We'll provide everything you need
- from wellies and waterproof caving suits
to lamps, site access fees, and transport
Each instructed day starts at Rock Lea at
around 9-15 am and ends c. 5-00pm
Our price covers two full days tuition, insurance,
access fees & hire of all necessary safety kit.
Accommodation is charged extra and varies
from £5 to £150 per night depending on whether
you choose to stay under the stars in tent or splash
out and enjoy 5 star hotel luxury after your caving
session is over !
pre- booking is essential as numbers are limited.
If you come and join one of our low cost "open" caving
courses for complete beginners you can expect to join
a lively bunch of over 18's!
Call 01433-650345 to book places and to discuss
the wide range of accommodation options we
have available - camping, pubs, B&B's, hotels,
self catering cottages, conference centres, etc.
No special kit or prior experience ...and no special fitness is needed
to join these popular, highly acclaimed weekend sports events.
As praised on BBC television, on NBC's Ushaia
& endorsed in the Sunday Times & Sunday Telegraph* !
* scroll down to bottom of this page
CAVING & POTHOLING WEEKENDS
If you've already been caving and want to join our expert
instructors for some seriously challenging extreme potholing
on one of our "open" follow up events...read on !
We're also running an advanced weekend on the following
dates for people who have already been caving at Rock Lea
(and who have completed our novices course) who wish
to do some advanced underground trips. Fee c. £169 each.
You need to be fairly fit to enjoy these events !
Advanced courses ( 2 days ) open to the public are
scheduled every month or two...They involve some
serious trips down potholes which have to be negotiated
using abseiling ropes and the slender "Electron" caving
ladders illustrated above.
Click here please or phone 01433-650345 for the current dates and prices
If you'd like to join one of our small informal parties of
potholing novices with expert nationally qualified
instructors, simply phone us on 07771-855105 or
call us 01433-6560345 to discuss you requirements
and dates & prices of other caving opportunities.
All of our people answering the phones are experienced
cavers and instructors, so they'll be able to tell you what
you need to bring along and help people who are booking
these events with us sort out suitable local accommodation
in B&B's, inns, hostels, hotels, camping sites, etc.
WHAT IF WE WANT TO ORGANIZE A SESSION
OF CAVING AS PART OF A PRIVATE BOOKING ?
No worries ! Just phone us well in advance on 0771-855105 and we'll be
happy to look after you ! Caving here can be combined with other
activities on offer - such as abseiling, rock climbing, high ropes challenges
and mountain biking and training events.
Caving at Rock Lea is suitable for all ages from 9 years to 90 !
All year round we can book in private parties...including hen groups,
commercial training parties, television & film crews and all sorts
of other private bookings. We'll be happy to talk with you if you
have a party of people who'd like to go caving with us and wish
to set up dates and times to suit you. Caving is a very popular
activity with stag groups and for informal team builds for
groups of colleagues from a wide range of visiting
We can cater for groups large and small.
See the numerous endorsements from some
of our diverse group organisers who have enjoyed caving
sessions with our popular, safe and well respected centre.
CLICK TO SEE THE OTHER SPORTS ACTIVITIES WE HAV E ON OFFER AT ROCK LEA.
Peak Activities Limited
Rock Lea Activity Centre
The Peak District National Park
AALA licenced...ref. L2861/R0671.
Due to the huge number of unwanted spam e-mails we get from listing our e-mail
addresses on our web pages we now only give out our e-mail address to clients who
phone us first.
Caving really is great fun and a thrilling adventure
...but please don't just take our word for it !
The following feature was published recently after an
expedition during one of our beginners caving weekends : -
For other press articles on our caving and other activities
such as abseiling, climbing and so on, please click our
press cuttings link.
Click here to go to our main caving & potholing page.
Source of article below : The Sunday Times - Travel Section
February 16, 2003
Caving: What lies beneath
Deep in the dark, eerie caves of the Peak District,
something is stirring. Its Stephen Bleach
Its a beautiful place, Derbyshire a bit like the
Maldives. There are swaying palm trees on volcanic
islands, surrounded by lagoons and miles and miles of
coral. The shallow tropical sea is teeming with small
fish and crustaceans. Real desert- island getaway stuff.
This is not a pack of lies. It is, though, a little out of date.
Its an accurate picture of Derbyshire or, at least, the
southern end of the Peak District National Park as it
was 340m years ago.
If you come here now for a ramble over the dales,
perhaps, or a spot of rock climbing, or just a leisurely
drive through the wonderful scenery youll see a
different landscape: a mellow pattern of low, grassy
hilltops, lush valleys, pretty market towns and sheep
pasture crisscrossed with dry-stone walls. A
quintessentially English scene. Its wet enough, at
times, but not what youd call tropical.
That older Derbyshire is still there, though. Its under
your feet. This area stands on limestone, about 5,000ft
thick. Thats why it looks like it does the shallow soils
are well drained by the permeable rock, making them
ideal for sheep, and the gentle undulations of the land
mirror the rise and fall of ancient tropical seas. This
limestone is made of the shells and bones of sea
creatures: over millions of years, those little skeletons
drifted to the bottom of lagoons, were buried by more,
and compressed, and eventually solidified to become
the stuff of which the Peaks are now made. In a sense,
those little animals gave it all up for England. If you want
to meet them now, and perhaps say thanks, youve got
to go down a hole.
PICTURE THIS: Im flat on my back, lying on a shelf of
wet rock. Looking up, all I can see is another sheet of
rock. It is four inches from my face. The surface of the
earth is 150ft above me, the other side of thousands
upon thousands of tons of (fairly) solid limestone. I am
a tiny scrap of meat filling in a colossal rock sandwich. I
am very, very scared.
We entered Giants Hole, near the pretty village of
Castleton, about an hour ago. Its a swallet a cave
where a stream ducks underground and flows through
holes it has worn in the soluble rock. Tucked away in a
hollow in the dale, the entrance is comfortingly big, wide
and tall enough for three to walk upright. But its
deceptive. Within yards, the light from the blustery day
outside has evaporated and the cave becomes narrow,
mazelike, capricious. The twists and turns, ups and
downs, the myriad passages that lead this way and
that, are totally disorientating. Very soon, I have no idea
where I am, or which way is out.
There are 10 of us in the party, four (myself included)
total beginners. Togged up in rubber coveralls, wellies,
helmets and headlamps, we splash through the
stream, ducking and scrambling through narrower and
narrower passages, getting farther and farther from the
light and air above.
Our instructor, Andy McLean, leads us four novices up
into a hole at the side of the passage roof. Were roped
up for the tricky, slippery climb (every surface is dripping
wet), then crouch around him in the small chamber at
Right, he says, pointing to a small passageway to one
side. You can lead. Just turn left, then right, then left.
You cant go wrong. And he starts chatting with another
instructor whos come along for the ride.
Duncan goes right ahead. I follow him, and Andrea and
Alan follow me. We are all excited, and nervous, and
painfully aware that we are in a strange, hostile
environment: we follow the orders of our instructor
And this is where it has brought me: to the verge of
panic. Ahead, Duncan is also flat on his back in the
foot-high crevice we are wriggling through. He hasnt
moved for a minute, and I suspect he is stuck. Neither
of us knows how long this hideous passageway will go
on for. We are not sure we can get back. We dont know
if were in the right passage at all. Maybe we took a
wrong turn. We are both thinking one thing: we could die
here. Some stream water slips down the neck of my
suit, mingling with the sweat that has broken out all over
my body. I start to feel like Im suffocating. I want to bash
my fists, uselessly, on the all-too-solid rock above. I
want to scream.
Then two things happen. First, with a crunch of pebbles
and a grunt of effort, I hear Duncan move suddenly
Are you out? I try to keep my voice deep and calm, but
it resounds in the tiny space and comes back to me as
it really is, high and cracked.
Im out. Its just a few more feet.
Whats it like there? Can you stand up? Nearly. And
its not too narrow. Its fine.
The panic ebbs away. Though an hour ago the space
Im heading for would itself have filled me with dread,
now it sounds like a cathedral compared to the crack
Im in. And I know I can get there.
Then the second thing happens. Calmer now, I realise
that, embedded in the rock roof Ive been staring at,
there is a shape. A shell. This is the final resting place
of a little sea snail, an inhabitant of that Peak District
tropical lagoon, which breathed (or rather gilled) its last
right here about 340m years ago. Its entombed here
forever, and for a couple of minutes, Id thought I was
going to join it.
THE PASSAGEWAY, of course, brought us straight back
to Andy. Hed sent us on a loop and, though we didnt
know it, was always in earshot and ready to leap to our
assistance if needed. And that moment, alone with my
panic, did seem to have a galvanising effect: for the next
two hours, while some opted to stay in the wider
passages, I was wriggling through cracks and
squirming through chest-constricting squeezes like a
man possessed. I sometimes needed cajoling, and
sometimes felt a surge of fear rise in my throat, and I
swore a lot, but God, I had a great time.
And I was struck by the beauty you can only see
underground. Etched on a wall, as big as my hand, are
the delicate fronds of a soft coral. Further on, a long
expanse of rock seems to have been covered in melted
candle wax: in fact its calcites, and the surreal effect is
produced by the same process that makes stalactites.
Here, mineral crystals sparkle in the light of our lamps;
there, along a rock face worn glassy smooth, the swirls
and backflows of millions of years of flowing water have
left their intricate patterns on the solid rock.
Emerging, at last, into the fading daylight, all four of us
beginners were babbling, laughing, exhilarated. Wed
been challenged, and wed come through. Sure, we
hadnt faced the toughest tests Giants Hole has to
offer: only the experienced can take on the agony crawl,
where you scramble through a flooded tube with one
inch of air at the top, mouth closed, one nostril covered,
the other poking into the air pocket to breathe
(mischievous cavers will sometimes splash and make
waves to give their mates a little scare). Wed skipped
Suicide Cavern, and Sardine Chamber, and the sump,
where icy water flows through an airless tube and
cavers hold their breath and swim against the current,
in total blackness, to reach air on the other side, 20ft
away. Those treats could wait. Wed done plenty for one
And we hadnt just been down a hole. Wed been back
in time. In front of us stretched the beautiful, undulating
Hope Valley. Now Id seen something of the honeycomb
of history that lies beneath it, the landscape seemed
more fragile and transitory than before, but, if anything,
even lovelier. In another 340m years, perhaps it will be
under the sea again, or maybe it will be desert, or
buried by glacial ice who knows? The billions of
fossilised creatures beneath our feet were mute
testimony to the passing nature of things.
They say it took 2,500 years to lay down a layer of
limestone 1ft thick. Next time you visit what is, for my
money, Britains most beautiful national park, spare a
thought for the creatures that created it. If you have time,
go and look them up anyone whos reasonably fit,
and not clinically claustrophobic, can try caving. But
when Andy turns to you and says You lead the way, be
prepared for a very close encounter with the real
architects of England.
Caving can be dangerous for the inexperienced, and
expert guiding is essential. Peak Activities (01433
650345, www.peakactivities.com), in Hathersage,
knows the Peak Districts caves intimately: it runs
caving weekends, including a trip down Giants Hole,
from £129 per person.
Where to stay: The Millstone Inn (01433 650258), just
outside Hathersage, has doubles from £60. Or try The
Plough (01433 650319).
Feature Source : "The Sunday Times website - Feb 2003. "
Author : Steve Bleach - with photography by Iain Jennings.
Caving: What lies beneath
This intrepid beginners party referred to above included first timers
Andrea & Duncan Way, James Jennings (aged 12), Alan Bromley, plus Leslie
Roddick Harris,Kev Parker, Pete Brookes, Steve Bleach (Sunday Times staff),
and Tony Kendall (leader) and Dr. Andy McLean (assistant leader).
Geologist Dr. Iain Jennings. Our thanks to everyone concerned
...especially Steve Bleach.
Below is part of a scout group's description of a caving
trip with several caving leaders led by Steve Pope :
Giant's Hole is a classic extensive limestone cave system
with an active streamway and is a perfect example of the
erosive power of water over rock....especially as when
raiwater absorbs carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere it
becomes acidic and can dissolve limestone. Although the
technically difficult vertical and narrow sections of Giants
Hole preclude us from taking the scouts into the deeper
recesses of this system on their first trip, there are plenty
of underground streams, tubes, waterfalls, canyons and
rifts for them to explore and many examples of fossils,
flowstones and calcite formations to be found. The
underground trip with Steve lasted about 4 hours and
allowed the scouts plenty of tuime for exploring and
for practising their ropework and ladder work in anticipation
of a tougher trip next time they out here for a more technical
After Steve's safety briefing we strolled up to the cave
entrance and were off into the gloom...following Fred
along the stream leading into the Giant's Hole.
When our eyes have become used to the darkness of
the cave we can see a passage high up in the roof of
the passage we are following. Steve led us up into this
passage and set up a safety rope belay system. We all
roped up to climb up into the roof and then we moved
off to explore a tight crawling space.
Next we go on to explore loads more varied places
down past " Base Camp Chamber " to take a look
over the precipice at the top of the undeground waterfall
at "Garlands Pot"...all carefully rope dup so nobody
would fall. Next we retraced our steps and started to
explore the area called "Wet Inlets" where we could put
into practise the electron ladder climbing technique we
had learned earlier in the day. Climbing these very slender
steel wire caving ladders is tricky until you get the hang
of putting your hands and feet behnd rather than in front
of the ladder ! You also need to push wth your feet - not
your arms - or you'll get very tired arms very quickly !
We had a great time abseiling back down from the top of
the ladder in the roof of te chamber and then all too
quickly it was time to head out fo the cave and back to the
minibus. What had been a four trip felt like it had flown along
in just an hour.
Throughout our trip we felt safe and well looked after...and
everyone agreed it was a trip of a lifetime. We are already
looking forward to our next trip underground down a
different cave with Steve and his team.
If you'd rather be out there doing it rather than sitting here just reading
about it, please phone us on 01433-650345 and book a place on our next
"open" weekend ( for individuals ) or book a session for your own private party !
Click here for dates and prices of next open beginners caving event.
or phone us for a quote for any group booking you may have in mind.
For more information on caving and potholing with
Peak Activities Limited click here to go to another web
page full of infoirmation and images.
Peak Activities Ltd,
Rock Lea Activity Centre,
The Hope Valley,
The Peak District National Park,
Derbyshire, S32 1DD.
Enquiries : Tel. 01433-650345