Date: 5th July, 2017
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is warning people to think twice before visiting the former stone mines below Box.
Firefighters have attended at Box Hill twice in three days to support Mendip Cave Rescue in bringing groups of people to safety.
On Sunday evening (2 July), fire crews from Corsham, Melksham and Trowbridge were called to the mines as three men in their thirties had lost their bearings underground; then, in the early hours of this morning (5 July), crews from Corsham and Bath were called to help a group of seven young people who were unable to get out of the complex – rope rescue specialists from Trowbridge and Chippenham also attended but weren’t needed.
In both cases, fire crews provided welfare support and scene lighting while volunteers from Mendip Cave Rescue got to the site and entered the mines to walk the groups to safety.
Martin Grass, secretary of Mendip Cave Rescue, said: “We have volunteers who live in the Corsham area and have good local knowledge of the Box stone mines, who can go in safely to help people back to the surface. Although fortunately not needed on these occasions, we also have specialist equipment which we can bring from further afield to help when there are injuries or there has been a rockfall.”
He urged anyone wanting to explore the caves to only do so with the right knowledge and equipment. “If you’re not an experienced caver, it is easy to think that these are just a few big caverns with lots of entrance and exit points; however, it is far too simple to lose your bearings or get disorientated. With these two most recent rescues, the groups were woefully ill-equipped for what they were trying to do, and they were very lucky that they found a place of relative safety where there was phone signal.”
Station Manager Darren Nixon, from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, echoed this view: “Fortunately, nobody was injured on these two latest occasions, and the groups were OK to stay where they were until the cave rescue team arrived. However, with a bit more planning, and a bit more thought, they could have avoided multiple fire crews and volunteers being mobilised. Having fun is fine, but please think twice about your plans and whether you have done everything possible to be safe.”
Anyone intending to explore any underground complex should:
- Always tell someone where you are going, where you intend to park, and what time you intend to back on the surface – and make sure they have all appropriate mobile phone numbers for contacting you.
- Dress appropriately – it can get very cold underground so take warm clothes, even if you don’t think you’ll need them.
- Have more than one torch, fully charged, and make sure all mobile phones are fully charged as well.
- Take water and some snacks.
- Use a map and, where possible, check before you leave that the map is still valid – for example, some entrance points may have been closed off since the map was produced.
If you do get lost, call 999 and ask for Police Cave Rescue – they will then contact the appropriate organisations.
More information about Mendip Cave Rescue can be found at www.mendipcaverescue.org