Volume 34 Number 3 Article 1
Hidden Pot - (and Hidden Sheep)
Monday 21st July 1997
No one goes down Hidden Pot; its just somewhere you go past on the way to Lancaster Hole. Its a large shakehole on the left, near the path, about 40 metres past Bull Pot of the Witches. Its vertical at the path side (10 metres), but slopes down in three big steps on the far side, where a drainage ditch enters. No tackle is required to climb down a grassy slope on the right. There's some metal piping which serves no purpose. At the bottom of the shake hole is a small oval slot which is just big enough for a sheep to fall through. The slot is 2 metres deep and opens into a tomb-like, choked chamber, 3 metres long. That's all there is - Northern Caves 3 says that it once linked into Bull Pot of Witches, but no longer. It's not nice, full of old rubbish, cans, etc., and a strong smell of sheep. Northern Caves also describes it as 'fenced' (which it isn't), but sheep can't read anyway.
Monday 21 July was too hot to cave, so Zig & Zag went for a walk. While looking down Hidden Pot, they heard the plaintiff bleat of a stranded sheep ('ba-help-ba'). Although not visible the sheep was clearly stuck down the slot, but sounded in good condition. We had no idea at that point how deep the slot was, and as we had no caving gear, we returned to the farm to check in Northern Caves, and also to consult with Ron Bliss by phone. He agreed the best thing was to contact the CRO. (It might prove difficult for two oldies like Zig & Zag to get the sheep out, especially if it was injured.)
Julie tentatively pressed the buttons on the yellow emergency phone, but nothing happened - it was broken! A second attempt at 999 using the new phone inside the Farm, got straight through to the police controller. Julie clearly and slowly, ('Patience' is her middle name, yes it is really) reported the name 'Hidden Pot' and its location three times. The lady police operator, said she would pass on the message to the CRO, but as it wasn't a person there was no need for us to wait, so we went on our walk. This was a mistake: on return we had no way of knowing if the sheep was out or not - there was no bleating, but it could have been just bluffing. We were perplexed that there was no message, but luckily we phoned Dave Edland who checked it out.
Our message to the CRO had been distorted by 'Chinese whispers' in transmission from Settle, via the Cumbria police; the CRO were told the sheep was down Bull Pot of the Witches, not Hidden Pot! The CRO cavalry arrived; Dave Gailivan, Pam Hicken, and Dave Edland in a magnificently equipped Land Rover. Dave Gailivan quickly donned his caving gear; we didn't need to get changed he said - the implication was he'd have it out in 'two shakes of lamb's tail'.
In he went" he impressively smooth-talked 'flossy' into putting her head in a white bag, then persuaded the rest of her into a sack. Two slings and a rope cater, we all started pulling and pushing, and after some 30 minutes delivered a very large sheep through the slot, and on up to the top. Out of her bag we were amazed to see 'JIM' written in blue letters on her back, we said nothing, just smiled and let her go for some grass and a piss. All this was photographed by Julie and Pam. A big well done to the CRO. The next day we went back, surveyed the pot for Ray, and covered the slot up with timbers.
1) It was definitely worth calling-out the CRO; Zig & Zag could not have done it on their own. It was good practise, everyone was happy, including the sheep; the CRO got some good photos.
2) Give the location at least five times on the phone. If possible ask to speak to the CRO controller yourself - they could phone you back, which is what would happen for a human call-out. It could save a wasted journey. If possible leave a written message as well.
3) Get changed, don't wear your best gear to a sheep rescue.
Peter & Julie Mohr