In London for work, and coming off from nights. I knew if I headed up north I’d just spend the weekend sleeping and then head back down into to smog of the capital unrested and uncaved. Plus the sheer amount of wasted diesel was another detractor to the idea of heading home. So I reached out to Paul Fairman to see if there was a chance of some weekend trips to the Surrey mines.
Luckily he had a better idea, as the BEC was having its Christmas dinner and he could have me along as a guest. So with plan in hand I worked my last night on Tower Bridge installing the new lights, and headed to Paul’s in Bromley. I had about an hours shut eye parked outside his house before the time was right to go up and knock on the door. 20 minutes of polite conversation later I was passed out in the passenger seat of Pauls car and when I next opened my eyes I was looking at the bliss of the Priddy Farm Shop Café. I can highly recommend the breakfasts there is you can’t be bothered with whatever the students have cooked up.
We then went to the Belfry to pick up Chris Belton and head out to Longwood. The BEC members were all about as hungover as you expect and discussing hot tub logistic when I arrived, as well as decorating for the nights dinner. Notable efforts were made by a tree felling group cutting off the tops of one of the pine trees for a Christmas tree.
Ignoring the efforts of the others we headed out to Longwood for our trip and encountered a very full car park which had been mostly filled by a large group going down Rhino Rift. We got to Longwood with key in hand this time, unlike last time I went there. However the main difference this time that there was a stream running down the wood. Last time I had done Longwood the streambed was dry and there was no water going down the entrance. That was not the case this time and this filled me with dread as there was a torrent going down the entrance that could mean the end of our trip. Luckily Paul had worn a wetsuit in order to make himself as thin as possible for the squeeze so we sent him down first to check it out.
He got as far as the original gate and stuck himself in but quickly the water started back up around him. He gave it a good effort but when the water backed up to his chin he made the wise decision to retreat. Trip abandoned and I would not recommend Longwood if there is more than a trickle going into the entrance.
With the original trip abandoned we went to the good old back up of Swildon’s for the quick trip to Sump 2 just to stretch our legs and see the new dig that has been done just off the streamway below The Twenty.
Swildon’s was everything it normally is, as it was refreshing to do it with a group who know it and can move quickly. The dig is a fine effort and is still showing signs of going. It’s still short so would be worth getting into if you’re in the area.
Caving done it was time for dinner. Got back to the Belfry and found a Christmas tree rammed into the front door. It turned out that they had cut the Christmas tree a little too large and could not get it through the front door, so there it stayed. I cut off a couple of the larger branches and made up a bonus tree inside.
Load of talking, drinking, and nibbles later it was dinner time and due to there not being as many people there as was intended there was a gargantuan amount of food for everyone… and an inflated charge of £5!! It was a good meal though and it got everyone into a near food coma. For me however it was a food coma as my nights caught up with me and rather than fall asleep in the front room and painting a massive target for abuse on my head, I retreated to the bunk room for a quick nap. This was the correct choice as Bratchley had eyed me up nodding off in the corner as was primed and ready for some abuse.
Honourable mention goes to the bonfire that was made in quick order, and got rid of a Belfry sofa as well as freeing up the Christmas tree from the front door.
Got woken up from the nap by the Hot Tub Brigade coming through the bunk room for a dip. I wasn’t missing this part of the Belfry as I’ve heard good stories of how filthy this hot tub is and it did not disappoint. We got about 13 in there and lasted until the water heat dropped from 39 to 33. It was … not uncomfortable, the BEC members were about as perverted as expected, and the water was a healthy opaque brown by the end. I have been told the record is 18.
By the time the last of us got out everyone else had already handed in the towel and went to bed. A quick huddle round the fire with some bags of Hard Drive it was time for bed as well.
The Snoring was atrocious. That’s all I’ll say.
Woke up in the morning and Paul did try to invite me to breakfast at the café again, but I gave some grunts and he left without me when I did not get up by 9. Leftover Christmas dinner was in plentiful supply though and was consumed.
After breakfast I found Paul was doing Swildon’s again for a ladder assessment and not many seemed interested in going underground. So I teamed up with Nick Gymer and headed of to do Sludge Pit.
Sludge is a perfectly inoffensive Mendip cave and a great for Sunday stroll. You get all of the 45 degree dark limestone but it’s all perfectly manageable and very convenient. Me and Nick went down with no description or survey and had a good time getting lost doing a round trip of the main fault passage and Aphrodite Rift. We did about half of the system within just over an hour and I had my fill for the day. Loads of dig all around that place and there seems to be a concentrated effort focusing on the main sump currently.
Returned to the Belfry and had a tea and shit talk and got back to London after having a peak at Stonehenge. Good weekend. That Belfry lot are all right. Watch your spoons.