Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A scurry around Swildons

My friend Frank is going away to do a bit of travelling down under. Before he goes we agreed we should make an effort to get down a cave. As it happened Dave-the-Cave and co (Bristol District Caving Club)  had planned a short trip around Swildons Upper Series so Frank, Sim and I decided to tag along.

It's January. It's cold. It's dark. It's raining. And Swildons happens to be at Priddy, the highest village on Mendip. So, inevitably, just before setting out I had the usual 'why the fuck am I doing this?' moment.  I forced myself to throw my kit in the car, resolutely stuck out my chin and headed off. Halfway there I realised I had forgotten my wellies and had to go back for them. Ho hum.

At least at Priddy there are changing facilities for cavers. These aren't exactly salubrious - an old cow barn full of birdshit - and the light no longer functions so you have to change by the light of your caving lamp - but it beats standing on the side of the road shivering in one's undies trying to avoid being lit up by the glare of passing headlights, which is the usual procedure. A glamorous sport, caving.

The cave entrance is three (very muddy) fields away from the road, so we slipped and slid along until we found the cave entrance.

Jack Osbourne on his trip down here was none too impressed by the entrance to Swildons, although whoever was leading him was rather meanly winding him up. Kate Humble got on rather better on her trip.

Me, inelegantly sliding in to the first chamber
There was lots of lovely water gushing through after the recent rains. This was only the second time I have been in Swildons since the entrance all moved around - the slide in is slightly more tricky now. But once into the first chamber we regrouped and then set off on a jolly nice trip down the 'dry way' up to the old 40 (another feature which has become redundant since previous cave movements changed it's layout) and down to the top of the ladder pitch before slithering up the wet way, involving  much lying around in cold water and climbs against the flow of the water. By the time we came out we were all drenched but exuberant and I had remembered why I drag myself down here on a cold night in January.

A caving trip is, of course, considered unethical if it is not followed immediately by a visit to the pub, in this case, Hunters Lodge Inn (see post dated 17 December 2011 here), also known to cavers as the Centre of the Universe. So once we had changed out of our sopping things it was a short trip down the road where I soon got stuck into a superb cauliflower cheese and a pint of Potholer. Frank, as always, went for the Butcombe.  I almost got into serious trouble as my phone rang when I was in the pub. Luckily it was very noisy in there and Roger didn't notice. Hastily put it on silent before he nailed it to the wall though.

A smashing evening all round and hopefully another caving trip soon. It's been far too long...

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