UK Caving

WHERE THE CAVES ARE - The Caving Regions => Mendip => Topic started by: Cap'n Chris on May 25, 2011, 11:22:27 pm

Title: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: Cap'n Chris on May 25, 2011, 11:22:27 pm
Wonder whether anyone can help elucidate, following receiving this email this evening:

(text begins)

"I am mystified over a conflict I have with the descriptions of cave features and passages/routes within this cave system. Let me explain:

In the mid to late 1950s I visited the cave with my brother and a Mr X, the latter wishing to overcome his fear of enclosed spaces (Claustrophobia).

As my memory serves me, when on entering the cave I witnessed a dry passage to the left at floor level and dipping. However, it looked unsafe and with fresh broken rock. As I believed it was on a bedding plane I cautiously entered on my belly for a short uncomfortable distance and then withdrew believing nothing would come of it but disaster. Proceeding down an incline into the main chamber  I perceived straight ahead what appeared was a blocked off extension to the chamber using brick work thus deigning further exploration.

Casting my eye around the ceiling and the right hand side (west side) of this chamber there was, if my memory allows a ledge and 'frozen' formation and a passage above it. Climbing up into this passage I found on going further along it a circular passage dipping down on the left. I looked of sufficient size that with care I could explore it. So with my brother holding a long rope I proceeded down head first down this passage with the rope underneath me. On reaching the bottom I arrived into a small  wet chamber on a mud Ledge with what appeared, in the poor light of my torch a pool of crystal clear water. I noted that the walls were very wet but not noticing any movement in the water chose to encourage our friend to come down. On his arrival I noted the fear on his face and asked him how he felt. This question was stopped short by the observation that the water was during my "plumbing" it's depth deeper that it was and also it began rising and falling.  It was obvious that it was a sump and with the wet walls was not the best place to be in. So I told my friend to make tracks fast! but in doing so his Jacket 'balled up' around his waist, effectively jamming him in the passage  He, being aware of the rising water panicked and me feeling also quite anxious told him, with my help to get the Jacket off  'pronto'. Needless to say that as my feet left the sump chamber my lower legs were in the rising water. As his progress was slow even with me pushing him back up the passage we arrived back into the top section with my brother, both very frightened, and me very chastened (by my brother).  Had we not placed that rope in the passage down to the sump chamber' I believe even now that I would not be telling you this story.

Now, having recited our experience I am still trying to link my visit description above with the many write-ups of the cave but while my mind is clear on our detail above it seems to differ somewhat   descriptively  from those write-ups seen 'online'.  Because it would seem no other person had experienced our plight!

So from my write up are you able to form in your mind the correct terminology  of the  passage and sump chamber I described in the narrative above.  Also was the 'man made passage blockage. in the back of the first entrance chamber real and that there was a passage / passages behind and  beyond it?

Note: I have recently traced Mr X and now like, me he is old and lives in Y.  He says he has never forgotten nor forgiven me for the frightening experience I gave him those many years ago not withstanding his intial desire to overcome his fear of closed spaces.

Cap'n Chris:  If you think there are discrepancies in my story and there are better caving systems terms for the passages described then please avail me of your authoritative knowledge".

(Text ends)
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: The Old Ruminator on May 26, 2011, 09:42:45 am
For the minute I cant get my head around this description. It does sound a bit confused. I knew Holwell Cave very well back in the mid 1960's and did a lot of digging there with some modest results. ( East Series Extension and Cerberus Chamber, the latter a failed attempt to intercept the stream at a lower level ). It was here that my long association with Peter Glanvill began ( APG ). He was a snotty schoolboy back then and instantly became " Twit " to the rest of us. We visited the cave very recently and took a few photos. The farmer has been dumping in the quarry and the Tradesman's Entrance is covered. So is APG's little dig further up the bank that was said to have been passed by a midget into caverns measureless to man. The farmer does not welcome cavers so our little visit was on the quiet with one lamp between us. Lots of head banging and swearing ensued but I fumbled a couple of shots in the dark. Andrew Crosses's Chamber is exactly as it was in the 1960's though the little stream wasnt flowing. There are no " bricks " here only the dry stone walling of Victorian times. A sump of sorts exists beyond the Bung Hole, more of a little pool really.Since the 60's a bypass to the Bunghole has been made. There was a bat or two in AC's Chamber and all was still and quiet the rest of the quarry a mass of wild garlic. There doesnt appear to have been dumping here for a while and the tractor tyres at the cave entrance are starting to turn green with moss.

Holwell entrance, me on the left with a real miners helmet back in the 1960's.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/holwell_edited-1.jpg)

APG sans lamp at the bottom of the slope from the entrance.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/046_edited-1-1.jpg)

The tyres outside the entrance.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/041-3.jpg)

Dry stone walling in Andrew Crosse's Chamber.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/052-4.jpg)

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/049-2.jpg)

If I have posted these up previously I am sorry but they are relevant again here.

Being enthusiastic and small youngsters we left no stone unturned in Holwell so I dont believe there are areas of the cave unknown to us. We used to cycle up from Taunton with all sorts of gash gear ( an old cycle carbide lamp  etc ) . It was such a magical place to us school kids. The tame stag that would let you stroke it. The killing slope of " Buncombe Hill ". I bump started my motorbike at the top one day but couldnt run fast enough to jump on . It went all the way to the bottom and crashed. Any oncoming car would have been startled indeed.
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: The Old Ruminator on May 26, 2011, 09:58:21 am
There is indeed a dry passage to the left just inside the entrance. It leads into the East Series. We dug it out a bit in the 60's and used the old iron cave gate to shore it up. Further in is our near vertical dig down to Cerberus Chamber the deepest part of the cave. From the survey the stream in Andrew Crosses Chamber is heading this way though we never found it. Above here was the clay fill that blocked the passage. I remember it well though we were not the ones to dig it and discover the East Series. We did push on and find a reasonable chamber with a miniscule exit to the quarry.I dont think I ever passed it but one or two midgets did. ( The East Entrance ). A blocked descending passage had a fine ball of helectites in the roof and the chamber had one or two good stal. I seem to think most of it got vandalized over the years together with many of the aragonite clusters. I sent in a description to whatever publication Tony Oldham was compiling at the time.

Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: The Old Ruminator on May 26, 2011, 10:28:34 am
All of this has encouraged me to haul out the dusty tomes that constituted my caving logs. Nay not the fine prose of J Rat or the learned descriptions of Willie Stanton. A load of scribble that may be left in the care of some unfortunate Registry archivist on my demise. Will pop up a few pages of note here and there before they turn to dust.

The Cerberus Chamber Dig 1966.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/001-8.jpg)

The Bung Hole bypass and sump 1968. Seems I started that one.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/002-10.jpg)


APG's Flood stream dig up the bank. Took wet weather drainage from the field above. Subsequently extended and may have been ongoing.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/005-6.jpg)

Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: The Old Ruminator on May 26, 2011, 10:36:38 am
That flood stream ran into the sump and did not appear to have been associated with the stream in AC's Chamber.Digging at APG's dig 50 ft away from the cave turned the stream brown. A route within the known cave seemed to be-
Flood stream enters at a cross passage below " Pretty Grotto " flows under "Tuppeny Tube" and "Bung Hole" to emerge in Lower Series and enter sump.
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: The Old Ruminator on May 26, 2011, 11:47:29 am
The 1960's at Holwell.

The flood stream and APG's surface dig.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/007-9.jpg)

Other spuddles.

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/009-8.jpg)

(http://i105.photobucket.com/albums/m236/salsettediving/Album%20Six/010-8.jpg)
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: Cap'n Chris on May 26, 2011, 12:19:06 pm
Excellent stuff, Mr. Rugged! - I emailed a link to the online SMCC survey (inset below) to my enquirer last night and received the following reply half an hour ago.... (note this is the response before sending him a link to this forum thread which I shall do very shortly!)

"Wow,  Many thanks - very informative.

While I accept that over the intervening years many people skilled and unskilled have explored the cave system I was amazed how extensive it is.  Bear in mind my memory of our visit is approximately 54 years old my earlier descriptive to you was how I saw it then.  As said, I clearly remember going down a roundish passage which sloped down to a wet chamber and a mud ledge. A circular pool of water appeared shallow at first but I knew that without certain optical support features it would present optically very little depth.  Only when I crudely  'plumbed' it's depth did I realise that this was / maybe / could be a serious situation especially as there had been showers "top-side" and that rain had been percolating through from the surface.  BUT what I cannot reconcile is my difficulty in relating the memory to the survey provided.

I am 73 yrs old but still 'game enough' to visit limited areas of the cave relating to my experience  those many years ago  if only to compare my memories to the actual cave structure today.  If it were possible to visit the cave could you let me know so that I could "poke my face into the entrance 'Main Passage" at least."


(http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5064/5761610290_6436141b31.jpg)
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: The Old Ruminator on May 26, 2011, 02:12:57 pm
The bang on up to date access is iffy. Peter knows more about this than I. The farmer was criticized ( well in his view ) about his dumping in the quarry. He felt he could do what he liked on his own ground. I cant remember if the site is an SSSI or maybe downgraded from that. The tip is only a few metres from the cave entrance now and it would not take a lot more to cover it entirely. If the farmer felt threatened maybe he would do that. Its a shame about the tyres but they could be moved out of the way. Not without the farmer noticing though. In time with no more tipping the site will
return to a more natural state. The Tradesman's, Entrance is only just covered over and could be reinstated. Maybe the old APG flood sink could be dug back out one day. There was open passage here we did not reach and there is the hydrological link back to the sump. Back down in the valley the resurgence is in the process of being piped down valley to a water tank. I dont know if this water is related to the cave streams.
I did pop some more photos on Geograph. Here is a link.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/search.php?i=21826728 (http://www.geograph.org.uk/search.php?i=21826728)

Widen the search for the surrounding area.

Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mrodoc on October 15, 2020, 06:02:54 pm
I have just found this thread on Holwell. The person who related his tale of nearly being drowned in a sump was clearly not in Holwell Cave! I have been there in a variety of conditions and there has never been any evidence of flooding at all anywhere. The most interesting thing I have observed in  recent years was hearing a stream at the bottom of an impassable rift in East Series. With current technology the rift could be widened but I doubt if it is anymore than a misfit stream.  I know for a fact that memory plays strange tricks. I have kept a log for over 50 years and found some of my recollections to be faulty when I look at contemporaneous notes. I assume the writer did not keep a log.
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: The Old Ruminator on October 15, 2020, 07:52:47 pm
In reply to this.  The landscape at Holwell has changed greatly in the intervening years. The farm is much more industrialized and has one wood penned off for pheasants. Holwell Cavern wood is on the hill above the farm. I could find nobody at home when I walked through there a couple of years ago. The quarry tip has pretty much all grown over though a tyre or two remain. A track had been cleared through the wood and I wondered if it was to be used for pheasants. A report appeared in a Chelsea SS journal a few years back when a member got permission to visit the cave. I wrote up Pete's old dig in a later issue. I would suggest to Peter that a visit to the farm is made rather than a telephone call. Maybe we could do a one-off photo trip for old times sake.
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mrodoc on October 16, 2020, 10:02:24 am
If anybody has a phone number for the farm who is reading this thread can let me know. The number have is no longer in use as I tried it yesterday - it is the one in MU5
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: Keith P on November 16, 2020, 10:01:53 am
I have just come across a phone number which was correct in 1999 !  I can't say at the moment if it is the same as the one in MU5 but it might be worth a try.

I've just PM.d it.

Keith P
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mikem on November 16, 2020, 11:02:57 am
The description above also sounds like Quaking House Cave (although I don't think it has any drystone walling).

There are 3 Rowes listed for merridge in phonebook, although none at great holwell farm. Father & son's initials are R. though (the business is registered via their accountant):
https://www.thephonebook.bt.com/Person/PersonSearch/?Surname=Rowe&Location=Merridge++%28Bridgwater+-+Somerset%29&Street=
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mrodoc on November 16, 2020, 11:13:23 am
Thanks Mike. If I get something definite I will let MU6 know. I want to take my granddaughter in (will be 4th generation in the cave!).
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: PeteHall on November 16, 2020, 11:39:51 am
The description above also sounds like Quaking House Cave (although I don't think it has any drystone walling).

The description in the original post? Are you sure???

I can't quite imagine describing anywhere in Quaking House as a "main chamber", or "casting my eye around the ceiling".

My memory of Quaking House (having grown up 1/2 a mile away before I was a caver), is that it's all very small and narrow. You're doing well if you can stand up and turn around...
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mrodoc on November 16, 2020, 02:56:00 pm
It ain't Quaking House!  I have done the whole cave (once upon a time). My brother in law has the only video film in existence of the decorated far reaches - and is probably the oldest person ever to get there. Willie Stanton managed to start a myth there. When we called here doing the research for MU5 the farmer asked whether the route to the underground lake had collapsed - it had been big enough to float a battleship on it! There is a small pool at the end of a passage and on reading Willie's logs I found a reference to it being a good location for mocking up a photo of it looking like a huge lake by putting a tiny model boat on it. He must have said something at the farm and the legend was born.
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: PeteHall on November 16, 2020, 05:12:04 pm
Willie Stanton managed to start a myth...   ...it had been big enough to float a battleship on it!
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Had the same story from the farmer when we visited; I took a photo for him... Sorry if I spoiled Willie's joke  :-[
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mrodoc on November 16, 2020, 05:25:26 pm
Here is the enormous underground lake in all its glory. Also a caver in the same passage looking the other way (for scale). If you go there be careful you don't fall in ;)
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: Fulk on November 16, 2020, 07:27:03 pm
The camera never lies:

Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mrodoc on November 18, 2020, 05:52:47 pm
With Mike Moxon's help and that of Keith Pearson I tried a few phone numbers and after getting an answering machine on two attempts  got through to the current farmer's grandmother. Nice lady who told me the cave was now closed as it was dangerous because there had been rock falls but also I think the subtext is that the farmer had got fed up with unauthorized visits and suggested the formations were being damaged.  I pointed out to her that this is an historic site and it would be a shame to lose it and she was inclined to agree (I don't think she knew much about the cave).  I will contact CSCC directly as I think any access needs to be negotiated at a regional level. it would be a shame to lose such an iconic cave. I think most people would be happy to pay an access fee or even have the cave gated if it actually got cavers back in there on proper basis as opposed to the clandestine trips that go on nowadays. It is quite hard to be clandestine as the only parking is right by the field leading to the cave in the lane that leads to the farm!
Title: Re: Holwell Cavern, Merridge (Quantock Hills, Somerset)
Post by: mrodoc on November 18, 2020, 05:55:23 pm
I do note CSCC lists the cave as closed (2005 listing) but I do wonder if a serious effort has been made here.