Peak Cavern.

Mel Penn from Stockport Caving Club owed me a few favours so I asked him to arrange a trip down Peak Cavern.

“Sunday, 10.00am. in Castleton main car park - it’s the last one for the Year”.
Peak Cavern is situated in the centre of Castleton in Derbyshire. The cave is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and is run as a show cave from March until October each year. T.S.G. (Technical Speleological Group) handle access arrangements for cavers on behalf of B.C.R.A.

It was all being arranged in a hurry so I started to make phone calls - lots of interest but Derbyshire just seems to much to far to some people so I ended up with a motley crew of me and Keith Wright, two from Rotherham C.C. and three from Stockport C.C.
What they ‘don‘t tell you’ is the access rigmarole. Sundays only, then you have to report to ‘the TSG hut - it looks like a garage - then you hive to sign a disclaimer to the Duchy of Lancaster (an INDEMNITY CHIT) – then this has to be witnessed - then you pay your 10p fee. TSG send one of their lot in to check the water level and he comes back and says it’s OK - we are go for peak.

All the gear is carried up to the show cave through the first iron gate and you get changed actually in the show cave entrance. It’s the biggest cave entrance I’ve ever seen. It’s just like a cliff face. There’s a jolly atmosphere about getting changed all along the walkway. All this grunting and groaning as these past it middle aged cavers tried to stuff themselves into wetsuits. Corsetts and condom words abounded.

Eventually we are all stuffed in our suits and are walking down the wide concrete path through the second iron gate and into the show cave proper. The entrance chamber is 330ft. x 102ft. x 60ft high. Still following the visitors path by the river Styx to the Great Cave, l5Oft. x 90ft. x 60ft high, and beyond to the five arches and where the show cave ends at the junction of Buxton and Speedwell water passages. Down through the ducks with 12ins. of air space and along the passage to Surprise View which comes out about 2Oft. above the main stream passage, but with a fixed chain and iron ladder in place. The main stream passage can be followed down a very impressive cave tube which is very sporty in wet weather - especially with all the boulders in the water.
Upstream leads to a high impressive passage to triple water falls at Squaw Junction and Wigwam Aven. Eventually having climbed various boulder piles we reach the far sumps. When the sump was first dived it went for 1300ft. and when the diver got out beyond the sump he found footprints - eventually this was sussed out as some old mine workings that had been blocked off and forgotten about near Speedwell Cavern.
So we make our way back poking about in all the side passages - Keith managed to brag and free dived an 8ft. sump with a guide line. The rest took a Pippikin type by pass.

At one point in a passage we met this T.S.G. guy who was very involved in plumbing a bedding plane water supply and piping it into clay block passages and hosing them clean. We were very impressed with the level of caving engineering from the T.S.G., but that happens to be their forte.

(Why don’t we do something like this, obvious places for a hydraulic ram would be the far blocked passage in the Maple Leaf area of the Earby Series). Eventually we are approaching the show cave series and the iron gates and it’s grunting and groaning ourselves out of our wetsuits. Later we all went for posh cream teas in Castletons up market Bernies - ever so twee.

Jim Birchall.

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