Cambridge Underground 1988 pp 14-15

The Discovery and Exploration of Reeking Hole

Or How to Get Noticed In May Balls Without Trying

Chris Densham

The discovery of Reeking Hole was made while the author and Jim Entwistle, a friend from college, were canoeing along the Cam while prospecting for any possible covert entrances into colleges with the shameful aim of crashing as many May Balls as possible that year. Several promising entrances opened off along the water-line, one looking particularly hopeful with a paddle through an archway followed by a climb over a wall, and a tunnel leading off. Unfortunately the passage sloped down gradually and the cobwebs on the roof got inexorably closer to the the surface of the rather disgusting slurry. The author promptly bottled at the prospect of getting anything slopping into his nostrils and returned to the more sweet-smelling air out in the sunshine. Most of the other entrances found also became rapidly too tight, too wet, or too smelly.

It would appear the college authorities have very little consideration for the environment, let alone any members of the Cambridge Urban Caving Club. They are either very careless with what happens to the prodigious quantities of waste that a collegeful of healthy bowels manages to produce, or perhaps it is all deliberately allowed to trickle out of their pipes as a disincentive to unwanted quests, marauding crocodiles and the like. Either way it would seem indelicate to complain, since the present access arrangements consist of the tried and tested method of pirating and hoping for the best.

Then a very inviting culvert was found, threequarters filled with water leaving a fifteen centimetre airspace, and so the canoes were stashed and an initial investigation was made. This sowed the first seeds of official disapproval when a river official noticed two wet-suited figures popping out of a hole at the bottom of the river wall in a shabby attempt to make some tourists fall off their punt. An exciting death or glory swim and a chase across the backs ensued, but when the official confronted the two climbing up the side of Clare Bridge, one with what must have looked suspiciously like the pungent remains of what someone had had for Sunday lunch several weeks before adorning his neck, a disdainful stare was all he could manage. The tourists gave a rather better reception.

The first exploration was aborted when about ten feet from the entrance, partly due to a lack of light, and partly due to the natural occupant, in the form of eighteen inches of muscly eel, making writhing objections to an invasion of his privacy. Two more pushing trips were made, the final one at 3a.m with Jared and Jenny roped in after a traditional session in the Granta followed by Darwin bar had traditionally blurred everyone's better judgement

Reeking Hole opens off from the river as a rectangular aqueous crawl, with an uninspiring 10 cm of putrid airspace, the rest consisting of water and heavy organic deposits. Warning: the entrance crawl sumps in heavy rain, and the cave should not be attempted except in periods of settled, preferably sunny weather. The passage slopes up gradually, and the 5 cm airspace increases until after ten metres it dries out almost completely. A few hundred metres into the crawl a tight chimney leads up, which is usually covered with a flat rock. The main passage continues for several hundred metres more, with a few small rodent sized passages leading off, and one tight rift which has not yet been pushed to its limit. Care must be taken at one point near a small stream inlet, where the roof of the passage is formed by an unstable boulder choke, although the most dangerous rock has been pulled down. A short muddy scramble blocks off; and an oval tube leads off to the left at right angles, which has ben known to be half filled with a very glutinous slurry. The tube can be passed by lying on one side, but it blocks off after only 7 m at a small stream inlet.

The final visit to Reeking Hole was made by four people who shall remain nameless, at that that certain time in May Week when Cambridge colleges, that have been open to the most obnoxious tourists all the year round, suddenly seem to go mad, with Colditz-style barbed wire and floodlights adorning the walls, and eager sentries to boot. People only seem to be allowed in if they are wearing ridiculously voluminous dresses or penguin suits. These four wasters, wearing the latest styles of trendy neoprene wear (with the odd neoprene bow-tie salvaged from the last annual dinner), felt hungry and thirsty, with only one grotty sewer between them and the lolly. So the slightly unconventional entry was begun; unfortunately the eel, despite much earnest persuasion with an empty welly, decided that since it was after midnight, like Cinderella it could not come to the Ball. Four desperate looking people (or people looking desperate for a bath) were seen to emerge into the Ball. After shamelessly jumping the queue for the romantic photo-calls, they made a clean sweep of any champagne, food and ice-cream around, and not such a clean sweep of the dance floors ("Ah, hello Mr. Security Man, we're an act going on later called the, er, 'Deep Sea Divers', honest!") followed by a return to the champagne since no-one seemed willing to dance with them.

After forty minutes the inevitable happened, and the chief security man came to congratulate/escort off the premises these four degenerates. And about time too, for a busy night lay ahead of them, with more festivities to enjoy, more hospitality to abuse and more alcohol to consume elsewhere!

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