Huw Durban, Huw Jones, Patricia Hughes, Barry Burn and Tom Williams
By Patricia Hughes
Photos Huw Jones
Evening taster trip to Ogof Clogwyn
What better way to end a wet bank holiday Sunday, than an evening caving trip in the Clydach Gorge?
We met up in Brynmawr at 5, me trying not to be tempted by the sight of the pub opposite the car park and the smell of freshly cooked takeaway food.
Then into 2 vehicles and drop down towards the gorge and out of the low hanging clouds.
Time to don my borrowed kit, try on the helmet, err Barry, how do I unclip It? Lamp check, then tried to figure out how to turn it off…sorted. Barry offered me a spare set of batteries but advised me not to keep them in the sleeve pockets as it may cause discomfort in a future crawl. Hmmm useful advice for sure…read on to find out why later.
My next dilemma; “So lads, is it suit over wellies or wellies over suit?”
“Well Patricia,” came the reply, “that depends if you want water to drain back up your trouser leg or if you want gravel in your boots.” The lesser of the two evils was chosen for me by the clothes that I was wearing, as I could not easily get the bulk of the over suit trouser legs into my wellies.
A short and pleasant stroll around to the Gellifelen Tunnel entrance before walking through the rather muddy western bore. The cloud was probably moving through the tunnel as the lower entrance seemed to be steaming like a witches’ cauldron was bubbling away inside. Time to leave Tom and Barry at the top of the hill and head down into the gorge. The three Huws were caving tonight, Huw, Huw and Hughes. I think that I passed the first test, not getting wobbly legs on the steeper parts of the path, above the gorge below.
Quick stop for a photo or two and instructions for me on cave photo modelling (which I am sorry to say I never fully got the hang of on this trip) before hopping up the resurgence cascade and into Ogof Clogwyn. I spent the first few metres after the short crawl-in gingerly avoiding the deep water in the stream. I was trying to cleverly keep dry wellies. Then I realised, there was little point and I should just accept the inevitable and fill yer boots, as it were. The water was not that cold and I was more comfortable walking normally and not worrying about trying to keep my socks dry. We stopped a few times for the Huws to point out speleological features and explain a little about the local geology. This trip even had a little amount of conservation as we recovered two lost items of clothing from inside the passage. We had a chat and brief sit down at the terminal sump before heading back out, via an upper section involving some crawling and dropping down a couple of slots in the floor. It was whilst crawling that I had an uncomfortable pain in my thigh. Time for me to remember Barry’s words of wisdom about things in pockets. Oh well just another pack of knackered Polos then Patricia, or so I thought.
Out of the cave and up the hill to rejoin Tom and Barry. On the way back we explored the culverts, walking down the “dry one” and back up the “wet one.” Wonderful feat of engineering, and rather fun with the sound and feeling of the water tumbling over the cascades. I did think that at one point I would tumble down the cascade myself as a perfect hand hold came off in my hand, as a football sized piece of rock decided to give up its grip on the rest of the rock just when I was relying on it. Up at the top end there was a narrow traverse step into the bramble bank before walking up to the railway path, avoiding the freshly deposited dog trail.
I then had the opportunity to try a tighter slide into a short cave just beyond the cars. But firstly removing the offending item from my pocket. Turned out to be a lipstick of all things. I asked Barry to look after it on the promise that I would reclaim it when I exited the cave, so as not to cause any domestic explaining on his account when he returned home with my lipstick. I experienced a very short but cold, muddy and low slide into the cave. Another experience that I wanted to try as it was on the potential list of things to put me off the sport. No problems with it though, but I felt a bit bad getting the borrowed and freshly culvert-cleaned oversuit covered in mud. Back to the cars to change. In my euphoria and slight confusion following my first caving trip I had a bit of a wardrobe issue. I could not find a couple of small yet important items of dry clothing. Apart from general embarrassment I was also worried that Tom would have a much harder job explaining to his wife the discovery of my smalls than Barry of my lipstick.
Back off into the clouds and to the car park in Brynmawr. Already signed up for my next taster trip and could not express my gratitude and delight about the evening enough. Wonderful company, a wonderful evening trip and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to my next trip to see if caving is for me.
I am sure that most of you have happy memories of your first trip, or you may not still be here right? Well my first trip was very memorable and I am glad that I went along. Thanks to my caving guides Huw Jones and Huw Durban as well as Barry and Tom, neither of whom went home with incriminating evidence as I found all of my dry kit in the dry kitbag where it had remained all the time.
“Commando” Patricia Hughes