Nenthead 2012 by Ian Cummins

Nenthead: Andy Cole, Ian, Chris and Geoff Dudman (10th March 2012). 

Floods and pestilence have combined to put paid to most club meets this year, with plans to go caving being sure-fire drought-breakers – but this all-weather venue found four flu-free cavers meeting up at the leisurely time of mid-day.  As always, the drive up Weardale was a pleasure and the car park was deserted, save for a lass on a mountain bike who declined my offer of a free cave trip!

A quick change found me pulling on an oversuit and wellies, reasoning that my clothes would not get wet (wrong) as we were aiming for a short trip down Smallcleugh to find the Ballroom Flat.  I was prepared this time, bringing a compass to make some sense of the maze of passages in the mined-out flats, although I wondered why north had moved to east until I realised I was too close to my car!

Rapid progress, save for the passage having water that was over my wellies (!) found us at Wheel Flats, where Andy and Geoff did a bit of scouting, whilst Chris and I again inspected the superb walling of deads straight ahead.  Looking at the survey, we needed to head south, whilst our explorations were leading north, but turned out that Andy and Geoff had found a passage leading off from Wheel Flats – sure enough heading south.

With the passages matching the survey we were soon in the expanse of the Ballroom Flat – a fine mined-out chamber, unfortunately marred by some graffiti.  

Reasoning that your average caver doesn’t carry a pot of paint on trips and that most vandals are too lazy to go too far from home, I can only think that some kids brought here on outdoor pursuits trips have returned with their uneducated chums. 

We signed the visitors’ book, bearing entries from Tees Valley Cave Club and Sunderland Cave Club (learned something from the trip anyway).

Andy took a few pictures and we headed out after a pleasant couple of hours’ exploration.  Near the entrance we met up with a couple on their way in with head torches and walking boots.  Having whacked my helmeted head more times than I care to remember on this trip, I hoped they had no misfortunes in that regard. 

Ian doing some inspecting.

Let’s return to find some more obscure delights in this remarkable place.  We’re also open to offers for cave trips to any water-starved areas of the country,such as East Anglia, for a small fee of course.

Thanks to Andy C and senior Dudmans for a fun afternoon.

Pic Geoff Dudman