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Downstream Boreham


New member
Boreham cave is a very access restricted cave. But it's supposed to be stunning and have great potential. Visits are restricted to 3 per year and to qualified diving members of the CDG. Being recently newly qualified, last Saturday was the first trip I was eligible for, so off I went.

We met at 0930 in the field near the entrance. Diving was Emma, Jason and myself. There were two other interested parties there, Andrew and Dave, who kindly helped lift our gear up to the entrance and supplied us with some dataloggers to place (another job :p)

Our plan was to head to the downstream end of the cave and dig a little bit. It has only been visited a handful of times and it felt quite a priviledge to have shoehorned my way onto this trip.

The cave starts with about 5 minutes of lowish passage with varying amounts of water before meeting sump 1. I geared up quickly and jumped into the sumps before anyone else could trash the vis. The sumps are short, shallow and static for the first five. I swam along enjoying the vis and having a nice look around. I quickly surfaced in the dry passage between sumps 1-2.

This is a reasonably long passage that's *just* too small to hands and knees crawl properly. I'd been told there was a childrens sledge to help the passage of gear through here over the rough cobbled floor. Unfortunately it was missing. So I swore my way along with three cylinders, fins and a bag of digging gear.

Sump 2 starts out with a flat out squeeze in zero visibility. It's slightly larger than body sized bedding and several metres long, but overall, was quite doable. More pretty passage. I decided to get the camera out for some terrible photos here. Sumps 3-5 were more of the same but with no squeezy bits.


Swimming along just after the slot in sump 2.


Passage in S3


Start of S4.

Pretty soon I was at the end of S5, you can go right up here to the pretty dry bits, or left, to a 500m long, crap vis sump on bad line. Taking the road less travelled, I started searching for the line in the downstream sump.

Now the downstream sump is active, and therefore tannin stained. For some reason, someone decided it would be a good idea to line this on very thin white nylon line, which turns silt brown over time and is slightly too soft to feel. So I was searching for the line for quite a while. I'd been warned to expect broken/buried dive line in here. So I got a reel out the bag and headed off into the sump.

Now I won't lie, I was dreading this sump. Due to the nature of the cave, wetsuits are the only way forward. Anybody who's met me know's I'm a giant pussy and 500m sumps, wetsuits and myself are not a good combination. I emerged at the other side 25 minutes later shaking so much I think it might have registered on the richter scale. I don't know what I expected, but what greeted me wasn't it.

Low, hands and knees height passage for a metre or two before dropping into flat out crawling over largish boulders. I resigned myself to my fate as Jason and Emma arrive. We redistributed gear and set off. The passage was lower, longer and cobblier than I expected. But the occasional pretty kept me going until I ended up in a beautiful 18inch high, metre wide, cleanwashed bedding plane looking out over a pitch descending a rift. As I've expressed before, I really like pretty, well formed passages. This was short, but it was perfect.

The pitch wasn't perfect without SRT gear. I body abseiled down and we settled down to a few hours of digging.


The only known picture of the downstream end. Unfortunately it's crap.

We head back off down to go and place some detectors in the more visited parts of the cave. At the start of the long sump, I deliberately waited about 5 minutes after the others set off so I could have an unfettered run at the sump. I made it back through in 11 minutes, much warmer this time.

We got out the water and started off up towards the china shop. I turned the first corner and was immediately met by this.


A massive calcite ramp with a huge stal above it! Again, sorry for the picture quality.

Quickly we ascended this and were met by this.


We're going up the vertical calcite wall on the right, great, second time today I wished I had an SRT kit. Fortunately it is handlined. I'd estimate it's approximately 7-10m high. It's quite impressive to think that when Geoff Yeadon first discovered this he free climbed this with no rope (second hand information, not verified).


At the top of the ramp you then start crawling through all these straws to get to the china shop, its great.


But the china shop is better!

We replaced a detector in here before heading upstream and searching for 20 minutes for a detector we'd walked past an hour ago.

And that was it, we were on the way out. I found the sledge inside the slot at the end of sump 2! So I passed the squeeze with 3 cylinders, a bag and a childs sledge...but the trip back to S1 was much easier than the inwards trip.

We walked back down the hill to a waiting Dave and Andrew and went for beer and food.

A great day out.


Well-known member
Great read, I guess it will be no where I ever see with my own eyes unless you guys dig another entrance in from the inside. (Though you say the sumps are static, would it be possible to drain them?)


Alex said:
Great read, I guess it will be no where I ever see with my own eyes unless you guys dig another entrance in from the inside. (Though you say the sumps are static, would it be possible to drain them?)

If there was a dry entrance I can't help thinking that the China Shop's life span  would be measured in weeks - the sumps are the best conservation measure for such a vulnerable place.


Well-known member
Probably right, it looks near impossible to avoid them, but then again no one except divers ever get to see them. I guess it serves as an encouragement to take up diving.


New member
It's relatively easy to avoid them, they unfortunately had to knock a hands and knees sized crawl through when originally discovered. But it's perfect for passage through and not awkward. No straws were damaged on this trip. Though you do have to be careful of water movements damaging them where they touch the water if you go too fast.

Regards draining/alternate entrances. Access is very very delicate here and anything like that I'm not qualified to comment on. Any serious enquirers should contact the Secretary of the CDG northern section. Contact details on the CDG website. 

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New member
If you can see ongoing passage, you have a look.

This principle is generally followed throughout the UK in cave exploration.

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Well-known member
I know access is limited I was just asking from a physical standpoint, not a legal one.


New member
From a physical viewpoint, to my extremely limited knowledge, there might be one possible dry entrance that could be dug. Unfortunately it's just beyond sump 1 and nowhere near the china shop.

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