Monday, 15 May 2017

The Top Five Things I Learned While Going Caving With the Dudley Caving Club by Sarah Lotz

It started a couple of years ago. I was trawling YouTube for inspiration for a book I was thinking of writing, idly browsing caving videos. All I knew at that stage was that I wanted to write about an adrenalin junkie who has an unfortunate experience when he breaks into a cave that’s been out of bounds for years (I should probably point out that I write commercial horror fiction!). Top of the heap were a series of superb clips by Keith Edwards of the Dudley Caving Club, which left the other videos in the dust (in the acknowledgements of the book I call him the Spielberg of the caving scene – although I suspect Keith has a far keener sense of humour). I was on the edge of my seat watching them, peering through my fingers like I used to do as a kid when the scary bits of Doctor Who came on. I contacted Keith, and asked him if he’d be prepared to let me pick his brain about the caving scene. He did much more than that; he invited me to visit the windmill and offered to take me underground. Everyone I met at the windmill was welcoming and kind, even though I’m fairly sure they all thought I was bonkers. Talk turned to which route to take me. I’d heard somewhere that if you go underground for long enough, when you emerge you can smell what the air ‘really’ smells like. It was Mark who suggested we do the OFD 1 to Cwm Dwr through trip – five hours should give me that. And so my husband Charlie and I set off to meet Keith, Mark and Brendan on a drizzly Welsh morning.

I did get to smell what the air ‘really’ smells like. That and much, much more.

The trip wasn’t easy, but it was bloody brilliant. And I got the inspiration for half a novel out of it (the other bit is set on a mountain), even if I did get some of the caving terminology wrong.

Sarah and Charlie the start of their adventure
Anyway, in the style of Simon Newman, the book’s protagonist, who as well as being a hapless adrenalin junkie runs a nasty little website that becomes the precursor of Buzzfeed, fake news and all that’s wrong about the internet (and yes, he is what most people would call an arsehole), here are The Top Five Things I Learned While Going Caving With the Dudley Caving Club:

1) A sense of humour helps

And you have to have one to take a neurotic writer and her gung-ho husband under the earth for five hours. It was a big ask, especially as I had zero caving or climbing experience (I have a condition commonly known as laziness), and Charlie is at the other end of the scale – he has no fear.

Keith, Brendan and Mark told us exactly what to bring, were endlessly patient, and at no point, not once, did they ever lose their cool. Brendan even took a photograph of us balancing on a pipe on top of a churning pool, which took a great deal of setting up and generosity.

They are exactly the kind of people I would want by my side in a zombie apocalypse. And they’re also what my brother would call ‘as funny as fuck.’

Sarah negotiating the Letterbox

2) Claustrophobia was the least of my worries

In one of Keith’s Cwm Dwr videos there’s a moment where Mark gets stuck in a pipe (I can’t tell you exactly where on the vid it is – I have only managed to watch it once). Those few seconds of footage made The Descent look like Bambi and gave me nightmares. This trepidation was fuelled by Capetonian friends who, on learning I was going down a big hole, all had horror stories about people getting stuck in the notorious Cango Caves, trapped in a funnel for hours with nothing to look at except an American tourist’s giant arse.

But when I was actually underground, the squeeze bits were my favourite – I loved every second of corkscrewing our way through a boulder choke and scrabbling along a squeeze the height of a microwave. And I didn’t experience one second of claustrophobia. I put this down to the head-lamps, which were far brighter than I expected, and the fact I was being shepherded by the best in the business.

I’ll put my hands up and say that I fudged this in the book and made it a thousand times scarier than it actually is. (I’m a horror writer – if I don’t tap into people’s fears then I’ve failed). But I have told everyone I’ve met since writing the novel that claustrophobia really isn’t an issue and was the least of my worries.

And when I say it was the least of my worries, see below.

Sarah on the Diver's pitch
Sarah said it was more frightening than being held up by four armed men and being attacked by lions

3) Screaming doesn’t help

There was one point (shortly after we were posted through the letterbox) where I had to be winched over and down what looked to me to be a bloody great sheer cliff (and what everyone else termed a ‘small ledge’). I did have a bit of a cry on the way down (especially when I realised Keith was filming me). Keith, Brendan and Mark lowered me down inch by inch, never once losing patience or calling me out for being pathetic. Charlie showed me up and crawled down there like a monkey.

I did things on that trip I never thought I would do: reaching for a chain and dangling backwards over the unforgiving stone floor; being shoved up a slippery pipe; being hauled across the yawning maw of a plummeting ravine (more a crevice, but still). And although I couldn’t have been further out of my comfort zone (and admittedly had a bit of a meltdown) I never once felt unsafe.

An expression of pure enjoyment

4) Leave it to the experts

At one stage I remember looking up and seeing Mark scooting up a rock face like Spiderman, and then peering down at us from what seemed to be a huge height. I still have no clue how he got up there.

Charlie practically had to be held back bodily from having a go at this. As Keith had just explained to me in detail how difficult it was to get an injured person out of a cave (and we’d passed a crevice in which a young woman had been trapped for hours), we wisely dissuaded him.

Glad to be out

5) Sometimes you can depend on the kindness of strangers

There are many things I took away from this experience: That anyone can go caving if they have a crack team with them (even unfit foul-mouthed writers). That the sport is beyond exhilarating, and the unique perspective you get from being under the earth is priceless, rewarding and like being in another world – something few people get to experience. In short, it’s a real privilege.

But most importantly, that the people who make up the caving community are generous, funny and pretty much unshakable.

Keith, Mark and Brendan have a cameo in the book as the rescuers who show up and risk their lives to pluck Simon out of his fictional cave when he runs into trouble (inspired by Keith telling me that only cavers can rescue cavers). I thought this was fitting, as I could picture them doing that.

Thank you, Dudley Caving Club. The novel couldn’t have been written without you.

You all rock (no pun intended)

Sarah Lotz

A Short Video from the Trip

The Book

The book was published in the UK on 4th May 2017.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A North Wales Mine Exploration Weekend

With Dudley Caving Club it's not just about underground exploration, our weekends away are packed with subterranean shenanigans and other fun activities like eating ice cream, walking along a seaside pier, geocaching and hanging about in karaoke bars.

Mines featured: Great Orme, Croesor, Rhosydd and Hendre Spar.

Another Caver Keith Video Production

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A trip to the airlock in Tunnel Top

After a much better nights sleep we chose Tunnel Top Entrance for our relaxing Sunday trip. I had done this years ago with Andy G & all I could remember of the trip was that navigation wasn't always straight forward and that it was quite physical.

We headed up the hillside above DYO in beautiful sunshine. I had managed to persuade Loz to 'Offer' to carry the rope up and so was enjoying the stroll. This was a far cry from the first time I had attempted to find the entrance and had wandered for almost 2 hrs before discovering it. This time we headed straight there.
Loz's mate Michelle was going off walking and so we got her to be our call out.

We again made swift progress down the pitches and traverse and were soon heading in to the cave. We kept high and right and aside from a single blip had no issues with navigation.
The trip is pretty physical and uses quite a bit of upper body strength and both Loz and Kay were getting pretty overheated. We had planned to go off and explore a bit but decided that could wait for another day and so picked our way back through the passage taking note of the other routes as we passed them for a further trip in the future.

Loz de-rigged on the way out and we emerged from the cave to find our call out anxiously awaiting us......well actually she was asleep on the grass, but I'm sure it was anxious sleep though!

Tunnel Top Entrance
Kay and Loz at the starting climb to Marble arch passage
Success! we made it to the airlock door.
Michelle anxiously awaits our return!

Present: Kay Wood, Loz Appleby, Mark Burkey & Rescue Call Out Michelle

Saturday, 6 May 2017

A trip to The Far North. Dan Yr Ogof

Kay and I headed down the SWCC on the Friday to get a decent nights sleep before our big trip on the Saturday. Unfortunately Plymouth Uni had other plans and were outside partying till 4.30am, at which time they decided a spot of naked caving was on the plans and headed off to Cwm Dwr!

We met Los at the DYO car park at half ten, kitted up and headed in.

Low water levels and only taking a point and click camera meant we made good time and we took the usual round trip route past Cloud Chamber in.  Only a single ring was available at the green canal and so Kay elected to get wet whilst Loz and I went over the top and abseiled down to join her.

Our swift progress continued as we made our way up the Rising and through to the Great North Road.

After Pinnacle chamber we decided to take The Meanders in to the cave and after just under 4 hours were sitting at the final choke.

As Kay had never been to this part of the cave before we went for a look at The Mostest on the way out and headed back via The North Bypass. We took the lower series out and were back in the sunshine eating cake for 7pm after a good 8hr trip underground.

He's behind you!!!
Loz in the long crawl
Loz at the final choke
Kay at the final choke

Present: Laura Appleby, Kay Wood & Mark Burkey

Monday, 1 May 2017

Day 3 Hendre Spa Mine

For the last day of the club meet Ex member Heather Simpson kindly offered to lead us on a trip in to Hendre Spa Mine. Jess and I had a slight navigational blip and arrived to find most already changed and ready to go. Heather saw mine and Keith's video and camera gear and said she'd forgotten we would be brining it and needed to change the call out. On the phone we heard her mention 8 to 9pm and I glanced over to see the look of horror on Keith's face at the thought of me keeping him hanging around taking photo's for hours :)

After the previous days outing I was beginning to think mines weren't really going to be my thing, but  quarter of an hour of walking through pretty woodland we were climbing down a laddered shaft and in to large, well sculpted passage which immediately appealed to my photographic side.
There were enough obstacles that Keith was able to take some video and the trip itself offered enough variation that it satisfied all.

Fortunately Heather had overestimated our dedication for documenting the mine and we exited in to sunshine at about 3pm.

We tried for a quick drink before heading our separate ways but were unable to find anything open and so bid farewell to each other and our leaders and headed home after another successful Dudley caving meet to start washing our kit!

Hendre Spa Entrance Ladder
Loz in the end passage
Heather and Loz at the bridge
Keith at cairn junction
Impressive passageway at the head of the 5 ladders
Me and my mate survived a whole weekend of mining.....and we didn't die or nuffink!

Present: Heather Simpson, Rob, Keith Edwards, Loz Appleby, Kay Wood, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Day 2.... The Great Orme Mine

Day 2's adventure would be a led trip in to the Great Orme Mine.

Another leisurely start to the day with the group meeting up just passed the half way tram stop at 10am. Our guides were already there and kitted in boiler suits. Keith had joined us for this trip and we all began kitting up.
The walk to the shaft was only meters away and we were all happy to get out of the wind and on with exploration. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the nondescript walking, stooping and crawling muddy passage wasn't really it. For once I felt no need to get the camera out and before I know it we were heading back to the surface after less than a couple of hours. First up I popped to get changed and took a few pics with my phone as the others exited. Lucy flew up the 20m pitch and so her initiation in to the world of SRT has officially started!

With more of the day left than we had expected we headed to the top of the Great Orme for tea and cake before Keith suggested us muggles might want to have a go at the mysterious world of geocaching. We had a romp over the hill side and were thrilled when we found the hidden stash! Unfortunately it was time to say goodbye to Lucy and Mike, but the rest of us were keen to take in the scenery around Happy Valley and continue with the geocache quest.

Eventually the rumble from the bellies could be ignored no longer and we headed in to Llandudno to collect traditional fish and chips to eat on the beachfront. I decided I wanted to eat mine on the beach itself and couldn't understand why the others weren't following......that is until I was mugged by seagulls! I beat a hasty retreat and guarded what was left in my tray.

The evening took a somewhat surprising turn when after Loz headed to campsite, Kay and Jess decided they wanted to visit a karaoke bar!

Against our better judgement, and with a couple of pints consumed, even Keith and I could be heard singing along at the table ;)

The Gang All Kitted Up At The Entrance Shaft
Lucy survives her first prussic and still smiling!

Geocaching is fun!
More fun in Happy Valley
The screen says it all!

Present: Mike Bonner, Kay Wood, Lucy Collins, Keith Edwards, Jess Burkey, Loz Appleby & Mark Burkey

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Dudley North Wales Mines Weekend. Day1....The Croesor / Rhosydd Through Trip.

Kay, myself and Jess travelled to Llandudno on the Friday night to avoid the bank holiday traffic.

Saturday morning after a walk on the pier and donuts for breakfast we went to meet Kay at her bed and breakfast before collecting Loz at a nearby Mcdonalds and heading on to Tanygrisiau where we had arranged to hook up with Mike and Lucy for midday.

The long walk to the Croesor entrance was as much fun as ever, Kay particularly enjoyed it after having had a 4 course breakfast!

At the entrance we met some European hikers who poked their nose in the entrance before declaring us mad and going on their way.

This would be Lucy's first real SRT and so we had brought enough rope to rig a tandem abseil and so I descended beside her to keep an eye on her, though it really wasn't needed as she had no problems at all.
Whilst the usual fun was had on the Zip line I took advantage of the others playing back and forth to get a planned shot of the rickety suspension bridge before we continued on through the other various obstacles.
I had been a little worried about getting Lucy across the traverse, but a second zip line is now in place making the traverse redundant. We had another play with photo's, this time getting Kay to use her Vape to create a smokey effect, intact creating so much smoke I couldn't see across the chamber!
We eventually got the hang of how much would create the right effect and grabbed the shot before moving on.
Lucy and Kay were nervous of the new rigging at the bridge of death, but both had no problems at all when it came their turn to cross.
As we reached the canoe we realised we were going to be close to our call out time. Jess suggested I go ahead with Mike and Lucy to ensure we would make it out on time until I pointed out I was the only one who knew the way out and so we stayed as a group navigating through Rhosydd.

Once out Loz did her thing and jogged down to the cars. She arrived with only 5 minutes to spare before Keith was actually going to initiate the call out.

After a proper scolding by Mr. Edwards we headed to Betws Y Coed for a good meal and then back to Llandudno.

View from the bedroom, LlandudnoPier
Lucy on the wobbly suspension bridge
Kay on the 2nd Abseil
Mike & Jess at the 2nd Zip Line
Hungy cavers!

Present: Kay Wood, Loz Appleby, Mike Bonner, Lucy Collins, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Caver Keith Videos 2017

It’s been a crazy few months for my caving videos. My YouTube channel was set up in October 2008. It took almost 8 years but on 27th August last year the channel clocked up half a million caving video views. Since then the view rate has increased dramatically and it took a mere 8 months to double the number of views. On 4th April this year the caving videos achieved their one-millionth view. The view rate in the first 18 days of this month is over 14,000 views a day and the total views are now 1.2 million.

My Caving Videos Playlist

Monday, 17 April 2017

Eastwater Cavern & The 13 Pots

For Sunday we had been slated to lead a trip in the fairy quarry, but as most of the gang were rather either hung over, heading in for the short round trip or off to do some family caving in Burrington, Jess and I took a day off to play with the camera in Aveline's Hole.

Monday we joined Duncan for our first trip in to Eastwater Cavern to do the 13 pots.
Off to a good start I couldn't fit through the smaller entrance hole and had to use the slightly larger alternative. We were soon making our way to 'The Woggle Press' to see if I would fit through this, which fortunately I did :) and on to the ladder pitch.
The next few hours were truly great fun, sliding down smooth polished bedding planes and clambering up and down the pots themselves before doing an awkward vertical squeeze and on to a rift that would require us to chimney across whilst trying not to slip down.
Duncan had done a great job leading us and was excellent at gauging what I would and would not fit through. On our way out I had another go at the entrance squeeze and this time managed to marshmallow my way through :)

After a quick shower at the Wessex and pint at the Vic, we said our goodbyes and headed back home after a great weekends play.

Aveline's Hole

Present: Duncan Simey, Jess Burkey & Mark Burkey.
A second team of Neil, Ollie, Mike & Tom also joined us in the entrance series before heading off to explore digs and head back out of the woggle press.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Duck Hunting In Upper Flood Swallet.

Dudley members were invited to attend the first 'Cave Fest' event being held in the mendips with Jess, myself and Loz signing up.

Jess and I headed down on the Friday evening. Loz had put her name down for a trip in to St Cuthberts on the Saturday but found herself running late and wound up on a trip in to Eastwater Cavern instead.

Surprised that no one had put their names down for Saturdays trip in to Upper flood swallet, Jess and I eagerly booked the trip. We were joined by Duncan Simey and met up on the green at quarter to ten to find our leader for the day Bill Chadwick, one of the original discoverers of Neverland.

Eager to get going Bill suggested we head straight off and so we were soon changed at the MCG hut and on our way.
En-route I found I had lost a glove and told the others to carry on and I would catch them up, but not only did I not manage to find said glove, but found myself wandering the fields until Jess popped her head up and called me over.
Our next few hours would be spent crawling and squeezing through the entrance series. Bill asked if I fancied cleaning off and going to a little visited area above the duck-under-boss to get a photo of the duck pond and I, of course, jumped at the chance. The Duck Pond is very much like pork pie passage and is a flat out crawl with no way of lighting the chamber any other way than from the front. With this done I headed back and began to make my way back down when Jess came around the corner and lit up the curtains in front of me and so another ten minutes were spent photographing this before turning around to grab a shot of Bill coming back down the Boss.
Further soakings and mud crawls brought us to the wash off point where we stripped down to our undersuits and wet socks before heading to grab a quick shot at Curtain Climb. With this done Jess and I took a few photo's in the connecting passage whilst Duncan, who had never visited Neverland before, went off with Bill.
Suitably impressed the others returned from the stunning area of the cave and we begun our journey back out. The trip in had been great fun sliding and squeezing our way through. On the return it felt a little tougher on the knees!
After six hours underground we re-emerged on the surface and headed off to find out how Loz had got on in Eastwater.

The Duck Pond
The Zig Zags
The Duck-Under-Boss
Curtain Climb
Curtain Passage

Present: Jessica Burkey, Mark Burkey, Duncan Simey and trip leader Bill Chadwick

Saturday, 8 April 2017

P8 Jackpot my first trip as a leader

We started the day by meeting at mine for 7am and heading off to Morrison's in Buxton for breakfast. We then headed down to the parking for p8, we set off with srt kit, ropes for srt and two ladders. After I led the way across to the entrance with a little help from Andy, in we went. We all made it past idiots leap without incident and towards the first pitch. I rigged the ladder pitch for Ollie and myself , while Andy rigged the srt traverse pitch and headed off up to the upper sections. ollie and myself carried on down the streamway to the second pitch, which we completed with out any problem. We then headed down the lower streamway passage where I headed to the first sump, then came back and headed up the crawl on the left towards the rest of the streamway, Got to the streamway then came back and went up and to the right and headed for mud hall, we eventualy came back to the second pitch climbed up and derigged. We then headed back to near the first pitch and headed back up and over the streamway into the upper sections where andy had sat waiting for us and was  keeping an eye on us, we then headed to stalagmite grotto which ends in a calcite choke, we then went  back and over to Steve's passage, then back to the first pitch. While Ollie climbed the ladder, I came up the srt traverse rope and out.

We then drove down the road to have a look at where giants and a few other caves are such as oxlow and nettle pot etc. We then Stopped off at one of Andy's old friends for a cupp and a catch up, then on the way  back home we stopt at  the milestone pub for a quick pint before going our seperate ways.

All in all a nice little trip in which no cavers where harmed in the undertaking and Andy said theres no reason why i cant lead a group in on my own  in the future ,

  present: Kay, Andy g, and ollie.

Trip report by kay 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

3rd Time Lucky, An OFD Through Trip

For Ollie's 3rd ever caving trip he was keen to try something a little more ambitions I suggested a through trip and told them to decide which one.
As Kay and Ollie discussed which through trip to do, Clive Westlake wandered over and introduced us to a chap called Tarquin who was looking for a decent length trip for a Sunday .
He was most keen on a through trip and asked if we fancied an ofd1 to top trip, and so the decision was made.
We made swift progress through OFD1 with Tarquin giving us a full descriptive history of the cave. We paused for a while at the letterbox as I tried to better a shot I had previously taken there before continuing on in to the main streamway. The water levels weren't too high and although we often had to jump in to the deep water it wasn't too strenuous. We again took a quick shot before leaving the streamway and once we arrived at the crossroads Kay took over the navigation out.
A thoroughly enjoyable day in good company.

Ollie entering the letterbox climb

Kay in the main streamway

Ollie learns that just one more shot isn't always quite truthful!

Present: Ollie Woodward, Kay Wood, Tarquin & Mark Burkey

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A Run Around Top....More Like A Marathon!

Ollie's first outing last week to Bagshawe Cavern hadn't put him off and he turned up on Thursday evening keen for more and so a weekend at South Wales was arranged to try and beat the enthusiasm out of him!
We stopped off for the usual breakfast to start the day at Luigi's in Abergavenny before heading on to the SWCC. Upon arrival we checked the river and found this flowing well so the streamway would be out of bounds for todays foray and a run around top entrance would be the trip of the day.

After changing and walking up the hill we headed in.
Kay was kind enough to carry the 2nd peli box as I wanted to test some new flash guns and we took a couple of test shots straight away to see if she would have to lug them around the entire trip.......she would :)

We begun with the awkward climb up to the mini columns and in to the bedding planes to show Kay the head of the practice srt pitch in to Gnome passage. From here we headed down speedy caver and across to Gnome passage, down Edwards Shortcut and for a look at the pretties in Frozen River. We continued down Edwards Shortcut and cut across to Shatter Pillar and took the usual route through Selenite tunnel and over Presidents Leap to take a look at The Trident & Judge formations. A quick divert to Swamp Creek and then up to Peter's Pretty Passage.
I really thought that would be enough for Ollie's first trip in OFD, but he was still game and so we headed up Salubrious and over toward the bottom of Arete Chamber, turned off in to the Snowman passage and cut across to come out in Chasm. We went for a look at the head of the Crevasse before taking a look at Bowani Junction, Straw Gallery and back to Timo's Table. We took the crawls behind Timo's Table back to the base of Arete and the the direct route up the Corkscrew Climb, Past The Wedding Cake in to Gnome Passage, Through the Backyard and Out.
Fortunately that seemed to be enough of a warmup for Ollie and so after a quick look in the club dig, we retired to the local Indian Restaurant to make plans for the next day.

Ollie Admires The Mini Columns
Kay Slides Down The Calcite At Speedy Caver
Ollie Examines The Helictites In Peter's Pretty Passage
Kay In Straw Gallery

Ollie Woodward, Kay Wood & Mark Burkey

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Dudley Peaks Weekend: Peak Cavern to Titan....and back!

As Jess and I had to work on the Saturday we arranged to meet the gang in Castleton early evening for a meal.
The others had been in Bagshawe Cavern earlier that day with a good turn out of: Ian, Mike, Lucy, Kay and our latest recruit Ollie.
For a surprise Brendan managed to get over for the meal, but was far too sensible to be persuaded to join us for any caving.

This would be the first day off Jess and I had managed since getting back from Meghalaya and I was looking forward to a nice Sunday pootle around Peak Cavern and have a play with my new flash gun set up. Mike and Kay however had other plans and wanted to visit the bottom of Titan.

As we reached the cave Jess begun putting on her belt and knee pads only to find that the knee pads had self destructed at some point since their last use and so I insisted she take mine. We made our way through the show cave and were soon wading through the mucky ducks and on to The Treasury. As we made our way up the ladder and in to the trenches Mike took a turn with the extra box of flash guns and stormed ahead up the muddy passage and on to Colostomy Crawl. We were soon washing the mud off ourselves as we made our way upstream toward The Bung. This was flowing at full force and any remains of mud were well and truly gone by the time we got in the upper streamway. 
The awkward ladders up to JH were ascended next and we were soon at the connecting duck. After going through and pulling the boxes through it took a minute to convince the others that it was actually the way and that I wasn't kidding. I did remind them that it was their idea for the trip ;)
Our last obstacle was the awkward squeeze up through the boulders to Titan itself. We had made excellent time and were stood gazing up the impressive shaft in just under 3 hrs. 
Mike, Kay and Jess had taken it in turns to haul my extra camera box through all this way so it seemed a shame to not take a few photo's as we exited :0)
Colostomy Crawl seemed even longer on the way out and my knees were really starting to feel it by the time we were climbing back down the Faulty Towers ladders.
We exited at just before 5pm to sunshine and quickly changed before grabbing ice creams and fudge from the local shops before saying our good byes and heading home.

Jess in the Lower Bung Streamy
Mike on the impressive Bung Ladder Climb
Kay at the foot of Titan

Present: Mike Bonner, Kay Wood, Mark Burkey and Jessica Burkey

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Behind the locked doors of Bagshawe Cavern

After meeting for the obligatory full English breakfast  in Buxton, our convoy headed in the direction of Bradwell village, in search of Ye Olde Bowling Green pub where we were due to meet our 'fixer'.
After a quick briefing of the cave system and an exchange of keys, we kitted up and headed to the entrance where some 130 manmade steps descending steeply into the cavern awaited us.
Our first port of call was Calypsos cave just off the main passage way; we spent a few minutes here scrabbling up into a small tube which ends fairly quickly at a dig. Returning to the main passageway to drop the kit bag off at The Dungeon, we continued our way down via the hippodrome to Top Stream Passage and the sumps.
We spent a bit of time here studying the survey, looking around and getting our bearings before retracing our steps in search of the glory hole and the first of the two locked gates that we had come to visit. Behind the first locked gate was Snake’s Pyjamas.  We crawled our way in, one by one, and admired the pretties seen on our left as we made our way up to the furthest point which we could squeeze up to.     
Back on the main passage we made our way towards our final locked gate of the day known as Coronation Crawl. This was a slightly bigger and more decorated passage then the last, so we split off in different directions to see what we could find. I climbed up into a tight rift on the right and crawled head first through water until I couldn’t progress comfortably any further, with the rest of the group returning from their little explores with similar result.
Before returning to the surface, and with time to spare, we thought we would rig the ladder and descend into The Dungeon, but not before we attempted to see if we could fit through agony crawl! This was short lived when it was soon apparent that I would be forced to remove my helmet to ‘maybe’ fit through! Not keen on getting stuck or having everyone laugh at me, we retreated back to The Dungeon pit and rigged the ladder.
The team did a grand job of rigging the ladder and soon we were lowering our test dummy (aka Kay) down the pitch. With the reassuring sounds of the rope being “free” it was our new recruit Ollies turn to descend. Ollie made easy work of the ladder and rope, and one by one we all reached the floor of the Dungeon.
It quickly became apparent that we wouldn’t be going too far as the water levels for our route ahead were looking too high, and after wading in to chest deep water it was confirmed that we wouldn’t be able to explore the lower routes at all, so we quickly retreated to the dry banks and made our way out.
At this point we all agreed that we had seen what we wanted to see and we made our final ascent of the 130 steps to make our way out of the cave. After a quick change of clothes we made our way back down the hill to Ye Olde Bowling Green pub’s garden for some well deserved refreshments and sunshine.

Present: Mike, Lucy, Rich, Kay, Ian and new recruit Ollie

Trip report: Mike Bonner