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Trip to Thackthwaite Beck Cave -- 13 Sep 2009

Group: Paul, Mary, Ian, Dave

A trip to Thackthwaite Beck Cave had been planned for a while, it was just a matter of waiting till there was a dry spell of weather. We parked up on a grass verge near the hamlet of Woodhall and promptly got politely asked if we could move the car along a bit to allow for extra parking at the garden centre. Mary thought she had left her battery belt at home and so there some attempts at a heather-robinson fixup before she found here belt inside her helmet...

We headed up the track towards the scar, stopping to chat to a few curious hikers en route. When we reached the beck we followed it till it disappeared under some stones. This area seemed to be a candidate for the entrance and we poked around in various holes before a reappraisal of the map showed we had a bit more walking to do. Walking up the hillside and crossing a wall brought the scar into view and we followed the beck (which had reappeared) past some old spoil heaps and then up towards to the scar.

Under a limestone wall was an obvious entrance covered with bits of wood and to the right over a demolished wall there looked like another entrance covered in stones. A bit of rubble removal revealed a 15" plastic pipe descending towards a wooden ladder. Some of the rocks around the entrance had interesting fossils embedded in them.

We heading down the pipe and onto the 5' wooden ladder which was pretty flimsy and missing a few rungs. This led though a scaffolding portal into a large chamber. The walls where very rough dark limestone, just the sort which tears your oversuit. Heading along the passage the sound of water could be heard and a bit further on it was found to be just under welly boot depth. Quick progress was made either over or under piles of rocks and then it became obvious that the stream would have to be followed along a wide rift. The water got deeper till it was just about waist deep (boob deep on Mary!). It wasn't too cold, but then again it wasn't too warm either :-(

After a clamber over some more fallen rocks it was back into the deep water for another 50 yards and then a clamber over more rocks led to an interesting slab which had to be crawled under. It seemed to have a fracture at the top which meant it wasn't glued to the roof of the cave and the sides didn't seem to be attached to anything - it just sort of hung there. Dave attempted to crawl though on the LHS, although it looked a lot easier on the RHS - He got stuck, it's quite tight and the rough rock snags on everything. A retreat and slide through the RHS had the party ready to move on.

There were a few bits of flowstone and small stals visible on the walls at this point and after a bit more crawling over muddy rocks stalactite chamber was reached. This was fairly big and has some nice coloured formation which were in pretty good condition.

After admiring them we decided to have a look further on. We climbed up and along and down though the blockwork maze which was liberally covered in glutinous mud. After about 10 minutes of messing around route finding we decided enough was enough and headed out. There is reputedly not much to see if you do carry on anyway as the cave just ends in a boulder choke and there are no more pretties. Exit from the pipe proved tricky as the missing rungs on the ladder and the constricted dimension of the pipe led to a lot of thrutching and scrabbling - this is not a cave for the portly...

On the way back we crossed over the mine spoil heaps and Dave spotted an adit so we had a quick look inside. It led straight into the hillside for a considerable distance and ended in a collapse which someone in the past has had a go at digging out. There are some timber 'trees' in the dig and a couple of saws and a spade, but the spare planks were covered in dry rot threads so it's probably been a while since someone worked on it. It may be worth investigating in the future as there were a few side passages and some vertical shafts in the roof. We headed back to the car in the evening sunshine.

Total trip time about 2 hours.