Pant Mawr Pothole plus cake with lime pickle

The plan was for a weekends caving with Rachel and Richard, but the Bank Holiday weather somewhat disrupted our plans. Sunday was a late start following an expedition planning meeting, and we headed off up the mountain towards Pant Mawr Pot, one of only a handful of potholes in South Wales. The rain would not cause us any problems in the cave, but would drench us on the long walk to it and make it invisible until we were only a few metres away from it. Having two champion orienteers with me ensured that when we arrived at the desolate moor that contained the cave, I had a scouting team to send off and search for the correct shakehole. It was not long before Richard had located it and we could rig the 18m pitch down into the cave.

Pant Mawr Entrance pitch from a previous trip
Pant Mawr Entrance pitch from a previous trip

A significant amount of water was coming down the pitch and Rachel and Richard suffered for photographers art under the cascade while I took several shots.

Cascade below the entrance pitch
Cascade below the entrance pitch

We followed the noisy streamway and negotiated the large boulder chokes where the roof of the passage had collapsed into a jumble of large rocks.

The Sabre formation in the main passage
The Sabre formation in the main passage

Some time was spent faffing with flashbulbs in the Great Hall to illuminate and photograph this huge chamber. It took a bout 6 attempts before we managed to get all three flashbulbs to fire in the same shot.

Rachel and Richard in The Great Hall
Rachel and Richard in The Great Hall

The highlight of the trip was the climb up into the Chapel, a small high level chamber that is festooned with delicate straws and helictites.

Rachel viewing the formations in the Chapel
Rachel viewing the formations in the Chapel

Some acrobatics were performed by Rachel so she could be in the shot with the helictites.

Rachel viewing the Helictites
Rachel viewing the Helictites

We then continued to the end of the cave where the passage narrows into small rift before eventually reaching the sump. Rachel is seen here next to the Fire Hydrant stream inlet in the lower section of the cave

Rachel at the Fire Hydrant inlet
Rachel at the Fire Hydrant inlet

It was raining harder when we left the cave and so we decided to finish of the day with a curry further down the valley.The Curry House was running a buffet meal – where we could eat as much as we wanted to, as the rather attentive waiter kept reminding us. We set off with a plate full of starters, I foolishly mistook the Indian cakes that were laid out for desert as part of the range of starters on offer. On they went onto my plate, to be topped off with lime pickle and mango chutney. It was much better than I might sound and meant that I started and finished the meal with cake!

Dan Yr Ogof, that sinking feeling….

Building up the shots for the photo library of the Dan Yr Ogof cave means that we do get to go to some obscure places, and this trip was to be no exception. The aim was to go to Productus passage, a Phreatic tube high above the Green Canal that contains lots of glutinous mud.

Richard in Productus Passage above the Green Canal - Dan Yr Ogof
Richard in Productus Passage above the Green Canal - Dan Yr Ogof

En route to the Green Canal we stopped off to look at the pretties in Flabbergasm Oxbow and also provided action sequences for Keith’s video as we went through the Long Crawl. On reaching the Green Canal I carefully wrapped my SRT tackle bag in a life jacket to ensure that I did not befall the fate of Keith, but I hadn’t got 10m along the canal before I realised that bag had come away from the life jacket and was now at the bottom of the canal! After a couple of minutes treading water in search of the bag we carried on and shared kit to get up to the passage 20m above the Green Canal.

Richard viewing a straw column in Productus passage
Richard viewing a straw column in Productus passage

The passage takes its name from a prominent fossil marker bed. The roof of this passage is so thin in places that it collapses and the shale band above drops down to form small chambers. It is in these small chambers that some beautiful arrays of straws and formations are found.

Keith in a shale collapse Chamber in Productus Passage
Keith in a shale collapse Chamber in Productus Passage

Welsh Cakes and Snottites

Heather who is a member of the Dudley and also North Wales Caving Clubs organised this trip into the Parys Copper mines on Anglesey. Breakfast is always essential on these trips so I set of at 4.45am so we could meet up in North Wales for breakfast at 8am when the cafe opened. A hearty breakfast and a couple of cakes later we were able to set off to meet the rest of the team for the trip. The Parys Mine is located in a desolate almost Martian looking area on the top of Parys Mountain in where centuries of open cast mining and the tipping of spoil from the mines have left a large area crater marked and strewn with multi coloured spoil from the copper mining. The area has been mined from the Bronze Age, although most of the evidence of this has been wiped out on the surface from decades of open cast mining and the tipping of spoil from the deeper and later mines. The entrance to the Parys mine, dating back to the Victorians takes you down a series of rock steps down to the mined levels. The evidence of the Victorian miners can bee seen from the deeply incised clog marks on the steps.

Heather, Keith and Rob at a flooded stope
Heather, Keith and Rob at a flooded stope

The high mineral content of the rock makes this an interesting an colourful place, the rocks, formations and even the water is brightly coloured, making this a great place to photograph.

Crystal Pool Parys Mine
Crystal Pool Parys Mine

The sulphur and metal content of the rock along with the damp conditions makes this the ideal home for snottites, the extremophile colonies of bacteria that dangle like stalactites from the roof of the passages. These digest the sulphur in the rock producing sulphuric acid as a by product which give the water in the cave a very low PH. The snottites quiver with every drop of water that drips from them and the slightest breeze of air makes them writhe like tentacles, they look horrid in the photos and are much worse close up!

Snottites in Parys Mine
Heather views snottites in Parys Mine

After mining had finished drainage levels were dammed to allow the mine to flood. This was to leech the metal content from the mine and spoil, the water then being taken to precipitate the metals. This process ceased but the dam remained in place meaning the mine stayed flooded for a number of years. In recent years the mine has been drained to prevent the possible breech of the dam causing catastrophic flooding in the town of Amlwch that sits below the mountain. In the lower levels that were flooded now remain some very bizzare dried snottite formations.

Dried snottites Parys Mine
Keith views dried snottites Parys Mine

The flooding of the mine and the very acidic nature of the water means that most of the timbers are rotting away, making some places very “interesting” as here were the disintegrating timbers are supporting tonnes and tonnes of deads.

Stacked Deads in Parys Mine
Stacked Deads in Parys Mine

In one area of the mine the Victorain workings intersected some of the Bronze Age mine workings. In this section there is still in place the round hammer stones that the Bronze Age miners used to break up the ore containing rocks.

This is a really facinating place and a photographers paradise.