Another Fine Mess You Have Got Me Into. - or - Faulty Steps Into The Unknown.

Years and years had been spent, with some success, around Morecambe Bay looking for caves by Pete Ashmead. Finally with no stone unturned — (well, a few tons of them), this farmer seeing him grope and scrape about told him. “There are loads of caves in yon wood.” Pointing to a wood in marshlands where no caves could exist. Anyway at a R.R.C.P.C. night Pete was ecstatic about the big entrance. The cave was at least 200ft, and the entrance was 3ft high and 10ft, wide but no one bothered to listen, as everyone knew it was a cave less area.

Saturday found, not huge groups, but myself all alone — no one else had turned up — not even Pete. A few hours later as two female cavers and a man who were R.R.C.P.C. arrived by chance, they were intending to visit Brakenthwaite cave. We went off to explore the new stuff, it was easier to travel underground than through the wood, but in true caving fashion we ignored about ten reasonable holes and looked at an insignificant clint in a low ten foot high rise above the ‘fen lands’; about the most cave less place that you could think of.

I think I picked it as it was the only one that didn’t have a bed of nettles in it! Unexpectedly a bit of digging and we were into a walking size chamber. I’d found a CAVE!! I dug a low arch out and entered two odd bell shaped chambers, quite unlike any normal cave — finding caves in silly places like this was getting like Rupert Sear tales. Then after moving a rock, there it was — you could see a real virgin white walking size passage. Side passages could be seen and the floor was unmarked, and there was one hell of a draught!

With great excitement we rushed in; a four way then a six way appeared, the main passage still walking size, all this never seen before, yet we were in a low rise only ten feet. above marshlands, it was mind blowing. We decided to get out before we got lost.
On exit, the fact that two women were about, made me change in the entrance, as well as the fact that a Peeping Tom farmer kept popping up from behind a wall looking at us. A bit of a cheek, after all we were only just feet from the public footpath and Pete had got permission hadn’t he? I though nothing of it as I wandered happily along the country lanes towards the bus stop and home. Suddenly my world went from Heaven to Hell — A landrover screeched to a halt and an extremely agitated farmer said; “Get into the back, or I’ll set the dogs onto you”. The dogs looked and sounded like the hounds of hell. So I thought that I had better humour him; I got into the back.

 “Do you know that hall the Westmoreland police are Looking for you?

I saw you with them others hide in that hole and change from boiler suits into ordinary clothing. You’re one of them — we caught two last month”. Oh God I thought. The farmer paused with anticipation; “You’ve escaped from yon open prison, Bela, they’ll lock you up now”. He stopped at a junction, he used a telephone to call the police. I looked at the dogs, the dogs sneered at me. We waited. Eventually one policeman complete with car, arrives; “Well what’s all this ‘ere then. We’ve not had any escape. What were you doing — out with it”. I told my tale. But the farmer said; “ Bugger off, I’ve lived here all my life, used to play hide and seek down that yon hole, there’s nothing there. You and that other man were down for hours!”

This really put the mockers on, I hadn’t even got a helmet to show, that I was a caver. Desperate I croaked: “I’m in the Red Rose, they help the cave rescues”

“Name some “. Said the copper. Well, have you ever tried to remember names? Especially when you have just joined a club. Eventually I remembered Jim Eyres and Jim Newton. (A wonder you weren’t immediately arrested. Ed.). A radio call to Lancaster confirmed there existence and membership. So — I was free.

Next Friday it was a club AGM and desperately in between nominate this and amend that, I got the message across, but not the permission problem. Well the next week I could not go, so yet again no one asked the farmer for permission, after all it was only feet away from the footpath. This time half the club goes. On their exit from the cave they looked like chocolate biscuits, due to the mud. The farmer, who just happened to be there was hysterical. “Bloody hell, why didn’t you ask if you could go in, it’ll kill you!

“What will, that little hole!” said Fred, eating his sandwich, with some odd looking dust on his hands. h

“That will — RAT POISON!”. Said the farmer pointing to Fred’s dusty hands, who promptly chokes on his sandwich and goes deathly pale! “I reckoned with that cave I’d found the hiding place of all me rats so I put poison down. Now it’s all over you lot!” This plus the incredible mud put most people off the cave. Indeed on this trip a ten foot wide crawl known as the M6, as everyone rushes to be in front, was found, that led to a chamber with an almost unique phreatic bridge. Our scientist in great joy, leapt towards this, his joy turned to horror as he sank rapidly in the (ten foot deep?) mud, it was just like a horror film. He clutching the bridge for dear life! Naturally Things happen in threes; a certain Roger, who didn’t bother asking for permission, on exiting head first from the hole was con-fronted by a horrified voice — Bloody Hell — I thought you were a -fox ! and saw inches from his eyes the business end of a twelve bore shot gun! How embarrassing that could have been
”FATALITY. ONE CAVER SHOT — MISTAKEN FOR ANIMAL!”

Exploration carried on, not without more interesting incidents! On one trip Duncan was in a ‘bell ‘ chamber in a state of such terror that he was almost immovable and was violently sick — it turned out that he was surrounded by huge spiders, -for which he had a phobia (indeed that cave has a special place in British bug sites.), I thought it was quite funny to see him in that state — but he had his own back.
There was at one spot two ways on — either a wet two foot grovel into this chamber or a six foot climb up and through a window and a drop known as the Lobster Pot. Encouraged by Duncan I had a go, only I decided that the tight drop was better done head first, especially as it was so difficult to get up. Anyway when I was halfway in I lifted up my long legs and suddenly fell head first down the tight hole, unfortunately my arms held out to slow my fall, shot into two phreatic tubes, leaving my body down the main middle tube so there I was, held upside down, in an underground crucifix, arms bleeding and Jammed solid!

It was quite easy for Duncan to slither through the duck and release  me, but the cold water put him off, (no wetsuits in those days). Being upside down, bleeding, in pain, and face and eyes popping with that extra pressure of blood due to two legs fulls
draining down ‘aint pleasant. The foregoing not improved by hearing your mate saying “I ‘d get wet, I‘ll pull you up by your trousers — oh dear! they seem to be coming off!
Soon after threats to murder him, I decided to knock some sense into him, and every time he got to the top of the climb, I kicked him off. Eventually squeezing up for a better kick I got an arm free then with a push and pull suddenly got free and shot down to the floor like a sack of coal. Lying exhausted in the mud I opened my eyes to see a body about to fall on me and a voice declaring — “It’s a lot easier feet first”.
Later Duncan pointed out to me the stupidity of stuck cavers threatening to murder their metes, but, on yet another surveying trip we decided on a severe trip. Duncan’s mate rolled a large boulder across the normal easy entrance, just to stop sheep falling in you understand. We thought nothing of this while we surveyed, struggling through rib cracking crawls and assorted mud baths all this dressed in woolies. The one good thing was, thankfully we wouldn’t have to return that way yes, you’ve guessed it, even with three of us the boulder could not he shifted. Well at least our mate had to come hack with us — we emerged like chocolate biscuits, with white eyes!

Others started to prospect and the Kendal had found Amazon Cave so named as it was low, wet, and seemed endless! We also found a dry endless crawl right by the road side (this turned out to be Hale Moss Cave found by RRCPC in 1954) . As it was dry Duncan my brother, and myself turned up but it rained heavily and as you couldn’t turn round untill you reached the end, it was an endless wat crawl after all. Back out and on the road Duncan’s skintight. jeans had shrunk, he just could not get them off, it ended up with Duncan clinging to a tree, moaning with pain as the pair of us heaved at full strength at his trousers, his naked legs getting frozen the while. All of a sudden around the corner comes this posh car on a grandmas Sunday outing, there was a squeal of tyres and a car full of shocked faces, how they managed not to crash I‘ll never know. Another episode that I will never forget!

Our final triumph expedition trip mess was to get the whole club to the 200ft Fairy Hole at Witherslack, that turned out to go no further than the guide book description. It’s mud duck was special, but so was the four foot deep mud bath which literally you could not get out of without the aid of a human chain! A chorus of ‘Mud, mud, glorious mud’ did not go down well that day.

Andy Walsh,

 

P.S.

The Hazel Grove and Hale Moss systems were formed under a post glacial lake near Beetham — the open prison is now disused and both caves are about a quarter of a mile long. A lot of the Hazel Grove system is now under a caravan site. As phreatic network caves they are insignificant to Deub Hole, one mile long, or Knock Fell Caverns two and a quarter miles long, or optimistically 100 miles long .

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