So it’s day 3 of #30dayswild and I am already behind with blog posts! The trouble with caving is that it generally involves an after work drive of an hour to get anywhere, so inevitably involves a late night and no time to write about it once home.
I got involved in caving around 7 years ago now, I am scared of heights, deep water and I was quite scared of confined spaces! I recall what sparked my interest, we’d gone for a walk on the Mendips which passed by lots of cave entrances, I was intrigued by what lay inside the caves and wanted to explore. I found a caving club who kindly took me under their wing, loaning me kit, teaching me what to do and offering lifts to get to the caves. I’ve challenged my fears time and time again underground and have been rewarded by wonderful sites I know few people will ever see. The first thing people often ask is about feeling claustrophobic, often there are so many bright lights in the group you forget you are underground, many caves are very spacious with lots of walking passages, so you can pick and choose what you feel most comfortable with. I am not keen on socialising in pubs or clubs etc so going caving is one of few regular social contacts I have with others. I find going to new places hard and it’s reassuring to have the same pub to go to after caving, as it never changes and caters for cavers.
Yesterday I planned a trip to an area called Fairy Quarry – the quarry opened in the 1920s and was quarried into the 70’s. The caves would have formed a larger system pre quarrying but there are now lots of separate ones. Some are so well decorated you can only be taken there by a leader in a small group. The caves I’d selected for our trip are behind a locked gate, but caving clubs have access to the key. The quarry is a beautiful nature reserve in itself – nature is slowly reclaiming the site with wild garlic and bluebells in the spring and orchids and wild flowers come summer. The indentations in the ground make a perfect home for frogs and newts. The quarry is also gated, so only climbers and cavers with the code to the gate can access it, this is to make sure the quarry is protected as previously it’s been subject to joyriding and vandalism.
I nearly backed out of yesterdays trip, I’d taken a phone call which had upset me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My gut instinct was to stay at home on the sofa. Somehow I got myself out and once in the quarry relaxed into taking photos of the wild flowers.
Soon we were scrambling into the cave, a greater horseshoe bat joining me as I descended. Sadly there is quite a bit of damage to the cave formations in the initial sections of cave due to the quarry work – broken curtains, stals and tar covering some of the walls. Whilst the others explored a bit of passage which is normally filled with water I enjoyed taking photos of the roots which had dropped into the cave, they can often look quite pretty under torch light.
I’d had a busy week and the caving felt hard work, lots of belly crawling and bashing myself on awkward rocks – some expletives may have been uttered. I was rewarded as we reached one of the key grottoes ‘Cambridge Grotto’ which has a stunning display of varying formations. It’s one of the most breathtaking sites (in my view) in the caves of this particular area. Our turnaround point was a chamber called ‘Brenda’s chamber’ – which is decorated by a huge curtain. Our trip then retraced to a point in the cave which we could turn off and make the trip a circular one. My mood still wasn’t great, but it felt comforting to have the support and reassurance of the people in our group coaxing me over things and generally making sure I was okay. I got to return the favor when one of our group found a tight bit of passage difficult. That is the beauty of caving, everyone has a strength and a weakness and we can all support each other in different ways.
Getting through into the next part of the cave involved an short aquatic slide through a wet bit of passage, the cave water isn’t warmed by the sun which can make it pretty chilly! Some caves have various creatures living in the water which runs through them, they are often white as they have lost their skin pigmentation. Exiting the cave in the dark, into a different part of the quarry, it felt like we were walking through the jungle as the moths danced around our helmet lights. Despite my dark mood it felt like a great privilege to be able to see the wonders of the underworld with the support of others.
For information about getting to caving click here
For information about cave life please visit this informative website
To see a video which someone else has filmed of the trip we did visit here