(Image: Dave Dunford. Eldon Hole between Peak Forest and Castleton)
Three hundred and fifty metres south of the summit of Eldon Hill, in the Derbyshire Peak District, the eponymous chasm known as Eldon Hole disappears into the depths of the earth. In 1636 political philosopher Thomas Hobbes described it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Peak, and at 55 metres it’s one of the deepest potholes in the area.
Eldon Hole has long been at the heart of many local legends. Folk tradition claims that it’s the domain of the Devil himself. One tale tells of a woman’s goose that fell into the pothole and emerged from Peak Cavern in nearby Castleton (a cave that is itself known as the Devil’s Arse!). However, recent examination has shown the pothole doesn’t link to other local cave systems.
Peak District Information writes that “the hole is approximately 60 metres deep, but was once much deeper, having been part-filled by stones and rubble over the years.” The website also mentions a 19th century account of two men who descended the gloomy depths and found themselves in “a large chamber with fine stalactites and flowstone deposits.”
(Image: Google Earth. Eldon Hole from above)
Over the years Eldon Hole has claimed a number of lives, both human and livestock, and is now fenced off to prevent more victims falling into the chasm. The forbidding natural landmark remains popular with experienced potholers and is visible to walkers hiking the trails from Castleton and Peak Forest.
Also near the summit of Eldon Hill is a Bronze Age tumulus that’s been excavated various times over the years, revealing a cache of ancient jewellery and human remains. Abandoned lead mines also dot the landscape, many of them capped to avoid injury to curious hikers.