Compass Pot and Black Sheep Sink – Surveying and Sporting Trips by Ian Cummins

Ian and Adele, various trips, September 2018.

Compass Pot had been off my radar for quite a while – maybe ten years or so since me and Simon had a look at its tiny downstream sump, deeming it to be too tight to dive and trying in vain to pump it out, so it was left for another decade!

Fast-forward to this year and Phil Ryder reminded me that it hadn’t been surveyed.  With my vague memory of it being a simple, yet tight system, how hard could it be!  The caving style is to Adele’s taste, being sportingly tight (yep Chris and John explored it), so we borrowed Phil’s instruments and set off.

Remarkably finding the lidded shaft first go, we lined down the fixed ladders of the dripping scaffolded section after first taking a depth measurement – 5.3 m – although Phil was sure it was deeper.  Finding that the drought had long since gone, we were faced with the task of collecting data in what turned out to be body-sized wet crawls with many right-angled bends – not easy, so a new plan was made – draw a sketch plan, add some features of interest and use this to aid the data collection.  After some painful thrutching we managed to make it to the sump and make a hasty, soggy exit.


The grotto in the middle of the three small chambers separated by tight 2m drops – best visited by tiny, careful cavers!


More amazing formations in this chamber.



Crawl from the third chamber in CP leading to the sump in 25m.

Back at the pub, a perusal of the notes left us a bit confused, so a further couple of visits led us to some kind of plan we could trust to add data and images to colour the survey – still in progress, but in wet conditions this is certainly a sporty little trip that certainly leaves its mark on one’s extremities.  Anyway, sometime a survey will appear with such features as ‘Bent Capping Rod Corner’, ‘Cable Pile Climb’ and ‘Cricket Box Crawl’, unless Chris and John can remember anything else about the place.

On the way back from Compass one evening, we decided to have a quick peek into Black Sheep Sink, only a few hundred feet away, with its amazing trapdoor entrance constructed by the club some 20 years ago.  I have never been to the end, making a solo, gearless foray whilst we were digging Hole in the Floor, finding it to be very pleasant in dry conditions with only a neofleece – it’s a different place in the wet and we had a brief attempt one winter finding it to be very hostile indeed.

Again assuring Adele that Black Sheep would be to her taste and that we could free-climb all the pitches barring the last, my companion was coaxed past the spidery entrance and into the wet, knobbly girvanella crawls, such a feature of the local caves.  The first pitch is an enjoyable little climb, with a good shower to accompany progress and again the human foothold was offered and used!  Much very wet crawling ensues, with the second pitch proving to be a fun climb on big holds that Adele managed on the way out without much bother.

The cave then gets big – some breakdown sections and high, decorated passges lead to the third pitch – a tricky bridging number that had me doing almost a split with wetsuit straining like a taught elastic band as I dropped the final couple of feet back to the stream.41840617_385561998938315_1319271046884360192_n

Big passage below Pitch 2, BSS.


Again below Pitch 2, BSS.


I followed the stream to the final pitch, where as I recalled, the blocky, overhanging lip looks a bit daunting to free-climb.


Shale band below Pich 2, BSS.

With a quick pull from Adele, I was up Pitch 3 and we made our way out of the rather wet crawls – enjoying the wet climbs, but not pushing the tackle bag.

The lid was replaced and its grassy covering repaired – what a great cave and I have still to see the delights of the final choke!

All pics by Adele.