Excavation continued at Haggs Brow, with less and less sign of any serious archaeology. With the removal of a few inconvenient rocks, access to the main passage was enlarged, giving access to a crawl that ran eastwards to what is clearly the back wall of the cave. It would go no further.
Looking at the walls and the breadth of the chamber, it is obvious that Haggs Brow cave contains several metres of sediments, and equally obvious that deeper excavation would be a logistical nightmare in a space with less than a metre of headroom.
We measured off the cave length on the surface and put in a test trench where the end of the cave should have occurred. There was just a chance that we would come onto another roof collapse, beyond which the cave would continue. However, the test pit quickly hit in situ limestone, so that’s the end.
Meanwhile at the other end of the trench, a narrow squeeze in the trench wall became the access point to the cave system heading westwards. That required more difficult underground work to shift fallen blocks.The cave has been demonstrated for a short distance, but then squeezed out as fallen blocks met the slab roof.
So we have excavated a point of roof collapse in a shallow cave system that heads off in both directions, with limited access unless a lot more sediment can be removed. The cave has been left with a pipe to provide safe access, and a lot of carefully engineered backfilling to support the walls of our trench and to ensure there is no subsequent collapse.
The project was fun. As there was no grant support from a quango or charity, nobody said that we had not achieved the research objectives and nobody required a tedious report detailing every act of sediment sampling and context recording. We could be pragmatic about the duration of the dig and its objectives day to day, and we could enjoy ourselves. That may not be possible for a full-scale excavation of, say, a fort on Hadrian’s Wall but for a small cave in the Yorkshire Dales, it was definitely the way to do it.