Thundering River Cave by Richard Gibson

SD 89803 79416 Alt 251m Current length 21m.

About three and a bit years ago, we drove up to Langstrothdale.
Simon Beck set off up the steep hillside, to do one of his many grade 5 solos.

My aim for the day was doing some research that might lead to discovering some so far unexplored cave. With a bottle of Fluorescein dye in my hand, I set off up the River Wharfe, looking for any places where the river might disappear in its bed. Indicating a possible route into a sub valley system……

I had read the previous accounts of the clubs dye tests done under the watchful eye of Phil Ryder and Andy Cole, so I precluded those sites from my research.

At two points, I found the river flowing along a course away from itself, and I added the bright green Fluorescein dye, then walked along the river bank to see if it would re-emerge down river.

Neither sinkhole led back to the surface river, or at least the dye did not show up along the length of Langstrothdale.

I repeated the test a week later allowing a longer time of two hours for the dye to show up if it was going to.

The only obvious spring is the impressive river rising below Yockenthwaite Farm, almost a mile distant…..

I spoke with the farmer, Stuart, who of course is a good friend of ours,
“Don’t thee think tha’s enough caves in Dales?”
“Yes we do have many caves, though somewhere near here, there is a cave where the underground River Wharfe flows”
“ and that’s what we are looking for”…..

I began to excavate down a rift in the river bank, following the disappearing water, this went down a one inch wide crack, through which a strong current of air blew.

Being right next to the River Wharfe meant it was a noisy place to work, the acoustics created an illusion as if there was a roaring river as big as that on the surface.

Only it wasn’t an illusion……


The Thundering River, from which the cave derives it name could be heard beyond a wide but very low gap in an ongoing bedding plane…….

Initially with Simon and occasionally with Johnnie Stoddart progress was made.

Phil Ryder, Graham Huck (Hucky), Katie (Hucky’s daughter on surface duty) and I have dug together on Wharfedale projects for a long time, and have become a good and close working team, and here at Thundering River we continued to advance together.. every Saturday as well as Wednesday evenings for a year (between other projects), much time and expense allowed us to gradually enlarge the natural passage until we finally broke through into the underground Wharfe……..


Phil has mapped the Cave, although not too extensive at this point of exploration, the cave does include several interesting features, certainly the most notable is the 10 metres wide (depending on water levels), metre high thundering waterfall that forms a beautiful cascade of wild white water…..

Others features are the numerous outlets for the river, some, in high water re-emerge about a fifty metres downriver, others nearer the entrance obviously take a deeper route beneath the surface river.
Thundering River Cave

The original outlet in the entrance has on occasions blew an exceptionally powerful draught before it was sealed up with shingle.

Some dye testing could be done to verify further potential of what lies beyond the point where where we are pushing at the present limit of exploration………

We are heading towards the projected line of upstream development in the presently inaccessible Cow Garth Cave, where a reportedly large ancient passage ends in a choke issuing a large stream, which is presumed to resurge at a large spring below Cow Garth Cave.

We have been excavating a major sink in Raisgill, about a mile distant.
It could be that the large stream that disappears there, could, like the other underground streams in the Dale…
Flow North West….
Hagg Beck boulder sink dig to Langstroth Cave.
Langstroth Cave- upper entrance to its lower entrance
Compass Pot etc to Goat Inlet in Langstroth Pot.
Hagg Beck Cave also takes a similar route…..

If the Raisgill Main Sink water does indeed take the same route and it resurges at the Cow Garth Risings, then Thundering River Cave might only be metres from intersecting the cave system that exists in between……

Our continued exploration will give us answers one way or the other….


Others who have joined the team both underground and turning up to encourage as surface support have included; Dave Milner, Steve and Maud Warren, Reverent Mike Hulland, Annie, Barbara, Emma, Steve Woods, John Clarke, Dave Brook, Kevin Shadforth who bikes down from the north East in all weathers to come and join us, Mike Gibson ( our mobile canteen) and the residents of Langstrothdale…

To be continued……………..