Yorkshire's own adventure story ...
Bruntscar or Brunscar Hall (the 't' is often dropped), dating from 1689, had by all accounts an ordinary existence until one memorable day in 1865. That was when the owner of the estate, a Mr. F. Kidd, used his adventurous spirit to the fore and decided to investigate the curious rumbling below the house that had puzzled generations of Bruntscar folk - though none had been determined enough to investigate ...
(Click here to visit the BGS GeoScenic Website)
(picture BGS - see link above)
This photograph shows the back of the hall built against the scar. The cave is situated in the dark shadows at the centre, beneath the remaining section of barn wall.
Looking back from just inside the entrance. In this pool, during the 19th century, lived a local legend in the form of a tame trout who fed from the hands of visitors. He was so well known that he appeared in various books of the time. One story relates how, after a flood, he was accidentally scooped up in a bucket of water by a farm lady and, when realising the water was about to be boiled on the farmhouse fire, he jumped out onto the hearth rug and saved his scales!! He returned to the pool to live the rest of his fishy life in peace.
The first section of passage has been widened by Mr. Kidd. Boulders litter the floor and there is the sound of roaring water in the depths of the hillside. The pulse quickens ..
Fifty yards in, the first of the cave's wonderful formations presents itself as a flowstone 'beehive' which is brushed past on a right hand bend.
The nature of the cave then changes and it becomes a stunning tear-drop shaped passage, where the stream has hollowed out a major joint. This is classed as one of the finest pieces of stream passage in Yorkshire, and yet it is so easy to reach.
We now meet the main stream itself. Most of it vanishes in the right hand wall of the chamber, but to the left we meet the famous double cascade, and the feature named by Mr. Kidd as 'The Font.' The rock glistens with colour making a lovely scene.
Looking up the second of the 'twin' cascades from the font. In the wettest conditions this can be a dangerous torrent. It was nice and friendly today.
Mr. Kidd described an 'organ' in the cave, 'which, when gently struck by a finger, produces varied musical tones.' I wonder if this was it?
Climbing up into the font and carrying on up the narrow passage is really exciting. Here we meet another waterfall, with the rock behind resembling a gaping mouth.
Not as many of the earlier visitors braved it this far as many would have wet their bloomers. A result of this is that the formations just get more and more impressive.
Here's the second cascade, gloriously framed with flowstone curtains. This section of cave is known as 'The Cathedral.'
'I am the Walrus.' This is where Bruntscar Cave changes from pretty to truly beautiful. By wedging yourself into the passage at the second fall, you can shuffle up ten feet or so into the 'belfry' where Kidd imagined a peal of bells hanging over the church below. I love to look at Lewis Carroll's 'Walrus' here, his huge arched body of flowstone pillows dominating the suspended chamber.
Kidd also mentioned, up in the ceiling, a sphinx and a devil. Surely this bizarre figure must be one of them?
Just below the head of the walrus is this lovely mass of golden flowstone, seemingly pouring like molten lava from the belfry.
One of the original named features of the cave was described as John Bull (a beefy personification of Great Britain) guarding a mountain pass. Could this be the pass in question? And is that massive face on the wall right of centre Mr. Bull himself, with long nose and rubbery lips?
Stalactites are quite easily explained. Rain water seeping through the soils is enriched in carbon dioxide and so dissolves a large amount of calcite from the limestone. As it drips through into the open cave the carbon dioxide diffuses into the air and the calcite is then re-deposited or, correctly re-precipitated. Technical stuff, but you need to know it if you love limestone. You can see the immensely slow process going on here.
The passage gets narrower and occasionally drops so that you must pluck up the courage to crawl on hands and knees ... but it's worth it. Golden flowstone features really come into the ascendancy along this part of the cave passage.
Stunning curtains of flowstone have been built up on the walls over many centuries - a typical feature of active caves in the Yorkshire Dales.
'The Hand in Glove'. Crawling under it makes every part of the anatomy get wet. From this point on, it's all hands and knees in water: a sensible place to turn back and enjoy it all again.
The climax of the cave is this wonderful set of pillars, formed over many thousands of years where stalactites and stalagmites have joined. Delicate stalactites are forming in between.
And here's the exact same view 83 years ago, with the Leeds Caving Club popping their camera in the gap. Generations have since grown up and become grandparents, even great grandparents - yet take a look at the 'carrot'. In 83 years, there's been no visible change - a mere indication of just how old these amazing features must be.
This gorgeous 'gour chamber' at roof level was one of the highlights of the return journey. Cavers have sensibly left it well alone, as can be seen from the surviving stalactites.
And here's a surfacing Mermaid: her head out of the water, arms outstretched, and fishy tail swirling into the depths. Beautiful.
The 'Crab's Claw', remarkable in both form and colour, is another feature best noticed on the return journey.
'And it's goodbye from him.'