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Ogof Craig Yr Ffynnon

the latest developments and details of the new extensions by IAN CALDER.

Following the BCRA Conference held in Manchester last September, various Belfryites came back mumbling and, muttering about the new extension in, the fantastic Rock and Fountain system near 'Aggy' -well the B.B. has now got the gen! Thanks to Ian Calder.  He writes however, “One of the hazards of going to the Annual Dinner is that you can get conned in to writing something for the B.B.' and guess what?  I was conned!

At the end of September I was lucky enough to get a trip into this cave to view and photograph the new extension.  Having dragged ourselves out of bed early on Saturday the four of us, Clive (Westlake), John, Mark and myself, met John Parker by the Rock and Fountain, unfortunately he was feeling rough that day so the four of us took ourselves into the cave without him.  The entrance is certainly small and I had read very unpleasant stories of this first section, however, it was, apparently, very dry, and did not go on for as long as I thought it might.  Then came the first Choke, short but loose, to emerge into a larger passage with some quite good straws and then the Second Choke.  This appears to be more stable than the first but is much longer and the way through is to take a devious upwards spiral - quite an energetic and clever route.  At the top of the Second Choke one emerges out into a large passage which continues to increase in size culminating in the Hall of the Mountain King with formations in abundance.  Not having been in the cave before I felt that the trip was already worth it.  This is an enormous place (about 100ft square in cross section) and the photographs of it do not do it justice.  The cave has some dramatic changes and at the end of the Hall of the Mountain King, perhaps the most dramatic change takes place, for one crawls through the Third Choke and on through a further 600ft. of low passage before coming to the 'Severn: Tunnel', a dead straight rift passage going for around 800ft, before leading into the Fourth Choke.  We noted the ways off to the Blaen Elin stream and the Lower Series.

Then we tackled the Fourth Choke which led us into a large passage.  We were now in the new extension and it was obvious that few people had been there.  The floor has a covering of mud which is in pristine condition.  We tiptoed on, hardly daring to leave our inevitable mark. Shortly a junction appeared and we first followed a side passage to a large chamber.  Across this we passed some good formations before revealing the most fantastic sight I have ever seen.  The clusters of helictites at the end of this passage defy description as well as gravity.  They are so delicate, in some cases 'hair-like', and so interwoven that one can only talk in hushed tones, hardly daring to breath, and marvel at their existence.  I felt very privileged at being able to see them in this perfect condition.  We all just hoped that they would never be spoiled. This is going to be a real problem but let's hope that this passage decor will not be spoiled by careless intruders.

Back in the large chamber we explored the choke at the end and then returned to the junction to descend to the streamway which was dry.  We followed this large passage up for a few hundred feet until we found a trickle and stopped for a brew and a bite to eat.  Duly refreshed we continued to follow this passage for some considerable distance, probably about three quarters of a mile.  It is generally large and mainly phreatic except for an oxbow which requires a certain amount of crawling.  There are many good formations and plenty of selenite crystals on the walls.  Eventually the passage makes an abrupt right hand turn before finally closing down to the end crawl.  We found a way on; needless to say that John Parker has been there before us.  This way on emerged again into a large passage only to end shortly at the Fifth Choke and, at the moment, terminal choke.

Now to work with Clive photographing and the rest of us holding flashes in various strange positions. We made our way back to the brew spot. Clive was using two slave units for the two bulb guns and this was extremely effective.  Having packed up our work in the Hall of the Mountain King, we finally emerged from the cave ten hours after entering it.  It was a superb trip and a very fine discovery.  We met John Parker by the cars and adjourned to the Rock and Fountain pub where Clive photographed the survey.  It is clear from the survey that the cave travels along one main line of weakness on a bearing of 320 degrees, deviating from this in only one or two places - along oxbows and side passages.  At the end it does turn suddenly to a bearing of 060 degrees before coming to the final choke.  There must be a connection with the Llangattock caves somewhere.  Daren Cilau has been dye tested but the dye emerged in the Clydach sometime later and was not detected in Craig yr Ffynnon. Does the cave connect with ‘Aggy’? Much speculation seems to be afoot but if it did what a system there would be under Llangattock!  One thing’s for certain, the hydrology here is anything but simple and speculation will no doubt continue until further breakthroughs take place - which they certainly will.  This new extension has virtually doubled the length of the cave - it may not be long, before this cave becomes a very major system indeed.