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YRC Committee (1936) Cave Exploration. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 6 Number 22: pp349-357. Leeds: YRC.

Cave Exploration.

I.—New Discoveries.

Northern Ireland, Fermanagh, Marble Arch Cave (alt. 430 ft., rising of the Cladagh, West of Florence Court, South side of Lower Lough Macnean, 12 miles from Enniskillen).—20th April, 1935. Visited by a Y.R.C. party of nine. Evans and Roberts found a new chamber, 70 yards long, through a passage opening high up in the left wall of the steep slope in Pool Chamber. The next day Gowing and Nelstrop waded and swam under an excessively low roof at least 40 yards up the Cladagh from the end of the Grand Gallery into Lower Cradle Hole.

Fermanagh, Upper Cradle Hole (surface of Cradle Hole, alt. 600 ft.) 20th April, 1935. The Monastir, running in flood through a wide and lofty cavern, was gained by a solid rock passage from the wide open pot-hole, Polnagapple, and followed upstream to a siphon and downstream to a gleam of daylight. On the 21st all the party, W. V. Brown, Nelstrop, Crowe, Norris, Bone, and those named, waded and climbed the whole length to or from Cradle Hole. A second route from Polnagapple was found through the boulders and the cavern surveyed, length 280 yards. These caves are in Carboniferous Limestone, the Great Scar or Mountain Limestone.

Irish Free State, Clare, Lisdoonvarna Caves.—At Easter, P. N. Bartlett with Messrs. S. and D. Pick, Balcombe, and others did the following which are believed to be new.

St. Catherine's Well Cave, 200 yds. close under the surface.

Poulnaelva, upper watercourse, 600 yds. to a swallet.

Poulwillin, the internal pot-hole seen by Kentish.

They also visited Coolagh River Cave, 800 yards to an immense round pool, and the tremendously long Poulnagollum of Baker.

Ingleborough, Gaping Gill Hole.—Excavation at the end of the East Passage and in the Main Chamber has had no result worth mentioning.

August 4th, 1935. — The end of the Rathole, into which normally the dam diverts the beck, was laddered by the Craven Pot-Hole Club, a laborious task, and the descent into the Main Chamber was made by Messrs. E. Smith and A. C. Waterfall. They found a spacious ledge 170 ft. down, on which they hauled up 120 ft. of ladder to complete the descent.

Ingleborough, Simon Fell, Nick Pot II. (adjacent to the swallet of Shooting Box Beck).—In November, 1934, the floor of the sink next Nick Pot was noticed to have fallen in. In December, during a terrible storm an internal pot receiving a big waterfall was found. In January, 1936, frost and deep snow, F. Booth was able to climb to the floor of the now dry pot-hole, but found no passage. The farmer has now choked it up.

Ingleborough, Chapel-le-Dale, Mere Gill Hole (alt. 1,250 ft.).— 14th July, 1934, very dry conditions outside. Fourth descent. Messrs. Proctor, Buckley, and Butterworth (Northern Cavern and Fell Club) reached the gravel where the stream disappears in the long final passage, hitherto the end. They were gratified to be able to scrape through on the left hand side into a 200 yard passage, 4 to 5 feet high, carrying a mere trickle of water to a finish in a water-filled bedding plane, 6 ft. wide. Messrs.

Dawson, Thornber and Gregson also reached the new finish. Dawson tried the dry cross-over of 1914, but did not get through. Butterworth went all the way up the Torrent.

5th and 6th May, 1935. — Conditions outside miraculous. Two Y.R.C. parties of three went through to the end. On the 6th the Mere was almost entirely dried up for the first time in history, and Slingsby went through an opening which was not visible on the 5th, right under the ridge dividing the Mere.

4th August, 1935. — Eddison sat on the top of the Pinnacle with his feet in the water. Hence the level was a score or more feet above any record and the entrance of the cave must have been blocked.

Chapel-le-Dale, Douk Cave. — September, 1934. Beetham and E. E. Roberts forced the bedding plane at the end of the left hand fork into a tunnel. After a place where they could stand, a tunnel at a higher level led into a bedding plane where progress could only be made by shifting stones.

August, 1935. — Messrs. Douglas and Thornber (Northern C. & F. Club) went into the middle Washfold Cave, and succeeded in pushing through some point hitherto regarded as hopeless, and arrived in the right hand fork of Douk Cave.

Ingleton, Skirwith Cave (at the base of the Carboniferous Limestone, on the Hawes road opposite Skirwith Farm).— This seems to have been discovered and entered in 1934 by local people through a small sink-hole opening out, but Douglas has also crawled into it upstream.

Ribblesdale, Selside, Washfold Cave (alt. 1,200 ft., 1,000 yards North of Alum Pot.)—On the 17th June, 1934, Mr. C. Downham (Northern C. & F. Club) got through the " impossible looking slit " which stopped the Gritstone Club, 210 ft. down. At the fourth attempt in the night of 7th July, Messrs. Downham, Dawson, Douglas and Clarkson reached the bottom, 380 ft. down. There are at least three terribly narrow places, the top one at the head of no ft. ladder climb, and nothing can be done with the water. " The worst pot ever. If you weren't in at Washfold, thank your lucky stars."

Ribblesdale, East Side, Penygent Long Churn (alt. 1,260 ft., 2 miles from Horton on the Langstrothdale lane).—The

Northern Cavern and Fell Club have twice descended the excessively narrow rift which two Y.R.C. men in 1912 left unfinished, but found it difficult to follow the stream. However, in April, 1935, they made all the progress humanly possible, not very far.

Fountains Fell Pots (above Roughclose, alt. about 1,700 ft.). — New Year Pot, 150 ft. in all, has been rediscovered and descended by the Northern Cavern and Fell Club. The opening is now obvious. Rocky Pot, a few yards south is an open pot-hole, easily climbed into, with a short climb in darkness down a narrow rift.

Shatter Pot, further south, was dug out by the N.C. and F.C. The first vertical is perhaps 40 feet with a narrow portion, then there is a short passage to a 25 ft. shaft with a traverse over the top into two very dirty branches where the rock is curiously decayed. The whole of this level is dangerous, and nothing can be trusted, not even the edge of the pot. Strangle Pot is the next south, with a 15 ft. pitch, a very difficult 8 ft. squeeze and a 30 ft. descent in a narrow shaft, total about 60 feet.

Leek Fell, Lost John's Cave (alt. 1,190 ft., 3½ miles from Cowan Bridge). — 6th January, 1935. Twenty feet above the floor level at the south end of the Cathedral is a short and very tight passage. From it Messrs. Douglas and Downham (Northern C. and F.C.) squirmed down 35 ft. and chimneyed another 25 ft. to a passage which runs close under the Crypt, with a hole up into it, to a window into the Dome. At Easter another route down was found by a roof traverse from the Crypt.

22nd April, 1935. — Late in the afternoon the Northern C. and F. Club blew out the bottom of a sink near the beck, with a pound of gelignite, so that the whole of the water could be drained off. An attack was then made on the ninety foot pitch at the end of the Old Passage. The shaft is now called the Monastery. Here Downham proved the truth of Yates's opinion by a daring descent of the very narrow fissure ahead. A hundred yards of passage, called the Cloisters, led to an 80 ft. pitch in three sections down into the chamber called Shale Pot or Pinnacle Pot, at the point marked X on Foley's map. (Y.R.C.J., Vol. VI., p. 53).

Nidderdale, Goyden Pot (alt. 710 ft.).—24th June, 1934. Mr. H. S. Martin of HuU and others entered the passage starting near the Pool and Boulder, passed the deep pool, went over the " well " mentioned by Yates, one of them falling in, and reached the " unexplored chamber " opposite the Bridge.

Time lag is very conspicuous in this cavern. In 1935 after a May of drought, the Labyrinth was most unpleasantly wet, April rain probably, and the deep pool impossibly high. After a September of heavy rain, the Labyrinth was free from drip. Nelstrop, Jesse Wood, and Roberts walked straight through the deep pool with headroom to spare, and laddered down from the chamber to the river below the Bridge. There is a second " window" opening into the Great Chamber, and three other branches can only be cut off from the upper passages by plugs of clay and rubbish.

Littondale, Scoska (or Gildersbank) Cave (1 mile from Arncliffe).—February, 1934. Exceptionally dry, Paul Armstrong and E. E. Roberts passed the fork of the long Middle Crawl at 210 yards, and took the north passage. At 282 yds. is a cross over to the Middle Crawl. Brodrick's survey stops at 346 yds. but flat crawls over dry clay went on to 445 yds., where they reached a low canal with mud banks. Up to the first dive there were traces of a predecessor, not after. Beyond a second dive were the same miserable conditions. Total about 500 yds., the last 150 probably impossible normally. Measurements made with J. Williamson in April.

Bishopdale Gavel Pots (on the uppermost terrace, east side of. Bishopdale).—In the Main Limestone (Yoredales). Nr. I is at 1,800, not far north of the county boundary, one mile west of Kidstones Pass, depth 90 ft. Nr. II is at 1,750, f mile north, is fenced and goes down 75 ft. Nrs. III and IV are close at hand, in the same sink, Nr. III being a fine hundred foot pot. The actual swallet, Nr. IV, once extremely narrow, was hammered open in June, 1934, and a shaft of 70 ft. descended by Hilton, H. and F. Stembridge, Paul Armstrong, and Roberts. Total depth 90 ft.

There is as yet no instance of any of these pot-holes in the Main Limestone opening into a passage, or even connecting with one another.

Nr. V, half-a-mile north, alt. 1,650, just beyond a watercourse in a break in the escarpment, was found in July to have only a fifteen-foot pitch beyond the first of eighteen. A fault appeared to have been entered with a firm wall on the right. Neither of the men cared to enter the chaos of blocks.

Nr. VI, last of the line, is a big rocky sink containing a fine belfry, still further to the north, alt. 1,650 ft.

Swaleclale, Keld. — The caves are in the Main Limestone. Aygill Cave, close to the inn near a little quarry, is an amusing trifle with a second exit. East Gill Cave (alt. 1,250 ft.) is well marked in the first limestone cliff, half-a-mile above the thickly wooded part of the gill. Its discoverers were wrongly given in the last number, and were actually H. G. Watts and J. D. Brown. Though only 60 yds. long, it is a perfect example of three parallel joints connected by two cross joints at right angles, in fact a museum piece. Rosebush Pot, high up on the opposite left bank, 50 yds. downstream, is the most northerly of a long line of sinks, and can be climbed and squeezed down 40 ft.

Derbyshire, Castleton, Nettle Pot (alt. 1,450 ft., 400 yds. south of Oxlow House).—The Derbyshire Pennine Club have been labouring from 1930, under the shelter of a locked-up hut, to work their way down a narrow crack. They broke through at the end of 1934 into a series of extensive fissures, quite different to the waterworn caverns of Yorkshire.

The first 90 ft. is vertical and very narrow. A stance is reached in a rotten area (stempled) which took two years to master, then comes 90 ft. of ladder hanging free. A bedding plane leads into a broken up area. Straight ahead a passage leads along a false floor in a N.W.-S.E. fault to a thirty foot ladder into " Firbeck Hall." On the other route there is a short ladder into a big belfry. Across it is a dead-end passage, but through a hole there is a descent of 170 ft. by wire rope and winch to a point which it is hoped will be connected up with other unexplored descents in the great rift. The amount of necessary timbering makes progress a slow job.

Alston, Gilderdale, Tutmau's Hole (3 miles from Gilderdale Bridge, on the main beck, right bank, 500 yards above the fork).—7th July, 1935. G. S. Gowing and E. E. Roberts. A watercourse of 280 yds. Main fissures, 165° magnetic bearing. Walking ceases at 84 yards. A constriction can be passed in two ways, wet and dry. The rest is a series of small tunnels, with the water often running under one wall, without any step or waterfall, finishing in a very flat wet bedding plane. It is suggested that some part may be artificial.

Very few local people have heard of this cave, much less visited it, and it appears to be the only cave in the district, which once returned huge revenues from lead-mining, and through its ancient connection with Carlisle is in Cumberland, though East of the Pennine watershed.

Helmsley (Yorkshire), Duncombe Park, Windy pits (in the deer park, 430 yards from the footbridge, bearing 195° or 15" west of south, marked by a great sawn-off tree trunk). — May, 1935. W. V. Brown and E. E. Roberts. The opening is. well known to local people, and several descents have been made to about 90 ft. A straight and narrow fissure, evidently unexplored, was found above two big boulders, and descended from chockstone to chockstone for 80 ft., aided once by the wire ladder. Total depth, about 150 ft. Other minor fissures were explored. Leave should not be difficult to obtain but the shooting months should be ascertained.

Helmsley, Ashberry Windypits (on the ridge, 50 yds. from end of wood on the trackjfrom the surprise view, top of Ashberry Bank, 500 ft. above sea).—Nov., 1935. W. V. Brown, Gowing, P. O. Armstrong and Roberts. A slit and a scramble leads down 60 ft., followed by 30 ft. of ladder into a rift, 30 ft. by 4 ft., choked at both ends.

These Windypits are all in the Lower Corallian overlying Oxford Clay. The rocks have fissured and slipped towards the valleys. Remarkable " trenches " along the slopes are to be seen in the area.

Somerset, Nordrach on Mendip, Golgotha Cave (alt. 820 ft., 3 furlongs along the lane to Ubley Hill Farm from the Burring-ton road, and 3 furlongs south-east into the meadows). — Platten heard that the farmer when burying a dead cow in a wide and deep sink-hole had dropped a spade underground.

He recommended the place to the newly formed Wessex Cave Club for a real good dig. After 3 days' digging and blasting at the end of Easter week, 1935, Platten, Murrell and others reached solid rock.

Another week-end took them into a fissure and through a ruckle of boulders. On 25th May, the Wessex men broke into the top of a chamber like a pot-hole, 43 ft. ladder descent. A huge boulder-filled rift sloped steeply from it, and has been penetrated for a long distance, stated as 300 ft., to a waterworn channel which finally became too narrow.

This is the first "dig" to prove successful in the Mendips since Balch's famous work at Eastwater, and it has revealed a cave of a novel type. Whether the reward of sagacity or good luck, equally pleasing !

On 12th July, Platten and E. E. Roberts descended, and found the rift goes easily for over 50 ft. down to a choke. The route then is for a bit by ascending holes, and on descending again a very tight place is reached, the region below which is very loose. The whole place at present gives the impression of being none too safe, so they retreated.

Somerset, Wookey Hole (near Wells, 175 ft. above sea).— F. G. Balcombe (Northern Cavern and Fell Club) was the leader of parties which in 1934. tried to force the final pool of Swildon's Hole with gelignite and home-made diving apparatus. One one occasion 30 lbs. of " jelly " lifted the evening congregation in Priddy Church, six inches into the air.

Messrs. Siebe, Gorman and Co. having taken an interest in the matter and provided full diving equipment, the proprietors of Wookey Hole were prevailed on to allow exploration underwater. It is no simple task and any amount of difficulties turned up. Finally after seven week-end efforts from mid July on, Balscombe had penetrated 170 ft., through a Sixth Chamber into a Seventh of great extent, and several of his supporters had made journeys under water.

A log of the exploration is being published, price 7s. 6d. Apply to F. G. Balcombe, High Street, Sunninghill, Ascot, Berkshire.

Geological Note. — All the above caves, except where noted, are in Carboniferous Limestone, the Great Scar Limestone.

II.—Other Expeditions.

Alum Pot by A. Humphreys.  © Yorkshire Ramblers' Club
Alum Pot by A. Humphreys

Ribblesdale, Selside, Diccan Pot.—In September, 1934, six members of the Northern C. and F.C., Hilton and Roberts made the descent into Alum Pot. Water running strongly, only the dam made it possible. On 5th August, 1935, a party led by Eddison made the round trip, going out by Alum Pot. Conditions good. The chief glory of this cleverly managed expedition seems to go to E. Dennis, R.A.F., who dragged ladders unaided from the last pitch up the three little ones to the foot of the big fall.

Fountains Fell, Coates's Cavern (alt. 1,650 ft.).—Two or three hundred yards up the tributary beck flowing into Gingling Hole, ten yards from the right bank, is a very deep sink with a great arched cave on one side. Very few people have noticed it, and in recognition of the assistance given by Mr. Coates of Rainscar Farm at the time of the 1934 accident it has been decided to call it after him.

Wharfedale, Yockenthwaite Pot (alt. 1,200 ft.).-—-Difficult to find. Go to the far top corner of the second field beyond Yockenthwaite, continue north 4.5 yds. up the wall, and then go 100 yds. west to a little thicket which contains the pot-hole. In 1934 Armstrong and Roberts found it to be 38 ft. deep and probably there have been several descents.

Swaledale, Fairy Hole (or Crackpot Cave), altitude 1,350 ft., J mile south of Summer Lodge, head of a short tributary on left bank of beck.—The cave is under a cliff above a strong rising. Except for the large chamber within it is disappointing. In Miss Pontefract's Swaledale some details are confused with Swinnergill Kirk Cave.

Sutherland, Inchnadamph. — A band of Cambrian Limestone runs from Durness to Inchnadamph. At Durness there appears to be only the Cave of Smoo', by the road side, but at Inchnadamph there are four caves in the glen above the hotel, and another in the glen to the south, which deserve investigation.