Devonshire Cavern - Alan Brentnall
A well-attended trip into Devonshire Cavern saw eleven of us meeting by the New Bath Hotel. Well, a couple of us weren't too sure of the correct RV, so the arrival of the party at the little door to the right of the Bonsall track was slightly staggered, but eventually we re-grouped near Hell's Well in the great chamber by the old garden entrance. The last time we had a trip into Devonshire Cavern, about a year ago, we had a fairly extensive tour of the higher passages, so this time we decided to take a look at the lower series. As I've never found the "crystal pool", I teased some useful beta from Pete Dell the day before, and, armed with this information, we set off down.
At the foot of the steps, past the TM (meer mark?) on the right, we entered the old stope with the shaft in the roof, often known as Tall Miner Chamber, because of the other TM mark scratched into the ceiling. Here we turned left at the large boulder, and followed the thin series of passages down, past the white boulder to Dustbin Chamber and the remains of the old tub. Downwards we went, past the black thurl, linking with the twin passage to the right, before ducking left into the narrow fissure which avoids the boulder squeeze.
Stopping in Clay Chamber (where have all the statues gone?) we waited and regrouped before descending to the Miner's Pillar. Shortly after this, we were halted in our downwards progress by a choice of three passages. Thinking through Pete's "advice", I opted for the middle one, which looked the least likely, and most gnarly. Sure enough, it came to what looked like an absolute dead end, but a wiggle round to the left revealed a squeeze through into some similarly tight passages which led to a slight widening and a place where I could sit up and wait for Jess, who was following close behind, and egging me on - presumably in the hope that I'd do something really foolish and either get stuck ... or hopelessly wet! But no - the passages got bigger, and descended further into realms of Devonshire which I don't think I've visited in the past. Well, it's always good to do something new!!
Eventually, after a lot of downwards crawling, we came up against another choice. Either a flat-out thrutch in a sandy crawl, or a flat-out thrutch in a wet crawl. Remembering Pete's advice yet again, I plumped for the latter, and lying on my back I squeezed under the tight rocky arch, getting hopelessly wet in the process. There followed a steep cobbled crawl and a larger passageway, with an exit window leading to a climb down to the left. This entered another sloping passage with two ways on, a grovel on the right took us into the foot of a fine shaft going upwards, and a window on the left gave onto a fissure leading down to a crystal pool. We'd found it!! Slowly but surely the others followed us through the series of crawls, chicanes and grovels, and, in the end, nine out of eleven made it all the way down.
Turning back, I led the way upwards, and, at some point, I must have taken a wrong turn, because some of the earlier squeezes and wriggles were omitted, and sooner than expected, we all arrived near the taped-off props just above the Miner's Pillar. Varying our outward journey further, I turned left just before we got to the aforementioned boulder squeeze, and followed passages towards the Rubbish Chute. Just before the chute itself, I forked left yet again, and this took us to the little awkward step (and bolt belay) just uphill from our original entrance.
We finally surfaced at 10pm, and returned to the cars to get changed before retiring to The Boat for a pleasant beer and chat.