Sunday, January 30, 2005

Lancaster Hole

It's been busy for me during the last week and a half, starting on Wednesday 19th January with an evening, after work visit to Youd's Level in Matlock Bath. The entrance to this old lead mine is under a manhole in a children's playground next to the River Derwent. The way in follows an old mined "coffin level" or mine drain under the road and underneath "The Heights of Abraham". It passes many flooded sumps through tight crawls and small caverns, some man made and some natural. This mined level is reputed to have an open connection to Great Masson Mine which opens on top of the hill. We did not find a connection and feeling the need for beer exited to the nearest pub.

Two days later I was driving North with my logging unit to log Errington 1, a Roc-Oil exploration well near Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland. We got time to look around the ruined Chesters Roman Fort. You can see enough to be impressed by the level of their technology 2000 years ago, but not enough to get excited about. We provided the client with density, porosity, sonic, lateralog and formation pressure tests and were the de-mobilised. As soon as I got home I received a phone call asking me to turn around, go back and provide them with full waveform sonic and acoustic scanner logs. I finally got home (after a quick look at the ruin of Brunton's turret, also on Hadrian's Wall) on Thursday 27th January.

The next evening I took my van back north to the Station Inn at Ribblehead, next to the Ribblehead viaduct in North Yorkshire. I met some friends here preparatory for a caving trip the next day. Four of us, Neill Gilhooley, Paul, Bee and myself found the entrance to Lancaster Hole after getting lost and almost completing the ascent of Gragarath in the process. Paul rigged the 33m abseil descent into the cave and explored the main route to the impressive stalactite and stalagmite decorations just beyond Stake Pot in the higher section of the Master Cave. We returned after a Mars bar break, de-rigging our line in Fall Pot on the way out to the base of Lancaster Hole, which we ascended using SRT kit. We emerged in darkness and proceeded to get lost again on our way back to our vehicles, where we got changed and returned to the pub for a drink and chatter. In all it was an excellent trip through very large underground caverns and impressive decorations. I have visited this cave many times, it is definitely my favourite. I slept overnight in my van, returning home on Sunday 30th January.