After hearing Hazel Barton speak at the RGS, I was quite keen to find out more about this mysterious “cave biology”. I spotted an advert for a BCRA Cave Biology workshop on Facebook and immediately signed myself up. I then pestered Jennifer and she managed to swipe the last space. We were promised a weekend of invertebrate sampling in South Wales and we were given that and more. Everyone there was excellent fun and we made some good contacts with some non-Imperial cavers for a change. Jennifer and I have vowed to end the period of Splendid Isolation once and for all.
Throughout this weekend, we felt we (mainly Jennifer probably) fucked up quite a few times so I have noted all the fuck ups for your information.
FUN – fuck up number
(R) - royal
We met in stores at 15:15 after a bit of food shopping to pack our caving kit. FUN1 – Jennifer forgets cheese. My backpack was already pretty full as I was going to Plymouth for the week after caving, so we ended up with a carrier bag full of food and other miscellaneous things which would prove a nightmare to carry around London. We nabbed a bag of pasta, some tinned tomatoes and the oil from stores to make the random foodstuffs we purchased into actual meals.
It was somehow 28 degrees in London in the middle of April and we died on the central line on the way to Baker Street where our beautifully cheap coach would pick us up. We put our backpacks in the hold and Jennifer told the driver her surname, so he could find the booking. There wasn’t one supposedly – probably just a mistake, so Jennifer showed him the confirmation email. (R)FUN2 – Jennifer books the coach for the wrong day. Ah. The driver says “you girls need to get to Bristol though eh?” or something similar, we look sad and say yes. He lets us on because he is a nice human. Jennifer looks traumatised for some time.
We get to Bristol after a beautifully air-conditioned journey featuring a muntjac deer which Jennifer freaked out over probably. The very kind Ari and Suzanne of Exeter caving club pick us up in their adorable, if slightly small Renault Clio. We cram our stuff in along with ourselves and head off for our final destination – the SWCC. The journey happened, and we arrived at a time. Beans on toast were consumed and we spent a long while being scared by a closed door (probably FUN3).
I forget details (not due to alcohol – we only had 6 ciders between us for the weekend) but some chat with some nice humans occurred before a vaguely early night. We had an entire bunk room to ourselves because the SWCC is huge. No snorers in earshot. Perfect.
OFD 1: Jennifer Ryder, Rebecca Diss
Some cave biology occurred. Jules was great. OFD1 was great. The huge spiders were less great. All in all it was a really fun day filled with an interesting intro talk, cave sampling and looking at invertebrates under microscopes.
There was some good sun so we sat outside and ate pot noodle (ew) and chatted with other humans who I am sure have names (sorry). We then meandered back to the small common room where our invertebrates and microscopes awaited us. We had several little dudes from in the OFD1 streamway that I can’t remember the name of but looked like tiny crayfish type things. The spiders were confirmed to be Meta Menardi and the males could be distinguished from the females due to their “double dickhead” aesthetic. I found a harvestman in the cave and that looked pretty cool under the microscope and had two pointy bits on its head which I think were its eyes? A rosy woodlouse was found by Will which was very pretty and sadly died under the microscope. There was a lot of general chat about bio sampling and it was great to meet so many enthusiastic people. I also got to put a sample in concentrated ethanol because preservation or something.
At dinner time we realised quite how poorly we had planned our meals. Being used to the bountiful spice box, we had forgotten to bring any spices for the pasta sauce (FUN4). Also, no garlic! We turned to the SWCC spice shelf and made a somehow quite palatable tomato sauce by adding balsamic vinegar, marmite, sugar and coriander to our mix of veggies.
I somehow ended up watching a 30-minute geology video by mistake and eventually escaped to hear some amusing and some terrifying stories of shits and rescues. There was talk of Slov and caving in general. More humans confirmed that they think Imperial is isolated and many asked if the club was active. This was shocking to me and is something I think we should change.
We discussed caving plans before bed which included a vague agreement to go caving at 9am (is this a real time?) in OFD2 and exit via Cwm Dwr.
OFD 2 to Cwm Dwr: Jennifer Ryder, Rebecca Diss
A cracking trip with Jules, Will, George and Jennifer. In OFD2 at around 9am. Out of Cwm Dwr at 12pm. I don’t like OFD much if I’m honest (#soznotsoz). Mainly because I prefer SRT caving and I always get far too warm on trips there. The streamway to Cwm Dwr is great though! I got really into it (literally) and was jumping into pools and all sorts. We saw a couple of frogs and a fish because why the hell not and it was a very fast paced trip in comparison to what we usually do. I was my usual slow, afraid self on free climbs but didn’t stand on anyone at any point which is always a positive, probably.
Jules was a great guide as he knew the way and was able to give info about where we were and a bit of history. He also showed us a nice side route at that place that I don’t know the name of (where Jarvist put in a ladder before) that is better for tired freshers to climb on the way out. Cwm Dwr was sandy and the entrance crawl was a bitch. All in all, an excellent through trip! Unsure what the caving gods will think of us caving before 12pm though…perhaps I should stop caving now?
The day ended with boiled eggs and toast for lunch, exchange of online cave surveys with humans and an early departure. Oh and we left the club oil at the hut, whoops (FUN5).
This weekend was really very good value, not just for the caving and biology aspects but also because of the people we met and the things we learned (also it worked out cheaper than our normal weekend trips, js!). Highly recommend more people attend these sorts of things in future!