Chert Cave


Saturday April 30th was the first really sunny day that we'd had in 1966 and as little rain had fallen over the previous week, we decided to make a further attempt to "push" a resurgence, shown to us by Gordon Batty. The resurgence is in Needlehouse Gill at S.D. 739 972. We had retreated from it two weeks earlier after being brought to a halt approximately 100 ft. in, by a combination of an almost flooded passage and a boulder choke.

The choke was passed but we were immediately confronted by a huge rock, looking suspiciously like a fossilized A30 van. The wing mirrors and front number plate were removed but after several abortive attempts to squeeze bodies of various sizes, over, under, round and through it, we though of Old King Sol beaming down outside, cursed Gordon Batty a thousand times and headed for the great outdoors (much to the delight of Ken Ashton, who after injecting himself with a hypodermic full of water from the cave, declared that it couldn't possibly be more than 103 ft. 5 ins. long).

The wet suited members, as is their practice found themselves a puddle to play in, and the rest, as is their practice festered. Suddenly it happened ! A cloud blotted out the sun and a chill wind blew up the gill, carrying with it the croaking, hollow cry of a tail-less pigeon. Over the hill he came, breathing draught Guinness fumes and smoking a cigar. The bane of the late night library set. He pulled up a probationary member and sat down. He began to speak, and as he spoke we covered our ears and sobbed with fear for the words he spoke were of a "gert oil, just dahn't gill", from which "a howlin gale blew".

We followed Eric downstream to a fissure (as S.D. 734 972) from which a strong draught issued. The entrance was partially blocked by a single boulder, but a low, water worn passage could be seen beyond. Digging immediately commenced and within ten minutes the entrance was clear. During this time, Ken, who had been fiddling in the resurgence with his test tubes and hypodermics, anounced that things looked very promising indeed.

The entrance looked rather low and wet. I entered followed by Bernard and Garth. It was possible to keep dry in the actual entrance but after squeezing over a large boulder we dropped into a shallow canal which led to a bedding plane crawl, sloping from left to right at an angle of about 30°. The height of the passage at this stage was about 2 ft. in the canal, 18 ins. in the bedding plane.

A small chamber was entered after crawling for 150 ft. This was really just a rise in the roof but it provided a place to sit and take a breath. The bedding was named Cow Passage because the mildest remark heard in it was "bit of a cow".

Bernard and I left Garth closely studying the floor of the bedding with his nose. The passage following the chamber is L shaped with the base of the L still angled at about 30° and the upright adorned with jagged chert and limestone. We pressed on through two more small chambers until we hit another canal. As we were already wet we ploughed through. The passage grew larger till we came to a long pointed boulder poised in the roof above. Another canal followed, then a large chamber containing a "carrot" stalagmite about 12 ins. high. The stream emerges from a sump at the far right corner of this chamber, but a high passage to the left of the sump proved to be an oxbow, for after removing a stalactite grille we once again met with the stream, this time flowing down a large passage with blocks on the floor and a really beautiful cluster of helictites on the left wall. Continuing along the cave we found the stream spouting from the right hand wall. After this followed a small climb and a low crawl till we dropped into a pool and found that the passage split. Right led over a sandbank to a sump, but left continued through a crawl to a large dry chamber with two passages leading off.

I entered the left hand passage, but after crawling for about 150 feet, I was stopped by a boulder choke. Bernard tried the right passage which was draughting but was unable to pass three boulders which jamed across the passage, although the passage could be seen to continue beyond.

We decided to call it a day and returned to the entrance finding Garth on the way. The exploration had taken 2 hours and we estimated that we had gained about 1000 feet of passage.

We returned the following day, together with the discoverer this time dressed in caving gear, the club photographers, who shall be nameless because they refused to take our pictures, and the revered older member (The Great Northern Wastes Addict) who after suffering the indignities of the "Sheaf" the previous night had come along to see what was what. He stuck his head in the entrance and, proving what a wise fella he really is, the G.N.W.A. went out again.

Eventually I found myself where Bernard had stopped, the passage here runs through a shale band and although the walls are flaky they are preferable to the razor sharp projections in the initial passages. I was joined by Hairy Mike, Dave of the Big Van and Bernard, who after exploring the left passage from the chamber had named it something melodramatic but unrepeatable and had vowed never to go there again.

1966 plan - 17k gif

After much heaving and crowbarring, Mike and Dave dropped the boulders sufficiently for us to squeeze over the top. We carried on through another 150 ft. of hands and knees passage to an aven which Mike climbed, only to be faced with one impenetrable bedding and one tube still draughting, which afer a few hours hammer and chiselling might "go".

On the return trip another inlet complete with draught was discovered. This led along a crawl to a chamber with no apparent way on. In the crawl were animal footprints, possibly a badger. The club photographers were left, complaining as usual about dud bulbs, steam, lack of co-operation and the price of colour films. Chester was heard and seen, to be having difficulty getting his leg through the L shaped passage.

A surveying trip revealed that the total length of passage was 1570 ft. and therefore not quite qualifying for Jack Myers' bottle of champagne.

On the whole the cave is a "grotty" place. It destroys boiler suits, hands, elbows and knees in one trip. The beds of chert which the stream has penetrated do give some relief.

Formations, although there are some fine ones, are not really in abundance.

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