Castleton caves by Trevor D. Ford. Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2008. No. of pages: 96. ISBN 978-1-84306-406-0.


CASTLETON CAVES by Trevor D.Ford. Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 2008. No. of pages: 96. Price: UK£ 9-99. ISBN 978-1-84306-406-0 (paperback).

Stephen K. Donovan*, * Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum, Postbus 9517, NL-2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands

One of the reasons that I applied to Manchester as an undergraduate was its proximity to the Peak District; the presence of eight breweries in Manchester may also have had some influence. The White Peak is one of the most scenic areas of Britain and it has received the deserving attention of many groups who enjoy the natural environment, particularly, in the present consideration, geologists, cavers and miners.

Trevor Ford has written an informative and readable introduction to the caves of the Castleton area. Four of these are well known as public show caves, namely Peak, Speedwell, Treak Cliff and Blue John caverns. Being of too large a calibre to become involved in serious caving, I've always enjoyed the chance to go underground in these public caves and I bought Castleton Caves immediately after emerging from my latest visit to Treak Cliff Cavern.

Ford's book describes the various caverns and mines of the Castleton district in 16 chapters. These vary between the short, less than half a page, to 16 pages devoted to the extensive Speedwell Mine and Cavern. These are preceded by introductory discussions of the karst of the Castleton area and cave exploration, and are followed by chapters on lost caverns, hydrology, speleogenesis and proposals for future explorations. A useful list of further reading and concise glossary complete the book; there is no index. A strength of the text is the detail with which Ford discusses unusual geological features of the caves, such as “inverted potholes” in the roof of the Blue John Cavern (p. 50).

Castleton Caves is admirably detailed and particularly well illustrated, but the figures and the text could be better integrated. The many cave plans and sections are essential in deciphering the details in the text, and are always positioned close at hand to the descriptions, but it would be a great help if all figures were numbered and cross-referenced from the text. As it is, the novice caver has to flit between the text and diagrams, trying to find the right plan or section and where the feature of interest occurs within that section. There are also 32 pages of colour plates that, again, are not cross referenced from the text. I soon tired of bouncing between text, diagrams, photos in the text and plates.

Many of the line drawings are wonderfully detailed, but they show almost as many styles of drafting as there are maps and sections. This is because most figures have been scanned in from previous sources. At least one reproduces an indifferent photocopy (p. 38). If all of the figures could have been presented in the same style, then Castleton Caves would have been that much more attractive.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 21, “Speleogenesis - the evolution of a cave system.” Ford does an excellent job of relating the preserved evidence of the evolution of the caves to, particularly, Carboniferous and Pleistocene climatic and tectonic events. What a shame that Ford did not include a figure like that in his earlier booklet (Ford 2005, p. 13), giving a simplified series of sections through the limestones of the Castleton region at different times in its geological history.

Despite any criticisms that I may have, Castleton Caves is very informative and very readable - I just think it could be even better. The book itself I recommend to anyone with an interest in the Castleton caves, karst geomorphology or simply those who enjoy interesting landforms and scenery.