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Photograph of the volcano formation in Witches II Cave

Tales of Valiant Effort and Pathetic Failure

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This article was originally published in CPC Record no. 98, April 2010, pages 27.

The following two digs took 18 months of our lives and on that basis alone should be recorded for posterity. More usefully, however, a record may prevent others from wasting a large proportion of their lives furtling in the same holes.

Long Rift Pot

Long Rift Pot is located 30 m south-east of the Allotment wall and 260 m south-east of the Allotment Gate, grid reference SD 76305 72609, at an altitude of 400 m. It is not recorded in Pennine Underground, but as an open hole it must have been known since the earliest days. It was described in the first edition of Northern Caves as being 20 feet deep, and a "simple walk down". It is of particular interest in being so far out on the bench.

It was originally dug in the summer of 1976 by Frank Addis and the North Manchester Caving Club, 1 who put in some 2 metre-deep shoring, now rotten, halfway along the rift. They soon deserted it for Marble Pot - a more worthwhile and productive project. When we started in July 2008 there were also the remains of a chicken-wire fence draped round the edges. The digging team consisted of Dave Checkley, John Gardner, Phil Johnstone and John Sellers.

The north end of the rift started off as a clean-washed, fluted shaft a couple of metres across, floored with mud and boulders which had slumped in from the rift to the south. We dug down about three metres, using heavyweight shoring to prevent further slumping from the material in the rift and to hold back the spoil, to expose a flat, clean-washed floor and a miserable bedding plane heading off towards the north-west which took the water. We had a go at enlarging this with Ged Benn’s help, but it soon became obvious that it was going to take a long time to go nowhere, and without a draught to motivate us, it was abandoned after a total of 13 session in May 2009.

Mike Wooding at Bloat Pot, January 2005

Mike Wooding at Bloat Pot, January 2005

Bloat Pot

Situated on the bench overlooking Clapham Bottoms on the west side of the valley at SD 75648 72294, altitude 393 m, Bloat Pot was an uninspiring 14 m deep shaft with a ledge at -5 m which had been opened up by MUSS in 1965.1 They had probably abandoned it due to the difficulty in hauling material out of the corkscrew shaft. It is of particular interest as it perched above the Whitsun Series.

Mike Wooding and John Gardner started work in 2004, preparing the site for a concerted effort by straightening out the shaft and moving the spoil heap back, before being put off by a dumped rotting carcase, and transferred their attentions to Stile Pot

The same digging team that was involved in Long Rift resurrected the project in January 2009, and were faced with the task of removing a mass of unpleasant organic remains from the bottom, much of which was in plastic bags. Once this was done, a lid was put over the shaft to discourage further dumping. Some twenty trips or so were spent in digging out mud and boulders to reach the bottom of the shaft to expose a high rift going off in an easterly direction. This was enlarged, again with Ged’s help, but within 3 metres it had closed down to a 5 cm wide, 1 m high non-draughting passage. The dig was abandoned after 12 months, having descended to about 18 metres and reaching an unambiguous end.


  1. Addis F, personal communication - 7th March 2009
  2. Moys C. 1965. "Bloat Pot" Journal MUSS 1, pp 12-13

John Gardner
March 2010