RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 37 Number 4 Article 6
November 2000

Bull Pot of the Witches

Saturday 19 August 2000

Members present : Andy Whitney, Sam Carradice, Pete Dale, Alan Kerr.

Arriving at the farm I spied Alan waiting patiently in his camper van at the top of the lane. Pete and Sam hadn't turned up yet so there was time for a quick cup of tea and to hear all about the club expedition to France. Once the others had arrived we chatted for a bit before getting ready for a wander about in Bull Pot of the Witches. The forecast for today was not very promising - thundery showers and two inches of rain were predicted, but as we made our way to the cave the weather thankfully showed us some mercy.

At the tree lined entrance shaft we observed the large volume of water cascading to the floor below, and carefully made our way around the pot to the far side where a path leads steeply down to a small opening. Entering the opening, a small climb down follows shortly, and we emerged at the bottom of the impressive daylight shaft. Heading down and back under ourselves we soon arrived at the head of the 9m pitch. It was intended to ladder this, but there was no stopping Pete who was already free climbing it. The more safety conscious among us agreed there was no point in taking unnecessary risks, and securely belayed the ladder to a boulder, firmly wedged by a piece of soft mud! After Sam had got to the bottom safely Alan decided to re-rig the ladder to a bigger rock!

From the bottom of the pitch we merrily headed off to a series of drops which Pete described as easily free-climbable. We were all a bit dubious about this claim. Arriving at the climbs' we found a rather large drop, which the water was purposefully roaring down, with the general consensus (apart from one person!) being "not a chance in hell!" We watched in horror as Pete traversed out at roof level straddling the drop, with one slip meaning certain death (or serious injury if he was lucky). We did the only thing that a safety conscious caver would do - we followed!! In all fairness to Pete, the climb was not difficult, just mildly terrifying! With that safely behind, we were comforted in the knowledge that we would not have to go back up the waterfalls as Pete knew another way out'. That phrase burned itself into my memory as we hung on for dear life whilst we climbed back up that same waterfall on the way out!

We continued along before shortly arriving at a climb up into The Long Gallery; clearly an overflow in times of very wet weather (what was the forecast again?). After wading through muddy pools we arrived at a tight crawl under a choke. Pete launched himself into it before quickly realising it was not the way on, and after a bit of moaning, he reversed out. We headed back a short way to a drop down into the streamway below, that we had ignorantly stepped over on the way in. Pete was soon boldly disappearing through the narrow gap, and immediately set about convincing the rest of us to join him. Sam and myself were not overly keen to enter a low wet passage which clearly sumped rapidly with the onset of heavy rain (two inches should do it!), so elected to stay in the safe' overflow passage! Alan was not as stubborn as us, and they were soon on their way to an (apparently) impressive series of chambers. One for a drier day I think!

As Sam and I awaited their return, getting colder by the minute, we had plenty of time to notice the groove cut high in the passage created by flooding, and to hear' the rumble of water that was surely getting louder? After what seemed like quite a long time, we heard the faint sound of voices returning. We decided it might provide us with some amusement if we turned out our lights so we might hear them complaining about how grotty it was, before they told us how spectacular it was!

Reunited, we headed back along Long Gallery, past the point where we entered, and continued to look for Pete's other way out'. After a short while we entered a fine hading rift, which we followed until the way on became too low. With no way on we headed back to the waterfall climbs, which were slightly easier on the way up. The remainder of the trip was decided to be a search for the Gour Chambers, so we dutifully followed Pete, who knew the way' (!). We arrived at a small bedding chamber with a parallel passage leading back the way we had come, so Sam and I decided that as Alan and Pete had done their bit of exploring, we would do ours!

After an initial low crawl the passage soon opened out into more civilised proportions, and various holes in the floor were stepped over and traversed round. A large choke was soon encountered and the way on was found to be a climb down using a chokestone as a handy step. Passing under some dubious looking boulders we emerged in a rather large chamber ('49 Cavern?) with a vast boulder choke at the far side. A climb up here revealed a drop down a dodgy looking way up through the choke near roof level, which I declined to investigate. The sound of water could be heard beyond.

Back at the junction we resumed our search for Gour Chamber and continued to North Chamber. Climbing down over boulders we arrived at a choke with a squeeze down through a gap into the rift. Sam was not keen on this interesting contortion, but was soon talked into it with promises of things to come. We headed along the base of the rift until it abruptly ended, when Pete slithered up the side to a very narrow squeeze. Sam and Alan did the sensible thing and waited at the base of this unlikely looking route, but I shared none of their foresight and blindly followed Pete's groans and moans as the cold truth slowly dawned - this was NOT the way! I slid back down to find Sam had given up and climbed back up into North Chamber. Alan was already making his way back along the rift when we heard shouts from above "Look at this!" Alan had mistakenly climbed up a bit too early, and instead of emerging in North Chamber, had found the elusive Gour Chambers!

Gour Chamber - Bull Pot of the Witches

Squirming up over some superb flowstone, Pete and I could see the darkness above, and I impatiently hurried Pete up as he complained he couldn't get up. At the top we were greeted by a sight to behold. A series of crystal clear pools in a chamber floored with creamy brown flowstone. Try as I might to convince Sam to come and look, he wasn't prepared to squeeze down from North Chamber for a second time. After a few moments admiring nature's beauty our attention was drawn to the flowstone steps continuing upwards at the far end of the chamber. We climbed up to find a narrow slot just above head height, with enticing darkness beyond. Pete climbed up and put his head through the gap and reported a wall of pure white calcite. The ensuing "Wows!" and other words of exclamation hinted at the wonders that lay in wait. With a bunk up from Alan, Pete attempted to wriggle through the gap, but it proved too small for his shoulders. I tried my hand at the elusive hole and managed to quite comfortably slide through until my pelvis decided it was the wrong shape! I had a good look round, and it was indeed very nice. The formations where certainly in pristine condition, no doubt do to the effective filter that allows entrance only to cavers of the smallest build.

Pete, now spurred on by the fact I had got further than he, made his second attempt. This time, with a lot of pushing by Alan and myself, he managed to conquer to squeeze and explore the chamber beyond. Exaggerated "Oohs!", "Aahhs!" and "Wows!" followed to rub salt into the wounds, and I was then talked into having another try. Again I found myself in much the same predicament as before. With a bit of effort and force I could have actually got through, but I didn't fancy not being able to get back out, so gave up without a fight.

With the excitement over, we made our way back to Sam, who was patiently waiting for us in North Chamber, and had already returned to the pitch to collect the ladder. We climbed back out to the bottom of the Main Shaft and were soon back up on the surface with only a nice short walk back to the farm, for a change!

Andy Whitney

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