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Happywanderers Cave and Pothole Club

How the “Happy Wanderers” came into being

Five lads were exploring around Castleton in Derbyshire. We bumped into each other once or twice and formed a lasting friendship. We visited Peak Cavern, Winnats Pass, Giants Hole and Peveril Castle. There was Malcolm (Tiger) Culshaw from Southport, Pete Matley from Salford, Frank Shuttleworth (Bazz of Bolton) and Philip Wallace from Bolton and myself from Barrow. It was summer 1955. We decided to meet up again the following Easter at Ingleton.
Mike Myers

It was summer 1955. We decided to meet up again the following Easter at Ingleton. So in 1956, after exploring a few caves around Ingleton and Clapham, we decided to form ourselves into a proper group. It was August-September 1956 we held a meeting in the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Ingleton.

Next week-end three shifts went down. On Friday night a surveying party entered and completed a C.R.G. Grade 5 survey of the new passage, the total length being about eight hundred feet. At 6 a.m. Saturday morning D. Stewart and K. Blackledge took diving equipment in to see if the final sump was short enough to free dive. They found it tight and long and very difficult without a weight belt, so returned. At l1 a.m. a photographic team went in and photographed the new section.

It was a fortnight later (6th May, 1966) that a big attempt was made on the final sump. At midnight on Friday 6th May, eleven Happy Wanderers including four Cave Diving Group members, gathered outside Dale Barn with diving equipment. The crawl was negotiated and a diving base set up in the large chamber just before the last free dive.

Dave Stewart was the first to dive. He made slow progress and at one point stopped for about half a minute. We later learned that he had to dig his way through! After about sixty feet, he signalled that he had got through, belayed the line, and shortly afterwards came back. It went, he said, but the sump was very tight and dangerous. There were pendants hanging from the roof and large boulders on the floor, all likely to knock off a mask, demand valve, or air-clamp. He had in fact lost his demand valve from his mouth at one point. The sump was forty feet long to an air space and then a further fifteen feet to the end. He then went back through, followed by John Ogden, to explore the passage at the other side.

Both wore flippers leaving their boots with us. They got through safely and then there was no signal from them for a good two and a half hours. We were starting to get worried when the return signal came. They had reached a stream passage three or four feet high which they followed downstream for an estimated two thousand feet. The passage hadn't ended but they were short of time.

They passed a very promising inlet which would have been on easy climb if they had not just had wet-suit socks on their feet! They only glanced upstream but thought that it might be possible to go that way. Both were impressed by the formations, especially by the variety of colours and also by a “forest” of mud stalagmites about eight inches high in a chamber which they named “Hall of Forests". They also passed many more chambers.

There was then no time for John Southworth and Jack Pickup to dive so we left the cave, getting out at 5.30.a.m. just in time for J. Ogden and J. Southworth to get to work at Burnley! Some diving gear, including a bottle was left in the cave, as it was planned to return the following week-end. However, on the next Friday night K. Pearce went down to do some blasting, and on coming out met the owner of the nearby bungalow, who said that he objected to

people going down the cave as it might contaminate his water supply. As he was deaf argument was difficult, so it was left at that. When we came to dive on the Sunday though, the shakehole had been completely filled and carefully turfed over!

We saw the farmer, who had given us permission to enter the cave, and he said the bungalow owner - his brother-in-law was bit of an eccentric, but didn't stop there very often. When he went we could reopen the cave and he (the farmer) would contact the land- owner in Ireland to give permission for it to be permanently open. It appeared that the bungalow owner had borrowed a tractor and spent all day filling in the entrance.

Three weeks later, with the coast clear, saw us removing turf  and boulders from the entrance. We had to erect a derrick and use the Land-Rover to pull out the larger boulders. After four hours hard work though, the cave was reopened with a much larger entrance than before, and we went down and recovered the diving gear and also took some more photographs.

It was two weeks later, on 26th June, 1966, that the sump was dived again. On Saturday night at 10 p.m. J. Southworth, J. Ogden, D. Stewart of the H.W.C.P.C. and W. Frakes of the B.P.C. - all members of the C.D.G. with members of Bowland Troglodytes to help carry gear, gathered outside the entrance. The water in the cave was very high, most of the entrance crawl being canal in places with only a small air space.

Only two of the B.T.C. who had managed to borrow wet-suits, reached the end, and they were so cold they went out immediately. However, they greatly eased the carry in and the divers were very grateful to them. The “amphibious" four then passed the sump and gathered at the other side, ready to explore the new passage. However, they were very disappointed to find that the passage sumped again after about three hundred feet, due to the wet weather, so no useful work could be done. They then began the long trek out, each carrying a full diving kit. It must have taken them several hours to negotiate the entrance crawl, because it was 7 a.m. before they arrived back at Braida Garth for a sleep!

This was the last chance to dive before various members went off on expeditions, and is the position as we go to 'press“. The B.S.A. have been contacted with a view to pump out the sump. They think it will be possible, and we hope to arrange a date after the summer expeditions.