29 November 2022

Trees removed at Barbon Pot and BPOTW

Tree removal from Bull Pot of the Witches (BPOTW) and Barbon Pot

As previously reported, winter storms of late 2021 and early 2022 brought down the coppice of fir trees around Barbon Pot in Barbondale. This had completely blocked the open pot making a descent virtually impossible and unsafe. 

Separately and also as previously reported, ash dieback has killed the large ash tree used as belay for the open daylight entrance pitch to Bull Pot of the Witches at the south end (known as the Direct Route). 

It was decided to make both entrances safe. A team from Red Rose CPC acting on behalf of CNCC and Natural England, with member Martin Holroyd acting as tree surgeon, visited both sites on Friday 25th November 2022. The team consisted of Martin, Steve Gray, Hugh St Lawrence, Andy Hall, Colin Jones and Rob Stevens.

Barbon Pot was visited in the morning where the team found that at least six trees had fallen across each other over the open shaft!

The root balls sticking up in the air were reduced in size and some time was spent with chainsaws and other kit pruning back the brash from the trees so the smaller lighter ones could be hauled away from the shaft. Eventually the site was made safe so that it is now possible to descend the pothole again (if you can find anything to rig from).

A return to Barbon Pot will be needed to winch out the remaining tree trunks that are bridged across the shaft. The fence on the south side was also given a temporary repair but needs further attention to make fully stock proof. The team were briefly interrupted by a party of beaters, dogs and the gamekeeper asking us what we were doing but Martin tactfully explained that we had permission from the estate to do the work.

In the afternoon four of the team went to Bull Pot of the Witches and with care removed the dead ash tree in sections. This has been used for years as a rebelay point for the SRT descent of the entrance ‘Direct Route’. Most of the wood was removed from the pot but one large rotten piece did fall down the shaft (to be assessed later). Using the remaining tree stump for belaying ropes is not appropriate.

Rigging notes:

Barbon Pot: You will need to be creative in finding appropriate natural belays now that the majority of the trees have been removed. We recommend taking additional tackle to allow a safe belay strategy to be identified.

BPOTW: We will assess whether replacement anchors to preserve the ‘Direct Route’ can be installed. There is no guarantee that this will be possible as the nearby rock is extremely fractured. For the immediate future, use the Chimney Route as a suitable alternative. We have removed Direct Route from the topo.

Caution needed elsewhere:

We would like to take the opportunity to remind you that a number of trees across our region have suffered in recent storms and from ash dieback.

Other caves around our region where trees are depicted on rigging topos are:

Be extremely careful and inspect the health and integrity of any tree before use and always reduce risk by ensuring multiple belays before you move to an exposed position above the entrance.

Thanks to Andy Hall and Martin Holroyd for the photos (see individual captions) and to Andy Hall for the original report on which the above is based.

Copyright 2024 Council of Northern Caving Clubs.