The Plymouth Caving Group was formed in 1963. We are affiliated to the British Caving Association, the governing caving organisation in the UK, who also provide our insurance. We also have links to the Devon and Cornwall Underground Council who negotiate access agreements with landowners and who often secure the entrances to sensitive sites. We are associated with the Pengelly Centre in Buckfastleigh, where we hold meetings, keep our equipment and who also house our library. Finally we are associated with Devon Cave Rescue, which is made up partly of our own members.
Whatever your experience, a total novice who has never been underground, or a very experienced caver, we hope we can offer you a great deal. Of course the club in return would like your support, just by attending organised trips or by helping in any other way you can.
We visit local caves or mines on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday evenings, and hold weekend or longer trips away to other areas in the UK and sometimes abroad. See our Calendar. Details of these trips are circulated regularly by email to members only. We do not publish locations on the calendar. In addition, members make other trips with the aim of new exploration, surveying, photography or similar purposes, or are just ‘sporting’ trips.
What to Expect
The South West has thousands of old mines and the Plymouth, Buckfast and Torbay areas have many limestone caves. The caves were obviously formed by nature without regard for the convenience of humans. Expect to climb, crawl, wriggle, squeeze and slither, sometimes in water or mud. Some caves are easy, others challenging. Mines, were dug by humans and except for some early mines e.g. Roman or Medieval, dug to human proportions. However even in recent mines, you will still probably have to climb over rocks, down inclines and through narrow gaps and again, occasionally get wet and muddy.
Sometimes you will want to get down, and then back up, steep or vertical drops. Sometimes there are already ladders or rungs, sometimes we use temporary or wire ladders, but with some sites, we use ropes and Single Rope Techniques (SRT.) These last sites are for more experienced cavers and you will need to train to use ropes and need a harness and equipment. These can be borrowed initially.
The ‘scenery’ in both mines and caves can be spectacular, as you can see from our pictures. Abandoned equipment and artefacts can be found in mines as well as the different and sometimes vivid colours of the minerals. Caves, as well as having the better known stalactites and stalagmites, have many fascinating and delicate natural features. Both have an awe inspiring majesty when they open out to great chambers. Both can be a source of mystery and adventure as we explore their less accessible areas.
Caving and mine exploration involve risk and are also a privilege, as almost always, they are on private land with permission specifically obtained from the land owners. Please be respectful of other’s property and also take a look at our Code of Conduct and our Constitution. Cheers!
To start with, you will need
- Old warm clothes (e.g. track suit bottoms and sweat shirt)
- Wellies. They are tough and you won’t mind if they get wet… Including inside if the water is too deep for them. Trainers or walking boots are not suitable.
- An old boiler suit as your outer layer is optional to start with. Or you can borrow a proper caving suit. They are very tough, and slippery enough to wriggle over rocks and through narrow openings.
- Helmet and suitable light. These may be hired from the club or borrowed from other members until you are ready to buy your own.
- Bring a change of dry clothes, including socks and underclothes, plus a towel, to get changed for when you get out again.
As you progress, you will want to get proper caving equipment. See our Equipment page for more detailed information. Also talk to the more experienced members for advice and best sources.
Training in technical aspects of caving is offered including knots for caving and full SRT- Single Rope access Techniques. SRT equipment can be hired very cheaply for above ground training sessions.
A full training curriculum is currently being developed.
If you would like to come on a couple of trips with us, or if you know you would like to join us straight away, click over to our Join Us page and send us a message. If you want to, you can contact members of the Committee here.