Yolanda, Scott, John (our guide from Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club). Trip report by Yolanda.
Otter Hole is often described as ‘a collector’s piece’. A lot of KCC crew had already done it, and while they all said it was brilliant, nobody wanted to do this 9 hour caving trip again. On Friday, Scott and I went to the Forest of Dean to find out why.
We met John, our guide, at 8:30 on Saturday morning and made our way through the woods to the slightly ominous looking metal hatch that led to the cave. As usual, I had a look at the sky in case I never saw it again, before wriggling my way into the cave and into a series of rather small and very muddy tunnels. There then followed a long long hour of sliding through salty mud before we arrived at the tidal sump – quite full and rapidly rising. John had guesstimated that the sump would be about knee deep when we arrived, so it was a bit of a nasty shock to find that the water was already shoulder deep. The archway was almost impassable, and the eyelet above the arch was getting more and more tricky as the water rose. John explained to us that we either needed to climb above the water and go feet-first through the eyelet, or give up and go home. For me, giving up and going back to the youth hostel sounded fairly appealing, but a mixture of pride and also guilt at the prospect of ruining the trip for Scott propelled me to climb above the water, shove my feet through the eyelet, and wriggle my way through.
A terrifying traverse and another half hour of sliding through mud followed before we reached the ‘wash off point’ – some scrubbing brushes on a rock. We scraped the worst of the mud off ourselves and I treated myself to a cheese and mud sandwich before continuing on our journey. After a few boulder chokes we reached Otter Hole’s beautiful cave formations; huge stalagmites, stalactites, calcite blankets, and enormous calcite formations. In my years of slithering around in the dark, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful cave – chamber after chamber of wonder.
The journey back out of the cave was relatively smooth, apart from a bit of panic when I got stuck on my head about five minutes from the entrance. Luckily Scott and John managed to free me in the end and five days on, my neck is nearly back to normal. There was a layer of brown silt in the shower that evening and my hair bobbles were encrusted onto my plaits with dried mud, but it was well worth it to see one of the most beautiful caves in the world. Thanks John and Scott for an amazing trip!