Author Topic: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19  (Read 531 times)

Offline benshannon

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Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« on: February 21, 2019, 08:15:01 pm »
When you think about getting stuck whilst going caving, you probably rarely think it'll be your van that gets into trouble. :-\

Well, as any typical NUCC trip, there was some hilarity pre caving. I pulled into the designated car park (read small mossy clearing) and as I went to turn around the van sunk her front wheels in. no amount of clever tactics worked and Jacob and Alex took a wander to the farm. Shortly  the farmer and son turned up in a pick up, hooked up to my van and pulled it so hard, the van spun 45 degrees and went flying backwards like it was as light as a feather. I had full brakes on and the pickup just kept pulling. luckily the farmer noticed the tree in time and crisis averted. we said our thanks and bid adieu, making no reference to the huge dead sheep in the back.

A short walk lead to the entrance that was completely covered in tree detritus. Jacob was extremely excited as this was the deepest cave in the county and not a single bit of SRT was required. I slid into the entrance tube first and was surprised that it was vertical for a long way down through boulder chokes and a really nice low ceiling bedding plane.

The boys were beside themselves as it was unlike any cave they had ever been in. In the first chamber we found a lot of rocks full of fossils and even a cute bat snuggling up for a nap. sliding down the rift we poked our heads into the various digs that were occurring along the way.

Jacob has a distinct squeak when he is excited and that came echoing up the rift towards me.
Jacob: "Theres a bloody frog"
Me: "A frog?!" 
Alex:"Yeah, or toad, maybe toad, its all warty."
Me: "What is this? the animals of farthing wood?!"

sure enough, a toad was just chilling on a rock. we carried on down another rift into another very cool and super sketchy section. It always makes me laugh at some of the things you see in a cave. There was a yellow sign saying "scaffolding incomplete" scaffolding???? i turn my head to the right and down. My torch illuminates a descending tube of scaffolding holding the route open. (Afterwards my wife looked at the photos.......concerned, she looked at me and said "and you thought this was ok?" I reply with a wide beaming smile and copious nods "it was mental"........."was it safe?" ..........."probably not")

Descending down i took great care where my feet went and what i pushed and pulled on. halfway down there is a loose section of scaffolding that you climb through and past. the clanking certainly makes you slow down and think very carefully. eventually at the bottom we had a really nice flat out crawl which led to a skinny yellow ladder. Descending this takes you to the base of another chamber. some more crawling leads to a pitch down with a knotted rope. descending this leaves you at the base of toad haul chamber. there is a tiny hole in the floor that we dropped through and made our way to the far end sump. The water was super clear and cave shrimp were mooching about, it was nice to just sit here and enjoy the view for a bit, we then followed the blue sphyon pipes through a wet crawl and made our way to the other sump.

we returned to toad haul and decided we would climb the pitch that had an unknotted rope which lead up high to a hole in the wall. this was a fun climb that was easy, but you definitely dont want to get it wrong. We were all a bit shocked at the state of the carabiners at the top and were thankful we hadnt needed to trust them.

we crawled through some tubes to an opening. jacob lead up the loose boulder choke climb first. i waited until he was a safe distance up, as i climbed up a microwave sized block moved and 3 big blocks came at me. i caught them and shouted to alex not to come this way yet. half trying not to fall (which wouldnt have ended well) and half trying not to let the rocks go and make things worse i managed to stabilise stuff enough to move on. suddenly some rocks moved up ahead and jacob had a large boulder coming at him. "we need to get out of here now" he said, we made a hasty retreat. (We think this was the tourist trap area)

the other way on had a huge unpassable hole in the floor. "we are going to have to go down the climb that we came up" Crawling back to the climb I sat at the edge, got my krab to the front of my belt, picked  up the rope and had a complete mind blank and forgot how to tie an italian hitch. i manipulated the rope making various cock and ball shapes until it all came back to me. i looked to the rusty krab to my left, and knowing the one at the top was broken i hoped that it would take my weight. i part climbed and part abseiled down, it was fun and i quite enjoyed the seriousness of it all. I tied my krab on to the rope so that alex could pull it up and use it.

We gradually made our return back up the cave. climbing the vertical scaffold "shaft" seemed to go on for alot long that i remembered. I had long left the boys behind and so i stopped to listen. it sounded like they were in a parallel shaft. "oh man, did i miss a turn?" i thought. no, there was only one way im sure. gradually the echoey voices got closer and closer and i felt happier.

I waved good bye to Barry the bat and continued to the surface. we were all buzzing and will be back again as there were plenty of other places to poke out heads. we noticed a red knotted rope descend off down a hole in the floor below and climb which looks like it needs an explore.


Quick change and back to Nottingham, i unwrap a cold mcds cheeseburger. Jacob looks at me in shock, "i dont know if my respect for you has gone up or down"

Offline SqueezyPete

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2019, 11:41:56 pm »
 Getting stuck in the parking spot for waterway swallet should be a rite of passage for NUCC, you're not the first :lol:

 Did you see the supposed fossilised tree bits? Beyond me to identify what they actually are but they looked cool, stumpy black stone things.

 I also distinctly remember doing a crawl that turned the trip from pretty much dry to wet, it was supposed to be a circular route back to the bottom chamber area but it had collapsed at some point, cue turning around and going straight back the way we came.

 Also, I absolutely recommend you do Notts 2 at some point if you like scaffolding, it's got the best bit of cave engineering I've yet witnessed for the entrance.

Offline benshannon

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2019, 07:09:19 am »
Yes we saw the bits that we thought were trees, it was really cool and definitely not normal rock that's for sure. We definitely got wet in a couple of crawls and had to turn back as at the end of a tube it had become a boulder choke so maybe that's the bit you mean?

Ah I'll check that out for sure  ;D

Offline amozzer

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2019, 06:20:33 pm »
Got 2 cars stuck 4 weeks ago,No one in at Waterings farm so called AA out they got stuck,Found help at Mount pleasent farm straight over the cross roads on right very nice chap sorted us out,Called back couple days later with big box of chocs as a thank you and all this before we went down the cave only got as far as the gallery due to time, Could you let me know is there still a handline in place to gain entry to toad hall

Offline benshannon

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2019, 09:30:44 pm »
Hi Amozzer,

Yes there was a knotted rope that descended to the floor of toad hall. 😁

Offline amozzer

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2019, 05:25:44 pm »
Thanks for the info  :thumbsup:

Offline Jenny P

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2019, 06:04:36 pm »
Re. getting cars stuck in the Waterways car park:

It's worth knowing that there was no access at all to Waterways for some years in the 1960's until DCA managed to agree a "way-leave" licence with Okeover Estate.  Under the terms of this licence (which DCA pays for and renews each year), DCA are required to fence off the cave entrance and maintain a stile there and to cover the actual entrance with a grille.  DCA is also responsible for maintaining the small car park which had to be created behind the hedge because the Estate did not want cars parked on the roadside.

The car park is a problem because DCA were not allowed to make it too obvious - so a smart new gate was out of the question - the decrepit-looking gate there now was deemed sufficient to deter casual visitors.  The hedge had to be trimmed back just sufficiently to make access possible for vehicles and some sort of hard-standing had to be created on the rather boggy ground.  This took a couple of lorry-loads of gravel originally and it has been re-surfaced at least twice since then - and lorry-loads of gravel don't come cheap - plus there is the hard labour of spreading the gravel to create a reasonably compact surface.

DCA has funded the work and cavers from local clubs have voluntarily put in the effort to maintain the car park: repairing the gate last summer, strimming the weeds which always try to reclaim the car park surface and cutting back the hedge last autumn.  DCA agreed at its AGM on Saturday to fund a lorry-load of limestone chippings to re-surface the car park once again and we'll be calling on volunteers to spread this.

It would help if cavers who encounter problems here contact DCA a.s.a.p. so that the site can be checked and remedial action taken if required:  secretary [at] theDCA.org.uk

Your help would be appreciated.


Offline Jenny P

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2019, 06:16:04 pm »
Re. the dodgy bolts and bits of knotted rope:

This was a flourishing dig until a few years ago when the club responsible lost interest and seems to have folded, leaving much of their digging kit behind.  There is still a deal of rubbish down there which needs clearing, although some has already been removed.

DCA is aware of the state of the bolts and is currently considering replacing at least some of these with BCA-funded resin-mounted bolts.  Another task for volunteers working for DCA on behalf of all cavers.

Good to know the cave is still used occasionally by bats - the bat-friendly entrance grille is obviously working correctly.

Offline benshannon

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Re: Waterways Swallet 20/2/19
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2019, 07:58:58 pm »
Hi Jenny,

Yes that car park is really bad, well, the main straight bit is great, the boggy bit to the left swallowed my van instantly. I appreciate that gravel doesn't come cheap and appreciate the fact that we have access to this cave.


the fence is fine, the grill is fine, the style however has rotten so badly that it is broken and on the floor, we had to carefully lay the plank on the rotten posts in order to not damage the fence.

It is a lovely cave and we will definitely be back. we were talking about a clean up actually as lots left behind. so all that digging has just stopped? that's a shame as there seems potential everywhere