Hypogenic Caves in the UK

  • Andrew R. FarrantEmail author
  • Tony Harrison
Part of the Cave and Karst Systems of the World book series (CAKASYWO)


The UK has a wide variety of hypogenic caves, including transverse maze caves, relict hydrothermal caves, gypsum mazes and hypogenic karst associated with water rising up deep thrust faults. While few of these are particularly extensive, they offer insights into the mechanisms of speleogenesis and mineralisation. The best developed hypogenic caves in the UK are in the Carboniferous limestones of northern England where at least nine network maze caves with plan lengths exceeding 1 km are known, almost all of which are accessible only via disused mine workings. In South Wales, relict hypogenic cave networks have been documented from cave systems surrounding the South Wales Coalfield. Hydrothermal cave systems are also known in the Bristol region in southern England, the Derbyshire Peak District and North Wales where they are associated with Pb–Zn mineralisation. In all three of these areas, active deep phreatic groundwater circulation is ongoing. Elsewhere in the UK, transverse artesian groundwater flow through Permo-Triassic gypsum in the Ripon area has led to the development of hypogenic cave systems and numerous sinkholes. This chapter documents for the first time all the known hypogenic cave systems found in the UK, discusses their modes of formation and outlines the potential for future discoveries.


UK Hypogene karst Northern England Maze caves 


  1. Abesser C, Smedley PL (2008) Baseline groundwater chemistry of aquifers in England and Wales: the Carboniferous Limestone aquifer of the Derbyshire Dome. OR/08/028. British Geological Survey, KeyworthGoogle Scholar
  2. Aitkenhead N, Barclay WJ, Brandon A, Chadwick RA, Chisholm JI, Cooper AH, Johnson EW (2002) British regional geology: the Pennines and adjacent areas, 4th edn. British Geological Survey, KeyworthGoogle Scholar
  3. Appleton P (1989) Limestones and Caves of North Wales. In: Ford TD (ed) Limestones and caves of Wales. Cambridge University Press, pp 217–254Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson TC, Davison RM (2002) Is the water still hot? Sustainability and the thermal springs at Bath, England, vol 193. Geological Society, London, Special PublicationsGoogle Scholar
  5. Ball TK, Jones JC (1990) Speleogenesis in the limestone outcrop north of the South Wales Coalfield: the role of micro-organisms in the oxidation of sulphides and hydrocarbons. Cave Sci 17:3–8Google Scholar
  6. Bowen C (2009) An interim report on Wigpool Cave: a syncline-guided, palaeo drainage cave in the Forest of Dean limestone basin, UK. Cave Karst Sci 36(2):59–62Google Scholar
  7. Bramall V (1921) The mining, manufacture and uses of barytes in the neighbourhood of Appleby, Westmorland. Trans Inst Min Eng 61:42Google Scholar
  8. Brassington FC (2007) A proposed conceptual model for the genesis of the Derbyshire thermal springs. Q J Eng Geol Hydrogeol 40:35–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brook D, Murphy P (2016) Caves of Grassington Moor. In: Waltham AC, Lowe DJ (eds) Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales vol 2. British Cave Research Association, Buxton. Online at
  10. Cooper AH (1998) Subsidence hazards caused by the dissolution of Permian gypsum in England: geology, investigation and remediation. Geol Soc Lond, Eng Geol Spec Publ 15:265–275Google Scholar
  11. Cooper AH, Waltham AC (1999) Subsidence caused by gypsum dissolution at Ripon, North Yorkshire. Q J Eng Geol 32:305–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooper AH, Odling NE, Murphy PJ, Miller C, Greenwood CJ, Brown DS (2013) The role of sulfate-rich springs and groundwater in the formation of sinkholes over gypsum in eastern England. In: Land L, Doctor DH, Stephenson JB (eds) Sinkholes and the engineering and environmental impacts of karst: Proceedings of the thirteenth multidisciplinary conference, Carlsbad, New Mexico, 2013. National Cave and Karst Research Institute, pp 141–150Google Scholar
  13. Dale J, Harrison T, Roe P, Ryder PF (2015) Britain’s longest maze cave: Hudgill Burn Mine Caverns, Cumbria, UK. Cave Karst Sci 42:20–41Google Scholar
  14. De Waele J, Forti P, Naseddu A (2013) Speleogenesis of an exhumed hydrothermal sulphuric acid karst in Cambrian carbonates (Mount San Giovanni, Sardinia). Earth Surf Proc Land 38(12):1369–1379Google Scholar
  15. Ebbs C (2000) An introduction to the caves of north-east Wales. Cris Ebbs, Llanarmon-yn-ialGoogle Scholar
  16. Ebbs C (2008) The Milwr Tunnel: Bagillt to Loggerheads. Cris Ebbs, Llanarmon-yn-ialGoogle Scholar
  17. Edmunds WM, Darling WG, Purtschert R, Alvarado JAC (2014) Noble gas, CFC and other geochemical evidence for the age and origin of the Bath thermal waters, UK. Appl Geochem 40:155–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farr G, Bottrell S (2013) The hydrogeology and hydrochemistry of the thermal waters at Taffs Well, South Wales, UK. Cave Karst Sci 40(1):5–12Google Scholar
  19. Farrant AR, Simms MJ (2011) Ogof Draenen: speleogenesis of a hydrological see-saw from the karst of South Wales. Cave Karst Sci 38(1):31–52Google Scholar
  20. Ford TD (1995) Some thoughts on hydrothermal karst. Cave Karst Sci 22(3):107–118Google Scholar
  21. Ford TD (2000) Vein cavities: an early stage in the evolution of the Castleton Caves, Derbyshire, UK. Cave Karst Sci 27:5–14Google Scholar
  22. Gill MC (1993) The Grassington mines, vol 46. Br Min (Northern Mines Research Society), KeighleyGoogle Scholar
  23. Gunn J, Bottrell SH, Lowe DJ, Worthington SRH (2006) Deep groundwater flow and geochemical processes in limestone aquifers: evidence from thermal waters in Derbyshire, England, UK. Hydrogeol J 14(6):868–881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harrison T (2006) Further phreatic cave systems in Swaledale, North Yorkshire, UK. Cave Karst Sci 33(2):65–72Google Scholar
  25. Harrison T (2012a) Further phreatic cave systems under the Swaledale-Wensleydale surface watershed in the Yorkshire Dales, UK. Cave Karst Sci 39(1):23–33Google Scholar
  26. Harrison T (2012b) Phreatic maze caves, Grinton Moor, Swaledale, UK: survey of Devis Hole Mine Caves. Cave Karst Sci 39(2):59–62Google Scholar
  27. Harrison T (2016) Maze caves of the Northern Pennines, UK. Cave Karst Sci 43(1):21–36Google Scholar
  28. Harrison T, Ryder PF (2016) Caves of Swaledale. In: Waltham AC, Lowe DJ (eds) Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales, vol 2. British Cave Research Association, Buxton. Online at
  29. Klimchouk AB (2000) Speleogenesis under deep-seated and confined settings. In: Klimchouk AB, Ford DC, Palmer AN, Dreybrodt W (eds) Speleogenesis: evolution of karst aquifers. National Speleological Society, Huntsville, AL, pp 244–260Google Scholar
  30. Klimchouk AB (2007) Hypogene speleogenesis: hydrogeological and morphogenetic perspective. Special paper no. 1. National Cave and Karst Research Institute, Carlsbad, p 106Google Scholar
  31. Klimchouk A (2009) Morphogenesis of hypogenic caves. Geomorphology 106(1):100–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Klimchouk AB (2013) Hypogene Speleogenesis. In: Shroder J, Frumkin A (eds) Treatise on geomorphology. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 220–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mullan GJ (1993) Pen Park Hole, Bristol: a re-assessment. Proc Univ Bristol Spelaeological Soc 19:291–311Google Scholar
  34. Murphy PJ, Everett S (2013) The “gulfs” of Greenhow Hill, North Yorkshire, UK. Cave Karst Sci 40:87–91Google Scholar
  35. Myers JO (1967) The Caverns of Silverband. Northern Pennine Club Journal 3(1):34–40Google Scholar
  36. Ryder PF (1975) Phreatic network caves in the Swaledale Area, Yorkshire. Trans Br Cave Res Assoc 24:177–192Google Scholar
  37. Ryder PF, Cooper AH (1993) A cave system in Permian gypsum at Houtsay Quarry, Newbiggin, Cumbria, England. Cave Sci 20(1):23–28Google Scholar
  38. Ryder PF, Harrison T (2016) Caves of the Northern Pennines. In: Waltham AC, Lowe DJ (eds) Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales, vol 2. British Cave Research Association, Buxton. Online at
  39. Shaw TR (1979) History of cave science: the scientific investigation of limestone caves, to 1900, vol 2. Anne Oldham, Crymych, DyfedGoogle Scholar
  40. Smith R, Murphy S (2011) Mines of the West Pennines, vol 91. British mining. Northern Mine Research Society, NelsonGoogle Scholar
  41. Simms MJ (1990) Triassic palaeokarst in Britain. Cave Sci 17:93–101Google Scholar
  42. Sopwith T (1833) An account of the mining districts of Alston Moor, Weardale and Teesdale in Cumberland and Durham; comprising descriptive sketches of the scenery, antiquities, geology, and mining operations in the upper dales of the rivers Tyne, Wear and Tees. W Davison, AlnwickGoogle Scholar
  43. Southwell R (1683) A description of pen-park-hole in Glocestershire. Philos Transac Royal Soc 13(143):2–6Google Scholar
  44. Stone P, Millward D, Young B, Merriott JW, Clarke SM, McCormac M, Lawrence DJD (2010) British regional geology: Northern England. British Geological Survey, KeyworthGoogle Scholar
  45. Sutcliffe R (1985) Knock fell caverns. Gritstone Club J 6:70–74Google Scholar
  46. Waltham AC, Cooper AH (1998) Features of gypsum caves and karst at Pinega (Russia) and Ripon (England). Cave Karst Sci 25:131–140Google Scholar
  47. Waltham AC, Simms MJ, Farrant AR, Goldie HS (1997) Karst and caves of Great Britain, geological conservation review series, vol 12. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Geological SurveyKeyworth, NottinghamUK
  2. 2.Ivy DeneBurtersett, Hawes, North YorkshireUK

Personalised recommendations