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Aygill Caverns

By Martin Grass           

Although a little late here’s another Yorkshire trip reported by our Caving secretary….

On our way to the annual BEC Lake District trip this February, Graham Wilton-Jones and I decided to make a detour via the Yorkshire Dales and take a look at the lessee visited caves of Casterton area.  The night before the trip was spent at Fred’s (Valley Caving club) at Padiham, and the following morning an early start was made for the dales after pinching some of Fred’s tethers which are closely guarded by a giant man-eating white rabbit!

The drive was uneventful until we reached Bull Pot Farm road which was only half cleared of snow but, with the help of some university bods the car finally reached the farm.

Once changed we made our way to the pot, not an easy feet as the moor was two feet deep in soft snow and the Wygill stream was completely buried.  All that was visible at the entrance was a small hole about two feet across with a large cornice hanging dubiously above it.  Sliding down a snow slope a small chamber is entered, full (at the time) of small, stumpy, ice stalagmites – these were found up to one hundred feet from the entrance.  From the chamber a small mainly, crawling passage leads to a second chamber and the first pitch.  This is only fifteen feet deep and not thirty as stated ion Northern Caves.  The belay point is a large boulder back in the chamber, and the take-off for the pitch is somewhat awkward.

The obvious way on from the bottom of the ladder soon chokes and the route to the lower streamway is through boulders in the floor of the passage.  A downward squeeze and cascade leads to the top of the second pitch, thirty feet deep.  The belay is a large eyehole at the head of the drop.  The ladder lands in a large stream with fine cascades leading upstream which quickly ends in a choke.

Downstream the water tumbles down some good cascades and flows into a flat-out bedding plane – this can be by-passed by a dry muddy oxbow to the right of the passage. Rejoining the stream can now be followed down to the terminal sump and the Pre-Cambrian Series.  But if the dry oxbow is kept to crawling it ends in a small stal chamber.  Keeping left out of the chamber leads one to the base of a large boulder slope, at the top of which is Curtain Chamber with a good but dry, large curtain.  At the foot of the slope a stream can be seen to sink amongst the boulders but is followed upstream to a low wet crawl beneath cemented boulders and a larger streamway giving way to the New Year Series. A tight wet crawl for about ten feet followed by a tight vertical squeeze between blocks enters the large New Year Cavern.

From here on we had the impression this part of the cave was seldom visited.  More hands and knees crawling inn the stream, past some fine straws and stal leads to a large stream passage again with some good stal and a couple of notable avens to a boulder collapse.  The stream can be followed beneath the boulders and about fifty feet further on the water disappears into an impassable choke, but the passage can be followed over mud and boulders until it reaches the roof.

If this blockage could be past, the large stream passage (which obviously continues beyond) would eventually lead to the Barbondale caves and add another link to the Three Counties System.  An uneventful trip out was made and a quick dash back to Padiham for food and to see the Keld Head film on the box, before we drove on to Langdale to meet the rest of the crew.