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Treacle Mines


The Natland
Pipeline Cave


Treacle Mines

  • Fact or fiction?
  • Can the reality be separated from the myth?
  • What scientific evidence is there?
  • Could there be more than one origin for the legend? 
  • explores the topic
  • identifies several  possible sources
  • considers the likelihood  of substantial underground caves, and
  • puts forward a remarkable suggestion!


The Natland
Pipeline Cave

  • The original discovery
  • The survey
  • The concealment
  • The search to find the cave entrance
  • Helm Gate Cave and other explorations
  • Trying to track water flows from Helm






Helm Gate Cave

If you have read the item on The Natland Pipeline Cave, you will have seen the reference to the Helm Gate Cave, which may or may not be connected, and the photograph of Richard Mercer emerging from its exit. asked Richard to describe the inside of the cave.  His report follows. However a word of warning first.  If you are the slightest bit tempted to explore the cave yourself- don't!  Not unless you are an expert caver.  It quite unsuited to casual exploration.

Human mole Richard Mercer emerges


Helm Gate Cave
by Richard Mercer

The cave is approximately 12 metres long with a drop of 8 metres.

The entrance (PHOTO A) is low and leads to a small increase in height and a slope going up to the right for 1 metre.

1.5 metres from the entrance the roof lowers again and there is a flat out crawl for 1 metre (PHOTO B).


Here the floor steps up but so does the roof so crawling is on elbows and knees for 3 metres to steps down to a scaffolded area where the only worthwhile piece of decoration can be found (PHOTO C).

Up to this point the passage had been almost filled to the roof with rocks and soil, the space above the fill varying from 35 cm to 20cm.

Where the scaffolding is situated was predominantly rocks with soil and calcite infill.

The rocks were removed, scaffolding built and then some rocks were replaced to fill in the gaps between the scaffolding and the remaining rock 'walls' - this means that if any of the rocks try to move they will have no where to go (PHOTO D).



At the bottom of the slope a large piece of rock was encountered (PHOTO G) - it is not clear if this is bedrock or a piece that fell from further up during the early life of the cave.

Grooves indicated that the water had flowed between this rock and the roof down a now soil-filled 10cm high slot.

Rock has been removed following the slot down but the size has if anything got smaller and it is likely that no further progress will be made here.

In very wet weather water comes into this area (PHOTO H) and drains away slowly suggesting that there isn't any 'open' passage nearby.


Back up the slope opposite the right hand passage recent digging has revealed two voids.

Ahead (PHOTO I) is a small chamber, not big enough to accommodate a person but there is nothing to suggest a way on.




Apart from the voids found in June this year the whole of the cave below the top of the scaffolding was originally filled by rocks and soil.

From the scaffolding the cave drops down at an angle of 45 degrees (PHOTO E) to the current limit of exploration following a roof that has large grooves indicating that a lot of water went this way.


Part way down the drop a passage to the right was started at a point where the roof was horizontal and calcite ledges suggested this was a significant point in the cave, but after a couple of metres the roof turned to become vertical and it would have been unwise to continue tunnelling under a roof of compressed soil (PHOTO F).




Back from this to the left is a 2.5 metre passage that rises at 30 degrees going back underneath the passage above the scaffolding (PHOTO J).

This is not quite big enough to get through and it is not clear if it will lead to a continuation of the cave.

Richard Mercer, July 2008

ribon01d.gif thanks Richard Mercer for his contribution.

Editor, July 2008


If you been following the saga of the Natland Treacle Mines, the Natland Pipeline Cave and Helm Gate Cave, you may be interested to learn of another local cave that appeared overnight in 1855 behind the Punchbowl Inn at Barrows Green.  

For the report on this "remarkable phenomenon" see the special feature:
The Barrows Green Cave.



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