Buttered Badger Potholing Club
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The Fornix

Luke N, Mark R
6th April 2014

There were going to be three of us until Adam stayed out too late and woke up blind and having misplaced his car. Never mind, Luke and I were enough for the day.

I had a bit of red dye left from the other day so we mixed that up and dropped it in the water flowing from hypothermia to give it one last go seeing as we were going to be down there for a while.

We got to the dig and I dropped down into the rift we emptied on Thursday and the usual procrastination began. The false left hand wall just before the choke has a foot wide rift behind it which you can see back into from red tape and bureaucracy. The day we broke into Badger Rift little Chris tried to reverse down into this but it was full of rock and too tight. At the bottom there is an undercut wall off to the right -north, (back underneath the boulder filled rift).

When stood in the newly emptied rift, the stream turns left and passes under the false wall into this parallel rift. The 'wall' is split with vertical fractures and horizontal joints which divides it into pillars. The end pillar holds up a lot and is now supported with scaffolding. The next pillar back is about 1m tall and 500x500mm, there were gaps either side and we soon had a scaffold pole slotted through a gap to support a section of the false wall. We spent another little while thinking and I had another look through one of the gaps next to the 1m pillar, this gap was at eye height when stood in the emptied rift and by looking through it and pulling some rock out it was possible to see a couple of metres into the undercut. The draught has always seemed good from here so we decided to have a proddle around. By passing an arm through one of the holes we capped a boulder on the other side which Luke managed to pull out from the top. At this point I realised by hugging my arms around the 1m pillar and pulling it the whole thing moved. This was bad in that this great big pillar of rock that formed one of our walls moved but also good in that it meant it wasn’t a structural part of the false wall and could probably come out.

We discussed removing it and eventually committed, I kindly moved out of the way (well out of the way) whilst Luke wedged himself into the rift and with a crowbar that I’m sure felt far far too short, worked the pillar of rock out of it’s hole. With the sort of resounding thud you get from a heavy piece of rock striking a solid wall, the pillar came loose and wedged itself across the emptied rift. Luke capped it into a small and another massive piece and down it went.

The resulting archway was surprisingly OK. The roof was the bottom side of a joint and the left hand wall looking through wasn’t made out of totally shite rock.. result!

This archway (later named by Luke as ‘The Fornix’) allowed us to look directly into the undercut in the tight parallel rift. This was nearly a metre in height with a loose boulder floor and very loose collapse off to the right and also straight ahead. The most interesting thing by far though was that straight ahead, through a small gap we could see into 5 or 6m of what looked like fairly open space. The bottom of this gap was about level with the false floor back in Badger Rift, sediment stuck to the wall at the left hand side makes me think that the false floor used to continue round to the left and fall through the gap at this point before it collapsed or was washed out. The draught was unmistakeably flowing out from somewhere in this area (we had left the smoke back in Foster’s Faith and by now were running out of time so we left this for another day). The water that disappeared into the floor and turned left is now ‘easily’ accessible by pulling rock out of the floor of the Red Tape rift. There is however a stack of loose rock on the right as you pass through the Fornix which needs some thought as this provides much of the support for the end pillar and surrounding roof boulders and will be undermined by emptying the floor of Red Tape. The roof above the dark gap looks pretty shitty and actually I’m not sure if it is a roof or more like the hanging base of a column of boulders in the main level above leading into a small void inside a boulder filled passage with no solid walls, roof or floor.. hmmmmmm

All in all this was a very satisfying and productive dig. We have a direction to go in now, albeit the ‘wrong’ direction- north. The really exciting thing for me though, and it may just have been my imagination, was that somewhere ahead and below us, when laid out under the Fornix and listening very intently I could have sworn I could hear the distant roar of large amounts of fast flowing water.. maybe the point where our two streams and Hypothermia join?!.. who knowsJ

Mark R