Cookie, Jude & Adrian Van de Plank, Alex & Marcos (The young whippets) Nick, Michael, Sarah Payne, Bill Nix & me Judi. 1 1/2 - 2 hours
The first thing I found out about Thrupe Lane is that Thrupe Lane does not start as Thrupe Lane in Croscombe but Thrupe Lane starts as Rock Street and morphs into Thrupe Lane. The landlord of The George Inn1) is a very nice man who has been in Thrupe Lane Swallet and knows Thrupe starts at Rock, thank goodness, so I found it.
When I arrived at the beautiful traditional Cotswold Thrupe Farm house there were several cars parked to tell me I was in the right place. I had come for a bit of hard labour in exchange for a trip underground that was already rigged. Well at least the easy bits. I had no interest in doing the 60 metres to the bottom of Atlas Pot. The 60 meters down is okay it is the 60 meters back-up that’s hard work.
When we were released off the chain gang, dig, dig, dig, wheel the barrow, move the rock, stand and look at it, ponder, change the plan & dig some more, we were presented with full mugs of tea, homemade pasties2), yummmm & incinerated meat if you had put something on the BBQ & got chatting, then we were let off to go & play.
Ten of us lined up in the new trench and following photos we shuffled after the young whippet, Alex, towards the first pitch. There are plenty of space to stand to get on the rope which can’t be said for the gap that you have to go down. The bottom is a little more roomy, thankfully, I could keep out of the way of the next one dropping as the message had to be passed back … ‘the hole on the right is the wrong way to go’. How much the wrong way to go, I found out later. We shuffled forward into the next rift with the knobbly rock catching my harness as often as it could. The next pitch is nice to get on & I was soon manoeuvring my way down, landing on a rock before dropping to the floor. Here the message is to don’t go forward, double back underneath yourself into a larger space. Here the ones in the know took off their harnesses and bagged them away. ‘That’s why they had brought empty bags down, Doh!’ I carried on with my kit still snagging whenever it wanted to annoy me. We then popped out into the lovely large Butts’ Chamber with water running from somewhere up high. I am sure someone on the surface had redirected the flow just to get us wet.
Bill took the opportunity to take a few photos while we made sure everyone had followed through the right bits. Cookie, Adrian & Jude at this point climbed into Upper Butts’ above us and carried on out while Alex lead the rest of us towards Marble Streamway. There was the inevitable crawl in the stream that became a beautiful cream & pink meandering passage dropping down at every bend with the stream splashing in the bottom. Alex then paused, “beware it becomes steep & slippy, don’t go over the edge”, What!!, I proceeded with trepidation and then realised I was on The Balcony3) overlooking Atlas pot. The atmosphere & noise changed, I slipped to the side onto a muddy platform giving space for the others to come down while Alex happily moved round the edge of the pot. I was NOT going that close. The others came to look, Nick was still impressed after last being there in 19784). Way above us, the top of Atlas is where we would have ended up if we had turned right at the bottom of the first pitch. A very good thing to know! I managed to talk myself back into the channel and so we started out.
From Upper Butts’, it seemed to alternate between climbing and squeezing through small holes. Although there was lots of jaggy rock to hold & pull on, some didn’t want to let you through. At some point we lay in a stream, ‘I thought we had diverted that & it was supposed to be dry’, came across a small ladder which helped you across a hole to the next level, more climbing before daylight filtered down the last climb out through Hobnail. A great little trip, bruised arms, wet socks but no holes in my suite.
Look out for an article & photos in the next Descent.