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CHECC 2020 Why I joined the club entries


Well-known member
This is the thread that will hopefully be filled with short essays on why people joined their club, and what made them stick around. I?m hoping for heart strong tugging content here, make me feel proud of a club I?m not even a member of!

The prize is a ?50 Starless river voucher, donated by our lovely competition hosts, UKC, a huge thanks to them.


Staff member
You're welcome - come on student cavers, a ?50 Starless river voucher is worth having!




*** This is my CHECCretary non-entry to hopefully give some of you inspiration to enter! Have fun! ***

Like most who grew up in the South Wales valleys a classic school trip for us from down there was a visit Dan Yr Ogof, ?The National Showcaves of Wales?. My upbringing was no different and had visited there on many occasions. I have vivid memories of those times. Granted mostly of being terrified by that talking dog called Twm... During the summer of my 17th birthday, we as a family again embarked on our bi-decadely pilgrim west across A465 to the Swansea valley to visit the caves. My sister and I naturally attempted and failed to befriend the emus for the umpteenth time. This time though, I wasn?t too bothered by the lack of feathered friends, I was more interested by caves themselves and hearing the Morgan brothers recollection of their fascinating and engaging tale of how they became the first known human eyes to see Dan yr Ogof?s wonders. Despite seeing thousands of caving photos since, one of my favourites is still the 1912 black and white image of those two moustachioed sheep farmers entering the cave in their coracles. (Interesting article about coracles if interested, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/23Fbd5ybr2CFG9BWYYZ7MZh/coracles-the-surprising-history-of-britain-s-strangest-boat)

It was the small slot like door low on the left soon after you enter that caught my eye this time. ?Original cavers entrance? the sign read attached to the door. ?Hmmm?? was probably how I thought, ?Caving sounds interesting??

Later on in the visit after I eagerly watched the short video by some guy called Sid Perou. ?Over nine miles of passageways have been explored (?) and there?s many more to be discovered? the narrator informed me. It soon becomes apparent the reason my visit with my family don't see all the cave is because most don't appreciate a little bit of flat out crawling that's need to see stuff like Cloud Chamber. I was not deterred though by the arguably unpleasant footage of a pair of legs in the Long Crawl. (Here's the video I'm talking about if interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGH0D5qR8As.)

Eager and keen, I wanted to know how I can explore these places myself so naturally, when I got home I was determined to learn more about caves and caving. I found the likes of Caver Keith and Catchpool1 on YouTube and watched obsessively as rummaged through rarely visited cave related Wikipedia pages. I even learnt what a ?speleologist? did!

It would be another year until I actually got my first experience of a wild potholing adventure. Something about A Levels apparently being important made it difficult to do so any earlier. All was not lost though! The armchair caving knowledge I?d acquired meant I could maybe pick a university with a caving club!

Since my first jolly down Giant?s Hole with Nottingham University Caving Club I have been fortunate enough to cave all over the UK and beyond and make new discoveries of my own! I may not have entered virgin cave passage while piloting a coricael ? not sure if pilot is the right word there. But I have managed cave with a tache (much to my girlfriends disappointment) and finally go beyond the barrier and explore the wild parts of Dan yr Ogof. I?ve met some incredible people, including that legendary guy, Sid Perou, whom I met at Hidden Earth a few years ago, where I proceed to drunkenly recall how his videos inspired me to start caving. I?ve since graduated from my Mathematical Physics with a little bit of maths but actually more turning up late for 9AM Thursday morning lecture 10 minutes late covered in mud because your quick midweek caving trip turned into a six hour epic BSc (Hons) and have become almost literally a professional caver - you can interpret that as you like. Would my not very confident 18 years old self believed this is how things would turn out? No, definitely not. But as any good digger knows "if she blows, she goes", you follow the draft and with perseverance you find a way through the boulder choke?
That?s why, or how, I joined the caving club.

(CHECC secretary..!)

Ben W

New member
The following is a little bit cringey but here goes: I personally started caving a couple of years ago when I saw the sheer amount of passion that the Durham University Speleological Association had for the sport and for the club itself at their freshers introduction evening. This is surprisingly not an exaggeration - I've yet to see anyone more excited about a society! I'd gone along on a whim but received the warmest of welcomes, and they convinced me to sign up by deploying a most excellent speech from the treasurer on how the club had given him a home despite his shoulder problems, as well as a cunning bribe of lots of wine and cheese.

On my first couple of trips I was surprised at how the caving club was essentially just a bunch of mates, except that they were determined to include us freshers as much as possible (no matter who we were or whether we actually enjoyed caving). I soon found myself being pressured into coming to Tuesday pub night, finding out all the club history and singing along to 'Caving Matilda'. I discovered that I absolutely loved the sport, but the best part of any trip was always the misadventures and many laughs we had.

I'm not an outgoing person and often find student societies to be cliquey or only offer a veneer of inclusivity, but Durham's caving club was the real deal, with genuinely nice people. On the Christmas Trip we had a big roast, gave out presents, drank wine and played games in front of the fire, and despite half of us only joining two months earlier I felt very much at home. Come the next October, it was my turn to try and infect the new members with some of that same enthusiasm, and I hope we succeeded. Someone recently said that DUSA was like a family, and as cheesy as that sounds it sums up why I stuck around and will be hopefully returning for years to come!


Staff member
I don't think that's cheesy at all.  I'm sure many of us are missing our caving friends/caving family at the moment, I am. You summed up how being welcomed into a caving club can feel, really well  :)


Agree that DUSA is a family. Was great to squeeze in our annual dinner the weekend before the first lockdown.  ;)

Hopefully this will all have blown over in time for the 2021 dinner  :beer:


New member
Picture it: It?s 2018. The pubs are open, there?s toilet roll on the shelves, and you?re actually allowed within 2 metres of another person. This last one was proving a bit of a problem, as a large crowd of people had stopped in front of me at the societies fair and I couldn?t get past. They must have been looking at a particularly interesting stall. As I stood there, waiting to move on, a voice on my right asked:


Not knowing what speleology meant, I turned to ask the person at the stall and before I knew it, I was agreeing to join the caving society at the pub for their weekly social. Over the course of the evening, I got to know a bit more about caving and about the people who make up the club. They were very welcoming and friendly, even if it was a bit uncomfortable being the only fresher there. Still, they did a lot to reassure me that walking into a cave was not a death sentence.  In fact, they told me that there would be no crawling and hardly any water on the first trip of the year, to Peak Cavern.

This was not, strictly speaking, true. Having never been in a cave, and having heard horror stories about people drowning, the muddy ducks were an interesting experience. And the (to my eyes) long crawl towards the end of the trip was also not what I had initially had in mind. But surprisingly, I enjoyed it. It still doesn?t make any sense, but caving is actually fun! That?s probably what made me come on the first weekend, and the second one, and over the weeks I got to know everyone a little better. The discomfort faded, especially after I made a fool of myself a couple of times at Bull Pot Farm.

Much as I don?t want to talk about making friends with my fellow cavers, that?s what happened. A lot of the people I went caving with are now good friends, and if I had to come up with a reason why I decided to stick around, that?s probably it.

Well, that and the caving.


Well-known member
I joined UNCC (University of Newcastle Caving Club) by accident.

By that I mean, I went on the caving trip (county pot to wretched) in freshers because I was bored, and by the end of the day, I was wholeheartedly obsessed with it. I'll never forget the awe I felt when I first found myself in the cave environment; an environment drastically different to anything else I'd experienced before. There is something incredibly comforting about crawling through a pothole entrance which almost resembles crawling back into the womb, and the sense of comfort I feel when surrounded by the Earth on all sides is something I have never felt anywhere else.

The first thing I noticed about UNCC is that they were nuts, in the best way possible. As soon as we were underground the group leader and second burst out into song, shrieking ridiculous lyrics at the tops of their songs. Now, I have been described as somewhat eccentric myself, and as a result this was the first time as a fresher in a new city that I felt I could truly be my authentic self. After the trip, I jumped in the river and submerged myself in the water (wild swimming addict here as well as a caver). Usually, the people I'm with stand at the side and tell me that I'm mad, or occasionally take a photo, but this time to my great surprise UNCC leapt in after me and joined in. I loved the club so much that I even cancelled attending a conference in Geneva just to go on the second trip of the year.

I started going to the Thursday pub nights at The Strawberry and despite being a small club the evening was never lacking in entertainment. The first night we ever went out as a club, I drank far too many trebles and ended up collapsing on the floor of the Dog&Parrot, throwing up on the president's shoes and being carried into an uber home. Members of the club came with me to make sure I was okay and held my hand the whole way home on the outskirts of the city center, and still to this day I am so grateful for the patience and kindness of those members.

I loved the extent to which the club felt like a family - every new member is welcomed and accepted, and old members also join us at the pub on Thursdays - one has even been coming since the 70s! This wonderful mix of people results in fantastic caving conversation, with lots of freshers to ask questions, and lots of nails old lags to tell epic stories. Our gear store has writing from previous members all over the walls, it is lovely and warm and has a host of archives including letters banning the club from Slovenia in the 70s because we were suspected 'spies'. The store really does feel like a home away from home which we can all share and add our own words on the walls to the legacy of previous members.

I have C-PTSD which means I often find it very difficult to trust people but I have never felt as comfortable as I do with the club. I quickly found myself able to trust the people I went caving with on a level I don't usually share with people 'above the surface' and as a result, UNCC has really allowed me to gain confidence. The club has consistently supported me, encouraged me to stretch myself, taught me a lot of incredible information, given me a sense of belonging and shown me that I am capable of far much more than I ever thought I was. I'm not exaggerating when I say that getting into caving is the best thing I have ever done in my life and my total lifeline that I can always return to when it feels like everything else around me is going to shit - I will forever be indebted to UNCC for making that possible, and enabling me to do a hobby I love with my entire heart in a welcoming environment surrounding by the kindest and most uplifting individuals.

All the love! <3



New member
Why I Joined NUCC
Benedict Claxton Stevens

As a wee nipper aged about 13 I was whipped away by an unbelievably accommodating explorer leader on a caving trip from London to Mendip. Being a staggeringly socially inept individual at the time (current progress is arguable) it was like a weird dream, arriving to what looked like a school hall and sitting mystified as friendly people sat drinking and singing into the night. The next day a wild adventure underground went by in a blur followed by a secretive trip to the Hunters. I was incredibly daunted by the adventures that now somewhat fade into the past.

Then a lot of time passed, with a passing interest in geology, and a few visits to show caves on holiday my interest simmered quietly. An undergraduate and masters at UCL left no options for caving, though the thought passed my mind gently. Little did I know what I was missing out on from Imperial.
But at the dawn of my PhD I arrived at Nottingham and I was looking down the list of societies and spotted caving, ?well it wouldn?t hurt to try it I guess? and wandered to meet the club at the freshers? fair. Greeted by Alex and Jacob, a mad duo I would come to know and love. An introduction talk later which did a lot to expand my vision of quite how much there was below my feet, and how perilous/adventurous a trip could be, I was convinced though with some trepidation.

I intended on it being a pastime, every now and then I would go on a bit of an adventure. But the bug caught me. Both for the deep underground and of meeting the most warm-hearted and welcoming group of misfits reprobates and all round excellent people I had ever come across. After one weekend away I was intrigued, after two it felt like I fit and after three it felt like a family. A whole new world opened up ahead of me with an instant group of friends, a sense of purpose and call to adventure. The next surprise was realising that there was more than just NUCC, the whole student caving community, (and even a few of the old fogey adult cavers too :ras:) could be almost as excellent. From Belfry fireworks, to the hard work of the volunteers and speakers at the CHECC?s. It?s changing the course of my life and potentially kicking of my scientific career with cave research alongside my other plans. I?ve been abroad, had rescues, earned all manner of bashes and bruises and seen things I had never imagined. You get to know people you spend 8+ hours and a few life or death situations with in a dark muddy hole. Not to mention the 4 bloody hours in a minibus to get there, singing all the way. And I wouldn?t have anyone else by my side or have it any other way.

After all the welcome I received from NUCC, I immediately wanted to give back whatever I could to this extraordinary group, spending a year as treasurer without even being pressganged very hard and only plied with a little pizza, then stepping up to president which so far has been?. Lockdown. I?m genuinely gutted watching the months tick by counting down the precious couple of years I have left with the bunch. I?m looking forward to trying to bring as much joy to the next generations as I can and pass on the favour. In whatever time I have left. To name all my compatirots and the many joys I?ve had with each of them would take longer than I expect your willing to read but I still feel I?m doing them a disservice in avoiding it.

Stay safe NUCClings <3

P.S. It would not be fair to talk of my one club, without talking of my other, the BEC warmly welcomed me with free membership last year for my blushing bridal pursuits at CHECC, yet due to lockdown I have not got to spend much time with. But that time will come.


Well-known member
A great display of camaraderie all round, and some very amusing entries! The winner was Anna aka thehungrytroglobite. We at CHECC would like to say a huge thanks to the sponsor, our amazing hosts at UKC, Jane and Tim. They've helped us out so much over the years, a massive support for us student cavers!