Friday, 25 April 2014

Hell's Cauldron
The Devil's Handiwork in Dentdale

Ibbeth Peril is far from the only hideous legend around Dentdale.  Also on the Dee, half a mile downstream, is the celebrated fall and plunge pool of Hell's Cauldron.  I had it all to myself on Bank Holiday Monday.

I approached Dent, as I always do, along Barkin Beck - taking in splendid Barbondale.

The little road runs along the line of the Dent Fault.  A colossal earth movement lifted the greywackes on the left upwards along the fault plane, where they remain today as the massive wedge of Calf Top.  The limestones on the right were wrenched to an almost vertical position.

Similar shot - different camera.  It is one of the most spectacular views in the north of England.

The vertically placed limestone is ideal for cave formation.  This is Crystal Cave, which must be one of the best situated caves in the country.  It is a difficult, very wet crawl to the 'crystal pools' inside, and I didn't have the gear today - but it was great to just have a wander inside the entrance.

This is how it looks on first inspection.

The entrance chamber is pleasant enough ...

Then there's a crawl under these fangs of rock into the stream - though it does eventually get larger.  I'll take you through one day.

Dog Hole, lying in Barkin Gill nearby - is walled up to prevent dogs and other four legged beasties from wandering in.  It links through to Crystal Cave - but the name could hardly be of greater contrast.

I moved the wall away for a peep into Dog Hole.  Again, we'll have a look inside later in the year.

Typical Dentdale scenery as I dipped into High Gill, south of the village, to see a special little cave.

High Gill Cave is formed in a very thin layer of Simonstone limestone (part of the narrow bands of limestone in the Yoredale beds) so it is very different in character from the caves of the River Dee, which are in the thicker Great Scar limestone like those at Ingleton.  It is possible to enter a chamber in this one with a superb waterfall.

Then it was off to Dent for lunch, once home of the 'Terrible Knitters.'

The church, in common with most Dales villages, is a stunner.

The graves are well worth exploring - and one in particular.

You have to step over this grave to go inside the church itself.  George Hodgson died in 1715 and at 94 he was knocking on more than a bit.  In  fact, for weeks afterwards he was seen haunting the streets of Dent - putting the wind up the knitters and their hubbies, no doubt.  So much so, in fact, that they dug him up and noticed he was growing fresh, pink skin, long hair and nasty nails.  To finish this veritable vampire off for good - they hammered a stake through the stone into his heart - and so the hole can still be seen today - together with the almighty crack across the stone caused by the initial whack!   

Just east of the village, following the valley of the Dee, we reach the ruin of Gibb's Hall.  William Howitt (1792-1879) wrote 'The Rural Life of England' here - and his wife wrote 'Hope On - Hope Ever.' Very optimisitc of her.  Let's hope she never met the vampire.

The ruin has a melancholy air about it - considering it was once such a centre of literature.

You should call at the farm next to the hall and ask permission to visit the legendary Hell's Cauldron.  Years ago, when everyone got exctied about devils and vampires - they used to charge a fee to do this.  Now - it's free - and it's more often than not a place of perfect peace. Just descend the field past these curious woollies.

Squeeze through a gap in the wall down to the usually dry bed of the River Dee, and turn left upstream. Watch out for red squirrels and ... if you're lucky ... otters.

Under the fallen tree, barring the way to the Devil's handiwork.

Hell's Cauldron then reveals itself.  It is a place of exquisite beauty.

And, of course, it has its customary cave, in the left hand bank, jammed with flood debris.

The devil used to sit on his pulpit, up on the right, to stir his concoctions in the sinister pool beneath.

You can, with care, clamber up the right hand bank and make your way to the pulpit, giving a tremendous view down into the depths of the cauldron.

And also getting a superb view of the fall itself - in close-up.

The pool is over 20 feet deep and very strange.  Unless it is in flood, when it's a raging torrent, a ribbon of water is entering all the time yet there is none visibly flowing out.  This 'magic' no doubt asociated the cauldron with his satanic majesty.  In truth, the cauldron leads into flooded cave passages beneath and only when they can't take all the water does the river flow over the surface.

Looking back to the lip of the fall - a rarely photographed angle.  The Devil's Pulpit is just left of centre, on which I balanced to take the previous photograph, looking into the plunge pool.

The river bed above Hell's Cauldron is a lovely piece of limestone sculpture.

Pools are in plenty.  The Dee is an adventure playground for a keen outdoor explorer.

Further upstream is the rugged gorge of Hacker Gill.

In this kind of scenery - you let the pictures do the talking.

The beauty is undisputed - and round every corner.

While beyond lies the spine-chilling Ibbeth Peril - where you can only enter the cave in dry conditions, and where Ibby the witch used to drown drunken men in the plunge pool ....

This little gem, above Ibbeth Peril - is one of the best places to see red squirrels in the dale.  In fact, one ran up the bank just before I took the photograph.

Enjoy this wonderful dale - but don't forget to take a cross and a few cloves of garlic!

Stephen x


  1. crystal cave, dog hole, high gill cave, you certainly know how to tantalise !

  2. cracking pictures, looks lovely mr o !
    (Josh & Toby Dunns dad)