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Gower – Pays des Caverns

by  Keith Gardner

Most people, when they think of South Wales and its caves, travel in their mind’s eye northwards up the valleys to Craig-y-Nos, to such caves as Dan yr Ogof of Ffynnon Ddu.  Very few know anything about that prolific hunting ground, Gower, and still fewer even bother to visit this wild and beautiful peninsula.  Perhaps this is because most of these caves lie on the coast and sea caves are never popular with speleos, being the haunt of ‘weegies’.  Gower caves, however, are not all purely formed by the sea – many of them the remains of ancient swallet systems long since dissected by the advancing ocean, and standing now on raised beaches.  The Atlantic breakers have eroded the lower levels of breccia and other filling, leaving us with double-deck caves, one above the other, or with shelves and galleries of stalagmite covered breccia adhering to the walls high above our heads.

For many thousands of years man has made these caves his home, in fact the earliest known burial in Britain was found here.  At Goats Hole, Paviland, in the 1820’s Dean Buckland started an excavation and discovered the headless remains of a young man, smothered in red ochre and laid out in ceremonial fashion.  With the body were found shells, ivory ornaments, the skull of an elephant and flint implements which dated the burial as Aurinnacian.  Cat Hole in Parc le Breos, has also been proved to have sheltered Palaeolithic man of this period, and in Bacon Hole a few years ago was thought to have been made the great discovery of cave art!  Ten wide red bands were noticed on the wall of the inner chamber and l’Abbe Breuil, the world’s famous expert on French and Spanish cave art, likened them to eight similar ones at the Grotte de la Font de Gaume at les Eyzies.  Modern opinion, however, now attributes them to natural causes…?

After the Old Stone Age we find Mesolithic represented on Burry Holmes, an islet on the N.W. coast, although the writer hopes to find traces of cliff top sites similar to Cornish ones, this coming spring.  The Neolithic and Bronze Ages also left their mark in the caves, but are chiefly remembered by megaliths and barrows on the moors.  King Arthur’s Stone on Cefn Bryn and the Parc le Breos tomb being fine examples.

With the age of Iron and the infiltration of Roman cultures we again find surface monuments in the way of hill forts, etc., but many relics of occupation were left in the coastal caves.  Our friend Ted Mason has found traces even of Saxon visitation in Minchin Hole.

Minchin is an impressive site, being a deep and narrow ravine with its landward end roofed in.  Ninety feet above the floor is a hole which once must have borne an active stream, and the presence of passage entrances high up in the side walls suggests that is has cut through and even older system.

Perhaps figures are needed to persuade the Craig-y-Nos fan: in eighteen miles of carboniferous coast line there are over sixty caves – an average of approximately one every five hundred yards!

K.S.G.

Additions to Club Library.

British Caver Vol. 25.  1954.
Out of Doors July/August. 1954.
True (U.S.A. Pub.)  July. 1954.
Newsletters S.W.C.C.  No. 9.  July. 1954.

In True there is a report of a cave with the main chamber 1½ miles long, with a photograph of it.

J. Ifold.

Godstone.

Stan Gee is now stationed at Borden, Hants, and would like to know if anyone is interested in organising a trip to Godstone Chalk Workings, or if anyone knows of any archaeological work going on in the area, which is not far from London.  His full address is: -

T23025204 Dvr. Gee S., 13th. Army Fire Brigade, R.A.S.C., Borden, Hants.

A little bird has whispered that Stan is getting married in April and will, he hopes, be on Mendip about this time.

Gazzum’s Brain Child.

By Jill Rollason.

Egbert Ethelred Gilbert Gazzum
Was a caver full of enthusiasm;
As soon as he a grotto found
He raised his heels and went to ground,
And others tried to coax around.
But soon he found, despite his craving,
That Cavers were not made for caving:
Some were too fat, some were too tall,
While some just wouldn’t cave at all.

Now Egbert had an active brain
And friends to whom he could explain.
He spoke to them of caverns which,
Because of squeeze or awkward pitch
Were doomed to say unvisited
While cute types went to Gough’s instead.
The Studious engineers and craftsmen,
And soon produced a marvellous plan
Of a super-mechanised caving-man
(With sketch to show where it began).

They built it up from servo-tabs
And engines whipped in dribs and drabs,
With axial compressor made
To fit the Glyco-cooling blade;
Then so as not to work by halves
They gave it gyroscopic valves.

“I know,” exclaimed young Egbert Gazzum,
“Let’s cover it with ectoplasm”.    And as it looked a chilly job
They threw in a de-icing knob.
They added for his comfort’s sake
Enormous stomach built to take
Beer, cider, gin and Sett’s mistake,
With valves devised by crafty brain
To stop it coming up again.

Their work was done, but how to make
The thing get up and stay awake?
They brought in rocket-fuel inventors
From Harwell and some other centres,
Who settled down in happy glee
Beneath a fog of secrecy,
And finally evolved a cross
Of sprocket-oil and candy floss,
Of Teepol, gelignite and glue
Which made a nauseating brew.
They sprinkled in an ounce of sand,
And fingers from a climber’s hand
Which after long disuse had dropped
When climbs for rug-making were swapped.

The hour had come, grave locks amid,
They raised his centrifugal grid
And peered into his attrody.
“Good Lord”, cried Egbert with a shout,
“They’ve left his ultra-prisms out!”

They nabbed a funnel from the store
And locked and bolted every door,
Then poured the noisome mixture in
To gurgle down his abdomen.

A million volts went through and through,
The robot’s face went mauve and blue –
Then experts pushed with cotter pin
A thermostatic capsule in.

At length our Egbert went in glee
His haunts on Mendip Hills to see,
And showed Stan there a monster place,
The refuge of his fellow race.
He saw their yachts tied up to trees
In circles round the Minories,
And eyed until his head was giddy
The Daimlers parked as far as Priddy.
They entered in the Belfry first
Whose occupants were wondrous versed
In scientific lore and learning
(Like axle jumps and sprocket-turning)
In which they all were most discerning.

But Stanley sniffed: before they knew it
He showed then better ways to do it,
‘Till after blows and protests vocal
They went to sorrow at the local.

Egbert Ethelred Gilbert Gazzum
Had still not lost enthusiasm,
But as his babe and B.E.C.
Could do naught else but disagree,
He felt ‘twas best their paths diverge
When next he felt the caving urge.
Accordingly, one summer’s morn
He grabbed his clothes all ripped and torn,
He went alone, some time to pass
At Hunter’s Lodge with brimming glass.

It so occurred as there he mused
Thinking of caves his friend refused,
That suddenly he saw a girl
 (Of ins and outs and blonde curl)
Who set his whole mind in a whirl.
For she was slim enough a lass
The Devil’s Elbow swift to pass,
Her eyes were long, her ankles neat,
Her eyes a-gleam, her lips a treat.
I short, she was the perfect pip
To take upon a caving trip,
So Egbert thought the little drip.
He told her so, and showed her snaps
Of favourite caves and perhaps
She thought that he intended wrong,
He said he’d bring a friend along.

So once again young Stan he brought
To Mendip where an inn they sought.
Here Egbert filled him up with beer
Which made his antics rather queer,
For liquor on an empty tum
Is not the thing advised by Mum
(Though preferable to drinking rum)
His charming friend he introduced
To Stan, whose eyes turned red and fused,
But having put this detail straight
They got to Swildons, rather late.

Egbert Ethelred Gilbert Gazzum
Pushed friend into the dirty chasm,
And soon here was a Mighty Hall
Were lads had ducked ‘neath waterfall,
For Stan set all his valves in action
To dig away by screw-attraction
His gyroscopic blades grew hot
But made quite double of the Grot,
‘Til soon the blonde and Egberts stood
Gazing upon the icy flood.
The cavers’ chiefest foe is friction
Stan had conquered this affliction,
And now with pre-fabrical spade
Young Stan a super stairway made
And into other caverns strayed.

Our Egbert spoke of rock with zest
The girl friend showed great interest.
He talked of stalagmite formation,
Helictites and their location,
Then, solely to inform his guest
They sat awhile to have a rest.
They did not think of Stan, though he
Still dug his way ecstatically:
This was his life, the sprocket oil
That filled his veins was on the boil
And he could not want no other toil.
But soft! His supercharged leapt –
Upon the air sweet perfume crept,
And ectoplastic nose a quiver
Stan hurried down along the river.
His life was short, his deeds were great,
The robot met a noble fate.
For, though all bods presumed him drowned,
A secret whiskey still he found.
What better prizes underground?

What of the blonde, you ask no doubt –
‘Tis certain she did not come out.
Egbert Ethelred Gilbert Gazzum
Had changed his first enthusiasm.
Ideas had flowered since he’d met her,
Limestone was fine: but girls were better.

J.R.

The above epic was far too good to be printed a little at a time, and I hope that Jill can supply us with more of a similar nature later.

T.H.S.

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I should like to thank all those who have been sending in material for the BB since Christmas.  We are ensured of publication for some time to come.  This does not mean, however, that the flow should stop; on the contrary, let it increase into a flood, and then we can increase the size of the BB.  It has been my ambition to double the number of pages for some time, and with the assistance of all, it could be done.

T.H.S.

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T.H. Stanbury, Hon. Editor, 48. Novers Park Road, Bristol. 4.