CSCC has released the following statement:
“There has been a recent fall of mud, gravel and smallish boulders on the left (when viewed facing downstream) of the waterfall climb, near the bottom of Main Chamber. The wall above the last part of the climb (the big steps) appears as it did before, but should be considered loose due to the recent fall. The top part is calcited but might be subject to further falls, although it is equally possible that it might not change for a long time. However, as assessing such future possibilities is not an exact science, care should be taken here, and everyone should conduct their own risk assessments whenever they approach this area from any direction. There are still loose rocks almost covering the steps and when inspected it was not possible to pass the steps without using the unconsolidated debris. The floor below the climb is currently covered with unconsolidated debris and the boulders here will move underfoot when stepped on, so care should also be taken here.”
A further inspection trip was scheduled for 6 April, following the relaxation of covid restrictions. On 5th April, a report was received of a further fall. The inspection trip comprised myself, Dave King and Graham Price (plus two others). We found that a large area of the side of the passage above the big steps on the left hand side (when travelling into the cave, heading downstream) has come away, resulting in a massive, unstable talus cone of boulders, large rocks, smaller shattered rocks and mud that now completely covers the steps almost to the base of the ledge in the middle of the climb. Boulders and large rocks are spread over a wide area in the passage below the climb.
There is still a ridge of loosely calcited unstable rock high up on the wall above this area, so further falls cannot be ruled out. In addition, there has been some mud slumping on the right hand side of the passage when going downstream and this area might also be subject to some movement.
A thorough inspection was carried out. As a result, warning tape has been placed across the passage above and below the climb, stating: “WARNING, LOOSE BOULDERS, DO NOT USE WATERFALL CLIMB, USE WHITE PASSAGE/LOOP ROUTE INSTEAD, CCC Ltd 6.4.21” These signs are laminated and attached to the tape with cable ties. A sign was also placed at the Bridge and one has been hung from the bar in the entrance. Please DO NOT cross these tapes to look at the fall.
As there is an alternative route to reach the lower part of the cave and Bat Passage, it was not felt necessary to close the cave as the area around the Waterfall climb can be bypassed in entirety, and the taping below the climb was placed some distance outside the furthest extent of the boulder fall. It will need several years of winter water conditions to even start to stabilise this area, so this part of the cave will need to remain off limits for the foreseeable future. The situation will be monitored. An attempt was made at fixed point photography so we have a baseline for the monitoring. As an aside, one of our original fixed photography points at the base of the lower ‘big step’ for SSSI monitoring is now completely covered by the talus cone. This is certainly the most dramatic change to the cave in the time I have been conducting the monitoring! Previously to this, the only change in the photos was the door falling off one of the cars at the very top of the Gorge.
A further news report with photographs will be put together and published.
Would all club reps please circulate this warning as widely as possible in your clubs and ensure that key issuing procedures include this warning. Also please ask all parties to report any broken tape or missing warning signs so that we can replace them. For information there is one sign in the blockhouse, one at the Bridge and three hanging from each section of tape.
If anyone has any queries, please let me know.
CCC Ltd Conservation Officer