White Peak Cave Monitoring

Pete Ray - After completion of repairs to the entrance to Darfar Crag © National Trust / Pete Ray

Pete Ray - After completion of repairs to the entrance to Darfar Crag

The limestone dales of the White Peak have many small caves which go unnoticed by most of our visitors. These caves, some not much more than a hollow or a wide crack in a rock face are important for a surprising variety of reasons.

Certain wildlife find them important as temporary or permanent homes, for example the cave spiders that spend their entire lives underground and the bats that use them as roost sites. Archaeologists can tell us about the fascinating history their contents reveal, of ice age man, of cave bears and hyenas, of prehistoric burials and Saxon hiding places. For science their protective environment can inform us of the formation of the earth and the climate acting upon it, over hundreds of thousands of years. For intrepid cavers, they provide an exciting day’s exploring and understanding their formation.

Since 1995 the National Trust has been monitoring the entrances to our caves in the Manifold Valley where they had been subject to problems caused by souvenir-hunting visitors, burrowing animals and unauthorised digging by people. By checking the entrances for signs of disturbance we can usually pick up any such activity before too much damage has been done.

In 2009 Mel Milner and her colleagues in the Darfar Potholing Club volunteered to take this on for us. Mel has been an avid caver in the valley since the late 1970s during which time she has been involved in many important cave discoveries. More recently she and the club has been working closely with the NT staff at Ilam on a number of projects involving the conservation of the caves, including writing conservation plans and audits, and carrying out practical work such as cleaning and repairing stalagmites, protecting cave entrances, removing rubbish and generally keeping an eye on the valley. The club has been exploring the caves in the valley and has made many discoveries of previously unknown cave passages.

We regularly run events for the public to go to Foxhole Cave in the White Peak.