I’d never been caving, never really having the inclination to venture into the belly of the Earth whilst the outer surface gave me ample space to run around waving my arms in a show of true freedom. So when it was decided that a reccie was needed for one of our Big Shakeout courses I thought it would be a great chance to get a taster once and for all.
Sharon briefs Jim on where we would be going
Well to start off with I knew it was going to be pretty easy and indeed the going was straightforward, which fitted perfectly with the course on offer. I was there with Sharon from Thornbridge Outdoors, Jim and then Keith Sharples who was going to lead these photography courses. We needed somewhere that would allow easy tuition in the art of taking photos underground, so technical caving was always going to be out. Despite this, there were narrow passages, good size chambers and some interesting features along the way which gave plenty of scope for running through different lighting set ups and non flash options.
As we ventured underground the temperature dropped rapidly and I regretted not having another layer under my suit, especially since there would be a lot of standing round. I had nothing really to compare it to, but as we worked our way along passed flowstones and beautiful formations, my appreciation for this underground world grew. It really was fascinating just looking at all the different colours and ways the rock had been carved away. Although we ventured into a well trodden cave system, for someone who had never been down a cave I’d gained an insight into why people would find it so fascinating. I felt like a kid, exploring the unknown, with the urge to keep on going further and further just to see where it led. We stayed down for about 3 hours, taking a selection of photos and enjoying the surroundings, before it was time to head back above ground.
Keith lines up his next shot
However, I was not going to be allowed to see daylight again without getting a real taster for caving. So passing the ‘Smarty tube’ I was called back, apparently I had walked straight on passed, funny that.
This narrow tube in the side wall of the main passage is no longer than 4 or 5 metres, but I honestly could not see how I would get through. I looked down the entrance, I looked up from the exit, but really had no comprehension how. Sharon assured me that I would be fine. It was easiest from the top, ‘let gravity help’ she added. And so with arms forward, head to one side, I entered.
Now this was the reason I had not been so taken on the caving thing. Flashing images in my mind of getting stuck fast, unable to move forwards or back. Who would help? What if the water level started to rise?I’ve got to get out, quick! But I couldn’t move… arms get caught behind me, got to dislocate my shoulder to get them back in front… Oh all right, so it wasn’t that bad and it gave me a further appreciation as to what would be involved in some cave exploration.
Keith enters into the spirit of things by going along the tube
Despite my new found appreciation for cave systems, the thought of squeezing and squirming through holes in rock, deep below ground and more so when it involves water, still just makes me feel a tad uneasy. But, to quote some furry London residents, it truly is a underground, overground world for us to explore.
Below are some examples from the trip, (all photos courtesy of Keith Sharples)
Example of what’s possible without flash