Imágenes de página
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]



By Henry Ecroyd Smith.

READ 11TH MAY, 1865.

THE Great Scaur Limestone of the North of England covers a large area, extending from the coalfield of Durham on the north, to mid Derbyshire on the south, there terminating in the well-known Peak.

It is, however, to a portion only of this extensive tract that attention is now invited-a section of Craven, a district comprising much of north-west Yorkshire. The locality of the larger cavernous recesses, peculiar to this geological formation, ranges between higher Wharfdale on the east, and the hills of Ingleborough and Whernside on the west, with Malham, Settle and Bentham lying on the southern side. Here and there, most irregularly, but throughout its surfaceextent, this "Lower Scar Limestone" (of Professor Phillips) crops out, exhibiting ranges of abrupt perpendicular escarpment, termed scaurs; but it is chiefly upon its outer border, where, sharply abutting upon the surrounding valleys, these escarpments-abounding in fissures resulting from volcanic action-present really grand and impressive features. The wild ravine of Gordale, described even by our quiet mountain poet Wordsworth, as "a den where the earthquake "might hide her cubs;" the imposing "cove" of Malham;

Locally corrupted into scar; the original Saxon designation, however, is yet retained among the limestone hills of Derbyshire.

or the isolated, abrupt and towering crag of Kilnsey; each forms a picture at once sublime and beautiful, never to be erased from the mind of the visitor.

The district possesses several remarkable and deservedly noted caves, as Yordas, Clapham, Weathercote and others, in the immediate vicinity of Ingleborough; but in these no traces of human occupation have been known to occur, with the exception of a few Edwardian pennies, found after floods in a cavernous recess among the rocks at Ivescar, near Chapel-le-dale, and which have not improbably been washed from some higher locality on the eastern slope of Whernside. These caverns have mostly been known for a lengthened period; and it is impossible now to say what relics might not have been recognised, had a discriminating antiquary "been "there to see," on occasion of their discovery; although, as wet caves, or, in other words, being still subterraneous watercourses in wet seasons, numerous traces of either human or animal occupation were not to be anticipated. That near Clapham, on the south-eastern slope of Ingleborough, which is the largest and longest, extending its circuitous course for the almost incredible distance of two-thirds of a mile, shows in many places proof of its water-worn increase-fragments of former beds of the stream, full of pebbles, still adhering, here and there, to the lime-encrusted walls of this splendid stalactitic gallery. Of late years, a spirit of improved archæological inquiry and discrimination has arisen in the more educated class of the community, and among its effects may be claimed the examination of at least two long-known caves for natural and artificial reliques, resulting in a fair amount of success; whilst several new caverns, of no little interest, both in a geological and ethnological point of view, have been discovered, one of which-although, from unavoidable circumstances, never explored as systematically as could be desired-has yet yielded quite a budget of historic

relics, the animal remains being wholly unnumbered; and this rich geological mine is not yet half worked out. Other natural chambers, doubtlessly, not only exist, but contain similar, perhaps more valuable features of human interest, although as yet unseen by the present generation. James Farrer Esq. of Ingleborough House, the owner of the Clapham and other caves, obligingly writes me-" I have explored a great number of the Ingleborough caves; they are all, "in their present condition at least, incapable of having "afforded shelter either to human beings or animals. My own 'cave (Clapham), discovered about thirty years ago, has been "frequently deluged with water, as has probably been the case "during many ages, since the present bed of the stream which "flows through it is much lower than it formerly was, as "evidenced by masses of rolled pebbles still adhering, in "places, to the sides of the cavern. There is, however, a "certain portion of the cave to which I propose to direct my "attention, when I have time, though I hardly expect to find "either human or other animal relics."

Eastward of Giggleswick, on the contrary, all the (known) caves now lie high and dry, in comparison with their earlier condition as watercourses; being situate in the scaurs, at a considerable elevation above any modern dwellings of man, but mostly possessing traces, more or less numerous, of both ancient animal and human habitation, and it is to such, exclusively, that it is now proposed to confine our attention.

Starting from the eastern border of the district described, and having secured Mr. Tennant's keeper as guide, the visitor clears the ancient village of Kilnsey, with its ruinous manor house; passes presently along the streamlet's bank, under the stupendous crag, swarming with birds, which here breed in security; and thence for above a mile pursues the road leading up this vale of the upper Wharf towards the little village of Arncliffe, near Kettlewell. Before approaching nearly to this

hamlet, he strikes up the steep open pastures to the left, for about a quarter-of-a-mile, when the secluded portal of the New Cave, only found in 1862, is pointed out. Few geological and no human relics have as yet transpired here; but the cavern is, nevertheless, well worthy of a visit, extending as it does westwardly a distance of six hundred yards, or above the third of a mile. When once the foot of the steep, shaftlike entrance is gained, this natural subterraneous vault proves by no means difficult to traverse, being remarkably dry and level. Perhaps the most unusual feature here is the very slightly varying width throughout the whole extent, varying but from about twelve to sixteen feet, and in no instance widening out, like the caves shortly to be noticed, into spacious chambers, sometimes with flat, but more frequently pointed Gothic roofs of the first of architects, Nature. It has been supposed, from the direction taken and a very circuitous route it is that the extremity must very nearly approach, if not absolutely open into, the next mentioned cavern, and after some little removal of rock about the final crevices, guns were fired on one occasion, in the hope of their reports being heard in the supposed adjacent chamber: these were, however, not detected. Lying so deeply beneath the surface as this cave does, there is little if any drip even in the wettest seasons, and consequently being much drier than the Settle caves, it is a matter of surprise that as yet no trace of its having been a resort of man has hitherto been noticed; inasmuch as the difficulty of access must have added considerably to the security of such a retreat; possibly it remained unknown, or, even at that geologically late era, a watercourse (as from its smoothly worn sides it once evidently was), thus precluding habitation, like the Ingleborough caves during late ages. The present proprietor is J. R. Tennant Esq. of Kildwick Hall, who has allowed Mr. Farrer to examine the caves upon his estate; and, from his experience in other quarters, the latter gentleman is well qualified for

« AnteriorContinuar »