There was supposed to be a DCC trip to Gaping Gill on this date, also being the winch meet weekend but it was put off again for various reasons, and so I proposed another caving trip somewhere closer to home. It was my birthday on this weekend, and so I thought we could go caving then celebrate with a few drinks in the evening. Everyone seemed keen on doing Bagshawe Cavern and I had never been there before.
The wonderful Tom Howard picked up me and Gareth Goodall, then we drove to the car park at Bagshawe to meet Colin Shepherd,
Angela Ward, Graham CaveUK and Bill Edge. Also met two new faces, Sarah and Gary who I think are also from Chesterfield Caving Club? We signed into the Bagshawe Hut for 11am, and began the descent down the 102 steps into the cavern. Bagshawe Cavern is a mostly natural cave system discovered by Lead miners in 1806, working what was then called the Mulespinner Mine. In the second half of the 20th century Bagshawe Cavern was used as a tourist attraction.
There is a junction at the bottom of the steps, with old fuse boxes and electric cable left from when the cavern was open to the public. We went straight into the cave system, no leader was really decided on for this trip but Graham seemed to know it better than anyone else who had been there before. We followed a passage which led to an aven with excellent formations. I started to freeclimb up as there seemed like an obvious route along at the top, about halfway up the tricky climb I could see the passage, but some were not so keen on climbing up there so it was left for a another trip. We continued down the main passage passing a short flight of stone steps next to a 5-6m pitch, being used at this point by caving instructors with some visitors. This high chamber is the Dungeon, which we intended to descend on Gareth's electron ladder later on in the trip.
Past the Dungeon, we saw some more good formations with cave pearls trapped in a calcite cascade. We stopped for snacks and a group shot in a fairly large boulder strewn chamber, climbed through then continued to follow the streamway, with Graham looking for the Hippodrome. Met two friendly chaps from a Welsh caving club who I think helped us to work out that the boulder chamber we had just come from was the Hippodrome as Graham had suspected. We went through a muddy passage to a small chamber that ended where the water was a couple of feet from the roof to continue on I think to a sump which Graham had a look at. A few of us turned right at some diving weights into a sloping crawl to peek over at a resurgence making an awesome noise for it's size just below us. We turned back at this point with no further to go unless you are a cave diver, and met the few who had not come through the water that were waiting for us in the muddy passage.
We tracked back to the Dungeon and whilst waiting for the instructor to de-rig his electron and lifeline, had an unsuccessful attempt at trying to find our way through the squeezes down to the lower series. I think there were a few too many of us to have done it comfortably anyway. At this point we should probably have paid more attention to how the instructor had rigged his lifeline as when it came to us rigging one we all had different ideas and ended up hopelessly confused about how to lifeline the last person safely down and up the pitch. I am not sure we had enough rope for this either. It was probably a good thing that we ended up leaving it for a return trip with SRT kit next time!
So we headed out back towards the junction at the bottom of the entry steps, where there is another large passage with a plank across and a "no entry" sign. Of course we ducked under this to have a look, and walked straight into a stope with some dodgy looking timbering, and bits and pieces of boulders still hanging on by fractions of rotten old wood at helmet bashing level. Some lovely calcite formations had developed over the walls of the old mine workings, creating the most beautiful stope I have ever seen. I was gutted I had left my camera back at the junction but I would very much like to organise a return trip here soon to descend into the lower series and see the rest of this fine mine/cave system.
Back up the steps out, pausing for breath and photographs along the way, then another group shot outside the hut, we were in the pub for around 3pm enjoying the first of my birthday drinks. Went out in Stockport that evening with Vicki, Paul, Gareth and Kate for a good few drinks then some 3am birthday cake. What a top day, thanks guys! :D