Descent 295 – Delivering The Goods

The latest issue of Descent Magazine is out, in good time for Christmas.

Descent 295 arrived on the author’s doormat a few days ago, with its new fresh look and clear layout. This is the second issue of Descent using the new look, but the recent delivery issues and other problems meant a Darkness Below review was, at that time, not possible.

The regular News sections contain the usual accounts of digs, and recent events in the regions. It appears that a great time was had touring the UK by cavers from India, specifically from the Meghalaya Venturers Association. The purpose of the visit was to undertake cave leadership and SRT training, which the visiting cavers intend to put to good use back in India.

The digging and exploration of Kingsdale’s Sloping Cave, and another account of investigations at the Breathless Pot dig dominate News from the North. Unfortunately, neither led to huge caverns – but it’s fascinating to read of the challenges faced by those who put in the effort.

The main story from Forest of Dean is the event held to commemorate the life of Jerry Wooldridge. This took place at the Dean Field Studies Centre at Parkend.

Work in Gautries Hole and the setting up of the Derbyshire Explorers’ Forum are the two stories from Derbyshire. A few years ago an ingenious system was installed to divert water in such a way that it allowed for easier exploration of deeper parts of the cave. This involved the plugging of the stream and a mechanism that allowed the flow to be released from either end by means of a pulley system. With nobody visiting the cave during the pandemic it all got silted up and it was no longer possible to manage the water by removing the plug. The challenge of uncovering and finally releasing the buried plug makes great reading. Ninety cavers attended the Derbyshire Explorers’ Forum event hosted by the Eldon PC at the Mechanics’ Institute in Eyam.

News from CHECC is a very welcome feature in Descent. The future of caving is very much dependent on having many active younger cavers involved at the grass-roots of the caving scene, and this is something CHECC is perfectly placed to do.

Speleo Reader features reviews of three new publications:

  • Hidden Inside the Highlands, by Alan Jeffreys
  • Pioneers Beneath the Peak, by Martin Wright
  • Weekend Explorers, by Harry Long.

Chris Howes and Alan Jeffreys provide good reviews of Hidden Earth 2023, and I was pleased to learn of some of the lectures I did not attend; it is always a difficult decision to make when there are so many good speakers on offer.

Anna Taylor writes of her work looking into how menstruation affects many cavers, and she makes welcome suggestions, not only for those who face this situation while caving, but also for others. It is something more for everybody to be aware of when caving, to make sure everybody can cave in comfort, both physical and psychological.

Brendan Sloan had an opportunity to visit Norway with a small team from the British Cave Rescue Council recently. They were delivering some newly designed caving CasBags and warming jackets, and were able to use them in a rescue exercise. The team had the opportunity to do some great leisure caving trips as well.

Graham Proudlove writes about the many kinds of subterranean fishes in a superbly illustrated article. For someone like me whose experience of such animals is limited to brief sightings of fish in a few Welsh caves, the article was very informative.

The discovery of two nineteenth-century underground waterwheels in an undisclosed lead mine in Wales is described by Ioan Lord. With two clear diagrams showing how they were worked, and a magnificent photograph, the article makes it obvious (to me!) why exploring old mines has such appeal.

If you are looking for something to sit down with and wile away an hour or so over Christmas, why not try the Descent Christmas Crossword. Send it off to Descent and you might win a small prize.

Finally, here’s another challenge for you. If you are regular reader of Descent and enjoy the content, please think of those who spend the time writing of their experiences and projects, and then send them off to be published. Read Alan Jeffreys’ article on the importance of writing up your caving trips and publishing them in a club newsletter, log book or anywhere that will survive in perpetuity. Without people who write material for us to read and enjoy, there would be no Descent, no club newsletters or journals. When you have finished this issue of Descent, and still find some time on your hands, please switch your phone off, stop wasting time on Facebook, think of a caving trip you really enjoyed, and use that time to write it down!

With this last point in mind, remember that the Descent Magazine team would love you to sign up for a subscription, so if you haven’t already done so, then visit the Descent website to set one up. You won’t regret doing so, given the excellent nature of the submitted material in each issue.

Correspondent: Peter Burgess