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A Trip

Stu Lindsey has been grazing in pastures north; trips to Kingsdale and now the first report on Mendip of the new discovery connecting Pippikin with the great Lancaster Cave System…….

After the Friday, past midnight, excursion into valley Entrance to retrieve tackle left in Swinsto Great Aven, it was a sorry looking bunch that assembled at Bull Farm later that day. Fortunately this was not to be another trip into County Pot (see March BB) where; contrary to the Ed's comments was STRAW CHAMBER and not Easter Grotto (my apologies - Ed).

Finding the Red Rose Cottage locked (all had gone caving) the awesome task of pulling on a soaking wetsuit in ankle deep mud was executed in deathly silence, faces contorted with the harsh realty of cold clammy neoprene against warm flesh!  With a clear blue sky over our heads we bounded off toward the Beck, passing the unimpressive opening that leads to a superb 110ft free hanging pitch of Lancaster Hole.  Putting up a few grouse we soon reached our goal, an entrance on the far side of the beck, now a dry, dull rock littered river bed.  The entrance shaft we were going down was a tight (8-10" wide, 10ft long, 50ft deep) finely fluted rift, 8ft above the beck; and is the key which has opened the door to Britain’s longest cave system…. yes, this tight slot I was so snugly fitted in was Link Pot.

Steeping from the ladder I found myself in a box section passage same 20ft square and 100ft long. After a little time our ‘leader’ became unwell, and so with another not too fit member of the party returned to the surface to join yet another non participant with and ailing zip!  By this time Martin W. (YSS) and myself had moved from a sea of mud floored phreatic half tuber into a walking passage containing some fabulous ‘old’ looking formations.  At the first I went to the right and found myself in Night Shift Chamber (30ft x 30ft x 15ft) sloping down to the left and the way on to 1½ miles of Link Pot.  Backtracking I soon rejoined M.W. who was a little reluctant to press on and find Pippikin Pot’s hall of Ten.

From here on we rarely got off our hands and knees, a couple of rifts did give some respite from the knee grating sand and gravel mixture.  The passages, low phreatic developments were adorned throughout with straws etc.  After a few hundred feet we came to a Stu L. special …..9” high, 9ft long and 2ft wide duck containing 4” of cold muddy water……UGH!  This was followed by a squeeeeeeeze in boulders and we were in a cross rift.  There appeared to ways on to the right and left but we squeeecezed our way down through more boulders, still flat out crawling, less gravel in the passage. Passing a muddy pool (2nd one) my feet disappeared under the wall when I dipped it in.  I managed to get my leg in up to the knee but M.W.’s shouts sent me off up the passage to investigate, it began to look tighter, starting to trend upwards…..there was a chamber (30ft x 15ft x 7ft high) my eyes were transfixed, there before was a single crystal column, white and glistening, 2ft high and 3” in diameter, in contrasting attendance were glistening various stals and straws – grubby ones!  The way on proved to be through the stal’s bedding plane at the top of the chamber, which we passed through with great care because of the straws and stal.   The way on suddenly reduced to a 2ft square tunnel, no problem here with sand and gravel….the flat out crawl was in mud, filthy, gluey, dirty, suckerous, choclaty, spongenous gloop – 6” of the nasty stuff.  Our progress for the next one hundred feet was liberally splattered with expletives, some unheard before! – then we turned back for more of the slithering and ‘sluddering’.  Time was against us but we were only 20ft short of the Pippikin System.

At the sump, Stu L. with his digging hoe, rescued from the mud, began damming the obvious feeder stream and hacking hell out of the floor.  He called it a day after enlarging it to accept his ample ‘bum’! (At this point there are two streams merging.  One from the Squeeze Rift with a fair flow of water.)   Braking the dam did not increase the depth of the pool to any great extent, drainage there being, or appearing quite 'free'.  Further examination showed the water from the rift to be flowing along under the wall and with phreatic development, in general, doing as it pleases, one day this sump might go.

We regained the entrance chamber and crossed the stream to get to the ladder.    Stream, one from the left and one from the right? – they were not there earlier, were they?  The excitement of the trip to ‘pip’ must have caused us to miss them on the way in, so up I climbed, no bother – surprise, surprise, but my eyes peeped over the lip to see the beck in the throes of a ‘pulse flood’ yet the sky was blue; the sun was low across the moors and the shadows were lengthening, we were going home, but I’m going back, back to find that water down in the depths of Link Pot.