This has to be one of the most amazing things I have done so far on my photography exploration of Yorkshire. Gaping Gill, on the slopes of Ingleborough, north of the village of Clapham in the Yorkshire Dales, is one of the largest caves in Britain. It is accessible to the general public for just two weeks a year, one at the end of May and one at the end of August. The entrance into the cave is not for the faint hearted: strapped into a chair, you are winched down into the cavern through a waterfall. For me, this was part of the attraction and was an incredible experience!
I set off on the hike to the cave at 6.30am for the opening time of 8am (see the practicalities section below for details of how to get there). The cave is very popular and so an early arrival is recommended. It had been raining a lot over the last couple of days and was raining steadily the morning I visited. I think this put a few people off, so I was lucky to be number 2 in the queue. Once I had checked in, paid, donned a hard hat and was given my tag, I chatted with the other visitors who were arriving. There was a sense of excitement amongst everyone.
As it had been raining recently, the beck that pours over the entrance to the cave was in full flow. Although I was wearing a waterproof jacket, I also opted for the heavy duty caving waterproofs on offer. Before long, it was my turn to descend. Climbing down the ladders and gantry set up over the cave entrance, I was strapped into the winch chair. My tripod and camera bag were also strapped to the chair (warning – make sure your camera bag is either waterproof or has a waterproof cover over it!). The descent takes only a minute but was so much fun. You go right through the cascading waters of Fell Beck, initially really close to the cave wall, before it opens into the main chamber. On landing they then unstrap you from the chair and you are free to explore.
It took a little while to adjust to the light but it did not take long to appreciate the scale of the cave and the thunderous sound of the waterfalls crashing down onto the floor. I moved off to the side away from the spray (as much as was possible) to try my first photos. A head torch helped to set up and check settings on the camera. A mud flat worked as a good platform for a selfie as well!
I really wanted to try some shots of the winch chair. This proved very difficult as it moves so quickly and I struggled to get the shutter speed fast enough, even with the ISO set to 10,000. The best one I think is the photo at the top of this post, but the below shows how you get into the cave:
If you are able, I highly recommend visiting Gaping Gill. From both a photography and adventure perspective, it is just so much fun! I will be back in August, hopefully when it’s a little drier so I can try a few more photos. Here are some more shots from my visit:
|Approximate post code (for sat nav)||LA2 8HH (for the parking)|
|Parking||There is a National Park car park in the village of Clapham for the start of the trail. Parking charges apply (£4.50 at the time of writing). Please see the Yorkshire Dales National Park car parking page for current rates|
|Entrance fees||There is a charge for the descent (return included!) into Gaping Gill. At the time of writing this is £15 per person. See the Bradford Potholing Club (May) or Craven Potholing Club (August) websites for the latest fees. There is also a small charge for the Nature Trail from the village (£1 per person at the time of writing)|
|Recommended items to bring||Waterproofs, waterproof shoes, head torch or other good torch, waterproof camera bag/cover, tripod, wide angle lens, water/food (there are no food facilities)|
|Directions||From the car park in Clapham village, walk up through the village to the start of the Ingleborough Nature Trail.
The path is wide and easy to follow all the way up to Ingleborough Cave. Carry on past the cave (at this point it narrows and becomes rockier). The path will turn to the left and then you will reach Trow Gill. Scramble up the rocks to the top:The path continues up Ingleborough, following a stone wall. Eventually you come to a double stile in the wall on your left – go over the stile and across the flat grassland.The entrance to Gaping Gill is then ahead of you on your left. It took me an hour to walk there from the start of the trail, but it may take longer (the sign at the start suggests 70 minutes).
|Website||Bradford Potholing Club (May): http://www.bpc-cave.org.uk/wp/gaping-gill/
Craven Potholing Club (August): http://www.gapinggill.org/
This is the location of Gaping Gill:
This is the location of the car park in Clapham village:
Notes for next time
- Come on a drier day to get some shots nearer the cave entrance
- Bring better cloths to clear water spray from the lens!