So you want to go caving?

Where can I cave?

See the UK Caving pages for more details.


For some cavers, joining a club is the only way that they can go caving safely and provides an opportunity to meet other people with the same interests. Clubs often have a hostel in a caving area, with reciprocal arrangements with club huts in other regions. They arrange "meets" or caving trips as well as evenings in their local home towns and they may also have a library.

For a beginner, the best clubs to join are those that have a training programme involving surface practice, rather than just expecting people to join in with the normal trips. Some clubs have a minimum age for joining, sixteen or eighteen, so it is best to check!


A Always include experienced cavers in the party.
PLAN Pick a cave or pothole within everyone's capabilities.
Leave a note of your trip and latest time of return with a responsible person, and check in on exit.
Ask local experts for advice and act on it.
Never cave alone.
TO Take notice of the local weather forecast and ground conditions of the previous few days. Flooding can happen very quickly and violently.
One reliable headlamp for each person. Without light you are lost.
BE Boots, helmets and warm clothes are essential.
Emergency lights, food and first aid kit should always be taken.
SAFE See that ropes, ladders and belays ae inspected and rigged properly before hanging your life on them.
Accident underground is always easy, rescue is difficult, sometimes impossible.
Falls, loose boulders, rising water and exposure cause most accidents.
Exit takes more effort than entry - plan with the return in mind.


Following an introduction in straight forward caves, the next step is to learn the basic skills and techniques which allow you to visit caves safely. This can be done in several ways. If training is not available through your club apply to your Local Education Authority or to the Training Officer of the National Caving Association at the address below.

What shall I wear?

LAMP - any lamp can be used provided it can be attached to your helmet to leave your hands free.

HELMET - with Y chin-strap and lamp bracket.

Old Warm Clothes

Waterproof Jacket and Overtrousers - these can be covered with an overall to protect them.

Boots - wellingtons are best, otherwise leather boots without hooks for laces.

Usually on your first trip you should be able to borrow a lamp and helmet until you decide whether you want to go out caving again.


See the conservation document for important information about cave conservation.


Listed below are books which you can borrow or buy, which give basic information on caving, and are particularly useful for beginners. They may be borrowed from your library through inter-library loans or from individual caving club libraries. The reference library in Bristol also specialises in caving books.

Basic information and techniques

Caves and caving. M.Jasinski and B.Maxwell. Hamlyn. 1968
British Caving. Editor C.H.D.Cullingford. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1962
Caving and Potholing. D.Judson and A.Champion. Granada. 1981
Venturing Underground. Ben Lyon. Educational Productions Ltd. 1983
Caving Practice and Equipment. Ed. D.Judson. David and Charles. 1984
Caves. A.Waltham. Orbis. 1976
Potholing: Beneath the Northern Pennines. D.Heap. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1964

Regional Caving Handbooks

Northern Caves. D.Brock et al, several volumes. Dalesman Press. 1974-1982
Caves of Derbyshire. T.Ford and Gill. Dalesman Press. 1985
Caves of South Wales. T.Stratford. Cordee. 1986
Mendip Underground. D.Irwin and A.Knibbs. Mendip Publishing. 1987

Books on Specialist Techniques

Vertical Caving. M.Meredith and Martinez. Lyon Ladders. 1986
S.R.T. D.Elliot. Troll. 1987
S.R.T. Rigging Guide. D.Elliot and Lawson. Lizard. 1987

Video and Film

Lost Caves of Britain. Sid Perou. N.C.A.
Published by the National Caving Association
Photos by M.Moorby, N.Ball.
Ref. GJB/16/88
Back to Caves and Caving