Knock Fell Caverns: Andy Cole, Caddy & Ian (4th August 2013).
We’ve all heard the description of ‘God’s Country’ applied to Yorkshire, but for me, the Eden Valley must belong to an even higher deity. The pink sandstone, the rolling fields and of course the highest point of the Pennines vying for pride of place with the nearby Lakeland fells make this an idyllic spot.
I’d missed the previous day’s walk up Mickle Fell and driven over to meet up with the rest of the party in Dufton. A beautiful morning in the North East, yet I was greeted by heavy rain over Stainmore and the highest hills were lost in the clouds. Things were not much nicer on Knock Fell, with a strong wind and grey skies making getting underground a very attractive proposition.
Andy had pinpointed the requisite shakehole a few weeks earlier and a ladder was dropped into the gloom allowing use to get into the relative comfort of the cave. Knock Fell Caverns is infamous for its complex structure – basically a maze of right-angled passages in the form of a subterranean New York – without the signposts. A survey, description, compass and all aids possible are required here, together with a good memory. Having all brought compasses, we conspired to leave them all in the cars, although Andy and Caddy’s fancy watches thankfully provided this facility – new one on me!
After an initial low, rocky crawl, much of the passage was of a comfortable size, with some fine formations scattered throughout the sections we visited. With one of the main thoroughfares, Transpennine Passage, providing a welcome reference, we explored one corner of the complex, finding several circular routes in this pleasantly surprising system.
Exiting was aided by some discreet tape strips and reflective markers, with only one slight hiccup finding the low crawl back to the base of the entrance shaft. A pleasant introduction to this surprisingly sporting and impressive system – plenty more to see in the future.