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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Child free - first half of the week

As Emma was away last week I had a child free week, it felt very odd. The first time I've had a whole week without her around since she was born. All the more difficult as there was little phone reception where she was staying, and even if there was she hates talking on the phone! What I did enjoy was not having to do the childcare runs, and not having to rush out of work at a specific time. After a long time I think that can get fairly draining. I very much missed her company though and it was good to have her home today.

During my childfree week I went caving on the Tuesday with Hades Caving Club - it turned out just to me Scott and Jennie in the end. The cave was very wet - even wetter than our trip during the rains. We had a good old explore of the upper series, heading straight into the Zig Zags - a section I normally avoid due to the bold step over the drop. It felt much easier than when I last been over it, so maybe it's not all that scary after all. Scott took us to look at a few places we'd not been before, one passed which Scott said was called 'Black Passage' was actually not too badly decorated for somewhere within the entrance series. Scott and Jennie went into the new Grotto (a tight section I'd been in before) whilst I sat it out and took a break. I turned off my light and enjoyed being in the dark with the drips. Beyond the water chamber we all got a total soaking where the stream was shooting over and creating a shower of water over our way on (should have worn that wetsuit...). We did the waterfall climb down then looked down the 20ft pitch which was roaring. After that it was up and out as we'd had a fairly last start. We came out via the wet way - the lavortory pan proved no issue for us despite the volume of water coming out of it, then it was on to the final mini climb. I was pleased I got up it easily - normally it is flowing with water but the stream has found a different way to go before this point so it's now dry. I was sad the stream was no longer flowing this round.

Coming out of the cave we ended updoing the long dry pretty way a couple of times to find the top of a section called Jacobs Ladder-  I joked it was like groundhog day, but it was good to cement the upper sections of the cave to the brain. Outwards we then went - I did the slightly exposed climb (with some deliberation!) and came out through the tree hole again, I can't help but feel I'm in an Enid Blyton Novel everytime I do it.

I took no photos as it was so wet, but why not check out the photos of Steve Sharp one of my fave cave photographers.

This is one of Steve's shots of the waterfall we climbed down - it was in much stronger flow when we were there:



Not content with just one trip I opted to join the other club I cave with for a Wednesday trip to Rods Pot. This time it was Scott, Dave, Myself and my friend Dan. It was only Dan's second trip, Dave sent him first ?! into the cave.

Here is Dan (taken by Dave) enjoying (?!) the entrance series



Here I am crawling over a drop, looking a bit concerned!




I made a bit of a pigs ear of the way on, head first down a drop was a little silly...

Once into the system there are some pretty good formations to look at, surprising for such an often visited cave



It was then onwards to the bearpit, I wasn't feeling confident so declined to climb down, this gave Dan a good excuse not to climb down either. Scott being Mr brave went down and up, then we headed off to explore some of the other passages before heading out.



Scott and I explored a climb up (reading Dave's report I think this may be the way on to another cave? - Drunkards Hole). Scott went first but couldn't get past the boulder. I waited for him to down climb and had a go, my fear of heights kicked in when I got to the boulder, so I headed back down without giving it a go. I think if I'd had someone behind me I probably would have given it a shot. I managed to get my leg jammed a few times getting down which was rather interesting.

Getting out the cave went without hitch, the smell of rotting vegetation hit us as we got to the entrance series, so we made pretty fast progress to come out of the cave. I smugly pointed out I was the only one not sweating when we came out of the cave, the others soon pointed out I was allot smaller than them. Then it was off to the Hunters pub for the second time running having been there the night before. Two pints, a pint of coke and two cheese& onion rolls came to less than a tenner - what could be better and cheaper at that time of the evening post caving - if only all pubs were as good as that.

All the photos and video were courtesy of Dave, you can read his blog on Darkplaces

Sunday 22nd July - Warleigh and Clevedon

We were all pretty tired after the previous days walk, so had a lazy start to the day. Lizzie and Steve went off bouldering at the indoor climbing place & I got on with the allotment.

Once back we headed off to Warleigh for a paddle. I wasn't swimming as wasn't feeling too great. The water levels at the river were still very high, there is usually a little beach at the bottom of the weir, but this was covered by deep water. We managed to find a a place to sit and paddle by the old ferry steps, but it was still fairly deep.



And to compare here is a photo taken from google search showing where the 'beach' normally is





Once we'd spent some time watching the world go by Lizzie and I headed to the top of the weir for a paddle, it was actually fairly shallow in the first pool and we enjoyed splashing about finding fresh water mussel shells.

We then drove down (a little lazy I know, but it was HOT!) to Dundas Aquaduct for some icecream, then headed down to the river below to dangle our legs in the water







We then headed home to drop Lizzie back to her Mum. We were quite near to Clevedon after that so decided to head there for some fish and chips & stroll. I was sent off to buy the food whilst Steve guarded the car on the double yellows. We then drove off to the seafront and bagged a spot near to the front, and dashed out to have our chips and beer to watch the tide come in. I was in trouble as the sausage Steve had ordered wasn't in the bag, thankfully he was full enough from lunch not to be too cross.

We strolled up to the tidal pool post tea, the water temp was very warm and inviting, the degree of rubbish surrounding it wasn't. Why do we live with a nation of pigs? Lately I've been trying to pick up rubbish when I'm doing outdoor stuff, but the level of rubbish in the water and by the water was discusting, especially given the fact there were bins all around.







21st July - first mountain

My daughter Emma had a last minute invite to go away with my Mum and Dad for a week to stay in Pembrokeshire in their cottage (they were due to be looking after her during the week due to me working and school being on holidays) so off she went for a week away in the sun with a beach just round the corner (I was very jealous being left behind!)

Cheer up came in the form of a visit from my partner & his daughter. Lizzie hadn't been up a mountain before so we decided this would be the weekend to give it shot. The forecast was for hot weather and sunshine so lots of drinks were packed. As it was so hot we decided to park the car at the highest up carpark to gain some altitude without the effort.

We headed off through a field of long grass admiring the butterflies and moths flying all around - it was a perfect summers day. Onwards we went, the jelly babies soon came out - the perfect antidote to tired legs! I took a quick rest stop to photograph the thistles in bloom with all the bees buzzing about. As the walk continued we had our first obstacle to tackle - ferns! Us adults take them for granted as they are above eye level but for a small kids they can be quite unpleasant! The jelly babies saved the day again, and us adults made sure we thwacked out the way what we could. We passed a fellow walker who saw us with the jelly babies, who told us how when he'd been walking with his kids when he was younger they would put jelly babies on the rocks to encourage the kids up the hills! We also passed quite a few trees en route and it was tricky to pursued Lizzie to cease climbing long enough to get up the hill!

 





We soon arrived at the bottom of the last climb, despite just being under the magic number to be classed as a mountain Sugarloaf looked pretty impressive from below. We detoured off to bag a geocache - over a pretty little stream (despite being up there on 3 other occasions I hadn't realised there was water so high on the mountain) I showed Lizzie how to cool off her wrists in the water and gave myself a good face splash to cool down. He headed slightly downstream and I got very excited as had found some really plump bilberries - first ones of the year so far - I was surprised to see them so early given the poor weather we'd had, I think the gully of the stream had given some shelter from the poor weather conditions, and they were down so far the sheep had missed them. Needless to say I scoffed loads - Lizzie tried a few but wasn't too keen so it was up to me to get stained purple hands and face! We had fun reading and signing the log then it was upwards and back onto our path.



Last section was a bit of a slog so we broke it up with some games and counting our paces and having little stops..


At the bottom of the last little bouldery section we noticed quite a few rocks had writing on them, this was one of them:


Lizzie who loves bouldering had to be persuaded not to take the hardest line up the mini rock scramble (it would have been impossible even for us adults) after much huffing and puffing she went up a slightly easier way and Steve joined her after getting stuck getting up the harder way (far too wet)


The next problem was where to stop for lunch to which a mini discussion ensued  - Lizzie wanted to stop where we were, but there was another set of people having lunch there and us adults didn't want to intrude on their peace, but it's not something a cross and hungry 6 year old understands. Finally we got her to move on an we found and equally good rocky ledge. Order was soon restored, and it became a most excellent lunch spot as a shrew popped out to eat our crumbs - I wasn't quick enough to get a shot! We tried in vain to find the geocache we'd both found up there before but couldn't find it anywhere (looked it up when we got home to read it has gone missing, which explains why we couldn't find it -  such a shame people have to ruin things for others).

Once lunch was done we headed to the trig point for photos, there was a huge charity group hogging the area which made photos tricky. I'm not overly bothered by groups so long as they take their rubbish home with them, but I wish once they were done on the top they'd move over and make a little room for others (that probably makes me sound like a grumpy so and so though!)



Skirrid in the background

Then it was downwards and onwards to St Mary Vale (we did a mini scramble over the summit rocks before heading down), a pretty little wooded valley. We reached the stream and the path became quite overgrown, it was still just about do-able though. We saw a frog which made Lizzie grin. Tired legs were kicking in, so we had to keep reiterating the promise of the nice river at the end. The path was quick muddy under foot which made it tricky for Lizzie in her hiking shoes.


We passed through a wooded area enroute and I entertained Lizzie by squeezing through  tree hole and demonstrating my caving skill ;) Lucky I didn't get stuck! We also saw this rather lovely tree formation..


We finally reached the river and it was welcome relief - all out feet were aching!


Lizzie and I found a comfy spot in the middle of the river, Queen Lizzie!


Steve had fun building dams



We headed out of the valley past some houses then up some lanes to what was supposed to be our footpath back. We could not find it - google maps on the phone confirmed we were where we thought we were but the way on was through someone's driveway and they'd put up a big gate. We could see  where we needed to be, so we gave up trying to follow the map , hopped over a barbed wire fence then over a few overgrown fields back to the car. Very frustrating not being able to find the right way on. Passing through the fields we admired all the butterflies which were being attracted by Lizzie's colourful hat.

We were all very pleased to get back to the car as we were tired and hot. Lizzie did very well on her first walk, and there will forever be a pack of jelly babies in my pocket when walking with kids!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Friday 13th - not unlucky for us - Japanese Friday!

Been quite caught up in keeping on top of the allotment of late (i.e trying not to let the weeds/grass take over, but not actually coming home with much...) so haven't had so much time to do fun stuff with Emma. As she is at her Dads house on Sundays that only leaves Saturday free for fun stuff, and a little of Friday afternoon before/after her swimming lesson.

We have decided to rectify the lack of fun things by starting a jar of fun things to do. When we get a spare minute we will pick one out and do whatever it says (hopefully all of Emma's are reasonable suggestions!)

This weeks choice was to have a Japanese evening - Emma got to wear her dress her Granddad brought back for her from Japan. She did her hair in a Japanese style & we made place mats for the table using charcoal. We then spent ages making sushi & noodle soup. I was amazed how Emma tucked in to hers - she'd eaten 3 before our dinner guest Steve H arrived.









Yum!


We enjoyed the fortune cookies we had for pudding, although I was gutted not to get the one which gave me good health, instead I got one saying I'd be a good boss - perhaps a change in career is in order!

Goatchurch Cavern 14/7/12

Goatchurch Cavern is a cave often used outdoor groups and local caving clubs as an introduction cave for novices. It has a bit of everything - climbs, squeezes, crawls & a small stream at the bottom. As a result of this despite being a good cave to take beginners in due to it's size & variety of features it also has some very polished rock which can cause a bit of an issue for small people (and big people). I can testify this from having fallen on my arse in a nearby similarly polished cave (thankfully I came away with just bruises and  injured pride!)

I'd been meaning to take Emma into Goatchurch for a while, but never quite managed to get round to it. As she had coped so well caving (in pretty wet conditions) with the YSS we decided Goatchurch would be a good step up. We arrived at Burrington Combe pretty late as the traffic coming out of Bristol was appalling (3 protests in one day, not a good time to pass through the centre). It was raining and there were only a few cars in the carpark which pleased us (meaning the cave would be pretty empty which was lucky for a wet Saturday). I'm still on the  fence about whether to invest in 'proper' caving gear for Emma - finding suitable caves is a little tricky and she doesn't really cave often enough to warrant it. Saying that she does have a decent helmet to wear (with light).Under that she had on her Ronhill bottoms, thermal top, waterproof trousers. climbing harness & boiler suit over the top of it all. If it had been a wet cave I would have added here waterproof coat before putting on the boiler suit. She had my velcro elbow pads as knee pads  - the perfect fit!

There's something about the woods above the Combe which seem full of magic. I recall a few years back doing a walk through there taking in all the Cave entrances, thinking how mysterious they all were.It was that walk that inspired me to contact a caving club & take up caving. Before that I'd been caving with the Guides with an outdoor group, but bailed out of the drainpipe (which we will talk more about later).

En route up through the woods we passed the entrance to Sidcot Swallet (one for another day Emma...) and continued up to Goatchurch. We passed the Tradesman's Entrance to the cave and continued up to the main entrance. The cave has two entrances and we were planning to do a round trip.



Despite all being keen mountaineers the walk up to Goatchurch never fails to leave us out of puff!



Slowly we bum shuffled into the cave, when we reached the railings we explained to Emma that it had briefly been a show cave many years ago. Later on during the trip she commented that she didn't think it would have worked as a show cave as people would not have been able to get through it very easily!



First obstacle was the Giants Steps - steep polished natural steps descending down into the cave. Steve went first and blocked the hole so Emma could descend.



Then it was along Drunkards passage (named so due to it's sloping nature) to find a route into the boulder chamber. Despite visiting the cave a fair few times before I always get confused around the passages leading into the boulder chamber. We located the Midgets Steps (more smaller natural steps) which took us down to a sloped section. After this we faffed about a bit in the dining chamber ?(hoping I got this in the right order) and found the safest passage down into the boulder chamber.



Emma was really excited about seeing all the smoothed calcite about and was really enjoying herself. She declared it the best caving trip yet, and was finding her way through the cave safely with very little help needed. Next challenge was the Coffin Lid - a smoothed slope with a low roof above you. I tend to lie on my tummy and grip the slides to control the speed I go down it. Steve went down first then helped Emma.

Take 1



Take 2!



 We'd managed to leave the survey behind by mistake so missed out the Grotto entirely (I think, looking at the Survey afterwards) and in we went to the Water Chamber down another slope. I managed to recall that the concreted steps lead down to the dig/Drainpipe. Emma and I took a break whilst Steve zipped down to the bottom of the dig to have a nose. I decided not to send Emma down the tiny passage I'd lost my torch in earlier in the year ( I got stuck, dropped it down a hole and couldn't get it back despite admirable attempts by Ivan).

We descended to the drainpipe which is a long tubular passage (a novice caving classic which I wasn't brave enough to tackle as a child!) - Emma liked the echoes it made. I sent Steve through first (explaining if he got stuck it would be best I was at the back :). Emma went next, going so fast down it I could barely take a photo.

Small people can do it on there hands and knees..


The drainpipe looks worse that it looks in photos and soon ended in another sit up able in Cavern. From here there is a way on through some tight passage and squeezes to some other interesting things, but it would have been too much to take Emma to on her first trip. Emma and I decided to paint on some mud war paint whilst Steve had a nose round the chamber. It was then time to go back down the drainpipe. I attempted to sit up and take a photo, with minimum success!





Some people can't go hands and knees through :)


Emma started to notice all the fossils in the passage and spent the rest of the trip pointing out loads of really interesting fossils I've not noticed before.

In reading up about the cave whilst writing this blog I've also noted there's some markings to be seen in the cave. Will have to keep a closer eye out next time.

Once back in the Water Chamber we went 'a huntin for the steam- first dropping down into a hole, then a squeeze for Emma and I to watch it dripping down some calcite. Steve had a go at coming to join us but decided his chest was too big.





We then went to the top of the chamber to watch it running down the cave and to see the calcite which has formed in it's pathway.



Top of the stream - NB the cut on chin was from a slip getting out a swimming pool - nothing to do with caving!


Our exit from the cave went without incident. Emma had a go at the Coffin Lid, but had to have a helping hand from Steve for the last little bit as didn't have the arm strength to make it up (I protected from the bottom) We passed back a different way from the boulder chamber  - a narrower passage. Emma and Steve found my slow progress amusing as I had my rucksack on my back and kept getting stuck.. Back up the midgets steps we went, again with Emma making very fast progress.



Our exit was to be through the Tradesmans entrance - a slippery climb up with very polished footholds. We were planning on rigging a rope but Emma decided she wanted to have a try without. I climbed up first and positioned myself in a secure place just below to give Emma a hand, Steve then protected her as she went up. She got up to me and took my hand to get up the very last bit - all those climbing sessions must be paying off!

All in all a fantastic trip - despite visiting the cave a number of times prior we explored little nooks and crannies I'd normally by-pass and I had my own little cave archaeologist to give me the tour.

Our plan post cave had been to head up to the brook and to do a mini gorge scramble onto Blackdown, but time had caught up with us so we had to make do with a walk down the faster flowing than normal stream.



We were rewarded in the cafe with glorious home made cake, steaming mugs of tea & ice cream for Emma.



For the cavers reading this apologies if I've got any technical details wrong or things in the wrong order, my memory is never the best. Have a survey to see for yourself.



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