Exploration of Woodhouse Way - Lancaster Hole. in 1980

Link to passage description

From RRCPC 8
After the success of unearthing the Maracaibo inlet in Ease gill, the hard core of the club felt justified in sitting back to gloat over the survey that was published in Journal No.7. Having stoked up the fire and found some comfortable chairs, the Red Rose stalwarts duly settled down with a brew and festered, like embryonic cavers suspended in winchesters full of Yates and Jackson's. Dust and cobwebs gathered in the kitchen, and darkness fell over the farm as the money ran out in the meters.

One day, some years later in 1980, a bearded philosopher with a glass eye blundered into the kitchen, knocking the winchesters all over the floor and reanimating the pickled likenesses of the Red Rose hard core.
"Get off your arses, I've found a dig waxed the philosopher, storming off to the changing room with a giant iron bar in one hand and a tube of Spangles in the other. Lured by the possibility of some new passage, and the more attractive probability of being fed, we dragged our pale, limpid bodies into mouldy gear, and set off over the fell.

Assembling beneath Fall Pot, we climbed into an inlet only a few yards up the Main Drain. This passage was marked on the three Counties survey and, we knew, headed south for a couple of hundred feet. After some low crawling, progress was arrested by a calcite darn from which trickled a small stream.
"There y'are," said Jim, "a cracker inít it!"
Not wishing to incur his wrath and lose our Spangle ration, we reluctantly muttered agreement. The bar and chisels were aimed at the offending calcite, and the hammers began to fall.

After several weeks of concerted effort, mainly by Grahame Leach and Jim Newton, the water level behind the calcite was lowered an inch or two and a faint draught began to clear the air and our heads. Old hands were dusted down and brought out of retirement, and new faces were press-ganged to the work face. Jim Davies arrived with a drill, and a large length of 6" pipe appeared from somewhere and was poked into the murky waters. Owing to various problems with these simple, mechanical aids (i.e. having them operated by simple, mechanical cavers!), things didn't really get going till a recce team of Alex Fletcher and Paul Saville took a mini-bottle in and negotiated two low sumps to a squeeze and some rift passage, ending shortly at another low sump.

The following weekend a team of nine assembled at the dam, and the ritual siphoning was recommenced. After an hour, the first two sumps began to blow and we were just about to set off through when Jim Newton, who was still hammering at the calcite slot, was shot in the leg by a steel splinter. His leg rapidly began to go numb, so Mark Woodhouse and Frank Hardy agreed to help Jim out as it was obvious he would need assistance. The 'bullet' was later removed in hospital, but meanwhile, Jim Davies, Paul, Al and Hugh had reached the previous limit of exploration. While the diver kitted up and had a fag, Jim and Hugh crawled up an inlet to the right and tried to climb a vertical tube in a phreatic side passage. This fruitless attempt only got them covered in obnoxious, slimey mud, so they retreated to the sump. Al and Paul had disappeared, but the diving kit remained. Had they 'lost their bottle, we joked.

A small pile of cobbles denoted just that, and we soon discovered that, with a bit of gardening, they had managed to lower the sump, creating another glug-glug-cough-whoosh-oh hell fire-glug of a duck, this one somewhat longer than the previous two. After 1 5ft t the roof fortunately rose to a more respectable 6" airspace, and then suddenly popped up into a nice rift' giving sideways crawling. At last it was possible to stand up, and we set off in pursuit of the other two. The narrow rift forced us into a higher level traverse, but after a few corners this dropped into a respectable walking-size stream passage. We whooped away upstream, falling over everything and each other in the excitement. Several hundred feet on we met Al and Paul where several cross-rifts, both carrying streams, entered as inlets. Up a l5ft climb in one, l00ft of passage entered a low, wide bedding-plane with a large collapse of blocks on the left. Through this could be seen enticing black space.

Enough was enough. With no one to keep the siphon open the ducks would be almost full again. We retraced our steps to the first two ducks which, sure enough, had filled (the siphoners had got bored waiting and gone out). Some hairy free-diving through underwater squeezes and we were soon back in the Main Drain, exiting after a successful but knackering eight hours.

After this experience with the auto-fill ducks, it was decided that a siphon team should be stationed at the calcite dam during exploration. Al and Hugh volunteered to lie in the water bunging and unbunging the pipe, thus getting to the front of the exploration queue on the next trip. But up at the low bedding chamber, the enticing black spaces in the blocks didn't seem so promising after all, and half an hour's ferreting didn't get them anywhere.

Hugh decided to have a rest and crawled over to a shingle bank in the middle of the 'chamber' for forty winks. Lying back on tile cobble cone he was surprised to find himself looking up a small aven. Curiosity led to investigation and he was suddenly shouting "Al, it's huge! Passage six foot square, come on quick!" A squeeze off the top of Hugh's Climb broke into a sizable shattered chamber. In the opposite wall a nice square passage beckoned.

We're away, we thought. The comfortable walking passage raced quickly round a few joint-controlled legs, and then abruptly split up into pokey little rifts which all choked. "hell fire, this is stupid" said Al. We tried again, looking under every shelf that might contain the way on. Nothing. We retreated with mixed feelings of pleasure and disappointment. 'It don't come easy' in the Red Rose, it seemed. How did the Pennine do it, we wondered? We recounted our finds to the siphon team and it was agreed that a fresh pair of eyes should have a last look round on the next weekend.

The fresh pair of eyes peered around above a bushy black beard. "Wot's this?" said the mouth, following its breath round a little rift that twisted up to the base of a climb. "Wot do you mean, it doesn't go?" said the breath as its long legs projected it upwards. Effing morons must be blind !" said a disappearing Jim Davies. At the top of the 25ft climb a small window looked out into a huge passage. "Come and look at this, you stupid sods," said Jim. A startled following climbed through the window into a large passage, 15 - 20ft in diameter. A bat flew past. Surely this one must go, we thought? But it was quite quickly established that the only way on was up the aven in the middle of the passage, both ends of the old trunk route having solid chokes. The cavers withdrew, Al's thumb being crushed by a falling rock on the climb - it made everyone realise that any injury beyond a hangover made rescue from beyond the ducks extremely problematical.

The scaling poles were brought in on the next weekend and the aven climbed. This revealed a further short length of passage till a boulder blocked progress, but the sound of falling water could be heard beyond. A climb above the first scale led upto a second aven which was eventually radio-located. The complex of Bat Chamber, the present conclusion of the series, lies beneath the large shakeholes that are skirted on the path to Link Pot. It looks a significant spot, both above and below ground. Those who push the remaining leads have an entertaining trip to contend with!

Thanks to Jim Newton for finding the lead, to Grahame Leach for believing him!, to Andy for lending his nickname to the bedding chamber, and to Frank Addis and team for the radio-location. And of course, without the rest of us, none of it would have happened in the traditional Red Rose way - slowly!

Hugh St Lawrence.