Colonnades Project

The Colonnades are one of the most visited places in the Ease Gill system and as such has been the site of some accidental damage, carelessness and some downright vandalism over the years.

Heroes repairing the broken column caused by some idiot trying to climb up the stal.

We of the Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club (RRCPC) have tried to tape a way through the chamber to avoid further damage and to try to keep people away from the sensitive areas. However, the tapes got muddied and then trampled and eventually torn and removed so it was time for a new approach. The first step was to try and raise the tape off the floor and this has now been achieved by using stainless steel stakes. The second part was to clean the stals now that they had some protection. Sam Lieberman and I set out to just clean the three large columns hut soon found ourselves cleaning around their bases and revealing calcite flow.

Once we’d achieved that goal we moved our attention to the Mini-Colonnades further up the passage. Under the mud layer we discovered crystal pools and small gours, unfortunately, these all had mud forced into them by countless feet sliding and trampling over them. At first the 5cm thick layer of mud covering some of the calcite flows was thought to be natural but the appearance of white plastic tape underneath the mud meant it had originally been ‘taped off’ by our predecessors.

We’ve spent a lot of time carefully picking the mud out of tiny pockets and revealing crystals that now sparkle and give some idea of what the initial explorers saw on the first visit. While cleaning we have had visits by blundering teams who can barely walk upright in a straight line let alone visit a delicate environment like this one.

It is therefore little wonder that the damage has been so devastating but let us hope, that once we’ve completed the cleaning, people will treat the area with more respect. I won’t hold my breath, however, as I’ve already seen two photographs of people on the wrong side of the tapes and even holding the stals. Here is a photo to show you don’t even have to go near the stals to get some interesting photos by using a photo- editing  package.

We’ve left some cleaning equipment at the entrance to the Colonnades so feel free to carry on the work if you’ve got a few hours spare. Our tally to date is over 100 hours of work so any help will be gratefully received.

There’s no need to remove the tape for that stunning photo just let your computer do it for you and save us having to replace it every time a photographer thinks they are justified in getting their subjects trample all over this delicate area.

Ray Duffy

First photo supplied by Jack Pickup others by Ray Duffy

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