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Three smaller Caves of Wharfedale

DEREK SANDERSON sent in this article, which he says is a description of one afternoon and evening's caving while in Yorkshire.  The trip could be classed as a potter, though strenuous at times. Goes to show that all trips in Yorkshire are not too hairy.!

These caves were visited by Roger Wing (B.E.C.) Derek Sanderson (B.E.C.) and Keith Sanderson (W.C.C.) in an afternoon when the original plans to visit Darnbrook Pot and Cheery tree Hole had to be abandoned - access to these caves being denied at present following an accident in Cherry Tree Hole.

ROBIN HOOD'S CAVE. S.D. 978 657 LENGTH 960' Grade V

We underestimated the severity of this cave, and only allowed ourselves one hour for the trip, which proved to be far too short a time.  The entrance consists of a three foot diameter pipe running under the B6160. The pipe leads to a step up of a few feet, through a horizontal squeeze and into a low bedding plane.  There is about two feet between the flat roof and the broken floor, and progress is by slow painful crawling.  The rock is pale brown and dry.

After about a hundred and twenty feet of slow progress, the floor level drops slightly and one enters a low, wide flooded chamber with the roof dipping to the right below which the water makes its escape.  The water is startlingly clear and about a foot deep.  A further forty feet of crawling on all fours leads to a duck round a flake of rock and on to Connection Duck.  This duck is twelve feet long and should be treated with respect, as there is only two inches of airspace for much of its length, and that only in a narrow groove (the Nose Groove).  There is a hand line.  We floated through feet first.  Whilst in the duck, even the slightest movement can cause a small wave to swamp the nose, necessitating a hasty retreat.  We found this out the hard way.  The duck is not really feasible as a free dive as it ends abruptly.

At the far side of the duck, the streamway turns to the left in a small chamber (one can actually stand up!) but passes under a boulder after a few feet.  This forms a wet squeeze and gives access to a narrow rift. We climbed the powdery rocks, but could find no way on at high level.  However, a short crawl through boulders above the stream gives access to a bigger parallel rift.  A fifteen foot climb and traverse over loose boulders leads to a high level chamber of comparatively roomy dimensions.  From here, the upper route to the further reaches of the cave leads off.  This was first explored by the Craven Pothole Club in 1971.  By now, our allotted time was up and we returned to the surface.

There is a Grade 4CX survey of Robin hood's Cave in the C.P.C. Journal for 1971.  The danger of flooding should be borne in mind.

ELBOLTON POT S.E. 007 615  Length 500'  Depth 135' Grade III

On the summit of Elbolton Hill, half a mile west of Thorpe.  According to Northern Caves, Volume 19 the entrance is "15 yards west of cairn".  We found it to be a hundred yards S.E. of the cairn - in the next field!

A deep slit leads straight on to the entrance pitch of 55’.  Te problem here is to find a suitable belay point.  A short wooden stemple has been placed low down in the entrance slit but this seemed unsafe, so we removed a railway sleeper from the top of a nearby rift (we replaced it afterwards!) and used it as a belay point from outside the cave.

There is no problem about the pitch itself, but it is still reasonably impressive as it drops from the narrow entrance into an average sized chamber below.  From here, several ways lead off.  To the west (uphill) a narrow passage leads past a short muddy canal on the right and rises towards the surface before it ends in a choke. This seems to be leading towards the rift from which we removed the railway sleeper.  Directly behind the ladder, a passage leads off but not entered.

Walking downhill, one passes three drops on the right.  The first is a twenty foot pitch into the Grand Canyon.  This can be bypassed by descending either of the two remaining descents.  Both are climbable and lead into a horizontal rift-like passage which ends after about a hundred feet.  The last part seems to have been mined.  Some ten feet past the bottom of the third descent is a small tube on the right which leads directly into the Grand Canyon, at the lower end of which is the final pitch of twenty feet (belay to iron bar) into a terminal bedding chamber choked with mud.

The whole cave is muddy and similar in character to Hunters Hole.  The entrance pitch is the main at attraction.  Whilst sitting in the mud of the terminal chamber, a quiet voice was heard to say, "I hope nobody pulls the chain!"


FOSS GILL CAVE  S.D.  948 744   Length 899’ Grade  III

Major resurgence in the wood in the opposite side of the valley from Starbottom.  This is the most interesting and enjoyable of the three caves, being rich not in formations but in the variety of sculptured and scalloped rock.

There are two points of resurgence, a small lower cave on the left and the main cave above and on the right.  A low crawl in the water leads directly into the first of three fine short but deep canals, and instantly one is struck by the coldness of the water.  The first canal is about 70’ long and six feet deep at its upper end, though there are ledges three feet below the surface.  The canal is followed by a ‘T’ junction. Left leads towards the lower entrance while right leads upstream in a low crawl over smooth deep brown rock until a turn to the left leads to the second canal.

The second canal is shorter - about thirty feet - and not so deep and leads to a short length of stream passage with about five feet of headroom and containing raised ribs of rock just below the surface of the stream.  This breaks into a cross rift.   The way on is to the left, where a climb over boulders soon leads one into the third and the longest canal.

This third canal is about a hundred feet long, five feet deep and five feet wide and leads directly on to a low boulder pile beyond which is another 'T' junction.  Here, the stream can be clearly seen to bubble up from a hole in the floor.  To the right is a high rift whilst a tributary stream enters from the left. Following this stream, one enters a low, wide bedding plane (flat out crawling!) with mud banks either side of the small stream channel.  Fifty feet further on, the stream develops into a narrow rift containing a foot and a half of water.  Progress is made by wriggling on one's side.  An odd feature here is the redness of the rock and a sort of a rim stone ledge six inches above the water - formed by what appears to be mud coated with iron-rich calcite.

The rift widens slightly for a few feet, but narrows again, to a squeeze section about ten feet long which is immediately followed by an eight inch letterbox to the right.  Here, the nature of the cave changes to a horizontal bedding plane with gullies cut in the floor and with dark grey mud covering the surface.  After thirty feet of slithering, the way on appears to become too tight, but there is a strong draught.

It is worth while going out of one's way to pay a visit to Foss Gill Cave.  Whilst Northern Caves Volume I grades the cave as III, I agree with the author of the article on the, cave in the C.P.C. Journal for 1971 when he says, ‘I fully endorse the C.D.G.  Review comment that 'considerable exposure is involved in this cave which should be regarded as severe.’  After only a short time in the water, even with a good wet suit, one feels very cold.'

A Grade 4C survey can also be found in the C.P.C. Journal.


Have you been into any out-of-the-way caves lately?  Let us know about it if you have.  Guidebooks are all very well in their way, but you can't beat actual personal accounts of trips down lesser-known caves!