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

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