The final link

Mid week caving always feels a little special but at the very end of a three week holiday with work tomorrow the effect is intensified.  Having recently rediscovered OFD the chance of a trip from 2 to Cwm Dwr just had to be taken.

IMG_3156Meeting up with Richard initially and then Tarn and her two American friends at Penwyllt the night before we planned and then made a good start by reaching the cave gate at 1020.

Armed with both laminated survey and Donald and Rust we made good progress through the system with few mistakes.  From the Brick Yard and Wedding Cake Salubrious was accessed via the corkscrew.  Downstream after the normal diversions for pretties Richard navigated and I followed on the coloured survey.  Eventually the 10meter climb  was approached and descended using a variety of methods.  Maypole inlets provides the step down into the stream way.

Water levels were not high but the flow was fast and eventually the inevitable call to the front was made.  Dwarf trap ahead. We enjoyed the bracing challenge of the pots before bypassing via the Oxbows; some serenity before the roar returned.

Back in the stream way the pots increased and a false shower was mistaken for marble showers, this was later.  We egressed via Piccadilly before finding the way through the Smithy relatively easily.  Book and survey in tandem seemed to work well.  Soon Cwm Dwr choke was upon us and a shiny path through followed.  The accessed the upper reaches and the eventual crawl above Jama.  Very soon I was checking routes out of SAS chamber and the final climb to the gate was being made.  Just under 5 hours.

IMG_3116 (1)Great to have Dan and Ellen on board, we worked well together considering it was a group of five.

Thanks to Tarn for inviting me, great little club the Shepton.


Heart of the Giant [proposed]

With the Turing Bicycle ride imminent Jacob persuaded me to dust off my road bicycle and head for the hills.  He had planned a circular route from Mintern Magna heading west clockwise.


The initial ride down the A352 to Cerne was soon broken up by a climb over Dickley Hill and then dropping down over the ford and up onto Folly Hill.


The main road allowed us to practise some drafting heading north towards Yeovil and a white line gave us some protection from the cars.  Turning east again across Batcombe Hill the lay of the road is better, as it follows the crest and the views north to Sherborne are far more appealing. However; rain clouds were on the horizon.


The descent back into Mintern from Telegraph Hill is great fun and probably a better way around for this loop.

With appetites whetted we then headed east from Sherborne out in search of chalk.  By parking at Berwick St John we had pencilled out a anti clockwise route, climbing by bridleway onto Monks Down and then riding the ridge.  This climb was mucky and steep and not the best access but we soon popped out onto the top travelling west onto Win Green.  There is a voluntary ban on this route and the damage to the track in some places is extensive but it gives some challenges on an otherwise flat run.


The run along the top is straightforward and other than overshooting our return bridleway to Alvesdiston we made good progress and were in the Talbot for lunchtime.  We vowed to return.

On Sunday we had a more unusual approach at a Car Assisted Run.  With two bicycles attached to the roof and four of us the plan was to ride from Forston to Yelcombe bottom east of Cerne Abbas.  This was a section of a much longer ride we were checking the route for later in the year.


This was nearly all on Bridleway and Jacob and I took the first leg.  We were met just east of Charlton down but the route up over the Muston Farm was largely over open fields.  We switched at Piddlehinton and again at Nettleton Farm and I picked up a leg with Harry at Folly.


Over the top of Ball Hill and Church Hill the downy meadows are a delight to ride, although we missed the bridleway coming off.  The descent into Alton Pancras was my last leg but Jacob and Sarah finished off before nipping into the Hunter’s Moon for some food.

Returning to Cranborne Chase today our approach was more laid back.  We drove to above the Fovant badges accessing another voluntary ban and riding west.  Our objective was Long Barrow and again there were plenty of pot hole obstacles and a head wind.


We turned at the trig point just as the second wave of rain approached grateful for a push back to the car from the tail wind.


OFD2 To 3 Too

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu is a complex Welsh cave system in massive carboniferous limestone.   Consisting of four major caves, connected by an active stream way, a variety of sporting trips are possible.  As the water sumps underground in places the key to good navigation is utilising the many levels of passageway to find bypasses.

I stayed at the South Wales Caving Club hut over Easter and after two days re-introduction to the area was ready for something a little more challenging.  On Easter Monday many cavers head back home but fortunately both Gordon and Dave were intending to stay and were on for a trip.  I suggested OFD2 to 3 but quickly admitted I did not know the way; Gordon and Dave had some ideas but no one was superbly confident.

The solution was to take Marshall and Rust’s book underground along with some snaps of the survey on my iPhone!  I had not taken a phone underground before but it was insured and with a waterproof bag was sure we would be okay.


Heading uphill from Penwyllt we entered at the OFD2 entrance heading immediately towards the brick yard.


Dave knew that this was a complex are and he was unsure of the way onto the Wedding cake but we took care looking around fully aware that we would need to get it right on the way out.


From the Brickyard we headed south counting off the passages before heading north again and identifying the descent into Arete chamber.  South of here Salubrious is the key to the Trident and the Judge, but these were objectives for later.  Heading uphill we wer searching for smaller passages on the right, the key to Timos table.  Two options were available which quickly joined and despite some stooping a narrow twisting stream like passage is entered.


This provides the link to Poached Egg and onto an awkward 3m climb.  Two bolts have stainless maillons but a ring bolt between them is the obvious place for your finger.  A short length of line would have been useful here, even blue polyprop. This leads onto the Crevasse and the 22m pitch which fortunately was rigged with ladder.

From here onwards route finding is easier and once the Shambles are bypassed the traverses that characterise the journey to OFD 3 lay ahead.  They are relatively continuous but lie in six sections two of which have fixed ropes; a tail could be useful.

ofd 3

Image from Dudley Caving Club

At the end of these, the passage heads southwards until you reach a scaffold pole; the way on is over this but we dropped to the stream way, content. After some bait, we turned and headed back.  We made one or two diversions on the return but I was very pleased with Gordon’s and Dave’s navigation.  Marshall and Rust came through again, the iPhone was useful, especially as it was a relatively unplanned trip.  I will explore the possibility of using an iPod in the future, we have an older damaged one somewhere.

After the trip I used an App called Skitch to trace out our route on my photographs of the survey as a personal record.  I purchased a copy of the survey, this is excellent and an essential place for cavers to start.  We are often reluctant to spend money on kit but by owning a copy planning will be better next time.  I am at least putting something back to the countless individuals who have been involved, over the years, surveying this superb system.

Wandering under Wales

Easter crept up quickly and a call for interest in their South Wales weekend by Shepton Caving Club stirred a few memories.  I was a new member and wanted to kindle new relationships, along with some dark water revival and so I signed up.

Leaving mid morning Good Friday was a mistake as I joined the holidaying masses on the A303 but I got to walk with the Good Friday witnesses in Sherborne before I left.  The Sat Nav took me via Taunton, Street would have been better. Further delays encouraged me to dip south below Newport before arrival late afternoon.

Saturday was the Primary meet day for the Shepton and the objective was Pant Mawr.  A little research had identified it as a cave difficult to find and so armed with GPS and electronic OS maps we headed uphill from Penwyllt. With an air of confidence Andy led us there accurately; the trick seems to be solid point to point navigation.  This leaves the possibility of compass use at the last moment – if required – open.


The entrance slope was rigged from two stakes and a newly constructed fence before a rebelay and Y hang.  The drop to the entrance chamber was wet but we were glad to be out of the rain and wind.

Downslope the cave is relatively easy to follow, with climbs up over boulder chokes and very quickly the first chamber of formations is reached, Straw Chamber. 

Continuation downstream is around the oxbow and past the dining table before the third choke.  

The Great Hall opens up once you have accessed the climb.  A shower sprays from the left and Andy posed Ade for a shot.  From here the next key feature is the fire hydrant, on the right and the beginnings of the final stream way.

Photo: Andy Goddard.

Below this point the foam line creeps up the wall, the stream gathered pace and the bed steepened.  Once or twice the steps down were to waist level and a real feeling of sump became apparent.  I turned as its stillness ahead appeared and returned from this dark and dank place.

We stopped to chat to the remainder of our party, still engrossed in photography and helped out a little.  

On the way back out we climbed up to a chamber of greater beauty than the main chamber, smaller, finer and neccesitating a climb up a calcite flow but quite enchanting.

Reversing the problems, we prussiked back up the pitch.  I never really gained momentum, felt hopelessly out of practise and even fitted my foot jammer to the wrong foot, my time away from pots was beginning to tell.

The return walk was bracing, the pre-placed waterproofs were valued on our descent and the nature reserve unappreciated, we were in for a fierce evening.

Sunday 27th March – Easter Sunday

The Columns were open and most of the caving world seemed to be descending to view them and so we headed to Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 1 instead.  Andy led and had some good prior knowledge, a black and white survey and sensible decision making.

Levels were high and so we decided to a do a dry double round trip.  In other words, a trip to the chain and return without entering the stream way.  The Main passage was followed past pearl passage and the toast rack and on to the traverse.  Just beside Traverse passage we looked at levels at the flow meter sampling point.  Column passage led us down to the step, crossing the stream way to the left bank.  We then returned and climbed to the Dugout and Meander passage.


This led us down to the Bolt Traverse and the climb of Bolt Passage.  The Helter Skelter is a well-worn vertical climb which popped us out into Pi Chamber through a final squeeze.  We then followed the Rawl series around to Lows chamber a little bit more unsure when the sandy floor of Roly Poly appeared. We didn’t descend to the stream way but once we had found the connection could see the way on. 

Don’s crawl was explored to find four columns and then a gentle return following Andy the whole way.  We had a wander along Airy Fairy but were unsure of the way on if we crossed the stream and so returned as before.

Back up at the cottage the Columns parties had returned, after a much shorter trip, some calories needed replacing after an energetic day out. 


In the evening we were in for a rare treat.  Andy Freem had bought his recently completed film of Ogof Marras, the digging exploration that was quickly revealing a potentially massive system.  We chatted about films, geology , geomorphology and he gave me some tips.  His work on You Tube is well worth a look at – Catchpool.

Clearwater revival

At last, the move is done, and we are settled.  The outdoors has peeped it head from within sleepy Dorset and the rock and hill and water that surrounds us have become a playground.  

  I have rediscovered the Jurassic limestone that bears the ridges and cuestas north of Sherborne and ridden my bicycle around new bridle ways.  Sarah has explored these by horse whilst we have been directed to clear them.  

We have climbed at Portland and Haytor and revisited Chudleigh.  Bouldering at the Oxley has been good too.   

I’ve rediscovered my kayak with a mellow jaunt down the canal at Taunton and found a store full of boats …

Walking has picked up, with a jaunt up to Cadbury Castle with the Ten Tors aspirants and a trip to the Black Mountains too. 

 I managed to climb Pilsdon Pen, just about in the month of September leaving the next westernmost county top for October.  

Most especially I’m still getting out twice a week for a run, climb, bike or swim and I can feel my fitness returning.  Life is good. 

Quick nip up the Dent

Trying to loosen up my post rescue legs I went for a quick climb with Bob and Tiff.


The road was closed from Wath Brow giving us a different view.  Do you know what the fell in the foreground is called [clue in the file name!]


Enjoy [beer later …]

Pursuing Permitted Paths

New local walks are enticing. Since I have become a dog walker again the impetus to explore anew has returned.

The saddleback of land dividing the sea from Rottington and Sandwith was carved as ice moved from north to south. To cross this involved a hike from Sandwith, up a private road before accessing the heights of Hannah Moor. In the past efforts had been made to link Rottington common land with Fleswick Bay. An obvious direct link.

The post on the common.
The permitted path exists and I have tried to find the true line twice. Only recently, with clues from both ends have I successfully linked together all of the clues.

I started on the corner above Christy Meadow bridge, parking at the end of the footpath but leaving the farmer plenty of access. I then walked up the road through Rottington turning left at the signpost into the woods.

The two mistakes made in the past come early on. Firstly, stay on the left hand side of the stream (going up; river right). This leads to a small quarry on the left, probably used to extract the local red sandstone. The path veers right crossing the stream but the way on is up the bank ahead. This is way marked but no specific path exists. Several poles are followed dot to dot before breaking out onto the field above over a dip in the bank.

There is a map here detailing the common access land but without all of the field boundaries this is difficult to follow.

The next key element is to head slightly downhill, towards the sea and along the track. This leads to a ramshackle and overgrown stile, the gateway to the rest of the walk.

An alternative to this stile has been devised by the occasional walker but next time I am up there I will take secateurs.

Once this boundary is crossed follow the ruts and use the hedge on the left as a handrail. You pass one or two remains of brick structures before emerging at a new stile at the top.

From here the path zig zags through the next gate keeping the hedge on the left. A random tree is passed; a good spot to turn and look out to Whitehaven.

Towards the top the trig appears but the path continues past
This turning abruptly left and heading direct to Fleswick. The light comes into view and framed by the gate Scotland appears beyond.

It would be great if you could continue along the crest from here but no rights of way exist and the barbed wire is very good. To access the moor a descent towards Fleswick is necessary. You pass a hollowed out telegraph pole before meeting the coast path up from St Bees. I met a lovely couple and then turned left.

The path along the South Head is now almost all single track; south of Coastguard Station viewpoint it descends sharply.



Once the Rottington Beck bridge comes back into view it is simply a matter of turning left and following the fields back up to the corner; one or two have some quite interesting gates atop walls.




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