Chelsea Spelæological Society Newsletter 50(3), March 2008, p46-47.
SH&G'D IN WIGMORE
By Duncan Price
Readers of Descent magazine may have seen an article in issue 199 describing recent discoveries in the cave beyond several sumps. This was achieved by newcomer cave divers Chris Jewell and Stu Gardiner and called "Young Bloods' Inlet". Although I had long hankered after diving the sumps in Wigmore, my plans to visit the site never materialised so I thought it would be at least polite to offer the lads my assistance on an attempt at radiolocating the new stuff on Saturday 23rd February. Originally, I'd signed up as part of the gear extraction team on the Sunday but, because the in-team were a bit short staffed (thank-you Fiona!), I lost out on my Saturday morning lie-in and found myself arriving at The Belfry at the un-godly hour of 10 am where I met up with Chris, Stu & John Maneeley (the divers) who were packing gear. Also coming along was Matt Somebody - a youngster half my age - who had never been down the cave either.
The divers piled into a white estate car (already changed into wetsuits), while the Sherpa, Helper & Groupie (SH&G) team took off in my black hatch back. The cave entrance is situated at Wigmore Farm, Red Quar just off the Cheddar Road (I pass it everyday en route to work) and shortly two brown cars pulled up near to a cowshed having driven down a very muddy track from the farmhouse. A short walk across a field and down into a small copse found us at the entrance shaft. This is not locked but just covered with a concrete frame and metal grill. A 10 m ladder belayed to the metal pole across the top allowed an easy descent (free hanging at first) to the bottom where we each collected a bag for the onwards journey. Wisely I decided to reverse into the cave pulling the bag (on a tow strap) along using my hands. This plot backfired at the first tight bit in Christmas Crawls where my bum became wedged. A bit of unease set in (actually a lot of unease) - firstly that I was actually too big for this cave and secondly that I was going to have to let the others down by going out. After removing my belt I was able to continue, I did the same for the next tight bit and had no difficulty with either on exit.
A scramble down over bags of spoil reached some more crawls which brought us to a couple of climbs in rifts and a scaffolded descent through boulders to a tight vertical squeeze (tricky on the return because there was nowhere to put my feet to push up). This was followed by the most awkward section of the cave in tight rifts crossing a blind pot (with scaffold pole across it to help) and a tight U-tube to a 6 m long blasted passage containing a pair of ropes. The lower rope is a haul line for the gear and the upper is a traverse line. The use of a traverse line in such a constricted passage becomes apparent as it discharges you head first over the top of the next pitch - Black Pudding Pot (10 m deep). At the bottom of this another crawl through boulders reaches the final pitch (Yeo Pot) where the divers started to assemble their underwater potholing equipment.
While this was going on Matt and I both followed a short bit of passage to the junction with the main streamway. This sumps immediately downstream (where the divers were going) but can be followed upstream for about 40 m to the next sumps. I had a look upstream and soon muddied the water for the divers. The last of the divers set off into the downstream sump at 1:15 pm (15 minutes late, 2¼ hours after we'd gone in). Unladen, Matt and I got out again in an hour, only going wrong once. Getting into the tight rift at the top of Black Pudding Pot proved entertaining as did some of the tight vertical squeezes.
We had just got changed back at the car when Brian Prewer, Phil Hendy and two others turned up having been the surface team for the radiolocation exercise. They had got a fix on the divers beneath an aven in Young Bloods' Inlet in a nearby field between three surface depressions. These will, no doubt, soon be the site of a surface dig. Easier access to the cave at this point would allow work to be carried out at the bitter end of Wigmore 10.
Wigmore Swallet is an interesting cave having been formed in Keuper Marl and Dolomitic Conglomerate. The former is a calcerous mudstone from the Triassic period and is notable for its red colour which soon becomes infiltrated on one's caving gear and skin. The latter was easily removed in the sink at Upper Pitts where I dropped Matt off afterwards (meeting Fiona, Stuart France and Dave Pinchin who had just been down Swildon's Hole). My caving gear got a wash in the same cave the next day in the company of John Cooper & Barry Weaver although my belt still has a red tinge to it. Whilst getting ready on Priddy Green, Stu and Chris came by en route to Wigmore to recover their gear. Following the radiolocation, they had attempted to dive a sump at the end of one of the passages but given up due to the nature of the approach whilst wearing gear. Then they had continued climbing various places & making some progress. They even got out in time for last orders!