What to expect
Modern caving, also known as potholing, involves exploring underground through networks of tunnels and passageways, which can be natural or artificial (manmade). Sometimes, people explore beautiful show caves, which are wide, open spaces you can walk around without any equipment.
Unless you’re checking out a show cave, you’ll probably need wellies, thick caving suits, helmets, and torches so you’re ready to crouch, crawl, and climb your way around.
What you’ll learn
Caving’s a great way to learn to be courageous as you’ll need to take a deep breath and get stuck in (with the support of your friends). It’s also a chance to practise communicating – in dark, narrow spaces, you’ll need to let your teammates know which way to go and what to look out for. The best cavers are the ones who’re able to ask for help when they need it.
In the UK, caving for fun emerged in the 1800s. Humans have been using caves for thousands of years, though. People have found cave paintings from humans and Neanderthals – some are up to 64,000 years old.
- Pack an extra jumper (or two). Caves can be cold and wet. You’ll be the hero of the day if you make sure people have a dry coat or jumper to put on when they emerge.
- Take it easy. Caves make some people feel nervous. Keep an eye on anyone who’s uncomfortable – perhaps they’d like to stay close to a leader or a more confident friend? There should always be time for people to take a break if they need a moment or two.
You must always:
Be safe outdoors:
- Check the weather forecast
- Everyone must be briefed before the activity, making sure they know how to use equipment and what to do in an emergency.
- Only groups of 4 or more can participate in underground activities.
- Always leave a route plan and contact information at a safe location on the surface
- All mines must have a current mine inspection report in place for the sections being used
Joint activities with other organisations:
This activity can be led by you or someone else in Scouts:
The activity leader must have an adventurous activities permit with the right level and permissions for your group.
Where the group is entirely members over the age of 18 the permit scheme does not apply, please follow the rule 9.8 adult groups.
You can go to a centre or use an activity leader who is not part of Scouting:You must find a suitable provider who meets the following requirements:
- The centre/instructor should hold one of these: (If the provider is AALA exempt)
- British Caving Association - Local Cave and Mine Leader (LCMLA) Level 1 or 2, or Cave Instructor Certificate (CIC) depending on the cave and techniques required
The provider must have public liability insurance.
Caving’s a great chance for everyone to be courageous and overcome worries. Was anyone worried about anything before they gave it a go? Like lots of adventures, caving can have lots of risks – but by following instructions, everyone can learn to keep themselves safe. How did people encourage each other to face their fears? Caving’s also a great chance to learn about your limits – sometimes, it’s important to learn how far someone can go from their comfort zone before it’s too far. When else may people need to learn this balance? There are lots of other situations where it’s good to push beyond the ‘comfort zone’ to learn more and achieve things, but where it’s OK to have limited too.
Successful cavers need to communicate with their team. What was it like relying on others for support and information? Learning to rely on others (and to be reliable) is a really important skill. Did people just pass on facts, or did they share their thoughts and feelings too? What are the benefits of people putting themselves in others’ shoes and understanding how they’re feeling during an adventure like caving?
- Caving’s a great adventure – and it can be adapted too. Get in touch with your local provider to chat through the needs of people in your group. If you give them plenty of notice, it’s likely that you’ll be able come up with a plan that means most people can give it a go.
- It’s worth thinking about whether a show cave would be best at meeting your group’s needs. They’re often bigger (and more open) than other caving options, making natural, underground wonders easier to access. Don’t presume every show cave will work for everyone, though. You’ll still need to get in touch before you go.
All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.