Andy Sparrow, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Rich Nurse, Will Puddy, Yvette Jordan
Parked and got changed at the Wessex then walked up the drove and across the field to the entrance.
The pitch was already rigged (Rich Marlow et al) First off we had a look at our previous dig and did a bit of stabilisation and tidying up before looking at the old ChCC dig.
We then made our way above the stream way to either end of the next project, with a bit of wriggling Yvette managed to look around the corner to confirm a visual connection, a bit of work will need to be done clearing some rocks and enlarging the corner before another useful link can be made, exited the cave at 21:45 before supporting the local economy and the Hunters
— Lawrence Wilson 5/01/2023
Ian Tiley, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Peter Hall, Rich Nurse, Will Puddy
After a day of heavy rain I was expecting the roads to be flooded on the way into Priddy but turned out to be not too bad.
Got changed on the Green and walked to the entrance in a light drizzle.
Unsurprisingly the cave was taking a lot of water. Just inside we split up with some taking the dryer option of the zigzags with the rest getting a soaking on the slab. Pete Hall wanted to check out a dodgy bolt on the far side of sump 2 so set off with Keith down the Short Dry Way while the rest of us made our way through Kenneys’ Dig to gain the main stream.
We then went upstream before turning right into the Oxbows. Here we split again with Rich and Will going through Butcombe Chamber and the Lower Oxbow whilst Peter, Ian and I followed the stream before getting flushed through the Lavatory Pan all meeting up in the Water Chamber.
The water was roaring down the Water Rift, Rich Will and Peter went to the top of the Forty and down through the squeezes before we all very careful down climbed the 8 foot waterfall, wandered down to the Twenty where the water on the immediate approach was above welly level.
By the time we battled our way back to the Water Chamber Peter, Ian and I had had enough of water so exited via the Long Dry Way while Rich and Will swam up the Wet Way.
When we exited it was raining again so a quick change and settled in at the Hunters where we where joined by Andy S. and then Pete and Keith who had had an aqueous time with Pete free diving sump 2 and sorting the bolt out. The drive home was an exercise in dodging puddles and slowly driving through floods. Good to see the cave in high water conditions and visiting some less popular areas. At least everyone’s suits where nice and clean after last week’s digging.
— Lawrence Wilson 13/01/2023
A freezing night on the Mendips with snow having fallen earlier in the day. What better cave than the legendarily chilly Whaterwheel Swallet.
Due to ongoing works in the reserve car park we parked at the Charterhouse Centre, having had a conversation with the centre manager earlier in the day she allowed us to get changed in centrally heated luxury.
Having skated down the road we entered the nicely warm cave and followed down to the stream way. Usually going last means a little more airspace in the canal, sadly not this time as the feeder stream was topping it up as fast as it was sloshed over the dams at the end.
At the pitch head a number of different methods were employed to get to the lake; ladder, chain, free climbing the rift and using the traverse. After a swim and visiting the end of the cave it was back up the pitch by various methods.
Having negotiated the canals again, we lugged our now heavy and wet selves back to the surface where the temperature had plummeted. Crunched our way back to the centre where the luxury of heating was appreciated by all.
A somewhat nervous and slow drive found us at the Riverside, Cheddar where football was being shown at full volume from the newly installed screens. Thankfully it finished after 10 minutes and we could have a chat and look at some of Cookies “holiday snaps” of caving in India.
A fun evening with a great team, I have messaged Charterhouse and thanked them for their hospitality
— Lawrence Wilson 19/01/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Rich Nurse, Will Puddy, Rachel Sparrow, Tim Gouge, James Howarth
Drove through fog to the Burrington Inn where we parked and changed before climbing into Tim’s minibus for the drive up to the cave. After a 5 minute walk we arrived at the entrance. Here we split into two groups, Andy, Cookie, Rachel and I followed the rest at a more relaxed pace into the impressive Main Chamber where lots of bats were hibernating.
Having walked across the chamber we got going on Zed Alley, effectively a large boulder ruckle with lots of squeezes, climbs and dead ends. Thankfully after a while we found the guideline and followed it down, sadly it had been moved and lead us to a dead end! Retracing our steps we soon found the correct way on, rerouted the line and continued to the top of Splash Pot.
Cookie went first but just as he got to the bottom the other group emerged from the tight squeeze having gone through the Windpipe to visit the stream way and Browne-Stewart series. So we all turned around and made our way back to the Main Chamber, here we had a look around before exiting the cave into a beautiful starlit night. With only a minor diversion we all got back to the minibus just as some Wessex members were leaving having been down Rods Pot.
A nice little cave with plenty of challenges, due to the vast amount of fossils protruding from the walls it remains a sharp suit shredder. Debriefed at the Woodborough.
— Lawrence Wilson 26/01/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, James Howarth, Jenna Mackay, Keith Milward, Kieran Hucknal, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Rachel Sparrow, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Tim Gouge, Will Puddy
The club is or has been engaged in three connection projects in Sludge Pit. These are:
1. Connection of Shales series and Tributary Passage - completed.
2. Enlarging The Link, which connects the east and west halves of the upper series - ongoing.
3. Connecting the aven in the streamway to the old club dig in the upper series - ongoing.
We started gathering at the Wessex CC from 7pm and half an hour later the advance guard of Andy, Rich, Sean, Tim and James headed off. Our group mission was to climb the aven half way down the streamway, or more precisely to watch and hold a rope for Rich while he climbed the aven. Rich did a great job getting to the top, his progress assisted by finding three previously placed bolts in just the right places. He then got busy installing three bolts and rigging an SRT rope (left in situ). While this was happening Sean and I were having a very social time at the bottom as first Keith arrived, and then Lawrence, Cookie, Rachel, Kieran and Jemma passed by (twice). Tim and James, buzzing with their usual energy, were sent down to find the sump, and then dispatched to find the Western side of 'The Link'.
Eventually Rich had the rope anchored and I prusiked up. It really is a nice pitch! It's going to be great if we can establish a link to the top so it becomes a standard route in the cave. The pitch ends at a flowstone ledge where a route leads up between boulders. Rich followed this and immediately found the choked tube which we think corresponds with our old dig. Sean free-climbed on a lifeline. He said it was a really good climb up, but probably not so easy going down.
While we were busy at the aven, Will and PJ were digging at the Eastern side of The Link. They made great progress lowering the floor and pulling out some boulders while Tim and James worked on the other side. Eventually Tim managed to pass The Link becoming, to the best of my knowledge, only the second person to do so.
A mass exit from the cave followed and the usual suspects headed for the Hunters for a debrief.
In Summary -
The Link is yielding slowly but a few more visits will be required before it's Sparrow sized.
The aven/dig connection looks extremely hopeful.
Future trips -
The next scheduled trip is Wednesday 15th Feb. We need three SRT proficient diggers up the aven and at least one at the bottom. It would be really good to get a team in the old dig and attack from both directions - this would require at least another three persons.
I'm going to do some additional trips to The Link, starting this Sunday at 7.30pm. There will probably be a follow-up trip during the day on Tuesday.
And Finally -
We had a mishap at the pitch last night resulting in two slightly damaged diggers. There's a couple of ways to avoid a repeat of this - if we are using a single minimal length rope the last person down should be abseiling. We need to be in the habit of bringing either a harness/descender or a sling/karabiner. Alternatively we can take a longer rope which can be used to lifeline from the bottom. Descent of the pitch should be either by ladder with lifeline or by abseil. Please bear in mind that the greatest single cause of death and injury in British caving is falling unlifelined from a pitch of less than 10 metres.
— Andy 2/02/2023
Andy Sparrow, Seán Tidey
The Link dig. Two 50cm holes drilled and fired. Out in time for Happy Valley.
— Andy 06/02/2023
Andy Sparrow, Seán Tidey
The corner has been considerably eased. Went to the other side and dug floor down for an hour. Narrow working space. Needs a long handled hoe to remove spoil.
— Andy 6/02/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy
James Howarth Tim Gouge
All parked and changed on the verge then slithered our way down frozen turf to the entrance which was nice and dry.
This was a reconnaissance trip for the upcoming SRT exchange trip. At the bottom of the Boulder Ruckle we split, with half going along the Upper Traverse and down Bakers Chimney whilst the other half went through the Woggle Press and Boulder Chamber before meeting up at the bottom of Bakers Chimney.
After congering down the canyon we turned left at the Crossroads before descending Dolphin Pot with a hand line. After checking out the bolts at the top of Dolphin Pitch we thrashed our way back up to the Crossroads then checked out the bolts at the top of the 1st Vertical.
For the return we split up again with some going back via Hallelujah Hole and the Traverse with the rest going back up the Canyon and through the Woggle Press. All arrived on the surface within 10 minutes of each other at 21:30. (Woggle press route quicker)
A useful reconnaissance with routes and rigging a lot clearer. After a chilly change we warmed up in the Hunters where we bumped into Pete Hall fresh from an underwater dig at Rickford
— Lawrence Wilson 10/02/2023
David Cooke, James Howarth, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Tim Gouge, Will Puddy
Opened the lid straight onto an 8m deep shaft with fixed ladder, following small passages down and through a tight rift we arrived at the roomy Somerville Hall where after referring to the survey we descended a sporting climb to find ourselves at the top of Keen’s Pot which we avoided via a muddy tube.
At Balcony Pot we split up, some climbing up, some climbing down before rejoining and exiting the cave via our inward route.
A fun little cave that is seldom visited but definitely worth doing along with Little Crapnell Swallet. underground for about 45 minutes, after changing in the lane we debriefed at The Hunters
— Lawrence Wilson 23/02/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, James Howarth, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Tim Gouge, Will Puddy
Parking was a little more limited than hoped, thankfully we all squeezed in before the farmer came to see what we where up to, seemed a little surprised that we where caving but more than happy for us to do so. I suspect the party size limit is more to do with parking rather than the caving.
We descended the concrete entrance tube on an in situ ladder then made our way via a down climb to a squeeze on a slippery slab, Speedway, then down another climb to a moderately large chamber, Great Expectations, where we met a small, muddy and rather unpleasant stream (think Manor Farm).
Following downstream the chamber soon dwindled to a small passage before finally ending in a flat out squeeze, sadly(?) this was silted up so we turned around and exited via our inward route before walking across to Honeymead Hole. Probably spent 45 minutes underground.
— Lawrence Wilson 23/02/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, James Howarth, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Tim Gouge
Arrived at the Wessex and split into two teams. Sean, Rich, James and Tim went down the streamway then climbed up the Aven to the dig site whilst Andy, Cookie, Peter and Lawrence went through triple arch chamber to the other side of the dig.
Both parties worked hard removing about 25 buckets of fill, progressing about a meter from each end. Somewhat dissapointingly we couldn’t hear each other however the passage profile and fill are identical at each end so remain very hopeful that another session or two will see the breakthrough.
Debriefed at the Hunters
— Lawrence Wilson 9/03/2023
David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Yvette Mayo
Arrived at the Burrington Inn at 19:30 then drove up Link Lane to park at the UBBS hut. Lots of snow on the ground with a bitting wind, got changed and trudged to the entrance with numb fingers and cold ears. Lovely to get into the warmth of the cave and warm up a bit.
We followed down the snug entrance rift for about 15m before diverting upwards to a “nondescript” chamber before continuing downwards through a tight chimney then around a sharp right hand squeeze to arrive at the top of the 10m pitch.
Thankfully there was an in situ traverse line that we followed across the top of the pitch and around a corner before stepping down and following the in situ hand line down boulders and a concreted wall to the bottom of the pitch.
First off we traversed upwards to reach the 1st and 2nd Rift Chambers where we had a look at the abandoned and very muddy ChCC dig before returning back down the traverse where I climbed down the impressive abandoned dig.
With time ticking we returned via our inward route, the 3m chimney proving somewhat trickier to go up than down.
Arrived back at the surface and straight away remembered how cold it was. A fab little cave with constant interest provided by squeezes, chimneys, climbs and traverses. Swiftly changed by 21:30 then debriefed at the Woodborough
— Lawrence Wilson 9/03/2023
Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
What a difference a week makes, after last week’s freeze and snow the weather had reverted to form with rain and wind, walking to the Bath Swallet depression my heart dropped a little as I could hear the stream running, Yvette volunteered to rig the first pitch of Shower Pot which involved standing in the shower.
The first pitch was rigged efficiently and swiftly and we all descended to the halfway ledge where the rope was pulled through, re-rigged and abseiled down in record time (what an incentive cold water is!)
Finally out of the water the Eastern extensions where explored then down the Diggers Shaft where we again met a stream, quite unpleasantly we splashed our way through the squeezes to arrive at the bottom of Purple Pot, the ascender made this climb straight forward and we soon found ourselves in the Main Chamber of Rods Pot.
All being drenched we made our way straight out, arriving at the surface at 21:30 to find the rain had stopped.
As ever a great cave, I was particularly pleased how slick everyone was at rigging, abseiling, climbing and moving through the cave, a real pleasure to cave with such a good team.
A very pleasant, and somewhat extended, debrief was enjoyed at the Woodborough not quite long enough for my pants to dry out though (too much detail?)
— Lawrence Wilson 16/03/2023
Adam Fletcher, Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Judi Durber, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Rachel Sparrow (surface support)
At 7:15, the appointed hour, caving royalty from Cheddar swept into Bristol, well, “Saafmeed” anyway and more importantly, Pen Park Rd.
Having located a suitable parking place for their limousine, the occupants along with the other Cheddar caving serfs, followed our anointed leader Cookie, across the road and disappeared into the bushes in the park opposite. We were relieved to be part of a mixed sex group getting changed into our caving kit in that quiet scrub, concerned that the local Constabulary may have otherwise thought they had stumbled on a “cottaging” group …
Our esteemed leader in true James Herriot style, inserted his arm into the small hole in the entrance gate right up to his shoulder and began to fiddle around with the various keys, desperately trying to match the two locks that secured the gate. After what seemed an age or at least two good cigarette smokes later, the gate was magically undone, and the intrepid crew began to descend the concrete shaft inside.
A short climb of two metres into the detritus below, followed by a feet first descent through a small aperture lead us downhill amongst the rock, using an interesting combination of short fixed ladders, (just step left at the end of each section) and into the mud and debris, in the passage below where fortunately “Ernie” or the “Corona” man had been before and kindly deposited some plastic crates into the floor, making our progress significantly drier and a lot less muddy than it would otherwise have been.
We popped out into a small Aven, prettily decorated with a band of large crystals and unusual geological cave features which we looked at and photographed The quantity and quality of the crystal is really surprising but many of the deep seems are overlaid by mud and where they have delaminated from the seam created crystal arches or shelves.
Andy, who had descended first and had 10 minutes to push on ahead in the direction of the pitch head, suggested that he had concerns about the air quality. We all agreed that it wasn’t very nice but decided to push on anyway and the passage of several bodies had the effect of moving enough air around, dispersing the CO2 to improve its quality from ‘horrid’ to just about ‘OK’ … A few minutes of easy squeezes and passage lead us to the main chamber and pitch head where the air could best be described as “tolerable”…
Two ladders and tethers were quickly deployed along with a lifeline, enabling Lawrence to descend first to the shelf 10+ mts below. Here a short roped and cows tail traverse enabled us to walk a quarter of the way around the rim to a landing overlooking the chamber and water below. Despite all of us using headlights on full beam we could just about see the water 20M below us but the light just could not penetrate the surface of the water … To overcome this the odd pebble was lobbed in which resulted in a resounding splash but little could be seen. It was almost as if there was a mist above the water or was it just a CO2 cloud …!
Concerned that the air quality was still sub-optimum we decided to make a hasty exit rather than investigate some uninviting looking passages on the ledge. We climbed back up the ladder and judging by all the huffing and puffing at the top of the climb our concerns over CO2 levels, either real or imagined, were I suspect in reality a little of both …
A short time later we were out of Pen Park Hole breathing what passes for clean air in ‘Brizzle’, whilst poor Cookie again wrestled with the damn locks on the gate. Quite why the locks are so complex is a mystery …
Having changed from our muddy kit, returned the keys, the intrepid team headed for a local pub for sustenance and to ‘put the world to rights’ … Having wanted to visit Pen Park Hole for many years I was a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to my expectations … The geology and features are unusual and very interesting but it would really benefit from being bolted and rigged properly for SRT access so that it’s possible to quickly descend to the water at the bottom of the main chamber and investigate the passages beyond … However that’s probably more than could be reasonably achieved in an evening and the CO2 levels may well have been significantly worse at lower levels …So a return trip with gas monitor, buoyancy aids and an inflatable boat beckons …
A big “Thank You” to Lawrence and Cookie for organising and leading another great ‘Wednesday Nights FUN’ with the Cheddar crew …!
Happy caving, Adam
— Adam Fletcher 28/03/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
In the midst of a biblical deluge we gathered at WCC. The rain took a break as we walked over but it’s legacy was still showering down the entrance pitch. Eventually 6 damp cavers made their way to the two ends of the dig (or what we hope are the two ends of the same dig). Cookie’s arrival allowed lowering and emptying of bags from the aven and good steady progress was made at that end.
The other team found our famously dry dig less so on this occasion and struggled to make much progress with a minimal team. At some point Peter went on a hoe hunt which evolved into a grand tour of our dig sites.
No connection but the evening ended with a bang!
Arrived Hunters not long before closing.
We think the two digs are separated by at least two vertical metres. Also that digging the aven end is much easier than the original dig.
I’ll be going back on Saturday to check the bang if anyone fancies a trip.
— Andy 30/03/2023
Cookie placed the spoil in a large heap at the foot of the aven, faced with rocks to stabilise the heap. This was preferable to putting the spoil in the stream, which will only end up in the sump.
— Cookie 16/04/2023
Andy Sparrow, Rich Nurse
A good trip with an unexpected twist..
Andy and I set off to the recent banged area at the top of the new pitch, at the end of the new link down into the stream course. The plan was to clear the area and install anchors for a traverse line and rigging points for the pitch.
The bang had done a good job, obviously making a gap clear for an abseil so we set about installing the rigging. When the bolts were installed, Andy set up the rope and I headed into the link to use plug and feathers on some of the restrictions.
Andy set off down the abseil, keen to see how the pieces of the new route are coming together. Unexpectedly, halfway down the pitch, he found an open passage. This lead off between current known layers of the system, for approximately 5 metres. Returning to the top of the pitch we discussed what he’d seen but wasn’t sure if it was big enough to get into. I decided to have a look, and managed with some acrobatics and rock clearance to get roughly two body lengths into the passage.
The sides of the passage are very sharp, in layers similar to that of the link section above. I managed to get within half a metre of the end of the passage, where it appears to open into a perpendicular rift, with space to stand up in. I couldn’t see either direction to confirm how long this space is, however. I think it should be accessible without too much work, some rock restrictions removed and possibly the floor being dug out a little. So some unexpected interest on a Saturday trip with much speculation as to the potential!
— Richard Nurse 2/04/2023
David Cooke, James Howarth, Seán Tidey, Tim Gouge, Will Puddy
Tonight 5 brave adventurers with Cookie at the helm, headed into Pen Park Hole. Dodging the needles Cookie had a roll around and passionately opened the gate (a rather impressive manoeuvre). We created “the leaning tower of kit buckets” and then awkwardly crawled past the suspicious urine smell and needle caps to the wonky in-situ ladders. We continued over the wine crate swamp before heading down past some rather impressive rusty hedgehog roofing (ooh-ahh).
Cookie, Seán and Will noticed the bad air at this point. James and Tim had never experienced bad air before and so this was not noticed by them yet. We moved onto the “pretty section of the cave” (ooh-ahh) and then onto the ladder pitch! By this point James and Tim had started to notice the effects of the bad air.
We linked together the 3 ladders and admired the bolts which were used to rig from. Cookie gave us all a life-line and Will kindly volunteered to go first to the ledge (great success). Seán next, then James then Tim. Seán then headed down to the lake and unfortunately the tide was in and so the lovely sandy beach we were promised was inaccessible. On a serious note- the water level had risen considerably since Cookie’s last trip where the bottom ladder just touched the beach (with little to none to spare). Today only 6-7ft of the last ladder was out of the water (out of 25ft total). Seán climbed down to the water and then headed up followed by Tim then James then Will.
Everyone enjoyed their visit to the lake even though there was a spring tide (no sand castles were constructed). We packed up the ladders and made an escape finishing with an alfresco change in the woods (ooh-ahh) before heading to the Eastfield pub for some well earned refreshments.
Thanks Seán for driving and Cookie for leading!
— James Howarth, Tim Gouge 5/04/2023
Andy Sparrow, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Rich Nurse
The four of us set of with high excitement to see what the evenings exploration would bring.
We split to do different tasks, Andy and Lawrence continuing to clear the link, PJ and I to work on the unknown passage.
With the use of plug and feathers I was able to gradually widen the passage and edge my way forward before long I was able to look into the perpendicular rift in front of me.
Well, it opens out into an extended complex system of passages some with active water courses. All very interesting caving, is how Lawrence described it as he crawled towards me… yep, we’ve found another linking passage to very much know cave. Never mind!
Regardless of the minor disappointment, a good trip. The proper links floor has been cleared and a deviation installed on the link pitch.
— Richard Nurse 6/04/2023
Chris Castle, Rachel Sparrow
It was a wild and stormy night. Once in Fairy Quarry car park it eased off and we splashed our way to the cave. After the traditional flailing about to undo the lock we got in. Oh dear. My ancient body had trouble doing anything. Moves I would have done easily a few years ago have become difficult.
Still, we forged on along the entrance passage called Pool Passage, which had become wet and the whole place was very muddy. We passed Hobgoblin Hole, a desperately tight connection to the surface. I'd looked at the quarry end a few times and it looked awful. From inside the cave it looked worse. Things were getting very wet and the way on from where we were, Gour End, is JW Passage which looked like a long duck so knowing we couldn't get much further before turning back, we turned back from where we was to.
At the start of Pool Passage is a climb up to the large Erratic Passage and the other entrances. I'm sorry to say we both bottled the climb; it was wet and we both suffered a lack of confidence. Pathetic, it looks easy enough. We intend to return with a short rope.
The return along Pool Passage was a bit of a struggle but we got out in one piece.
Balch Cave isn't a bad short trip for younger members, i.e.those under 70.
— Chris Castle 12/04/2023
Lawrence Wilson, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
In the midst of storm Noa we met in Burrington Coombe got changed quickly and disappeared underground and 19:45.
Neither Will or Yvette had been down before and decided to explore the lower series. With a bit of searching we found the bypass squeeze and struggled through it, picking up a “Christmas Capers” answer card from the far side. The next two squeezes where swiftly dispatched and we arrived at the streamway that unsurprisingly was impressively high.
Following the water downstream we had a quick look at the distinctly unappealing sump before turning around and going upstream, past our entry point, and an awkward crawl into impressive streamway passage.
A slightly awkward climb up found us on a ledge with no obvious way on, luckily I remembered this from last time and located the tight “horse collar” squeeze through stal, we then arrived at the bottom of a moonmilk covered rift that was climbed to a horizontal roof tube, soon afterwards we arrived in the beautiful Hanging Gardens that we admired and discussed for five minutes.
Leaving the Hanging Gardens at 20:45 we made our way out via our inward route finally exiting the cave at 21:15. A pleasant debrief was enjoyed at the Woodborough.
This is a fantastic cave and the lower series is possibly the most full on trip on Mendip that doesn’t require an access fee, key or tackle (discuss!)
— Lawrence Wilson 13/04/2023
Andy Sparrow, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Peter Sanders, Rachel Sparrow, Rich Nurse, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
Met on the side of the road in lovely evening sunshine, got changed and walked to the entrance alongside two fields of just sprouting beans. Yvette swiftly rigged the entrance tube and we all descended without incident.
Once at the bottom the advance guard had gone straight ahead, soon arriving at the top of an awkward and exposed climb into a chamber, discretion being the better part of valour they retraced their steps and joined the rear guard climbing down a series of drops to enter the same chamber.
Much looking at dead ends and loops whilst admiring the formations and fossils before we continued down the Canyon, this lovely little steam passage is somewhat reminiscent of the Short Dry Way in Swildons, albeit steeper.
At the bottom of the Canyon we split up with Richard, Will, Peter, PJ and Yvette exploring a series of tight squeezes and climbs to arrive at Puke Rift then passed Boots and Buttocks before arriving at the legendarily tight Lake Passage. Despite Richard’s efforts little progress was made so the lake remained unvisited so all returned to the surface via a number of routes, including Will and Richard climbing up the aforementioned awkward and exposed climb out of the chamber.
Whilst the other team were busy squeezing down below, Rachel, Andy and Lawrence retraced their steps arriving on the surface at 21:30 to the final glimpse of sunset and a star filled sky. We were soon in the Hunters where we were joined by Neil and Carol, soon after 22:00 the other team joined us and a pleasant debrief was enjoyed by all ten of us
This is a great little cave that occasionally gets overlooked, definitely worth an annual poke around
— Lawrence Wilson 20/04/2023
Ian Tiley, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
Arrived on the green at 19:30 and walked to the entrance in the dry, Yvette is about to do her core skills assessment day so wanted to get to know upper Swildons.
Despite normal water levels we went down the Zigzags then the Long Dry Pretty Way, Will traversed at route level almost all the way to the Old Grotto but the final climb down was sheer so had to retrace his steps.
At the top of the Twenty we climbed up the walls and noticed a couple of holes at roof level but didn’t fancy looking at them properly without a rope to get back down. Will climbed up through the squeezes to the top of the Forty on the way back.
After the Lavatory Pan Will and myself took the high level route literally over taking the rest of the group at the Ripper.
Will then exited via the tree at 21:30 thus doing a true round trip above the Water Chamber.
A very pleasant trip with no end of options to keep everyone entertained, met up with Andy S. and Sean in the Hunters after their trip down Sludge Pit
— Lawrence Wilson 26/04/2023
Adam Fletcher, David Cooke, Judi Durber, Ken Passant, Paul James, Yvette Mayo
“Lofty” Hearn (leader)
Arrived at the view point car park on Axbridge bypass at 19:30
Beers afterwards at the Lamb, Axbridge
— Lawrence Wilson 20/05/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
Assembled at the Wessex and got kitted up, having paid at the farm we walked to the entrance where Andy et al rigged the entrance with considerable stile(sic) Cookie, Andy and Lawrence used SRT with the rest using ladder and lifeline, the first 20 feet is in concrete pipe, the next 20 free hanging and the last 20 free climbable.
At the bottom of the shaft the crawling starts straight away along a gently descending, blasted tube. After 27m a bit of respite at the optimistically named Great Aven, at least we could stand up albeit not all at the same time, another 15m or so of crawling with an awkward drop followed before the constricted head of Rumble-Plonk Pitch was reached. This tricky pot can be free climbed, but all were grateful for a somewhat aged in situ rope. An easy climb down followed with an amazingly thin and painful looking blade of rock sticking out of the wall. Another 20m of flat out, damp crawling followed with a final squeeze into the Master Cave.
The natural stream passage and its inlets were all explored, some pretty bits and very nice vadose passage was probably worth the not inconsiderable effort to reach it.
The outward journey was just as arduous and all were glad to arrive back at the surface where Andy had rigged an efficient lifeline rig.
A hard cave that took 6 years to dig and blast open, glad I’ve been but won’t be back until I’ve forgotten about the bruises.
A well deserved pint at the Hunters finished the evening off
— Lawrence Wilson 26/05/2023
David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey
A gorgeous evening to visit a beautiful cave, got going at 19:45 following the route through the blast damaged upper section of the cave before getting to an unpleasant and quite full duck followed by a tight squeeze, after some meandering around we arrived in Hillier’s at the top of a short climb down.
We decided to visit the far reaches of the cave so turned right through three boulder ruckles and wonderfully decorated chambers and grottoes before reaching the fabled Red Room, aptly named due to the ochre stained formations.
Leaving here at 21:15 we hurried back out through the ruckles and the somewhat roomier passage arriving back at the surface an hour later.
An amazing cave that was somewhat tougher than I remembered from last year, maybe I’m just getting older
A quick change and drive saw us at the Hunters where we met up with Andy S, Danny and Ken who had been digging in Sludge Pit
— Lawrence Wilson 26/05/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
A big thank you to Andy for rigging the Wessex Tower and running an excellent training evening, assisted by Cookie.
All manner of SRT was covered, up, down, changing direction and passing rebelays, everyone had plenty of practice and gained in confidence.
Lots of banter, a very useful and enjoyable evening rounded off at the Hunters to warm up
— Lawrence Wilson 2/06/2023
Chris Castle, Rachel Sparrow
We entered by the left-hand, or northerly, entrance and a bit of easy going brought us the large Erratic Passage. This only goes for 30 metres to a dodgy boulder choke; bang debris from the blasting.
On the way we passed the bedding passage on the left which connects to JW Passage and beyond, where much digging once took place. It's described as very tight, though it didn't look too bad from the top. we didn't try it.
Leaving Erratic Passage we turned left, along some nasty looking bang debris, past the middle entrance then left to the drop into Pool Passage. After a great deal of faffing we put a handline down and exited the cave, not before I struggled in the narrow bit near the entrance to the amusement of climbers outside.
— Chris Castle 16/06/2023
Adam Fletcher, Judi Durber, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Yvette Mayo
Arrived at the Hunters at 19:00 then all got into Sean’s van for the short drive to Thrupe where we got changed. This is when the issue of keys reared it’s head, unbeknownst to us the gate had recently been fitted with a CSCC lock, thankfully Andy and Rachel where in the area and picked up Chris Castle’s key for us (thanks to all) the upshot was that we didn’t get down the cave until 20:15!
I soloed down Hobnail to rig the ladder then made my way to the bottom of Perseverance Pot where the others arrived shortly afterwards after an unplanned visit to Plaster Passage. Finally we were all reunited and the rope pulled down. From here we went into Butts Chamber through the short crawl and through a boulder ruckle, sadly due to a slight navigational error the way on was through a showerbath, the whole cave was surprisingly wet considering we haven’t had any rain for four weeks.
We then followed Marble Streamway to the awesome Atlas Pot where we had a good look before returning to Butts Chamber avoiding the showerbath.
We then followed the streamway up, including a couple of flat out, aqueous crawls to the ladder at the bottom of Hobnail, all ascended without incident then up and up to finally exit the cave at 22:15.
After a quick change we went back to the Hunters for a swift pint before collecting our cars.
Despite a poor start a very enjoyable trip in a fantastic cave, we must go back and have a pop at Atlas pot
— Lawrence Wilson 20/06/2023
David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Will Puddy
All met up at the Gruffy field gateway at 19:30 in glorious, longest day sunshine, Andy, Rachel, Yvette and Chris Castle were all parked there ready to go down GB.
After a relatively short descent the cave starts getting tight in a series of rifts, squeezes and wallows although well decorated in parts, particularly the aptly named Curly Wurly Stal.
Finally the main stream passage was gained and old miner activity was noted in Splatter Chamber. A short climb up found us in the hugely impressive void of The Citadel which is somewhat reminiscent of The Gorge in GB, which is only about 30m away.
After retracing our steps we followed the steam underneath The Citadel then through a wet flat out crawl to emerge in the Grotto of the Singing Stal.
From here the boulder choke starts, a formidable barrier that apparently took 26 years to dig through (I’m not surprised!) it seemed endless. Finally bigger and beautifully decorated passage was entered with large helictites and false floors. After a couple of down climbs the start of The Narrows was reached which seemed a good point to turn around as it was 21:05.
We retraced our steps through endless squeezes and climbs with an appropriate diversion to Mid Summer Chamber before exiting the cave at 22:00 where we met the others, still in daylight.
Somewhat bruised and battered a swift pint was enjoyed at the Woodborough. A fantastic cave that I have only scratched the surface of, a big thanks to Cookie for leading us
— Lawrence Wilson 25/06/2023
Andrew Chamberlain, Peter Sanders, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
We met in the usual spot to find there were just the four of us so decided to stick to the upper series and not carry any kit. The car park was busy so we let what looked like a group of scouts get ahead of us.
It was surprisingly dry in the entrance even though there had been a lot of rain in the past few days so after a dry entrance we took the zigzags to keep dry for a while longer, I noticed a cut through to miss the corner and with the usual club comments of 'it's a bit tight but you should fit through' I took the challenge and yes squeezed through with Will following behind, another new route taken. We continued down the long dry way at a social pace. A brief rest was had in the water chamber as we could hear screams of joy! where it sounded like the scouts were making their way up towards us, unexpectedly another group appeared making a quick exit ahead of the scouts.
Once everyone had passed us we continued down Peter and I sticking to the floor and Will and Andy taking mostly the top route. As we approached the Forty Foot Pot we all took the upper route and ended up above the Forty, some wriggling and squeezing later and we were all through and at the top of the Forty, 2nd new route taken for me, we climbed down the Forty [Andy: We went down the eyehole from the top of the 40 to the top of the 8ft] for a quick look at the Twenty.
Our return route was up the wet way but to avoid the Lavatory Pan Will and I took the upper route and we climbed along above Peter and Andy for as long as possible, another new route for me.
An enjoyable night, it was still light when we got out but home life commitments got in the way of a debrief.
— Yvette Mayo 2/08/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Peter Sanders, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy
FYI This report is being written thee months late so some of the details may be a little out.
After a bit of last minute route finding due to closed roads the team of Seán, Rich, Will, Andy, Lawrence, Cookie, Peter and PJ parked on the minor road, squashed between two old limestone quarries that links Stoke St. Michael with Holcombe. We kitted up and headed off to find Brownes’ Hole. A cave that most of us had never been in. When we found it after fighting through the undergrowth and mozzies we (who hadn’t been there before) were pleasantly surprised . A large entrance leads to a spacious chamber with an old dig to the left and a maze of passages, squeezes and boulders ahead. This could be described as the Goatchurch of East Mendip. We spent 30-45 minutes just exploring the cave individually or in small groups. The dig to the left of the entrance even had the remains of a small wooden railway in, used, I assume to haul spoil from the dig.
After exploring Brownes’ Hole we went in search of Stoke Lane Slocker, but we were not looking for main entrance we were looking for the newly made (I think) but certainly rarely used second entrance . This is in the NE corner of the SW most and smallest of the three quarries that surround the road. The entrance was an inconspicuous hole in the rock that after a fair bit of crawling and squeezing (I forget anything more specific) brings you out into the Stoke Lane stream way. We think it joins Tributary passage but this was being debated and I don’t think it was ever settled, but it definitely came out in the stream way. From here most of us headed down stream varying distances but I don’t think anyone got to the sump. Eventually, pretty wet most of us (except Andy who knew a dry way out!) mad it out of the original entrance and back to the cars after having done some new cave for everyone I think.
— Seán Tidey 25/10/2023
David Cooke, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy
The team congregated at the Wessex and set off for the Aven dig on a warm humid evening.
Seán did most of the digging. Cookie stacked spoil and collected rocks for the dry stone walling around the spoil heap. How high can we make it before it collapses again? Rich and Will manoeuvred the bags in between. Half way through the evening Will and Cookie swapped. We removed approximately 15 heavy bags of spoil.
Digging up Seán has met a layer of fist sized rocks. Hopefully this is the same layer we have seen when digging down from above.
— David Cooke 12/08/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Peter Sanders, Rich Nurse, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
Trips to GB always draw a big crowd and this Wednesday was no exception with ten club members turning out! (How come digging in Sludge doesn’t get teams of ten). We met at 7pm and were kitted up and ready to go by 7.20. Andy and Claire decided to take a more leisurely trip staying above the Ladder Dig and the rest of the team aimed for the Great Chamber and Bat Passage. We all made our way, in one long line into the cave taking the normal way towards the Gorge then into Main Chamber. No matter how often you visit GB the scale is always breathtaking with tiny tiny helictites on the right hand wall and the massive Gorge, Main Chamber and waterfall on the left. We followed the right side of Main Chamber, all with torches on full power to try and see up to the ceiling, downstream. Walking the “waterfall avoidance route?” down to the small climb down back to the water and the climb up to the Ladder Dig Series. Seán took the ladder up to the chain then belayed everyone up. As soon as people were up they headed through the old gate and into the squeezes and crawls of the bolder ruckle then into the mighty Great Chamber. Taking a couple of different routes between us we, after not too long arrived in Great Chamber. We spent about 30minutes in here just exploring, slowly making our way up until we all got to the top. We then ambled our way back down and through the boulders. Most of us, lead by Cookie went a few minutes further on to the stunning Bat Passage before turning back and heading back to the ladder climb. Once down the ladder, we retraced our steps up, round the edge of Main Chamber and Gorge as you cannot, unfortunately climb the waterfall at the moment, and all exited the cave in good time after another good trip. The evening concluded with a pint in the Woodbrough, Winscombe.
— Seán Tidey 26/10/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Paul James, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy
With a large team and a breakthrough IMINANT enthusiasm was high for digging this week. Seán and Will set of first taking rope for the entrance pitch and headed straight for the top of the aven and the dig. Seán went back to work on the dig face and Will got into position at the top of the aven ready to manoeuvre bags. PJ then also came up the aven to help Will lower bags. Andy and Peter stayed at the bottom emptying bags and continuing the very neat wall of spoil. All the while Cookie and his protégé Lawrence had set off with some very high tech kit to survey the cave to help get some idea of where the dig is heading and where the dig face is. This I understand was going very swiftly until the survey device needed recalibrating, meaning they were stuck in one place for a while. I'm led to believe one more session of surveying and we will have some information about the location of the dig face in regards to the rest of the cave. At the dig face we filled about ten bags with spoil and sent seven of these (plus some from last time) down the aven the other three were stacked on top of thee from the last session to help reach the face. After the 6'-7' horizontal crawl there is now a stack of six full bags. From standing on the bags the top of the dig, which is now a solid rock ceiling at that gentil angle everything else in the cave is at is about 8.5-9ft away (full reach with crowbar in hand). Digging continues to be very easy as the spoil is very sandy and gravity is on your side but we will now need to think about which way to head and possibly digging out some steps. Spoil collection is getting harder due the the stack of six bags at the bottom and it may work better with a dedicated person filling bags rather than the digger doing both.
Despite the lack of break though, after a productive session we adjourned to the Hunters.
I was at the dig face all evening so took a bit of guess at what others were up to and in what order based on post digging chat.
— Seán Tidey 25/10/2023
David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
The six of us, Seán, Lawrence, Will, Peter, Cookie & Yvette met on Priddy Green at around 7pm and after changing and discussing where to go got to the cave entrance around 7.20pm. Water levels looked to be just perfect, enough to have / make it fun. We decided to stick as one team and head down to the sump to check out the dig that is currently trying to connect Swildon’s One with the Black Hole Series. We all headed, fairly swiftly and uneventfully to the 20’ where we had a 5 minute wait while a group of three from UBSS came up the pitch and derigged. Seán the rigged and we took turns in belaying each other down. The newly qualified Yvette belaying the last member, Cookie from the bottom. From the bottom of the 20’ we followed the stream way straight to the sump, some members of the team trying to stay dry and out of the water, others committing and just getting in. We found the dig with the stream from Black Hole flowing out of it on the right about 5m before the sump. Most of us had a crawl to the end, about 8m and decided we would stick to Sludge Pit! Looking at the survey and how close these two parts are there is the potential for a great round trip! We continued the few meters to the sump which Seán and Will went through but no further. The whole team then turned round and stared upstream. Will and Seán went via the beautiful (and harder to do going upstream) Barnes’ Loop and then we again belayed each other up the 20’ so everyone got to do some rope work. After packing the bag it was all up the Wet Way and out of the cave by 9.20pm. Six people to the sump and back in two hours without rushing, not bad. As always a fantastic trip enjoyed by all! Seán, Lawrence, Will & Cookie adjourned to a very bust Hunters.
— Seán Tidey 26/10/2023
Andy Sparrow, Brendan Hanley, David Cooke, Peter Sanders, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
We met at the entrance fully kitted out, having discreetly (or not) got changed at disparate locations around Shipham. The shiny new gate with combination lock was opened using the code provided by Wayne Starsmore and although we’d considered abseil descent to speed up entry bearing in mind the 9:30 required exit, the ladders and lifeline were rigged up and the descent for the six of us was quick enough, admiring the large spiders on the way down. Having relocked the gate above us, we set out past the lively singing river, up the scree slope, left into the West Passage into Six Ways Chamber, from where we negotiated the drop into the stream galleries. A handline would indeed have been useful, as suggested in MU. After a quick crawl through a slot to look into a chamber fully occupied by a lake, which apparently leads to further now flooded workings, we continued along the stream (welly depth +), past the Blue Holes to the final sump where the steam flowed rapidly onward. Returning to Six Ways Chamber past the several choked shafts above, we continued into the East Series. From East Chamber we took the Gulf Bypass and over the plank to the Great Hall, having investigated passages to the side (possibly East Gallery No.1?). The water was up to neck height in the Great Hall even at the right hand edge, but four intrepid thick-blooded members of the group entered under the arch and crossed to the passage to the East Shaft, whilst two flakers watched from the Gallery above. On the way back Stinking Gulf was briefly investigated, this being only chest deep in water – no problem if you’re already drenched (apparently). Whilst some faffing about was going on at the entrance shaft, the entrance galleries were perused with a circular route being found and eventually a full exit was made by 9pm and a retreat to a quiet debrief by the log fire in the Penscot. Thanks to Wayne for facilitating access permission and to Andy for the expert guidance. Peter Sanders
— Peter Sanders 12/11/2023
Andy Sparrow, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
Following the sad news that Jackie Dors had died earlier in the day we rapidly changed from the planned Hunters Hole trip to Sludge Pit.
After arriving at the Wessex and changing we walked across to the cave and abseiled down into Boulder Chamber before negotiating the squeeze at the top of Fault Passage to get into the Shale Series. We soon got to the site of our first breakthrough that was a lot less muddy than when first passed.
Following Tributary Passage we arrived at the crossroads and opted for the challenging Four Pots Rift which was negotiated with only a little swearing. A bolt was replaced for the newly installed traverse line by Will and Andy.
A little time was spent in “Dig Chamber” looking at the old and new dig sites before we moved off towards Triple Arch where we went through our second breakthrough “Link Passage”, although snug I found it fine, even with a harness on. At the other end Sean, Will and Myself chose to descend Link Pitch whilst the rest continued along Aragonite Rift.
We all met up at the bottom of the rope before climbing out.
This is a great round trip that’s full of challenges and extremely varied, a wonderful test piece, also nice to have a non digging trip down Sludge.
Obviously the Hunters was closed as, it turned out, was the Queen Vic and the White Hart, thankfully the Riverside was welcoming and glad to see us as we where the only customers at 22:15!
— Lawrence Wilson 23/11/2023
Andy Sparrow, Chris Castle, David Cooke, Lawrence Wilson, Peter Sanders, Rachel Sparrow, Seán Tidey, Will Puddy, Yvette Mayo
Ewan (prospective member)
A chilly night found us outside the Burrington Inn getting changed then car sharing up the coombe to park at the bottom of East Twin valley, a short walk and the entrance was seen to be taking a fair amount of water. The climb in was easy enough as was the climb down into the first chamber.
Following down the streamway past the many damns, railways and aerial tracks it was good to see that digging is still going on and it was a little tidier than on our last visit.
Rachel and Chris went right to the bottom to visit the sump while the rest of us turned right into Spar Pot. This is a very different cave with lots of squeezes, little climbs and an amazing number of fossils.
Sean, Cookie and Ewan made it to the bitter end before we all returned via various routes to East Twin Swallet and thence the exit all of us a lot warmer than on the way in.
A great little cave that’s quite physical but all doable (thankfully Will didn’t actually manage to get stuck in a bedding plane!)
Debriefed at the Woodborough, Ewan enjoyed his first trip, it was commented that if he liked that he will love proper caving!
— Lawrence Wilson 30/11/2023