Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Great Douk Cave

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Our original plan had been to go back to Runscar Cave up at Ribblehead next, but a last minute inspiration saw us heading for Great Douk Cave instead. I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to us before; the Shandy Sherpa and I had been there before, with our friend Geordie Munro, a couple of times, once after a long hot summer walk and then again a few years later to explore more thoroughly. Both visits were a very long time ago and it turned out that we both had rather sketchy memories of the cave. Andy remembered, but I didn’t, that the waterfall which pours out of the entrance can be avoided by a little crawl above to the right. I remembered, but Andy didn’t, that a short walk into the cave brings you to Little Douk Pot where daylight can be seen high overhead.

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B in Little Douk Pot.

Neither of us remembered the series of little cascades which we, probably rather pointlessly, struggled to ascend dry shod by straddling the narrow passage with a foot on either wall. (The boys loved it). Nor did we recall just how long the passage was, or the great wealth of flowstone features.

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I took an awful lot of photos. (If you want to see more, simply click on one of the photos and that will take you to my flickr account). Actually, carrying the camera in my hand proved to be quite awkward. The case worked very well however: at one point I fell over – a bit of a shocking experience, the water was pretty cold – and dropped the camera in the water, but somehow it stayed dry, even though the case isn’t really sealed, or waterproof.

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With wellies full of water, Little S was cold again, but he was still really happy, full of enthusiasm.

This feature…

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…proved to be quite awkward to get past. The others managed by squatting on their haunches and shuffling by; I went past on hands and knees, which filled my sleeves and my wellies with water – this was before I fell over.

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Andy remembered, but I didn’t, that this was where, when the passage gradually gets lower, Geordie Munro discovered a tiny crawl and got very excited when it brought him to a new, larger passage, or at least that was what he thought, but in fact he had doubled back to the original passage, where Andy and I were waiting, much to our amusement.

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I’ve since discovered that it’s possible to continue through a section of crawling to reach Middle Washfold Caves, but we didn’t know that at the time, so where the passage got very low we turned and retraced our steps (not that I would’ve been up for a lengthy crawl anyway). At this point we were soaked and had given up on our efforts to keep our feet out of the deeper water, which made our return journey an awful lot quicker.

Fortunately, it wasn’t as dark as this photo suggests…

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…we were all still smiling, and the bunkhouse and clean and dry clothes were only a short walk away.

Discussion about possible caving outings for next Christmas has already begun!

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Great Douk Cave

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Skirwith Cave

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The little circle of friends who were assembled in Chapel-le-Dale originally met, in many cases at least, as members of the Hiking Club at Manchester University, so walking and climbing hills has always been central to what we do when we get together. But we have been known to branch out: canoeing, cycling, snorkelling, standing in the Kippax at Maine Road for example. Caving is another activity which some of us have dabbled in and it seems to be an easy one to sell to the kids. Two years ago we took many of them to a very wet Yordas Cave; last year we had a poke around in some of the caves close to the Ribblehead Viaduct.

This time we did it properly and first went down into Ingleton to rent helmets. (Three fifty for the day, with an excellent lamp too, a snip, and as it turned out pretty crucial I think). Once again, the vast majority of the younger element of the party were keen to have ago, but just three of the grey brigade. We started our spelunking with an exploration of Skirwith Cave, a former show cave which is just outside Ingleton and conveniently close to the road.

I’d already done my research before the weekend, but even so we had some difficulty initially in locating the current entrance. When you get to the small crag shown in the top photo, climb the steps and then bear right, looking for quite a small hole in the ground. (Photo near the end of the post).

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The former entrance?

The entrance is quite small and requires a muddy shuffle down quite a steep slope, but brings you into a larger, level passage with some excellent flowstone features…

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After a while, you reach a boulder choke which looked awkward rather than tight, but I decided to stop at that point, whilst most of the others crawled through and explored a little further. It gave me a chance to go back for some more leisurely exploration and to take some more photos…

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Emerging from the entrance…

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It had been a short, but hugely enjoyable little outing. For many of our band, it was also quite sufficient: some wanted to get cleaned-up so that they could attend the carol service in Chapel-le-Dale’s tiny chapel, others had just had enough. Only the my boys and the three adults were up for another cave trip….

(Tune in next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.)

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend – Skirwith Cave

Two Years On

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Two years ago, for the first time in many years, I met with some other members of the Further Maths class I was in whilst in the Sixth Form. That get together took place down in Norfolk. This time we were in a city riddled with sandstone caves.

Famous for an archer…

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…and the oldest Inn in England (allegedly – the back halves of some of the rooms are caves).

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The high windows of this windmill gave great views over the cityscape…

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Appropriately, George Green (1793 – 1841), the son of one of the millers here, was a mathematical physicist, famed for Green’s Function.

Later we took to the river in a rented boat.

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Very pleasant it was too. Music, chit-chat, a picnic, home-brewed beer, champagne. And lots of birds to see…

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Most notably the Sand Martins whizzing over the river and in and out of nest-holes in the bank…

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They were much too fast for me to photograph. This is as close as I got…

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In amongst the Martins, gratifyingly, a solitary Kingfisher, the first I’ve seen in quite some time.

This Buzzard…

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…had me very confused hanging perfectly still above the riverside fields. I didn’t think that Buzzards could hover, but this one was using an updraft to maintain its position and presumably keep an eye on some tasty morsel below.

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Oh….did you get it?

Nottingham!

Two Years On

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend I: The Caves of Ribblehead

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Nobody look at the camera, it only encourages him.

Our thirteenth annual-rent-a-hostel-pre-Christmas-weekend-with-our-camping-friends (snappy title eh?). The first ten of those were characterised by snow, ice, and generally artic weather conditions. (At least when viewed through my backward-glancing rose-tinted spectacles.) But for the last three years, since we decided to relocate to Chapel-le-Dale above Ingleton, the weather has been mild, wet and generally abysmal. To be fair, this year’s trip, amidst all the general carnage, had the best weather of the three to date, with some decent dry spells between the showers.

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On the Saturday we took the kids for a longish walk up to the moor beyond Ribblehead Viaduct.

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We were well prepared with head-torches and wellies and had a very enjoyable poke about in some of the caves to be found up there. Hardly surprisingly, they were pretty wet, and some of us resolved to come back for another look-see when the conditions are a bit drier.

I’ve explored and written about these caves in a bit more detail before – there’s a post about them here, which includes a link to a more much complete and expert account on another blog, if you are thinking of trying the caves yourself.

By the time we’d finished our exploration, the weather had deteriorated considerably and I think the children who had remained found it rather a long trudge back in the rain and gathering gloom. Still, chilli, guacamole, corn bread and tortilla chips (for 22) followed, accompanied by the usual banter and re-hashed jokes. Marvellous.

Chapel-le-Dale Weekend I: The Caves of Ribblehead

High Close Weekend

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And so, in the virtual world of this blog, we reach November and a very wet weekend spent at High Close Youth Hostel above Langdale in the Lake District. Our regular group of old friends, with whom we regularly meet up, are approaching 50 (well some of us are, some are well past 50 and some still have a fair way to go). By way of celebration the Mad Man booked the entire hostel and, widening the net, invited a whole host of old faces to join us. It was an interesting weekend – almost all of my oldest friends were there, people I’ve walked and holidayed with for 30 years, whose weddings I’ve attended, whose children I’ve watched grow up, but then there were many more people there whom I knew 30 years ago but have barely seen since. I think that there were 56 of us all told so there was plenty of conversation to be had.

Which is a good job, because the weather was dreadful – and this was before the arrival of storms Abigail through Frank. On the Saturday, during a slight lull in the hostilities, some of us had a wander up Loughrigg – I set off slightly ahead of the group, as is my wont, and didn’t see them again until the summit due to some injudicious navigation on their part (they went a long way round). The photo above was taken on our circuitous descent route when we sheltered in Rydal Cave which isn’t a cave at all, but rather a former quarry which used to provide roofing slate.

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On the Sunday morning it actually brightened up briefly, long enough for me to take an early stroll down through the woods of the High Close Estate…

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…to the road at the bottom…

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…but by the time I was following the stream back uphill it was raining heavily again.

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Later a small band braved the weather to wander down to the falls at Skelwith Force and back again, but it was foul whilst we were out and my camera stayed firmly in my rucksack.

It would have been nice if the sun had shone, if only for a while, but it was great to see everyone and I don’t think we allowed the weather to put too much of a damper on the occasion.

High Close Weekend

Pond Life

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Most of the time the sea in the Bay is pretty placid. But once in a while we do get some waves. Here’s some evidence from one of our local walks with our American cousins.

On another local walk we visited Burtonwell Wood rift cave…

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The passage runs parallel to the cliff-face, and part way along there’s a spot where it’s possible to climb up to a ‘window’…

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From the cave we walked to Woodwell. We often visit, but this time we came prepared with nets and plastic tubs…

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The kids caught quite a variety of pond life. I think that this…

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…is probably a Three-Spined Stickleback. (But, as always, I stand ready to be corrected.)

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Pond Skaters.

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I’d call that upside down insect a Water Boatman, my field guide tells me that it is a Common Backswimmer (also know as a Water Boatman). The rather splendidly red snail is a Great Ramshorn (I think).

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This must be a Water Beetle, but I’m really not sure which kind.

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Here, the Water Boatman has a silvery sheen due to a trapped air bubble which it uses to enable it to breath.

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We were all fascinated by the contents of our tubs.

Well…almost all…

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Later that day we wandered into Eaves Wood for a bit of tree-climbing. Professor A can never resist joining the kids…

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Once again, B’s busted arm proved to be a great hindrance…

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Here we all are by the Pepper Pot…

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Pond Life

Whitsun Treadings V: Burton Well Cliff Cave, Woodwell Newts, Green-winged Orchids on the Lots

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It’s all there in the title really. Another local walk – we might have gone further afield more often, but the weather forecasts were often pretty poor, so a short wander not too far from home often seemed like a safer bet.

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We were joined for this walk by our friend G and her kids. G grew up here in Silverdale and remembers crawling through the narrow cave which runs through the cliff near Burton Well and which I only discovered a few weeks back. We decided to mosey over that way and let some of the current generation of Silverdale’s youth experience that same thrill. I think they enjoyed it. They certainly wanted to go back and through several times over.

From there we went over to Woodwell. The sun shone, and for once it actually felt quite warm. We were lazing and watching the fish in the shallow, silted pond there, and I was busy telling everyone that I’d often seen newts here, twenty-odd years ago, when I first moved to the area, but not since, when….

‘There’s a newt!’

‘There’s another one!’

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It was newts on parade day. We watched for a while. I took several photos, of which this is probably the sharpest. The UK has three species of newts. And the newts we watched  were…..almost certainly one of those three.

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Anxious not to be left out, a damselfly joined the party by pig-backing on our friend B’s coat. B loves small creatures which he can handle and soon had made a pet of what I think is a female large red damselfly.

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It was surprisingly content to sit on his hand. Perhaps it had only recently emerged? So happy was it, in fact, that B was taking her home with him.

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I persuaded him it might be best to take her back and leave her by the pond.

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We finished with a stroll across the Lots, where the green-winged orchids were looking spectacular.

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Whitsun Treadings V: Burton Well Cliff Cave, Woodwell Newts, Green-winged Orchids on the Lots