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  • Diver in the Well

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    by Duncan Price

    The terrain around the City of Nottingham in the UK is rather lacking in caves. The "Caves of Nottingham" are in fact man made holes cut into the red sandstone that is the predominate rock type along the banks of the River Trent. Fine ales can be consumed in the "Old Trip to Jerusalem", purportedly the oldest pub in the country (dating from the Crusades at the time of Richard I) which has rooms hollowed out into the cliff below Nottingham Castle. Perhaps Robin Hood sunk a warm beer here beneath the Sheriff’s feet?

    There is a lot of history to the area and the Cave Diving Group was contacted by a local historical society with an unusual request. Could you dive in a well for us? Dutifully a team of Britain’s top cave divers was assembled. On the day (August 1st), however they couldn’t make it, so a substitute group of divers went in their place. This is their story. The well in question was in the grounds of Waterloo Cottage, 183 Nottingham Road, Trowell. Gary Jones, Al Steans, Andy Walchester and myself representing the CDG contingent with a few hangers on from the local caving club. Paul Nix seemed to be the man in charge of the history team and he’d organised press coverage from the local newspaper. Mr & Mrs Licence (the owners) were very accommodating and plied us with copious quantities of hot tea. An A-frame was assembled over the open manhole cover capping the well. We peered down into the gloom of the 4" diameter brick lined shaft which had been plumbed to 60 ft down to water level. The site is of particular interest as the well is in the grounds of a former hostelry and might contain historical artifacts. Al was keenest to descend (in fact Gary and myself hadn’t actually brought any diving gear) and got ready with a single sidemounted 50 cubic foot cylinder and his vertical gear. A wire ladder and a rope were rigged and Al rappelled down about half way to an area where the walls were coated with a think layer of red ochre which threatened to peel off at any moment. Not liking the look of this at all, Al retreated. After a little discussion, I volunteered to go down and try to remove this. Squeezing into the long john’s of Al’s wetsuit and borrowing his sit harness I dropped down to the offending muck and worked away at it with a wrecking bar amid loud splashes as the ochre was removed. Resting between bouts I became aware that the air was becoming foul so I too beat a laboured retreat to daylight on a fine summers evening. With not much to show for our efforts the divers decamped to a local hostelry to make plans for a return match. It wasn’t until August 31st that we met again. This time Andy was persuaded to go down the well. A reconnaissance with a miner's safety lamp on a rope indicated that air quality would be an issue. Andy kitted up with a single cylinder and breathed this throughout his time in the well. The diver was then lowered down in a haphazard manner to the water level. Several searches were made for anything of historical value. The only item of interest was a short length m length of wood with holes in it which could possibly be part of the well head. Attempts to haul Andy to the surface using a pulley almost collapsed the A-frame at the top so the diver climbed a ladder (with difficulty). Water depth 11 ft to the top of debris cone with a maximum depth of 17 ft recorded when Andy shoved his arm into the mung beneath. The well was found to be brick lined all the way and no underwater passages were felt leading off. Slightly disappointed that we’d not come away with anything that conclusively prove that the well was once uses as a water supply for the long lost pub, we once again retired to a working one to relax in.

    (Left-right: Andy, Gary, Al and Duncan by the A-frame)

    (Al descends the well)

    (two views of Andy working at the bottom of the well)

    (Andy gets some refreshment after diving)
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