JBA Employee co-discovers new caves at Treak Cliff Cavern

Our Senior Environmental Consultant and geologist Mark Cope has co-discovered a series of new caves at Treak Cliff Cavern in the Derbyshire Peak District. The new discoveries nearly double the length of known natural cave passages in the Cavern’s ‘New Series’, which was itself discovered over 90 years ago, and contain some of the most spectacular cave formations in the UK.

Mark’s interest in Treak Cliff Cavern began after he made a tourist visit to the cave in 2012 where he took a specific interest in the unusual geology. With permission of the cave owner Vicky Turner, Mark and his friend Martin Barnsdall initiated a detailed exploration project. It took over two years, with the excavation of a shaft over 6m deep, before a breakthrough was finally made.

Cave Discoveries

On 30 April 2014 the two cave explorer’s headlamps lit up a chamber that had never before seen light. Its walls lined with pristine orange/brown stalactite and stalagmite formations everywhere, calcite flowstone over pristine mud banks, even a straw stalactite a foot long that had dropped from the roof and speared vertically into an otherwise undisturbed mud bank.

The new chamber is so full of wonder, that with reference to an old name for Treak Cliff Cavern it was named the ‘Wonder Cave’.

The pristine and delicate cave formations prevented direct access into a second chamber, so with further exploration the cavers found a way around the back of a large boulder. From this angle a spectacular view is glimpsed of a ‘frozen river’ of calcite flowstone and its stunning orange-brown colour.

Continuing down and into a mineral vein, more passages were discovered at a lower level. On the floor detached lumps of Blue John Stone were found to have an unusual swirl of purple and white, not dissimilar to the swirl of colour in glass marbles.

With the help of others exploration continued, taking the depth of the new discoveries to over 65m below the Treak Cliff hillside. It is now thought that the origins of the passages in the Blue John mineral vein makes it one of the oldest cave passages in the UK, at over 290 million years old!

Mark and Martin give their thanks to Vicky and all the staff at Treak Cliff Cavern for helping to solve the mystery of the New Series.

Treak Cliff Cavern

The famous showcave of Treak Cliff Cavern is located high on the Treak Cliff hillside close to the village of Castleton. The Cavern is a source of the semi-precious Blue John Stone which has been mined there for over 200 years in the ‘Old Series’ mines. The cavern became a tourist attraction in 1926 when miners quarrying for Blue John Stone on the hillside blasted into natural chambers beautifully adorned with impressive stalactite formations.

The ‘New Series’ comprises of a vast underground canyon, which ended abruptly in a large chamber known as the Dome of St Pauls. It had long been speculated that this chamber could not be the terminus of the cave as the subterraneous river that created the cave could not have just disappeared into bare rock!

Want to know more?

The owners of Teak Cliff Cavern are refurbishing the facilities at the showcave and plan to install a museum with an exhibition on the discoveries later in 2018.

You can email Mark Cope for more information on this exciting discovery or visit our environmental services web pages.

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