Ribblehead Cave is in the middle of a bouldery pasture close to the barn. There are two entrances, with the upper one leading alongside the barn to the so-called 'back door' entrance, but the way through is nearly all crawling in water. The lower entrance leads to further crawling in a tight passage.
Ribblehead Cave, looking towards the lower entrance and beyond to Gauber, Park Fell and Ingleborough.
The lower entrance, at right, is a squeeze down past a dangerous banking collapse - and is not recommended for the nervous ...
An alternative excavated 'entrance' is now available above it and to the left - but only those with a healthy diet can attempt to fit under here!! I'd had a few too many pies and puddings for this one.
Looking back in a southerly direction across the area of Ribblehead Cave. We'll brave its interior later in the year. The cave is situated just beyond the length of wall running from the left to the centre of the image. From here, Ingleborough's 'Big Blue Hill' label is very appropriate.
The old hamlet of Gearstones. It formerly had an inn, shops and a school and was a self-contained little community, hosting annual cattle fairs to which people would flock from miles around.
Across the road from the Gearstones Lodge, this patch of bare ground is the site of the ancient and notorious Gearstones Inn. It lost its licence in 1911 when it was feared that local workers were losing money by spending all their time drinking and playing dominoes here instead of earning their living and paying their rents! . It did a roaring trade during the building of the Ribblehead viaduct when the navvies would stagger back, intoxicated, to the camps and huge brawls would break out. The well known traveller John Byng stayed here in 1792, stating that 'the only custom of this hotel, or rather hovel, is derived from grouse shooters and from two scotch fairs. At the conclusion of the long squabble, the two nations agree in mutual drunkenness.' Here also, in 1869, a railway engineer called Charles Sharland was cut off by snowdrifts for three weeks with six colleagues, before they finally decided to tunnel themselves out. Lovely!
Turning right onto the packhorse track beyond Gearstones, a view to the north reveals a scattering of limestone boulders and a gnarled old ash.
Holme Hill Cave lies hidden beyond. In the days before White Scar and Ingleborough Cave became the places to be, this was a primitive show-cave for intrepid travellers who would pay a small fee at Far Gearstones Farm before being conducted inside through knee-deep pools; and all this in the days before wellingtons and waterproofs. How did the ladies go on in their long skirts, one wonders?
The entrance is attractive enough, with a stream emerging into the daylight and ivy adorning the limestone boulders.
Just inside are the remains of an old iron gate that once protected the formations inside. Nobody could have sneaked in without paying a fee.
Soon a wonderful limestone bridge spans the passage. It is difficult to climb over so you have to duck underneath. Many a Victorian lady would have well and truly wet her bloomers here. Note the face in profile on the left, with distinctive nose, lips and chin ...
This column, where a stalactite and stalagmite have joined over a massive period of time, is an obvious highlight.
Eventually the cave becomes lower, with uncomfortable crawling on ribs of scalloped limestone. Heavy rain outside would soon flood it to the roof. Note the droplets of water like crystals on the bedding plane ceiling.
I call this attractively domed stalagmite the 'Sugarloaf Mountain'. Part of Rio in miniature.
A view of the moving stream shows the finely scalloped limestone and diagonal ribs of rock caused by the swirling of the water.
Another view of the bridge chamber - the rising steam indicating where I have just passed underneath.