Depth through thought

OUCC News 2nd March 2005

Volume 15, Number 5

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County Pot

Steve Roberts

(Sunday 27th Feb 2005). Josh, John, Gareth, Keith and I had a pleasant little jolly down County, since John's umpteen years of caving experience had been insufficiently Countified for him to know his way around it. Hence I was able to demonstrate to him my renowned ability to walk blindly past Stop Pot, and indeed Holbeck Junction, without recognizing them.

We had intended to include, on the way out, a tour round the historically-interesting round trip from Poetic Justice to Oxford Circus via Platypus Junction, and indeed we managed it, with a few false turns. The cave here is very noticeably less worn, and needed some rocks shifting in the crawls to get through. The general hint is: if in doubt, go left. It really is pretty complex around there, with a close resemblance to "you are in a maze of twisty little (stream) passages, all alike". I had a good smug minute when we re-emerged at Oxford circus, amplified by my climbing up that awkward little number to the head of the first pitch by style, elegance and (dare I say it) wit, rather than brute force and swearing, and totally destroyed by my falling off one of the little climbs near the entrance (bending my finger backwards: ouch ouch ouch) and getting jammed in the next one.

However, my "cave tour guide" historic interlude at the foot of Poetic Justice was less than totally accurate. In fact it was pretty close to being utter rubbish. Here then, from Jim Eyre's excellent little book "The Ease Gill System", is the true story. He was there, y'know.

"In the autumn of 1950 Ron Bliss, Bill Leyland, Tom Sykes and Bill Leeks of the RRCPC descended Oxford Pot. Ron Bliss was a keen photographer and the cave was a very photogenic place and, he and Bill Leyland in particular, could be found down Oxford Pot on most weekends. However, on this occasion Ron spotted a roof passage which led, after a lot of crawling, to a hole down which a large stream passage could be seen.

"The following weekend, with enthusiasm high, a large group of us followed Bliss's nailed boots as he led us along a series of seemingly interminable roof crawls towards the promised link with Lancaster Hole. At long last several eager faces peered down a hole on to a large stream passage, which seemed strangely familiar. Climbing down and rushing around the corner I recognised the familiar shape of the Platypus rock. We were back at Platypus Junction in Oxford Pot after crawling around in circles 15ft higher. It cannot be recorded here what comments were made to the embarrassed Bliss but it must have been enough to make him keep quiet but, undeterred, on 29th October, 1950, with the same group of dedicated followers he went poking about in Oxford Pot again.

"On this trip he spotted a concealed chimney a few yards down from Spout Chamber. With a lot of shoving and grunting Bill Leeks was pushed up this polished elliptical 12ft high opening and the others followed along a wall decorated straw strewn bedding-plane. After only 24ft it was dissected by a small streamway which ended at a 20ft pitch that dropped into a large dry passage. Ron Bliss excitedly regaled us with the news when he returned to the surface but none of us would believe him, for we had already dubbed his previous find 'Ignorance is Bliss'. However, Ron had the last laugh. On the 5th November he returned with Sykes and Leyland dragging a bulky rope ladder through the crawl. The keen trio were soon down the 20ft pitch into a high twisting passage that brought them to a junction where an active stream was met coming from another larger passage on the right. The roof began to lift and a huge boulder slope ran down from above to end with a few giant size blocks straddling the stream. Bliss was climbing down over these precariously balanced blocks when one, the size of a grand piano, emitted a grinding noise and began chasing him, missing him by a hairbreadth, as it crashed against the far wall leaving behind the pungent paraffin-like smell of crushed limestone. Ron Bliss, however, quickly recovered from the shock and the three excited cavers hurried on down a tortuous water chute to a sombre passage with serrated walls covered in loamy flood debris that jutted out over the stream. The stream disappeared under black shingle banks and a short climb led via a muddy passage, to a wide fast flowing stream. Eureka! This was it, the long awaited connection with Lancaster Hole."

A Weekend at Bull Pot Farm

Peter "slowest caver" Devlin

[Club weekend 2005-02-26] Following an OUCC faffing special in the form of a flurry of emails concerning the risks of driving to Yorkshire with 1/8 inch of snow on the ground a dozen of us made it to Bull Pot.

Delays getting underground around the timing of the three teams going down Lost John's meant that the last team (Keith, Gareth, Josh and I) did not get underground until just before 2pm. We made great time getting down and met up with the other teams on their way back from the sump. The sump and the long, wet walk to the sump was fun in a "no pain, no gain" kind of way. On the way back out we had quite a gathering at the bottom of Battle Axe Pitch (or is Valhalla Pitch?). When we got there only two of the eight cavers ahead of us had got up the pitch, so we had a good hour to wait. Still we had a good sing-song and demonstrated to Tommaso just how potty UK pot-holers are.

Our team accumulated a fair number of tackle bags on the way out as we derigged the bottom pitches as well as the Dome route out. I carried a tackle bag up 2 1/2 pitches, but eventually had to abandon the bag on a deviation for Josh to bail me out, just so I could get up the pitch. At this point I had definitely pushed myself outside my comfort zone so my rate of progress became tortuously slow. My team mates deserve medals for 1) carrying the tacklebags and 2) not telling me to "get a fucking move on". On the way out Josh and I went on ahead while Keith and Gareth derigged the last pitch. This, of course, ensured that when Keith and Gareth got out we were nowhere to be seen having missed the fairly obvious turning (compete with little yellow plastic marker).

When we got back to the car our only chance of making our callout was to get into the car in full caving gear and drive like idiots back to Bull Pot: as we drove the 20 minutes was spent discussing whether we would just make or miss our 10 o'clock callout. We pulled up to the farm with a minute to spare and got to the door just as Gavin came out to come and save us. Thanks to Keith, Gareth and Josh for a fabulous trip and Gavin for his readiness to come out for us.

For the Sunday Pete, Tom and I, still aching from what had for us been a full-on day in Lost John's, decided that we would do a bimble down Bull Pot of the Witches. Since Tom had done something to his shoulder the day before I downgraded the trip to a "gentle bimble". We managed to get under ground for 10.30 and were back at the farm before 12. I can see why as a club we don't do too many trips down it, but while I will let Mad Matt Balaam continue to lead the drunken midnight trips, I think I will explore it more exhaustively for future Sunday trips.