12 August 2010

Back underground!

"I haven't been underground since half three this afternoon!" That was what Rick of the Muddy Digs replied when I said I hadn't been underground for a month. We had just entered Reed's cavern as part of a cave familiarization evening of the cave rescue team. I had never been into Reed’s. But I had evidently missed out!

Reed's odd-looking entrance

Only 6 people are allowed into Reed’s at one time, so we were a sub-DCRO training; the others were doing water rescue somewhere else. We were a bit late; Rick himself had been on TV around 7, and had only managed to rip himself away from the screen when the item was over. I’ll go and watch it online! And we had some inspiration for celebrity jokes through the entire training.

Pic by Paul
Reed’s cavern, named after the founder of the Devon Speleological Society, turns out to be very pretty, and have some good spots for some clambering practice. One vertical drop where I ended up dangling in mid-air and many people saw the need to do the splits was interesting. And we had to go back that way, too...

Me trying to get back up that nasty drop. It's not visible on this pic but I'm actually getting some help from below... pic by Paul

We also finally met “the Little Man”; a small speleothem in the shape of some horned, winged creature... it is said to eerily have formed directly underneath the allegedly haunted tomb of a 17th century local squire, described as “monstrously evil”. The local legends of this man and his hunting dogs still roaming around seem to have inspired the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles. We did not encounter any ghosts ourselves, though some after-effects of the dinner of one of us could be qualified as ghoulish. But cave rescuers should be resilient!

Resilient as we were, we were also fairly relaxed, and we took some time for pretty pics too. And for crawling the wrong way and accidentally taking the difficult route out. A nice crawl-with-squeeze! We all had a blast. And emerged very muddy and foul-smelling.

By sheer coincidence, Jon would be celebrating his birthday in Totnes that evening, so my intention was to rinse the worst of the mud off me, jump into the car, and bugger off in that direction. And Reed’s is next to the Pengelly centre, which has an outdoor tap, so the rinsing went splendidly! And off I went. It was a bit of a chore to locate the celebrating crowd as they had moved venue, but I managed, and even succeeded in giving the jubilant the standard Dutch three congratulational kisses without knocking him unconscious with my appalling body odour. All was going well! So I had the one legal pint with more of my colleagues than I had expected, and ended up being the last to leave.
I was the only driver in the company, and I had expected some people to take advantage of the situation to hitch a ride home, but my peers are wilder than I thought, and seemed all to prefer to continue the debauchery in Plymouth, except Dave. I did not bother to go dump the car and rejoin the roaring, reeling crowd; by now they really, really would be too far ahead of me with drinking... but that’s fine! Tomorrow’s another day. Without such contrasts, perhaps, but one that’s worth being fresh for anyway, I suspect!

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