Cambridge Underground 1983 pp 46-50


The Story So Far

Julian Griffiths

Articles on explorations in the cave systems of Upper Nidderdale seem to be forming part of a long running serial as far as Cambridge Underground is concerned. The last article [1] described the Aquamole extensions in Goyden Pot and progress in downstream New Goyden ending 30m into sump 7. This one goes on to describe the connection between Goyden and New Goyden, further exploration in downstream New Goyden and further developments in Nidd Heads.


August Bank Holiday 1981 saw Rob Shackleton, Jim Abbott, Geoff Crossley and Julian Griffiths descending Goyden with the express intention of trying to force through the connection with New Goyden. Well that was the intention of three of the divers, Geoff Crossley had too much of a hangover to have any intentions. At the airbell between sumps 6 and 7 Jim and Julian disappeared off to have a look around the Aquamole Series while Rob had a go at sump 7 and Geoff hovered round like a grey cloud. Rob dived into sump 7 following the left hand wall as he had done in 1980. After some digging 6m in he managed to force his way into a low bedding with just enough airspace to breath from. This became too low for twin 45's so he turned back. By this time Julian had returned to the diving base so he kitted up with a single 45 and disappeared into the sump. At the far side of the low bedding he had to back into the next section of the sump. This was extremely constricted, but luckily only 3m long, and emerged in another low bedding. Turning to the right the passage enlarged sufficiently to enable the diver to dekit lying flat out. Taking the larger of the two possible routes from here, he forced his way through a low duck to emerge in the right hand branch of Alf's airbell in New Goyden. The two systems were connected, but the diver's main concern was getting himself back through the link. The divers at the base were getting slightly worried by this time (except Geoff who had his own problems) as they had heard a lot of crashing and banging and thought Julian was stuck. However it only took a couple of minutes before the party was reunited.

There was a double celebration in the airbell. After leaving Julian in the Aquamole Series, Jim had had a look at one of the low crawls off Toad Hall. A couple of minutes digging and he was able to force himself through into new passage heading South. This he followed for 60m to where it ended in a further choke which is probably on the line of the fault that runs through the upstream end of the first upstream sump in New Goyden.


Relining New Goyden started in July 1981. It took several trips before the task was completed and during one of these Alf's airbell in the second sump was located. As seems to have become the rule in these systems he was not very far away from success; he took a wrong turning only 15m from the end.

At the beginning of August, Paul Atkinson and Julian Griffiths dived sump 7. Paul laid 45m of line in a large passage heading South before Julian took over. After a further 15m the passage turned South East and then past a squeeze up a boulder slope at 75m from base it veered East. The next 45m in a large bedding cave led to an underwater pot, beyond which the passage appeared to end in an alcove.

There followed a couple of very confusing trips looking for the way on in sump 7. One thing of note found during these dives was a large airbell above the pot. This provided a natural break and sump 7 was declared closed. Diving in what was now sump 8 at the end of August, a very fine piece of route finding by Mick Smith located the way on. The passage doubled back underneath itself at the pot. It meandered around for a while, generally fairly low, before emerging in a much larger tunnel. This descended a typical Nidderdale silt and vegetation slope, till at 110m from base and at -14m depth the way on was lost in a muddy backwater on the right of the passage. Subsequent dives investigated the left hand wall of the tunnel including some low bedding planes. These trips established beyond reasonable doubt that the sump ended where a clean washed boulder slope met the roof. Some time was spent digging at this and it was possible to wriggle through to see a black space beyond, but wore clearing would be required to make the way on safe. Digging at this point does present problems, being at -15m depth and involving over 400m of sump to reach it, but it should prove possible to make further progress.

New Goyden is now well past Thrope Farm on its way to Nidd Heads, though the latter is still 1.3 km distant. Further pushing trips will require something more than the standard twin 1557 L rig.


This site was first investigated by Waddon and Davies in the early 1960's [2], [3]. They dived the Main Rising, reporting that it quickly became too tight, and followed the Tributary Passage up to a narrow fissure from which a stream emerged. Their main achievement though was the passing of sump 1 after 13m and the exploration of sump 2 for 23m. Although it was clear that the water in the latter did not represent the main stream there were abundant signs that the passage was an active resurgence in times of flood. The cave was also surveyed during these trips.

It was over a decade later that exploration was resumed, this time by Dave Yeandle and Oliver Statham [4]. After 115m, sump 2 emerged in a low wide airbell. At the far side the way on was restricted by a fallen slab.

There followed another long gap before the site was revisited. In late 1980 Rob Shackleton and Julian Griffiths relaid the lines in sumps 1 and 2. The way on past the constricted slab at the far end of the airbell was also investigated, but one thing that became clear very early on was that this did not represent the way on upstream. At the airbell the passage turned round to head S.W. and the route at the far end was the downstream continuation, possibly towards the Main Rising. So the search was on for a way on in sump 2. By keeping to the right when emerging from the long tube in which the latter part of the sump was formed, a confusing area of cross rifts was encountered after 20m. This was certainly an alternative route to that which led to the airbell, but it took another three dives to find any sensible route through these. Branching left just before the area of cross joints about 122m in Julian Griffiths passed through an oxbow formed on cross joints (the main passage appeared blocked by collapse at this point) to emerge in a reasonably sized passage unfortunately much obstructed by collapse. These passages are very close to the top of the limestone and chert blocks which have fallen from the roof are a prominent feature. Wending a way round these blocks 30m of progress was made. The next dive was made in very poor visibility and ended somewhat ingloriously after 23m in a tight rift. The error was all too apparent when the diver returned in better visibility. The rift was a reasonable choice if you happened to be following the left hand wall, but absolutely absurd if you were trying to follow the way on. From the 152m point, 8m of line was laid in the continuation of the main passage before the diver was again forced into cross joints to get past another obstruction in the passage. Emerging on the far side line was laid on to 198m. At this point the depth was still only -2m and the passage was still much obstructed by collapse.

A familiar pattern reasserted itself on the next trip. Setting off from the last belay point with high hopes the diver was soon lost. This time after only 15m he was forced first West and then seemingly South. As New Goyden is off to the North West this was not a lot of use to him and so he reeled back. A fruitless search was made of the area where the passage turned West before the diver exited. Having failed to find anything by following the right hand wall attention was focussed on the left hand wall. This, predictably, ended up at exactly the same point and another fruitless search, including a look at some holes in the floor ensued. Perplexed and fed up the diver reeled back. Alighting on a shingle slope some 15 metres from the end to get his breath back and sort out the line reel he noticed silt being whisked away, presumably by a strong current. Following the slope downwards he popped through a 'dogs front door' at -3m into a large passage. Perhaps instinctively the diver knew that he was into the 'big stuff', but his immediate thoughts were that at least he had found a way on. Descending a steep slope of silt and vegetation, a familiar sight to Goydenophiles, the passage levelled out at -17m. Its dimensions were now a comfortable 5m x 10m and the line ran out at 250m from base.

The next couple of trips saw the line extended to 340m with the passage gradually rising to -5m. With the passage being so large it was a question of which wall to follow. The left hand wall was chosen as the right may have contained a continuation towards the S.E. Rising which we wanted to avoid, and after this the right hand wall was hardly seen. At this point wet winter weather interposed and when the divers returned in February several trips were spent repairing the lines. By April the lines were continuous to 340m, with all the loose line removed, so the divers could press on.

Another 135m of line was laid, the passage undulating gently but generally being at about -15m depth. With the furthest point now 475m from base the limit of twin 1555 litre bottles, and indeed wetsuits, had been reached. Some time was spent practising with dry suits and twin 2548 litre bottles for the next push. The problem with this rig was that it required someone to sherpa the bottles to the start of the second sump while the drysuited diver went through the first sump with a mini. This was to avoid damage to the dry suit and heat exhaustion on the part of the diver. As it was the first section of sump up to the 'dogs front door' was incredibly sweaty in a dry suit. With this the 550m mark was reached, the passage continuing in a northerly direction. Past this the way on was lost again, surprising in a passage so large. A good search around indicated that it was an alcove on the right hand side of the passage. Here the depth was -15m and the roof comprised a large chert band. It is thought that the way on is on the left shortly before the 550m mark, possibly where the passage rises to -9m.

This is where things stand at the moment. Further exploration will require a change in tactics. We are nearly at the third margin on twin 2458 litre bottles. Nidd Heads are not suitable for back packs and so side mounted sets will have to be switched. A second diver will need to dump a bottle in the large tunnel, possibly at the 350m mark.

Nidd heads survey - 11k gif


Goyden and New Goyden are now connected and considerable progress has been made in the New Goyden - Nidd Heads link. The straight line distance between the latter two is 1.3km. Whether it will be possible to fill in the gap remains to be seen.

The other mystery to be solved is the relationship between the two Nidd Head risings. It is assumed that the large passage entered at 200m contains the full Goyden/New Goyden stream, but its exit to the S.E. Rising has not been located. Furthermore dye released at 240m reappeared at N.W. Rising entrance some 2.5 to 3.5 hours later (together with a lot of muddy water washed down by the rain), but no trace of the dye or muddy water was seen at the S.E. Rising even after 5 hours. If any future dye testing is to be done it would be as well to set aside a whole day for them.


[1] Cambridge Underground 1981, pp 25-27
[2] Diving Review 1961 p 12.
[3] Diving Review 1962 pp 22-24 (with survey).
[4] C.D.G. News Letter 29 pp 19-20, 1973

New Goyden Hardy Pools Passage extension survey - 19k

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