Sunday, 3 March 2013

Prehistoric Three Peaks - Part One

Seeking Out Sewell's Cave (SD785665)

This elusive but archaeologically wonderful cave was named after Alf Sewell, a member of Settle's celebrated Pig Yard Club, who along with Tot Lord - excavated the cave in the 1930s.  I set out today to find it, parking in the layby on the right at the top of Buckhaw Brow, near Settle.  

There are no paths through the woods, so you have to find your own, and at such a height it's a hair-raising experience.  The Great Scar limestone here is more or less on the line of the South Craven Fault - hence it has been lifted upwards while the countryside to the left of the picture is flat, with the limestone buried far below.  Cliffs like this are very unspoiled, with ivy, yew and ferns in profusion.

Here's another good example.  A quite magical spot.

I got the jeepers a bit when passing along the base of this monster - totally hidden from the road and rarely visited.  Climbers sometimes call it the 'Acid Test.'

There are even towers and turrets of limestone on this part of Giggleswick Scar.

A peep over the tree canopy indicates our height, and the fact that we are on the fault scarp, with the Craven lowlands and Bowland fells beyond - a sharp contrast in the landscape.

I must have traversed a good half mile at a soaring height, holding onto the saplings for support, when I came across this unusual stone.  Is it naturally occurring or has it been placed there by prehistoric man?  I for one could not decide.

Just when it seemed never-ending, a broken wall revealed a pathway up to the delightfully situated Sewell's Cave - more a rock shelter than an actual cavern.  

The wall at the far end does not seem to be supporting much.  It probably acted as a wind shelter as it is lovely and cosy behind it.  I was sitting where Tot Lord, Alf Sewell and the other 'Pig-Yarders' probably cooked their dinner during the countless days spent up here sieving through debris.  It must have been almost silent in the 1930s - a contrast to today where you can hear the passing cars far below.

Scanning the environs immediately around the cave entrance shows its beautiful sylvan location.

These are some of the finds, now in the Craven museum in Skipton.  Of human remains, only skulls have ever been found - the fragments at the top of the picture showing much evidence of burning.  This was probably a site of human sacrifice or some similar ritual.

When first discovered, the cave was merely a silted up crack beneath the scar.  Here you can see the spoil heap where barrow-loads of debris were brought to the surface in the 1930s.  The cave was re-surveyed in 2005 and more Romano-British objects were found, as well as animal bones.  It is probable that people hid their valuables here during the Roman occupation.

An atmospheric view out of the cave - completely hidden from above and below.  This was one of the best places I've ever eaten a sandwich - but if you try the same, beware of the badger latrines!

A last look at the entrance before scrambling down the scar ...

And a close up of the Pig Yard Club's 'walled' area, perfect, no doubt, for cooking and eating.  

Sewell's Cave has a real atmosphere and feeling of activity ... 

Click here to go to the Ingleborough Archaeology Group Website

Enjoy your adventure ... I'd be interested to hear your comments.

1 comment:

  1. A great scramble - it has recently been resurveyed I believe.