Nickergrove - Alan Brentnall

Tuesday, 18 February, 2014

Ten cavers met on the muddy verges of the A623 opposite the entrance to Cucklet Delph. Arriving early allowed me time to quickly nip to the far end of the Delph and pre-rig the Didsbury Shaft before returning and joining the full party for the ascent to the Adit Entrance. Any considerations of entering via the upper Palette Shaft had been discounted because of the numbers, but, on our way in, a few of us diverted into the hands-and-knees crawl which leads to the dreaded squeeze on the way to the foot of the shaft. Opinions were generally favourable, and, hopefully, a couple of us will return as a smaller group and prove that it is indeed as possible as it looks!

Carrying on to the winze, I handed the lead over to Charlie while I rigged the short pitch into the passages below, before following the group along John Beck's famous railway to the large chamber and beyond .... The weather being what it is at the moment, everywhere that might be wet and gloopy certainly was, and this included the way on to the streamway at the foot of the oildrums. Consequently, any thoughts of going to the bottom of the internal shaft were forgotten, and, when we returned to the rope, everybody stuck to the first ten metres of drop and swung into the passage through to Spider Rift (!!!!)

The reason for this excess of arachnids so deep in the system isn't obvious at night, but the leaves on the floor of the chamber give the game away - we are beneath another entrance. This is shown as Hillside Shaft in the CCPC Rigging Guide - an entrance which is difficult to find, chossy and loose; not a recommended way in, but one to be aware of, as this has been the site of rockfall fairly recently.

An internal pitch led that party down to the final passages and, eventually, Didsbury Shaft. Much shorter than it was in Keith Joule's day, a grill on the floor now supports the caver before he heads on up the rope and back out to the Delph. A very pleasant and interesting trip was followed by a discussion at the Miners Arms in Eyam, where next week's venue (Sidetrack Cave) was discussed.