The CNCC is pleased to provide the following resources on caving in the north of England and Scotland. The information on this page may be particularly useful to anyone preparing a media article or item about caving, or compiling promotional material for caving events (e.g. freshers fairs or open days).
For additional help please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Frequently asked questions
Lots of information about the CNCC and caving in general.
- Useful links
Links to various other caving organisations or online resources.
- Media gallery
A selection of images of caves and caving in the north of England and Scotland which are free to use for the purposes of promoting or presenting caving, subject to a few simple conditions of use.
Frequently asked questions
What is caving and what does it encompass?
Caving is the exploration of natural underground features, typically but not exclusively formed in limestone rock by the dissolving action of water over millions of years. Caves in the UK vary from a few metres to complex systems exceeding 300m depth and 50 km long. Caving encompasses the exploration of known cave systems for purely recreational or sporting purposes. However, many people involved in caving have more specific interests, for example photography, diving, surveying, cave science projects, hydrology, conservation, or the pursuit of new discoveries.
Caves are one of the last unexplored environments on earth, and there is good reason to believe that across the north of England there remains as much as 100+ km of cave passage yet to be discovered, including entire cave systems. Thus, caving also encompasses true exploration and the chance to see something exclusive.
Caves in Northern England and Scotland
In Northern England, there are several areas with the limestone geology that allows caves to form. The major area is the Yorkshire Dales National Park, where the most extensive cave systems have formed underneath the famous Three Peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Penyghent, but also extending westwards as far as Barbondale. This area is home to the famous ‘Three Counties System’ a 100 km+ system underneath Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Substantial caves are also found further east in Wharfedale and Nidderdale, across the Northern Dales and Pennines, the North York Moors and at several limestone outcrops across Scotland. Of all the main limestone areas of the UK (which also includes the Peak District, North and South Wales and the Mendip Hills), Northern England has the greatest abundance of caves spread across the widest area, almost certainly including many that have yet to be discovered.
How do people get involved in caving?
Individuals may get involved in caving initially as part of an outdoor activity day when at school or with a youth group, as part of an experience day, or they may get involved with many of the student caving clubs when attending university. Alternatively, they may join one of the hundreds of caving clubs based up and down the country, or they may simply go caving with a group of friends. Some of the caves in our area are quite simple and accessible and can be explored with no experience, using basic equipment and some common-sense safety precautions, thus offering a good starting point.
We recommend www.newtocaving.com for more information on starting caving.
Is caving safe?
All activities carry risk and caving is no different. There is however a tendency to portray caving as a high-risk activity, which statistics show to be far from the truth. In fact, caving is statistically much safer than many other sports and outdoor pursuits. Caves can be dangerous places with risks from loose rock, water, heights, cold and getting lost. However, a well-prepared group can easily avoid these risks by going with the correct equipment, research, training and by ensuring experience is passed down from caver to caver. Such preparedness is second nature to all cavers across the UK, and thanks to this, caving has very few accidents per person involved.
Safety advice can be found here: https://cncc.org.uk/about/safety.php
Across the UK are several cave rescue organisations, entirely volunteer-led and donation-funded. These organisations, manned by volunteer cavers, work closely with the police to provide a rescue service in the event of any incidents, above or below ground, as well as assisting walkers, stranded animals and those involved in other outdoor pursuits.
More information about cave rescue: https://cncc.org.uk/about/cave-rescue.php
Regrettably, caving usually achieves media attention only when there is an incident, which creates the false impression that it is dangerous. We prefer to see caving reported and celebrated more as a pursuit that kindles a love for the outdoors, fitness and a healthy lifestyle, a passion for exploration, science and innovation, camaraderie and friendship.
Caving and access
Almost all our countryside, including most of the caves across northern England and Scotland, is owned by someone. Since the CNCC formed in 1963, we have been working with landowners to arrange access to the caves and potholes on their land. Most landowners have been positive and accommodating over the years.
The Countryside Rights of Way Act (2000) brought much greater freedoms of access to most of the fells of northern England, which host some of our largest cave systems. Despite this, we continue seek mutually good relations with all cave landowners and to help mitigate any detrimental impacts caving might have on them or their land. This remains particularly true for caves with entrances close to residences or on agriculturally active land.
Why go caving?
Caving, like many outdoor pursuits, promotes a healthy lifestyle including exercise, an enjoyment for the outdoors (many cavers will also be keen walkers, cyclists, or climbers) and a great way to make friends as part of a vibrant and welcoming community. However, caving also brings with it a true sense of exploration, and the chance to see a world which is hidden from surface view. The hundreds of kilometres of cave passages underneath northern England and Scotland offer countless adventures like no other, seeing some truly magnificent sights and exploring some inspirational places.
More information to get you started in caving at www.newtocaving.com
What is the CNCC’s role in caving?
The CNCC is one of five regional councils of the British Caving Association, the UK Sports Council recognised national body for underground exploration. We work to facilitate matters such as access and conservation in the north of England and Scotland, establishing beneficial relationships with cavers and local and national bodies (e.g. Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park) and landowners. We aim to ensure our caves are as accessible as possible, but that our community enjoy them responsibly and with consideration for others and the natural environment.
We provide services to cavers including news, access and conservation information, navigational resources, safety advice and training opportunities. We aim to support caving in all its forms (recreationally, mine exploration, scientific studies, surveying, photography, new exploration, conservation and several other activities).
We also aim to promote the sport of caving, to encourage more people to take an interest and get involved. We aim to highlight both the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor activities and fitness, as well as the socio-economic benefits that caving, like many other outdoor pursuits, brings to areas such as the National Park.
More information, including our mission statement at www.cncc.org.uk/about
How are cavers working to conserve our natural environment?
Caves have formed over millions of years and have evolved unique, delicate, and vulnerable geological, botanical, or biological features, which could be easily damaged by visiting cavers. A pristine white stalactite, forming for thousands of years can be ruined in an instant by the touch of a muddy hand. A fine crystal pool can be smashed by a misjudged step, or a delicate and scientifically informative sediment bank can be churned up just by crawling over it. Unique cave flora and fauna can suffer through our presence if we do not explore our caves responsibly and with care.
Of course, it is futile preserving something that nobody can ever see, so simply restricting access is a last resort to achieving conservation in caves. Instead, we promote it as our duty to minimise the impact that our journey through caves has on these delicate environments and to ensure they can be enjoyed in the same state by future generations. Cavers have an excellent excellent reputation for looking after our environment and the countryside thanks to efforts from organisations such as ours and the proactivity for conservation shown by so many individuals within the caving community.
For all of these reasons, cave conservation is a critically important activity, one which is often best undertaken by cavers themselves. Cave conservation work has been a highly valued and important function of the CNCC for many years, and through our efforts, huge progress has been made and attitudes have changes dramatically over recent decades.
The conservation work itself can take many forms, including surface works on stiles and footpaths, or restoring areas affected by caver traffic. Alternatively, at cave entrances work can involve removal of waste, landscaping, stockproofing or construction work to make the entrance safe and stable. Finally, within the caves themselves work can include removal of litter or washed-in debris, restorative works to formations or sediments, documentation, placing of conservation tape to protect delicate parts of the cave, and photographing. Conservation work also covers education and training.
More details here: https://cncc.org.uk/conservation/
I’m writing an article on caving, where can I get more information?
We are very keen to see caving promoted. If you are writing any kind of media about caving, we are happy to help you or direct you to the right information. We also have a gallery of images below which are available for use in caving media.
Please get in touch: email@example.com
- British Caving Association
The national body for underground exploration in the UK.
- Derbyshire Caving Association
Our counterpart and Regional Council for caving in Derbyshire and surrounding area.
- Cambrian Caving Council
Our counterpart and Regional Council for caving in Wales including the Forest of Dean.
- Council of Southern Caving Clubs
Our counterpart and Regional Council for caving in the Mendip Hills region.
- Devon and Cornwall Underground Council
Our counterpart and Regional Council for caving in Devon and Cornwall.
- National Association of Mining History Organisations
NAMHO is the UK national body for mining history and exploration across the UK.
Run by the British Caving Association as a resource for anyone looking to get involved with caving.
The UK’s caving forum, and excellent resource for research, contacts and questions.
- Cave Rescue Organisation
Based in Clapham, a voluntary organisation who work to rescue walkers, cyclists, cavers, and anyone else in difficulty across the western parts of the Yorkshire Dales.
- Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association
Based in Grassington, a voluntary organisation who work to rescue walkers, cyclists, cavers, and anyone else in difficulty across the eastern parts of the Yorkshire Dales.
- Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team
Based in Catterick Garrison, a voluntary organisation who work to rescue walkers, cyclists, cavers, and anyone else in difficulty across the northern parts of the Yorkshire Dales.
The CNCC is pleased to provide here a selection of photos taken in caves across the north of England.
These photos may be freely used in promotional material about caving, or media articles and items about caving, on the following simple conditions (please contact us to discuss if you have any doubts):
- The article or item presents an overall positive reflection of caving as an activity.
- The article or item is not specifically about a rescue (we advise instead that you contact the relevant rescue organisation for more appropriate content to support articles about any rescue).
- The image is presented in full, with the full caption and copyright accreditation.
We encourage anyone wishing to use any of these images to contact us to discuss which image is most appropriate to your article. Other more appropriate images may be able to be sourced to support specific purposes. Furthermore we are happy to provide advice on any article or media item about caving.
Preview of what's in the image pack...