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Inside Out: Surprising Stories, Familiar Places

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  Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday June 9, 2003

PEAK DISTRICT CAVE DISCOVERY

Johnny Nelson in the Peak District
Johnny plucks up the strength to tackle the cave

World Champion boxer Johnny Nelson discovers cave networks deep below Derbyshire’s Peak District that have never been seen before by man.

Johnny Nelson was taken down the latest discovery in the Peak District – Sidetrack Cave.

This lies two hundred feet below the hills above Castleton. It’s half a kilometre long – and is yet another link in the interconnecting limestone Swiss cheese that is the Peak District.

Squeeze

Johnny Nelson in a cave in the Peak District
Johnny confronts his fears and crawls along the cave

For many, the physical challenge of potholing remains at the heart of the endeavour.

Climbing, walking and sometimes diving can make potholing a hard day of physical exertion.

Although familiar with physical exercise, Sidetrack Cave was a big shock for Johnny who’s the World Cruiserweight boxing champion. At six feet three inches tall, he is also a self confessed claustrophobic.

Johnny says, "Sidetrack Cave may only have been a relatively short one – but it took me seven hours to get in and out!"

"It was an extremely tight squeeze – and for the first few hundred metres I was absolutely flat on my belly."

BASIC EQUIPMENT

Includes:
- Helmet
- Headlamp
- Safety harnesses
- Rope
- Ladders
- Climbing gear
- Body fleece for warmth
- Tough outer layer
- Wetsocks
- Protective boots

"There were bits where I couldn’t move my head or my feet. For the cavers this is pretty easy stuff. It was one the hardest things I’ve ever done."

Despite his discomfort crawling thought the narrow, muddy cave, Johnny says that getting into the heart of Sidetrack Cave was well worth it.

He says, "It was really pretty. I feel privileged to have been one of a select few to have seen it – even if I did end up feeling like human toothpaste during my journey."

Thrill

Dave Nixon
Dave Nixon is a leading cave explorer

It was a brave select band of cavers who gave Johnny the low-down on the dark and murky world of cave exploration.

One of these was Dave Nixon, who’s one of Derbyshire’s leading cave explorers.

He says, "I get the same sense of adventure from cave exploration that Shackleton probably did when he went to the South Pole."

"The difference is I can do all this on my doorstep – I don’t have to travel thousands of miles to get the thrill of seeing things that no-one else has seen before."

"With cave exploration you never know whether the cave you’ve found is going to be ten metres long or ten miles."

FACT

The difference between potholes and caves:

Caves...
Consist mostly of horizontal passages.

Potholes...
Consist mostly of vertical passages. These are often more dangerous and require more specialist equipment

It is believed that just ten per cent of the Peak District’s caves have been found, so Dave has many more exciting explorations in the pipeline.

Preparation

Despite Johnny’s positive experience, potholing can be fraught with perils.

These include flooding caves, falling rocks and the risk of becoming trapped in an enclosed space.

Experienced cavers are scrupulous with their safety planning and novices should seek the advice of an expert before pursing this adventurous activity.

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
BBC News: Cavers' rescue delayed

On the rest of the web
Peak District National Park
Peak District Caving
Caving and Potholing

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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