Sunday June 26th 2011
Miss Grace's Lane (to Canyon Halls and Dog Tooth Chamber)
After a good nights sleep after our previous day and nights adventures in Slaughter Stream Cave and the pub at Symonds Yat, we woke to a red hot morning sunshine. Rich, Nikki and Sarah went to canoe on The Wye, while Gary and I went to explore Miss Grace's Lane Cave.
The description on the Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club website is excellent. We collected the key around 11:30am and were changed and ready for action by midday. The cave benefits from being less than 100m from the car and very easy to find indeed.
The entrance is a concrete pipe shaft descending a whopping 30m, with some excellent in situ ladders well bolted to the walls. We debated if we should belay, however, the ladders were of such sound build and were very easy to climb, that we decided against the faff of doing this. From the bottom of the shaft the engineering project continues with more scaffold supported passage to another excavated pitch with more in-situ metal ladders. Another ladder then reaches the conveniently signposted junction with the two sections of the cave.
We opted to go into the main section of the cave along a short crawling phreatic passage to emerge up into the large Breakthrough Chamber. From here, routefinding is easy to Dome Chamber. By now it is becoming quite apparant that the cave looks very similar everywhere, and that the rock is very fractured, offering many false crawls and routefinding difficulties once you get away from the main chambers.
We found our way through to The Canyon, a fine section of passage where we explored the phreatic side-passage and took some photos. However, we failed to find our way on from the end of The Canyon. Words can not descrive how confusing finding you way around this semi-phreatic, highly fractured and minelike area is, with very few distinguishing features to aid with navigation and crawls going off everywhere.
The description from the RFDCC website is excellent and very thorough, however, we simply weren't trying hard enough, as by this point we were about to die of heat exhaustion. I was in an undersuit and cordura oversuit and was sweating, but Gary was in PVC and was boiling. The cave is totally dry and warm, and for future reference, a boiler suit would be much more appropriate, at least as far as we got today.
Therefore, with sweat getting the better of us, we unfortunately lacked the drive to tackle the routefinding beyond The Canyon and instead we returned to Dome Chamber to completed the short Dog Tooth Chamber round trip. This is well worth doing due to the exceptional crystals in Dog Tooth Chamber (see some of our photos of these). Future visitors please be very careful indeed as one of the best clusters of crystals is in the exact point where it is intuitive to put your hand on a climb down a boulder slope on the right hand wall. We nearly did, and clearly others have before us, so some of the crystals are a bit dirty but nontheless very impressive.
With dehydration now kicking in we decided to head out, pleased to have had a recce of the cave in anticipation of a longer and more determined trip next time (with considerably less clothing).
Miss Grace's Lane is a superb trip, full of character and totally unique, with a combination of mine-like, windypit-like and phreatic-like features, and some excellent large chambers and unusual geology (lots of ironstone bands giving the entire cave a general red colour) and excellent crystals. Hats of to the diggers to the huge amount of work that has gone into this excellent discovery.