Notts 2, Committee Pot     March 29th 2012





Claire, Paul & Mel Wilkinson, and Bill Holden

I’d always fancied doing Notts 2.  Committee Pot hadn’t been opened up when I was caving regularly but I’d heard tales of the fabulous streamway and beautiful white formations; Andy Walsh’s epic dig and infamously constructed entrance shaft.  I’d missed the most recent club trip on the meets list and what with various weekend commitments the only likely looking way we were going to get down before the Leck Fell closed season was a midweek trip. This would involve coordinating Paul getting a day off work with Mum being free to look after my girls and a permit being available.  What could possibly go wrong?  The trip gained momentum as Bill Holden and Dad decided to come along too and various bits of caving gear were begged and borrowed.  Things were looking rosy until a few days before the appointed date when I came down with a vicious d&v bug and the starter motor in Paul’s car melted.  6pm the night before the trip I’d nibbled only dry toast for the last 48 hours and Paul’s car was still in the garage but things miraculously pulled themselves round overnight – we were on!

It’s a strange thing but I have only been caving in the Dales three times in the last three years and each time there has been an unseasonable heat wave1.   Today proved no exception and we had the blissful experience of getting changed on Leck Fell in warm sunshine with the nagging feeling  we should probably be sunning ourselves on a crag somewhere.   A few weeks earlier at the farm, mum had kindly offered to take Dalek’s caving gear home to dry so he didn’t have to cycle home with rucksack of sodden gear.  Unbeknownst to Dalek, Dad had taken the opportunity to borrow various items.  Dalek’s kneepads are a bit small’ he grunted.   ‘That’s because they’re elbow pads, Dad...’

 An additional bonus to the sunshine is the fact the entrance, a substantially built manhole cover in a shallow valley, lies just over the wall from Leck Fell lane.  I wonder if the Committee Pot dig would have been quite so long lived had it been a longer walk from the car.   Climbing down the shaft you can only marvel at the tenacity and sheer bloody mindedness of the diggers, firstly to dig down that far and secondly to carry out such a comprehensive stabilisation job.  Breeze blocks and railway sleepers are crossed braced with scaffold stemples, while gaps are plugged with expanded foam and bits of concrete.  There can’t have been a skip unturned through the whole of Lancashire and the mind boggles at the sheer effort required to lug it all down there.  The shaft is narrow enough to lean back against and what with so many twists and turns and cross beams it feels very secure and it’s easy to forget that you’re actually free climbing something akin to Lancaster Hole entrance shaft.   Halfway down is a small plaque to celebrate the efforts of Andy Walsh and his digging team. 

Once out of the shaft and in the cave we headed downstream.  We had taken a hand line for some of the climbs in the streamway but this proved unnecessary as everything had either a fixed rope or aluminium ladder.  Bill had spent many a Tuesday night digging in Notts 2 so he acted as tour guide and pointed out the names of various inlets in the roof marked by ropes hanging down, and in one place an entire ‘electron’ ladder constructed from SRT rope and pieces of hosepipe.  I don’t know whose it was but it must have taken them hours and hours to construct. The passage eventually lowered to a flat out crawl to the sump, which we all decided against, then it was back to a small waterfall to test out Dads camera.  Paul stoically stood in the waterfall while we produced a series of foggy images before getting the hang of it.     

Now it was time to sample the upstream end of the cave. Bill shot off like a racing snake while we followed at a more leisurely pace to admire the high twisting rift streamway and stoop under various huge chockstones fallen from above and jammed at head height.   I wouldn’t want to be around when one of those plummeted from the roof.   After some impressive formations and a huge calcite column the character of the cave started to change, the rift widens and the stream deepens and flows around boulder piles.  It never reaches the dimensions or beauty of Lancaster streamway but it is impressive none the less.  We stopped to admire some beautiful striped black and white formations (black from manganese) and Dad managed to trip over a boulder and fall full length in a pool while photographing the straws above him.  Miraculously, like Excalibur in the lake, he kept the camera held aloft during full body immersion and it survived the dip but unfortunately knocked off the big ‘wig’ of flood foam we had been surreptitiously piling on his head. 

Heading up Curry Inlet we admired plentiful helictites but were saddened to find some of the pristine white formations muddy with handprints.  We did what we could by way of bailing welly fulls of clean water over them but they could really do with a scrub before the mud becomes ingrained.  What made it worse was that it was deliberate muddying of formations in easy walking passage, not someone accidentally brushing past in a tight space.  It’s perhaps inevitable that a cave with such straightforward access isn’t idiot proof but such vandalism is depressing.

Back to the main passage it was time to climb up out of the stream and explore Passchendaele. The name should have given it away really as the cave degenerated into a crawl in glutinous mud of Derbyshire brown.   ‘I’ve been round here before’ said Paul ‘There’s this really horrible passage called Poppy passage that we need to avoid’.  He shot off in front at this point, Bill was somewhere behind.  Dad and I crawled along until the passage degenerated into flat out crawling in water at which point we stopped then retreated.  Ahead we could hear grunting, splashing and slurping echoing back as Paul forged on in what was obviously a horrible nose in the roof crawl.  At this point Bill re-appeared.  ‘That’s Poppy passage’ he said ‘it’s not very nice’ and we waited for an irate Paul to re-appear.  Paul had been a bit subdued until this point but he was quite cheery and animated after this.  It had all been a bit too tame for him until then - we know he loves the miserable really.

After several more crawly sections and some squalid looking digs we peered down Prosector Pot, a deep hole in the floor.  Paul ‘walked the plank’ across the wobbly scaffold pole to the other side but said there wasn’t much to see anyway.  On the way back out Bill took us back a different and more ‘sporting’ way.  Splashing through the streamway the water got first knee deep, then thigh deep and waist deep, and the conversations in front of me turned falsetto as the freezing water got deeper and deeper.  We should have been warned really as Bill only talked in the vaguest generalities of water being ‘quite deep’ for a ‘little way’.  “Bloody hell I’m swimming” I heard Paul shout back as from the front.   At this point an alarming fact became apparent, namely that I was the shortest, I was at the back, everyone else had swum off round the corner, and I was carrying the (by no means watertight) bag with the camera.  It’s virtually impossible to make any progress swimming while holding a bag above your head; I just ended up bicycling on the spot and sinking, so I retreated and shouted for help.  I could hear a hurried debate going on about who was going to swim back and help me and Bill drew the short straw, standing chin deep in freezing canal while I passed over the bag and then used him as a handhold.  The swim was only short but the water was punch cold, untouched by the week of hot weather.  

Immersion in freezing water certainly galvanized everyone and we regrouped at the other side, talking nonstop and tingling all over.  Soon the nice tingling glow gave way to creeping cold and we made our back to the entrance without further ado.  The entrance shaft was a pleasure to climb – like handholds for Christmas presents I just didn’t know which to choose first.   On the surface it was still sunny and warm so we had a quick stroll up to Cup Cake before heading back home to relieve Mum.  She had had the hardest job of the day looking after two small children so I could go caving.  What a star - thanks Mum!

Claire Wilkinson


 1. The run of lucky weather obviously ended with the onset of summer 2012.  Our next planned trip to Dowbergill was called off due to flooding, and has probably been underwater ever since. 

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