CHECCing Out GB Cave


On the evening of 25th of November we crammed ourselves into a car full of SRT and caving kit, tents, Jacob’s port and we just about managed to fit 5 people in too! Now we just had to drive for 3 hours from Nottingham to Somerset, a journey which included a jittery Jacob hyped on his 7th cup of coffee ever and an abrupt car sick stop… of which I was the cause. Finally, at 22:30 we arrived at Holistic Eco-farm and we had begun our weekend at CHECC (Council of Higher Education Caving Clubs). This began with us having to pitch our tents in nothing but moon light. It was not as romantic as it sounds… (thank you, Natalie, for your tent pitching mastery).

Tent pitched and PJs on, it was time for an evening of “networking”. With 15 university caving clubs and over 100 people attending there was no possibility of being lonely this weekend. Friday night was our insight as freshers into the wider caving community and the wonderful people within it.

I spent Saturday following Stuart Gardiner and Lucy Greenwood through GB cave and soaking up all the knowledge they could share about cave photography, of which they had plenty given Stuart’s previous work with National Geographic.

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The most challenging part of the cave was accomplished within the first 20 minutes. We burrowed through one tight squeeze of about 4 meters, a descending climb and an uphill trek led us to our first photo shoot spot where I could snap the photo above using Stuart’s camera (already programed of course). We were in a group of seven taking turns to be both photographer and model, as well as learning along the way how we needed to set up shots. Throughout the hour we spent in this chamber we also got the eye-opening experience of being of being flash gun monkeys. Whilst that sentence may sound sarcastic, I can say that the job gave me the chance to see just how much time and commitment goes into getting one shot that can accurately reflect, and even enhance the natural beauty within a cave.

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Once we had finished in the stunning stalactites ceiling chamber, we squeezed through to the Main Chamber where we could hear the river passage, the Gorge. We stopped here, not to take photos but instead to just be in awe of the size of the chamber that was thought to be the largest in the Mendips until the discovery of "The Frozen Deep" in Reservoir Hole in 2012 (next time ;) ). We moved on and began exiting the cave but not without a quick last minute photo shoot so that we all had evidence to show off on Facebook as cover photos and profile pictures (sorry, not sorry), and of course, a group photo!

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We got comfortable on a small chamber that had to be entered by a low tunnel, meaning photos like the one below could be taken.

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Finally, it was time to leave the cave and return to the surface. It was such a fantastic experience Stuart and Lucy shared with us and has left me wanting to try more cave photography and use our NUCC members as models and flash gun monkeys.

Since being at university I’ve managed to join clubs that have the greatest risk of injury, however, caving seems to have given me the least injuries so far and allowed me to meet the most extraordinary people and create memories. I’ve found that as this term has gone on and the trips have increased in intensity and potential danger (which is not something that stops us) I’ve developed this weird and wonderful attachment to the people within the club that like me, have a hobby that could potentially kill them. I can safely say that this hobby of mine is something I’ll take with me outside of university along with the people I’ve met doing it. After all, caving is fun! (see photo below for evidence).

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By Lydia Leather, 27/11/16