Weather for the Castleton area

So this post is more of a list really. Cavers are always on the lookout for good sources of weather data to allow them to make decisions about where it is safe to head underground. The Rushop Edge – Castleton area contains one of the most complex drainage systems in the Peak District. Water falling near Sparrowpit will eventually emerge at Speedwell. Water falling on Dirtlow Rake above Bradwell will make its way to Peak Cavern. Both the Peak and Speedwell systems can be affected buy one another. Floods trap cavers and occasionally kill, so it is important to have trusted data.

A few years ago a group of cavers started to discuss a project that would see rainfall gauges and river level gauges be installed at useful locations. The data would be displayed online so that cavers could access it easily. This plan is still ongoing but will take some time to implement yet. In the mean time, I started to look at what data sources we did have for this area (beyond the usual weather websites).

Below is a series of links to potentially useful sites. I’ll update these whenever I find a new one.

Castleton weather station at The Hollowford Centre:
Met Office WOW (not updated since Nov 2021 – just here in case it comes back online)

Castleton private weather station (unknown owner):
Met Office WOW

EA Rainfall API demonstrator. Search for station 3572 close to the Dove Holes / Chapel junction:

EA River Level data seen via the website for Mytham Bridge. This is near where the Derwent and Noe join and includes the flow from Peakshole.
River Derwent at Mytham Bridge :: the UK River Levels Website

One day wouldn’t it be great to navigate to one webpage and see the rainfall at the top end swallets and the water levels at the bottom where it resurges. This is the dream and the plan. Anyone with the skills (or money!) to help make this happen please get in touch. There is a group of us mainly involved with the TSG club in Castleton.

Removing Sleeve Anchors (SPITS etc…)

I guess this post is a bit of a continuation from the blog post I did about pull testing SPIT type anchors in 2015. Sorry it has taken me so long to get round to doing this!
The original post can be seen here:

One of the points of that testing was to ascertain if the sleeve anchors could be removed from the rock in a cave or mine to either de-clutter the wall or allow a resin anchor to be placed in the same location. This is important from a conservation point of view, these sleeve anchors are a bolt rash on the walls of our caves and once stripped of threads, are there forever…. or so I thought.

Jump ahead to now. Simon Wilson has developed the IC Resin Anchor in the Dales and his website has expanded to become a good resource of information relating to the installation and removal of anchors. Most relevant here is the method that he uses to remove old sleeve anchors, one which I am shamelessly copying here in an effort to spread the knowledge and encourage the tidying up of pitch heads. Simon’s site is here:

I started with the original block of Stoney Dale limestone used for the original testing in 2015.

Method used:

  1. If required, dress the rock near your anchor sleeve with a chisel to create a flat area for drilling.
  2. Drill a 6 or 7mm hole immediately next to the anchor sleeve.
  3. Drill a second hole parallel to and as close to the first as possible.
  4. Bore out into a slot using an old drill bit and some wiggling.
  5. Tap the anchor sleeve into the slot using a cold chisel or old screwdriver.
  6. Remove the anchor from the hole. This may well need some jiggling about or a bit of extra chiselling. If possible, screw a bolt into the sleeve to aid extraction.
  7. Fill hole with resin or drill out for the installation of a new resin anchor.

Shown with a SPIT 12mm self drilling anchor:

SPIT 12mm self drilling anchor that had sheared off in a previous test:

Another SPIT 12mm self drilling anchor that had sheared off in a previous test:

This removal method works well once you’ve had a little practice and was far less destructive or time consuming than pulling the anchors out with the HAT-28. I also used the same method successfully to remove 10mm lipped sleeve anchors as well (HKD / drop-ins etc…) although have no photos.
As I was drilling so close to the sleeves, occasionally hitting them, this was very hard on drill bits. I melted the head off my cheap 7mm half way through and swapped to the 6mm bit. I’ve just ordered some quad tipped bits from Hilti in the hope that they are tougher. I’ve only ever destroyed one of them in the tough welsh rhyolite of Parc mine.

The remaining triangular hole can then be cleaned out and filled in using an expired resin cartridge with some limestone dust thrown on. It won’t disappear 100% but will be a huge improvement over the old rusty sleeve.
If you plan on re-using the hole for a new anchor, try to position your slot to the intended orientation of the head of a ‘P’ style resin anchor. Once the anchor is placed, make sure the whole hole is filled with resin leaving no voids. You can’t use the SPIT resin vials for this job as they have a set quantity of contents, you will need to have a resin cartridge gun to fill the irregular hole properly.

I hope to begin removing some of the decades of old sleeve anchors in sites now resin bolted and potentially earn some karma points back for anchors of this type that I myself have placed in the past prior to my ‘enlightenment’.

Thanks for reading.

1 Log, 1 Tool, 1 Match

This was done as an entry to a Facebook competition on the Great British Bushcraft Group page. The challenge was to make a fire from 1 log or stick using only one cutting tool and with only 1 match to light it. It is a challenge that I have done a few times but often it is more convenient to get your campfire going in another way so I was quite happy to revisit it again.
The challenge does require some skill and practice but is an excellent way of developing and honing fire lighting skills, something which I’ll expand on during this blog.

I should add at this stage that it is important to be aware of the law regarding the lighting of fires and the use of knives in public places. This activity was performed on my own property. Take extreme care with the use of cutting tools, consider some experienced guidance on the safe use of knives. Cut away from the body and ensure no one is within range of the blade. Always have a first aid kit to hand when using cutting tools.

This was actually my practice run I had when this competition was first announced, I always planned to do another but I’m not sure if I will get the chance.

1. Select your log or stick. I chose a piece of leylandii felled from my own garden 12 months ago. My reasoning was that it is the kind of wood that is easy to get hold of as it is basically a weed tree and loads of people take them down these days. Selecting your wood is an exercise in understanding what makes a good firewood, something you may later rely on in the wild.

2. Select the tool. I chose to use my Fieldcrafter-UK knife. This is the larger version of the knife which lives by my stove and is my go to tool for wood prep. When out on camp I use the smaller version of the same knife. My reasoning for using this knife is simple, this knife is not a super blade or specialist tool, just a good, solid, affordable blade similar to what a number of people have or aspire to have. Really, I could have gone a step further and used my Mora. Using the right tool correctly and safely is an important skill to have for any outdoorsman.

Fieldcrafter-UK Knife

3. Wood prep. 1st job was to remove the thick bark from the log. I have had some success in the past fluffing up the bark fibres to make a good tinder. For this challenge I considered this cheating as Birch bark was excluded. I discarded the bark. Next job was battening down the log to 8ths, something which was a bit of a struggle as I’d got a really knotty bit. The knife was tough however and dispatched the log in all but one section. The finger thick sections were divided. Some left as they were, others split down into pencil thick kindling and the final half dozen sections made into feather sticks. Once the wood was prepared, I collected up all the shavings from the process to add to the feather sticks. Prepping wood for the fire is an essential skill. Out and about you may find that all the thinner wood is wet and the only way you have to generate dry material is to split a larger piece to get into the middle.

1 Log Fire 1 Log Fire 2

4. Building the fire. Thousands if ways to do this. I used the same method I light my stove with. A lattice of smaller pieces of kindling build over a base of feather sticks. Gradually increase the size of your fuel on the way up so each layer helps dry and light the one above. I sprinkled all the spare chips and shavings throughout the structure. The 2 larger pieces that I could not split became my foundation. The fire took less than 2 minutes to assemble.

Overlapping fire lay

5. Lighting. The eagle eyed reader will notice that day turns tonight during my preparation. I chose to prep the log in daylight but it was a nice day so my garden was surrounded by open windows and washing hanging up to dry. I waited until nightfall before lighting. Standard household match, struck and placed in the base of the fire. Feather sticks took first time and the flames soon spread throughout the shavings, taking flame to the whole fire lay. Shortly after the kindling went up and the fire became established in the larger material. I’d not normally rely on matches, they are very prone to blowing out or absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. The 1 match challenge does force you to really prepare, knowing you only have one shot. You lay your fire well, prepare more than enough small kindling and of course, pick the exact moment to strike, praying for calm air and holding your breath. I am occasionally guilty of rushing my fires and have lost a few when I’ve not prepared enough small fuel or have set the jump from tinder to fuel at to large a size gap. This exercise (and yes, I’ve done it before) teaches preparation and focus, rush it and you may just get away with it but sooner or later you won’t and that may be the time you really need the fire the most.

Thanks for reading, go and try it yourselves!

The Common Lizard

So, how many of you have ever seen a ‘common’ Lizard?

This little one was brought to me last week on a baking hot day by a group of kids from the Notts area. It must have been fresh out from its winter sleep as it was really dosile until I put it near a stream in the sun and it shot off.
Not one of the group of kids who’d assembled had ever seen a lizard before (outside a zoo), in fact most did not even know that we had them in this country.
Now this is forgivable, I’ve not seen many myself. I’ve only ever seen one Adder despite being outdoorsy all my life.
What is shocking is that some kids coming to the Peak District have never seen a sheep before! Some people do not have the luxury of escaping to the countryside either because of background, society or money and those kids who never leave the city miss out on those experiences that some of us take for granted.

The moral of the story – assume nothing and be prepared to introduce people to everything you are already used to. A perfect opportunity to inspire and encourage a love of the natural world and a reason to stay passionate about it as a practitioner.
Not everyone has the same experiences and peoples’ backgrounds can be poles apart, even in the same country. After all, they could probably tell you loads that you don’t know – all about their local graffiti tags or Angry Birds and other stuff, even if they have never seen a Common Lizard.