The Club Rules, Constitution and related matters are incorporated in the Craven Pothole Club Handbook. The Record is published by the Craven Pothole Club, Ivy Cottage, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire. Copyright - Craven Pothole Club. No part of this Record may be reproduced without permission from the Committee of the Craven Pothole Club. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the Editor or the Craven Pothole Club
Dr. RA Halliwell, 23 Hull Road, Cottingham, East Yorkshire, HU16 4PN
Tel No: 01482 876544
Apologies for the poor presentation of this document on the web, which results from the abysmal conversion to HTML by Microsoft Word.
Less than four weeks from the writing of this editorial I told the Committee that I had very little material for this Record. Since then I have received many items which I hope you will agree are all of interest. The normal last minute rush caused by this late harvest of articles has been exacerbated this time by problems associated with a change to new and unfamiliar computer hardware and software. The change to new software has left me cursing as I take hours to work out how to do something that was automatic and took seconds on the software I was used to. The change to new hardware should make it easier to incorporate more, and hopefully better reproduced photographs. However I must ask you to bear with me until I get used to the new equipment and to treat this Record as an interim stage in the improvements, unless of course you manage to find another person to stand as Editor at the AGM.
There are a number of interesting coincidences in the articles I have received. The latest Chapter in the series of articles on the Club’s History (Thank you John) includes a comment that the guests at Gaping Gill “included Lord Sandford of the Department of the Environment and, as a result, we were to be party to consultations on the future of the National Park”. This year we hosted Officers of the National Park as guests at Gaping Gill and this Record includes an article by one of them on Biodiversity within the Park. The Officers were also impressed by the Club’s conservation ethic and we have been asked to assist in the development of the Park’s policy in respect of “earth heritage”. John’s article also mentions the Club’s first visit to the Berger in 1973; this Record includes details of the preparations for the visit in 2000.
This summer saw a very successful “non-meet” in the Vercors when over thirty members met at various times in La Chapelle en Vercors to go walking, caving and cycling, plus the usual associated activities. Less caving was done than on previous visits because the emphasis this time was much more on holiday than caving expedition, but the newcomers to the area soon became as hooked as the regulars. We had a successful Gaping Gill with the slightly lower numbers in camp fortunately being matched by fewer visitors. However we still managed some more digging and although the discoveries are not on the scale of the last few years we made steady progress in Lancashire Hotpot. We also had the second Gaping Gill slideshow which was memorable not only for slides of “GG as she used to be” but the excellent photographs by John Cordingley of the bits of Dales’ caves that most of us never see; inside the sumps. Finally there was a considerably larger turnout of members than is usually the case at the BCRA Annual Conference. Whether this was a reflection of the fact that it was in Leeds or not I don’t know, but as one younger member of the Club attending his first Conference said “Why don’t the Craven have a stand at the Conference”; the Bradford certainly had a well designed and impressive stand at the conference.
I want to get the next Record to the Printers just before Christmas so I need your contributions by the beginning of December but if you can get them to me earlier then so much the better. I think I have a “volunteer” to write the final article on the history of the CPC as we approach the end of the Club’s 70th year. A year when the Club has continued to grow in numbers, in financial strength and in the range of activities on offer to members. We are still lacking a major caving find but digging continues at a reasonable pace on a number of sites so this might be the year. Why not come along and join us at the dig face? We are working on a number of sites at the present but perhaps we should return to some of the old Craven digs of previous years, other clubs seem to be very successful in re-working our old digs so why shouldn’t we be?
I look forward to meeting many of you at the AGM and Dinner; and to getting to grips with the new computer kit so that the next Record doesn’t take as long to prepare as this one!!
Penyghent Pot 22 May 1999
Present: David Ball, John Worden, Michael Holmes(P), Simon Parker (Leader)
I was a little more nervous about leading this hole than previous trips I'd lead. Penyghent Pot commands great respect and fully deserves its grade V. On the morning in question it was beginning to look as though I was going to get out of it as only two others were wanting to go down. Then Dave arrived and all games of "warabout" came to an end. Reg Parker helped us carry the three bags and eight ladders up to the hole; a warm job indeed.
Inside at the start of the canal was a very anaemic looking trout, not looking too happy with its home. I pushed on to rig the first pitch while the others followed. I was just starting to think that the crawl wasn't too bad when it went flat out a couple of hundred feet before the pitch. The others arrived and soon we were pushing on and rigging the second pitch. There is a definite lack of natural belays here. The third pitch is a real tricky one: a lack of belays and a lack of space in the flat out bedding combine for an interesting time. The only space to lifeline from is standing on a ledge 2" wide above the 50 foot drop. With a bit of human juggling we all got down safely and were rigging the next pitch. Down I went only to return red-faced a few moments later. In my haste to book out as little tackle as possible I had booked out 20' ladders instead of 25' largely due to errors in converting from metres to feet and back again. A bit of improvising with a spare rope did eventually get us down.
Onward and downward we negotiated the remaining pitches in the big rift without using tackle, though I made it clear we had some if people felt they needed it.
A refreshing dip in the deep pool and we were soon at the head of Myers' Leap and then on to Niagara. A rather more exposed climb than I remember but we all managed OK in the end and made our way down the last pitch/climb and down to the sump. It had taken 5.5 hours to get here and I was hoping to speed things up a little on the return. These plans went out the window when Dave's lamp went just above Niagara. I had anticipated coming out on glow worm power but I wasn't expecting lamps to start failing until we were past all the hard climbing. Michael saved the day by lending Dave a torch and we pushed on.
At the top of the big pitch I found the lifeline had been left through the stich plate and not through the pulley. No wonder it hadn't been running smoothly. Perhaps we should consider some sort of semi-formal training or assessment. Mistakes like this could be quite serious and I don't doubt some hard questions would be asked if an accident did occur. My lamp went while we were detackling the third pitch and by the time we all arrived at the first pitch we were all cold, hungry and tired. Even so we managed a good pace back along the canal since were well motivated by this point. I thought at one bit that everyone had crawled past the exit but when I called them back and looked at it with a good light it was just a small aven! Oops!
Eventually we all staggered out onto the hillside in the lesser darkness of night after 10.5 hours underground. I'd intended to ask the attendees staying at the cottage to sort out the tackle the next day but in my exhausted state I forgot, so my humble apologies and thanks go to Dave Hoggarth and Andy Roberts for cleaning it all for us and to Reg again for going up mid-week to check it had been done!
Present: Mike Baslington(L), Alan Davey, Martin Holloway, Kate, Elaine Hill, Nick, Mike Homes, Andrew Dopson, Sue Allonby, Mal Goodwin
I really wanted settled dry weather for this meet but it had been raining half the week, it looked like it was going to rain, the forecast was for heavy showers. Those that came down from Newcastle said it had been raining on the way so I got cold feet about taking fourteen people down a flood prone cave like Black Shiver and moved the meet to Alum Pot.
A few people where not interested in the alternative trip and went away to do their own thing. The remaining ten descended by the main hang, fighting off the midges at both the rebelays and then on down the long abseil to the bottom of the shaft. A short trip to the sump and then the long climb back up the main pitch to emerge into the warm sunshine.
While we had been down the cave the black clouds had broken up to give a sunny afternoon so I spent the evening trying to convince myself that I had made the correct decision in changing the meet.
Birkwith Area (Under-Ground Hog Day) 13 June 1999.
Present: Ted Wood, Nic Blundell, Andy Mackie, Tom Thompson, Joanne Reaney, Margaret Stebbings, Steve Kirk, John Webb, Reg Parker, Pete Farnell(P?), Joe Farnell(G), Glyn Tomkins(P?), Ken Armitage, Damian Sheeran, Dave Allanach, Jude Christie, John Christie, Kara Allison(G?), Andi (Hungarian, G), Emma Porter, Pete Jones(Leader).
I woke quite early and lay in my pit listening to the early morning f**ts of dreaming cavers. Its my meet today! After the Birkwith meet last year I had a smile on my face I had really enjoyed the experience and it must have showed. “Will you lead a meet next year Pete?” came the question. “Yes I’ll do Birkwith again if I may.” Oh dear another guaranteed weekend in the Dales, without fail. They got me this time.
The trepidation was gone this year, I knew what to do as a leader and I knew the caves? The day before had been a good one up at Scales Moor digging, and the Black Shiver meet was diverted because of impending weather. The cottage was busy and a great Saturday night was had by all. Out of Pit, Sunday had dawned fine and I was soon in the kitchen cooking breakfast. While I was consuming the half a pig I had incinerated in the kitchen a large gaggle of cavers tumbled down stairs, they must be keen to come on my meet I thought. How wrong could I be? The smoke alarm had gone off in the bedroom! Soon to be blamed on a butterfly trapped in it. I continued with breakfast, Ric appeared “has anyone seen the keys for Bridge End they are missing?” Not again this happened last year on my meet. Ever-ready Steve produced a spare set from the wall safe. Just like last year.
I raced out to the tackle store to gather the requisite gear. Back to Ivy for more brews. By now people were preparing to do various activities, and people for the meet started arriving. Reg was stood in the car park with John W, just like last year, when Barbara appeared from Ivy in very bright cycling gear to a crescendo of wolf whistles. “You look like a trout fly!” says Reg, “I know I’m a bit of a lure!” came the reply and the contents of a drinks bottle. We were soon amassed so we set off for Birkwith.
Some of team followed later, Tom was giving over ground lessons in Bridge end first. We were all changed quickly and just as we were leaving the cars Dave turned up. We rigged Calf Holes and while we were doing this Reg, Damian, Ken and Nic set off to do the trip up hill from Brow Gill. We were soon gathered at the foot of the ladder in low water conditions and set off up stream for the chamber. John took a couple of photographs, he’s keeping his tackle in a new shiny bag these days, and we set off to make our way to Brow Gill. We met up with the party who were on their way to the chamber before making their way out. When we arrived at the pitch Tom and his party had arrived and were able to belay Damian out. While this was happening the rest off headed for the Hainsworths' constriction. Ted made it first and very quickly went quiet as he tried to find the way through, after a while and some suggestions from those waiting Ted got through. Andy was in front of me and said look out for me reversing rapidly is I don’t like this. As we gathered in the chamber below the waterfall John W free climbed the waterfall. Tom’s Group arrived and were not to be seen again that day.
Joe led us out from the waterfall and of course as always with a Photographer on the trip we all ended up waiting for his emergence. Once every one was out we headed back to the car with the intention of de-rigging. When we got to Calf Holes we found someone had beaten us to it! Thank you who ever it was. At the Calf Holes gate we found a huge tangle of Mountain bikers who very quickly decided they should try caving as it was cleaner than their sport. Ted noted one of the women in the group had a very mucky rear end. When we got back to the cars we discovered Jude, John C, Kara, Andi and Emma had arrived and were going to rig Red Moss and have a look round. Jude and John persuaded me I should take those who wanted into Red Moss as it is really pretty and a good trip.
After a little refreshment for some we regrouped and headed for the area’s namesake, Birkwith, and quickly found ourselves at what I thought was the start of the sump canal. Only to be put right by John W and Reg who led us to the real deep water. They said they wouldn’t tell any one I didn’t know where I was. Some of us legged it for the entrance and found a nice spot to relax in the feeble sun which was trying to break through. Some of the group made their way through the high level series to get out and proved the mountain bikers wrong. It was hard to do, but we dragged ourselves away from the grass and headed for Old Ing. On route it was generally decided that Red Moss would be a better option than Dismal Hill as most of the group wouldn’t get through the squeeze at the bottom of the entrance climb.
Ted set off into Old Ing like a thing possessed, to pull up very quickly with the comment, “some dirty sod has had a S**t in here!” The air was foul and as we progressed along the cave a statement was made to the effect that the smell was not the responsibility of those who were in the lead. At the deep pool Ted demonstrated were Reg had got it wrong the year before and fell in, I straddled it and he called me a lanky B*****d, he said we should wait to hear screams as the others crossed. The sump was attained and we backtracked as far as Rough Hill Inlet where we split into two groups again. Some of us followed John W to the sump and the others went out. When we finally made our way out we discovered the source of the smell, a very dead Hare.
“OK, lets head for Red Moss,” says the leader. “anyone know where it is?” Once again the experienced members of the club lead the way. A trundle over the drumlins along the Three Peaks Trench to where it crosses the Pennine Way Trench. Suddenly a gust of wind blew us into a field through an open gate and right to the entrance of Red Moss. Strange! Dave decided that he had had enough and would head for home. Thanks for the help in finding the cave. We shot down the hole and to the head of the first climb which was rigged. After a struggle we were all ready for the yomp down the stream way. One more cascade to climb and we were off. What a great stream way, it just keeps going almost horizontally for about 1000 meters. The formations are in very good condition. As we stomped down the stream way Reg was in front, all of a sudden there was an almighty yelp as if some one had fallen in a deep pool or burnt them selves on a carbide. We had found the John Christie! He and his colleagues had seen us coming, and just leaving Long Mire Inlet retraced their steps and waited for us in ambush. Reg must have jumped out of his skin. While the two groups chatted, Ted decided he was going to be late if we didn’t get a shift on so we almost ran to the sump until we hit the canal before it, here we slowed, waded, turned and rapidly headed back up stream .
John decided he would have a rummage in his sack and see if he could get any good photos so everyone left him to it. We soon caught up with Reg who had turned around after his fright. He had pulled a muscle in his leg while coming down the first awkward climb. He finally made it back to the entrance climb with a little assistance, just to see the last of the other group leaving. Once everyone was up Ted and I waited for John W who appeared, very happy with himself and his photographic efforts. I'm pleased to say he had all his tackle safely stowed in his new sack. Once Ted was up the pitch John proceeded to get it out again and asked me if I would pose for him at the top of the climb. This done we took all the gear bar the ladder and left John to his art.
We were soon back at the car and found everyone had ticked off the list and the only one missing was John W. All changed and we returned to the cottage to find nearly everyone had gone. John W appeared shortly after and told us he had been a while because he was hiding in Red Moss entrance thinking the farmer was riding round on a Quad, instead it had turned out to be Fell Wreckers of the two wheeled variety. The gear was soon washed and I was on my way home having had a fantastic weekend topped off with a great meet. Thanks to all who attended and made it so easy and enjoyable especially the Christies for encouraging us to stick our heads in Red Moss, which is well worth another visit. Will the Bridge End keys disappear? Will Reg, John W and Steve be there? Will the sump in Birkwith be just around the next corner? See you next year?
Top Sink - County Pot 3 July 1999.
Underground team: Ken Armitage, Mike Ashmore, Rebecca Ashmore(G), Perce Lister, Damian Sheeran, and John Worden.
Surface support: Andy Roberts, Karen Lane.
Not Present: Henry Rose (allegedly our leader)
We assembled at Bull Pot Farm at 9.00am and waited for the leader to arrive... We talked and waited... then we mingled and talked a bit more and waited... By the time it got to 10.00 am a thick mist started to encroach from the West bringing rain with it and we retired to our various cars and waited... I must admit I curled up on the back seat and had a nap while I waited...
10.45am, a car drove up and I awoke to find Andy Roberts and Karen Lane had just arrived. They informed us that our (alleged) leader would not be coming. This was no surprise, as most of as had worked this out already. Andy produced 2 ladders and 1 lifeline from his car, so at least we had some tackle, although obviously not enough for Top Sink. It was decided we would enter via County instead, and shortly thereafter we set off across to the entrance.
We descended at about 11.45am and used our one lifeline on the first pitch. We all quickly descended and dropped into Broadway, where several possible routes were discussed. We left the other ladder at Oxford Circus while JW took the lead and led us down Mushroom passage, a part of the cave I and some of the others had not done before. This passage is quite pleasant, a meandering stream down cascades with some nice formations leading us to Toadstool Junction where we found a plastic Leprechaun tied to a bag of Kraft cheese slices - obviously of deep significance although we couldn't work it out. We continued right towards Razor Passage.
This passage was notable for a plastic bag containing 'BIC' razors hung on a boss, at least this is a pretty obvious allusion. We continued to Platypus Junction and then turning left we explored North West Passage for quite a long way until the roof started to descend. Most of us endured the hands and knees section but when it became necessary to crawl flat out in the water, John found himself on his own as he continued to Molluscan Hall. We shouted moral support from the (relative) comfort of the hands and knees section!
John returned and then we retraced our steps to Platypus Junction this time taking the right hand passage which again is a very nicely decorated meandering stream passage. After a while it lowers to a hands and knees crawl and then emerges in Spout Hall. While we were here, John told me about a bypass to the Spout if it's very wet (it's a climb up to the left and then a crawl) so I did this and then went back to Oxford Circus to collect our other ladder. Upon my return to Spout Hall we all set off back downstream to find Poetic Justice which we must have crawled past before. We found it with no problem and John and Ken free climbed it and then hung the ladder over the top for us lesser mortals.
Very shortly thereafter we crawled across the top of Poetic Justice and dropped into the parallel stream passage. John hung our remaining ladder and boldly descended followed by all the rest of the party. We followed Pierce's Passage down to Eureka Junction and then had a snack break. We decided then to explore downstream first as no-one remembered having down that before. We followed the stream until it eventually disappeared to the right but then it reappeared after a climb over blocks. This situation repeated for a few times until we ended up at the sump, with lines of creamy scum marking the various levels the stream had reached recently. John and Ken explored a sandy high level passage to the left but soon returned via the lower stream level.
We then had a thrash up stream, past Eureka Junction and on towards Stop Pot. We reached a bouldery chamber which none of us could remember and while John went exploring at stream level several higher routes were investigated and found wanting. John shouted that he had found the way through to Stop Pot, but after a time check we realised that we had better start to return if we were to meet our scheduled out time. On the way back, we did make a small detour up to 'White Line Chamber' which although I had not heard it called that before I did recognise once we got there. Then on the back from here John and I climbed up into the roof where a knotted rope had been placed, and explored part of what we think was the 'Upper Trident Series'. An interesting passage which led us via a traverse to the foot of another pitch with another knotted rope in position and also an old electron ladder. On returning from here we climbed down into the passage instead of traversing and emerged back into the passage downstream of 'White Line Chamber' but upstream of where we had first climbed up - an interesting little diversion.
Our party was reunited in Pierces Passage where we encountered another team of four people on their way down, and when we arrived at the pitch below 'Poetic Justice' we found that they had left a lifeline in, which we promptly put to good use. The return trip was largely uneventful and we emerged at about 5.00pm after a very enjoyable 5 hours or so underground. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the trip despite it not having been what we had expected to do, it was just a shame that we didn't find out earlier as we wasted a couple of hours just hanging about. Ah well! We'll put it down to experience I suppose.
Large Pot: Neville Lucas, Simon Parker, Andy Roberts, Simon Ashby (Leader).
Rift Pot: Dave Milner, John Worden, Simon Rowling (Leader).
The best laid plans of mice & occasional cavers……. Picture the scene, two Craven odd jobs driving to Masongill one fine Saturday morning in September. One (not dissimilar in feature to yours truly) said to the other (who perhaps looked a little like Rowly),
“Well, if we get this trip knocked-off today we could have a leisurely fry-up at Bernies tomorrow before clearing off. I could do with being back early”.
“That suits me,” was the reply “I need to get away as well”.
Little did they realise !!!
Saturday: The descent of Large Pot proceeded smoothly enough, with the first two pitches being ladderd for ease & comfort (I’ve never fancied the outline of a Petzl Stop permanently embossed upon my chest). A small, dead thing in the crawl to the head of the 2nd pitch was letting off an unholy stink and caused much offence to the delicate nostrils passing by. A brief detour to check if the Red Herring Series was still there preceded a romp along Secret Seven Passage, through Arcadia and onto Colossus. Sections of these passages really are well decorated, if now sadly worn. SP rigged Colossus and we re-grouped below for the sombre trek on through Necropolis. With the boulder choke negotiated, we reached the connection wondering of our fate, onwards or retreat ? Onwards as it turned out, with the crawl being open. “Hurrah”, we cheered !! Well, not quite. Open it may have been, possibly even ‘dry’, but the six-inch layer of thick sticky mud quickly turned us all into chocolate cavers.
Once in the Rift Pot side the only sign of the other team was ‘CPC’ written in the mud. Slightly concerned as to their whereabouts and our route on out, we continued through the well-decorated chambers of Rift Pot towards Coates Cavern and the pitches. We eventually met them at the foot of the final pitch, just about to set off up. Much discussion ensued and it transpired that they had been through the crawl, but couldn’t find the way on & so had headed back out slowly, hoping we would catch-up. A general reluctance (apart from John Worden, far too keen) to return through the connection led to a plan for Large to be de-rigged after exiting via Rift. Thus we climbed and crawled out to an overcast evening, NL and SP de-rigging.
The attempt to re-descend Large was abandoned after an hour or so due to route-finding difficulties and the realisation that time was not on our side. A return was planned for Sunday.
Sunday: Rowly & I got back down Large about 9.30am Sunday morning (clear & sunny, nice day for a walk) and with the help of AR had the gear out by 1pm. There was a certain déjà vu about the trip!! Back at the cottage NL had done a sterling job washing the gear that was already out and piled into the rest of it with vigour on our return.
Overall a good trip, and nice to go right through finally. I’m not sure if I’d like to do it again in a hurry though. Thanks to everyone who came along, especially Andy for returning Sunday and Neville for washing the gear. In hindsight (a wonderful thing as they say), Rowly and/or I should have gone back out of Large, thus saving Sundays little jaunt. There you go, lesson learned. We finally got away about 3.00pm, without our fry-up. Not quite as we had planned.
We chose who was to lead which cave on Friday night by a fair flip of the coin. Simon A was duly elected to lead Large Pot and myself Rift Pot. After Simon and myself had made a visit to Inglesport on Saturday morning for some reinvestment and spare parts, as well as a coffee of course, we arrived at Mason Gill by 9.45am. Dave M, John W and myself headed for Rift Pot.
The first pitch was not difficult but care was needed as there are many loose rocks. The crawl was drier compared to previous times I had been down there with only a few small puddles of water on the way through. On to the second pitch was easy going with easy rigging as well. A nice little traverse at the bottom of the second pitch which led onto the third pitch. Descending, this magnificently opened out into the chamber below.
Once we were all safely down we had a quick scout around for the way through and also a look at the decorated passageway situated at 1 o'clock (with your back to the pitch). It had been a long time since I had been down there but once I saw the climb up at 9 o'clock I remembered the way on. After a crawl, the passage opened out again with some lovely formations, most of which have been taped off. Once we dropped down into a chamber, with a pool of water in the middle, I remembered that it was here that you have to keep left to find the connection passage to Large Pot. John found the climb down to the connection after I had investigated the wrong one. Last time I was here the connection crawl was filled with water so a connection was not made. I remembered how muddy it was then so I was quite relieved when John shouted back that the connection crawl was dry and that the mud surface had begin to crack suggesting no one had been through for some time. Once he began to crawl through we soon realised that it was not as dry as we has first thought with the pure pristine innocent looking mud giving away to a thick treacle goo which in fact was so deep that we soon became covered from head to foot. We then encountered a very small narrow section, or a crawl to the right. We decided to head for the crawl to the right as the narrow section seemed too narrow to get through. The crawl to the left also soon closed down and was silted up with mud. After a long wait and much discussion we decided that the connection was not passable and slowly retraced our steps. After another period of waiting as well as another carbide fettling session we made our way back to the bottom of the pitch.
Here we washed of most of the excess mud as best we could so as we could actually use our jammers without them clogging with mud. Just as Dave was about to make his way up the rope we heard the others shouting. The connection passage was obviously passable.
Dave and myself we first out of Rift Pot and as arranged went straight down Large Pot to retrieve the ropes. I had difficulty in finding the way on at the bottom of the third pitch and after some time returned to the pitch where Dave was in voice contact with SA and AR. We decided to return the next day as time was ticking by. Thanks to all those who joined us on the trip which was enjoyable and muddy. Thanks for the telephone calls from Dave and John on Monday to cheek that all the equipment had been removed safely.
Present: Reg Parker (Leader 1), John Webb (Leader 2), Simon Parker, Dave Kaye, Jan Brownson (P), Alec Bottomley, Michael Bottomley(G), Mike Hobson, Andrew Hobson(G), Perce Lister, Mike Ashmore
It was a nice day and a very warm walk up to the hole. Pitches were laddered and we all piled down. Several members made the detour into the roof passage below the second pitch to view the formations there. Everyone then gathered at the start of the crawl with roughly half choosing the bottom exit and the other half returning to detackle. A good clean trip was had by all; the probationary and temporary members all performing well.
Only an intrepid duo (Perce and Mike Ashmore) plus leader number two made off up the Yordas field to find Batty Cave whilst the rest of the crew went off to Bernie’s. Sadly, all is not well with batty these days, as it is currently being used as the Kingsdale galvanised metal warehouse and sheep store! I presume that the local farmer had decided that too many sheep were using it for extreme sports and has filled it in with at least a tonne of twisted metal!
Brave Mike volunteered, followed by the leader to show some moral support, to climb down past the metal spaghetti into the sink, only to find all ways on blocked by further debris and two and a half sheep that had certainly said farewell to rigor and were now waving goodbye to mortis; what a hum! Seriously it is sad to see Dales caves end up in this way, I can only hope that farmers can be persuaded away from practices such as this by CNCC and cavers in general.
So there was nothing for it but a quick dash through Yordas to clean off. “Hmmmm, ….I’m not sure we have enough kit to do the through trip…we may have to improvise!!” As the “convenient” tree is no longer convenient, we had to sacrifice our only ladder on the 20ft pitch at the sink…, and hope that the 50ft rope would suffice for the Chapter House waterfall. Leader (No 2) leapt (gingerly) off the pitch head into the sizeable waterfall, which surprised us all as the week before had been relatively dry. It proved very sporting and with a final leap aided by a 3ft stretch in the line, he reached the bottom exceedingly clean (caver talk for “drowned”). A meander round the main chamber, followed by a return to collect the rope and ladder, finished off an enjoyable day’s caving. I’m just sorry that Batty is now out of bounds for the future.
Cast (not in order of appearance, due to Leader’s limited memory capacity!). John and Sue A. and Jimmy the dog; Don and Patsy and Daniel Mellor; Edward and Liz Whitaker; Dave and Jan Hoggarth; Sean Kelley and guests, Rob and Linda Scott; Pete and Helen Gray; Michael Whitehouse, Ric and Pat Halliwell, Dave Milner.
Friday. People arrived, pitched tents and went to the pub.
Saturday. Fair weather suggested a good walk, so a largish group (Sue A, Jimmy, Edward, Liz, Hoggy, Jan, Rob, Linda, Dave, Ric and Pat) set off up the Walna Scar track to ‘do’ the Coniston tops. The weather got better but the day got worse for the leader when it transpired (on Dow Crag Summit) that she hadn’t done a proper head count at the start and a hot/cross Don, Patsy and Daniel arrived having had to ascend at great speed to catch up! (Apologies to them – but I think Daniel may have found his vocation!)
(Jimmy took on his character role of “starving stray” and was given a port pie by an innocent walker. However, when this was followed up with processed cheese and cracker he carried it a polite distance away and buried it. NB Contrary to Pat’s rumour, no virgins were sacrificed, but Jimmy’s “offering” is probably still on Dow Crag.)
The views were excellent, everyone spotting the Isle of Man and 2 nuclear power stations. Descending to Goats Hause, about half the group opted for a quick flash to the summit of Coniston Old Man (Daniel being the fastest in spite of searching for sharks’ teeth en route), whilst the other half chose to avoid the crowds and took the path linking Goats Hause with Levers Hause. Everyone re-met on Swirl How for butty-stop number 2.
The next top was Great Carrs complete with bomber wreckage, before the day’s final short pull onto Grey Friar and a lovely, little used descent to Seathwaite Tarn; where Jan, Edward and Daniel partook of some rather precarious-looking stone skimming (in the sunshine!). Then it was just a stroll down the reservoir track and back to the campsite, where Pete, Helen and Michael had now arrived. Sean, and guests had a similarly pleasant day circumnavigating Harter Fell. John A. had cycled to Ravenglass and bought 2 bags of flour at Muncaster Mill, to make cycling back over Hard Knott a bit more of a challenge!
Sunday. Once again the day dawned fair, but big clouds in the west indicated that this wasn’t to last. Sean and guests went fungus hunting. Everyone else set out to do a walk circumnavigating or climbing Caw summit. John and Jimmy set off 10 minutes before everyone else and Pete set off after them, to try and catch up. (He didn’t and none were seen again until back at the campsite, where it turned out that all had traversed White Maiden, Dow Crag and more, in addition to Caw.)
On reaching Brockbarrow, the main group split into two – the “circumnavigators” and the “summiteers”, who rejoined just below White Maiden before walking back through and exploring Walna Scar Quarries. As the day progressed, the weather degenerated, but the last of the weekend’s “clear slot” made Caw top a good place to be.
Thanks to the weather, and thanks to those who came along and made it such an enjoyable weekend.
GG Meet Report 1999
How a soft southerner gets involved with Gaping Gill is a long story, so I’ll bore you with it now. In 1976 the furthest north I had ventured was Milton Keynes on a narrow boat. I was called into the office that May and told I would have to go and work in the North for a six-week period. I took the family and stayed in a farmhouse in Haworth, anything for a free holiday. During that time we made friends and explored the Yorkshire Moors and Dales, I still thought if I walk out of site of a road I would get lost and die. The next year I was asked again to go north, this time I jumped at the chance. Before I left I watched a television programme about a mad crowd who set up a winch in the middle of nowhere and lowered people down a big hole. On arriving in Yorkshire I told this to our northern friends “I know that’s Gaping Gill and it’s on this weekend” said one. That Saturday morning I was lowered down for the first time, I had learnt that day that you did not die if you walked away from the road and 365 feet is a bloody long way down. I promised myself then I would go down GG once a year until I could no longer walk up to it, I was hooked. I’ve not broken that promise yet, it’s just a shame that up until 1990 I was going down in May not August.
Sometime last year, after a hard day caving, an evening in the Crown and with blurred vision, she pounced. I knew it was something big because she offered me a glass of single Malt and sat down with her arm around me. Cradled in her arms, the Scotch safely inside me, she was sure of slurred speech. Will you lead Gaping Gill in 1999? asked Barbara Pickerskill, yeshhhh I answered, by the time I had finished the answer it was carved in stone by Steve standing close by.
Because of the distance I have to travel the sub-committee said they would arrange every thing, all I had to do was lead for the time the winch was open. This was a great relief, someone else to blame if we run out of bog rolls, or worst still beer. Within days Tom Tompson had phoned volunteering his services as deputy leader, and agreeing to attend meetings if needed. With this, and at least two days off assured, I did what all-good leaders do, nothing.
I arrived on Saturday morning of the tackling weekend, people
bowed at my feet and called me the “Worthy One”. They helped me load my gear on the tractor, I was then
rollocked as leader for bringing the inclement weather with me. I walked up to GG and on arrival noticed
that the winch and part of the gantry were in place, the heavens opened,
another rollocking for not arranging better weather. It was soon pointed out that everything was the leader’s
responsibility, from the colour of the grass to the depth of the mud. Just for the hell of it I arranged some
really heavy rain and strong wind for tacking week and buggered off back to the
warm south on Sunday.
I arrived for the meet in time to catch the Friday tractor, after the bowing at my feet I got rollocked for the weather and rode up to the top. After a quick check to make sure all was in place, the winch, gantry, beer tent, beer, bog tents and clag round the top of Ingleborough I switched on the sun and put up my tent. The only thing I could not arrange as leader were my neighbours, I got Harpic.
Friday night both beer tent and job sheet filled quickly. Winch day one dawned, sun shining with clear sky, rollocked by someone because it was too hot in their tent. The early crew greeted me with “we’ve lost the winch key” after a short run a round I realised it was a wind up and retired for a bacon butty at 09:00hrs. Over the weekend a slow but steady stream of people were winched down, and to my relief winched out again. After the weekend there was a shortage of people camping, and key jobs were hard to fill, this is where the leader can go into panic mode. What I did find was, if a job needed doing somebody would volunteer, for that I was very grateful. Fortunately the number of tourists matched the small numbers in camp during the week. A pattern emerged by Tuesday, most tourists would arrive about lunchtime and, funny enough most people in camp would be preparing lunch when the tourists arrived. The number of people prepared to eat lunch and work at the same time to accommodate them surprised me. The Bank Holiday weekend was manic with all hands to the pumps, two days working very hard. Bank Holiday Monday I did try and stop the winch by 14:00hrs so people could help take down the winch and still have time to decamp without rushing to much. By selecting some of the crews we managed to winch down 90 people and get them out again.
I do hope that everybody who turned up for the meet enjoyed himself or herself, as leader I tried to let people do what they wanted, when they wanted to. Everybody I asked to do something did it without argument or fuss, this made my job a lot easier. I found some people were very good at some jobs, I hope they do not feel I exploited them, or others that I excluded them. I do think these people should be asked to train others. One of the hardest jobs to fill was guiding, I can understand people not liking this job, but most members know Gaping Gill far better than the tourists. It does not take a lot of effort to pass on this knowledge to a gobsmacked tourist at the bottom.
This year I found the younger people (kids as we used to know them) had grown up about ten years in the past year. Their willingness to help amazed me, they did any job, they mucked in, and even mucked out on one occasion. During the week when numbers were low, they never failed to volunteer to help at the end of the day, when us old farts were running out of steam. To anyone who criticised them for not doing something “correctly”, if you can do it better show them how, they will then do it at twice the speed you can. When they all become members, and I join the last of the Summer Wine gang, I know the meet will be carrying on in their good hands. They also promised to get me up there when I’m too old to walk.
One of the new things introduced this year, for insurance purposes, was anybody who stayed overnight had to register. This task was made easy by the willingness of everybody, to find me, and, to make sure I had taken his or her name. This revealed that 117 people had spent at least one night camping, with only 7 staying over tackling week. I went though all that trouble to arrange the bad weather and only 7 people got the benefit of it, how come 70 rollocked me for it.
I tried an experiment with the Tag system this year, to try and make it easier for the people putting them back in the boxes at the end of the day. It seems that one tag from ever group of numbers in the box was with a club member who will be late out. I tried to give all club members high numbers from one group, so as the tourist came out their groups of tag could go back during the day. It worked to a point, the tags were fine, it made books and chits a nightmare, I got rollocked for that.
Last man’s rites. I am sorry if some people felt I spoiled their fun, I asked that the mixture this year should be mainly water, or that we should set a new tradition and not do it. Over the past years I have seen great lumps of turf and other solids drop from a height onto somebody’s head, I have often wondered when someone will put in a large rock, just for fun. This year Fritz volunteered, a rumour went round that he would come up in the nude. As the time approached I think most of the ladies had gathered around the top, some had offered to go on gantry, time sheets and drive. None would admit they wanted to see Fritz naked, but they pushed all the men out the way to get a good view. Fritz duly arrived at the top in his swimming trunks, I got rollocked by the ladies for that, and he got soaked.
My personal thoughts on this ritual are, after working underground for sometimes six hours the last thing we should do is dump a load of crap over the last man out. Being on your own in main chamber is an experience to be savoured and should last as a memory, it should not have to be paid for like this.
When everybody was out, I handed over to Dave Milner to de-tackle and retired to my tent for the first coffee since breakfast, I woke up three hours later. I wandered back down to the hole to help, it started raining, I got rollocked, I was still in charge of the weather. Tuesday morning the clag was down but not raining, by the time I was ready to drop my tent it was almost dry. As my gear was packed on the trailer I was rollocked, people expected stair rods when they had got their tents down, I had not provided them this year. I said my goodbyes and walked off about 11:00 hrs.
I arrived home about 20:15 after a reasonable journey down the M1 and the usual long waits on the M25. I would like to thank Dave Milner, members of the GG sub committee and all the other club members who make sure everything works and is in the correct place at the correct time for this meet. Tom Tompson as deputy leader, the three days off were much needed, and for not rollocking me about anything. All of the members for their hard work and efforts over the ten days.
As I lay in the bath with a
huge scotch, I knew I had enjoyed leading the GG meet. In 1976 it was beyond my wildest dream that
I would one-day lead the meet, thank you for making it so. I picked up my glass to toast you all, and
Roll Bollocks, I said.
Saying of the week
They made a nice set of steps up the Borough out of them Helicopter Handbags.
Remember the white bags of stone last year.
Courtesy of Dave Milner.
Portrait of Leader by Daniel Mellor
Gaping Gill 1999
Having volunteered to be assistant leader at this year's winch meet I found myself increasingly wondering when the awful truth would descend, as the time drew nearer. The thing was, I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for. For example I had no idea how to organise getting all the right stuff up onto the fell and off again and where a lot of the consumable stuff comes from etc. I soon found out that meet leaders tend to get less involved in this side than in the day to day running of the thing once it’s all set up and ready to roll. The truth is not awful after all. A number of stalwart members, mostly living not so far from the Dales, together with some local figures including farmers and agricultural contractors, know between them what needs to be done and how. Diesel drums are filled not far from the Cottage and together with the engineering stuff, a collection of full propane bottles and a large amount of bogroll all is whisked round to Clapham behind a familiar looking Unimog on our own club trailer.
Once at Clapham in Ian's yard tractors and another (improved) trailer are added and the show starts to make it’s way up onto the fell. Club engineering and electrickery experts start to come to the fore whilst us more mundane but equally essential donkeys ferry everything to the appropriate site. Chaos grows, reigns then declines as the winch and the site emerge from the mass of stuff piled on the moor. Humour is generally to the fore and the presence of a number of strange objects is explained as follows,” Oh that thing; no we don’t need it, we just bring it up every year to leave on the fellside in an untidy heap. It’s traditional”. You soon realise that tackling of the winch meet is an organic process which emerges from the knowledge and experience of a large number of people acting in some sort of unwritten disorganisation, just like the way that many things happen in nature. Yet within this there are a number of key figures who need not be named, but whose effort, and key areas of skill are definitely crucial to the event. I seems to me essential that younger members should get as involved as possible with this part of the event, as often happens, so that all the know-how continues to trickle down through the years.
It had seemed sensible to the Glorious Leader, Ian Peretti and to myself that assistant leadership would usefully be treated as primarily a way of giving the glorious one a day off after every couple of days in the driving seat. Timing of this was adjusted to coincide with one another’s ambitions for a caving trip, the appearance of guests and general common sense. At other times it would mean that there would be two heads rather than one when it came to making some decisions or dealing with any particular situation that happened to come up, also enabling leadership to be in two places rather than one where necessary. Ian was of course excellent to work with and his relaxed but responsible style and ability to be ever-present when in role without being autocratic made the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable. My first day with the key-and-moneybox-of-honour came all too soon.
Not one to awaken early without mechanical assistance, the shout of “Customers!” at about 7.45am. meant that my first day began with an uncomfortable scramble into clothes, across the moor to those small white tents and straight down to the coalface. Waking trusty comrades and getting them to go straight down the hole is no joke and it’s the only time being leader made me feel really like a slave driver. I can only express my thanks to those “usual suspects” who were always ready for action at an early hour and uncomplainingly (almost!) got ready and went to their stations without brew or breakfast on occasion. As the day wears on the role of leader tends to ease a little. As long as you managed to get the worksheet reasonably complete in the beer tent the previous night it’s not so onerous; check that people are ready and available to take up their shifts and allow others to get off theirs in good time. Keep an eye on the queue and the tourists, look after the cash and the booking-in tent, keep in touch with the Main Chamber crew via the squawk boxes and check that all the other communications are working. Being aware of the weather comes as standard but if the sun shines and it’s not too busy there’s no stress there. Check that the engine fuel tank is kept topped up with diesel and that drivers are happy with the functioning of the equipment. Look at the time sheets and be aware of visitors and others who are down below for a long time, checking with the booking in tent and on the gantry if anything looks unusual or out of the ordinary. Be available to answer tourist queries from time to time if there are a lot waiting to descend, since a polite word here and there often reduces general stress levels round and about. Refunds can be arranged if people feel they cannot wait any later for a descent as sometimes happens when they misjudge the queue. I found that you can actually escape for long enough to have a late breakfast or some lunch since everything is delegated and as the old hands told me, “Work on the principle that if something goes wrong, they’ll come and find you!”. Later in the day it’s important to check the time sheets again and resolve anything that doesn’t add up so that you know for sure who’s still down and when to expect them out etc. You have to make decisions about late descents based on whether there are enough guides below, the state of the queue etc. Tilleys and tea may need to be sent down whilst people all around you on the surface are rapidly disappearing up the beck to cook their tea etc. Money has to be dealt with and the books balanced in the booking in tent, where stuff has to be put away for the next day. Radios on charge, whistle man brings the buzzer out and soon you are able to make the worksheet ready for the next day, then comes the most welcome job of the whole long day; turning off the winch engine!
Thanks again to Ian and to everyone who worked so hard through the whole event. Thanks also to those kind people who gave me about 6 pints of beer on my birthday, though sadly they gave me it all at once without any receptacles. Thanks to Neville for showing me, repeatedly, how to make a beer barrel into a fountain. I had an excellent winch meet and two great caving trips, one to the end of Ingleborough Cave with Dave Allanach, Jeff and Jackie Cowling, Neville Lucas and Ben Myers; another to the end of Far Waters with Jackie and my guest Vicki Horrocks. I was also able to do the tour of Pool Traverse and Sand Caverns with my friend Chris Conley, (who has joined as a prospective member) and a number of his guests. Throughout the meet a core of members were always around; they were still there as the last tractor left the fell and the last cars pulled out of Ian’s yard.
Vivid Memories of my 1999 Visit to Gaping Gill
Clapham: All is quiet for anyone making an early appearance at "the packing station" in farmer Ian Halliday's yard in Clapham. Then the activity begins following the usual pattern of events. Members start to arrive, unload their cars making individual piles of gear ready to load on the trailer. Then, in order to avoid a traffic jam in the yard they try to escape from being blocked in. Cars disappear, some to our allocated parking area in the field on the other side of the fence from the public car park. Then I hear Dave Milner's voice: "It is hard to believe that another Gaping Gill Meet is here, it doesn't seem to be a year since we were last here". More cars make a brief visit to "the packing station". It seems incredible that such a mountain of gear can be loaded on to one trailer.
There are always familiar faces - Gaping Gill regulars who have camped year after year and there are new faces too. Packing all the gear on to the trailer is not a well practised art but it has been done so often that it all happens like clockwork. Then the net is secured over the gear. All we have to do now is wait for Ian Halliday - oh, and of course Brian Varley who then makes his audible entry into the scene - lucky that we have a second trailer in the yard!
There are always many willing hands who know the procedures. Techniques and methods have of course changed over the years. I recall the days before we used nets to secure the loads on the trailers when everything depended on ropes only. On one occasion we were at Flatts Barn when I noticed that my bundle of heavy tent poles was missing. I had a long walk back across the fields before I found them in the middle of the track about 100 yards from the lane to Clapham.
For personal reasons and anxieties I shall always remember the 1999 Gaping Gill Meet. On Thursday 12 August I loaded my car with gear ready for an early departure to Clapham on Friday morning. As I emerged from my Appleby home I found that I had a very flat tyre. By the time that I left home I had very little hope of reaching Clapham before the tractor and trailer departed for Gaping Gill. My intention had been to be very early to unload my gear. I then intended to attempt to unearth some gear of Roy Tailors that he had left there a few weeks ago. I need not have worried. On arrival at Ian's yard, half an hour after the scheduled departure time for Gaping Gill, the trailer was still being loaded. Roy's gear was already on the trailer. Willing hands were volunteered to grab my gear and load it on to the trailer.
I was not feeling very fit and had booked in at Brook Guest House for bed and breakfast. Dave Milner had made arrangements with Dave Allanach for the "Last of the Summer Wine" (Roy Taylor, Brian Varley and myself) to be taken by Landrover the following day.
The following morning I visited Ian's yard before I went to Clapham railway station (as pre-arranged) to pick up Roy Taylor. A Landrover drew up in Ian Halliday's yard driven by Dave Allanach accompanied by Dave Milner who greeted me with the words: "Your transport, sir!"
At the pot young members were quick to carry our gear on to our site across the stepping stones constructed last year by Pete Jones and still intact. Then as "The Last of the Summer Wine" unpacked their gear a surprise party of volunteers helped to pitch our tents (including the two Daves, Richard Varley, Tracey Beasley and others).
It was now Roy's turn to be traumatised. It had rained heavily since our gear had left Clapham the previous day. Roy found that his bedding and spare clothes were very damp. Worse still he found that his whisky glass was broken in transit. I asked him what he would do if the whisky bottle was also broken whereupon he replied "Well if it is, I'll go home!"
For the benefit of those members who were not at Gaping Gill this year and may not have heard about this year's innovation, it was the afternoon of the following day that someone came to ask me if I had seen "The Grand Staircase". The last time that I had heard that name was in Australia in 1982 when I was spending three days climbing in the Australian Grampians. One day was spent in climbing Mount Rosea (3075ft). Leaving the car park, the route started as a zigzag through the woods approaching cliffs about 300ft high. I could not see me climbing such a rock face. Then to my surprise we came to the base of the cliff and there was a rough route up the rock face at an incline of about 60o to the horizontal. In many places steps had been constructed. It was known as "The Grand Staircase".
The other vision in my mind's eye was a reference that appears in the book Titanic published in 1992. It describes in great detail the building of that gigantic 882 feet long luxury ocean liner. The most spectacular feature in its elaborate and expensive interior was "The Grand Staircase" down which the first class passengers descended on their way to the first class dining saloon.
So I wondered what it could be that merited this new innovation at Gaping Gill being named the Grand Staircase. I envisaged a staircase cut into the side of the shakehole from the moor level down to the booking-in tent. I hasten to add that I was amazed at what I saw. Here was a broad staircase, wide enough for people to walk down three abreast with the ease of descending the main staircase in a top class hotel. It was constructed using scaffolding poles similar to those used in the construction of the gantry and complete with thick wooden steps and handrail. For our guests it provided an easy way down from the engine to the gantry dispensing with the former (and sometimes not too secure) iron and wooded ladders. I asked Alec Bottomley our master engineering designer: "I suppose that you designed this on the drawing board and it just fitted together here at the pot?" Modestly he replied "Not exactly, I over looked one or two knobs of rock that had to be overcome." The guests and indeed the club members have a lot to thank Alec for, and those who constructed it on site and secured it to the rocks. What will next year's innovation be?
On Thursday 15 August I left camp not feeling too well but intending to return towards the end of the second week. I found that Sarah Jenkins was intending to return home that same day, so I had her company. We set off purposefully at 11am. Before we reached the plantation on the way to Clapdale I realised that my pace had become terribly slow. Eventually me knee joints seized up and I could barely walk until I finally "collapsed" falling to the ground at the gateway where the track through the fields from Clapdale enters the lane to Clapham. Sarah's attempts to assist me to my feet were at first to no avail until I massaged my knees and managed to get into a vertical position. Not having anything to carry Sarah volunteered to take my rucksack. So we started off for Clapham, then we were lucky.
Dr Farrer (the estate owner and honorary member of the CPC) and one of his workmen were trimming the hedges in the lane. I have known Dr Farrer for almost 30 years and he kindly gave us a lift in his vehicle to Brook cafe in Clapham where I recovered after a meal. News of my experience soon reached Gaping Gill and Club Secretary Dave Allanach phoned me on his mobile phone to advise me not to risk returning to camp and promised that all my things would be packed and returned to Clapham at the end of the camp.
I must thank John Taylor, Gail and others for their kind consideration. I understand from my doctor that I may well have been dehydrated. Do I hear some members saying that I should have drunk more beer in the Trenchfoot Arms? Ah well, one lives and learns. Thank you all and apologies for being such a nuisance.
Those Gaping Gill Bones
On the 1999 winch meet some bones were found close to the top of the West Slope in Main Chamber. Brian Varley, Gary Moore and Roy Taylor (also helped on one day by Karl Karley) collected these between 16th and 18th August and passed them to me. The following Sunday afternoon I spent some time with Tom Lord who examined the bones and made some preliminary identifications.
The largest bone is a red deer metatarsal, probably from a large adult male. There is a similar but smaller metatarsal from a juvenile of the same species. Most of the smaller curiously shaped bones are probably from the same animals (and are equivalent to those in our wrists/ankles). One large rib could not be identified but several slender bones are probably those of a bird. Perhaps the most interesting of all however are a midshaft of a human fibula and another part of a rib which is also probably human. There was also a mollusc shell in with the bones which has not yet been identified but might prove useful for subsequent dating.
The obvious question is why are the remains of at least four individual animals found at the same spot? It seems likely that they were all deposited by ponded flood water at (or close to) the outflow into West Chamber at a time when flood levels were much higher than at present. Individual bones from the same animals were found together, so the skeletons were not disarticulated before being deposited, which is characteristic when ponded water is the agent of transport. It is generally held that the maximum flood level in modern times is equivalent to that of the South East Passage, which was actually sumped after one extreme flood in the eighties. Therefore, these bones (which were deposited much higher) are clearly of considerable age.
It is hoped that eventually the age of the human fibula can be obtained by radio carbon analysis. This will be of interest to cavers studying the development of the Gaping Gill system because it should give a better idea of when the Main Chamber was flooding much higher in conditions of high discharge. It is also interesting to speculate whether other bones could be found at a similar level elsewhere in the Main Chamber. However, if anyone does come across further deposits they must be left where they are, as much more can be learned by studying the bones in situ than by taking them out of the cave. It may be some time before there is any further news about the bones found on this year's winch meet but any information will be published in The Record as soon as it becomes available.
Lancashire Hot Pot Continued.
( In The Stew Again Down Amongst the Dumplings)
It was a wet start to GG, Friday the 13th. A small band of volunteers soon had the trailer loaded with all the engineering. The diggers loaded some of the scaffold provided by Neville for the forth-coming events at Lancashire Hot Pot.
The rigging weekend over, all the shiny new scaffold consumed, the camp at Fell Beck emptied, (The Vercors Effect) leaving a small group of reprobates to get on with the final touches and relaxing. I arrived back on the Monday evening ready to get digging but the weather, number of willing volunteers and the comfort of Café Beast largely put paid to my ambitions. However Dave Milner and Alan Davey helped me transport the scaffolding and heavy gear over to the hole in just two runs between showers. This gave me a chance to re-familiarise myself with the dig and work out what we could do with the spoil.
I decided the best way I could utilise my efforts until a larger team arrived on the Saturday, was to make the eye hole between the shaft and the chamber larger and rig up a three legs. Dave very kindly accompanied me while I plugged and feathered the eyehole into a more workable aperture. If we could get the spoil from the boulder choke in the chamber to the surface in one pull it would leave us stacking room in the chamber for successive digs when we would inevitably have a smaller team. I decided to a rig a guide wire from the three legs to the chamber. Trial runs with empty buckets didn’t seem too. successful, we would have to wait and see.
Friday night and the invasion started, we would be ready for action the following day. It was a creaky start for the team but it wasn’t long before we were under way; Ric Halliwell, Paul Norman, Ted Wood, Nick Blundell, JAR, Rob Scott, John and myself. After the careful removal of several selected boulders and a great pile of mud we had made quite significant progress in the down department. We had opened quite a hole amongst some very large boulders. It was now time to assess which was the next to be removed. Andy Roberts and I were at the bottom and Paul Norman came down to have a look. As Paul was about to climb into the bottom of the pit a large block Andy was standing on set off to join Paul in the hole. Time seemed to stand still as this huge boulder slid rapidly down and Paul swam over it managing to remain on top. I thought it had got his foot, but he was clear. His shin developed a large bump and the boulder a very large headache by the end of the day.
A new dawn saw the team return with the addition of Carol who was the star acting as the donkey nearly all day. Nick and myself went on a trip to Farrer Hall missing out on the day’s activity. The team removed the boulder that had dared to challenge God and other selected boulders in the pit. Further sterling progress was made down through the boulders.
The week was progressing but we were steadily gaining confidence with this digging technique, we were back at it removing selected rock and pulling to the surface. The pit by now was becoming, shall we say a touch intimidating, with large voids and boulders all around except for one solid wall. I for one was feeling a little vulnerable clearing at the bottom, having been in there only minutes before the boulder had moved two days previously. By the end of the morning’s session the team had a meeting and decided to continue straight down but to put a scaffold cage in as we went. We hadn’t brought enough scaffold from Horton to keep going, so John volunteered to get as much as he could. Dave Allanach very kindly volunteered to act as transport and get us out of a hole yet again.
While they were away we would remove some more selected boulders and then scaffold as far as we could with what we had. Nick was slacking after lunch and was called from across the beck. A resounding yell of Eeyore went out he looked up from his trough and set of at a gallop to meet us on the fell top.( funny how Nick-names start)
Ric did a sterling job of clearing and Eeyore a sterling job as pit pony. Then it was my turn, scaffold key in hand I descended and started putting the scaffold frame together, a job I found particularly nerve racking. Eeyore's heightened animal senses made him aware of this fact, he turned to Ric and announced, “Pete doesn’t seem very happy down there!”
The routine of clearing in the morning, stopping for lunch and then returning for another session of hard graft in the afternoon got us quite a reputation. Every one said we were like Edinburgh’s one o’clock gun as we appeared above the shake hole rim each lunchtime bang on time. The week progressed in this way and the mound of rubble and boulders in shake hole two grew and grew. On Wednesday afternoon Paul had to go off the fell but the work continued.
Thursday saw the usual team and two new volunteers, Michael Whitehouse and Tracy Johnson. They acted as surface team with Eeyore and as usual did sterling work.. Tracy even gave Mr Allonby an etiquette lesson, by the time we were done he was shouting, “bucket up please.” We were nearing the end of the morning session when Paul arrived back just in time to give the surface team shelter under the back door of the Rover. We were now a further fifteen feet down and appeared to have another solid wall which was a Godsend. We were able to get another session in that afternoon despite the weather, thank you surface team!
Friday, and we were back full of enthusiasm, the same routine but made harder by the fact we now had a long haul under ground with a rope and bucket, then a haul to the surface. Still we were making good progress. As usual we stopped work and arrived back at camp bang on time for lunch. Ric was entertaining guests that day and had just come out on the winch. We returned after lunch with very limited numbers. Rob acted as a one-man surface team. John went to the front, I climbed down behind him and we started by moving the big stuff. My light failed so I legged it back to camp to find my charger was not working and my other lamp was flat. Tom Thompson lent me his, I was off back to the dig, back to the job of climbing up the scaffolded shaft carrying very large rocks which John was pulling out. It was very hot work as the hole was drafting in very strongly. John and I needed a breather, he asked Paul if he would mind filling some buckets with smaller stuff and sending it out while we had a rest. Once Paul was down the shaft John said, “there seems to be a passage going off at the bottom, looks caveable.” At which point Paul bent over to fill a bucket, as he looked to his left he could see the very same void. “ ‘ere Allonby what’s up with you, there is a caveble passage here and you’re not in it?” “Why aren’t you?” asked John. There was a little shuffling and John announced that Paul had gone. Before I could move John was off down the shaft with me in hot pursuit. We had done it we were off. It’s not Toms presence, it’s his lamp that makes digs go.
We went through a short crawl into a small chamber and over a small mud bank into a larger one, was this it caverns measureless to man? Not that day. We were in a couple of large voids in the choke and there was no obvious way out. A small phreatic tube in one corner led down to the lowest point but was blocked by a large block that would need some serious effort to remove it. We returned to the surface where Rob had been patiently waiting. He had our cards marked, there had been no noise for such a period of time he had gathered what we were up to. We returned to Café Beast for a brew. Rob produced a bottle of Champagne and asked if it was appropriate, the smug smile on Paul's face answered the question so we set about drinking it.
Paul, Ric, John and I had a go at the block in the tube the following morning. Despite a huge amount of effort put into moving the block in the morning we gave up and went back to camp bang on one o’clock.. Rob wanted a look in the afternoon at the new stuff so I returned with him. While he
Nick Blundell, coming up
was looking around I had another look at the tube to find the air a little musty so I let it be. The chambers however were fresh and the draft was elusive but seemed to be present. Just as we were about to leave Dave Kaye arrived to have a look.
The following morning the team went back over to survey the dig, de-rig and complete the scaffold. The survey was soon completed, while in the chamber at the bottom the team had a good look round again and now have some Ideas as to where we need to continue the work in future. On return to the surface a large team had gathered and they kindly helped dismantle the three legs and transport it back to camp. Lancashire Hot Pot was sealed, ready for the next assault. To date we have a shaft from the surface to a constriction through into a chamber, a climb down brings you to a boulder choke floor. Below the climb- down is a scaffolded shaft twenty feet down through boulders to a crawl which leads to a small chamber and a stoop under a large boulder into a larger chamber. The draft is predominantly inward and is quite pronounced. Work will be ongoing.
Thanks are again offered to all that assisted us and made progress possible. If I haven’t mentioned your name I apologise.
Gaping Gill Poster
The old black and white posters of GG have now run out and we need a replacement. Someone thought it would be a good idea to run a competition amongst members for the most appropriate shot around which to base the new poster. The Committee agreed to extend the photographic competition and offer additional prizes on the basis of the photo or photos selected. Thoughts to date include the creation of a montage of pictures around a central theme (the Main Chamber/shaft??) so that more than one photograph might make the final selection.
So if you have any shots (not necessarily just from this year) which you think might be good enough to include on the poster, dig them out and submit them to the Chairman in the same way as other entries to the photographic competition. Please mark them clearly as GG Poster Competition.
Theft of Equipment
During the Gaping Gill meet as reported elsewhere in this Record a team were involved in digging Lancashire Hot Pot. While away from the dig having a break for lunch the team left a quantity of equipment by the entrance; clothing and digging gear as well as two caving lamps, helmets and batteries. During this period a body /bodies unknown removed an Oldham type cell and a helmet leaving behind the belt which must have been excess to their requirement. If you are offered any such gear it is clearly marked J Allonby 2. Let us know, especially John. Thanks.
Caving in the Vercors 1999
With the exception of the 1994 Berger trip it is many years since large numbers of Club members have visited the Vercors. Dave and Jan Hoggarth had mention to Pat and myself that they fancied going back to the Vercors on a holiday, not a caving expedition as had been the case in the past, and it just seemed to grow from there. Although the numbers present varied throughout the two weeks they peaked at over 30. This was indeed a holiday and many members spent almost the whole time cycling or walking whilst I am only going to report here on the caving which was in many ways a comedy of errors.
After some discussion we agreed that the first trip would be Réseau Christian Gathier which had only short pitches and so we could take travelling ladders for Dave Kaye who had no SRT gear. It took only a few minutes to locate the entrance using the directions from the excellent new guidebook. Remembering from previous visits that the old French guidebook’s comment of “rope on entrance useful for novices” was somewhat of an understatement, I had brought along a rope, which John Allonby rigged with me following on. It was only at the final 3m drop of the entrance climb that I discovered I was the only one with SRT gear, the rest of the group having opted to use the travelling ladders we were bring for Dave! We failed to find the climb up which I remembered from previous visits and which is mentioned in all the guidebooks. Nevertheless we soon reached a pitch down on which we put a ladder, and then a second pitch on which we put the second ladder. This dropped into a large well decorated fossil passage, which I completely failed to recognise. We stomped along this for quite a while before we came to the head of yet another pitch, which I did recognise as the one into the streamway. John and I quickly rigged this with SRT rope and I abseiled down to land alongside the V-notch weir, which I remembered, from previous visits. However as mine was the only set of SRT gear there was nothing for it but to let it be hauled back up the pitch for the remaining 5 people to use! Then it was on down the fine streamway and through the boulder choke up into the very large Salle des Ténèbres (Chamber of Darkness). As on my previous visits we failed to find the way on at this point and eventually started to return through the choke. Here we met three of the second wave coming in and as we got back to the pitch out of the river we caught up with Rob Scott. John Allonby soon persuaded Rob to lower his kit down the pitch so we now had two sets between the five of us. After a swift lesson in how to prussik, Dave Kaye made his way up the pitch and we carried on out, catching up with the rest of the second wave at the entrance. Although several people managed to climb the entrance (rope useful for novices) with only marginal difficulties, a number of people required assistance in the form of a man-hauled foot-loop to lift them through the more awkward bits.
The back cover of Paysages du Vercors Souterrain is a photograph of the magnificent phreatic tube in the Siphon d’Arbois . I have never been there so the next day saw Ric, Pat, Andy and Chris attempting to find the entrance by walking upstream from the EDF station near the Bournillon. There was a wonderful path all the way to the hydro plant at the Source d’Arbois and after that, nothing! Just cliffs and the river; end of attempt number one. After calling in at the Choranche show cave to get permission for the Gournier we made our way back up the Bourne Gorge. Stopping opposite the probable location of the Siphon we noticed a small path which appeared to go down the steep side of the gorge. A quick check revealed that this was the case and we thought we could see the entrance way below us on the far side of the river so maybe all was not lost.
The next day saw 19 of us heading for the Gournier. John Helm and Neville inflated the dingy and then John Helm and John Allonby set off to rig the traverse. Unfortunately they forgot to take the rigging gear and so had to wait until Sue Allonby and myself crossed the lake with the gear. After a fairly fast stroll along the fossil series John H spotted the marking “40m” with a downward arrow painted on the wall in red paint.. Beyond this was a way down into the streamway but it certainly wasn’t “Access 1” and it required walking and wading up the streamway for some twenty minutes before we arrived at one I recognised as “Access 2”. We carried on up the streamway with various people dropping out at various places and turning round. A more relaxed team spent some considerable time photographing in the fossil series. One member spent a considerable period of time paddling round in circles in the middle of the lake because he thought it was such good fun!
The following day two groups set off for the Glacière d’ Autrans. Unfortunately only the first group (with rope bags 1 and 3) found the entrance! When it was decided that group 2 and rope bag 2 were not going to arrive a quick re-ordering of the available ropes suggested that we could just about get to the bottom of the 5th pitch and so see the magnificent shafts of the 4th and 5th pitches. On the way out John and Sue went to look for the ice lake in Le Patinoir but failed to find it.
Now it was time for another assault on the Siphon d’Arbois. A return to the small path spotted earlier proved that it did go all the way down to the bottom of the gorge, and a rock pile allowed us to cross the river to where a small ledge allowed access, between two cliffs, up onto the heavily treed hill slope, just like the description said. Nearly three hours later after going up and down and along the path free slope we were back on the riverbank, defeated. Back up the path towards the road, stopping to look out from the same spot as the previous day. This time, because of the different light levels, not only could we clearly see the entrance (just upstream of where we had been) but we could also see SRT ropes dropping out of the entrance into the river below!
The final day of caving was to be down Trou qui Souffle where there was some mix-up with ropes and rope lengths. This caused some debate on rigging standards and styles and the overall result was that no one got as far in the cave as they would have liked to.
Other trips, which I wasn’t on, included Grotte Favot where all agreed that the entrance was very impressive. Grotte de Bournillon, where Dave Hoggarth almost managed to walk into the sump; just like last time. A very windy day saw a group up on Font d’Urle where the ice formations in the Glacière were deemed most satisfactory.
So, no really serious caving but good fun despite the numerous assorted cock-ups. Some of us who are not going on the Berger trip will be back in the Vercors next year so if you want to visit some of the caves other than the Berger (and you should visit the Berger if you haven’t) let me know.
As we entered the outskirts of Grenoble, we looked up towards the sky, which was almost entirely blotted out by these imposing green and grey mountains as far as the eye could see. Stood in the rest area with the baking sun beating down on us, we could see what appeared to be a very steep track running up the side of one of the mountains. Then a car passed by on the track, this was the road we were expected to go up! We set off up this road, the car resembling that of the hillbilly truck in “the Beverly Hillbillies”, bulging at the seams. What seemed like hours later got to the top, with a lot of positive thinking. The views down on the valley were absolutely breathtaking.
Just as we began to enjoy this beautiful landscape and the slightly cooler weather of the mountains, the heavens opened. The rain was like a torrent and a sauna at the same time, as the steam came off the roads in clouds. The shower lasted until Villard de Lans, on passing through this town we then entered the Bourne Gorge, WOW! We were speechless how on earth did they carve the road out of the rock? Perhaps the question we should have asked was why? In the end we didn’t care it was totally breathtaking.
We then came into La Chapelle and arrived at the camp site, with a lovely inviting swimming pool, then we were arguing as to whether to put the tents up first or go swimming. However, as we looked round there were no English at all, only French. You guessed our sense of direction had led us wrong. We eventually found our way to the right one, (simply followed the smell of the cool beer). Right enough there was Ric under a tree with two bottles of very wonderful beer waiting for us. Who wants a cool swimming pool anyway?
The Vercors region was everything we were told it would be and more. One of the most memorable days, was a trip to Col de Rousset, where we went up on the ski lift and walked up to the top and down towards where Die nestled in the bottom of the very deep valley. The panoramic view was exhilarating, if not a little disorientating. Mind you the most terrifying view came on a drive through Combe Laval, as we approached through the tunnel there was a small steel barrier on the right. We came through the tunnel on the right side of the road and all of a sudden the car was on the left as it swerved to miss what appeared to be the end of the world. It wasn’t, it was only a mere drop of what appeared to be 2,000 ish, we’d defy any body to tell us that it was less. Only the French could have designed such an imaginative road, it was like being on one of the best roller coasters, and nearly as terrifying with it’s girder extensions hanging over the deep abyss. We arrived at Pont en Royans and came up the equally impressive and imposing Grande Goulets back to La Chapelle.
We must also mention the great nights in the local hostelry, which was a very quiet serene place until we arrived, the same could be said for the campsite. Everyone who was present made the whole experience very enjoyable for us all, many thanks.
One last thing, Jo I know will not forget the French Army in a hurry, nor will many of us!!
A visit to the Allgau Alps, September 1999
South of Ulm, beyond the upper Rhine a small peninsular of Germany projects south into Austria. Several Austrian valleys here are only accessible by road from within Germany, mostly by the road, which stretches south from Kempten to Oberhausen. A high pass road crosses into the mainstream Austrian road network here, the Oberjoch. The towns are typically Bavarian and the people are friendly if reserved.
Our first objective was the Krottenkopf or Toad-head, the highest mountain in the area. We walked in over 15km to the Kemptner Hut, perched high above a snow-filled ravine in green alpine meadows. The hut was busy but easily accommodated our party of eight in one tiny bunkroom with upper and lower alpine bunks. We found the bar area very welcoming with large jars of strong and tasty beer available at reasonable cost to wash down a huge plate of sausage, mash, gravy and sauerkraut (about £3.50). Breakfast is simply filling bread and jam; if you are in the Austrian Alpine club you can purchase hot water very cheap to make your own tea etc. but it’s not available otherwise.
We left at 7.35 am to walk up the Alp and over the pass into Austria. Endless steep hanging valleys ran away down to the south, infested with marmots, a sort of cross between guinea pigs and beaver. We traversed east keeping high by the well-marked and signposted trail to a steep and airy Col with a rock tower on it. Scrambling now and then but nowhere serious unless you went off-piste and traversed the skyline ridge, you began to feel the effect of a little altitude approaching 2,800 metres. By starting so early and keeping to the western side of the ridge we kept out of the direct sun until on the summit, a welcome benefit as the weather was scorching for the whole week. Like most of the summits we visited there is a huge cross there (everyone you pass greets you with “Gruss Gott”, which sounds like “Great Scott” till you get used to it!”), complete with a tin box containing a summit visitors book. This in my opinion diminishes rather than enhances the effect of these majestic alpine situations. From here you see a lot of other worthwhile places to visit and start to get your bearings as you realise where the Prinz Leopold hut and others lie. The huts can be strung together into a number of worthwhile tours of course and this trip was a recce to see what it’s all like.
By 11 am we were down from the mountain top and shortly after 12 we reached the Kemptner again for a lunchtime beer before the long trek back to town. I wished we were staying another night but there were other areas to get round. During the week we crossed the Oberjoch to climb the Gimple and went further to the south west for an excellent visit to the Madelegabel area. Soon a plan began to form for another year as you were enabled to pick out where you had been and you saw signs pointing to familiar places. There are plenty of fixed aids on the scrambly bits (Kletterstieg) but as Megan and I missed out on the scariest adventure of the week I don’t remember anything but good challenging walks with plenty of fine rock. We made up for missing the Klettersteig during our visit to the Bechlainklammer. A Klammer is a narrow limestone gorge and this one was impressive. It was exactly like a showcave with no roof and from near Obersdorf it went through to Austrian territory. Paying a few marks to enter we were soon on a narrow ledge above a steep and winding streamway. Late to start at 4pm, Jeff, Megan and I failed to notice the polite sign in German, which read “Closes at 5 pm”. We made our way right through to Austria and found the inevitable pub to drink in, since we were due for collection at the bottom by Minibus at 6pm. Taking our time we reckoned a sprint back downhill would get us back bang on as we re-entered the gorge. The gate was locked. Undeterred we examined the stout railings over the gorge and decided that this would be an easy traverse and climb for the fit, and so it proved. With some satisfaction at having so easily overcome the Austrian defences we pelted off down the canyon running along the now clear of tourist walkways at lightning speed, the fierce waters of the canyon far below in their narrow gorge. Slowing as we entered the narrow tunnel through the canyon side that leads into Germany we….. Hey! I don’t remember going through a tunnel! Oh wait on, perhaps yes, near the beginning, hardly noticed it as we chatted and sought to overtake all the elderly coach party folks in front. Hang on….there wasn’t this huge steel door was there,,,,,, Well there was and it had a gap over the top that not even a seasoned caver would attempt. And a unique locking system that couldn’t be released from inside. 5.55. Pm. What to do?
Think. How to get out of this mess. Joke. We could swim for it. Looked at the cliffs to attempt to climb over, greasy wet limestone, but it might go, but then what, the others were not up for that. I went back 100 metres to get a better look. A thousand feet of overhanging rock above the first half-feasible section. Back to the gate, no opening it. The river had to be the only way. I knew that everything opened out beyond this section but how soon would I be able to get out? Boldness took over as a plan for escape from Colditz took shape! I would lose my clothes and climb down, swim round and come back to the gate for my stuff to be passed over. If all was well I would take Megan’s and Jeff’s stuff back from the gate to the best place to escape from the river. The water was not as cold as expected and in fact the worst part was scrambling down into the gorge; swimming between the huge rock walls the current was irresistible but sooner than expected I managed to escape onto sharp rocks and a nettle infested climb up to the path. Cameras, bags and clothes came over the gate and soon I was meeting Jeff and my girlfriend as they made their journey through the river, with the benefit of footwear for the climb back to the path. This was an excellent adventure to end a great holiday with!
Knock Fell Caverns - a well rounded excursion
Present: Barry Andrew, Kath Blick, Perce Lister, Pauline Lister, Lucy (guard dog).
Having foolishly volunteered to lead a trip down Knock Fell Caverns in 2000 for the CPC and assuring our meets secretary that I knew the cave, I thought I had better go and have a look at the system again (I have been twice before, but my memory is not that good!). Fortunately the ACC (of which I'm also a member) had a booking for July 1999 and so I went along with the support mentioned above hoping to augment my knowledge of the system.
We camped at Dufton Hall Farm Campsite in Dufton which will be the site used for the CPC trip next year. It is a nice level site with basic toilets and wash facilities on site and a shower available at the nearby farm. (There is also a Public Convenience right next door which stayed open all night). Cost was £2.50 per person per night. Pauline, Lucy and I arrived about 4.00pm on the Friday and after pitching camp in bright sunlight under a lovely blue sky, we went for a walk down the track that runs beside the camp site and into Dufton Woods.
Once in the woodland we were given a choice of routes and chose the left junction as it appeared shorter and ideal for an evening's dabble. This is a delightful walk through woodland with some quite impressive sandstone cliffs to one side. The path emerges onto a road at Redbanks Bridge and continues over the road towards Greenhow (not the Nidderdale one) through a very overgrown and little walked section which caught Lucy completely by surprise. As she bounded through the clumped long grass there was suddenly a 'Plop' and she disappeared into a narrow stream which zig zags the field some 4ft below, and overgrown by the vegetation.
This led us past a farmyard and after a few hundred yards more the path continued across a field. We chose to turn back shortly after this as the way on became quite flat and uninteresting. At the farm we took the track to the right which bypassed the overgrown section and led us back to Dufton on road by way of Kemplar Bridge and Billysbeck Bridge. A nice circular walk which took us perhaps an hour and a half, no more. We had just nicely got the kettle on when the rest of our party arrived and after assisting them in tent construction we relaxed for an hour or so in the welcoming warm rays of the sun.
We had an evening meal in the Stag (the only hostelry in Dufton) and the food was good, plentiful and not overpriced. Then after a few bevies and some pleasant conversation we retired until the 'morrow.
Saturday we arose, cooked and ate breakfast and had a couple of cups of tea before we embarked on the trip up to Knock Fell. Strictly, you are not allowed to take cars up to the top of Knock being supposed to leave them at a sheepfold less than half the way there. Previous visits, however, had established that the Warden didn't mind one car being used as long as it was parked sensibly at the summit. Upon arrival it was 10 degrees cooler on the top of Knock and blowing hard, so no time was wasted. We changed and walked across to the entrance, perhaps 20 minutes from the car park.
The entrance was located without problem and once rigged I was volunteered to go down first. The pitch is only about 20ft, through a scaffold section and free hanging for the bottom 12ft. The bottom was soon reached and the rest of the party quickly joined me. Now the fun began! I knew the way on from the foot of the ladder, a tight crawl which is best done on one side, and I managed to arrange myself at the rear as Barry, Kath and Pauline led the way. Very shortly after this we encountered an awkward crawl over a boulder that I remembered but sadly that was to be about the last place that looked familiar. After this we arrived in what I was convinced was Scotch Corner and studied the map and compass we had brought. The cave didn't look anything like the survey, and the compass needle was swinging wildly - not much help at all, but this was not surprising as I remembered similar problems on earlier trips and of course we had come prepared with lots of lovely ORANGE markers painstakingly prepared by BA just for this occasion.
I boldly went forward placing Orange markers whenever we came to a junction to show our route in and out. Before long we encountered some Green markers and I thought "Great!, we're on the right route. " We also came across an occasional Orange Arrow that I vaguely remembered from the earlier trips I'd done down here. We continued through various interesting variations of passage shape. Some crawling, some traversing, some more crawling, a walking section, several climbs up and down and through boulder slopes and I really thought we were getting somewhere until I found another Green marker with one of our nice clean fresh Orange markers along side it and I realised we had done a large circular tour. I hummed and arrhed a bit, studied the survey and shook the compass impressively but the party was neither fooled nor impressed.
"You're bloody lost, aren't you!", someone exclaimed.
"Not at all", I lied, "Merely temporarily displaced. If you all wait here I'll just go up this section (indicating the passage I hoped was the way on!), I'll just check it out and be back in a jiffy."
I followed the last Orange marker up and then turned the opposite way to where we had gone before. A squirm into a tube to the left emerged into another junction where I proceeded to the right, or was it to the left, or maybe straight ahead, it's all completely vague now (it wasn't very clear back then). Suddenly I came across another Orange Arrow one of the markers left by teams from years ago. "Great!", I thought, "I'll just shout the others through here and then were off again on the right track".
"Hello!", I shouted. Silence was the answer.
"Hello!!", I bellowed. Still nothing to be heard.
"Hello!!!", I roared. A faint sound reached me, but I couldn't make out any words, in fact I realised that I couldn't even be sure which direction the sound was coming from. Oh well!, it looked as though I was going to have to go back to show the rest of the team the way through. Of course I did remember the way back, well - at least as far as the next junction where I couldn't for the life of me remember whether I'd crawled out of the roof, or the floor or how the hell I'd got there at all. An entertaining half-hour followed with me crawling, walking and clambering about the maze of passages repeatedly calling "Hello", and listening to the answering voices, sounding a little bit pissed off and sometimes tantalisingly close and other times seemingly far away.
Eventually I caught a glimpse of light through some boulders and said, "I can see your light!, but how the hell do I get through there." Another couple of twists and turns however, and I plopped back out of the roof and landed beside the patiently waiting group. I explained that I had found an original Orange Arrow and they agreed to follow me as I lead the way on. (They must have been mad!)
Some wit asked "How come you couldn't find your way back to us? You have the ORANGE markers haven't you ?"
"Err...yes", I was forced to reply, "But I never thought of putting them down when I was solo exploring". The Penny Dropped.
"You mean you haven't marked the route forward!"
"Well, No, but we can do it as we go along", I replied.
We carried on and after another half-hour or so we eventually reached what looked like that Orange Arrow I had seen before. I then went looking for the way forward. I suppose that by this time the party had lost confidence in my leadership for I certainly had lost confidence in it myself, and after a few abortive attempts to find a way on we returned via our newly laid Orange markers passing a few Green ones also on the way. Twenty minutes later we were passing the tight boulder and back in the entrance crawl and three things became apparent to us all.
1. We had been going round in circles.
2. The 'Leader' was incompetent.
3. We might as well climb out and call it a day.
We climbed back out again about 4.30pm having spent some 3 to 4 hours underground. The weather had deteriorated on the tops and a low-lying mist reduced visibility to about 40ft. Fortunately this was not a problem as the Pennine Way which passes close to the entrance has snow poles along this section, which are good markers in the mist. We detackled, returned to the car and then to the campsite for another lovely cup of tea.
That evening Greg Wilkinson (ACC) arrived complete with Linda and their two boys and chatted for a while (they were staying at the Stag). We arranged to meet them later when we went down for our evening meal. This was just as good as the previous night and followed by a pleasant night’s drinking and conversation.
Sunday after breakfast we decided to go for a walk through Dufton Wood to Long Marton (where there is a pub marked on the map!) hoping to arrive around lunchtime, imbibe a couple of pints and then amble back by an alternate route that we hadn't planned yet. Everything went fine through Dufton Woods. We followed a very pleasant footpath to Mill Bridge and then just around the corner picked up the track beside Mill Beck which leads through a Nature Reserve and eventually to Long Marton. Nature Reserve may be the map description for this section but Jungle is another one that springs to mind. This path was very hard to follow, twisting and turning among dense undergrowth largely composed of thistles, brambles and nettles with raspberry bushes galore some quite heavy with fruit.
Suddenly a herd of cows appeared in our way and Kath, who had been leading slowed to allow Barry (a well-known cowboy) to take the lead. We crossed the stream, narrowly avoiding the main herd, managed to miss an encounter with a Bull and then as the entire cattle population of the area were stampeding up what looked like the obvious path, we did a detour into a field where a protective cow was guarding its calf in a tumble down wooden shack. We tiptoed past this as far away as was possible, and followed the edge of the field forward until it ended against a barbed wire fence with no way on. We had lost the way again! We walked up the side of fence until we reached (you guessed it!) another barbed wire fence still with no exit. Continuing along the third side of the field I was beginning to think we were going in circles again, but a break allowed us to regain a nice path which could possibly have been the one the cows had taken earlier on.
The path led us up and then down to a ford where some stepping stones provided light entertainment. A further upward section through a pleasant wooded section suddenly emerged onto a road and Lo and Behold, within a few yards a pub which turned out to be The New Inn at Brampton. We had a break at this hostelry which is only about 1.5 miles from West Marton where we had intended to go. Not bad navigating that (but not particularly good either). Two pints of amber nectar were quickly imbibed by the alcoholicly inclined members of the party, while Lucy merely had a few sips from the bowl of Adam’s wine presented by the landlord.
We returned to the track from which we had emerged. It's marked for Dufton and Espland Hill. We retraced our route to the ford and whilst the others crossed it I investigated and found a yellow marker on a tree pointing to the right. I quickly ran after the others, told them I had found a marker and, like sheep, they followed me back to the stepping stones. We re-crossed and then set off to the right as the sign indicated. Very shortly thereafter the track swung left and crossed the river on a wooden bridge, whilst another track led off right across a field. Decisions, decisions, were fortunately not necessary as a lone local female complete with dog appeared and pointed us across the bridge towards Dufton. Sure enough across the bridge looped in to the original track whechI had just dragged everyone back from. My navigational reputation, had it not already been at rock bottom, would have definitely nose-dived here. Another circle within a circle.
The return to Dufton was a lot more organised than the outward trip, as the trail was reasonably easy to follow and when we eventually rejoined our outward route, I was surprised to find that it was half way through Dufton woods at an un-marked crossing of paths. I had noticed this crossing on the way out but as it was not signed I had ignored it - I'm sure that there is a moral there somewhere. Probably something like 'A fool and his bearings are soon parted', but never mind it was a nice walk, not too stressful and it revolved around a pub. What more could you want?
I will return to 'lead' the CPC meet to Knock Fell in 2000, but if any of you cavers out there plan on coming along then please make sure that you have someone with you who either knows the way, can read a map and compass, or you may find yourself following me on the circular tour once more.
For those members that are not aware the Club has a permit to access Le Gouffre Berger for the period 1st - 10th August 2000. The Millennium trip is open 50 club members on a 1st come, first served basis. Opportunities to access this cave system are very few and far between and therefore this is an opportunity not to be missed.
The Berger was discovered in May 1953, but not bottomed until 1956. During this time various expeditions entered the cave on trips of Himalayan proportion, but it wasn’t until August 1956 that an international team passed 1000m for the first time in a cave anywhere in the world. The siphon, at 1122m was reached during a 380-hour trip!!!!. In 1991 Le Scialet de la Fromagere was connected to Le Gouffre Berger by a 205m dive, giving a total depth of 1278m.
The cave is a fantastically well decorated and I cannot even attempt to describe the underground glamour to be seen. Instead I will leave it to you to read and admire the photographs in various publications. It should be noted that the cave is one of the deepest in the world, and therefore requires a lot of preparation both mentally and physically. There will be approximately 1000m of rope to be rigged and de-rigged; underground camps to be established and even a boat to be put in the cave in case of bad weather.
If you want to do something in particular; rig, de-rig or you are just happy to sherpa, then please approach either Martin Holloway or myself (12 Blake Close, Galley Common, Nuneaton, Warks, CV10 9RY. Tel 01203 396291) . You don’t have to go to the bottom, there’s lots to be seen without going all the way down.
To find out more about other peoples’ experiences in the Berger contact Ric Halliwell who (for £3.00 including postage) will supply you with the Club Publication from the 1994 CPC trip. This booklet also includes a report written by Martin Holloway and Alison Glenn on a trip in 1992 where the weather turned bad.
Training for the Berger is more painful than the trip itself as it lasts for that much longer. You will need to be able to SRT to a high level of competence carrying a bag of tackle; and cave for extended periods of time. There will be a number of specific SRT training meets (see below) in addition to normal Club meets which will assist with your caving skills. However, it is unlikely this will be enough, you will need to judge what extra training you need to do for yourself.
All members and there families are welcome in France even if it is not your intention to go down Le Berger. You will need to transport yourselves to France, if you are likely to have space in your vehicle and are willing to either transport tackle or other club members with no transport then please let me know. Camping at La Moliere is no longer permitted and we are currently looking for an alternative site to enable the whole expedition to camp together. If you have any recommendations of a site or a local contact that may know a friendly shepherd then please let me know.
Anyone who has been to the Pyrénées and especially the Pierre-Saint-Martin will be aware of the Lépineux Shaft. This 300m deep shaft discovered by Georges Lépineux in 1950 was for a long time the only way into the PSM, the deepest shaft in the world and was immortalised in caving history by the unfortunate death of Marcel Loubens . This summer, at the age of 79, Georges Lépineux’s achievements as a caver have been recognised by the French Government and he has been made a chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
Spotted in La Nouvelle Republique des Pyrenees dated 16 July 1999.
CPC History 1967 - 1973
“Into the Second Golden Age”
1967 is an interesting time to pick up the thread of the club’s history. Big changes were imminent in the caving world with regard to equipment and attitudes. There was more affluence, more specialist equipment, easier travel and communications and a more professional approach to potholing. Perhaps the last was not altogether a good thing, but it was inevitable that these changes were to be reflected in the CPC, particularly regarding activity at the “sharp end” of cave exploration.
During the spring holiday John Batty led an Irish meet in Co. Mayo, where a breakthrough was made at the Aille River sink. A large river passage with deep and fast flowing water was encountered. and pushed a fair way by Pete Rose who was the only one wearing a wet suit. Randy Coe followed him in a dinghy and was quickly made aware of the limitations of using boats in swift water. Upon returning home there was frenzied activity making wet suits. These were cut to a pattern mainly from single skin unlined neoprene, taped and butt jointed with no stitching and they needed lots of talcum powder to get them on. Thus equipped, a larger party returned in summer. They found the stream way less turbulent, but there was still the problem of deep canals and flooded passages. As Pete Rose graphically described it, ”it was necessary to swim along the ‘warm’ canal to the duck... three inches of airspace over 14 feet depth of water... still swimming through a small passage with helmet off and body in a horizontal face-up position into a further complicated series of passages with up to 20 feet of water
The club returned to Mayo the following year, under the leadership of Pete Rose, and our work at the Aille River Cave was “wrapped up”. A fine survey was produced by Alex Bottomley, John Hallam and Tony Wilson. Altogether over 5600 feet of passage were surveyed. During surface investigations on that meet, the discovery was also made of St Swithin’s Cave.
Back in England some of our old projects such as Langcliffe Pot and Marble Sink, which had been pushed to the limit in “ganzies” and boiler suits, were being dramatically extended by rival groups such as ULSA, YURT and the Harry Long / Mike Clark duo. Thanks to our new wet suits we felt ready and eager to redress the balance
On the tackle front, Steve Warren reported favourably on a new method of metal ladder construction using “araldite”, and the gradual replacement of “courlene” lifelines with “ulstron” polypropylene ones. At Gaping Gill, Pete Rose led a successful meet with good weather and many descents.
Following a torrential downpour in June, the CPC Meregill meet was cancelled, and our members became involved in a general call-out to Mossdale Caverns where six cavers were trapped by the floodwaters. Outside the entrance hose pipes snaked everywhere and the hordes of would-be rescuers waited in frustration as a battery of Coventry Climax pumps were used in a desperate attempt to control the water. The news, when it came, was the worst kind: all had drowned in what must surely be the most appalling tragedy ever in our sport.
Our members continued to be active abroad. Dave Judson was down the Antro del Corchia in Tuscany, on an expedition which resulted in new passage. The Journal contained articles on caves in New Zealand from John Hobson; East Africa from Mike Scratcher and Turkey from Mike Walker. Meanwhile, Chris Holt and, “Enish” Peckham were having epic adventures in the Arctic setting of East Greenland on an Imperial College Mountaineering Club expedition.
The following year the CPC launched an appeal to the members for the purchase of Riverside and Ivy Cottage. £700 was raised and we obtained a mortgage for £1500. At last we had a permanent home in the Dales. 1968 was the club’s Ruby Anniversary and the year in which its founder, Albert Mitchell was installed as President. In his Journal editorial, RG Coe refers to more new cave passages being discovered than in any year since the “Golden Age” though “much of it is wet and nearly all of it is reached through tight crawls”. He also made references to bureaucratic changes within the rescue and club representational spheres i.e. the move to national bodies to represent and oversee Caving. The question of whether the bus meets were still viable was raised and the results of our endeavours at Scrafton Pot were published in the same journal.
Since 1962 we had often camped in the idyllic valley of Coverdale, at first concentrating on lowering the water level in Otter’s Cave. A subsequent dive by Norman Brindle revealed this to have been unprofitable. Two years later we tried to find the sink. The entrance was discovered by Roy Thorley: debris choked fissure right under the bridge in the village of West Scrafton. It turned out to be quite a complex pothole with a great variety of passage types. We made our base at Coverhead, on the site of an ancient battle, until Jack, the landlord of the Thwaites Arms at Horsehouse offered us alternative accommodation above his barn. He was a great character with a thick northern dales accent. The beer was drawn from a barrel in his kitchen. If one asked for mild, he would darken it with a drop of stout and charge a penny more! His bacon, eggs and chips were a great treat after a day’s caving.
The hoped for breakthrough on the local front came at Birks Fell Cave. This had been long tipped as a favourite by John Batty, who has a good instinct for such things, and it is ironic that he should be on holiday elsewhere when it “went”. And what a dramatic succession of pushes were made! I remember well the excitement of those trips: how on August 11th Mike Walton and I descended late and met the returning party who were stopped at a low stream way but we climbed a rift to one side and found the way on. ”We’ve cracked it lad!” were Walton’s words as we were confronted by a black void and the distant roar of water. This was the Block Pitch and the way on. We raced each other out and down to the “Buck” hotel, each wanting to be the first with the news!
The lure of Wharfedale was very great to our diggers and prospectors and, because of the serious nature of the caving there, it was felt to be appropriate about this time for those involved to join the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association. (The underground leader of UWFRA at the time was Harry Long, so there was also the opportunity for a bit of intelligence gathering!) Some of our members were invited to join an elite ‘Thin Man’s Team’ and there were seminars on Underground Hospitalisation and other esoteric subjects.
As usual there was full meets list. Penygent Pot had a dozen to the sump despite the Birks Fell breakthrough on the same day. There were exchanges at Diccan / Alum and Bar / Stream though loose stone was encountered on the latter and there was also trouble with Farmer Coates at Rainscar due to the activities of other groups and permission to descend Gingling Hole was withheld. Neil Platts led at GG and warned of problems operating in electrical storms.
1969 saw a the discovery of the Western Passages in Scrafton Pot, and continuing digging and prospecting activity in Upper Wharfedale. Water Gill Cave and extensions to Birks Fell Cave were made and there was digging on Grassington Moor, ever enticed by that elusive “Holy Grail”, the Black Keld Master Cave.
The meet in Co. Clare that year resulted in no major finds although a separate party, which included David Judson, found new ground at Pol na Leprechauns. David Judson also put together a British expedition to the Monte Cucco Abyss in Umbria. This system culminated in a superb free hanging 110m shaft (big for pre SRT days). While photographing high level passages in another part of the cave G Edwards and the writer descended a long inclined tube opening into a large chamber which we called Salone di Luna (Apologies for grammar: it should be della Luna) after similarities between the chamber floor and the recently published shots of the lunar surface by Neil Armstrong. Never in our wildest dreams though could we imagine that, within a few years, we would have the honour of conducting the great man himself on a caving trip in Ecuador.
We returned in 1970 to find relations strained with the local cavers .(CAI Gruppa Grotta, Perugia) who we had got on well with the previous year. They seemed to resent us laying claim to part of their cave. However agreement was reached and work was able to proceed. A survey was produced in which the main section was superimposed on the plan, but distinguishable by a different line thickness. In an ULSA review D Brook referred to it as a “draughtsman’s dream of space utilisation but a caver’s nightmare”!
Pete Rose was leader at GG where highlights included being involved in Sid Perou’s TV film about Craven’s lost river. More work was done in North Passage, a dig started the previous year by Allonby, Beck and Whitaker. This year, Beck, Champion, Harrison and Tony Wilson all furthered its reputation as a thin man’s place.
Elsewhere, new ground was broken at Redmire Pot by Alan Wallbank and “Izzy”, as he was wont to call Pete Rose; and at Pillar Holes on Newby Moss. A new generation of keen young ‘tigers’ was now emerging, initially under the tutelage of Pete Rose and others, but bursting with ideas of their own. Arthur Champion and Howard Beck and John Allonby spring to mind and, also, Dave Allanach and Pete Gray who joined in 1970. Also we must include the more ‘maverick’ elements such as Roy Blackham and ‘Baz’ Andrews. The discovery of the October Series in Gavel Pot was a result of the activities of this group, and a regular synopsis of club digs and miscellaneous finds called “For the Record” was started in the Journal by Beck, and made reference to the Great Douk dig, Bracken Cave extension and other projects.
The 1970 Irish meet was in Sligo where investigations continued and steep grass techniques developed but no major finds were forthcoming. Other activities recorded in the Journal included Hugh Bottomley’s continuing coverage of the Scottish Isles: this year it was Bressay in the Shetlands; and an account of an aid climb at Malham from Champion who, incidentally, climbed with a venture scout group and was instrumental in starting off the career of a certain Ron Fawsett.
On the Scottish meet Chris Holt led a party of ten to complete the Aonach Eagach Ridge. The meets were marred by an accident at Lancaster Hole where Past President Jimmy Neild slipped while transferring from the bottom of the electron ladder on the Entrance Pitch to the old iron ladder. He sustained a broken collarbone. Needless to say, the rescue was swift and carried out ‘in house’. Nevertheless, the incident brought home the dangers of sloppy life lining.
1971 saw the club’s first foreign expedition. This was to Arctic Norway, where Howard Beck led a team comprising Allonby, Gray, Green, Blackham and Harrison to the Hellemofjord area of Nordland. Securing the services of the Royal Norwegian Airforce, they completed work done by KCC on the remote Noraldag-varre Plateau including making a survey of Noraldag-raige, as well as making their own investigations which resulted in eight new discoveries totalling 1.75 miles of passage. Notable were Lauknesfjelletgrotta, with a depth of 700 ft. and a length of 11,250 ft., Oshullet, with a depth of 689 ft. and a length of 2,550 ft., and Kjiopsvikgrotta with a length of 2950 ft.
In Leitrim an unofficial meet resulted in the conquest of “Eagle Rock” by Rose, Champion, PS Jack, and the writer using a variety of modified ironmongery to front point up the dodgy rock and steep grass above. Properly named Chebain Mor, this isolated pinnacle had foiled a previous CPC assault in 1961. Quite likely ours was a first ascent, but who knows what a mad Irish egg-collector might do in the days of yore!
At home there was much activity with small extensions and discoveries, a survey of Foss Gill Cave and renewed interest in Darnbrook Fell by the younger end of the club. A breakthrough was made at Robin Hood’s Cave at Threshfield, where the writer recalls being spurred on by the boundless enthusiasm of Arthur Champion and having vivid nightmares about the need to return! It offered quite a variety of passage for such a small cave and had a voracious appetite for shredded neoprene. Beyond the drainpipe entrance was a duck with just a nose groove for air, necessitating floating face up. To dive straight through was to miss the vital exit. This technique, also adopted at Birkswood Cave the same year (see A Wallbank’s account) gave rise to the term ‘MASU’ (Minimal Air Space Utilisation).
Another technique which was becoming fashionable was SRT. Of course, abseiling had always been practised for emergency or expedience as in climbing, Now there was debate on the suitability of particular types of rope, and descender and prussiking devices and systems for regular and sustained use. Received wisdom on these matters was still in its infancy: ways of avoiding rope abrasion had not been developed, and many favoured ‘rope walking’ systems which were not really suitable for our potholes. It is fortunate that we got through that period without losing anyone. There were a few close shaves though, as with Randy Coe at the foot of the big pitch in at Cow Pot, on a training meet. He was trussed up with ropewalkers like a knight attended by squires who assured him how marvellous it would be. Just before the top he realised that his life was in fact, hanging from a shoelace and a kneepad strap.
At Gaping Gill, leader Neil Platts, our guests included Lord Sandford of the Department of the Environment and, as a result, we were to be party to consultations on the future of the National Park. A GG sub-committee was appointed to look into improvements for the winch, as reported by P Rose in the 1972 report. A highlight of the 1972 meet was the first free ascent of the Main Shaft by Roger Baxter-Jones.
Locally, operations were resumed at Great Douk but without the success enjoyed at Slanting Cave, as reported by John Allonby. On Newby Moss, Mayday Hole was opened up by Gray, Allanach and Beck. At Stump Cross Caverns, Judson and Champion broke into and surveyed the Freezeland extension, and many small finds were recorded in “For the Record”. The Journal also records a fair amount of climbing with the reintroduction of “On and off the rocks” after many years absence reflecting a renewed interest in climbing, with newer members attending the local evening climbs which had long been enjoyed by the likes of Arthur Smith, John Wilson and Michael Jackson
A notable feature of this period was the high standard of cave surveying attained by the younger members in association with their new finds and fully compliant with the revised CRG grading system.
The club meets provided a welcome relief after all the poking about in new stuff and provided the opportunity to cave for the pure joy of moving underground with one’s comrades. The shouted communications on the big pitches, the exhilaration of battling the waters: they were all part of it, as was going to the far end of Dan yr Ogof III, or Smithy’s Armoury in OFD, and then getting back to the Rose and Crown in Skipton in time for a drink and a chat. There were several visits to Scotland apart from the winter meet at Lagangarbh: one to Galloway led by John Batty; and another at Ross Bay in Kirkudbrightshire where the Brothers Coe, Johnny Mason and Mike Walton had taken to messing about in boats following a tip off from Hugh Bottomley. Teams were transported commando style in inflatable boats to the base of the cliffs of Meikle Ross and exhorted to climb up them.
1972 saw the publication of Northern Caves, a much-needed replacement for Pennine Underground. This was a joint effort between D Brook (ULSA), R G Coe, G M Davies (YURT) and M H Long (BSA, UWFRA) and later J R Sutcliffe (GC) and P F Ryder (MSG). The groundwork was done by splitting the areas between their respective clubs (resulting in some very pleasant evening trips). However, it should not be forgotten that translating idea into reality, i.e. books onto shelves, was largely due to the drive and expertise of Randy Coe.
The previous year Dave Judson had been on an expedition led by John Middleton of the YRC to the Zagros Mountains of Kurdistan. Ghar Parau had been discovered and a return trip was planned for 1972. Leadership passed to Judson this year, and a large CPC contingent took part including DMJ, Allonby, Blackham, Champion, Green and the writer. Coe was important in the early stages but business commitments precluded his participation. It was decided to organise air travel for those with normal holiday entitlements. Nevertheless a party did travel overland, and the subsequent disagreement between driver and passengers probably sparked off another club ‘first’- a civil action between members. Billed as the “National Enquirer World Depth Record Expedition to Ghar Parau, Iran” and with suits being taken in case the Shah wanted to meet the team, the results were bound to be an anticlimax! However, it was still the type of cave to gladden a potholer’s heart; a book had been produced with a major publisher; and appetites had been wetted for distant places. The surplus from the expedition was used to set up the Ghar Parau Foundation, a source of funding for caving expeditions to anywhere, to be administered impartially at a national level.
A notable ‘spin-off’ from the expedition was the gift of several Rollei B35 cameras. These excellent little cameras had a cracking lens, were smaller than a flashgun, and proved ideal for the job. Their use proliferated amongst the membership and coincided with an increased proficiency in photography.
In 1973 Adrian Bridge led the CPC to the bottom of the Gouffre Berger: a fine achievement! Allonby, Champion, Gray, Green and the leader, the entire complement of the expedition, except for Judith Martineau who stayed at Camp 1, entered, reached the end, and were out in less than 70 hours. Afterwards a visit was made to Fernand Petzl who demonstrated how much lighter his bolts were than theirs.
Some of the party also went to Austria and Yugoslavia in Barry Andrews’ Landrover while Mike Scratcher reported from an RAF climbing trip to the Torus Mountains of Turkey. At GG Alec Bottomley ran a very successful meet which included conducted geological tours from our new member Dick Glover and a musical performance from the ‘Porcellanous band’. We hosted members of the Cork Speleological Society-friends of Neil Platts who was now living over there.. They were to become regular attendees at GG. Scaling was started in Disappointment Pot by D Allanach and this led, after a daring lead up the final wall by P Gray into a chamber decorated by a fantastic cluster of straws so we gave it the hardly original, but quite apt name of Cloud Chamber.
Elsewhere in Craven there was a significant breakthrough at Lancaster Hole, the ‘Magic Roundabout Series’, explored over several weekends as described by Beck in the 1973 Journal. A particularly beautiful section was named the ‘Pristine Way’. There was also much interest in Sell Gill that year. Certainly if Sell Gill goes, given its proximity to Ivy Cottage, we should be the club to do it!
1973 was the year when CRG and BSA merged to become BCRA. Dave Judson had been working hard to bring this about, (As was your Editor as a member of the BSA Council – Ed) and CPC was in at the start as a corporate founder member, though Judson lost no opportunity to recruit individual members from the CPC.
There was a mixed bag of meets including offbeat ones such as Flamborough Head led by Roy Taylor. That magnificent stretch of cave-ridden chalk cliff coastline had long been a favourite with many members. Regarding the winter climbing meet at Glencoe, the writer can now take an opportunity to put the record straight. The report for the Lagangarbh meet was not written by C Holt, who led in exemplary fashion, as we have come to expect from him, but is a piece of literary self indulgence from someone else masking their own ‘cock-up’ on the hills: and that is as near to a confession as you’ll get!
Time and the Editor’s deadline now necessitate that these reminiscences must end with 1973. The writer apologises for the numerous oversights and omissions which must inevitably have occurred in this somewhat ‘potted’ history, and I would welcome any comments or, better still further articles, about the people, places and events from other member’s own perspectives, which we could all enjoy reading. Certainly, for the writer, it has been a very evocative, even humbling, experience to peruse the old journals, relive the details of those times and even re-evaluate some of one’s latent memories and assumptions with the benefit of maturity!
J C Whalley
It is possible that many members will be undertaking far more SRT trips over the coming year, and some will be just starting SRT, in preparation for the Berger 2000 trip. The following items may be of interest to these people.
1. The latest edition of "Speleo Spiel" from Tasmania includes the following comment.
<<On recent caving trips I have noticed that some cavers yell "Rope Free" as soon as they reach the bottom of the pitch and detach their descender. Whilst the rope is actually free, this is a dangerous practice, as a following caver now thinks it is safe to move to the pitch and use the rope. Whilst doing this he/she may dislodge something and the person below remains in a dangerous position if such happens. It is far better to delay giving a call of "Rope Free" until not only are you off the rope, but you are in a safe position away from the "firing line".>>
Although it is not always possible to follow this advice I am sure there are many situations where this could improve safety.
2. Cavers Digest number 5635 included details of an accident involving one American and four Mexican cavers. Two of them were ascending the 233m-entrance shaft (possibly in tandem) and were about 40m below the top when there was a rock fall. At least one of the cavers was hit and injured to the extent that she was unable to climb on her own. The other caver, after talking to her and checking "her eye reflexes and general condition" decided to continue out and arrange to haul up his companion. This took two hours to rig and after a further two hours she was within 4m of the rim; however she was also dead. It may be that they were unaware of experiments in a French Hospital (which had to be stopped because they became too dangerous) which showed that a caver sitting immobile in an SRT harness can suffer complex blood circulation problems which can be fatal in as little as ten minutes. In the event of any accident to a colleague on a rope, especially one which might stop them from easily moving their legs, this need for urgent action must not be forgotten. We should all be capable of assisting an injured colleague on a rope; if needs be by getting them off the rope and abseiling with them back to the bottom of the pitch. SRT like most caving is usually safe but one should always be prepared for the unexpected.
3. Whilst in France this summer a quick peruse of Expe’s excellent catalogue revealed that spare bobbins for the Petzl Stop were very cheap and so I decided to buy a pair because I thought those on my (and Pat’s) Stop looked a slightly worn. When I took them off and compared them directly with the new ones, they were more than a little worn. The moral of this story has to be, check all your SRT kit for signs of wear on a regular basis, not just the harness and assorted bits of rope and tape.
Getting up north, the very slow way - Notts Pot
The Far Chamber Extension Series in Notts Pot was discovered by LUSS in 1969 after digging out a squeeze. The main passage is (was) quite spacious at 4m wide and large enough to stand up in, ending at the northern end in a large boulder choke. This passage was interesting because at that time, before the passing of the sump and the discovery of Notts II, it was the only passage which appeared to be breaking away from the tight cube within which the vertical maze of Notts is contained. In November 1970 a LUSS party
“ventured into the Far Chamber Extension via the very intimate squeeze and for the third time began to dig the main boulder choke. Ten minutes later the once dry slope became a sea of fluid mud. One unfortunate, bashing away at the blockage with a large crow bar, dislodged what appeared to be a large piece of Leck Fell! His pleasure was short-lived as secondary rumblings from afar were heard, followed by the sound of large volumes of water crashing down amongst the choke. Further prodding at the choke produced great boomings and crashings in the distance shaking the walls of the passage and breaking the stals nearby. For an hour the intrepid three endured this, until, too fear stricken to continue they retreated into the starlit night.
What lies beyond and above the choke; possibly a lake packed with jammed boulders? Any further attempts to dig this choke as it stands now is out of the question, since if one sustained an injury in this extension, ones chance of being extricated through the squeeze are infinitesimal.” (LUSS Journal Vol1 No 1, 1971)
It was with this background that the choke was looked at by Steph, Tone and Tom Wilson in January 1983. After noting that it had both a small stream and a draught they decided they needed to return with a stronger team. The first of many return trips was made in mid-February with Tony, Steph, and Ric Halliwell accompanied by Keith Sanderson(BICC) and Trevor Faulkner(SWETCC). The first attempt to pass the choke was made by tunnelling alongside the small stream. However after about 3m of this it was abandoned and on the next trip a shaft was sunk from above the farthest point to intersect the small stream and ease the problems of spoil removal. On 19 March the crawl was pushed to a clean phreatic chamber (Clown Chamber) but fatigue prevented any further work. On 21 March Steph and Tone excavated up through boulders from Clown Chamber and via an unstable low crawl to emerge in Hangingwater Hall, probably the largest chamber in Notts Pot at 8m square and over 10m high. In the floor was a 3m pot down which cascaded a small stream, an easy digging prospect for the future! However on returning two weeks later the whole of Clown Chamber and the crawl had collapsed making entry via this route no longer possible. For a fuller description of the dig see Getting Up North the Slow Way in CPC Record Vol 6 No 4.
It was agreed that now we knew that the suspected “lake in the sky” did not exist above the choke the best idea would be to just dig our way through whilst staying safely under the solid roof at the end of the main passage. The first trip to start moving the spoil was on 6 May 1983 when the Cottage Logbook entry states “Notts Pot. Bennett, Halliwell & Gough endured the lake in the sky noises for six hours. Excellent progress” We had some problems getting people to accompany the three main protagonists because of the intimate squeeze mentioned by LUSS. Even knowing it well the squeeze remained intimidating and several people refused to go on a second trip “because they liked breathing too much!” Comments on later trips extracted from the logbook include “Shifted lots of muck and boulders (we could run out of stacking space soon). When we left we could see a longish way up but boulders have a propensity to appear from nowhere at high velocity” …. “dug some more and moved some other previously dug stuff about to get some space. One of us (Tone) is having serious doubts concerning his sanity” In March 1984, Tone calculated that from his estimated measurements in Hangingwater Hall “Volume to be shifted approximately 32 cubic metres! We’ve probably moved about 15. Gloom - Tone We are moving 2 to 3 cubic metres per trip. Not that much gloom - look on the bright side it’s closed season now - Ric”. Enthusiasm gradually waned and when Steph emigrated, all desire to continue the choke left with him.
However this was not to be the end, with the diver’s discovery of Notts II and prolonged absence making the dig seem ever more promising it was decided in late 1997 that the dig warranted a fresh look as it might provide a non-diving route into Notts II. Thus on 30 December Ric, John Allonby, Paul Norman and Ben Myers made a return visit. After deciding that either I had got bigger or the “tightish” bit before the squeeze had got a lot smaller, I was glad that we had decided to enlarge the intimate squeeze further on. After removing some collapsed boulders and a bit of “not quite sure-ing” we thought we had re-located the intimate squeeze but we weren’t certain. Enter cunning plan number one; we sent Ben Myers through with a detailed description of what he should find on the far side. He came back confirming that we were in the right place. We set too, clearing with a vengeance whilst Ben continued to clear from the far side. Eventually we had dropped the floor by about a metre leaving just one tight spot, where even Ben had needed to take his cell off to get past (was I really that small in the past?). Paul agreed that he could demolish the offending bit of wall so we left him to it.
The following day a group returned to the dig (on SRT) and their comments showed that little had changed in the intervening period “…down Notts to slurry dig. Everyone should go here at least once to listen to the sound of wet concrete-like fill shuttering down on to the diggers.” A further trip on SRT convinced those concerned that even after scraping each other off before coming out, the volume of mud remaining on each person made SRT impractical and a return to using ladders on all the pitches (including the 60ft Acrobat Pot) was recommended. Several trips were made throughout 1998 leading to logbook comments such as: “Moved 100 buckets of spoil so spoil heap looks a bit different, shame the working face still looks exactly the same. Good rumbling noises. Very wet and sloppy” … “Moved a lot of mud to banging and crashing noises. Looked same when we left as when we had come in” … “Left a large unsupported mass of boulders above an 8’ by 5’ by 2’ space. Should have fallen in by next time we get there. Also refound Big Henry, the 6’ crowbar we lost in the mud a few trips ago”.
By the end of 1998 the slope down from the rift at the bottom of Acrobat Pot to the squeeze was getting a bit unstable so it was scaffolded. At the dig face itself we “ended up with a big space roofed by gravity defying mini-car sized boulders. Now we need to work out how to move these.” The logbook reports that it took three trips to solve the problem and convert the big rocks into accessible manageable sized pieces. Digging continued throughout the first half of 1999 until the closed season.
We now have Notts permits to go digging on 31 October, 11 November, 8 January and 5 February. The estimate 15 years ago was that only 15 cubic metres of material remained to be moved. Well, we have moved around 30 so far since digging recommenced. If you would like to help with this major long-term dig then the team will be glad to see you. Please contact one of John Allonby, Pete Gray or Ric Halliwell to sort out the details, but don’t forget that you will have to climb a 60’ ladder on the way to and from one of the more remote, squalid, but promising parts of Notts Pot. And when we get to that crawl off Hangingwater Hall which is what we really want to dig…….
Northern Cave Diving News
For once we have no excuse - the weather in early August was superb and the visibility in Dales’ sumps was the best since May 1998. The only trouble was that most people were away on holiday! What follows is just a brief summary of what's been happening; for more details check out the October 99 CDG Newsletter (and, for the most recent events, the January 2000 edition).
Phils Murphy and Howson have been opening up the tight bits in Pool Bank Cave (Witherslack) to make access to the new Sump 2 more agreeable; further progress here is expected soon. In Kingsdale, I explored a previously unrecorded passage at 880m from the entrance to Keld Head but this proved to be an oxbow. Much more interesting were Steve Culleton's dives downstream in Philosopher's Crawl (KMC). He passed a short sump to find some nice pretties and a second sump, currently being explored. This is heading off in an unexpected direction and dye released here doesn't seem to reappear in the obvious place (i.e. the Rowten Passage canals).
In Chapel-le-Dale some of us have been digging the end of a passage known as East Wall Outlet in upstream Hurtle Pot - this has risen up to the point where a bar can be waved (excalibur like?) in airspace, but a mobile slope of rocks will have to be dealt with before it can be entered. We took the opportunity to do some underwater photography in Hurtle Pot at the height of the summer drought; CPC members on the Gaping Gill meet saw some of the results at their first public showing in the beer tent! Elsewhere, further digging at God's Bridge Rising has taken place, and is looking promising.
In Ribblesdale, some dry passages have been entered by Jason Mallinson beyond the downstream sump in Washfold Pot. Few details are available but this is an interesting development at a site where previous surveys have confidently shown that the sump is at "resurgence level". The nearby Footnaws Hole acts as a flood rising for this system and is clearly a choked window into the main phreatic conduit draining to Turn Dub. Footnaws is therefore a site of huge potential for cave divers and recently permission was obtained to do regular digging trips here. A group of us have already started this new project and good progress is currently being made.
Moving further east, John Watt has probed the end of the final sump in Foxtrap Cave (Cowside Beck area). He explored a little further and, as previous divers have maintained, is of the opinion that the cave is a large and important phreatic tube, partly filled with sediment. It may be that one destination of this tube is Falcon Cave, further down the valley - further work is intended. In the Beckermonds area, Adrian Hall and friends have made several short discoveries; two risings have been explored by diving, one of which is currently 55m long ("Resurection Rising" – (sic)) - see Descent No. 150. There is plenty of activity elsewhere in Wharfedale; the sumps in Fossil Pot continue to be probed by Brian Judd whilst access difficulties remain at other sites such that written reports are being discouraged at the moment.
Finally, those onliners who subscribe to "Cavers' Digest" might have been amused recently to see some debate on the safety (or otherwise?) of cave diving. This all started when a book review by Bill Mixon made a passing reference to cave diving as "that most dangerous caving activity". I couldn't resist posting a few comments myself to challenge this unjustified assertion. Inevitably, lots of other cavers have thrown in their own tanner's worth since then! It's all been good-natured bickering - but it does make you think doesn't it? All I can say is I'd much rather be having a peaceful swim through Keld Head than prussiking up a rope that's been rigged by unknown persons, poking at a boulder choke from underneath (!) or playing "weather roulette" down some flood liable underground nightmare. And as for paraffin blowing, barrel surfing and the like . . . . . . . by the way; how is that leg Martin?
Survey Data and Surveys
I was talking to Ray Duffy about the Easegill Survey Project and he was saying that one of the biggest problems he faces is people giving him surveys but not giving him the survey data. This is because even quite recently it was considered acceptable to draw up the survey and then throw away the data with no thought about what would happen if an extension was made. This is one area where major expeditions, such as those going to Mulu have an advantage over caving in the Dales; the vast majority of survey data is available and survey points from which to commence surveying along extensions are easily identified. This lack of raw data also came to mind when I was thinking about a possible project to look at all the caves in an area and seek out information on the geological controls. Yes it is possible to scan surveys and rescale them and combine them, but, what errors are introduced by doing this, which might be avoided if the raw data was available? Whilst these thoughts were mulling around I came across the article below. Although as the author stated in an email to me, some of the problems refer specifically to Tasmania, the same general themes are there. The CPC has a good reputation for publishing surveys of its discoveries, but where is the raw survey data. Shouldn’t it all be held in the Club Library on the new PC we are going to buy. How do you find out where there is a survey of a particular cave, the original CNCC Handbook in 1969 provided details of the surveys of the caves with access agreements but there is nothing in Northern Caves. The most extensive Yorkshire survey list I have found is in the Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal Series 7 Number 10, but that was published in 1986!
Survey Data & Maps – Some ideas on archiving them and a discussion on Access, Storage and other thorny issues. - By Jeff Butt
In the following I am thinking aloud for the benefit of speleology and as such I’d like to discuss a few issues. Hopefully you will all have a think about them and at a future meeting we can progress along some sensible lines.
Much survey data has been collected and many surveys drawn up over the years. If you look through copies of the Speleo Spiel, Southern Caver you will see that many have been published. However, it becomes apparent that many of the authors of these surveys are no longer actively caving, some are no longer associated with the club at all. You might then ask, what has become of the data or the original surveys?? These represent countless person days of hard work; which we are at risk of losing.
In the old days, some significant surveys (eg Herbert's Pot) conducted by SCS were archived either with the State Library or State Archives, but no one seems to have a list, or know exactly what is there, or how/if these may be accessed. In the gear store I have a pile (mostly copies) of old SCS surveys, which I must catalogue and sort through one of these days. I believe Trevor Wailes has the TCC survey archive; these too would benefit from being catalogued. I also have a significant number of cave surveys (many unpublished) that I have drawn up; these too should be catalogued. I am sure that many other members likewise their own archives, again these ideally should be catalogued. If anyone has had the pleasure of using the STC library of late you will benefit from the extensive cataloguing that Greg Middleton has done; all the publications are ordered, accessible and this greatly assists in procuring that reference you seek.. Greg has done an excellent job; it would be good to have a similar situation prevailing for survey data and maps.
Many of the existing paper/film surveys have not been archived or backed up in any way; some. have been published in A4/Quarto/Foolscap, format of the club magazines, but this is hardly of archival standard. All of this information is at risk of loss, eg attacks of vermin, leaky roofs, house fires etc. It should be a high priority of the club to ensure that it is all backed, up and, archived in a form that is less susceptible to age and decay (eg microfilm, digitally on CD, etc.)
The actual survey data, often on loose survey sheets is perhaps even more vulnerable; besides being the sole copy, some of it also suffers from the problems of difficulty in deciphering mud covered and/or tatty survey sheets (or perhaps books) or being tossed out with other 'piles of no‑longer useful' paperwork. When the Exit re‑survey was in progress (a project which by the way has languished!) it seemed that no one had much in the way of the early data, this exemplifies the problems that exist.
It is a waste of time and effort, not to mention hard on our caves if data has to be collected over and over again every decade or so. Now with only one club in the south of the state; rivalry problems have gone and our sometime secretive data sets and surveys should be amalgamated for the benefits of speleology.
These days there is a plethora of computer programs for dealing with survey data; perhaps the biggest problem now is deciding which one you like to use best. Programmers these days are getting a bit smarter, many are using a standard data format, which is really sensible, as it means that people can import data sets from others without the need to re‑enter it. This makes fantastic sense, so much so that I'd like to see programs that don't use. some sort of versatile data format 'boycotted' until the authors make such options available. It is really. poor form if data‑files are device (eg Mac or PC), or software dependant.
1 can say that in the past TCC had their data in a much better form than SCS did, mainly through the efforts of Stuart Nicholas and his use of the SMAPS (Survey Mapping and Plotting System) software. In all the years that I collected survey data, most of it was held on a mainframe where I worked, and was reduced with self‑written software ... this was a case of necessity at the time as 1 didn't have access to a PC which SMAPS ran on, but now 1 look back and realise that it wasn't a very long‑term way to go. I believe that several other members have put SMAPS to good use, e.g. Rolan Eberhard with his work with Forestry Tasmania and Arthur Clarke with his Ida Bay work.
When John Hawkins‑Salt came on the scene he began to modernise things, putting as much data as he could find into a form for the "On Station" survey software. This data was annexed into the very excellent STC Archive that John spent countless hours of time working on. I must say that I use this archive regularly, it's a truly convenient medium for accessing information in a very quick manner. Since John left the state, updating of this archive has at best been sporadic .. this is something else that the club needs to turn it's mind to! This software (runs on a PC) is quite easy to use and quite powerful. However, it's chief selling point to my way of thinking is that the data is store in the versatile "CDF' (Cave Data Interchange) format which several survey packages can use. Thus, if people wish they could easily import the data into other software programs.
OK, you may say, lets all work together and get our own respective personal data sets and archives into order; the logical steps would be to:
1. Produce a list of what surveys, survey notes and data sets we each have.
2. In the list the format/medium should also be recorded (eg dyeline, drafting film, survey notebook, loose survey sheets, SMAPS data file, Excel spreadsheet, On Station data file etc.
We would then as a club need to determine the best methods for the archiving of all the various forms of data, eg copying original surveys and storing in a separate location, digitising/scanning and holding on CD, typing in data in CDI format etc. I agree, there is quite a bit of work here. But aside from the mechanics, there are some other issues (some are thorny) that need to be thought about in depth before we get too far down the track; these issues relate to:
1. Where do we store the archived material?
2. Who has access to it?
I have had a few discussions with various people, and it becomes apparent that we will need to have some sort of "Archive and Data Access Agreement". I think that sorting out this issue will be the most problematic thing. Why you say?, well there are many good reasons, here are some examples of potential issues:
Caves on private land where access is denied; availability of a map may encourage illegal access,
People actively exploring a cave may not want data to be generally released lest someone else go and 'scoop' their finds [one way around this is to give people a period of sole use, but then at the expiry of this period the data is handed over],
Some caves may be extremely sensitive (eg rare species, archaeological sites etc) the availability of maps/data will encourage access/degradation,
People may join the club just to access cave location data and then leave the club and/or divulge information to 'undesirables', eg vandals, specimen collectors etc.
Some people may spend put large amounts of time & effort/money into collecting data and don't wish to make it freely available (some may have a 'price', others may just want the 'power of knowledge'),
If some outside body wants to access data, then how do you decide? Do you let mining companies, Forestry agencies etc. know where caves are so they can 'stuff them up', or 'stuff up a surrounding area' etc.
If it is deemed that some outside body can have access to some data, then should there be a fee payable? If any fee is payable, who is entitled to it, ie STC, the people who collected the data etc. What is data worth? Do you base it on a 'per leg' or 'per person day' basis.
And so on....
The more you think about it the gnarlyier it gets. But we should think about these sorts of issues. We probably don't need to reinvent the wheel, as others have already confronted these sorts of issues. I do recall seeing a "Data use agreement for the Karst Index. This document (does anyone have a copy?) might provide a good base document to work from.
Anyway, that's enough for now. I do hope you can all spend some time thinking on these issues. In the time being, I for one will be getting my own data in order, converting data to CD1 format, copying stuff that I only have single copies of and making a list of just what 1 do have (which is quite a bit after caving and regularly surveying for a good decade). In the meantime, some of you might like to follow the same example.”
Protecting wildlife in the Yorkshire Dales National Park - A Biodiversity Action Plan for the millennium
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of the most important areas of the UK for its rich and diverse range of wildlife habitats. These range from the species rich meadows and pastures in the dale bottoms through the rough moorland fringe rush pastures with their wading birds to the windswept uplands with habitats ranging from blanket bog to limestone pavement.
These habitats have developed and evolved over long periods of time in response to geological and climatic changes but also to the changing impact of man on the landscape. In more recent times, however, we have seen unprecedented losses of both species and habitats on a global scale as a result of man's activities and the National Park has been no exception. In response to this loss of our precious wildlife heritage the National Park Authority is working with interested partners to develop a 10-year action plan to begin the process of reversing these declines. Nature in the Dales is a Biodiversity Action Plan, which will set out the actions needed to enhance the wildlife heritage of the Dales. It identifies who will be responsible for delivering these actions, how much they will cost and where the money will come from. The plan will cover everything from practical conservation action, monitoring and research needs and lobbying for changes in government policies. The plan will be used by a whole range of organisations that work in the National Park to set priorities and co-ordinate the targeting of limited resources. The best way to explain what the plan will do is probably to look at a few examples.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is famous for its limestone country with its mosaic of habitats from acid moorland to calcareous grassland and the unique limestone pavements. Many of our rarest plants grow in these areas such as lady's slipper orchid, bee orchid, limestone fern, bird's eye primrose and rock-rose and a number of extremely rare animals such as the northern brown argus butterfly. The limestone pavements that anyone who has visited the Craven District will be aware of are unique to northern Europe with the majority found in the British Isles. Apart from the Burren in Ireland the Yorkshire Dales has a significant proportion of this limestone pavement - 50% of the United Kingdom's resource - within its borders. These limestone habitats are under threat from two main sources – over-grazing and removal of limestone. The large numbers of sheep and lack of cattle grazing the calcareous grasslands and limestone pavements has resulted in an unprecedented loss in botanical diversity, which we urgently need to reverse. This process has already started. The most precious areas have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSS1s) by English Nature and funding put into reducing grazing through grants to farmers. These special areas have also been designated as internationally important Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) under European Law. The Ingleborough area is so important that much of the area has become a National Nature Reserve managed by English Nature. The Park Authority has nearly completed a process of serving Limestone Pavement Orders to protect limestone pavement from quarrying for use in garden rockeries. Such a process has been essential to prevent the irreversible loss of these unique areas.
However, while these special areas are important they cover a small area of the Park and it is important that we ensure that they do not become isolated islands within a landscape where wildlife has no place. This is where the Biodiversity Action Plan comes in. We have identified a whole series of measures that we need to implement to protect not only the special areas but enhance the wildlife potential of the wider countryside. These measures include the provision of grants to farmers to manage the land in a sustainable wildlife friendly manner and proposals to allow woodland to regenerate in appropriate areas. We also recognise the need to bring about more fundamental changes in agricultural practice by lobbying for reform to the Common Agricultural Policy to recognise that farming for wildlife and landscape is as worthy of subsidy as livestock production has been in the past.
Another habitat for which the National Park is internationally renowned are the species rich neutral meadows and pastures in the enclosed land in the valley bottoms. The cranesbill meadows are virtually unique in Europe and contain a huge range of wild flowers and grasses together with extremely rare flowers such as yellow marsh saxifrage. Many of these have also been designated as SSSIs and the cranesbill meadows are proposed for SAC status under European law. However, as with the limestone habitats many important meadows and pastures do not quite make SSSI status but are nevertheless extremely important wildlife habitats worthy of protection. We are fortunate in the Dales that most of the enclosed land is covered by MAFF's Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme which has helped to reduce the loss of these habitats. Unfortunately, however recent work shows that these habitats continue to decline. Once again, this seems to be related to modern farming practices such as the use of inorganic fertiliser, early cutting and conversion to silage. Through the Biodiversity Action Plan we intend to focus resources to assist farmers to manage hay meadows and pastures more sustainably. This will again require lobbying for fundamental changes to ensure that reform of the Common Agricultural Policy recognises the importance of supporting farmers to manage the land appropriately as well as to produce livestock.
It is clear then that the Biodiversity Action Plan for the Yorkshire Dales will provide a focus for concerted action to protect and enhance the wildlife heritage of the Dales. It is important that we not only focus on the rarities and special areas but also on the countryside as a whole. It is also important that we recognise that people live, work, study and play in the Dales and we need to work in co-operation to deliver the targets set out in the plan. To this end we are currently asking a wide range of people and organisations what they think should go into the Biodiversity Action Plan. We scientists have our own views but we're not always right (and often wrong) so we need to know what others think. To help with this the National Park Authority has produced a leaflet, which sets out what biodiversity conservation involves together with a questionnaire asking for your opinions. If anyone would like to give us their views on wildlife in the Dales then give me a ring on 01756 752748 and I will send you a copy. If you get the questionnaire back to me by October 29 you will also be entered into a prize draw with a top prize of œ75.
On a separate note I would also like to thank Craven Pothole Club for inviting me and Alice Owen, Head of Conservation Policy, to be lowered down a very dark hole during the Gaping Gill winch. We had a most enjoyable tour (thanks to Ric Halliwell) and learnt a lot about the work of the club in conserving the precious geological heritage of the Yorkshire Dales, something that the National Park Authority would be keen to assist with if it can.
Yorkshire Dales National Park Ecologist
Most of us use Ni-Cd cells either in FX or home made lamps but the following press release suggests that this may have to change. I know that Speleotechnics have a test version of a new light with (if I understood Keith correctly) a considerably larger capacity than is the case now, maybe we will all have to switch over to this new technology. Equally recent developments in White LEDs appear to be providing lights which will run for tremendously long times whilst consuming very little power. Is the perfect, run forever, weigh nothing, (certainly won’t cost nothing) caving light just around the corner???
"The battery industry is making a last stand to try to dissuade the European Commission from proposing a ban on rechargeable batteries made of nickel cadmium (Ni-Cd). A coalition of industry groups - representing the views of cadmium suppliers, battery manufacturers and recycling companies - will forward a detailed draft voluntary agreement on recycling to high-level Commission officials in the coming weeks.
The industry wants the chance to set up an EU-wide used battery collection scheme that would ensure the recycling of 75% of Ni-Cd batteries by around 2004. The Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) does not believe the target is attainable and would prefer to ban all batteries containing cadmium by 2008. The draft ban is contained in a DGXI proposal to extend a 1991 EU directive on battery waste, which would also require countries to ensure 75% of consumer and 95% of industrial batteries are recycled. Both the cadmium ban and the recycling targets have still to be agreed by the other Commission services - many of which are more favourable to industry's point of view.
Industry first mooted the idea of a voluntary agreement last autumn and, following discussions with Commission officials in July, will present a refined version of its proposal this month. The timing is crucial as the draft directive is likely to be one of the first environmental dossiers to be discussed by the new commissioners when they start work in September. A DGXI official claimed that evidence from ongoing research at the University of Stockholm showed that alternatives to the rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries were technologically and economically feasible. Although nickel metal hydride batteries were currently 20-100% more expensive than Ni-Cd ones, they were set to drop in price dramatically in the next two years, he said. Raymond Semples, executive directive of the International Cadmium Association (ICA), disputed this claim. He said that for most applications, and particularly high-power tools, Ni-Cd batteries were the only viable option."
After an open forum discussion at the Annual BCRA Conference in Leeds in September the NCA and BCRA Councils agreed the following statement.
An open debate took place in the Mendip Room on Sunday morning between 10.00 and 11.30 am. It was introduced by the Chairman Dr John Frankland and followed by an in-depth explanation of the serious financial problems currently facing NCA by their Treasurer, Bob Mehew. Dave Judson followed with a brief statement on behalf of BCRA Council (who had been appraised of the situation at their July meeting), who said that they were both positive and open-minded in their approach to a dialogue with representatives of NCA, but that they were also mindful of what they felt to be three fundamentals of the nature of BCRA and how it is held together.
· 1. its charitable status
· 2. its basis of individual and club membership
· 3. its subtle blend of income generating and non-income generating activities which provide its financial stability.
An open exchange of ideas and concerns then took place and the session was concluded with a straw pole in which almost all present indicated by a show of hands that they favoured further discussion and the much broader sounding out of cavers at large in favour of the move towards a single all embracing national body for caving. Your initial views are now sought through this note, which we hope will also appear in Descent and Speleoscene, in order to influence the setting up of a joint NCA/BCRA Working Party, or otherwise, and hopefully, to providing an agenda for such a working party if it be established. Views may be sent as Letters to the Editor, or more urgently, either directly to Bob Mehew or David Judson.. Their addresses are:
Bob Mehew, 8 Dunbar Road, Hillside, Southport, PR8 4RH email: email@example.com
David Judson, Hurst Barn, Castlemorton, Malvern, Worcs, WR13 6LS email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rogues Gallery
At the last AGM I said that by the 1999 AGM, assisted by Emma Fiad, I would update all the write-ups on members joining the club from the beginning in 1929 to 1949. Unfortunately I have been hindered due to both my wife and I not enjoying the best of health this year. Added to this Emma having changed her job which she found to be very demanding, has found her work load very wearing. She has been involved in very long hours, arriving home very late over a long period and reports that it is getting on top of her. She feels that her health and morale is suffering. Consequently she has been unable to take on the printing of the pages of the re-written Rogues Gallery as she had intended.
So I now appeal for a volunteer, or volunteers, to help me with the reprint of the pages. If someone in Cumbria (for example Kendal where my elder son lives) can help, I can be in Kendal in 45 minutes from Appleby and likewise anyone willing to help are welcome to visit me at Appleby. Whoever is willing to help may have suggestions on how to print my written pages incorporating scanned copies of the photographs. I shall be pleased to discuss these methods with anyone willing to help with the completion of Volumes One and Two of the Rogues Gallery, and to decide how best to bind the pages or mount them in folders. Hopefully Volumes One and Two can be completed early in the year 2000.
(on behalf of Emma and myself)
Letter to the Editor
Time for a change?
We celebrate the Craven Pothole Club's 70th Anniversary this year and we still carry some of the baggage left over from the 1930's! Wood and rope ladders and the timber Gaping Gill gantry are long gone but we still have the anomaly of a Subscription Year ending on December 31st but a Financial Year ending on September 30th with the AGM and Dinner at the end of November. This may have seemed logical when potholing was seen as a more‑or‑less seasonal activity with the Dinner and President's Meet usually the last on the card. Apart from a climbing meet, nothing much (other than private meets) happened until March of the New Year. This continued well into the nineteen fifties and the Annual Meeting and the Dinner made a fitting end to the season before the three month lay‑off was followed by another season of Club activity.
In the 1950s the majority of the Club's Members lived within a short radius of Skipton; the greater number living in Skipton and Keighley. Even when the number of members reached 118 in 1949 there were less than a dozen living outside a 25-mile radius. Fifty years on and with a present membership of 245 we now have more than half living outside that radius.
In November, as the time for the AGM and Dinner approaches the weather deteriorates‑ no joke if you live a hundred miles away and even more of a problem for more distant travellers. We have had to contend ' with fog, ice and snow; sometimes all three! The President's Meet has been very much a lucky dip, varying from a nice long walk on a clear bright crisp day, to a slog through invisible scenery or, at times deep snow and ice.
It would seem a wise move to have a financial year ending with the Membership Year on December 31st with an AGM and Dinner in the kinder month of May.
It is always the easy option to leave things as they are but now, as we move into the 21st Century, is the time to think carefully and put the past behind us. A proposal on these lines could come up at the AGM. If it does, it would just require a simple "Yes" vote. Nothing difficult about that but to succeed it would need the support of the more local members, since the more distant ones, whose problems this would hope to reduce, are less likely to be at the AGM to vote. Could we be kind on this occasion and make a change which could be judged to be long overdue as we move into the 21st Century.
Since I received this letter from Len I know that he (and I believe Arthur Hardy) have put forward a formal motion along for discussion at the AGM. It isn’t often that I disagree with Len but as one of those “more distant” members I have to say that I do not support his proposal. May is already busy with two Bank Holiday Weekends allowing members to go on camping meets, often away from the Dales. To make the month even busier by including the AGM as well does not seem good sense to me. - Ric Halliwell.
Jottings from the Committee
Noted that the land at the rear of Ivy Cottage did belong to the Crown. Reported that the Cottage working weekend had been a success with chimney sweeping, painting, varnishing and re-cobbling of the Ivy Cottage “barbecue corner”. Six stitch plates and ten hangers had been purchased. BCRA Insurance Officer had suggested that BCRA Insurance policy already covered the same areas as the specific mechanical failure insurance, which the club takes out for GG. However it was also suggested that all non-members participating in the GG Camp should be registered as temporary members in order to comply with the BCRA policy; agreed that this would be done. There was discussion of a letter suggesting that some caving gear had been removed from the Bridge End drying room.
A revised wording for the GG “blood chit” was approved. The maintenance schedule for the new genny and rock drill had been agreed and a booking out system was to be implemented. Reported that a booking had been made with the Tree Sisters Hotel at Howarth for the 2000AGM and Dinner. Noted that although the total of Cottage debts was dropping it was still substantial. Drop tests had been conducted on SRT rope purchased in 1993 but had been abandoned before the rope had failed. Confirmation had been received of the overlap of the Guardian Insurance and BCRA Insurance and it was agreed that the Guardian Insurance cover would not be renewed. It was noted however that we would still be required to continue with the annual plant inspection contract. A number of amendments to the GG Winch Meet Safety & Operational Policy Statement were agreed. Reported that Arthur Hardy was moving to the Isle of Man and therefore wished to relinquish the post of Hon Auditor.
Agreed that the Handbook should be revised and re-issued with the April Record. John Normington volunteered to become the Club Auditor. Agreed to allow CUCC to include material about Christopher Long, previously published by CPC, in a forthcoming CD on the history of CUCC. Agreed to purchase materials for the construction of a maypole. Noted that three members of the Committee would not be re-standing at the AGM. A meeting of the GG Sub-committee was to be held within the month.
CPC have always taken a keen interest in working with landowners to ensure that access to caves is maintained. When CNCC announced that the entrance to Notts had become unstable threatening access to the cave (and especially to our dig site) and that the landowner was happy for remedial work to be undertaken; CPC volunteered to work on the entrance.
On Saturday 2 October, 8 CPC members and 2 members of WMCEG removed a large amount of spoil from the shakehole. It was unclear who was getting the wettest; the people working on the top in the rain, or the two-man team in the shakehole working under the waterfall. After the spoil had been removed John Allonby and Pete Jones built a new retaining wall out of the larger cobbles whilst Ric Halliwell managed to divert some of the water away from the crawl. John then went into the crawl and enlarged it to help prevent future silting up. Although the base of the “wet-stone” wall may eventually be washed out the work should ensure greater stability for a several years. Barbara and Steve Pickersgill were not enamoured by their return to digging after several years. The communal food made the day slightly more bearable and overall the result was well worth the effort.