Various Badgers and Guests
15th November 2014
The day started like any number of previous caving days, I woke up feeling as if someone had poured a bucket of churning slugs into my stomach and wire brushed my throat for good measure. I had Tom Tom to my left and Ben to my right. Both had some clothes on- good. The vague memories of an extremely late night and an accidental, but in hindsight completely predictable incident resulting in some unintentional but mild vandalism at the TSG came flooding back…. Or was it just a dream? Yes, yes let’s say it was just a dream.
As the dream faded away I began working out what was required for the day’s trips- Hilllocks Mine and Giants. Fortunately the latter was being sorted out by someone else so I came up with a to-do list for those remaining and set off home to collect the caving equipment on my list.
It took a couple of hours for all the kit to be located and assembled and for me to collect a van but some time just after lunch around 10 Badgers arrived at Hillock’s Mine. Chris went off and bribed paid the ‘special trespass fee’ to the farmer over the field- this year a bottle of decent port and a big tin of biscuits. With that done we reversed the van up to the mine entrance and unloaded the caving kit. Admittedly the railway sleepers were a bit of a handful and the keg of beer only just fit through the drum entrance. It was a tight fit getting the sound system through too and the lighting rigs, smoke machine and mixing deck required extra care but after less than an hour or so the team had managed to transport the kit to the large-ish flat floored room about 50m into the mine. So far so good.
At this point the newer cavers pointed out that this caving lark would be much easier without all this clobber but once the generator was fired up and the lights came on the obvious benefits of a good supply of reliable 240v electricity outweighed the effort required to get it there. Now unfortunately this is where things went catastrophically wrong. Some fool (sorry- I hold my hands up here) had only brought enough power cable to get 60m onto the mine. Our caving trip was completely scuppered! Unable to continue past the party chamber we decided to pause for a break and re- assess the days trip. Once we had the benches built, the scaffolding table erected and the beer pump pouring clear cool pints of Abbeydale Moonshine it was much easier to think. Personally I prefer Tom Tom’s thermos of hot Ribena and a Snickers bar on a caving trip but the fish and chips that arrived a short while later made up for the repulsive pale amber nectar. By now time was getting on and the Giants team arrived to check we were OK. The timing was perfect- in our despair at not being able to go any further we had unboxed the decorations and erected the 6ft Christmas tree to try and cheer ourselves up a bit. This seemed to work. One of the cavers from the morning had got their wires crossed about what to wear and had come in fancy dress. Fortunately, amongst the emergency rations and foil blankets, the rest of us had packed costumes in our emergency caving bags so donned those so as not to let that individual feel left out, what a caring bunch we all are.
Time was still ticking though and that night we were supposed to be having our AGM and after party but at this rate there was no way we would make it out of the mine with all of our caving kit and back to the formally booked, licenced party venue in a responsibly selected, fire regulated and adult supervised facility. There was no other way out of this than to have the AGM right there and then, so we did. After the 5 minute monologue the AGM was called to a conclusion. The detailed and thorough minutes should appear on the website some time within the next couple of years but suffice to say numerous important items were discussed in great depth.
With the entire group now way past their collective call out and the emergency call out callers also all underground we decided to have an emergency underground camp. Being an emergency it was imperative we kept everybody warm and well hydrated.. it’s a good job we had a full barrel of beer with us, imagine how silly we would have looked sharing a thermos of hot Ribena between 30 people. To keep everyone’s spirits up in this frankly desperate situation DJ Ben played some tunes on the very large speakers we had fortunately thought to pack that morning. It was a good thing the music was lively because people had to dance quite a lot just to keep warm. Especially Mark K in his rather scanty ‘sexy elf’ costume. It was nice to have a projector and screen too to reminisce over photos from the years caving whilst roughing it, sitting it out in the mine until morning. By complete chance some SUSS cavers and a few others stumbled across the Badgers during the evening. I did think it odd that Henry caved in a Christmas hedgehog costume but he probably thought he would be alone down there.
As standard the Badgers usually cave with a sleeping bag and roll mat in their emergency bag.. for emergencies like this one so we were able to dance ourselves warm into the early hours of the morning before bedding down underground.
The next morning came round all too soon and the first up rather recklessly abandoned those still sleeping in the depths of the mine and made a break for daylight to arrange rescue for the group. In these situations it’s important for the rescuers to look after themselves so after a fry up in the café down the road we felt strong enough to be able to recover the remaining cavers and our entire group caving kit without the aid of DCRO. This we did and after a few short hours during which time we rather awkwardly said mornin’ to a group of DCA cavers passing through the underground emergency camp, we had the place clear. Apart from the faint smell of beer we removed all evidence of our emergency camp and some old rubbish at the same time.
In hindsight I think the trip would have gone smoother without all of the ‘just in case’ caving equipment and 30 people probably made for a somewhat inefficient trip through the mine but at least we got to see the first 60m…. Best try the Hillocks trip again sometime.