Volume 43 Number 1 Article 3
Ray's Easegill Ferret
3rd December 2005
Cavers: Toby Speight, Ray Duffy, Johnny Baker, Paul Thomas, John Roe.
My first trip with Red Rose was billed as "Ray's Easegill Ferret", which the unsycophantically-inclined described variously as "poking around in little dead-ends", "pointless holes nobody goes to", and (more succinctly) "utter shite". Expectations thus raised, I suited up with Ray and Johnny (who I already knew) and the other two (who I didn't, but they seemed much more normal).
We strode past Lancs and into Easegill, detouring for a quick peer into the entrance of Pegleg Pot (too nice for this trip!), before heading for the delights of the Crumbles. As its name suggests, this consists of rocks at various stages of their journey from solid rock roof to rubble floor. A large quantity had completed this journey; the remainder was not far behind.
Next on the menu was the innocuously-named Boulder Cave, the boulder in question being outside the cave, hiding it from casual view. Once inside we were treated to Ray's narrative of the creation of his "blasted crawl" through to the mud-filled Atoll Chamber. From here, a promising-looking passage lead to a nasty squeeze along a crawl with the profile of a fried egg and dimensions not much larger. Here I nominated myself for the trip's Skinny Fucker Award by forcing myself through to its miserable conclusion. Nobody followed.
Back out to the surface and on to what the guidebook calls Merlin Hole but which I'm told (by Ray, quoting Ron Bliss) is actually Owlet Hole. For the first time today, we were somewhere deep enough to have a pitch. Admittedly, it consisted of only the pitch, daylight still being visible from its foot. While we took it in turns to descend (there not being enough room at the foot to stand together), Johnny was climbing the gully above, poking at a cleft under some tree roots.
"Does it go?" I asked.
"Might do", said he, without enthusiasm.
He poked his head in, and to give him credit, got all but his feet inside before reversing back out. Deciding I could do better, I dived in head-first and managed to find a chamber just large enough to turn round and stoop up in. Back out, and no-one else willing to follow. Another Skinny Fucker Award for me!
After Owlet, the obvious progression was to its big brother: Owl Hole. Hidden amongst the boulders below, a laddered shaft drops down to an awkward wriggle through into a chamber. Shifting rocks down at the bottom seemed promising, but I couldn't persuade anyone to follow through to help - which means I got my third SFA nomination.
Reluctantly, I came back out, and Ray led us to the real Merlin Hole, which turned out to be thoroughly disappointing - another bottom-in-daylight special. I'm surprised I actually bothered to turn my lamp on for this! The less said, the better, really.
After this, we wandered upstream, briefly poking into Howgill Sink (looking less choked than recently, according to Ray) and then continuing up past Cow Dub to County Caves. Whilst the rest went into County 2, I decided to avoid the queues by exploring in County 3, after which I moved next door to join them. We went up most of the inlets, before Ray told us that the cave also has a "downstairs", albeit with a tight connection (staircase?) between the two. Of course, I now felt a gauntlet had been thrown down - especially after it was tried unsuccessfully by another of the party. It was worth the effort (another SFA nomination), as the downstairs is as extensive as the upstairs. Well worth a look if you're thin enough!
The last cave of the trip was Bat Cave, about which I can't remember very much, so it can't have been particularly bad. We did see a bat, though, so the name is certainly apt.
Actually, I lied: it wasn't quite the last, as we went a couple of metres into Swindons to escape the cold wind and share a hot drink. (Thanks to whoever made that!)
Although that was the end of the ferreting trip, Paul and John still had excess energy, so they and I went down Wretched Rabbit to look at the new Spiral Staircase link, following it all the way down to the Pool Sink passage and thence to the Main Drain, returning by the same route.
Straws in Spiral Staircase Passage
Toby in Spiral Staircase Passage
All in all, a good day out, and I've certainly never been in so many holes in one day (and yes, you can read that how you like!). But next time, I think I'll be ready for a more conventional in-and-out trip!