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However, short extracts from it may be used, for non-commercial purposes, provided their source is fully cited, acknowledged and referenced as:
Hastings, C. (1930) Gavel Pot In 1885. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 6 Number 19: pp60-62. Leeds: YRC.

Gavel Pot In 1885.

By Cuthbert Hastings.

[This article appeared in the Gritstone Journal for 1926 under the title, “ Low Dowk Pot—1885,” and solved the mystery of the old iron ladder in the long passage. The name used seems to suggest that the present names on Leck Fell were fixed by the publication of Balderston’s Ingleton and Speight’s Craven and N. W. Yorkshire Highlands.]

When my brother asked me if I would join a pot-holing expedition to Leck Fell, I naturally agreed, as he was the leader in all our expeditions. I had then a very faint idea what a pot-hole was or how it was formed or what there might be at the bottom. I had certainly looked down Gaping Ghyll Hole and Alum Pot but that was as far as my knowledge went.

The party consisted of five, two of them, the seniors, being married men, the others bachelors; one of the bachelors, Eckroyd, had been to the pot-hole before and knew what the difficulties were, the chief being the ascent of an underground waterfall some distance away from the foot of the big pot-hole, Low Dowk (now called Gavel Pot). Eckroyd got the mechanic at the mill where he worked to cut two lengths of iron piping the height of the waterfall, cord rungs were fastened to them, and kept tight by iron rods fastened to the uprights with nuts and screws both top and bottom. We had also a rope ladder which was needed to descend Low Dowk pot-hole.

Just before the day of departure arrived the wives of the seniors objected to their husbands risking their lives down a pot-hole ; they might climb any mountain peak but must not go down pot-holes. That reduced us to three.

A start was made one Saturday in August, 1885, the party meeting at Melling station with all the luggage and tackle. E. had arranged with a farmer to meet us at the station and find us accommodation for the night. A short drive took us to the farm where we got out with our luggage, the farmer taking the tackle up Leck Moor and depositing it by the road side.

Upper Glen Nevis by C.E. Benson.  © Yorkshire Ramblers' Club
Upper Glen Nevis by C.E. Benson

After changing into more suitable garments we followed the conveyance and when we were approaching the moor we met a shooting party returning. Eckroyd knew the keeper and stopped to speak to him, but when the latter heard of our proposed expedition he said, “ Well, you may come out alive.” We found our tackle, carried it to our pot-hole and soon had our rope ladder in position for the leader to descend ; then we sent down the rest of the tackle and followed.

Near the foot of the ladder was the entrance to a cave which soon opened out above an underground watercourse, and on the left was a steep slope up to daylight. The stream was about ten feet below us[1] and to get down to it we had to cross over to a ledge on the other side. Here our iron ladder came in useful. It was an easy climb down from our ledge to the stream, each one taking his share of the tackle. A start was made up-stream, we found the channel very lofty and wide enough to make progress easy and as we had not much time we hurried forward until we got to the waterfall and, leaving there our ladder and other tackle, hurried back and were soon out again on the moor.

Next morning we made an early start, the weather favouring us. On arriving at Low Dowk (Gavel Pot) we arranged our packs, leaving dry clothes on the surface to change into. We soon descended the ladder and started forward on our underground journey, having now time to examine the water channel more closely. The roof was at places a great height above us, and the side walls bulged inwards towards each other but allowed ample room for us to walk upright. This formation seems very common in underground watercourses, suggesting that there have been two stages; at first the stream flows along an upper channel, then opens up a fissure and proceeds to make another channel at a lower level, the intervening limestone being ultimately worn away by the carbonic acid in the water.

There was a fair sized stream but it delayed us very little, and on arrival at the waterfall lunch was eaten, the ladder put in position, and soon the whole party was at the top. We were all of the opinion that the waterfall could not have been climbed without the help of the ladder. The stream channel continued still very high, so progress was easy; no survey or measurement of any kind was taken on this expedition. In a little while we came to a junction of two passages, one a dry passage on the left and a watercourse on the right. We decided to take the dry one, why I do not remember, but I expect we thought it was not possible to follow the water channel any further, but I have heard since that it is possible and has been followed several times.

Very soon we came to a very narrow place. Eckroyd leading, got through and my brother followed, only just managing to squeeze through, but try as I would I could not get through and although I wanted the other two to go on and see what was in front, they decided not to separate and so we returned. It has been rumoured that had they gone on they would have come out at the bottom of High Dowk pot-hole (Marble Steps). We decided to return and were soon back at the waterfall, and found no difficulty in climbing down the ladder, which we left there, and so downstream and out of Low Dowk (Gavel Pot). So ended my first pot-holing trip and a very successful and enjoyable one.

Some ten or a dozen years afterwards a party of Yorkshire Ramblers spent one or two weekends on Leck Fell. Descending a pot-hole (now called Short Drop) they discovered a cave and after passing a narrow place without much difficulty entered a roomy waterchannel which they followed downwards, coming to a waterfall and finding to their astonishment the remains of our ladder ; up to then they thought they were the first to discover the existence of this underground watercourse.

[ Note by the Editor.—This determined and almost successful attempt by Messrs. W. Eckroyd, Geoffrey and Cuthbert Hastings is shown by the internal evidence of the narrative to have reached within hail of Short Drop, a hole which was probably not open then. The pioneers had no idea that they could get through to daylight.

The complete traverse of the magnificent tunnel from Short Drop to Gavel Pot was made by Cuttriss, Swithinbank, and J. H. Buckley in 1898. See Y.R.C.J., Vol.V., p.63]



[1] There is a second more difficult route to this point.
The steep slope which is crossed in the daylight ends above a 70 ft. shaft into which the stream falls.--Editor.