COTE GILL POT by Jeff Morgan
Towards the latter end of the dry summer of 1960, myself and P. Croasdale were camping near Proctor High Mark on the moors between Littondale and Malham. We had for the past few weeks been searching and digging at various holes in the hope of breaking into something in this relatively ‘untouched’ area. One fault with camping up there was that because of the dry weather there was no water to be found , so we set off towards Littondale to try to find a spring of some kind lower down the fell. As we reached Cote Gill, which is marked on the map as a stream, we found only a dry beck. We continued down the beck and eventually, after giving up hope of finding water, turned around and came back the same way we had come. We had just climbed up what is marked on the map as a waterfall (quite dry) when P. Croasdale thought that he could hear water near the edge of the river bed. We looked and found a hole about six inches by four inches from which came the sound of running water.
We decided that it was worth digging and re-sited our camp in the vicinity. After fashioning a crowbar from an old iron fence we started enlarging the hole, and within a couple of hours had found that it led to a shaft estimated to be about twenty feet deep, but still tight to get in. Owing to lack of equipment further work was postpone until the following week-end.
The next weekend saw about half a dozen of us gathered at the dig and after about five hours concentrated work with hammer and chisel, we decided that the hole was large enough for a small person to get down. We smeared the walls of the shaft with mud and wearing only a boiler suit I managed to wriggle down with some effort. After fifteen feet the shaft came in through the roof of a large stream passage approximately five feet wide and seven feet high.
I went downstream and after about a hundred feet came to a fifteen foot pitch, so I went back to the entrance shaft to get a ladder. By this time the lads on the surface were getting excited and P. Croasdale decided to try and get down. Twenty minutes later and wondering how he was going to get out, he was at the bottom of the entrance shaft. Quickly we laddered the pitch and went down. It led into a fairly large chamber with a few curtains and on the floor enumerable small skulls which eventually turned out to be those of rabbits. The water sank into the side of the chamber and disappeared under a choked bedding plane and into the floor. This was to be the limit of the downstream exploration.
On returning upstream, P. Croasdale found a bedding plane which went for a hundred and fifty feet. Upstream from the entrance went for two hundred feet to a choke, passing a few small formations and through an aven on the way. Coming out was difficult to say the least. The shaft was too narrow to allow the use of either arms or legs so a ladder was useless. With the sides literally smeared with mud, all we could do was hold on to a rope while the lads on the surface pulled. Painful but effective, we got out! Later on the entrance was widened using explosives, so that now most people can get down.
The water has been tested by another member of the Club and after ten hours it appears at the stream a quarter of a mile lower down than Sleets Gill, over five hundred feet lower and two and a half miles away. Work is still going on as we feel that this could be the key to that area of Littondale.