Monday, 28 August 2017

Mossdale Sessions 10 - 18

Mossdale Session 10 - 24th June 2017

Fifty years to the day. Absolutely no work was done during this visit, the intention of which was purely to light the prayer lanterns. A full write up of that weekend can be found via the link

Mossdale Session 11  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward, Ricardo B)

'Attitudes are a changing!'

With an unsettled forecast it was decided to stay on the right side of the Canals and begin work on the dodgy looking entrance series. We would also pay a visit to the Prayer Lanterns in Assembly Hall. Which provided they hadn't disappeared, during the wet weather mid-week, should still be burning.

Rick offered his services to carry some scaffold to the Scar. Adele couldn't make it out till a little later so she was instructed to meet us there. I would do some work on the entrance series until she arrived. The walk over felt like bloody hard work with multiple scaffold tubes and personal caving kit. A short length of tube was also collected from Swarthgill Hole en-route. This had mysteriously appeared at the entrance to SG the previous year in-between a series of visits.

The fells were very busy!

Although I didn't ask, I knew there'd be no chance of enticing Ricardo down there, especially with the threatening looking skies. Although no stranger to Mossdale, Rick having undertaken some exploratory trips back in his younger days, he's far too wary of the flooding implications to partake these days.

Adele left just enough time, prior to arriving, for me to complete a basic - beam bridge - support under the ceiling block and begin a locally sourced retaining wall under the bulge. Saving scaffold for the choke is paramount at the moment but over the course of the next few months it is hoped to build on what has already been done (scaffold cage) to increase the structural integrity of the entrance series around the area of the 1st bend.

We said our farewells to Rick and headed for Assembly Hall. The odds of whether the candles would still be there, or for that matter still burning, was something we pondered and discussed en-route. I'd thought about them all week but had lost touch with the reality of their existence. They'd become fiction, like Mossdale always did after too many days back in the real world.
Light but consistent rain had been prevalent from Tuesday through to Thursday. Not enough to flood the place badly and wash the candles away. But still, there are many unknowns relating to the flooding of Mossdale so I wasn't sure what to expect.
I knew exactly where to look as we approached the base of the slope leading to the Assembly Hall. Although I wasn't surprised my reaction was enough to make Adele jump. The point candle hovered brightly above. I think we both froze for a moment. What a spectacle! The whole ceiling of the hall appeared ablaze. We knew the things had a seven day life span, yet we both stared in disbelief.
I so hoped others had visited the cave mid-week to sample for themselves this symbol of life within the cave. Fighting a futile battle against the cave but fighting all the same.

Mossdale Session 12  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward, Ian Cummins)

'You've got to lose yourself to find yourself' 

Ian's first visit to Mossdale since the mud caverns trip last October. Even now my mind is never far from that experience when thinking of the farther reaches.
2016 was a pivotal year. I lost myself in there that year, but then found something. Something long harboured yet anchored far from reach below. A sense of something without any feeling.

A hoover up day. Cached scaffold poles were collected, one on surface and one at Blackpool Sands, plus a bag of clips from Boulder Hall and taken to Serpent. Not much else done really, as far as work is concerned. The Lanterns were all still burning when we arrived but two had gone out as we were leaving.
Visited Confusion Cavern for Ian's benefit, somewhere he'd not yet been.

Visted the Old Hall Inn afterwards and waited about 45mins for the shittiest sandwich and onion soup I do believe I've ever had the displeasure of forcing down my trap.

Mossdale Session 13  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'God can appear in different forms, for us it's the Met Office'

Visited the Scar the previous day and deposited two more short lengths of tube.

A dicey forecast with a definite feeling of thunder in the air, the trip would be kept brief!

Deposited the two tubes left the previous day and another bag of clips at the Serpent then headed straight out. Spotted something worthy of future attention on the way out. I've been giving these things ridiculous names, mainly cos we won't forget them even though they may have been looked at before. I think I called this one 'Caught my first tube on the Boardwalk this morning sir' or something like that.

Removed all the prayer lanterns from Assembly Hall.

I let Adele make her own way out again but this time I visited the lower section of the old entrance to see if there was a vocal connection with the present one. There didn't appear to be any but I'm not sure I waited long enough for Adele to reach the area where the two are closest.

A worthwhile trip. Good to get stuff done even when the weather says otherwise.

Note: Further bits of telephone wire noticed; upstream end of Blackpool Sands, amongst the false boulder ceiling. Confusion Passage, still some bits on the left near Gypsum Aven.

Mossdale Session 14  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'It's best reminding myself it's as broad as it is long'

Tired! Strung out! a wreck of a human being! but I couldn't ignore the opportunity to get the preparation side of this project complete!

Met at Yarnbury early evening. Nothing to carry overland on this one, although carrying caving kit alone is usually pretty taxing on it's own.

The objective was to get everything stashed at the Serpent down to the depot. The load consisted of about half a dozen poles, mostly 5' lengths and a few bags worth of clips. Slow going through the awkward entry bits (Ouroborous) but we worked well as a team and maintained a good system throughout.
Load deposited at Depot. The late hour could be felt in the air.
While Adele waited at the (then) depot I headed quickly to the choke end of Ouroborous to see if there was a better place for the depot/workshop and to grab the WD40 from the advance stash.
A more suitable spot was found with just enough space prior to the choke, and again between two bends. The unfortunate thing being it would cost another visit at least to complete preparations.

Arrived home just after 11pm. Worth the effort!

Mossdale Session 15  


(Simon Beck)

'All hail the Vis-Bot!'

Forecast for weekend was crap so happily afforded myself a rest weekend. The weather made a radical turn for the better come Sunday morning, one which I couldn't ignore. Arrived at the scar early afternoon. A lot of rain had fallen during the night, the beck was swollen. I knew the ducks and canals would still be passable but decided to the scrub the plan of heading for Ouroborous and undertake a short trip, just in case water levels came up further. I resigned to this quite easily which summed up my fatigue perfectly.

Visited Blackpool Sands and passed the 1st duck to Razor Rocks. That alone was enough to convince me the wet sections were all still passable in those conditions.
Headed back to the entrance section and spent some time completing the retaining wall under the bulge.
Pleasant walk back to car. Lots of people on the fells. Glad I still got out.

Mossdale Session 16 


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Ward off the riff-raff'

Too glorious a Monday to be ignored, need I say more!

Due to a few delays we didn't end up getting underground till early evening.

Water levels had dropped significantly from the previous day. Very warm air between Blackpool Sands and Broadway. A cold air pocket and outward draught was met at Right hand Passage and felt all the way down Ouroborous.

Moved everything; tools/scaffold poles/clips from the old depot to the new one. The distance isn't much, around 300' and the terrain unladen is never overly spacious but pretty straight forward. Yet the late hour and my impatience to get the prep side of this project finally over with, guaranteed it a thankless task fueled with some colourful language. Exited Ouroborous weary!

During the exit we undertook some maintenance work (breaking down) on the two main cobble dams. The main one is just downstream of the Duck (1st Drown or Glory) and the other in Razor Rocks. Lowering these, especially the one at the duck has definitely contributed to our ability to visit the mid-regions of Mossdale during elevated water conditions.
Time flies when your having fun, and nearly an hour was spent on this task.

Mossdale Session 17  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward)

'Hell's Bells!'   (An apt response from the author to the passing of the Far Stream Syphon. The echo of which can still be heard in Far Stream, or is it Youtube....)

After the weekend deluge and unsettled forecast I didn't expect to be back there so soon.

A mid-afternoon redezvous at Yarnbury accompanied by a forbidding looking sky. The forecasters generally gave the all clear but I wasn't falling for that. The visit would be kept brief, our load (a bag of scaffold odds and ends) would be deposited as far as I or we dared.

The sight that met us at the scar was one that suggested high water vandalism had taken place. I could only imagine what Adele was thinking. Her introduction to Mossdale had taken place under incredibly hospitable conditions. Although I will say; even in those conditions she handled it far better than the majority of the general caving population would have. No matter the time of year Mossdale Caverns is a grim looking place, but the warmer water and air temperature does lend it a slightly friendlier side.
A further treat was in store for us the moment we dropped below Fossil Chamber. Substantial amounts of very fresh looking froth hung from the ceiling all the way to assembly hall. Obviously the work of a very sudden, violent flash flood that had subsided as quickly as it had arrived. A thorough inspection was made of the high ground in Assembly Hall. No high water marks were found above the frothy ceiling at the lower northerly end of the cavern. Still! the water had backed up at least 3 metres high throughout the lower entrance series along the bedding plane to Blackpool Sands!

The spate was still subsiding and passage through the wet sections would be far from pleasant.
I was hesitant to go any further but couldn't resist the draw of defying my unease and sampling further the malevolent change in mood here.
It was decided that Adele would wait at Blackpool Sands while I headed to Boulder Hall to deposit the bag of stuff. I would only be gone for ten minutes but made it quite clear that any indication of a rise in water levels and Adele should make her way out immediately.
The Canals were a pleasantly warm but cloudy and grim affair. There hung a sense that it could all go to shit at anytime. I didn't rush or kick-up a lot of sound and instead moved with swift graceful silence. I would at least hear it coming and have time to react.
Deposited the bag in an incredibly muggy Boulder Hall then headed straight back to Adele. I could feel the current breaking around me on the trip back through the canals!

It was during the exit that we felt our ears popping slightly. We both looked at one another and just shook our heads. The feeling was strong that we are like pioneers experiencing all of Mossdale's little quirks and eccentricities. There will be few if any who've visited this place with such frequency as we have these past months.

A pleasant wash off and swim in the beck was had afterwards.

Mossdale Session 18  


(Simon Beck, Adele Ward, Elise Ward)


More than a fortnight since we were last here.

Something I've been aware of over the years is the ever increasing size of the sand bar in Blackpool Sands, it's now grown to monstrous proportions. Fresh deposits were both seen and felt (canals) throughout.

The channel we'd dug to breakdown the dam at the head of the Razor Rocks has had about a tonne of cobble deposited back in there.
There was still a heavy flow and ferocious current in places. Had we not undertaken so much work lowering the cobble dams the duck would have been close to impassable these past few times.

Grabbed the bag of bits previously stashed in B-Hall.
Confusion Passage was painted with froth!
Broadway felt deep in places. Surprising how much difference just a little rise in water levels can have, but I've said this before.

The sanctuary of warm air was lost in it's usual place at Cigarette Junction where cold moving air was met. One begins to cool almost immediately.

Elise was ushered to the front to enjoy an unobstructed view as we headed down the delightful Right hand/Easy Passage.

Deposited the bag of stuff in the entry rift to Ouroborous then visited Rough Chamber. A good turning point for Elise on her first visit.

The swim and canals were a joy during the return, I swam almost all the way.

A Shrew was encountered in Blackpool Sands. Poor thing had obviously been washed in during the last flood and managed to escape the main flow. We did consider trying to return it to the surface but had nothing to transport it in.

Well done Elise!!

Note: A heavily draughting feature was spotted and investigated during this visit. A more thorough look was planned for the next trip.

(Next Installment) Mossdale Sessions 19-20 -

© Simon Beck, 2017. The copyright for this article and photographs remains with the author. It should not be reproduced without permission.


  1. Really enjoying reading your posts Simon. I have a bit of an obsession with mossdale myself, although I have never been in. I had been caving for umpteen years but at 62 I am much too old now. Never did get the chance, although I wanted to go but never found anyone who would go with me. But I find the place fascinating and often walk up to the scar just to say 'hello'. Keep up the good work - be careful and post often, I really am enjoying these :) James

  2. Thanks ever so much for your words and feedback. I've been delayed in completing the next series but sessions 19-24 should be posted over the next few weeks. Simon Beck