MCG: Ben Cooper
For a change, I'll start at the end. The moral of the story is that if you haven't been to Upper Flood Swallet, you should go. But it all began because we'd been lax and hadn't visited the Mendips to go caving for a number of months as no caving was managed on the Hidden Earth weekend.
For those who haven't been there yet, the Mendips are a great place to go caving. There are loads of caves to explore. Some are shorter ones, where you can do several in a day and others are bigger systems such as Swildon's Hole, St. Cuthbert's Swallet, Charterhouse and Upper Flood where you can while a day away and only see a small section of the whole. When coupled with an excellent social scene with a mix of cavers from many different Mendip clubs mingling together, frequently at the Hunter's Inn, it makes for a good location for a caving weekend.
We stayed at Larkshall, home of Cerberus Speleological Society; a first visit there for us. We shared this with Cardiff University who proved that university caving is still going extremely strong by fielding a group of around 35 for a Fresher's caving weekend. The strong support network provided by the Cardiff alumni team was also readily apparent as were the high spirits of the new cavers who had some first visits to Swildon's, GB and Fairy Cave Quarry and came back very excited by their new experiences. They also learned some new caving games, including the broom handle one and paper picking up game and upheld some old traditions - one of their members has a cream pie in the face on every away trip (which is welcomed by everyone as all get a share of the dessert afterwards!).
|Larkshall, home of the Cerberus.|
Upper Flood is not a walk in the park. Those expecting to just head straight in and see the formations in Neverland without putting in too much effort will be sorely disappointed. The cave makes you work for it and guards it's spectacular formations well. The trip to Neverland and back takes around 5 hours at a fair pace and is a committing one. An injury beyond the choke would be an incredibly serious situation with, I'd say, zero chance of a stretcher being able to be taken back through the choke. There are 13 squeezes and innumerable contortions needed throughout - there used to be a squeeze box test at the MCG hut to see if you could fit through the tightest part. Despite being a 'dry' cave, you get fully wet within the first 30 minutes of the trip thanks to the Lavatory Trap, Canal and Puddle Lake. But it is undoubtedly worth it. This was my second visit to the cave within the past 2 years and I'd happily go back any day. It's a sporting trip coupled with some of the prettiest formations I have seen. What more could you want from your Saturday caving trip? You feel like you've done something worthwhile.
|Lawrence on the way to Neverland|
|Chloe admires a huge curtain|
|Neverland. Photo: Mark Burkey|
|Even more Neverland. Photo: Mark Burkey.|
|The Pork Pies. Photo: Mark Burkey.|
|Bill trying out one of the 'upstream' crawls in Hillier's|
Bill in Hillier's and at the entrance to Fairy Cave.