Depth through thought

OUCC News 30th May 2012

Volume 22, Number 8

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Andrew Morgan

Upcoming trips/events:

2nd-3rd June. (end of 6th week). Yorkshire: Pre-expedition Rescue Practice Weekend, Bull Pot Farm. Coordinator: Olaf Khler.

Devon Weekend, 19th-20th May 2012. (Part 1 of 4)

Olaf Khler, with some extensions by Tonya and spell checking by Rosa

Attended by: Olaf Khler, Antonina Votintseva, Alex McEntyre, Rosa Clements, Thomas Spriggs (TSG), Keith Hyams.

One of the best things about a caving weekend in Devon is probably that no-one has ever been there and that noone knows any of the caves. And while Devon caves may be rather small, they are still rather complicated and great fun to explore. The little hints we had at hands were the rather inaccurate descriptions and surveys from "The Concise Caves of Devon", by A.D. Oldham, J.E.A. Oldham and J. Smart, published first in 1972 and revised a few times until 1991. It is colloquially known as "The Pink Book of Lies" for good reason. As there is so little known about the Devon caves, I decided to write up trip reports for the four caves we visited, which were Bakers Pit and Afton Red Rift on the Saturday and Pridhamsleigh Cavern and Dog Hole on the Sunday. We found this the perfect order of doing these caves, and it provides a well balanced four caves in a weekend. Be warned, though, reading on might take the fun out of your Devon trip, as you'll miss the great experience of exploring the caves on your own!

Bakers Pit, SX 74204 66497, approx. 2h, key required!

The entrance to this cave is nowadays an obvious, vertical sewage pipe located in a green field, but the area was supposedly used as rubbish tip for some time. After climbing down two fixed iron ladders, we emerged in what is called the First Chamber. The extent of this chamber is not immediately obvious, and we first took a long round trip following several "passages" slightly leftish. After climbing down on a boulder choke along the inclined ceiling, crawling through some more boulders and finally a little climb up yet another big boulder, we found ourselves in Boulder Hall. Going straight ahead under a big archway, and following several "passages" uphill, we were surprised to arrive back at the foot of the entrance ladders. As we had only been underground for at most half an hour, we decided to take a closer look at this mystery and went back into the various passages that make up First Chamber and Boulder Hall.

Keeping sharp left from the entrance and climbing down a bit, we found a nicely decorated dining table, complete with a little chair and various bottles of spirits, unfortunately empty. This is apparently some of the rubbish that was deposited in the tip years ago and it is probably a rather unique feat for a cave. Just around the corner from there we found some interesting, bright yellow formations, which we classified as calcified bat piss. Returning to the First Chamber, we now followed a low bedding crawl as one of the many alternatives, and found some blueish shimmering mud, and a bit further a nice, bright white cascade of flowstone with a distinct hole underneath a drip of water. Going on, we returned to Boulder Hall, where everyone explored some little hole they found and we eventually split into two groups.

Tonya and I went downhill with the inclined wall-ceiling to our left until we found a distinctive little gully between a big slab on the floor and the wall-ceiling. We double backed there, descending into a hole to our left. The hole soon went out of the boulder choke and became a circular little tube heading down, the Dutch Oven. We heard a trickle of water, encountered a junction and decided that the easiest way on would be to follow the water down a little climb to the left. After a while we got to a little chamber with a waterfall and more passages heading off in all directions, but decided to follow the stream a bit further for a start. This led us into the Lower Stream Series where we found another cute little waterfall coming out of the ceiling, but eventually the passage became too small and wet for two dry cavers like us. We returned to the first, larger waterfall and quickly went into two different side passages, with the one further up in the waterfall chamber probably leading deeper into the Glorious Devon Series and the one at the bottom of the waterfall chamber probably heading for the PCG Extensions.

As there was still no sign of the others following us, we decided to go and get them to help us explore the many other little holes along the way. Unfortunately we couldn't find them back in the Boulder Hall, and not in the First Chamber either. Rosa, Tom and Alex were of course sitting outside in the sunny grass, waiting for us, and Keith had already had enough caving for the day and went home.