there and is perhaps awating a future mining enterprise.

Cleaning up in the sea after Ty Gwyn (Photo: Angie Peacock)

Following this trip, the groups split in two. Some of us headed home and others went on to visit the Roman Shaft on top of the Great Orme and enjoy ice cream in the sun.

Getting ready to go! (Photo: Angie Peacock)
Angie getting comfortable before the abseil.

Fred on his way underground.

Thanks to members of the Parys Underground Group and the Great Orme Exploration Society for giving up their time and arranging trips for us.