Kirkdale Caves

I was recently asked to photograph a local cave to illustrate a talk on cave structures at the Yorkshire Museum.

Feeling a little like Indiana Jones (without the hat, unfortunately) I ventured into the woods around Kirkdale, North Yorkshire. With the help of my Dad (whose mountain goat-style climbing skills I apparently didn’t inherit) I scaled the steep quarry face to photograph the cave.

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Discovered in 1821 by local quarry workers, Kirkdale cave has been of scientific interest for some time. Bones of animals such as hyenas, hippos and mammoths were found inside, but as the mouth of the cave was (and still is) very narrow, it would have been impossible for such large animals to enter.

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This,  combined with the discovery of hyena tooth marks on many of the bones, helped to determine that the cave was actually once a hyena den.

(Source – Whitby Museum)

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Local legend states that a goose once made its way from Kirkdale cave to Kirkbymoorside (almost 2 miles away) through a network of caves underground, loosing all its feathers in the process.

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I resisted the urge to clamber in for a closer look and instead bravely shoved my hand and camera into the darkness whilst trying not to think about packs of hyenas and large spiders.

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If you’re ever in the Kirkbymoorside area, the cave is well worth a visit. Surrounded by beautiful woodland and the nearby St Gregory’s Minster (which dates back to 1060) it makes for a lovely afternoon.

© Lily Hartley, 2014

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