Andrew Atkinson (Leader), Andy Sparrow, Lawrence Wilson, Seán Tidey
(Access limited to three + leader)
I had been as far as the Departure Lounge on a previous trip, Andy had been down pre 2006 extensions, so somewhere around Red Room / Golden Chamber and it was Lawrence's first trip. We were tentatively aiming for Neverland.
From the MCG hut we walked down a couple of Beech lined droves to Ubley Warren nature reserve, close to the entrance of Waterwheel. Entering through a very innocuous, locked, steel lid we climbed down some concrete pipe into a long section of impressively dug passage with a very neat Willy Stanton wall on the left side. This passage carried on alternating between standing, stooping, hand and knees and flat out crawling for over 100m, both in and out of streamway until we reached the beautiful Midnight Chamber. This chamber had some of the finest, longest, whitest straws I’ve seen on Mendip.
From here we followed the Midnight Streamway for 60m of mostly walking, until we reached a duck and the Lavatory Trap, where we had to get right down into to water to proceed. After a bit of crawling through stream we entered the Red Room with red / rust coloured flowstone. A few squeezes later we entered Golden Chamber with a stunning crystal shelf on the left and more fantastic straws. This is the start of the 2006 extensions.
From Golden Chamber we entered the Boulder Choke, which Andrew warned us can take anywhere from 20minutes to 1 hour. This was a real beast of a boulder choke. Lots of downhill head first moves and difficult 180degree turns. Like plonking Lionel’s Hole in the middle of the cave as described by Andy. Fortunately, Andrew knew the route perfectly so there was no unnecessary exploring. The thought of having to retrace our route on the way out lurked in the back of our minds!
After the Boulder Choke, we were rewarded with the Departure Lounge, 6.5m wide, 6m high and 70m long! (Mendip Underground) The chamber had some more fantastic formations including the whitest curtains I have ever seen.
After leaving the Departure Lounge we enter Malcolm’s Way, 500m of walking, stooping and crawling passage. Lots of this section is taped of to preserve the very clean, delicate formations. After this we entered Royal Icing Passage, 40m long and up to 21m high(Mendip Underground) this has some boulders topped with pure white calcite.
From Royal Icing Passage we headed down West passage until we could see into the start of Neverland. By this time, we were all (apart from Andrew) pretty knackered. Although we were at the entrance to Neverland this entrance can not be used as there is no way to use it without damaging the formations. If we had wanted to go further it would have been another 1.5 hours of caving and undressing (you must take off over suits, gloves etc before entering Neverland) just to get to the Neverland Bypass, which is the only safe (for the formations) way in. Knowing that we had the Boulder Choke and a duck to do on the way-out Andy called it and after refuelling on some Mars bars we had one last tantalising glimpse into Neverland and started making our way back.
The journey back was pretty quick but was extremely hard work. We emerged out into the nature reserve just before 3pm pretty exhausted, spending almost four hours underground. Although we didn’t reach Neverland the rest of the cave is so impressive, and I personally was so knackered when I got out there was no disappointment.
We walked back to the hut and got changed, and you know its been a hard trip when the collective decision is no debrief.
Our thanks to Andrew for being an excellent guide.
I plan on organising another trip for spring / summer 2023 when the water is lower.
— Seán Tidey 28/10/2022