March 15th:

As the meet was to be held Wetton way, the regular cavers decided that Waterway’s Swallet would be worth looking at. Being the deepest cave in Staffordshire at 125m, it’s vertical but climbable tortuous passages looked interesting. So did the entrance hole! Situated in a field not far from a stream, the guide book warns not to go down in heavy rain or melting snow, as it all pours down the hole! When we arrived, Syd’s car was parked up, but no Syd. He eventually turned up, having found the hole and spent some time clearing the leaves and flood debris from the entrance grill. After gearing up and walking over to it, the others were quite enthusiastic at seeing Syd’s handiwork, me less so. It looked very uninviting!

 

Progress was on your back and feet first, movement generally achieved by using gravity. The twisting passage appeared to be on the edge of a boulder choke, a devious route. One thing was in its favour – it wasn’t muddy. However, in the back of my mind was the thought that I had to climb back out of this thing! Gravity eventually disgorged us into a chamber and some relieve. It was interesting, being full of boulders containing giant fossilised crinoids. We paused for a while, whilst Mike stripped off his T shirt as he was overheating. The way on was down. A rift took us to another boulder choke, this time the boulders were held up with a complex arrangement of scaffolding poles, a surreal vertical climb of some distance. Half way down, I had had enough. Mike was last behind me and I sensed his scorn that I had bottled out, but I was fairly knackered and twice their age (forgetting Syd - he was made of titanium anyway), so I started the upward journey, slowly.

Quite lonely by myself now, I intended to wait awhile in the fossilised chamber but decided to continue on out as it was hard work. But which way? There were many dead ends. Fortunately, Mike’s T shirt identified the continuation and after crawling, squirming, pushing, squeezing and twisting my tiring body upwards, I saw daylight with some relief.

Meanwhile, the other three had pressed on, claiming that it got easier – always the case. Another chamber was entered with a fixed steel ladder, and elsewhere, a fixed handline. Some delicate mud was taped off, for all to see what mud looked like a long time ago. On their return, I suspected they thought they would come across the old man still squirming uphill, but instead discovered him dozing in the car, his body aching – his back for a further two weeks – but perhaps with a twinge of regret that he had not pushed it to the bottom!

Cavers: Rob, Mike P, Geoff, Syd