Potter's Potholes.



Caving is awkward enough. Taking pictures underground is doubly so. Often the most interesting, if not the most beautiful, shots would take up too much time and effort. These pictures cannot convey the "pleasure" of forcing your exhausted, bruised, body through yet another pile of boulders, nor the "cool" joys of a sump - nor the exquisite terror of hanging on a thin bit of string fifty feet above some rather hard rocks...

In some caves the way on is easy, like here in Craig-A-Ffynnon (which is Welsh for "The Drum and Monkey") (pub!), though there is a tiny stream to splash around in - which gets BIG when it rains...


...and there are nice things to look at - apart from other cavers - like this magnificent set of straw stalactites which are pretty easy to get to as well...


...and a nice variety of scenery, like here where we follow the main streamway.


On the other hand, sometimes the way on is a little more constricted, especially on Mendip. This is a newly opened way to the head of a huge open shaft in Thrupe Lane Swallet.


There again, you may have to ladder a pitch. This is the famous "Twenty" in Swildon's Hole, Priddy. The blue object is my bottom - I'm getting onto the ladder. If you're adventurous you can climb up under the waterfall instead of using the ladder but it's a bit of a stretch (across the water!) at the top as you can see, and I wouldn't advise doing it without a lifeline.


Swildon's is an extensive cave. The main route goes down to a short sump, easy to free-dive. As an alternative, you can climb up to Tratman's Temple and take the longer route round the sump. It's called the "Short Round Trip" purely to distingish it from the "Long Round Trip" which is only for those who enjoy near-death experiences. The short one is still a long, quite severe, trip with several full immersions, some tight squeezes and slippery climbs to negotiate.

"Trat's", though, is well worth a visit in its own right (and easy to get to). That strawberry-shaped stalactite is hanging on a straw, it only survives because it's high in the roof.


It's all like this.


This is flowstone in Barne's Loop, not far from Tratman's Temple.


The flowstone ends at the water on the floor and the way on is behind and under the rock on the right. Barne's Loop used to be paved with pure white gour pools but they have been wrecked by the boots of countless cavers and only the more robust decorations survive.


It's hard doing justice to Charterhouse Cave, you'll just have to go there. You need a designated leader.


This is a shot just before the famous Columns in Ogof Ffynnon Dhu.



Like I said, the way on can be varied... This tunnel looks like an easy wade, but, well, the thing at the bottom of the picture is a man-made concrete dam. (Imagine lugging sacks of concrete through tight "crawls"!) Normally the water trickles over the top, but there is a large wooden plug somewhere near the bottom. Someone has to go first and take the plug out. Guess who that was.


"Lemme out! I want the Pub!"

Caving can be hazardous but the risks for recreational caving can be minimised by care, skill and common sense. If you're inspired to go caving, join a club and learn to cave safely.