Trip Report Nedd Fechan Gorge 30/03/19 by Patricia Hughes
Cwm Pwyll y Rhyd
White Lady Cave
The plan for today was to visit Agen Allwedd. However due to the key not being available we had to make a late change to the destination. We decided to visit the Nedd Fechan Gorge. We met up at the respectable time of 10:30 at The Angel pub car park in Pontneddfechan. The laybys were already mostly full with day trippers to the four waterfalls walk, and if that was not enough, there was also a coach trip parked up in one of the laybys. Great for the local tourism to be so busy in March. Furthermore, the only public toilet in the village open at this time proving popular with a queue of about 10 people long, I decided therefore to cross my legs and not join the back of the queue of day trippers. We headed off up the hill in our vehicles and up onto the open land admiring some new born lambs at the side of the road, as the trees gave way to open moorland. Following the long no through road with the final part being on a steep left-hand bend with about a quarter of the road missing. I edged my car gently around the corner and parked in the area just by Bridge Cave entrance. There were a couple of fellow cavers getting changed in the parking area. They were heading off for some diving. Adam and I were just there to have a mooch around the gorge and explore some of the variety of caves in this tight little cluster.
Our first objective was Bridge Cave.
The entrance crawl had quite a strong smell of sheep. I assume that it was from the muck dotted around that had washed into the cave entrance. Putting the smell out of my mind, I continued crawling down the passage. It is always nice to experience something new in a cave. For me it was the joy of crawling over large pebbles or maybe they were rounded rocks, I don’t really know when a pebble becomes a rounded stone and when that becomes a rounded rock. Not that any of this mattered to me as whatever their label, they had a habit of repelling my knees, hands and feet into the gaps. After a little more crawling along the downward pebbly slope, we came to the boulder choke. Threading through what to me was the cave’s most awkward bit. Heading towards the ever-increasing sound of the stream way, we dropped down into the water and followed the fast-flowing stream towards the main passage. I was surprised at how large this passage was in this little cave. As we headed down to sump 1 at the end of the main passage. We passed some pretty flowstone and other formations. I am sure that these would have been even prettier at some point, as many were broken. There was however a good collection of pretty features. Walking back up to the main passage looking up at the bridge, which looked too straight and perfect to be natural. Viewed from underneath, the bridge looked like it was formed from steel joists. We climbed up the side wall and along the ledge to reach the bridge but chose not to attempt to walk on it. A quick mooch up a short crawl along a passage at this upper level. Some nice pools up here to see. We climbed down and gradually made our way up, checking to see if the waterfall was flowing before leaving the main passage, it wasn’t. The boulder choke on the way out showing the somewhat dodgy looking piece of wood that seemed to be propping it up. Best not to dwell too much on the need for that bit of wood, or indeed for its remaining strength. Adam and then myself carefully and gingerly edged under the choke, feet first. We made our way out up the sloping crawl. I was regretting putting my neoprene jacket on, finding myself uncomfortably hot in this cave. It was nice to get out for two reasons, to pass through and out of the entrance passage with its smell of sheep and more importantly, for me at least, to get out into the cooler air. We turned left, passing the sink, which was swallowing up what little water was left in the river by this point. Following the now dry river bed until we reached the top of the canyon or is it a gorge or is it a valley? Who knows? The pebbles on the river bed gave way to exposed rock and the top or the dry cascade into Cwm Pwyll y Rhyd. Here we climbed onto the shelf about a metre below, admiring the deep and incredibly clear pool about another 2 metres below us. Finding the handline to the right-hand edge, we went down into the cave entrance. I did not wade too far into the deep pool, electing to keep my boots from getting wet inside, as we did not venture into the cave as the passages above the water level were behind many dead branches and other debris that had been driven in there under great force during a much wetter period. We exited again, by climbing up the dry waterfall, Adam taking the wet route through the pool, myself climbing up the handline as I was still keeping my boots dry inside. The way on was by means of retracing our steps slightly and passing up and over the ridge to the immediate left of Cwm Pwyll y Rhyd. Next on our list, down the gorge was White Lady Cave. This involved re-joining the dry stream and continuing down the gorge, climbing down some dry cascades, until the large entrance to White Lady Cave was met, on the right-hand side. All plans of remaining dry socked soon were thrown out as this cave involved a shall I just say bracing wade through the water, which was rather deep in places. We pushed on through the water, crossing the cave a couple of times until we reached the sump marking the end of our journey into this cave. The walls of this cave had a distinctive light grey colour to them and had fine examples of scalloping. I resisted the strong temptation to swim out and followed the route that we took into the cave, but in reverse. The gorge continued downhill to the right. We crossed many fine gour pools and some lovely yet slippery features. It was here that my brain became slightly muddled up. Had I been in hiking gear, I would have been a great deal more careful footed and been very conscious of the incredibly slippery algae covered rocks. However due to my body being encased in a caving over suit and my now wet feet being in my caving wellies, my brain overruled my feet. I was so used to walking in caves in this clobber that I forgot about slippery rocks, and before I could say green slime, my legs slipped from under me, losing their grip and my backside was heading straight down for a hard collision with the rock beneath it. Natural reflex reaction kicked in and my hands went out behind me to break the fall. I had avoided a bruised coccyx, but sacrificed my wrist and shoulder, jarring both, leading to the aching pain that I am still experiencing in my wrist as I type this log some 30 hours later. A few more climb downs led us to the entrance of Town Drain on the left had side of the Gorge. There was a low fence a couple of metres away from the entrance which was there to prevent debris from being washed into the cave at time of flood. Also present were many bright white sand bags full of rocks from a dig within the Town Drain cave. Ah another hands and knees crawl into another Nedd Fechan cave. I can see why the name was given, at least I think that I know why the name was given. The cave was like crawling and walking in a drain. After a short while it opened out enabling us to stand up and pass through a couple of squeezes in the rift, with water up to our knees before the cave tightened up to a hands and knees crawl again. It continued though a couple of right angle turns then seems to drop down a tighter muddier tube. We decided not to descend further and turned around rather than dropping into the muddier parts of the cave. Chat on the way out of Town Drain was centred on how scary and dangerous this cave could be after heavy rain and that it would be a frightening place to be if it were to flood. After exiting Town Drain, we turned back up the gorge and did some more dry canyoning by means of the same route that we had taken on the way down. We walked straight past the cars in order for Adam to show me the entrance to Little River Neath Cave. About 5 minutes upstream from the parking area a man-made dam can be seen on the opposite side of the river, beneath a small rock outcrop. This was the entrance that we were looking for. Taking it in turns to get on our bellies and look down into the entrance crawl. I look forward to doing a trip into this cave soon. But that would have to wait for another day as we had not planned, nor prepared to enter this cave, so we did not venture beyond a look in from the river. There were a couple of families camping in the field on the bend of the river. A lovely spot for camping, I am sure. It seemed a shame to be getting in my car and heading home, rather than enjoying a night under canvas in such an idyllic spot.
Back to the cars to change, chat and drink a warming cup of tea before heading home.
Initially I was disappointed about not being able to visit Aggy, a cave that I have not been to yet. It would have been a great walk in and out to the entrance in this fine weather too. But sometimes things happen for the best. We decided to go on a different trip and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time. It was a good few hours spent in great company. It had a child like sense of exploring this hidden gem in the southern Brecons. I know that I will be returning here to enjoy the delights of Nedd Fechan Gorge, both above and underground it really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.