A Derbyshire Weekend

Neil Pacey, John Watson, Dick Wade, Frank Hardy.

Dick and I set off at 3pm on the Friday afternoon, traveling in Dick’s none too reliable Reliant 3-wheel? car? Dick told me the route he had planned, which went via Bradford and the Ml, (there are statistics, damned lies, and lies ed.) this was scrapped within seconds and the M6 was suggested. Not wanting to spend the whole weekend traveling around Manchester in circles, we ended up taking the country lanes to Blackburn, Huddersfield etc.

I commented on how well organized it all seemed, but, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Progress was slow, owing, in the main, to crawling caravans, and roadworks. These problems were compounded by thick mist as soon as we neared Derbyshire. It was obvious that our early start was for nought.

The plan was to meet Frank at the youth hostel in Edale at 7.00pm., sharp. We eventually arrived at 8.30, an hour and a half late. We expected Frank to have already checked in, but on arrival there was no sign of him, just a telephone message saying that he had had car trouble but was on his way.

We checked in, and, wonderful to relate, after food, purchased a pint of beer in the hostel. We then discussed the advisability, nay, necessity of visiting the local pub. We were just setting off when pantomime like; out of a cloud of smoke, accompanied by many loud bangs, appeared a yellow car. It hiccupped up the hill and expired with an even louder bang in a parking spot. Frank had arrived four hours late.

The plans were to go down Giants Arse Hole, as we were informed was its correct name, on the Saturday, and P8, or Jackpot on the Sunday. After a minute breakfast, we made an early start and set off to meet John Watson, our Derbyshire host, at Winnets Pass near Castleton. Franks trusty mobile broke down several times enroute, and we ended up pushing it into a handy garage. We unloaded all his gear and loaded it into Dicks car, aptly named ‘the Tardis’

We met John and his mate Mick at the top of the pass, and then followed them down a farm track to near giants hole. The Giants Oxlow system is the deepest cave in England with a maximum depth of793ft. The large entrance leads to a nice’n’easy walking sized passage to the head of the first pitch, Garlands Pot, 20ft deep into a large chamber. After John and Mick had taken their time rigging it, we all descended with Mick self lifelining last. The Crabwalk followed next, 2,258ft. of sideways struggling, similar to Wretched Rabbit but a little bit tighter in places. Making sure that I had my priorities right I entered this in front of Dick. This passage became a sick joke after some time and came to be exceedingly boring. Eventually the cave began to change shape, passages got larger with plenty of cascades. We stopped off at the Eating House for a bite to eat. This was followed by the muddy

Lower Siphon Series to emerge 20ft. above a stream passage.We travered at roof level for some distance until we came to a small passage leading to the spectacular Geology Pot. This 40ft pitch is a smooth circular shaft, even Dick commented on it being a nice ladder climb.
From here on is where the fun starts, there are several extremely wet, wild, sporting cascades each one being between 15ft - 2Oft deep, a handline was needed on one or two of them, these were fixed. A duck followed, in water about chest deep on the rest of the party, but neck deep for me. This entered the East Canal, with Frank deciding to go for a walk in the sump, but he soon ended up swimming when he realised that he couldn’t touch bottom, then Dick did his impression of a floating elephant. (ah but you should have seen my whale impressions of a year or two ago. Ed.) The canal is in a huge rift and there was foam about 20ft. above our heads, not a nice place to be in when it rains. We were now 520ft below the surface.

On the way out instead of going via the Crabwalk we went up through the Giants Windpipe Series to see the pretties in the Hanging Gardens. John showed us the start of the horrific crawl through to Oxlow, once started on this there is no roam to turn around. We had trouble stopping Frank going down it. This part of the cave contains some nice formations with calcite flawing everywhere.

The next pleasant surprise was another duck, this time in a crawl, float on your back and blow bubbles in the 3m, air space, what a pleasant pastime. This passage emerged in the raoof of the Crabwalk, about half way along it. Dick dropped a rope and we used his figure of eight to descend.

We returned to the cars and as we were changing the farmer came over and asked us far a pound apiece. Still an enjoyable sporting trip, even if it does cost you a quid.
We stopped in Castleton far a cup of tea, and met the country’s next female discus champion, John was nearly decapitated as she flung the menu at us. Frank decided to check on the arrangements for our nights lodgings, just as well, another cockup!
We were too late to book in. he disappeared again then later informed us that we could get in the youth hostel in Castleton.

After a meal we found a very pleasant pub and Dick was just settling down to a serious nights drinking when I decided an a Pacey’s pub crawl. This didn’t please him and he spent the night lecturing me on my immaturity and lack of appreciation of ‘real pubs”. Still a good night was had.

On Sunday we met up with John and went down P8 or Jackpot, a short trip with the enjoyable parts being a wet first pitch, followed by a deep canal, further on in the cave. Frank wanted to follow this canal upstream past a sign saying ‘Danger water 15ft. deep’. The sides of this passage became extremely smooth and wide, in places my legs wouldn’t reach the wall, but John and Frank continued and came to where the water rose. The hydrology in this cave is complicated with a total of six sumps.
We returned home via the motorway in two hours, rather better than the five hours taken to get down there.

Neil Pacey.                    Back to:  Contents