Ogof Clogwyn, Sunday 19th August 2018

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

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu II, Saturday 11th August 2018

David Gledhill, Gareth Jones and Huw Jones

By Gareth Jones
Photos Huw Jones except where otherwise stated

A Saturday trip into OFD 2, lead by Huw Jones. My first trip into OFD 2, and Huw’s first trip for a few weeks. So he had planned a long trip at a good pace to try fit in everything OFD 2 had to offer. (well, we probably covered less than 10% of OFD2!! – Huw)

We’d planned to meet in Merthyr before 9am where Huw jumped in my car, after I’d bought a pork pie and sweets. Dave was going to meet us at Penwyllt.

Arriving at a very busy Penwyllt, we struggled to park. We got in eventually, and thankfully there was an entrance key spare.

After changing as quick as we could, we started off on the tram road, up the hill. After a 10 minute hike we arrived at the entrance, Ogof y Nos Hir, which is an unassuming entrance that you’d never notice unless you knew where to look. The story of its opening is interesting, with diggers underground and above pushing to meet each other, eventually leading to a top entrance into the vast system of OFD below, the deepest cave system in the UK.

We stopped for a photo outside the entrance, now a padlocked gate.

Opening the padlock and switching on my light, I lead the way in. To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. The very first chamber we entered through the tight entrance gate was so vast I struggled to imagine how it could exist so close to the surface, initially discovered from the inside from an entrance much lower down the hill. Oos and aahs aside, we had a cave to explore. So off we went.

Our trip took us through ‘Big Chamber Near The Entrance’, through bouldery ‘Brickyard’, and into the impressive ‘Gnome Passage’. Numerous stunted stals cover the floor of the chamber, giving the appearance of a garden full of calcited gnomes. Legend says in wet weather you can hear the gnomes whisper to each other, but with the recent dry weather, the chamber on this occasion was quiet.

Leaving the gnomes after a brief discussion, we decided to test my fear of heights, again, and as luck had it Huw had a ladder in his bag. So to my surprise, not far round the corner, in ‘Chasm Passage’ was a supposed 8m pitch we could practice climbing down an electron ladder and back up again. After 10 mins of rigging, Dave decided to show how it was done, with courage and dignity. At the bottom he called up he was at the bottom, safe.

Now it was my turn. I’d like to say I followed Dave’s example and climbed down graciously with style. But that would be a lie. I panicked and panted and cursed and shook and eventually, I made it down. Now for the climb back up. I went first so Dave could capture the event on camera. After a few failed attempts, the thought of the sweets and pork pie at the top spurred all my courage and energy, and slowly but surely, I managed to climb back up. Dave quickly followed behind.

I spent a minute getting my wits back while Dave and Huw packed away the kit.

We headed off continuing down into the depths of OFD 2. We descended a corkscrew obstacle to arrive into ‘Salubrious Streamway’ where we tried to find a way upstream, before giving up and heading off down the streamway.

Eventually after a few sporting obstacles, climbs and traverses we made it down a side passage off the streamway, into arguably OFD’s most famous formations, the ‘Trident’ and the ‘Judge’. After some more pictures we headed off up ‘Swamp Creek’ to see another impressive formation. From here, we turned around and headed back into ‘Salubrious’ and continued downstream heading for ‘The Maze’.

We stopped to look at the survey and decided to explore a bit. None of us had been in this part of the cave before. We found lots of formations, and some impressive fossils of coral. After spending some time getting lost in ‘The Maze’, we again back tracked and made our way to ‘President’s Leap’ via ‘The Crossroads’.

Why this obstacle is called ‘President’s Leap’ I can only imagine, because traversing over a certain drop to your death, one is leaping anything but presidentially. However, this obstacle is entirely worth the shaky knees. It leads straight into, in my opinion, one of the finest passages I have yet seen in my life, ‘Selenite Passage’. This densely decorated passage filled with selenites, is what makes the leap worth it. It truly is breathtaking passage, and no pictures would do the endless formations justice. You really have to get in there to see them.

At the end of the passage at ‘Shatter Pillar’, we stopped for lunch and a chat. We then decided to have another look at ‘Selenite Passage’, before we realised we had to pick the pace up if we were to cover more ground and see as much of the cave as we had planned.

So at a quicker pace, we headed up into ‘Midnight Chamber’, where we bumped into another group of cavers. Then quickly on to see ‘Skyhook’. Then onwards down to the end of ‘Deja Rue’. We had a look at the junction to ‘Northern Lights’ but unfortunately time had caught up with us. So we decided to start making our way out. So we headed back the way we came, back to ‘Shatter Pillar’ where we then made our way to ‘Edward’s Shortcut’ to exit. However, Huw had one more amazing place to show us on the way. After ascending what felt like a never ending boulder collapse, we were back up at the upper levels of OFD 2, where we took a side passage off to a passage equally as breathtaking as ‘Selenite’.

We had entered ‘Frozen River’. This passage involved a bit of stooping and hands and knees crawling, and a slide down some calcite. The whole way the passage was lined with endless straws and helictites. We reached an amazing column at the end, with conservation tape barring the way on. We took some time to admire and take in everything there was to see. Everything seemed so fragile that even our booming voices felt like they may shatter the pretties.

Realising time was running out, we headed back on our journey out the cave. We arrived at ‘Edward’s Shortcut’ to face another crazy traverse, so wide we were almost horizontally spanning the lofty rift, and at the end, with a foot at either side of the traverse I was doing the splits for the first time in my life.
We reached the last major obstacle, a slippery 4m vertical climb that Huw shimmied up, putting my following attempt to shame. With huffing and puffing, anyone round the corner might have thought I was giving birth. But with Dave pushing from below, and Huw pulling from above, I eventually made it. Dave followed swiftly behind.
From there we were plain sailing. Back into ‘Gnome Passage’ and following our route in, we swiftly made it back to the gate, 6 hours after we entered. Dave opened the gate to a, not so typical as of late, warm and wet beautiful hillside.

Weary but elated, we made our way back down the tram road to Penwyllt, to get changed and dry off.
A thoroughly enjoyable trip. If my achy joints are anything to go by the following day, as I do this write up, a very physical trip too. Some call OFD a show cave. Yes the formations, scale and grandeur are worthy of a show cave, however, the physical undertaking we endured is not comparable to the concrete footpaths and handrails in nearby show caves. Show cave yes, but no gentle walk in the park. This cave is a show cave for cavers.

The longest I have been underground yet. Potentially one of the most memorable trips, I’m sure I will never forget. Thanks to Huw and Dave for letting me experience this one.

Pork Pies at The Lamb and Fox Chamber Draenen. Trig and Gareth Rex Jones – 5th August 2018

The original plan today was to do the Daren to Cnwc through trip but Tom had to drop out so a short trip into Draenen was planned instead.

The day started at the shop with a quick chat with Brent whilst I got the key and soon after I was meeting up with Gareth at Pwll Du who seemed to be doing his own ‘Car Pool Karaoke’ shortly after with a text from Barry begging him to stop.

We quickly (well Gareth did, I took ages) got ready and had a chat with some walkers (who were ex cavers from the Mendips) on the sheer size of Draenen. We plodded off to the entrance, emptied bladders and slipped into the fun of the entrance series stopping for pictures in the dug shafts and at the knotted climb.

Enjoying the cool breeze from the lungs of Draenen

Enjoying the cool breeze from the lungs of Draenen


We signed in and noticed there hadn’t been many visits as of late or people are opting to not sign in….

Next stop would be the Wonderbra Bypass and then on-wards to Tea Junction where a break, much-needed drink and a general marvel at the huge passage decorated with straws on just one part of the roof. I’ve taken enough pictures of this famous place before so I decided we should press on.

Next was White Arch passage, another massive (in size) passage of the cave with huge and slippy boulder break down everywhere but an impressive place. We proceeded at leisurely pace stopping often to notice other small passages high up and low down always triggering the exploration styled questions of ”has anyone been there and if they have, where does it go?” a cave still with lots of secrets to give up. We went underneath White Arch itself and stopped for a photo.

White Arch Passage

White Arch Passage

White Arch

White Arch

Carrying on we arrived at the choke which leads into Lamb & Fox Chamber ”two pints of Butty Bach please” I shouted but no reply from the barman (can’t get the staff these days) we sat down and cracked open our packed lunch of pork pies which Gareth had the added extra of gummy bears and pepperami! We sat stuffing our faces just taking in the sheer size of some of the boulders which have just peeled off the wall, leading to more questions ”when?” and ”when again”

Before we left we decided to climb up a level into the muddy traverses of Indiana Highway and stopped short before the deep pitch to the left.


Lamb and Fox chamber

Indiana Highway

Indiana Highway

We exited the same way noticing on the way back how low the water levels were which prompted a quick trip down Beyond a Choke streamway to see just a mere trickle.

White Arch passage on our way out

White Arch passage on our way out

Some ''hanging death''

Some ”hanging death”

Gareth opened the gate and instantly I could feel the heat shooting down to me further in the entrance such was the weather outside!

A good short trip to waste away a saturday, home for kebab and pizza.