Peoples: Elise Freshwater-Blizzard, Jeff Wade, Ben Auton

 When I was growing up, there was a movie to which I only watched once. Since then, every time it was shown in my home, I frowned away from it.

Watership Down.  

Watership Down is full of death- I want to ignore that for the purposes of this write up. To get to the point, what Watership Down really did for me, is make me realise I am, indeed, Claustrophobic. I’m being serious. Before watching this film, my 6 year old self had no clue what it was like to be in tiny places unless it was under a duvet or being hugged too tightly by my sister.

A scene like this really woke me up and, for the first time in my life I thought: “Wow. I don’t like this feeling of being in small spaces or watching things being put into small spaces” 

And as I crawled through small tubes, at one point, wedged firmly in the rock, I realised,

‘Huh’

‘I’m in Watership Down’

‘fuck.’

But instead of panicking, my good friends, I did something far better.

I enjoyed it. Even if my childhood trauma from a horrid film decided to wrench itself in my mind, I wholeheartedly enjoyed it.

And so I welcomed myself into Perryfoot Cave.

Perryfoot cave is a cave that hugs you.

The walls are not cushioned, but there are many moments where I felt some sort of uneasy protection. As if a stranger hugged you on the street- and you felt their comfort, but had to question exactly why someone you don’t know is hugging you on the street.

After entering the cave and walking past the tyre near the entrance, we came to a series of very small sections and a 2 junctions. Straight on there was a small entrance with water, to which Jeff bravely ventured through to see if it ‘went’. It did not. Most of these small water-y holes are so small that the helmet must be taken off, something which I had never done before. [As a side note, it was really awesome watching him go so confidently in. ]

After finding that it did not go, we ventured up to the other way on, where we found a flexible pipe in a pond. Looking at the water, Jeff had lodged himself next to me in this small hole and taught me how to make the pipe suck the water from the pond out and down into another section of the cave, as to go under.

After talking for a good 5 minutes, staring into the steadily shallowing abyss of silt water whilst talking to the lads, I decided it might be high time to stop being so cold waiting around, and to perhaps go through the small air pocket we had just created. Jeff seconded this, but then after feeling how cold the water was, I wanted to retract my statement and leave the cave. (Jeff already being on the other side, that is )

I’m not going to lie to any of you. It took me a while to get through that water-y little duck. Whilst I like to write myself off as a ‘pussy’, what I really mean to say is, I need some time to somehow sike my mind up before getting into a bath of freezing cold water underground.

The strangest thing is that, I always ended up enjoying the cold baths more than anything else in caving. There’s something so magical about the water entering your ear holes, clouding your eyes, seeping into your clothing, flowing down your back and making your tummy cold.

*caugh*

Not to mention other places … :-/

*caugh*

The adrenaline spikes. And after putting my helmet back on, I realised how bloody cold it was. All the heat from my head had totally been zapped. However, I found my whole body in fits of laughter because it’s just way too much fun for one moment: my brain doesn’t really comprehend why I’m doing such ‘torturous’ things to itself.- so it laughs itself into confusion!

Ben, Jeff and I kept going until we came to a very very small passage of squeezing. At this point, things got very small and I became slightly uncomfortable. However, Jeff was a really great leader and really pulled through for me. He talked me through a lot of it, we bickered a lot about how I felt I needed to have my helmet off for some squeezes. He made me feel very safe and secure, to the point where I said I wasn’t too comfortable in the end, so he went ahead for a few minutes whilst I waited in the dark. Going back through the iron maiden was very much fun! It was difficult and I had to try a few different attempts. With some persuasion and communication, I put my helmet back on and when head first down a (perhaps 2 meter?) ‘slide’, with Jeff spotting me as to not hurt myself.

As the three of us wiggled our way back, it was a nice time to reflect on how silly I was all those years ago, to take a film about rabbits and to gain a sense of claustrophobia. But it was nice to see me move on from that, through caving and feeling safe around these thick, sturdy walls. Through being stuck in places and feeling uncomfortable, I was able to find ‘myself’ a bit more. I gained friends (SUSS) from being in situations like these, with people who wanted me to grow and help me out.

 Before we left, all three of us clambered up onto the tire and into a different passage of the cave near the entrance. We found lots of bat droppings, a worm, and a small garden, which I will name ‘Garden’, as it has many sprouts. I felt that Ben was tempted to crawl all over the garden, and I didn’t want this to happen because I wanted the garden to be protected and conserved. It is a special garden and must be protected. #caveconservation2019  We had a nice conversation about how cute the worm was and called it a day.

All in all, a great cave. We didn’t manage to get to DR Jackson’s unfortunately, from call out times, us being cold etc.