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Photograph of the volcano formation in Witches II Cave

Bloat Pot - A Digging Diary

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These articles are simply intended to record the progress of various projects that have been or are being undertaken in the Dales.

28th June 2004 - 11th April 2005

Mike Wooding, John Gardner, Ged Benn, Elaine Hill: Inspired by the success met by BPC with their various digs, Mike Wooding became interested in Bloat Pot when he stumbled across it when prospecting for his own candidates for digging. Situated on the bench overlooking Clapham Bottoms on the west side of the valley at SD75648 72294, altitude 393 m, Bloat Pot was an uninspiring looking 14 m deep shaft with a ledge at -5 m which had been the subject of a dig by MUSS in 1965 (ref.1). The bottom was filled with cobbles and sheep remains, but it looked like easy digging and the air was fresh.

Bloat Pot Entrance - 1st August 2004
Bloat Pot Entrance - 1st August 2004

A preliminary investigation by MJW and JWG soon made it clear that MUSS probably gave up because of the difficulty involved in hauling a bucket up from the bottom, with one constriction and one sharp corner to overcome. Initial efforts were devoted to solving this problem. The eastern corner of the shaft was considerably enlarged by levering weathered slabs away from the walls which allowed the rope to hang directly down (with Ged Benn devoting a bit of technical expertise to one piece of bedrock), and Elaine Hill was enlisted to help trim a piece of protruding wall below the ledge.

The old spoil heap was moved back a few metres, and some bucket hauling took place over a few trips using an A-frame constructed by Mike, mainly removing bone and old digging debris. Unfortunately, a dead sheep thrown in by the farmer discouraged a rapid return, and attention turned to the opening up of Small Mammal Pot. The dig was then left dormant for four years after fourteen trips by Mike, six by John, one by Elaine and one by Ged.

Mike Wooding and Bloat Pot Entrance - 23rd January 2005
Mike Wooding and Bloat Pot Entrance - 23rd January 2005

28th January 2009

JWG, Dave Checkley and John Sellers: A glorious day in the sunshine overlooking thick fog in the valleys was spent wandering round the Allotment area and poking into various unlikely holes. On the way back, JWG dragged the other two to Bloat Pot to get their opinion on the project. Both descended on ladder to find yet another dead sheep at the bottom, but were suitable enthused to agree to return in a fortnight.

The Squalor at the Bottom - 28th January 2009: Photo: John Sellers
The Squalor at the Bottom - 28th January 2009: Photo: John Sellers

11th February 2009

JWG, DC and Phil Johnstone: Domestic chauffeuring duties meant that John Sellers was unable to join us. Snow covering and a biting northerly wind made it cold and miserable on the surface, and a stinking woolly back made it warm and miserable underground. A couple of 12 mm bolts were emplaced in what was hoped was bedrock for a ladder belay, and DC disappeared into the depths to do battle with the sheep. The remains were removed, together with bucket-loads of bones from its long-departed cousins. JWG deemed the surface conditions intolerable, however, and a retreat was made back to Bernie's.

18th February 2009

JWG, DC, JS, PJ, and Jim Dewhurst: Jim is a friend of DC's who was curious to know how DC spends his Wednesdays. The omens were promising for a Good Day - the weather was a lot more clement, and we managed to persuade Bob Jarman to chauffeur the gear up to the show cave.

The main priority was to build a sheep-proof and farmer-proof cover for the hole, and DC and Jim set to with tape measure and saw, and did just that. The final result doesn't quite work stylistically, with an unfortunate clash between Sheraton and Chippendale influences, but it certainly achieves the functional objectives.

Fill Phull of Phun Phil and DC Admiring the Lid: Photo: John Sellers
Fill Phull of Phun. Foto: John Sellers Phil and DC Admiring the Lid: Photo: John Sellers

The second priority was to improve the lift, and after PJ had been working down there for a little while, DC began to bash the hell out of one small protuberance which was causing the bucket to catch on the way up. After a few hefty blows, a substantial portion of the wall collapsed, which solved the problem nicely.

Hauling is still a little awkward, and we need an A-frame to make it easier. For that we need one more reasonably sized scaffold pole, a connector, a steel bar to anchor the rope, and a pulley. Once that's sorted out, we'll be on our way.

25th February 2009

JWG, DC, and JD: We were delighted to welcome back Jim, who obviously hadn't been too put-off by his visit last week. The weather was pretty awful - wet, cold and windy in the morning, and dry, cold, and very windy in the afternoon.

Jim, John and the A-Frame: Dave Checkley Jim emerging from the depths. Photo: Dave Checkley
Jim, John and the A-Frame. Photo: Dave Checkley Jim Emerging from the Depths. Photo: Dave Checkley

We had managed to obtained a light-weight pole, and an A-frame was soon erected with the strain being taken from an emplaced bolt. JWG descended first (his first visit for four years!) and capped the large boulders at the bottom, before being relieved by JD who began to exhume yet more sheep. DC took the final shift. Hauling was a lot easier with the A-frame, although it does require at least two people at the top. We suspect that we have another half a metre or so of sheep debris to remove before getting to the fill proper. We also suspect that the rock forming a constriction at the bottom, may actually be a boulder - the removal of which would give us a lot more room.

11th March 2009

JWG, DC, and Robin: DC managed to persuade his friend Robin to make up the quorum today. If he carries on abusing his friends in this way, he'll soon finish up Billy Nomates. It was overcast, but pleasant in the morning, with the sounds of a buzzard, curlews and skylarks once again filling the skies, and a petrified grouse posing on the horizon. The afternoon was a little more miserable, with a light drizzle. We managed to win a 5ft alloy pole on the way up...

The A-frame was soon set up, this time using a jammer to tension it, and DC disappeared down the hole. At first more sheep remains emerged, but soon we could hear the sounds of a hammer and chisel - DC had got through to what the archæologists lovingly call 'natural', which in this case turned out to be a heavily calcited clay layer which kept us busy for the next couple of hours. We haven't got down to the floor of the shaft yet, but it looks like we're close to it, and that it is bending into a rift passage in the south wall. Another couple of trips should establish whether it's worth pursuing.

18th March 2009

JWG, DC, and JS: Another excellent spring day - warm and sunny. DC's run out of mates, but JS was able to join us after his expedition to Norway where, apparently, beer is 7.50 a pint. Good progress was made down the hole in three shifts. Although it's not very spacious down there, it looks promising and does seem to be draughting. We're still digging clay out of the bottom of the shaft, and have started to remove material from the rift passage.

DC Emerging from the Depths - 18th March 2009: Photo: John Sellers
DC Emerging from the Depths - 18th March 2009: Photo: John Sellers

25th March 2009

JWG, DC, and JS: Phil and Rosie also came solely in a management capacity, and after lunch looked for more interesting ways of spending their time. It was a blustery and squally day, which got colder as it progressed. Three sessions were had down the hole. JWG brought along some disco smoke, but couldn't detect an obvious draught. A lot of clay was extracted, and the current situation is that the bottom of the main shaft has been reached, but the way down through the continuing rift requires some enlargement before progress can be made.

1st April 2009

JWG, DC, and JS: A gorgeous day with the skylarks in full throat. We drew lots for the underground shift which DC lost, so he disappeared into the hole with the capping equipment. The two Johns then enjoyed a long siesta occasionally interrupted by loud bangs from below. DC was trying to remove the large bulge a few feet up the wall (that which JS is standing on in the picture below) to make more room at the sharp end - but unfortunately the fumes had more affect on him than the percussive impact had on the rock. He then transferred his energies to emptying out the alcove of the large boulders we had deposited there previously, and which were now threatening to collapse into the rift passage below.

The two Johns then took it in turns to have a short shifts down the 'ole. The current situation is that another day will be required to empty out the alcove. This will require an entrenching tool to shift a bank of mud, and some caps to dislodge a couple of chockstones. Once that is done, we can transfer our attention to the main way on below the alcove. This is currently tight, and will require a little bit of chemical persuasion.

7th May 2009

JWG, DC, and PJ: A blustery and cool day, but with a little bit of sun to occasionally warm things up. The cave was a bit damp after recent heavy rain. DC went down, and placed a couple of snappers in 40 cm holes tamped with putty, on either side of the rift below the alcove. These were detonated from the surface. A visit was then made to Long Rift Pot to do some clearance there and collect the bucket.

DC descended on the return, to find that the snappers had been very effective in widening the rift. Some proddling then resulted in large blocks dropping down from the alcove area, so what was once an alcove above a narrow rift is now a wide rift - albeit full of large blocks. Some clearance of smaller debris was undertaken, but the blocks require some heavy capping sessions before they can be moved. However, once they have gone there should be plenty of room for tackling the next stage.

Before the snapping - 25th March 2009: Photo: John Sellers
After the snapping - 13th May 2009. Photo: John Sellers
The Base of the Shaft before Snapping - 25th March
Photo: John Sellers
The Base of the Shaft after Snapping - 13th May
Photo: John Sellers

13th May 2009

JWG, DC, and JS: A strong easterly wind blew DC over once, and the A-frame twice before we had the sense to secure the latter. Four hours were spent capping the blocks left over from last week's session, and hauling the remnants to the surface before we all went back to Clapham for tea and biscuits at Jude's.

3rd June 2009

JWG, DC, JS and PJ: A warm pleasant day saw a full team out on the fell. The bulk of the day was spent clearing out the remaining boulders and soil from the alcove area. One boulder proved to be particularly recalcitrant and had to be hauled out whole together with the pogging bar and capping mat before it could be broken up and the bar released. An end was called to the day after DC fired a couple of snappers to widen the rift. The way on looks if will be down below the alcove, but it's pretty narrow, and currently full of loose debris.

2nd July 2009

DC, JS and PJ: In the absence of our Führer who was invading France and Italy, the foot-soldiers were a bit listless, not helped by the hot humid weather. The debris from the previous snap was removed but a further snapping session was cancelled because of a mysterious absence of putty. Ice lollies at Ingleborough Cave helped to restore morale.

15th July 2009

JWG, DC and PJ: We were without JS who seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth, which means no pretty pictures. The walk up to the hole was in the rain, but that soon cleared up and much of the rest of the day was warm and sunny. DC disappeared down the hole and cleared out the descending rift a little more in very restricted conditions, and was followed by JG who decided that it was too much like hard work and that the passage needed widening. DC went back down and inserted a snapper on either side of the rift which when fired, sounded as if they had the desired effect.

We are currently working in what used to be the bottom of the alcove. This is currently floored with gravel, and the little rivulet continues across this and drops down a very narrow rift. Below, there seems to be a floor about a metre down. There is no obvious draught, but the air remains fresh. It all requires widening.

16th September 2009

JWG, DC and JS: The first visit for two months owing to holidays, Cove Hole excavations, and poor weather. We were limited to a team of three today as Phil had gone AWOL. DC disappeared down the hole, and started to clear away the debris from the last snapping session, with JS succeeding him. JS claimed that the floor sounded hollow...

The way on continues to be forward and down, but it is still too narrow and requires some accelerated chemical weathering.

30th September 2009

JWG, DC, JS and PJ: A full team, but not a lot of work to do... Some accelerated chemical weathering was applied to the narrow rift, and a retreat made from a cold and damp moor.

Misery on the moor - 30th September 2009: Photo: John Sellers
Misery on the Moor: Phil, Dave and John - 30th September 2009: Photo: John Sellers

7th October 2009

DC, JS and PJ: The debris from the last accelerated weathering event was cleared by JS with the aid of the Swedish entrenching tool, more room to work having been created. The deeper end of the descending rift was then cleared by DC of the tough, sticky, compacted mud layer, until it proved too difficult to continue. Meanwhile PJ manned the temporary winch and bucket, with occasional runs to restore the circulation. Our last action was to apply treatment to the left hand wall, after which we derigged and made our way back down to Clapham, singing selections from "Snow White".

28th October 2009

JWG, DC, JS and PJ: A small window of opportunity between DC's return from the Grecian Isle of the Gods, and JS's departure for the parting of the Red Sea permitted another visit. The weather was warm but overcast and damp. The snapper placed on the previous visit had dropped quite a lot of rock, so PJ was sent down on bucket filling duty. JWG soon followed to hammer and chisel away at the walls. The obvious way on is most uninspiring - a very narrow rift heading downwards.

The uninspiring bottom - 28th October 2009: Photo: John Sellers
DC drilling - 28th October 2009: Photo: John Sellers
Bloat's Uninspiring Bottom - 28th October
Photo: John Sellers
Dave Checkley Drilling - 28th October
Photo: John Sellers

However, in a moment of unbridled optimism DC decided that the real way on is straight down in front of the narrowing of the rift, but that it all needed widening before any serious digging could start. He and JS drilled some holes with JWG's drill, which like its owner has seen better days, before JWG and DC prepared the site for a small pop.

4th November 2009

JWG, DC, and PJ: John Sellers had pissed off to the Red Sea in order to miss this trip, which in view of the weather was definitely a Good Move. Fortunately, events were delayed for an hour when DC suddenly realised that he had left a car-less PJ languishing in Lancaster.

It was 'orribly wet on the surface, so JWG quickly volunteered to go underground where, despite the presence of a running stream, the digging was dry, clean, and pleasant. The last pop had been very effective, and the detritus was soon cleared away mainly thanks to heroic hauling by DC and PJ on the surface. The main effect of this was to allow a proper view along the thin rift, and it does look interesting. The water was running on a floor at the base of the rift, and there was a distinct rumbling sound from further along. There is also enough room to continue popping the narrow rift, so there may be scope for a few more trips yet.

DC and PJ went down for a look, and the day nearly ended in tears when a head-sized boulder peeled away from near the top of the shaft and landed on the heel of a cowering DC.

11th November 2009

JWG, DC, PJ, Ged Benn, Fred Rattray and Tim Sullivan: We were honoured today by the presence of the crême de la crême of the Bradford diggers. A pleasant but cool day. JWG descended into the bowels first to dig out of the floor of the alcove, but when the digging got tough he had himself replaced by DC. Some significant progress was made the main result of which is that it is now a lot more difficult to get out. In the meantime Fred and Tim wandered round the moor tidying up some of their digs.

After lunch PJ and Ged went down to drill some holes in preparation of enlarging the digging area, and the day finished with a satisfying pop initiated by Mary who had wandered by on her walk up and around Ingleborough.

John and Dave Meditating - 11th November 2009: Photo: Mary Carlisle
John and Dave Meditating - 11th November 2009: Photo: Mary Carlisle

2nd December 2009

JWG, DC, PJ, and Aly Brook: John Sellers was still unable to join us owing to an extended bout of man flu, but his absence was more than adequately compensated for by Aly's presence. So much so, that all digging suits had been washed and all beards de-loused in a desperate attempt to make a good impression. Despite the forecast, it was a pleasant day with a smattering of snow on the tops, but "wildlife management" was in progress in the grounds so we had to go up via Clapdale.

JWG and Aly disappeared down the hole first to find that a considerable amount of wall in the alcove had been displaced by the previous pop, and the right hand wall of the continuing rift had been shattered. The debris was sent up the hole until the clay level had been reached, at which stage DC and PJ took over. They dug down to find a calcited floor, which confirmed the best way forward is to follow the narrow rift. Some holes were drilled in anticipation of the next session. Prospects ahead don't look that promising, but the rift is taking the water and the rumbling from somewhere ahead can still be heard.

The walk back was enlivened by carrying some of Father Christmas's house into Ingleborough Cave, and DC stuffing a cock pheasent, the unhappy victim of "wildlife management", into the top of his sack.

11th December 2009

JWG, DC, and Ged Benn: A beautiful day saw us and Bradford's brand new 36V super-Hilti up at the hole, where Ged sprang into a frenzy of activity drilling hole after hole with DC dutifully passing him equipment, and JWG lazily sunbathing on the surface. The resultant pop made the ground bounce up and down a few times, so it will be interesting to see the result.

Ged and Dave, "The Boys in Blue" - 11th December 2009
Ged and Dave, "The Boys in Blue" - 11th December 2009

28th January 2010

JWG, DC, JS, and Ged Benn: This was the first return for six weeks, mainly because of the inclement weather that has been such a feature of this January. Although it was fairly sunny to start with, it was obviously going to be a chilly day so JWG and DC quickly escaped underground where they were confronted by a huge pile of debris from the last pop. This took a couple of hours to clear and required some heroic hauling by JS and Ged. Unfortunately, this simply showed that the way on is a 5 cm wide rift, and it was unanimously agreed that enough was enough.

Tools were removed from the bottom, and some rubbish was taken off the fell.

John and Dave Girding their Loins. Photo: John Sellers
Ged and the End of Bloat Pot
John and Dave girding their loins - 28th Jan 2010
Photo: John Sellers
Ged studying the end of Bloat Pot - 28th Jan 2010
Photo: John Sellers

27th May 2010

JWG, DC, and JS: After an intended trip down Smeagol which finished up with us going down Lancashire Hotpot by mistake instead, a visit was made to Bloat. A start was made on tidying up the spoil heap, and all the rubbish was taken off the fell.

The Project Statistics So Far

Total trips37
Trips by John Gardner27
Trips by Dave Checkley23
Trips by Mike Wooding14
Trips by John Sellers14
Trips by Phil Johnstone12
Trips by Ged Benn4
Trips by other people7
Total man trips101


  1. Moys C. 1965. "Bloat Pot" Journal MUSS 1, pp 12-13
  2. Gardner J.W. 2010, "Tales of Valiant Effort and Pathetic Failure", CPC Record, No. 98, p. 27