The three main caves of the upper Nidderdale valley are all worth visiting. None of them are long, and all three can be explored in a day. Manchester Hole should be visited first - it's a straight forward trip through a tremendous river passage, which exits through Bax Pot, located just above the entrance to Goyden. New Goyden Pot is the downstream continuation of Goyden Pot, entered via a couple of pitches, and includes a set of worthwhile inlet passages. Neither of them require any great effort or navigational skills. Just enjoy them.
Goyden Pot, however, is a different kettle of fish. It's a complex cave, and without a survey and pre-knowledge of the system, difficult to be sure that you see the best of it during a one-off visit. The task hasn't been made any easier by the Black Sheep Diggers further complicating a complex system by finding new entrances (currently six!) and inter-passage connections over the past few years.
Complex it might be, but the scale is small, and it is possible to see the best during an afternoon shared with trips down New Goyden and Manchester. Whilst it is easy to get lost in the system, you're never far from home. The keys to enjoying a trip down the system is to understand the layout of the system, and to be confident about finding your way back home from a number of different prominent points. It's worth taking a copy of the survey with you, which has been adapted (with permission) from that found in Northern Caves.
The structure of the system is fairly simple. The top half of the system consists of three parallel (and sometimes interconnecting) passages: the main river passage; to the east of that is a route through Mud Hall; and further east still is the somewhat obscure Cap Left Crawl.
Near the end of the main river passage, Labyrinth Passage goes off to the left to a complex set of passages which the other two routes join by a number of different means.
Below the Labyrinth Passage, there is another set of parallel passages all heading downstream and trending towards New Stream Passage, which are inter-linked through a number of small crawls.
The following route is a figure of eight trip which visits some of the better parts of the system. Some kind souls have installed fixed aids where tackle might be required. As you will soon see, Goyden floods drastically, and its hydrology is complex. Graham Mollard has produced a publication which outlines the factors to be taken into consideration before committing to a trip.
From the end of the entrance passage, bear right over a short boulder slope into the massive main chamber, with the sound of the river roaring beneath you. Make your way down the chaos of boulders to the river - a small sample of Berger-type caving! A few cascades then lead down into a somewhat less chaotic section. A chain hanging down the right wall marks the climb up to Gaskell's Passage, and the Church Pot entrance. The main passage then lowers before arriving at a T-Junction. To the right, the river disappears into a sump after a few metres - to the left leads into the Labyrinth Passage.
Follow Labyrinth Passage past two junctions on the left, and then a low one on the right (you will soon emerge from the latter). Keeping left at the next obvious junction leads to Five Ways Chamber - a low chamber with a number of passages leading off. Take the second on the left (it normally has a small stream), and follow it uphill to the Ten Foot Climb - equipped with a very smart aluminium ladder. This immediately leads into the very impressive Cap Tunnel. Have a quick look upstream to the left - it divides into two, with the small passage on the right being Cap Left Crawl leading back to the entrance.
Returning, Sand Tunnel is entered by ducking under the rock arch from which the stream emerges. This passage passes an inlet on the left (the source of the water at Five Ways), and continues in impressive style, before it also splits into two. Take the right hand passage, and follow the bored tube downhill. After a minute or so, it develops into a crawl through a pool, which can be more interestingly and more comfortably bypassed by a high-level rift on the right. The next feature is the descent of the Twenty Foot Pitch, which is well rigged with a knotted rope.
At the bottom of the rope climb, there is a chute into a lower level bedding plane. Ignore it and continue along the main passage past the large entrance into Worm Drive, to the well-named Baffle Plates, where there is a descent into Mud Pot. Ignore this as well, and carry on until the passage terminates at High Rift where a rope hangs down from The Beet Route. This is as far as we go.
We now want to make our way back via the New Stream Passage. This most aesthetically pleasing route back-tracks a few metres, to a constricted T-shaped rift in the right wall, through which can be heard the sound of water. Enter this, and after a few metres a knotted rope drops past a flake down towards the 11 metre-deep sump pool of New Stream Passage. Slide easily down to land on a prominent ledge system, about three metres below the flake. Traverse along the ledge over the pool for a metre or so towards the far end of the rift. You can then turn round, and enter a bedding ledge crawl into the roof of New Stream Passage. Take care!
Now follow New Stream Passage upstream ignoring the various inlets to the right, most of which link back into other parts of the system, including routes back to Mud Pot, and the 20' Pitch. Eventually, the alternating rift / bedding passage steps up into a wide cobble-strewn bedding area. Follow the low bedrock crawl to the left for two or three metres, and follow it round to the right. You will then find yourself at a T-junction. This is Labyrinth Passage again.
Go left back towards the river, and after a few metres, a passage goes off to the right. You can't miss it - it has a thin calcite flow spilling over the entrance. Follow this uphill ignoring a prominent passage to the right, until you meet Pyridine Passage at a T-junction (Ten Foot Climb, encountered earlier, is a couple of minutes off to the right), with a prominent false floor on the left. It's possible to miss this junction, so keep an eye open. Clamber over the false floor, and follow the passage through a short canal to a rope climb up a rift. Ascend this, and follow the rift across a traverse above a pool, and through a window. Don't fall into the second pool! Follow the passage down, and then up to the right past a muddy boulder. This leads onto a platform overlooking the impressive Mud Hall, with the entrances to both Limley Pot and Zanussi Pots at the base of the slope, as well as another connection back into Labyrinth Passage.
Don't go down the slope, but locate a passage immediately on your right, and follow this along a rift, and down a boulder slope. This leads to a large fragment of passage overlooking the main river, where the way on is up into a crawl which starts a couple of metres or so up the right hand wall. This is a comfortable-sized crawl leading to a Y-junction. Follow the smaller left passage to a cross-roads. Left goes to another window overlooking the river, straight across leads you back into the entrance series.
If you have any energy left, a good exit from the system is through Church Pot. To find this, return to the river passage, and proceed down to the climb up into Gaskell's Passage (marked by a chain hanging down the right hand wall). Enter this, and head "downstream" until a major passage enters from the right. Follow this until it divides into two, and take the right branch. This leads to a series of climbs facilitated by aluminium ladders and fixed ropes. You'll then find yourself at the bottom of a high rift where a couple of scaffold poles have been cemented into place. Looking up, you'll see daylight. A series of vertical wriggles reach the entrance lid, which can be easily lifted from the inside.
A cracking trip, taking a couple of hours.