Heading down to our now local caving area, Mendip (a pleasant 2 hour drive with views of stone henge), Nat and I met up with Mike and Alice for a weekend of caving.
On the Saturday, not fancying swildons for the 100th time, Nat, Alice and I drove west to do Manor Farm swallet and Waterwheel swallet.
After initially walking past the cave entrance to Manor farm swallet, dismissing it as a cattle feeder, we descended the entrance shaft, removed our srt kits and continued through the cave.
The first half of the trip is very enjoyable, it consists of a series of climbs, some pretty formations (a particularly nice curtain) and a streamway which can have “an impressive amount of water”. Nat, decked out in his wetsuit and wanting a wee, was disappointed to discover this stream as a mere trickle. We bypassed a pitch/free climb by climbing down through a series of calcite floors, and shortly after arrived at the ‘shitty’ part of the trip.
We reached the point where Mendip underground describes a “polluted stream entering from an inlet” at which point the mud in the cave became slimier and had straw pieces in it. I had my moment of realisation a while later that this wasn’t calcitey mud.. There was also a lot of leaches, worms and flies.
Surprisingly, we didn’t continue too far beyond this. Alice and I weren’t having a good time (“no, no, no”, “I can’t handle this”, “oh God”), and Nat was having too much fun, at one point trying to convince Alice that she had a leach on her head.
Returning to the nice bit of the cave, we tried a bit of cave photography, to varying degrees of success, then headed out.
Driving 2 minutes down the road to waterwheel swallet, we again struggled to place the entrance. Eventually we located the cave, which starts with an impressively engineered passage. The sides are reinforced with stone walls and stones on the ground had been arranged into steps. Past some pretty gour pools and through a wet crawl, we reached what is essentially the end of the cave: a pitch down in into a pool of clear water. Nat jumped in from a ledge close to the pool (don’t try higher, the description gives the depth as 2.5 m, but it’s actually more like 1.5 m). Overall, a very short trip (less than 1 hour), but worth doing if you’re already caving in the area.
TL;DR: went caving in Mendip, there was splashy fun, pretty formations, poo and leaches