Once upon a time…

Once upon a time on a Saturday morning in late July, Mandy, Andy, Richard and Rachel went caving. Unfortunately, that’s where the fairy tale ends, there were no fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and absolutely no magic. Enchantment? well perhaps, but only after a long slog.

Entrance to Agen Allwed

Our destination was the Main Streamway in Aggy Allwedd. After negotiating the entrance series, which boasted crawls, squeezes, boulder climbing and wet thrutching, we reached Baron Chamber. From here we continued into Main Passage and after a little while we descended into Southern Stream Passage. Southern Streamway is probably over 1 km in length and is described as: “stooping height passage with much hands and knees crawling and clambering over boulder” (Tim Stratford, Caves of South Wales). This passage was pretty hard going, not because it was difficult, but because it went on and on and on. There was only one feature of any note: a mug, with which you can collect a drink from a small trickle flowing into the stream. Next, we travelled through the Gothic series. Whilst we were glad to get out of the streamway, we hadn’t bargained on the passage getting more inhospitable. This part of the cave consists of mud-floored crawls, boulder chokes and some flat out sandy sections. There were three things of particular note.

First, a tight corkscrew-like section in one of the boulder chokes. On the way in, the shape of the boulder choke meant going from a flat-out crawling position, to being in a space of about 0.6 square metres, to posting oneself through a body-sized hole that leaves the top of the small space at right-angles to the direction of inward travel and at a slight upward angle. This was fun, but the reverse was more exciting. Coming head first down down the ramp you reach the small 0.5 m drop and wonder how you are going to get yourself down and around the bend. It soon becomes obvious that a forward-roll manourve is the only possible way forward. We all chuckled as we rolled through the small space, ending up face up in the sandy passage (with eyes closed – everything was sandy). I renamed this section of the cave ‘The Colon’, but given its length, Richard suggested ‘The Semi-Colon’.

The second thing of note was Mandy’s thrutching. Thrutching is flat out crawling – something that is necessary when the passage is not high enough to crawl. Mandy appears to have perfected the art of stealth thrutching. This is essentially crawling, but flattened so as the limbs never become perpendicular to the body. Imagine thrutching along, but never putting ones torso on the floor – that was Mandy’s style. I tried it, it felt efficient, but I was knackered after a few metres.

The third thing of particular note, were the many fine stals with helictites.

Anyway, we soon arrived at our destination, the Main Streamway, and it was big compared to the passages which preceded it. We waded along the stream to the left, admiring the curvaceous walls and after a short time reached the sump. This was the turnaround point of our trip. And after exploring a few side passages, it was quite a long trek back – especially the killer sandy crawls and the neverending Southern Streamway. Thankfully we had cake back at Whitewalls and we needed it.

Bakewell tart made with a shot of Amaretto .... yummmm

On Sunday we ached. We went for a run/bimble along the tram road and down the valley, but it could only be classed as ‘warming down’ rather than training. Given our lethargy, we came back from our run, drank tea and then resorted to spending a late lunch at Luigi’s in Abergavenny. A fine way to finish the weekend 🙂

Waun Ddu raised bog beneath the Llangatwg quarries
Richard in the Craig y Cilau National Nature Reserve