Depth through thought

OUCC News 13th June 2012

Volume 22, Number 10

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Devon Weekend, 19th-20th May 2012. (Part 3 of 4)

Olaf Khler

Pridhamsleigh Cavern, SX 74861 67908, approx. 3h When we got to Pridhamsleigh farm, we found a nice car park and a sign nearby telling "all cavers" to sign in at the shed near the orchard gate. Apart from that we had no clue where to look for the cave and blindly followed our satnav in a straight line. It didn't help that the coordinates I had found on the internet were off by 100m and only a minor expedition through the local flora got us to the massive entrance hall. Of course, we could have followed the obvious, big path from the shed near the orchard gate where we signed in, but that would have taken half the fun out of our no-clue Devon weekend.

As a starter, we first explored Little Prid, a series of low crawls starting at the second hole on the left-hand side of the entrance hall. According to the guidebook it is mostly under two feet high except for the Pink Pit in the northwest corner, which is a gigantic nine feet high. The guidebook didn't lie at that, it pretty much sums up Little Prid. We still had good fun exploring the various interconnected holes and dead ends.

Next we were trying to find the real cave. Tom crawled into the hole to the far right of the entrance hall and disappeared for a solid twenty minutes. I took the second hole from the right, but quickly decided that this wouldn't be the way they take in all the scout groups. Tonya, Rosa and Alex went to the third hole, and after a bit of faffing, waiting and gathering, we agreed that this would be the way to go. We kept right and soon got into Crystal Chamber. The obvious way on was a sharp right turn, down a bit and then crawling underneath a boulder to reach Bishop's Chamber. This one was rather spacious, with a small round-trip-tube and slide on the upper end and a big puddle to the far left from where we entered. And there was a confusing selection of passages to follow onwards from this puddle, most of them joining up sooner or later.

To summarise the maze, keeping left and downhill would bring us to an "impassable" traverse, which, with a bit more bravery, might not be all that impassable. We nevertheless ignored it for now. The passage heading right and downhill from the puddle got us into another small chamber with a selection of more passages. Most of them were dead ends, but when coming from Bishop's Chamber, the passage straight across headed upwards, quickly turned left, then down again, and confusingly linked up with one of the middle passages from the puddle back in Bishop's Chamber.

The way on from the puddle was up a mud-brown flowstone slope, which made a great slide on the way out. Turning right and up from the top of this slide, we quickly arrived at a similar flowstone slope, that was a bit steeper, had less of a bottom at the end and would make not such a good slide on the way back. You'd probably drop the last couple of metres straight down through the roof of Bishop's Chamber. Anyway, to the left of top end of the nice and good slide, the way on would pass a junction, where we kept right and eventually emerged in a small chamber with a little hole and an easy traverse around the hole. Keeping moderately downhill, we reached a spacious chamber with some muddy formations, a bench made out of some planks of wood, and the highlight of the cave, two large lakes. They are said to be rather deep, about 40m, had a surprising difference in water levels and were almost but not quite excellent examples of crystal clear, deep blue sump lakes.

We actually explored most of the passages of this cave on our way out. Having found "The Lakes", we were desperately looking for the way to "Deep Well", which according to the guidebook must go off somewhere from Bishop's Chamber. We didn't find it, and only later on we managed to decipher the various intersecting lines of the survey thus far that we decided that the guidebook must lie in this respect - the real passage to Deep Well is more likely to go off from the far end of Crystal Chamber, the first one from the entrance.

I also omit mentioning the group of kids we met down there in the cave, equipped with bike helmets, jeans and trainers. They certainly had a good time on their caving adventure trip, but their mums won't be happy about the laundry.