An unholy spat is developing between Derbyshire and North Yorkshire over whose cathedral-sized cavern is the best.
Within hours of the broadcast of the discovery of Britain’s biggest cave in the Peak District, the Yorkshire custodians hit back with a ‘who’s bothered about size anyway’ statement.
Right, the view from the top of Titan with Dave Nixon on the rope. The black hole at the bottom is The Event Horizon, which is only half way down.
Photo: Robbie Shone
The papers were full today of the news that Dave Nixon and his magic team of speleologists have discovered a massive 140m-deep cavern near the Devil’s Arsehole in the Derbyshire Peak. They’ve named the cave Titan. This beats by more than 50m the previous record holder Gaping Gill in the Yorkshire Dales. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) hit back in a fit of pique, saying it’s too dangerous for the public to get down.
The authority’s head of park management Jon Avison said: “The Titan cave may be bigger but it won’t be an attraction for members of the public like Gaping Gill is.
“Every year hundreds of people are lowered into the cave by the Craven and Bradford pothole clubs so they can enjoy it in all its majesty.
“But the Titan cavern is apparently so dangerous that only experienced cavers can get to it.
“That means that visitors still have more to see in the Yorkshire Dales National Park – so size isn’t everything after all.”
While grough has some sympathies with the Yorkshire cavers for being usurped by their southern rivals – we did descend into the impressive Gaping Gill, as you can see in our report – we’ve also seen the BBC Inside Out programme that shows Titan and it is, without doubt, of truly stupendous proportions.
Its 140m (459ft) main shaft could accommodate the London Eye; Gaping Gill is a mere St Paul’s Cathedral’s height. Dave Nixon does, however, concur that it’s not a place for the non-caving public. He says there are no plans to organise winch meets at the site. He said: “It’s too dangerous for that. The entrance is on private land and it’s very much a place for experienced cavers only.”
Oddly, Buxton-based Nixon’s team has known about the existence of this monster since it dug out the boulder choke leading to it in 1999. It’s been known about in caving circles since then but now, following all the publicity, the Titan team is reported to have gone into hiding.
The clues that led to the cavern’s existence were discovered by a caving enthusiast in the archives of Cambridge University. An 18th century account by James Plumtree of his journey into the lead mining canals at Speedwell which described a previously forgotten network of tunnels eventually led to the digging out of a route into a large chamber which was named Leviathan by the potholers. It took the team more than six years to excavate the passage which led to Titan. 39-year-old Nixon then ascended to the top of the cavern, taking six days, and realised its immense height.
The cavers have since sunk an access shaft from a shakehole in a farmer’s field to give easier access to the system from its top. The Derbyshire potholers are convinced there are more, yet undiscovered caverns yet to be discovered in the system.
Left, looking down Titan from The Event Horizon.
Photo: Robbie Shone
A spokesman for the Peak District National Park Authority said: "It's great news. It further cements the Peak District's reputation as a world-renowned centre for caving and climbing."