Apparently, I have to get you excited so allow me to commence with a little poetic line; “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very heaven [William Wordsworth, The Prelude”].
On Saturday June 2 George Mitchell and Brian Thomas [two Life Members] may have exchanged this sentence with doughty Botch and Louise as we all walked effortlessly along the gentle path up to Peak Cavern Entrance. We were alongside three Irish young cavers – UCDCPC or DCUCC? – I assume they were in a Dublin Caving Club.
Previously [9am], the TSG hotel complex had been a revelation to George and myself. The door windows and floors had obviously just been cleaned; the kitchen was floorless. Upstairs the rooms seemed to be pleasant and satisfactory – both airy and secluded, as indeed was the large back garden. Sadly, we did not have time to explore all TSG. The Ablutions Suite was stunning and took some of our breath away.
SUSS kindly lent us all the necessary clothing – my tight over suit was replaced by Louise lending me hers. I am – was – a stalwart firm believer in caving boots but was firmly converted at the end of this trip – to your wellies.
Water level was ?below average.
After the ravens had welcomed us, a thin cyclist in black checked us all in at The Vestibule – George and I were old enough to remember making ropes – and we sauntered beside the low illuminations [I am from Blackpool, so the comparison was not favourable]. The initial passage was neither awful nor demanding [but see later]. Large ?phreatic holes in the ceiling, a few prawns in the pools. We passed three draining plugs on our left [leading to a ?sump]. Past the high-up dreadful Moss entrance passage – his death happened in 1959, SUSS was birthed out of SUMC in about 1961 – we lifers came up in 1963, except Mike Luff, Tony and Dr John in 1960 and Dave Wear in 1962.
Boulders with sharp edges and a less-than-illuminating head light began to slowly wear me down. Did we descend The Devil’s Staircase? [was that the slide?] and The Halfway House? Certainly, we were excited by paddling through the Five Arches – I needed Louise’s outstretched but steady arm on the ?fourth Arch. [Were these The Muddy Ducks?].
Not sure if we passed Victoria Aven, as we rested at The Treasury and Brian decided that valour was the better part of discretion. George thankfully agreed with me and Botch manfully guided us back and out. Botch’s demeanour was exceptional. Previously SUSSex has used thermals as underclothes. We were not cold at any time, even after the paddling back. Or especially tired. I just needed my knees for future use – especially on cycle rides.
On the short walk down outside, Botch pointed out Ollie’s immaculate limousine by the way side. We skirted the chippie shop. Tourists thronged around and asked us for autographs, but George was expert at deflecting and mollifying said innocent peasants. Had a lovely shower in TSG, thanked David Profusely, made our excuses and exited back to Priestcliffe. A fine memory for us two, but a barely useful trip for even your present-day Freshers!
NB, Jack, Helen, Botch and Louise had enlivened and enriched our first reunion evening [Friday June 1] with tales of derring-do e.g. Louise regaling us with their next expedition