In 1972 Andrew Colau found a cave entrance whilst pottering about the grounds of Chapel House. Upon investigation, some 30m of cave passage was explored and, in CPC Journal Vol. 5, No. 1, 1973, described by Arthur Champion as emitting a powerful draught from the end. Some years later Harry Long and Ian Watson opened a squeeze up into a pretty little chamber, Club Chamber, but there seemed little scope for further extension at the time. In the early 1990’s, encouraged by Steve Warren, several forays were made by Graham Huck, Chris Camm and other WRPC members, resulting in a remarkable breakthrough and an extensive new cave system.
December 28, 1987
Graham Huck, Steve Warren and Peter Atkinson entered the cave, for Steve and myself, it was to be the first of many trips. We quickly made our way along the crawl with Peter and myself getting through the squeeze into the chamber. Unfortunately Steve could not bend his back to get through. Peter and myself explored the chamber and, at the back, to the left hand side, we could hear a stream. Looking down through a pile of large blocks, we could feel a strong draught. Unfortunately at the time we had no way of splitting them.
We retreated back to the main crawl and we all lay in the flat-out section talking about what we had seen when a huge blast of air hit us followed by a loud noise of rushing water. I turned my head to look at a crack in the rocks and got a jet of water in the face. Suddenly water appeared from everywhere. Seconds ago we had been talking quietly, now we had to shout at the top of our lungs. With that a fast exit was made. Ten years later the cave tried the same trick again, this time I was in the company of Ollie and Nigel. A fast exit was also made that day.
October 10, 1991
This was the next time I entered the cave, after weeks of discussion with the farmer, with Chris Camm and armed with drill, battery, plugs and feathers, hammers, chisels etc. With me at the top of the squeeze and Chris at the bottom a long time was spent enlarging it, so that the more portly members of the digging team could fit through. The next day a ten hour trip was spent splitting rock at the end of the chamber where, four years before, Peter and I had noticed the draught.
The next weekend was another ten hour trip and after few hours splitting rocks we broke through into a low bedding. Steve Gaunt managed to get along this to an enlargement and the star of the second bedding. The rest of the trip was spent enlarging the first bedding so as to make it easier to work on the second. It was then to be three years and a total of five beddings dug out before the breakthrough. It involved most of the Club and hundreds of man-hours.
There is much that can be written about this but one person who deserves a mention is Paul Smith, or ‘Fergus’ as he is otherwise known. One day, when digging along the third bedding, Paul said:
“I think I can see a way on and I reckon I can get there”.
“Go for it” I said.
So off Paul went, armed with a trencher. He kept digging bits out so he could squirm forward. He shouted back:
“It’s bloody tight. My wellies keep getting stuck”
“Mine do that all the time’ I said.
“What size do you take?’ asked Paul.
“Size twelve’ I replied.
‘I only take size six’ Paul answered.
“Ooh” said I.
The next second: “Shit. l’m stuck’
Somehow he had managed to get the trencher under his chest and was firmly wedged,
‘Can you see a way on?’ I asked him.
‘Yes, but it will take some work.”
Great, I thought. At least we know which way to go. Paul was about four metres away and fortunately there was about three inches of clay on top of the rock. So, lying flat out, I started digging towards him, After three quarters of an hour I made two metres of progress and I was knackered. I managed to get a trowel to him so he could start digging the clay away from his side with his left arm. After another half an hour I was completely knackered and so was Paul.
It was then I remembered a rescue practice when a wise old chap, who most people know as Watto, told me “If anyone gets stuck, keep talking to them, but most important keep reassuring them”. The problem is, being only a simple peasant I didn’t know what a big word like reassuring meant. But, hell, I thought, l’ll give it a try.
Shouting to Paul I asked him if he could hear a stream. He stopped digging, listened a minute, then shouted back:
“Well” I said, “It rained all last night. it wouldn’t surprise me if a flood pulse was on the way”.
It was amazing. He suddenly got a new lease of life and his digging visually improved. l was chuffed to bits, that by talking to him in a calm reassuring way, he had perked up!
Both of us continued digging until he managed to get free. All credit must go to Paul for keeping his cool in a very frightening situation. Then on Saturday March 13, a breakthrough was made. It had been a superb team effort by all involved.
Chapel Lodge Cave is extremely flood prone and must not be entered in wet weather. Currently there is no access to the cave which forms part of the farm’s water supply.
This Article Was Published Originally in The White Rose Pothole Club 40 Years Journal 1954-1994, 1994, p10, and titled ‘Chapel Lodge Cave by Graham Huck’
Chapel Lodge Cave Survey by Steve Warren