Exploring the legends of bandits Tom Taylor and Dick Turpin at How Stean Gorge as new caves are opened to the public

A riveting history is revealed in Nidderdale’s deep, dark caverns, once a hiding place of highwaymen with their ill-gotten gains and where the Romans buried their treasure.

Now one of Yorkshire’s most ancient natural wonders, so linked to the old bandit stories of Tom Taylor and Dick Turpin, is to be opened to the public in new ways.

Visitor attraction How Stean Gorge is expanding its adventure offer with two new caves.

The gorge, as a tourism attraction, hosts activities such as rock climbing, canoeing and abseiling, and already sees caving and scrambling across its vast network.

Site manager Dan Liddy in How Stean Gorge, as it expands its adventure offer with two new caves. Picture Tony Johnson

Now two new caves, Hazel Close and Oxbow Cave, are to be opened to the public as the setting invests heavily, and in the wake of mounting demand for adventure tourism.

Tony Liddy is director of How Stean Gorge. Enquiries have shot up amid rising appetite for outdoor activities and staycations, he said, with the setting also installing new chalets.

Mr Liddy said: “It’s been incredible, there’s just a massive appetite out there to get into the great outdoors and experience adventure on our doorstep.

“We want to showcase the caves a bit more, and display previously unseen historic surveys and maps of the 10km cave network.

Dan Liddy from How Stean Gorge pictured in Tom Taylors cave on site. Picture Tony Johnson

“We’ve transformed the site with our ambitious expansion plans to cater to the huge demand for adventure tourism,” he added.

“Acquiring the caves is an important part of that, as we want to showcase nature’s stunning playground in this unique gorge that has existed for 10,000 years, since the last Ice Age.”

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Carved out by waterflow over thousands of years, the gorge reveals an 80ft-deep chasm and Eglin cave system, connected to a larger Goyden network under the River Nidd.

How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale has expanded its adventure offer with two new caves, Hazel Close Cave and Oxbow Cave. Picture Tony Johnson

The underground caves are infamous as being used as an escape route and a hiding place for loot by some of Britain’s most notorious bandits, Tom Taylor with Dick Turpin.

In 1741 Tom Taylor was followed by the British Army Red Coats from nearby York to his underground hideout and, after a gunfight, was shot dead in the gorge.

Now infamous for their hidden history, the caves are also thought to have been home to Vikings from 866 to 1066 – while a trove of Roman coins was found buried here in 1868.

Anna Bowman is curator at Nidderdale Museum. She said: “Archaeologists believe that the Romans used caves or rivers as places to leave religious offerings.

Manager Dan Liddy from How Stean Gorge pictured looking at the site map showing the location of the newly purchased caves. Image: Tony Johnson

Roman treasures

“Given the time period which the coins found covers, and that the coins were discovered in the cave hammered into the wall, it would indicate that these were possibly an offering.

“Nidderdale Museum’s collection includes part of the hoard. It was donated by the Metcalfe family, who owned How Stean George at the time of the discovery, in 1868.”

The most famous of How Stean Gorge’s caverns is Tom Taylor’s Cave, named after the highwayman, which is 180m long and up to 15m deep.

The two new caves are Hazel Close Cave, which is about 120m long and only accessible via a ladder, although featuring a walking passage for 37m.

Oxbow Cave is the second new cave, on the north side of How Stean Gorge and is 25m in length. Other caves on the site include Elgin’s Hole and Canal Cave.

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