The Other Expedition
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Minor Cave discoveries

Cambridge Underground 1976 pp 34-36



The Club's long, if superficial, interest in the potential of the Upper Wharfedale area was revitalised during the summer of 1975 by Rob Shackleton's remarkable series of dives in Black Keld, the Langcliffe-Mossdale resurgence. The difficulties there, however, necessitated other sites and in early September he, with Andrew Nichols examined first the old dig at the end of FOSS GILL POT and then the area between Firth Gill and REDMIRE POT.

At the time, the entrance to Redmire was blocked: in view of the inlet just before the sump in that cave, the pair looked at the two small streams immediately dowinvalley. The first sank unpromisingly in a small shakehole and almost certainly constitutes the inlet in Redmire.

The second stream sank in a 6ft wide slot but, casting about, Andrew located a fist-sized hole ten yards away through which the gurgle of water could be heard. Eagerly pulling lumps of turf away, he found himself, to his enormous surprise, peering down ten feet into a roomy passage - SMEGMIRE POT, as they later christened it.


The hole in the turf was enlarged to solicitor's dimensions and the pair slithered into the unknown. Exploration fever abated when the roomy passage degenerated after half a dozen yards into a crawl choked with cobbles and compacted gravel, which half an hour's scrabbling with bare hands made no impression on. The section below the entrance was later found to be the largest part of the cave!

The way in was concealed under a slab of rock and piles of bracken, but it was 13th September before Bob and Andrew were able to return. Halt an hour with a jemmy sufficed to create a way on and they negotiated a squeeze-cum-duck, rourd a sharp bend, into the continuation of the crawl. This too had to be cleared of rubble - carefully, under a root apparently held together by mud, before they were able to grovel on.

Beyond, the crawl became waterlogged. Beginning with an awkward double corner, the flat out canal with a maximum of six inches air-space was followed for a hundred feet, helmets scraping froth and slime off the roof. Spirits rose when the passage enlarged to hands and knees, but a few yards further or progress was again halted by a boulder blockage. Enticing black holes could be seen beyond and Bob set to with the jemmy, forging a way through at the cost of a badly bruised shoulder when one large boulder's reactions proved faster than his.

On the other side it was at last possible to stand up! Ahead, though, was a more extensive area of collapse; the water ran into an impenetrable slot but a way on was found to the left, a crawl over boulders and under a vigorous inlet splashing down through the boulder roof.

Twenty feet on, the stream was regained by dropping into a narrow trench, to the enormous disappointment of the exploring pair, ten feet long! Just as the cave appeared to have reached sensible dimensions, it closed down: at floor level, a fallen flake barred the way; in the roof, Andrew was able to get only a few feet further, round a sharp corner to the left, where the passage choked in calcite.

Subsequent visits merely confirmed this disappointment; Julian Griffiths managed to squeeze past the flake at floor level before finding the rift to narrow to four or five inches just short of the point that could be reached in the roof; hopes of progress were abandoned and the cave finally surveyed by Julian and Nick Reckert late in October.

Smegmire Pot now consists of a hundred yards of thoroughly sordid progress, but its position in the hydrology of the area makes its premature end positively unfortunate.

small survey, 10k png
Link to larger (1580 x 800) survey, 22k png.


By far the Longest cave in the area is BIRKS FELL CAVE, the celebrated linear system which resurges in mud and gravel only yards from the River Wharfe; its original outflow, though, is HERMIT'S CAVE (Alt 253m), straight on from the Elbow Bend and separated from it by 20m.

The two substantial sinks between Birks Fell and Redmire enter Birks Fell, the first tested to Shooting Box Aven and the second probably flowing to the Aven Two inlet.

The water sinking at Redmire Pot (Alt 366m) does not enter Birks Fell and it is considered that beyond the Redmire sump is another linear system parallel to Birks Fell and resurging at BIRKS WOOD CAVE (Alt 248m, about the same as Hermit's Cave). Birks Wood Cave is a sutficiently large resurgence to account for all the water between Redmire Pot and the streams immediately associated with the FIRTH GILL CAVE. Dye introduced at Redmire has emerged at Birks Wood only 8 hours later, indicating that there is no significant phreas behind the resurgence, and that the intervening streamway is remarkably free of obstruction.

Redmire Pot ends disappointingly in a sump of 25m, just after breaking through the Yoredale limestones and into the Hardraw and the Great Scar. Its only inlet is that before the the sump, which must be that from the sink between Redmire and Smegmire. To confirm this, Julian Griffiths and Tony White (ULSA) put a quantity of rhodamine in Smegmire on a visit in April 1976. No trace was found in Redmire; the water must enter beyond the sump.

Despite its potential as the door to a second, more severe, Birks Fell, the Redmire sump was not dived until mid-October 1975, when Cohn Edmunds of the CDG found it impassably tight (1).

Smegmire's end is at the same height as the Redmire entrance. It has therefore some 25m to drop, 10m of it in Yoredales, before it enters the Redmire system beyond the sump; some very severe passage, ending in a couple of pitches, can be expected.

The potential of Smegmire Pot is certainly there, but it is difficult to see how its present 95m can be added to without prolonged banging (which discounts the rapidly deteriorating relationships with landowners in this part of the Dale); even then, the etfort which would be needed could be more profitably used on other points of attack.

Andrew Nichols

The Other Expedition
CU 1976 Contents Page Next:
Minor Cave discoveries