Stanley Moor Caves - Alan Brentnall
No less than 11 people turned out for tonight's jaunt - 6 TSG, 4 Crewe and 1 Eldon. I never realised that Stanley Moor caves were so popular! After a long cold trip into Speedwell this morning (and part of the early afternoon) doing a variety of jobs, I was looking for some more active caving, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. It had been quite a few years since my last visit - could I even remember the way?
Our first find was Plunge Pot, and here we split into two groups, with the other seven heading over to Axe Hole, while I rigged the pitch. Once everybody was at the foot of the ladder, my first mistake was to set off in the wrong direction, which lands you in a very tight fissure. Too late, I remembered Keith Joule getting well stuck in this one - a feat I almost repeated, until somebody read the description, and we realised that it was (sort of) upstream. This led us into a maze of dead ends and an awkward drop into a wet crawl leading towards the connection to Axe Hole.
Christine made a valiant attempt to get through, well supported by Emma and Jess, and, afterwards, we heard that Charley had heard Christine and Emma talking from the other end (he was in Axe Hole) but they had never heard his shouts. Eventually we retreated to the surface, some of us testing the veracity of the guidebook notes, which state that the pitch is free climbable (in fact all tonight's pitches were).
Swapping with the other team, we descended into Axe Hole. This is a much lengthier cave than Plunge Pot, and more complex too - far more passage than is portrayed in Whitehall's survey (shown here).
After trying every which way, every climb and loop, Christine tried to find her way through the connection from the other end, following Charley's route, but, eventually, she came to a point where it was bunged up with mud. Pretty typical of a swallet at the end of a deep moorland valley, I suppose, and, if the connection isn't done very often (and I don't actually know anybody who's done it), then it would need digging out, wouldn't it?
Finally, we all trooped over to Perseverance Pot, covered with grids and wiggly tin, in the third shake hole. I arrived to find everybody sitting around the dismally tight looking entrance, doing very little. It didn't look very promising, it was going up to 10pm and folk were starting to wonder whether the pub might be a better idea ...
But Chris Moorcroft and I had a look at this former Eldon discovery - neither of us had been into it before, but it was supposed to be an excellent trip. So ... Chris tentatively squeezed under the sharp boulders and, feet first, groped his way blindly downwards, and, as soon as he had vanished, I followed suit, and, amazingly, a gravity move quickly took me through to a fairly big bit of cave with another climb down. It got bigger and bigger as we went further down, and we were soon at the top of the pitch (huge hook in the wall - nice Eldon-stylee touch) which was easily climbable. Below we were treated to a quite an impressive series of chambers, with some really nice phreatic rock formations, and plenty of mud, leading us to think that there just might be a digging opportunity here.
This is, after all, the birth of the Wye - the defining river of the White Peak, which next appears in Poole's Cavern, before tumbling through the Pavilion Gardens and out through Buxton. John Beck says that finding cave from Stanley Moor to Poole's would be unlikely, as there is a syncline in the way, but who knows? Geology sometimes throws us a googlie to defy current wisdom. And, in any case, I'd have thought that this place would still have secrets to reveal.
Stanley Moor is more than just these three caves; it's worth a visit - come and see for yourself!