Black Hole Sign
The Black Hole: Surrey Scouts Caving Without Caves

Surrey Scoutabout is a huge weekend activity camp for all Scouts and Guides in Surrey, run every three years at the South of England Showground in West Sussex. It has an attendance of over 3500 young people plus another couple of thousand of their leaders, and offers over 200 activities for them to take part in, the biggest, and arguably the most popular being the ‘Black Hole’, with over 1694 young people enjoying the system over the weekend.

Surrey Scout Caving Club, of which I am a member, has been running the activity for many years, although my first involvement with it was at the 2011 event, as I had been involved in the management and running of the event. For the 2014 event another member, Pete, and myself were offered the task of designing the system and managing the build, supported by the wider club.

In previous years we have built the system as we went along, assigning small teams to sections, which were then joined together. For 2014, however we took a different approach in planning which started in earnest at the end of 2013. Pete, I and a few others sat down and worked out the main design using Lego as it enabled us to easily produce a model that everyone could understand, and could be modified on the fly if necessary

  Bales  Black Hole
The build starts with 1000 bales of straw, and a lego model on the Thursday Morning

Straw Bales  Black hole

Building the hole
 Sump  Empty Sump  
The first few layers go in, including the liner for the wet parts
This is very much a team build

Scaff Towers  Internal Structure
The internal structure- Scaffolding towers and features such as a rift get fitted in

Roofing  Roofing
Once at the finished height, the system is roofed off

Nearly complete  Filling
Nearing completion

kit up  Helmets  
A queuing system is set up, with a station to kit out the Scouts snd Guides with helmets

Finished Black Hole
The finished cave, awaiting Scouts and Guides, ready to go by 5pm Friday
The entrance is pre-fabricated and reused each time. The sheep pens are used to manage the queue

Blackhole  Blackhole
Blackhole  Blackhole
Blackhole  Blackhole
Blackhole  Blackhole
Blackhole  Blackhole
Blackhole  Blackhole
Blackhole  Blackhole
Blackhole  Blackhole
Scouts and Guides enjoying the system
Sessions ran for around 9 hours on the saturday and  4 hours on the Sunday

Water  Sump inner  
The last section of the system includes a canal with soaker hose dripping down

The Sump  The Sump
The Sump
Cavers exit through a sump, or through an alternative dry route

The cave in numbers;

• 3500 Scouts and Guides on Camp
• 1694 people through the system
• 70M of passage
• 1000 Bales of straw
• 120 Sheep Pens
• 20 Sheets of ply
• 224 sqm plastic sheeting
• 5000 litres water

The full team from Surrey Scout Caving Club


Text and Photos (c) M. Pantrey April 2016, Additional Photos (c) A. Roberts