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The Malham Dig

The Malham Dig

2023-03-23 03:54:16

pages beneath are underneath growth and might be up to date regularly.
All pictures are from the writer’s assortment except in any other case acknowledged.
Click on on picture for bigger view, again house to return.

The “Malham Dig”, “The Craven Dig”, or “Waterfall’s Folly”, as some cynics known as it, was arguably the best potholing dig within the Dales, definitely of the late Nineteen Forties and early Fifties.
A big stream sink, an equally massive resurgence, and a few 400 toes of unbroken limestone had been the substances for a scheme to unveil an enormous cave system hidden behind the stony facade of Malham Cove.

It was no folly, in actual fact it was a rigorously conceived venture engineered by Arnold Waterfall and Dennis Brindle. Enthusiastically taken up by different members of the Craven Pothole Membership, the venture was deserted in 1952 when at a depth of some 90 toes the amount and nature of the fill was discovered to be fairly overwhelming.


“Left: A big stream sink” – takes the waters from Malham Tarn: that is the situation of ‘The Malham Dig” of 1952. December 22, 2015.

“Proper: 400 toes of unbroken limestone.” – Malham Cove in summer time.

June 14 2009.

Left: Tarn Sink in regular circumstances, that is the purpose nearest the Tarn at which the water sinks. In occasions of flood the stream travels an extra 360m to sink on the location of “The Malham Dig”: see above left and adjoining image.
March 27, 2016.

Proper: The true location of “The Malham Dig” is outlined by the big rocky scar on the hill, higher a part of the image, seen in 1952 Image 9 within the mono collection decrease down.

March 27 2016.

Left: In excessive water ranges the primary move of water from the tarn sinks partly to the west of this wall however the majority flows by means of the wall to sink in a pronounced hole on the east aspect of the wall.
January 1, 2005.

Proper: This picture, by Geoffrey Bingley of Leeds, is from Howarth 1900 (reverse web page 25, see References beneath) reveals the identical location from the east aspect of the wall. A goodly move of water is sinking on this rocky basin.

c 1899.

Left: The primary rising at Malham Cove.
August 8, 2007.

Proper: The divers’ entry protected by a grid for security of the general public.
June 17, 2015


View from Chapel Fell trying over Tarn Moss and Malham Tarn in the direction of Nice Shut Hill.
March 10, 2016


Tarn outlet and sluice, Nice Shut Hill within the background.
March 10, 2016


Smelt Mill Beck and the outdated smelt mill chimney.
March 10, 2016


Smelt Mill Sink.
March 10, 2016


The catchment for Smelt Mill Beck.
March 10, 2016


Aire Heads the place one of many two spring sources meet up with Malham Beck, on the proper, to type the true River Aire. The springs are near the tree proper of centre.
March 10, 2016

Aire Heads, the actual supply of the River AIre, in accordance with some, the place the waters simply come up out of the bottom from two sources shut collectively: that is the bigger spring.
April 21, 2016

Waterhouses Rising, one in all a number of feeders to the Tarn

Arnold Waterfall

In early 1990 I known as on Arnold Waterfall at his Draughton house with a Membership publication, as I had performed many occasions earlier than. He was ailing in mattress: “one thing was consuming away at his inside”, he informed me, however, as ever, he was eager to listen to the newest caving information and to be taught who was doing what. He gave me a field of papers, maps and images and requested me to take care of them as they is perhaps helpful some day. He was effectively conscious that we had been unlikely to satisfy once more.

It was Arnold’s spouse Phyllis who informed me that Arnold and Dennis Brindle had been master-minds behind the good “Malham Dig”: it was their brainchild, they began it they usually enthused many others.
     Arnold had performed his homework and, within the 1949 CPC Journal, he outlined the historical past
of research on this most fascinating of speleological challenges. This coated pioneering work by the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society who organised dye assessments from varied sinks excessive on the moor to the 2 principal identified risings at Malham Cove and at Aire Head Springs.

The good “Malham DIg” was began in 1949 and that story is informed slightly additional down. When the excercise got here to an finish it was Arnold who made positive that every thing was left so as.
In 1954 the opening had been coated over for a while however there was an issue with passers-by throwing wallstones down between the boards. When Arnold learnt {that a} native farmer had an highly effective earth mover close by, he employed it for the day, for £5, and had the opening utterly crammed in and landscaped. On the next Saturday, late July 1954 I believe, after I known as in at Arnold’s store in Skipton, he requested me to hitch him as he went as much as Malham to ensure the job had been performed correctly.

The sketch beneath created by Arnold illustrates the concepts (goals) in thoughts on the time.

The examine space

The sketch map beneath, Fig. 1, reveals the disposition of the assorted related options. On this predominantly limestone nation, Malham Tarn lies on an impermeable mattress of Silurian basement rock because of the the presence of the Craven faults just a bit option to the south. The North Craven Fault passes some 200m to the south of the Tarn and displaces the strata some150-200m right down to the south. Lower than 2km to the south of that characteristic the Center Craven Fault has resulted in an extra displacement to the south of one other 200m or so. Nevertheless the vertical displacement varies significantly alongside the course of those geological upheavals. The web result’s a thickness of some 200m of limestone, with that related to the examine of the Tarn Sinks approximating to some 130m, or 400ft as talked about within the introduction.

The character of the geology on this space is by no means easy. Alongside the zone between the North Craven Fault and the Center Craven Fault there are quite a few subsidiary fracture strains usually disposed in a SE-NW orientation: this association is proven in Determine 2.

Within the introduction to his paper of 1900 (see beneath) Howarth very succinctly summarises the geology of the instant space, as follows:

From the valley of the Ribble by Stainforth, Neals Ing, Capon Corridor, and Malham Tarn runs a protracted strip of Higher Silurian rocks which die out underneath the Carboniferous Limestone simply eastwards of Higher Gordale the place the beck leaves the moor and takes to the gorge.

This strip is introduced up by the North Craven Fault, and its southern edge is sharply marked by the road of fault and could also be simply traced the entire distance. On the north this strip is bounded by the overlying Carboniferous Limestone, which has been very inconsistently denuded and presents a protracted sinuous entrance to the Silurian, right here rising into sharp escarpments as at Nice Shut and behind Malham Tarn Home, and there receding in lengthy mild slopes as on Chapel Fell, Knowe Fell, and about West Aspect Home.

In a line throughout by Neals Ing and Cattrigg the Silurian is almost two miles extensive, half a mile west, of Capon Corridor if narrows to zero, widens to a couple of. mile at Malham Tarn, and narrows once more to the place it disappears eastwards close to Gordale Beck.

The world into consideration is included in a line drawn from close to Capon Corridor on the west, Knowe Fell on the southerly aspect of Fountains Fell on the north, spherical by Center, Home and East Nice Shut (underneath Laborious Flask) to Excessive Stoney Financial institution on the east, and Kirkby Malham within the Aire Valley on the south. This space kinds the higher watershed of the River Aire.

What occurs is that this. All of the rainfall on the limestone on the north aspect of the Silurian, and several other springs which stand up the slopes of Knowe Fell in the direction of Gentleman’s Gate and Fountains Fell, sink information the limestone and are dropped at the floor once more on the fringe of the Silurian rocks that are tilted at a excessive angle. These waters move throughout the Silurian rocks, both in streams or by means of Malham Tarn, solely to sink once more on reaching the limestone on the south aspect.

To this rule Gordale Beck has been regarded hitherto as the one exception, but it surely now transpires that Gordale stream is simply partially an exception, and is itself present process absorption into the limestone. These waters, sinking south of the North Craven Fault, reappear beneath the good escarpments about Malham and Gordale shaped by the Mid Craven Fault, with all of the rainfall and is derived on the limestone space mendacity between the 2 strains of fault. The limestone on the south aspect of the Silurian absorbs all floor waters simply as if does on the north aspect.

The geological part beneath, marked on the above sketch map as ‘Line of Part’, extra graphically illustrates the complexity of the bottom across the Craven faults highlighting the strata related to the Tarn Sinks conundrum.

The photographs beneath illustrate how the strata is affected by these geological upheavals.

Indisputably, the problem stays as to how the motion of underground waters on this space could also be defined.


Left: vertical strata on the west aspect of a usually dry gorge on the entry of Tarn SInks Valley to Watlowes dry valley close to Comb Hill. March 27, 2016 (12a)

Equally, on the alternative aspect of the gorge to above.
March 27, 2016 (13a)


Just a few metres larger up, a major fracture zone is seen to the proper of centre on this scene.
March 27, 2016 (15a)


A big crush zone is seen within the central space of this scene.
March 27, 2016 (17a)

The south-west dealing with aspect of Comb Hill is effectively uncovered right here displaying undistorted strata. October 25, 2015 (08)

The usually dry valley from the Tarn Water Sinks right down to Watlowes Dry Valley ends fairly dramatically on the Dry Fall. That is an fascinating free climb for the adventurous.When water ranges are exceptionally excessive the tarn waters attain this level and have been identified sink in a pool on the foot of the autumn
April 21, 2016

Earlier work

Lord Ribblesdale of Tarn Home and subsequently William Morrison had proven nice curiosity within the the phenomenon of the disappearing Tarn waters, as had the famous Malham schoolteacher Thomas Hurtley (1768) and others. Moreover, an earlier member of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society
had additionally spent a while making an attempt to unravel the peculiarities of the sources of the River Aire. (Tate T, 1879 and 1895).
   It was not till the pioneering work of 1899 by co-operation between the British Affiliation and the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society (Howarth J H, 1900) that dependable conclusions had been established.

1) that flood water on the Tarn Sinks reached Airehead Springs in 90 minutes, and:

2) flood water at Streets Smelt Mill Sinks took 130 minutes to succeed in the rising on the foot of Malham Cove.

     There have been different choices one in all which involved the potential resurgence for water sinking on the Calamine Mine washing flooring on Pikedaw 2km to the south-west.

They discovered additionally that:

1. locals knew the distinction between the darker colored water resurging from the Cove and clear ‘petrifying’ water at Aire Heads.

2. water from the Cove always discoloured because of air pollution from Streets Smelt Mills, or from the mines on Pikedaw.

In earlier years a number of makes an attempt had been made to resolve the thriller of the underground water programs. In 1890 Professor Sylvanus Thompson had launched 1 1/4 kilos uranin into one in all Tarn SInks While the BA and YGPS had been engaged on the difficulty they tried out a number of assessments various from introducing salt, flood pulses, alcoholic answer of fluorescein, ammonium sulphate, fluorescein in 10 % aqueous potassium carbonate, one ton of salt in Smelt Mill SInk, 7 cwt ammonium sulphate into Higher Gordale Beck, 18cwt salt into “burst “on aspect of Cawden and many others and many others.

Ensuing from all this two digs had been undertaken at Tarn Sinks, one by the British Affiliation that ended at a depth of 12 toes, and one by the Yorkshire Ramblers Membership that went right down to 18 toes. (A number of members of the Yorkshire Ramblers had beforehand been related to the 2 above talked about our bodies).

The Malham Dig

Summarising Arnold Waterfall’s Journal experiences, we be taught that in

1946 the ‘Queensbury Lads’, (the Spencer brothers Invoice and James, along with Eric Mild), began digging down to realize a depth of 27 toes earlier than abandoning the dig. Late in 1948, Dennis Brindle, Invoice Farrow, Brian Hartley and and Arnold Waterfall began once more, however a long way additional down the Tarn Sinks valley, on the level that takes water solely in flood circumstances. “Turf was eliminated and the sting of a filled-in pothole was uncovered’.
15 toes down some very massive boulders, far too massive to deal with… some jelly was utilized.
At 20 foot degree a gap went on the east aspect, “the passage flooring, boulder-strewn (every boulder being white with deposit) descended steeply”… ended at a 20 foot aven.
A 3 leg derrick crane was erected (on mortgage from Mr Longbottom’s yard at Gragrave), and an outdated winch was given by an area farmer… materials in layers of packed sand, and gravel, straightforward rubble, massive boulders, the order being repeated many occasions… amongst the boulders had been many waterworn rocks which will need to have been trundled down by a a lot bigger stream.

At 40 toes a small gap was uncovered underneath west wall, robust draught, which blew up by means of the ground,
about this time a big mass of tufa was unearthed and had be be damaged up into small items every weighing over 2cwt,
flooring degree right now. 50 toes from the floor.

From Arnold’s CPCJ 1952 account:
Laborious work, speedy progress, shaft started to widen, “at 60 toes down, sooner or later while I used to be working alone I heard a stone roll on the Tarn finish and, with a crowbar I made a gap massive sufficient to get by means of. Squeezing between boulders I slipped down right into a small chamber the place I used to be in a position to sit up and go searching…
… a strong wall 10 toes away and a crawl led spherical to the Cove finish of the chamber.

To decrease the shaft by 12 inches would imply 8 occasions as a lot work”.

In the beginning of this 12 months (1952) GG tools moved to the shaft, – no extra hand winding… a earlier mortgage of winch from Stoke-0n-Trent Pothole Membership proved energy was inadequate for our wants.

At peak of endeavour bringing out 6 tons per day – making little impression – bumped into hassle as soon as extra, western wall consisted of rubble and at 10 toes excessive started to fall which meant extra particles to maneuver.

Some very huge floods swept down the opening however no signal of backing up of waters. nonetheless probability of a breakthrough.
Now in collection similar to base of Comb Scar.

Round this time: ‘try to dive Malham Cove in frogmens’ fits, stream mattress lowered and obtained underneath rock arch”.

CPCJ 1953: inset images present ”
When the frogmen got here to Malham Cove” A Butcher.

Derbyshire Part of Cave Diving Group, Might 1953, after 70 toes turned to low”

Arnold Waterfall was a concientious and orderly recorder in all his affairs, not least the workings of the Malham Dig. The sketches beneath present a file of the dig from early beginnings to the state of affairs in April 1951 though actions did proceed into later within the 12 months.

The Albert Mitchell archives

The pictures beneath had been amongst many monochrome glass slides discovered amongst Arnold Waterfall’s assortment and in one other assortment of monochrome movie negatives handed to the writer by Albert Mitchell’s widow, Doris.

These pictures inform their very own story however some have particulars given to the writer by Edgar Smith. It’s possible that every one these pictures had been taken by Albert Mitchell.


1. The earliest days.


2. A bit of additional on however nonetheless hauling spoil out with a rope and bucket, sat on a plank.


3. Nonetheless digging by means of the winter.


4. Now with a 3 legs and pulley.


5. Jeep rolls up probably with GG winch on board.


6. The spoil heap will get greater, observe simply seen is the hand operated winch on a body.


7. All arms to the winch.


8. Some massive chunks of rock got here out, Norman Brindle centre image.


9. Rhodes Thompson to the proper carrying a beret.


10. Unknown determine on the rope ladder


11. Dennis Brindle appropriately tying two rope ladders collectively, reef knot with two half hitches both sides. Word bicycles in opposition to the wall. It was not unusual for the Brindles to cycle as much as the dig from Nelson.


12. Down within the backside of the dig, appears like Arthur Hardy, Arnold Waterfall and Dennis Brindle finding out a tangle of ladder – a frequent occasion in these days.

See Also


13. Untangling the ladder on the floor.


14. Lifelining


15. The builders crane from Gargrave has now come into operation


16. The dimensions of operations could be seen right here.


17. Tom Jones on the winch, Invoice Bowler within the bucket. Invoice Bowler got here to fame because the final man out of Gaping Gill earlier than meets had been suspended on the outbreak of WW2.


18. This reveals fairly clearly the operation of the builder’s crane, and likewise hassle with the winch.


19. & 20. Extra hassle with the winch from two viewpoints.


21. Arnold Waterfall left, and Albert Smith proper watch
the final bucket to return out of the dig: finish of operations.

In 1953 members of BSA instigated a collection of 16mm movies underneath the path of Eli SImpson (see References 11). This clip from the collection reveals the Malham Dig website after operations had ceased and earlier than the positioning was cleared in July 1954.
Due to John Cordingley for this data.

The Divers

“When the Frogmen got here to Malham Cove” was the title of an article within the Craven Pothole Membership Journal for 1953
whereby Arthur Butcher described an try to penetrate the Cove waters by the Derbyshire Part of the Cave Diving Group. CPC members spent a while clearing out boulders from the rising in preparation for the try.

The editor of the 1954 Yorkshire Ramblers Membership Journal summed it up admirably:

In Might 1953
Ample boulders had been eliminated by the Craven Potholers to allow two unnamed Cave Diving Group males to crawl beneath a cave six toes underneath water and stroll. A cave stretched left and proper however at 70 toes forward the roof develop into too low for crawling”.

The identical author famously summed up the Craven efforts as having “given a lot damaging data to science”.

On this event a few CPC members had a go at making an attempt their arms at this cave diving thought. Simply how far they obtained has not but been recorded, (footage beneath).



Images by Arthur Butcher


 Left: Dialogue time with Arthur Smith centre determine.


John Normington (left) and Hector Dickens (proper) have a go within the ‘Frogmen’ fits.

Newer work

Malham Cove Rising: John Cordingley’s survey beneath reveals the extent of current day data and surprisingly it appears to slot in effectively with Arnold Waterfall’s prediction for a serious cave on the foot of the cove. Virtually a mile of submerged passage have been explored and at the moment John and his colleagues are nonetheless pursuing digs on the finish of the system. Additional particulars could also be present in John’s glorious abstract of labor up to now: “CDG Gallery 5: Malham Cove”. This can be seen on the Cave Diving Group web site (see Ref beneath).

A big query to be answered is whether or not or not this rising is from a very ‘phreatic’ passage or from a ‘vadose’ passage later flooded by fallen rock and scree damming up the move of water. There can be huge portions of glacial meltwaters crashing by means of the faulted strata mentioned above ample to type a big vadose streamway, alongside a line of weak spot resembling a shale band.

Cordingley’s present view is that a lot of the underwater passages are of phreatic origin:

“* The entire cave shaped underneath phreatic circumstances and the entire cave continues to be phreatic in nature.
* Briefly, earlier than the primary Devensian ice advance, a really small proportion of the identified passage turned vadose (permitting small speleothems to type: see photograph beneath proper).
* This small space of the cave would nonetheless be vadose immediately had been it not for the later talus accumulation on the foot of the Cove.
* However the entire cave ought to nonetheless be regarded usually as a phreatic system.”

In 1996 a concerted effort was made to determine some baselines as to the assorted routes taken by the underground waters.
This work is effectively summarised in “Malham Space Water Testing Might 1996 Dye Tracing Outcomes” (see references). Sadly this venture, while yielding a lot priceless data, contributed little to the furtherance of cave exploration within the examine space. Nevertheless ‘digging fever” was aroused and perhaps “Caverns Measureless to Man” will some day be revealed.






  1. Tate T, 1879, ‘The supply of the River Aire’. Proc. Yorks. Geol. Poly. Soc.7, 177-81

  2. Tate T, 1895, ‘The Malham Dry River Mattress’. Proc. Yorks. Geol. Poly.  Soc.13, 58-63.

  3. Howarth J H,  1900,
    ‘The Underground Waters of North West Yorkshire: Half 1 The Supply of the River Aire’,  Proc. Yorks. Geol. Poly.  Soc.  14 (1) 1-44

  4. Waterfall A C,1949 ‘The Malham Moor Sinks’. CPCJ 1.1 4-6

  5. Waterfall A C,1952 ‘The Malham “Dig’. CPCJ 1.4 197-198

  6. Thomas Hurtley 1786, ‘Pure Curiosities of the Environs of Malham-in-Craven’.

  7. Butcher A L 1953, ‘When the Frogmen got here to Malham Cove’. CPCJ 1.5 photograph insert.

  8. Anon 1954. YRCJ 1954 ‘Cave Explorations
    – Malham Cove dive’.

  9. Cave Diving Group web site could also be discovered at:

  10. Malham Space Water Testing Might 1996 Dye Tracing Outcomes:
    YSS et al: The Craven Pothole Membership Report 50 April 1998 pages 19 to 32.


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