Deepest cave theory in the Yorkshire Dales, yet to be discovered beneath Ingleborough

Recently, a geological survey was carried out to support a theory that the deepest cave in the Yorkshire Dales has yet to be discovered.

New data published by Aaron Campion, a graduate of the University of Hull and brother of this writer, has speculated that it is hidden under the southern slopes of Ingleborough.

There are over 2,500 known caves in Yorkshire according to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

A caver crawls through the last rocky constriction of Newby Moss Cave, one of many in the Yorkshire Dales. Photo Dave Williams

Aaron, 25, explains how many people have speculated that there is a subterranean system around the Newby Moss area, a system likely to be the deepest traversable network in the Dales.

But there have been few signs of a breakthrough in finding the “master cave” of such a system, among cavers and scientists.

“It’s really exciting to be interested in cave exploration and to be on the eve of a discovery of this magnitude,” says Aaron, who has lived in the Yorkshire Dales for more than 20 years.

“I know there are many notable cavers and scientists who have long speculated that there is a main cave, so finding an answer would prove a long-held theory.”

A caver digs the entrance to Newby Moss Cave. Photo: David Williams

The idea of ​​the cave’s existence emerged in the 1950s, sparking a race among cavers to find a way into the cavern.

Since then, curiosity and the number of speleologists in the world have increased. But seventy years later, the search continues.

“If a cave is discovered, it will be the deepest traversable system in the Yorkshire Dales, so all we do now is history in the making,” says Aaron, who has plans for further research.

The British Caving Association currently has over 6,000 active members. And with a large number of caves in the UK in the Yorkshire Dales, it is hoped that a main cave will be found through a collaborative effort.

The Honorary President of the International Union of Speleology, Andy Eavis, said: “I categorically believe that there is a main cave beneath Ingleborough.”

Andy, who studied mining engineering at the University of Leeds, says he and his peers were “all looking for the main cave below Ingleborough”.

But “caves don’t reveal their secrets very easily,” he says. “There is always more to find.”

Andy has explored caves for over 50 years and has given a Ted Talk about his passion for the underworld.

He has helped uncover hundreds of miles of underground systems in Britain and hopes this cavern will be discovered.

“A main cave under Ingleborough would be a wonderful thing,” he says.

“It’s very likely there and it could easily be collapsed and hopefully it won’t be completely flooded.”

There is, however, the potential for it to be “all underwater”. “These won’t necessarily be air-filled passages,” Andy explains.

The main cave “could potentially be quite large, the area has been extremely affected by glaciation”.

“Aaron’s research has given us good results and tells us more about what is under the mountain,” he said.

Dr. Trevor Faulkner, a karst geomorphologist, is more skeptical of the master cave theory.

Although he says his existence is “irrefutable”, it could be a conduit, which means that even if he “transmits water”, he may be “too small for the human exploration.

Dr Faulkner, honorary researcher at the University of Birmingham, explains that the possible origin of the cave is due to “the southern end of Ingleborough [being] different from the western flank, it is more tectonically controlled by earth movements, creating fractures”.

This means, he says, that the probability of the existence of a master cave may be more complex to prove but not impossible that it exists.

Back to Aaron’s research; it has helped cavers and aroused the interest of the caving community, giving pointers on how best to continue exploration.

An active caver for 54 years, Russell Myers is President of the British Caving Association. “The caves are where you find them,” he says. And finding one involves “a huge dose of luck”. “You’re also not going to get into it without a lot of hard work.”

The key is also to find the right place to start digging, “because it’s not an open system,” he says.

Russell hopes a cave exists but thinks more research is needed to back up the theory and better understand where it is.

“We have to find it to prove it, but it’s something worth pursuing,” he adds.

Russell points out how politics can be at play in caving, recounting an experience in the 1970s.

He says he and a team of cavers went to Pillar Holes on Newby Moss and were confronted by another club who became “quite timid with us because they thought that was their territory”.

But Russell, who has been a caver since the age of 16, is convinced that “politics is much better than it was”.

“There’s a lot more collaboration going on [between cavers] if people have an interest in a certain area,” he says.

And with that, he hopes cavers will come together to find what could be the deepest cave in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sharon D. Cole