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 2, Sunday 10th January 2016 by Huw Jones

Andrew Zerbino, Michael Bergerac Young, Tom Williams, Vicky Blumel and Huw Jones

Photos – Huw Jones

Outside SWCCAfter a false start where there were no SWCC members around to sort us out with a key, we had a pleasant introductory trip into OFD 2. The passages and sights included Gnome, Salubrious, Trident, Judge, Swamp Creek, Selenite, Shatter Pillar, Cross Rift etc. Headed upto entrance with a group from Cambridge Uni and bumped into two different groups from Morgannwg CC, underground.

(2) Group in Gnome 2(5) Formations Vicky 2

Afterwards, we called into the Ancient Britton for a pint and to celebrate Vicky’s birthday with the cupcakes she brought along. One of the landlords (at least I think he was!) kindly lent us a candle! A short while later, we were joined by the Morgannwg lot.

BCC&MCC Ancient BritCupcakes

Bridge Cave, Sunday 17th January 2016 by Vicky Blumel

Vickey Blumel, Barry Burn, Huw Durban, Helen John, Tom Williams and Andrew Zerbino

Photos – Barry Burn and Huw Durban


On Sunday 17th January 2016, Ground covered in snow and the Thermometer reading 1 degree – We decided to take a little trip into Bridge Cave, Ystradfellte.

As expected it was cold… very cold and we were thoroughly looking forward to getting changed in temperature that would make penguins jealous.

Bridge Cave starts as a low but short crawl until you reach a small boulder choke which opens up into the impressive streamway beyond. With two relatively tight squeezes before and after the choke – It is ideal for first timers and children.

Barry’s photos:-

Although a small cave – it has impressive formations, a waterfall and some climbs that are easily accessible even for myself (I am short) We thoroughly enjoyed the belly crawl to the sump in possibly the coldest water I have experienced!

Helen led us up the rocky walls above the waterfall, across a shelf which overlooks the streamway and onto a pretty little grotto. The grotto entrance is just wide enough to fit your helmet through and snake your way in. Inside it is beautifully decorated from waterbed to roof – definitely a must see if you’re visiting.

Huw’s photos :-

Our exit from the cave wasn’t as simple as the entry – Tom was adamant that we had taken a wrong route up the choke and that we were going the wrong way. A woman is always right and once again my sense of direction kicked in to prove we were actually right on track.

Huw and Barry captured some amazing photographs of our little trip – Zeb was happy to pose for them.

The day was rounded off with a small snowball fight, a brush with death thanks to black ice and a Pint (Hot coffee for us drivers).
Note to self for next visit – Invest in some wetsocks!

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