Excalibur Pot Access

18 July 2019

Improved Access to Excalibur Pot

The 2007 discovery of Excalibur Pot near Kirkbymoorside in the North York Moors (see Descent 202) is probably one of the most unexpected new cave discoveries of the last few decades. The system, which now includes Jenga Pot (discovered in 2013 and connected to Excalibur in 2015) is 2.8 km long and is formed in the Hambleton Oolite, a gritty Jurassic limestone that spans the southern slopes of the North York Moors National Park.

The full survey can be found here: https://cncc.org.uk/cave/excalibur-pot

Excalibur Pot lies on a private shooting estate, however, the original diggers established good relations with the landowner from the start, allowing a CNCC access agreement to be reached in 2008 enabling other cavers to visit the system. The landowner understandably wished for some restrictions to protect his financial interests and privacy. The agreement allowed one permit per week to be issued to BCA member clubs. Limiting access only to BCA member clubs was partly due to this being standard CNCC practice at the time (arguably due to misunderstandings about how the BCA public liability insurance policy worked).

Of course, things have moved on a lot in ten years and the CNCC now aspires to achieve the best possible access for all cavers.

During a recent meeting with the landowner, we gifted him a copy of Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales Volume Two, which includes an excellent chapter on the North York Moors. We discussed the access agreement and a revised version was agreed which allows permits to be issued to all cavers, which is in accordance with current CNCC practice.

There are still some restrictions, including only one permit per week (not expected to be problematic as there are only a few visitors each year). Access during the shooting season (1st October - 1st February) remains on Sundays only, to avoid disturbing the birds and on obvious safety grounds. The cave is in flood for much of winter anyway.

Permits are available by email and often at short notice.

The nearby Jenga Pot entrance is not covered by the agreement, as it is just across a land boundary. Access into Jenga Pot has been accepted to date providing an Excalibur Pot permit is on display in the cars (this is mainly to show the gamekeepers you aren't up to no good). Be warned though that entering the system via Jenga Pot is a gruelling experience.

Although this isn't exactly the ground-breaking access improvements we've become accustomed to across the Yorkshire Dales in the last few years, this still represents another cave where access is now available for all. Furthermore, this agreement preserves good landowner relations in an area of the country where cavers are not always so well understood. The CNCC are committed to working to improve cave access across all of Northern England and Scotland.

Matt Ewles, CNCC Secretary/Excalibur Pot permit secretary

Photo: The Holy Grail Flowstone, Excalibur Pot (Gary Douthwaite)