|Regions \ Yorkshire Dales \ Wharfedale and the North East \ Nidderdale \ Manchester Hole|
Grid Reference: SE 100 764.
Parking is on the road leading to Scarhouse Reservoir, by the blocked railway tunnel. The footpath leads via two stiles to the river. The cave entrance is in the opposite bank.
Permission for access to the cave is currently granted by the local farmers, so there is no need to call.
The section of cave between the crawl through to Fossil passage and the duck can sump off very quickly with only a slight increase of water running into Manchester Hole and water backing up from Goyden when flooding. The river outside in extreme conditions can flood into the main entrance and cause severe flooding throughout the cave.
Black Sheep Diggers advise you to refer to the guidance provided by the HSE (link below) for information on the hydrology with regard Manchester Hole.
Black Sheep Diggers offer the following guidelines:
1. Check the water level at Scarhouse reservoir
2. If the water is more than 2m from the top there is a very low risk of flooding within Manchester Hole
3. If the water is within 2 m of the top of the reservoir see below.
4. If no water is flowing past Manchester Hole flooding of the cave is low risk but you are advised to monitor the water levels between the crawl and duck.
5. If water is flowing past Manchester Hole and can easily be crossed then a trip beyond the crawl into Fossil passage is inadvisable, especially if rain or a strong west wind (blowing water off the reservoir) is forecast.
6. If the river is flowing past Manchester Hole and unsafe to cross, do not enter Manchester Hole.
A large stream passage for most of the length of the cave with a small wet and muddy section at the end leading to Diver's chamber. From there a choice of exit via Bax Pot or through trip to Goyden Pot via Eternal Optimist dug out by the Black Sheep Diggers.
Climb down into the entrance to obvious upstream passage and slightly less obvious downstream passage. Up stream after short distance ends at a choke close to where the stream sinks in the river bed outside the cave. Important for people not to dig either the choke or sinks outside the cave as it causes higher volumes of water to enter the cave and sump the cave off at the duck.
Upstream passage starts by a scramble over boulders and down the slope to join a large walking size stream passage. Shortly after a scramble over more boulders at the right hand bend are examples of Tufa and Sandstone floor where the stream has cut down below the base of the limestone. The stream passage continues as a fine walking size passage to the point where two routes are possible. One route is to follow the stream where the roof dips and a way has to be found between the boulders. The other route is to climb up the steep slope to the right up onto the top of the large mud bank that provides a way across the large collapsed main chamber. Both routes rejoin at the large stream passage the other side. Easy walking size passage soon becomes a stoop and then crawl as the roof dips steeply. This crawl is only short but can get sumped off quickly. It advisable not to hang about between the crawl and the duck further on if the river outside is flowing past Manchester Hole and strongly advised not to take groups in at all during those conditions. The crawl soon opens out to a standing height passage with many fossils in the wall. From here it is possible to carry on following the stream or through the muddy oxbow passage to the right. At the point the two passages rejoin the stream passage continues ahead while a slope to the left leads up to a small hole and crawl down a slope to the static sump that connects with Pillar pot in Goyden Pot. The stream passage continues a short distance to what at first appears to be a sump but then on close attention a duck to the right goes back on itself. The duck sumps off in flood conditions. At the other side a short walking size passage leads to Sump 1 proper. A muddy passage, Swinton Bypass, on the right provides a way through to Divers Chamber. At the point it enters the chamber traverse straight across and then climb up into the steep passage to exit via Bax Pot, or climb down the steep mud slope to the stream at the bottom. The stream can be followed to Sump 2. Shortly before the sump a crawl into the bedding on the right provides access into a rift and climb up into Eternal Optimist and the connection with Goyden pot.
Manchester Hole and Goyden Pot Connection
From the bedding by Sump 2, climb up the rift and follow the phreatic passage about 50m to a point where a squeeze down into a rift by a section of scaffolding is required. From here, follow the stream down the rift and into the bedding on the right. At the end of the bedding ignore the obvious way to the right where most of the stream exits but instead go left to the choke. Climb down with care into Lesser Stream Passage below. Follow the water through the narrow slot to the right and then on working your way round boulders as required until the passage finally connects with Goyden's main passage at the cascades.
It is likely that Manchester Hole was known about and explored even before the visit to the area by Thomas Jeffreys in 1775 and geologist John Phillips some time before 1836.
It was the Yorkshire Ramblers Club (YRC) who commenced the systematic exploration of upper Nidderdale caves. Their first visit was 27-29th May 1983 exploring How Stean Gorge, Tom Taylor’s cave, Cathole, Eglin’s Hole, and Goyden pot. Messrs Thomas Booth, Samuel Cuttriss, George Lowe and Lewis Moore stayed at the King’s Head in Middlesmoor over the Whitsuntide holiday 1-3 June 1895. They had intended to explore Goyden pot but because of the heavy rain explored Manchester Hole instead. They followed the river for about 100m at which point they returned to the surface due to the inclement weather. The next day they managed to explore Goyden pot and made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to force a passage into Manchester Hole. Finally they returned to Manchester Hole pushing the exploration further towards Goyden pot. Their grade 1 survey was the first of a Nidderdale cave. It suggests they pushed Manchester Hole beyond the duck to sump 1 and explored a short way into the tight rift at the base of the First window in Main chamber of Goyden pot.
Manchester Hole and Goyden pot resurveyed 24-25 October 1931 by the Leeds Cave club by Eli Simpson and friends. Eli Simpson later achieved fame as the founder of the British Speleological Association (BSA).
Diver David Yeandle (supported by Martin Davies and Dave Brook, Mart Rogers) dived Pillar pot in Goyden pot and made a connection with Manchester Hole static sump in the early 1970’s.
In the autumn of 1991 divers Ian Lloyd (CDG) and Andy Jackson (Bradford Pothole Club) managed to dive through Manchester Hole sump 1 to find a chamber now known as Divers chamber and passage leading to sump 2.
In early 1993 Chris Fox and Peter Fonseca managed to dig out the last section of the bypass (Swinton Bypass) to sump 1. This dig was started four and a half years earlier by Chris Fox and Pete Fonseca at times aided by others such as John Feetenby and Katherine Pelly. A new entrance (Bax pot) was dug out from Divers chamber much to the surprise of a family having a picnic on the surface who happened to see Chris Fox as he emerged closely followed by Paul (Bax)Baxter.
On May 8th 2003 after many years of work the final section of passage was dug to connect Manchester Hole with Goyden pot. Carol Lawrence dug out the last boulder and Chris Fox led the first through trip. This project was worked on intermittently over 16 years and involved many members of the Black Sheep Diggers, too many to mention.
Northern Caves Whafedale & North-East by D.Brook, G.M. Davies, M.H. Long, P.F. Ryder
Cave and Karst Science, The Transactions of the British Cave Research Association Volume 33 Number 1 2006. Speleo-history of upper Nidderdale UK.
Descent, The magazine of underground exploration, articles by Chris Fox
Caves and caving 53 (Autumn 1991), Northern news