Descent 283: The Grand Traverse, return to Llethrid, and how old is that dog?

If you want to guess the age of an old dog, and help a rescue team at the same time, you can find out how by buying the latest issue of Descent, which is full of lots of caving news as usual.

If you subscribe to the magazine Descent, you should already have received issue 283 by now, but if not, it’s time to head over to Wildplaces Publishing to subscribe or if you’re lucky enough to have a caving shop anywhere near you, call in and get one from them.

Newsdesk as is usual, contains a good variety of brief news items from anywhere and everywhere. There is an update on the challenge of distributing Descent to the European Union, first reported in issue 282. Threats to caves, efforts to protect others, and damage to caves are reported from Alabama, Japan, and New South Wales. The election of Russell Myers as BCA Chair is reported as well as the current make up of BCA council following the recent AGM, and the success or otherwise of a number of proposals made at the AGM are covered. The rediscovery of a 16th century inscription at Kent’s Cavern is reported, and the uncovering by retreating ice of an underground shelter used in the First World War, high up in the Alps is described. David Rose provides an update to the ongoing saga of the CRoW case, prompted by the BCA seeking to have the “right to roam” applied to cave access in England and Wales.

In news not too widely reported elsewhere, we read of a recent tragedy of a military rescue team practice in Mexico being cut short by the collapse of a cave entrance, killing or trapping a number of the personnel taking part. Wogan Cave beneath Pembroke Castle has been the subject of some archaeological work, resulting in Mesolithic finds. The opening of an artificial cave near Horsham, Sussex, constructed in memory of the late Paul Dold is reported and it is hoped it will inspire Scouts in the area to take up the activity.

The Mendip section includes information on two digging sites, one in the Quantock Hills and the other being Hallowe’en Rift at Wookey. News from Wales briefly covers the recent headline-grabbing rescue from Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, coming in just as the magazine was going to print. We also learn of digging activity at Llangattock, and the reopening of Llethrid Swallet, a story covered in some detail elsewhere in this issue, with some superb photos and exploration history.

News from the Forest of Dean covers a number of interesting events, including a joint rescue exercise at Otter Hole between Gloucester CRG and the Severn Area Rescue Association, a project to date the remains of a dog found in Wet Sink and a competition to guess the age, plans for a book on the Windrush quarries, the worrying blockage of a bat refuge at Shakemantle iron mine, attempts to extend SSSI status to Otter Hole, and a tribute to the late Colin Graham.

Descent 283 contains the first published report of a major discovery by divers in Derbyshire, namely the master cave at Stoney Middleton. Recent explorations in Intake Dale are reported. News from the North is rather short in this issue, but this is more than made up for by a 5-page detailed selection of accounts of the Three Counties Traverse, with contributions from several individuals involved.

News from Ireland includes exploration and surveying work in various caves on East Cuilcagh, a successful rescue of a fallen caver in Pollnagollum Slieve Rushen in October, a report on SUICRO 2021, and a major dig in Considine’s Cave in Co. Clare. Mining News includes a successful rescue of a group of mine-explorers trapped in High Skears Mine near Middleton in Teesdale by water ponded behind a fall of ground in the main adit, and the completion of a new tunnel in Reigate Caves to improve the safety of public tours. A new link between Persil Rift and Ariel Cave in Portland receives a double-page spread, describing some determined digging to achieve the connection.

There is a glowing review of the recently released documentary film “The Rescue”, about the Thai cave rescue of 2018. In issue 282, the 75th anniversary publication of South Wales Caving Club had a review, and in the current issue it’s SUSS who are in the spotlight, with their 60th anniversary journal.

In Descent’s regular “Viewpoint” feature, Pete Glanvill provides us with his musings on cave access and wonders how this might be affected by the current BCA campaign to achieve better access through having caving recognised as an open air activity under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Pete Hall reports on the recent 75th anniversary AGM of the Cave Diving Group in Crickhowell, which sounds like an entertaining weekend. Graham Proudlove has sent a curious old photo to Descent for this issue, which shows a sturdy timber bridge straddling Alum Pot. This he has tentatively dated to the 1890s, and the article provides some interesting detail on the photographic techniques of the time, and some background to the bridge and what happened to it.

Finally, we can read Joe Duxbury’s translation of an entertaining article “Five lives of a caver”, originally published in Belgium in 2017, and wonders if we can recognise which of the five lives we may have experienced for ourselves.

This issue of Descent is, as always, an absorbing read. We are fortunate to continue to have a caving magazine produced by cavers for cavers, which continues to be great value for money. Copies can be obtained from Wild Places Publishing. Take out a subscription now and if you already have one, check that yours is up to date. Descent deserves our support and needs it to continue in these straightened times.