(Or a brief encounter in Matienzo)

Jac the landrover had had a pleasant afternoon resting in Farmer Manuels field. He felt he deserved an afternoon off for it had been a long, tiring journey to Fresnedo from Matienzo and his little green oil light had stayed on all the way. In fact, he’d felt quite hot and bothered under the bonnet by the time he’d arrived and the boys and girls he was carrying never once stopped to see if he was alright. Instead, as soon as they arrived, they just took off all their clothes right in front of his headlights and ran off to play in Cueva de Freanedo.

Of course, JAC was used to such treatment and after a few hours he felt his old self again and even began to miss the boys and girls. And when darkness began to fall he started to wish that they would hurry back and fire up his little engine so that he could get warm again. He didn’t have to wait long. Soon, he saw their lights bobbing across the field and the next minute here they were, happy and smiling and covered from top to toe in sticky, smelly mud. They must have had some really jolly fun, thought JAC, as he listened to them chattering away:

‘Well bugger me, what a shitholel’ said the tall boy with the beard.
“I almost fell down that rift when you bastards left me behind!” said the Irish

“You’ve just been Fresnedoedl’ said the one called Pringle, waving an orange rubber glove in her face. As the boys and girls went on with their mutual back-slapping and bum-baring,

JAC listened excitedly to every word. Slowly he pieced together what had happened …….

The entrance, it seemed, was a bramble covered gully in the middle of a field and, once inside, there was an immediate delay as a stream of oaths flowed from Candy’s mouth in the direction of her Petzl Ariane. Most unladylike, and totally ineffectual toot. Continuing on one of her five spare torches (all strapped to her helmet) she caught us up in a wide, low, mud lined tunnel. Lots of nice crawling in slime led to a little nice walking in slime and lots more nice crawling in slime. Hang on a minute, we hadn’t come all the way to Spain for this sort of grot? Pringle smiled evilly and disappeared U a crawl...

True to form, on reaching an obvious large hole in the floor the way on was an easily missed tight squeeze into plenty more squirming and grovelling until a bit of respectable passage saw us on our way to a big cross rift. Here began an interesting mud traverse who’s depths almost claimed the short arses in the party. Neil got a good ticking off from Ange for leaving her behind, but worse was to come when, having just recovered from this knee trembler, the cry went up from in front - “It’s a duck!” Yes folks, winter floods had left their mark by filling up a normally dry tube with much agua. This seemed to please Pringle no end, and he had to be forcibly restrained from wallowing in this trough like some demented piglet. Soaked to the skin we now reached an active inlet over flowstone and replenished watertanks before climbing up into a large dry passage for a short romp to a rope. Out came the SRT gear for a quick shin up 70ft into the upper levels.

An interesting little incident with a moral now took place. As Neil prussiked up, there was some discussion as to how to get the crowbar up safely. Ange didn’t want to spoil her new tackle bag with sharp bits of metal, so Hugh tucked the crowbar into his harness and set off up. All went well as far as the rebelay where, in swapping ropes, he sat back on his cows tail. This manouevre swung him against a mudbank and, yes you guessed it, out popped the bar! ‘BELOW!” Although the others had retired to safe cover, the walls of the pitch conspired to deflect the missile into ‘locked on” trajectory, whereupon it glanced off Ange’s bum and impaled itself 9 inches into the sandbank between her and a surprised Pringle! This speaks volumes about Ange’s bot, or maybe Hugh’s accuracy with the ‘arrers. Lucky escape, though, and the moral is _don’t be a precious tart about your new handbag! (alternatively, don’t give me any trackle to carry!!)

We were now up in the Knotted Rope extensions, so named after a rather unusual formation. Apparently, the first explorers came across this phenomenon and shouted to their companions a”Hey, someone’s been here before, there’s a knotted rope hanging down!’ In fact, this is a long stal of rope thickness with a curiously frayed crystal end, and it’s more like a knotted rope than the real thing! If it was Ease Gill, some pillock would have tried to climb up it.

Not far now to our objective, That Chamber, to look at some bolting and scaling leads. Don’t ask me how to get there, but I think you follow Which
Passage to What Climb and then go down This Crawl into That Chamber (lots of fun when other folk are asking how to find it!) Here we marvelled at the open passages in the walls just waiting for a Bosch. Over in the other corner of the chamber (i.e several hundred feet away - it’s big!) were a couple of 30m pitches which I think Pete Hall has been down (Pete?) and more avens than you could shake a scaling pole at. Shocked by the variety of goodies on display, we sat down for some jock and it was pronounced that Candy’s ‘Chocolat a la Fresnedo Duck’ was preferred to Ange’s ‘Dates con Loctite”. A quick look at Z dig, which didn’t seem worth the shovel work given the open pickings in That Chamber, and then we were on our way out. At the top of What Climb, Neil and Hugh explored an inlet crawl to a too-tight section with a good echo - maybe going back into That Chamber or one of the open leads?

A retreat was then made in good order and no more accidents with crowbars. The route out seemed a lot shorter now it was all familiar territory and soon we were back through the squeeze and into the slimey entrance crawls to emerge
steaming through the brambles after an excellent 7 hour trip. Despite the mud, Fresnedo had won us over!

Now the boys and girls had finished dressing and JAC felt the bump and crash of gear as they loaded up the back and jumped in. His eyes shone brightly on the field as, backfiring merrily, he made a sweeping turn into the track and bounced off along the ruts. Suddenly JAC saw him. Twenty hands high was the horse, proud and stately, glossy brown flanks gleaming In his headlamps, black eyes burning into JAC as they faced each other In the narrow lane. JAC stood his ground, heart beating nervously on a faulty tickover, his little green oil light flashing furiously. What would happen? The horse breathed steam from its nostrils, whinnied and pawed at the ground, majestic and frightening in the moment before charging. Golly gumdrops, thought JAC, wishing he’d had an MOT and a service. But it was too late now. He pulled himself together, grated into first gear and revved up, wondering who had the most horsepower.

But, just as he was about to drop his clutch and jolt forward, the horse reared
into the air and leapt up the bank, laughing and tossing his mane, eyes flashing, teeth smiling as he waved them by. And then JAC realised; it was his old chum Champion the Wonder horse! - they hadn’t recognised each other in the dark! JAC tooted as he went by and Champion waved his tail excitedly. And so the trip to Fresnedo ended and they all lived happily ever after and all that horse shit. (Well, you’ve got to fill up these newsletters somehow!)

Hugh St Lawrence

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