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Long Time Passing

By Stuart Lindsay

It was the passing of Tony, Jrat that finally brought me back to Mendip, after a lengthy absence. Tony and Roger Marsh had tried for years to entice me back. The odd bods I met in my travels, as I infrequently popped into various outdoor adventure cum caving shops kept me up to date, and tried re wetting my appetite, but alas the flame on my carbide lamp lacked a spark.  I write this as a month has passed, I have now visited the hill more than a half a dozen times, and WOW what changes. A bar and strobe lights at the Belfry, an up stairs members bunk room…uuuuuumm that was the main topic of discussion back in 1982!  The old cesspit grassed over and a few extra trees, mere saplings 25 years ago now adding a dimension of maturity to the site.

So in 25 years what other changes have there been? Well furry suits and over suits are getting smaller!!!!  As are caving lamps, I guess my carbide lamp and Nife cells will stay in the cupboard, as the new age, ultra expensive generation of LED and duo Lamps make nice big profits for the purveyors of the same, all got to earn a living I suppose. Mobile phones, used to be like house bricks, in 1983 I could never get mine in my pocket!  Sat Navs and PDAs, back then map books were the order of the day,   If you had a computer you had to programme it. My first computer, storage was on cassettes!  An 8 MHz XT, and a 20 mb yes 20 mb hard drive was fast in 1984 and cost nearly a year’s wages, monitors 12” over £250 and printers used pins and ribbons and cost an arm and a leg, blimey how things have progressed in 25 years. I pods, game pods, DVDs, blu ray the latest in a line of changing recording media, plasma TV s, Satellite and cable, and of course the internet and e mail, and WI FI at the BELFRY ?!?

altCaving’s changed, back then it used to take a good 4 hours to get to the Dales, leave Bristol at 6 and sup Sam Smiths at the Bridge before 1030-ish, flat out on the motorway 70mph, but now with a wary eye, and flat out on the motorway, you can get another hours drinking time.  Actual caving, well yes major changes here, more rules, tighter restrictions, more bodies, soon need a multi story car park on the Green. Not been down Swildons yet, but has the 20 been worn down to the 15 ??!!.  Took a wander over Mendip, refresher so as to re align the bearings and see some of the progress. WOWEEeee Templeton Pot…I’ve seen grottier fire escapes on modern tower blocks, masterful...” Mendip winch meet in 2012??” through trip to the Ebor gorge??   Nice to experience a packed Hunters on a Wednesday night, seems to be digs everywhere. I’ve been to Caine Hill a few times…takes your breath away…literally! A very interesting site, it could be a long dig, and will be interesting when the first clear passageway is found to see if it picks up a draught. Certainly the entrance series looks to be well gooed up and even root tips down at 8m or more, would indicate Mother Nature has investigated a source for moisture, for many, many years. A frog, a mouse, albeit a dead one,(obviously suffered a lack of breath!)   Ejected by the digging crew…canary next?

Had a look around the Red Quar area, 25 years ago this area had promise. Wigmore holding the potential of quite a large catchment of passages, but there was always a reluctance to dig in the Dolly. The new dig, eventually to start in earnest, may yield up a secret or two. A triumph for radiolocation?  Now that’s not new, although there are people, enthusing over Radios and Caves.  Maybe future technology and cave hunting will be mini transmitters in little plastic bubbles floated down near impassable passages, or little swallets or attached to mini robotic camera / transmitters and sent along even smaller passages!  And on the surface, groups of cavers wandering all over Mendip with receiving loops tracking the underground progress. Whilst underground transfixed to the cavebot monitor, gasping in awe at the pictures coming back from the cavebot cam, of passages and formations of immense size and beauty!!    Just metres away………now where’s my chemical hammer?  Give generously to Mendip, mine a cave!!!!

Honestly .its really nice to see Mendip buzzing…so will 2009 see the most ever passage and breakthroughs made for many a long year???   I hope so, just got to lose a few stone, and get fit…well fitter.