from RRCPC 6 May 1970
The investigation of Pegleg Pot was commenced on the 20th September 1970. The survey incorporates all the known passages and will, I hope, encourage others to dig and search further. Much time was expended poking in corners, through boulders, in sumps, up tight crawls and chasing elusive draughts but all to no avail. The instruments used were a Suunto compass and a brass chain with 0.2 metre calibrations. Levelling was accomplished by painstaking step measurements, no clinometer being available at the time. The depth of the Pot was found to be 43 metres (140 feet). The length of passage surveyed was 783 metres (2,568 feet). Lengths and bearings of major passages were converted to co-ordinates for plotting.
Invaluable assistance was provided by Roger Calvert, Frank Hardy, Dick Arculus, Howard Rothwell, Ian Jopson, Steve Hesketh, Hugh St. Lawrence, Chris Bargh and Phil Pearson. I thank Tom Sykes for providing historical data.
Leaving the Farm, follow the track past Bull Pot of the Witches. Instead of turning off to Lancaster Hole continue southwards, passing Hellot Hole (in a shakehole on the left of the track). The path descends into the Lancaster Hole valley then climbs again until Hellot Scales barn comes into view. Immediately bear left until the Ease Gill is attained. Traverse upstream above the clump of trees beneath which lie the waterfalls and Kirk Pot. On the first bend above the waterfalls cross to the south side of the Ease Gill. Pegleg Pot entrance lies in a rift guarded by a large toppled block. An iron bedstead protects the entrance from becoming blocked in time of flood. The close proximity of Pegleg to Lancaster Hole is significant in that it may lead the latter caverns beneath the Ease Gill to establish an important intercounty link.
Geologically the Pot is roughly the same distance from the Dent fault as Lancaster Hole and lies in gently dipping Great Scar limestone intercalated with thin shales or mudstone beds, one of the thickest being responsible for Surprise Hall although of limited lateral extent.
The cessation of heavy rain is no guarantee to the
safety of the Pot from flooding although a moderately heavy rainfall
is required to force the water as far downstream as Pegleg.
Howard Rothwell and the author have had experience of the contrary nature of the Ease Gill. Slowly the water fingered its way towards the entrance. Was this innocuous snake of water to be ignored? A strange rushing sound made us look upstream. Coming towards us was a wall of water 25 cm. high. It rolled along at a steady walking pace, the wave front refusing to be diverted by any obstruction. We raced to the waterfalls and sat in the natural amphitheatre by Kirk Pot. All was quiet. The trees rustled, a dark cloud obscured the sky. A rush, a roar and the torrent burst over the waterfall. The atmosphere was as if the day of reckoning was nigh. The water hurtled into Kirk Pot diverting the rising waters underground and at last the progress of the Gill was stemmed. This took place about an hour after rain had ceased falling on Casterton Fell.
Fresh plant debris and the presence of worms in Surprise Hall points to regular and severe flooding. The present inlets from the Ease Gill seem incapable of conveying sufficient water to represent the rapid water level changes which must occur within the Pot. Flooding must be due to a subterranean source and as yet remains a mystery although a possible theory is that it is caused by "backing-up" from the Leck Beck-Witches phreas. Is there a direct relationship between the water levels in Pegleg and Skittle Alley Sump in Lancaster Hole? Divers in Skittle Alley have found no sizable underwater continuation. Surprise Hall and the adjoining tunnel are streamless except for trickles from insignificant inlets. Mud on the passage floor beyond the 21 metre pitch is evidence of non rapid stream flow. The present active system finishes at this pitch down which flood water derived from the Ease Gill presumably disappears. However until more is known about the flooding characteristics of the Pot it is not advisable to be around to discover first hand what really happens. The cavers trapped in 1962 sought refuge in the second chamber. Inspection of the first chamber after a week of floods showed a water level of about 1 metre this only being due to a rib of rock restricting flow into the continuation of the passage. In case of emergency it would seem best to amuse oneself in the second chamber.
5th October 1958
The N.P.C. noticing an active stream sink in Lower Ease Gill proceeded to excavate an entrance. Entry was gained a fortnight later and a preliminary exploration made.' One of the explorers found it expedient to unscrew his leg to negotiate bends in the entrance tube - hence the name. In the following year excavations within the Pot were made and the major passages surveyed. The original survey by J.O. Myers was entitled "Lower Ease Gill Cavern."
Pegleg Pot made its debut in Cave Politics at a time when access to Leck and Casterton Fells was extremely tenuous.
12th February 1962
Barry Greenwood and Alan Fincham were trapped by floods. They sheltered below the short climb in the second chamber. Following the rescue all access to the Fell was terminated. Legitimate caving in the area came to a sudden halt. Pressing work in Ease Gill Caverns was delayed. Negotiations with the landowners were started by Tom Sykes on behalf of the R.R.C.P.C. Other clubs became interested and lent their support.
22nd June 1963
Eleven clubs formed the C.N.C.C. the first officials being Secretary -Tom Sykes: Chairman - Alf Hainsworth (Bradford Pothole Club); Treasurer - Alan Clegg (late of Burnley Caving Club).
Untiring work by the new organisation resulted in an agreement for access to the Fell which was reopened on the 1st July 1963.
In the ensuing years there was little interest in Pegleg and subsequent floods blocked the entrance.
11th August 1968
The R.R.C.P.C. decided to reopen the system. The attempt was ill fated. Ian Carruthers (Eccles) received a serious leg injury. The Pot remained closed.
Jim Newton and other Club members successfully gained admittance. Attempts were made to bale and dig through the sumped choke at the southern end of the Pennine Way. Some scaling was done and later in the year the Pot was surveyed.
References: R.R.C.P.C. newsletter vol. 7 No.4.
N.P.C. Journal vol.2 No.2.
One drops through the restricted entrance to emerge in a 9 metre drainpipe crawl. The first chamber is a short length of passage choked at both ends, the relationship with the rest of the cave being uncertain. It is separated from the passable way by a thin wall breached along a number of joints. Stooping onward through a pool the 5 metre climb is reached. Descend and turn right into a vadose canyon. This section is greatly undercut. A grotesque stalactite is passed. At section 7 (see survey) the wall has been under-mined on a mudstone bed to cause a minor collapse. One can crawl in the water or over the top of the toppled block. The roof tube dips slightly causing one to stoop before the ceiling once more allows comfortable walking. This was probably the site of an ancient sump. The two avens possess gentle sporting climbs only being aqueously active when the Ease Gill is flowing. The 21 metre pitch is traversed with care into a passage which is no longer scoured clean. The 7 metre pitch is furnished with a perfect belay point. The passage leading off to the right at the head of the pitch returns one to the deep rift and a roof traverse to a choked inlet. Once down the short pitch, walk through the chamber and climb into an eyehole on the right. Take care if investigating the blind chamber at the end due to the difficulty of return. There is a draughting aperture in the muddy floor which probably connects with the upstream passages at the base of the big pitch. The emergence into Surprise Hall, a bedding plane chamber formed in a thick mudstone lens, is indeed spectacular. The nature of the cave now changes.
Climb down into the Pennine Way. Downstream the roof lowers and dives into a pool. At first sight it seems to be a sump but it has been baled to reveal a mud choke, Excavations yielded no sign of the roof lifting again.
Upstream, climb the dry cascade below a large detached block. Notice the gravel floor which changes suddenly to sand as though a beach. The height of the passage is reduced as the sand content increases. The interesting apertures in the roof are only solution hollows. The deep well, which may be difficult to locate, is on the right hand side of the passage near the cairn and can be found by scrambling up a conspicuous rib of rock. Projectiles rattle down 10 metres or so before bouncing into water. A thin man could be lowered down the shaft but he would have to place utter reliance on the hauling party and contemplate the possibilities of air shortage. It is not an exercise to be undertaken lightly. After the first few metres the shaft appears to widen. What lies below? The survey suggests it may lead to the sumped canal, another possibility is an interim sump between 2 and 3 (see survey). The latter hangs on the relative levels of the sumps and if the depicted levels are correct then one can postulate a streamway beneath the Pennine Way draining the northern sumps to sump 3. A small error in heighting (which is feasible considering the method used) could mean all the sumps are at the same altitude in which case the passages below the Pennine Way will be flooded.
A few metres north of the well, a side passage leads to a 4 metre pitch. Before descending the pitch notice the restricted inlet, carrying a trickle of water, on the left and an eyehole on the right. Tumbled pebbles on the gravel floor of the chamber indicate, the Potential of the waterfall. The only outlet is choked by gravel. Ascending the ladder again, investigate the little aven at the southern end of the chamber which leads into a partially mud filled phreatic tube, yet another of the numerous promising digs.
Returning to the Pennine Way proceed northwards along the left hand side of the tunnel. Five metres beyond the boulder fall turn right into a short flat-out crawl and climb into a muddy rift. Having descended another rift slide down to the right into a petite chamber which appears blind. The way on is by your feet. It is likely that the mud tube is silted up necessitating the removal of a couple of cubic metres of sand. A bulky caver might deem the tube a little awkward especially as once entered head first it is difficult to retreat. The main passage no doubt continues above the rifts, being heavily choked. It may link with the upper section of the Skittle Alley passage in Lancaster Hole. Before attempting the mud tube let us return to the 21metre pitch.
A fifty foot ladder will suffice as one can swing onto a ledge near the bottom and free climb the rest. A lifeline should be used. Downhill, the walls sport large areas of calcite sheeting. Brecciated areas of rock point to a tectonic disturbance, probably a tear fault, there being no evidence of vertical displacement. A reduction in. width forces one to crawl. The survey finishes at the sump although the rift can be seen to continue for at least another 10 metres, the water deepening, I thought I could feel a draught blowing over the water but it might have been wishful thinking (more likely I was trying to ignore it.) Sump 3 has that evil look of finality. The survey shows it to be about six feet higher than Leck Beck Head. The entrance height was derived from the extrapolation of 25 ft. contours no precise level being available. The H.W.C.P.C. obtained a figure of 140 ft. between Pegleg Pot and Leek Beck Head by surface levelling. The corresponding elevation on the survey gives a depth of 142 feet from the T.B.M. at the entrance to sump 3. It therefore seems reasonable to assume sump 3 to be level with Leck Beck Head, the discrepancy being in the entrance datum.
Beyond the mud tube a delightful quality of mud is encountered improving with the passage of cavers. A calcite slope leads into sump 1. Here an inlet can to followed for a short distance. This passage is probably the continuation of the one choked by calcite and mud (above section 24). The Far Stream passage loses its diminutive water to the only visibly fed sump in the cave which is entered by sliding through a narrow hole in the side of the, passage and climbing down to water level. Upstream the way is cleaner and one is soon able to stand. A number of cascades are ascended until a short crawl introduces one to a large mysterious passage displaying contradictory cockling. This passage is on the same horizon as the Pennine Way (see true sections) but its relationship is baffling. Pursue the gentle stream to the not so big chamber near the end. The large passage is lost amidst the calcite and fallen blocks. All that remains is the stream flowing in its own little canyon. However, continue upstream to a fork. To pursue the left branch climb into the roof and squeeze through an eyehole effectively by-passing the initially constricted section. The right fork is the most interesting and perhaps the most frustrating passage. A strong draught issues through a sizable block choke but no way through can be found. A dig was started following the right wall but as it involved lying flat out beneath a hanging block enthusiasm rapidly waned. The dimensions of the detached rocks indicate a large area of collapse therefore a sizable void must exist above. The absence of grit boulders refutes the likelihood of a collapse from the surface.
A difficult correlation to achieve is that between Leck Beck Head, Witches Cave, Lancaster Hole and the caverns of lower Ease Gill i.e. how is the phreas interrelated.
It is generally assumed that Sputnik (Kirk Pot)
unites with Pegleg Pot the interception being probably under water in
the continuation of the deep rift.
It is known that once the Ease Gill is running Sputnik and Pegleg absorb all the water in most cases. Eye witnesses can confirm that once water sinks in Sputnik, Witches Cave starts debauching. Of necessity Pegleg is also taking water being higher up the Gill. However, the stream only reaches lower Ease Gill in tine of flood when Lancaster Hole sump will be backing-up due to the ingress of water from all the upper Ease Gill sinks. Are Pegleg and Sputnik therefore directly responsible for Witches debauching or does this occur due to the overall flooding of the area when Witches acts as a flood rising for the whole? The latter is the most palatable as the water levels in Witches Cave and Leck Beck flood risings coincide under static conditions. The relationship between the active risings and the flood risings could be explored by monitoring both during a flood pulse test.