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Caving Upper & Lower Long Churn

Listed under Caves & Caving in North West England, United Kingdom.

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If you want something more adventurous then why not go down Upper and Lower Long Churn at Selside, about 15 km north of Ingleton. Park in the lane at Selside after paying an access fee at the farm. Facing down the lane you will see a large copse to your right about I kilometre away. This is Alum Pot, well worth a look but don’t go over the wall as the drop is around 60metres! Please don’t test the depth by throwing stones down this enormous pitch as there could be cavers at the bottom - this was the scene of the very first recorded caving fatality in the UK with a spectator doing just that!

Continue along the indistinct footpath which crosses the stream tumbling down Alum Pot. The first hole you come across is Diccan Pot a difficult and VERY wet route into the bottom of Alum Pot. Lower Long Churn also leads into Alum but unless you have the right gear and knowledge to use it you’ll have to come back another day. If you find yourself in a low wet crawl you’re in Diccan- turn back!

Long Churn is divided into two distinct sections. I suggest you head upstream into Upper Long Churn along an amazingly exciting passage (I’ve seen hundreds and this is as good as it gets) splashing through thigh deep pools until you reach Dr Bannisters Handbasin, a large waist deep pool with a waterfall tumbling into it at the far end. Daylight can be seen and this can be used as a way in- if you have a rope. Climbing the waterfall is not easy so its best left alone.

Retrace your steps into daylight then take the passage directly ahead that leads into Lower Long Churn. Follow the stream until you reach a deep pool (you can use an oxbow on the right to avoid this), at this point a low crawl leads into daylight and Diccan Pot. Leave the stream by climbing out of the pool and follow the dry passage to a short drop into a pool called Double Shuffle.. With considerable skill and a fair amount of luck you can avoid falling into the chest deep water, there is a knack but telling you would spoil the fun!

Climb out of the pool and continue to yet another drop into yet another pool called Plank Pool. Since there is no longer a plank you will have to resort to acrobatic manoeuvres to avoid a soaking! I can almost guarantee you will fall in, that’s part of the fun and again it’s no more than chest deep! Climb out of the pool, I’m assuming you fell in, continue along the passage the drop into the narrow slot which leads to a small chamber. To the left is “The Cheese Press”, as its name suggests a tight bedding plane squeeze, to the right is a drop of about 2 metres which can be free- climbed but a short handline is useful.

Again one lands in a pool, that can be avoided with care, to the right is a large walking size passage to the head of Dolly Tubs a 14 m pitch into a chamber with a large “window” into the impressive daylight pitch of Alum Pot. Sadly unless you are accompanied by someone with the right gear you will be unable to sample this delight, but you could try the Cheese Press on the way out!

Do not attempt this cave in wet weather or if rain is forecast. It can become impassable, I speak from bitter experience having been temporarily marooned there after heavy rain!

Written by  Ralph Johnson.

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