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Bagshawe Caverns - 13 Dec 2008

Saturday December 13th 2008

Members present: Ben Reynolds,  Catherine Moody,  George Bunyan,  Hannah Dade,  Imogen Shepherd,  Josh Vale,  Kevin Francis,  Laura Bennett,  Matthew Chubb

Report by Kevin Francis

I went to bed on the Friday content in the knowledge I was off to do a bimble in Peak the following morning to sooth my rapidly approaching hangover. Five hours later and I was woken by Chuck's dulcet tones informing me I was off to Bagshawe instead. Naturally I just rolled over to try to go back to sleep. I little later I was awake again and struggling to get up. Still half drunk I made it downstairs and tried my best to get out of it, but I still had a small amount of enthusiasm in me, so a bowl of porridge and lots of glasses of water later my name was on the chalk board and I was marched to a car.

Now the trouble with doing a cave for the first time is that you have to find it. We cunningly left our OS map at the Chapel and embarked on a voyage around rainy Bradwell and surrounding area, taking lots of opportunities to stop, admire the view, perform a three point turn and head of in another direction. After about half an hour of driving we decided to try and buy a map. Cat had called shotgun and so it was her job to brave the rain (and the locals) to head into the nearest post office. Her mission was a near success. She had been given directions, and confirmed that our initial forays up a steep hill were in the right direction. Excellent. However whilst she was away we decided we could also do with a cave description and so almost immediately as she had returned we send her back into the cold murky morning in search of a photocopier, whilst we enjoyed the relative warmth of Laura's car.

Five minutes later she had returned, description in hand. Off we drove, with Josh's baby wagon in tow. Back up the steep hill, down a turn off we had missed before and we were away. Cat was being sent out regularly to scout for "a small hut in a field." A little later we were hurtling back the way we had come. Evidently we had missed something. Then Josh's car (after some fun kangaroo style reversing) spotted something. An obvious car park.. with what looked like caver cars in it... and it was next to a hut.. and on that hut was a sign, confirming to us, an hour after we head set off from Castleton (probably only 5 miles down the road) that we had found Bagshawe Caverns.

George's cunning (and shoulder barging) proved too much for the lock to the hut and soon we were inside, being amused by the fact that we were about to descend a flight of stairs to get into our cave. Sod SRT! In a spurt of keenness I donned my Tikka to check out the stair well. It did indeed go down somewhere and seemed pretty sturdy. I stopped when it looked like I would get mucky. My head throbbed as I began ascending (without jammers) the exceptionally deep the stairs. I noted that the people who had built them in must have had abnormally long legs with very small feet attached. Why so steep??

Changing turned out to be a long and arduous process. George had amusing wetsocks, lots of maillons refused to open and there was quite a standoff for tacklesack carrying duty. We were all really keen to lug it down, but as Matt Chubb was on holiday we decided he should have the pleasure. For a cave which only had a 5m pitch we had an awful lot of gear...

Our intrepid explorers headed down the stairs into the unknown, admiring the new looking concrete slabs that were protecting our heads from the perils of the rift above. The staircase led immediately to "the dungeon" a threatening looking hole in the floor. Well, not that threatening, but it was a hole in the floor and we had expected it, so at least we hadn't mucked up the route finding on the stairs! Ben and Chubb led the enthusiastic types off to explore whilst me and Laura had fun coaxing Josh into rigging, and rerigging the ladder. Imogen was suffering more than most and took the opportunity to have a nap on a nearby large slab.

Once the exploring team had returned we were almost ready to send our first victims down the ladder. Through tired eyes we watched as Josh learnt to belay and one by one send the advance party to greater depths. Matt and Ben were amongst the first down and set about exploring. There were complaints that it was wet, but we encouraged them on. Eventually everyone was down and we could see the reason for their shouts. It looked very much like the lower cave was flooded. We weren't going to let this discourage us, and after the journey down the epic pitch we weren't to be beaten easily. I urged Chubb back into the water. Like a fool he went in, cue more girly yelps. He swore that there was no way on, and so with some remorse I followed. He wasn't wrong. We were both soaked and cold, there was no way I was going to let the others get away dry and comfortable! With the lure of Super Snap we coaxed all but two people in to join us in a rift. Suitably drenched we set to launching people up the rift, George easily reaching highest.

As fun as the water was we knew that the cave did continue elsewhere, so after a crash course in belaying George was sending us up the ladder. Once all up the team headed off up the boulder strewn streamway to look for some kind of Glory Hole. I gallantly stayed at the pitch and derigged, before rushing to catch up. It didn't take long! I found them by taking an easy obvious route into a huge chamber. My lights were dimming (honest!) so I sat out the trip to the end. Instead I went and sat in a sump, enjoying it's serenity. I headed back up to the route the others had gone to find Hannah, who also hadn't gone on. We were very amused by cheers as the others slid down slops and by the girly shrieks that could only have been emitted by Ben (who had spent the entire trip shouting, singing and squeaking in general) as he headed through the duck.

Eventually they made their way back, all glory-holed out, complaining they had reached another shaft but their tackle sacks were devoid of gear. We made good time out, and didn't get lost once. Chubb, Cat and Ben took time to explore some of the myriad of side passages, but we were aware of the need to get the lights back to HnH. The change was pleasant and good natured, everyone had remembered their pants. We paid our £2 and headed back with plenty of time for the Christmas meal, hangovers fixed.

The route we took through Bagshawe was easy, with little scrottyness. It's a shame we didn't get to see the lower system and didn't have a better description. I'm sure there is much more to do in there than we looked at, after all it is the longest cave in the Bradwell catchment area(!?) With more enthusiasm I would love to return and see what we missed. An ideal Fresher cave this one, less hard than Giants, less crawly than Carlswark and a much more pleasant change!

Finally, some history and suchlike: