Bruno Kranski’s       3 Counties Link





Have you ever been cursed? – I have. For two and a half years I had the curse of Bruno Kranski giving me mental and physical pain and an obsession. Let me explain:-


Bruno Kranski’s is the arse end of Notts II. Near it was the arse end of Lost Johns/Easegill. Like an arse, both were filled with crap. The long constipated passage needed removal of its brown mucky lumps to engineer the  link  that would defeat the Welsh at being UK’s longest cave and, also  linking the three counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire.


This for me and Bill was the “final” effort. We were sick of the place, having not just gone in over a hundred times but having been to some quite disgusting places including shoving a maiden up the far end of ‘Cordingley’s Bowel’ – the original name for Green Tape Inlet. I mention that as the following week (having written that off) we took her to Bruno Kranski with the Earby pump. A feeling of doom came over me and Bill that something could go wrong so we were glad to have a fit tigress who could help us out. Little did we know! …


Well it didn’t help that things did not go to plan – pump assembly, lost screwdriver, water all over the place, mainly on her. Does it matter? No it doesn’t. She’s got a “wet, wet suit”. No. It can’t be wet and draughty. We selfishly ignored her wish for an early night and she ended up feeling very ill. Oh dear!!


Bruno Kranski’s sump had been opened and capped years before by Paul Parker, Alan Speight and others to pre test a pump, gaining a small extension to a huge choke under a surface crater. However we now believed its water went to Lost Johns. As well as digging a drainage trench we would follow the water.


Now 1999 we could sluice the water using the Earby pump which quickly shifted enough water to save the Titanic, although due to stupidity it took three trips to assemble properly. This did not totally remove the squalor – it usually rained the day after it was pumped out. It was at best a duck you did on your back without getting stuck in mud, but the mud still went down yours ears and down your neck. Still there was also Lyle Cavern in Lost Johns nearby, twenty metres above us – no chance – but beer, dreams, and hopeful logic made it “almost” level. This lead to an optimistic but successful smoke test to Lyle Cavern, Lost Johns.


Roll on weeks later and twenty six more trips and we were now on dig 4 in the area!! We were sick of the place and a now shattered (capped) bulge meant we would be into impossible and suicidal crap and failure!


I stood on the moor in blackness waiting for Bill or Hugh to appear when a group of tourists from Preston came. ETA had been and gone by then. Was it a rescue? In the blackness cars could be seen racing up Leck Fell coming up like a cowboy posse – They were the Preston Posse!! That night we took loads of scaffold down, they were all cheerful and keen and we removed the rock bulge and some gravel and then a cool draught came in from blackness but best of all the “safety” of a rock overhang carries on. Out of the Pandora’s box of danger, dirt and despair the Preston Posse had brought us hope.


The dig now went uphill which aided rock removal except in one case where a young Prestonian got his geometry wrong (due to do GCSE’s!) and sealed them in! Eventually they were unsealed by a fourteen pound hammer plus Bill thinking about work. Tim gave us a nice Christmas present by removing the rock by Bruno Kranski’s sump so we no longer got stuck going in or out. However the mud in the dig generally splattered into faces, eyes and open gobs but I was OK (having glasses) until forced to take my glasses off, then being blinded by the next splatter. I then had to exit semi blind until I was able to wash in the main stream. Try climbing down a rope with your glasses in your teeth, or worse realizing you’d left them back in a mud bank!!


Around this time others connected Ireby/Notts to Rift/ Large. ie: over the Lancashire Yorkshire border the theoretically impossible link – and we had a smoke test link to Lost Johns/Easegill, hence the Three Counties link, a dream of forty years now proved. This started a media “frenzy”.


The Lancashire Yorkshire link was ‘Big’ news on TV and radio but our smoke test was awkwardly incomplete idea ie: a not yet done link. It did make a good tale and it was the crazy name of “Misty Mountain Mud Miners” (a mixed club co-op) and digging into things when at the same time world news was of Chilean miners trying to dig out, plus an obvious lack of other major news, sex scandals etc. The link was there but were the cavers ever going to do the link?


We now had a radio location of twenty metres plus distant sound but Bruno was having none of this and bit back. Despite care we had two or three nasty incidents, followed by much more hopeful prospects above us. One passage towards Gavel, one towards Lost Johns wide open, Shuttleworth Pot opened and the NCC playing with fire hoses at chokes nearby – the race was on.


Meanwhile our dig was going straight up into chaos, weeks spent arranging and rearranging scaffold. During this time I plastered the roof and walls with cement to at least preserve it for the next century. However we did make progress up two climbs – one called Blood gulch to a rocky maze, except each ‘passage’ was inches wide and we lost it – we got a horrid dig going downhill in more ways than one! The draught went into an ‘un-diggable’ bit where serious spoil or a collapse would seal you in. Also the correct way on seemed barred at right angles by a rock wall. Nearby we found a way upward that needed and got, a serious scaffold cage  with just bricks needing poking out. This was done by Hugh St.Lawrence protected by some scaffold and a sheet of aluminum as a shield, poking out bricks with a bar – just like St. George. He made strange noises of fear, followed by tremendous crashes and then a deadly silence during which we removed rocks from his feet in case of the need of a quick exit. This was followed by more rock which he tipped from his shield. Partly due to the time of year and the crap that fell down this was named Queens Chamber Pot.


October 2011 – We got up Queens Chamber Pot into an odd area that went back on itself. We were now twenty two metres above Bruno Kranski. ie: Seventy foot, and two hundred foot in, so now we had to manhandle rocks all the way - three hundred feet or so into stacking space. This was OK for the first two hundred foot as they rolled at speed to each person who then moved on a bit, but the last hundred foot was by drag tray. Also a huge flood meant some bad damage, before cementing etc. could it get it worse? Yes it could. The radio location showed we were eight metres too high and now the draught could not be followed as it went everywhere. What with a bad cold, horrible weather and the cat dying I was at a new low.


Meanwhile in Lost Johns they had also ‘gone’ over sixty metres and we could here their knocking but they couldn’t get in and they were in a rocky maze. We dusted ourselves down and carried on throwing a bit more thought and technology at it. ie: surveyed it! We had in both digs ‘followed’ a rock wall, in one dig on the left, in the other on the right but no connection point appeared. It appeared to be at right angles the wrong way, but on surveying, it was in the same direction but the twisting and corkscrewing up the dig confuses your sense of direction.


A sound test went wrong in Notts as the person in front was deaf and the person in the middle would not shut up and Bill kept shouting for him to shut up. The Lost Johns lot could hear them anyway! Still they could be twenty foot in any direction. Possibly for the first time a radio locator and receiver was taken in and the direction and distance roughly done – not helped by the scaffold at both ends acting as a giant bar magnet!


November 6th: A link at last done and the Lost Johns team exited by Notts II! More TV and radio plus the press! Thanks go to the more than fifty people on the dig and the hundreds of individuals who had opened and linked other parts of the Thee Counties System over the last hundred years.


The Three Counties System comprises:-

Longest in the UK – 87 Km. (55miles)

Deepest in England – 253 metres (850ft)

12th longest in the World

3rd longest in Europe


The system links three counties, and possibly also Barbondale and Kingsdale.


Bruno Kranski dig was 70 metres long on the Notts II side and 22 metres high to the connection point.     Total dig length was 140 metres.


And most important of all:-


Me, Bill Sherrington, Pete Hall, Hugh St.Lawrence Dave, the Preston Posse and many others have been cured of the curse of Bruno Kranski’s.


Andy Walsh





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