Saturday 15 April 2023

OFD, The Trident, The Judge and much, much more!

On Saturday 15th April Mr Edwards and myself continued the indoctrination of two young potential DCC members (in years to come) namely Abigail & Finn. Indoctrination is probably an incorrect description as having had several caving experiences before, they are already well versed in the rituals surrounding a trip, such as breakfast at Luigi's in Abergavenny and tea and cakes afterwards.

Having completed the first of the onerous rituals i.e. breakfast, on a beautiful sunny morning we set off from SWCC at around 11.00 heading for OFD top entrance. Finn was master of the keys and let us in and we progressed at a steady pace towards our objectives. From very recent experience Keith advised that the route through the 'Brickyard' was well polished and potentially rather slippery so we continued ahead via White Arch and the passage below Speedy Caver, and here began caving proper, hands and knees stuff.

We soon arrived at 'Gnome Passage’. Some videoing took place here aided by tow of Keiths super bright torches.  The next stop was the 'Wedding Cake’, a notable landmark on anyone's route.

We made our way down to the infamous 'Corkscrew' and for safety reasons used a lifeline to lower Finn & Abigail through the small hole to avoid following to more hazardous usual route which the rest of us had to take. 

Onwards and downwards to  reach the water of Salubrious, squeals from Abigail as cold water flowed over and into her wellingtons, Finn was more properly equipped with wet socks, a pair of which Abigail will have shortly. 

Something new for Finn and Abigail, Traverses, but the confidence of the youngsters was clear to be seen, led by Keith and with Asher placed below in the water to catch anyone should a slip occur Finn was off first followed by Abigail. We continued along Salubrious before turning left to reach the 'Trident' and round the corner the 'Judge' made all the more impressive by Keith's  lighting whilst more videoing took place. Time was still on our side so after a quick chocolate break Keith added a short extra to the route. We took the alternative route back to Salubrious which passes below Pete’s Pretty Passage - Keith. Abigail and Finn both enjoyed this extra bit as they had no trouble negotiation a squeeze just before arriving back at Salubrious to once again tackle the traverses with even more confidence from the youngsters, again with the same safety precautions in place of having a 'catcher'.

With Keith's amazing knowledge of OFD we took a different route up form the waterway to emerge at the rope previously used to lower the children but this time to assist them in the climb up with Finn going first, and then we all tackled the steep climb up. The children led the way out and successfully took us past the ‘Wedding Cake’ and into ‘Gnome Passage’. We exited via the Brickyard and back in the entrance passage there was an opportunity for some more video work.

At this point we met two guys who were undertaking a challenging trip through to Cwm Dwr, challenging we thought because they were working from a description and had not been in OFD before, we wished them well.

Abigail and Finn moved on well ahead of us and got to the entrance with Finn opening it up with daylight streaming in, only for it to slam shut just before we arrived, were the intrepid pair trying to tell us something? We opened the door again to step out into the glorious day that we had left behind earlier. Pausing for a moment to take it all in we were joined by Mr Mark Burkey 'photographer extraordinaire' and some of his photographic group who were about to enter and were just waiting for Jess and a couple of other to join them which they soon did, so a good natter ensued.

On the way down to SWCC we met Sue and at the cottages soon changed for the journey home via Greggs on the A40 for tea and cakes.

Ian Millward.

Caving party, Keith, Ian, Asher, Abigail & Finn.

Along for the ride, Sue.

Monday 10 April 2023

The Ballad of the Crystal Pool

 Twas a mizzling drizzling Easter morning
(The Met Office had issued weather warnings)
When five intrepid explorers prepared to set off
For adventures deep within Dan yr Ogof. 
Now cavers are canny, and while brave beyond doubt
They tend to choose caves that will let them back out:
So with thunderstorms threatening the waters to rise
They refocused their sights on a different prize.
Nearby in the kingdom of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu
They had heard of the magical Waterfall Series:
A pool filled with crystals, a black calcite chamber - 
But the journey would be filled with unparalleled danger!
Yet our cavers were armed with more than just courage
They had brought with them Keith - a fountain of knowledge
And that wily cave wizard was ably assisted
By the valiant Loz, so on they persisted.
The first challenge was the streamway: it was gushing a torrent
Those swept away would meet with a fate most abhorrent.
But Keith was not fazed – he knew the most secret paths
To avoid the black stream and it’s inevitable baths.
They went down the Dugout, through slithering crawls
Over terrifying traverses (risking neck-breaking falls).
Through the airy hall of Pie Chamber and rolling back down
To the dazzling passages where selenite abound. 
They scaled Lowe’s Chain back down into the stream
And had a look at the sump (water levels to glean)
It was safe to proceed so they ventured onwards again
Up past the waterfall into the series it names.
So close to their treasure - and yet they must remain bold
For they still need to scale a rift that is lacking in holds.
They udged and grudged up; the rift thinner and thinner
The cavers each wished they had forgone their dinner.
Until, at last, out!  The long sought treasure they see!
The most beautiful corner of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu?
The pool it did sparkle, with crystalline whirls
Reflecting the o’erhanging stalagmite twirls.
Down a tunnel to the right, by using athletic gyrations
The cavers reached a room with black calcite formations.
(Only the smallest made it to this final display
The others vowed to diet and try again some day).
They took only photos and tales to be told
With beers around fires to ward off the cold.
And maybe these tales will inspire others to seek
The yet undiscovered wonders that wait in the deep.

Trip report by Anne Bell

Saturday 8 April 2023

Corkscrew Chamber

Destination: Corkscrew Chamber (Aggy)

Cavers: Loz (leader), Anne and Dave

I’d wanted to go to Corkscrew Chamber ever since I’d seen photos of the Courtesan, so when Loz offered Anne and myself a trip there, we jumped at the opportunity. After arriving at Whitewalls and chatting to a few of the (very friendly) members, the three of us started the plod along the old tramroad to the entrance of Aggy. We made quick work of the entrance series and the first boulder choke, and were soon walking along Main Passage to the start of Southern Streamway. This passage always seems like very civilised caving – a wide, open passage which you can stride along, with only a couple of points where you need to stoop.

Loz led us to the start of Southern Streamway, and there the striding stopped, to be replaced by a mixture of stooping, hands-and-knees crawling and shuffling. Although it wasn’t Main Passage, it certainly wasn’t as bad as the horror stories I’d heard. We made quick progress to the second inlet where we stopped for a quick drink, and then continued down towards Waterfall Chamber. This section was definitely the crawliest part of the streamway, but being fresh it didn’t phase us. Before long, we’d reached the rope up out of the streamway that leads to the start of Priory Road. After a fair bit of crawling, we eventually reached the start of the final passage to Corkscrew Chamber. This involved some fun, tight s-bends, which Loz guided us through, and before long we reached a short climb up and a polished entrance to a tube that looked too tiny to fit a ferret into.

What do you do when there’s a rather unnerving tight section to be navigated? Answer: send your wife first, of course. After a few minutes of udging and grunting, Anne got to the end of the tube and reported that it closed down. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I really didn’t fancy trying the crawl. My relief was short-lived, however, as Anne suddenly announced “I’m stuck!” Fortunately, after a few (anxious on my part) minutes of back-and-forth, she managed to find a way out and popped out of the tube. (Anne later reported that getting stuck had been great fun; as I’d been waiting helplessly unable to see her, that’s not quite how I remember the event).

A few minutes later, and Loz had ably located the entrance to Corkscrew Chamber. In she went, followed rather inelegantly by myself (I got stuck with my body half-in, half-out of the squeeze like a half-birthed walrus) and finally Anne. The formations in the chamber really are breath-taking: pure white, intricately twisting and beautifully delicate. 

After taking the decorations in for a while, we started the long journey back. We were pushing it for time, so when we got to the streamway, Loz went ahead to cancel the call out, while Anne and myself made our way (rather more slowly) out of the cave. Here the horror stories about Southern Streamway began to make sense. It seemed to go on forever and ever, and the crawling, shuffling and stooping seemed a lot harder than on the way in. Eventually we reached the second inlet, and not too long after that, the first inlet. All of a sudden, we emerged into the connection with Main Passage. It was a great relief to be able to stand up and stretch out, and the walk along Main Passage was a real pleasure. Making swift progress through the first boulder choke, we hopped, skipped and jumped through the entrance series, emerging nine hours after we first went in. All in all, a great trip which was well worth doing. Our thanks to Loz for being our (patient and capable) leader.

Tuesday 4 April 2023


Alderley Edge Copper Mine Trip

Sunday 2nd April 2023


It must be getting on for 10 years since Dudley Caving Club last visited Alderley Edge Copper Mine, a leader led trip courtesy of Derbyshire Caving Club who look after the mine.

Sadly our numbers were depleted on the day by a variety of unforeseen circumstances but what we lacked in numbers was made up by enthusiasm from the seven of us.

We met Nigel our leader in the National Trust Car Park as arranged and after the formalities we set off heading for the West Mine. Nigel is a most affable fellow with a sense of humour akin to ours, could this be common throughout the caving community? His knowledge of the geography of the mine was amazing it seems that if you were to blindfold and stand him anywhere, remove the blindfold and he would know exactly where he was and the way on. Likewise his knowledge of the history of the mine and its workings and the appalling conditions that probably mostly men worked in brought the whole trip to life.

Our party of 7 contained with one exception, me, well-seasoned experienced cavers so in theory something of a walk about for them, but in reality, what the mine lacked in challenges it more than made up for with spectacular colouring and awe-inspiring human effort in excavation. Witnessed by the many Ooh’s and Ahars. Although easy walking compared to a normal cave the rest of the interior was very cave like in its shaping compared to many other mines. Oh and everyone had a go at ‘using’ the ‘Toilet Seat’ and if you want to know what that means, do the trip!

The West Mine is entered down a ladder via a hole in the middle of a field, in reality it is a lot more sophisticated than that but the ladder and hole are correct.

Nigel gave us a thorough tour which lasted considerably longer than expected, for several reasons, he made it so interesting that there were lots of questions at numerous points, plus being cavers as opposed to the Public tours, he gave us the full work out and of course we had a Photographer amongst us, well worth it when you see the pictures.

That full work out included the Engine House Mine a separate but shorter trip but with a big impact on everyone especially our photographer who could have played for hours. There was talk of a tasty through trip for another occasion. All in all a satisfying experience and exceptionally clean caving kit to come out with.

Our thanks to Nigel for leading us so well and to Derbyshire Caving Club for looking after the mine. As some actor once said “We’ll be back” well almost that and we won’t leave it so long next time.

Trip members. Mike & Lucy, Bartek & Paulina, Firas & Zeina and me.

Ian Millward