Online Logbook 2009

Andy Sparrow

Active member
Wednesday 15th July

Lionel's Hole

Andy S, Rachel, Steve, Alun and Dave Morrow

Back in 1978 I had the honour of being the first person to pass the Second Duck of Lionel's Hole and then three years later to dig open the connection that created the Round Trip.  I have been in 'old' Lionel's many times since then but have not completed the 'full' Round Trip including the streamway for probably 25 years.  This is another of those trips which I never really expected to complete again but my younger and keener wife had other plans.  Thus it was I found myself leading this fine body of cavers through the Labyrinth.  Of course these days I am not the emaciated youngster of the original explorations and I am very wary of anything that I remember as being even a tad tight.  I seemed to remember that some of the squeezes in the boulder ruckle were snug and therefore decided to try these out first by doing the trip in reverse of the conventional direction.  Snug indeed, and bloody awkward, and fiendishly tortuous, but successfully passed even if a shove from behind was needed at one point. 

We emerged into the larger passages of the Extension and encountered a couple of Wessex chaps coming round from the other direction.  Now it has to be said that Steve is non too keen on tight stuff and watched in horror as we squirmed off into Bishop's Bypass.  He decided to defect to the Wessex at this point and he and Dave tagged onto the other chaps and headed out via the boulder ruckle again.  Meanwhile I found myself back in the very dry Streamway slightly haunted by recent graphic descriptions of how tight Duck 2 had become.  There was one squeeze en-route which I am sure never used to be there.  Having dug my way through this I squirmed my way along the keyhole passage to reach the duck.  Two attempts were required to get through with some frantic digging in between.  Eventually I got through.  Meanwhile Rachel missed the keyhole, tried to negotiate the streamway in the trench, and got herself in a right pickle.  Eventually we were all through and back in the relative comfort of 'old' Lionel's. 

We got out after a two hour trip with Steve, Dave and the Wessex hot on our tail.  Alun was grinning like a Cheshire cat the whole way round loving every squeeze and grovel - bloody insane masochist. Rachel was battered, bruised and a bit shook up by her epic in the streamway.  The next day I had one hell of a tender bruise on my chest from pushing through Duck 2, sore knees, elbows, and various other tender bits.  But it's nice to know I still fit!  It was actually almost fun. 

Andy Sparrow
St. Cuthberts Swallet
18th July 2009

Chris Castle, Nicky D.
A trip to September Series. Crawling through the September Boulder Ruckle Nicky banged her knee most painfully, which is now swollen but has not stopped her going to a party tonight. We managed most of the Series - Illusion and Cone Chambers, then Victory Passage and up to September Chamber to see the sights. On the way back Nicky had another incident, getting her helmet stuck at the start of the Wire Rift and partly strangled until I managed to undo the catch. Teach her to look where she's going.
We were a bit longer than expected due to photography, got a few good shots which I'd put on if it wasn't such a flaff. Maybe I'll get Nicky to do it.
She enjoyed the trip despite the trauma.


New member
Swildons Upper Series
26 July 2009

Ellie, Brendan

Just a chance to get underground really - and to make extra sure we knew all the upper series routes in both directions, as we had both observed that that the route it is not always so obvious when following it in an opposite direction to the usual route taken  This was a point swiftly proved when we dropped down into showerbath chamber and couldn't work out which was the way on.    :-[  So climb back out and a quick circut via Kenny's Dig to check.  We then did various routes - back round Kenny's dig, down the long dry way going very high across the traverse and got some good bridging practice before heading as far as the water chamber. Back up the long dry way, down the wet way, up the short dry way - by this time we we were starting to feel a bit dizzy so we exited the cave by going the lesser used route past the bottom of Jacobs ladder through Baptism Passage , back into showerbath chamber and out.  All in all a very useful and enjoyable route finding exercise.



New member
Pierre's Pot and Sidcot Swallet
27 July 2009

Ellie, Brendan

We had set off when we found our scheduled trip had been cancelled so, as we were all packed and ready to cave, we headed off for a quick nose around some of the Burrington caves.  Firstly Pierre's where we wandered around in circles as one does in Pierre's,  Brendan sliding down a rift looking around a corner and saying- hmm this looks familiar....  We looked for the route down to the lower series and think we found it after a couple of false alarms.  Not that either of us had any intention of going down there.  No sirree.  There are some places I have resigned myself to never seeing and Pierre's lower series is one of them.  I'll live with it.

After Pierre's we wandered up the lane to Sidcot Swallet.  Here I started to be concerned about my memory loss as I swear I could not remember the route in this cave at all.  I have been in it, I know, because I distinctly remember Andy Sparrow laughing at my pathetic attempts to get out of the lobster pot.  It was a while ago though.  Brendan led the way, past some enormous spiders.  Through the Tie Press, and into the boulder chamber where we had a nose at the avens on the left of the chamber.  I was not feeling very confident for some reason, maybe as I didn't know the cave at all, so we sat in the boulder chamber for a while enjoying the peace and then made our way out.   

Short but useful refresher trips.
22nd July 2009
Alun Williams, Chris Henderson; Elaine (Mrs Hughie was Johnson), Judi Durber

It was a lovely sunny evening although the wind was a tad cold for July as I pulled into the lay-by to finish my dinner. I made a fuss of the Exmore ponies in the field before going down to the farm and was closely followed in by Alun, Chris & Elaine.  We signed the forms changed quickly & where soon on our way through the long grass to the entrance.  I had not realised that the entrance was so close to GB before.  The little square gate was soon opened and we all traversed our first obstacle, the obligatory puddle.  Elaine was very brave and fought her way past the huge tentacled ?spider?. It was very hairy & did look like it was laying in wait for you like an underground triffid.
Elaine disappear quickly down the spiral & then down the rift before having to thread her way horizontally through the tight rift.  I had the luxury of watching how she did it and followed through fairly easily. The way through is all about narrow scratchy rock, the best way being low therefore having to scrabble through the inevitable puddle, get to end turn 90 degrees and you see ?the gate?. The dinkyiest gate I have ever seen. 

Squeeze through the nice shiny slot into a stand up bit and the first of many formations.  The next sections are more upright and you are following the water.  It cannot be called a stream as it is hardly a trickle.  There is more crawling through puddles and sharp bends, then  the passage drops and although the shape of the passage resembles the pots in Swildon?s the rock is very spiky so easy to climb down.  We pass over a fault line easy to make out by the wide white band of calcite that completely encircles the passage. There is a gap where you get a glimpse of a lovely formation, tall and so white against the dark surround.  We climb up a small slot & into a chamber full of hellactites. Midsummer Chamber.  We sit, chat, admire the ?sea horse? and dripping flow stone that seems to cover all the walls to some degree. Fat and thin stals and then round the corner a whole grotto (Forbidden Passage).  This is a tapped off dead end so back down the slot and a long string of directions from Elaine, I remember the first 2 bits and hope for the best. We go round a bend ducking under and round to the stal we glimpsed earlier with its wiggly ends. We then climb up (by a white broken stal wrapped like a birthday present in orange tape) and it opens up into a chamber that is BIG.  The Citadel. This is more like what I was expecting with it being so close to GB.  More white stuff, this time running down the walls in sheets of wavy flowing calcite. On the floor big blobs of squat stalactites that are being eroded away again.

Chris dislodges a rock and we send it rolling down the slope for safety as we have to back track and pass under the floor we are standing on.
So back down the climb and on over the mud and rubble pile. I think this is where we have to go down a slot, best done head first, (almost standing on your head) over and through what looks like huge chunks of cheese curd wonderful white calcite.  And then we pop up next to the Singing Stal. A very poor specimen of a stalactite, dirty white, full of holes and very noisy. It pops and whistles and drips. This is the end of the cave for us. At the bottom of the back wall is a very unassuming, uninviting black hole that looks very awkward to get down.  The way on for the hard working few where if I am very lucky may get to go through one day to see the wonders beyond.
So sit, chat, more photo?s and then it is the return journey, standing on your head, climbing the spiky rock, over the mud bolder ruckle, crawl through puddle, lye on side in puddle, a couple of 90 degree bends and

then climb out

avoiding the triffid spider

to darkened sky. 
Other than Chris who had arrived on his bike, we all headed for the ?Centre of the Universe?, each going a different way. Although Elaine had a 5 min start we all arrived at the same time.  ;)
Apologies if I got things in the wrong order or named them incorrectly.

Wed 12th August 2009

St Cuthberts Swallet
Chris Castle, Nicky Dennis, Judi D.

This was a scheduled Club trip but there was a pretty poor response.

Our plan was to aim for the end of the cave. This was only Judi's second trip to Cuthberts, so we took it fairly slowly encouraged by a month's gap from the last trip for Nicky and I, caused by various ailments. There had been much rain lately but the last couple of the days had been fine and I expected the cave to be fairly dry, but it was wetter than expected.

We went straight down the Old Route to Everest Passage, climbed down Stalagmite Pitch to Sewer Passage and Gour Hall. We descended the Gours to Gour Hall Rift and went as far as the old Sump 1 before deciding to turn back. Our return route was Rabbit Warren, Railway Tunnel, Strike Passage and the usual route out.

A very enjoyable trip, a pity so few were interested.

Wed 12th August 2009

St Cuthberts Swallet
Chris Castle, Nicky Dennis, Judi D.

Here are a few photo's.  The atmosphere was really bad with lot of particles about being picked up by the camera. 

I only remember 3 parts from last time.  The entrance, the big curtains & the Gour pools but thought there was lots & lots of big formations about.  At first I was rather disappointed as there was nothing but ladders, big boulders and empty Gour Pools. 


The rabbit warren is aptly named (lots fun) but then we came to the Railway Tunnel and I was not disappointed. 


Beautiful formations.  I really must learn how to take photo's in caves.


I had forgotten the size of the cave & how high the chambers are. I liked the variety of the cave, the different challenges it gives you. It was a very good trip made enjoyable by Chris being patient and bringing along a rope & Nicky showing me the best route over the obstacles.


And we managed to avoid getting commendeared into the BEC digging party

Well done, Judi, maybe your posting will inspire the club members a bit.
And I should learn how to upload pictures to the Newsgroup. (Yes, I know it's easy, blah, blah......)
Saturday 15th August 2009

Swildons Hole
Chris Castle, Nicky D.
This was partly a practice run for Nicky's LCLA assessment and partly a tourist trip to the Mud Sump, so we went to the 20 via the Long Dry Way. Once at the Second Mud Sump we found it almost completely dry so went through and carried on a short way to Shatter Pot then back and climbed up into the South East Inlets. I'd not been there for many years, probably over 20, and had mostly forgotten it. We didn't have enough time to extend the trip, and it wasn't on our call-out, so we returned and exited via the Wet Way.
I found out later that the Wessex, or at least Ali M, have diverted most of the water that feeds the mud sump and it should stay mostly open.
Wednesday 19th August 2009
Great Oones Hole and Long Hole

Chris Castle, Nicky D, Rachel S, Zoe H, Martin L, Tricia D-K, Dani G, Alun W, Dave, Steve P and Phil H from the Wessex.

A good turn-out for these two minor but interesting caves in Cheddar Gorge which are situated above Gough's Cave and are two remnants of one earlier version of the system.
Firstly we scrambled up to Gt Oones Hole using Phil's easier way up which naturally took up a lot of time. This cave is a descending phreatic tube ending at a stalagmite choke where I bored everyone with my theory that the abandoned Damocles dig in Gough's should connect beyond this choke. Once out we traversed around the Gorge to Long Hole. This is another phreatic tube, mostly level with graffiti dated to the 17th century and possible Mesolithic engravings which are impossible to date. Near the end is a slippery climb up, which Rachel managed to scale, followed by me and I tied a handline for those who wanted to follow to do so. While this was going on I had a look at Reynold's Passage, an inlet going back towards the entrance at a higher level. It is reached by a short but exposed traverse which was much easier than I remembered, leading to the small awkward passage. I did not go far, knowing that it gets worse until it becomes impassible, so turned round as soon as I could.
There were no bats here today and the abundant moonmilk looked just the same to me. Andy Sparrow thought it was re-growing where it had been vandalised.
An enjoyable short couple of trips.

Top Cat

New member
Goatchurch and Swildons Upper Series
Wednesday 2nd Sept - Tim and Steve (guest)

Only my second trip to Mendip-shire this year (poor show I appreciate). So with kids back to school today (hurray!), I took the opportunity to reintroduce a friend to the delights of holes in the ground. So, following a visit to Sparrow's Cave Hire Emporium, we headed to Burrington for a quick whizz around Goatchurch. Drainpipe done (but not the Dexion) and following a good play around the Water Chamber, we headed up and out.

Then to Swildon's for a wander around the Upper Series. Down the Long Dry Way, then the squeeze into the New Grottoes (which appeared to have new damage to the straws). Then back down through the Water Chamber and continued down to the top of the Twenty. Then back up via the Wet Way, with a short detour to The Oxbows for more squeezy bits.

On the drive home, Steve was talking about wanting to do the Short Round Trip next time out - think he enjoyed himself then...
Wednesday 26th August 2009
Ogof Ffynnon Ddu

Chris Castle, Nicky D, Andy and Rachel Sparrow

This was originally going to be a streamway trip but the pleasant summer downpour put pay to that.

After spending the night at the SWCC cottages, which were full of motorcyclists, we walked across to Top Entrance, which I always used to think a bit of a slog until I went to Pant Mawr recently. Once there we discovered that due to a misunderstanding (or cock-up) we had left the surveys behind, but Andy was confident he knew our chosen route well enough, and so it proved.

First to Big Chamber, then the easterly passage to the Mini Traverse and the Labyrinth and a northerly-trending passage to Cairn Chamber, where the route to Column Hall leads off. Then we returned by another route (with a brief and mistaken visit to Arete Chamber) and found Northern Canyon. After a climb up a big collapse it was easier going until Shatter Pillar. A brief lunch break in Selenite Tunnel and it was back to Cross rift, over Maypole Inlet and the longer, northern, way to Salubrious Passage, which comes out about half way along it. Once out of Salubrious we turned left into Chasm Passage for a change, climbed up the left wall to the passage leading to Arete. This was very twisty, eventually coming to a muddy climb up, the point I reached some months ago from the other direction and thought was wrong. The climb is OK if you help each other, then comes a pool which is awkward to traverse over and not worth the trouble just to keep your feet wet. A climb down into Arete, across that chamber, and we were on the route to the Brickyard and out.

I think that's right, Andy will doubtless correct any errors. We were not too long, about three and a half hours, but covered a lot of cave and had a very interesting trip.


Andy Sparrow

Active member
chriscastle46 said:
Andy will doubtless correct any errors.
Oh, OK, if you insist.
chriscastle46 said:
climbed up the left wall to the passage leading to Arete.
It was the right hand wall!

What a different cave it was on this very rainy day.  There were numerous waterfalls and inlets spraying, showering or (in lower Arete Chamber) thundering down.  Places like Selenite Tunnel, usually as quiet as the grave, had a constant background rumble of water.  Salubrious had a flow of water that would have been respectable in the main stream.
Friday 4th September 2009
Chris Castle, Nicky D, Brett (Guest, from Sarth Efrica).

A completely standard tourist trip to the bottom of the Main Chamber. However, we were all hot and panting. This was a much easier trip than the OFD one so I'm not that decrepid. High CO2 in GB? It seems hard to believe in such a big void.


New member
Wednesday 2nd September

Rod's Pot

Steve, Alun, Dani

Unable to tempt anyone else out, a small, select gathering for a quick tootle round Rod's Pot.  Usual route down to the main chamber, with a nose at some of the crawly side passages.  I tried to tempt Alun and Steve to climb up to Hanging Boulder Chamber, but they couldn't be persuaded past the initial shimmy up the tube.  Then back down to look at the Bear Pit (looking quite muddy at the bottom) and then to Purple Pot before heading out. 
Wednesday 16th September 2009.

St Cuthberts Swallet

Chris Castle, Nicky Dennis, Dani G, Rachel S, Trish D-K.

A short girly trip with me, suffering the talk of willies and periods.

It was mostly around the Boulder Chamber to give Trish a first look at the cave. Like many people she was nervous to begin with but soon found that Cuthberts does not deserve its fearsome reputation that some people give it.

After the terrors of the Entrance and Wire Rifts, which gave nobody any trouble, we went to The Cascade then down the left-hand side of Boulder Chamber, looking at some formations which are rarely viewed. A visit to Curtain Chamber, then back up to see the crystals near the top of Boulder Chamber and out via Rocky Boulder Central Passage to Lower Mud Hall.

At the Entrance Rift I climbed below Doc Trish and had a rope ready at the top but she zoomed up with minimal help.

I realise we didn't go far, but you have to allow for the nattering.

Swildon's Hole

Tuesday 22nd September 2009

Chris Castle, Nicky D, Tricia D-K, Dave M, Steve (guest), Paul (guest).

A straightforward trip to Sump 1 for the prospective new members Steve and Paul, who proved to be strong and competent cavers. We didn't go through the sump, it was full of silt and none of us could be bothered to dig it.



New member
Hunters Lodge Inn Sink

Wednesday 23rd September 2009

Ellie, Mark W

As no novices came forward for the advertised trip to Upper Swildons we decided to do something else and HLIS seemed a good option as I had not been down there before and it was handy for a beer.. on the way in I had an inconvenient claustrophobia attack (really must try hypnotherapy), but once out of the entrance tube we had a pleasant potter through the upper section of the cave.  Nice formations and nothing taxing.  On the way out I wondered why I had been fussing. 

Nice little trip -thanks Mark for being patient.



New member
East Twin Swallet

Wednesday 30th September
Barry and Dani (crossing path's with Matt and Simon)

We went, we saw, we marvelled at the engineering.  A potter round most of the cave, bumping into Matt and Simon on our way out as they were heading in.  A quick chat with the SBSS diggers on the way out and then back to the Hunters where we met up with Matt and Simon again.


Brendan H

Swildon's Hole Upper Series, Sunday 4th October 2009

leader and sole participant: Brendan; call-out: Andy Sparrow

I arrived at about twenty minutes before the appointed hour in eager anticipation of a jolly crowd waiting to go underground with me, but instead found a jolly crowd waiting to go underground with someone else. There were about fifteen children, their rugged but kindly cave leaders, their plump mothers, and dopey dog, milling around in the area next to the changing barn, part of some kind of subterranean jamboree. A pair of local lasses on shiny ponies completed the picture of rustic familiar wholesomeness.

I waited stoically until twenty minutes after the appointed hour for some familiar cavers to arrive, but none did, so after arranging my call-out, I ventured forth alone. Well, not quite alone, as there were members of the aforementioned jamboree already in the cave.

There was very little water running through the cave anywhere, and the entrance series was almost dry. I eased myself into the cave, wondering what it would be like to be on my own, as this was my first solo trip. I decided to stay on the beaten path and not go to anywhere like Kenny?s Dig, in case anything went wrong and I needed rescuing but couldn?t shout for it. I know this does not earn me the Chris Lank award for solo exploration, but it?s what felt right for me at the time.

I went forward into the Pretty Way and took advantage of being on my own to meditate in the total darkness, in last bit high enough to sit up in. This was a treat in so many ways: to be able to meditate in a natural environment instead of a man-made room, to be able to meditate underground, and to be able to meditate with my eyes open, as I usually have to close them because the sight of anything, even in a darkened room, is very distracting.

I meditated for about ten minutes until the sounds of an approaching group brought me out of it. At first I thought they were advancing along the Pretty Way towards me, but it gradually became clear that they were down in the Dry Way. It was curious that the sounds seemed to come from their actual positions in space as they moved along, at first far off to my right and a bit below, then quite distinctly below and behind me, quite close, then moving away to my left, as if I could hear them through the rock. I would have thought that all the positional information in the sound would have been lost as it bounced through the passages between them and me. If anyone with a good knowledge of acoustics ?and phase coherency could shed some light (or even some phase-coherent sound) on the subject, I would be most interested to learn more about this phenomenon.

I then took the familiar route via the Old Grotto (where I meditated again) towards the Twenty Foot, but found it very hard going. My breathing was laboured and I felt weak, and I was strangely hot and sweaty. At first I thought that this was because of a lack of cave fitness, but laboured breathing suggests lack of aerobic fitness, not localised lack of muscular strength, and without wishing to blow my own trumpet (not that I had the breath to do so), can say that I do have good aerobic fitness, as anyone who saw me run the recent Bristol Half Marathon in my tutu will be aware. So I was a bit baffled by the heavy breathing, but pressed on.

I meditated again at the lovely chamber where back wall has a beautiful W in the rock strata where there are small back-to-back synclines and anticlines. I was distracted by thinking about how I would write the trip up and describe meditating in the dark, and I thought of making humorous references to the film the Descent, with its humanoid flesh-eating blind troglodytes who pick off the cavers when they are alone. (To those of you who do not practise meditation, I should point out that this is not what meditation is about, but such intrusive trains of thought do happen: Tibetan Buddhists refer to it as having a ?monkey mind?.) Anyhoo, once I had got to thinking about the Descent, I could not shake off the fear that a humanoid flesh-eating blind troglodyte was observing me from the back of the chamber. I felt very silly for even entertaining such a thought, especially in Swildon?s Hole, but the thought grew stronger and stronger, and in the end I just had to switch my light on to make sure. I pondered this long and hard, I can tell you, hoping to link it to my work as a therapeutic counsellor. I came to the conclusion that my resistance to silly fears was lowered because this was my first solo trip, and resolved to press deeper into the cave before I worked myself into a jitter and became a hazard to myself and a nuisance to the MRO.

I reached the waterfall, paused briefly, then headed back. I meditated again at the same place as before, and was troubled by the same fears.  How I wished my imagination was generating the impression that it was the human characters of the film ? beautiful athletic tomboys - rather than the horrid monsters, that were with me in the chamber, but it wasn?t.

I struggled out of the cave via the Dry Way, with a detour up the Wet Way as far as the Lavatory Pan, still puzzled at what hard work it had been, and how I entertained such silly fears. But I had enjoyed the trip, and I was glad I had had the change to have my first solo trip the familiar surroundings of my favourite cave.

Priddy Green was a bit quieter than when I had left, and the equestrian girls and their glossy ponies has been replaced by (or possibly transmogrified into) two old buffers in an immaculate cream 1930s MG. There were some more cavers in tatty oversuits getting ready to go underground, but for me it was time to go home.

Back in sunny Bristol, after a well-deserved lunch of pasta, a snooze, and stiff Rwandan coffee brewed in my new combined cafeti?re-and-mug, I logged on to the club?s Google group, and found a day-old message from Judi which explained my laboured breathing and weird anxieties: ?CO2 levels bad in Swildons?. So I?m not weak or mad, just a temporary victim of the physical and psychotropic respiratory acidosis. Phew!