Reservoir Hole, situated a third of the way up Cheddar Gorge is a very special trip with a restriction on numbers entering the system and has to be led by a member of Wessex Caving Club.
So three members of Dudley Caving Club, Becca Kirkpatrick, Daz Long and myself were very fortunate to have been offered this trip, and even more so when we found out that our leader for today was Martin Grass one of the original six diggers who as recently as 2012, crawled, climbed and burrowed their way into ‘The Frozen Deep’, what a tenacious group they are when you consider that the cave has been dug by various members since 1951.
A suitable meeting place needed to be identified and an old favourite, the ‘Priddy Good Café’ was nominate, it just so happens that they do a stonkingly good breakfast as well.
Changed and briefed we gathered at the gated entrance to start with a flat out crawl and trying to avoid the spiders and hibernating bats.
There were a lot of near vertical descents down well-built shafts that required upper body wedging whilst trying to locate out of sight footholds. A miscalculation here would have speeded the descent but with dire consequences, ironically they were a pussy cat to ascend on the return leg.
The various diggers have to be commended for the remarkable neat and tidy way they went about their work building ‘staircases’ and neatly stacking dead’s where ever possible, it is probably the tidiest cave you will ever visit.
Martin’s knowledge of almost every rock, boulder and puddle meant he was able to give us a fascinating insight of the slow and sometimes frustrating progress of the dig as we moved through the various chambers and passages such as Moon Milk Chamber, Grand Gallery, Topless Aven and following an arduous dig they eventually broke through into a 20 metre long parallel rift and named it ‘Great Expectations’, so no pressure on yourselves there guys!
A large slab begrudgingly moved no more than it felt necessary despite the aid of explosives from the team, but did reveal a 15 metre crawl leading into a 25 meter high by 20 meter long chamber which they named ‘Resurrection’. Beyond this was a boulder slope and a 12 metre vertical pitch now split into a 5metre pitch landing on a platform and the final 7 metres into ‘The Frozen Deep’.
The enormity of this chamber, probably the largest yet discovered under the Mendip Hills is slow to dawn on you, its length and width is in the region of 60 & 50 metres and a height of 30 metres are overshadowed by white calcite flows down the walls. Stalagmites and stalactites abound, some soon to meet in the next million years or so, and there is a pure white pillar of 5 metres in length.
Massive lumps of wall and roof section larger than a Transit Van have plunged to the floor clawing at and scarring the remaining wall as if in a last desperate attempt to remain in situ, smashing and crushing formations that once hung from or sat beneath them.
As you explore ‘The Frozen Deep’ it is clear to see why with so much white calcite on show this chamber got its name, it could be mistaken for a snapshot from the ice age. The team and their colleagues deserve top marks for their conservation work in here (and the inward and outward routes) having marked with a great deal of tape, carefully defined and very narrow walkways to minimise the impact of human footfall on the millennia of undisturbed chamber floor.
An awe inspiring trip of about 4 hours and one to be highly recommended. Our apperception and thanks to Martin Grass who led the trip and was so informative and knowledgeable.
Trip report Ian Millward
Pictures: Becca Kirkpatrick
Present Becca Kirkpatrick, Daz Long & Ian Millward.