Chelsea Spelæological Society Newsletter 50(8/9), August/September 2008 p.125-126


By Duncan Price

Over the "Summer" we have been thwarted in our attempts to extend Wigmore on a couple of occasions.   The first set-back occurred on 12th July when Stu Gardiner, Matt & Mandy Voysey and I went down the cave to exchange some cylinders left over from the last trip.   Reaching the base of Yeo Pot we found that the diving gear had been scattered widely and my pair of 3 litre cylinders were not to be found at all.   We collected what we could find to bring out and hoped that my tanks were not already in Cheddar.   Meanwhile, Stu's fiancée - Helen - was chilling out at my place in Wells having just had some surgery on the tendons in her legs.   Before we had left, I had asked her if she could get my washing in off of the line if it started raining.   When we got back, not only were my clothes inside but my shirts had been ironed. What a star!

Anyway, I got my cylinders back on the weekend of the CSS Mendip meet (26-27th July) when John Maneely did an ambitious solo trip to the end (supported as far as Sump 1 by Claire Cohen and her brother).   John writes:

"I had another trip back to the end on Saturday (26th), our previous bang job was passed no problem (well if Duncan fitted I was pretty sure I would).   It leads to a small I open section, a climb leads up 5-6m to a roof jammed solid with large boulders.   I spent 45 mins or so digging out a boulder at the same level as our previous obstacle to gain 5ft in the downstream direction.   This heads down to more open passage below.   To make it passable there was a pinch between boulders that needed opening out.   I drilled and banged the offending article and returned for a look-see.   The gap is now big enough to get down but bells out below so returning may be tricky.   I drilled and placed a bolt for a hand line but didn't have any rope.   A return is required to check it out.   Might just be the short section of standing passage I can see but might prove prosperous. "

John and I collected gear (having found my cylinders a little way into Sump 1) the next day and plans were made for another assault on the 9th August.

Saturday 9th August was very wet, so wet in fact that I spent the day shopping in Wells & Cheddar with Helen while John, Stu and Chris Jewell went down Wigmore to stash some gear and take photos.   The trip was then rolled back a week to the 16th which also turned out to be somewhat wet (both outside and inside as it was the day of the BEC BBQ).   Finally, John and I managed to muster a trip on Friday 22nd August and cheat the rain clouds.   In the meantime, Tony Jarratt and Dave (Tuska) Morrison had concocted a plan to dig a dry way into Young Bloods' Inlet from the surface using a Hymac to excavate one of the three shakeholes which had been radio located over this part of the cave.   Using the survey and aerial photographs of the area (courtesy of Google Maps), I guessed that the middle sized shakehole was directly above the cave (75 m below) and suggested to Tuska to dig there.   Brian Prewer later told me that there were two radiolocation points and that he considered the biggest shakehole (as I'd originally thought) was the better option.   Anyway, John and I turned up on the 22nd to find that work had already started the previous day and that the dig was looking good.   J'rat was later flown over the site in a light aircraft.

Arriving at the end of Wigmore 10, John put a hand line down the rift and had a look below.   There was a tight descending slot blocked by a boulder jammed in the way.   I joined him in a rather cosy little spot and jumped up and down on the offending object sufficient to rock it up and down.   While I made a difficult escape back up the rift, John dived in head first and managed to rotate the rock through 90 degrees.   The drill was passed down and a bolt put in the boulder.   The handline was tied to this and together we extracted the rock.   John managed to get down to waist level in the continuing passage before it got too tight.   There seemed to be an enlargement below and we could hear the stream down there (as well as feeling a draught).   With no battery power left, we made our exit.   John had a particularly tough time getting back up the rift as it was now very muddy.   I also had a bit of an epic struggle escaping from Sump 5 where I lost my weight belt in the battle to get out.   Wigmore claims more gear.

Back on the surface, the digger had exposed a rift and 10 m of pipe was put in to maintain access while the soil and rocks were replaced and the site made good.   Unfortunately the sides of the rift were too far apart to place the concrete rings on them so they are seated on compacted mud at the moment.   Further work on Home Close Hole will have to wait until the area has been re-seeded and full-time access has been sorted out.   The landowner and tenant farmer are most interested and supportive of the activities there.

The next trip took place on 30th August.   I was given the day off as Chris and John went underground supported by Clive Westlake down to the sump.   I met them later in the Hunters' for a debrief.   The pair of them managed to open up the squeeze by digging and regain the streamway though still in the boulder choke.   About 10 m length of streamway can be entered, half of which is walking-sized.   The upstream end is a few metres from where the water first flows into the choke.   A likely-looking boulder blocking the way on was drilled and popped though no-one went back to inspect the damage.

Sadly, Tony Jarratt died just after midnight in the early hours of August 31st. J'rat had played such a pivotal role in the caving world and shown great personal interest in our exploits in Wigmore that he will be sadly missed.   He was an example to us all, not always a good example, but someone who embodied the motto of the BEC: "Everything to excess!"