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The Caves on Brean Down

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Brean Down is a limestone promontory jutting out into the Bristol Channel just south of Weston-S-Mare. It is some 3.5km long and no more than 0.5 km wide. The limestones dip at c 40 degrees to the north.  Apart from Reindeer Rift (Barrington and Stanton, 1977) no other caves have been described.

There are numerous sea caves – rifts and bedding planes formed in washed out Neptunean dykes and mudstone bands - averaging between 20 – 30 feet in length. They are so numerous that only two sites are of special interest. There is only one phreatic cave.

All the caves are located in the sea cliffs on the north side of the down.

1. Half Tide Rock Cave.

Length 31m, VR >6m

At the east end of the down near Half Tide Rock (NGR 30215892) Inclined bedding cave with an entrance 5m wide and 0.8m high. A fine traverse across the bedding for 31m leads to a second entrance in a cove to the west. The second part is rather restricted but some flowstone and a crab infested rock pool adds interest.

2. Battery Cave.

Length 54m, VR >15m

Located in a major embayment in the cliffs directly below the WWII gun emplacements (NGR 29655895) 

At the back of the cove is a double entrance to an extensive bedding cave, bisected by fallen blocks. (Dipping 40degrees N). The left hand section (to the east) is 19.5m long, 0.6m high and at least 6m wide before the bedding pinches in upslope. The traverse passes some extensive red flowstone slopes with ribbon formations on the roof in places. Near the end an easy squeeze over jammed footballs reaches the ‘terminal’ grotto where there is a group of small but attractive stalactites.

The right hand section is more extensive. A similar traverse westwards in a passage 10m wide and 0.6m high reaches a dead end after 25m. There is more flowstone, ribbon formations and a few small stalactites (<0.4m).

Part way along the traverse daylight enters through an 8m rift forming a third entrance. These formations came as a complete surprise to us – one does not expect to find stal grottoes in a sea cave.

3. Fiddler’s Bay Cave.

A proper phreatic cave! 15.9m long over a vertical range of 6m. (NGR 28755915)

A superb inclined circular entrance 4.5m wide leads after 8m into a 5m high chamber displaying a profusion of phreatic solution hollows. At the back of the cave and in the roof of the chamber is a rift choked with ochre and Pleistocene? gravel. The deposit must have once filled the rest of the cave and been washed out by the tides as some gravel remains welded to the back of some of the solution hollows. Note the limpet scouring marks on the entrance ‘kerb’. This cave is almost certainly more extensive and has the appearance of a fossil resurgence.

Note: Brean Down Resurgence

50m or so to the west (along the cliffs) is an interesting feature. A small patch of red brickwork blocks up a hole about a metre up the cliff face. This has been done to divert a flow of fresh water through an adjacent crack into a natural rock basin below - from which small stream flows down the beach. It fails in dry weather. This brickwork probably dates from the time when there was a short-lived attempt to build a harbour on the north side of Brean Down.

Acknowledgement : Thanks to Mark Helmore for his snaps, much appreciated!