RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 38 Number 2 Article 3
May 2001

The Dig

Committee Pot - 23 November 2000

The day started at 1am with a burning fiery throat; I'd just done a fourteen hour day, and up early soon. The "Night Nurse" soon sorted that out. Too soon, the alarm went off, and off to work all day weary by poor sleep, but the real slog of digging was to come. Well, obviously I could cancel - I wasn't that well - then Richard rang up to say he was at Ingleton and "could I pick him up near the dig?"

The dig wasn't going well. In the last two weeks we'd had standing water up to two feet deep which, OK, did drain with a lot of rodding. This dig was, for the last year or so, like having manic depression; sometimes excitement, a sleepless night, with surprise later, and deep lows of hopelessness. Now, not only were we on a "low" but we had a choice of at least three places to go at - all major work.

I had now picked Richard up - it was 6pm, cold, wet and unpleasant. I said I wasn't well and only wanted a short hour or so - "should we go?" Richard said inspiringly "I want to be underground", so we went. We were soon digging, me having Richard digging with the plan to just dig down, and add a foot on before the others came. Soon, the slight undercut was doing better - we were down two feet or so, but it needed shoring. I went down to do some magic with scaffold and noticed, on hammering it in, a good booming echo - it hadn't done that before! It was also fairly loose on the floor - we could make good progress tonight.

Soon, Nigel and Simon arrived. We stopped on as rocks came out at a rapid rate, most filling a dog-leg sideways to a solid wall I"d done a fortnight earlier. Others went into the dig sides or up to the chamber fifteen feet up. Simon was soon well roped on, looking into some sort of passage. He was belayed to the scaffold, and we stood on the scaffold in case it all went. He vanished under an arch and announced a pitch and a big cave. Out I went for a top rope and ladder I"d forgotten we"d taken away from the bottom of the main dig. (Brought in on a "high" months ago, taken out on a "low" weeks ago.) So, up to the 120 feet main dig and off to the car. On the return I met Nigel - "Well Andy, we're waiting for you; we're walking in Notts II - Definite!"

The breakthrough point was a short crawl under a curtain of rock to a rift passage, then two easy climbs down, not needing a rope or ladder, then under a low arch to the bottom of a huge aven with a rope hanging down! The aven was the 150 feet high "Mincemeat Aven" that cave divers had climbed to the top of and which our dig had aimed for!!!

On a feeble climb Simon offered a hand - "what's that for?" "Congratulations" says he, and I was pushed ahead to be the first non-diver into Notts II streamway. A fine three feet wide, high streamway was followed up nice passage and little cascades to the point where it joins the main tube above, rather like Serendipity in looks. We stood in wonder, shock and astonishment. Years of digging had payed off on an unlikely day. We had already walked a long way - the streamway is almost a mile long - we would soon turn back. I said I was weary and would head off as I"d be slow.

I walked back, enjoying the happy little cascades, looking out for the only inlet on the left on this bit of our way out as I only had a digging light on LED. I walked on and on - near where it should be, nothing. So on and on I went, meeting a more impressive cascade I didn't remember. I turned back to join the others, shouting "Simon, Simon" - loud echo - silence. Oh how stupid, I"d missed the way out - I was on my own! On and on up the streamway. Eventually, carefully looking with my LED light, I saw the big inlet just above head height. The whole place including this inlet was just too big for my light. Soon I got to the coiled rope of the Mincemeat Aven and under the arch to the climbs. Oh no, what would they be like? Still, if the divers had got up originally, so could I. Not dead easy for me, but I was soon unexpectedly at my coiled up ladder and on old ground. Half way up the main dig I heard a voice. They must still be behind me - shouting down I was surprised to see a light above. Nigel and co had returned, not finding me at the car - good lads!

We were still well in pub time. We planned mischievously when we saw Colin Davis, who was on a real diggers low and whose dig it was, not to tell him directly. We all went in po-faced, telling him we weren't digging in the rift floor or the rift, we were fed up. His face in the pub was a picture as his team looked totally demoralised. He lifted up his eyes sadly as Nigel came in, who like us all, joined firmly in the despondency and revolt. Everyone looked downcast. Never in the years we"d dug had we given totally - two of his best men tonight hadn't even come to the pub, let alone the dig. I nudged his wife's arm and whispered "Watch his face."

Simon then said firmly "No way are we digging in that rift, or anywhere." - silence - we all grunted approval - then said "Cos t'other ways gone to Notts II." "Your pulling me leg" - "No, we walked in Notts II." I shuck his hand and all the others did big smiles all round. Colin for once was gob-smacked, lost for words.

Congratulations and thanks to all involved in this inter-club dig especially Ray Duffy, Pete Hall, Hugh St. Lawrence, Anne Hodgson, Jim Newton (surface), Richard Gerrish and others. Special thanks to RRCPC news-sheet and web site that kept the dig going for months and months when it needed everyone it could get, at least four turning up.

The future major concreting needs doing, help needed! Plenty of leads to push and possible connections with Lost John's and Easegill - also Pete's dig to link Ireby to Rift. Then we need to connect to Kingsdale and Dale Barn. South Wales, eat your heart out.

Andy Walsh

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