I was there! I have two photographs taken just after the event but unfortunately not in the cave although I can remember how sections of Swildons 2 were scoured out.on a later visit. If anybody wants to know when I went in after the flood let me know and I will check my log. The photographs in question show the entrance depression with the trees smothered in hay and the other shows the washed out road at Velvet Bottom. I seem to recall hay hanging from the stal above the 20 as well.
My mate Pete Rose is disgruntled as we don't get a mention in the Swildons book as the last cavers to walk to the top of the old 40. I was 17 at the time and a trip was planned to Northwest Stream Passage (3 of us, Nick Chipchase me and Pete Rose). There were several storms before our arrival and the green flooded whilst we were in the pub. We decided it was unlikely to rain much more so went down the cave having paid farmer Main our shillings. However we got the heebie jeebies on the way to the 40 and virtually ran out of the cave feeling a bit silly as the water levels hadn't got any higher and it wasn't raining. However if we had stayed down we would have drowned so a good decision. Apparently Farmer Main turned away some other cavers later in the day - wise move.
So now you know.
A lucky escape indeed mrdoc! Although I'm considerably older than you (I was 18 in '68) unlike yourself I didn't have the foresight or the discipline to keep a caving log, and as you know memory plays funny tricks over the years. Nevertheless certain events from the time stick in the mind.
Although it caused dreadful destruction of property and misery for the local people, nevertheless it was a very exciting time, with rumours abounding. One of the most persistent was that at Velvet Bottom, the destruction of part of the road had unearthed Roman gold coins and jewellery. This had us on our hands and knees sifting fruitlessly through the downvalley spoil-heap for a few hours!
The flood scoured out many parts of the Swildon's streamway; the Double Pots where bottomless (Well, you could jump in and sink down a fair way without touching the bottom anyway) and sump one was similarly deepened. I had a close call when I dived through because previously the guide rope emerged in Swildon's Two to lay over a bank some way back from the sump and was attached to a post round a corner on the right, IIRC. The Flood removed this bank and also washed out an undercut around the small chamber on the far side of the sump. As I pulled on the guide rope it slid across into this undercut and, after finding the sump much longer than I remembered, I fetched up underwater with my head jammed between the rocks, the rope disappearing into an inches-wide slot!
Disorientated, I let go of the rope and practically circumnavigated the chamber underwater beneath the undercut before finally finding the airspace. I would have taken this rather better if a so-called friend, who'd gone through before me, stood in the chest-deep water and watched me flounder around!
" Strange, I did exactly the same thing!" he told me. How I laughed!