This page is designed to provide anyone interested in caving with a brief overview of the sport. Please don't hesitate to contact us if we haven't answered your question! If you're interested in joining our club take a look at our new members page.
Speleology, caving, and potholing, these are different words for the same activity; the discovery and exploration of caves. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, this short film probably explains caving and why we do it better than any written explanation we can give (Though please note that while the caves in this film are all in the UK, they are mainly from South Wales and Yorkshire).
Virtually all caves are found within limestone rock and are formed by rain water, which is mildly acidic, dissolving away the rock leaving behind voids. Over thousands of years, the erosion of the rock by the acid together with the flow of the water form vast underground systems unlike anything on the surface.
Why do caves form in Limestone? It's due to the nature of the rock. Its permeable, meaning water can pass through and it's also soluble which means it can be dissolved by rain water. An area of limestone can typically be identified by a lack of surface drainage features such as lakes, rivers and streams. Such areas can also be identified by groups of people in an assorted range of coloured muddy overalls walking around with lights attached to their heads!
Based in Buckfastleigh, Devon our club is ideally positioned to explore the wide variety of caves and even mines found in Devon and Cornwall. Within a few hours of Devon you can find two of the main four limestone areas in Britain, all of which have numerous cave systems. These are the Mendip Hills of Somerset (1 ½ hrs), the Brecon Beacons of South Wales (2 ¼ hrs), then a little further the Derbyshire Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales.
Although the caves in each of these areas differ in character and size, each offers caving trips of a variety of standards, from the easy to the hair-raising. Even the easiest trip gives an introduction to the unique and fascinating environment of the underground world.
The popular impression of a cave is a tight, wet, muddy hole and yes there are underground passages of just that description (especially in Devon). That is far from the complete picture though, for there are plenty of caves with miles of walking size passage, leading to huge chambers containing strange rock formations that have taken thousands of years to form. Some caves contain deep underground shafts called pitches. These may be from twenty to hundreds of feet deep and are tackled with special ladders or ropes.
Caving is a co-operative sport, not a competitive one, relying upon a sense of team spirit. Most cavers belong to a club where the accumulated experience and skills (and not to forget, the tales and stories!) of older members are available for newer members.