The three main caves of the Upper Nidderdale Valley provide an excellent day's caving. At the upstream end, Manchester Hole is a classic river cave which leads directly into the complex and sometimes intimidating Goyden Pot. New Goyden Pot is the downstream continuation of Goyden Pot, entered via a couple of pitches, and has a magnificent river passage as well as a set of worthwhile inlet passages.
The caving potential of the systems has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Before the Black Sheep Diggers arrived on the scene, Manchester Hole had a single upstream entrance, and Goyden had a main entrance and a small subsidiary entrance. As a result of their efforts, the two caves are now connected, Manchester Hole now has a downstream entrance, and Goyden has an additional four entrances, all at the extremities of the system.
The route described here is only possible as the direct result of their hard work and dedication. It traverses the best sections of Manchester Hole and Goyden Pot, and provides three hours of exhilarating caving which includes river passages, large chambers, several rope pitches, crawling, boulder chokes, labyrinths, and best of all, a through trip. This is one of the most fun and varied caving trips to be had in the Dales.
It does, however, require that water levels are average or below, and that water is not flowing down the entrance of Goyden. The system floods drastically, and the route in places follows the River Nidd through some confined passages. It is also not unknown for flood debris to block passages, so be prepared to encounter the odd tree trunk in unexpected places. The BCRA have published a publication which outlines the factors to be taken into consideration before committing to a trip. It's also worth taking a copy of the Goyden survey with you, which has been adapted (with permission) from that found in Northern Caves. Gloves are advised, as it is a lowland cave with a number of farms upstream.
The trip starts at the upstream entrance of Manchester Hole (see Google map of entrances), which is located a few metres below where the river sinks. Most of Manchester Hole is very straight forward. At one stage you need to either thread your way with the water through some boulders, or follow a high level route through the high-level Main Chamber.
Once past Main Chamber, the river passage continues in fine style before lowering into a smaller section which requires a short length of crawling. The roof then rises, and another fine section of river passage is traversed until the roof dips uncompromisingly into the water. However, the river doesn't actually sump straight ahead as it seems, but does an almost 180° turn into a small concealed passage to the right. Follow this through into the sump chamber proper.
Next to the diving line, a muddy passage (Swinton Bypass) makes its way in an uphill direction, soon breaking out in the roof of Diver's Chamber. By traversing round and stepping up onto a ledge, a rift may be found that ascends to the Bax Pot entrance. We, however, must slither back down to the river to find the connection with Goyden Pot.
Once back in the water make awkward progress downstream for a few metres. The route first negotiates a fallen slab, and then along a bedding plane to where a higher bedding rises up on the right hand side of the stream. Enter this, and a low gap will be seen in the right hand wall a couple of metres ‘downstream’.
Squeeze through the gap into the base of an ascending rift, which was dug out by the Black Sheep Diggers. This leads up into Eternal Optimist, the connection passage originally entered from the Goyden end. At the top of the rift the Lesser Stream Pot entrance (disused) may be seen leading off to the right.
Continue down the passage to a descent past a jumble of boulders tied up with string, into a rift which leads back to the river. This initially cascades through a slot, which can be very wet. The next 20 m are the crux as far as water levels are concerned. If the slot doesn't look too silly, then the rest of Lesser Stream Passage should be accessible. However, do be prepared to retreat at this point. You can exit through Bax Pot and re-enter the system through the Goyden Pot main entrance.
Accompany the water down the slot to where some of it turns right through a boulder-floored bedding. The water disappears down holes in the boulders, but our route is straight across to the far side, where an obvious hole marks an easy descent back to the water.
The easiest way from here is to climb down another drop between a large boulder and the right hand wall back into the main flow. The river may now be followed easily down Lesser Stream Passage into the expanses of Goyden's main passage.
We now make our way down the impressive River Passage. A chain hanging down the right wall marks the climb up to Gaskell's Passage and the Church Pot entrance, which will be our exit. The passage then lowers before arriving at a T-Junction. To the right, the river disappears into a sump after a few metres - to the left leads into the Labyrinth Passage.
Follow Labyrinth Passage past two junctions on the left, and then a low one on the right (you will soon emerge from the latter). Keeping left at the next obvious junction leads to Five Ways Chamber - a low chamber with a number of passages leading off. Take the second on the left (it normally has a small stream), and follow it uphill to the Ten Foot Climb - equipped with a smart aluminium ladder. This immediately leads into the very impressive Cap Tunnel. Have a quick look upstream to the left - it divides into two, with the small passage on the right being Cap Left Crawl leading back to the entrance.
Returning, the way on can be found by ducking under the rock arch from which the stream emerges. This passage passes an inlet on the left (the source of the water at Five Ways), and continues in impressive style, before it also splits into two. Take the right hand passage, and follow the bored tube downhill. After a minute or so, it deteriorates into a crawl through a pool, which can be more interestingly bypassed by climbing into a high-level rift on the right. The next feature is the descent of the Twenty Foot Pitch, which is well rigged with a knotted rope.
At the bottom of the rope climb, there is a chute into a lower level bedding plane. Ignore it and continue along the main passage past the large entrance into Worm Drive, to the well-named Baffle Plates, where there is a descent into Mud Pot. Ignore this as well, and carry on until the passage terminates at High Rift where a smart chain hangs down from The Beet Route. This is as far as we go.
We now want to make our way back via New Stream Passage. This most aesthetically pleasing route back-tracks a few metres, to a constricted T-shaped rift in the right wall, through which can be heard the sound of water. Enter this, and after a few metres a knotted rope drops past a flake down towards the 11 metre-deep sump pool of New Stream Passage. Slide easily down to land on a prominent ledge system, about three metres below the flake. Traverse along the ledge over the pool for a metre or so towards the far end of the rift. You can then turn round, and enter a bedding ledge crawl into the roof of New Stream Passage. Take care!
Now follow New Stream Passage upstream ignoring the various inlets to the right, most of which link back into other parts of the system, including routes back to Mud Pot, and the 20' Pitch. Eventually, the alternating rift / bedding passage steps up into a wide cobble-strewn bedding area. Follow the low bedrock crawl to the left for two or three metres, and follow it round to the right. You will then find yourself at a T-junction. This is Labyrinth Passage again.
Go left back towards the river, and after a few metres, a passage goes off to the right. You can't miss it - it has a thin calcite flow spilling over the entrance. Follow this uphill ignoring a prominent passage to the right, until you meet Pyridine Passage at a T-junction (Ten Foot Climb, encountered earlier, is a couple of minutes off to the right), with a prominent false floor on the left. It's possible to miss this junction, so keep an eye open. Clamber over the false floor, and follow the passage through a short canal to a rope climb up a rift. Ascend this, and follow the rift across a traverse above a pool, and through a window. Don't fall into the second pool! Follow the passage down, and then up to the right past a muddy boulder. This leads onto a platform overlooking the impressive Mud Hall, with the entrances to both Limley Pot and Zanussi Pots at the base of the slope, as well as another connection back into Labyrinth Passage.
Don't go down the slope, but locate a passage immediately on your right, and follow this along a rift, and down a boulder slope. This enters a large fragment of passage overlooking the main river, with a large tree impressively wedged across the roof. The way on is up into a crawl which starts a metre or so up the right hand wall. This is a comfortable-sized crawl leading to a Y-junction. Follow the smaller left passage to a cross-roads. Left goes to another window overlooking the river, straight across leads you back into the entrance series.
If you have any energy left, a good exit from the system is through Church Pot. This will also allow you to explore the section of the Goyden's main passage between the entrance and Lesser Stream Passage.
To find Church Pot, instead of turning right when you can see daylight, carry straight on over a short boulder slope into the massive main chamber, with the sound of the river roaring beneath you. There have recently been rock falls here with a bed of limestone slowly detaching itself from the roof, so be aware. Make your way down the chaos of boulders past where the river emerges from Lesser Stream Passage, to the climb up into Gaskell's Passage (marked by a chain hanging down the right hand wall). Ascend this, and follow the passage at the top "downstream" and turn right after a few metres into a hand and knees crawl. This soon drops drops into a larger passage. Turn right and follow this to another junction where you should take the right fork. This leads to a series of climbs facilitated by aluminium ladders and fixed ropes. You'll then find yourself at the bottom of a high rift where a couple of scaffold poles have been cemented into place. Looking up, you'll see daylight. A series of vertical wriggles reach the entrance lid, which can be easily lifted from the inside.
An absolutely cracking trip, taking about three hours.