Peak District Caving

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Slack Hole (aka The Deep Field Project)

Report FromShaun Puckering.
Report Date07/02/2010.

In March 1990 Dave Nixon discovered a small rock filled draughting hole on the southern rim of Slack Hole, One of the biggest dolines in Derbyshire. It's 40m across, 10m deep and lies near the head of Cave Dale and to the south-west of the Peak-Speedwell System. This doline is a major feature - beneath it something has swallowed around 4000 cubic meters of Castleton moor! Cavers had a look at it in the 1970's but opted to dig in an adjacent hole 48m to the east. This was pushed down through boulders to a depth of around 9m. Unfortunately the amount of spoil generated didn't go down well with the landowner and access was lost.

The 19th December 1992 was particularly cold and well below freezing so we decided have another look at this new site. It was a clear moonlit night and a column of warm condensing cave air could be seen rising from the ground long before we got to it the draught was just incredible. We'd pretty much finished with The White River Series in Peak Cavern and were looking for a new project, and this place had all the right hallmarks. It lay beyond the limits of the Peak-Speedwell System with a long run of cave-free limestone to the west. The potential here was obvious.

Permission to dig was sought.... and declined. We never really understood why especially when the following year we were granted full time access to dig out JH (James Hall's Over Engine Mine) but that's how it was. Dave asked again several times over the following 18 years but it wasn't until October 2008 that no... turned into yes! There were some conditions attached, the primary one being no mess on surface. All digging spoil would have to be removed from the site.

Friday and Sunday digging sessions with regular teams became the norm and progress has been good. The dig has descended down and round the south-eastern quarter of the doline to a point 30m in and 7m down. The draught provides the only clue as to which way to go and with the exception of a couple of small voids, every meter has been excavated and supported. Ground is hard won but potential remains high and work is continuing....

Please be aware that this site lies on private land with no general access so cavers are asked not to visit, unless with the digging team. If anyone wants more information contact

Keith Joule at the entrance, with the warm cave air melting the snow down wind.


: Shaun Puckering 23rd January 2009

Far Sump: The digging project draws to a close

Report FromJohn Cordingley.
Report Date29/01/2010.

As many cavers are aware the main Peak Cavern stream issuing from Far Sump is not seen upstream in Far Sump Extension. It emerges from a small submerged tube 370 metres from the start of Far Sump. Because there's a lot of water flowing in this main feeder it's impossible to enter during high water conditions, yet there needs to be a reasonable flow to be able to dig at the two branches which terminate this seldom visited part of the Peak system. This is why dives only happen occasionally, when just the right conditions coincide with a day off work.

The tube reaches a junction at 416 m on a mineral vein running along 110 / 290 degrees magnetic, which may well be the Titan vein, the latter great shaft being located somewhere overhead. To the left a small tube has been dug for 6 metres, ending at a choke. (The first photograph shows this passage, with a small horse's head bar and hammer stacked on the left and the vein projecting from the roof; the white bits are sand particles being carried in the powerful current.) To the right from the 416 m junction the other low passage has been dug for 9 metres to where progress became exceedingly difficult, also against a strong current. At 425 m from base this point is as far as it's possible to swim in a Derbyshire sump. Dye poured down the second shaft in the Titan dig emerges from this main feeder, so the underwater dig offered a possible way into whatever lies unexplored to the west of Titan itself. This was how things stood since late 2007 when I last went there.

The next dive had been set up here for about a year, with the intention of staying in as long as possible (when conditions were right) to establish once and for all whether the choke in the left hand passage is likely to go, or whether it's time to throw in the towel. So on Wednesday 27th January I set off into Far Sump with three tanks and plenty of determination. Little did I know just how much determination would be needed because halfway through Far Sump I ran into an unexpected hazard about 200 metres of red and white hazard tape! Apparently someone had left a roll of it in Far Sump Extension and it was all washed into Far Sump in a flood (see second photo). It was festooned all around the line and took a real effort (and a lot of the air carried) to sort out.

Eventually it was all under control and I finally entered the main feeder. At the end I tried prising the boulders apart but working from a body sized approach made this very difficult. It's possible that this choke goes all the way up to Titan itself and although there's water squirting out of it there are no visible cavities to aim for. So I decided to put this one very much on the back burner. I took a few photographs of this final area for the record and did the long murky swim back to Peak Cavern, perhaps for the last time.

So there you go; I don't think this dig will go any time soon and hopefully the vast potential west of Titan will be tapped by the Titan dig itself. There will be a report in the next TSG Journal (up to the penultimate dive in 2007) due out soon. Some you win, some you lose. Right, now for the next Peak project . . . . . !

previous related report 10/2006