Hello, my name is Mal Tabb. Thanks for visiting our web pages. Marion & I operate a small outdoor activity organisation called Canoes, Mountains & Caves. We provide activities for: adults, young people, schools, charities, families & individuals. A key aspect of our work is the provision of a "Community Programme" which is offered free of charge to participants. If you think we might be able to help please don't hesitate to contact us, you can find out more about what we do on our main website www.canoesmountainscaves.com
I was looking through my Cave & Mine log book earlier and made a quick review of the last 12 months. It was a surprise to find that a good 30 trips underground have been completed during this time with one caving trip for about every five mine exploration trips (proximity to the North Pennines has altered this bias in recent months) . These underground travels have taken us to North Wales; the Yorkshire Dales; the North Pennines & the Lake District.
From leading youth groups in Upper & Lower Long Churns; to personal deep exploration of North Pennine mines; to the vertical realms of abandoned Welsh slate mines - there have been a lot of dark places in the last 12 months. However, from seeing the faces of first time underground explorers as they overcome initial fear & apprehension; to the bonds of friendship that have been built with & amongst our regular underground explorers to the physical and mental challenge of a demanding expedition in the underworld the light has always triumphed and will continue to do so.
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it"
Here's another post from Marion after a couple of weekends' wild camping:
Two recent weekends have introduced me
to the experience that is ‘Wild Camping’.
When this concept was originally
suggested to me the thought of being out under the trees sent shivers down my
spine; dark shadows, the rustle of undergrowth, a midnight ‘howl’ chorus, and
bugs of all description taking advantage of exposed faces, all conjured in my
mind! I may not be a celebrity, but the phrase ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE’ was
hovering on the tip of my lips, even before the date was set!
We had been blessed greatly by the 2014
summer and it was not to disappoint as it continued to give us two beautiful
weekends as the autumn calendar began to open its doors. Both micro-expeditions,
subsequently found themselves in the idyllic surroundings of two of Cumbria’s
‘Northern Lakes’; the canvas had been lovingly painted to melt my anxious
Our journeys commenced with open canoes
laden with all that we would need for a night ‘under the stars’; flanked by
welcoming mountains that seemed all but touchable, paddles began to glide
through the gentle, crystal waters.
Words cannot do justice to the beauty
and majesty of all that surrounded us; the ‘Artist’ had truly presented His creation
in all its finery!
As vessels steered to dry land it seemed
a shame to move from these waters, but our own creation story was required if
we were going to find rest for the night!
Territories staked out, there was much
excitement in the air as hammocks, tarps and (dare I say it) tents, along with
survival, bivvy and sleeping bags, were revealed and carefully positioned;
‘lodgings’ in place it was time to turn our attention to the all-important
matters of fire and food!
Bulrush, bow-drill, straw and kindling
in place the first attempts to generate heat began. With bow-drill in full
friction the emergence of smoke could be seen, the advancement to a more modern
form of ‘fire-lighting’however, was
required to translate this into a spark … the fire steel was brought into play!
It was the next part of this process
that had me transfixed, and spoke once again of life’s journey.As the small spark took hold in the bulrush,
the ball of straw that it was embedded in was lifted to the air to allow a
gentle, consistent breath to be blown through it for the spark to be brought
completely to life with dancing flames producing light, warmth and sufficient
power to cook!
The image before me reminded me that
many times through life we are asked to do things that maybe we have no
qualification or any real equipping for, just the minutest amount of talent
with a willingness to offer it for use.Viewing this from my walk with Jesus as my saviour and friend, I could
see those times when I have handed over the smallest of offerings in many areas
(emotions, talents, time, relationships, financial resources etc) to God
(sometimes hesitantly!!), for Him to breathe life into. What has happened next
has, on many occasions, brought about something beyond anything that I could
dream or imagine; my world lit up to bring change, transformation and the
ability to achieve.
With the beautiful picture of ‘michelin
man’ proportioned hands lovingly holding us and life giving breath being blown into
all that we are and can be; camp camaraderie, around the now glowing fire, in
full flow; I was ready to embrace my ‘sleepover’ with the
stars and all creation … including the ones that were to crawl over my face in
September has got off to a very busy start, following an open canoe micro-expedition over the last weekend in August, both September weekends have been packed full of activity: another open canoe micro-expedition & a white water safety day. All of the events have been incredibly well supported and its been a privilege to spend so much time in the outdoors in so much good company! Similarly its been such a blessing to enjoy two fine, dry and warm September weekends!!
Mid-weeks have been busier than anticipated also with an unexpected day working in the fells and a full week lying ahead. So for now by way of a catch up here are a few photos from last week's open canoe micro-expedition.
Yesterday's office consisted of a glorious September's day in what is quite possibly my favourite part of the Lake District - high level walking in the area close to Great Gable; Great End; Esk Pike; the Scafells.......... The actual route was Allen Crags & Glaramara via a lunch stop at Sprinkling Tarn. It was a privilege to spend the day with such a great group of folk in such a special area - very encouraging!
Here's another post from Marion following a recent visit to Cwmorthin Slate Mine in North Wales:
Cold, dark confined spaces are not what
I would class as one of those areas of ‘Hidden Beauty’ previously referred to, neither are they places that I have a desire to frequent.
With this in mind, you would think that
a day trip for mine exploration would be the last thing on my ‘holiday’
itinerary.It is something, however,
that in August last year (2013) I was somehow persuaded to take part in.
Although not a confined space it was cold and dark; somewhat intimidating and
fear imposing with a traverse that left me suspended in a void of epic
proportions (exaggeration or not that’s how it presented itself to me!). The
trip’s only appeal was the fact that I was entering this experience not on my
own but with a number of other people, who unlike me, seemed to be seeking the
‘thrill’ of the ‘underworld’!
Returning to Wales this year, it was
suggested that an underground trip should be included on the list of activities
to offer. With our ‘Community Holiday’
underway, and with a day to spare, Mal and I found ourselves heading for Cwmorthin
Slate Mine; time to dig deep, take a deep breath and compose the tremble
The limited light of our head torches
didn’t help much to illuminate the relatively spacious entrance tunnel or the
descent along the incline plain; the darkness was appearing ever more
threatening and overwhelming.Not far
into the mine, having passed over our first very modest traverse, we landed at
the head of a chasm of nothingness; before us a 60ft abseil to ‘nowhere’; my
mind-set in tatters!
Irrespective of Mal's gentle
encouragement and reassurance of safety, I could go no further, the elements
had beaten me and I urgently needed to retreat.Retracing our steps the smell of air and the light of the outside was
welcoming and comforting.
Pondering on the content of our hour’s
activity, conversation was deep. We likened the situation to those times in
life when worlds are shattered by events beyond our control and we find
ourselves in those difficult, ‘dark’ places of life with seemingly no-where to
go, no-where to hide and very little hope.Those times when we need to rely on the ‘light’ to help us understand our
surroundings and to see the steps forward clearer, rather than allowing the
darkness to absorb us.
I needed to ‘happen’ to Cwmorthin rather
than Cwmorthin ‘happening’ to me!
The week rolled on, and with new
visitors joining us on camp looking for an ‘extreme’ experience, I found myself
bringing the idea that they might find the challenges of Cwmorthin enough to
fulfil their desires; could I believe I was saying these things? No, but
sometimes you have to be determined to achieve, so to Cwmorthin we were headed!
As the 6 of us kitted up there seemed to
be a buzz in the air, for me encouragement and strength in numbers; although
the mine opening would have been better served with less of an ascent, here was
potential for enthusiasm to abate.
The walls of the mine seemed much more
visible as we made our way through. This could only mean that the gaping voids
would also be more apparent; as the 60ft abseil loomed my only option was to
close my eyes and hope for the best!Pushing away from the ledge I was launched into the chasm that just 2
days before I had ‘run’ from.The
contact with solid ground brought a sigh of relief, but there was no time to
feel comfortable as a short distance away, in the dim light of the head
torches, could be seen what is known as the ‘catwalk’. With a sickening feeling
beginning to develop in the pit of my stomach it was my turn to interact with
the 6 inch planks of wood that perched on the old miner’s metal spikes in the
middle of an approx. 90ft chamber.Encouraged
greatly by those around me, making sure ‘cows tails’ were in place, I tentatively
started my ‘walking in the air’ journey; the sickening feeling increasing as
the planks ran out into footholds of only metal spikes!
Half-way through, with a broken bridge
to be negotiated and two more abseils to be conquered I was thankful for the
continued quiet words and inspiration of those who went before me. Finally
landing deep in the mine, I was ready to lead the ascent up the incline plane
back out into the warmth and brightness of the sun.
Feeling accomplished in the ‘happening’
to Cwmorthin, my mind took me once again to ‘moments of life’ and how in those
areas victory too can be known as we surround ourselves with the right friends
who can bring light and encouragement to see us through. For me that has
included ‘chatting’ with my friend Jesus, who directly and through other people
helped me to see the ‘opportunities’ of life in a new light,
to find and reach that warmth and beauty once again.
Upon moving to Cumbria, nine years ago, as a very enthusiastic open canoeist the open canoeing sadly became a seldom practised art. Caves; mine exploration; fell running but more than anything the rigours of managing a large Christian Residential & Outdoor Activity Centre took over. The open canoeing has been largely on hold, until this summer where there has been a marked resurgence with many days spent afloat in the Lake District; North East & North Wales - this is a good thing! I would even venture as far as saying that this weekend whilst on a short "micro-expedition" I began to hear the Song of the Paddle again for the first time in all those years. I do love and wholeheartedly agree with this quote from Bill Mason:
"Some people hear the song in the quiet mist of a cold morning; others hear it in the middle of a roaring rapids. Sometimes the excitement drowns out the song. The thrills become all that matter as we seek one rapid after another. Sleeping, eating and living outdoors become something we do between rapids. But for other people the song is loudest in the evening when they are sitting in front of the tent, basking in the camp fire's warmth. This is when I hear it loudest, after I have paddled and portaged for many miles to some distant, hidden place."
Our miniature expedition this weekend contained many of the elements of the "perfect" open canoe journey: Fine weather; open water; a river; an overnight camp; campfires; outdoor cooking; sleeping under tarps and whilst there are many pleasures in solo open canoeing the company of good friends is an equally special ingredient.
Plans for the next journey are already in hand, river trips for the autumn are in the diary and thoughts of a big trip in the far north next Spring are slowly fermenting in the mind. Hope you enjoy the photos & are inspired by thoughts of journeying in the outdoors using this unique vehicle.
Thanks to Adrian Wintle for the "header photo" to this post.