OFD1 – 22nd July 2018

Barry Burn
Nick de Gare-Pitt
Adam Knapp
Gareth Williams
Terri
Lloyd Rielly

All photos by Barry Burn, (apart from Gareth’s one)

A trip was needed, but a knackered knee, a dodgy ankle and recent overindulgence meant that it would have to be a nice gentle trip. With the recent long, dry spell, we also wanted to see what this translated to in a cave that is normally known for a streamway. Thus we settled on a nice easy trip into OFD1.

This was to be a first time into OFD for Terri and Lloyd and I always think that the Bottom Entrance for a pootle upstream with some diversions into the side series that can be found on the  way is an ideal introduction.

We met at Penwyllt at the reasonable time of 10:30 and after filling the a trip card, getting a key and a bit of a gossip we drove down the hill to the convenient layby to change.

Being in the middle of the hottest heatwave for over 40 years meant that the walk to the cave, although relatively short, was a sweaty affair. Opening the gate triggered a blast of cooling air that howled out of the cave and each of us took time to pause and enjoy the draft as we entered.

It was soon evident, as we headed up the passage, just how dry the cave was going to be as the artificial pools and steams were completely dry.

Before heading to the streamway, I decided to take everyone up Pearl Passage to Skeleton Chamber to tell the tale of the itinerant castrator and a quick look at Pearl Chamber at the end.

Pearl Chamber

Pearl Chamber

We were then soon back on the trade route with me pointing out places that usually have small waterfalls that were now completely dry. Approaching the climb up into Column Passage, it became apparent that this was a very different cave.

OFD1 Trade Route

OFD1 Trade Route

Normally the Main Streamway makes itself known well in advance by the gentle roaring that can be heard. Today, though there was silence. Dropping down from The Step, this was more of a Main Trickleway than the usual exciting streamway that is the norm.

The biggest surprise was the potholes that are passed by scaffold pole bridges. Usually the scaffold tubes are just above or under the water, but now they were a good foot or more above water. The water in them was also very still and clear, allowing you to see to the bottom of the potholes. Most surprising was the first pothole. Most usually assume that if you fall in, that you will be up to your neck. This time though, it could be seen that it is a good 20 feet or more deep.

Lloyd Crossing Pot

Lloyd Crossing Pot

First Pothole

First Pothole

First Pothole

First Pothole

The plan was to head up to Boulder Chamber and then head back. We took our time heading upstream having a quick look around and pausing to have a good look at various features. The sump was particularly low with an airspace to be seen although we didn’t fancy getting too wet for a closer look. At Boulder Chamber, we spent some time for a quick break with a nose around and some tales of how long it took for a dry connection to be made.

The Sump

The Sump

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

Gareth and Terri in the Choke

Gareth and Terri in the Choke

Gareth in Choke

Gareth in Choke

Heading back downstream, a quick look at the traverse up to the Waterfall Series

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

Adam at End of Waterfall Series Traverse

with a promise to come back to that another day and then we climbed up into Low’s Passage. Gareth was convinced that he could see further leads high in the roof but I explained how Pete Harvey, one of the original discoverers, had spent a lot of time maypoling up to such suggestions only to be disappointed each time. The drop back down Low’s Chain (now Low’s Ladder) was accomplished with varying degrees of finesse before we headed of downstream again with the intention of looking into the Railton-Wild Series. However, we managed to stomp right past the way into this series, so again, it shall have to wait for another day. climb up the Maypole Chain for a look and then we went straight past The Step for the initiation ceremony that is Pluto’s Bath. Before heading up from the Streamway to it though, I nipped down to have a look at what the downstream end was looking like.

Terri Looking at a Missing Sump

Terri Looking at a Missing Sump

Terri and Gareth followed on and it was surprising to see that there was very little water now and a definite absence of a sump. A couple of photos and we headed back to join the others that were waiting for us the other side of Pluto’s Bath. After the correct amount of laughing at Terri trying to cross the pot and Gareth, who’d been chuffed to traverse over it, getting pushed back into it, we popped into the Fault Series that is one of those little visited gems that are to be found in OFD. Again, this had me confused as the climb up into it is always a lot higher than I remember.

Sniggering at a Formation

Sniggering at a Formation

Group Pose - Photo by Gareth Williams

Group Pose – Photo by Gareth Williams

Descending from The Fault Series

Descending from The Fault Series

We were soon back out into the sunshine and heat, pausing on the way to rescue a small frog. We decided that he may be trying to escape the scorching heat but was unlikely to survive for long so Lloyd was the hero that carried him up into the outside air to hop free.

I do wish that I’d thought of having a quick look at Gothic Sump before we headed out, it would have been interesting to see how low it has gone in the drought conditions. I also wonder if anyone has undertaken to document the system in these conditions. It may happen again next year, but chances are we won’t see such low water for another few decades and perhaps we should be more proactive in taking some measurements and recording observations.

After changing, dropping the key off and a good gossip with the DO who was intrigued with our descriptions and some of the photos, we did what should be done after a good trip into OFD, a pint in the Ancient.

OFD Top to Bottom through trip. Trig and Huw Jones 23/6/18

Driving to Penwyllt on such a sunny day its hard to process that for the next few hours you are going to willingly go underground and descend a hill only to then walk back up it but classic trips are worth it.

We met up, had a quick chat with Brendan at the club who happily gave us the key and then we studied the survey.

Kit on we plodded our way to the top and by the time we reached OFD2 it felt like I had already sweat out a days worth of sweat! We quickly got into the cool and got started.

I lead the way to Maypole Inlet via the main routes stopping only at Gnome passage to get a picture with my new lamp on full (cheers Roy!) the route all seemed fairly familiar even though the last time I had been down Maypole was 17 years previous. We climbed down the free climb into the inlet itself and slid our way to the ladder where we stopped for another picture. As we approached the climb into streamway I said happily to Huw ”at least it’s not slippy” and within seconds all I could see was Huw very rapidly descending into the stream but luckily he managed to stop himself! I don’t think ill tempt fate like that again this trip.

Gnome passage

Gnome passage

Maypole inlet climb

Maypole inlet climb

Climbing down Maypole ladder

Climbing down Maypole ladder

We made good progress down the stream way which was low but stunning nonetheless and arrived at the sump for a quick look, we then back tracked up-stream and jumped out at the Great Oxbow to by-pass the sump.

Jumping back into the stream from the oxbow we continued on our way at good speed enjoying the many potholes and plunge pools en route. There always comes a point where you just have to accept your legs aren’t long enough and just enjoy the cooling water. After quite a lot of stream way the walls start to get pretty….very pretty and before you know you are in Marble Showers. What a place, never ceases to amaze me the beauty of OFD and hands down the best underground stream in the UK. We stopped for a water break and for some pictures.

Marble Showers

Marble Showers

Marble Showers

Marble Showers

Marble Showers

Marble Showers

Marble Showers

Marble Showers

Carrying on even further down stream we passed, on the right, the confluence for main and Cwm Dwr stream. We lost the stream soon after and ended up in Piccadilly. What a huge and amazing place to test out the new lamp and stop for a bit to eat.

Piccadilly

Piccadilly

Piccadilly

Piccadilly

We carried on and climbed up divers pitch which is a relatively if not ever so slightly exposed free climb with an in-situ old handline to aid. At the top we turned right into the crawls which would soon post us out of the Letterbox where obviously we had to take some pictures of the flat out backwards crawl leading to a sudden drop and a chain to assist climbing out. We had a quick scan and head down the slope underneath the Letterbox and into chokes for the way on. To say we had a quick navigational boo boo would be over exaggerating, we just wanted to spend bit more time in the lovely loose choke…..

Divers Pitch

Divers Pitch

Letterbox emerging sequence!

Letterbox emerging sequence!

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Once through Huw mentioned about going to visit Dip Sump, the point of many of the early dives into OFD2 itself from the bottom entrance long before the days of a dry connection and a top entrance.

All that was left now was to head towards the dry Breakthrough point and choke and make our way into OFD1 which took no time at all apart from pausing in the choke to admire the old scaffold that has substantially bent in the years gone by luckily now backed up with a new one!

We made our exit through OFD1 quickly only pausing to try to find Huw’s glove which has been swallowed by the albeit dribble of a stream and also the standard swim in Pluto’s bath.

We exited the cave after 4 and a bit hours to a raging hot day, good job we’ve got a hill to climb in our caving kit……….

OFD1 Round Trip – 13th May 2018

Barry Burn, Gareth Jones, Huw Durban, Freya Durban, Dave Gledhill

By: Barry Burn
Photos: Barry Burn

Gareth and Freya had not so far visited OFD and so a trip to do a roundtrip in OFD1 was planned as an introduction for them and the Sunday saw us meeting up nice and early to pick up a key and fill in our trip card before parking up in the layby to change and the short walk to the cave.

The plan was to do the classic round trip, up Main Streamway to Low’s Chain and Low’s Passage then the climb up to Roundabout Chamber and the Shale Crawl into the Rawl Series. Then along to Pi Chamber and down via Bolt Passage to the Bolt Traverse. We decided against continuing to Airy Fairy or finishing the loop via the Dugout but to drop down back into the Main Streamway via the Maypole Chain.

We were soon changed and ready to set off and a quick selfie was taken that show’s Gareth’s very basic mistake if you look close enough. We were then soon walking through brilliant sunshine up to the entrance. where we quickly sorted ourselves out and climbed down the ladder into the cave.

Selfie

Selfie

We headed off towards The Cathedral, pausing at the start of Pearl Passage for a quick tale about the skeleton in Skeleton Chamber and then along the trade route to the start of column passage.

The Toast Rack

The Toast Rack

At Column Passage we pushed dave up the climb to rig a handline before we all followed him up. The column is a very impressive formation that I always like to see and Gareth and Freya were suitable awed. Dave and Gareth nipped through the duck to visit the Eagle’s Nest whilst we more sensible three stayed dry and took a couple of photos.

It was then back along Column Passage and back down the handline.

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Climbing Down from Cloumn Passage

Before climbing down at The Step and heading upstream.

We passed Low’s Chain on the right and continued to Boulder Chamber to show Freya and Gareth the way on through the mountain and stopped for a pasty before heading back to Low’s Chain. Here, the awkward climb is now considerably easier as a short section of ladder has appeared. This made the climb up a breeze and we were all soon up and we headed off up the lofty Low’s Passage. I explained as we went how the early explorers thought that they could see high level passages here and spent some time scaling the passage with maypoles only to be dissapointed as each lead turned out to be shadows or alcoves. At the end, the passage closes down and you climb up through boulders until a choice of left or right is found. We had a quick look left to see what was there (more boulders) before continuing the steep climb up to reach Roundabout Chamber and it’s fine grotto, The Bee’s Knees.

Some photos using some very overused poses were taken before heading off and then to the Shale Crawl. A short section of flat out crawling that soon opens up again.

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The passage now assumes very large proportions as you enter the Rawl Series. For me, one of the most imppressive passages in the OFD system with a few fine formations.

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The Rawl Series

The Rawl Series

At the end of the Rawl Sereis, Pi Chamber is found and the entrance to Helter Skelter is found that leads via Boulder Passage and a fun little slide down a tube to the start of the Bolt Traverse.

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

Climb Down to the Start of The Bolt Traverse

We were all quickly along the traverse and into the small passage at the end.

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

Dave at the end of Bolt Traverse

And then the short section to the Maypole Chain and back into the Main Streamway.

We ambled back downstream, past The Step and a quick look into Loopways before getting back to the Toastrack via Pluto’s Bath. Here Gareth either forgot about the big hole in the floor of the pool that we showed him on the way in or some Gollum-like creature tried to drag him down to its watery lair.

Beware ye who pass by here

Beware ye who pass by here

From here, we were soon back out in the sunshine. We’d taken longer than usual on this trip but we were taking our time and enjoying the sights as well as taking a few deviations to explore off the route. All in all a really good trip that we all enjoyed.

OFD1 – Main Streamway – 2nd April 2017 by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Rob Johnston
Ruby Johnston
Dione Ball
Dave Gledhill

A somewhat poignant trip for me as this was to be Rob’s last caving trip before leaving South Wales for a life of retirement sailing the ocean’s and visiting far-off shores.

Rob and Myself along with Mark Wedlock were a regular team that explored a lot of the underground world of South Wales back in the 90s and early 2000s, but sadly, events transpired so that we gradually stopped caving together. Rob has now retired and is planning to whisk Paulyne, his wife, off on a life of mad adventure sailing the globe. But, before that, he wanted one last caving trip and especially one into OFD1 that he hadn’t visited for quite a few years.

Young Rob at LNRC

Young Rob at LNRC

A fine spring morning saw us meeting up at Penwyllt. Rob’s daughter Ruby joined us for her first taste of OFD and along with Dione and Trig we made our way to the layby where we changed and headed off to the entrance.There had been a fair bit of rain recently so the streamway promised to be sporting but we decided to carry on and to see how things looked when we reached The Step.

We had soon all descended the ladder and re-grouped in the small chamber at the bottom and then headed off into the cave. Ruby’s experience up until then had been much smaller caves with Porth yr Ogof being the biggest and so this was a suitably impressive step-up for her and she was obviously enjoying herself as the cave passage got progressively larger and better decorated. Rob, went into some sort of dreamlike state reminiscing about previous through-trips and we swapped tales about trips into the far reaches of OFD2 and other caves as well as fun times such as when nearly all of GCRT (us included) became trapped on the wrong side of a collapse.

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Ruby Goes Up The Toastrack Ladder

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Rob at The Toastrack

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Admiring Formations

A few photos on the way and we were soon at the calcite climb up into Column Passage and Trig kindly obliged to climb up first to rig a hand line. All were soon up and then along the passage to the small chamber that contains The Column where a fair bit of time was spent admiring it and trying to get Ruby and Dione to lead the way on to Eagle’s Nest through the duck. After is was clear that there was a sad lack of gullibility on this trip, we headed back and down the climb with varying amounts of grace.A few photos on the way and we were soon at the calcite climb up into Column Passage and Trig kindly obliged to climb up first to rig a hand line. All were soon up and then along the passage to the small chamber that contains The Column where a fair bit of time was spent admiring it and trying to get Ruby and Dione to lead the way on to Eagle’s Nest through the duck. After is was clear that there was a sad lack of gullibility on this trip, we headed back and down the climb with varying amounts of grace.

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Dione Admires The Column

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Ruby Is Not Convinced

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Formation on The Column

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Trig In The Column Pool

 

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Ruby Descending The Calcite Climb

At The Step the streamway was indeed slightly sporting, but just enough to make it more fun than the usual sploshing upstream, and so entered the water and progressed upstream. Everyone was more than eager to head off as some caring soul had decided that the passage just before The Step was a great place to relieve oneself and the stink of stale urine was overpowering here.

Heading upstream with more photos and a short diversion up to the start of the Maypole Wire and then a stop for a short break in Boulder Chamber before heading back downstream. Climbing out at The Step, we sent a few helmet-fulls of water onto the rock in a hope of cleaning it up a bit.

An obligatory visit to the passage beyond Pluto’s Bath and then back to the entrance. Trig and I went for a quick look at Gothic Sump before we headed back into the open air.

A shortish trip, but thoroughly enjoyable. It was great to be caving again and hopefully Rob’s travels will bring him back to Wales in the not too distant future and maybe then we can drag Mark back underground again. Ruby professed to having enjoyed the cave and was keen to see more so I hope she’ll continue the way she’s started and join us on some more trips.

OFD1 – A Wee Potter Around – 20th November 2016 by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Adam Knapp

With a view to visiting the Railton-Wilde series in OFD1, Adam and I met up bright and early at Penwyllt after a period of heavy snow the night before and reviewed the plan for the day. Overnight, there had been a heavy fall of snow with significant accumulations that were now melting. This would mean that there would be a large amount of water that would have entered the system and it was possible that there would be an additional input somewhere that would result in water levels rising again or further. We decided to write out the ticket to indicate an intention to visit the series but also to have a general bimble around the Fault Series and other areas of OFD1.

The OFD system is a marvelous place that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of visiting. There are always other places to find and explore. In 2016, I enjoyed becoming very well acquainted with OFD1 and in 2017, I think I shall reacquaint myself with OFD2. there are some places there I may never see but I would like to get to know this extensive system and revisit some of the lesser visited places such as the Northern Lights that I haven’t seen for a good many years. But for this day, it was OFD1 again.

Driving down to the lay-by and changing, we were soon off down the lane and up to the entrance. A quick selfie (I still can’t get these right) and we were down through the gate just in front of a group of SWCC prospective members that were visiting OFD for their first time.

We quickly moved off into the cave to reach the Toastrack and then on to The Step. Here it was obvious that there had been a significant amount of water that had entered the system and the stream level was quite high. Not the highest I have seen but high enough to potentially give some problems. At this point the following group turned up to have a look and the leader decided that it would be better to take her acolytes into some of the upper series instead and they returned the way they had come. Adam and I stepped into the stream to see if it would be passable and found the stream to be over well over knee level. We found it was relatively easy moving against the current but turning around it was obvious that this is where the potential problems could lie. Without a lot of concentration, it would be easy to lose one’s footing especially when descending the small cascades and water chutes that are in the streamway. We felt that if the water levels were dropping that we would be okay, however, it wasn’t known if there was further snowmelt still entering the system potentially increasing the water levels further. So, deciding it was likely to be a geological age before the Railton-Wilde series went  anywhere, we entered into bimble mode.

We made our way back the way we had come stopping for the odd photograph and looking into most of the small series that can be found around that area such as the Upper Toastrack and Coral Pool series. We then headed back towards the Fault Series with the intention of finding a passage that we thought we missed last time, stopping on the way to have a long chat with a couple of SWCC members.

A quick visit to the stream again by traversing over Pluto’s Bath for a lunch stop and another couple of photos and then we headed off and were soon climbing up into the Fault Series. We found the missing passage but it was taped off and weren’t going to be able to visit it anyway and so contented ourselves with another visit to the previously visited passage and a look at the formations there.

We were soon back on the surface for another selfie (I’m getting better) after a shorter than intended but still thoroughly enjoyable wee potter around OFD1.

(Please note, photographs to be added later).

OFD1 – The Fault Series – by Barry Burn

Barry Burn
Tristan Burn
Adam Knappe (Morgannwg)

4th September 2016

A short trip into OFD1 for a bit of a bimble up to the Fault Series and a poke around some of the other passages that are generally ignored by the majority of visitors.

There was supposed to be six of us but that had become three by the time we set off in the morning and it was only Tris and me from Brynmawr that met up with Adam from Morgannwg at Penwyllt bright and early.

There had been torrential rain the night before and we had to fend off a number of advisories to keep out of the streamway. I explained that we weren’t that daft and were only planning on a trip to The Fault Series. I did want to have a look at the Main Streamway though so intended to get close to it and see what state it was in.

We did our usual thing of driving the cars down to the layby to change where I discovered that instead of just forgetting my towel or clean undies, I’d managed to forget everything bar my oversuit, hat and lamp. “Ah well” I said, “It’s a dry trip, we’re going to be keeping out of the water” and so off we went with me less cosy than usual. We were soon into the cave and made our way to the start of The Fault Series that is a high level passage reached by climbing up a steep flowstone ramp. It was here that I remembered the unwritten rule of caving that every dry trip will always have a spot where you get wet. There was a lot of water flowing down the calcite ramp and at the top, there is a climb up through boulders where there was enough water cascading into it to give me a good wetting down.

Start of Fault Series

Start of the climb up into The Fault Series

Calcite Ramp

Calcite Ramp up into The Fault Series

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Squeeze through boulders at top of Calcite Ramp

The Fault Series itself is short but well worth the visit. There are some nice formations as well as some unusual mud formations. The whole area is well taped to protect these and they must be observed or the area would soon be trashed.

The passage after the mud deposits becomes larger until progress is halted at a large choke that hasn’t yet been passed. As we had plenty of time, we lingered awhile taking photos before returning back down the calcite ramp.

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Getting a good soaking coming back through the boulder squeeze.

We decided to have a look at the streamway at The Step so headed off there to be impressed with the torrent that was flowing. It would be definitely sporting to have tried to go upstream that day. Some foam flecks far above the current stream level showed that it had been considerably higher quite recently.p9040631

Instead of climbing back up The Step, there is a short section of passage, marked on the survey as Loopways so we had a quick look down there. This ends at a drop to the streamway but it is worth the quick look. In Traverse Passage, there is a window that looks down onto this short passage.

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A look up the start of the Escape Route and then coming back down the Toastrack, Tris and Adam decided to go through Pluto’s Bath and down to the streamway again. I was feeling the cold by now and didn’t fancy a dunking so elected to stay put. I soon heard calls that I really should come on down and see something. I was able to avoid the water by traversing across Pluto’s Bath and headed down the passage. The lower end of the passage was covered, walls and ceiling in foam and was a stark testament to just how high the Streamway can rise in flood. It must have risen to somewhere around six to eight feet above the current level. At this point is was possible to sit right by the water’s edge without getting swept away and this we did for a while before heading back out stopping briefly for Tris to perform his ‘ablutions.’

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Of course, it is almost obligatory to visit the Ancient Briton after a good trip into OFD and so we called in for a swift half on the way home.

p9040672 This was a good fun trip. It was something different, a good easy trip looking into some places in OFD1 that see few visitors. This can be immensely enjoyable and almost therapeutic that allows you to really see the cave and enjoy it rather than rushing headlong to a remote destination for a quick look around and then rushing back. For me, caving is more about exploration and discovery than scoring ticks in the manner of Munro baggers and I always say that more people should slow down and look around them as there is a lot to be seen that is often missed.


Note to self: get your kit ready the day before then you won’t forget anything.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 Round Trip (Again)

Gallery

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Barry Burn Tristan Burn Tom Williams Adam Knapp (Morgannwg Caving Club) We planned to do a round trip in OFD1 today taking Tristan for his first visit to OFD. For this trip we were joined by a Morgannwg member, Adam … Continue reading

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 – Waterfall Series, Sunday 10th April 2016 by Barry Burn

Victoria Bluemel, Huw Jones, Andrew Zerbino and Barry Burn

Photos – Barry Burn except Crystal Photos – Andrew Zerbino

I had a feeling that Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 could be addictive as we changed ready for another trip into this system, this time to explore the Waterfall Series.

Group

Group

As before, we made quick progress through the Cyril Powell series past The Cathedral and up The Toast Rack. A small squeezy passage on the right looked inviting to the lover of small places that is Zeb Zerbino and he happily inserted himself into it to see where it went. The rest of us took the sensible option of walking around the corner to watch him come out the other end. Continuing on soon saw us back at The Step and then into the Main Streamway.

The Main Streamway was well behaved as the weather had been settled and we quickly proceeded along it, stopping for a few photos on the way, past Lowe’s Chain where Vicky again told Tom and I off and then to the start of the traverse up into the Waterfall Series. The traverse begins at stream level and gradually ascends up via a fixed wire to a short climb through boulders to bring you out in a high passage that is followed to reach a junction with the Dry Way straight ahead and the Wet Way to the right. We carried on along the Dry Way to reach Idol Junction where a climb up to the West Leg can be taken or another branch followed to the East Leg. Here one wall is covered in a pure white formation that seems to cascade down from the roof high above and I spent a bit of time trying to get a half decent photograph of it while Huw climbed up into the West Leg for a look.

Carrying on to the start of the East Leg, a passage can be followed to a climb up into Crystal Pool Chamber and The Annex. My back was complaining a bit by this time so I elected to stay behind and photograph the many helictites that were here whilst the others went on to explore. When they returned, we had a further look around with Zeb squeezing into a small passage with an incredible floor mad of crystals and then started to return. On the way back, Zeb and Vicky decided to go via the Wet Way whilst the two sensible members of the party took the easier Dry Way. Back to the top end of the fixed wire and soon we were back in The Main Streamway. Hopefully when my back and neck improve, I shall make a return with a view to exploring some more of the series.

Back at stream level, before returning, we carried on around the corner into the impressive, but rather forbidding Boulder Chamber. Here a way on through the boulders by the right hand wall will take you through to the connection with OFD1.5 and the possibility of a through trip to come out via Cwm Dwr or to the top of the hill and the OFD2 entrance. I hung back and waited as my back was definitely twinging by now and the others crawled into the boulder choke to have a look around and then it was back along the streamway when they returned.

Boulder Chamber

Boulder Chamber

This time The Step was passed to continue on to leave the Main Streamway at the passage that leads to Pluto’s Bath, a deep pool that can be traversed across but is probably easier to just accept that you are going to get wet. Zeb made a brilliant show of how not to traverse over it and created a good splash as he hit the water. Luckily, I had the camera on video at the time. It was at this point that I discovered that buying cheap isn’t always the best policy as the fleece undersuit I’d bought to replace the one I shrunk turned out to not be very free-draining and I doubled in weight.

Worms

Worms

Emerging back at The Toast Rack, we quickly made our way back to the entrance although the strange sight of a large number of white worms in one of the artificial pools was intriguing. Having a close look, they revealed themselves to be earthworms that had lost their colour. They must have been washed in during recent wet weather to be deposited in the pool. But why they would be ‘bleached’ almost white though?

A quick change and back to drop the key off at Penwyllt and after a chat with the duty warden, Huw had to dash off but Zeb, Vicky and I took the opportunity for a couple of pints in The Ancient Briton to round off another excellent day in OFD1.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1, Sunday 20th March 2016 by Barry Burn

Victoria Bluemel, Tom Williams, Andrew Zerbino and Barry Burn

Photos – Barry Burn

Return to Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1

The Team in the Layby

The Team in the Layby

We returned to OFD1 in much more settled weather to progress beyond The Step in the Main Streamway. An early(ish) start saw us at Penwyllt picking up the key for OFD1 and then back at the layby where we were confronted with our first obstacle, a large coach. Obligingly, the driver moved so we could park and we were changed, posed for a selfie and off down the hill to a now much dryer cave.

Rapid progress was made up Main Passage and along the usual route to The Step. The stream now was now very low and makes for a very pleasant trip through a very fine stream passage through black limestone passing over a few deep pots using the in situ scaffold bars. Moving upstream to The Sump we then continued to Lowe’s Chain that is a short climb up via the rope handline already in place into Lowe’s Passage.

Lowes passage is of impressive proportions until it suddenly closes down into a short scramble through boulders into Lowe’s Chamber. A climb up massive boulders was soon reached that took us up into the start of the Rawl Series, named from the initials of the original explorers. I had recently managed to shrink my undersuit on an unintended boil wash and so had bought some Asda thermals to wear but had worn a sweatshirt on top. By now I was starting to seriously overheat so a brief stop was made to allow me to divest myself of a layer. A few photos and we moved off into Roundabout Chamber with the pretty Bees’ Knees formations then into a bedding plane crawl, Roly Poly Passage. Soon after this, the Rawl Series takes on impressive proportions to become a truly large passage where you are scrambling over huge blocks that have fallen from the roof. What is not apparent is that the blocks are actually wedged across the passage halfway up and so the passage is actually of even more impressive size than it appears. It is possible to climb down at one point into The Subway that runs at the bottom of the actual passage until another climb up is found. We continued above the boulders until a scramble down to a narrow ledge at the side takes you past a deep pit where the Subway re-appears, then onwards into Pi Chamber. A number of passages lead off here but we dropped down between boulders in the floor into The Helter Skelter that becomes a short phreatic tube that we slid down until the end of the traverse wire is encountered. We could now hear the roar of the Main Streamway far below so clipped onto the wire and headed down to the Bolt Traverse. This starts off as a wide ledge but soon narrows until the footholds become more wishful thinking and you are glad of the wire for support. Such a high and exposed traverse was a bit of a first for Vicky and Tom but they both acquitted themselves admirably and we were soon at the end of the traverse and into Meander Passage.

After crossing Bolt Traverse, we could have followed the escape route via The Dugout but had decided to continue with another traverse that can be reached by doubling back on yourself, Airy Fairy. This traverse is even more exposed than Bolt Traverse and at one point the footholds give out completely and you progress by bracing yourself off of the fixed wire; cows tails are a good idea here. Again Vicky and Tom coped very well and I think after this we should arrange an Upper Oxbow Series or OFDIII trip.

After Airy Fairy, it is possible to climb down to the Main Streamway which we did and while Vicky and Zeb moved off back downstream, Tom and I took a quick detour back upstream to have a look at Airy Fairy from below from where it doesn’t look nearly so bad.

So back to The Step (I think we should go via Pluto’s Bath next time) and back the way we came to the entrance ladder.

Another thoroughly enjoyable trip with everything you could want, from huge passages, beautiful and delicate formations to the adrenalin rush of an exposed traverse. In a word, awesome. I did manage to take a fair few photos and would have taken more if I hadn’t faced a small rebellion where I was threatened with having my camera removed from my possession. Oh well, maybe I’ll be able to get some more next time.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1, Sunday 7th February 2016 by Barry Burn

Barry Burn, Dai Williams, Vicky Blumel and Andrew “Zeb” Zerbino.

Photos – Barry Burn

Although having been caving in the South Wales caving region since 1994, with trips into most of the major cave systems, I had never ventured into OFD1. This was rectified with a trip with three other BCC members, for two of whom, this would also be a first visit. The recent weather had been predominantly torrential rain and so we doubted that the Main Streamway would be accessible and so we decided to content ourselves with a potter around the passages that lead up to The Step where the streamway is usually entered. I also wanted to see what my Christmas present; an Olympus Tough TG4 camera was capable of, so had packed it as well as a tripod for the trip in expectation of encountering some very photogenic cave passages.

The rain had left off on the Sunday morning and we arrived at SWCC headquarters at a reasonable time and filled in our ticket and received our key for OFD1. Jumping back in the car, we drove down to the lay-by to change and proceeded to the entrance. The cave is entered via a ladder that takes you down to a heavy steel door, that when opened allows a huge draught to flow, that gives some expectation of the size of the cave to be found within. A second ladder then drops down you into the cave itself.

Vicky at The Font

Vicky at The Font

The Column

The Column

We first decided to have a look at Gothic Sump so followed Gothic Passage to arrive at a most dismal looking sump. Foam marks on the walls indicated the depth to which the water had risen, which showed that the sump had backed up to a considerable height in Gothic Passage itself. Back at the ladder, a short section of stooping passage took us to Main Passage in the Cyril Powell series. The first evidence of an attempt to open the cave up as a show cave is found here with the stream running down the right hand side of the passage in a man-made channel. A junction is soon reached with a large passage to the right being the main way on but we elected to have a look at the smaller passage straight ahead first and find Skeleton Chamber. A quick stop for some photos of a formation and an attempt to photograph some water splashes (I need to work on this) and Skeleton Chamber was soon reached. This is entered by dropping down through a hole into a chamber that runs perpendicular to and back under the passage we entered from. It was here that the original explorers found a human skeleton, hence the name of the chamber. There is a tale of an itinerant castrator that visited the cave by some lost entrance. He walked off into the darkness with a burning torch, blowing a bugle never to be seen again. One theory is that the skeleton belonged to this man but it could also be a Bronze Age burial. Whoever he was, his bones now reside in a cardboard box in Cardiff museum. Turning our lights off for a brief “Derek Acorah” moment produced the expected result of absolutely nothing happening and we then climbed back out of the chamber and proceeded to Pearl Chamber for a couple of photographs before returning to the junction.

Following the other passage from the junction took us past the Cathedral and the Font to Flood Passage and on to The Toast Rack. Above The Toast Rack, more fine passage was followed that took us back to a roaring Main Streamway and then Traverse Passage. A quick crawl around the passages at the top of Traverse Passage and then we headed back down towards The Step which is the usual point of entry into the Main Streamway. Here the amount of water in the stream and the sound was quite staggering and it was obvious that any attempt to enter it would not be sensible so we went back a short distance to the short climb up to Column Passage, another fine passage that leads to a small chamber containing a pool and a large column formation, The Column. The description of this place on the virtual tour at Ogof.Net says that the pool has delicate calcite plates growing on the surface and that the pool should not be entered. Sadly, there was no evidence of these.

We went back to the step and took a few more photographs before exiting the cave after a thoroughly enjoyable trip. We didn’t cover a huge amount of ground but to me, these are often the more enjoyable trips, where you get to take your time and really look at everything rather than speeding past on the way to some other goal. OFD is a very complex cave system that offers a lot and I feel it will repay you greatly if you take the time to explore a small part of the system before later moving on to trips further into the cave.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse after we exited and so a rapid change in the lay-by was required although I missed a great photo opportunity when Zeb stripped off and ran to the passenger door of the car where his dry clothes had been left, only to find the door still locked. A naked Andrew Zerbino hopping about covering his modesty is not a pretty sight. I suppose I could have been quicker with unlocking the door but we were all giggling too much. A couple of pints in the Ancient Briton in time-honoured fashion rounded off a very enjoyable first trip into OFD1.

The Ancient Briton

The Ancient Briton