Oxford University Cave Club

British Speleological Expedition to the Cantabrian Mountains of Northern Spain, 1965

in conjunction with the "Espeleologos de Penalba", Leon

British Speleological Expedition 1965 Report

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Valporquero Area

Mrs. R.W. Howard

A trip was carried out to ascertain if any other part of the immediate area of Valporquero necessitated a closer investigation by the Expedition, or whether when exploration was completed in the Valporquero area, the Expedition could move to the Picos de Europa to continue exploration there.

When the main body of the Expedition had arrived at the base camp, the Expedition members who were already there had a glum story to report, and that was that there was only one apparent major cave in the area - Valporquero.

In view of this, the immediate area around Valporquero was split up for investigation by small groups of Expedition members, and it fell to us (Reg, Ron Bridger and me) to take a trip in the car northwards up the Torío Gorge to investigate any limestone masses that we encountered and to give a report of any caves or pots found.

Following the narrow road northwards from Felmín, and armed with a Geological map of the area from a report by Mr. R.H. Wagner of Sheffield University on "A general account of the Palaeozoic Rocks between the Rivers Forma and Bernesga (Leon, N.W. Spain)" 1963, which we were to find of considerable assistance, we set out to do this.

At this point I must point out that Valporquero cave was formed in a narrow bed of upthrusted Devonian Limestone on the northern flank of the mass of Carboniferous Limestone through which the Torío Gorge had been cut, south of Felmín. As reports came in from other investigations this pattern was to repeat itself. Fly Pot was found in an isolated patch of Devonian Limestone to the west of our camp site at Valporquero and Ghyrrt Caverns were found in the same bed of Devonian Limestone as Valporquoro which (upthrusted) continued eastwards on the northern flank of the Torío Gorge Carboniferous limestone mass. This same bed swept east and S.E. to the village of Correcillas still on the perimeter of the east limestone mass of the Torío Gorge and here was found Ghyrrt, (N.B. Correciallas was found on a remarkable deposit of pudding stone), Mardues was found in the same band of Devonian Limestone still on the north of the Torío Gorge Carboniferous Limestone mass but in the block east of the gorge whereas Valporquero was in the western block.

Therefore, we were looking for Devonian Limestone if at all possible, but the road only crossed through various types of shale, so when a road junction was encountered which would take us eastwards to the Curueno Valley we took this route, through Valverdin to Valdeteja -this led us through limestone masses both to the north and south, but a few investigations found the strata was almost vertical, very shattered and not of Devonian limestone; hence it made it appear to be a rather barren area from a caving point of view.

From Valdeteja the road dropped rather sharply into the Curueno Valley, rather reminiscent of the Winnats Pass in Derbyshire - again the strata was almost vertical and shattered and again Carboniferous.

It was an impressive gorge type valley for scenery but very disappointing for caving. The limestone was composed of disjointed beds,there was no solid limestone and few cave entrances visible from the road. Those visible were mostly rock shelters, with the exception of a resurgence with three entrances to it, located to the west of the road a short distance northwards from the road junction to Valdeteja. We followed the road northwards through the Curueno Valley until we left the limestone mass (Carboniferous Namurian limestone) but the only item of interest encountered- was a cobalt (?) mine located where the mass of limestone in the Curueno valley changed its direction from north and swept westwards. At this point on the map is indicated a fault line and here was located a fairly large mine. Investigation was hindered by the appearance of two of the civil police, so we could not examine it at close quarters.

From Tolibis de Abajo we retraced our steps southwards to La Vecilla through the rest of the Curueno Gorge and investigated a large resurgence we had been told of, south of Rocedo. Alas, although Rocedo was in limestone (Carboniferous in origin), it was found the resurgence ran off the Gilupian Shales.

Prom La Vecilla to Matallana de Torío we skirted the southern perimeter of the coal deposits, found no more caves and returned rather disappointed to base camp with the conclusion reached that there were no caves in the area that warranted the moving of the Expedition from Valporquero to the Curueno Gorge, and that when the Expedition did move, it would be better to move to a different area altogether.