Welcome to UK Caving!
Unfortunately (in some respects at any rate) I am no longer based int he north east, but I do still know folks in the area. Feel free to drop me a PM and I may be able to make some local introductions or steer you towards some decent local trips.
That said, it's really not far down to the Yorkshire Dales. Local stuff is great for weekday evenings, but you'll be in the best caving region in the country within an hour and a half, with dozens of clubs and any variety of caves to suit your experience/ desires!