Fairy Holes Cave: Ian Cummins, Adele Ward (September ‘17 / Sat Club Meet).
I have previously commented to friends that caves have names that always fill me with dread, (although I have never been down these ) – Hammer pot, Quaking pot, the lovely Hell Hole. and a personal favourite name – Knacker trapper, although think I might be safe as I lack the prescribed trapping equipment.
First time I heard of Fairy holes it struck me it had a different sounding name, listening to friends tales of time gone by my curiosity was engaged. Following a trip to Cliffe Force, seeing the black web like rock, Ian applied on behalf of the WRPC for the once a month Permit.
Saturday yielded the most glorious of mornings – the Sun was out the birds were tweeting – well the birds were actually several Buzzards we spotted on the drive up.
A wetsuit is always my favoured caving attire underground and a necessity here, walking up I could have cursed the dam thing. Hot and bothered we strolled around the former quarry noticing the original cave entrance and the huge gap between the now cave entrance, I could rant a lot about this.
Armed with back up WD40 to aid any padlock issues – we were quickly down the pipe. Greeted by some boulders, followed by the most pleasant stream way – this was going to be fun.
As usual if you’re expecting a Cave report that offers fine detail as to navigation, then you probably should switch off now. Ian told me to lead on mate, lights on full “ sun mode” we progress.
The dark rock, held a certain welcoming note – it looks like hands reaching out from the side. Parts of these passages reminded me of Dowbergill, I would say it was remarkably like parts of Cliffe Force Cave.
Forward motion was slowed by my nosiness at every fossil we passed by. I want to look at everything ! Chunks of fossilised coral can be observed in boulders on the floor.
The trench in the floor holds shin deep water, which become slightly deeper at times, and pools of waist deep water. Knowing this was going to be a wet trip, my warmbac is keeping me cosy, but around this time I notice my feet are getting cold. I’ve sprung a leak in my wet socks, this is going to be a cause of distraction. There are several boulder obstacles encountered they are generally fun. This is a muddy place at times and you’re going to get caked at frequently. The passage is blocked at times and side ways walking is required to pass obstructions.
Zig zagging passage, some times side ways but nothing tight, seemed to go on a while. We pass Old graffiti from Miners reminding us of times gone by. Im still up front when we reach a larger boulder choke. Scratching my head as to the way forward – Ian pops his head up and directs us up to flat roofed chamber.
I’m told the coral gallery is accessed here – no longer available, my disappointment is kept quiet. Hearing there is a nasty traverse up there – soon changes my mind. Finding the slot to move down Ian checks everything is clear, with care I follow.
More similar passage is observed and enjoyed, its changed from the sharper black hands pointing out ( wish I knew the correct terminology ) to a crusted mud at times and larger scalloped areas.
Opting to take the wetter bits we pass through a duck , and I note its’s getting a little lower. Short intes of crawl and stooping passage are leading us toward the choir.
I can never be bothered standing up to stoop after a crawling section, when I think there is going to be further crawl ahead, so at fast toddler speed, I enjoy scooting along these areas. Reaching the Choir I feel the excitement emitting from Ian. I very much enjoy observing all of my Caving buddies at times like these. Fine staws hang from the ceiling and a flat roofed chamber is seen.
My eyes are immediately drawn to the fine brilliant white formations on the left – they remind me of large white church candles all lined up.
Next on the agenda is a down climb of sorts towards the crawls. Ian spots me down helping make sure my feet land in the correct places – “cheers matey.” Placing over some boulders puts I’m looking square on at something Ian has told me I might not fancy.
Trips with friends have taught me I don’t mind crawling, I kind of like squeeze bits, I can cope with wet bits – I retain a general dislike of traversing and of SRT. ( If anyone has any suggestions than other than just keep doing it they will be well received. ) This is often an inconvenience to me, as I don’t like not being able to do stuff.
A Muddy little hole ahead looks fine in principle. Formulating how I’m gonna get there, the gap below is noticed, the mud is noticed – its looks slippy. Problem with this is – I know I’m a fanny. This section should be best negotiated with confidence – bring on sure footing, up right standing positions, and quick nimble feet. My feet are numb, I feel like am walking on the ends of my shin bones.
Ian smiles and tells me if I don’t fancy it this section – we have come a long way – its all cool. We have had a fun trip so lets turn around – he probably noticed my semi wobbly lip.
Assessing this bit required me to progress objectively – considering the area doesn’t look too hostile apart from the slippy mud, and the drop of doom. Needing to formulate how slippy it is I poke around. My thoughts range from I want to cave within my limits, this is considered. Yes this bit looks a bit iffy for me – I cant feel my feet, I am feeling fresh enough now – but I bet at by the end I won’t.
The general set up of this area is as follows – Im sat on the right hand side, looking down, there are some boulders that I’m perched on, there is a bit of a drop below me. To the left is a flake nestled on a narrow ledge horizontal to a window. Progress is apparently made by Traversing. Someone braver than me would have just got this licked in a second- but I’m a little worried. Wanting to progress I have a little exploratory mission, as the flake in front offers a good hand hold and what I think is rock to the left looks achievable. Thus I deposit myself on the other side of the Traverse, now wedged behind the flake ! Ian looks perplexed as to why I have now landed myself in a less affording position. Ive managed to jam my thigh behind the flake, the other positive looking hold turns out to be mud.
Wishing I could feel my feet , I exclaim ” mate I ain’t happy over here” – “No bother its been a great trip lets head out,” is the reply.
“……….hmmmm I’m on the wrong side.” Ian toys with different configurations of movement over this area in order to encourage my progress. “I will spot you here mate, just put “ya foot back there…….” in the end, figuring I need a little break I retreat behind the flake.
Ian ever helpful asks if I’m ok – “Well actually mate I’m feeling a little iffy about this bit”, I fanny around for a few mins but know I’m not really committing to it. Feeling sense of disappointment is noticed. Had this been a through trip, and not having to face this in reverse on the way back, I may have mustered more bottle.
So wedged behind my flake as all my close friends know I am like a donkey with a carrot when it comes to smoking cigarettes, this isn’t something I’m proud of, its just a factual statement. Wedged behind the flake trying not to have an epic about getting back to familiar ground Ian suggests I have a smoke.
For a second this didn’t seem the place I wanted to be….. “mate I would love a smoke, but I ain’t gonna enjoy it here.”
On reflection I notice a point, Ian prefers to approach these areas facing the the obstacle, feet first with confidence . I prefer a more 3D approach with backwards shuffling and grabbing rocks with what seems like my teeth. I suggest I’ve found some reasonable hold that I can utilise to move back over on. Having a little test pull, my disappointment mounts that its actually mud crumbling in my hand.
I am not going to shy away from the fact I wasn’t brave enough to progress through the slot, and the further reaches of this cave. I could list numerous reasons/excueses/ bollocks -such as my numb feet, my lack of confidence, my desire to be responsible and to not cause an issue on the way back, etc when all would be more fatigued .
Ian moves to helpful positions , I move back to where I came from. All happy we decide its time to head out.
Every opportunity I have I tip water from my wellies – I’ve never really felt concern about being cold before. I’ve rather relished the colder water sections underground. However today my feet are cold and their lack of protection trouble me. I love caving – I love being underground – a carless twisted ankle would be a pain in the arse, as it would prevent me from doing this.
Aware we now have plenty of time – we stop to take a photo of some gorgeous rugged rock. Laying in the water acting as a human flash light – I think I spot something.
Various communications take place with Ian, eventually my attention returns what is in front of me.
Is that a frog?? …. Questioning my sanity “have I been in this cave to long, am I hallucinating ?” Nope I’m fair sure thats a frog , but its in the arse end of this cave and doesn’t look right happy. Ok I’m anthropomorphism …. but poor little bugger.” Ian come here quickly… quick mate.” Looking at this little fella how the hell he got here? The options for removal are discussed. The Darron drum seems the most likely contender, however my wide drink bottle ends up being sacrificed. Putting Froggy in the bag may cause harm, so Ian carries the bag and drum, and I carry my new found friend.
Becoming increasingly trouble by my lack of feet sensation is bearable, but it makes me go a little clumsy as I don’t want to loose balance. Ian leading out with his sporting pace.
Passing the miners graffiti, noticing I’m feeling a little tired, I cant quiet remember how far in this is. I have very much enjoyed this system, the experiences feels unique, I would like to go back. My warmbac is now seriously acting a a huge ballon of water, previous trips have clearly leaving their mark.
Heading out is a funny experience to me – I kind of never want the trip to be over, I like being underground, perhaps its genetic. But when I first notice a sniff of fresh air am always excited….. the outside world always smells so different.
Arriving at the tunnel of certain spiders, Ian reaches for the stashed tackle bag. Suggesting I head out and wait while he completes padlocking duties, I scuttle forward with haste, avoiding glances at the walls. Exit is made around 5 hours after we headed down.
Thinking Ian will be out ASAP – a squeal is heard . Ian has managed to poke himself in the eye with the WD40 can. Concerned about my mate, getting into nurse mode I think he will survive although I reckon that hurt.
Last job is now to release Roberta my pet frog ….. I’ve grown attached to her when carefully carrying her out of this cave ( yes I know iI shouldn’t decide a frogs gender based on how its looking at me ).
We find some reeds and realise her, Roberta sits there for some time not moving. Perhaps this frog isn’t the most intelligent frog in the world, hence why it ended up in the far end of Fariy holes. Hoping I haven’t brought a frog out of a cave thats a bit daft and interfered with Natural Selection ……….she finally swims off.
Walking back to the car, we have a look for the original cave entrance. This is the only sad part of this trip, I can see how much of this cave has been lost. It makes me feel utterly depressed for a min. Then a thought occurs, if this is here … what else is ? Arriving back at the car, I produce the worst sandwich ever created…. its been in a warm car for 6 hours or so. Ian scoffs his, I reject mine.
East gate to the Pub, Im driving so Ian can go wild and have 2 pints.