|Stile Pot project log for 2008|
Stile Pot is located in the far side of the small amphitheatre just over the stile leading to Bar Pot (see location map). The first reference to it in print was in the first edition of Northern Caves (1975) where it was described as draughting, 4.5 m deep, and probably associated with the chambers at the foot of the first pitch in Bar Pot. However, subsequent investigation indicated that it had never been more than a couple of metres deep, and that it has nothing to do with the entrance chambers of Bar Pot.
John Gardner alongside Stile Pot with Bar Pot Beyond
Photograph - John Sellers, 26th June 2007
It was first looked at by Mike Wooding and John Gardner on the 20th February 2005, when it seemed to be a prime candidate for the origin of the passage discovered at the top of the Small Mammal House aven in Bar Pot. It had obviously been neglected for a long time, and gave the appearance of being an over-sized rabbit hole.
22nd February 2005
MJW: Mike paid a return visit to Stile Pot after removing some rope from Rat Hole. He managed to remove some large boulders and a couple of buckets of debris to expose a restricted passage trending down to the north-west. The spoil was discreetly deposited by the wall.
Stile Pot Entrance - 23rd February 2005
23rd February 2005
MJW and JWG: A trip to Stile Pot in very snowy conditions. At first, digging was very slow in the restricted passage, but this was helped by widening it by levering weathered slabs off the wall. Unfortunately, one of these rolled in deeper, and will probably need moving eventually.
The rate of progress then increased. The current situation is that the passage trends down to the north-west for a couple of metres to a constriction, beyond which it seems to open out into a vertical feature. A prow of bedrock in the floor is currently hindering progress, and a large boulder also needs to be excavated and removed. Further widening of the walls would also be useful.
Mike Wooding in Stile Pot Entrance - 23rd February 2005
Although the passage continues to look right for being the other end of the SMH passage, according to the survey it has become too deep. The top of SMH is marked as being five metres below the surface, and the entrance in Stile Pot is 4 m below the clints, and descends a further 4 m. If the two are to connect, either the bottom of the aven on the survey must be marked too high, or the surface marked too low. It was agreed that a sound test should be undertaken between the two as soon as possible.
27th February 2005
MJW, JWG and Phil Johnstone: This trip marked Phil Johnstone's first visit to SMH for almost 30 years! The purpose was to carry out sound and smoke tests between the passage at the top of Small Mammal House, and Stile Pot.
JWG and PJ ascended the Small Mammal House pitch, and just before the scheduled time they heard hammering, and responded with hammer and whistle. This went for on for about 10 minutes rather inconclusively, and so the smoke test was initiated a couple of metres from the end. The smoke went straight up the rift.
Meanwhile, MJW had been working in Stile Pot, removing the prow, widening the rift, and digging round the big boulder. The prow was removed by drilling, and hammering wedges, and it was this hammering that could be heard from inside. He did not, however, hear the whistling or hammering initiated from within the passage. He also confirmed that Stile Pot was draughting out.
After a few minutes, MJW returned to moor level and saw the last of the smoke issuing from the clints some 5 metres S-E of the path down to Bar. This point corresponded well with the survey.
A couple of hours were then spent prospecting the clint area, without tangible success, and also furthering the cause in Stile Pot, which continues to look hopeful.
23rd February 2006
MJW and JWG: After the opening up of Small Mammal Pot in April 2005, interest waned in Stile Pot. But after a delay of a year, a return was made to confirm or otherwise a connection between the bedding off to the south-east of the pitch in Small Mammal Pot, 4 m below the roof of the aven, and Stile Pot. Mike descended to the bedding whilst John loitered in the entrance of Stile Pot. Both sound and smoke tests were carried out. The sound test had a possible positive result; and a smoke test and a joss stick test had positive results. Mike also took the opportunity to clear a few boulders from the entrance to the bedding.
28th February 2006
MJW and Elaine Hill: With Elaine providing some invaluable technical assistance, Mike managed to remove a couple of protuberancies from the wall of the entrance rift in Stile Pot, which should allow progress into the small chamber straight ahead.
2nd March 2006
MJW and JWG: A brief foray was made into Stile Pot to see the damage from the previous trip. Access into the "small chamber" was now easy, and it turned out to be a cross-rift. The floor is made up of small clean boulders, which need pulling out. There is the possibility of a small vadose passage veering north from the east side of the rift, and the possibility of an undercut in the floor to the north. A day or two of pulling out small boulders should see whether further progress is possible.
16th March 2006
MJW and JWG: A couple of hours were spent on pulling out boulders from the floor. All walls of the dig are solid apart from the one nearest to the entrance, which was covered by a slab levered from a wall a year ago.
|Mike Wooding Enjoying a Tea Break||John Gardner in the Dig with the Prow in Front|
As progress was made hauling out small boulders and tin cans, it became evident that the ever-increasing draught emerged from the small rift on the west side, although the rift meandering off to the north-east is the better developed. It is likely that the main way on is straight down, and gaps started to appear, but progress in this direction became difficult with the loose wall. With a superhuman effort, Mike manhandled the covering slab to the surface, to allow the loose wall to be removed on the next visit, which will give us more room and make digging safer.
13th April 2006
MJW and JWG: MJW had created a nifty little digging container which proved to be entirely appropriate to the job, allowing the container to be easily pulled up from the digging site back to the surface. Mike descended into the depths first, pulling down the loose front wall in the digging chamber, and soon had the debris cleared. Thereafter, rapid progress was made in the enlarged chamber and a further metre of depth was attained, with the strong draught still emerging from the rift to the west. We now seem to have got past most of the mud and human detritus.
Mike Wooding Emerging from Stile Pot
The deeper we get, the more it's a struggle to get back to the surface…
Finally, the debris from today's session and the previous session was discretely distributed and landscaped.
25th May 2006
MJW, JWG, and John Sellers: The addition of John Sellers to the team made the task of digging, hauling, and disposal far more efficient. Steady progress was made, and towards the end a floor of damp unconsolidated sands and gravel was reached, which made easier digging. The main draught now emerges from a thin rift heading towards the south-east down which can be seen what appears to be a floor.
John Gardner, Tess and Mike Wooding Enjoying Another Tea Break
Photograph: John Sellers
7th September 2006
JWG and JS: This was the first return made to the dig since Mike's untimely death on the 9th August. JWG first retrieved the digging canister from the Dig on the Bend where Mike had been using it, and then JS disappeared down the hole to do battle with a couple of large spiders. A frog was also recovered from the bottom. Four 30 minute sessions were managed, which lowered the floor by about one third of a metre. A strong draught was blowing up from the rift to the west, and the floor consists of unconsolidated damp gravel. The current depth is a little under 5 metres.
4th January 2007
JWG and JS: The floor was lowered by a further half a metre in four sessions. Fell Beck was in spate and the hole was draughting strongly out of both the west and the south-east rifts. The floor of the bedding in the south-east rift now seems to be not too far below us, and by the end of a day it appeared that we had unearthed what may be the roof of a bedding passage. Just above the entrance were a couple of wild strawberry flowers.
John Sellers Enjoying Life at Stile Pot
10th January 2007
JWG and JS: The floor was lowered by another half a metre in four sessions lasting three hours. Eighty container loads of sand and gravel were removed. Unfortunately, we have got below the level of the floor seen down the south-east rift with no sign of anything interesting in that direction, and both the south-east and the north-west rifts have closed up at the current depth. However, the undercut bedding development is still going, and digging downwards continues to be very easy (unlike the hauling up!).
17th January 2007
JWG, JS and Dave Checkley: Today, we were honoured by DC's presence. We managed five shifts, removing 20 loads in each, but progress has slowed as the floor of the shaft has got a lot wider, and there is a greater surface area of fill to remove. We called it a day when we had reached about half a metre below the undercut bedding. Digging is still easy, being mainly sand and gravel. There is no obvious cause for excitement in sight at the moment, but progress is steady. One passing gentleman told us that we are digging in the wrong place, and that our digging container is too small — he was probably right on both counts.
After six trips, Mike's nifty digging container is on the way out, and a new one will be required soon.
Dave Checkley Disappearing into the Dig
24th January 2007
JWG and JS: Four shifts saw the removal of a further eighty container loads of sand and gravel. Boulders are now being found, one of which requires capping before it can be lifted out. The total depth is now about six metres, and the digging area is getting roomier all the time. There is still no sign of an imminent break through.
2nd May 2007
JWG, JS and DC: This was the first visit in over three months. Steady progress was made during three hours of digging using a new digging container. More and more boulders are being unearthed from the damp gravel, some of which require breaking up, but some of which were lifted out in an old rope bag. There's still no sign of an imminent break through, but we reassure each other at regular intervals that it continues to look promising...
Dave Checkley Looking up the Excavated Shaft
24th May 2007
JWG and JS: A lump hammer and chisel were used to help break up some of the boulders accumulating at the bottom of the shaft. Some of them were successfully beaten into submission before the head of the hammer parted company with its handle. Attention was then turned to the east end (opposite the pile of boulders), and by the end of the three hour session a floor had been uncovered which dipped under the fill towards the west. A sign of progress?
30th May 2007
JWG: A brief trip to break up some of the boulders. This was quite successful - until the handle broke - again. Some time was then spent unearthing more boulders and loosening the fill on the north side.
13th June 2007
JWG, JS and Phil Johnstone: We were honoured by Phil's presence today, as well as by the presence of a plague of midges, and an occasional heavy shower. Three and a half sessions were managed during which time the debris accumulated by JWG on his last visit was removed, and the rocks piled up in the corners were demolished with a 7 lb sledge hammer and the bits removed. Finally, work was started on reducing the floor level of the west side of the shaft to the same as that on the east. With the boulders gone, there is now more room to work.
John Sellers and Phil Johnstone - Another Happy Day of Digging at Stile Pot
20th June 2007
JWG, JS and PJ: It was a far nicer day than it was on the last visit, but it followed a very wet night and the bottom of the shaft was found to have a deep puddle on the south side. Some time was spent digging this puddle to drain it, but the attempt was abandoned when it was found that a bar could be pushed some 60 cm into the debris at the bottom. Attention was then spent digging on the north side, and it could soon be seen that the pool was actually held back by a floor of bedrock. A small draughting rift was then unearthed to the east of this floor, heading north, and it then became apparent that the puddle was contained within an extension of this rift, allowing it to be partially drained with a little work.
We do at last appear to have reached the bottom of the shaft. Unfortunately, the draughting rift is only about 10 cm wide, and seems to have bedrock on both sides, so it looks as if further progress will not be easy. However, the remaining fill needs to be removed before a definitive picture of the way forward can emerge.
26th June 2007
JWG and JS: The intention of the day was to confirm a voice connection with the passage in Small Mammal Pot, and clear out the remaining fill from Stile Pot so that a decision could be made about whether to progress the dig further
It didn't pan out that way. Not only did we not get a sound connection between Small Mammal and Stile, but the inlet which was smoke-tested in Small Mammal Pot is only about four metres below the pitch, and so is too high for the draughting rift found last week in Stile Pot.
In Stile Pot we first concentrated on clearing out the area where the puddle was. It seems that this is a small water-worn gully, which took water from the west wall of the shaft round to the draughting rift. Clearing it out made more space for looking at the rift. We then removed the material from within and around the rift, and managed to crow-bar some blocks from its wall. It is still draughting strongly, and can be seen descending steadily for a couple of metres in a northerly direction.
There appears to be still plenty to go at before manual digging techniques become insufficient.
4th July 2007
JWG, PJ and DC: Despite the somewhat inclement weather, this was a successful day largely made possible by DC's superior boulder-handling skills and his drill. The day started with the removal of a dead rabbit from the bottom which was interred in the spoil heap with appropriate solemnity. After that, the blocks to the west of the draughting rift were removed, turning the rift into a negotiable passage. This passage is currently a metre or two long, and heads downwards towards the north. At the end it appears to turn to the east into a rift. It is loosely filled with smallish boulders, and with fairly loose walls.
The current situation is that a section of bedrock needs to be removed from the entrance of the passage to allow easier access to the end, and a number of recovered boulders need breaking up and pulling out. These are quite substantial, and probably require capping. The total depth was measured, and proved to be about 7 m.
18th August 2007
JWG and the CPC Digging Team: The CPC Digging Team in general, and Pete Jones in particular, kindly provided invaluable technical assistance in dismantling that part of the floor which was preventing easy access to the end.
Pete Jones Emerging from Stile Pot
29th August 2007
JWG, JS, PJ and Rosie Johnstone: Rosie was a most welcome addition to the team, although her contribution was largely limited to taking the official photographs, before escaping up Ingleborough.
The first hour was spent removing the dismantled floor. JS and PJ then spent some time making access into the passage easier, before JWG started to heave rocks out of the rift at the end.
JS and PJ - "Do you think he's still down there?" - Photograph: Rosie Johnstone
The current position is that the short length of passage leading off from the bottom of the shaft finishes in a cross rift, which seems to head both down and to the right. It is loosely filled with boulders of various sizes, and is draughting strongly. It is a little narrow at the moment, but the far wall is loose, and can be widened. Working in the rift is confined, and would be easier if the right hand corner between the passage and the rift was removed.
All in all a successful day which saw the removal of a lot of material, including one very smelly rabbit
5th December 2007
JWG, PJ and DC: This was the first visit for over three months. It's not the best of time of year to hang about on the surface for three or four hours, and there was much competition to be down the 'ole away from the wind and the rain.
DC had brought the materials for capping, and he made a start by taking off the top of the prow above the shaft, to make hauling easier. He then moved on to play merry hell with the pyramid of large boulders at the bottom of the shaft. These were cut down to bite-sized chunks and hauled up to the surface.
PJ joined DC, and after receiving a lesson in capping, removed the right-hand corner at the end, making access into the end rift easier. After some more boulder removal, JWG replaced DC and after receiving his capping lesson from PJ, he set about demolishing more large boulders in the rift. By the time we finished, the rift at the end of the passage is about a metre deep, and descending straight ahead, and had a very healthy gale blowing out. A large boulder is currently blocking progress.
21st December 2007
JWG, PJ and DC: We had an interesting walk between the Cave and Trow Gill dodging pheasants blasted from the sky by so-called "sportsmen". There was a hard frost, but the warm draught that has been howling out of Stile Pot since June has created a warm and damp microclimate around the entrance, allowing one herb robert to be in full flower, and another to be in bud.
|Herb Robert in Flower||The Gnome of Stile Pot|
|Photographs: Rosie Johnstone|
Good progress was made down the hole, largely as the result of some carefully-positioned capping by Dave, and some heroic hauling by Phil. We finished with a steeply descending loosely filled cross-rift descending straight ahead, which still requires a couple of blocks to be removed to permit full entry. We also have a huge pile of debris at the bottom of the shaft, as DC was able to extract rocks far quicker than they could be hauled up.
|Stile Pot project log for 2008|