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Page 1

Karst and caves of
Great Britain

Page 2


The comparatively small land area of Great Britain contains an unrivalled sequence of
rocks, mineral and fossil deposits, and a variety of landforms that span much of the earth's
long history. Well-documented ancient volcanic episodes, famous fossil sites and sedimen-
tary rock sections used internationally as comparative standards, have given these islands
an importance out of all proportion to their size. The long sequences of strata and their
organic and inorganic contents have been studied by generations of leading geologists,
thus giving Britain a unique status in the development of the science. Many of the divi-
sions of geological time used throughout the world are named after British sites or areas,
for instance, the Cambrian, Ordovician and Devonian systems, the Ludlow Series and the
Kimmeridgian and Portlandian stages.

The Geological Conservation Review (GCR) was initiated by the Nature Conservancy
Council in 1977 to assess, document and ultimately publish accounts of the most impor-
tant parts of this rich heritage. Since 1991, the task of publication has been assumed by
the Joint Nature Conservation Committee on behalf of the three country agencies, English
Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales. The GCR series
of volumes will review the current state of knowledge of the key earth-science sites in
Great Britain and provide a firm basis on which site conservation can be founded in years
to come. Each GCR volume will describe and assess networks of sites of national or inter-
national importance in the context of a portion of the geological column, or a geological,
palaeontological or mineralogical topiC. The full series of 42 volumes will be published by
the year 2000.

Within each individual volume, every GCR locality is described in detail in a self-con-
tained account, consisting of highlights (a precis of the special interest of the site), an
introduction (with a concise history of previous work), a description, an interpretation
(assessing the fundamentals of the site's scientific interest and importance), and a conclu-
sion (written in simpler terms for the non-specialist). Each site report is a justification of a
particular scientific interest at a locality, of its importance in a British or international set-
ting and ultimately of its worthiness for conservation.

The aim of the Geological Conservation Review series is to provide a public record of
the features of interest in sites being considered for notification as Sites of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSIs). It is written to the highest scientific standards but in such a way
that the assessment and conservation value of the site is clear. It is a public statement of
the value given to our geological and geomorphological heritage by the earth-science
community which has participated in its production, and it will be used by the Joint
Nature Conservation Committee, English Nature, the Countryside Council for Wales and
Scottish Natural Heritage in carrying out their conservation functions. The three country
agencies are also active in helping to establish sites of local and regional importance.
Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites (RIGS) augment the SSSI cover-
age, with local groups identifying and conserving sites which have educational, historical,
research or aesthetic value, enhancing the wider earth science conservation perspective.

All the sites in this volume have been proposed for notification as SSSIs; the final deci-
sion to notify, or renotify, lies with the governing Councils of the appropriate country
conservation agency.

Information about the GCR publication programme may be obtained from:

Earth Science Branch,
Joint Nature Conservation Committee,
Monkstone House,
City Road,
Peterborough PEl 1JY.

Page 180

The Peak District karst

are also about 12 m deep. All four dolines have
been almost totally excavated, to reveal rock
walls, with rock saddles and pinnacles exposed
between them (Figure 4.14). Some of the original
Tertiary sands and the overlying Quaternary loess
deposits remain preserved in the walls of the
southern doline and along the margins of the
northern dolines. The floors of the dolines are
now obscured by vegetation, tyre dumps or
slumped sediment.

Boulter et al. (1971) examined the Tertiary
deposits preserved in the solution hollows of
south Derbyshire and termed them the
Brassington Formation. This was subdivided into
three members:

Kenslow Member plant-bearing clays c. 6 m

Bees Nest Member coloured clays

Kirkham Member sand and gravel



The Kirkham Member consists largely of white,
fluvial, cross-bedded sands with many quartzite
pebbles, reworked from the conglomerates of the
Triassic Sherwood Sandstone Group (formerly
known as the Bunter Pebble Beds). The Bees Nest
Member is dominated by red, yellow and white

escarpment ofTri;lssic sandstone

clays, and the Kenslow Member is mainly grey
clays, with abundant fossil plant debris. The sedi-
ments are generally folded into small synclines, as
a result of sagging into the collapsing dolines in
the limestone. Commonly these fluvial deposits
are underlain by remnants of the Namurian Edale
shales and up to 5 m of angular chert gravels,
derived from solution ofthe chert-rich limestones.
Parts of the Brassington Formation are present in
at least 60 of the limestone depressions, but there
is no complete sequence in the Green Lane Pits. A
small thickness of glacial till covers the Pliocene
sands in some of the Brassington pits, and this
shows evidence of sagging through continued
subsurface solution.


The doline deposits were long regarded as features
of a fossil karst surface with Triassic sands uncon-
formably overlain by Tertiary clays (Kent, 1957),
until Ford and King (1969) recognized that the
Kirkham Member was a Tertiary deposit derived
from Triassic conglomerates. The stratigraphy and
paleobotany of the deposits were examined by


Bra singlon Formation

~~;~.~~~.~:.~~~.~~~. :. ~·l-,·'-i-·-:~;~-!:;P--~-/~--J-· :I;:!-:-'~---i' -:-I-~I'--;,I-:-<>~:I" ~: :"'~':i'''!---'~''--~-~' - '~' :Q!-:~" ~O~-'_ ~' ' ~-~--- .~--:o~-~. 2~c~h;e:rt~g:'r.I"els

~ . .. . . .. . . .. . . . . . .. . .. . . . . . . . . .. .. . .. . . .. . . .. . .. .. . .. . . .. . .. .


karst plateau.
stripped by glaciation

remnants of glacial till in subsidence hollows
Bras ington Formation coUapsed into sinkholes



Figure 4.15 Diagrammatic sections of two stages in the formation of the Brassington Formation and their preserva-
tion in the collapse dolines in the limestone (after Ford, 1984).


Page 181

Masson Hill caves

Boulter (1971) and Boulter et al. (1971), who
recorded 60 species of plant from the Kenslow
Member, including Sphagnum and logs of
Sequoia; they inferred an early Pliocene environ-
ment of a sandy heathland with scattered ponds.

The implications of the doline deposits for the
paleogeographic history of upland Britain were
recognized by Walsh et al. (1972), who regarded
the subsidence outliers as small relics of a once
continuous sheet of sands and clays. They calcu-
lated that subsidence of the Brassington Formation
into collapse dolines, such as those at Green Lane,
was in the order of 200 m. This indicated that the
highest beds of the Brassington Formation were
deposited at an altitude around 460 m. Thus the
limestone block has been uplifted, during the
Pliocene, by up to 250 m relative to the Triassic
source areas at elevations around 240 m to the
south; the uplift was probably much less than
250 m as the source could have been Triassic
rocks once overlapped onto higher parts of the
limestone upland. Paleocurrent structures in the
Kirkham Member confirm the southerly prove-
nance of the sands (Walsh et al., 1980), while SEM
analysis of the quartz grains suggested a short dis-
tance, low-energy fluvial regime with little
chemical weathering (Wilson, 1979).

The synclinal bedding in the sediments pre-
served in the Green Lane Pits indicates that most
of the limestone solution was underground, and
was followed by progressive collapse and upward
stoping of the voids (Figure 4.15). The Neogene
sediments subsided into the dolines when the cav-
ity roofs finally failed and dropped onto the
accumulated piles of fallen debris. At some sites,
they were later covered by glacial till which has
been slightly disturbed by subsidence, indicating
continued solution at depth. The collapse must
postdate the initiation of a major karst drainage
system, which produced the solution cavities.
This was probably initiated following the incision
of a major valley which provided the hydraulic
head needed to start underground circulation. The
dolines at Green Lane admirably show the nature
of the solution during late Tertiary times.


The dolines exposed in the Green Lane Pits show
the limestone morphology better than any other
similar feature in Derbyshire. They provide an
excellent example of this type of large-scale
Tertiary solution and collapse feature. The sedi-


ments preserved in the dolines, and in 60 other
similar pocket deposits, represent an important
component in the Tertiary geomorphic evolution
of Derbyshire. They provide evidence of Pliocene
rivers draining a receding Triassic scarp in the
south, and indicate that the limestone block has
subsequently undergone perhaps as much as
250 m of relative uplift.



The Masson Hill caves pre-date and post-date miner-
alization in a deep phreatic zone, subsequently
drained by incision of the Derwent Valley. They are
critical to an understanding of vein-guided karst
drainage elsewhere in the Peak District. Sediment
within the caves contains evidence for some of the
earliest Pleistocene glacial episodes in Britain.


The caves lie beneath the northern and eastern
slopes of Masson Hill, immediately west of the
anomalous limestone gorge at Matlock Bath where
the River Derwent has entrenched updip of the
limestone reefs (Figure 4.16). Most are sections of
very ancient, partially choked, phreatic passages.
These have been modified to some extent by lead
and fluorspar mining, which has destroyed some
natural features, but has allowed access to many
more. The geology and mineralogy of the caves
are uniquely complex within the Pennines. The
hydrothermal mineralization is directly related to
the cave development, as the mineraliZing fluids
both utilized and created solutional cavities within
the Carboniferous limestone.

Descriptions of various parts of the cave system
are given by Flindall et al. (1981), Gill and Beck
(1991) and Warriner et al. (1981). The karst and
cave development is discussed by T.D. Ford
(1964a, 1984), Ford et al. (1977b) and Worley and
Nash (1977), and the processes of mineralization
are reviewed by Ineson and Ford (1982) and
Quirk (1993).


The Carboniferous limestone exposed at Masson
Hill forms a gentle flexure over an anticline which

Page 359

Stratimorph 46, 53, 106, 195
Straw stalactite 13, 13, 32, 57,

Boreham Cave 87, 87

Streaks Pot 162, 163
Stream moulin 54
Striae 52, 54
Structural control 189
Stump Cross Caves 101,

Subaerial fluvial excavation

Subaerial planation 182
Subglacial features 77-8
Subsidence 171, 268, 271,

basin 236-9, 296-7
linear depression 293-5,

see also Doline

Suffosion 6
Sulber 51,53
Sulphide minerals 73-4
Sulphuric acid 5
Sunbiggin Moor 132
Sunset Hole 57-8
Surface 122-3,163,198,280

lowering 37,54,72, 161-3,

Swaledale 104,125,126,140
Swallet cave 150, 153, 183,

189, 191, 195
phreatic 199-203
relict 185
vadose 185-92
vadose drawdown 189

Swallow hole 258, 285-7
Swarth Gill 94
Sweetwater Hole 57
Swildon's Hole 199, 199-200,

Swilly Hole 268
Swinsto Hole 40, 42
Sychnant, Aber 258
Symonds Yat 274
Syncline 36,38,40, 136, 161,

South Wales coalfield 255
valley 131, 132
Worcester 271,272,273,


Taff, River 220
Talus 107


Tatham Wife Hole 56, 63
Tatton Mere 297
Tawe, River 7,220,224,227,

Temple Pipe 172-3
Terrace 51,113,187,198,

corrosion 206
gour 164
rock 45,236

Terracettes 96, 147

karst 169-71
Late 82
palaeokarst 146
sediments 285,287-9
solution 169-71

Thalweg 78, 123, 161
Thames, River 286
ThanetSands 287,288
Thermal spring 163, 164, 267
Thermoluminescence 16
Thetford 289
Thieves Moss 50,51,52
Thorpe Cloud 176
Thor's Cave 178
Three Counties System 30
Three Yard Limestone 17,

Thrope inlier 120
Through valleys 7
Thrupe Fault 211
Thrupe Lane Swallet 211,

Thrust plane 301,307
Till 18, 48, 49, 49-50, 50, 60,

103, 147
Anglian 289

Timpony Joint resurgence

Toadstone 146, 149, 164
Tom Taylor's Cave 122
Tooth Cave 256, 256, 257,

Topography, buried 63
Top Sink 32
Tor 146-7
Tor Bay 270
Tornewton Cave 270
Torridonian Sandstone 306
Traligill Main Thrust 304, 304,

Traligill Valley 301,303,



Treak Cliff 150, 152
Treak Cliff Boulder Bed 153
Treak Cliff Cavern 147, 150,

Triassic 146,181-2,184

Dolomitic Conglomerate
181, 183, 184, 185,

Tributary, hanging 166
Tritium 164
Trittkarren 8, 107, 109, 136,

Tropical karst 9-10, 106
Trough, glaciated see Glaciated

Trow Gill 28, 51, 54, 64
Truncation 72, 86, 88, 92, 96,

Tube see Phreatic tube
Tub Hole 116,117
Tufa 22,73,76-7,77,80,223

barrage 164,165-6,166-7
barrier 146
dam 78-9
waterfall 60,61

TunnelCave 94,223,227,228
Turlough 219,253-5
Turn Dub 59
Twisleton Scars 43, 45, 46
Tyning's Barrows Swallet 186,


Uamh an Claonaite 306, 307
Uamh Cinn Ghlinn 302
Uamh nan Breagaire 302
Uamh nan Uachdar 302
Ullet Gill Fault 45
Unconformity 55, 63, 67,

Underfit 133, 137, 163
Underground capture, of

surface river 232-4,

Uplift 79, 171
Upper Cales Dale Cave 167
Upper Dentdale Caves 114-17
Upper Hackergill Caves 115
Upper Lathkill Dale 147,

Upper Long Churn Cave 59, 60
Upton Warren interstadial 18
Uranium-series dating 15-16,

33, 153, 160, 168, 178,
191, 194

Page 360

Usk Valley 236, 245
Uvala, degraded 286

Vadose canyon 29, 32, 33, 104
Alum Pot 59



Blayshaw Beck
Blue John Cavern
Cliff Force Cave
Dan-yr-Ogof 227
Dub Cote Cave 71
Ease Gill Caverns 32
Fairy Holes 141
GB Cave 186, 188
Giant's Hole 147, 149
Hensler's Passage 61
Ingleborough 64
Ireby Fell Cavern 34
Kingsdale caves 41
Langcliffe Pot 94
Leck Fell Master Cave 33
Little Hull Pot 68
Long Kin East Cave 60
Longwood Swallet 188
Meregill Hole 63
Ogof Draenen 246-8
OgofFfynnon Ddu 229,

Old Ing Cave 65
P8 Gackpot) 148
St Cuthbert's Swallet 201
Short Drop Cave 33
Short Gill Cavern 114
Swildon's Hole 199
Tatham Wife Hole 56
Tyning's Barrows Swallet

Upper Long Chum Cave 60
West Kingsdale Cave System

White Scar Cave 56

Vadose cave 59, 104, 122,

Vadose entrenchment 92, 168
Vadose passage 11-12,35,

42-3, 186
Vadose shaft 57,59,61,68,

126, 127, 188, 190
vertical 211-12

Vadose streamway 29
Vadose zone 72

blind 7,49,60
dendritic 80,164-7,291-3
entrenched 177-8
floors 64,137-8,178




karst 7-8
pocket 7
structural 108
see also Dry valley

Vauclusian rising 153, 158,222
Vegetation 110-11
Vein 110, 111, 172, 206
Velvet Bottom 193
Vesper Pot 40

Wadi 183
Wales karst 219-64

notch 246,248,249
retreat 78
scallops 113

Wardlow Mires 161
Warter Wold 292
Washfold Pot 59
Water End swallow holes 270,

Waterfall 60, 61, 78

dry 96,97
tufa 76-7, 77

Waterfall Hole 162
Waterfall Swallet 161, 162
Waterhouses 177
Water Icicle Close Cavern

147, 167, 168
Water Sinks 75, 79
Water table 11, 15, 189, 191,

lowering 167,305
perched 183, 255

Waterwheel Swallet 188
Watlowes dry valley 73,75,

77, 78, 79-80
Wayboard 146,163,172
Weardale 267
Weathercote Cave 58
Weathering, periglacial 268,

Wellhead 257
Wensleydale 103
Wensleydale Group 17,27,

Westernhope Bum 142
West Kingsdale Cave System

Westphalian Coal Measures

West Twin Valley 184
Wet Sinks 273


Wetton Mill 177
Wharfedale 7,28,91,96,97
Whernside 38
White Horse, Vale of 279
Whitehorse Hill 280
White Lady Cave 234
White Peak 16, 145, 145-6

see also Peak District
Whitepit 208
White Scar caves 12,29,51,

Wigmore Swallet 209
Wild Boar Fell 127, 130
Wild brining 294
Wilkesley Halite 271, 293, 294
Windermere interstadial 20
Windy Knoll Cave 150
Windypits 271
Winnats Head Cave 150, 153,

Winnats Pass 154, 154-7, 156
Witches Cave 33,35
Withybrook Fault 212
Withyhill Cave 13,212
Wolfscote Dale 174
Wolstonian glaciation 18, 146,

Wolverine Cave 117,119,119
Wookey Hole 7,8, 11, 181,

Worcester Syncline 271, 272,

Wrington, Vale of 184
Wurt Pit 208-9,209
Wye Head 164
Wye,Ftiver 7,146,163,251,

Wye Valley 221

Yoga Cave 162
Yordas Cave 40
Yoredale facies 28,30,48,55,

limestones 16, 17, 94, 103,

113, 120
Fairy Holes 140-2
Knock Fell Caverns 140

shale 30, 85, 86
Yorkshire Dales 14, 16, 17,

caves 19, 29-98
karst 9,9, 19,27,27-98

Yorkshire Wolds 291,291-3

Zinc ores 263

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