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Bigger Better Enormous Extensions in Cheddar Caves

An article by Chris Bradshaw

As has already been reported in the B.B., Cheddar Caves in general and Gough's in particular, are being attacked by a motley crew of Belfryites and assorted foreigners. Access is restricted to the times the cave is open to the public, and is limited to working parties only (definitely no tourist trips!) and enquiries should be directed to Martin Bishop.

Work started some months ago, but has gained momentum through March, April and May, with groups going in both at weekends and alternate Wednesday afternoons.  The first site, in Gough's, was at the back of 'King Solomon’s Temple', where a small rift, about 15' deep to a hard mud floor was found.  Digging was firstly halted by some helictites, and has now been abandoned for the moment, as there seems to be a good chance that the rift is only an oxbow back into another part of the same chamber.

After this episode, the diggers found themselves following two separate interests.  One group, the ones who like to get themselves wet and soggy on the outside, are digging the resurgence pool.  They have so far only managed to discover the interesting principal that the law of gravity still applies to large boulders underwater, and when one removes what is supporting them, they have a nasty habit of dropping on the next diver along!  Their excavation is about 15' deep at the beginning of May.

The other group is comprised of those who believe they should only get their necks wet on the inside, and then not with water.  At an early stage it was thought that the most promising passage was that to the north of 'Sand Chamber', ending in a precarious boulder choke.  In fact the first time we visited it, an anvil shaped "enrie" of several hundredweight "spoke" to Quackers while he was under it!  This gave us considerable incentive to find somewhere else, but after a number of trial ‘prods’ in other parts of the cave, we had to accept the inevitable and start on the boulders.

The choke can be entered by an awkward chamber on the left of the passage, leading to a chamber about 20' x 15', with some good curtains and other stal.  Overhanging is a wedged boulder, about 15' x 8' x 8'!  The thin man team could then go past the "Speaking Enrie", through a horizontal slot between two boulders at a high level.  The upper one appearing to have no means of support on one side, and weighing rather a lot, did not exactly inspire confidence!  However several sessions were given to digging under boulders beyond, by three intrepid cowards in the group, which gave access to a gruesome right-angled squeeze.  Tim Large was pushed through this, to find two alternate high level dig sites, draughting and with clean washed rocks.  As all looked good we left Tim to play and went for a wander and a quick fag. When we came back a couple of hours later, we found Tim still in the boulders, sounding very excited.  He had been prodding in the roof when there was a sudden shower of sh__ which filled the squeeze with him on the other side, and the passage was too tight for him to turn and dig it out!  Fiona, who had been in the adjoining chamber listening for any problem, had decided that a walk through the cave with Martin Grass held far more attractions than getting muddy with Tim.  A unanimous decision was made that Chris Bradshaw was the only skinny one (and one mug enough) to dig out the squeeze for a second time, so after a 'dead man's footshake', the only part of Tim’s anatomy that could get through the remaining gap, he was dug out in another hour.

After this episode it was obvious that no one wanted to continue to dig this way, and that there was increasing instability in the boulders.  After much debate it was decided by majority, that the best way to continue would be to bang out the talking "Enrie" and its adjacent squeeze.  This should give a safer means of access to space against the (assumed) roof and a passage blasted over the top of the boulders by banging from above to drop them. This would gain access to Tim’s two dig sites.  Well, that's the theory!

On Wednesday 7th May the approach passage and chamber in the boulders was resurveyed, and it was found that the side walls of the latter were in fact pointing 40 degrees further west than is shown on the Stanton 1965 survey.  This places it aiming directly at, and 500' from Cooper's Hole, and on the same line as 'Far Rift' in Gough's.  When the first 1lb charge was set off that day, it was clearly heard in Coopers, and fumes disappeared into the boulders.  Further bangs will be required to regain the 30' of passage we have now lost! We hope that the next time Tim examines the rock after banging they don't take revenge and jump at his right ear.

On Saturday 10th May, Tim climbed the aven just before 'Thynne Squeeze' in Coopers, to find that it had apparently not been looked at before, and an open passage can be seen, through easy digging up a 30 degree slope.  That's the other theory!

POSTSCRIPT: Sunday 11th May, a digging trip in Coopers aven was aided by a 20' ladder borrowed from Gough's Cave.  The fill at the top is comprised of stal covered pebbles & grit, with moonmilk & tuffa. This was dug out to get at a small cavity surrounded by stal covered rocks, at the start of what is apparently a draughting boulder ruckle, 30' above 'Thynne Squeeze', and 110' below Soldiers Hole.


Work continues………..all over the place, so bring your buckets and spades to the dinner this year!