Each trip will be an adventure, visiting parts of the planet few people will ever see. Regardless of experience, fitness level, first year or final year, you are more than welcome to join us and come away with the Caving Club.

Trips are relaxed and sociable weekends away in some of the prettiest parts of the UK, that normally have a good country pub nearby! A typical cavers weekend would start on Friday evening at our club stores on University Park.

Here we collect the kit that will be required for that weekend’s adventures. Unlike some other clubs, purchasing your own specialist equipment is not required.

Once kitting up is done, we depart Nottingham and head for our desired caving hut for that weekend. Caving Huts are basically bunkhouses near caves with everything you need for a fantastic weekend of caving, and they’re always filled with fellow cavers and lovely warm showers! 

Wikipedia describes what we do as a “recreational pastime of exploring wild cave systems”. Very few sports and outdoor activities can offer as much variety as caving does.

A UoN caver exploring the UK's wild cave systems
A UoN caver exploring the UK’s wild cave systems

Depending on how you are feeling on the day you may choose to go on a straightforward short trip or a slightly more challenging and technical long trip.

Our trips down caves usually consist of four to six individuals, one of which being the leader (usually the most experienced member of the team).

A trip may involve crawling through ancient phreatic tubes, walking through large stream passages, scrambling through boulder filled chambers and occasionally climbing up magnificent underground waterfalls.

Not all caves are small, claustrophobic, and muddy! Some caves are complicated horizontal mazes with fascinating stalactite and stalagmite formations.

For example, Ogof Ffynon Ddu in South Wales containing the mighty Trident stalactite. While others are enormous holes in the ground with spectacular cascades flowing into them, for example Gaping Gill in Yorkshire whose main chamber is the size of York Cathedral and contains England’s largest unbroken waterfall!

“Wikipedia describes what we do as a “recreational pastime of exploring wild cave systems”. Very few sports and outdoor activities can offer as much variety as caving does.”

Occasionally we may run trips dedicated to surveying (mapping the cave’s passages), other times to photography and sometimes even digging (looking for new cave passages)!

When we finish caving for the day we head back to the hut, have a hot group meal, share stories and play games unique to caving. This, Wikipedia, is what caving is and how we at the UoN Caving Club spend our Saturdays and Sundays throughout term.

“A trip may involve crawling through ancient phreatic tubes, walking through large stream passages, scrambling through boulder filled chambers and occasionally climbing up magnificent underground waterfalls.”

When we aren’t gallivanting off on the weekends we try to have at least one social or training session each week. The socials are good opportunity to get to know fellow members of the club, find out more about caving and have some fun.

In the past our socials have included visiting a trampoline park, pub quizzes (once even finishing second!), cheese and wine evenings among other events.

Training sessions are the perfect opportunity to learn the more technical aspect of caving. This may include learning to tie knots used in rigging ropes, climbing techniques and most importantly SRT (Single Rope Technique). SRT is a must-learn technique for vertical caving and potholing.

It involves abseiling and ascending ropes to access parts of caves that would otherwise be inaccessible. Once the ways of SRT are mastered a whole new aspect of caving is made available.

“Every caver agrees there is a cave somewhere that you will completely fall in love with.”

During the first semester we have trips planned to all the main caving areas of the UK. These are:

  • Peak District – Where we run our dedicated beginner day trips. There’s plenty of nice easy caving in Peak Cavern to give you a taster of club life but also has more advanced stuff you might like to try as your caving experience increases.

  • South Wales – Spectacular location above and below ground. Lots of very pretty and occasionally sporting horizontal caving, Ogof Ffynon Ddu with it’s impressive streamway is the deepest cave in the UK at impressive depth of 274.5 metres.

  • Yorkshire Dales – The biggest caving region in the UK. Contains the largest cave system in the country, the mighty Three Counties System. Plenty of exciting potholes, pretties (pretty formations to non-cavers) and pitches! Once you know SRT the world of the Dales is your oyster, well, the underground world is at least!

  • Mendip Hills (Nr. Bristol) – The subject of many jokes within the caving community. Known for some fairly arduous caving but with worthwhile rewards of pretties and of course, being the West Country, cider! A trip down Swildon’s Hole is a classic of British caving.

UoN Cavers visit some of most dramatic landscapes in the UK
UoN Cavers visit some of most dramatic landscapes in the UK

Each region has its unique charm and character. Many a fierce debate regularly occurs among cavers while trying to decide on the best! Though every caver agrees there is a cave somewhere that you will completely fall in love with.

The caving community is small and close one. We as a club try our best to get as many people involved with it as we can. We are a member of CHECC (Council of Higher Education Caving Clubs), the BCA (British Caving Association) and also have very close ties with SUSS (Sheffield University Speleological Society, ULSA (University of Leeds Speleological Association) and South Wales Caving Club amongst others.

CHECC annually put on a forum, which most university caving clubs attend. We regularly run joint trips, I personally met some of my best friends through this. This summer I went on Expedition with SUSS to the Pešter Plateau in Serbia.

Three members of the club also attended the 5th European Speleological Congress, Eurospeleo, in the Yorkshire Dales. This event was arguably the biggest caving event ever held, with over 1300 of attendees from over 30 countries exploring the caverns of Northern England.

So if you’re interested in a non-competitive team sport with interesting people from a variety of courses, ages and nationalities; a chance to travel all around the UK and potentially go abroad and then go beneath the ground to see sights few people will ever see, (thundering waterfalls, alien-like formations and spectacular rivers that flow through the bedding plane) then consider coming on a caving, potholing or spelunking adventure with the University of Nottingham Caving Club.

For more information go to the Notts Uni Caving facebook group : https://www.facebook.com/groups/nucaving/

To join the club you can visit the SU website:

https://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/sports/sport/Caving/

Words by Jacob Puhalo-Smith

Images courtesy of UoN Caving

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