Ashnott Hole.

Once upon a time cavers used to read their bibles for inspiration — the bible being Pennine Underground. The hol(e)y caver would go pot bashing until every hole was done, others would leave no stone unturned and read for stones to turn — “ends in possible dig”; “Flake blocks way on” “this passage may go further”.

One new addition was Ashnott Hole 800t. long. Complex, several levels, moderate cave. NGR 693462. Bowland Forest. — What was this? Needless to say when we did arrive in the “Rupert Bear” country the 6’ by 4’ entrance was missed, instead we found ourselves in a small crawl in the Quarry Diggings at an upward choke of baked beans cans. Soon we went up and over into an odd complex place with a tiny twisting passage to a phreatic dome; basically it was an odd mix. Later we found an original explorer who produced a survey of a mile long maze over three levels in a 300ft. triangle — the place was an old Zinc, Lead, and Calamine mine in reef knoll limestone. A
fascinating place, but not environmentally friendly — chickens at the farm had died of lead poisoning, and two children had nearly died of C02 poisoning — saved by firemen and respirators.

Armed with a survey we soon found the easy way in; it was complex but amusing — the upper level was found by descending it’s only shaft via a vans chassis. Then up a parallel shaft via eyeholes into complex passages. Indeed several passages were connected by small holes punched through the inches separating parallel passages. Further down in a large cavern, good passages could be seen, but these were out of reach. (more later).
Eventually via a short horrible choice of two timbered passages — ie: you ran through whichever may fall down tomorrow. These continued to the drainage level. This drainage level was a passage with a railway line — wooden rails — tipped with iron. Unfortunately after a few hundred feet a small chamber and a few rocks blocked the way on — almost certainly an easy dig for a through trip. Below the farm we found the drainage level adit — hidden directly under a tree in a small wood, a tiny stream emerged. Not wanting to be gassed we did not go to the end, only to the heavy panting stage. Pity we never dug the other end it would not only be a good through trip, but may of free’d the adit of gas? Also of interest were the Senite needle like crystals -from the shaley rock.

Somehow on visiting the local rock shop at Slaidburn, the owner persuaded us to take her two sons down, we improved on this by getting them to take a 30ft. long builders ladder dawn. This proved fairly easy to get down — aluminum bends — besides they were after (dare I say it) minerals which may be worth more than the ladder. Soon we put the ladder up to the entrance passages. Good easy passages followed to a huge chamber — and — guess what — joy -- till we saw rising up in it’s centre the nice shiny aluminum ladder (don’t look for it now, we managed to get it out.)

Although not a major cave or mine area some success occurred — in 1670 Pudsley found enough silver to mint his own shillings. Other systems exist, one interesting place is the Victorian tunnels and aqueducts at Whitendale 660 — 550 which would be a good trip with a wet suit and lilo in and out of tunnels with a very fast stream and over an aqueduct, but if you miss the last entrance you end up as brown tap water at Manchester; possibly flavouring a flask of water at a BCRA lecture or the local beer — it does taste of cavers socks.

Andy Walsh.


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