Volume 45 Number 1 Article 9
Sunday 27 January 2008
Paul Thomas and James Eckersley
In Swaledale about 5 miles South West of Reeth, Crackpot Cave appeared to be worth a visit. As we drove towards Summer Lodge Farm wondering if we were going to get a caver friendly farmer, it was reassuring to see that Summer Lodge was also a bed and breakfast farm, which reduced the likely hood of a loose dog. As we approached the door a very helpful and friendly lady came out who suggested a good place to park and gave us directions to the cave.
At the first gate just past the farm there is a map and a set of guidelines to Crackpot Cave, also a box to make a contribution to Swaledale rescue team.
From the first gate follow the track up the steep hill to the next gate then turn left on the track with a sign stating Cavers Only to the Cave, the route to the cave is the obvious track down towards the river, after a bit of looking about we located what we believed to be the main entrance, which is described in Northern Caves Volume One as a large unstable opening at top of bolder pile. As Iain Simpson noted in 2000 this entrance is now closed, so we used the Knee Wrecker entrance a little to the South.
Knee Wrecker is a misleading name for a series of easy crawls. It took us less than 5 minutes to enter the main streamway which is about 3 metres high by about 4 metres wide. In the main streamway we turned right, the water immediately went down a hole that we could not follow, but there is a nice dry passage about 2 metres high and about 3 metres wide to follow, after about 30 metres we got to the intestines and had 20 minutes exploring this area. The Intestines is an area of blocks that have collapsed creating a series of crawls that give the impression they are waiting to the chance to move and crush the unwary caver. Back in the main passage we followed it north toward the old main entrance. At the time we thought we had reached the collapse below the main entrance due to the amount of soil and roots in the area, however on checking the guidebook after the trip, we are now not sure we reached the end. Turning round and moving south back past the Intestines we followed the water upstream following the attractive decorated passage to Column Chamber. The main column in this chamber is as fine as any in the Dales. Initially we followed the water out of Column Chamber to the boulder choke, then returned and took the passage behind the main column.
From behind the column is a short passage to Cullingford's Folly, a large chamber with lots of formations. Unfortunately the once fine floor is now very muddy, but the flat roof still has a very fine collection of straws. At the highest point of this chamber there is a climb down a slope to rejoin the river past the boulder choke in the main streamway. We followed the water upstream into a very engineered dig, which ends in a frustrating area of loose rock.
On the way out we explored the three dry oxbows on the east side of the streamway. Total time underground was about two hours.