20081019_Rydal Caves_During Grasmere Circular Walk
When : 19th October 2008
Who : Me and my sister Janet
Where : Lake District, Cumbria, England
Map : 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.7, The English Lakes – South East
Grid Ref. : 354,058
Summary : Old quary caves above Rydal Water
I’ll pick up this post with a paragraph from the main walk diary …
…… After a short while we reached the large upper opening of Rydal Caves, which makes a super place for a lunch stop … which is exactly what we did along with a sizable number of other walkers.
It was here that some miniature sculptures had been constructed by some clever soul out of slate fragments, the arch in particular very skilfully done, and the body outline made us smile.
Who-ever did this should you happen upon this blog … excellent!
This is a very popular spot, and there always seem to be plenty of people congregated here, as the caves are very easily reached after parking at Rydal Village little more than half a mile away, as well as a paths coming off Loughrigg Fell in several directions and up from the Ambleside area.
The caves are not natural; they are the remains of old slate quarry workings. Although they’ve softened around the edges a bit, the bare slate is still sharp in outline embodied perfectly by the wide arched opening into the upper cave. This makes a superb feature in the landscape; perhaps the small scale of the mining makes them acceptable to our eyes … I wonder if they’d get planning permissions these days?
The upper cave has recently had some large lumps of rock fall from its tall broad ceiling and because of this the local authorities have erected an ugly fence, with a sign warning visitors not to enter the cave. However the fence is easily circumvented, which most people there did (including us) to sit on some boulders just outside the cave entrance to eat their packed lunches. Only one or two people braved the interior (not us) to explore the dark shadows and mysteries of the cavern.
Stretching from the outside and well into the interior there is a large pool of water that reaches up to a side wall of the quarry. I don’t know the depth at its deepest, I suspect its quite deep, but it shallows up towards the “picnic” boulders, and a line of large stepping stones are strategically placed to aid reaching the inside of the cavern.
Exploring a little further onto these steppy-stones, we noticed a shoal of little brown fishes, darting back and forth in amongst the rocks and green algae of the shallow water. These fishes don’t seem to have grown in size since I last visited several years ago. Our Mum had asked me to look out for the legendary goldfish in the pool, which I’d heard about but never seen over the years. I thought it was just a myth, but no …. There was one… No! Two brightly coloured domestic type goldfish swimming along happily in the midst of the shoal. Wonderful, it is true; there really are goldfish in Rydal Cave Pool! and one is quite sizeable. I guess little things please little minds, but I like this! I assume there must be enough natural food to maintain the fish but today they were given a feast of bits of bread etc, thrown in by some of the gathered walkers.
I’ve tried to find some history on the Caves themselves: how old they are and how long they were active for, etc. However I’ve struggled to find anything of much substance via the internet or from my walking books. I’m sure I read somewhere that the quarries date back 200 years or more and apparently Wordsworth (1770-1850) wrote about the caves …. That’s not surprising really as he lived just down the path at Rydal village.
I understand that choirs and other musical groups have held concerts in the caves, but whether that’d be allowed now I don’t know; I suppose health and safety/insurance issues etc. have likely put a kybosh on that, now that the “do not enter” signs have gone up.
In total contrast to the lack of history, there are dozens of photo’s on “The ‘Net”. Many taken from the interior looking out, showing the opening like the gaping mouth of a huge creature… it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the jagged upper arch looking like the teeth of the beast. Others detail the pool with its line of stepping stones and the reflections of the mineral rich stone angling into the waters, the colours can be stunning, especially if you’re there with the sun shining … Yes, sometimes the sun really does come out and when it does, in my opinion, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place than the English Lake District.
For lots more pic’s you can go to the Flickr site (where my photo’s are hosted from) some really are superb … http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=rydal%20caves&w=all&s=int
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….