WIN 100m of SpanSet rope!!

The Old Ruminator

Well-known member
  "So for me it's the heady combination of rummaging around underground or digging to try and get underground and the indisputable, persistent camaraderie that caving generates, even when you are not spending vast amounts of time together - long may it continue!"

We like you too Vinylspike now the youngest member of our regular little group.



Well-known member
I first knew I wanted to get into caving after seeing 999 when I was 16 (anyone remember that old series) and some of the cave rescues on there and thinking caving looks awesome! Most people would be put off by seeing that especially what happens when it goes wrong but not me.

However, it would not be until I was about 25 in 2007 I would actually take up caving properly. I had done a few novice trips and always loved it and even abseiled 100m tethered to an instructor down a cave called the Lost world in New-Zealand (very scary at the time). I always recall my first trip with my current club being quite an easy one a romp round Ribblehead caves and I loved it Of course the easiness of the caves did not remain for long. I think by trip 3 I was abseiling down Lancaster hole despite being pissed scared of heights at the time. when I fretted I would be told "Don't worry there's no heights, it's depths".

The trips then continued in difficulty (the BRCC can defiantly provide the harder trips) from there and after a couple of years later I was going down places like Hammer pot. I must admit fecked up on that trip, it was way too hard for my experience level and I ended up getting stuck and CRO were called, though I eventually I managed to rescue myself However, this never put me off, as at this point in my life I had something to prove to myself, I wanted to show myself I am not going to give in I am not soft. This might be explained by my thinking at the time. Throughout my late 20s and early 30s I was still wondering if I was gay (I am of course) but at that time I believed all the stereotypes that being gay somehow makes you a wimp/soft and I thought if I can do the hardest thing I can think of that it would somehow mean I could not possibly be gay. That of course was all bullcrap and I could not be happier with who I am now, your sexuality makes no difference to your personality/toughness. Anyway, despite misguided reasons this effort to push myself did make me into the caver I am today, ready to take on most challenges, but as I have nothing to prove to myself anymore I may back off.

Lately I have been much more interested in exploration and finding places that no one has set foot in before, and I think even at the beginning I wanted to do that, it was the sense of adventure going where no one has been before. That sense of adventure always remained and keeps me going to this day.

So that's me and how I got into and stayed in caving in a nutshell.


Duncan Price

Active member
My entry into the world of caving is well-documented but there's more to it than "I was taken caving by a mate of mine."

My dad has a lot of blame on his shoulders - he took me down every show cave we came across on family holidays in the UK and abroad - Wookey Hole (only open as far as Chamber 3 in those days), Kent's Cavern ... Caves of Drac, Postojna.  His father (my grandfather) had been a shot firer in the local colliery but had been killed in an accident when my dad was 14.  We never really talked about it but I guess being underground was in the family blood though my eldest uncle (who had worked on the surface at the local mines) could never understand why I'd want to go underground for fun.  My dad had been at school with David Penrose (discoverer of Hillier's Cave - named after Gordon Hillier who was head of Norton Hill Grammar school which my dad and his siblings went to) - I think my dad had even been into the caves of fairy Cave Quarry - he had worked there after leaving school.  I spent my youth climbing trees and the rockfaces of local abandoned railway cuttings on the old Somerset & Dorset line but stayed out of the old tunnels.

Unlike my dad - who was good at sport, I wasn't but I liked being in the water or rather under it so when a local BS-AC branch was formed at the newly opened Midsomer Norton pool I joined and when I went to Exeter University I joined the sub-aqua club there.  During the summer break between my first and second years at university I was taken down Swildon's Hole by one Mike Wright (known to Pegasus) and refused to free-dive sump 1.  This failure has always irked me and as soon as I returned to University I joined EUSS where I quickly fell in with other members of the caving club and turned my back (temporarily as it turned out) on diving.  The rest of my spare time at Exeter was spent with the caving club and in holidays I'd visit the caves of my home on Mendip with Mike and his friends from Birmingham University where he'd gone to study.  Not wanting to get a job at 21 I decided to do a PhD. and got a place at Birmingham with a ready-made circle of caving friends in BUSS.

Aside from Mike (who now lives in Canada) there are many other graduates of that fine establishment that are still active in the caving world today but one in particular stands out as an additional influence on me - John Hunt.  John was studying physics but was always pursuing cave digs in various places - Winnats head Cave and some shakeholes on Llangattock.  We called these "John's futile Digs" until one of these "JFD6" (IIRC) located at the bottom of Southern Stream Passage in Agen Allwedd actually "went."  I was on that trip which changed me from a recreational caver to an exploratory one and the rest is history.

I'm sure my dad, Mike and John would like to apologise for their part in inflicting me on the caving world.
The streamway rages and disappears around a corner. It was definitely louder than I remember it. I look around at my companion for reassurance. He's several years my elder but new to caving like me, on his very first trip underground, and he seems uneasy too.

'Does this seem familiar to you?'
'Nope' he says.
'Let's backtrack, the others can't be far'.

We walk upstream again for a little while, unnerved by the larger-than-remembered underground stream. Is it raining outside? I can't remember it being rainy when earlier in the day, we walked under the towering, black limestone walls to the entrance.

Eventually I manage a feeble 'I can't believe we've missed the junction'.
'Let's see first if we can find it again'.

We pick our way through the boulders and cobbles of the stream passage and eventually, our dim lights paint a passage we recognise. Northwest Junction.

We have no map, but we know which way to go now and wend our way upstream, in the narrower passage leading back towards the cave entrance, and the promise of sunshine. Minutes pass, with the rush of water, the sound of sinking wellies into the water, deformed, and to our inexperienced ears, so much like voices of the rest of the group.

Where the bloody hell are they?

More caving now. After a couple of clambers, crawls and squeezes, we pass landmarks, familiar to us. And then, voices, for real this time. Lights. The rest of the group.

We realise what must have happened soon enough and have a good laugh.Our party had been split up in smaller groups, sent each on their merry way downstream and on the way back out. We'd been the second to last group, and we'd missed the all important turning, instead heading deeper into the cave than expected, into a stream whose force became ever greater. The last group, sheperding the small units moving through the cave had overtaken us and carried on, merging with the rest.

I'd joined the student cavers earlier that semester, and this was the first opportunity I had got to go underground, unsure of what to expect. The physical exertion had been on my mind naturally, as well as the possibility of finding constrictions a mental and physical obstacle - but I certainly was not prepared for some of the great walking or clambering passages that we saw on that first trip to Aggen Allwedd.

To get lost in that cave, with another 'fresher', ever so briefly, was a defining moment. It appeared that, using logic and observation, we could find our way back. I was reassured and immediately gained a confidence boost for going underground.

My commitment to caving was cemented later that evening, when, despite the bruises blossoming on our elbows and knees, we took part in the traditional caving games. I appeared I had some work to do before completing the table traverse, or competing in the pot&sling using advanced, expert level techniques. I vowed to be back!

Today, after eight years of caving, my interest is as high as it ever was, and one of the aspects of exploration I enjoy the most is the mapping and cartography. I can't imagine why.


Staff member
Thanks to every single caver who has entered this competition  :hug:

The posts are making great reading  (y)

For a chance to win the lovely SpanSet rope - entries for this comp need to be in by this Sunday  ;)

Due to all the entries, I'm inspired to run some more comps and have one lined up already, woohoo!


Active member
It'll come as no shock to anyone who reads my usual drivel on this site my first caving trips were on Portland.  I was fortunate enough to grow up on the lump of limestone hanging off the bottom of Dorset where caving, climbing, kayaking and sailing were the norm.  In fact all of the above were offered by scout groups, youth groups and even as regular outdoor ed. by the school in place of PE lessons.  As a teenager on Portland it was actual fairly difficult not to end up underground at some point.  My Dad being the local youth club leader and both a sailing and caving instructor no doubt resulted in perhaps more opportunities than most, however many of my early trip were not with him and instead with other local outdoor education leaders.  In all reality I was one of what I'd guess would be several thousand youngsters who were introduced to the sport on Portland during that time.  I'm sure my Dad alone must have taken hundreds of youngsters and numerous adults on their first trips.  Unfortunately I think I'm one of the very few of that era who've continued?  A load of nonsense in the mid 2000's over a 'loose rock in the ceiling' of Flagpole resulted in Dorset County Council banning the use of the caves for youth groups and so this route into the sport die many years ago now.  Back in the 1990's and early 2000's there were daily trips to Flagpole and Rubbish Dump.  Windy Dig, Sandy Hole and Cherty rift were also frequently visited but to a lesser extent.  I can't remember for certain which of the above was my first cave, however I believe I was about 11 having just started senior school.  I'd take a punt on it being Flagpole, but something in the back of my mind remembers walking to Sandy Hole from the scout hut.  What I do know is that out of my first 50 caving trips I suspect 40 of them where to either Flagpole or Rubbish Dump.  We didn't know what knee pads, elbow pads, undersuits, oversuits or wellies were instead caving in some old clothes, a boiler suit and trainers dragging heavy battery packs around on our belts connected to our lights by these damn annoying cables which snagged on everything (FX5's if I remember correctly).  They're far from inspiring caves and looking back it sounds a bloody awful way to cave, but obviously something kept drawing me back time after time.  I certainly remember asking to go again!  I remember one of the instructors showing me how the stalagmites at the end of Rubbish Dump glowed bright orange if you shone you light through them - that's my first memory of being fascinated by cave formations.  The next significant memory I had was Dad turning up with 10 yellow ecrin rocs with speleotechnic headlites attached - this was the end of battery packs and cables!  I'm certain having access to this kit me and friends could borrow was significant.  By the time I'd learnt to drive I'd already been leading trips with a few mates in the usual Portland haunts which I was fortunate enough to be able to walk to from my parents home.  I'd also had opportunities to experience caves elsewhere which included Goatchurch, Swildons, Lionels, Rods, Sidcot, GB on Mendip, Prid in Devon, OFD and Porth Ogof in Wales and infact already knew some of these fairly well.  I remember my first trip into Swildons, Lead by Gaynam who I'm still caving with on Portland now.  I think I was about 13 or 14 - he'd intended to do the Short Round with me but Mud Sump was completely flooded, so we reversed back to Tratmans and headed down to Sump 2.  Another highlight of my early caving days was the first time I abseiled into Ariel Cave (Portland) and completed the Blacknor round trip again aged about 14 - this time with my Dad and one of his colleagues and his son.  Once I could drive I was making fairly frequent trips to Mendip but then gave up caving for 4 years whilst at uni - other interests took over.  After uni, having sorted a job and home, I was back caving within a year or so and have never looked back since.  As much as I cannot say exactly what hooked me it was certainly in my early teens and the caves of Portland were key.  I've now caved in most parts of the country, seen some incredible places and met many incredible people, but those damn caves of Portland still draw me back time after time and I can't for the life of me understand why - as far as caves go they're bloody awful!



My introduction to caving was as follows?

I like to think I accidentally got into caving!  It all started in 2009, my partner (Tim Rose) had previously done a lot of caving and was taking some of his new colleagues on a trip and there were a number of offers for me to attend.  I declined each time stating I would be claustrophobic and hated the thought of it.  After a few trips I was a little curious about what it involved.  I only really wanted to know so I had an idea of what he was up to when he was ?going caving?.  I was told to come along and find out.  I was adamant I would hate caving and only really agreed to go so I knew what it was all about.  I think my exact words were??I will go, but I Won?t like it?!! 

With that the trip was planned for Tim and I and one of his colleagues, it was also his first trip.  We went to Goatchurch Cavern - the names of the cave baffled me and I remember there was a conversation in the car on the way up about sacrificing goats!! 

We kitted up and made our way up to the cave.  We did loops round and round including a wedgie inducing introduction to abseiling/lowering off a belt!  We had a lot of laughs during the trip and by the time we got out I was asking when we could go again next!!  So much for ?I will go, but I Won?t like it?!  Tim has tried to put me off since with many a trip to Portland but for some reason it hasn?t worked!!  I have now visited many caves across the UK, seen some amazing sights, met/caved with lots of different cavers and find the caving community a great bunch of people.  I have never looked back since and have often told people about my accidental start to caving when they say they don?t think it is something they could do!

The photo is the first photo evidence of me in a cave ? My 6th trip which was to Lionel?s Hole on the Mendips  :)


Well-known member
I realised I wanted to go caving after reading Casteret's "Ten Years Under the Earth" at the age of eight or nine. Unfortunately, I spent my teenage years commuting between East Anglia and the south-east coast and so opportunities to get underground were non-existent. Undeterred, when it was time to go to University I got out the map, and having estimated that Lancaster was the closest University to the number one caving area in the UK, off to there I toddled.

The Freshers Bazaar was an overwhelming sensory overload, but having walked past the 'Potholing Club' table three or four times, I eventually plucked up the courage and approached it. They didn't laugh at me, and when they discovered that I had an Austen Cambridge they positively welcomed me with open arms.

The first trip was Great Douk. I will never forget the frisson I experienced as Ingleborough came into view for the first time as we rounded the bend towards Burton-in-Lonsdale. Bernies was a mandatory stop in those days. Chock-a-block with mainly noisy young men, Bernard was keeping order with a firm hand, and Alice was continually emerging from the kitchen with yet more platefuls of perfectly cooked breakfasts.

When we got to the Hill Inn, the rain was being driven by a cold autumnal wind. Whilst the Big Boys (and solitary Big Girl) got changed into their wetsuits, we freshers got changed into our walking boots, second-best jeans, woolly jerseys and borrowed Texelex helmets and NIFE cells. We then made our way across the rain-lashed moor to the entrance, where a lively waterfall emerged. We clambered up into the cave, and I was immediately overwhelmed by the place. I was now certain what had been missing from my life.

The cave was pretty wet, and we had to get very intimate with the cold water as we crawled our way through to Middle Washfold, to emerge onto the rain-lashed moor. The Big Boys were then off to Hardrawkin, and the Big Girl (now my sister-in-law) was asked to take us back to the cars. At this point, I rebelled and insisted that I, too, wanted to go down Hardrawkin. After I had stamped my feet a few times, they reluctantly agreed that I could accompany them as far as the first pitch. Hardrawkin proved to be just as much fun as Great Douk. We got to the first pitch, and Mel Gascoyne, the head Big Boy, put a couple of ladders down through the waterfall, and set off down, only to re-emerge spluttering and coughing a few seconds later.

That was the end of my first-ever caving trip. I was cold, wet, and buzzing. Fifty-four years later, I am still going twice a week, and enjoying it as much as I ever did.


Duncan Price said:
My dad had been at school with David Penrose (discoverer of Hillier's Cave - named after Gordon Hillier who was head of Norton Hill Grammar school which my dad and his siblings went to)
David Penrose is perhaps ultimately responsible for me getting into caving, as it was he who first introduced my grandmother (also at the same school), with her first trip being Hillier's, the day after its discovery.
Not to be outdone by her little sister, my great aunt started caving too, meeting her husband of 70 years in the local caving club. I have their old carbide lamps in the sitting room, and my grandmother has promised me hers when she dies.

His father (my grandfather) had been a shot firer in the local colliery but had been killed in an accident when my dad was 14.
My grandmother's uncle was killed at the same colliery around the same time (really ought to check the records and see if it was exactly the same time). Nobody in the family has worked underground since then, but there does seem to still be some underground in the blood, with most of my generation caving (at least a bit) at one time or another.


Staff member
As always, many thanks to All who take the time and trouble to enter the competitions - and thanks of course to SpanSet for the prize.

Check out their website for all matters, Height Safety, Lifting and Load Control - equipment and training  ;)

I enjoyed reading all of the entries, so all make the 'shortlist' - my competition, my rules  ;)

Below are some of my favourite snippets.  So many of you touched on aspects of caving that resonate with me - friendship, pretties, helping photographers, being cold and muddy but still coming back, BUSS, the smell of caving gear, exploration, carbide lamps, Goatchurch (my first trip), Casteret (what a book) and meeting people through caving where 'the rest is history', eh Badlad  ;) - I did chuckle at ImperialCollegecaver and their love of mapping (as I'm blummin rubbish at drawing up surveys).

Caving should perhaps work more closely with (poach from!) the climbing community as many cavers find their way to the underground from climbing.

A special mention to The Old Ruminator for his beautifully written post ad to Franklin for the poem  (y)

Badger - one of my proudest moments has got to be taking a young quadriplegic cerebral palsy scout caving (see report Y&D on BCA website & the operation he had to be able to walk). The joy on his face was priceless and worth him receiving a piggy back ride from swildons to the wessex, not that he had any energy by then to walk 5 metres.
Such experiences I would never have had if it was not for caving.

amboman - ....entering territory where miners hundreds of years ago have descended with very basic equipment and candles and it feels like a little treasure hunt following in their foot steps....

nearlywhite - .....I never looked back, community with a shot of adrenaline!

Russell Myers - The talk beforehand was of the "big pitch" 110 feet on ladders. To a teenage mind 110 feet horizontal didn't look that far. Stepping off the top of the pitch onto the ladder I looked down and saw twinkly little lights but couldn't comprehend what I was looking at.

PeteHall - Within my first 36 hours, I'd been to 4 caves, I'd seen the huge Gorge in GB, I'd done my first SRT trip, I'd done my first ladder and I'd joined my first dig! By now I'd definitely got the bug! I later confessed to my climbing mates that I'd turned to the darkside and I never looked back.  :)

aricooperdavis - I'm absurdly grateful to EUSS for the chance to discover such a life-affirming sport!

Brains - the smell of damp caving kit reminded me of the experience

Henry.M - (Ok maybe I wasn't best pleased by the ice rain on Leck Fell, where we had just failed to find Notts Pot, but I still came back!)

The Old Ruminator - Yes I guess you have to find a reason to be a caver. A sadly misunderstood minority. That matters not. Its what you find in it that counts. How you fulfill your humble ambitions in an ever more complicated world. Caving provides simplicity, self awareness, challenges and escape. You can be the great explorer of caverns unseen, untrod and still be home in time for tea. Nothing else on this earth will give you that.

mrodoc - Then I met the Old Ruminator and the rest is history!

andrewmc - Long story short: it's all Ari's fault :)

JoshW - laid flat out in freezing cold water nagging me to keep his flashguns out of the water and pointed in the direction for 'just one more shot'

Franklin - Climbers Go Caving: Fragments from a distant memory - Bull Pot of the Witches, Early Spring 1980.

Low cloud, rain, snow melt;
Rivers up, path turns stream,
Crashing hole beneath trees, where
Rolling roar, spray and mist rise.

Steep path down, down deep rift
And down again to green light, fallen trees and falling river;
A gap: a vortex of water and too close rock,
Closer still and all wet, cold.

Rock falls back and opens
To depth width, height,
Stray shapes, shadows and glimpsed forms.
Earth all unknown.

The membrane slips away,
Below, contours drop into dark space:
Empty mountain,
There is nothing there.

("The die was cast"  ;))

Wardy - shortlisted but won't win! - The environment was all new to me, if it wasn't the water, it was the noise, if it wasn't the waterfall it was the spray, if it wasn't the climbs it was the pretties and if it wasn't the big stuff it was the squeezes, it was just so different.

vinylspike - Over the next 5 or so years within BUCC and also Cerberus and Wessex, that pattern of inclusivity was maintained and strong friendships created. We all looked after each other.

Alex - when I fretted I would be told "Don't worry there's no heights, it's depths".

Duncan Price - Not wanting to get a job at 21 I decided to do a PhD. and got a place at Birmingham with a ready-made circle of caving friends in BUSS.

ImperialCollegecaver - Today, after eight years of caving, my interest is as high as it ever was, and one of the aspects of exploration I enjoy the most is the mapping and cartography. I can't imagine why.

tim.rose2 - I've now caved in most parts of the country, seen some incredible places and met many incredible people, but those damn caves of Portland still draw me back time after time and I can't for the life of me understand why - as far as caves go they're bloody awful!

sgw105 -  We had a lot of laughs during the trip and by the time we got out I was asking when we could go again next!!  So much for ?I will go, but I Won?t like it?! 

langcliffe - I realised I wanted to go caving after reading Casteret's "Ten Years Under the Earth"

So over to

and the winner is Henry.M - congratulations!!

Please PM me to arrange collection/caver post  :)



New member
Hurrah! Thank you very much to Pegasus for running the competition (and the rest of the great UK Caving competitions!) and to SpanSet for providing the rope as a prize, I can assure you it will be put to good use!



Well-known member
Fishes said:
Would that have been the Young Ruminator at the time? Or has he always been old?
Younger but still a ruminator! I have quite a few letters he wrote to me when I was at medical school about he his digging activities and Mendip caving updates.