In the autumn a prolonged dry spell allowed Rob Shackleton and Julian Griffiths to continue their exploration of the fascinating caves associated with the Nidd Heads drainage system. At the time of writing half a mile of passage has been explored and there is considerable potential for further extensions, particularly in downstream New Goyden. It will however require a period of far more settled weather before these can be entered. The winter has been a wet one and on a recent visit to Nidderdale water was not only flowing straight past Goyden, it was also resurging from New Goyden - food for thought!
Over the August bank holiday Rob dived the inlet sump off Old Year Passage. It quickly closed down to a body sized tube half full of glutinous mud. Exploration of the downstream series didn't resume until the end of September. Laying new line, the lake airbell that marks the start of Sump 6 was quickly reached. This had been dived in 1978, when Rob found it to be too low after 12m (1), narrow rifts running in the direction of the sump becoming choked. This time though he followed the right hand wall and much to his surprise found himself in a large low airbell after only 13m. The inevitable sump 7 led off from the far side of the airbell. Not believing that there was scope for any more passage between Goyden and New Goyden Rob pushed on into sump 7. In this the main stream swept over into a low bedding to the right which was forced for 15m before it became ridiculous. To the left a squeeze led through to a rock floored bedding plane with a couple of inches of airspace. This was explored to a point 15m from base where the diver became worried about his return through the squeeze. Back in the comfort of the pub it was calculated that we had overlapped New Goyden by at least 20m (the surveys must be slightly out). The main find of the day was still to come though. To one side of the airbell the explorers had noticed what appeared to be an aven. A 5m climb emerged in a beautiTul phreatic tube 2m high and im wide. 50m forward this broke into the roof of a large chamber, Toad Hall. The passage continued on the far side past a climb to a junction. Left, a comfortably sized phreatic passage ended at a choke after 50m. A small stream emerged from the choke and sank immediately. This choke may be associated with a fault. Back at the junction the other passages leading off were investigated. The two at roof level joined up after about 15m and dropped down a cross rift to an area of pools. The passage at floor level also led to the area of pools after a short climb and a duck. Well satisfied with the day's work the pair started out, pausing only to explore a series of crawls off Toad Hall. These became too low after only 20m.
Two weeks later Rob and Julian returned to investigate the area of pools with diving equipment. It was Julian's turn for glory so he kitted up and waded off. At the south side of the pools was a canal which ended in a sump after 15m. This started as a joint above a low bedding plane. The roof joint soon petered out and the diver was forced down into a low bedding plane covered in copious quantities of fine silt After 30m he surfaced in what appeared initially to be an airbell. Closer inspection though revealed a large streamway. The diver had blundered into the stream that runs from the New Stream sump in Goyden to Main Inlet in New Goyden. Upstream through a duck led to a large low chamber with a lake as its floor, while downstream, 50m of walking passage ended in a deep rift sump. On a subsequent trip the lake upstream was dived. The continuation was a rift in the floor at the far end. This quickly descended to -6m. Following the line of the rift the way on appeared to be choked after 15m. Other passages leading off from this section of streamway included two avens. The first, on the right going downstream, was climbed for 6m to an extremely muddy section that would require aid to negotiate; above this the passage continued upwards. Just before the downstream sump was another aven. An 8m climb broke into a crawl going both ways. One way choked almost immediately, but the passage was very reminiscent of the high level chambers past the sump in Hardy Pools in New Goyden. The other way was a low bedding plane for 9m becoming too low, though the passage could be seen to continue. The only other passage leading off was a small inlet at the far side of the downstream sump. Rob forced this for 15m to where he got bored.
These latest discoveries have completed another part of the Goyden jigsaw. No attempt has been made to dive the downstream sump but it appears to be very silted and is probably less than 100m away from Main Inlet sump in New Goyden. One interesting feature of this part of the cave is that in flood the main stream must back up against the constricted sump 7 to flow up the climb along the phreatic passages and into the parallel streamway later to reappear at Main Inlet. The debris in Main Inlet probably originates from the main stream in Goyden rather than New Stream, as the sump leading up towards the latter is remarkably free of vegetable matter.
Interspersed with trips down Goyden were weekends spent doing New Goyden. The first target was the downstream sump which had last been looked at by Alf Latham in 1973 (2). Continuing on from the airbells at 37m he had emerged in a large airbell after a further 70m. Past this he lost the main way on in a rift to the left. Julian relined the first 37m into the airbells and then following the left hand wall pushed on into the next section of the sump. After 24m he became lost in some narrow rifts and had to return. The next attempt was made by Rob, this time following the right hand wall from the airbells. Two small cross rifts were ignored but a third larger one was seen to have a large tree trunk jammed across it and so it was followed. This proved to be the key to the sump, as a familiar Goyden boulder slope was reached after a further 30m of easy sump passage, and wriggling up over this revealed airspace. This section of sump is 64m long and Alf's airbell was not noted en route. It seems likely that he lost his way on in the crossrifts much as had happened on Julian's initial attempt. Rob was quickly joined by Julian on the far side of the sump. The sight that presented itself took aback even these seasoned explorers. The stream dissappeared off down a passage of typical New Goyden proportions, 12m high and 5m wide. 76m of magnificent stream passage ended at sump 3. This was dived for 24m in a comfortably sized bedding plane to a large airbell crossed by a fallen block before an exit was made. Not surprisingly it was not too long before the pair returned to push on further. Julian started off into sump 4 running out of line after 52m. Rob took over and emerged into airspace after 3m. To the right was a dry side passage but this was ignored in favour of the continuing sump which took the form of a magnificent cobble-floored passage at -3m with clean washed rock and crystal clear water. This emerged after only 24m in a further stretch of large river passage. Past a swimming section sump 6 was reached 46m from sump 5. An easy 9m dive between cross rifts again led to walking passage. To say that Rob swaggered rather than staggered along the next section of passage is an exaggeration as in truth he was scarcely able to believe his luck. Gradually however the roof lowered till 30m from sump 6 the passage dipped into sump 7. This he laid his last length of line into. At 30m from base the sump was continuing large at a depth of 4.6m.
This last visit to the downstream extensions was in October 1980 and work has now started at Nidd Head NW Rising, the most open of the twin risings. Progress has so far been slow and is not helped by the frequency by which lines get washed out, but it is hoped that substantial progress can be made at this site in the near future. Whatever happens the exploration of the underground course of the River Nidd provides a fascinating pastime.
(1) CDG NL 49: 15
(2) CDG NL 29:18-19