Sunday, 28 April 2013

Chapel-le-Dale: Three Pots of Gold


The tiny church of St. Leonard is the main focus of the hamlet of Chapel-le-Dale, four miles north of Ingleton.   In the churchyard are the remains of several well-known caving pioneers as well as the bodies of many who died building the Ribblehead viaduct.

Christopher Francis Drake Long also rests here, the man who discovered White Scar Cave.

The grave on the left is of William Metcalfe, who, with John Birkbeck of Settle, was the first man to descend Alum Pot.  The Metcalfes lived at Weathercote House, behind the church, and would have shown tourists into the famous Weathercote Cave, painted by Turner and engraved by Westall.

The chapel from the rear - showing how close the wild limestone scenery is to the graveyard.

And some of the rocks on the photograph appear - minus the moss, on Turner's dramatic   painting 'Ingleborough from East of Hurtle Pot.'

Just behind the church lies the once feared Hurtle Pot itself, home of the Hurtle Pot Boggart.

 It has a beauty of its own - with rich vegetation coating the steep sides ...

This is what a first impression of Hurtle Pot is like. 

The pool at the foot of the pot is a 'window' into the Weathercote to God's Bridge completely flooded cave system.  The rope to help divers descend can be seen along the mud slope on the right.  It's easy to descend with it, but you get filthy.  In the 19th century the local farmer charged threepence to descend, where he would throw stones into the dark pool to listen to the sounds of the Hurtle Pot Boggart.

It's a remarkable place.  Throw in a stone, wait a few seconds and the deep groaning of spirits within will bubble and gargle in the pool. Folk in days gone by would leave this place well alone.  I love it.

Photograph by John Cordingley

The Dales we never see:  a cave diver seeming to 'hang in space' as he negotiates the upstream, totally flooded passage connecting Hurtle Pot with Jingle Pot.  A brilliant image.

Photograph by John Cordingley

That's the way to do it: following the east wall deep beneath Hurtle Pot.  This passage is well known to divers for the very fine scalloping on the limestone roof, clearly seen on this image. Carrying so much weight over big distances under water can be exhausting ...

Photograph by John Cordingley

Fear not!  This cave diver, in Hurtle Pot has a specially designed scooter to help him along so he can save energy on the longer dives.  It could, superficially, be a 'boggart bazooka.'!  

The normally dry bed of the beck leads up towards Jingle Pot and Weathercote.  A lovely karst environment rich in wild garlic and other lime-loving plants.  The diver 'hanging in space' was somewhere beneath this section!!

Looking up the beck towards Jingle Pot.

Approaching Jingle Pot and the 'dry' waterfall, long since abandoned as now the water makes its way underground.  It is active only when the caves below can't take all the water, and was starting to become so as the afternoon wore on.

Jingle Pot is rustic and beautiful, encrusted with mosses, ferns and wild garlic, and covered in a jumble of moss-covered branches.  I wouldn't like to fall in, though.

photograph by kind permission of John Cordingley

A cave diver 'hangs' in the underwater passages of Jingle Pot, en route to the connection with Hurtle Pot.  

The moss-covered walls of Jingle Pot, so called because of the sounds water makes in the depths.  

Throwing stones into this pot produces deep rumbling sounds - so it doesn't just jingle!  Again, it's another 'window' into the Chapel Beck flooded cave system.

It was throwing it down by this point.  A small cavern at the western end admits a delicate waterfall into Jingle Pot, and the fallen trees add a sense of drama.

Nothing, however, can compare to what lies around the corner, protected by a wall and in the private grounds of Weathercote House.  Weathercote Cave sees Chapel Beck thundering for a few seconds into a massive chasm, over 130 feet deep, before rushing underground to Jingle and Hurtle Pots.  This spot has been described as being 'without rival in England.'

The first impression - a sight that has enthralled tourists for centuries ...

A climb down under the bridge of limestone that divides the 'cave' in two .....

And what a way to end the day.  A truly magnificent natural wonder in the heart of limestone country.

Chapel-le-Dale and the area of the three pots.  This Google Earth image is a little distorted at bottom left.  Just below centre, the private drive to Weathercote can be seen leading off the main Hawes road on the left (trees at the junction) There is no right of way down this lane.  The lane to St Leonard's chapel is less distinct, leaving the main road on the left a short distance below the Weathercote turn-off, and leading to a distinct lane between two walls heading north east from the hamlet .  Hurtle Pot is reached by a gate from this lane and lies at the south west tip of the main tree concentration.  Jingle Pot is a short walk up the dry river bed and is hidden in the trees. Weathercote Cave lies in the roughly circular group of trees at the top centre of the image.  To visit it, write to Weathercote House and ask for permission.  The cave has much loose rock and a disclaimer must be signed before entering.  Entrance is strictly at the owner's discretion and large groups, caving groups and children are not usually permitted.  Use common sense and treat this very special place with great care - causing as little disturbance as possible.  Chapel-le-Dale is an enchanted little corner of limestone country and long may it remain so.

Weathercote Cave in Flood
Seeing is Believing!

This afternoon I was lucky enough to be in Chapel-le-Dale when a flood pulse hit Ingleborough.  Weathercote Cave was only a short distance away when the rain began. You have to get permission to enter and sign a disclaimer ... and it really is risky business getting down there - (not for the faint hearted)  but take a look at this!

Normally there's just the single waterfall - but you can tell the cave is flooding when that smaller fall from the 'chimney' appears at bottom left.  If rain continues for several days, the cave can flood to the brim and the water overflows down the valley.  The water can get to be over 100 feet deep.  

This was the initial view from the limestone terrace above the 'bridge.'

This is 'the bridge' into Weathercote Cave, and you can see left of centre where you pass underneath to arguably the most awe inspiring sight in the Three Peaks area.  The route down under the bridge is usually dry - but not today.  A full stream was cascading down out of the cave mouth on the right.  

Descending underneath the bridge is spectacular in itself.

Water was really gushing in from the cave mouth.  I've never seen it do this before.  This was a first.

I had to traverse across that wall on the right, out of the water - with one magnificent sight opening up ahead. Notice the flood debris rammed into the crack in the bridge on the right.  Scary!

Looking back up at the bridge - showing the amount of water that was filling Weathercote Cave from this side.  It was quite easy to stay relatively dry up to this point, but every step had to be taken with extreme care.

This is what came next.  Quite simply beyond description.  At this point you just stop, stare, and feel the force.  Even 100 feet from the waterfall, the spray drenched me to the skin.  'Mohammed's Coffin' is the huge wedged boulder guarding the water's entrance into the daylight shaft, before it once again sinks underground to emerge a mile away at God's Bridge.

A little closer and the spray was so intense it was difficult to use the camera, but it still had a nice effect.

I managed to film the spectacle.  Apologies for the spellbound commentary.

Weathercote Cave, once worshipped by Georgian and Victorian tourists,  is on private land and can only be visited with permission from Weathercote House.  It is best to write, stating your intention, and potholers and cavers are not encouraged.  The owner allows access for sightseeing in reasonable conditions, but children are not permitted.  The cave is unstable, awkward to access and dangerous, and anybody visiting must sign a disclaimer before entry.  It is particularly popular with American tourists who are keen on Turner's paintings.  He completed a famous picture of the cave 'half filled with water' in 1818.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Sunday at the Valley of the Kings
Lonely Corners in Kingsdale

My intention first thing this afternoon was to see off the driving rain by visiting the friendly Yordas Cave - the name being Norse for 'Earth Stream.'  This was a well known show cave visited by the eminent in the 18th and 19th centuries, but these days it needs little more than a torch and good nerves. However, on arriving, it was decidedly sinister ... perhaps Yordas the child-eating giant, another of the cave's legends, had just been cooking his lunch ..

The steam billowing out of the entrance was incredible, and on entering the cave it was quite obvious photography would be impossible.  I could see no more than a couple of feet in front, even with a caving lamp.  The Chapter House waterfall was too misty for the camera.  This cave contains a lofty main chamber perfect for children to explore.  It is very ancient, and the stream dropped to its present level when the valley floor was lowered by glaciation - carving out the chamber in inter-glacial times.  


Check out the steamy impression.  It was very eerie and forbidding for a lone cave explorer!

Just inside the entrance, looking through the steam to the old steps, down which guides, with candles, would lead tourists in the 19th century - including Charlotte Bronte, who was schooled at the nearby Cowan Bridge.

Yordas Wood and its famous cave are situated miles from anywhere, on the western side of Kingsdale, once inhabited by the Vikings.  You can just see my little car parked alongside.  Kingsdale is famous for its many large and impressive cave systems - many of them very dangerous to explore.  They have formed where water rushes off the Yoredale slopes of Gragareth (above the wood) and then sinks into the Great Scar limestone before emerging at Keld Head, on the alluvial valley floor.  The above picture shows Yordas Wood with 'The Apronful of Stones' a prehistoric cairn, in the foreground, on the eastern side of Kingsdale Beck.

Looking along Kingsdale's flat, glaciated valley floor towards Kingsdale Head, with Whernside in cloud.  There has been much debate by geologists as to whether or not this was once the bed of a lake, which drained when its outflow broke through a moraine barrier at Raven Ray, close to Thornton Force.

Yordas Wood from the path across the dale to Kingsdale Beck.  

The normally dry Kingsdale Beck, looking north to glacial debris on the stream banks.

The enigmatic 'Apronful of Stones'  - one of the best preserved ancient monuments in the dales due to its remote location.  No doubt the wall was built to prevent the rising beck from ever washing it away.

In design, it's more like a small stadium.  I can imagine ancient peoples seated around here. There is a definite central area, and evidence of excavation at the 'open' side.  The cairn is considered to be late Neolithic, and two long Bronze Age cremation graves were discovered, dug into the terrace on the left, showing that the site was used in different times for varying purposes.  One of the graves had two large upright stone slabs placed on one side of it.

This is the entrance through to the 'central' area of the monument.

Looking through the entrance to the 'Apronful of Stones' with Kingsdale Beck, Yordas Wood and Gragareth in the background.  I didn't see another person for two hours.  Not even a passing car.  The only sound was the call of the curlew.  Perfection indeed!

The 'Apronful of Stones' looking to Kingsdale Head, along the road towards Dent.  

Close-up of the construction of the ancient monument.  It is remarkably well preserved.

Travelling south in heavy rain to leave the dale, I paused to peep over the wall at Keld Head.  This deep pool is where the water from the caves and potholes on the west side of Kingsdale finally reaches the surface.  There is strictly no access to this feature, but it can be viewed conveniently from the road above.

This is a view of the pool, looking north towards Braida Garth Farm.


The whole of Kingsdale is a very sensitive and special area of the Three Peaks.  Please stick strongly to the footpaths at all times and respect the wishes of the farmer.  Keld Head, in particular, is strictly private and there is no access for the public. Fortunately it can be glimpsed from the road well enough to give a good understanding of the workings of this fine karst landscape. All views of Keld Head should be made from the road only: do not be tempted to access the field.

Hope you enjoyed that little wander in one of my favourite dales.  When the rain eased, I visited Skirwith Cave near Ingleton for a different kind of adventure.  I'll be back in Kingsdale many times.  Watch this space!