Low Douk – 3 Counties imminent connection                        (Marble Steps Area)

 

“BOOM  BOOM  BOOM! That’s what I could hear” says Steve Round, eyes like saucers describing a sound connection long long ago in Bernies. “A connection is imminent” he says.

 

Well the NCC had worked Bungalow Bill and Co. and had shifted vast amounts, and they deserved it. However it was not to be, they ran out, not of steam, but air!

 

A decade or so on Dave Ramsay plus Richard Bendall and Co. had a go at making their own way in which was an achievement in itself. Their aim was an easier way to the far end of Rift Pot to forge a Yorkshire/ Lancashire link, but this link was eventually done the hard way!! They did however solve the air problem partly as they don’t use a lot of air, by pumping a “sump” dry which then had a draught that howled! Unfortunately every time it was drained, it rained and sumped again. Despite a strong team the heavens were against them.

It was becoming obvious that not just the mud and sand needed removing but the solid roof as well. Alan Speight with roof removal technology came in, who then handed it over to Tim Allen and Co. By now a lot of money was going up in smoke.

 

One night in April, I finally went for my first look. Tim said something about squeezes, the huge entrance of Low Douk diminished to a low immature capped downhill crawl about body size or “Dave Ramsay” size. Comparisons with Pippikin were replaced by the “artificial cave section for children” which Steve Round got stuck in. (but that’s another story) Unlike that, they could not take this one to bits as it led, via. drops, which did not seem to have room for long legs. For a video of this place, look on the internet and type in “Thursday night caving – Videos – Low Douk”. Things then got interesting and I regretted the extra jumper I’d put on. A few drops later then a rope over a pit led to a large walking size wide dusty chamber with black boulders and rotten timbers - the remains of the old way in, predating the other way in which needs ladders, and is much harder than “Ramsay’s” way in!!

 

Bungalow Bill’s crawl was also awkward followed by chambers and huge amounts of stone and muck from the dig. Tim’s pump worked a dream with some of the muck, enabling it to produce a strong draught. As everyone had a look in I decide to make my way out getting clear instructions – What could possibly go wrong?

 

Soon I’d eliminated every nook and cranny in the big chamber, every hopeless dig. No I was lost, possibly abandoned, left carrying a jersey I’d taken off, plus bits in my chest pocket. Well follow the wire back to the dig I thought, the others were just on the way out. Unbelievably at one of the nooks by the black boulders I’d not looked up and seen the traverse rope I’d done on the way in. Thanks lads for the push and shove and advice to just leap up at times. (or go for it)

The next trip we shifted lots, later Bill Sherrington and Tim went in one night and Bill made an excellent job of cementing the inlet and putting in a tube with a screw on cap. This solved the flooding problem but we did worry that someone may out of curiosity unscrew it, releasing vast amounts of water, and then the place would look like a World War II submarine; or for the cap to be blasted off anyway when someone was in there. Well we all had said it was the best night’s work Bill had ever done, until we got some real rain! Then it was back to the pumps.

 

Well keenness was high at the time I was lost, Tim had bunged the pipe up the far end above the old water level which on a trip from the other side of Rift Pot he could see by extreme yoga (this position is now a challenge to yoga grandmasters) and we all thought it was a pipe dream!

 

The place was dug / banged at both ends two or three times a week. Having only done two trips I turned up on May 8th to a quite large group of “mmmmc and we got through. I was glad of a look in the “sump”, which of course was dry, about fifteen foot long, hands and knees, to a higher bit above the old sump level, then a body size tube, but not tight like the bore of a naval gun. The wind, not a draught, whistled past your ears – it was fantastic. Then into the dry “pleasant” phreatic hands and knees crawls of Rift Pot. This bit had quite a bit of spoil from the dig but also spoil from the bypass to Temple of Doom nearby.

Over the next few weeks Tim and Co. especially Frank Pearson and Joe and the others removed the roof so that when it fills with H20 it will have a six inch or so of airspace – palatial and pleasant.

 

On my last trip we tided up and went to the bottom of Low Douk. I was keen to do this, as thirty plus years ago I had helped find Large Pot but we never bottomed it to Keld Head Level, it’s a big sump perched well above. Tim said something about it being sporting tight but smooth. It was a long twisting tortuous passage thirty foot high and a foot or so wide. Occasionally you needed to stand on tip toe or shuffle up then relax to push on. So twisting at one point, a window opening showed the head of another going past you. Eventually it got quite big with large black grit stone – nice leg breakers, perish the thought!

 

Eventually you got to a low crawl and sump pool, quite miserable – it had taken me over thirty years to “bottom” Large Pot, well that’s unless you put a bottle on or someone pulls a finger out to make a dry link to Notts II, then you get to almost Leck Beck Head level ie: Lost Johns sump. Then you put diving gear on and it almost beats the Welsh.

 

Well getting out was the reverse getting in except uphill, and going on tip toe now meant squeezing up then along – oh dear! Nice to meet the “old system” - then out into a starry night.

 

Well what’s the score?

 

    Imminent connection took thirty years.

 

    Low Douk adds three quarters of a kilometer to the Three Counties System - to approx. 90km.

 

    It’s impassible in extreme weather.

 

    Excellent sporting, tackle free trips - ie: Far end of Large Pot 6-7 hours.

 

    A good way in to improve the link to Ireby plus the exploration of Rift/Large and beyond the Temple of Doom and also a link to Keld Head which I think is Rift Pot or old Large Pot.

 

    Large Pot to the bottom (ie: Low Douk sump) and back. –a classic, but PLEASE make a dry link Ireby to Notts II then you can go Large Pot to Lost Johns Sump and back or a through trip to Deaths Head.

 

    The connection itself can be seen on the UKCaving forum (Yorkshire – 3 Counties link to Kingsdale) Click on video.

 

 

Let the grandkids have a caving trip we did not dream of – BRING IT ON!!!

 

Andy Walsh

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