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 two hundred and forty individual donations, numbers which say much about Paul himself and the positive impact he had on others through caving, scouting and photography.
On 7th May 2017, the South East Cave Rescue Organisation (SECRO) held an exercise in the Godstone Mines in Surrey to test communications equipment and to perform a brief stretcher-carrying training session. After the exercise, members of Paul’s family arrived to meet the team and to present the collected donation to the Wardens. Paul had been an active participant in the team, and often got involved in activities if he was not away on a trip. Paul’s brother Martin paid a short tribute and passed over the substantial cheque to the wardens in a brief ceremony. SECRO secretary Dave Pullinger said some words of thanks and stated that the generous donation will be used wisely.
I did not know Paul as well as the scout cavers he grew up with, so I asked Steve Woolven, one of his close caving friends, to write down some memories for us.
“Here are some words about a very good friend.
Back in the early 1970s I joined the then Unit Two Cave Research and Exploration group (now Wealden Cave and Mine Society) and was taken down various mines around the Merstham area. As a keen scout based in my home town of Horsham I soon learnt a few of the systems. Progressing up through the ranks in scouting I was asked to be the West Sussex Caving Advisor, a role I took on with enthusiasm and during the 80’s I took scout groups down various caves and mines. In 1985 I took a scout group down Quarry Dean at Merstham for an investiture by the lake.
This at the time was quite a novel thing to do and whilst underground a little 12 year old scout was continuously bombarding me with questions about the mines. It was not his investiture but all he wanted to do was go off exploring. A few more years passed and I met and started caving with Paul in the early 90’s, notably on our first trip with West Sussex Scouts together to the Dordogne, a trip I organised to France. Paul went on to form West Sussex Scouts Caving Club. Paul’s enthusiasm for all things caving had grown enormously and at one point in the trip he said to me “do you remember an investiture down Merstham mines a few years ago” “Yes” was the reply. “Well, the lad that wanted to go off exploring was me and you took me on my first ever trip underground”. So I guess I am responsible for his beloved sport, the underground world of caving.
This enthusiasm never waned. Another time, we were camping in the Dordogne next to a wildlife park south of Gramat. Paul had discovered there was a cave entrance in the middle of the bear enclosure. One evening Paul said “I’m going to see want is down there” “You can’t do that, what about the bear” I said. “Oh it will be ok we’ll go under the cover of darkness. Well as it got dark out came a makeshift frame and a couple of guys led by Paul scaled a 10ft high perimeter fence with no thought on how to scale it back. Dropping down the other side Paul quickly confirmed the bear was nowhere in sight and all clear (It was a big enclosure, but I hope it’s not down the cave entrance). Then followed a rapid dash and into the cave entrance after confirming no one was at home. 20 minutes later Paul was back to report of an interesting little hole that went in a little way before closing down. Such was Paul’s enthusiasm for all things below ground. Meanwhile caving had got me into photography by now with the want to photograph what very few people in this world never see and Paul was again quizzing me on cave photography and cameras for below ground work. This friendship stood the test of time for many years to come.
Paul was always a very keen cave conservationist as well as an explorer. One of Paul’s finest moments was on a caving expedition to Matienzo. Paul and “Footleg” were exploring the cave system of Llueva when they noticed water disappearing under a low wall into gravel. Going back in the cave system they spent a couple of hours digging out the gravel and squeezing through it. What they had discovered opened up into huge walking passage and chambers almost immeasurable to man with series of the finest straws I have ever seen, which they named “The Edge of Darkness”. Although I was not on the initial discovery I had the privilege of going back down there with Paul and Footleg to see their discovery and the opportunity to photograph it. Paul’s cave photography, as well as his photographic exploits above ground, were second to none, which made him a member of the Royal Photographic Society.
Paul Dold LRPS, truly a great friend, caver and cave photographer you will be very sorely missed.”