MEMBERS of the Craven Pothole Club have been retrieving rubbish which was littering the bottom of the Buttertubs potholes. Here Matt Ewles, of the Council of Northern Caving Clubs, shares more of the details.



The Buttertubs Pass that crosses from Hawes in Wensleydale to Thwaite in Swaledale is one of Yorkshire’s most scenic and iconic spots and finest roads. It is a stunning karst landscape of hills, valley, and waterfalls, and enjoyed by thousands of walkers and cyclists each year, particularly since it featured so prominently in the 2014 Tour-de-France Grand Depart.

A less-well known feature are the Buttertubs themselves, a series of 20m deep potholes in the limestone near to the road, which give the pass its name.

The Buttertubs are formed in the same way as many of the more extensive caves systems of the Yorkshire Dales, by the dissolving action of water on the limestone. Thousands of visitors each year must surely peer into these pots (from a safe distance and with extreme caution please) and ponder what lies down them.

Experienced cavers can, with relative ease, make a descent to admire the view in the opposite direction, although anyone planning a longer adventure will be disappointed to find there are no passages leading off from the bottom.

Many people associate caves and caving with the south western edge of the Yorkshire Dales (around Ingleton). It is true that this area has the greatest concentration of extensive cave systems, including the Three Counties System which is the longest in the UK and spans the Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire borders. However, Swaledale and Wensleydale are not without some splendid caves.

Just a few hundred metres from The Buttertubs is Cliff Force Cave, a 2km long stream cave requiring caving experience to safely explore. Further along Wensleydale, high up on Blue Scar, lies Thackthwaite Beck Cave, and further along Swaledale is the well-known Crackpot Cave.

During May, members of the Craven Pothole Club (CPC) were cycling in the area and were disappointed to peer down The Buttertubs and see the bottom of the pots badly littered. Not wanting other visitors to have to see such a sad sight they decided to arrange a clear-up session.

The team from CPC attended on June 2 in stunning sunshine, and quickly rigged ropes to descend the pots. Ample amounts of smaller litter was cleared from the various crevices and undergrowth, plus some car tyres. A rather more challenging task was a truck tyre, which required a complex rope hauling system to be established.

This work was supported by the Council of Northern Caving Clubs (CNCC), the regional body for caving in the north of England and Scotland. They are a volunteer-run organisation who undertake, fund and support similar conservation initiatives, as well as organising caver training events, facilitating cave access, and providing other resources.

Thanks must also go to North Yorkshire Council which was extremely supportive and happy to collect the rubbish from the roadside.

Hats off to CPC members Ian Patrick, Lin Patrick, Derek Monk and John Helm from their proactivity to tackle this cleanup before the summer wave of visitors arrive. The CPC is one of the longest-established caving clubs in northern England, founded in 1929, and now with well over 200 members from all over the world. Like several of the larger clubs in the area, they benefit from owning their own bunkbarn in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, and their members are frequently found exploring the hundreds of magnificent cave systems in our region, or around the world.

You can obtain lots more information about caving in the north of England, including reports on other conservation initiatives at or by contacting for more information.

Interested in caving?

Caving is a rewarding pastime through which you will get to see some of the most spectacular sights on earth that are hidden from view for most people (some of which are right on our doorstep). For many people, it becomes a life-long hobby with strong friendships. As well as visiting known caves, many people are actively involved in finding and exploring new caves, or, as these volunteers at The Buttertubs have shown, conserving existing ones.

If caving is something you have considered getting involved with, but you have never found the right opportunity, the training section of the CNCC website ( includes a ’new to caving’ area with useful information including upcoming opportunities and taster sessions run by volunteers from local clubs.

These sessions are not intended as group experience days, but rather as dedicated opportunities for individuals who are keen to explore caving as a new hobby to learn more about the sport, try it out and meet some new contacts.

This is a relatively new initiative. The first session ran successfully back in February. At the time of writing, there are at least two more dates listed on the CNCC website for Autumn, hosted via various local clubs. Anyone keen to join one of these events will need to register as soon as possible to secure a space.