Volume 40 Number 2 Article 2
Upper Leck Fell Caves
You could say the fascination with this area started donkeys years ago, when Pete Ashmead & Duncan Baldwin were sitting in the pub, expounding to the great unwashed masses of the Red Rose (We had just been caving), that Easegill Beck originally ran on a clearly defined bench, about 400 feet to the east, under the shadow of Gregareth, and therefore there should be caves running down to the Easegill System.
They admitted they would probably be severed by the present day stream, but would nevertheless be there. As at that time there was nothing on that piece of Upper Leck Fell from Pippikin (a small cave) to the County Stone on the crest of the hill, I dismissed it and got back to the next club meet down Penyghent Pot.
Years later, in 1984, Jim Farrer, Bruce Redpath and I were walking across that area, when we came upon a tight lime-stone rift about 10` deep at the end of a dry stream bed. Bruce bet us he could get down it and jumped in. With much ripping of jeans, he finally stood at the bottom. Looking up, he told us we were only standing on sods. We soon ripped them out to expose a more comfortable sized rift, dropping into a bedding plane which closed to a low pool. As we were in walking gear, we vowed to return. This we did with Andy Hall and Chas Frankland. It was raining as we walked over the fell and although there was a trickle of water entering, it seemed dry in the bedding. Andy and Chas splashed through the pool and into a 6` high passage. Suddenly the stream rose and Bruce and I struggled to get out. Fearing for the lads below, we followed the stream up to the screes, before we found a place to divert it. We went back to meet them coming out. They were amazed when we told them about the flood as they had not noticed anything wrong. This was Bank Holiday Hole and it ended in a tight rift near to the gill opposite Wretched Rabbit Cave. Unfortunately we could not get through to the resurgence to complete a through trip.
It must be 10 years after that, that the Savages and Phil Wright found a short-cut in Boundary Pot, missing out the squeeze in Bar Stewards Passage. This rift is 50` high and only goes one way, west to Hiroshima Chamber. Surely there must be the rest of the passage going east under Leck Fell?
However, to the present day, Lionel Rice had been helping Ray with his survey down Wretched Rabbit Cave and while looking around the area later, with his dog Blythe, found an OPEN HOLE! He told me about it and we went to have a look. The hole had appeared when about 6 foot of soil had dropped into a large rift. We gingerly climbed down the vertical soil side, to stand in a wide rift. This had calcite curtains on one wall which disappeared into at least 3` of fill from the collapse. Obviously this would mean a major digging project to open it up. So we named it Blythe Hole after his dog and left it for more ambitious diggers.
While there we decided to have a good look round this little visited valley and spotted some rusty angle iron, sticking out of the side of the gill. It took two trips to open the hole and slip into a narrow rift adorned with small but pretty formations. Andy Whitney, who had been surveying in Bat Cave, turned up and went in with Lionel. By traversing round the top of the rift they were able to get into a wider section. The way on was behind a rock flake, behind which could be heard a loud stream. Andy later looked at Northern Caves to tell us we had rediscovered Oxford Cave 3, found by the Leeds in 1980. The entrance must have slumped in over the years!. Funny they didn't mention the loud stream in their description!
These two holes were about 100` apart and as we walked back to Blythe Hole, we noticed the stream disappearing in the beck. Poking it with the bar produced exciting sounds of rock falling down a pitch. I was trying to clear the large limestone flakes covering the drop when Lionel, who was clearing up behind me, said "There's a hole in the side of the gill." We changed our plan of attack and were soon looking into a black rift. I crawled in backwards and was surprised to find my feet dangling over an open hole! Lionel quickly gave me a pull out and promptly disappeared down the hole himself. He climbed down about 15` to where two streams were entering. He went up a wet crawl to a large white formation, which neither of us could get round, although the bedding beyond seemed to be about 15` wide.
We returned three days later with Bill Sheringham, who was still on a high with his part in the joining of Trident to Swindon Hole. We found that due to overnight rain a large stream was entering the cave. Lionel had gone in front to have another go at the bend and Bill following, noticed the enlarged stream flowing under the bedding. He slipped under and into a hands and knees crawl and promptly disappeared. Lionel followed, unable to hear him but determined not to miss out on new passage. They returned after about ten minutes, to report that after 60` the passage faulted in a narrow rift to the left, but they were unable to get through as the stream was ponding round Bills body as he tried to get past the bend.
A week later we came back to Bramble Hole as it was called, with our "secret weapon", Martin Levy-Anderson of the Forest Caving Club, who were on holiday at the farm. He was built like a ferret and his first job was a hole in the top of the entrance rift, which he soon slipped round into a wide bedding with a one foot wide channel cutting through it. He struggled upstream for about 30`, to say it was still going but difficult. He then tried downstream but got no further than the previous visit as he found the water ponding round him as well.
We put flourescein in Oxford Cave 3 and the green colour arrived at Bramble Hole in ten minutes. We could hear the stream under the collapse in Blythe Hole and went down to Bat Cave where the colour arrived twenty minutes later and on into Gelder Hole. We had already tested Gelder Hole to Showerbath in County Pot so knew it joined the System.