Agen Allwedd The Grand Circle – 22nd May 2022

Dai MacDonald
Gareth Farr
Louise Lucas

I arrived at Whitewalls first, then had the message I’d been waiting for, Gareth and Louise would be late, so I made a coffee, rolled a cigarette, and walked across the tram road a little and sat in the sun.

As I walked back to Whitewalls I could see Louise getting out of the car. We got kitted up, sent the call out, and made our way across to Aggy. Louise was excited to get into Aggy again, the last time she was in was on a newbies trip before joining the club.

We made steady progress through the entrance to Baron’s Chamber, but as usual we were all sweating by the time we got into Baron’s Chamber. After a quick drink stop we were off, and heading for Main Stream. Louise had a slip on the hand-lined section in Keyhole Chamber, but got herself back up and across fine. A little longer than I remember we were at North West Junction, we were all on guard as this section is really slippery. There definitely seems to be a theme emerging, Louise falls into water. We made speedy progress towards Deep Water, which is Gareth’s and my furthest point from the last trip we did here. Without hesitation I waded in getting to waist deep, as described in journals and online, and then Gareth asked “is it getting any deeper”, and as I was replying “I don’t think so” I slipped down to shoulder depth and started struggling to catch my breath, so I headed back still trying to catch my breath. We had a quick talk about the best way to approach it, then Louise opted for swimming so far and trying to stand, and she couldn’t reach the bottom after swimming out a short distance, so turned around and I helped her back to shallower water. We talked a little more, but being completely unsure of how long we’d be swimming for, and how we’d feel swimming fully kitted up, we all agreed the best thing to do was head back the way we came. Just before heading back Louise stayed true to form and had a dunk again, while trying to help her, Gareth had a soaking as well. Heading back was fine, apart from us all being a bit miserable after another failed trip here, because of this we just headed straight out.

As I got out of the cave there was a guy asking, do I knew if the small phreatic tube outside connects into Aggy, I said it didn’t as far as I know, and asked “why’s that” he said his dog has gone into it, as I walked over to him, Louise and Gareth got out. We tried looking in with our lights, whistling, calling, and putting food down, but there was no sound at all. He said he’d called Cave Rescue, so they were on their way. We said we’d head back and ask some advice about it and maybe see if anybody else can head over to help. Once at Whitewalls the police and cave rescue arrived, so we left them to do their work, and we headed home. Once home we heard the news that the dog was safe and with his owner again.

Agen Allwedd – Sunday 30th January 2022

Dai MacDonald, Gareth Farr

By Dai MacDonald

Today Gareth and I headed back to Aggy, with the dig at the closest point to Daren Cilau as our target. As usual we were late leaving, it’s always one or the other of us, and it was a cracking day, crisp but sunny. We parked at Whitewalls cottage and were amazed how quiet it was, so we wasted no time and kitted up. Gareth dropped his phone and smashed his screen, he’s a tad clumsy.

We got into the cave at roughly 12:20pm and made good steady progress through the entrance to Baron’s Chamber, but about 80m into the entrance Gareth dropped his drink bottle and split it, so had to leave it for us to collect on the way out. We headed off to the right at the first junction along Main Passage, faultless past Bastard Passage and Flood Passage, but we had to search around for a while to find the entrance to the Second Choke. Gareth heading to high, and myself to low, eventually Gareth found it and we were off again. We stopped a few times here and there for Gareth to have a drink from his filter, which we always carry with us just for times like this. In no time at all we found ourselves at North West Junction, and we were off into a section we didn’t know, Main Stream Passage. The description we had warned of how slippery it is and as we entered it Gareth and I jokingly said “This is the lethal bit now isn’t it?” And with that I was almost flat on my back in the streamway, a very good save! It was steady progress along Main Stream Passage, it was slippery, no more so than any other streamway we’d come along already though. We passed Maypole Dig, but didn’t spot Chocolate Passage. I really liked the way the passage was changing to more of a phreatic passage now as we headed through Wormcast Passage to Deep Water.

We got to Deep Water and instantly before the water was even over my feet I was sinking in the silt, like quick sand almost, and I must admit it unsettled me a little as we were just about to wade into Deep Water. I went in first, with the floor slowly sinking away from under me, plumes of silt turning the black opaque water brown. I gingerly put one foot in front of the other and felt my way through as Gareth started to follow me. Gareth called out to say he wasn’t to sure about carrying on, we’d both spotted the undercut on the sidewalls and had images of Porth Yr Ogof’s resurgence. I spotted the water lapping at a bank in the middle of the passage, so called to Gareth to say it levels out. We pushed on through, only reaching waist deep, but immediately were confronted with another section that appeared the same. We stuck to the left hand side, a skinny, sloping, soft silt bank that slowly disappeared into the black opaque water, the silt wasn’t even visible. Once again Gareth said he wasn’t sure if he was comfortable with carrying on, but I said I’d push forward just to see how it felt underfoot. I got to just above my belt deep, the bank almost completely disappearing in towards the left wall, but continuing downwards, while it seemed to constantly be eroding from the silt dispersing under my feet, all added up to me backing out and agreeing we’re better off heading back the way we came. At the next club meet we’ll ask for advice and go from there.

The way back went absolutely fine. We stopped at North West Junction for something to eat, and I got quite cold while we stopped, but quickly started warming up again on the return journey. We got out at roughly 4pm to the sun just about to set, and as we were walking back we bumped into Paul, also from BCC on his way back to Eglwys Faen to retrieve his kids’ trainers. We got changed, had a cuppa and a pot noodle, then headed home after another great day in the great indoors.

Ogof Craig A Ffynnon – Sunday 23rd January 2022

Sam Jones, Pete Jones, Paul Chilcott, Adam Knapp, Huw Jones

By – Pete Jones

Photos – Huw Jones

On a cold Sunday morning we parked up in the layby next to the Blackrock quarry, Clydach Gorge. Huw, Adam, Sam, Paul and I, sorted ourselves out and made our way up to the entrance past the nineteenth century lime kilns.   John Parker and group of friends opened up the cave in 1976, looking for a back way into Agen Allwedd.  Unfortunately, they never did find the back door to Aggy but instead found approximately nine kilometres of spectacular caving.

Entering the cave through the metal gate, a strong draft is immediately noticeable.  We made our way along a low passage, to the first chamber, where we filled in the logbook. I was amazed how quickly we came upon well decorated formations, including one where the roof is covered with delicate straws.  Moving along the stream to the first boulder choke, the climb up begins using fixed ladders and scaffolding poles and if you’re quick you don’t get too wet from water cascading down.

Exiting the choke, we followed the tapped path and made our way to Gasoline Alley. The water level in the long duck was very low, I don’t think Sam even got damp.  Coming to Northwest Inlet, the passageway looked inviting but the water looked cold.  We thought we’d save the cold clear water for later and instead turned right, crawling over flow stone towards the base of the climb up to the second boulder choke.  A fixed iron ladder takes you up the first section to a ledge where a guide rope and bolted steel plates help you up the next section.   To be on the safe side Huw rigged a safety rope to prevent any unwanted dramas.

After the climb, the second boulder choke starts. It’s a gnarly but fun climb which snakes up through the choke.   It narrows at the top, before you emerge onto a slope which drops down into a muddy passage.  The mud is deep and sticky, it’s a welly boot trap. After pulling out lost wellies and a lot of laughter we made our way to a small flow stone rise which then drops to the start of Travertine Passage.

Travertine Passage is enormous and breath-taking. The calcite floored passage looks infinite and wonderful formations flank the route.  As you follow the taped path through the pools, there is almost too much to take in, there are formations wherever you look.  Eventually the passageway lowers, and the mud pools begin to reappear.  The passage way then increases in size as you approach the Hall of the Mountain King.  Its a massive chamber with fantastic formations.  Following the perimeter tape around the edge of the chamber, we made ourselves comfortable on the third boulder choke and had a cuppa.  Unfortunately, time was against us, and we turned around and headed back towards the exit.  The entrance to the second boulder choke looked narrower on the way back.  A feet first decent, with the help of gravity, was far less demanding than the ascent.  Now covered head to foot in mud the safety line, rigged up earlier by Huw, was very welcome.  Coming back to the entrance to the Northwest Inlet, the cold water no longer looked quite so inviting, and we decided to give it a miss this time.

Dropping back through the first boulder choke we made our way back to the entrance, from where we emerged covered in mud to a cloudy and cold afternoon.    It is a great cave and next time, I am looking forward to going beyond the Hall of the Mountain King to explore the Severn Tunnel and the Promised Land.

Agen Allwedd – Inner Circle, Saturday 20th November 2021

Dai MacDonald, Gareth Farr, Dave Gledhill

By Dai MacDonald

Photos Dave Gledhill

We met outside Whitewalls for roughly 9am. It was mine and Gareth’s first trip to the Inner Circle, and our first with Trigger. As we pulled up there was two Shetland pony’s trying to scrounge snacks from anybody that was willing to give up their lunch. We got chatting to another couple of cavers who were off into Aggy as well.

We made it into Aggy for about 10:30, and made good time through the entrance series to Barons Chamber. We all emerged from the First Boulder Choke hot and sweaty, so we stopped for a drink and a quick look at the survey. We carried on along the main passage until we met the streamway junction on the right, and made our way to the 2nd Boulder Choke. We had cooled down a lot by this point and we were making good progress. The traverse was really slick, so we all kept a firm grip of the hand rope. Next we were onto the two short climbs, the first drop down was pretty easy, about 2m, and the second was more of a swing around a corner. After the North West Junction it was onto Turkey Streamway and to Turkey Pool for a good soaking, no surprise it was cold! We were fine though, we still had ground to cover, so we kept moving. The trip was faultless through Hawkins Horror, Sand Caverns and into Selenite Needle Passage. Trigger mentioned that it’s Selenite Needle Passage that left him wandering up and down Sand Caverns before, so I think the entrance is firmly printed in his head now. Once we’d gotten into the Inner Circle Trigger headed off on his own just to double check the route, and Gareth and I used the chance to have a quick drink and snack before Trigger got back, and when he did he was still unsure if we were in the right place, so we headed off together, and it turned out we were in the right place. We followed the Inner Circle anti-clockwise until we got to Swiss Passage, where we stopped for a few photos, then onto the Dome of St. Paul’s. Once back around to the beginning of the Inner Circle, we stopped for some snacks and a drink before heading off again. I felt a little chilly as we started walking again, but soon warmed up.

All in all the trip went really well in and out. We met the other cavers, that we’d spoken to in the morning outside whitewalls, just after coming back through Hawkins Horror, some cheerier than others. We got out of the cave for roughly 1630, so a great 6 hour trip.

This trip was really good caving, with no huge amounts of crawling or squeezing, mainly a lot of wide open passages, and although it’s not the most decorated cave, there’s still more than enough to keep you stopping for a look every so often. As well as actual calcite and selenite formations, the scalloping throughout this trip is absolutely gorgeous and not to be forgotten!

Ogof Cnwc – Tuesday 16th October 2018

Huw Jones & Pete Jeffery
Words and photos – Huw

Pete had been in touch with the club about doing some caving with us and with a week off work I was happy to oblige so we arranged a trip to Busman’s Holiday via the Ogof Cnwc entrance to Daren Cilau.

We met up in the Daren car park but Pete soon realised that he’d grabbed the wrong helmet as the one in his boot was tiny and didn’t come close to fitting him. I tried it and thought I could just about get away with it but then there didn’t seem to be any way of attaching a lamp so we were still a little stuffed. The only thing for it was to drive to mine to pick up my spare lamp/helmet and back, which was going to take the best part of an hour and a half. We jumped in Pete’s car and pulled out of the car park onto the Hafod road but had to immediately reverse up for a minibus full of kids in oversuits, which turned up into the car park.

“I wonder if they’ve got a spare helmet?” I joked.
“Might be worth a try.” replied Pete.
“Isn’t that Vaisey driving?” I asked.
“Do you know him?” asked Pete back and so we drove back into the car park.

Yes, it was Vaisey Bramley, leading a group from the Gilwern Outdoor Education Centre, yes they did have one spare helmet and lamp with them and yes we could borrow it! Thanks again Vaisey, you are a life saver!

We arranged how we were going to return the helmet and headed up to cave, which Pete hadn’t been in before. The first part of the cave was muddy as usual but with all the recent rain, it was wetter than I’d seen it before, with more lovely puddles to crawl through. The first 15 minutes or so of the trip aren’t the most pleasant, with the muddy and gravelly crawls but suddenly popping out into the huge and well decorated Price’s Prophecy chamber is a great experience.

First we headed North, through another decorated chamber with a noisy inlet stream and then into larger, bouldery passage, with not much in the way of formations but a bat or two here and there. At the end of the big passage is a longish but easy crawl, that leads into the most Northerly section of Busman’s. We soon arrived at the original breakthrough point, up from Antler Passage, where we stopped for a quick bite to eat.

On the way back I took a few photos and pointed out some of this newfangled Cryogenic Stal on the floor of the big passage. A check of the watch back at Price’s Prophecy showed we still had time to have a look at the southerly section of Busman’s. We wanted to time it so we’d get back to the car park a little bit before the group from the Gilwern Centre were due. The passage to the South is smaller than to the North and we soon reached a corkscrew dig up through boulders, quickly followed by another crawl through a dig. We then entered another large section of the passage at Stal Boss Chamber. There is a smaller rift passage to the right here, which we had a look down as it’s a bit of a change from the large, bouldery passages we’d been in so far. After taking photo’s in the decorated chamber, we started out. While crawling out I realised I’d only taken photos in the big passages. Looking ahead, Pete was in a nice small section so I called out about taking a photo there and asked if he was in a dry spot. Getting a very resounding NO! in reply, I didn’t push it further and we carried on out!

Roughly three hours underground in all, an enjoyable shortish trip into some impressive passage, rounded off with a nice pint in Llangattock.

Daren Cilau to Ogof Cnwc Through Trip – 13th August 2017 by Trig

Dave Trig Gledhill
Tom Williams

Early start for this one as we had wanted leave a lot of time for route finding, with a belly full of bacon sarnies I set off for , The weather being a bit too nice for the 500m plus of crawling about to ensue. As I get to Abergavenny Tom texts to say his car key is in the washing machine so there will be a slight delay!
We meet in the car park and discuss whether maybe getting a key to OFD would be a more sensible option or even a wander in Dan Yr Ogof showcave. But after a nice cup of “Man Up” we find ourselves at the start of the entrance crawl.

Trig and Tom at The Entrance

Trig and Tom at The Entrance

Slithering into the icy waters the swear words could have probably be heard in Aggy but once we both negotiated The Vice the going eased off and normal conversation was had and pictures taken and plenty of “not as bad as I remember” remarks were said. We cleared the entrance in about an hour, stopping only for a drink and a couple of snaps.

Trig in The Vice

Tom in the entrance series

Tom in the Entrance Series

Trig in the Calcite Squeezes
One thing that annoys me about Daren is how the entrance just stops and you are suddenly in walking passage! God send really. We didn’t hang about and pressed on, Tom hadn’t seen the crystal pool before so we decided to go and have a quick look in there before Jigsaw, as its pretty much en route. Worth noting this part of the cave is quite easy for navigating as there are handy reflectors pointing you in the direction of Jigsaw Passage and vice versa for the Entrance/Exit. After a picture of the dried up Crystal Pool we pushed on into Jigsaw Passage and through The Wriggle.

Crystal Pool

Crystal Pool

Arriving at the logbook in ‘Big Chamber Nowhere Near The Entrance’ we signed the log book and consulted the survey. We both had been in the cave both and Tom had done the route before, but in reverse and we all know how different caves look in the opposite direction so this was going to be a good old fashioned survey and description following kind of trip. We carried on as per description but took several attempts and a compass reading! to find ‘Epocalypse Way’

Now this is when I started to realise what an amazing place this is, as after only a few minutes in the easy going walking chamber on the left hand side in the far distance something catches your eye…..a pure white glow. The pace increases to reach the famous formation of ‘White Company’. Can easily say it was breath taking and well worth the few hours of caving to reach such an epic. We stayed here for a short while taking pictures and having a rest and generally taking in such a sight for sore eyes.

Tom and White Company

Tom and White Company

White Company

White Company

Continuing on still impressed with White Company we are rewarded once again with a short climb into a very very very well decorated oxbow, ‘Urchin Oxbow’ to be exact with its deposits and crystal lined roof and yet again another reason to side-track from the planned route. Just round the corner from Urchin the aptly named ‘Kitchen’ is found, where we stopped for lunch and refilled water bottles with some of Llangatwgs finest council pop.

Trig in Entrance to Urchin Oxbow

Trig in Entrance to Urchin Oxbow

Tom in Urchin Oxbow

Tom in Urchin Oxbow

Now turning left and then left again we appeared in ‘Antler Passage’ and yet again the cave reveals another one of its secrets in the form of a gorgeous set of Helictites named ‘The Antlers’ (for obvious reasons). Now here comes (in my opinion!) the hardest part of the trip. Antler Passage is long….really long and its 99.8% boulder hopping up and down boulder slopes of which this mountain and its systems are famous for with the remaining 0.2% being awkward small pitches with ladders and lines in situ with one being rather tight at the top where I managed to sub humanly bend my knee in un-godly directions. Its easily to navigate funnily enough as its one long passage with ‘Man in the Roof’ dropping back into the passage at one point. But it does eventually end in the form of a lovely wet boulder choke and another climb……..decent.

The Antlers

The Antlers

The Antlers

The Antlers

Popping out into ‘Busman’s Holiday’ here our survey improved somewhat and route finding was relatively easy until we reached ‘Prices Prophecy’ which is an amazing, well decorated chamber where the way on looks to the right ( I have previously read about some guys a few years previous who took this route and never found the connection with Cnwc and had to turn back and travel the full 4-5hours back through Daren!) but is actually off to the left into a further decorated chamber and low behold a helpful sign reading “Cwnc exit this way!” too easy!
What else can I say about Cnwc…it’s a dig, it’s not hard but it certainly isn’t pleasant but certainly beats having to go all the way back. We exit covered in mud but high, very high spirits into the warm summers day. Back in the car park we entertain some holiday makers with our tales of crawls and endless passages much to their amusement.
Definitely one of my favourite caves and trips of all times and I think Tom would agree!
5ish hours.

The Pagoda

The Pagoda

Ogof Pen Eryr – Sunday 16th October 2016 by Vicky Bluemel

On Sunday 16th October – Myself, Zeb, Xavier, Tom and Hywel took a sporting trip to Pen Eryr on the Llangattock Escarpment.

As per usual myself and Zeb were late which is an ongoing trend these days but it was Xavier’s first real caving trip where we could challenge him and see how he would react in different scenarios. It was also my first trip in months due to health problems so this was the perfect one to break me back in so to speak.

We met at the Darren Ddu carpark which is situated about half a mile from Chelsea’s club house and after a quick change, light check and admiring the outstanding view we were off up to the quarry behind.

We passed the famous Darren Cilau where Hywel could have a look into the entrance series in which he quite shiftily suggested we leave that for another time and continued our walk along the quarry. It can sometimes take you a bit off guard with its constant movement of rock from above and the odd sheep that has decided to attempt to fly however today we were lucky enough to not witness any of this and we soon arrived at the entrance.

The entrance is pretty much directly behind the far end of the car park but due to the mass of fern, thistle, sleeping sheep and poo the walk can be arduous so a quick diversion to admire the view from a little higher is always a winner.

About this time last year a rather large boulder fell off the quarry face and blocks half of the entrance so it is usually a good idea to get straight in before you overthink things. Once you’re past the entrance you come into a small chamber which without much knowledge you would think there was nothing else to it but there is a slot in the ground below the far wall which can be a bit off putting but once you slide down and through you know you’re half way in… yes only half way.

So this is where the challenge is well and truly accepted. You are in a small passage chamber and to the end on the right hand side about 3ft up the wall is a tiny slot and you’ve guessed it you need to get in this. It is tricky but easily accessible with a little help from the wall to push yourself off. You will Enter a small cavern in which you will need to manoeuvre yourself into a position you would think your body was incapable of and progress up through a smaller hole and into the passage beyond. I can honestly say that my first trip here was absolute hell on the entrance and it took me 20mins to get through due to being vertically challenged and 3stone heavier than i am nowadays. However on this trip i was through in about 3-4minutes! Go me!

Xavier seemed to take well to this entrance yet slightly taken back by the fact he just got through holes which you would think a small child would struggle with and he was soon raring to explore.

Let the journey begin!

Pen Eryr is a sporting cave. It definitely keeps your heart rate up and uses muscles you didn’t know you had. It’s a range of stooping, some boulder hopping, drops, climbs and crawls. All of which aren’t overly challenging unless if you are like me the climbs can become an issue.

If you want a pretty trip then this really is not the one. The passage is very similar to Aggy but on a much smaller scale. The difference being that in Aggy at some point you will get to the pretty stuff where as here you bruise yourself in the entrance, possibly slip down some small climbs, contort your body in such a way you’ll ache for days and see absolutely nothing but rock, rock and more rock.

It was fantastic to have Hywel back in the mix. Due to his move to Scotland in recent months we don’t get to see him often but he was straight on the phone on his return to organise a trip.

People still ask me why do you cave? Are you mad?

Clearly I am mad but it is bloody fantastic!!!

Happy Caving!

Llanelly Quarry Pot – Friday 26th August 2016 by Tom Williams

Tom Williams and Huw Jones

When Huw suggested an after work trip, I assumed it would just be a quick, easy trip. The type I am usually accustomed to after a hard days grafting. How wrong I was…

After multiple attempts of navigating through the brambles, we were finally at the entrance. Helmets on and we took our last glimpse of daylight before we got moving. The entrance rifts didn’t feel as tight as I’d been told they were, horror stories of people not being able to lift their legs up enough to get back out were going through my head. But before long and without too much faff we were at the top of the pitch.

What a nice pitch it was. Trusting myself to the rope felt a bit unnatural but a few tentative seconds later and I was on my way down. It was good to finally use the rope I had got at a bargain price at the Cave Rescue Auction back in June, I still haven’t found a use for the pulleys though…

Soon enough we were in the streamway. A quick food stop and onto the appropriately named Midsummer Night’s Streamway. The formations and scalloping of the passage are stunning. It was all fun and games until we came to Hammer Passage and then the ominously named guillotine climb. Named, we guessed, due to guillotine nature of the rock, looking ready to come down with a swift chop. From there on it was crab walking interspersed with the occasional climb up slippery, sharp walls only to have to climb down again a few meters later, then having a flat out crawl through the streamway. It was sporting to say the least! It was a relief to see the end sump as Midsummer Night’s Nightmare Streamway had certainly lived up to its name, completely writing off my pair of kneepads in the process. After planning a through trip from Shakespeare’s to Llanelly Quarry Pot, we made good time back to the junction with the entrance, for more food and water before going to the more enjoyable end of the cave.

The highlights of this end of the cave included some amazing formations, including the Michelin Man, which actually looks like what it’s named after, unlike most formations. Ryan’s Duck was great fun, and quite possibly my favourite part of the trip, with the exception of abseiling down the main pitch. We failed to find our way to the Blue Sump, then we headed back towards the entrance, with a vow to return to find the Blue Sump and to explore the Totem Avens.

We made our way back to the entrance pitch. I was really starting to feel fatigued from the extreme nature of the downstream section of cave. Next came the dreaded climb back up the pitch and the tight entrance rift.

After a lot of swearing and struggling we were finally on the surface and on our way back to the cars. By the time we had gotten to the cars, it was just past 11, the quick easy evening trip I’d expected had turned into a 5 hour epic trip. Feeling reinvigorated by the cool night air, I felt like I’d be able to do it all again straight away!

The cave is definitely a collectors piece, especially the downstream section but I am glad to have made it all the way. I don’t intend on returning there in the near future, upstream on the other hand is certainly worth a revisit! All in all a very good, hard trip. Thanks to Huw for suggesting it and for rigging the pitch.