30 April 2013

Hugh's farewell

It's the end of an era! Hugh has left us. One might assume that the end of this era had come when we broke up, but that wasn't the case. It's sometimes odd to see how friendships can still blossom after the relationship has crumbled. Having a relationship builds a lot of familiarity, and that often stays, sometimes for many years. So Hugh's office was still so close I could hear him type, and we still went on all sorts of adventures together. Friday was his last day in the office. No more reassuring sounds from across the corridor! I'll miss them.

It not only was his last day in the office. but also the last day in his apartment. Monday he would drive north, but on Friday he had to vacate in order to make space for the cleaners. So where would he go? Somewhere familiar: my place. A bit odd to move in together in such configuration, but hey, one of our lab technicians actually bought a house with his ex, where they are living happily ever after, so here in Plymouth they're used to something.

On Friday we had Hugh's goodbye drinks. It was nice! First some pints in the pub, and then off to a restaurant for dinner, and for a small speech and some presents presented by Hugh's closest collaborator. He hadn't expected anything of the kind! Naive chap.

Will takes the piss: here Hugh, who had to do a lot of pulverizing for his research, gets a pestle & mortar and a sample of dust...

After the restaurant we went to another pub, and another, and after that I went home, but Hugh went to another and another and who knows what else. I heard the key in the keyhole at around 3AM. A good goodbye! And then we had a calm and responsible weekend, in which he vacated his office too (snif!), I booked my train to York in order to find a place, and did several other useful things. We also went for our last run together for a while. And on Monday morning it was goodbye!

 Domestic bliss: we made a nice apple crumble together. I did the apple, he did the crumble!

Last run together

I'm sad now. And of course, in a month's time, I'll be moving up north too, and we will meet again, but it will be different. Living in the same town and having offices 2 meters away form each other is something different from being a 2.5 hrs train journey away from each other. And I'll need some of my weekends to build up a life in York. And sometimes go back to the Netherlands, or elsewhere. We'll see how things evolve.

I wish Hugh all the best in Liverpool, and I look forward to do some exploration of the midlands together! There's much to see: Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, the peak district, the Lake district... I hope we'll have much fun to look forward to!

 And there he goes! In his blue car...

29 April 2013

Hawk's wood mine

It would be Hugh's last PCG caving trip! It happened to concern Hawk's wood, or Hawkswood, as it may be more casually known. It would be a struggle to get to it.

He had started packing, and whatever had been packed had been stored in his car, so we took mine. I made sure I had my satnav with me, and, in case the battery ran out, also written instructions on my phone. I didn't hink of bringing a map...

We were off. We had to travel a long way along a road I didn't know very well. Just after a specific village, of which I knew it didn't have a village sign, we would get off it. We were happily driving through a village that might or might not have been the one when, without warning, the satnav quit. No battery! And I don't have a cigarette lighter in my car. So I looked for indications that this was the village in question, while I dug out my phone, handed it to Hugh, and told him how to use it. I didn't see any of the landmarks I saw on google Streetview, so I just continued. And shortly afterwards I saw a familiar car behind me - Alex! Would he not know the way?

Before we came to a village that might have been the one we reached the A30. Bad news! That meant we had gone too far. I gestured to Alex I was confused, and pulled into a layby. There I explained the situation to him. It turned out that as soon as he had seen me, he had switched off his satnav. oh dear! But no reason why he couldn't switch it back on again. So now it was me following him, rather than the other way around. And this way we got there.

We jumped into our kit, and walked to the entrance. there is choice; you can get in through the top or the side. We chose the top, as we expected to come out through the side. And we found many fellow cavers! It was a well-attended trip.

Some of the nice green flowstones in the mine

I had only been there once before, and I enjoyed seeing it again. It isn't big, but it's nice. One of the sights is a shaft you can look into from below. I always wonder if you could free-climb it. This time I also wondered if the frog we found underneath it had fallen in. he probably had! As even a frog can't jump out I put it in my little tackle bag. I'd bring it back to the surface! I was a bit afraid, though, I'd forget; this would, at best, lead to me having a frog hopping around in my house, and at worst a frog dying of hunger inside a bag.

We went back. At some clamber Lionel halted. I was wondering why. He said you could get out that way. Really? I looked at it, figured going up was easy, that going down would be hard but not impossible, and chanced it. He went off to the right; i went off to the left. I found an inclined shaft, with beautiful yellow flowstone. The green stuff in the lower level (pic above) might give some idea. I decided to have a look! It was really beautiful. Imagine an inclined shaft entirely covered in yellow ripples. And water flowing down. It was most magical!

Finbar, Dave., Lionel and another Dave light up the flowstones of the previous picture (having many Daves is a thing of all times!)

After a while I heard Hugh below me. And then Lionel. And Alex. Apparently, we were checking this place out! I was careful; I wasn't sure if this woul really lead out, and I didn't want to go up anywhere I wouldn't want to come down again. (I learn!) But it went and it went and it went. And then it stopped. It seemed to end in a collapse. But that was only appearance: I turned a corner, and saw daylight. It really did lead back to the surface!

I clambered out, and released my amphibian passenger. When I opened the bag, I found him sitting serenely ion my water bottle. Not an excitable lad! But that's for the better.

 My temporary friend

We got back to where the others came out, walked back to the cars, changed, and drove to some pub I hadn't been before. It turned out to have a band playing! And they had more enthusiasm than talent, which, as far as I was concerned, worked out fine. Not everybody agreed! And after a pint there the only things to do then were to bugger my indicator lens on Rick's car (no, I'm not good at parking, including the getting out of a parking space) and get home. Nice evening! And I trust Hugh will find his way down, either with the club on a trip out, or without the club altogether!

28 April 2013

Logistics of moving house

It sounds so simple. You find yourself a new apartment, pay the deposit and get the key, and go back to your old apartment. There you pack your stuff, have a removal company pick it all up, have the cleaner come in, evaluate the result with the letting agency, and hand back the keys. Then you go to the new apartment, let the movers in; they deposit the stuff and leave, and then you can make your new abode your home.

But this might involve some time travel. As soon as the movers have your stuff they start driving. You're supposed to be on the other side first, to let them in, so you'd better jump in your car and race them. But then you have to be at two places at the same time. because you also have to let the cleaners in, oversee the result, and liaise with the letting agency.

Recycled pic from 2009

And how would you get the keys of the new place? I intend to go up there,decide on a place, and pay the deposit. But would I already get the keys? Quite likely I won't. Will they be willing to send them to me by mail? I hope so! Otherwise it'll get worse: I'll have to be at no fewer than three different places at the same time: my old apartment, my new apartment, and the new letting agency. A bit of a challenge! But I can't imagine I'm the only one who is faced by this issue of one person moving house, and the removal company driving it all up in one go. So I trust I'll find a way!

23 April 2013

Caving club's 50th anniversary

The club is 50, but many of the members aren't! The celebrations of the weekend started with a curry night in Buckfastleigh. I didn't attend; Roland had his official goodbye do at university. That ended rather late. The next day Hugh and I were available, but a clear plan of what would happen wasn't available. There was talk of going to Great Rock that afternoon; it was nearing 2PM when we reached the Pengelly centre. There we noticed not that much was happening; there was only a small delegation from the club, and many of them were hungover. The younger members had tried Buckfastleigh's nightlife in full. And then they had visited Reed's. That's more than I can do after a night of boozing like that. So enthusiasm for a Great Rock trip was mild...

After quite some faffing and cake we did get our act together anyway. Great Rock it would indeed be! Dave would stay behind; there was one of the founding members present; a chap by the name of John, and they had a lot to discuss. And the 50 years of the existence of the club, as well as all the years he had already lived pre-club, had taken their toll on John, and he wasn't up for frolicking through mines anymore. So it was a 7 person sub-group that went. When we were walking up the sunny hillside to the entrance we figured we only had an hour. We had to be back in time for the anniversary dinner! But an hour is enough to see some nice stuff. We went into heaven and hell; heaven I had only visited during a rescue training. This time I had time to look around a bit, and take some pictures.

Outside heaven there was an improvised swing. It was attached quite high on a branch, and you could climb on quite high on the steep slope. So you could swing really high! We had quite some fun there! But after we'd all had our way we decided we had time for hell too. I had visited it several times before, but it's quite extensive (as one might expect!) so it was still fun. And then we had to get back.

Hugh enjoys the swing

Back at the Pengelly centre (for cave studies), where we had our base for the weekend, we showered, changed, hung around a bit, ate anniversary cake, and finally decided to make our way to the pub where we would have our meal. We there met Hugh and Trish; the only original members I have been underground with many times. They are still going strong! Hugh is 70, and Trish hardly younger, but the way they prusik up a mineshaft puts many youngsters to shame. There was another founding member there: Les. He had brought some paraphernalia: an old helmet with carbide lamp, and some framed pictures, from days of old. Very nice!

Birthday cake for the club!

Alex shows the old helmet with carbide lamp

We had dinner. The starters went down well. After the starters John held a speech. He saw many young faces, and told us tales of the times when the ropes were made of hemp, and the boots of leather. He had not only been among those founding the club, but also the one who had introduced our late former president to caving. And that late president had been the one introducing Dave to it. The links with the past still exist!

Founding member John gives a speech

When the mains arrived it became clear not all could finish their food. Laura and I couldn't conquer our rather filling risotto. After the mains Les gave another speech,with more stories of the times when wetsuits were home-made and the lamps would go out. And then the desserts came out.

The pub specialised in massive cheesecake. Not even Dave could finish his! Alex had a portion too. And he would't give up. It took him forever, but in the end he polished it off, thereby disconcertingly beating Dave. Eerie! He would still suffer for it the next day. But we were all tired, and keen to get back to the Pengelly centre, to watch a caving slideshow.

Dave showed us pictures from all sorts of trips the club had had through time. He has quite some material; he was still going at midnight. But I had been in bed too late the evening before as well, and I sneaked away. Bedtime!

The next morning Hugh and I woke up at 7, as it was a sunny day and the room had no curtains. We got up. A morning of much hanging around would follow; many of the younger members must have chosen a room with curtains. And some had reason to have a lie-in: two of them turned out to have decided, in the middle of the night, that they felt like a caving trip, and had crawled around in Baker's for hours. And these two had also had a wild night the day before!

We were wondering where to go. Someone mentioned a cave on the terrain of the centre's neigbour. We walked a bit in that direction. Our president then decided to go and ask if we could go there. He climbed over a wall to get onto the path. He looked a bit wobbly, so I approached to offer him a hand, but when I saw all the rocks in the wall move I made sure I got out of there. Which was wise; he managed to dislodge a large rock. And then Dave followed: he managed to break a beam, dislodge many more rocks, and split his trousers. Dear!

Getting ready for the last trip of the weekend

We changed, and got onto the neighbour's terrain. We found one hole that was big enough to crawl into. It only went a few metres, but it was nice. All the other holes on this terrain were hardly more than a meter deep. Oh well! We were all tired. So we went back, changed, ate birthday cake (it was Laura's birthday!), and then cleaned the building. It had been enough for the weekend! Little caving for a caving anniversary, but we will have a more serious trip later this year. I hope I'll be able to attend! although my life will have radically changed by then...

Looking for holes

Richard is happy in a hole in the floor of the small cave

Laura joins us

21 April 2013

Tarzan in South Bedford

Yes, it's another report on a Rick trip! Careful readers might remember we did two trips to South Bedford recently; one for just having a look, and then one during which we tried to get in through an adit somewhere on the bottom of the hill. When that didn't work, we had a look if we could perhaps drop or cross the shaft, but we hadn't brought a drill so we couldn't.We still wanted to know what was at the bottom of that shaft, and what might be on the other side; the adit through which one tends to get in ends at the shaft, and you can clearly see that the level continues, but how to get there? So on an otherwise unclaimed Tuesday evening we went back, with the intention of going in through the adit, bolting our way across the shaft, and explore what was on the other side and/or what was down below. The plan was good! The execution wasn't. But plan B was spiffing!

A reminder: this is the shaft we wanted to drop or cross, as we saw it the previous month

 What was wrong with plan A? Well, it involved placing bolts in the rock face. And Dave would bring the bolts. And he had been kept by some emergency at work. So now what? Luckily, we are resourceful people; we could still go in from the top of the shaft. There are trees there! And that would take up quite some rope, so we wouldn't be able to get to the bottom, but we would be able to lower ourselves on the rope to the adit, and swing into it. So that was the plan!

I was first. I gently lowered myself. And several metres above our destination I saw another tunnel coming off the shaft! That's worth exploring too. So I called to Lionel, told him what I was up to, and swung into it. He would follow. Together we had a look; it didn't go very far. Only some 15m. But still! How many people would even know it's there?

The unexpected level. It had nice timbering!

The other men weren't keen to come down the rope. They preferred the adit. So I got into the rope again, and lowered myself further. I made sure I was careful; just in case something went wrong, Lionel held on to the end of the rope. That way he could always get out, if I wouldn't be able to go back up! And I had about half a metre to spare when I reached the level we had come for. Well, that's enough! So among the debris that had ended up in the level (which even included a beer barrel, a pot of paint, and a skeleton of a horse, or perhaps a donkey) I waited for Lionel to come down, and then we helped the other men to cross the shaft. When all four were on the far side of it we could explore! We didn't expect much; there probably was a reason why nobody had bothered to place bolts before. We knew the level had been explored.

 The level we had been in before. Notice the horizontal beam we put in! Now we've seen both sides...

We walked in, and soon we found a shoe. And a container for gunpowder. And a box. And another shoe. And a fuse. And remains of a hat, and more shoes! What was it with the miners of this place? They lost more shoes than drunk girls on heels. But it was clear this place was rarely visited; such relics don't tend to survive long with throng passing by all the time. So it had been well worth it!

Finbar shows one of the shoes

The quickest way out would have been to get out through the adit, climb the hill, and take down the rope. But that isn't fun. So Rick and Finbar went out that way, while Lionel and I took the rope. And only a short while later we were out, and could get ourselves to the pub! Another successful night!

18 April 2013

Bedford United to the end!

Bedford United was one of my first "big" mines. I'd done Devon Great Consols as one of the very first, but, five months into my caving career, I did Bedford as my first weekend trip, and the first trip with the Cornish bunch. Very memorable! We did quite a lot of the mine, but not all. The furthest I'd been in it had been in summer 2012. We had gone in, clambered down, crossed the winze, clambered up, passed the collapse, clambered down, crawled through, dropped the winze, waded through the water, climbed the wonky ladder, seen the noisy shaft, climbed the slope, climbed up the waterfall, climbed the chain ladder, crossed the winze with the plank over it, and crossed the winze with the rails over it. Then we bumped into the winze with the plank and rails over it. We didn't like the precarious look of these, and turned back. 

This time, probably the last time I'll ever be there, we did the honourable thing: we'd go even further. We wanted to first find out if we could get in through a higher adit, so we climbed up the hill. A quick, though wet, exploration taught us we couldn't. Oh well. Now we know! So we just trundled down the slope to the conventional entrance. We went in with five of us, and I ended up rigging the winze with the ladder over it, with Dave. A good start! Then I managed to do the freeclimb behind it without help. And did some of the rigging of the winze further on. I like that! And that way I was the first to drop it. And as soon as I approached the bottom I noticed that the water level was low. Interesting!

 Getting to the entrance from above

While Richard was coming down I had a quick look in the direction we wouldn't go in. Often it is flooded! It wasn't this time. I went back to announce I was going to have a good look. And I did; it took water up to the chest, but I got all the way back to the laddered winze! That was nice; you could see the pale daylight on the ladder. Then I turned back. And at the wonky ladder I caught up with the rest.

We would go to the noisy shaft (it's noisy because of a waterfall running down it), and then have a look at North lode. That's some murky tunnel with deep ochre, nice dripstones and not very much oxygen. Well worth the detour, though!

 Alex lights up the water thundering down the shaft full of mining relics

Richard and Rick in North lode

After the North Lode we split up. Rick had other engagements and Dave wasn't up for climbing the waterfall, but Richard, Alex and me would push on. Alex hadn't been here before, and there was a lot of fun to be had! So we stormed through the place. before I knew it, we had reached the winze with the plank and the rails. I didn't even recognize it as the place we had shirked from the previous time! This time we just crossed. Without issues. And then we reached the end. So that was all! I was glad to have seen the full extend of it, although I had expected it to last a bit longer.

When we got back there was one more bonus: some crawl, with tens of bats hanging just above it. they didn't seem to mind me, so I just quietly crawled underneath them. Not one flew up! Their little faces were only inches away. Quite special. And then we were out. That's another ticked box! I've been to the end of Bedford UTD; one tick closer to being able to leave the county in peace...

The Tamar flowing decoratively below

17 April 2013

Caving only? Not quite.

This is turning into a veritable caving blog. Is that right? Well, I'm not sure. Is it a representative picture of my life? No, far from it! So why has it turned out that way? Well, my life these days is dominated by work on one hand, and getting ready for moving to York on the other. And that doesn't really make for good blog posts. When my manuscript gets submitted I'll blog about it, but not before. And the getting ready for moving involves a lot of boring stuff like getting quotes from removal companies and bringing stuff to charity shops. So that doesn't get much attention here.

The caving, however, is rather spectacular these days. My last weeks in the southwest happen to coincide with Rick being keen to get through his wishlist of difficult to access mines he'd always wanted to have a look at but never got around to. So he has lots of interesting trips up his sleeve! And I'm very keen to enjoy this region as much as I can before I leave. So those not interested in caving: It'll get better in a week or two! And for the rest: enjoy!

16 April 2013

Girl stuff

In the last months, I have had a flash of inspiration regarding the making and purchasing of earrings. Which is fun! If you use silver-coated findings they look instantly professional. But the little box I keep them in is getting a bit clogged with a spiderweb of tangled hooks. Not very practical! So I decided to become organised and ladylike: I bought an earring stand. I feel very feminine now. And very tidy! And the stand is only one quarter full: next time I see a nice beach pebble/fossil/shell/crystal I can happily turn it into my next earring and know I have space to store it!

I must have made this pic in funny light... these large crystals, second pair from the right on the top row, are green. Not purple!

13 April 2013

Another Rick exploration

We weren't exploring Rick! But with a small group of mine explorers we seem to have acquired a new habit: go to places that Rick has had on his wish list for a while, and check them out. (We did that here and here.) And this trip was one in that sequence.

This time the venue of choice was a bit remote; we walked quite a way along the Tamar, and then clambered into a small valley draining into it. And sure enough, above the stream was a very conspicuous, rectangular hole. That would be the one! We even found a bolt hole. Only one. I put a bolt in, and then Rick asked "you have a spanner, don't you?" and I didn't. I used to have a spanner standard in my SRT kit, but it had vanished. And a previous trip, Dave had realised he hadn't brought one when he was picking me up, so I had run back in to get one. But that one wasn't meant for caving purposes. So I hadn't brought it this time! And nobody had asked me to bring anything. There was slight panic. Luckily one can use maillons as improvised spanners. And even better: Finbar, who had been lagging behind, turned out to have a real one with him! That was a bit of a relief. But to be sure we drilled an extra hole. Then Lionel rigged it, and down he was.

The entrance

 What we saw from the ridge from which we rigged it

I was the last to come down. I heard Lionel mention water down there. Water! My favourite.

When I was down myself I saw the place wasn't big. It was a stope with collapses on both sides. And a flooded winze some two metres to the side. By the time I had explored the stope, Lionel had figured out a way to look what's on the other side of the winze without getting wet. You tie into the rope, and then wedge yourself in the passage that leads to the winze; high up it was narrow enough for that, and you could just see around the corner. It didn't go far. But I still didn't think it was satisfying to only see it from such a distance. So I ask if the men minded if I had a look anyway; I would just clamber around the corner, hanging from the rope. As you needed enough slack on the rope to make it across it meant it was so slack you would get wet up to the underwear, but hey, what's a little dampness among friends. And it worked.

A composite picture of the winze. I made it a bit less clear by plunging in...

Rick and Finbar lounge while Lionel tries a way to look beyond the winze

A composite picture of the pristine planking at the side of the winze

When Lionel saw me depart he couldn't stay behind. He tarzanned across a bit more energetically, so he hardly got wet. And then Rick wanted to try it too. As there wasn't much to hold on to once you landed on the far side of the winze, it worked best if someone caught you; that's how I pulled Lionel in, and he returned the favour to Rick. The level of intimacy this move involved was a bit high by Rick's standards, but once he saw the pretty little level he figured it had been worth it. And after we'd all seen what there was to see, we came back. This way the trick was to wedge yourself as far as possible into the winze, hold on to the rope as high as possible, and them swing to the other side. We all made it without touching the water! And then we went out.

 Rick wedged above the water, ready to swing over

And swinging!

We were still in time for the pub. When I walked in I was greeted by a charming border collie. And that wasn't all; soon a very handsome cat appeared too! He was up for some petting and some playing! Another spiffing night out!

 The handsome cat in the pub

11 April 2013


One can get bored of almost 3000 songs. Isn’t it decadent? I have a song collection in my iTunes that by my standards is quite big. It’s nine days’ worth of music!  But I got bored of it. And then several things happened. 

The first was: I bought a digital radio. This allows me to listen to the radio while driving, listen to the radio in the lab, and listen to the radio in my office without using any memory power of my computer. And I could listen to BBC 6Music. At home I can’t; you need internet or DAB to get it, and my humble cable radio doesn’t have such modernities.  So I suddenly heard all sorts of new music! Some by bands I knew, but of whom I didn’t know that they had something new and good out, and some I didn’t know at all. 

Then I went on a hike in Norway, and after that hike I ended up playing a game with one of the participants: we in turn come up with a word or theme, and then we both try to think of as many songs as we can that have that word or theme in the title. And if he comes up with a song I don’t know I look it up on YouTube. I learn many things!

And while on YouTube I saw a playlist advertised: the 100 best covers ever. I find covers intriguing; many are saltless remakes by people who don’t have the talent to write their own songs, but among that malarkey hide a few gems. I personally, for instance, like what Creedence Clearwater Revival did to “Heard it through the grapevine”. And what 16 Horsepower in turn did to “bad moon rising”. I also like “gimme shelter” in the Sisters of Mercy version, and “Jackie” done by Placebo. And “Jolene” by the White stripes! And that last example also featured in that YouTube list. Much of the list I ignored, since I didn’t know or like the original song, but I did find some surprises. I liked “smooth criminal” performed on two cellos, and I liked Richard Thompson doing “oops I did it again”. And I liked “imagine” done by a perfect circle

And then what’s probably my oldest source of music inspiration kicked in to higher gear as well: my eldest sister started handing out tips. She is the person that introduced me to Tom Petty, to give an example. My guess is that that was in 1985. A lot has changed but not an older sibling’s influence on one’s music taste!

So what have I learned? I have listened to Ben Folds Five, Edwyn Collins, Bamboos, Ben Howard, the Beatles, Kate Bush, Frank Zappa, Laura Mvula, the Byrds, Depeche Mode, Suede, Stereophonics, and much more. And I ended up owning Blaudzun (that was a present!), James Blake, more Perfect Circle, and Bobby Womack. Not bad! 


09 April 2013


It almost didn't happen! We were getting kitted at the side of a road, when a tractor drove past. It turned out to contain the farmer who owned the land that the mine entrance we we heading for was on. We thought the copse it was in belonged to the woodlands, not the fields! For rummaging around in the woodlands we did have permission. But the farmer didn't see harm in some eccentrics vanishing into a small hole on his land. And why would he? So it was a go!

 Who would have thought such an unassuming hole would hide such spectacular views?

 We walked down a path to a promising sign. It said "danger! Keep out." That attracts us like flies. I was the only one who had walked up in SRT kit, so I also was the lucky one to go down first. I thought the little rat hole would lead straight down, but it didn't; it gave access to a small narrow tunnel, at the end of which you looked down into a gaping abyss. It must have been explored before; I saw two bolt holes above the drop. Good! Unfortunately there was some wood and some garbage down there too. I threw the wood down, which resulted in monumental clamour, and I handed the deckchair skeleton back to the surface. It was crammed enough down there without it! Lionel handed me two bolts, and before I knew it I was bolting and rigging the pitch. It wasn't very comfortable; I could hardly turn around, and I was rigging the rope while still dangling from it. When I was done it became clear I had underestimated how much rope I took up myself; when I took myself out of the rope I saw it was all rather tight. But as that isn't too relevant I went down anyway. Slowly; this was, for us, uncharted territory! It was a special place: it was a very narrow stope. While I was abseiling I kept my knees on the wall; normally you would use your feet, but there was no space for that. In places I just had to slide down vertically. But laterally it stretched very far! And it was deep too; about 20m. And you could see it had reached the surface, but had been arched over, probably after closure of the mine. A very special place!
Lionel and me on the bottom of the stope

I saw some surface below me, and initially aimed for it; when I came closer, though, I saw it was a false floor, so I passed it by and went all the way to the bottom. There I got myself out of the rope, and hid underneath the false floor, as the men above me were throwing some more things down to clear out the entrance a bit. Even a small stone hurts when it hits you after falling 20m!

 Finbar comes down the narrow stope

Soon Lionel was down too. And then Rick. While Lionel and I were having a look to see how far the place extended, we could hear Rick exclaim "I really enjoy this place!" and utterings of similar nature. We saw that at the south end there was a collapse. And we found lovely green rock! I put a few pieces in my bag. It would later turn out to probably be fluorspar. And when we turned back, we saw the a collapse on the north end too. So not much to explore down there, but opportunity to be amazed at this paper-thin slit in the Earth. Dave got out his camera and flash guns; that was my cue to not even attempt to take pictures myself. I would rely on long exposure times; that doesn't go together well with flash photography. Rick remarked "I REALLY enjoy this place!" While Dave was flashing away Finbar came down, and while dangling midway, suddenly remarked he had lost one of the lenses of his glasses. Now he understood why the world looked so strange! An inconvenient place to lose a lens... But he was lucky; Lionel managed to find it. I didn't wait to see what the damage had been. falling 10 m onto rock isn't the best for glass!

Me going up again

When Finbar was down, I decided that as I had been the first one down, I would also be the first one up. Other than taking pictures there wasn't that much to do! Except proclaiming how much one REALLY enjoyed the place. And it would take the five of us quite a while to get out anyway. I brought up a rope bag as the rope rubbed a bit. That is one of those things you have to take seriously. Rubbing rope kills! So when I was up I installed the rope bag as a rope protector, and then invited the men up. When Lionel was up too we had a little stroll to see if there was more left of this mine. And then we went back to see how the men were doing. Rick came out, telling us that he REALLY had enjoyed that. Waiting turned out to be a cold activity (or rather passivity); it was a clear night, so it was getting chilly! Even though Rick was happy: he REALLY had enjoyed that! I was glad to get into my cry kit and rush to the pub (where Rick would tell us he had REALLY enjoyed that) before it would close. Well, I actually enjoyed that too! A new place, and me rigging it as well! Not bad!

ps Dave's memory card was faulty! So the image above is the only underground picture of the place...
pps He managed to recover the pictures after all!

07 April 2013

Local ghost

When I go running I start out running past an impressive wall, which, I think, used to guard a hospital. It's quite a wall. But one day I suddenly saw something strange about it. Two white footsteps, of bare feet, seemingly coming out of it. Strange! There was no source of white paint to be seen anywhere. And who would walk around there bare feet? Well, English ladies might very well roam the streets unshod at night, when their heels have become too painful, but you would expect them to walk parallel to the wall, not out of it. And I never heard of them spontanously oozing white paint from their feet.

I think the most reasonable explanation for this phenomenon is that a ghost walked through that wall and made these footsteps. Maybe someone who died at the infirmary behind the wall, who had heard of the scandalous events taking place at Mid Staffordshire hospital, and wanted to protest against this injustice. The white paint would make sure the protest would not go unnoticed. I trust ghosts can conjure up substances like that at will.

So that mystery is solved. If only it was as easy as solving the problems that haunt the NHS!

05 April 2013

South Tamar

This week would have two caving trips in a row. That's a lot! It tends to make one tired. But the first trip would be a visit to a mine I hadn't visited before, and looked like a rather short trip, and the second was yet another unknown one, and looked interesting. Ropework! So I decided to just do both. I don't have much time left in the southwest! I'd better make the most of it. So the first venue would be South Tamar. And it looked attractive: the route to it was short and scenic, and the entrance was along the way we walked with the CORiF lab. I didn't mind at all enjoying a sunset on the banks of the Tamar on a sunny day! And Hugh thought the same.

The sunset didn't disappoint. What did disappoint was my own presence of mind; I realised I had forgotten my caving long johns. Again! Oh well. The previous time I got away with wearing my trousers, which had gotten soaking wet underground, to the pub, without anyone noticing. I wear quick dry trousers to such occasions for a reason! So I just got into my kit and followed Bernard to where the mine adit drained into the Tamar. It was a crawling job, and it was rather wet, but the timbering was nice. After about 15m we reached the shallow shaft that the others used for access. And then we went onwards! 

Sunset over the Tamar

Getting changed

Alex has fun in the adit

The rest of the mine (the part that was accessible, at least) consisted of one, long, narrow, winding tunnel with water between toe-deep to hip-deep, which ended in a very narrow flooded stope, and one side tunnel which ended in a collapse after some 20m (note that estimating distances is not my forte). Small and wet, but nice! The water was fast-flowing and very clear, until we came to muck it all up. And after we'd all seen that we went back, and this time I chose the shaft instead of the adit. It wasn't rigged with a rope, but with an electron ladder (a rope ladder but then made of metal). As long as they are no more than, say, 15 m long, I like electron ladders ! By 9 we were out. Time to rinse some mud off in the river, try in vain to steam my trousers a bit dryer, and then retreat to the pub!

Paul serves as a scale bar for some rather cute mini-timbering

The side tunnel, with Hugh at the end

It was rather foggy down there!

Beautiful metallic flowstone

When we came out, the evening sky was still beautiful!

This time we had chosen the pub in Buckland Monachorum. A very cute old pub! Unfortunately, it was already quite crowded, so we retreated to a little room. It wasn't really meant for the likes of us. There was quite some banging of heads on the low ceiling, and crawling underneath the table in order to get in or out going on. We're too tall and too fat! But it was nice. Even Dave and Dave, who had skipped the trip, came to the pub! And Dave had brought his dog. And when we left we found a flirtatious cat outside. And in spite of me having to drive home in still very damp trousers and soaking socks, it had been a nice evening!