A GUIDE TO CAVING WITH SCOUTS
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
THE CAVE ENVIRONMENT
Inside a cave system is unlike anything else you may have experienced. You will see new things, use your senses in different ways, notice small details in heightened focus and test yourself physically and mentally. On your first trip you will take a leap of faith as you enter the cave and leave behind the familiar world above ground. Soon you will be absorbed in the activity. Normally we will see some amazing rock formations, underground streams, huge chambers, some narrow squeezes, bats, insects and of course a lot of rock! Your leaders will explain how the caves formed and point out all the interesting details as we go.
We normally start a caving trip at HQ. Here we will ensure you have the right clothing (see below) and fit you out with a helmet, overalls, a belt and of course a head lamp. Then it’s into the minibus or cars to drive onto the Mendips. Our usual caves include Goatchurch (great for beginners), Sidcot Swallet (some tight squeezes, quite physical) and Pierre’s Pot (good formations, interesting underground climbing). We’ll park near the bottom of Burrington Combe and walk about 10 minutes up a rocky path to get to the cave entrance. From there the route within the cave depends on the leader and how well the group gets on. We always stay flexible on the trip to ensure everyone has a great time and no-one is put in a position where they get too tired or stop having fun. Usually we spend 2-3 hours underground.
We will move between some huge underground chambers via narrow passages. Sometimes you can walk, sometimes you have to crawl and sometimes you have to wriggle and squeeze. But whatever happens, you will not get stuck!
It can be muddy and a bit damp, or dry and dusty depending on the time of year.
Once we have completed the route underground it’s back to the vehicles for the trip back to Keynsham. Pickup is from HQ.
The Scout Organisation has strict rules on running safe caving trips. At all times there will be 2 adult Scout leaders present. One of these leaders must have a Caving permit which is issued based on experience and a thorough practical cave leadership assessment. This permit is reviewed regularly.
For every trip, a detailed plan is left with a contact person above ground. This includes the specific route planned, the members of the group, the equipment carried and the expected time of return. Should the group not report back to the contact by the agreed time there is a well-defined process to alert any necessary assistance – including if necessary the Mendip cave rescue team. Needless to say we have never needed to use this but it is reassuring to know it is all in place.
It is also nice to know that the caves we use in the Mendips are never subject to flooding however wet the weather has been.
Radon is a gas produced by the radioactive decay of uranium. Radon also decays producing alpha and beta particles along with gamma rays. All the particles can become trapped in the lungs where they can damage the cells, possibly causing lung cancer. The risk is greatly increased with smoking.
The concentration of radon in the open air is very small but the amount increases significantly when enclosed by a room or cave. Radon concentrations are measured in Bq m-3 (Becquerels per cubic metre), where a Becquerel is the disintegration of 1 atom in one second. When accumulated over time, the overall radiation dose is measured in a unit called a Sievert.
Research into Radon risks recommends that the exposure in domestic properties should be less than 6mSv and the BCA recommend that casual cavers should have an annual dose of less than 1mSv.
The British Caving Association measures the radiation dose in several caves including Goatchurch and Swildon’s. Their calculations show that to reach the annual dose limit, you could spend over 800 hours each year in Goatchurch and 45 hours in Swildon’s. (This does not include any other exposure – for example in your own home).
If you have any concerns over Radon or Radon exposure please contact the leader in charge of the trip.
WHAT TO BRING
The temperature in the cave after about the first 20 metres of the trip is constant throughout the year. The weather at the surface does not reach far underground and the caves are actually heated by the warmth coming up from the core of the Earth. So it’s a great sport for when it’s cold in the winter or very hot in the summer! You will need wellies or hike boots (not trainers), activity trousers (no jeans please – we need something which is warm when wet and does not get heavy when wet), a t-shirt and a fleece jumper. With the overalls we provide you will stay warm.
If it’s very rainy then bring a waterproof coat just for the walk up to the cave entrance.
You can bring a drink and snack to have once we get back to the vehicles.
Of course there are no toilet facilities in the cave so please use the facilities at HQ before we leave.
If you have any questions of concerns please contact one of your Scout leaders or Wilf Harrison on 07900 574850, firstname.lastname@example.org