Grid Reference 700 846
It was late in 1952 when Jack Myers first examined the possibilities of a certain shakehole in a small valley on High Cow Close, Fountains Fell. He dug for an hour or so and was finally able to crawl in to the head of an eighteen foot pitch.
On 15th November, 1952, Jack Myers, Bert Bradshaw and "Rocky" Holden left Crow Nest with ladders, diggers, etc. for the newly found hole. After seeing Mr. Caton at Neals Ing Farm, they obtained permission to explore the hole and the first real effort at Antler Pot thus began. Jack descended first, followed by Bert and they quickly had a ladder on the pitch. "Rocky" followed behind, dislodging a boulder from the roof which pinned him to the floor and which, after much shouting and cursing, was removed by Bert. This delayed the calculated descent of Jack by half an hour, putting him behind schedule for the whole of one week.
The first pitch led into a chamber some 25 feet high and roughly 12 feet circular. Leading from this chamber was a low wet crawl and after 15 minutes digging a 6-inch airspace revealed that the crawl opened up somewhat. With a little persuasion, Jack disappeared along the crawl accompanied by deep gurgling sounds from the water. A short way along this crawl was a loose flake of rock which he unfortunately disturbed. It fell over, and almost on him, blocking the way ahead and he had to return to the chamber emerging from the water like an unfed walrus. After some discussion he said that to get past the fallen rock would require a shot of gelignite so the three rather dejected troglodytes made their way back to the surface.
A funny thing happened back on the surface. In the act of getting changed, a loud bang from a gun was heard and pellets whistled overhead. Jack stood only in his clean woollen underpants and vest and threw himself down on the very muddy floor. Mr. John Lambert, the game keeper, came over the valley and almost split his sides when he saw the prostrate Myers lying in clean underwear up to his eyes in mud. It appeared that Mr. Lambert had been shooting at a rabbit and it was in a completely different direction from where we stood. Jack was mildly annoyed but, after a good laugh with other members of the party, came to appreciate the comic nature of the incident. So ended the first real attempt on Antler Pot. For the next effort we must move forward to 1958.
Early in 1958, Brian Hudson and Gordon Batty had a further look at Antler Pot. After they had descended the pitch, Gordon crawled up the wet crawl to the fallen rock which had stopped Jack Myers. He tied a rope round the rock and then brought the loose end out with him. They both then pulled at the rope and managed to move the fallen rock out of the way, after which they were able to crawl a further 30 feet to a reasonable sized chamber. The stream here disappeared between a ruckle of boulders and after some digging they decided to return to the surface for lunch and also heavy digging tackle. On descending to the crawl again, they found the crawl itself filled with water so they abandoned the attempt for the day.
The following weekend they again returned to Antler Pot. The wet crawl was still full of water but Brian Hudson, taking a deep breath, disappeared into the black water. After three minutes, the water in the crawl started to disappear ! What had happened was that on the first trip through the crawl, they had accidentally blocked up the outlet for the water which had backed up at the entrance to form a three feet deep siphon. Not many people would have tackled this particular obstacle, but the smell of virgin ground had activated Hudson's nostrils. Again through the crawl a second dig took them into a more roomy and dry crawl, about 30 or 40 feet along which they came to a small boulder choke which they were able to penetrate into a large chamber containing several dry inlets. They chose what appeared to be a downstream passage and arrived in another chamber with a rift leading from it and giving access to the head of a 50 foot pitch where they had to turn back owing to a lack of the requisite tackle. On their return journey, they probed various peculiarly shaped rock which broke instantly and which on closer inspection revealed that it was not a rock at all but a large and very fine antler. It was carefully deposited at one side to be picked up at a later date. None of the inlet passages could be pushed very far, so they were soon back on the surface. Back at the cottage, news of the antlers caused quite a stir.
The following weekend, six Northern Pennine Club members assembled at Antler Pot with surveying tackle, digging equipment, extra ladders, cameras and the lot. A quick descent brought them to the head of the undescended 50 foot pitch. This was quickly laddered and Gordon Batty and Brian Hudson were the first to descend. At the bottom of the pitch the water gently sank into a loose pile of stones which was cleared, only to reveal another low wet crawl. At the time this crawl was very wet, affording only six inches of airspace, but Brian Hudson still pushed a fair way along it but had to come out, blue with cold. The whole party surveying on the way out, returned to the surface and steadily falling rain.
The next and final descent was undertaken by a party comprising R.T.Hylton, Gordon Batty and W.Holden. The main purpose of the descent was to push the wet crawl at the bottom. After a reasonably dry passage through the crawls, we made our way down the second pitch and reached the lowest crawl. This was explored for some 50 feet to where a mass of mud and water almost reached the roof. Here it was decided to retire and end the exploration of Antler Pot. On the way out it was agreed that we should take out the antlers and only made slow progress to the surface. After taking the antlers to Mr. Caton, we took them back to the cottage and Dick Hylton sent them off to Jack Newrick for an examination by specialists.
We are still awaiting their identification and details of this find.