CTS 87.2288: NPC Journal 4(1), Jan 1987, pp 35-37

The Graveyard Avens Series, Lancaster Hole

Graham Proudlove


Lancaster Hole was first entered on September 29th 1946 (Eyre & Ashmead, 1967:117). The Graveyard was one of the first areas explored and on the third trip into the cave, one month later, A.Gemmell and D.M.Boothman took on the task of surveying it. Gemmell gives us the first written description of the Graveyard Avens: "Returning through [the Graveyard] we found another annex unnoticed before ... It was an inlet passage of irregular shape and led to a number of magnificent avens: towering, circular shafts with sleek and shiny walls reaching beyond the range of my lamp even when focussed as a spotlight." (Gemmell & Myers, 1952:92)

The second account is given by Jim Eyre and Peter Ashmead in their monumental description of the Lancaster - Easegill system: "To the left [in the Graveyard] a black aperture opens onto an annex of the chamber, where a rubble floor inclines steeply to the foot of three impressive avens..." (Eyre & Ashmead, 1967:70)

Only two other accounts of this interesting series of passages are known to me, both in Northern Caves. The 1st edition notes the existence of two avens whilst the 2nd is more detailed: "From the foot of the ladder [into the Graveyard] the passage enlarges quickly, and a branch to the left ends in two fine avens; the left hand one has been bolted for 80ft (24m) past several alcoves to a ledge, from which a route up through boulders enters the Chapel of Rest - a large chamber with very fine formations and all ways out choked." (Brook et al., 1975:109; 1983:50)

None of the descriptions provide full details of the passages which ramify from the 'black aperture'. In addition to the avens there are other passages which appear never to have been described, although they must have been explored. Of the surveys currently available, none show these passages and all are inaccurate in their portrayal of the avens. The present contribution provides a full description of the Graveyard Avens Series, a survey, and a record of work carried out over the past few years.


From the base of Lancaster Hole entrance shaft, Bridge Hall is easily reached along the obvious large passage. One third of the way down the slope in Bridge Hall, a narrow rift leads off in the left-hand wall. "...one is forced to the indignity of proceeding on hands and knees through a syrupy mixture of mud and water" (Eyre & Ashmead, 1967:70) to reach an iron ladder. This requires care and drops into a rift. After 10m or so, the walls diverge and a window (the 'black aperture') is seen in the left wall. This is the entrance to the Graveyard Avens Series; the Graveyard itself is straight on from this point.

Graveyard Avens Series: Description

A step over a mud bank in the window enters a flat floored area. Water often enters in the roof here and may come from the avens above Graveyard Aven No. 1 (see below). Progress is possible straight ahead or to the right. Ahead, a rubbly slope ascends to the base of a boulder-ringed hole. In wet weather water enters on the left and sinks into the bouldery floor. Great care is required when negotiating these boulders to reach the base of a magnificent circular aven (Graveyard Aven No. 1). This has been climbed, using bolts and some free moves, for 25m to reach an unsafe ledge. A traverse around this, reaches a more stable, securely calcited area. A climb upwards enters a large and beautifully decorated chamber, The Chapel of Rest. No other way on was found (Proudlove, 1982). A narrow rift opening in the wall of the aven leads to a climb which reaches two further avens, neither of which have been climbed. In wet weather, water enters at the top of the climb and through the roof of the first aven.

The right-hand route is more complex. A muddy floor carries a small trickle which sinks under the corner of a large boulder. Behind this, a vertical slot descends to a bedding passage. However, the slot is too narrow and the bedding has not been examined. The main passage bears left and becomes very muddy. A steep slope passes a blind rift on the right and eventually a short climb opens into the base of Graveyard Aven No. 2. This has been climbed using bolts and free moves for 25m to a loose and unsafe chamber of small proportions. There does not appear to be any way on.

Across the aven from the point of entry, a hole drops down to a choked dig. In the right wall next to the dig, a narrow rift passes over a pitch but becomes too narrow. In wet weather water enters in the distance and can be heard at the bottom of the pitch. Unfortunately, this too becomes too tight only a couple of metres down.


The quotations cited above show that the avens were discovered within a month of the discovery of the cave. When the other passages were explored, and by whom, is not known.

Aven No. 1 was bolted over a number of trips in 1981-2 by several CPC members led by Dave Allanach. The top was reached by Graham Proudlove, ably supported by Pete Seed, in September 1982 (Proudlove, 1982). The No. 2 Aven was inspected at the same time, but nothing was done. Paul Ibberson and Howard Jones (LUSS), acting on a tip from GSP, began the ascent on December 7th 1985 by free climbing about 7m. Two solo bolting trips by GSP on 22nd & 23rd August 1986 took the climb to 16m. Solo climbing is terribly boring, so Andy Waddington joined for the next two trips, on 6th & 13th September. The top was reached on the latter date. Some of the free climbing in the middle third of the shaft was precarious, the worst bit being a move onto a 2m long, hollow, 'Sword of Damocles', which threatened to fall, taking the climber with it, at the least provocation.

The other passages were examined fully on 26th November when the whole area was surveyed by Simon Farrow, Chris Danilewicz and Graham Proudlove.

References :

Brook D.; Davies G.; Long M.H.
Sutcliffe, J.R. 1975
Northern Caves, Volume 4: Whernside and Gragareth 1st Edition
Brook D.; Davies G.; Long M.H.
Sutcliffe, J.R. 1983
Northern Caves, Volume 4B: Leck & Casterton Fells 2nd Edition
Eyre, J.
Ashmead, P. 1967
Lancaster Hole and the Easegill Caverns, Casterton Fell, Westmorland
Transactions of the Cave Research Group of G.B. 9(2)
Gemmell, A.
Myers, J.O. 1952
Underground Adventure
Dalesman Publishing Co., Clapham, Yorkshire.
Proudlove, G.S. 1982 The Chapel of Rest, Lancaster Hole.
BCRA Caves and Caving 15:9

26k GIF of survey

Click here to download a printable version (79K GIF - fits on A4 at 300 dpi).

> NPC Journal 1987:
---> Next page: A Day on the hill with two gentlemen
---> Back to contents
---> Previous page: Extensions in the Giants Hall Area, Ingleborough Cave
> Out of print publications list
> Northern Pennine Club Home page