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Photograph of the volcano formation in Witches II Cave

Long Rift Pot - A Project 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.

Introduction

Long Rift Pot is located 30 m south-east of the Allotment wall and 260 m south-east of the Allotment Gate, grid reference SD 76305 72609, at an altitude of 400 m and 1,530 m from Austwick Beck Head. It is not recorded in Pennine Underground, but as an open hole it must have been known since the earliest days. It was described in the first edition of Northern Caves as being 20 feet deep, and a "simple walk down".

It was originally dug in the summer of 1976 by Frank Addis and the North Manchester Caving Club, who put in some 2 metre deep shoring, now rotten, halfway along the shaft. They deserted it for Marble Pot - a more worthwhile and productive project. When we started there was also the remains of a chicken-wire fence draped round the edges.

The shaft is aligned NW-SE, about ten metres long, and was a couple of metres deep at the southern end, and about six metres deep at the north end. It is surrounded on all sides by steep, grassy banks descending four metres from the flat moor.

It was first identified as being of interest by Dave Checkley (DC), John Gardner (JWG), and John Sellers (JS) on 11th June 2008 when returning from a disappointing conclusion to another dig on the Allotment.

Long Rift Pot with Dave Checkley, looking north
Long Rift Pot with Dave Checkley, Looking North

26th July 2008

DC, JS and Brian Judd: It was an absolutely dreadful day, and not one that should have been spent digging on the moor. After some desultory digging at the bottom, it soon became evident that not much could be accomplished without some serious shoring.

4th September 2008

DC and JWG: Another wet and miserable day, with Cat Hole in full spate. Conditions were most uncomfortable at the coal face, and the bottom was an absolute quagmire. An attempt to place shoring to protect the deepest part of the shaft were not too successful, although a couple of scaffold poles were put into place for next time.

12th September 2008

DC and JWG: A better day, but it was still very damp in the shaft. Substantial shuttering was put in to protect the deepest part of the shaft from the morass of mud creeping in from above. A little bit of digging was done, but not much could be done without a bucket.

Dave Checkley above the dig Dave Checkley emerging from the squalor
A Clean Dave Checkley Above the Dig Dave Checkley Emerging from the Squalor

18th September 2008

DC, JWG and Dave Goodman: The weather was far more pleasant than on the previous three occasions, and DC had somehow managed to enlist Dave into the team. A bucket and capping equipment were taken up to the hole. DC jumped into the squalor at the bottom, and was soon passing buckets of gunge back up to Dave who stacked it behind the new shoring. A number of boulders were capped at the same time. JWG, in the meanwhile, spent his time removing the chicken-wire fencing hanging round the sides of the shaft, and putting it behind the shoring to serve as a raft in the mud. He also tidied up around the old shoring so that its safety could be better assessed.

After a while, the space behind the new shoring was full, and another couple of scaffold poles were inserted to hold up more shoring at a higher level behind it. A little more work is required to finish the job, but it served to store another load of gunge removed from the bottom. DC also managed to find a hole under one wall down which the substantial puddle drained, and there were signs that the end of the gunge was in sight.

DC and Dave rescued an emaciated frog from the bottom.

1st October 2008

DC, JWG and JS: Phil reported in sick with man flu, so was unable to be with us. In view of the cold, windy, rain-spattering weather, he was a lot better off at home in bed.

DC and JWG in the Slough of Despond: Photo: John Sellers
DC and JWG in the Slough of Despond: Photo: John Sellers

The remaining bit of shoring was inserted into the top tier, and bucket after bucket of slops were deposited behind it. Conditions at the bottom are slowly improving, however, with a number of large boulders being exposed (and capped), and although there is still some gunge that needs removing, cobbles are appearing in the floor all round the shaft, and the water is draining away. More shoring will soon be needed at the bottom but there is scope for another full session without it. All in all, good, steady progress was made.

15th October 2008

JWG, JS, and Phil Johnstone: With the Gruppenführer away bathing with Bali beauties, the storm troopers were effectively rudderless. We paid a visit to Small Mammal Pot to pick up some scaffolding which had been left inside the entrance, and made our way to Long Rift, where we were pleasantly surprised to find that the place had self-cleansed in the last two weeks, and all the mud had disappeared from the bottom.

This proved to be an illusion, alas, as JS found the mud just below the top layer of boulders, and before long the place was once more a morass. Steady progress was made, though, and before the end of the afternoon a floor had been reached in the north-west part of the shaft, with a bedding passage exposed in the west corner, which is taking the water. Because we have reached the bottom of the shoring in the south side of the shaft, little progress could be made in that direction.

Looking Up the Shaft Looking Down the Shaft
Looking Up. Photo: John Sellers Looking Down. Photo: John Sellers

JS built a nice stone ramp in the middle tier of shoring to allow elderly gentlemen to get in and out more easily.

Next time, some more shoring needs to be put in at the bottom to allow more of the floor to be exposed, and another tier of shoring needs to be emplaced at the top, to provide stacking space.

5th November 2008

DC, JWG, JS, and PJ: This was the first occasion when the whole team were present at Long Rift, so we celebrated with a pre-dig haka.

The pre-dig Haka. Photo: John Sellers
The Pre-Dig Haka. Photo: John Sellers

More shoring was put in at the bottom to allow the slope of debris to be removed safely, and another tier emplaced at the top for stacking the spoil. A start was then made on clearing the remainder of the fill at the bottom, with all four needed to get the buckets to the top. By the end of the day it was clear that the floor of the shaft has been reached, and that the main way on will be through the bedding. One more trip is required to totally empty the exposed section of shaft, and we can then take a closer look at the bedding passage.

14th November 2008

DC, JWG, PJ and Colin Boothroyd: The remaining fill was extracted to fully expose the floor of the shaft, and material removed from the bedding passage at the bottom using a nifty rake specially designed and manufactured by DC Digging Enterprises. There was a lot of water disappearing into the bedding, but the height after a couple of metres is under 15 cm, so further progress is not feasible without undertaking a major passage expansion exercise. The site was tidied up, equipment removed and the dig put on hold, with the shaft having been extended to a depth of about 12 m.

8th April 2009

DC, JWG and Ged Benn: It wasn't the best of days to resume the onslaught on Long Rift - cold, damp, and very windy. The intention was to use the bottom of the shaft as a place where Ged could tutor JWG and DC into the dark arts of technical digging, and it proved to be an good location - apart from being somewhat overrun by frogs. Three drilling sessions produced a goodly amount of rubble, about a metre of progress, and two far more knowledgeable acolytes.

Next time, we need hammer, chisel, bar, and rubble removal equipment.

16th April 2009

JWG, JS, PJ, Ged Benn and Tim: Today we were honoured to be entertaining two members of the BALLS team - Ged and Tim. A very strong, cold northerly wind did its best to stop us from struggling up Clapham Bottoms with a load of kit, but we managed.

JS collected a digging bucket from Bloat Pot, and once Ged had smashed the larger pieces with a hammer, we lifted the rubble out and stash it behind the top level of shoring, and rescued some frogs which we put into a pool.

Our visions of then progressing rapidly through the mountain vanished as it became clear that both batteries were duff. We consoled ourselves with a slug of Tim's rum, and then went over to Christmas Cracker to see a real dig - complete with mud.

Ged on his pile of rubble - photograph: John Sellers
Ged on his Pile of Rubble - photograph: John Sellers

23rd April 2009

JWG, JS, PJ, Ged Benn, Tim, and Fred Rattray: A beautiful day which encouraged both the bluebells and the rambling herds to make an appearance. This time we had plenty of battery power, and managed three sessions (the second of which was more sound than fury) before it was time to retire. Steady progress is being made, but there is no real sign of any self-enlargement or draught.

Next time we need a drag tray, DC's nifty rake for scraping back material, and possibly something to stir the air up at the bottom.

8th May 2009

JWG, DC, and PJ: We arrived at Long Rift after letting off a couple of snappers in Bloat Pot, to find it damp, drippy, and with a large pool at the bottom. The byproduct of the last session seemed to be mainly fairly fine quarry bottoms, which became a nice floor at one of the shoring levels. PJ made a fine job of clearing it all out whilst lying in an extensive pool of water. The passage seems to be continuing in the same depressing fashion as before, but may be turning to the right after a couple of more metres. Job done, we returned to Bloat Pot with a bucket.

11th November 2009

Fred Rattray and Tim Sullivan: Whilst DC, JWG, and Ged were working in Bloat Pot, Fred and Tim kindly emptied Long Rift of digging equipment.


References:

  1. Gardner J.W. 2010, "Tales of Valiant Effort and Pathetic Failure", CPC Record, No. 98, p. 27