Wharfedale Wanders. Day 5: Underground.

(Buckden, North Yorkshire)

30 September 2022

Woke up as my brain processed the sound of an electric drill being used as a screwdriver, to assemble what sounded like scaffolding at the back of our wall. My brain also processed that it didn’t sound like it was raining as hard as was forecast. I read my book for a bit before climbing the stairs to the living room. However, as I prepared breakfast burritos the rain came back, so the forecast appeared to be right after all.

Given the rain, we decided to seek shelter in a cave for the day…or, more precisely, in some caverns and so, after a gentle morning, we drove half an hour to Stump Cross Caverns. The road from here to Grasmere is very twisty and bumpy, and was enough to make me feel just a little bit motion sick, so Andrew pulled over in Grasmere and I took over the driving – I’m much better when I’m in control!

Once at the cavern, we were given an induction and brief explanation of how the caves formed, what we could see and how to find our way around and, importantly, back out. We were then equipped with (very necessary) hard hats, a white light torch and a UV torch and dispatched down into the cave. We spent about an hour wandering around, trying not to hit our heads, marvelling at the formations, stalactites and stalagmites, and illuminating the calcite with our UV torch. About three quarters of a mile of caverns are available for exploration, 40 feet below ground. The cave system extends around four and a half miles, 200 feet or more below ground, but the lower depths are submerged and all require proper caving equipment and a level of knowledge and expertise that we don’t have and aren’t likely to acquire.

After all that exploring we decided to have lunch at the caverns in their Time cafe, before driving back.

It wasn’t raining much as we walked to the car, but after just a few minutes of driving we were in the middle of a squall, with sheets of rain blowing sideways across wet and flooded roads. Andrew dropped me off outside a grocery shop and I nipped in to get pizza for dinner. I then took over the driving for the twisty bit back to the cottage or, more precisely, back to the car park, where we plugged in to charge the car up for our trip home tomorrow.

And that’s about it for today. A quiet evening in. Andrew retrieved the car while I cooked tea and, whilst it wasn’t raining, there is no chance of spotting the space station (as we did last night), no Jupiter spotting, and just one last sleep before we need to pack up and depart – no lie in tomorrow!

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