CLUB TRIP TO MENDIP - 21/01/94 - 23/01/94
Having resolved to do just a little bit more caving this year I found myself actually keen to visit Mendip and trucked off to the Blacksmiths to see who else might be going. It became apparent that about 10 people were likely to meet up that Friday. This, in itself would have been a pretty neat turnout. What was actually to unfold was nothing short of miraculous...
Having agreed to meet Eric in Guildford it transpired that Kathryn Dunkling and one of Erics students, David X, were accompanying us (4). Uneventful trip down to the Shepton Mallet hut. Stopped for chips in Wells and espied a very strange clock indeed. The second hand would climb to the 12 o'clock position and then fall just past the 6 o'clock position. Since we had to wait for the chips to finish frying I was amused to watch this spectacle twice a minute!
Oh surprise. We went to the Hunters for beer! Sitting in the side bar it was not long before George and Sarah appeared (6) closely followed by Steve and Helen Wray (8). Then Adrian Pankiewicz, Andy Todd and Andy Symonds appeared (11) having missed us in the other bar, shortly followed by Gary Hopwood and Ian Whitehouse (13). Having re-acquainted ourselves with Butcombe Bitter we retired to the Shepton hut and were amused by a newcomer attempting to light the fire. It was pointed out later by another visitor that there was actually central heating!
Saturday 22/01/94. Foggy. Various debates ensued over breakfast as to the merits of various trips. New member Andreus King appeared (14). Having just divided into 3 parties attempting 2 different Swildons trips and an Eastwater visit who should arrive but Carl Gibbs (15) with a couple of other Plymouth members and Ali Neill (16).
George, Sarah, Eric, Kathryn, David and myself set off for a short Swildons trip to sump 1 and back. I was interested to find that the changing barn that I remembered as a dark rank place was really rather pleasant compared to the alternative. The muddy path to the entrance was perhaps shorter than I remembered. After several notices and letters in the caving press regarding the lack of water on Mendip we were pleasantly surprised to find a considerable amount of water flowing into the entrance - though this did cause a relative newcomer some trepidation.
All-in-all I found the trip extremely enjoyable - the general nature of the main stream was larger than I remembered and just as sporting. I would agree that much of the cave is extremely well worn but there was very little evidence of cavers detritus or rubbish. The newcomers found the trip quite exhilarating too. A shame that not all Mendip caves are as exciting.
The 2 Andys, Adrian and Andreus embarked upon a short round trip with a deviation down blue-pencil and some of the streamway between sumps 3 and 4. Andreus was interested in the pollution reported in this area but presumably due to the recent high water levels this was not found to be a problem. However negotiating the ducks in the trouble series was, as even after frantic bailing there was very limited airspace!
Gary, Ian, Steve and Helen set off for Eastwater Cavern, while Carl, Ali and another couple of Plymouth Poly also attempted a short round trip, but I think they turned back thinking water levels were too high.
One of the nice things about Mendip is the amount of time you have - the trips generally not being too long and everything being fairly close by. Following our Swildons trip we stopped in at Bat Products for a chat and organised a signed copy of the updated "Mendip Underground". A quick look in at the Wells Cathedral for tea and cakes was followed by a short drink at the Kings Head for George, Sarah and I. Whilst pleasantly supping I noticed a University of Kent minibus stop outside. Mentioning this to George he launched himself outside to hold up the traffic and established that Richard Rolf (17) is in the area with a large UKT team.
By this time someone had bumped into Graham Christian (18) who had invited us all to the New Inn - where Wealdon C&MR were holding their Annual Dinner in School Uniform - for a skittles challenge. After some confusion we all managed to assemble at The New Inn for what turned out to be a very enjoyable evening. Sadly we failed to thrash the Wealdon at skittles - perhaps due in part to their dirty tricks department letting off a stink bomb! Anyway, I understand we will be welcome to return the challenge following their Dinner next year. During the course of the evening Sam and Nicola Knott (20) and Pete Burgess (21) were also in evidence.
Sunday 23/01/94. Having opted for a GB Cavern trip with George, Sarah, Eric, David, Steve and Helen I found myself getting quite cold whilst George struggled to get the blockhouse door open. Despite having 2 keys this proved to be a real problem and we did not manage to gain entry until another party appeared from the inside. The trip was largely uneventful, though again impressive for the large passage dimensions and rapid depth gained. We didn't trouble with the Ladder Dig extensions owing to the large numbers already at the ladder climb. Anyway, time was getting on and some of us were hoping for a quick lunchtime pint!
The others present embarked upon various Manor Farm and Thrupe Lane swallet trips. I am afraid I cannot provide further details of these as we didn't really have time to exchange notes prior to our departure.
It was really rather interesting to have repeated 2 mendip cave trips that I hadn't done for many years. I hope I speak for all those present in saying that this must have been one of the most successful club trips in recent years. A thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Hopefully this level of activity and enthusiasm will be maintained!