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Cow Garth Cave

Chris Smith mentioned last year that we needed to look at this site again as there was a draughting dig in the phreatic section. Chris was one of the original explorers nearly 20 years ago. The problem is the entrance, which floods rapidly out of the entrance. This is under a small rock face. From here a ramp goes down 5 metres to a low waterlogged section where the water normally drains away through boulders. The rising is presumed to be about 100 metres away in the side of the River Wharfe. Floods have blocked this outlet in the cave, it was thought that clearing all the mud away plus some capping would make conditions safer to dig in the far end of the cave.

I must explain why Cow Garth is so interesting from a diggers point of view. Harry Long speculates that it is part of an ancient drainage system running down Langstrothdale, and existed before the glaciers cut down the valley to the present level of the River Wharfe. I agree with him as I have seen several instances to support this theory over the years.

I first visited Cow Garth with RG this spring but the water was a metre from the top of the entrance. The next two visits were with Steve. On the first occasion the water was right to the top of the entrance even though if had been dry for several days. The third time the water had drained right away but it was hard to get down to the low section because the slope down was blocked by coarse sand. Those of you who were present in the exploration of Chapel Lodge Cave and the sand blockage in Paranoia Crawl will know what I mean.

Fortunately The Wee Uns forced a way through shortly after, as the dry spell continued. Smiffy says they came to a shingle dam holding back a lot of water, obviously a product of the recent floods. It would take a very brave or stupid man to release this blockage but I suppose you could proddle it with a long scaffold pole.

In May we went to look at the Cow Garth rising in the bank of the River Wharfe after heavy rain. A large volume of water was now sinking into the rising from the swollen river. The choked outlet section near the entrance in Cow Garth Cave is slightly lower than the bed of the river. This is when we realised that Cow Garth Cave is a death trap as the River Wharfe can flood rapidly; we’ve watched the flood pulses going down the river many times. Unless there is a prolonged drought, highly unlikely in these times of global warming, I for one am going to keep out.

Trip Date: 8th October 2008
Added: 21st October 2008
Reviewer: Phil Ryder
Hits: 1796


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