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CARLSWARK CAVERN, Derbyshire

A small team was digging a passage in Carlswark Cavern in February 2001.  The dig had been going for about 6 months in a clay filled passage.  The diggers say that the passage does not look too hopeful on paper but it is enlarging and the feeling, when one is there, is far more optimistic that something new will be found.  

In 2006, the dig was resumed and Allan Berry reported as follows:

"We are digging in a passage very much like the rest of the cave system in that it has a fossil covered solid roof with water formed ?scolloped? sides.  I guess it would also have a calcite floor if we dug down far enough.  The passage would be easily crawling size if completely dug out however we are digging only enough to expose the solid roof and give ourselves enough digging room.  At the dig face, low down there is a layered sedimentary structure to the mud plug which indicates a fast moving stream in the past (this stuff is relatively easy to dig).  Further away from the floor this becomes more of a clay infill indicating a relatively fast blocking of the passage perhaps due to wash-in during flood (This is much harder to dig).  Good progress can be made in the dig with just two people and a roped up tray to remove the spoil.

From my own survey, and I guess Simon will have come to the same conclusions, we are approximately 4m past the current known end of rift sump.  i.e. We are into a blank area of the map.  This could potentially head anywhere but there is one more trip needed during the summer months in order to confirm whether the dig will turn back towards the lower sump (a different sump from rift sump).  This trip will involve caving part way up the lower sump to a chamber where a possible other end of our dig could emerge.  Very good weather is needed for this in order to drop the sump level.  We could then look at the passage emerging from this chamber part way through the sump.  All we can do here is to see if the passage is of similar dimensions, and similar structure (fossil roof and scalloped walls etc.) to the one we are digging.  Even if it does look as if the two will join, there is still a large area of unexplored cave between the two.

I have also been digging out some old miners writings and maps from the 1700s.  Here there are claims that Carlswark has two further entrances, one in Eyam Dale (undoubtedly the Eyam Dale Shaft entrance) and one in Foolow over 1.5 miles away.  The way through to Foolow has never been found although there are a number of smaller cave systems in between.

To be honest I expected our survey to show that we were simply bypassing the lower sump and I was prepared to be very disappointed.  However, I think the survey has actually done the opposite.  We now know that we are above rift sump and also past the limit of exploration of this sump.  The digging is not hard (as digs go) and we usually make good progress in the winter months.

I am putting together some further information on this system including historical references, maps, other known cave systems in the area, further survey data etc.

We are digging in a passage very much like the rest of the cave system in that it has a fossil covered solid roof with water formed ?scolloped? sides.  I guess it would also have a calcite floor if we dug down far enough.  The passage would be easily crawling size if completely dug out however we are digging only enough to expose the solid roof and give ourselves enough digging room.  At the dig face, low down there is a layered sedimentary structure to the mud plug which indicates a fast moving stream in the past (this stuff is relatively easy to dig).  Further away from the floor this becomes more of a clay infill indicating a relatively fast blocking of the passage perhaps due to wash-in during flood (This is much harder to dig).  Good progress can be made in the dig with just two people and a roped up tray to remove the spoil.

From my own survey, and I guess Simon will have come to the same conclusions, we are approximately 4m past the current known end of rift sump.  i.e. We are into a blank area of the map.  This could potentially head anywhere but there is one more trip needed during the summer months in order to confirm whether the dig will turn back towards the lower sump (a different sump from rift sump).  This trip will involve caving part way up the lower sump to a chamber where a possible other end of our dig could emerge.  Very good weather is needed for this in order to drop the sump level.  We could then look at the passage emerging from this chamber part way through the sump.  All we can do here is to see if the passage is of similar dimensions, and similar structure (fossil roof and scalloped walls etc.) to the one we are digging.  Even if it does look as if the two will join, there is still a large area of unexplored cave between the two.

I have also been digging out some old miners writings and maps from the 1700s.  Here there are claims that Carlswark has two further entrances, one in Eyam Dale (undoubtedly the Eyam Dale Shaft entrance) and one in Foolow over 1.5 miles away.  The way through to Foolow has never been found although there are a number of smaller cave systems in between.

To be honest I expected our survey to show that we were simply bypassing the lower sump and I was prepared to be very disappointed.  However, I think the survey has actually done the opposite.  We now know that we are above rift sump and also past the limit of exploration of this sump.  The digging is not hard (as digs go) and we usually make good progress in the winter months.

I am putting together some further information on this system including historical references, maps, other known cave systems in the area, further survey data etc."

Written 18 January 2006.

Anyone interested should contact Allan (send an e-mail to the Webmaster or Secretary).


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