10 May 2021

Starting Handle Hole

Cleanup for Starting Handle

Starting Handle Hole, only a few metres from the Leck Fell road, was originally dug in the 1970s but explored to 40m depth in the 1990s, where the cave meets a waterlogged termination.

During late summer 2020, Tony Credland was looking for a quick and simple cave to do before a long drive back up to Scotland. With Leck Fell being on-route, Starting Handle Hole provided a perfect venture, but one which was to become more of a project than he expected.

Tony reports on the trip:

"The mess in the cave was immediately apparent as soon as feet touched down at the base of the entrance pitch. Not much there, but enough to offend Meg Stark who started a quick tidy up whilst I rigged the next pitch. As we descended, it soon became apparent that this was going to be our next conservation project, having recently finished both Rough Pot and Calcite Way in Sell Gill. I have never seen such a mess in any cave outside Scotland; nor so many frogs. We nick-named the cave Frog Pot after rescuing a dozen or so."

From September to December, Tony and Meg undertook five trips to Starting Handle Hole, and Tony an additional four solo visits to clear up as much of the digging rubbish as possible; See the Craven Record #141 and #142 for more details.

All the rubbish was brought to the bottom of the entrance pitch, but additional manpower was needed for the final haul to the surface particularly given the less than encouraging state of the scaffolding here. This is where Tony contacted the CNCC for assistance.

A conservation team was assembled and in April this year, the team got to work. With lots of enthusiasm, and a six-person limit being observed due to Covid restrictions, Tony and Meg were even able to have the day off and let our volunteers take the strain this time.

Ged Benn reports on the session:

"On April 16th I met Andrew Hinde on Leck Fell to inspect the shaft since Tony had reported some concerns about the state of the scaffolding at the top of the shaft. I abseiled down inspecting the scaffolding as I went and decided that providing none of the loads caught on the way up, it would be OK. I went to the bottom to assess the amount of stuff and felt that it could be accommodated in Natural England’s Hilux.

A party of six was organised for April 28th and a tripod was erected over the hole to give the best straight haul. The CNCC’s capstan winch was belayed to the towing hitch of the Hilux and the hauling rope was passed through a snatch block at the bottom of one of the tripod legs and over the pulley at the apex. A jammer was rigged to prevent fall-back when the tension on the winch was released. With somebody at the bottom tying on and another at the rebelay halfway down the shaft guiding the loads past the scaffolding we were able to haul all the rubbish out without incident. It was taken back to Colt Park for sorting and disposal.

All in all, a very slick operation. My thanks to those joining me for this session: Tim Sullivan, Fred Rattray, Pete Bann, Russ Brooks and Andrew Hinde."

The CNCC would like to thank the entire team for this excellent example of caver-driven initiative supported by CNCC equipment and volunteers.