The Top Sink Saga (1967)

Act 1 - The Heather Affair       by Sandra Kilburn.

Heather, Eccles’s girlfriend is the instigator of the Top Sink saga. It began on January 8th, when kitted up with our gear at the baths we were waiting for Eccles to arrive with the lights. As it was getting late we decided to phone him but as mummy and daddy were away Heather and Eccles decided to play. He told us it was too Icy to go potholing!?!What to do?

“Let’s have a look at Top Sink.” said an ambitious Ron, and to his amazement we did.

It was freezing on the fell and to the curses of “Chicken Eccles” were being replaced by “Well we don’t have to change thanks to Eccles”- (who’s Chicken?)
Diggers in hand we removed many stones from the side of the shakehole and then started downwards. There was three boulders in the bottom of the hole and peeping round the bottom of one of them was a deaded sheep, but being very cold its perfume was nonexistent and so we carried on, We tried a few times to pull one of the boulders out but as there was only Ron, Mel, Mick, Hodge and myself we were unsuccessful. Deciding we could do no more Hodge and I dug a trench to carry some of the water away from the hole. Our digging was beautiful, like a miniature Manchester-Liverpool canal. There was of course the usual remark,

“Where are you Digging tomorrow Paddy?”

Act II - The Rotten Sheep Affair

At the club the following Friday everyone was amazed. “No it can’t be, never, we are the Red Rose. They will be classing us with the Pennine next.” It seems that digging in our club is against its religion, but the shock must have been too much since we found more volunteers for next Sunday.

This time by the amount or gear we were carrying over the fell one would have thought that it was the “Manchester-Liverpool Canal” we were building. Winches, stakes, crowbars, 14lb hammers, chisels, ropes, diggers, iron ladders, electron ladders- the lot! We were definitely digging today Paddy.
The first big boulder we had not even attempted, was chiseled into two pieces and easily hauled up the side. The second one was pulled up by the winch making it look like childs play compared to the previous weeks sweating and straining.
I have omitted to say that the weather was very mild, more like a spring day. This was not important until we began to move the last boulder. That’s right, the one with cold sheep under it, only it was not cold anymore.

Whether Jim Newton does not breathe like us or he has lost his sense of smell I do not know, but he deserves a medal. Up and down he carried that stinking smelling, rotten, disembowelled sheep to another resting place. No-one was too eager to pull the boulder over the top as the sheep had left its mark.
One or two more boulders were under these but they were moved with no effort and after some prodding with the crowbar the hole fell through, nearly taking Jim Newton with it. Everyone dropped their tools to try to be the first one down, but as Andrew was the first one kitted up with the light he cannot turn off, he won. As usual Andrew would not answer any of our impatient questions to the extent that we thought that he had got lost down there. Then he emerged saying something about a crawl which had silted up and could he please get out. I have never seen anyone so eager to get out, his feet scrambled on the iron ladder so fast that he looked like a Yogi Bear cartoon, and was followed out of the hole by his lifeline. We then concealed the entrance with wood and left for refreshment.

Act III - The Up and Down Bucket Affair

During the following week a frame was built in Mel’s garage, with the help of Jim Newton, Eccles and Andrew. On the next Sunday the same parade of digging equipment was hauled across the fell with the addition of two oil drums and a frame. Jim Newton arrived there first with his size 10 boots- the sides fell in and we were back to square one. Mel started to erect the frame (chicken coop) and the rest of us started to clear the rubbish blocking the way. Forming a human chain gang we began “Red bucket up, Metal bucket down.”

We began to see some sign of clearance after a while and so we inserted the frame. Now clear to the crawl. Metal bucket down the shaft trying to maim the person below, while I was unfortunate in having the red plastic bucket. When I did hit someone below it bounced off with no effect. We cleared the way by mid afternoon and a party was able to descend this near virgin pot. The few who were left secured the frame with timber and angle iron, and then with big rocks. Finally we laid sods around the entrance to help bind the lot together.

Act IV - The CRG Extension Affair     by Mel Wilkinson

A large party returned the following weekend to attempt the first trip through from Top Sinks to Lancaster Hole and we were also honoured by the presence of our illustrious president. Seeing as I was the only one present who had been on the original digging weekends to descend from the Top Sinks entrance, I was unanimously elected to descend first, followed by Jim Eyre, Frank Croll, Ron, Reg and his mates. All went well until the first pitch when exposure suits were immediately put on by Jim and myself, to help us on our way down. On reaching the second pitch much searching was ordered for belay points and Jim reached down the pitch to retrieve a very old iron ladder which was jammed in the rock. After placing it across the passage we were able to proceed down to Penknife Pitch, and out of the spray for the last time. Exposure suits were then discarded and placed at convenient points for the party coming the other way. After everyone had arrived at this point we all moved off towards the crawl and on to Nagasaki and Easter Grotto; all except Frank that is who had some business to attend to and followed on later.
After sliding down he fire escape we met the party coming from Lancaster Hole who, on meeting us here were quite confident of reaching Top Sink within a couple of hours. However Andrew and Hedge, the “Tigers” of the team had nearly run all the way from Lancaster Hole and the party was glad of the rest at Easter Grotto. After parting company we proceeded on our way and were soon to reach Stop Pot and then the Minarets with our first real rest, followed by a very interesting chat on the usual subject- sex. We were really in high spirits at this time with prospects of a “good time for the trip” although this only occurred to us when we surfaced (4.5 hours). however our friends going in the other direction had not had the same success as we had encountered and after searching upstream from Limerick Junction for the way forth eventually had to give up and return to County Pot, their only success being Lancaster Hole to CRG Extension and back to County Pot in 8.5 hour (CRG Extension? Where did that come in?)


Meanwhile back on the surface we were beginning to get worried and Jim and myself together with Frank Croll, Sandra and Rose walked back over the fell to ladder County Pot with thoughts of CR0 callouts in mind. However we met them emerging from the first pitch in County Pot after a brilliant climb out. Howls of laughter followed tainted with relief followed later around the beer-stained tables.
The following weekend they were sent down again, this time from the Top Sinks end; not only to find their way but to recover two wet exposure suits.

Not altogether a quiet trip but very enjoyable, for some anyway.

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