Attendees: Chris (Leader), Bill (Leader), Rowena, Will, Felix, David, Anna, Be, Nyomi, and Michael (Sat)
Sat 7th
To my (and Will’s) disbelief, I actually managed to call ahead that we would be late. But despite sleeping in when we turned up people where still getting ready and it didn’t feel like we were late at all!
We soon piled into two caves and where on our way to Taplow Maze. It was very green for this time of the year and the sunny skies made it quite pleasant. We crossed the river, and despite the sun the cold bit at the feet of those without gumboots.
The Cliefden karst area seemed quite different to the areas I had been to so far, the hills seemed more rounded and negotiable, the entrances also seemed unusually placed and I wasn’t expecting the small dip in the grass to be the entrance to our first cave of the weekend…

There was a small climbdown after which Chris rigged a ladder. Rowena went back to get a bag that had been forgotten at the cars so it was a while before everyone was down. The eager ones got to explore The Dungeons and understand why the cave was called a maze: there was a criss-cross of passages, many connecting with each other whilst some ended in dead ends. Without Chris to lead us we would most certainly have got lost several times.
We passed the Ticket Office and headed onwards to The Land of Mordor having fun with parallel passages and tight squeezes that allowed you to pop out in front of people. We rested for some snacks in The Throne Room continuing to the wetter part of the cave which is the most southern (known) point in the cave and I think the lowest. Here some of us went through Chock-a-Block Squeeze whilst others took the tighter Corkscrew. Our efforts where rewarded with some nice decoration in Wits End and the fabulous rim pool: Mark’s Reward.

After some photofaffing with tripod I had finally attached to my camera we headed back to the entrance. Here we split some deciding to enjoy the lures of the hut whilst the rest (Chris, Rowena, Myself, David and Anna) continued past the Danger Sign into the northern part of the cave.
We had a look at the Oliphaunt Chamber (but I failed to see the oliphaunt) and then had fun returning via The Horney Toad Round-a-bout. My climbing appetite wasn’t sated so I free climbed out and was happy that it was not dark; though by the time we where back at the hut it certainly was.
We sat around the fire eating snacks, listening music (that some found questionable) and played some cards. It was an enjoyable night. In the morning I couldn’t believe the number of empty beer bottles!

Sun 8th 
It was a relaxing morning and by the time Micahel arrived we where nearly ready to go. I hopped in with Michael and his car complained all the way to Main Cave, first about sticks, than about dirt in the callipers and sporadic yelp from a rock.

We crossed a field chasing bleating sheep and unlocked the lower entrance/exit before continuing to the one on top of the hill. We cautiously descended trying not to knock rocks down on those below, and emerged into the immense Main Chamber. This was quite an impressive room with a lot of formation and a huge curved limestone bearer that seemed to be holding up the roof of the cave. We split into two groups and after poking around and down some of the extremities of this chamber we descended further. I did a little side trip into what I think was called the Laurel Room which included a couple of ways down into muddy paraphreatic sections I decided to avoid on this occasion.

We met the others at the Boot of Italy and did some side trips to a calcified boot and a pool covered in calcite raft (which sadly had been ruined a bit by people destroying the calcite on the mud around it).
The group I was in then continued to the Jewel Room and used a tape the others had left at the Laundry Shute to have a look at some impressive helictites.
It took us a while to find the way on, but we where soon at the Clown Room which had an impressive shawl tucked around a corner as well as a great example of boxing (or casing).

We exited the cave locking the gate behind us and once back at the cars found that some of the others had gone to have a look at Trapdoor and Yarrowigah caves. Without waiting, I rushed of with the vague description of the entrance: ‘its in that cliff somewhere’.
After improving my tracking capabilities by following flattened grass and the indentations left by gumboots I finally located the entrance to Trapdoor. I slipped in but soon ran into Chris, Rowena and David exiting the cave.
I popped down to the lake to have a look but didn’t really have much time to go further.

We then headed around the hill past the upper entrance to Yarrowigah and soon came across the lower entrance. I thought it would have been quite difficult to find this entrance and Chris told me that it was actually discovered by looking at the survey. We moved quickly through this cave but I think it was probably my favourite cave of the weekend.

Despite there being another exciting day of caving ahead I decided to get a lift home with David to spend some more time with my family.
Overall a very enjoyable weekend. I’ll definitely have to go on another trip so that I have more than just a glimpse of that Cliefden has to offer.

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