October 2000

Peak District Caving > Cave News Index > October 2000

Reports:
> Crock Pot - the latest Peak District discovery
> Far Sump - renewed interest in the 370m inlet.
> Gaping Gill - accuratly measured....
> Oxlow Cavern - additional rope required
> Rubble Rift - the dig continues

CROCK POT: October 2000:
SK 1984 7705 Alt 273m
Report from Dave Webb -
CROCK POT (or 'Pot of the Crocks') Waterfall Swallet: Eyam, Derbyshire.
Masson Caving Groupís New discovery in Waterfall Swallet
>>>
Survey

In the closing weeks of the last century the Masson Caving Group decided to get serious about a dig site, any dig site. For years we had watched other clubs bask in the reflected glory of discovery, and we yearned for a tiny part of the Derbyshire 'Titan Sydnrome'. In June of this year our dreams (and efforts) came true, and a previously abandoned dig* in Waterfall Swallet 'went' and we broke through into a series of rift and breakdown passage to claim what has now risen to 100m of passage. It is all new cave; is mostly natural; is still draughting, and it is called Crock Pot due to the age and infirmity of some of the diggers!

Waterfall Swallet is a large tree-lined collapse doline on the north side of the road from Eyam to Foolow. There already exists a fairly extensive (350m) system lying to one side and under the swallet, but since itís discovery in 1959 it has stubbornly refused to reveal any more of the 2000m of horizontal and 62m of vertical cave that tests have shown must exist between here and Bedpan Sump in Carleswark Cavern.

Crock Pot is in the wall opposite to the known system and alongside the waterfall that gives the swallet its name. Initially we found the dig easy going as we dug along and down through tree roots and soft earth beneath two large poised blocks. We soon encountered a very tight but cleanly scalloped parallel rift, which our undernourished purpose-built 'pipe-cleaner' reported as draughting strongly and widening further in. We arranged to start work as soon as we had recovered from the Millennium celebrations.

(Note: The site is designated as an SSSI we did the proper thing and approached English Nature for permission to dig - they were very helpful and permission was soon granted)

Battle commences
It took longer than we thought, but on Thursday February 24th 2000 work began. The narrow slot was avoided by digging down to a wider section, but work was impeded by several large boulders that had to be broken using old-fashioned hammer and chisel techniques.

Outside, earth and rock were utilised to build a rather pleasing 'terrace', and work continued through the spring and early summer. Then, just as we were beginning to think the whole thing was a cruel joke we broke through into a clean and fluted 3m shaft. Enthusiasm soared, and by a series of clever but painful acrobatics it was possible to descend the shaft and curl up at bottom to peer through a narrow slot into a black void beyond: the draught made our eyes water.

The slot was in solid scalloped bedrock and something more serious than a hammer and chisel would obviously be needed. We chose to turn to the more modern technique of 'whack and bang' to enlarge the constriction, which as well as being in a confined space was on an awkward bend and quite tricky to get at. The 'whack' frequently hit soft flesh so it became a case of 'whack- whoops- shit! - whack - bang!'

There was soon a space large enough to admit one of our more courageous team members who squeezed painfully through to eventually drop into a thankfully much larger space beyond. He soon recovered from the ordeal and I shall never forget his excited cries as he ran up and down tormenting us with his description of what he was seeing.
"...a mined level... formations... passages going off in all directions..." and then,
"...a pitch... thereís a pitch... goes down about 5 metres... needs a ladder..."
John Barnatt in the restriction at the head of the First Pitch.
Photo: Unknown 10/2000
Enlarge

That night I dreamt of master caves and passages of infinite length.

Charge of the Tight Brigade
The slot led to a climb down past respectable formations into a narrow passage which to the right, (west), soon led to a short handpicked coffin-shaped level through sediments. Here we found two rotting stemples, and what was later identified by archaeologists from Sheffield University as a human arm bone! It is still unclear how the old lead miners entered, but they left empty-handed.

To the left the passage, named Miners Rift on the survey, enters a natural section with narrow rifts and a roof of assorted loose boulders. To one side is a small superbly sculpted chamber leading to an 11 metre drop (Flake Pitch: see survey) from the depths of which could be heard the seductive sound of falling water. The drop was laddered, and from the bottom the thinner members of the party forced themselves along into an extremely tight but tall section (North Rift) towards the sound of the cascade. We fully expected to find the way on at the end of rift, since the water had to go somewhere, but all we did find was a choke, disappointingly impenetrable to all known forms of human life.
John Highfield on the ladder at the 11m North Rift Pitch.
Photo: Unknown 10/2000
Enlarge

And so our attention turned to a very narrow cross-rift (Stepping Stone Passage, where a strategically placed block avoids thrashing about in the tapering lower regions) which leads via more tight unpleasantness (for all but the lean and hungry), to a wider climb up to the head of a narrow 8 metre pitch (Echo Pitch). This was excitedly laddered on the next visit, but as with so many Derbyshire digs (Ogof Draenen this is not) we were halted at the base by a mean-looking cleft with jammed blocks between lofty solid smooth walls.
Spencer Sutherland at the squeeze in the end of Stepping Stone Passage.
Photo: Unknown 10/2000
Enlarge

Hollow Victory
More hard work, but we had achieved two major successes. One - the dig was heading away from the loose boulders of the swallet floor and two, we had now encountered eerie but mouth-watering acoustics. A booming echo answered each 'whack and bang', and filled the cave with sound as our 'engineers' enlarged and pushed and squeezed forwards to seek its origin. Two trips later the thin team broke through to enter a magnificent elongated chamber 25metres long, 3metres wide and 15metres high (unsurveyed). From the roof hung several 1metre long stals. They wandered around glassy-eyed and gasping incredulously at what they had found - seeing for the first time what no other human eyes had seen before.

The end of this chamber, or more correctly rift passage, is filled with sediments and initially there appeared to be no way on. But before long the draught was re-located wafting up from between boulders in the floor, and peering down through the cracks it was possible to make out an enticing black space!!! Work continues.

Digging Team: John Barnatt, John Highfield, Peter Appleton, Jon Scaife, Ann Soulsby, Spencer Sutherland and Dave Webb.

Warning: Despite its short length Crock Pot is tight and awkward in places; boulder chokes and jammed blocks must be treated with the utmost care. In times of high water the cave may back up and flood lower sections completely. There are formations in the roof above the climb down into Miners Rift. Please take care.

Write up by Dave Webb, Nottingham, October 2000.

<<< first report 07/2000
>>> Survey
PEAK CAVERN Renewed interest in the 370m inlet, October 2000:
John Cordingley has renewed his interest in Far Sump with the intention of pushing the 370m inlet. The inlet is located 370m from the downstream (Peak Cavern) end of Far Sump. Although investigated before, the low silty continuation of the inlet may yeald some more passage. Until now, this site has always been... well not ignored, but put to one side, as there have always been far greater priorities in Far Sump Extension. It may be possible, with the use of silt pegs (for line belaying), to push further up the passage.

It's a long time since anyone has dived Far Sump as, for most purposes, it has been bypassed by the dry Speedwell / JH / Stemple Highway connection. Although the inlet is just 15m from the far end of Far Sump and is easily accessible from there it's logistically and politically easier to dive it from the Peak Cavern side, even though it involves an extra 365m of diving.

Two dives have been made so far, with the first coming to an abrupt halt in Brown's Chamber (only 20m into Far Sump) as the sump was blocked! The silt blockage was dug for 45 minutes before the diver gave up. On the second dive the digging continued and the restriction was passed after half an hour. There was enough gas left to swim up to the other known restriction at 240m which looked to be OK.

Another dive is planned for the near future (weather permitting!)

Update 22nd October - Report from John Cordingley: I managed to make some progress at the left hand branch near the upstream end. Had to dig it open as it had gravelled up since the last dive 12 years previously. My limit then turned out to have been 15m into the inlet (when measured with a tagged line). After passing a shingly shuffle which had stopped me last time I was able to lay a further 21m of line before running out of silt screws & drop weights.

This passage is currently 36m long and the present end is 406m from Far Sump dive base. Depth at end is only 3m and the continuation is rising as far as the limit of visibility (about 10m). The most interesting thing is the strong current - accounting for about 90% of what was emerging from the downstream end of Far Sump. There is a lot more water here than in the nearby Titan - I don't know where it's coming from (Cavedale?) but it's certainly worth pursuing.

>>>
next report 11/2000
GAPING GILL: October 2000:
Report from The Dales - The reported depth of GG has varied over the years depending on the source of the information, but recently, during a winch meet it was accuratly measured..... at 98.1m.


OXLOW CAVERN: October 2000:
Report from Ralph Johnson - Further to the September report an extra 30m rope is required for the slope leading from P3 to P4. The bottom section of handline (a bit tatty anyway) has gone missing (not for the first time... ed.). Anyone wishing to rig the whole slope should take a 55m rope.

>>>
next related report 09/2002
<<< previous related report 09/2000
RUBBLE RIFT: October 2000:
Report from Pete Dell, Keyhole Caving Club - We have given up with the bottom Level for the time being as it's horrible. We're now concentrating on the phreatic tube above, now dug out for about 15ft heading South (ish) into the hillside and starting to go up. The digging continues....

<<<
previous report 02/1000
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