Upper Flood Swallet
The 2006 Extensions
The trip before the breakthrough by Tim Francis
Mike Richardson, Peat Bennett and Tim Francis had another successful digging session on Sunday 06/08/2006. The draught at the entrance was really strong and blowing grass about. Anyhow we didn't have the drill with us but we still managed to chisel the last breakthrough squeeze wide enough for Mike to fit through. He's taken a few photos although mainly of Peat's legs digging the next squeeze.
At the top of the choke we had seen what looked like a large void. Peat dug through a gap between the solid wall on the right and a house sized boulder to squeeze through. Voids continue up but we chose to follow the draft. Down and to the right was a narrow body sized crack on the fault. I dropped down into this and excavated a way forward into a pile of jammed boulders and fault breccia. A hole was soon opened up with a storming draft coming out of it. A session of boulder juggling and kerplunk and we were through. Dropping feet first you pop out into a solid piece in the choke. Its actually a huge jammed boulder over a 15ft drop. This is just free climbable. Winding our way down we squeezed through a Swildons'esque flowstone gap between boulders and a sporting tight squeeze to roomier stuff below. To the right you can clearly hear the streamway but it will need some boulder removal to reach. Down slope to the left we followed the fault controlled right hand wall as best we could. The choke on the right looks horrendous! At the end things got a bit too necky for our liking so we called it a day at a muddy area in the choke. There is a gap between boulders ahead that chucks out a good draft so we certainly have finished with the place yet. I suspect we have added another 70ft to the cave. Up in the roof and in the floor we rummaged around in the choke. Its all a bit nasty but don't think there is a way on. The top of the choke has some monster boulders resting on thinly bedded stuff so take care. The boulders are much larger than the Red Room choke and the whole thing feels much more like Wales than Mendip. Its all quite unusual and actually quite intimidating in places. I'm really hoping that we will get passed this area soon and back into some nice streamway again. Sketch survey attached. In actual fact the whole thing should trend in pretty much a straight line from the T-Junction below Golden Chamber as its all on the same fault line from there.
The best prospects look like at the far end by the draft, but perhaps finding a way back to the stream. The hope for the latter is that it might be in something more solid. On the next trip we will hilti out the breakthrough squeeze, and several other squeezes beyond which only Peat and I will probably pass at the moment.
The 2006 Extensions
The discovery of the Blackmoor Valley Master Cave by Tim Francis
On 10th September 2006, Mike Richardson, Julie Hesketh and Tim Francis did another one of those Sunday afternoon sessions in Upper Flood. Hopes for another breakthrough were high but nothing on the scale of what we have actually found. Mike busied himself widening the most recent batch of squeezes - these are now passable - whilst Julie and Tim headed to the end. This was a nasty looking bit of choke that Peat Bennett and Tim left last time. The expected way on looked much too dodgy but a small crack was spotted on the right hand side. This was excavated and hammered for 30 minutes or so before a desperate vertical squeeze was forced. Julie followed after Tim had confirmed that the breakthrough really was worth seeing.
I will attempt a description of the Blackmoor Valley Master Cave....
We clambered down the gap between the choke and the solid wall. The streamway could be heard below and it is quite pretty. Then a sort of horizontal shuffle pops you out onto a boulder balcony. Ahead is a huge chamber / passage 4 to 5 times the size of Midnight Chamber. That's probably a conservative estimate. Essentially what we'd entered was a monster trunk passage going from left to right. We descended the boulder pile, whooping and exclaiming. The passage then heads off, roughly along the fault-controlled direction of the dig. In places it is 50 feet or more high. Large flowstone cascades come in from the left and right, and there are mini gour pools and ripples aplenty. The roof is also well decorated in places although it is more curtains and chunky stalactites than straws. Then we just stomped on downstream.
After the chamber-like section we entered big straight passage that zigzags a bit. It is still very high but maybe only 5 feet wide. Again it pops out into wider stuff with fossil passage in the roof. We kept at stream level where each time you thought it would close down it opens out again. One section is crawling in the streamway and it looks like it might back up a bit in wet weather. After that you continue down the dip with the odd climb down boulders and one nice flowstone traverse. A small inlet comes in on the right (not explored) and another inlet high up on the left trickles in over a flowstone cascade (Netherwood Inlet?). This one looks muddier but pushable. After 25 minutes (!) we dropped down a small climb and the passage pinches out into a tube-like meander. The rock is black and slippy but the void too tight to pass. The air is fresh and the stream passes through easily so it will be hilti / hammerable.
On the way out we briefly looked at a couple of high level bits but nothing has been looked at in detail due to lack of time. Also water levels were extremely low so it is hard to determine if there are other inlets coming in. Anyhow I think we've more than doubled the length of the cave with the old cave now just the entrance series. It is hard to say but we must be looking at 300-400 yards of new passage, maybe more. It doesn't descend that steeply (50 yards?) so it shouldn't sump off left. I would now describe Upper Flood as a sporting cave akin to Longwood / Swildons / GB rather than a crawl to a dig.
The 2006 Extensions
The caving trip of my life by Julie Hesketh
To say I am flabbergasted is an understatement. Who would have believed that we would make such a find in Upper Flood! Yesterday (10/09/2006) was the caving trip of my life! I would have been happy with 10 additional feet of boulder choke - what I had expected to find. The dig into the boulder choke was impressive enough and there is a fair old amount of (pretty unpleasant) passage between Golden Chamber and the latest breakthrough point. So to find what we did was just unbelievable!!!! Hundereds of metres of yomping passage in Upper Flood! The new section of Flood partly reminded me of GB in parts (in scale and prettiness) and in parts is reminiscent of Longwood (the stream) and the rift-like nature of the final part of the cave is very typically "Upper Flood like" as the stream heads off into a dark rift ahead (though definitely a "going" rift).
On reflection what strikes me is how few inlets we found. During the trip we discussed whether we had caved beyond the reaches of Waterwheel etc - it felt like it in distance but there were no obvious streamways coming in other than the two small ones Tim mentioned. This didn't seem to be enough to explain the very large passage size in parts of the new cave. Low flow might explain it in part - water levels were very low indeed - just a trickle into Midnight Chamber (on our way in through the now "entrance series!!!) Perhaps inlets will be more obvious in wetter weather. Otherwise, perhaps there is yet still more big stuff to be found????!!
The entrance into the new stuff is quite intimidating - a very tight (even for me and Tim) squeeze down a slot which we hammered to make it passable. I was pushing bone when passing the squeeze. I am sure that this can me hiltid or hammered out. There is another smallish squeeze past the breakthrough point too and so a bit of engineering will be needed there as well. Some of the pretties are outstanding and will need taping off. Some of the calcite flow is pretty too, so we will need to sort taping out soonish.
Nice timing for the BCRA conference in 2 weekends time!!!
The 2006 Neverland Extensions
For a write up of the Neverland breakthrough trip by Tony J'Rat see here
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