Projects & Digs

York Caving Club members are involved in several projects across the North York Moors. We dig with members of the North York Moors Caving Club, and since the start of the collaboration between our two clubs we have discovered nearly 2 km of cave passage! Information on some of our projects can be found below.

If you would like to know more, or would like to get involved, please contact us. We have regular digging meets, every Tuesday evening, and often at weekends, usually ending up at The Crown Inn at Hutton-le-Hole.

Caves on the North York Moors

Across the southern end of the North York Moors, from Sutton Bank to Scarborough, is a band of Jurassic limestone, comprising the Hambleton and Malton Oolite. This limestone is much younger and thinner than the carboniferous limestone of The Dales, yet still bears the potential to form extensive caves.

Despite the abundance of limestone, caves and potholes are not commonplace. This may be due to a combination of the geology of the limestone (typically only 30-40m thick, and often quite impure) and the geography and hydrology of the local area.

The geography of the area is dominated by the past action of ice and sea levels. During the recent ice ages, the Vale of Pickering (a low-level flat plain between the south end of the Moors and the start of the Wolds and Hambleton Hills) was underwater, fed by melt from the several glaciers that extended down across the North York Moors. One of the most notable landmarks of the area, Sutton Bank and the cliffs on the west side of the Moors were also formed by an enormous ice sheet 15000 years ago. Clearly therefore, much more water once drained across the limestone band to the south of the moors.

Subterranean drainage may have once played a significant role in the hydrology of the area during these times. Several ancient fossil phreatic caves have been found at Kirkdale, Boltby, Kirkbymoorside and Fadmoor. Kirkdale Cave was, until our discoveries, the longest water-formed cave in the area, with over 200m of passage. It may once have been much longer! With successive ice ages, all of these caves have become choked with glacial mud and have subsequently become completely fossil. Few now extend more than several metres into their once extensive systems, and some are filled completely.

Today the majority of significant caves are slip-rifts (windypits), where land slippage has opened up a series of deep and lengthy fissures often extending for hundreds of metres. These are extremely entertaining to explore, however, most are off-limits due to issues of land access and conservation. In 1981 however, the belief that active caves were absent from the North York Moors changed, when two divers from Scunthorpe Caving Club discovered Bogg Hall Cave in Keldholme.

Over the course of the following 30 years, Scarborough Caving Club found many other small caves and new windypits in the area. In 2007, they were joined by members of York Caving Club, and within a few months we made the breakthrough into Excalibur Pot. We now know that the North York Moors can harbour extensive active cave systems. The search goes on for more, although the area doesn’t give up its secrets easily!

If you would like to know more about cave exploration in the area, or if you would be interested in joining us (we have weekly digging meets) then please contact us.