RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 37 Number 4 Article 3
November 2000

Thackthwaite Beck Cave

"The Choke of Doom"

Friday 14 July 2000

Members present : Peter Dale, Dave Thompson.

When Dave had rung me up to book his place on the White Scar trip he had said that he would like to do Thackthwaite Beck Cave on his way down on the Friday before. I said that I was up for that, so he said he would ring a couple of days beforehand just to confirm I was still keen. Sure enough, the phone rang and we made arrangements to meet at Woodhall at 7 pm.

Before arriving at Woodhall I had a quick look around the small village of Darraby, alias Askrigg where they filmed "All Creatures Great and Small". I then drove to Woodhall and parked a few minutes past 6 pm to wait for Dave. After about 15 minutes Dave turned up and we were soon changed and faced with one of my fears - the cave entrance was at the top of a hill. Great, I thought, I hate hills!

Reaching the top, we spied a small waterfall with some sort of machinery near its base. After a bit of free climbing we had descended down to what looked like a filled in mine shaft with what seemed to be a pump over the top of it, but who knows? We spent a few minutes inspecting the components of this ancient device, and then proceeded with the main reason for us being there - caving!

Arriving at the base of a scree slope, Dave pointed towards a hole. "There it is!" he remarked, as we began climbing the very loose rock where the faint gurgle of water could be heard somewhere beneath us. Reaching the entrance, Dave and I peered into the gloom and didn't like what we saw. It was surrounded by a considerable amount of very loose rock. When Dave had come looking for the cave a few weeks back he had noticed another entrance just over a small fence to the right of this one.

Upon climbing over the fence I found Dave routing around in desperation. "What's up lad?" I asked. "The entrance has gone!" "Don't be daft." "It has, it was ere last time!" he said with awful desperation in his voice. I told him to stand aside and let me sense where the entrance was. Dave watched eagerly as I stood perfectly still waiting to pick up some sort of vibe from the entrance - nope sod it, didn't work! So we both scouted the scree for the entrance.

A few minutes later we spied what looked like a wooden lid. Frantic digging uncovered the lid which, when removed, revealed a plastic pipe down into the system, which Dave then descended. Personally, I thought the other entrance looked safer than this one, as above the plastic entrance pipe was a very large scree slope at about 60 degrees! So upon entering the pipe I replaced the wooden lid, but not before a couple of rocks decided to join me!

Dave was waiting at the bottom of the pipe. I joined him and off we went into the darkness. After the nasty confines of the entrance pipe we were surprised to find that the cave was very large indeed! As we walked along the passage we commented on the fine fossils persevered in the cave wall. Then, as expected, we encountered water. Since I had my neo-fleece on I made Dave go first, and after a few girlie screams from him, he informed me that it was waist deep. Reluctantly following him we reached the start of the first, and continuous, boulder choke. We tried following the stream to start with, but this proved too wet, even for us! So an alternative was looked for.

Just a little way back up the passage was a short climb that looked well worn, so up I went, dislodging quite a few boulders which tumbled down to land in the water next to a shocked Dave! I told him I would explore this way while he looked around at the bottom. Yep my way went, and so did Dave's, since we joined each other again in a large chamber. Glancing around we both realised that what we thought was the roof of the chamber was in fact a great slab of hanging limestone! We didn't hang around here for too long! Unfortunately, the passage didn't improve one bit, and every rock or boulder we stood on moved or wobbled.

Boulder hopping followed by crawling in and out of the boulders, we reached Stalactite Chamber which was full of beautiful formations and the walls were covered in white, red and orange flowstone! According to the guidebook, after stal chamber you enter the massive collapse, (the whole cave is a massive collapse!) This is where our problems began, as route finding now became a difficult.

Negotiating the collapse consisted of climbing up, then down, left, then right, under and over - you get the idea? Anyway, at one point we had to crawl through a bedding plane, no problem with that you may think, but this one was below a boulder the size of a car! And if that wasn't bad enough, had a bedding plane above it and a rift either side! What the hell was holding it up? A very rapid flat out crawl followed into yet more chokes. This was getting silly now and after a short crawl in the stream we reached the end of the cave. Well, whether it was the end or not wasn't a concern of ours as the choke seemed to be threatening to move!

Right then, time for the exit, finding our way out proved to be more difficult than anticipated! At one point I shamefully admit that I was a little worried as to whether we were gonna get out, but after 30 minutes spent going round in circles and looking in every possible orifice, the way out was found (phew!) Once back in daylight we followed the stream down to the waterfall and inspected the pump again, and had a quick look in a nearby adit which we found to be none to safe about 20m in.

Well, what can I say about this cave? Ah yes, I know! It's different and I can honestly say I won't be going back! Although it doesn't seem that bad now and if there was,,?

Pete Dale

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