Monday, 7 January 2013

The kids go caving...

End of the xmas holidays and my good friend Ali and I decide to take our children on a local caving trip. Up on the hill behind where I live is the Lesser Garth Cave, from which its possible to gain access to another cave, Ogof Ffynnon Taf. Once upon a time it was possible to do a through trip between the two caves but soon after the discovery of Ogof Ffynnon Taf in the late eighties the entrance was blocked by quarrying operations. Now the only way to get to the cave is via Lesser Garth Cave and a short, but sinuous series of passageways!

The kids (two at 11 years and one at 9) enjoy caving and are getting more capable, hence we thought the sporting trip into the Ogof Ffynnon Taf system would be a good trip for them. Gaining the cave involves a good steep stomp up the side of the Lesser Garth Hill. With the recent wet weather and a good layer of rotting leaves this proved even slippier than normal!

Cave entrance gained we quickly got sorted and the kids trooped off into the cave, leading the way, aware that some reasonable drops down would soon be encountered. At this point the climb down to the right drops into the main passageway of the Lesser Garth Cave, whilst to the right is a 30ft drop down a rift. This is the route to the Ffynnon Taf connection.

We rigged the pitch with ladder and rope. The older two, Emily and Rhys, abseil down the pitch on Petzl stops whilst young Tom opts for the ladder.

Tom starting the descent

At the bottom of the rift we remove all excess lit and proceed to the first serious obstacle - a tight squeeze. This was really only a problem for Ali and me - the kids virtually walked through......

..through the squeeze...

From here the route sort of zig zags through sections of roomier passageway linked by tighter bits! Of note is the 'coffin' which takes you into a rift and then the final challenge - a squeeze through a small hole into the top of a calcited rift. At the end a climb out takes you into Ffynnon Taf. The kids lead the way through all of this, working out the route (with some adult guidance) and helping each other out.
Ali's wellies disappearing into the 'coffin'.

The main chamber of Ffynnon Taf is on two levels and well decorated. Sections of the flowstone are covered in meshes of tree routes, while in a couple of places the remains of cat skeletons, now covered in calcite can also be found. The lower section also has some very fine curtain formations. This whole section of cave is in excellent condition, in contrast to the vandalism that is evident in the more accessible parts of the Lesser Garth Cave. Why can't people respect these places?

Short curtains in the lower section.

Calcited cat bones

Larger Curtain formations

Light shining through a 'curtain' showing the streaky lines

Some live cave residents were also found. We carefully avoided a resting Lesser Horseshoe Bat, whilst I had a quick scan for the possible presence of the tiny cave spider, Porrhomma rosenhaueri. In a small calcited crack I was rewarded with finding a live spider on its web - the first time the spider had been found in this part of the cave system.
A mesh of tree roots on the flowstone.

After some chocolate it was time to head out. The kids took the lead and we virtually stormed out through the gnarly bits and then up the pitch, before slithering back down the slope to Morganstown. Our reward was beer (for the adults) and food in the Tynant Inn! A great kiddy trip!!!

On the return....

Back in the 'coffin'

Emily in the rift 'squeeze'

With Ali in the same squeeze for comparison!

Up the pitch....

..and slither down the hill.
The trip to Ffynnon Taf is a short but sporty trip as demonstrated further by this great bit of video by Keith and other members of the Dudely crew;

Remember caving can be a dangerous sport - don't go to these places unless you know how to look after yourself and others, and are respectful of the environment.

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