Cambridge Underground 1982 p 24


Strange sounds have been heard around the summit of Great Knoutberry in recent weeks - great puffings and gaspings, creakings and groanings, clouds of steam rising along the horizon. No, not the steam of the trains that rattle along the viaduct below on their romantic journeys up to Carlisle (for how much longer they will do so remains a sadly indeterminate question). No, these are less regular, not the powerful rhythm of the great engine, more like the painful wheezing of tortured lungs, grasping for each molecule of air, buffeted inside the heaving chest of some tired and ancient body as it struggles up the slope.

Curious tracks meander across the snow-covered fells, emerging from a line of depressions to the south-east of Great Knoutberry at a regular height of about 1850 feet and running down the Arton Gill track into Dentdale. At the bottom of these inverted cone shaped depressions, in this landscape resembling the pock-marked face of our meteor bombarded companion moon, the tracks become confused; boulders have been newly overturned, their moss coverings torn by unknown forces; silt-like deposits spread all around; black holes falling through the earth's surface.

Around 1963, explorers first entered two holes in this area to find pitches dropping sheer in black and rugged rock to land on boulder floors some 60 feet below. On the 31st January 1981 a party consisting of astronomer, geographer and architect descended Great Knoutberry Hole No.2 in search of endless passages to find only a continuation of 18 feet to one side of the entrance pitch, ending in an impenetrable slot refusing entry to the secrets beyond. On the 11th Februry 1982 one of these explorers returned to the area searching for passages that must surely lie below the wind-swept fell. He found two recently discovered openings.

The first, No Opinel Pot, in a line of depressions slightly below those in which the Great Knoutberry Holes lie, is a vertical shaft dropping 15 feet through the familiar black rock to a floor of jammed boulders with signs of a further few feet of drop below. The second, Keyring Cave, following the upper line of shakeholes to the west and over a wall, drops 10 feet into a small dripping chamber twisted around on itself to a tiny descending slit in the wall, the remains of a dead sheep lending a macabre scent of decomposing flesh to the deep darkness.

The mystery remains. Whose are those curious imprints in the snow? What secret labyrinths exist beyond the impenetrable slots through which the cold waters flow?

We shall not rest until we have the answers to these questions, except if the pubs are open.


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