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Almost Everything You Need To Know About Caving


Caving in West Sussex is alive and kicking, with a growing number of active groups caving regularly and a good number of form 'C' holders who are able to take young people caving or potholing which are basically one and the same.

Caving is a Southern term whilst potholing is used more in the north. In geologically terms a cave is a horizontal passage whilst a pothole is a vertical shaft, but even here the terms become blurred especially as the size of the system increases. Mine exploration can also be added to this list especially as it is our nearest option in Sussex.

Basically caving involves following abandoned (dry) or active (wet) stream passages underground; this may involve climbing, crawling, swimming, wriggling commando-style through low passages, ducking or diving under short water filled passages, descending and ascending vertical pitches or traversing exposed drops using ropes and ladders or just ropes.

In fact, unlike the hands and feet only method used in rock climbing, underground you move through the cave using hands, feet, arms, legs, knees elbows even your backside, anything goes! There are even times when all you have to do is just admire the view and walk.

Most of our caving areas are upland regions in the west of the country where there is a high annual rainfall, and the water which formed the caves is still very much present!

Outside Devon you are likely to encounter streams underground on every trip. our caves vary in length from a few metres to 30 kilometres, and can be up to 200 metres deep. The types of passage vary from tube-like tunnels 8 metres in diameter, to stream-trench rifts 30 metres deep, and from slits no more than a foot wide to tubes that only the smallest can squeeze through breakdowns frequently give boulder-chokes. Re-deposited limestone gives a whole range of calcite forms from the universally known stalactites and stalagmites to the mysterious and gravity-defying helictites