Casserole Pot Update


Our ongoing dig on Casterton Fell is still making progress. Since the last article in June 2017 Newsletter ( Vol. 54 No.1 ) steady progress has been made over the summer and autumn. Not as many trips as we would have liked as progress was slowed by the building work going on at the Farm. A number of people have put in time capping and snapping along Sausage Streamway at the end of the cave and we are still following the stream with a good outwards draft over summer and this has changed to an inward draft over the winter. Phil Gillespie, Sam Lieberman and Bill Sherrington have helped Steve Gray and I, with guest appearances from Boz, Hugh St Lawrence and Roy Breakell.


Each trip tended to be in three parts, first clearing debris from the previous bang, second capping along the walls of the passage to make it wider until we had used up over half of the drill batteries and third drilling deep 12mm holes for a snapper to be fired at end of the trip. In this way we have made 5 metres progress along the streamway, still in a northerly direction. In the meantime surface and underground work has been going on to try to work out where the cave might be heading.

On the 11th November Hugh St Lawrence carried out a smoke test with help from Roy Breakell. Roy went down Casserole as observer. Hugh set the smoke bomb off below the aven at the end of FX5 inlet in Cow Pot – This is reached by a series of climbs up from the bottom of the entrance pitch and starts as a well decorated crawl reaching a stream way. This has two streams entering, a dribbly one coming down the aven, and a much stronger one coming out of the crawl at the base of the aven. The stream coming from the base of the aven crawl is larger than   both  streams  in  TSG  or  Casserole.  Smoke seemed to go up the aven, but he left before he became engulfed!  


He arrived back at Casserole about 30 minutes after setting off the bomb. Before he went down to see Roy, he went to the next door shake hole containing the cave dug by Johnny Baker in 2008 known as “This Side of the Gill” or TSG. ( See Journal 10 page 307 ). Here he felt that there was a 'light grey mist' in the air and a faint smell of something chemical! But there was a strong warm draught coming out, whereas very little noticeable in Casserole.


Hugh had an anemometer with him, and the readings were:

Casserole end (Pepperami Pot)    Temp: 9.5ºc

Air speed: 0-0.1m/s OUT (just about see breath moving)

TSG dig (at entrance)                  Temp: 9ºc

Air speed: 0.4-0.6m/s OUT (noticeable draught)

Outside temp:    2.5ºc

Hugh's Observations at the time: Little airflow in Casserole - strong airflow in neighbouring shake hole.  Smoke/draught appears to go up the aven with dribbly stream in FX5, not up the crawl with stronger stream.


Suggested comment from Hugh:

1.    Repeat smoke test from same location but station observer at next door shake hole entrance - it's faster airflow may mean the smoke went that way.

2.    In wet weather, dye the stream in Casserole and place detector in stream from base of aven in FX5 (and put one in stream at top of aven if you can get up there?.. needs aid)


It's a little inconclusive for Casserole. My suspicion is that airflow goes up the most convenient, open chimney, which is maybe up the aven to the next door shake hole. The Casserole stream may take a small route to join another stream (from where?) forming the one issuing from the base of aven?



I decided that what we needed was a more detailed surface survey of the area. So on 18th October I surface surveyed between Casserole Pot and TSG. This is only three legs and it was a bright sunny day. Then I decided to survey TSG as well. The entrance looked a bit dodgy but proved to be OK with some solid wooden shoring holding back the world at the entrance. It is a 1.5 metre climb down into a hands and knees crawl over bang debris for 7 metres to a left hand bend, to a further 4 metres of flat out crawling with a significant echo and draft heading roughly N.E. What we have also found from the recent surveying is that the bottom level of Casserole is only 7 metres above the level of old phreatic passages in Gale Garth and Cow Pot. Another short pitch would drop us down to this level. In the meantime we will keep on digging. A sketch survey of the relationship of Cow Pot, Casserole Pot and TSG is attached below.


Sunday 20th: Repeat of smoke test by Hugh, with Bill Sherrington sitting in the entrance to "This Side of The Gill" (aka TSG) and Hugh  setting the bomb off in FX5 aven.

Smoke goes to TSG, and pretty quickly. Before he set the bomb off he tested the air with a joss stick, and Bill smelled that too. From what Hugh could see before he left the site, the smoke goes up the aven - swirls around a bit first, but doesn't seem to go up the upstream crawl, and definitely doesn't go back down FX5 to Cow entrance.

The Aven is 5.9m high from the floor (disto on rock floor), not 8m as marked on survey – i.e. It's 5m high from any sensible survey station. Upstream crawl at base of aven continues for 5.9m on 332º to left hand bend, no idea what happens beyond.(too low).


He placed two detectors in stream, one just upstream of the aven (blue wire) and one just downstream (yellow wire). Yellow one was a bit redundant, now we know the smoke goes to TSG. But worth putting some OBA in Casserole. when it's a bit wetter. Are there are any other likely inlets in Cow entrance series? Might be worth finding out and placing detectors in them, too. Stream might possibly drain into Aardvark..?


At the moment it's probably worth pressing on with Casserole. but also definitely worth giving high level Cow a good coat of looking at for possible inlets.

OBA placed in Casserole Pot on Wednesday 23rd during very wet weather.


Extracts from Log Book:

25/11/17 Cow Pot.   Andy H + Steve Grey     Trip to collect detectors from FX5 inlet left by Hugh. Lots of bumbling about trying to find way into inlet. Left it for a while and went for a look around passages off Shale Cavern. Couple of inlets investigated. One Could be dug upstream but the other is directly under the entrance shaft.

Went back to climbs into FX5. More faffing about and Steve found  way up  awkward climb but struggled to get  through low bit. Swopped places and he gave me a bunk up. Found the two detectors H.St.L. had left the previous week. Saw two bats flying. AH. Whilst looking for FX5 Steve traversed around the main shaft at mid level. Interesting inlet with aven and a passage (Dig) at the bottom.

Sat 2nd. Dec. Casserole Pot - Series of cock ups!   A. Hall, S. Gray, Matt Jenkinson, Hugh St.L.    Crack team down Casserole! Sit about capping along right hand wall with new drill bit. Capped about 10 holes along wall in very hard black limestone without much progress. Eventually all my batteries were flat and Matt went out for Steve's drill. Reached rock projection on right wall so we decided to put in two 12mm snapper holes. Steve tried to fire these with some det wire from top of Pepperami Pot while we took most of gear out. Misfire! Wired up again from bang wire on surface with two snappers in series. Misfire! Lots of swearing and sense of humour failures. Eventually fired both separately from surface.

Tues 5th Dec. Casserole Pot.     Andy Hall and Hugh St Lawrence.

Short trip with one drill and one snapper to check out and clear debris from last Saturday. Cleared debris from first bang but second shot hole still intact! Bugger! Seemed to have blown out the stemming. Drilled second hole to left and down a bit. The passage continues, narrow and partly blocked by stals. Draft blowing in. Left cave and fired snapper from surface.


Thurs 14th Dec. Casserole Pot.     Andy Hall and Hugh St Lawrence.

Quick trip down Casserole. Cleared a lot of debris from previous bang. We could see a bit further on around slight right hand bend in passage past stalactite blockage, which should hammer off. The black limestone bed on the right hand wall is proving to be very fossiliferous and quite hard. Drilled another snapper hole in right wall and fired from surface. Retreated back to Farm as it started to snow. We will need more snappers yet!                 


Andy Hall



Pic01_preview               Pic02_preview

The way on in Sausage Streamway                    Steve drilling in the crawl




Pic03_preview                                  Pic04_preview

Left: Sam Lieberman working in the crawl     Right:  Straws and ladder in Pepperami Pot



Back to Contents: