Saturday - 12th May 2001
People present - Duncan Jones, Pete Dale, Cath Thompson
As we were starting to run out of ideas for caving trips ue to foot and mouth we reluctantly decided to return to Derbyshire to check out the caves of Stoney Middleton. After a bit of faffing waiting for Pete when I went to pick him up and yet more faff when trying to meet Cath, we eventually opted to try Carlswark Cavern. Getting changed was a slow job, relaxing in the heat, waiting for another group to descend Eyam Dale Shaft and the fun of Pete realising he'd forgot his light. Pete rigged the rope and I abbed down, on my way down I wondered why we didn't just use a ladder as it would have been easier.
All assembled at the bottom we set off, the first signs of how the day would go started with "slow down, I can't see" coming from Pete (one of many times that was said), so with Pete between me and Cath (behave, he had no light remember) we followed another group and eventually joined up with them as neither of us knew the way.
After a short distance we came across a wet section, judging by the screams from in front we thought it would be bad, but it wasn't that bad we only had to go through it once…or so we thought. By this time I was starting to regret my decision not to wear knee pads and we'd only just started the trip, ouch.
A mixture of walking and crawling followed and eventually we reached a sump, free dive anyone? we decided this wasn't the way to the Gin, so we back-tracked for a bit and explored some other side passages along the way. Going back through the wet section Pete kindly pushed Caths head down into the water much to Caths amusement (I think not) we soon came across a side passage which we followed as a crawl into a small stream. We then climbed up through a squeeze which is close to the start of the dynamite series. Having gone through the squeeze we realised it wasn't the way so back to the stream and along to a 'loose' section - bits of dubious wood 'holding' up the roof.
After a bit of crawling we reached a junction with a rather familiar cairn, we quickly realised where we were so removed the cairn so others would not recognise where they were. Heading back towards the entrance we reached that wet bit yet again!! That passed for the third time we looked at every side passage until we came across a big obvious passage, wonder if this is the way we thought (hmm bloody obvious I think!).
We marched down the easy passage and suddenly heard something that made us realise it definitely was the right way - kids voices, they could only have come in the Gin. We passed them knowing the way out wasn't far away, following the draught all the way until we went past the side passage that leads to the Gin which we didn't notice on as we flew past it. A quick poke around in some grotty passages we backtracked and found the right way out and emerged into the warm sun.
A short stroll back to the car and the rope retrieved we set about getting changed, which took even longer as we were enjoying the sun - why did we go underground on such a lovely day?Duncan Jones
Pete's version of the trip.."Lights are for wimps!" or "By the light of Duncan's arse!"
Persuading Cath to stop her silly diving at the weekends wasn't easy but once me and Duncan had. We were all set for a trip down Carlswark cavern and out of Gin entrance. Which is in the muddy county of Derbyshire near Stoney Middleton. The plan was to meet Cath at the lay-by on the main road from Buxton and do lay-by pot. Although she seemed to have been confused by these simple instructions (typical women!) and we were just about to give up on her and go caving when, my phone rang, it was Cath! I answered with "Hello are you coming or what?" and was replied with "Where the F$## are you? I've been waiting for nearly an hour!" "Cath? Are you there? I can't here you??" I replied and hung up. (Great mobiles aren't they?)
Ten minutes later we had found each other and after a bit of abuse from Cath we made our way to the cave. Now the guidebook says to park in stoney-Middleton but this would involve a 20-minute walk and since we noticed a suitable area opposite the entrance this was chosen as our resting-place. Leaving us just a 30-second walk up to the entrance! We proceeded to get changed…
It was lovely and sunny which made it all that bit harder to get into our caving gear but since mine had been washed and conditioned I didn't mind one bit. (Don't even think it!) And if having to go caving in Derbyshire isn't bad enough id only gone and forgotten my light, aaarrgghhh!!! Well I wasn't going to let that stop me so I decided to just not use one. We then all got changed and made our way to the entrance.
Luckily the entrance pitch is P-hangered which made rigging that bit easier on this 12m pitch! We had to wait for another group to descend first which strangely contained two Red Rose members? The pitch was soon rigged and I sent Duncan and Cath down first to light the way for me and once they were both safely at the bottom I made my descent. Well what an experience it is without your own light you can see so much less! Reaching the bottom Duncan slipped through a slot and I blindly followed with Cath coming up the rear. We were crawling along a small phreatic tube thoughtfully littered with cobbles as none of us had got kneepads! After a short distance we could stoop and made quicker progress. Although every now and then I would have to shout for Duncan to slow down as I couldn't see.
We had soon caught the other group up but not without first admiring the fine formations in a couple of cross joints along the way. Reaching the other group we found them playing with and cursing one of there lights, "alright for you at least you've got a light" I cheekily remarked as we passed them. Catching up with the leading part of their group we heard screams and shouts from the female members and just a couple of metres further we found out why.
The stooping passage changed back to crawling and then we came upon a squeezy bit, well it would be for Cath! Nothing wrong with a squeeze I hear you say did I mention the water? Nope? Well after the squeeze we took a right at the next junction into a wet bedding plane where we found another squeezy duck followed by some shallow pools to wallow through. Having done that we emerged into a chamber were we went right and through a small bedding only to find we could walk right round it if we had turned left!
A short length of walking passage brought us to the top of a climb where, we waited for the other group to climb down then followed. A squirm down and through a sandy tube led us unfortunately to the downstream sump so everyone turned around and we made our way back again. Once back in the chamber we all had a good look round for a way on but to no avail! So, back we went through the wet crawl much to everyone's delight especially mine as at the duck Cath was behind me so in true red rose fashion I prevented her from exiting the duck, needless to say she was not amused! At the next junction we took the right-hand passage and followed it to a climb down into a stream which Cath, Duncan and a few of the others followed to a sump while we waited and admired the diving line they hadn't seen! When they returned we pointed it out to them and made a run for it up stream.
Upstream was easy going until we came to another crawl. Where strangely the first person through shouted back "Don't touch the roof or walls!" strange I thought so following Duncan's glowing arse I found out what he had meant, a short length of timbered passage a bit like the great escape! You guessed it once I was in the dodgy bit I proceeded to poke and push the rotting wooden members just to see if they where that bad. This resulted in screams of terror from the other group! After this exciting bit we re-entered walking passage and also had a look up an aven for a way on, without success though. Me and Duncan plus one of the others were in front and upon reaching a junction we found a cairn we had passed earlier and the passage leading back from the downstream sump, thus meaning we had gone round in a complete circle! Which meant that we had to go through the wet bit again for a third time! So yet again we made a sharp exit before the others realised what had taken place.
Standing up in a cross joint it was decided to head out the way we came in as the ladies were getting tired, So off we went Duncan, me and Cath. On our way out we inspected every passage on the left to see if we could find the one that led to 'Gin entrance' and entering a very large passage with a strong draft we set off in search of an easy way out. A short way along the passage we were starting to have doubts about it being the right way, but then I heard something that convinced me, children's voices! They could have only of come in through 'Gin' so we raced towards them. Sure enough my suspicions were confirmed and we were now on our way towards daylight. After passing a couple of very deep pools we thought that we had missed the way out as the leader of the children's group had told us that it was on the right and we didn't think he would of come through these with kids! We where wrong, after a bit of poking around and draft hunting we found the way to the surface.
Climbing up out of the entrance we were met with brilliant sunshine and the comforting warmth it gave. We then walked back to the cars and leisurely got changed. After we talked about the trip and some of the comments that were made like 'Abseiling is like riding a bike!' and 'This is as bad as Bagshaw!' we then packed our gear up said our goodbyes and set off on the journey home. While Duncan drove I fell into a drowsy state and dreamed about proper caving in the Yorkshire dales.
Well Carlswark cavern is fairly nice for Derbyshire standards and should be looked at as well as other caves in the area. Also worth noting is that caving is a lot easier with a light and as a not so wise man once said to me 'It's dark In them yon caves!'Pete Dale