EXTENSION TO DALE BARN CAVE by Jim Cunningham
For over a year the H.W.C.P.C. have been interested in Scales Moor, and much work has been done there recently, so it was natural that Dale Barn, a flood resurgence for Scales Moor, should be investigated. Dale Barn entrance is in a rocky shakehole near Beezely Farm. It can be found by following the back road from Ingleton to Chapel-le-Dale and taking the track on the left about three quarters of a mile past Beezely Farm, which leads to a modern wooden bungalow. Walk about a hundred yards along the track to a dry valley and the cave is about thirty yards away next to the fence at the top of the field.
A tight entrance leads into the crawl. This is about 700 feet long and for most of the way is flat out on a clayey mud floor. The passage is wide, and occasionally canals are reached. These are about a foot deep, and as the roof is very low, are quite damp! As the end of the crawl is approached, a stream can be heard. This sinks in the final canal. A large passage in reached here, with beautiful calcite flowstone. The stream can be followed up for about eighty feet through quite large passage, until it emerges from a tight crack. This was the cave as found by the N.S.G. in 1956. A high level by-pass of the crack has recently been blasted by K. Pearce (7th May, 1966 and the stream has been reached beyond this constriction. At the furthest point upstream the stream now emerges from a three inch wide crack, about twenty feet upstream from the original blockage. It opens out at the top though, and may be passable after several large boulders have been removed.
On 16th April, 1966, two H.W.C.P.C. members, D. Stewart and J.Shepherd explored the cave and noticed a sump with a small air space on the right, just after the final canal. This was dived and found to be followed by two more "ducks." Incidentally the water has since been lowered in these and they are new merely a wet crawl. After these a hole in the roof followed by a short crawl led them to a series of large chambers. However, they were short of light, so after a quick look round they left the cave.
Next day a much stronger party entered. The chambers found are large and beautifully decorated. The walls are almost black and contrast greatly with the pure white and orange formations. They are obviously phreatic in origin, as shown by their network plan, including a loop, and their large size and sudden constrictions. At one point a tight stomach crawl about two feet long joins two large chambers. The walls of the lower chambers especially are composed almost entirely of semi-spherical hollows in the black rock. The floor levels also suggest phreatic origin, all the various chambers behind at random levels, with no attempt at grading.
There appears to have been a fill at one time about ten feet
above the present floor level, as evidenced by a thin layer of pale
clayey mud clinging to the walls up to this height. Its junction
with the underlying black limestone is very prominent, and is not
horizontal, so could not have been caused by flooding. There are
several stalactite formations below this level, including straws,
most of them coated in a thin layer of mud though several small ones
are perfectly clean, suggesting they were formed after the removal of
the fill. On the floor of several chambers are neck-high banks of
pebbly fill, with a passage cut through them as if by a vadose stream.
These features appear to substantiate the conclusions of Kaye ( "The Effect of Solvent Motion on Limestone "Jour . Geol. V 65, pp 35 - 46, l957) He concluded that the phreatic enlargement of passages would ultimately result in developing passages so large that the supply of water could not fill them. An air space would then form in the higher passages and conditions would be right for calcite deposit. At this time, when the cave is in transition from solution below the water- table to aeration above it, a fill tends to develop. This fill reduces the size of passage and permits temporary return to phreatic conditions. The fill would then grow until the stalactites were covered in the clayey fill, gently deposited under water. When the water-table level dropped, the ponded water would drain off, taking with it a large amount of fill, so leaving the cave as we find it today.
There are several interesting formations, including a mud stalagmite about fifteen inches high, with the start of a calcite stalagmite on top. Directly above this is a three foot erratic stalactite. Cave pearl pools are in abundance, with several pastel blue pearls, though none of perfect shape were seen. There is also a straw stalactite, which must have broken off many years ago and fallen so that one end rested on a short stalagmite . It is now firmly welded into the position it fell.
At the end of the chambers a fairly constricted passage leads off. This was followed with great excitement for about a hundred feet, when it led into another chamber. However, this was recognised as the one we had just left, we were disappointed to find that we had come round in a circle!
The most hopeful way on seemed to be back near the first sumps. A boulder slope led down into a chamber. A short duck led into another very pretty solution chamber, the way on again being through a static sump. In both these two “ducks“there is about an inch of air space, but it is very difficult to use, and both are easy dives. After the second duck a fairly large chamber is reached, again very prettily decorated. A mud slope leads down from this into the final sump. This can be free dived for about six feet to a small air space but after that free diving is impossible. We returned to the surface.