Monday, 27 May 2013

Wandering Under Whernside
In Search of Hidden Treasure

There is a virtual treasure trove waiting to be discovered beneath the slopes of  this often neglected mountain.  Wonderful limestone scars, caves, attractive farmsteads and historical mysteries await those prepared to turn off the beaten track and explore.  That's what I did today.

I began my journey where I would end it, at the Hill Inn - having a chat with cavers who were making their way to Sunset Hole, on Ingleborough's western flanks.  For a brief moment, I nearly followed them ..

The Hill Inn looks particularly scenic with its old barn and solitary tree in the view, along with good old Ingleborough in the background.  'Mountain Inn' would be better.  As Wainwright said, 'shame on the ordnance survey for calling it a hill on some of their maps; it is every inch a mountain, and, although not the tallest in the country as was once thought and is overtopped by many others, one of the grandest.'  Spot on, Alfred.

Turning tight up Philpin Lane, passing the Three Peaks refreshments hut at the farm, this impressive view of Whernside opens up ahead.  At 2417 feet, the highest of the Three Peaks, though not in the same league as the other two for grandeur.  

From some angles, though, such as this one, it is very nearly there!

Looking north from the lane to the Ribblehead Viaduct, built in 1875 across Batty Moss, and a scheduled ancient monument.

A feature of the small scars below Whernside is the occasional ancient tree rooted in the outcropping boulders.  Here the mountain can be seen in late morning shadow behind.

Once the scars are reached there is a line of farmsteads, taking adventage of the shelter provided by limestone terracing, and of the resurging water.  This one, to the left of the lane junction, is the best known: Bruntscar Hall, dating back to 1689 and hiding a cave behind it that was, until 1865, unknown.  Curious about rumbling water below the house, the owner of the time broke into the cliffs behind and uncovered a truly beautiful cave.  It deserves a blog post all to itself ...

To the right of the junction is Broadrake, a solidly built farmhouse in a remote and secluded spot.  Heaven indeed.

Another view of Broadrake Farm, tucked under the slopes of Whernside and sheltered by trees.

Isolated boulders of limestone are the remnants of weathered pavements.  Above, the dark slopes of the mountain are formed of the Yordedale series: alternate beds of limestone, sandstone and shale caused by fluctuating sea levels resulting in river deltas washing in sand and mud, millions of years ago.  Ingleborough is constructed in the same way.

The limestone scars contrast with emerald green pastures.  Perfect limestone country.

Dry stream channels, active only in times of flood, indicate that there are plenty of goings on below the surface.

Looking back from Ivescar to the Broadrake and Bruntscar areas, a gentle contrast to the harshness of the surrounding mountain scenery.

Hidden in the cliffs behind Ivescar Farm are the famous Boggart Holes, though they are hard to see at first through the dense shrub layer.

Boggart Hole itself is the left hand entrance, but it can barely be entered before it becomes very low.  An attractive stream gushes from the entrance.

Boggart Hole 2 is on the right and is easier to enter, with small passages radiating in both directions.  It is usually filled with flood debris as it becomes a completely different place after heavy rain ... best avoided!

The fascinating thing about these caves, however, is not their appearance, but what they once held .. and may still do.  For many years, after heavy floods, silver coins from the reign of Edward I were found washed out of this cave, with rumours of gold also being present.

I thought I was due to strike lucky, but many have done so since the last were discovered, without success.  The coins are believed to be apart of a possible hoard hidden away when the Scots were rampaging the north of England after their victory at Bannockburn.  Some believe they were hidden in holes to the north and floods washed them out through this resurgence.  Whatever the story, it is just possible that buried treasure may lurk somewhere in the vicinity of Boggart Holes.  Let's face it:  it's not every day, in this remote spot, that people have been looking. The chance is always there ...

Boggart Hole from another angle.  It is sometimes referred to as Ivescar Cave, but I much prefer the original.

Inside the second cave, it is easier to look around, having a higher ceiling.  Here, I spotted the egg-sac of a cave spider, itself a beautiful object.

Looking out of the hole to the streambed.  It is unlikely that the coins were actually deposited in here, as the flood risk would have been well known.  The coins clearly found their way in from another contracted source.  

An attractive view to daylight and limestone boulders from a side passage on the right.

Just below Boggart Holes, the stream sinks again into its bed, a common occurence in limestone country.

Whernside and a stream sink on the lower slopes of the mountain.

Unusual view of Whernside, showing terracing of the lower levels and the contrasting colour of the grassland on the Yoredale series (upper section) and Great Scar Limestone (lower section.)

Browside Cave has been described as being 'for thin people only'.  The passage is an 'S' shape vertically and an 'S' shape laterally, twisting the body into unnatual contortions!!  However, today it was impossible to get inside: the entrance, marked by the shrubs in the above picture, was blocked by soil and farm debris.  Great shame.  

Heading across Scar Top behind Ivescar farm reveals this attractive little footbridge over the beck.  A nice spot for a picnic ... and I took it, thank-you.

Once Scar Top Farm is reached, the track skirts around it, as can be seen here, heading briefly up the lower slopes of Whernside before turning left along the back of the farm.  The reason will soon be clear ...

This tree-covered shakehole, with Penyghent and Park Fell behind, contains the entrances to Homeshaw Cave, written about in earlier guides to the region, but seldom visited, or even known about, today.  

The Homeshaw Cave hole from the south west, looking to the Ribblehead Viaduct.

After a slippery scramble down into the hole, with tawny owls for company, I met the two entrances once I'd clambered under a dreadful amount of farm debris: rolls of wire, an old car and a few tins and buckets.  Fortunately the rubbish is hidden from above by the trees, and without it, this would be a beautiful place.  This is the north passage of Homeshaw Cave, from which a stream emerges.  It leads to crawling along ledges.

The south entrance to Homeshaw Cave swallows the stream and takes it down a series of cascades.  It is an exciting cave for novices, but should only be entered in low water conditions as it floods with fury!

Just inside, there's a scramble down a cascade containing wedged boulders.  Fortunately, the cascade can be bridged without touching them.

A major joint in the limestone has then been carved out by the water as it makes its way downstream.  It has left a lovely teardrop-shaped passage.

A short distance in is the 'Silver Chamber' consisting of a vertically cut canyon beneath a huge bedding plane.  As this is an active cave that floods to the ceiling, there are few stalactites.

The dome-shaped ceiling of the chamber sparkles with a beautiful silver effect.

An ox-bow passage leads off, behind a boulder on the left and above head height.

Another view of that wonderful ceiling.

The passage then continues, twisting its way downstream, in places so narrow that I had to duck to floor level to squeeze a way through.

This section in particular was a bit hard on the delicate bits.

Interesting rock shapes in the main passage of Homeshaw Cave.  

This welcome little 'sofa' of rock was a nice place to sit and recover from the scratches, bruises and a stiff back.  I could have had forty winks on here.

The rock, near the second chamber, has been scalloped and cut into grotesque shapes.  Note the fine scalloping right of centre, caused by water action.

From the second chamber this canyon, beneath the ceiling, led to an even narrower passage and a boulder choke.  It was time to head back.

Fluted shapes in the walls were noticed on the way out.  I missed these on the way in.

They appear to be evenly spaced ribs of rock.

The tops of the fluted ribs are pointed like ancient arrow-heads.

The fine cascade in Homeshaw Cave has been plunging though a progressively widening hole over many years to form the pool below - flood water widening the bedding so that the cascade is suspended as a false floor above.  It's a lovely spot.

Close-up of the cascade and its impressive structure.

Emerging from the gloomy depths into daylight for a last look back at this clump of trees, hiding so much excitement and mystery below.

A few yards to the south is one of the most bizarre pot-holes in Yorkshire, the obscure but potentially fascinating Daimler Hole.  It lies in a shakehole just to the left of the limestone boulder.

And the name is nothing romantic in the slightest.  Take a look at this, and consider how it could happen in the confines of a National Park.  If I could lift the Daimler, I would! It's obviously been here for years on end.

Once I'd cleared away the rusting metal and buckets, rolls of barbed wire and plastic bags, I revealed this cunning little entrance.  Normally dropping in feet first and then crawling leads to a high passage and one of the most beautiful in the area, known as 'Frank's Delight.'  Today there was a dead sheep at the very point where the crawl should have started.  I'll crawl through mud, freezing water ... anything ... but a dead sheep?  I drew the line at that one.

Easier options for the camera presented themselves in the scars I'd seen earlier in the day.

And in majestic Ingleborough, rising over the pine woods, themselves an unusual feature of the Three Peaks area.

The Ingleborough massif - Park Fell, Southerscales Fell and the master himself.

My final view was of Whernside - the mountain that had watched over me during a great day of exploration.  I'd developed a soft spot for her by the end, I have to say.

Philpin Lane comes up past the pine woods at bottom left, meeting a prominent barn.  Beyond the barn the path can be seen going left to Bruntscar and straight on up Whernside.  Ignore both and instead turn right across a green field to the first notable farm, Broadrake (seen at centre left).  Follow the path north-eastwards until the large farm of Ivescar is reached (roughly top, centre).  Behind this is Boggart Holes.  The white track behind Ivescar Farm can be followed back in a westerly direction to pass Scar Top farm and reach Homeshaw Cave.


  1. Hi Stephen,
    Your blog post has answered many questions I had regarding the Boggart Holes, especially Ivescar Cave. Apparently our ancestors (Whaley's) owned Broadrake, Bruntscar, Ivescar, Lower Gearstones, Gunnerflat (?) and most of Dysgarth. A story that has been handed down through the generations is that Baron Whaley hid large sums of money in caves and holes in the ground in the area. One such story is of large sums of money hidden in a boot in Ivescar Cave and in latter years it is said that one washed out after a flood and a Mr Jim Metcalf had found some of the gold coins. Of course whether or not the story is factual or not is beside the point as it has kindled interest and a yearning to know more about this place throughout the generations. Living in North Yorkshire for a few years is providing me the ideal opportunity to visit, photograph and research the farms, buildings and other landmarks that have also been recorded in letters back home (NZ). Thank you so much for your excellent blog post with wonderfully clear photos of the area. I will be forwarding the link to family back home. Keep up the awesome work, I look forward to reading more in future.
    Gaylene Harrison

  2. Many thanks for that Gaylene and for the much appreciated feedback. The Edward I coins were the source of your story which is a fantastic version of the events. I also have a post on Bruntscar Cave. Your post has fascinated me about Baron Whaley and especially the boot. The Metcalfs will probably hve been those who lived at Weathercote as there are many buried in St Leonards at Chapel le Dale???? Great to hear from you and keep in touch!!! Stephen x