6 April 2009

Cave rockfall in Shropshire, England

Posted by Dave Petley

The British newspapers are reporting that overnight a rockfall occurred in Hermitage Cave near to Bridgnorth in Shropshire, England. This is news because at the time there was a group of teenagers camping in the cave. Sadly, one of them was killed and another was badly injured. These caves are old dwellings cut into the Bridgnorth Sandstone (see image below from here):

The caves used to be much larger but rockfalls over time have progressively reduced their extent. There are reports that the ill-fated group lit a fire in the cave. I must stress that this is unconfirmed. Sometimes however falls like this are triggered by campfires lit in the cave, which induce thermal stresses in the ceiling that trigger the collapse. I am not sure if this is the case here – it could well be that the group were just very unlucky indeed – but fires in caves with low ceilings can be a quite significant hazard. Sadly, it is very unlikely that the group would have known about that particular danger.