15 February 2024

Stump Cross remediation works

Remediation work at Stump Cross

The following is an outstanding report of recent efforts to make safe and secure several exploration sites near Stump Cross Caverns. Of course, these sites have always been responsibly maintained, but recent interest from the show cave in using the area for children's educational activities has forced even tighter management of these sites. The CNCC is extremely proud to have sponsored this work, particularly when it has been done to such a high standard by such an enthusiastic team. Thank you to Tom for the report, and to the photographers for the excellent photos to showcase their work.

Report by Tom Thompson, Stump Cross exploration team:

In early winter 2023 our explorers group received notice that the landowner on our site, Stump Cross Caverns, had plans to start children’s activities in the field, north across the road from their business centre and cafe. In the last few years, their main venture in the field, below which lies the majority of the show cave, had been the 3d filming of The Keep, beyond Grenade Shaft. Our team had assisted the film crew after removing mud from the shaft base to avoid it spreading to formations during filming in the well-decorated cave beyond. 

Since becoming proprietors of Stump Cross, the owners have concentrated their efforts on a new approach to children’s educational experience within the visitor centre. Their latest initiative of educational fossil and geology related visits in the field we have been working in is a natural progression for them.

The field was not used for stock rearing and was not stock proof, but nevertheless we had covered our digs to prevent stray livestock falling into our former and current sites. It now however became imperative for us to create robust and permanent lockable caps and covers on our sites and to remove all redundant materials and resources in order to conserve the sites as in as nature-compatible condition as possible. 

These sites have significant future potential for our aim of extending the Stump Cross system in a downstream direction, hence the ‘unfinished’ situation. As we are committed to digging only where full permissions exist, exploration activities had been suspended when such permission expired. We had decided that if a site were to be revived, we would apply for renewed permission then, such that there will be only one current dig at any given time. 

All exploration was suspended during December so the team could focus on completing the preparatory groundworks to ready the sites for secure enclosure and natural conservation. The next move was to generate a plan of action compatible with conservation, future access and the cave owner’s ambitions for educational activities.

This resulted in a budgeted plan and financial assistance was sought. CNCC were the most prominent contributors, followed by the members of the team, and then a substantial contribution came from the Barry Andrew Estate. Team members contributed tools, plant and equipment, with a former Stump Cross cave owner providing quad-bike and trailer transport to move the materials to site using suitable tyres to avoid any damage to the grass. All materials were sourced from the most locally available suppliers, to avoid excess carbon emissions and to contribute to the local economy, concrete materials coming from a Nidderdale supplier and the steel from Airedale.

During January 2024 the work continued with the Craven Pothole Club cottage warden approving use of some surplus timber materials for the formwork required to concrete two of the sites, where a substantial cap was needed to hold a secure lid. Successive work meets resulted in the sites being covered and rendered lockable.

During the project all redundant materials were removed and responsibly disposed of or redeployed at the current dig site. We had some very challenging weather during the project, including snow, high winds and heavy rainfall.

Our current dig site, West Sink, had been opened by pursuing a new entrance, Red Kite Rift, which turned out to have been entered in the 20th Century, and then either filled in or covered by landslip. A substantial scaffold frame has been installed here holding a large Durbar steel plate door which will be made lockable. The spoil heaps at each site have been landscaped to create flowing-to-flat areas conducive for plants to re-colonise.

Our other project, Pond Sink has two entrances, the Tower Entrance having been constructed from concrete blocks during the previous decades, both being secured as part of this project.

Sludge Pit Rift at North Pot was fitted with an access tube. Subsequently all spoil from the site has been in-filled around the outside of the tube and a securable lid fitted.

High Street Hole, via a scaffolded shaft, entered a series of phreatic chambers that had been filled with boulder clay. This shaft also required a concrete cap.

Also, in early January, group members assisted the cave management by demonstrating a workable solution to a persistent low level flooding problem in a sector of the show cave, by utilising our own pumping equipment and by recommending suitable electrical and drainage solutions. The site of the flooding had previously received attention from some members of our team who had contributed by building a steel bridge and a drainage sump. The cave management have indicated that they now intend to fit a pump and proceed with the suggested solution.

Photo selection courtesy of D Headley, C Bone, E Whittaker, A Weight and R Worsman.

Copyright 2024 Council for the Northern Caving Community.