Gaping Gill

Tuesday 19 August 2014. I had an “interesting” start to this trip. After hitching up my caravan yesterday I did the usual check of lights etc. The offside indicator on the caravan has been a little intermittent for the last few trips but I’ve always managed to get it to work. Well, this time, it wasn’t playing ball and wouldn’t come on or go off. What do you do at 07:45 when the indicator won’t work and you have a 200 mile drive ahead of you?

Luckily, Pioneer Caravans at Thorney wasn’t too far off my route and it was quiet country roads for most of the way with only 2 right-hand turns. I turned up at 08:30 before the offices and workshop had fully opened but there were a few mechanics on hand. One of them kindly agreed to see what he could do. Voltmeter in hand he proceeded to check the electrical system from my car backwards through the caravan. As sod’s law would have it, it wasn’t until he got to the back of the van and the last connection that he discovered exactly where the fault lay. A squirt of WD40 and it was fixed. I asked him how much it would cost for the 40 minutes or so that it took to check out the van? He only wanted the cost of a drink but I gave him a tenner as it was worth far more to me. I was off and running by 09:15 and arrived at the Kendal Camping & Caravanning Club site at a little before 14:00. It isn’t quite up to Caravan Club standards with just 2 male WCs and showers. It has a mix of tents, caravans & motorhomes but only has 50 pitches so is fairly quite and suits me well.

It was a fairly chilly night and only 8c this morning but the bonus was blue sky, with no rain forecast. It was an ideal opportunity to fulfil a long held ambition to go down Gaping Gill. I’d tried a couple of years ago with Jacqui but we got there too late and faced with a 2 hour wait, we decided not to bother. A bright and early start meant that I got to Clapham by 08:10 and after a 3 mile walk I arrived at Gaping Gill at about 09:30. I filled in my registration form, paid my £15 and waited for my turn. I was No33 for the day and was on my way down just after 10:00. I took just 40 seconds to be lowered the 340ft down to the bottom of the cave. This is done by a cable winch and a bowsun’s chair. I didn’t see much on the descent as my eyes couldn’t adjust quickly enough to the diminishing light. Most of the stream than normally empties into the cave is diverted for the winch week but there was still enough water to give me a soaking on the way down and, of course, on the way back up. There didn’t appear to be any limit on the length of time that you could stay at the bottom, but after about 20 minutes, I was ready to make my escape. I’d taken lots of photographs but the cave was so big and my camera flash was so weak that none of them were worth saving. I’ve therefore copied one from the web and this video gives a great idea of what it was like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8RpEOmE9Qo

Rather than going back the way that I came, through Trow Gill, I decided to have a wander across to Thwaite Scar where there are a series of Cairns and to come back via Norber Erratics. This was something of a meandering 5.6 mile route. Overall, I walked just over 8.5 miles with a total ascent of around 1,500ft. A thoroughly enjoyable day.

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