Subterranean Homesick Blues.

A nostalgic but somewhat dispirited atmosphere wavered uncertainly above the two pints of ale sitting on the table-top of a Cambridge pub. I had run into Chris Wilcox a few days earlier and we had decided to meet and drown our similar sorrows with a large quantity of the local, strong brew, Abbot.
“Awful, isn’t it,” I sulked, not taking my eyes from the jungle fresh peanut that was slowly sinking to the Davy Jones of Chris’s pint.                                                                                                       . “Yeah,” said Chris.                                                               .                                                                                                                 “I mean us being down here, and them up there with all those caves.”                                          .
“Yeah,” said Chris, tracing another dimple on his pot.                                                 .  
Crikey, the nearest hole is twenty miles away - and that’s a man made flint mine,                              .
“And tourists.”                                     .                                                                                                                                       Same again, please, landlord.                                          .
Two beautiful nymphette undergraduates from Newnham sat down beside us and jiggled their provocative, regulation, under graduate bodies. But I simply stared at the peanut and Chris farted. There’s only one remedy for the subterranean homesick blues.                                    .                                                                The long awaited return to the fray finally came off on the weekend of the auction, though not before Chris’s new Datsun had delivered a deadly karate chop to a big bow wow & suffered an internal hemorrhage of the radiator. With a fresh cooling system installed it took us only three & half hours to reach Andy’s place at Leyland, where we spent an hilarious evening with Tina (but, that’s another story.). We were up early the next morning and after brekkers packed the Datsun, while Andy selected a suitable motor from his string of thoroughbreds. He must have picked the wrong one for we spent the ensuing hour ascertaining why the cylinders were full of water (and that was his BEST car. Finally on the road and we followed Andy’s mobile geyser up the motorway, and so to Kirkby & the farm, Bob Stevens was in residence, so with four of us and tackle it was a straining car that crested the hill into Kingsdale, where Chris had a score to settle with Bull Pot. It seemed he thought he once visited it with Leicester University, but wasn’t sure. Probably an  illusion. I remember them as a bunch of nutters who would orbit roundabouts in Bradford in an old Transit as the driver pulled on a bottle of Newky Brown, Quite disorientating!

After swapping attire in the crisp sunshine, we set off up the hill; hard work for two from the fens. I was glad to find my sense of direction was still keen and we stumbled on the entrance at the first attempt. it was however, laddered - several times over. Andy gave his usual sermon to the unfortunate s below, while the rest of us cast about for an alternative. Someone suggested Jingling, but Chris excused himself with his arms and hid under the same umbrella. Soon we had a seventy five per cent unanimous vote to tackle Heron Pot, so it was off dowr the hill again with Andy moaning behind us. He was all for jacking in when we reached the car for a tackle reshuffle so I donated my electric for a quick antidote to his most esteemed excuse, “the light failure”

By virtue of that famous, all British trait called queuing we didn’t even need to look for this entrance. So we spent the time saved in devising a little flood pulse for the preceding party who were heaving their collective bodies into the cave like an old slug. At last the entrance unblocked itself and we piled in. A narrow rift, the colour qf Cantab bitter soon pressed us onto hands & knees in a pebbly crawl,. which I found rather hard after the carpet at work. But as more & more inlets were passed the passage enlarged and, in typical Yorkshire fashion, we shortly joined the main stream in a sizeable canyon. This fine passage continued for maybe a quarter of a mile, with little relief but a few cascades here & there, until the sound of the twin pitches rumbled ahead and we experienced that old British trait again.

By a stroked pure genius, topped off with a dash of daring, I pioneered a traverse along the top of the rift which, after a few airy moves, lad to an ideally exposed platform from which to ladder the two pitches as one and so bypass the “nig—nogs”. (How’s that for a “Novice”, Graham, or “That old retired caver”, Jim?) With a perfect belay to hand, we were soon laddered up and Andy dispatched. I was next down, and after failing to make Bob understand that he had to wait for our return (the rope was too short for a double line.), Andy bawled, “Well ?@/? you then,” and we set off in pursuit of the busy stream as it crusaded toward daylight. Much more interesting was this section of the cave, both in architecture & atmosphere - a little depth works wonders on the senses. We were still running into bodies, however, and as the passage lowered to the wide bedding plane of the final crawl, it was some wonder the water level hadn’t risen by Archimedes Principle. Andy now baulked in his dry kit, and I was left to weave my own way through the pedestrians and reach day1ight via that delightful little earwettor at the end.

After revitalizing my carbide with the magic words, “Come on you little, sod”, I re-entered the cave, to the amazement of those who had just issued from it, and beat a hasty retreat along the pebble driveway, passing Chris & Bob who were now on the last leg of the pilgrimage. The pitch was very satisfying— a little short, but damp enough in the lower half to keep me amused. It certainly beats the orthodox route, and one ladder is easier to rig than two. Bob & Chris returned after a short wait and we then had the usual de-tackling fiasco as Andy insisted on marshalling the exercise, i.e.“Here
pas us that end of the rope....  not that end, dummy, the other....  what?....   why did you throw it down the pitch?.... Chris, will you stop standing on the belay.... look, Hugh, there’s only room for two people,. so will you @;!? off....  pass us the end of the ladder will you, Bob....   Bob, I said will you pass us the end of the ladder.-..FOR @;!? SAKE BOB GET A GRIP....just a minute, who’s got my crab?....” etc. etc.

Once on the way again, an exit was quickly effected to a soft lit evening which fast turned to night as we changed by the roadside. A swift pint in the Shoes, then it was back to the farm for some beer, having first lined our stomachs with fish & chips. The auction was a .raring success and I got a snippet in a pair of wellies (ex-Newton Enterprises) that I was able to baptise in the cesspit the next morning. Chris was, braver still and went on a Top Sink- Lancaster trip on Sunday, but that’s his story to tell. All in  all an excellent weekend, and a sure cure for the subterranean homesick blues. I’ll be back for a bigger dose next time,

H.St Lawrence

Back to Contents