Ian, Beth with Fay and other BCC.
Many thanks to Fay for the invitation to join this Burnley meet, which proved to be such a delight that I recommend WRPC readers to join a future trip here.
A wet night in the north east had me fearing a cancellation and I packed a few ropes for an alternative trip, but with Beth up early for her paper round we were bang on time at the cave for 10, finding the welcome sight of cavers in various states of undress in a quiet corner of the car park in improving weather.
Hearing of the abundant water in the cave, we were well kitted out in neoprene, with Beth being particularly cosy in my semi-dry suit, whilst I had to make do with my slightly battered 5mm wetsuit jacket and tatty neoprene gloves, allowing my daughter to use my pristine pair.
A quick romp along the show cave path, with a detour to view Battlefield chamber, brought us to the end of the walkway, with lights illuminating the deep water beyond, where a choice of swimming or hauling along the fixed line led to a choke blockage. Going up to the roof proved to be the wrong option, with some horribly poised blocks suggesting a retreat to the water, where a couple of squeezes, basically following an orange dive line allowed the streamway to be regained. And what a streamway – reminiscent of a northern dales passage on a grand scale – rather like Weardale’s finest – with jagged black rock soaring up to about 30 or 40 feet for much of the way and the occasional fine flowstone formation to make one pause in admiration.
Since our party of 8 had become 2 x 4 at the choke, Beth led our group, whilst we were unsure of whether Fay’s band were ahead or behind, until pools of cloudy water and wet marks on boulders indicated that we were following them. Reaching deep water, where scaffold bars suggested a climb out, Beth swam across the pool and I followed, where the character of the passage gradually changed, to low and wetter, with a series of ducks leading to sections of more open passage before a very aqueous path to the sump with its dive line tied to a huge bollard. Tremendous fun and I was pleased to see that Beth absolutely loved the experience.
On the way out I had a climb up to admire the formations in the Straw Chamber – a fine collection of strangely transparent straws that are well worth a careful viewing, whilst also trying to figure out where the Sleepwalker Series began – not on the agenda for the day, although Fay recounted tales of a visit with Denis and Bri, with some scary chimney traverses – sounds good!
Beth and I were first out, enjoying the bizarre experience of swimming towards the bright lights of the show cave to plop onto the metal walkway to wait for the others. With the party reunited, we all exited together, passing a party of punters on their tour to have the final task of getting changed in a crowded car park. Not easy for the non-van-owners amongst us!
A super day out – thanks to Fay and the BCC, as well as the cave staff.