A Season of Good Will

Or: ‘What happened to C.W. Smith-Brown?.....

After all the accounts of great things underground Jock Orr offers some ‘light’ relief.

Some holiday!  The boy looked at the bitter white wilderness and felt hate in his heart for every square inch of it.  The acrid stench of sulphur springs made his nostrils twitch with disgust.  The combination of drifting steam, hoar frost, snow and mud had saturated his woollen clothing so that he felt cold and damp to the very marrow of his bones.

He shrugged his collar round his freezing ears.  Some holiday! To be dragged away from the tele an’ pictures an ’hotels an’ the warm seaside to this so-called Icelandic Paradise and just go round trampling in a quagmire looking for holes in the ground and hangin’ for about waitin’ for them to blow steam and hot water into the air. It was enough to make anybody spit!  And as for that lot up front all half drunk and stinkin’ of beer, and especially that screechin’ fat woman everlasting yattering and chattering about geology and geysers and bunk and guff and all dressed up in her fancy polo-necked multi-coloured pullover forever yelling and naggin’ at him, well they just got on his flaming nerves.  And not another kid in sight!  Some holiday!  The boy trudged along, kicking his already soaking wet feet into the brown sludge and splattering it out in front of him; deliberately hanging back to the rear of the conducted tour.

His father halted and waited for the boy to catch up.  “Get a move on, you silly little sod.”  He snapped impatiently.  “I’ve just about had enough of your sulking face for one day.  Any more of it and you’ll spend the rest of the holiday with a thick ear!”  The boy stood with is legs apart defiantly and looked up to his father.  “It ain’t my idea of a holiday!  Stuck in this stinking place with no chums!  It’s all right for you!  You like messing around in mud and rocks, digging and scraping and looking for fossils and junk and stuff.”  His father looked at him coldly.  “I’ve warned you already, any more lip and you’re in for it.  Now get moving.  We’ve only got two more days left and there’s still a lot to see. It’s not every boy who gets a chance like this and if you don’t appreciate it now then maybe you will when you’re a bit older, stuck in the office ten months of the year, wishing you could getaway from at all like me.  Now come on!”

The boy trudged after his father and they caught up with the rest of the sightseers who were grouped around at a safe distance from the brink of a geyser listening attentively to the Guide’s description of the eruption they were about to witness. “What – “ the  woman’s voice shrilled above the words of the Guide’s speech, “ – the name of God does that man over there think he’s doing?  For heavens sake!”  Everybody looked in the direction of the geyser gazing, thunderstruck, at the apparition looming out of the warm steam mist wreathing over the geyser vent.  The figure clumped ponderously forward and halted on the lip of the hole, looking intently down into the depths.  Then, producing a clipboard from the voluminous folds of asbestos draped around his person, he proceeded to scribble on the pad, muttering into his black beard as he did so, with an intense concentration of a physics professor observing an important experiment.

The Guide, aghast the man’s folly, hastily moved the sightseers back to safety.  The boy, immediately alert to the possibility of an impeding disaster, seized the opportunity while everybody’s attention was diverted to sneak off to one side and concealed himself behind a sheltering rock to await developments.  He goggled expectantly, mouth hanging open, over the top of the rock as the apparition leaned forward and lowered a string of thermometers into the geyser; completely oblivious to the shaking ground under his feet and the pulsing groans issuing out of the hole.

A perceptible aura of violent outrage, awesome and terrible in its invisible presence of vast power, charged the air with quivering tension for a few seconds of ominous silence, and then, as if reacting to the intrusion of the thermometers, the geyser seemed to draw a huge breath, like a giant vacuum cleaner, and wafted the mist down into its gaping throat.  Then, before the horrified gaze of the onlookers, it proceeded to blow up in a sullen roar of unleashed fury and push a shrieking column of steam and water and boulders up into the sky and supported it aloft until it wavered pouring in itself, and then dropped like a cataract and obliterated the asbestos clad figure standing below in a flood of boiling water, bouncing boulders and spouting steam clouds that sprayed outwards from the centre of the devastation towards the onlookers.

The boy sped out from the cover of the rock like a scalded cat and sprinted for his life in pursuit of the running Guide and the terrified tourists who fled before him yelling and cursing and leaping like mountain goats across the bubbling mud springs and squirting hot fountains of mineral water in blind panic to escape the onrushing deluge.  The mud-bespattered group staggered to a confused halt and looked back anxiously at the shut-down geyser, searching for the mutilated body they expected to see lying there.  “My God!” the fat woman shrilled her voice angry with disappointment, “– look at him! He’s still standing there!  He’s moving about!  He’s throwing a rope down it now!” her voice rose to a frustrated scream as if she couldn’t believe hat she was seeing, “– the fool!  He’s gone over the edge!  He’s deliberately gone over the edge!”  She buried her face in her hands and began to sob hysterically. Some of her companions gathered round to comfort her and helped her a way still sobbing and protesting towards the log cabin holiday chalet, while the rest of them limped along muttering concernedly and looking back over their shoulders with anxious glances.

The boy raced around like a terrier in and out of the straggling excursion.  He hadn’t seen such a wonderful state of confusion since the day the Headmaster had fallen out of the pulpit one morning at school assembly prayers, drunk as a lord after a late-night bout of revelry and had indiscriminately leathered everyone in range with his lashing leather tawse, including the snivelling maths teacher and that sneaking toad Williams.  A pity all the excitement has started so late in the holiday! If it had been like this from the first day it would have been just fine.

Next morning the boy left the chalet early before breakfast and headed for the geyser where he hung about gloating over the previous day’s events; hoping to catch a glimpse of the weird inhabitant of the hot springs; as he had already christened the apparition in his own mind.  And there! Emerging out of the swirling mist, the boy saw him moving about, solid and bulky as a bear in his asbestos outfit, and evidently making serious preparations to get himself boiled alive again the way he was messing about on the edge of another gaping hole with his rope.

The hulking figure gave a last savage tug at the knots and threw the loose end of the rope below. The boy rushed forward yelling at the top of his voice “No Mister!  Don’t do it! You’ll kill yourself.”  He stopped, aghast at his own recklessness in running up face to face with the dangerous looking character who was now glaring back at him out of a pair of squinting eyes buried deep within a tangle of black beard.  The beard opened to reveal a ferocious mouthful of broken teeth and roared at him “Clear off you little weegie!”

The boy staggered back a step from the blast of foul tobacco laden breath and the stench of animal odour and earth that swept out of the layers of asbestos cloth, raising his arms to ward off the rank smell.  “Pffeugh!” he gasped, “You don’t half stink!”  He looked the man over carefully, “You look like and old elephant hide all ripped and patched and hanging in tatters.”  The man looked down at himself and flapped his arms, sniffing at himself vigorously.  “I can’t smell anything” he snarled suspiciously.  “That’s because it is so long you had a bath that you’ve got used to it” the boy stated confidently and added, “My dad told me.”  As if that clinched the matter.  “Oh!” the man exclaimed, taking another uncertain sniff, “Well, yes, I suppose you could be right!  It must be at least six month ago.”

The boy pressed his advantage, “Anyway mister, what are you supposed to be doing?”  The eyes peered at him, craft and cautious.  “Eh?  What’s that you’re saying?” and a horny hand shot out of the asbestos and gripped him like a steel trap.  “Spying on me are you?  Eh?  A spy!  Out to steal my secrets are you Eh?”  The boy realised his danger instantly and had more sense than to struggle. Instead he grinned engagingly and looking at the man calmly in the eyes said calmly, “Mister, I’m not after your secrets.  I just thought you’d like a hand to help you with the work; all alone out here in this perishing place by yourself with no friends.”

The hand relaxed, and then released him.  The piggy eyes opened wide in pleased astonishment.  “Eh? Oh, well that’s different I suppose” he said with slow consideration, and then let out a croaking asthmatic bellow of laughter. “Interested in what I’m doing are you?” and smote the boy on the shoulder.  “Well done lad!  What is you name?”  The boy told him.  “Aye! I know it!  A good Sussex name is that!  Mine is C.W. Smith-Brown, Clarence Walter, but my friends call me C.W. for short. Alright then, you can give us some help. When I get down inside you can lower my camera bag down to me.  Understand?” The boy nodded in agreement. “Sure mister, I’ve to lower the camera bag.  But what’s the use of a camera in all that steam and stuff?”  The eyes glared at him – “What’s that?” roared the man, taking immediate offence.  “Steam and Stuff?  You think I’m going down there looking for steam and stuff!  There’s caves down there!  Pretty as a pixie’s palace!”  The boy looked at him, head on one side, eyes screwed up, and examined the implications of what he’d just heard; while the man glared round looking for eavesdroppers lurking I the mist and lowered his voice to a confidential growl.  “Special caves that nobody knows about.  Carved out of solid rock by the action of the boiling water and steam, ye know, all heated up by the volcanic hot-spots, like a giant kettle on a gas ring, and eroding the rock away as if it was a block of salt, all soft, ye know!”  “And that’s what you’re looking for, mister?” the boy asked breathlessly.  “No, no, no, boy!”  Smith-Brown exclaimed irritably, “You haven’t been listening have you?”  Gathering his asbestos rags together like a cloak he too a stance as if he were some ancient tribal chief addressing his warriors, pointing his finger at the boy he started roaring again  “Imagine yourself down there boy!  The only one in the whole world to see it while it’s all happening!”  His eyes glowed luminously at the vision in his mind and he waved his arms over his head in a descriptive arc and stamped around in a circle with the asbestos rags flapping at his shoulders like wings.  “You could wonder to your heart’s content down miles of corridors with fifty foot long stalagmites dripping water everywhere.  Can you taste the tangy flavour?  Like sampling more wine!  The tonic of solutionised minerals hanging around in the vapour and condensing out and depositing themselves back again all over the place!”  he picked up the rope and snapped the Karabiner onto it and bellowed, “Or you could gaze at the incredible translucent curtains hanging from the roof!”  He strode over to the edge of the geyser and thundered into it so that his voice echoed back from the depths, “And puzzle over the mystery of the weird helectites sprouting like octopuses in all directions!  And walk across floors a s big as a ballroom and smooth and clear as coloured ice!”  He gripped the rope with one hand and leaned over the hole pointing downwards with the other and bawled “Dazzle your eyes with the clusters of glittering crystals flashing like diamonds in your light beam!  No boy!” he bellowed, “I’m not looking for it – I’ve already found it!”

He leapt outwards simultaneously with his last words, shrieking them out at the top of his voice “And it’s mine!  Mine! All mine!”  The boy rushed forward to the edge just in time to see him hurtling downwards still ranting and raving in a series of swooping abseils until he disappeared into the black depths below.  The boy gripped the rope and lying on his stomach hung precariously over the edge of the hole and breathed out in a slow whistle of awe.  “Bloody hell!”  he muttered incredulously, staring disbelievingly downwards, until the rope sneaked upward to signal for the camera bag to be lowered down.

He lingered for a while after lowering the bag, and then, since there was no point in hanging around in the damp steam-mist and becoming more chilled than he already was, he wandered back to the chalet for breakfast, enacting the scenes he imagined to be taking place down in the geyser and imitating C.W. Smith-Brown’s mannerism all the way back to the log cabin.  “Some holiday!” he yelled gleefully as he tobogganed down a snow slope on his backside. “Yippee!  Some holiday!”

…   …  …   …   …  …   …

Inevitably the boy started his own caving career, poking into small holes in the chalk district near his home, and since he was good at it and as his stature never increased as he grew older he became known as Fox the Ferret, a nickname that was to stay with him for the rest of his life, but not necessarily for his caving abilities.

He was soon tackling the more difficult limestone caves in the county of Karstingtonshire at a place called Pidnem at some distance from his home, and eventually joined a club calling itself ‘The Shed’.  His devotion to the sport progressed rapidly from then on. He bought himself a tankard and let it be known in all modesty that he had become somewhat of an expert, well-informed and not inexperienced in all matters appertaining to the subterranean. At the particular moment in time when the first instalment of the Great Trebor Gulch Panic was about to be enacted, Fox the Ferret was tapping his empty tankard with his fingernail and looking at it pensively as if lost in thought and reluctant to continue his fascinating account of how he has forced his way through Fox’s Squeeze and discover Fox’s Extension in Sheep Lair Pit.  The gullible lad who had been listening to the story stared uncomprehendingly and at a loss to understand why the tale had been discontinued, and then gathered up his scattered wits together.  “Oh! Right! I’ll fill them up again!”  Quite a promising youngster Fox thought to himself.  He should do well.  I might even condescend to take him caving one day when I feel up to it. He took a long cool swallow of Tartan to refresh his vocal chords and continued with his reminiscences.

Meanwhile below ground, a party of sherpas portering bottles for a diving team at work in the bottom of Trebor Gulch, were resting up waiting for the divers to return, yarning and smoking in the dark.  And when the divers lights suddenly appeared unexpectedly, suffused and glowing under the water, long before they were due back, the sherpas knew that something had gone wrong.  Before they had a chance to switch on their lights the divers emerged one after the other from under the rock face like surfacing torpedoes and leapt out of the water as if pursued by man-eating sharks.   The sherpas, startled and alert, got to their feet and backed away to make more room for the divers who didn’t seem to know where they were by the way they kept rushing about and milling amongst them selves and knocking each other over.

“What’s up?” yelled one of the porters.  The divers ceased all movement and stared as him through their face masks.  Then they began tearing off their mouth pieces and gesticulating at each other with clenched fists in wordless anger. “What’s up with you for Christ’s sake?” screamed the same porter as he jumped forward and shook one of the divers. The diver heaved for air, “What’s up! He gasped, “There’s a bloody maniac grovelling about down there in the sump wanting to know where’s the rest of the cave then?  Eh? – Why fiddle about in the Upper Series then? Eh? Eh!  With a ton of bang stuck on the rock face and an instant fuse draped about all over the place who told us ‘amateurs’ to ‘bugger’ off out of it or he would blow us all to blazes!  That’s what’s up!”  The sherpa party huddle together for mutual protection and stared at him in utter consternation.  Cavers just simply didn’t carry on in this way; they were all dealing with the unknown. The rest of the divers, all glittering black in their water-streaming wetsuits; started moving about again and began to repeat some their comrade’s remarks until they were shouting and cursing one at the other about the maniac and his bang and how long was it he said before he was going to light the fuses?

Bedlam!  “Be quiet!” screamed the leader, leaping around like a black dervish.  “Everyone out!  You never know what might happen!  Everybody back to the surface!  Evacuate the entire cave!  Alert the M.R.O. to get him out of here and lock him up!  Move!  Do you hear me?  Move! Move!

Pandemonium!  They fled towards the surface, strewing bottles and gear in their frantic haste to get out of the way of the blast and bellowing a warning to other cavers as they rushed past.  The cry went up, echoing from one passage to the next until every caver in the place was bellowing and hollering and screaming at every other caver and running and swarming and climbing like packs of crazed wolves up the Twenty and the Forty.  The whole cave boomed and thundered with the commotion when the concussion of the blast thudded up along the passages from below somebody lost his head completely and howled at the top of his voice “Earthquake!  Earthquake!

Desperate now, and disregarding all obstacles, a heaving mass of flailing bodies scramble and writhed through the dry ways and up the wet way until they all gathered and met in a swelling congregated mass of struggling limbs and jammed within the confines of the entrance chamber with the stream pouring in on top of them. The first few out quickly organised a rescue team on the spot, pulling and carrying the other exhausted cavers out and clear of the entrance until a hundred and fifty bruised and groaning bodies lay scattered across the ground.

The after effects lingered on for weeks.  People stood around like lost sheep, not drinking their beer, staring into the distance and swearing never to go caving again.  They listened with glazed eyes to the reports of others who still dared to venture below, of teams of surveyors wandering through the vast ramifications of the new cave mapping and measuring; unable to believe what they saw and enthusing widely over the years of work ahead of them before they ever got anywhere near completing their task.  But the ordinary cavers, still pushing and probing in the far reaches arrived back in the pub after gruelling trips and stood muttering together in corners about catching fleeting glimpses of eyes glaring at them from inaccessible recesses deep within the formations and the mysterious rappings and tappings to be in out of the way grottoes.  Of course the divers created a fuss about the maniac and his bang but the identity of the lone-caver remained a mystery.  That was, at any rate until the McDuffbert’s Swallet uproar, when the Sheldon Manor Moron Caving Club were falsely accused of violating the sump.

Whilst attempting to be first through the sump to administer a hearty application of well-deserved retribution upon the unsuspecting interlopers, Fox the Ferret was buried alive when a pile of gravel was washed in on top of him by the dammed up water. Fortunately his boots were still exposed and the rest of the team dragged him clear, dislocating his right knee in the process. The punitive expedition then retired, defeated, and reported this latest development to the Committee.  The Chairman declared that the best way to deal with the matter would be to dismiss the affair as an outbreak of mass hallucination and advised those involved to put in more time caving and drinking less.

Nevertheless, in spite of the Chairman’s recommendations, next morning it was discovered that the McDuffbert’s entrance lid had been broken open during the night.  When it was pointed out  that it may have been forced from inside by the returning sump vandals; and what did all the footprints leading off to the Sheldon Manor Moron’s Caving Club indicate if not that they were involved in some way?  A deputation set off for the S.M.M.C.C. hut to demand an explanation.  They were received with acrimonious counter accusations that the S.M.M.C.C. bog had disappeared down half an hour ago and that The Shed must admit responsibility for reckless underground tunnelling; not for the first time; which the S.M.M.C.C. wasn’t prepared to tolerate for much longer if this sort of things was going to continue, and right now they were more interested in getting the bog back to the surface complete with the bloke who had been sitting on it, than all the Shed nonsense.  The bickering disintegrated into an unfortunate argument and the ensuing pitch battle much damage was done to property and persons alike before the combatants were separated.

That wasn’t the end of the trouble.  Only the beginning.  Towards Christmas reports started coming in from all quarters; of cavers stranded underground with their tackle gone missing; burgled club huts; disappearing explosive stores; farmers complaining about vanishing cattle and stolen chicken and blaming the cavers; until the whole district of Pidnem was rife with suspicion and dispute and snarling and general inter-club warfare.  The public never got to hear of it, it was too serious.  There was a sort of self imposed universally unanimous blanket on what was happening on Pidnem.  The ground was covered in snow by this time and cavers armed with clubs and rubber truncheons were out hunting their fellows, scouring the woods and fields and following footprints and tracks searching for their missing gear.

The tension had to be eased before something serious happened.  So, a mass meeting of all club committees convened in secret behind locked doors to thrash out a plan.  During the tight lipped discussions that followed after the presentation of an overall analysis of all the incidents it gradually dawned on everybody present that there were Other People under Pidnem.  A unanimous resolution was passed declaring a Total Amalgamation to get below and track down the Other People and put a stop to their nefarious activities once and for all.

At zero hour all the Combined Club Forces disappeared below ground with loads of material and equipment. Whilst groups of men maintained watch and prowled and patrolled day and night, stealing silently through the caves; engineers and electricians installed traps and alarm systems and laid metal grills connected to high voltage cables.

A sole diver, sent down to reconnoitre Blookey Hole for sign of intruders, heard the same ghastly singing that was reported in McDuffbert’s.  Searching around he discovered the newly dug-out entrance to a natural passage that extended into the far distance.  Realising that he had found the marauding devils responsible for all the trouble, he courageously decided to track them to their lair and confront them, rather than return to the surface and waste time rounding up re-enforcements.  He crept along the passage, the carousing getting louder as he progresses, and entered a huge chamber.  Across on the far side, the whole scene was illuminated in the glare of a blazing log fire, lighting up about 30 tents pitched on the sandy floor, and the gang of ruffians, sprawled about drinking and bellowing crude songs and chewing on hunks of freshly roasted meat.

Before the diver could retreat from this hellish scene he was seized upon by one of the gang who had been lurking behind him and dragged over to the firelight, where a deadly hush was spreading like an invisible pall through the singing and bellowing which gradually petered out and came to a stop, while everybody looked at the diver from under their eyebrows, glaring at him and gnashing their teeth.  But the diver wasn’t the type of bloke to be intimidated and he started in on the motley crew as to who the hell were they and what was their game?  One of the ruffians got up off his hunkers and strode over to the diver, standing in front of him with his hands on his hips and glaring at him out of un-squinting eyes buried deep in his tangled black beard.

He stood there, swaddled in asbestos rags, all strapped up and buckled together and hung about with some sort of baked and blackened  leather-plated suit of armour, reeking of sweat and charcoal, and then, throwing out a pointed arm at the diver and blaring at him as if he was at least half-a-mile away, the ruffian roared, “I’ll tell you who we are!  The C.W. Smith-Brown Consortium of Specialist Cave researchers!  That’s who! And our ‘game’ as you call it, started under the Appian Mountains whilst you were sucking milk out of a bottle! Not in some piddling grott-hole like this!  Destiny, aye, destiny! – guided us to discover a series of unique chambers”. He pointed directly upward, “When we were sweating out our guts driving railroad tunnels beneath the mountains. Unique because they were completely sealed within the geo-historic rock structure’!”

He stabbed his finger at the diver’s chest.  “How do you account for that, Eh!  I’ll tell you!  Because cave evolution starts at the bottom of the system and not at the top like everybody thinks!  Your so-called entrance is merely the route taken by comparatively recent streams and rivers percolating through earthquake cracked strata, widening out and disintegrating the loose rock in the falling waters and washing all the rubbish below into the original and ancient cavity, blocking it and chocking it!  That’s how!”  He smashed his fist into the palm of his hand to drive the point home.  “My own scientific analysis of the original chambers proved that they were natural reservoirs, isolated from the surface, and at one time had continued ‘yer actual primeval high pressure superheated steam which had cooled and condensed over the years to leave the cavities as I discovered them!  Proliferously decorated with calciferous formations encrusted with mineral deposits and containing residual lakes of crystal clear pure water.”

He glared savagely at the diver, and ranted on, “But your so-called ‘experts’ wouldn’t believe my theory! Even with the proof.  So I had to go out, alone, to find an active steam reservoir into which I could descend. However, this task was too difficult even for me and I had to abandon my expedition and leave my men, stout fellows all of them.  God rest their souls, down there.”  He wiped a tear from his eye, “But I found the next best thing!” he roared in triumph, “I found what I was looking for in the geysers!  Identical in every way to the steam reservoirs, but with vents leading out to the surface!  And I found something else” he nodded his shaggy head.  “Fantastic flutings and scallopings, all sculptured out and eroded by the pressurised movement of thousands of tons of cataracting boiling water being forced though the pipes and passages leading up from the present day superheated reservoir!”

He looked at the diver. “What do you think of that then? Eh!”  The diver knew what he thought about it alright but it would have been more than his life was worth to say so and he knew that too.  So he nodded his head as if vastly impressed and asked timidly, “What’s that all got to do with you being here then?”  “Everything!” roared the ruffian.  “I am now concentrating the final phase of my research into the exploration and cataloguing of examples of geologically ancient systems broken into and enlarged by surface erosion such as your rivers and streams where deep down passages reveal the original flutings and scallopings and remnants of the condensation-deposited formations polluted and overlaid with your modern calciferous drip and trickle such as you would find in this rat trap of a place we are standing in now!”

He gestured imperiously and one of his henchmen scuttled up to his elbow with a foaming tankard of ale. The ruffian threw back his head and tipped the contents of the tankard down his gullet in one convulsive swallow and then hurtled the empty pewter at the rocks with a resounding clang of ruptured metal.  The diver blanched in recognising the tankard as his own, which had disappeared from the pub one night along with all the liquor and beer in the place.  The black bearded ruffian continued “And I shall complete my thesis and put it before your so called ‘experts’” he practically spat the word. “When I finish my investigations of one or two rather fine examples of extinct geyser systems we have discovered down here.  In fact, they may be merely dormant.  In which case I shall reactivate them to prove my point!”

The diver began to feel real fear then and looked around at the silent stares of the listening ruffians, wondering whether he would ever see daylight again.  The leader of the gang stared at him menacingly, as if he was looking at some species of vermin fit only to be extinguished under his heel, and hissed, “Listen carefully, my friend, I don’t know who you are, because I’ve never seen you before.  But just in case you intend to come here very often, then there is something I should tell you, and that it, that if I were you, I would regard this precarious state of your personal welfare with some concern,” and adding in his normal conspirational growl, “That is, unless you are prepared to deliver my message to the Total Amalgamation Committee!”

“M – message?” stammered the diver, surprised at the ruffian’s knowledge.  “Oh yes, my friend” the ruffian nodded, “We know everything that goes on, and where our enemies are, make no mistake about that!  But we require the – er, assistance” he put a delicate emphasis on the word, “of additional surveyors and explosives experts to replace the heavy casualties we have sustained so far.  The entrance to our working in Grunters Hole, and has been well signposted.  The –er, volunteers,” again the delicate emphasis, “Will have little difficulty if finding their way down to us” His voice rose to a shout again.  “We are offering a truce, a message of peace and seasonal goodwill amongst all speleologists and an invitation to join us in our glorious quest!”  He threw his arms wide.  “Recognition in return for all the years of toil!  That is all we demand!”

At an abrupt sign of dismissal from their ferocious leader six of the ruffians hustled the diver away without another word down a passage and then along the warm banks of a broad river with coils of steam curling from its surface, sliding past, black and sift and hissing gently in its channelled bed of hot rock.  They led him on into a small chamber and motioned him upwards, still silently in reply to all his questions.  “Merry Christmas!”, he shouted at them as a parting shot.  “Is it?” snarled on of them, “That’s what you think!”  The leader of the escort smashed the snarling one across the face with is clenched fist and shouted, “Shut your mouth and get below, you scum!  That goes for the lot of you!  On the double!”

The listening post down in Grunter’s Hole heard the diver ascending and since nobody was supposed to be down there, they carried out their orders and released an avalanche of boulders upon him.  Fortunately he was under a ledge when it happened and so escaped serious injury by the skin of his teeth.  Recognising his voice bellowing a stream of obscene protest, they switched off the electrocution grills and allowed him to proceed towards the surface after listening to an account of his ordeal, and then settled down again with redoubled vigilance in case any of the villainous crew below should attempt an exit.

The Total Amalgamation Committee, in session at Lower Mines, thanks to the hospitality of the Wessex Catering Society Caving Club, heard the message in silence and sent out immediate instructions ordering the entrance shaft in Grunter’s Hole to be blown up, sentries posted with walkie-talkie R.T. sets at the entrance to Trebor Gulch, McDuffbert’s Swallet, Blookey Hole resurgence, and all the other caves on Pidnem offerin’ an escape route for the gangsters below.  They then prepared an official communiqué containing the diver’s information and had the contents relayed by the Hut Warden through the communications board to the leaders of all underground patrols and listening posts instructing them to converge on Blookey Hole through the gangster’s own connecting tunnel which they had driven from the end of Trebor Gulch Extension; and which had only been discovered by prowling patrol a matter of hours before.

Fox the Ferret – leader of one of the patrols – earphones clasped to his head heard of the news in stunned silence.  “What did you say?” he spluttered, “Take the gang into custody!  Use force if it is required!  Re---quired?  You must be joking!  C.W. Smith- Brown  God help us! I tell you, you’d better call out the Army!  We’re all doomed down here!  I know the fellow, he’s a homicidal maniac!”  But the Hut Warden had more to occupy himself with, than listening to Fox’s blathering and plugged into the next line.

Meanwhile, back on the deserted surface, holes started to appear all over the place as one depression after another subsided in clouds of dust.  The Pidnem Preservation Society went berserk when farmers demolished dry stone walls and old buildings and anything else they could lay their hands on to stuff down the holes.  Whatever it was, he – C.W. Smith-Brown – was into something big, the way it kept falling down on him.  Nobody felt safe; it was like having a giant mole burrowing away under your feet.

Sheep Lair Pit blew up in a plume of smoke and steam and trippers came from all over the country to see the new attraction.  England’s one and only geyser.  Hotwells Springs stopped flowing and the Roman Baths dried up.  The cavers at Pidnem scoured the depths in a state of raging fury, determined to trap the Anti-Caver and his; by now somewhat depleted; pack of ruffians in their underground fortress.  And they were right of his heels when he played his last trump card and destroyed the caver’s lines of communication.

Up at Lower Mines the Hut Warden was on duty, co-ordinating the chase and zeroing in the pursuit, alone; for even the Total Amalgamation Committee had joined in the hunt now that the kill was about to be made.  Outside, a patch of snow, adjacent to the wet wall of Lower Mines, was melting away and evaporating into the frosty air.  Intuitive cattle, sending danger, stampeded away from the zone of impeding danger. The Hut Warden, squatting at the communication switch board, passing instructions to the leader of one of the underground pursuit teams, looked up, puzzled, and listened carefully to the grunting, muffledly-thunderous vibrations emanating from under his chair.

Outside, where the snow had melted, the exposed ground lifted off like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube, and in one almighty violent concussive crack, exploded into fragments and spewed upwards in a cloud of dust.  The Hut Warden, hurtled out of his chair by the impact of the tremor, which hade made the whole building lurch and had brought the tiles careering down off the roof, rushed out through the three foot wide crack in the west wall, and in a state of pure terror made an impossible leap of twenty feet straight across the mouth of a gaping shaft out of which a column of steam rolled and towered upwards in to the grey sky.  Dormant geyser number two had been reactivated!

The Total Amalgamation Committee, exhausted and at it’s wits end, sat in session.  “Get Fox in here!” snapped the grim-faced Chairman. “Fox!  We have read your letter describing your experience with this man Smith-Brown, with great interest.  It’s a great pity you didn’t cut his rope when you had the chance.  It would have saved everybody a lot of inconvenience. Still, I suppose you’re no more of a clairvoyant than the rest of us.  I can’t understand why you didn’t come forward before, but now that you are here perhaps you can be of some use.  You say you have some influence with the man, or rather, I should say, had. Can you tell us more?”  “Only this,” replied Fix, “You’ll never get him! The only way that you’ll get rid of him is to seal up the whole of Pidnem and grab him when he digs his way out!” “Obviously impossible!” snapped the Chairman, “He could come up anywhere as we well know!”  “There is another way, now I come to think of it” said Fox slowly, “And that would be to offer him a bigger challenge”

The Chairman stared at him, waiting for further enlightenment.  “Perhaps we could get him interested in an expedition to the Andes or the Himalayas” said Fox consideringly.  “He’s probably been there already” said the Chairman resignedly.  “Is that the best you can do?”  One of the Committee interrupted.  “We’re getting nowhere!  Something’s got to be one!  We’ve got of get rid of him, It’s like sitting on top of a volcano, wondering when it’s going to blow up next!”  Fox jumped to his feet excitedly, “That’s it!” he yelled.  Everybody looked at him.  “Volcano! Send him down a volcano!” Everybody kept looking at him.

“Tell us more said the Chairman softly, comprehension and hope gleaming in his narrow eyes. “Vesuvius?  StromboliPopocatepetl Fuji Yama?  Where do you suggest?  We’ll pay all expenses….!”


 

News in brief: -

High level holes in Cuthbert’s 2 maypoled with no success.  High point in rift yet to be climbed.

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Part 1 of Spelaeodes selling out fast – send your orders to Bryan Ellis or Dave Irwin as soon as possible to avoid disappointment – remember profits are for the B.E.C.  Hut Fund.

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Latest issue of ‘Descent’ contains interesting articles including details of the possible link-up of all the systems on Casterton Leck, Ireby, Gragareth and Kingsdale in Yorkshire and Jim Eyre’s articled entitled ‘In the Hole of the Woman’

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Two cavers rescued from Rod’s Pot, Burrington – lost their way through ruckle from Main Chamber!

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East Twin, Burrington and Rumbling Hole, Leckfell ( Yorkshire) surveys available at 1/- each from Dave Irwin.  Both printed by off-set litho.

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A Novel Quiz

– Literary Profile of the Committee!!!!!!!!

We all feel that we know our Committee, and as they are all (we think) literate, perhaps it is in literature that we can find the most apt descriptions of them.

Of the Committee as a whole it may be said: -  “Where village statesmen talk(ed) with looks profound and news much older than their ale went round!

Goldsmith.

++++++++++++++

Whilst taking them individually in order: -

1.                  The manners of mountaineers are commonly savage, but they are rather produced by their situation than by their ancestors. – Dr. Johnson

2.                  Pass the hat for your credits sake, and pay – pay – pay. - Kipling

3.                  The mighty answer of unmeaning rhyme. - Lord Byron

4.                  Hail fellow well met! - Swift

5.                  Then he will talk – Great Gods, how he will talk. - Lee

6.                  You shall see them on a beautiful quarto page, where a neat rivulet of text shall meander though a meadow of margin. - Sheridan

7.                  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire. – Revelations 1:14

8.                  I am a courtier, grave and serious – W.S. Gilbert

9.                  Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious by this sun of York – Shakespeare

10.              L’Etat – c’est moi – Louis XIV

Perhaps you can decide the order?

 by the most famous author of them all – A NON.


 

The Ladies Trip to Cuthbert’s 2

Sun 9th Nov. ‘69

By Joan Bennett

Typical domestic scene in one B.E.C. household – enter husband in business suit, quick change into jeans and sweater – enter bachelor friend.  Men quickly eat meal prepared by wife – exit men folk in direction of Mendip, leaving wife with the dirty dishes.  Thinks wife over washing up – “It’s a long time since my last trip to Cuthbert’s, and I would like to see Gour Rift with the dams and lots of water, and the progress being made on the dig.

After sounding out wives/girl friends of other members of the team, the time and date for a Ladies Trip to Cuthbert’s was agreed.  Before this was actually accomplished, Cuthbert’s 2 was discovered, which added considerable interest to the trip.  When the time came, however, only two wives went down the cave, accompanied by two other Lady Cavers.

The trip was completed without much difficulty (I have known much slower tourist trips) and much interest was shown in the new section of the cave.  However, our leader, and at least one member of the party was glad when the now sometimes dry Sump 1 was re-negotiated, as the dams were only taking 20 minutes to fill at this particular time.

One gentleman (of course) from the B.E.C. remarked that the “Ladies Party” conjured up a vision of crinolines and fluttering ribbons, whist a rude and crude (of course) member of the Shepton was heard to ask after “The Old Wives Party”.  I am not sure which was nearest the mark!

 (Party: Janet Woodwood, Rosemary ? (S.M.C.C.), Sally Merrett (W.C.C.) and Joan Bennett (B.E.C.).  Leader Roy Bennett.

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Christmas Greetings by various members have cost them 25/- each for the Hut Find!

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Bob Bagshaw has things to sell!

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Car badges are available to order – contact Bob for details.

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‘Bertie’ ties are available from Bob at 17/6 each or £1 If you wish to donate 2/6 to the Hut Fund.

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Subscriptions are due at the end of January – remember 25/-!

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Alfie’s Spelaeodes are selling out fast – no reprint – price 4/- for Part 2 – order your copy now – at the time of writing the Editor has only 90 copies left of the original 500 – Part 1 has only been on sale for three weeks!  You have been warned.


 

Letter To The Editor

Dear Dave,

My nife cell has for many months leaked badly.  I checked to see if it was excess electrolyte gassing over the vents during charging and seeping down inside the case.  It was not. The unit was then stripped down – no easy job – as two of the cells were badly swollen ( as shown below) and jammed solid in the outer case.

To trace the leak each cell was filled with electrolyte and upended for 24 hours.  One cell was found to leak around the top seam weld: although strangely enough it was not one of the swollen cells.

I have been given two apparently sound cells without sealing vents and am wondering which 3 cells to use. The original three are old but last five hours on main beam.

Questions

1.                  Are the swollen cells serviceable?

2.                  Can the leaking cells be satisfactorily repaired?

3.                  The replacement cells have been without seals for a year.  Has contact with air damaged the cells?

Swollen 1/8” each side

Yours sincerely

            Alan Kennet

                        November 1969


 

Library List No.2

List No. 1 in April 1969 issue of B.B., page 45

Caving Books cont.

A38      Caves of North West Clare          Edited E.K. Tratman

A39      History of Mendip Caving            P. Johnson

Climbing Books

b1         High Heaven (Fr. Dauphone)        Jaques Boell

b2         South Col (Everest 1953)           Wilfred Noyce

b3         First Over Everest          Houston Mount Everest. Expedition 1953

b4         Nadi Devi, The Ascent of H.W. Tilman

b5         Nanga Parbat, The Siege of        Paul Bauer

b6         Sandstone Climbs in S.E. England          E.C. Pyatt

b7         Romance of the Rocks   C.A. Hall

b8         Climbs in Canadian Rockies       F.S. Smythe

b9         Mount Everest – The Reconnaissance, 1921        C.K. Howard- Bury

b10       Kamat Conquered          F.S. Smythe

b11       Annapurna         M. Herzog

b12       Mount Everest, Epic of   P. Younghead

b13       Rakaposhi         M. Banks

b14       Conquering the Celestial Mountains         Y. Simonov

b15       Kanchenjunga – The Untrodden Peak      F.S. Smythe

b16       Mountains of the Moon   P.M. Synge

b17       Climbing, Where to Climb in the British Isles        E.C. Pyatt

b18       Mountains of Memory     Lunn

b19       Mountain Prospect         Scott-Randall

b20       Montains of Snowdonia, The       Carr & Lister

b21       Of Men and Mountains   W.C. Douglas

b22       Everest, The Ascent of   J. Hunt

b23       Rock Climbing and Mountaineering          C. Brunning

b24       Mountaineering, Readers Guide to           Library Association

b25       Britain, Climbing in         J. Barford

b26       Mountaineering, A Short manual of          Burns, Shuttleworth And Wright

b27       Mid Moor and Mountain  Balsille & Westwood

b28       Mountaineering, the Technique of            J.E.B. Wright

Guides

c1         South West England      Ward, Lock and Bowdens

c2         Fall & Caves of Ingleton, The       J. Homer

c3         Outdoor Guide, The        R. McCarthy

c4         Unbeaten Tracks            P.E. Barnes

c5         Wye Valley       Ward Lock & Co.

c6         Derbyshire         L.R. Muirhead

to be continued


 

Palaeolithic Sites in the Suabian Alb.

By John Ifold

The Suabiam Alb forms a section of the calcareous limestone Jura Mountains which stretch from western Switzerland to southern Poland.  Their cave deposits are seldom of any great depth, in them however are remains of abundant Upper Pleistocene fauna together with those of early human culture.

Sparse traces of a Micoquian – Mousterain industry at Kogelstein, near Schmiechen.   In the Tone Valley is the Vogelherd near Stetten where G. Rick

Excavated what is, up to the present, stratigraphically the most important Pleistocene deposit in southern Germany (a lower most flaking industry) a Micoquian – Mousterian industry, a simple Mousterian industry; a typical Aurignacian industry with figurines; a developed Aurigniacian industry; a Lower Magdalanian industry and an Upper Magalenian industry.

There are nine Aurignacian figurines which can be seen in the museum at Heidenheim.

Letter To The Editor

Dear Sir,

The new rift passage discovered in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet (Cuthbert’s 2) brings to light a new area of the development of the cave in more ways than one.  As is well known the entrance to the cave is developed in Lower Limestone Shales, from whence the major part of the system traverses the Black Rock Limestone.  It now appears that the Black Rock Limestone has been completely traversed and the cave has entered the Vallis Limestone.

The junction of these two rock-types is known as the  horizon, and is marked by the entrance of the fossil Caninia (a coral).  It is also the location of a highly fossiliferous chert bed.  I believe that the junction is located in the new rift at the side of the 10ft. pothole. Near the base odd the pothole several large fossils in a chert bed are well exposed and thus add to the many other fossils locations in St. Cuthbert’s.  If this turns out to be the  horizon, then the existence of the pothole may be explained by differential erosion of the Vallis Limestone with respect to the Black Rock Limestone.

Another property of the Vallis Limestone is that it might be dolomitised; this could affect the structure of the cave.  The thickness of the Vallis Limestone at this point is probably about 100ft. and so the rift may have already entered the Burrington Oolite or at least be on the point of entering it.

                        Yours faithfully

                                    Mike Luckwill.

 


 

Expedition Ariege 1970

By ‘Kangy’

In the foothills of the Pyrenees, in what is said to be one of the most beautiful regions of France, lies a vast unexplored area of limestone.  This area, the Ariege, is south-west of Toulouse and is forested with deciduous trees carpeting shapely peaks, giving a travel bureau gloss to a hollow interior.

Goerges Jauzion knows all and he and the Societe Meridional de Speleologie et de Prehistoire know of a large number of holes which require looking at.  One of their problems is in the fact the embarrassing number of unexplored holes and the manpower required to sort them out.

At the beginning of November I went with Georges to a small mountain near St. Giron which is a small town not far from Toulouse. We left Toulouse at 5.00 in the morning, met the representatives of 6 or 7 local clubs and then went together with a load of ladders and rope. The drive finished at the end of a steep stony track just as dawn was breaking.  The cars were left on a col to contemplate superb views while the gear was shared amongst us.  We then shouldered our way up into the Beech Forest for an hour or so until a hole was reached. Not immediately obvious through the trees and half hidden in dead leaves, was a small depression in a half-cup of limestone.

This was Q.M. 1 which is shorthand for the first possibility at Quero Maldido.  It was quickly prepared by setting up a winch bolted to adjacent rocks while about 450 feet of ladder was lowered into the hole.  The lifeline was positioned around the winch and then arranged to hang unobstructed into the shaft through a pulley lashed to some trees.  The first man down returned and reported a sloping ledge at 50 metres (155ft.) and that the shaft, which was 15 metres in diameter, continued.  We all ate lunch with great contentment.

The assault began seriously after lunch and three men went down to the 50 metre ledge to continue the descent.  The hours passed slowly for those waiting on the surface and even more slowly for the back-up team.  Then, inevitably, came the first news; progress stopped at 130 metres (430ft.). The full story, gleaned later, was that the shaft finished at about 80 metres below the ledge in a rocky floor with no immediate prospect of pushing further.

Well that was that for the day. The point of the story is that this was the first descent of a shaft, deeper than Gaping Gill, and there are more where this one came from! Georges has suggested that we send a team next year to jointly explore the region.  The end of July or early August would be the best time.  To give some idea of what could be involved the sketches show a few shafts already entered.  The Coume Ferrat, in particular needs another descent in order to do a colouration test.  The time for the trip is estimated to be 3 – 4 days.  Also shown are the Quero Maladido 1, Chaou Marti with a free pitch of 120m and Pique Grane with a free pitch of 140m (400ft.)  Rather more horizontal caves were described in an earlier article of mine this year.

If you are interested in good food, wine, company, and rewarding original exploration in a region full of caves sporting and prehistoric then get in touch with Dave Irwin or me – quick!

Ed. Note:          Recently Georges was in Bristol recently and he spent a day on Mendip humping pipes down to the Cuthbert’s Sump.  He was most impressed with the system. He will be in England for about two years starting next March. I’ve no doubt that we haven’t seen the last of him yet.  He is quite keen to have a B.E.C. party visit the area described by Kangy. There are over 1,000 holes recorded in the Arige area and only some 200 surveyed.

‘Wig’

 

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Report of the Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting will appear in January B.B.

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The first accurate survey of Sidcot Swallet will appear in the B.B. soon – another B.B. first!


 

Cavers Bookshelf

By Daphne Stenner

‘ABOUT CAVES’ by Terry Shannon; illustrated by Charles Payzant; Muller’ Junior Look, Read and Learn Series 8.  Price 9/6d.

This is an ideal book for the child who asks ‘Why does Daddy go caving’. And then wants to know about cave formations, prehistoric animals, cave paintings etc.  It covers, in language suitable for youngsters,  the different ways caves are formed, from the vadose and phreatic limestone caves, to ice caves, sea caverns and lava caves. A few of the terms are typically American, Spelunker for example, and all the references are to American caves but the simple drawings are clear enough for children to understand.  After touching on the uses of caves by pre-historic animals, primitive man and Indian flat-builders, the book ends with a few typical legends of caves and how they got their names.  I thought the Floyd Collins example rather gruesome for my 5 year old but it didn’t seem to worry him.  The size of the print is good for the child just staring to read for himself and this book was voted as one we would like to have on the bookshelf at home instead of just borrowed from the library.  At 9/6 it would make a good Christmas present for the 5 to 11 age groups.

Rescues

Stoke lane:  Three brothers (surname Clodsworthy) were overdue on a trip to Sump 1 in Stoke. MRO were called out.  They were found just beyond the Muddy Oxbow and were lost.  They apparently made little or no attempt to find their way out as they could not decide which was the correct way on – through the duck or the Muddy Oxbow.  If they had remembered the old maxim – if lost follow the stream – then they would have got out without any trouble.

Swildon’s Hole:  A party of four were overdue from a round trip through the Troubles.  MRO were called out.  At about midnight they were contacted by a search party at the bottom of Vicarage Pot.  They had missed the connection with the Two streamway and had abseiled down into the pot, pulling the rope after them, before they realised that they had gone wrong. As they were students at Bristol University perhaps they ought to be taken in hand!

Letter to the Editor

Dear Dave

Following the ‘breakthrough’ at the sump in St. Cuthbert’s a certain amount of controversy seems to have arisen which I feel is due to the very unreasonable attitude taken by people who had not been involved in the work leading to the discovery of St. Cuthbert’s 2.

Criticism has been aimed chiefly at those who withheld the news until Saturday evening (less than 24 hours).  It is thought that they should have been told on Friday evening only one hour after the discovery before even these people who had actually been involved in the work had been informed.

Surely it is the prerogative of those concerned to hold back the information until they have had the chance to explore the cave fully and surely it is the right of those persons who had worked so hard on the project and did not happen to be at the sump on the Friday evening to be the first to know and have the option of being on the first exploratory trip and to ‘push’ various parts of the new cave.  If you take away this right then surely you have removed completely the motive for digging.

The chief argument put forward is that no one who had not actually been involved in the discovery would have dreamt of entering St. Cuthbert’s 2.  This argument is completely invalid since know of five people who put absolutely no effort into the operations in the last two years (and some people have recorded as many as one hundred trips) who have been involved in ‘pushing’ parts of the new cave within the first week of discovery.

If this is acknowledged to be the correct code of conduct then I think that the enthusiasm for digging in the future will be somewhat dampened.

                        Yours sincerely

                                    John Riley.        School House Farm,
                                                            Chew Stoke,
                                                            Bristol.
                                                            10 November 1969

Ed. Note:          It was three weeks before the discovery of Contour (or Sludge Pit) cave was common knowledge; about 1 month for Little Neath Cave; 1 month for O.F.D. II and considerably longer for several other discoveries.  24 hours is being absolutely fair with the caving world. (See Editorial page 142).


 

Notts Pot

By Tony Waltham
(Happy Wanderers C.C.) & L.U.C.C.

Situated high on the flank of Gragareth near the western end of the Yorkshire caving area (and therefore requiring booking through the C.N.C.C.) Notts is a classic pothole which well deserves its popularity.  Though the trip from the entrance to the sump covers only a horizontal distance of less than 400 feet, the pothole contains a wealth of passages well worth visiting for they range to a depth of 455ft. and include four different interconnecting routes down.

When first discovered the main routes down were completely dry but now the pot is invariable wet on the last two pitches, and in flood these may be impassable.  The rest of the system however, above a depth of 370 feet, is a good bad weather trip.

A few years ago some major collapses at the entrance significantly changed the shape and hydrology of the pothole, and today by far the most comfortable way down is the Centre Series, described here and shown on the survey, in section.  The entrance is a large hole in the foot of the largest of a number of shakeholes whose location is roughly marked on O.S. maps and in Pennine Underground.

Usually the entrance pitch is descended with 40 feet of ladder belayed to a stake, but it can be very easily free-climbed.  A slot in the floor then leads to a canyon passage with the stream flowing under boulders which soon come to an end.  The way on is then down the stream to a short pitch which may be very wet.  However a number of easy climbs up into the roof lead to a large dry passage and an oxbow to an alternative short pitch (20ft.) which is always dry.  At the foot of these pitches the caver is in Four-Ways Chamber (previously called Two – and Three-Ways Chamber).  The Left Hand Series leaves with the stream down a fine rift canyon passage to two very wet pitches of 60ft. and 90ft., which by contortions may be laddered fairly dry.  Opposite and up a slight bank the long and tight Right Hand Series leaves by a low bedding plane passage.  In the far corner a hole in the floor leads to the Centre Series, while above it a high passage leads via a few climbs to the Birthday Pot Route and the associated rather grotty high level passages discovered in 1967 by U.L.S.A.

To follow the Centre Series, the hole in the floor is descended by way of 70ft. of ladder down a fine free pitch, belayed to a good solid bridge.  The entire Centre Series is a succession of pitches down a single rift forms along a fault and there is little passage between the drops.  The next pitch of 25ft. down two clean steps are belayed to a chock stone immediately above it, and not to some rather dangerous flakes on the right.  Immediately after this another 25ft. pitch leads down to a small ledge (with a hole in the floor).  Avoiding the hole (which connects with the Right Hand Series) the next pitch of about 50ft. involves a descent of 20ft. and then a fine swinging traverse over another hole and down an easy slope beyond a big rock flake (see survey). This leads into a comfortable chamber at the far side which is the stream again.  Most of the water emerges from a very low duck along with the Right Hand Series, while down from the far wall another stream falls about 30ft. This is the route down followed by the Left Hand Series and the Birthday Pot Route which join at the top of the Waterfall.

 

Downstream is a narrow high rift passage, best followed by traversing above the stream to the head of the 30ft. waterfall.  This is easily laddered in the dry by using 45ft. of ladder belayed to a large stalagmite on the far wall at the traverse level.  The top of the pitch is then a little narrow but soon bells out into a fine circular chamber.  From here another clean canyon passage leads down a few cascades to the top of the noisy 70ft. waterfall dropping into a large chamber.  If not in full flood, the descent of this pitch is very sporting and conveniently broken by a ledge 20ft. down.

Into the chamber a large inlet stream flows down a steep rift passage. This is very short and may easily be followed up to a clear sump pool, from which flows the waters of Ireby Cavern. The sump has not yet been dived right through, though it is about 500ft. long.  Following the combined stream out of the chamber and obvious phreatic passage very soon leads to a wet 15ft. pitch, best descended by chipping another ladder to the end of the 70ft. ladder.  At the foot of this the caver lands directly in a deep large sump pool which is the bottom of the system.  The black water surface disappears into the gloom but this is the end as the sump has been dived to a hopelessly light bedding plane.  In the left hand wall a small tube passage leads in a loop back under the main chamber to a static sump which also has been dived, to a deep rift.

Altogether, Notts is well worth a visit as it is not too difficult and yet contains a fine variety of interesting pitches and a selection of routes. A party of six can reasonably expect to visit the sump and return by any route (except the slightly large Right Hand Series) in about 4 – 5 hours.