Cuckoo Cleeves / Mendip Weekend
The squirrels gather nuts, leaves fall, the nights draw in. It must be time for a trip down to Mendip land.
Whilst the masses gathered in Kendal for the KMF a different crowd were gathering for the largest carnival of its type in Wells, Somerset, and of course for quaffing some of the local brew available from the Globe Inn. The carnival that parades through the city taking approximately a couple of hours is a spectacular sight, well worth going to see. This year was no exception. I found parking eventually, but so far away I should of just set off walking from the digs we were staying, approx 1.2miles away (I had been offered a lift back so would have been a good option). At times of events such as this everything seems different especially when its a place not visited for awhile. Following the noise and a rough memory guide I found the crowds that throng the streets and fought a passage through to the Globe. As I stood finishing my cup of tea (tea before beer) a familiar face appeared next to me, giving advice on how to reach the ideal standing spot opposite the Esso garage. This entailed a circuitous back route, but totally crowd free and no danger of spoiling either of my two pints en route. I caught up with various friends and members of the WCC and DCC whilst awaiting my companions arrival. Float after float passed, some looked as though they had been to Blackpool and borrowed the illuminations! All in all it was an amazing procession going past. At the end we retired to the sanctuary of The Globe for more beer and conversation, quiet wide ranging but involving cave discussions before saying good night and disappearing into the night.
A potential trip down Manor Farm Swallet was planned for Saturday though some concern over CO2 levels was a concern giving rise to plan B - GB Cave.
Saturday was damp and grey with misty drizzle in the wind, we met at Upper Pitts where more tea was consumed whilst waiting for everyone. Three of us in the end!
MFS was given a miss due to various concerns. GB was not taken as everyone seemed to be descending on that cave. After a lengthy look through the guide book, more tea (a porridge) Cuckoo Cleeves was our destination feasibly walkable from the hut too, but decided to drive as no one knew exactly where, plus the weather was rough. We part changed at the hut then set off in Matt's farm truck to the parking area.
The cave is in the middle of fields, but on privately owned land which is owned by a caver! It is reasonably easy to find but not sure we went the easiest way! An impressive work of engineering that constitutes the lid and belay bar, (for the ladders) covers a concrete pipe, locked, in a small depression surrounded by fields. Laddering the tube we dropped down through boulders to a small chamber at the bottom. A small passage leads down to a short climb down to the top of the canyon. As we had not been here before we had a look around heading straight on to a boulder area with small ribs of curtains in the roof.
Cuckoo Cleeves like a few Mendip caves has an issue with high CO2 levels at certain times of year. As we returned to the canyon by various means the air was noticeably less pure. From the canyon we proceeded with caution following a rather lovely stream passage to a chamber from which a dig lead off at a high level. Air still not good at this point. We carried on until the passages split into two routes, one leading to a dig. The other leading towards the exclusive lake that few people have seen due to the extreme tightness of the passage, made worse by the air quality! Matt went further on down this passage to a high rift before turning back. Myself and Becky waited close at hand to give assistance if required. Making good use of the time we took a few quick pictures. Air quality was getting noticeably worse - being out of breath going down hill! We turned around and started slowly heading upwards and outwards. I had taken a few mental notes of potential areas that would make a good picture, one of these was the canyon. A fabulous formation that yielded some photographic joy. The air quality was still bad so pictures were rapid in the taking and I had to return down to retrieve a flash gun. Upon returning to the top of the canyon I was rather breathless.
The way out from here was reasonably obvious though a small amount of confusion ensued as a climb down that we had descended on the way in looked somewhat different! We had brought a hand line for this bit but as we were not sure we had used it, decided it would be OK. It is, if you have long legs! I climbed up and dropped the hand line. Matt had dashed up the short passage to fresh air and daylight ahead leaving us following just behind. Climbing out was a joy as the air quality dramatically improved!
We then de-rigged, replacing the ladder on top of the shaft and bid farewell to a fabulous, all be it short cave. Walking away the wind was blowing in our faces forcing good fresh clean air into our lungs. Thoughts went to a hot shower at Upper Pitts, food and beer at the centre of the universe - The Hunters Lodge Inn. We knew the beer would be good, food would be served at the temperature of the sun, but we did not know what a fab night it would be in the company of Clive, Mike, Fran and David from the NPC, but that is a tale for another day.