Posted by Barry on 4th December 2011

Kingsley, Jan, Pauline and Barry arrived at Penwyllt having negotiated the numerous pot-holes in the track past the quarry, now filled with copious amounts of water.  The last puddle, on the corner, had to be negotiated at a certain speed to avoid grinding to a halt in the loose stones or filling the engine with water.  At this point it wasn’t actually raining.
We got changed quickly and headed up the hill to Top Entrance. Once inside we took the usual route to the brickyard, climbed over the boulder and into the ‘elephant turd’ passage.   Jan and I recounted to the others tales from our previous trip with respective colleagues Nic and Zoe.  Nic found negotiating boulders on the floor tricky so had turned back with Jan where she proved that she was completely happy with crawling in small spaces nearer the entrance.  Zoe and I had continued to the Trident and Judge.

Our current team arrived at Gnome Passage and turned off to the Wedding Cake.  Turning right we came to the shake hole and descended the corkscrew and down to Salubrious.  The water levels were reasonably low so we were all able to negotiate it without getting our feet wet.  A bit of a novelty for me and my little boots. We continued past the turning for the Trident and continued on to The Crossroads, having negotiated the big boulder.  Here there was a bit of a discussion about which way to go, straight on or left.  Eventually it was decided that left was correct, and indeed it was and we found ourselves in the magnificent Selenite Tunnel, with its network or bright white calcite spider’s-webbing across almost black limestone and stalactites, ranging in shape and colour from white straws to carrots and parsnips.  Ok my imagination got the better of me!  Barry had a good play with his camera along this passage.
Another discussion was had when we got to two right turns about 5metres apart.  We had a good look round here and admired the formations.  In the end we took the first right turn as it looked bigger.  From there we worked our way up Cross Rift through Midnight Passage to the Sky Hook.  Jan, Barry and I had a good look round while Kingsley had a bit of a nap.  There were loads of formations there, varying from spikey crystal starburst to calcited mud splash formations.  Jan and Barry went exploring down a side passage and underestimated the difficulty of the climb back up.  I had to find some slings to help pull them up.
Gradually we made our way back out but this time we went all the way down Cross Rift to the leap across Maypole inlet.  From there we worked our way through the maze of passages The Crossroads and then back to the entrance.  We emerged into daylight and walked back down to Penwyllt.

Agen Allwedd

Posted by Barry on 6th November 2011

Meeting up in Crickhowell on this lovely morning, we abandoned some of the vehicles and then just drove the minimum up to Llangattock. From here we soon got kitted up and started our walk up to the entrance in lovely sunshine, once there we soaked up a bit more sun before disappearing through the gate. According to the log book we were the first people in this cave this month, so with the log book duly filled in we started our way in through the entrance series, eventually popping up in Main Passage, from here we continued onwards, stopping off briefly at the entrance to Main Stream, we then continued onwards again until we got to the Music Stand, after a traditional quick song from Ben, we proceeded along the Cliffs of Dover and explored the Ace of Spades and the Waterfall before turning around and making our return trip.

On the way back we meet up with two other groups coming in. But it was nice to get back outside into the sunshine, although this side of the hillside was now in shade and the temperature had dropped. But the view of the sunlit hills in the distance, more than made up for it. Not a terribly long trip today, but we all enjoyed what we did.

Cwmorthin Slate Mine

Posted by Linda on 2nd October 2011

Allen and I arrived at the car park at Tanygrisaeu and met Tony Wilson from SCMC (Shropshire Caving and Mining Club) who was to be our Guide, and Kingsley. After saying our “Hello and how are you’s” we proceeded to change into our caving gear. We walked up the incline to Llyn Cwmorthin and took the right hand path to Cwmorthin Mine. The Adit is gated and locked with a combination padlock, but you can go online and get the combination. The Adit you go in is called Lake Level Adit and at the end opens out into a huge cavern where the way on splits into two, we took the right hand junction and from then on I cannot remember what route we took so I shall tell you all about the things we saw.

The mine is looked after by “The Friends of Cwmorthin” and they have discovered clogs that were worm by miners which must be at least 100 years old, we entered caverns which had, had a recent collapse (“recent” being a week ago), we went down a very, very steep incline and at the end waded through water which came up to our knees to view a crane that had been used to haul trucks with slate on, the crane even had some working parts. In another cavern we came upon two big compressors and at the bottom of this incline there was a large concrete base Tony asked us to turn our lamps off because he had a surprise for us. He flicked a switch and the cavern lit up with two low power lamps that were fed from rechargeable batteries hidden somewhere, the batteries were then re-charged by a small water wheel. In one worked out chamber there was the remains of an old wooden bridge spanning the cavern which we crossed to get to the other side, my little heart was beating so fast I thought it’d pop out of my chest! There’s so much to see that we only just touched the surface Allen and I will go back again. Much thanks to Tony.

Ogof Draenen

Posted by Barry on 2nd October 2011

We couldn't see the far side of the valley the low cloud put paid to any view that we might have had. It always appears to be pretty dismal up here, but underground there are sights to behold. Draenen, one of the longest caves in Britain and today we were heading North to the 'Waterfall Series' Barry, Pauline, Ann, Darren and myself (Jan) were eager to descend into this fascinating and complex system. I had only been as far as the Waterfall Series once and that was quite a few years ago. We squirmed down through the scaffold enforced entrance, effortlessly climbed down the ladder pitch, signed ourselves in at cairn junction, and away we went. Turning left we passed the old entrance pitch and a siphon gushing from the left hand wall. On to the boulder choke (that is even looser now than it use to be, thanks Darren). There was a very pretty grotto on the right, a passage with a rope hanging down on the left. (Barry was all set to start clambering upwards, but we managed to hold him down until we were all agreed that that wasn't the passage we were looking for) Following the stream we found the start of the rift, a series of steep climbs bought us to the waterfall. Barry and Pauline expertly got to grips with ropes and foot loops (steppy thing) and soon I was up and perched on a nice rocky ledge. Darren was having foot problems so Ann kindly escorted him out, so then there were three. In the stream again we found a small inlet on the left, that bought us eventually to the base of another dodgy climb. Up shot Barry before you could say belay. Pauline and I with Barry's help negotiated the assortment of ropes and loops, and soon we were off again passing some rather interesting gypsum formations, a bit like giant toe nail clippings. The passage got lower, and lower and lower. Painfully crawling along hugging a mud camber and wriggling through a couple of squeezes, (I'm sure your spine isn't suppose to bend in that direction) we came at last to Knees Up Mother Brown. All the pain had been worth while. Knees Up Mother Brown is a fascinating bit of passage, the walls and roof look pliable, rubbery even and in some places I could see footprints on a sandy beach (upside down though).

Then joy of joys we entered Lost River Passage and 6th Heaven. Aragonite formations like frosted hedgehogs burst out from small cracks in the rock. Mysterious heligtites probed the atmosphere, an exquisite mud village with tiny pebbles for roofs. Barry flashed, Pauline and I posed. It was time to retrace our steps. So singing Knees Up Mother Brown, we stopped for a quick snack at the end of Knees Up Mother Brown to replenish energy supplies before embarking on the climbs and squeezes. We fairly flew back along the rifts, and in no time at all we were hauling the bags and ourselves up the entrance series, and out on to a windy, misty Blorenge.

Westbury Brook Mine

Posted by Barry on September 2011

Its was an overcast morning, when Pauline, Jan, Barry, Allen and myself met up at Monmouth, before a quick road trip around the forest to get the key. We then met up with Kinsley and Anne in a road side lay by near the mine. Westbury Brook is an old Iron Ore Mine in the Forest of Dean which is tucked away at the back of a huge opening into the hillside and is gated for safety. In it there is an abundance of Red Ochre gooey Clay. I have to say that this is one of the muddiest systems I have entered, along with Otter Hole and Craig a Ffynnon. The entrance has two big drums to descend, which have recently been installed to prevent collapse. After this, an awkward descent led down into a maze of passageways, at which point I felt a custodian of the mine, would definitely have been advantageous. We headed right, along the ‘obvious’ tunnel. What followed were some really tight muddy crawls and reasonable sized caverns. These tight crawls led onto more precarious descents, which required both Barry’s and Allen’s ropes. After further muddy crawling and running out of rope, Barry and I headed back to retrieve the two ropes. On return the ropes led Barry to a chamber with a fair size drop of fatal proportions. Time to utilise a two to one rescue! We decided to head back to the start, to locate the ‘obvious’ passage. After several attempts of ending up in the same passages, the Westbrook maze had broken me. Allen, Anne, Kinsley and I headed back to the surface. The others carried on their search for the hidden route. After some pleasant chit chat, three of us headed back to our cars. Kinsley diligently kept safeguard for the rest of the team.

Nedd Valley Walk/Cave

Posted by Jan on July 2011

Today’s trip was the Nedd Valley Walk/Cave, but instead of parking near the entrance of Bridge Cave (as the road down has deteriated very badly with deep ruts, making driving of non 4x4’s very difficult). We decided to park at the other end of the valley and walk up. Obviously this trip was not so popular with only myself, Pauline and Kingsley. Anyway we met up at 10.30am on this lovely Sunday morning and started the walk up the valley where the river was flowing nicely. We could see some dark areas on the other side of the river, which could possibly be entrances or dark alcoves, but did not attempt to cross as we only had our normal walking boots on. We followed the path all the way up to the Little Neath Rising, which was emitting a steady flow, but was surprised to see water still coming down the river bed from beyond this point, as it is normally dry. So we continued scrambling along the river side for a few hundred metres, until we came to a point where the river suddenly appeared from out of the river bed and a fair rate, we believed this is the water from the Pant Mawr area. At this point we spent quite a bit of time exploring various holes with some emitting draughts on the hillside. On our return, we explored another cave/dig which had a nice 3m tubed entrance, opening up into a larger rift area, with potential to go in quite a few places. After this explore we started to make our way back to the Little Neath Rising and then onwards again back down the valley to the car park area, where we had our lunch in the sunshine. This was a nice walk/explore in lovely sunshine.


Posted by Barry on June 2011

Meeting up at penwlytt and discussing our planned route, Kingsley, Ann and myself decided to go for the streamway and explore around the Waterfall series, whilst Allen and Linda explored Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2. So with forms filled in, both teams walked in different directions. We headed down the road and followed the footpath down to the entrance, once there we had a scary moment as Kingsley could not open the lock with the supplied key and thought that we would be walking back up that hill again, but luckily enough after a few more attempts we were in. We then continued along the entrance series past Pluto’s Bath and onto The Step where we entered the streamway.

The stream was still running strong even with the dry weather that we had been having lately, anyway we took a leisurely wander up stream crossing the pots. Once at Lowes Chain, we stayed in the lower passage and continued up past the climb up into the Waterfall Series and then went through the choke, once on the other side Kingsley had a rest whilst Ann and myself went exploring. Then we regrouped and headed back towards Lowes Chain where we met up with another group who were just about to climb Lowes Chain, so we decided to head back down the streamway. On route Kingsley managed to slip on one of streamway sections where he managed to get very wet, anyway at least we were now on the way out. Once back outside, we were greeted by nice warm sunshine, making for a very pleasant walk back up the hill to our vehicles. Not long after getting ourselves changed and having something to eat, Allen and Linda returned from their trip into OFD2.

Craig y Ffynnon

Posted by Jan 1st May 2011

Kingsley, Ann, Jan and Pauline were the intrepid explorers on this sunny day. We had, in our wisdom, decided to visit Northwest Inlet as it had not rained for several months and ‘the water would have had plenty of time to drain away’. We first had an inkling that we may have made an error of judgement when we met Stuart France as we were getting changed. He was going in to retrieve his chain from the pitch as he needed it in Darren Cillau. Whilst chatting to Ann, he casually mentioned that the water didn’t seem to be draining away as it used to…… Not realising the full implications of this statement we pressed on with getting changed into our usual fluffy suits and gear. On the way up to the gate we marveled ant the number of blue butterflies fluttering around in the warm sunshine. Kingsley and Jan both wrestled with the lock but eventually we were able to enter and sign the log. On we pressed, through the entrance series and up the ladders and scaffolding in the first boulder choke. Here there was a mere dribble of water, if that. If you moved fast enough you could almost dodge the drips! Even Gasoline Alley seemed fairly low.

Yes, there was water but it didn’t quite reach my elbow as I crawled through on hands and knees. A little further on and we reached the entrance to Northwest Inlet…… The square, mine-like entrance had plenty of airspace……but there was also plenty of water! Being the smallest, I was pushed to the front as a depth gauge for the rest and told not to make waves. If it got up to my chin, I was on my own. On the first straight the water only reached the lowest rib but turning the corner and keeping to the right the water gradually reached nipple height. Behind me there were some strange whimpering noises coming from Ann. Very similar to the noises her dog, Shandy, made on a very wet walk we went on last year. Kingsley was strangely quiet. With a few variations in depth as we reached boulders, hollows and mud banks, we eventually reached the end of the water. With numb legs we continued down the fantastically decorated passage. I must admit that I didn’t look around me as much as I usually do down this route as it was necessary to keep moving. We did note that the water level in the stream was quite low, so why had the water not drained away. It didn’t seem long before we were at the mound of debris that marks the dig. We scrambled up and had a look at the rails and trams that had been used to pull out the debris. Jan had a quick look down the passage but found that there had been several collapses from the sides. There was a good draught out of the dig. We didn’t hang around on the way out either, although we were not looking forward to the inevitable immersion. The water had not got any warmer by the time we got there, neither had the level reduced. We debated how to clear the blockage of the drain, known to be in the outside corner of the first bend on the way in. May be Dyno-rod would work! Once on the other side of the water it was a race to the entrance and out into the warmth.

Snailbeach and Clive Mines

Posted by Barry on 2nd/3rd April 2011

This weekend  we went to an area not visited by the club for about 50 years, the Shropshire Orefield. This was an important  mining area for hundreds of years producing Lead Copper Barites and other minerals also large amounts of Coal. Saturday was spent in Clive Copper Mine which runs under the street in Clive Village. The mine is unusual as it’s in Sandstone on a fault. A twenty five foot shaft dropped into a large passage with the Slickenside of the fault clearly visible, the other wall being composed  of beautifully coloured beds of  Sandstone . The trip was rounded off by a trip to the Pub. Most people camped near the Stiperstones and we met up again on Sunday morning at Snalebeach.  There are many shafts and levels around and  we went into Perkins level which leads into the main part of the mine, which is still accessible although much of it is flooded. Large levels lead into enormous Stopes with veins of Barites and Lead still visible. We also visited the Day level which intersects the 1000ft deep engine shaft. Finally a tour of the surface remains and a very impressive Museum of artefacts and Minerals. Our thanks go to the members of the Shropshire Mining Club who looked after us so well for the whole weekend.

Linda and I were most impressed with the whole weekend starting with Clive Mine, after dropping the entrance shaft we came to the main passage  where in places we could see the beautifully coloured sandstone in veins, reds orange and browns swirling around in a stupendous visual treat, we saw a vein of Copper Ore in stark green contrast to its surroundings,  where the Fault occurred the wall in places was as smooth as glass. The Cowstail protected traverse over a 80ft drop in the main Stope was a delight, I wonder how the Miners managed ? We were so impressed  and vowed to back. After doing the trip into Snalebeach Mine and after lunch while the rest of the Club were on the surface walk Linda and myself went back into the mine where two SCMC members Husband and Wife team Mike and Eileen tutored us in the art of SRT on their training area. How patient they were with the both of us, Linda found it rather difficult at first with all the hardware but managed to abseil to the bottom ( 20-25ft ) three or four times with reasonable success, returning to the top of the pitch via a fixed ladder. I had a little more success (  hardly surprising as Linda had never dangled on a rope before ) with descending, so we progressed to ascending. This is where the patience of our belaboured Instructors was really tested as we couldn't get it right, Linda getting half way up then climbing the ladder the rest of the way, me taking about three days to reach the top of the pitch and having to rest for another three to recuperate !!  All the time we were Lifelined with the emphasis on safety.  After a couple of hours we returned to the entrance and then to the car park where we met up with the rest of HCC, after saying thanks and farewell to Mike and Eileen for giving us their time we bade everyone goodbye and departed. Linda and I would like to thank all the members of the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club for all their help over the weekend, we have booked a place on the NAMHO conference hosted this year  by the SCMC with a trip on the Sunday down Clive Mine and Huglith Mine.  Incidentally Linda and I have been in touch with SCMC member Andy Wood, who organised  a guide to take us into Cambrian Slate Mine near Oswestry , and another  guide who gave us a Bespoke tour of all the surface buildings and works around Snalebeach Mine, our thanks go to Andy and Alan from SCMC and Nick from Shropshire Mines Trust.  


Posted by Barry on 6th March 2011

This months trip turned into a novice event as Rupert had mentioned that his son, Harry, would like to have another go at caving with a friend of his, Tom. Also Darren had a friend, Becky, who wanted a go. So along with Kingsley, Ann, Julia, Jan and Pauline there was enough for two trips. Harry and Tom went with Ann and Kingsley and headed down to Trident and Judge, Selenite and Cross Rift area. Becky went with Darren, Pauline, Jan and Julia.Jan was keen to get Darren leading more so we pushed him to the front to find the way. First we set off to find the Mini Columns. After entering the gate Darren took us past the Big Chamber Near the Entrance and found the passage on the right. After several twists and turns we found ourselves at the Mini Columns. After admiring these for a while, Jan set the challenge of a little oxbow in the corner of the passage.

Pauline had a look but decided that she couldn’t make any progress and backed out. Darren had a quick look but couldn’t get his shoulders past the first constriction. Becky took up the challenge and after a squiggle and a squirm was past the hard bit and heading round the corner. Pauline was not to be beaten and had another go. This time she wriggled through with a little hopping on one hand.Back to the main passage, Darren led us to through the Brick Yard and on to the junction with the pyramidal rock marking the way on to Chasm. Jan had spotted a small passage on a previous trip and wanted to explore it further. Julia waited at the junction while we followed this to the bitter end and even had to get on hands and knees for a while. All the passages closed down but it did look like someone had been digging up there. As we returned to the junction we found Julia wandering into the passage. We had been gone a while and she wondered where we had got too.From the junction we headed down to the Corkscrew and initiated Becky in the knack of sliding over a rock in one move only to pass directly underneath it in the next, without falling down the hole behind. Then Darren led us down to Salubrious and on the Trident and Judge. On the way down Salubrious we met the other party heading up on their way out. We went as far as Jan’s favourite formation ‘Guiness Delight’ in Swamp Creek before we followed them out.When we emerged form the gate the sun was still shinning so we headed back to the cars to get changed and head home to make the most of the day. Unfortunately Becky’s car had a flat tyre so that had to be changed first. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the trip.

Second trip same day.

   Quite a few turned up for this trip so we had to split up into two parties. Ann, two new comers Ben and Tom  and Kinsley went on the standard trip from top entrance down to Salubrious passage, a quick detour to the Trident and the Judge then on to Selanite Tunnel and The Fine Formations. A sharp left turn took us to the impressive cross rift and the Midnight Chamber.  A good trip much enjoyed by the comers. 


Posted by Barry on 6th February 2011

There was only one place to be on a day like it was on the 6th of Feb. Gale force winds and torrential rain, above ground was not a nice place to be, so for once we got it right and sought solace in the warm familiar confines of the underground world. A small group of us met at Penwyllt and made our way up to the entrance as quickly as possible. We all breathed sighs of relief as we entered the cave away from the foul weather. Our cunning plan was to play around on some ropes using SRT, putting into good use all we had learned on a course some of us had been on last year. At the large pyramid shaped rock we entered Chasm Passage which we followed until we gained the pitch. Barry soon got the pitch expertly rigged and a ladder put in place for those who didn't do SRT. At the bottom we explored further along Chasm until another obstacle brought us all to an abrupt halt. Barry was quite keen to scale this high obstacle, but having done so he would have to go 'all the way round' or come back down again.

Retracing our footsteps we shinned back up the rope, or climbed the ladder to the top of the pitch. Heading back towards the pyramid shaped boulder we passed a small stream inlet. Allen, Paul and Barry wandered over to take a look while I chatted to Ann and Kingsley. They were taking their time, so I also wandered over to take a look, only to find them photographing some beautiful formations, I had been passed this little inlet many, many times but had never thought to see where the water came from. Following the stream the passage lowered, so a wriggle in some water was called for. Soon I was standing again and proceeded on to a fork, the left passage closed down, but I could hear water from the right fork. The water was pouring down from an aven, the passage did continue, although I doubt for much further, however I thought I had better return to the group. The wind was still blowing a hoolie, and the rain lashing horizontally across the hills, as we crawled back through the gate. A thoroughly enjoyable trip and good to get some SRT practice in.