Descent 287: digging everywhere!

A wide variety of news stories and superb features make up issue 287 of Descent, now distributed to caving outlets and subscribers.

As usual, there is a news roundup from the main UK caving regions. From the North we read about ongoing digging work in Five Ways Pot, a cave that was first explored a hundred years ago. There is news from Giggleswick where there has been some new exploration of Lesser Kelco Cave, but to be frank it sounds a pretty grotty place, all crawls and mud. We are reminded of changes in access procedures, and advised to check the CNCC website for up to date information. Suspected rock movements in Notts Pot are reported, and a divers’ extension at Austwick Beak Head.

The challenge of providing a comfortable route to the Stoney Middleton Master Cave is described in news from Derbyshire, an ongoing project with, no doubt, more news to follow in the future. From Ireland, we learn of an impressive bit of conservation work, involving the removal of 3.5 tonnes of rubbish of all sorts, dumped in recent years in a shaft at Carran Mine Cave, with possibly twice as much again waiting to be removed in the coming months. Cavers of Cork SG have provided logistical assistant to a team of archaeologists investigating Castlepook Cave. This is a useful precedent for similar projects in the future.

Some determined digging in the Forest of Dean has given some progress at Green Moss Pot, and we learn of another example of cavers assisting non-cavers where members of Gloucester SS have been investigating culverts and streams around Stroud to help the Cotswold Canals Trust. The entrance to Slaughter Stream Cave at Wet Sink has been made safer with the installation of additional anchors to use when rigging the pitches.

Mendip news is largely devoted to a tribute to Nigel Taylor, who passed away in June. His life of caving in Somerset is fondly remembered along with his interest in the safe use of explosives in cave exploration. Those who regularly visit Ogof Ffynnon Ddu will be pleased to learn in the news from Wales that the rocks and gravel that plague any trip through the Dim Dwr section of the cave have been removed once more, and placed well away from the offending spot. Those who like squeezing over the stones will, no doubt, be pleased when those rocks escape from their new prison and quietly crawl back home where they can once more be the cause of much thrutching. My hope is that this won’t be for several years!

I was pleased to be asked to provide a report for Descent on this year’s NAMHO conference in June, and I hope Descent readers will be encouraged to sign up for next year’s event in the Lake District. In “Giants of Northern Spain”, Josu Granja showcases a series of truly breath-taking photographs of caves beneath the Cantabrian mountains. Alongside the photographs are descriptions of the caves and some history of their exploration.

The seemingly never-ending pursuit by cavers to gain the right to go caving on open access land may well be drawing to close, as a number of avenues BCA have pursued are closed off. David Rose, the CRoW Working Group Convenor has produced a full report (which can be downloaded) and Descent has summarised the situation with permission.

“The Shape of Emptiness” is part 1 of a fascinating account of an epic dig under Leck Fell, written by Frank Person. The style of writing puts you right there, with the diggers, sharing their frustrations and the elation of progress as each section of the cave was entered. Part 2 of Frank’s account is scheduled for the next issue of Descent.
If you are a regular or occasional reader of cave-related literature, the Descent Speleo Reader feature is a very useful place to discover what’s out there. In this issue, we have reviews of five books: North Yorks Moors: Above and Below, Caves of the Nakani, Down (a descent manual for climbers), Spéléoguide du Lot (the latest French language edition of this guidebook), and the UIS Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection which can be downloaded free of charge

In a short piece Chris Howes explains how a collection of photographic glass plates, some being stereoscopic pairs of cave views from the nineteenth century, is being digitised following a successful fund-raising campaign by the Museum of North Craven Life in Settle.

Dick Willis reviews a short series of cave-related documentaries, currently hosted on Curiosity Stream. But as Dick explains, if you are UK-based and hold a UK-registered credit card, you won’t be able to view these at present due to the restrictions imposed by the rules of film-licensing, unless you are prepared to seek an imaginative technical solution to this issue. For the benefit of US or EU-based readers, Dick provides some interesting and positive reviews of each film.

Allan Richardson explains the variety of interesting exploration possible in the mines of Nenthead, and some useful ideas on where to stay and what to do, alongside some excellent photos, and the “Write it down” article in this issue features the memories of Roy Holmes and his wetsuited exploration of Sunset Hole.

Remember that Descent magazine is run by cavers for cavers. Every issue is packed with caving news and features, accompanied by stunning photos. Don’t miss out, so to check whether your subscription is up to date or to take one out now, head over to Wild Places Publishing, who’ll be delighted to welcome you on board!

Correspondent: Peter Burgess