Conservation Work Undertaken in Peak
A number of TSG members recently undertook some conservation work within the Five Arches area of Peak Cavern. We decided that the Five Arches passage was in dire need of a facelift due to the remains of the old show cave that have remained there since this section of the show cave was abandoned in the late eighties. We are trying to revert the cave back as much as possible to its natural state. Five Arches is the fine phreatic passage, seven metres in diameter, that runs between the Devil's Staircase and Buxton Water Sump/Victoria Aven. The stream, the Inner Styx, flows from Buxton Water Sump, it meanders along the passage flowing between interlocking banks of sediments until it flows into Halfway House sump. The old show cave path runs alongside this, with four bridges at various points crossing the stream. Handrails from bridge four run all the way up to the halfway house sump, providing protection from falling into the stream for visitors who visited the cavern.
When this section of the cave was open, the paths, handrails and bridges had to be constantly cleaned and maintained after the effects of many a winter storm that left the paths coated in flood silt. This made the paths extremely slippery and an unsightly mess. The old show cave was abandoned due to high concentrations of radon pollution and the constant maintenance required so this area has become very depleted over the years, handrails were hanging off their supports with some spread across the passage. Many cavers suggested that this passage needed a spring clean so I decided to get something done.
The 30th of June 2000 saw a bunch of us gather to undertake this work. The work entailed the dismantling of the bridges and handrails and portering them to the bottom of Devil's Staircase. The rest of the day entailed the moving of debris through the show cave and out to the skip in the cavern's car park. This had to be split into stages as carrying a piece of debris the full distance would have been too much, and we would have retired before the job was done. The final stage of the clearing was undertaken with the aid of Nick Williams' van from the entrance down the gorge and finally into the skip in the car park. In spite of the effort we had to leave one of the bridges and some of the handrail supports mainly due to lack of time, to be removed at a later date.
Robbie Shone and myself removed the final bridge and handrail supports on The 1st of October 2000 when we took a large hammer and applied persistent force to it until it finally surrended to us. The supports proved to be more of a pain, they were well supported in the miners deads, the removal of these took a bit of time but we finally got them out by dismantling some of the deads. Now cavers can walk through the streambed, all the way to the Halfway House Sump passage then climb back into the main passage, and carry on out of the cave.
During the current Peak Season that is running from the present time to the end of March, we are planning to remove the electrical cables that remains of the old show cave lighting, and another general clean up. There are even plans for us to clean up deeper into the cave and remove the old conveyor belt matting within the Trenches between Fawlty Tower and the upstream end of the wind tunnel that Ben Bentham laid during his Fawlty Tower dig. This is beginning to rot and a pong can be smelt as you crawl into the far reaches of the cave; by removing this we will take away the pong and revert the cave passage to a more natural state.
If anybody wishes to get involved with the remaining conservation work or suggest other conservation work that needs to be carried out, we are waiting to hear from you. A more detailed article regarding this bridge clearing can be found in TSG Journal No 17.