Seagull's Welly Pot and Elpha Green Caves

Seagull's Welly Pot and Elpha Green Caves

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  CarolSmith 2 weeks, 2 days ago.

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  • #5470

    scaife
    Participant

    Saturday 30th September 2017
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Carol Smith, Don Miller, Ben Coult

    In the last few months I have made several visits to Seagull’s Welly Pot, the more mature brother of Archbishop Pyrenean Desman Tutu’s Welly Pot, in West Allen Dale, Northumberland. Progress had always been thwarted by a large boulder blocking the way on, but today we somehow mustered the strength to remove the boulder, thus allowing an unadulterated descent of the wonderful hole.

    Using a stake in the ground for our 10m ladder, we climbed down to the bottom of Ladder Pitch. There are then two very impressive chambers to get into. Beehive Chamber is through a rift up a simple climb about two metres off the floor of Ladder Pitch. Getting into the Main Chamber, however, is a bit more of a challenge. It is entered through a squeeze 4.5m off the floor of the pitch, entry into which requires some confident straddling across the pitch. Although I had read accounts of people entering this chamber headfirst, following a headfirst inspection of the near-vertical drop, I decided feet first was the more inviting method. Step, step, wiggle, wiggle, slide, slide, down. The chamber is very impressive, with flowstone on the walls, and must be about 10m high. I was fortunate enough to enjoy this chamber in solitude, thanks to the generosity of my companions.

    Following this triumph, we went to Elpha Green Cave in the neighbouring valley of East Allen Dale. On the walk along the Swinhope Burn, en route to the Main Entrance, I poked my head into a hole and got my head stuck. Much rummaging to find the release on my helmet eventually set me free. We carried on along the stream to the main entrance. After crawling down Myxamatosis Passage (very aptly named – I have never been in a cave with so many rabbit bones) there is quite a long, low crawl to reach the streamway. Once in the Stream Passage, we turned left and followed the passage all the way to the end, including a brief diversion into Penguin Chamber. There are some very nice formations in this part of the cave, and the sensible place to stop would be the final chamber.

    Being Black Rose cavers, we pushed on. Don turned onto his back and wallowed into a low, wet section for a short distance before retreating. I then dared to follow in his footsteps and went a little further, into what is marked on the survey with a dotted line and called Feather End. This section had a very low ceiling; deep, cold water, and just went on and on. With one side of my face touching the ceiling and the other touching the water, I pushed on gently, avoiding the numerous delicate stalactites hanging from the ceiling. I might have made better use of the airspace on my back, but I wanted to see that I wasn’t going to collide with the formations. I got to within sight of what appeared to be an upstream sump and retreated, feet first. There is nowhere to turn around here.

    We all returned downstream as far as the aven where the crawl had met the streamway, Ben headed out, then the Black Rose northern contingent carried on a little further, through some winding, narrow rift in dry passage, until unexpectedly (only unexpected because we didn’t have a survey) we saw daylight entering in from the world. We headed straight for the light, like a trio of moths, only to find it was exactly the too tight hole I had had my head stuck in earlier. We had found Ruckle Entrance, which must have rucked somewhat tighter since it was last usable and is now not even a head’s width, so turned back for double the fun. Before exiting, I had a quick look in the small passage that leads to Quarry Entrance, which appears to be blocked by a large tree.

    Some great caving in what is fast becoming Europe’s premier caving region. I can’t think of many short caves with so much action and interest.

    #5472

    Don
    Participant

    Elpha Green is now my new favourite Grade 2 cave (with Fossdale Beck Cave now in a secure second place).

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned is that we actually didn’t enter Beehive Chamber. The roughly six foot connection between the Main Chamber and Beehive Chamber is very narrow can only be travelled on one’s side. I couldn’t fit through. All of us tried (though I don’t know how hard Carol and Scaife tried). The narrowness wasn’t the most challenging part, it was how to exit on the other side without falling.

    #5473

    scaife
    Participant

    Oh, I didn’t realise you hadn’t fitted. I didn’t think it was particularly tight. The climb down is probably a bit awkward but I didn’t go down because I knew there was no way on from the bottom.

    #5475

    CarolSmith
    Participant

    Elpha Green is now my new favourite Grade 2 cave (with Fossdale Beck Cave now in a secure second place).

    The narrowness wasn’t the most challenging part, it was how to exit on the other side without falling.

    Yep, falling head first into what looked like a muddy sump would not have been nice…

    A fun day out, indeed. In spite of the dead rabbit in the stream.

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