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Peak District Caving News August 1999

Dowel Dales Side Pot

Report fromNick Willaims (TSG).
Report date08/1999.

The TSG's dig at Dowall Dale Side Pot has gone! After over three years of concerted digging (scaffolding?) in the upper rift part of the cave, diggers Eddie Mason, Nigel Kinge, Dave ('Titch') Ladell and Nick Williams finally broke through into a large chamber on Sunday 8 August. The chamber is roughly cornflakes-box shaped, 30m high, 20m long and 5m wide. We entered at the top short edge. There's a (very muddy and unstable) slope of boulders from this point down to the opposite corner. At the bottom the chamber closes down to a rift with a waterfall entering part way along. A phreatic tube goes to one side and ends after about 30m in a sump. Exploration, as they say, continues.

Dowel Dale Side Pot - Update

Report fromJohn Cordingley.
Report date08/1999.

John Cordingley has dived the new sump discovered in the recent Dowall Dale extention. 40m of line was laid northwards upstream in a 0.8m x 1.4m tube which appears to be the up valley drainage route from Stoney Low Swallet etc. With the sump ongoing, a return is planned for the near future.

Dowel Dale Side Pot - Update

Report fromJohn Cordingley.
Report date25/08/1999.

JNC made a second dive into the new inlet sump on Wednesday 25th. The previous limit 40m from base was passed and another 35m of passage was explored before extremely poor vis forced a retreat. The depth at the current limit is 8.5m and the passage continues, a return is planned for the near future.

next report 09/1999

Streaks Pot - West Choke Dig

Report fromJohn Beck.
Report date08/1999.

In 1987, Tom Proctor and John Beck were digging the West Choke in Streaks Pot. It was looking very exciting, and they entered a tiny oxbow which re-entered the choke. They were sidetracked when Doug Nash got the long sought after permission for a dig at Hungerhill Swallet. This was much more fun, and they went and dug there for two years instead. Twelve years later, with a report in their heads that the choke had collapsed on the route down to the stream from the entrance chamber, John and Ian Smith returned to Streaks to check it out. The choke was just the same, and two weeks later John and Mark Loftus recommenced the West Choke Dig.

It looked very promising. A couple of evenings clearing out revealed a blind corner on a shelf on the side of the main passage, and that the main passage went off into the choke to the left. A tiny hole was revealed in solid rock, which emitted an eye-watering draught. The plan is to dig through the nasty choke to the left. A lot of timber and scaffolding will be needed, and this is now accumulating at the dig.

Streaks West Choke is the most westerly accessible point in the active Stoney Middleton cave system. It draughts, and must surely "go". You've all heard it before, but watch this space!

Bagshawe Resurgence (The Lumb) - Sump 2

Photos fromJohn Cordingley.

As reported in July, work has continued underwater in the Sump 2 dig. These photos give an indication as to the nature of this underwater dig.

next report 12/2007 previous report 07/1999

Bagshawe Cavern - Full Moon Series / Hollywood Bowl Link?

Report fromAnthony Revell.
Report date08/1999.

There is evidence to show that there is a possible link between Taylor's Way in the Full Moon Series, discovered in September 1998 beyond The Great Aven, and Madame Guillotine in the passages beyond the Hollywood Bowl. This link was first considered when the Full Moon Series was revisited in April 1999. During a recent combined surveying trip, with a team in each part of the cave a smoke test was inadvertantly carried out. Cigarette smoke, from the team in The Hollywood Bowl Series was detected in Taylor's Way, the first left-hand branch off the Full Moon Series. If a connection can be made it would bypass Namraed Aven and the rarely dry and undivable sump which is currently the only route through to The Hollywood Bowl extensions. A return is planned in the near future to continue the survey and evaluate each site with regard to working towards a connection.

previous report 04/1999

Knotlow Cavern / Hillocks Mine - Dangerous Pollution.

Report fromJohn Gunn, Limestone research group, University of Huddersfield.
Report date08/1999.

A survey undertaken by John Gunn and Dave Nixon on 29 & 30 July 1999 found dangerously low concentrations of oxygen (down to 18.8%) and high concentrations of carbon dioxide (up to 2%) in Knotlow. Concentrations of hydrogen sulphide and methane in air were zero throughout. Water samples were taken and a fuller report will follow. However, the purpose of this note is to warn cavers not to attempt to enter Knotlow until further notice. The Environment Agency has posted warning notices on all entrances, including the entrances to Hillocks and to Whalf Mine as a precaution although no direct measurements have been made in these parts of the system. Farms in the area are being visited in an attempt to locate the source of the pollution and, as always, any observations from cavers would be welcome.

Knotlow Cavern / Hillocks Mine Update.

Report fromJohn Gunn, Limestone research group, University of Huddersfield.
Report date10/08/1999.

In a previous report it was noted that, as of 24 February, there were no problems with 'bad air' anywhere in Knotlow and no visual evidence of water pollution apart from some pink growths in the level between the base of Fourways Shaft and what will henceforth be called the Knotlow Farm Engine Shaft to avoid confusion with other 'Engine Shafts'. The LRG are retained by English Nature to provide a 'rapid response' capability whereby we visit the site as soon as possible after a report of pollution and repeat the air, sediment and water sampling. However, the contract allows for a maximum of five visits which means that we have to have a definite reason to undertake sampling. During April and May there were conflicting accounts from visitors to the system, some reporting no problems, others 'bad air'. Following these, on 20 May, Paul Hardwick tested the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations in air by lowering a meter down the three shafts:

· Climbing Shaft

· Chapel Dale Engine Shaft (also known as the 210' of simply as 'the' Engine Shaft)

· Fourways Shaft (also known as Crimbo Hollow Engine Shaft)

No evidence of 'bad air' was obtained, and oxygen levels were >19%. This was confirmed by a party who visited on 31 May and reported 'no smells' although visitors on 4th & 6th June reported 'bad smells'. This presented us with some difficulty as the air monitoring equipment, without which we cannot undertake any visit to the mine because of Health & Safety considerations, costs 120 to hire in, and it was decided not to undertake a full sampling visit until there was a certainty that there was a pollution problem. This visit was made on 29 July by John Gunn and Dave Nixon when we also hired in a carbon dioxide meter which proved to be extremely useful. As on 20 May, the oxygen, hydrogen sulphide and methane, plus carbon dioxide concentrations in air were measured by lowering the meters down the three shafts with the following results:

Climbing Shaft:

carbon dioxide

oxygen >20%

Chapel Dale Engine Shaft:

carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & >1.0% @ -35m.

oxygen >19% to base.

Fourways Shaft:

carbon dioxide >0.5% @ -20m & >1.0% @ -25m.

oxygen >19% to base.

The lids of the two deep shafts were left open to aid ventilation and we descended the climbing shaft making continuous measurements as we proceeded. The carbon dioxide meter has two alarm levels, the first at 0.5% and the second at 1.0%. The first alarm level was triggered while descending the 2nd pitch into Pearl Chamber (S2) and the second between Pearl Chamber and 'The Chain' (S3). oxygen levels were declining and the alarm level of 19.0% was triggered at S4, the junction between the level which continues through two low, wet squeezes to the Bung Series and a series of climbs down to the Waterfall Pitch. At this point there was also an intermittent bad smell but after due consideration we decided, somewhat reluctantly that a relatively swift trip down to Waterfall Chamber was justified both to measure the gas concentrations and to obtain water samples for the Environment Agency. However, the risks involved in a trip down the north crosscut to the base of Fourways Shaft were not considered to be justifiable and a rapid exit was made. The following day [30th July] a return was made with breathing apparatus and David Nixon descended Fourways Shaft. The level leading to Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' was found to be grossly polluted but the Chapel Dale Level was essentially pollution free so that at the foot of 'Fourways Shaft' the oxygen concentrations were slightly higher and the carbon dioxide concentrations slightly lower than in the upstream part of the mine (Table 1). Hydrogen sulphide and methane concentrations were zero throughout the mine.

Our current thoughts are that polluted water, with a high content of organic material, is entering the mine from the Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' and from a bedding plane near the top of the Waterfall Pitch. One litre water samples were collected from a number of sites and are being analysed by the Environment Agency. Officers from the Environment Agency are visiting farms in the area in an effort to determine where the pollution is coming from and it is hoped that the results of the water analyses will provide an indication as to whether sewage or silage is the major constituent. However, it is important to understand that the derogation of the air quality is an indirect result of the water pollution since it appears to be due to oxidation of the organic matter which is deposited in the cave. Hence, although the pollutant inputs may be sporadic the foul air will be more persistent, a factor likely to be exacerbated by the poor natural ventilation in the mine. Consideration is being given to how the organic material may be flushed out of the system more rapidly and to how ventilation might be improved as well as to the question of the ultimate source of the material.

Given the low oxygen and high carbon dioxide cavers are strongly advised not to attempt to enter Knotlow until further notice. The Environment Agency has posted warning notices on all entrances, including the entrances to Hillocks and to Whalf Mine as a precaution although no direct measurements have been made in these parts of the system.


Air Quality in Knotlow Mine, 29 & 30 JULY 1999






Bottom of 1st Pitch




Bottom of 2nd Pitch, Pearl Chamber




By 'The Chain'




Jn of passage to Bung Series with climb down to Waterfall Pitch




Just before 'The Bung'




Top of Waterfall Pitch




Bottom of Waterfall Pitch (Waterfall Chamber)




Foot of 'Fourways Shaft'




Level from Knotlow Farm 'Engine Shaft' just before 'Fourways Shaft'




Chapel Dale Level



The above report was fromJohn Gunn, Limestone Research Group (LRG), University of Huddersfield
next report 09/1999 previous report 03/1999

Knotlow Cavern / Hillocks Mine - Request for Information

Request fromSteve Knox.
Report date08/1999.

Is there any information available about when the Heifer Rift shaft was filled in to the surface, and what was actually put in it ? This is within the SSSI and was certainly open up to a few years ago. It's closure seems to be just before many of the pollution reports stated to appear. At the very least it must have affected the ventilation, as there were two major open beddings partway down the shaft, as well as the loose pack of fallen rock blocking the way at the bottom. If you can shed any light on this email