Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Forest of Dean Caving

SWCC Team - Jill Brunsdon, Bill and Doreen Buxton, John Cliffe, David Eason, Mark Hampton, Duncan Hornby, Andy Jones, Barbara Lane, George Linnane,Darren Mackenzie, David Mullin, Angie Peacock,Claire Vivian, & Tarquin Wilton-Jones

Otter Hole Leader - Paul Taylor

Trip Dates - 17th - 19th August 2018



Base of operations was the Beeches Farm Campsite. A fully featured campsite with a great view of the Wye valley...when it’s not raining…

Sunday morning breakfast in the rain… Photo by Angie Peacock.

Cavers were split across two teams on Saturday with team A having a very early start for Otter Hole lead by Paul Taylor whilst team B had a leisurely start visiting Miss Graces Lane down the road.

On the Sunday various people left leaving a core team of 5 joined by John and Tarquin allowing us to split into two teams for Wet Sink. John lead the faster team as Andy and Darren had a long return trip North whilst Tarquin thrashed the hell out of the rest of us taking us on a flat out crawling, chest crushing, high traverse knee shaking tour of the system!


Saturday


Otter Hole


A team of four from SWCC (Andy, Darren, David and George) lead by Paul Taylor were gone by 6am to ensure they were at the entrance as it opened. Andy and Darren pushed through to the bitter end whilst the others were content with getting as far as Long Straw Chamber. If you don’t fancy slogging through slippery mud for hours and tight squeezes then you can watch from the comfort of your armchair a short video on the making of a film of Otter Hole by Paul himself.




Miss Graces Lane


David arrived at the campsite and patiently waited for us to stop faffing. We then drove down the lane, parked and changed, the cave entrance being only 30m away in a depression.

After my rigging was made safer we abseiled into the cave down the 28m concrete shaft.



Team at entrance of Miss Grace’s Lane
All the way down were spiders galore, so an arachnophobic nightmare!


One of the many spiders guarding the entrance…
Only 3 of us had visited the system before but none of us were confident in knowing the way. Thankfully we had printed off the map and guide and were able to navigate the system reasonably well. We visited Dog tooth chamber, passed through Dome Chamber, Nurden Hall, Canyons Hall,Phreatic causeway, Phreatic drop, Satanic Traverses and as far as Fin Pillar Junction.

Angie in Dogtooth Chamber
Phreatic drop had a tricky drop, easy to get down but without a sling awkward to return, Angie and Jill decided against continuing. Duncan dropped out at the Satanic Traverses (the clues in the name) and only the brave continued to Fin Pillar Junction.

Dome Hall

On the return we decided to pop into the Winter Storm series, which turned out not to be some squalid failed dig but a surprisingly long section with Jill and Duncan pushing to the bitter end of some dig, well worth a poke around.

Meanwhile on the surface Barbara went on a circular walk taking in the local scenery.

Trip time was about 5 hours.


After freshening up back at the campsite, 5 of us visited the Devil’s Pulpit, a stone outcrop with a spectacular view of Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley.



Devil’s Pulpit
At the end of the day we all reconvened at the campsite, then headed off for an excellent curry at the Sitar Balti in Chepstow.


Team enjoying the Saturday night meal.


Sunday


Wet Sink


John Cliffe arrived at the campsite, the rain set in and breakfast was consumed standing up. After tents were packed up we split into walkers and cavers.

Today needed to be a shorter caving day for some as two needed to return to Yorkshire that evening. Consequently, we split in to 2 groups. One did the standard round trip in Wet Sink (John, Andy and Darren) and the other group added extensions on to the trip such as Flow Choke and the Snow Gardens (Tarquin, Duncan, Mark and Claire). This part of the blog records the longer trip.

Tarquin’s memory for caves knows no bounds. Despite this being only his third visit to the cave, he still had the survey and place names virtually perfectly in his head. Don't know how he does it!

We set a good pace and sped through the earlier sections of the cave. It was not long before we were up Zurree Aven, through the Graveyard and Gnome Garden then onto the Three Deserts where a mix of stooping and crawling was required, finally slowing us down. We first visited Flow Choke before heading back to look at the Dog’s Grave.



Mark in a taped section of system.
Tarquin some how knew of a short cut to the Dog skeleton, involving a vertical squeeze that you "simply" drop through to end up a matter of metres away from the skeleton. Whilst the other slithered through I breathed out and completely wedged. That horrible feeling of dread set in that induces instant panic and I desperately moved myself as I could not physically breath. Thankfully gravity won over size and my chest passed through. Anyone large should not attempt this squeeze.

Tarquin helping Duncan through the squeeze
Norman the dog
The trek up to Snow Gardens starts beyond Dog's Grave. Be prepared for exposed traversing and some splendid formations! Duncan got only so far along the high traverses before the fear kicked in and he dropped out whilst the rest pushed onwards.

The spectacular Snow garden formation
Mark at the Snow Garden

With Duncan de-rigging the entrance and Tarquin bringing a frog to the surface we exited the system around 6pm.

A successful team (Tarquin, Duncan and Claire, Mark taking the photo)

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