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Photograph of the volcano formation in Witches II Cave

Bar Pot - Minor Series

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This article is based on "Bar Pot and Flood Entrance Pot" written by Phil Johnstone and Colin Boothroyd, and published by the Lancaster University Speleological Society in 1978.

From the foot of the first pitch, a bedding plane crawl above the Greasy Slab (Point A on the survey) leads to a 2 m deep hole (The Pit) containing boulders and an old gour pool (survey). Crawling around the lip, past some phreatic roof pendants, it is possible to climb down in the near corner. A passage through boulders leads off back under the crawl and emerges just above the Greasy Slab. Continuing in the bedding plane and keeping to the right, a squeeze over boulders leads to the head of a narrow pitch almost closed by flowstone. This drops down parallel to another pitch described below and eventually the two merge. On the left in the bedding are the putrescent remains of a rope ladder. Traverse over the pitch and between banks of orange flowstone until it is possible to slide down into Flowstone Chamber, a shattered cavern about 4 m long and 7 m high.

This was climbed in November 2004 by John Cordingley, who entered a rift passage some 4 m up. This proved to be obstructed by a calcited rock a metre in, although a small continuation could be seen beyond. The rift continued above, but narrowed off at a height of about 10 m.

A climb on the right of Flowstone Chamber up a very loose wall leads to a lower passage and a junction. Ahead, the floor descends to a series of small earth- and rubble-floored chambers, each more shattered and unstable than the last, which end in loose chokes. Left at the junction is a passage sloping slightly upwards which ended at a boulder choke. A little boulder trundling revealed a squeeze up into a high chamber, hitherto undiscovered, drops of water falling from the roof and great slabs of rock peeling off the walls while we stood under them. A shale bed runs round the walls at a height of 7 m, which is the same as the one on the entrance pitch. Two small piles of bones, directly under the highest point, identified as rabbits, inspired the name of Small Mammal House and implied a connection with the surface.

The aven was climbed in early 2005 by Mike Wooding and John Gardner and found to be 20 m high. At the top, a short passage ran along a joint for a distance of some 8 metres before terminating in a choke with much evidence of a connection to the surface (including two trouser buttons!). A couple of digging trips resulted in the opening of Small Mammal Pot in a patch of clints a few metres south-east of the main shakehole.

A scaffolded climb down through boulders in the far end of Small Mammal House enters a short passage to a scaffolded climb up through boulders into a small chamber. An ascent through an inclined rift then emerges at the base of the Stile Pot entrance shaft.

Crawling round The Pit and keeping left in the bedding leads one to a rift about 3 m deep with flowstone at one end. Above this, a climb up a steeply inclined rift for five or six metres leads to a tight passage in the roof. This leads after a few metres to a small chamber with several small passages leading off, one of which has a voice connection with the passages above Flowstone Chamber.

The rift in the floor is easily descended. Two exits, one a 2 m climb at the far end, the other a sloping passage in the middle of one wall, lead from this rift into a wide bedding plane chamber with a nicely sculptured pitch (10 m) in its floor (Point B). On the far side of the pitch the bedding, the same one that forms the roof of Bridge Hall, can be followed to a boulder ruckle up through which it is possible to wriggle and emerge in one corner of the Pit (this was the original route found by the discoverers).

The rift containing the pitch is a continuation of that leading to Flowstone Chamber, and in fact the pitch mentioned therein joins the present one on a bank of grey flowstone at one end. The pitch is P-bolted for SRT, and it is possible to swing off halfway down and into a parallel shaft entirely coated with flowstone. Another tight parallel rift leads off from the lowest corner.

At the base of the ladder a boulder slope leads down the rift, through a ruckle, and via a 3 m drop into another bedding plane scattered with boulders. To the right this drops away into a chamber with a flat roof and a 3 m deep pit in the floor. All around, the bedding plane closes down and some straws can be seen. In the roof a small inlet is almost choked by udder-like formations. Three ways leave, two becoming too tight after a few metres. The third is an elliptical stream passage which descends via rift developments, past a constricted right-angle bend, to a small chamber with a pool in a bedding on its floor. Ahead, a squeeze leads to a T-junction; right chokes after a few metres; and left runs in an O-shaped passage for 8 m before terminating in what was, at the time of the survey, a shallow and rather nasty little sump (Sump 1).

In 1990 John Cordingley found that the sump had disappeared and that the passage continued along a tube to a step up into a small phreatic rift. This leads after 5 m of awkward progress to a step down into known territory - the wide bedding east of Whitehall.

Back at the main bedding plane, this continues ahead, over some muddy pools, and emerges at the start of a long wide rift passage - Whitehall. Sharp left, the rift continues back through boulders as a climbing passage which chokes after 8 m. Looking down the rift, the bedding plane can be seen continuing along both walls, with varying width. Immediately on the left, it is possible to penetrate a maze of low crawls, eventually ending in a squeeze beyond which a boulder-floored pit can be seen, but not reached.

Continuing down the rift the floor slopes away gradually over boulders. Two holes are passed, the first drops through a choke to a passage which connects with an aven (see below). The second is a fluted 3 m shaft with an impossibly tight stream passage crossing it at the bottom.

Just to the left of a 2 m climb down in the rift, the bedding can be entered for a few metres, and a 2 m climb up and over a lip brings one to a short passage which emerges at the base of the high aven below Bridge Hall. This is Leakey's Way. After the 2 m climb down, Whitehall enlarges even further, and then suddenly closes down and the rift tapers to a point above a junction in a wide bedding plane. There are a couple of holes in the floor, one choked with rubble and connecting with another in which a stream sinks under a thick false floor. A small rift in the roof rises about 4 m before becoming too tight. Left is a wide bedding with a small vadose canyon in the floor and formations here and there. The height increases gradually, and on the left a gravelly crawl goes some way before becoming too low. Beyond, a 2 m climb down into a pool is accomplished by sliding down a cleft. Descending over large boulders brings one to the head of the 30 m pitch (Point D). From the pool, a small vadose trench burrows down left and again emerges behind the head of the pitch. A crawl goes right to the Major Series.

From the junction at the bottom end of Whitehall, following the stream up takes one into a very wide bedding plane, the stream having cut a slight trench on the left hand side. The stream bends to the left and then right, the walls having closed in, and there is evidence of a false floor all the way along this passage. On the right a squeeze leads to a small blind chamber, about a metre high, with worm casts in the mud and many long straws. Some bones are visible buried in the mud. Still continuing upstream a little aven is reached with a pool undercutting the walls all round. The water enters from a high, very narrow haded rift in the far wall, passable (by thin cavers only) for a few metres in the upper half.

Back at the wide bedding plane, on the right (facing upstream) a crack in the roof runs dead straight through a vast open bedding which becomes muddier and muddier as you near the far side. Eventually you slide into a glutinous mud pool beneath a small aven very similar to the one described in the previous paragraph. A small mud-coated stream passage enters in the far wall about 2 m up, but is impassable.

On the way back a detour to the left enters a squeeze over rocks into a 4 m high chamber, from which a tight passage leaves 3 m up at the far end. This passage eventually emerges via the 2 m climb through boulders near the upper end of Whitehall. There are voice connections between this chamber and lower down in the rift - in fact the whole area seems to be one big mass of boulders.