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Happy Birthday, Stan

The next account comes from our old mate Stan G.  I'm afraid that this is included in the B.B. a little late due to the manuscript being mislaid, in fact I found in lying between sheets of: 'lettraset'.  Anyway, what better time than Christmas to celebrate Stan’s 30th, birthday remember toast him after the regular Belfry blow-out….

It was my 30th birthday; 30 years caving that is; I always prefer to consider that as my birthday or my re-birthday and it sometimes helps to be able to knock off the odd 15 years or so. Anyway there it was, 30 years caving and the newspapers were screaming 'Great Cave Discovery in Derbyshire, 'Caverns Measureless to Man' etc.  Yes, there are a few caves in Derbyshire.  It seems that some local maniac from the Orpheus had done a solo 'donging' job on the old Winnats Head Cave and had successfully broken through. What better way to spend a birthday? A couple of' pints in the Wanted Inn with convivial company and then a quick thrash to have a look at this wonderful .discovery.  It's not every day a new cave is found in Derbyshire; in fact it’s not every 365 days or 3650 days either!

Thus it was that our intrepid band of explorers, which included 4 B.E.C. layabouts, arrived at the cave to find a hastily constructed notice which said 'Access to THE CAVE 12½p'. We duly paid up but I felt that the farmer would have been happier if we had paid him in genuine good old half crowns.

After a bit of mucking about, we all slid into the cave.  The entrance is a 3 - 4ft high passage descending at an angle of 45 degrees for 40ft and ending on a rubbish tip of countless generations of campers and walkers.  Here, local maniac had done his first 'donging' job and the next 10ft looked like an earthworm’s hideout.  Accustomed as I am to the somewhat larger orifices of Italy, this came as a shock, but Nigel bawling from the front and the impending collapse in the rear, caused by Lennie's wild thrashings, urged me to proceed.  A quick thrutch, a few curses and through, not too bad at all, easier than it looked.  Next followed a creepy bit of passage to a small chamber and the next obstacle. This was a large boulder wedged in the passage to form a sort of letter box.  To me this did not present a problem but at this point 3 of our party debunked and it was as just as well that they did because just beyond this point lies local maniac’s 2nd 'Donging' job, even more miniscule than the first in which our portly companions had had some difficulty.  In the middle of this next squeeze, local maniac had thoughtfully constructed a depression which had filled with water, ideal for cooling off in a tight thrutch or killing you off if you can’t keep your face out!

Then blessed relief, a large chamber some 25ft high and 30ft long.  This was more like ‘caverns measureless to Man’ that I had read about.  We were on the top of a ‘gi-normous’ boulder choke and the way on was a somewhat concealed gap between two large boulders. An easy descent of forty feet brought us to a mouse hole and I recall that as I descended, in the crucifix position, I thought ‘There will be trouble here’ and there was!  Next another tight crawl led to a ten foot climb, with the inevitable piece of knotted rope, and a chamber some 18ft high with hanging boulders that looked as if they would tumble if Lennie produced one of his farts.  We were now at the head of a 25ft pitch; an easy free hanging climb brought us to the incredible main chamber, 160ft long x 60ft high and 60ft wide and decorated in parts.  A truly remarkable discovery for Derbyshire.

After taking photos and having a fag we returned to the surface with some difficulty.  The cave must have some magica1 qualities because everything became topsy-turvy.  What had been easy on the descent became bloody difficult on the ascent and vice-versa. At the mouse hole I envisaged us entombed for life as Lennie got stuck fast, completely blocking the passage and the airway as well.  With much thrutching and cursing, Lennie eventually extracted himself minus helmet, lamp, sweater and pants.  Then it was my turn and I fared no better, stuck fast about 1ft off the ground, legs flailing wildly and no prospects of progressing.  You've heard the song which says 'There's a smashing belay only 10ft away' well this one was only 10 inches away but it might as well have been 10ft.

Fortunately some kind soul shoved an ammo box under my feet and with the extra leverage I was able to disencumber myself.  Eventually we emerged on surface a pretty sorry looking lot and with Lennie giving a fair impersonation of the incredible HULK.

The farmer, counting his toy town half crowns, eyed us with disdain as we went to the cars, the three who turned back, laughed at us, and not one miserable bugger wished me a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Stan Gee.


P.S.      Rating for the cave.

Tall and slim - moderate

Short and slim - swinish

Short and fat - Bastardish

Tall and fat - Impossible

Ed. Note -         since Stan's visit a second large chamber has been found - when are you going back to have a look Stan?

Another article by Stan is in the pipeline - Italy 1978 - this will appear in the January B.B. together with a new survey of Wookey Hole.