Caving in Furness - April 10th. 2011
Present: Jim Newton, Steve Gray, Andy Hall, Pete Llewellyn, Mel and Sandra Wilkinson, Sarah Blundell, Carol Makin - together with guides, Martin Salisbury and Claire Asplin
A lovely sunny day for this trip to these lesser known caves important archaeologically for their confirmation of the presence of man here around 10,000 years B.P. (Before present) At this time Scotland and Ireland, England and France were still joined and it had been thought previously that man did not arrive this far North until much later.
This was a really excellent day out with ten of us in total, reminding me of the old monthly caving meets when you needed a large party to carry the ladders and lifelines. Ah those were the days! Anyway rant over, time to get back to the trip. Carol Makin and I traveling in Sandra and Mel Wilkinson’s car pulled into Grange Fire Station Car Park to find a lonely Sarah Blundell sunbathing! We were soon joined by our meet organiser Steve Gray together with Martin Salisbury, son of local archaeologist Chris, sadly now dead – and Claire Asplin our guide. Also present were Andy Hall and last but not least Pete Llewellyn.
Our first stop was Kirkhead Cavern an old stamping ground of Red Rose archaeologists in the 50’s. Pity they had to use dynamite (Bob Ashmead - between 1969-74) to expose the remains! This cave has been excavated since 1866 and in keeping with the Victorian manner of archaeology (rough and ready) many items found ended up in private collections. Finds included Irish elk antlers and flints suggesting that this site was inhabited. After an inspection of the large chamber, we carried on round the cirque, up steep scree covered in copious amounts of wild garlic, giving a grade 5 ascent to the grade 2 caves in which a bit of further digging might pay off to expose more passage.
My thoughts of digging in that area were dampened by Martin who lived close by and told us the area was wick with badgers which even took bulbs from plots in his garden. Their claw marks were visible on the low cave wall and their latrine was just outside the cave entrance where they lived.
Entrance to Whitton’s Cave
Next stop was Whitton’s Cave, (also known as
Back to the cars and we
Tired out with the mornings exertions, we headed for the nearest pub. The Top House at Lindale for beer and sandwiches in the beer garden in the blazing sun.
Refreshed, we headed for
Local Wild Life?
Claire, who used to live
in the neighbouring cottage, then directed us higher
up the fell, to an open hole in the back garden of the cottage, dropping about
20 foot into an 8 foot high passage, unfortunately blocked after 30 foot. This
hole is not recorded in any guide books I could find and we have named it as
There was twine strung across the passage, left I assume, by archaeologists whilst measuring the passage. Another place for an enthusiastic digger!
Claire then directed us
along the A590 where we
parked at a petrol station and set off up a footpath towards Halecat. We left this path and then entered a small gorge
and streamway where we had to fight our way through overgrown brushwood and
fallen trees. All along this broken path we could see holes appearing in the
limestone cliff face. Then a body sized hole appeared into which Steve and Pete
inserted themselves. Mel then heard them puffing and grunting about 100 feet
further along the valley where we pulled out some large rocks to enable them to
escape from this oxbow. (Now thought to
Gray emerging from a
first through trip –
We soon reached the cave Claire was looking for. This was more like it. Six foot high and six foot wide.
After about 100 yards we came to water and only the hardcore who were dressed for caving carried on for a further 100 feet before the roof started to lower, where they came back.
Meanwhile the rest of us were searching the entrance series when Claire stumbled grabbing a protruding rock to save herself. On studying the protusion further she pronounced it to be a ‘calcited rib cage’ which certainly looked plausible to us novice archaeologists.
Calcited rib cage in
By now we were covered in
mud and burned by the sun, so returned to our cars vowing to return to find out
more about these apparently unexploited caves. At home I looked in
I checked this with Andy Walsh and on seeing my photo he said Fairy Hole but he differs slightly with Eric Holland on the cave length and how it ends.
On a sunny day such as we had, this makes an excellent cave exploration day out. With a digger and a crowbar who knows what we could find in this unexplored area. A great day out, and lots of thanks to Steve, Claire and Martin for organizing the trip.
- with additional input from Carol Makin and Mel Wilkinson
SD 3909 7565 Alt. 34m Length 1 m.
SD 3907 7590 Alt.40m Length 18m.
Kents Bank Cavern
SD 39097586 Alt. 40m. Length 24m.
SD 4110 7890 Alt.53m. Length 10m.
SD 4176 8015 Alt. 10m.
Length cave 1- 6m.
Length cave 2 - 10m.
SD 415 802 Alt. 40m. Length 10 m.
SD 434 824 Alt 9m. Length 30m.
SD 434826 Alt 9m. Length 160 m.