Monday, 22 August 2011
7am. Nudge Diane, sleepy, next to me in bed. Lovely morning - do you fancy doing Gaping Gill? Ooooohhh, errrr, NO!
7.30am. Left the house. The valley mist has almost gone. It's bright & sunny, only a light breeze. The Bowland Hills behind Keasden, across the valley are clear & full of colour.
A brisk walk the quarter mile to Newby Cote. Nothing moves. A gentle "Coo" from Richard's racing pigeons as I go by. Over the stile & up the track. Short stop at the top of the first pull to remove the 'top' - it's a lovely day!
As the wall to the right veers away, head for the shallow valley straight ahead & follow up that until after about ½mile a tractor track comes in from the left. Follow that uphill to the right. On top there's a level area of "moss". Keep walking, now "off-piste", in line with the escarpment coming off Simon Fell and you'll see Fell Beck against its backdrop. As you get closer, you'll see the tented city that is the Craven Pothole Club's Gaping Gill Winch meet. Time 8.15am. Its taken 45 mins brisk walking.
£15 gets you down (& back up again!) They start 9am weekdays & 8/8.30 weekends. Morning waits may be about an hour, afternoons possibly 2 hours, depending on traffic. Message is - get there as early as possible. And they don't stop except if a flood is forecast.
Descent is damp (ascent is wetter!). The shaft varies in width. Mosses give way to bare rock as the daylight recedes. Soon you're at the bottom & being ushered away from the chair on uneven ground. Need time for your eyes to adjust to the low light. A huge cavern, towering height, did the guide say 100yds long, 300 ft to the surface? Three (more?) waterfalls falling into the chamber, air swirling with spray. Dimly lit. Next time take a torch, with a focussed beam, so you can see details. Photos, don't use flash.
Take it in. Absorb the feel. Gosh! Been down here an hour. Time to go home.
What a wonderful morning!