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Agen Allwedd

The access regulations have now gone back to the old system, of booking a key and sending a deposit, although clubs who can justify that they are working in the cave, or who visit the cave regularly, can apply for an annual permit and key.  Issue of this will be decided at the Management Committee annual meeting (held every October).  Those requiring to book should write to:

The Honorary Permit Secretary
Alun S. Nutt,
12, The Crescent, Cwmbran,
NP 44 7 JG

Buckets And Pails In The Ardeche

by Buckett Tilbury

While looking at the cold rain through the window I decided that a few lines about caving in the hot sun of the South of France might not come amiss.  (Actually I've been pestering him to write something for the B.B. for over a year now - Bassett.)

This year (depends on when you receive your B.B.) 1981, Ann, Tina, Tina's friend Kirsty and I went to the Ardeche Valley where we supposed to meet Graham, Jane and the Bradford.  We failed to meet up and so proceeded to have a tourist holiday soaking up the sun, visiting show caves and attending to all the local wines.  While doing all this we kept noticing holes in cliffs and people with caving gear coming and going.  This all got too much for me so off we went in search of information.

We found the information at an exhibition of spelaeology in a cave at the head of the gorge.  This was very interesting in its own right but much more information could have been obtained if we had been able to speak good French.  The girl in charge was a caver and, although her English was as limited as our French, she suggested we attempt cave just across the river and 20km long.  She also gave us a description of how to find the entrance, already printed along with information on other sites, on a piece of paper under the heading of 'Sites Naturels Remarquables'.

The next afternoon saw the four of us strolling along the river bank looking for the cave entrance. Well - the others were strolling, I was staggering along with two shopping bags of clothes and gear, shopping bags being the only method we had to carry things.  After half a mile I thought we must be somewhere near the cave and suggested that we look for the entrance.  It was then pointed out that as there was a nice beach here I could go and look while Ann and the girls sunbathed and had a swim in the river - it was rather hot.

I located the entrance after some scrambling in the bushes by doing the obvious thing and following the path!

I dragged the others off the beach and we decided to change in the entrance.  At this point I discovered that I had brought down from the car two left boots.  This did not lead itself to the leader being able to lead as with these boots on I would just go round in a left hand circle.  Back to the car to change the boot.  Half a mile each way in the hot sun.  My resolve was beginning to crack.

When I returned the others were changed so I quickly got ready and we were off to tackle 20km of large, dry, French cave - or so I thought.  As we started down into the large entrance passage, Ann did remark that one caving helmet and one carbide lamp with a spare change of carbide and three small hand torches was not much with which to tackle such a cave.

The passage was approximately 10 - 15m wide and 3m high with a flow of cold air coming out.  We followed the passage, descending slowly over the boulder floor for some distance until Tina, who was in front, reported that there was a large pool of water with a small stream running in from the other side.  The pool was surrounded by thick mud.  We traversed in the mud round the pool and gained the gravel stream bed.  We pressed on for a few metres but were brought to an abrupt halt, as we rounded a bend, a large pool of water and a lowering of the roof to water level.  The passage leading this was still large but with mud banks on either side of the stream bed.  A quick look around confirmed that we had reached a sump.  Tina enquired if she could hold my helmet while I performed a Casteret style feat in the sump!

Feeling a little disappointed we turned and started out.  It was then that Ann observed that we had lost the cold draught, so we had probably missed a passage on the way in.  Sure enough, as we investigated the walls on the way out, a passage opening appeared, about 1m high and 3m wide, with the cold draught.

We progressed up this passage, over boulders, until a section of stal, which we had to creep through, to a chamber where we could stand up again.  On the 10ft side was a large stal boss which appeared to block the way on here.  On the right corner a rift passage left the chamber so we followed this.  The rift was about 1m wide and 15 high with solid floor and walls.  As we followed the rift passage it was suddenly bisected by a much larger rift which left us looking down a 10 - 15 m. pitch with the far wall 5m away.  The pitch looked climbable but, without any ropes, we decided discretion the better part of valour and we made our way back to the chamber with the stal.

While we were admiring the stal I went and -had a closer look at the stal boss and found a hole at the side with a howling gale coming through - the way on.  Off we went again, this time in a rounded passage, 2 to 3m across with a packed mud floor.  We made good progress along this passage and were really getting into our stride when a pool appeared across the passage.  It stretched away into the distance and round a bend in the passage. After much discussion the girls decided that, as they were wearing their going out Jeans, they would not cross the water.  We made our way out and back to the river, were we played 'set the water on fire' with the carbide.

The cave we had tried to tackle is called the Event de Foussoubie.