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Caving in Derbyshire Part 1.

by  Stan Gee

As there appears to be a growing like of caving in Derbyshire, amongst B.E.C. members, I thought I would write, for the benefit of future visitors, a series of brief articles on Derbyshire and its caves.  So salvaging my pen from the dustbin, I commence my scrawl.

First, let me try to describe Derbyshire without sounding too much like a tourist’s guide book.

Derbyshire is a land of sudden contrasts, from the bleak, grit-stone mountains, to the equally bleak limestone moors.  It offers much scope for practically all outdoor activities, for instance: - in the summer there is mountaineering and rock-climbing, caving, canoeing etc., whilst the winter provides some fine skating and skiing.  Its mountains are high enough to provide the necessary thrill of mountaineering, but they are not high enough to be extremely strenuous.  The only exception to this is Kinder Scout, (2,080ft.) which is high and under winter conditions very dangerous to inexperienced climbers.

At the other extreme Derbyshire possesses caves that are extensive and deep, and which are often arduous.  The cave areas can be divided into a few main groups, though there are smaller areas surrounding them.  The main areas are: - Manifold and Dovedale area; Myam and Stony Middleton area; Matlock area, and, lastly, the main caving areas of Castleton and Bradwell Moor.

The types of caves differ greatly, from extensive horizontal caverns to deep vertical caves.  Derbyshire caves are rather singular in that though many of them possess deep drops, there are only three open potholes of any note.  These are Elden Hole, Nettle Pot and Mountbatten Hole.  I will deal with these in future articles.

Our ‘pot’ occurs underground, and the majority of our caves are entered by nine shafts and passages.  For instance, Oxlow Cavern has a mineshaft entrance of 55 feet, and a second shaft of 40 feet before the first natural cavern of 40ft.is reached.  Thus, many of our caves are if not approached with caution somewhat dangerous due to the age and sometimes loose condition of the mine workings.

Generally speaking however, an explorer entering the caves that I will mention need have no fear, as most of them are quite safe.

Again in contrast, Derbyshire has several fine horizontal caves, of both Debaucher and Engulfment types.

Unfortunately, though our caves possess some large and impressive caverns, they are singularly lacking in formation, and only a pitiful few can compare with the wonderful formations of both Yorkshire and the Mendips.

So much for Derbyshire in general.  In my next article I will attempt to describe some of the caves of the Manifold area and Dovedale area.

Stan Gee.

Notice

This is a final reminder that outstanding Annual Subscriptions are now very much overdue.  If these are not paid at once you will receive no further copies of reminders (in the shape of the BB).

The revised Subscriptions are as follows: -

Life Membership            £5/5/-
Joint (Man & Wife)          17/6
Full Membership             12/6
Junior Membership            7/6,

All subscriptions should be sent to Bob Bagshaw, Hon. Treas., 56 Ponsford Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4

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In the Feb. B.B., C. Falshaw was stated as being Climbing Sec.  This is wrong.  It should read C. Falshaw Assistant Caving Sec. & Assistant Tackle Officer.

A. Sandall.

Changes of Address.

A. Thomas,
Kingsdon Manor School,
Kingsdon,
Somerton,
Somt.

Mr. & Mrs. Setterington,
????????????????
????????????????
Taunton,
Somt.

Mr. & Mrs. Cantle,
The Dower House,
Barrow Hill,
Wick,
Nr. Bristol.

Nr. A.J. Crawford.,
3, Hillside,
Harefield,
Nr. Uxbridge,
Middx.

Additions to Club Library.

Cave Science Vol.3. No 23.  Jan.1955,
Newsletter of W.C.C. No 49.  Feb.1955.
Newsletter of N.S.S. Vol.15. No. l. Jan. 1955.

J.Ifold.

Members are reminded that the Library is provided for their use.  It contains a vast amount of caving ‘Gen’ and is constantly, at considerable expense, being added to.  If you have any caving questions that want an answer, you will probably find it in the Library.

T.H.S.

‘Cloudy Skye’

By M. Hannam & I. Dear.

The epic starts with the authors arriving at Kyle of Loch Alsh in moderate rain.  On crossing the oggin to Skye the change in weather was remarkable.  Moderate rain became p-p-pelting rain while the wind rose violently.  Some thirty miles of motoring in this weather took us to Sligahin, an hotel with a bar and therefore one of the most important places on the island.  From Sligahin to Glen Brittle the road steadily worsened until the last few miles were an apology for a cart track.  The bike carried us gallantly though the rain to the first house in Glen Brittle and then it grunted and gave up, the ghost.  Whilst the engineering half of the party preformed prodigious feats on the machine, the other half set out in the howling gale in search of accommodation and feeling very much like Captain Oakes at the South Pole.  However an hour or so later the bike was restored to health and we were soon drying and feeding our faces.  Perhaps Skye would not be so bad after all.

Next morning we rose brightly, looked out of the window and went back to bed again.  Rain and mist were everywhere.  After a long delay we walked to the Post Office to buy picture cards of the Coolins to see what they looked like.  Then a walk around the coast for some bracing (?) air.  Back at 6pm. For food and kip.  The following day: three cheers, no rain and visibility to 1,500 feet.  The expedition arose and after breakfasting on oats (Scotch variety) assaulted Corrie Lagen.  Weather continued to improve and we climbed Ogurr Pearg.  Good views and magnificent rock scenery were everywhere.  Skye seemed quite a pleasant place.  On the way down the long scree slopes Ian was suddenly and forcibly reminded of Newton’s First law and had to perform a frantic lowering of air flaps and such like things to decelerate before smearing himself on the floor of the corrie.  Monday: another fairly fine day so we joined a party travelling to Loch Coruish in a motor fishing boat.  The skipper was a very picturesque figure with a beard that could be classified as Belfry Grade A.

Soon a shower of walkers, climbers and scouts were landing at Coruish, also a photographer (not specially hired for the occasion.)  This area and the shores of nearby Loch Scavig is famous for its glaciated boulders scoured and grooved by the ice.  After examining some of these the B.E.C. expedition chose an easy way back to Glen Brittle over pass Banadich.  We climbed the long scree slopes to the col while the mist and rain obligingly came down to meet us.  Eventually we descended to glen Brittle in a steady downpour.  A misty and rainy Tuesday was spent touring the island, whilst on Wednesday a very wet ridge walk was carried out on Banadich.

The rest of this article is to be devoted to one of the skilful arts practiced on Skye.  After several days research on the subject we decided to call this the ‘Tourist Deceit Art’.  One of the minor points of this art is that all the locals are organised in a league to deceive tourists about the weather.  The idea is that when talking to a new tourist (sheltering from the rain in a pub or under a tree) remarks are passed on “what a nice day it was yesterday” or “What a nice day it will be tomorrow”.  The innocent is buoyed up day after day with this sort of talk until eventually he leaves the island thinking that he has been unlucky in choosing the only wet week of the year.  Fool!  Little does he know that he has had a sample of typical Skye weather and that it’s going to be exactly the same when he returns the following year.  The idea is carried to further lengths by the shops and Post Offices, which sell beautiful coloured postcards of the Coolins bathed in sunshine.  People buy these cards in dozens as it is often the only way in which people can gain an idea of what the hills should look like.  Fools again!  Since the rain and the mist is perpetual, nobody has ever seen what the Coolin's really look like and the photos are imported from Norway, Switzerland and such places.  Yes, the tourist deceit idea is carried to great lengths and if you don’t believe all this, go to Skye and find out.

Advice for the Motor-cycling fraternity.

Having decided to visit Skye on your motor-cycle - a trusted steed of many winters and not one of the shining new gadgets to be seen at the members’ car park – may we suggest that you a.) take a complete set of spares and tools with you and b.) remember to waterproof your ignition system.  No motor-cycle spares are available on the island, not even pumps.  Petrol is not sold on Sundays in Scotland, although petrol and oil of the Shell/B.P. Group is obtainable even Glen Brittle.

May we also remind you it’s a long way from Bristol to Skye.

M. Hannam.
I. Dear.

A letter to the Caving Sec.

The Castle,
    Priddy,
      Nr. Wells.

Dear Mr. Collins,

Following His Grace’s recent visit to his estates, he has, as usual, asked me to pass on to you a few observations.

In previous correspondence, His Grace stressed the desirability of hosing down the Club’s cave.  His recent visit indicated that this had been done, but I am desired to point out that the object of this operation was to remove the mud, and that the use of muddy water has merely aggravated the situation.  The fact that further liberal watering was in progress during His Grace’s exit from the cave was, we trust, entirely fortuitous.

The Hon. Secretary had clearly been warned of His Grace’s visit and had sent a written circular to all members appraising them of the occasion and requesting their absence on that weekend.  The crowded state of the Belfry and the unsullied coachwork of the Bentley clearly bears out your observation on the literacy of members.

His Grace understands that some unkempt fellow from foreign parts has been making quite unauthorised use of his name.  I am desired to make it plain that this practice is most undesirable and must cease forthwith.

                                                I remain, Sir,
                                                   Your obedient servant,
                                                      R.M. Wallis.
                                                Private Secretary
                                    To His Grace the Duke of Mendip,
                                                Baron Priddy, &c.

P.S.  His Grace wishes me to add that he understands the Club’s failure to lay out the red carpet on the occasion of his visit was due to lack of funds for its cleaning.  It is our desire to assist the Club in this matter, but His Grace is, at the moment, having difficulty with his own laundry bills and we must therefore regretfully withhold any direct financial grant.  We should, however be happy to provide a large bar of soap if this would be of assistance.

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T.H. Stanbury, Hon. Editor. 48, Novers Park Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.
R.J. Bagshaw Hon. Sec., 56, Ponsford Road, Knowle, Bristo1. 4.
A. Sandall, Hon. Assist. Sec. 35, Beauchamp Road, Bishopston, Bristol. 7.