Pit Props Passage Series, Speedwell Cavern

Begun March 2013, this project is producing a complete re-survey of this important section of the Peak-Speedwell system, actively exploring any leads we come across, whether mined or natural. Accessed by a flooded branch from the Far Canal, the system consists of pipe-workings, natural caverns and important archaeological evidence of unusual (for Castleton) sediment-mining techniques. The workings and caverns had not been documented up to this point apart from TSG logbook notes, and urgently needed a re-appraisal to determine their significance in terms of cave development and mining history. The relationship between the lower series and the long-lost Hurdlow Stile Mine on the surface above is also under investigation.

Documentation is ongoing, and will be published when appropriate, along with any discoveries. Several short sections of buried mine passage have recently been uncovered, along with an 18th-Century miner's pick. The natural caverns hint at interesting and somewhat different morphology to the rest of the Speedwell system. Some sections are extremely unstable (and potentially dangerous) at present, or very fragile, with delicate mining evidence and intact sediment layers. In the interests of safety and the integrity of our project, please do not touch any working areas or rigging without first contacting Wayne Sheldon or Phil Wolstenholme. Conservation measures, with safe and 'least-damage' rigging (to ensure proper access for the system described) will be recommended as an additional outcome of the work.

April 2015 - Volume 42 Issue 1 of Cave and Karst Science features a summarised exploration report and a new interim survey of the Pit Props system by Phil Wolstenholme and Wayne Sheldon respectively, with additional contributions on the cavern formation, sedimentation and mineralisation from geologists Trevor Ford, Richard Shaw and Noel Worley. More extensive documentation is in progress and will be published  at a later date.

Charley Cooley and Lisa Wootton in the loading-dock of the Pit Props branch canal. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.Charley Cooley and Lisa Wootton in the loading-dock of the Pit Props branch canal. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.

Christine Wilson, Wayne Sheldon, John Gunn and Lisa Wootton in Ford's Cavern, Pit Props Series. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.Christine Wilson, Wayne Sheldon, John Gunn and Lisa Wootton in Ford's Cavern, Pit Props Series. Photo: Phil Wolstenholme.