This article is very much abbreviated (with some loss of accuracy) from the original article in the low-circulation NPC Bulletin of 1976, which it is recommended to read instead - here.

Dale Head Pot

On the South West flank of Penyghent, close to Dalehead Farm, lie several sinks and shakeholes. The most obvious is Churn Milk Hole, the entrance a monument to the White Rose Caving Club's engineering and bravery. Nearer to Dalehead Farm and about 200 yards North West of the Pennine Way, is Dale Head Pot, which, until the Churn Milk Hole saga, was the only place in the locality that one could go underground without having to lie flat out in several inches of water.

Over the years, we had on several occasions, climbed down the eight foot pitch into Dale Head Pot and hence down the 15 foot boulder jam which terminated in a dry chamber. In December 1970, after one or two failures on Fountains Fell, we were looking for a comfortable winter dig; dry, easily accessible and, of prime importance, in a good location. Dale Head Pot fitted the specification exactly, so digging permission was sought.

Over the months, the dig deepened and developed into quite an impressive rift. A draught, generally inwards, was apparent and hopes of a breakthrough were high. The rift gave every promise of a transition into horizontal development, but hopes were shattered when a solid rock floor was encountered. Clearing out at this level revealed a very low bedding which took water. Enthusiasm was at rock bottom and other pleasant pursuits provided distractions.

The early spring of 1975 was exceptionally dry, so with the aid of Jack Pickup, we started to enlarge the low bedding which barred progress. After several quarrying sessions which included shoring with concrete blocks, the floor began to drop into a deeper channel.

Thus Dale Head Pot 'went' on January 16th 1975, after a four year siege and January 19th saw Mike Warren, Eddie Edmondson, Jim Redfern and Gordon Batty forcing their way through the abominable Heartburn Crawl to approximately 120 feet of low, narrow, meandering passage to a T-junction into a man-sized passage. This led to a roomy high rift and an obvious change in the nature of the cave, as rock gave way to shale and holes in the floor gave promise of extensive development.

January 30th: Eddie, Jack and Gordon pushed on down 'Emery' pitch and came to the big pitch. Not fancying the climb they spotted a rock bridge and from here access was gained to a narrow muddy passage.

February 2nd: The same team returned and descended the main pitch which proved to be very cold and wet.

February 6th saw the same team plus some 'expert' help in the form of Jim Eyre and Bob Hryndyj. This intrepid team pushed on into the awful mud-filled rift. The mud was arm-pit deep and slithered off the walls. The Mud pitch was bottomed but morale was low so further discoveries were left for another day.

After a fortnight's rest the mud series was passed and a nice mud-free pool was found, followed by another pitch. A narrow canal led off and ended in a small, nasty-looking, partially-filled water hole. This was very reminiscent of the blasted hole in Simpsons. Jim Eyre tried his best to get himself stuck in it and succeeded; he returned demoralised!

The way on beyond this hole was a spiral staircase of rock but they decided to leave that for another time. The end of the vertical development was nearly in sight and the burning question was 'would there be a huge underground master cave to stride along?'.

April 27th: we returned for a final bottoming trip. The party consisted of Gordon Batty, Eddie Edmondson, Bob Hryndyj, Iain Crossley, Sambo and Jim Eyre. After a gallant attempt by Sambo to rescue my belt from the abominable entrance crawl he was left shivering above the S.R.T. whilst the rest of us persuaded Eddie and Bob (who breathes under water) through the canal and down the spiral staircase to another final sump at 540 feet to become the third (?) deepest in the north.

The latter part of the cave is the best part (so they say !). Unfortunately, their supporting party, one Iain Crossley, had not yet learned the rudiments of cave diving, ie. not to go through a duck with your head under water and your backside breathing air, and he almost came to a watery end. There was some discussion about fixing a pipe to his bum and blowing air down to him before his pale blue face surfaced and said those immortal words "Sod that for a game of chess!"

Summary:- Dale Head Pot is a good cave and will rank as a great sporting trip with several unusual features. It is ample reward for the N.P.C. Thursday night digging team. Its two routes and fourteen pitches make it, according to most cavers who have been down, a very distinctive pothole in the true NPC style. In other words, a right bastard, but definitely worth a trip.

As seems the case with any major discovery, the exploration was marred by pirate groups who lack the means and the will-power of either discovering new holes or waiting until exploration has ceased. This fringe yobbo element of caving managed to break the only formation of note and generally made a nuisance of themselves as well as incurring some risks of which they were probably unaware. However, it probably gave them the satisfaction of having something to talk about in their own mini-circle of like-minded morons and some day, who knows, given time they may even turn out to be responsible cavers....

G.Batty/J.Eyre


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