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Rose Cottage Cave - Despondency Sets In

By Tony Jarratt

         “Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed”

                                                                   Kate Fox, Watching the English.

Continued from BBs 522-528.

Further Digging 28/5/07 – 26/9/07

     On the 28th May Jake Baynes, John Noble and Phil Coles took down extra scaffolding for the spoil rift and continued clearing and wall building at Halfway Dig in preparation for the last, desperate push at this site.

      Plan B Dig was partly cleared on the 6th June by Henry Dawson and Henry Bennett but another session was needed to bang a large, peeled-off boulder and to remove the last of the spoil blocking the rift and cutting off the draught. Henry B. and Barry Lawton (Aberystwyth U.C.C.) attempted this on the 10th but a broken power cable near Halfway Dig defeated them. They were not amused. The cable was replaced on the 13th June when an eleven-hole charge was fired at Plan B Dig and a one-hole charge on a rock at Halfway Dig. Tonight’s operatives were the brace of Henries and Helen Stalker. John N. and Phil C. inspected the results on the 16th and reported that it “Will be a close run thing between entering open space and running out of stacking room”.

     On the 4th July Henry D. and Tim Ball continued clearing Plan B Dig to get a better view of the potential but were not over enthusiastic and didn’t like the air conditions. Above, at Halfway Dig Henry B. joined Jake B, Phil C. and later Sean Howe for another clearing session but this team also became despondent at the prospect of dragging spoil all the way out to the surface.

Things were not looking good in Rose Cottage Cave! There was an improvement a week later when Henry B, Hannah Bell and Helen S. cleared more spoil at Plan B Dig and were enthusiastic after investigating possibilities for following the elusive lost draught in the upper part of the cave. On the 18th Henry D, Sean H. and Pete Hellier finished clearing Plan B Dig before drilling five shot-holes and firing a cord charge. 

     The submersible pump and lots of redundant tools were recovered from the new entrance by the writer on the 30th August when it was noted that the pitches had been thoroughly cleaned by this year’s excess of rain water. Hannah and the Henries were back clearing at Plan B Dig on the 5th September when they decided that another charge was needed before they gave up. This was laid as an eight shot-hole charge by the duo on the 12th September and left for a couple of weeks for the fumes to clear.

     As an alternative project the Henries took a draught testing device down the cave on the 19th September with the intention of finding the best place to dig in the boulder ruckle but were defeated by a distinct lack of airflow. They returned to Plan B Dig on the 26th and, despite lingering fumes were able to drill and fire a nine shot-hole charge in the rift as a third person was now needed to allow spoil clearing.

Continued in BB 530.

Rose Cottage Cave – Plan B dig abandoned

By Henry Bennett

When Prancers Pot was first found in March 2006 the bottom of the cave ended in a muddy pool back underneath the final descending rift.  A quick investigation of this looked like it might go with a concerted digging effort. In order to dig it we need to bail the pool and it was noticed that a flood rim mark around the passage was at the same level, about 6 ft up, as a small tube entering the rift at the opposite end of the rift passage.

Several trips took place when we established that we could bail all the water down this hole but it was slow work. A manual pump wasn’t much faster (and broke) but running 110v down to the pool and using an electric pump did the job in minutes. Work then began on removing the fine clay from the blocked passage. However it soon became clear that the pool pinched in on all sides with a solid floor. But since the water disappeared down the drain hole and didn’t reappear we decided to give the drain hole a go.

We started this knowing it would be a long term drill and persuade operation.  After approximately a body length horizontally we met a narrow rift going down.  The thinking was that we could follow this rift down and see if it opened out into anything more interesting. Henry Dawson and myself, plus a hoard of eager diggers, started a concerted effort in early summer 2006 to reach the bottom of the rift which always seemed tantalisingly close but too tight to reach. Details of these trips are in the previous BBs to date, but suffice to say that we started off digging every week and in the last few months have had to shift to every other week due to the quality of air.

When we eventually reached the bottom of the rift it was unsurprisingly blocked by debris that had been brought down during our operations. Several feet of this was cleared and a larger section of rift (but still small) was entered with some enthusiasm. Work continued on down, removing the spoil in the rift and expanding the wall dimensions, but it was not exactly fast. Plus the absence of a draught was not encouraging.

Finally after we’d pushed down about 20ft (guestimate from memory) we decided to call it a day. While future diggers may decide that it is worth another look we felt it important to document why we stopped.

Rose Cottage with its close proximity to St Cuthberts could provide substantial passage. The draught at the entrance indicates there is something down there. But the main draught does not go down into the main cave proper. Most of it filters though the massive boulder pile between Mount Hindrance Lane and the top of the Corkscrew. At the other side of this trauma something must be heading off.  Identifying a route through this area is a daunting task and needs some thought, someone very brave or very stupid. Looks interesting…