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White Rose Pothole Club: Trips and Meets

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Trips and Meets

This tale is set in the old industrial heartlands of Manchester known as the Castlefield Basin, where the Bridgewater Canal finally reaches its destination with all its history and memories. The area is also known for the first police station and railway station in Britain, not forgetting the Roman fortress and the tallest skyscraper in Europe. Unrecognisable now, this up-and-coming setting has brought back many native inhabitants: blue tit, heron, swan, coal tit, kingfisher, migrating Canada geese, robin, greenfinch plus the new Manchester Young Men’s Christian Association and International Youth Hostel.

I was employed by the YMCA for two decades – main duty outdoor pursuits, which was a sub-contract allowing myself to make good contacts; one of which was consultant neurologist Peter Moore and his wife Julie – highly skilled potholers.

It all started on a grey Tuesday morning when I received a message from Peter at work about the Bridgewater Canal storm overflow – this is an engineering feat allowing water to be decanted from a canal to stop overflow; in this case, from the Bridgewater to the Irwell.

The storm overflow is quite impressive proportions, some 8 m to the surface of the water with a diameter of 7 m. The boiling cauldron of filth and debris has a strong current also.

The story unfolds when an exchange group from Australia, staying at the YMCA, on a guided tour of local sites of interest, one of which being the storm overflow, on peering down the gloomy pit they noticed a family of migrating Canada geese, goose, gander and five goslings.

The next day some of the students returned to the scene, the gander had gone and the gosling was missing. This was repeated for several days, the family diminishing inside only; the goose and a single gosling left – all the students distraught. What a welcome to England, all the way from the southern hemisphere to watch this horror story unfold.

The gander was spotted on the canal nearby keeping a lonely vigil on what was left of his family. I had just returned to work after a short break when I received a phone call from Peter telling of the tale. The RSPCA had been informed and said it was too dangerous a situation to help; the fire brigade had also been informed, but after assessing the overflow, came up with the same answer – not wanting to risk his men for the sake of two birds. The students were horrified at their attitude, so Peter, Julie and myself sprang into action equipped with a 10 m electron ladder, an inflatable dinghy, three lengths of 10.5 mm static rope; all in wetsuit, mine being 8mm steamer, adding more protection as I was the one swimming. Peter was to man the dinghy and Julie to lifeline Peter with an electron ladder.

On kitting up at the overflow we attracted a small audience along with the usual press. Peter and I fed the ladder centrally down the pit using a steel RSJ which is part of the safety structure to prevent bodies falling in the wire cage. Julie lifelined me down. On my descent I thought of Mark Addy, famous for his daring rescues only 500 m away in the river Irwell. Alas, all that is left now is a pub and bridge to his tribute. I was also attached by two lengths of rope so as not to be sucked down once in the water. I unattached the lifeline. Now suspended like a marionette with nobody to pull my strings, I was instantly dashed against the side of the pit by the strong current, just like the centrifugal force of the rotor at a fairground, except in water.

Julie lifelined Peter down with the dinghy attached to his harness. Keeping line on, he quickly set up. A comedy of errors followed.

Both savagely abused by the maelstrom of swirling debris, unable to coordinate our tactics, minutes past; the goslings, now very weak, became trapped in iron fencing. I seized the opportunity for capture. Gosling in both hands, I finned to Peter with difficulty missing the dinghy twice in going for an extra spin around the pit. Eventually making the connection with Peter, he placed the gosling in a cave rucksack and ascended the ladder to cheers from the crowd.

I lined up the dinghy attached and followed. Once out we inspected the gosling – no apparent injuries, just weak and fatigued; the gander waiting on the canal eager to be reunited, this achieved, they paddled off.

I slept well that night and in the knowledge the rescue had been a success. Before work the next day I decided to look over the previous day’s events. To my dismay I saw the familiar shape of the female Canada goose, now extremely weakened by the ordeal, too tired to launch out of the pit with its narrow constrictions, I phoned Peter and within an hour and a half we were kitting up to repeat the rescue, minus the audience and press. The rescue was more fluent, the goose offering no resistance; we used a sling to winch her out. Due to her size and weight, this is where the fairytale comes in. The gander and gosling popped out of the canal and, honking like crazy, waggled down the towpath to be reunited with the goose. All three then flopped into the Bridgewater Canal and paddled off. It was like a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, seeing them disappear into the sunset of Lowryesque cityscape.

Denis Buschell

Posted by Jarvis on Thursday, May 03 @ 11:12:29 BST (1860 reads)
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 Trips: 'Thanks' from Oz - Ric Webber

Trips and Meets

Hi Ian, Faye, Leif and Dennis,

My apologies for the late letter of thanks for 'Hosting' me and for taking me through both Diccan and Alum Pot.

The caves were [for me] definitely challenging, as they say 'anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger', Diccan has the longest series of pitches that i have ever had to pass, and dealing with the noise of the water, the cold and the physicality of the cave was at times almost overwhelming and made for some 'interesting moments', I apologise to you Dennis for re-rigging the 'Short redirect' on the second last pitch before the sump, I was buggered and just couldn't get it at the time, now i have had time to think about it I would have done it differently, but at the time i just couldn't put it together. 

The exit up Alum was spectacular! I took far more time than i should have taking photos of the bridge, the Long Churn window, and the view and was very upset when I found they were all out of focus except for a few 'not so bad ones', the climb out was exhausting but very rewarding, in all this trip is now my bench mark by which I will rate other caves. [time to visit 'Tassie' I think!] 

I would like to say 'thank you Ian' for rigging, It was impressive watching you lead the way, you made it 'look' extremely easy! and for making 'almost' every pitch easy for me to pass! also a big thank you to Dennis for your patience and words of advice along the way, Faye and Leif: thank you both for choosing and rigging such a beautifully challenging exit pitch, It will stick in my mind for ages.

I didn't get on any caving trips the next day so my wife and I did the touristy thing and visited Malham Cove, saw the nesting peregrines, then Gordale Scar where I chatted with a couple of Aussies from south of Sydney who were on a climbing holiday around Europe. 

On the Monday we did the Gaping Gill winch meet. My wife had never been in a wild cave anywhere, and had never been on a winch 300ft above a cavern before either, so i was surprised that she lapped it up and spent ages poking around the cave. We didn't get to leave the main cavern but it has whetted my appetite to return and have a proper look around!

So again my thanks for a great introduction to UK Caving, I hope that in the future I might be able to do the same for any of you here in Oz, although the caves here on the mainland might be very tame in comparison! what ever happens you can contact me by email or through the club: http://bmsc.caves.org.au/ I hope to make your acquaintance again in the future, Safe caving.

Kind regards Ric Webber

Posted by jarvis on Thursday, July 10 @ 12:02:03 BST (3452 reads)
(comments? | Trips | Score: 0)

 Meets: Leck Fell permits - Temporary change of contact

Trips and Meets


Council of Northern Caving Clubs

Dear CNCC full member club

From 21st July until approximately the end of October, Geoff Whittaker (current meets secretary for Aygill Caverns, Barbondale) will be temporarily handling permit requests for Leck Fell on behalf of Jim Sloane.

The details for Leck Fell caves on the CNCC website will be updated when these changes actually occur.

For all Leck Fell permit applications or enquiries about availability over the next four months, please double-check your intended cave on the CNCC website immediately before you apply to ensure the correct contact details are used.

Please circulate this as appropriate within your clubs.

Kind regards

Matt Ewles
Secretary, Council of Northern Caving Clubs

Posted by jarvis on Thursday, July 10 @ 11:47:21 BST (3714 reads)
(comments? | Meets | Score: 0)

 Hazel Bush Hill Hole

Trips and Meets
Phil Ryder believes that one of the interesting things about our club is that we do caves that are off the beaten track.  So it is and I often follow in the footsteps of another connoisseur of the unusual, Peter Ryder of Moldywarps fame, in exploring the obscurities of the Northern Dales.  Think of such neglected gems as Elph Cleugh and Whirley Gill and you get the idea.  In fact there is a cave that I have searched for several times and failed to locate – Yad Moss Cave – that has driven me to such distraction that a 200-foot grovel has no right to!  Hence I record a few meanderings through the area to remind readers of these obscure gems.

Sometimes I am drawn to do visit a cave or climb a route by its name – Juniper Gulf for example conjures up images of natural grandeur, so Hazel Bush Hill Hole might similarly invoke thoughts of a grovel beneath a shrub, so maybe that wasn’t the case this time!

Lying in the bleak moorland between Bowes and Tan Hill, in a region normally only seen by gamekeepers, grouse shooters and Pennine Way tickers, is a rare Northern Dales sinkhole cave, Hazel Bush Hill Hole, which I visited several years ago whilst exploring this wild area.  Parking up south of Bowes, a short walk through peat bogs and heather finds a stream running along a limestone bed, with a small crevice in its north bank forming the entrance to HBHH.  In truth it’s a simple crawl through non-descript passage ending at a too-tight slot, but investigation lower down the valley finds the imposing resurgence of Eller Beck Head – not to be entered without a wetsuit, whilst further upstream on the opposite bank, some recent shoring by a crevice led me to investigate what I later found to be another MSG find of Lost Pool Sink – which can actually be found online featuring a stuck moldywarper!

An afternoon of solitude wandering around these largely forgotten areas is a welcome change from the honeypots of the dales – go on, have a look.

Posted by jarvis on Sunday, May 11 @ 20:34:37 BST (4299 reads)
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 Trips: Cliff Force update – 03/06/2012

Trips and MeetsContrary to reports in the caving virtual world, this cave is not blocked and is in pretty much the same state as my last visit (April 2010), when I cleared the rockfall in the entrance.  Some loose blocks are present, but avoidable with care.  Shame the mud isn’t!

Posted by jarvis on Thursday, July 05 @ 13:44:32 BST (4890 reads)
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     Past Trip Reviews
· Hang Son Doong, Vietnam 1-17th July 2018
· Bull Pot of the Witches
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· Recent Club Activity 11-APR-2006

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