Thackthwaite Beck Cave

R.Wilkinson, K.Ashton

At the base of Blue Scar, amid tons of limestone blocks, Thackthwaite Beck emerges. This water has long mystified certain Pennine members as to its source. Although Beldon Beck, about a mile to the north of the scar, is the most likely source, all dye tests have proved negative and the only major sink in the area, Whirley Gill, has proved to resurge at Crackpot Cave.

With these facts in mind, Chris Hawkes, Chris Wilkinson, Alan Fincham and the athor set off to try to force an entry into the scar. Mr. Powlet, the landowner, readily gave his permission for the attempt and even offered us the use of his landrover. The scar was approached directly from where the beck flows along the north side of the main road, a route which proved exhausting when loaded with heavy digging tackle, but which offers a great impression of the activity of the old miners.

The water emerges about a third of the way up the rubble slope where a wall runs downwards from the scar and it was decided to begin digging where there was a platform on top of the rubble to the west of the wall. Rather than dig a shaft, it was decided to dig the first eight feet in the form of a trench along which boulders could be rolled, but at a depth of only four feet, a bedding cave was found, through fissures in the floor of which could be heard the sound of rushing water. Although it was found possible to descend a fissure off to the right, all the tube-like passages below were found to be either too tight or blocked with rubble and so the problem was left until the following weekend.

This next weekend was devoted to attempts by the two Wilkinsons to sort out the maze of small, sharply corroded passages below the initial bedding cave. The most promising passage was, however, blocked by a substantial boulder and it ws thought best to employ a car jack and jack the obstacle out of the way. The next weekend, the was accomplished after two attempts in which the jack simply fell to pieces and, squeezing past, one more false try and much hammering and a part of the stream was reached. There was no immediately obvious way on and so we move on again to the following weekend.

The party now being strengthened by Roy Roebuck, the crawl along the stream was again investigated. An upward wriggle through boulders led to yet another sharp, tight passage from 8 to 15 feet in height with no stream. Turning left down the passage, water was met and, as it appeared deep, exploration was again postponed so that a rubber dinghy could be brought.

Brian Heys was the intrepid voyager and his first discovery was that the water was only some 14" deep and his shout brought the rest of the party charging along the great passage.

From a report by R.Wilkinson

Editorial note

As the report ends at this stage, a further description of the cave would seem necessary. With the appearance of the water, the passage profile becomes low and gothic but then suddenly enters a chamber decorated with both normal and eccentric formations in profusion and beauty. This is the only known part of the cave in which formations are found. The chamber is actually caused by the restoration of the passage to the square-cut form it had at the point of entry. The passage then continues in this form until the total length is nearly half a mile but it has been greatly modified by massive collapse, as is to be expected in these thinly bedded Yoredale limestones. The overall result is that, beyond the chamber, the cave is divided into a maze of small chambers and dead-ends in which it is very easy to get lost. Many of the boulders are, moreover, piled one on another in huge unstable heaps. Holes can be seen in the roof from which many of these blocks have fallen and, in at least one case, reveal the overlying shale. This could explain how water from Beldon Beck which sinks in the Main Limestone, could possibly emerge in an underlying stratum of limestone although there is evidence of mineralization further up along the projected line of the cave.

Continuing up the passage, a short ladder is needed to descend some boulders and the cave ends in a boulder choke which has, so far, defied all attempts at penetration.

If the main passage is followed to the right, that is downstream, from the point at which an entry was first made, a boulder ruckle is reached which is, in fact, the base of the surface scree and an unstable emergency exit has been dug at this point.

A line survey has been made of this cave by B.Heys and reveals an almost linear, square passage filled with boulders and extending for nearly half a mile.

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