Dow Cave – First Times by Adele Ward

Dow Cave: Adele Ward, James Ward. 

I’ve been bugged by James, my 10 year old son, to take him caving for a year now. With a 9 year old’s ability to totally disregard most things I tell him to do, we came to an agreement. If James could demonstrate that he actually possessed the ability to do as he is told he could come along.  It took a while….

James commented that he had been displaying some mature tendencies such as not hiding his home work, and pretending to brush his teeth so this was to be a 2 stage plan. Stage 1: walk up to Dow cave and show him the entrance; see what he thinks. Mission accomplished,  James seems full of beans to get back. Stage 2: caving. Unfortunately my only free day was Sunday 29th April, this would follow a Club trip to King Pot the day before, so quick kit turn around was going to be a pain.

Getting in the car, I took great pleasure in handing  James Steve Warren’s fine Survey of Dow Cave as a keep sake. Driving over, we begin the safety chat again,  James’s mood is calm. He feeds back to me our previous discussions.

Both crossing our fingers that there was not a million cars parked up at Park Rash the sun is out and the Birds are tweeting. Every caver must want to take their kids caving so this is going to be a brilliant day.

I’ve spent a lot of time deciding how to get the most out of the day.  James was to set the pace, if he fancied a break so be it, if he didn’t like it we would come out. Darren Drum is packed for every eventuality, including a packet of tick tacks that would become the bane of my life!

Kitting up, feeling a bit mother hen, James reminds me that I haven’t actually had to dress him for several years. This was actually really fun, wrestling wet socks on, trying different wellies, that all seemed to get stuck, made for a jolly mood.

Warm up complete ….

Sporting my new extra bright lamp,  James opted to wear my old helmet which whilst it fitted ok is rather heavy, but hey they have to learn. The walk over is glorious, the primroses are just coming into flower, the stream added a gentle background thunder … no I’m kidding, an ambling noise.

James about to discover exactly how heavy my old helmet actually is.

Arriving, the final kit is added. James pronounces with vigour that we have to return to the car. Crap, has he changed his mind! Recanting that he has left the survey, in the car I have a backup. He reminds me of one of my other caving partners!

Compulsory selfies

We  head down and I spot James on the initial climb down. We have had discussions about not pulling on boulders, and he reminds me of this at ever single one, which whilst cute, ‘look mummy I’m doing what you say’, quickly becomes a noise I could live with out. However in the sprit I dutifully tell him, ‘yep thats brilliant son!’ 

James was fascinated with the initial rock and calcite deposits.

Water levels were low enough to generally avoid wet feet in wellies, however James chose to try and get his feet as wet as possible to test his wet socks. ‘They don’t really work that well do they mummy’, nope another lesson learnt!


James suddenly decides he urgently needs a tick tack. Discovering they are in the Darren drum, he wishes to leave them there for safe keeping . These little blighters now become a pain every time he wants one! The walking passage is prefect to encourage an active imagination.  Over the obstacles with ease and moving forward James is on the hunt for wild life. Shrimp, spider (‘eek’), and frog all get names as we pass. Turning my new lamp on full, the splendour of the place still gets me no matter how many times it’s visited.

Pointing out some deeper water, Im puzzled that James suggests he wants to have a swim in it! ‘Perhaps on the way out then son’, knowing there wasn’t a cat in hells chance. Staying to the right, along the muddy banks, our goal is to go as far as dowbergill passage so I can take a photo, for my personal amusement. img_8546.jpg

More tick tack are had, and returned to the drum. Excited, James approaches the deeper water sections, ‘so Mummy can I have a swim’. Hmm, ‘why don’t we settle for a paddle ey son?’

James Going for a paddle
James retreating from paddle…. at speed

James quickly retreats confirming it’s a little chilly. As always when I leave a cave the air smells fresh, which James notices too. That smell of fresh air is always a big reward to me at the end of a trickier cave trip, glad they still happen with all cave trips.

James confirms he is feeling toasty warm in his caving attire, and fancies a sandwich. Handing him the ham with extra hot mustard by accident… looked to warm him up further!

All photos by Adele.