27 April 2011

Siamese twins

It's Tuesday evening and I'm contemplating the sex life of forams. An unusual activity! But over Easter I found a really strange foram in my sample. And it looked like a pair of Siamese twins. And I decided to share this beauty with everybody who can be bothered to read this. But while uploading the picture I contemplated if this really could be a siamese twin. Forams reproduce fundamentally different from humans, or from other mammals that are known to sometimes produce these. But I suppose it doesn't matter; if two individuals are generated in any way whatsoever, and they don't get fully separated and grow to full size while connected, that's siamese twins, right? I think it's what they are! A pretty couple, if you ask me...

26 April 2011

Catholicism strikes again

Easter is the main celebration of the Christian church. I ignored it. Not being religious already cuts out the church going, but beside that I didn't do anything social, I didn't eat even a single egg. I worked! And if I didn't work I ran or cleaned my house. It really is tidier now than it has been in quite a while. So in a way I had an Easter holiday with a strong Calvinistic feel to it. I am, however, not the purest of Calvinists, so I texted Federico to find out if he was up for a not-very-Calvinistic beer. He wasn't, but he planned to go to the beach the day after, and if I cared to join?

The next day; that would be the first proper working day! But after an Easter like that I figured I could do with some Catholic frivolity. And the previous time he tempted me I hadn't regretted for a second that I had given in. So after lunch I happily buggered off, into the sunshine! Federico took me to a beach where one could hire devices such as surfboards and sit-on kayaks. And there wasn't any surf to speak of, so we inquired after kayaks. They had some, but only for a short time; they were booked from 3PM on. So we quickly jumped into our wetsuits, and off we were!

I had never tried one of these; they are a bit strange, but not in an unpleasant way. They don't glide through the water like a sea kayak, but they are much easier to handle than a river kayak. So it was fun!

Federico shows one can also work these while lying down

Soon we had to abandon these, and went for a swim instead. Doing that I figured that a 2mm shortie wetsuit might be a bit optimistic in English April. I had brought only this one, as I was eager to try it; I had bought it for caving purposes, but had never come around to actually wearing it. This was my chance! But short sleeves was a bit too much. The thickness was alright, even though this was a lady's fit, and apparently ladies have a 1 m wide bottom in the minds of the wetsuit designers. I had a bit of a superfluence of water sloshing around in these regions! But well, that's how one learns. It was lovely to be frolicking in the water instead of sitting in the all-too-familiar lab. I guess every real or imagined Calvinist needs an assigned Catholic to save them from time to time!

24 April 2011

Long solo run

How the Industrial Revolution still keeps Britain’s residents fit. The landscape around here is littered with old rail tracks; they tend to be quite scenic, littered with industrial relics, and they don’t go up and down too steeply. And that makes them splendidly suitable for leisurely use!

I biked the old Brunel railroad from Plymouth to Yelverton several times. If I bike to Plymstock I tend to use the old track to Hooe. And when I did a long Dartmoor run with Neil we used the old railroad to Princetown.

I had planned to run the old track from Ivybridge north on Saturday, but with my car broken that didn’t really work. So I came up with plan B: bike to where the path to Clearbrook becomes scenic, and run from there. The path goes steadily upslope, so if you run up any distance you have a good chance of also making it back. So I just set off, seeing how far I’d get. And I got into a nice flow! One bridge after the other appeared. And after the third bridge I knew the next thing would be the tunnel. And that’s bloody far; even on bicycle that counts as exercise! But one can imagine the appeal of a tunnel. I got the idea in my head of running to the other side of it (of course) and back. And it stuck there!

I started expecting to see its gaping mouth after every bend, but of course it eluded me for a while, but finally there it was. I ran in and vanished from this world. If I run alone I have my iPod on, quite loud, because I like being lost in music while I run. But if you then run in the dark you lose all contact with reality. I had to take one ear plug out…

I took some pics, and turned back. And on the way down you can maintain a good speed! That is, until your body starts reminding you of the distance you have already run. I ran the last few kilometres desirous to see the end of the track, but that’s a good sign; I can motivate myself to run further than I had thought! And at the end I gladly greeted the sight of my faithful steed. Biking home is a nice cooling down. This might be a good routine actually! I don’t see many new things along the way; I’ve been there a bit too often, but it is a good venue for a nice carless run. Thanks, Brunel! And thanks for that bridge too, by the way.

23 April 2011

Old bodies yield

This should have been a blogpost on a run on Dartmoor! It isn't. I got all ready and got into my brave old car. I turned the key in the ignition and... nothing. Hmm.

When you own a 17 year old car it's good to be a member of some breakdown service, and I am. So I decided to just phone them; I'm useless with cars myself! And soon a chap appeared who started fondling all sorts of nondescript parts of the engine. He soon reached a verdict: my battery and alternator were at the end of their lifetime. The latter failed to charge the former, and apparently the former wasn't too good anymore itself, and a car with a flat battery is not much use. So the AA guy escorted me to the garage, in case the system would not even make it there, and we left it there. After Easter they will see what they can do!

I had some dirt on the lens... how would that have ended up there? But the general picture is clear enough.

It's a bit silly to bust your car just at the beginning of a bank holiday, but well, Murphy rules I assume. That's what you get when you buy an old car! Bits fall off sometimes. There's worse things. I'll just go for a run on the old railroad later. One does not need a car for that!

And then I got this in the mail - an advertisement for car insurance! If all my pride and joy is contained in that silly old car something's wrong...

22 April 2011

Im Osten nichts neues

I never need many attempts to get my mother on the phone. That's great! But when it then doesn't work out that's scary. I've now been trying for two days. Yes she is moving house. But if she would already have started using the landline in the new place instead of the old one, she would have told me, wouldn't she? And her mobile tends to be switched off, so using that number instead isn't very promising.

She probably told me she switched to a new number, but then the message got lost along the way, or something like that. There's probably nothing wrong! But still. If your mother doesn't answer the phone for an atypically long time, and you live abroad, you suddenly feel the distance. I can hardly just go and have a look! And with modern, complicated, dispersed families, you can't really phone some more proximal relative to go and have a look instead. Hmm.

I'll just keep trying.

Lo and behold, she had her mobile switched on! It was the prancing between the two places that made her miss all my calls. Glad!

20 April 2011

Caving for adults

Less than 1.5 years ago I joined a PCG trip for the first time. Three months ago I was the most senior PCG’er on a trip. And by now I’ve turned so senior that newbies don’t even dare talk to me. Or would that be due to something else?

I’m supposed to have all my results produced, compiled, contemplated and made sense of in three weeks’ time. Not. Possible. I’ll try to get as close to that stage of completion as I can but it’ll be hard work. And by now I tend to skip caving trips that are too far away, or that I have already done, or which come with complications. And no venue have I visited more often as Pridhamsleigh cavern: four times already. So this was an evident one to let pass by! But no.

Out of every door and every alleyway, it seemed, new PCG members came scurrying to join us. And new members tend to need a helmet and a light. These are kept in Plymouth. So on a trip with newbies we need a driver from Plymouth. And this time there was only one option: me! So I moaned a bit, especially as the new people kept on texting until just hours before departure that they were coming too and wanted a helmet (how many do they think we have?), but I did the responsible committee member thing and got the job done.
With my entire boot full of helmets I drove to Buckfast. I was early! When I reached the parking place I noticed a young man I recognised from DCRO who was unloading truckloads of kit. Not one of ours! He told me he would be taking 20 German kids into the same cave. Oh well. It’s a big place.

We parked a little further on; Lionel and Bernard were early too, and we caught up. I could have joined them to Swildon’s last Saturday, but as I was already busy that weekend being a lady and a Cornish Mine Explorer I had skipped that.

While we were chatting new members appeared. I expected them to walk over to us; they wanted to come with us, right? But no; they eyed us like we were disgusting bugs and kept a safe distance. Apparently we are very intimidating-looking people. Oh well. Their loss. One of the new guys ended up in the cave sweatily overdressed as he had refrained from taking the opportunity to inquire after the environmental parameters underground.

We managed to get kitted up and go in before the hoard of kids. Richard was being very educative and pedagogical and brought us all safely to the lake. I didn’t go in this time, but I did do a silly crawl one can do there, with two other fanatics. Then Richard lead us to a sump. Only the die-hards; Rich, Lionel, Skip (new to PCG but not to caving), Bernard and me, were up for that. Lionel, however, took the high (and dry!) road; the cheek. Oh well. Richard then went around to get the others while we pushed through; a road enlivened with deep water, tight squeezes, and German kids. We were happy to have Skip, who was also a member of the Devon Speleological Society, and knew the place like the back of his hand. But at the end of our wanderings: no Richard with newbies!

We had a bit more scrambly and squeezy fun, and then went to the exit as we figured that was the most likely place for the others to be. On the way we bumped into the German kids again. First one of the guys leading them around had heard me speak, heard my Germanic accent, and assumed I had something to do with them. I, for my part, had been addressing these kids in German; it’s the normal Dutch thing to do. They, however, were clearly adapted to the environment, and addressed me in English. So then I switched back. Just when they did too. It was a complete underground tower of Babel! Funny, though.

Near the exit of the cave we indeed found the rest back. They had had a good time! Very nice. And it was a nice warm evening, so quite unlike the previous time when I had run back to the car through the frozen night to change as quickly as I could, we walked over to the river to give our suits a rinse. And then I figured my job was done; I resisted the pub, brought the helmets back to Dave, went home, had a shower, and was in bed at a fairly decent time, quite atypically for a Tuesday night. I had rather not gone, but I had to admit I had had a good time anyway! And I hope that the new cavers have now overcome their fear of the likes of us and will be a little less timid next time...

19 April 2011


My programme for the Sunday: hung-over caving. And how reliable I am. I figured dining with Neil would have certain effects, but I also figured the best place to get rid of these would be underground. So painfully early I slipped into my scruffy pre-caving gear (what a difference with my outfit of the previous day!), got my prepared sandwiches out of the fridge, and waited for Dave with a coffee in my hand.

This trip was another Cornish one, and this one was typically far away. And if you have a wobbly stomach driving the length and width of the Southwest, especially with an appreciator of speed such as Dave, might not be the best activity to engage in, but I made it alive to the meeting point. And as soon as I got out of the car, beheld the beautiful scenery, and got into my reassuringly muddy-smelling kit, I felt much better.

Through glorious sunshine we walked to the entrance with a certain Colin who was our guide for the day. We were a somewhat unusual group; all Cornish regulars had already done this one, so beside Colin there were three more chaps I'd never been underground with before.

The beautiful beach where the entrance is

We're going in!

This mine had been operational until very recently, and then turned into a museum. We, evidently, went where the tourists don't go, but it was a very special trip, as we don't get to see so much modern-ish equipment. It was a beautiful place! I was feeling quite tired still, but apart from that I was having a ball.

After something like four hours we re-emerged, still into the glorious sunshine. Dave had important things to attend to in Plymouth, so we didn't stay to socialise, but shot off as soon as we were changed. When we drove off I felt fine! Ten seconds later I didn't anymore. The hangover was back with a vengance. And the roads were winding. The roundabouts multitudinous! One can imagine the torture. About halfway I had to ask Dave to pull over, and in shame I separated with my stomach content. Luckily I hadn't eaten anything that day, so that was trivial, but I was feeling decidedly miserable. Fortunately I managed to survive the rest of the trip. But once home I staggered to my bed and fell over. Two and a half hours later I woke up. Next time I drink too much I should seek out a more proximal mine! But I can't complain. I saw a beautiful mine, and the accompanied suffering was entirely self-inflicted. And now back to normal!

18 April 2011

Splendid dinner for a lady and a gentleman

“You will have to dress up like a girl”. It sounds so simple! But this innocuous remark was the harbinger of all sorts of things.

Why was I told to dress up like a girl? Neil had been invited by a restaurant owner he had legally represented in the past, and would be asked to represent again in the future, to dine at his restaurant. And dining alone is boring, so he needed a date. I got the honour of filling that role, but it did mean, considering the nature of the restaurant, that my normal troglodyte style would have to be abandoned for an evening. And I like a challenge!

I had not ventured in such an establishment in the UK before, so I figured I could perhaps do with some advice. And the good thing is that I have a personal advisor on basically anything one might need advice on: Rob! He agreed on being my fashion consultant, so now my task was to take pictures of myself in outfits I thought might do, and let him pass judgement. As this took place in the lab it didn’t take long before I had some female accomplices willing to add accessories to whatever Rob picked. It takes a village to dress a woman.

The finished product! Dress and shoes picked by Rob, scarf provided by Marta, and bag by Jessie.

It takes a man to dress a man; on the day itself I got a text message from Neil, asking what he should wear. I told him to wear something that matches dark red. And went for a run. Why not go from sweaty running kit straight into a dress. I did need some time to change my nose ring, tidy up my hair, apply all the make-up I possess, scrub all the ochre from my mine explorer’s feet, and more such things; it’s so much easier to be a scruffy scientist! But I got it done. And quite punctually I saw a familiar car turn into my street.

What I hoped happened: I saw disbelief in Neil’s face when I came strutting out of my house. I smiled when I saw he wore pinstripe, of which he knows I like it, but had managed to add a tie that utterly mismatches with dark red.

The restaurant owner and his partner greeted us at the door. They were really nice people! And after a first drink they seated us. Then followed a most pleasant dinner. The host looked after us well and tried to pour as much wine down my system as he could. With Neil he was chanceless as he was driving. When we were done we had some more drinks (they had Laphroaig! So far I’d been really calm with the alcohol, but Laphroaig... that’s a different matter!) while those involved talked business. And then, after a most cordial goodbye, we left.

When we reached Plymouth it was time to give Neil the opportunity to catch up. With Leffe. And I joined. Maybe not the wisest thing after wine and two whiskies, but what can I say, sometimes the moment inspires indulgence rather than restraint, and this was one of these moments. It was a splendid night ending splendidly! And worthy of repeat, as far as I’m concerned. It’s quite possible this won’t be the last lawyer-festooned blog post...

15 April 2011


Imagine you're a small girl in a dark place, surrounded by tough men. One gentleman of somewhat lascivious reputation sternly commands you to lie down. Then you feel the hands of many men on you, strapping you down until you can hardly move anymore. Got that? Good! Then you have an idea of what cave rescue training can be like.

This evening we would try to find out how one could get a victim out through a difficult structure called “the trumpet” in Radford Cave. Six tough guys and me had shown up for this exercise, so we kitted up and headed for the trumpet. I had done this climb twice before, so I was up in a jiffy. The men decided to first get some aids into place before they would follow; we would, after all, not only have to be able to come back too, but that would be while guiding a stretcher down, and then one needs as many things to hold on to as one can.

The men installing some slings and loops in the trumpet

When that was done we gathered in the Red Corridor to discuss the plan. We could do this with an empty stretcher, or perhaps with a modest victim; once we managed that we could some later day try it with a victim of any size. I volunteered for being the victim. I’m likely to be the lightest, and I had never been a victim before. And I had another reason; that Saturday I would have to pretend to be a lady, and that works better without ostentatious bruises everywhere. And the victim should not get too battered, right?

When that was decided the somewhat unsettling scene described above unfolded. And down I went! The route was: down a short steep slope, through a narrow passage with a puddle, and then vertically down the aforementioned trumpet. Then another passage, an inclined chamber, and then it would be enough for one night. So I was immobilised, goggled (this is for preventing rescuer sweat or general grit falling into the victim’s eyes), and slid down the first ramp. It worked well! It’s quite a surreal process. You can’t move, you cannot aim your light, you’re looking through steamy goggles, and you lose sense of space. But it was fun!

Here I've been turned into Margot sausage. Pic by Paul Johnson.

This is Lionel and me in one of the more spacious passages. Pic by Paul.

After the slope came the passage. That provided some challenges. The man in front of me required assistance, but that passage is barely enough for one person, so for someone to get past me and join the man in front was quite a feat. But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, so Lionel, somewhat lascivious reputation and all, came squeezing past. It was quite amusing. One gets to know one’s fellow rescuers from quite close by once in a while.

And then the trumpet! By then I had gotten used to precarious dangling; the stretcher was tied to a rope and they wouldn’t let go. And I couldn’t see or feel that rope, but knowing it was there was enough. There I went! Suspended in mid-air. It went well.

The men were profusely sweating by that time (thank goodness for the goggles), but they were up for more, and dragged me to the top of the main chamber. There the call of beer had become strong, so I got out, and we got the empty stretcher past the next demanding structures, and then out. Job well done! We know now how to pull this one off. I trust we could get a victim twice my weight out if needs be. Satisfied we could answer the call of the beer!

Mission accomplished! The empty stretcher as we dragged it out of the entrance. Pic by Paul.

14 April 2011


If I can blog about happy flowers I can blog about spring as if it's a good thing. I don't like spring! All the fresh, optimistic new leaves on the trees, all the ostentatious flowers. But when I biked through Radford Park on my way to cave rescue training, and saw a duck family with ten ducklings, I was touched anyway. It's just very hard not to like ducklings. And they were moving way too much to get all ten of them in a picture, but here's a few! With caring mother...

13 April 2011

Ad hoc mine

I don't like other people having all the underground fun! So when I unexpectedly got a text message from Lionel with an invitation to a small exploratory trip down an obscure mine I was glad. I actively try to be the sort of person people ask along on such trips! So I was tired and on the brink of heat exhaustion, but I showed up. And just with the three of us (of course Finbar was there too) we crawled down a hole Finbar had recently discovered. I overheard him say on the phone to Dave we'd only be underground for a short while, so I didn't expect too much, but what a pretty little mine we found there! With lots of interesting clambering and crawling. That ended an already quite full and pleasant weekend in style!

This place is not visited very often; notice the pristine flowstone on the floor! 

A classic stope with supporting beams 

Pretty speleothems!

12 April 2011

Heat training

It's spring and I'm scared. It's only early April and it's already way too hot for my liking! Fortunately, my office is never hot, and with a bit of luck the air conditioning in the lab will not give up this summer. But sometimes even I venture out, above the surface, and that will get more and more perilous. And one occasion specifically could turn nasty: the half marathon on May the 29th...

Last Sunday I had already been boiled while waiting for Neil and his brother, but I decided to have a run myself afterwards anyway. I will have to be ready for a run in the heat! So in the relentless sun I ran up and down a few Tors. And was properly overheated at the end of it. But I survived! I hope that is good news for next month...

The good thing about running cross country: streams! 


When I registered for the Plymouth Half Marathon I was wondering what had gotten into me. A half marathon? That’s far! My standards have changed in the meantime, as resilient blog readers will have noticed, but I still have my limits. When Neil asked if I would want to do the Tavistock Half Marathon as well, I detected that this was a wonderful example of what’s beyond these limits, and I told him one official 20km race was enough for one spring.

Neil, however, has never heard of the word moderation, and he runs half marathons more often than I wash my hair, so he was not disheartened at all by my lack of cooperation, and prepared for running with his brother. And I figured one cannot let one’s running mate participate in such an event without at least offering some support. So instead of running for hours in the blazing sun I contented myself with standing in the same blazing sun (forgotten sun cream! Or a longsleeve! Or a hat!) with two bunches of flowers. Neither of the men was in top shape that day, but I figured they would be way, way too stubborn to let that get into their way of finishing in a good time. And I was right!

We’d run 20km around Burrator Reservoir in ~1.55h, so from 1.50h I started to expect two sweaty siblings to pop into sight. And only a few minutes later they did! A good moment for some jumping up and down and shouting some encouragements. The last 500m of the race was run on an athletics track, so I could witness their last round. And after 1.57h, and a few last metres of sibling rivalry, they were in. Heroes!

The race track was for athletes only. Neil spotted me and walked over to the fence to collect his flowers, but his brother seemed to have moved enough the last two hours and stayed put. No problem! For some reason, the English don’t see how flowers can enliven such events; I literally saw absolutely nobody else with any. And rules seem not to be applied too strictly to something as rare as ladies with flowers, so I could deliver the other bunch in person. Good; these men had worked hard for them! The temperature was unforgiving and so had the route been. I hope many other supporters have been inspired, and next time there will be more floral opulence at the finish!

While watching the fastest runners come in I had noticed, by the way, that the average age was higher than that of those who excel at several other branches of sport. That’s encouraging! After the race I looked up the stats; the average age of the first 10 runners (1 woman in 4th position; the rest men) was 37.5 with a standard deviation of 6. Good to see people even older than me kick some ass! Though one could doubt the accuracy of the data; I could not help but notice that Neil’s brother was actually registered as a female runner...

11 April 2011

Escape to the beach

It was a beautiful Saturday. T-shirt weather and bright blue skies. I put on a thick fleece jumper. I, after all, was in my office. Nitpicking a document on a topic I’m not interested in. Is the image bleak enough yet? Then I got a text message. If I had time to go to the beach and watch the sunset. What a welcome message!

I finished my work on what one might have guessed was my sister’s thesis, just in time to get my food shopping done as well, and then it was beach time. Such a contrast!

Soon I parked my bike in Neil’s front room (he had been the messenger), downed a cup of tea, and then we were off! It was a day for having the roof down. Upon reaching the shore we of course got distracted by some warfare remains; there’s some quite well-preserved military structures from 1905 to be explored on top of these cliffs. So why frolic on a beach if you can rummage through dark ruins!

The hoist for getting the ammunition from the storage to the gun was still there!

Believe it or not; we managed to rip ourselves away from the catacombs, and descended onto a beach anyway. There’s one with a small cave, and how can one resist? It did mean a certain amount of dangling from cliffs to get there, which inspired Neil to reflect, suspended above the sea, on what he had said to his business partner about taking it easy the day before he’d run yet another half marathon...

Beside a cave there was ample opportunity for clambering around and taking pictures. Fun stuff! And then back, over an even higher sea. Happy days.

This is actually on the way back, but who cares.

 The small sea cave on the beach; notice I'm above it, and not in! I'm not as much as a one track mind as some seem to think.

We then ventured to the beach of choice, which provides a splendid view on setting suns. This heavenly body was quite obliging and set dramatically over Cornwall. Time to go home! Even the drive home was remarkable; we whizzed through the green and pleasant hills with the wind in our hair and Mozart’s Requiem at an almost unacceptably loud level. I hadn’t expected this day to turn out so splendidly!

09 April 2011

Plymouth by night

On Friday evening I was saved from my office by one of our PhD students who had her birthday, and dragged many of us to a terrace in the sun, and then a restaurant. Very nice! One needs some relaxing with nice people and a beer once in a while. Good food is not bad either. And when I walked back to my bicycle after the dinner I noticed the harbour was looking fairly picturesque in the evening light. I can't share the company or the consumptions on my blog, but with the view I can do just that!

Venturing into the world of grown-ups

Drivers! Sources! Processes! Dimensions! Units! My head is spinning. Where does all that managers’ lingo come from, one might ask. Well!

I have a sister who lives in the world of grown-ups, and she has a proper job. More proper than her education had actually prepared her for. So she decided to get another grade; this time precisely tuned to her work. And one does not get a grade without writing a thesis.

We all know writing a thesis can be demanding. I know that! But I don’t know how demanding it is if you have to combine it with a proper job, a marriage, and raising about 500 kids (well, a more accurate estimate is 3, but that’s not even that much less). And to make things worse; my sister had been told by her supervisor she had accidentally composed it in Dunglish instead of English. (UK readers may wonder why she did not simply use Dutch, as Brits tend to erroneously think one can use one’s native tongue for practically everything; well, we’re talking the Netherlands here. If you want to be taken seriously you do whatever you do in English!) And that’s where I came in.

I got an e-mail from my normally quite cool, calm and collected sister, asking if I would be so kind as to use my language skills, honed by spending 4 years abroad, to polish her thesis, and I agreed to do so.

My view on a sunny Saturday afternoon

I had underestimated how much work that is! Many an hour was spent in my office, while the sun was beckoning and my friends were having beers on a terrace. But that’s life. I spend quite some ridiculous evening and weekend hours in my cold office for myself, so I should not moan if I for once do that for somebody else. And by the tone of the e-mails I think I can tell this will be in the aid of a proper damsel in distress. But the deadline is nigh! I hope she will submit a thesis she’s proud of.

I now know enough about IT finance to last me the rest of my life. I hope. And having been granted a glance into the world of adults I am more motivated than ever to spend all the necessary cold hours in my office for a career in science; I don’t want to have to venture into the real world!

06 April 2011

Dog Hole

There’s holes in the ground that have stronger canine relations than Dog Hole; the two carcasses we found last month made the name of this week’s trip sound a bit presumptuous. However; Dog Hole is named after the dog leg shaped entrance, and that will persist long after the carcasses have been reclaimed by entropy. It had been a last minute decision to go there, but I was glad, as somehow I had never ended up there.

Richard lead the way; he crawled to the gate, found out that this time he had the right key, opened it, told us how we could get past the dog leg, and vanished. I was second; I crawled through as well. This bend is easier with shorter legs... finally, an advantage! The third came through too. That was the easy part. The fourth got stuck and turned back, accompanied by the unfortunately tall fifth, and then the sixth met the same fate as the fourth. Yet again a trip of which the participant numbers are halved at the entrance! In the meanwhile Richard lay on his back in the first chamber singing “bored, bored, bored, bored...”

This is what the guy behind me, who had come through the Dog Leg, looked like from where I was sitting. He is trying to talk the lady behind him through the difficult part. Where he is is an easy bit! 

"Bored, bored, bored, bored..."

The other side of the chamber Richard was lying in

Luckily, the three separatists could have some fun in the ungated part of the cave, and perhaps in Prid, which is a stone’s throw away. We pushed on! I liked this place. Lots of crawling, sliding and squeezing. Some pretty chambers and some nice dripstone formations! What more does one want.

Pretty speleothems in the next chamber. Richard had been shining on the blob all the 15 seconds of exposure time.. 

And then we made a picture of me!

When we came out the others were already waiting, and united we went to the pub. Good to find such a little jewel at such an obvious place after such a long time!

04 April 2011

Industrial run

The week is for calm and responsible behaviour; the weekend is for silly exploits. In several ways! This holds for running, for instance. During the week I do modest pre-lunch runs; if I'm lucky I have a colleague  (or two) accompany me, but more often I'm alone. And lately I've been running with Neil in the weekends. And that's always wilder.

A week ago we went running on Harrowbeer Airfield; I forgot my camera and Neil didn't take any pictures either, so that didn't end up on the blog, but it was a splendid run. Harrowbeer was only in use in WWII, and is now a field with only the foundations of structures left, and grass on the runways, and only earthen walls around the perimeter still rising up. The combination of the running off-road, the view, and Neil pointing out every relic slab of concrete and knowing exactly what it was for, was rather splendid. And the earthen walls were good for running up and down over them like a bunch of kids!

When we decided to do another run this week I suggested we run around some more interesting industrial heritage, and Neil immediately warmed to the idea. He came up with a run along a bunch of Dartmoor quarries. I looked up the route on Google maps and was quite impressed: they are beautiful! And I noticed the route would take us over the abandoned Princetown Railway, which I had encountered a month earlier.

One of the quarries on route as seen by Google Maps

On a day with beautiful menacing skies we set off. It is a marvellous route indeed! And the quarries were very impressive. The first one we just ran past, and I marvelled at the scale of the waste tips. When we approached the second, and the proposed route went straight ahead, Neil started to look difficult, run circles, and then say "f##k it; lets go this way", and ran into the path leading to the actual quarry. It seemed to be the quarry from which the rock for Nelson's column had been taken. We ran to the edge of it, which was very scenic, and then spent some time running around the remnants of buildings and whatever else there was to see. Beautiful! It did mean, though, that our route would be longer, and at some point I got tired and fell behind. But when we reached the top of the hill I was fine again.

Going strong! The tip in the background is, by the way, the biggest tip on the aerial picture above.

The inside of that same quarry

The quarry again; now seen from the afore mentioned tip

Neil going strong while I lag behind

We ran through Princetown, past the famous prison, past the church with the unmarked graves of French prisoners of war, past where the railway station had been, and then we were back on the old railroad. And on the way back we got some actual sunshine!

Sun and quarry waste! Marvellous combination.

A bridge to nowhere, as you get at abandoned railway tracks

We ended the trip in the quarry that I had explored the previous time, and where I had been wondering about circular features. Neil looked at them, and recognised them as foundations for cranes. Learned something again!

Here we decided to stop and use the rest of the path as a cooling down. Neil had participated in a social gathering the night before, and the effects were taking their toll. When the nature of the event had been described to me I was quite impressed he had managed to run at all; let alone 18.4 km on a rough track.

Dramatic skies over our cool-down

After the run we had a good meal involving quite some fish (another budding tradition), and exchanged pictures. A splendid afternoon plus evening! If it's up to me this tradition will consolidate...