Thackthwaite Beck: Ian, Team Dudman, Steve and Maud (28th March 2010).
Caving in the Northern Dales has several advantages. For a start, it’s not too far for me to drive, there’s no gear to carry, little chance of being stuck behind parties of students wrestling with said gear and to pinch a phrase from Tony Harrison (MSG 12), it’s miles from Inglesport, so you can’t spend any money!
A late start, necessitated by the club dinner being the night before and the clocks going forward, found myself, team Dudman, Steve and Maud meeting up at noon in Woodhall. Steve and Maud were out for a walk in the area on this blustery but pleasant day and I filled my rucksack with neoprene kit for the walk up the hill, taking a wandering route up the fields following the indistinct paths to the edge of the fell, before traversing across to the beck that marks the cave resurgence.
Two healthy flows of water emanated from the scree slope, with their distinct mossy, green tracks, but compared to some of the chilly experiences of the winter, getting changed in the shelter of the cliff was bliss and we were soon sliding down the narrow pipe under the boulders into the cave.
The rugged passage inside is typical of the area – black, jagged and gloomy, just how I like it and compared to the underwater efforts of the previous weekend in a nearby cave, was very relaxing, with time taken to enjoy the sight of the fine fossil shellfish and coral in the walls hereabouts.
Geoff had brought his camera, as I’d suggested that the Stalactite Chamber was well worth recording, being the only significant display of calcite in this gloomy cave and we paused here to try to capture the sights. The following section of cave is most confusing, despite its linear appearance in the plan in NC1, with the many collapses requiring some concentration to avoid getting lost, before the absolute silence of the spacious Boulder Chambers is discovered – very nice indeed and rather less spooky with some company than on my previous solo visit!
With support from Matt, some of the nasty bits near the terminal chokes were investigated more fully than before, getting to the point where less water, some tools and a lack of fear of jammed blocks might yield progress.
On the return, we managed to find a totally different route back the passage just upstream of Stal Chamber, bizarrely enough, where Geoff tried to get some more pictures before we fogged up the atmosphere.
A few minutes and we were out, with the climb out of the pipe made more interesting by the loss of some of the wooden rungs. A pleasant change out of the wind allowed a comfortable walk down for Chris and me, with a quick perusal of some of the mining artefacts on the way down, including an impressive pump housing above the large waterfall next to the bridleway. It’s just a shame that there are so few caves of this stature around the area.
Pics by Geoff Dudman.