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Friday, 13 May 2011

Swaledale Mountain Rescue Adventure Park: fun for all the family

And so to our day at Reeth part two...

Pick up arranged for around 5.00pm. Our digs. Manage a chunk of home made chocolate cake and pot of tea, courtesy of our landlady Susan, when she reappears in the dining room. 'There's a couple of men at the door asking for you.' (Bit of a recurring theme developing here!)

It's the aforementioned Peter Roe (is there anyone in the Dales who DOESN'T know him?) and Tony. We're also waiting for Richard and David to arrive. Polite chit chat. Wee bit of banter. They've got a little something organised for us. Bit of a photo opportunity. I won't have to crawl anywhere, will I?

'Noooo...' says Tony, shaking is head in a very sincere manner.

Cos, the thing IS, I say, I don't really see the attraction of going underground...

'You'll be fine, just a photo opportunity...'

So I don't need a change of clothes then?

'Noooo, (he's REALLY good at this)... you'll be fine as you are.

'Or, maybe just bring a spare pair trousers. For the pub. Oh, and perhaps a pair of socks.'

Soo... I won't get wet then? 'Nooooo...

'Won't be higher than your knees...'

And lo... Half an hour later, I am being zipped into a yellow waterproof one piece, pushing my woolly trousered legs into borrowed wellies, being instructed on the machinations of the head torch strapped to my very battered caving helmet. And off we set down a steep little clamber to a hole in the ground. A very dark hole in the ground.

'Don't worry,' says Pete. 'Just do as I do...' And he's gone. Shit! Now I have to follow him! I cannot BELIEVE I am doing this, as I slither wellies first through a hole in the rock, feet headed deep into goodness knows where.

Okay, that worked. Rest. Breathe. And then he's off again. 'Just turn onto your side, tuck you feet under your body, turn over, and....' His final words lost to the darkness as I digest the improbability of tucking my legs up any way at all right here, let alone turning over to slide bum first into oblivion. Then I realise it's my turn again. And now!

And so it continued, arms and legs in knots I never dreamed possible, hauling myself along on my stomach, slithering through the silt, banging my head on the 'ceiling', and gathering so many bruises I think someone took me out and beat me up while I wasn't looking! And as for only getting wet up to my knees!! Ha!!!! One very soggy left sock, trousers soaked (despite the fetching yellow suit) and hands, face and feet caked in orange cack. Apart from that I was dry as bone.

Oh, and can I just say that for much of the time, while the rest of us stooped and crouched along, yours truly finding the 'ceiling' more times than I can remember, Shorty just strolled through the rocky chambers, head held high. Sometimes, there are advantages to being small!!

Would I go again? probably not. But fun? Oh yes!! A brilliant couple of hours - and completely exhausting!!! And topped off by a very good meal in the company of our new caving chums at the Bridge Inn at Grinton.

Final word on this particular subject to Tony: 'Let me say that for someone entirely new to [caving] you did superbly and coped extremely well.' Well, who'd a thought it?

So... caving box ticked. And then there we were in Richmond, checked into the B&B and another knock at the door. 'Do you have two ladies from mountain rescue here?' comes the voice from the front door. (Yes, I know...) It's Graham. He and Rich have come up with a team vehicle to take us down to the River Swale.

'You may be offered a raft ride,' read the email. Mmmm... sounds suspiciously like 'you might be taken to a cave entrance'. But wetter.

'Honestly, you won't get wet,' says Graham. Not convinced, but we climb into the Land Rover anyway.

On down to the river bank, just below the castle. When the river's high there's an impressive rapids a short way down stream - thankfully not today. We're introduced to Daz and Tim, already in their swiftwater gear and messing about with the inflatable. In fact these two do seem to spend a great deal more time in the water than out of it, taking every opportunity to dive in!

All four chaps now kitted out, and we two in our safety vests, we're sat in the boat and paddled down the river, stopping short of the 'rapids' for, guess what, another photo opportunity. Then back to their Catterick base for tea and very posh biscuits, and on to the pub (well this IS mountain rescue!).

Finally fell into the B&B after yet another action packed day in the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Adventure Park. Alton Towers has nothing on this!!

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