Dates: 18-20th October 2019.
Authors: Chloe Francis, Duncan Hornby & Claire Vivian
|Sludge Pit Hole team in a part of Main Rift passage.|
On arriving at the MNRC hut we were greeted by the hut warden, David. We were able to obtain a variety of keys which gave us the opportunity to pick and choose our trips. Then for some, it was an obligatory visit to the Hunters Lodge!
|A sneaky shot of Chloe and Duncan at the Hunters.|
|The team at the MNRC.|
Many thanks to Peter Hall, local Mendip caver who was the guide for this trip. Photos by Sanita.
The cave seemed to have two modes - you are going through a narrow-ish bit or you are comfortable to walk, where subjectively it felt like most of the time you spend in the narrow-ish bits of some shape and form. Never the less it was great fun and a well worth trip. Like it says in the cave description, the first proper formation you come across is the Curly Wurly Stal which you can partly see from a hole in the wall of the passage first and once you turn a corner it turns out to be even bigger and nicer looking.
|The Curly Wurly Stal.|
After some crawling, we came out in the Grotto of the Singing Stal. You don’t tune into it straight away but once everyone had put their lights out, you could hear it ‘sing’. It sounded like a happy squirrel munching on a nut or something.
Grotto of the Singing Stal. The stal sounded like a squirrel munching on a nut or something.
|A fossil as fat as your finger!|
|Little splatter formation.|
Turn the sound on your computer and watch the video to
hear the weird gurgling sound the air-bell made.
|The Frozen cascade.|
|The formation opposite Frozen cascade with Peter Hall in the background|
|Little helictites before we turn around and make our way back.|
|The Timeline. This was our turnaround point next to the Portal Pool after listening to the airbell which was making deep, industrial factory-like noises.|
|The Blobs at the Citadel chamber.|
Trip length: 4-5 hours leisurely pace to the Portal Pool.
GB CaveAs this was Hywel's first SWCC trip and first visit to the Mendips we thought we'd treat him to the splendour that is GB. Massive passageway, plenty of formations and a waterfall to climb. What's not to like about that?
|Helen, Hywel and Chloe at the entrance.|
|Helen, Hywel and Chloe on the Bridge.|
|Still enjoying the sights of GB.|
|Hywel climbing towards the end of White Passage.|
|Chloe enjoying the wet grovel.|
|Chloe admiring some pretties near the entrance.|
Sludge Pit HoleFor much of my caving career this cave has been closed to cavers. A few years ago a change in land ownership meant the access to this cave was improved and is now accessible if you can obtain a CSCC key.
Whilst not Mendips longest system it is a sporty cave and you can easily pass the time exploring the various routes and bitter ends.
The entrance is tucked away in an overgrown depression in a field just up the road from the Wessex Caving Club.
|Entrance to Sludge Pit Hole.|
|Stephen about to climb main pitch.|
|Paul at main 8m pitch near the entrance.|
|Group resting at the sump at the end of main rift passage.|
|The roof seemingly held up with a stack of rotting planks, this is a few metres away from the sump.|
|Team in Main Rift passage.|
But word from the wise going UP shale passage towards the entrance is quite cramped and arduous, definitely would be much easier going DOWN it!
Trip time: 4 hours
The mystery of the elusive Ploughboy
We stayed at the MNRC, which happily was in walking distance to a pub: The Ploughboy. We knew the walk was tinged with danger, along a busy main road in total darkness. Taking measures to avoid any pre-pub injuries, we ensured we were suitably equipped with high viz jackets and head torches. Marching in single file along the road felt like being on a weird school trip...heading for the best destination ever! Eventually, after about 20 minutes, we reached the pub. James un-clenched his bum cheeks as we re-grouped in the car park. Ah, safety at last!
Imagine our devastation when we realised the pub was closed. There were no lights on. Nobody was there; the whole place was completely deserted. Horror. Dejectedly, we turned around and trudged back towards the hut. Duncan called the Vic, who reckoned they could just about squeeze our party in. I was now hopeful that my Saturday night dinner would not consist of soggy, half-eaten caving mars bars and instant noodles (must bring better food next time).
On arrival back at the hut (the walk felt longer on the way back without the anticipation of destination pub), we figured out who was going to drive. Helen S volunteered to take people in her very lovely and fairly new VW Golf estate. We eagerly clambered in, our mouths watering at the thought of the delicious food which awaited us. However, due to a flat battery in the car key, Helen’s engine would not start. Everyone exited the vehicle.
Eventually we managed to arrange everyone into cars and off we headed to the pub! Helen made some calls to try and resolve her key situation - the issue was solved the next morning with a trip to Wells to get a new battery. We have a great time at the Vic, with plenty of food, beer and good company.
Taking advantage of the cave keys, two trips ran on the Sunday:
Singing River Mine
The mine is located in Shipham, in the back garden of a house down Folly Lane. It was a strange experience to open someone’s front gate and walk through their garden in search of underground adventure.
|The Dream Team about to descend Singing River - photo: Helen Stewart.|
Eventually we found the lakes - woohoo! They were wonderfully clear and blue. As nobody fancied getting fully submerged, it was time to turn around. It would be cool to take a raft down next time to sail across.
|View of lake.|
Attborough SwalletYet another collectors piece to tick off, Attborough Swallet is a short drive away from the MNRC hut. Parked in a lay-by, crossed the road and a short walk into a depression to a bright yellow concrete entrance. Can’t get much nearer than that.
This is yet another small cave with no fear of actualy getting lost. Cotham Hall is the largest chamber with a few routes leading off into various tight, wet, gnarly crawls.
|Stephen the mole!|
|Team Meredith at entrance of Attborough Swallet.|
We then returned to Cotham Hall and explored Nasty Nasty which was a grim crawl into a wet and muddy tube, most of us bailed out on that! But Claire and James went out to sample more of the misery and reached a climb down that belled out at the bottom before throwing the towel in and going back to meet the others.
We then headed out via a tube connecting Cotham Hall to Happy Mondays. This short cave is a great Sunday trip if you wanted to get away early but still get a bit of caving in.
|Paul squeezing out of tube which connected Cotham Hall chamber to Happy Mondays passage.|
|The rather muddy team at entrance.|
|The now “unofficial” mascot of SWCC?|