Although the heyday of discoveries in the Lancaster-Ease Gill
System began in 1946, exploration of the area commenced in the late
19th century by the Yorkshire Ramblers Club. They became aware of the
importance of the area by earlier references, such as "Ingleton,
Bygone & Present" by Robert R. and Margaret Balderston published
in 1888. This book describes the geography of the area and the
following extract describes what was known at the time of their
Following the next wall to the south west from Gravel Pot
downwards, so as to reach the Ease Gill Beck, where are the
Witches' Caves, the Kirk, and other places already
described, and ascending a small stream that is the direct
continuation of the Leck Beck, and does not bend away like
Ease Gill, a walk of about three-quarters of a mile along
this little valley, bring the tourist to Bull Pot in the
very centre of the hollow, a trifle below the last farm
house in this direction, and only a field's breadth from the
road running along Casterton Fell. Bull Pot is a dreadful
hole, foetid with the dead carcasses of sheep and lambs, and
whitened with skeletons. A vast cave-like mouth to be seen
in the base of its north western side, a waterfall
precipitates itself downwards to the extent of fifty-eight
feet, though when the water is low its principle leap is
diminished to forty-five with a secondary cascade below. The
rock to the south is fifty-four feet high, that on the west,
though not sheer at the top, is eighty-five feet whilst the
hole itself measured round its neck of entrance is about
The Yorkshire Ramblers Club became active in the late 1880's and are well known for their descents of Gaping Gill but they were in fact exploring right across the Dales. In 1899 YRC visited Casterton Fell and explored Bull Pot of the Witches and Cow Pot (Anon, 1900). Bull Pot of the Witches was so named, not so much as having been associated with witches but rather to distinguish it from Bull Pot in Kingsdale and its proximity to Witches Cave. This well known cave lies just to the south of Bull Pot Farm and can now be descended down to its downstream sump over 200ft below without any tackle if care is taken. The trees which surround the hole give it a picturesque setting and they must have done so in 1899 when there were even more of them. A good sized stream having its source in the enclosure north of the farm, falls down an impressive waterfall into the open pot some 50ft below.
Bull Pot of the Witches and Bull Pot Farm in April 1932. Photo taken by Eli Simpson and Re-produced from the B.S.A. Records now held in the B.C.R.A Library.
In April and May of 1932 five visits were made by Eli Simpson, Miss M. Greenwood, Messrs. E. Clarkson, W. Fairbank and S. Waller to explore, survey and photograph the known cave and their discoveries. These included 1932 Cavern and the connection to Hidden Pot which lies just to the south of Bull Pot. Clarkson's Pot and Crawl were also explored. Hidden Pot had been discovered by YRC in 1926 and was not known to the local farmer as it had been covered by brushwood.
The first recorded descent of Cow Pot was also on 22nd of May 1899
by Cuttris's, Parsons, Swithenbank and G.T. Lowe (Anon, 1900).
However, Simpson recorded an inscription on the wall below the
entrance pitch in Shale Cavern. "A. Moorhouse 1736". Whether this
person did descend in the year stated or it is a false inscription we
shall never know. The YRC found Cow Pot to be 100ft deep with several
crawls and a large cavern on a shale band at the bottom. In 1932
Simpson and the BSA carried out an accurate survey and he made this
note in his personal records. "The water probably flows to Leck Beck
Head though this has not been tested. If this is the case then the
differences in elevation between the lowest point in Cow Pot and the
issues indicate possibilities of still further exploration."
Early Leck Fell Explorations
Peterson, Pippikin and Nippikin Pots appear to have been first explored by members of the Gritstone Club during Whitsuntide 1929. Extracts from the Gritstone Journal, Volume 3, Number 3, of the time are given here to give some idea of the spirit of exploration prevailing at the time.
Leck Fell at Whitsuntide was a congested area. Ardent young potholers were swarming round all the principle pots, and we regarded the prospect of joining the queues for Deaths Head or Lost Johns with some dismay.
Wood came to the rescue with a memory of potholes stumbled across in the dim past, somewhere near Ease Gill Kirk. To our surprise, he was able to find them again, and on this virgin field we decided to expend our energies. They proved to be small but well found pots. They lie close together and near the next wall parallel to, and North of that passing between Gavel and Deaths Head pots, in a general northerly direction from the latter, and much lower down the fell side towards Ease Gill.
PETERSON POT. The first explored, lies in a series of large sinks on the near (SW) side of the wall and marked by a rowan tree. Wood, who found it, insists it shall be known as Peterson Pot in memory of a cherished pipe he left behind him in it. It has two pitches and with good measure for the depth of the sink, can be estimated at 70ft. The quest of the pipe finally abandoned, Wood led us over the wall to view the remainder of his properties.
NIPPIKIN POT. These are situated in a line of sinks parallel with the wall, and about a hundred yards from it. An obvious shaft, marked only by a small tree, at the lower end of the depression, was choked at depth of 40ft, but a small fissure in the rock wall to the SW, proved to have far greater possibilities. The first descent was made by sundry large stones on Saturday evening and with the resultant crashing and booming singing pleasantly in our ears, we strolled back to camp. The fine weather held, and on the following morning, the potholers labourers were seen at work.
PIPPIKIN POT. On emerging into daylight, we remembered the Sabbath, a dolch for niente feeling crept over the party, and with silent unanimity we trickled back to the flesh pots of the camp. (A.M.T. was among those present. )
Work was resumed on Monday, when we descended a promising opening higher up the line of sinks and a little below the entry of a tiny stream. This is one of the possible entrances to a fairly wide shaft about 20ft deep. A stream passage of ample width but whose height was a matter of inches, was followed for eight laborious yards to the north-west, where to our relief a fissure cuts across at right angles and broadens below and to the left into a respectable shaft.
After dislodging a jammed stone from the intersection of bedding cave and fissure, we succeeded in passing a ladder through the cave and shoals and down the shaft. By a nice manoeuvre, the leading labourer succeeded in translating himself from the horizontal to the vertical plane, renewing acquaintance with the jammed stone a few feet down the shaft. It was poised on a smaller natural bracket on the wall of the shaft and could not again be pushed off, for fear of damaging the ladders below. It made an emphatic nuisance of itself. The pitch proved to be one about 40ft, the shaft being curiously divided about a third of the way down into a trousers-like formation by a knife-edged flake (Cellar Pot).
These pots were explored in April 1934 when Messrs. K. Appleton, P. Binns and E. Simpson made a survey of Pippikin and Nippikin. Simpson in the BSA records concluded with these prophetic words. "The area is most interesting and should yield further discoveries to careful examination."