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Tell us about the worst cave you've ever done - and you might receive a free weekend at the MNRC hut in Mendip. Again, be sure to note your name and the club you represent at the bottom. Deadline 24th November.


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When I’m in Wigmore there’s no place I’d rather be…

Myself, Ben Wynn and Nicholas Stylianou recently took a trip to Wigmore swallet, on eastern Mendip. After having done most of the ‘big trips’ on Mendip, I had found myself scouring Mendip Underground for ideas for my next trip, and to start exploring some of the lesser visited caves. Wigmore seemed like a good place to start. The promise of an ‘impressive’ streamway, and ‘the long-term potential to become one of the longest and deepest caves in England’ were key lines that whetted my appetite to see what this little mentioned hole might have to offer.

Mendip Underground does not give the upper series much space, it seems that most of the description of this cave is reserved for the sumped passages passable only by divers. There is, after all, less than 50m of the streamway accessible before diving is required. However, after completing this trip, we felt that the description could do with some more detail, and perhaps a little more honesty when describing ‘roomy’ and ‘impressive’ features. I shall below offer our experience of each section, alongside the MU version (in red):

WARNING: The initial passages are liable to spoil run-ins and may require re-excavation.

The 10m entrance shaft (10m ladder and 25m lifeline) leads via a short crawl into Hesitation Chamber, at the far end of which are two consecutive 3m free climbs. From the base of the second, the 25m Christmas Crawl enters Santa’s Grotto, a spoil filled 6m diameter chamber with a small grotto on the right hand side.

We located the entrance without difficulty, and the farmer kindly let us park our cars on the farm track, so we had only a two-minute walk to the entrance. Thankfully there was no re-excavation required, though the entrance grill (see photo) was rather heavy and precariously balanced over the very exposed shaft. Some tentative faffing ensued to remove the grille and Ben set up our first ladder and lifeline while avoiding a premature descent by stepping carefully around the shaft.

Side note 1:

I don’t know why, and I suspect that it is another symptom of ‘Mendip Syndrome’ (see below), but there does seem to be a belief among some cavers that using a ladder and lifeline is less faff than SRT.

The amount of tackle required is immense, a ladder for starters, a rope twice the length of the pitch, a hundred slings, and more crabs than for SRT.

This is before we begin with the faff of belaying down a ladder, and the tangle you always end up in with the ladder and your lifeline.

🎶 ‘Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my ladders to me, to me’ 🎶 – What utter nonsense.

Bring back my SRT kit to me!

We descended the pitch (more like 7m with a small climb at the bottom) and started crawling. On the way in we missed the grotto, but this section of cave provided no real surprises.

To the left a scramble down over spoil bags reaches Pinks and Posies, a crawl dropping into the low Blitz Passage which after 10m enlarges at a 2m climb down into a tiny chamber, Baghdad. Beyond is the awkward Sheep Dig, the start of more crawls and short drops which thankfully emerge after 15m at the head of the roomy Blackbird Pot.

Blackbird Pot is an easy 6m free climb (in dry weather!), and is followed by a roomy rift which quickly leads to the 12m deep Vindication Pot (15m ladder and 35m lifeline). This is usually bypassed by an awkward rift climb immediately before the shaft (20m handline required).

Ahh yes, Mendip syndrome. To those unfamiliar with this disorder, that seems to affect cavers from the south of England most severely, symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • An need to dig further in tiny tiny holes, simply because one ‘could’, without stopping to think for even a second as to whether one really ‘should’ continue to push a lead.
  • The need to describe and name every single meter of dug out passage in excruciating detail, even if it is not worthy of such note.
  • The belief that by excavating body size tubes in the ground they are somehow contributing to the greater good of the caving community by opening up new trips, when in reality they are simply increasing Warmbac’s revenue by virtue of extra kneepad and Tackle Sack sales.
  • A need to grossly exaggerate the size of any small passage as a ‘chamber’ when one can fully extend even a single limb, let alone actually stand up.
A more realistic description here would be ‘follow the crawl until you reach Blackbird Pot’.

This, incidentally, is not a ‘pot’, but merely a slight verticalization of a small passage. Is it not a pot, or a pitch, or anything remarkable at all in fact and should not be described as such.


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...continued from above

Side note 2:

A ‘pot’ or ‘pitch’ is a name that should be reserved for a piece of cave requiring some form of technical ability to pass. This can, in exceptional cases, be just a handline though really a ladder, or better a rope and SRT kit, should be required for a pot or pitch to really deserve this status.

Having established that Blackbird Pot was neither a pot, nor roomy, we continued down the ‘roomy’ rift (also not roomy) to ‘Vindication Pot’ (actually a pot).

I can see how a severe case Mendip Syndrome could lead to one feeling vindicated at finally breaking through into real cave after the long hard preceding slog. However, I feel this term needs a little scrutiny. Let us examine the dictionary definition of the word ‘Vindicated’

Vindicated: shown or proven to be right, reasonable, or justified.”

Therefore, to be ‘vindicated’ for the hours, days, weeks, months and years spent excavating a tiny scrotty hole in the corner of a farmers field in an insignificant field south of Bristol, one really needs the ends to ‘justify’ the means. One should feel that they have been ‘proven right’ to have committed such time and effort to the cause.

What is found hereafter, I regret to conclude, does not fulfil that description.

From the floor of Vindication Pot a further climb down through shored up boulders, Hernia Pot, reaches a tight, vertical 2.5m rift and 30m of narrow passage. This passage is interrupted halfway by the blind, ‘tackle eating’ and 5m deep ‘Piss Pot’, before reaching Butch’s Arse, a small U-tube in the floor. Through this leads to 6m of blaster narrow passage, at the far end of which a traverse line (Cow’s tails recommended) is in place to assist on the awkward and exposed move out over the head of the 10m deep Black Pudding Pot (10m ladder and 25m lifeline). WARNING: Extreme care is needed here. A descending rift squeeze then leads to the 7m deep Yeo Pot (10m ladder and 25m lifeline) and a further 6m of passage intercepts the impressive main streamway, the Upper River Yeo.

We descended Vindication Pot by the bypass rift (awkward on the return, fixed handline in place). There were actually two ways on at the bottom of here (in addition to the M25, mentioned later). The right-hand hole leads quickly to a sump and the left to Hernia Pot (also definitely not a pot). The first 15m of tight passage to Piss Pot (just about a pot) presented us no real troubles but would be awkward for the larger caver. The passage turns 90 degrees to the left at Piss Pot we found Butch’s Arse. This U-tube had lots of silted up mud and general mank in it, making me think no one had been down here in quite some time! There is just about room to turn around in here if one is determined enough. We passed an old can of WD-40 and wallowed in some thixotropic mud before entering the blasted passage. This was an exceedingly awkward passage when towing a tackle sack containing two ladders and associated lifelines, with an even more difficult manoeuvre to reach the bolt to rig the ladder from. I went headfirst, a big mistake! (Best to reverse to Butch’s Arse and turn around, to employ a feet first approach, facing the right-hand wall as you go into the cave). I had to reverse and awkwardly turn around, then going feet first towards the open blackness ahead. I was very thankful for my cow’s tails and the traverse line here, as I had to throw myself over the edge of the black open pit with no view of any footholds, hoping that my ability to wedge my shoulders into the preceding rift would stop me plummeting downwards! I eventually managed to get upright on a small foothold at the top of the pot to rig the ladder. Here there was an in-situ carabiner with a good 1 cm thick coating of calcite – very impressive!

Side note 3: The reverse of this manoeuvre – entering the very tight vertical rift 1m above you with a heavy tackle sack – on the way out is perhaps the most awkward move I have ever done underground. It requires a lot of strength and flexibility, and it is probably best to have someone go all the way back to Butch’s Arse, turn around, come back headfirst though the rift and pull the tackle sack into the rift before you then follow it in. We did not do this, as Ben was too long to turn around in Butch’s Arse, but this did result in an exceedingly awkward time at the pitch head! (Really do take your cowstails for this bit!!).

At the base of Black Pudding Pot Ben went first through the ‘descending rift squeeze’ which has a fixed handline (useful on the return) and was very awkward for all. Thankfully Yeo Pot has an easier take off (rigging off a somewhat dubious sling placement around a large natural), and at this point the sound of the streamway below was ushering us on to the bottom!

Detour along the M25

Back at the head of Hernia Pot, a muddy tube, the M25, reaches a slippery 10m free climb (care needed) up into Don’t Feed the Ambulance. This is a roomy chamber in a washed out mineral vein with a blind 10m aven above and a desperate traverse across to the head of Vindication Pot. WARNING: This is very loose and should be avoided. At the top of the chamber a filthy 3m climb (fixed handline) followed by a short crawl and 5m climb down gains access to the sizeable Drake’s Hall where a dangerously unstable excavated aven terminates in a suicidal boulder choke 16m above (avoid!).

Well, we decided to take the M25 on the way into the cave, thinking we probably wouldn’t be bothered on the way out (correct!). A short muddy tube led to the excellently named Don’t Feed the Ambulance, though it feels more like just walking through a moderate chamber than a slippery 10m free climb. We didn’t fancy the look of the desperate traverse back to vindication but me and Ben did do the filthy climb up and then I went down into into Drakes Hall (very muddy!). This is a reasonably sized chamber but with nothing of particular note in it (I didn’t go looking for the boulder choked aven!). At this point I turned around and headed back to join the others who waited in Don’t Feed the Ambulance. We then continued down Hernia ‘Pot’.

The accessible active streamway, the Upper River Yeo, is a roomy passage over 90m long. It is sumped at both ends and evidence of foam above downstream sump 1 indicated that this passage is often flooded. Moving upstream for 47m Sump 1 is reached, where a shallow 2.5m free-dive leads to a 3m diameter airbell. Beyond is the 5m Sump 2 which reaches a depth of 2m and has been free-dived, although visitors may encounter nil-visibility and should be aware of the presence of roof pendants. WARNING: There is no free-diving line through these sumps.

Expecting great things, we eagerly entered the streamway. After all that crawling and awkwardness, with the promise of an ‘impressive’ and ‘roomy’ streamway, we were mildly disappointed to say the least. OFD it is not.

A clear case of Mendip Syndrome at its finest, we were actually able to stand up for about 5m before the normal service of stooping and then hands and knees crawling resumed as Nick led us up the ‘roomy’ streamway. Nick found upstream sump 1 and cheerfully reported that it only resembled a duck today. Needless to say, neither Ben nor myself were in the slightest interested at this point! Feeling mis-sold, we trudged to a bank where we could actually sit up and had a gourmet feast of fruit pastils, soggy Henry Hippos and a mars bar.

From the bottom of the cave we made an exit, it was not swift or enjoyable, but it was an exit. Ben cheered us up with a variation on Jess Glynne’s ‘When I am with you there’s no place I’d rather be’ though that was surprisingly pretty much as far as we got with singing on this trip. We eventually got to the entrance pitch where between Ben and me, we couldn’t manage to get the entrance grill back off (tired arms trying to push a very heavy grill, whilst suspended at the top of an electron ladder!). We got to within 30 minutes of call out, seriously wondering how to explain to the rescue that we had managed the difficult cave but couldn’t even open the entrance when we got back to it! Thankfully I eventually managed to open a small crack that I could squeeze through, before employing an end of rope to haul open the rest of the lid.

I went back to the car in glorious sunshine to cancel call out, before returning to help the others who were just finishing packing up the tackle. We walked back to the car, at which point we realised that we hadn’t taken the second tackle sack up the entrance pitch with us…

Summary: No offence intended to the original digging team, and thanks to Ben and Nick for making the trip a good day out! However, this cave is neither impressive, roomy, or worthwhile. Perhaps if you enjoy cave diving that is not the case, and with the dig in Home Close Hole now connected to the far end of the sumps, perhaps there is a classic divers through trip to be had. Not for me though.

Henry Morgan - UBSS


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Loved this. Must have been cathartic to write, and sounds a worthy entrant to 'Worst Cave' comp :)

cap n chris

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Wigmore is one of many shitholes in Mendip. Dave Elliott's comments remain apt decades later. Ladders are for lofts. Caving on Mendip is like travelling back to 1854.

Generally I think that the principal reasons for caving there are if you live there and don't own a car.


Well-known member
Wigmore is one of many shitholes in Mendip. Dave Elliott's comments remain apt decades later. Ladders are for lofts. Caving on Mendip is like travelling back to 1854.

Generally I think that the principal reasons for caving there are if you live there and don't own a car.


Well I'm very much a northern caver and I've thoroughly enjoyed caving on Mendip. (Used to be in the Wessex actually.) Your comments don't reconcile with my own experience.

cap n chris

Well-known member

Well I'm very much a northern caver and I've thoroughly enjoyed caving on Mendip. (Used to be in the Wessex actually.) Your comments don't reconcile with my own experience.
There are MANY lovely caves on Mendip (for example: Shatter Cave, Withyhill, GB Cavern, Upper Flood Swallet, St. Cuthbert's Swallet, Swildon's Hole, Reservoir Hole, Wookey Hole, Longwood August, Charterhouse Cave etc.). There are many shitholes too and Wigmore is one of them.


Well-known member
There are MANY lovely caves on Mendip (for example: Shatter Cave, Withyhill, GB Cavern, Upper Flood Swallet, St. Cuthbert's Swallet, Swildon's Hole, Reservoir Hole, Wookey Hole, Longwood August, Charterhouse Cave etc.). There are many shitholes too and Wigmore is one of them.
THERE ARE NO CAVES IN MENDIP! (or so goes the tale)
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Hugh (my other half) thinks that Flower Pot is the worst cave ever. I didn't agree, I thought it was ok.


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This story is titled: How to do County Pot

So, to set the scene; Marc James (Non-Hagrid) and I are sat somewhere within county pot in Easegill, on a ledge looking at a passageway to an SRT pitch we have both ascended and descended out of. In confusion, puzzling over a survey on Marc’s phone with a description that appears to be doing us more harm than good. Then I look to James and think “I have a strong feeling of déjà vu.”

A year ago, at this point was the Joint Bangor- Newcastle away trip that year named “Bullpot Bitches” based around Bullpot farm in Yorkshire (YORKSHIRE!) and Ease gill caving system. A time of caving socialising and welly-boot drinking. During this get-together, a crossover trip was done involving Lancaster Hole to county pot and vice versa. By the time we had got to County pot, our group had already gotten lost 3 times in the Manchester bypass (normally something that occurs on the M60 not underground) and were hitting the 9 hours underground mark. Somewhere, somehow in county, we got lost again. This was a group that included James, and looking at him for the second time around I knew we were both thinking the same thing – “how did we get here again!”

This time, on this Bangor-Newcastle trip (aptly named Clownfess) James, Marc and I had thought of doing a lovely top sink to county trip via stockpot. To prepare we got our cave psych up and picked up two descriptions from the table. The Top sink to stockpot description and the stockpot to County description. What we did not know was the Stockpot to County description was more a personal description that hadn’t quite been completed and polished. So, once in the cave it greatly confused us.

This route description confusion led to: 2 unnecessary SRT pitches, 3 climbs in and out of the spout of Spout Chamber one nearly missed call out and Marc dragging me up part of the entrance rift to the door of County. And one of the woollen cats almost got lost (Sorry Chasm). And James and I wondering if caving was worth it. And Mealy greeting us again on the moor with Mars bars (thanks Mealy!). And, one argument on the surface once we had all got back into the hut.

The best bit yet – The next day I had decided somehow, I hadn’t had enough of County – so did Pool sink to County! Thank the cave demons or whatever resides within the earth that we didn’t get lost again, or I may think county is genuinely cursed.

Lydia de Brett - Bangor


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Having been in Wigmore once many years ago I found the entrance series a bit tight in places. I didn't get to the streamway however as then I went headfirst through Butch's Arse (what a ghastly thought) the chap in front informed me I would have to turn round to get down the pitch (which was no going to happen). Reversing Butch's Arse was fun (not). I am so pleased the main system is accessible via Home Close nowadays and thanks to the divers and diggers who made it possible. The streamway downstream of Sump 9 is a lovely bit of passage by the way.


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Notts II- Not II be underestimated
Millie- Bangor
(Picture taken before the disaster of this trip)


Everyone was in high spirits, with lots of cave psyche, we danced to ABBA and ate breakfast together in the hut, excited to all explore a new cave (recommended by Todd who joined us for the weekend at BPC). There had been many chats about what was going on as it was the Saturday (and most eventful day) of the trip, it had been decided we were going to split into two groups comprised of Jonty, Lydia, Jana, Colin and Todd who were going to do Mayday, and the rest of us (Aidan, Liz, Julia, Flo and me) decided to take a shorter, easier bimble underground due to it being the first away trip for the Austrian Delegation of Bangor, as well as Flo’s first ever trip. Oh boy did he pick a good one!

The “Mayday group” had left before us, and had already made their way to the cave before we made it underground. Getting below the surface at 13:00 we were off to a slightly later start than we wanted but still with plenty of time (call out was at 20:00) we slowly made our way down the 50m of scaffold and ladder climbs. Next through a rift, down a ladder, down another short scaffold climb, the 2M rope section and another short easy free climb.

Aidan had climbed down first to assist from below while I was manning the top of the climb, first to get down was Flo (being a giant of 6,4 it was definitely a lot easier for him than the rest of us!) then Liz quickly followed by Julia, there were some nerves but this was handled really well by all parties. When it was my time to climb down I heard voices come from the distance and out of no where appeared a light. Coming from the section behind us came a few members from NPC. We had a quick laugh, a chat and discovered that Bangor are old friends of MUSC while 2 members of their party literally leaped across over the top of the climb very skilfully much to my surprise. They then headed off and we said our goodbyes.

After all of Bangor had gotten down we decided to go and look at some pretties, on the way there we then heard a familiar noise and realised we had met back up with NPC at a cross section, we had another chat and they mentioned to us that this was their “plan 3 cave” of the day. They went to Mayday and saw a big group of student cavers and instead decided to come to Notts, Aidan and me then had a giggle as we told a member of NPC, who we would later find out was called Matt, that the group that they had seen was the other half of Bangor. I certainly found it ironic that they were here because of us and now kept being stuck behind us in Notts. We later found out that this could not have been better and was much to our advantage. We said our goodbyes again and continued to the pretties.

Ducking up and down, walking side to side, and climbing through the stream way was definitely worth seeing the amazing formations that were hanging on the ceiling and the walls of the cave. We followed the stream way till it reached Critical thigh depth. No one was brave enough or psyched enough for any deeper water as me and Aidan were worried about people getting cold. We decided we would make a run for the Downstream sump, as the survey made it sound quite close, and then make our swift exit.

After about 25 minutes of walking down a passage towards the sump I started to feel an ache in my knee, which was very strange. I was just about to say to Aidan that I wasn’t feeling the sump check out as it seemed to be taking forever but then yet again we found NPC, except this time there weren’t the few of them, there were tonnes! A couple more had joined their party making it maybe 8 or 10 people possibly up to 12. Aidan then had the same idea as me and Bangor turned around- sumpless.

It felt like forever walking back to the crossroads and my psyche was slowly reducing knowing it would take a while for everyone to get up those two climbs. The surface never felt so far away.
While taking a quick break I told Aidan I was in a bit of discomfort and we made a few jokes. It was decided I would go first up the climbs this time to help the club from above. I walked up to the small free climb and began to climb it, only my knee wasn’t bending very well and it was actually very painful to get up. In the end I needed a boost from Aidan.

Finally making it to my sworn enemy of a climb I began to make my way up. Aidan had come up to my left during this time. I put my left foot in the loop and starting climbing, and then the right. At that moment an incredible pain went through my knee and I fell onto Aidan who had jumped in to brace me when he had heard my yelp and swearing. I couldn’t weight my leg. I looked up at Aidan, who looked back at me and I could read him like a book. He could definitely read me too, with eyes welling up and an 8/10 on the pain scale we both had the familiar thought of “we’re fucked”. Great minds think alike.

I hopped behind where I was standing for Aidan to get the rest of the group up, I was cold and so was everyone else. It felt like an eternity to get everyone up. Flo had gone up first and slipped down 3 times, next it was Liz and Julia was having a little bit of a hard time (honestly so was the rest of us). I could see the cogs in Aidans brain turning, I couldn’t climb out, we couldn’t haul me, we needed to get the rest of the group out and in warm dry clothes. I was just about to say to Aidan to leave me with a foil blanket as I wasn’t found anywhere, anytime soon. Or so I thought! When all of a sudden NPC had caught back up to us, thank god! I had never been so ecstatic in my life.

With the help of NPC all of our members were taken on their way out of the cave back to Aidan’s car. It was now just the two of us (Aidan and myself) with the majority of NPC.
The situation was explained and a plan was formed. A human ladder was to be made for the climb and then I could potentially be hauled out of the later sections when we arrived there.

I started placing my left food on Matts knee, then some others poor shoulders as two were pulling me from above to get me to the scaffold bar. As my right leg was still out of order it was tough work for all involved. While resting my right leg was grabbed and moved into a foot hold. I shrieked, the searing pain was back and I slipped down the wall. After about what felt like 30 minutes and 50 “you got this Millie” chants from Aidan I was up on top of the climb.
I had Matt moving my left foot and taking all of my weight to assist me up the next climb which was very wet. At this point I could tell everyone standing below me was freezing and I started to feel really bad. My knee felt like it had been completely smashed in but my only goal was to keep moving to we could all get out.

After some time being dragged we arrived near an area where I had to “crawl” before the scaffold, my version of this was to lay on my side and drag my body along just to try and get some movement in. It was a slow pace. By this point I was able to slightly weight my leg. I was also
starting to rip into Aidan for his last 2 hours of motivation sounding like a broken record. I laugh but I don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t there to listen to my bullshit about wanting to “127 hours” myself, my logic being
No knee cap, No Problem. Most importantly he was keeping me calm.

When we got to the scaffold climb It was me and Matt for the first two or three ladders, I say me and Matt, it was mostly Matt. Then some lads on the surface had sent down a hauling device. This then sparked a debate once NPC had heard me and Aidan call it a “D ring” what they called it now I cannot remember but im sure I find out when I buy the 10+ pints I’ve promised.
This was to my great amusent as some of the lads above hollered down some funny yet crude age related jabs at the NPC members below me, Matt and Aidan.

At 19:40 we finally made it out, since having been assisted since 15:40 by NPC’s lucky appearance, it was definitely a long long trip.
I made it back up to the car and got changed as Aidan rounded up the gear, we were then made aware that the Mayday group had returned to BPC. They arrived expecting dinner and yet the easier trip had all the… “fun”. It was 21:45 before we made it back to the hut, and it was a great welcome. Jana the absolute darling and the rest of the gang had brought cake and wine when they found out from the other parts of the Austrian delegation that things had gone horribly wrong. We ate cake and everyone grimaced at my misshaped knee as I got it out to inspect while I was taking lots of painkillers.

As it was an hours drive to the hospital I went the next morning, I had some x rays and it turns out my knee had dislocated while being underground, it had then been partially relocated while on the rope climb and then sorted out and relocated the rest in Morecambe urgent care - where I spent 14 hours of my day before being collected for the drive back up to Bangor.

- The cake and wine, definitely hit a spot, all I can say is Thank god they did Mayday


New member
Good account of what cavers do if they possibly can - getting their mates out of trouble in a potentially serious serious situation.

we were very lucky, and have met some new amazing cavers. God knows how it would have went of they weren’t there
One thing I’ve learnt since I’ve started caving is that no matter if you know them or not other cavers will help you, man I love this community


Well-known member
An fine account of what can go wrong underground, and of how cavers will help each other out. I hope that you have no more trouble with your knee, Millie, and that you continue to get lots of fun out of caving.

Just one point I'd like to make – this thread is headed up 'Worst cave ever' competition, but the last two accounts have featured excellent caves – maybe the title should be changed to 'Worst caving trip ever' competition?


Well-known member
Just one point I'd like to make – this thread is headed up 'Worst cave ever' competition, but the last two accounts have featured excellent caves – maybe the title should be changed to 'Worst caving trip ever' competition?
Maybe there aren't any worst caves other than Wigmore and the 4000ft of just under the surface, dreary, gritty, neck ache that comprises Eglin's Hole (with apologies to any Eglin's fans if there are any).