This Saturday gone I was
pressured cordially invited to carry dive cylinders to the bottom of New Goyden pot for Benji. I was excited for what looked to be a reasonably easy trip (with heavy things) in an area I hadn’t caved in before.
Transportation went swimmingly and we arrived to a parched Nidderdale layby. This dale is surrounded by grouse moor and doesn’t feel very karsty, but a closer examination will reveal a dry river bed and 8km of cave below it. Ben is attempting to move beyond some sumps to link two caves, or something.
My first problem was the searing British summer. I walked down to the entrance hole in my boxers and wellies, being unable to fathom how Ben managed in a 7mm wetsuit. I struggled to get everything on quickly before diving into the hole, an ecstasy of fumbling thankfully turning to an ecstasy of cold. The same couldn’t be said for Ben who had gone before to rig, and who appeared to be dying. Jon Carter (NYMCC) and Adele Ward (every Yorkshire club) were with us and followed; making splendid company.
The cave is really cool and different, and the entrance alerts you to this – the entrance, crawling size, takes you over greasy shale to the top of the first pitch, which appears to only be open by virtue of a load of scaffold holding back some enormous blocks. The cave fills right to the roof and out of the entrance and the dampness of the cave reflects this.
The first pitch, a wriggle at the top, soon becomes fine and less than 20m, drops you into a chamber to stand up in. The second pitch immediately following is shorter and against the wall, dropping you right into the streamway.
This dropped me right next to Ben, who was sat in the stream cooling himself like a hot dog. This was a momentary distraction from the grandeur of the passage that the second pitch drops you into. It’s a very large passage, perhaps 10m by 10m, and not exactly what is expected when you first contemplate this cave!
The water was welly height, and I am terrified to imagine the nature of this cave during flood. After everyone had alighted the pitch we meandered down stream to the sump, confusingly called middle sump.
What a streamway it is! A wonderful romp. The nature of the rock here (I know nothing about it) is dark and sucks in the light, making for a feeling of gloom, but crystal clear water in pools and sumps makes up for this, as does the fine architecture of the streamway; it’s hard to describe and so you’ll have to visit yourself!
We were very quickly at the sump, this being a very short bottle carry. Ben began to do all that buggering about that the Bubble Club do before diving, putting on lööps and his flippers, ably (and most tenderly) helped by Jon. He soon departed, lights sinking into the darkness, the gurgling noises and my traditional shout of “love you” being drowned out by the stream.
Now we had time to explore! Adele stayed by the sump, and Jon kindly gave me a tour of New Goyden. Our first stop was the Planetarium, a muddy climb up through boulder choke. The ceiling here is covered in scallops, within which are reflective bacterial colonies, giving the ceiling the look of a planetarium with twinkling planets and stars.
Further explorations reveal more passage, and this cave has weird architecture. Jutting and geometric limestone, and passages paved with mud formations no doubt influenced by the regular total flooding, of which the debris littering the cave is a constant reminder.
We dropped into zigzags of tunnels, which soon plopped us out into another massive streamway – we had bypassed middle sump. Unfortunately there was no sign of Ben or his sump string, which was puzzling, but we returned from here to the Planetarium via a climb, making a pleasant round trip.
We set off to return to the sump pool, having some trouble in the boulder choke and ultimately being guided by Adele’s tobacco beacon, but Ben hadn’t come back yet and after a brief sit down Jon took me upstream.
There is plenty to look at in this cave, and I enjoyed the incredibly clear waters of the sump that links to Frog Pot. Further upstream from the second pitch landing the cave is invaded somewhat by chert, forming entire ceilings of black rock, jutting menacingly from the walls and roof.
A side passage here leads through a chert band up some interesting climbs, apparently leading to the non-SRT entrance of Thrup swallet (if I recall correctly). This entrance looks to be some interesting climbing and I’d love to return for a round trip!
After my tour we proceeded to the sump pool, passing the inlet for the dry passage from Frog Pot, apparently a 50m flat out bedding plane which Jon recalled (not so) fondly.
We didn’t wait long before lights appeared in the gloom. It’s nice to see divers return, a relief of an anxiety thats always in the background however small. The Bubble Club faff festival was completed in reverse, and Ben seemed pretty knackered. He proceeded to leave the cave and we began to haul bags.
The way out was fine – the pitches in New Goyden make for easy hauling actually, and this was completed without incident. I emerged from the cave into the searing heat (the car said 32C) and desperately tore off my suit. This weather is oppressive for gingers like me, I should have stayed in the cave!
A fine day was followed by a quick pint of coke in the pub in Middlesmoor.
I really highly recommend this cave – they are underappreciated but it would make a great (and newbie SRT friendly) Sunday trip. Worth noting the warnings on the CNCC website about scour tests and wind direction – the outlet for this cave in flood is the entrance, which is the highest part of the system!