Buttered Badger Potholing Club
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The Milky Relief

Tom H, Mark R
6th May 2014

Tonight was the night that we were to re visit Two Left Wellies and drop it for the first time. To say that I was excited throughout the day is a huge understatement. I was trembling with anticipation! Would the watery floor prove to be some sort of perched sump? Would we be dropping into a choked shaft or caverns measureless? There was only one way to find out.

The looming shadow that is bad Badger Choke was haunting me throughout the day however and I took extra care to ensure we had very clear call out instructions left with local Tim N and Adam P. I got home from work a bit early, everything was meticulously checked, charged and packed and I couldn't wait any longer so arrived at the farm half an hour early. This was a particularly bad move given that I then got a text from Tom to say he was stuck in traffic and was going to be half an hour late!

I used the time I had to ferry all the kit over to the shaft top. Two trips just about did it. I had a chat with the farmer about the call out on Sunday, it was interesting to hear her views.

Eventually Tom turned up and we were off! :)

We carted some scaffolding down the entrance shaft to make Friday a little bit easier for me and Chris and took our two bags of rope and bolting kit through Badger Rift and very, very carefully through the choke. I re-rigged the 20m rope with a new 50m and set off to rig the second pitch down two Left Wellies. A Couple of bolts for a traverse and two at the pitch head and I could look down to the floor. Only 15m below! Oh well. It wasn't until I'd abseiled to the ground that I turned around and looked past the waterfall behind me. This was the moment that I had been thinking about since Sunday afternoon. The first thing that struck me was the size of the base of the shaft- nice and spacious, second was that I was stood only ankle deep in the water. The third thing was the bloody huge great passage heading off from the floor of the shaft in an easterly direction back under the choke. As I walked through the waterfall the feeling of being in a wet, clean washed active cave was fantastic, not a miners dead in sight and the breeze blowing out towards me set my heart racing. I had left the drill at the top of the pitch and told Tom I would shout back up if it was worth bringing down.

"Tom! Bring the drill... Bring everything!"

Tom arrived a few minutes later with more rope, bolts and the drill and we stood looking at the way on. We paused and looked at each other and the realisation of where we were and what we were doing suddenly sank in. This doesn't happen in the UK very often at all and it certainly doesn't happen in Derbyshire! It was absolutely magical.

We excitedly rigged the start of the next rope and abseiled down a slope towards the head of another pitch. At this point the walls were clean washed, smooth and about 3 or 4 metres apart. As I was drilling a pair of bolts for the pitch head it felt strangely like I was somewhere else... The dales perhaps or somewhere abroad but certainly not underneath Rowter Hole. A narrow rift oozing bright white flowstone near the head of this pitch prompted Tom to name it A Milky Relief.

This pitch was about another 8 or 10 metres and it landed us on a bouldery floor. I looked around and took in my surroundings.

To the west was what appeared to be an old relict tube around 1.5m diameter blocked with a natural collapse from above. To the east was the lower continuation of this tube. The roof lowered and it ended in what appeared to be a sump pool. On later examination Tom found that it was actually silted up with a pool of water sitting on top. Above this was a small slope heading up a few metres into a narrow vertical rift. I clambered up this whilst Tom poked around elsewhere and followed it for around 30 metres and shot the disto through another 10m before reaching a constriction with a drop on the other side requiring at least a hand line and possibly a little bit of capping. I turned round and left this for another day.

To the South was what looked like another old tube completely silted up to the roof.

The most interesting bit though by far was the floor. All the water ran down all the pitches and sank at the foot of the last pitch against an undercut wall. The boulders were loose packed in the floor and we could see down at least 4m. The best bit about this though was the draught. All the wind in the world seemed to be blowing out of the floor here. Way back up in the top of the mine there is often a strong draught when descending the small hole down into the level that leads off from the base of the main shaft towards gin shaft. Although we have always followed an air current it is never as strong as it is at this point but the boulder filled floor seemed to be the source of all this wind. What an excellent prospect :)

By now it was apparent that Tim Nixon wasn't following us down as had been a possibility earlier on and we thought that if we set off we should make the pub. Well it's actually a lot further back out now and we didn't get back to the cars until gone 11.

It was on the way back out that I looked up at the underside of the choke and rather scared myself. We know what is down there is worth pushing for now. It's time to make that place safe for the traffic that will soon follow when we start digging at the bottom.

The plan for Friday is for me and Chris H to take down as much stuff as we can carry- about a dozen scaffold poles, drill, jack legs, clamps etc and start work on the choke as hard as we can. At around 5 Adam P, Chris A and Tom will come down and assuming we haven't collapsed the choke on ourselves we can all go back to the bottom and push the eastern rift, pull rock out of the draughting floor, take some photos and dance around whooping like madmen!

I'm not just happy, I feel extremely privileged to have been a part of the exploration so far. I can't wait to see what else Rowter has in store for us.

(Dye testing at the start of June and Surveying next Thursday to come).

Mark R.