Note that this is a re-print of the original publication, based on a scanned copy. During the process of converting the original paper copy to this electronic version, the original formatting, page layout and page numbers have been lost. All diagrams and surveys have been scanned from the original and are consequently of poor quality.
Survey of an Extension to Lost Johns Cavern by R Biddle
Some Caves of North Wales by BM Ellis
A Survey of Cefn Cave by BM Ellis
Journal published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club
The Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU
Series 4 of the Journal starts with a new look. The size has been increased to quarto to keep in line with other caving publications.
It is a pity to note that most of the articles are written by authors whose names appear in many of the recent issues. We are sure other members have something to write, but they seem to keep their discoveries to themselves.
This is the first journal we have produced with no articles about Mendip caves. Is this a sign that Mendip is becoming 'worked out', and cavers are looking elsewhere for their new finds? The articles include caves from three different areas. There is an account of the discovery last summer, of a new cave in Co. Clare, Eire. Some of the work done in the caves of North Wales is described, and from Yorkshire a previously unpublished survey of an extension to Lost John's Cave is included.
(Doolin St. Catherines System; County Clare, Ireland.)
Proceed north from the road by Smithy Sink for 300 yards, crossing two dry-stone walls. The cave is in a swallet only 100 yards south of St. Catherines 1 entrance.
On July 28th 1965 Barry Lane, Tony Meaden, Ray Mansfield and myself were invited by Oliver Lloyd to assist him in attacking the choke in the downstream section of St. Catherines 2. Oliver had been digging there for several days and had advanced 20 feet into the cave along a tight bedding passage.
The way on was partially blocked with mud and gravel leaving a 5 inch air space over the mud. Although the roof height was low (little better than 1 foot), digging was relatively easy, the mud being dislodged in large flakes. After about an hour we heard a delighted cry from Tony announcing that he had broken through.
We scrambled back along the bedding plane and found that it suddenly emerged into a walkable T-shaped passage (see section P-P'). Upstream the passage terminated after 30 feet in a mud choke. We explored downstream for about 100 feet, where the passage was blocked by a boulder choke.
The boulder choke offered three possible ways of progressing. Straight ahead a short tight hole could be seen to emerge the other side of the boulder choke, but the passage was just too small to negotiate because a flake of rock almost bisected the passage. This was annoying because a lump hammer had not been included in our digging kit.
In the roof a 7 inch high passage appeared to pass above the boulder choke. Our portable ferret, Ray Mansfield, volunteered to push this passage, but after 10 feet it became too restricted. The other hole was only 5 inches wide and clearly needed "bang".
The dry conditions in the cave made us thirsty so we decided to pack up and call it a day. Oliver told us that he would not be with us the next day because his stay in Ireland was over.
At 2 p.m. the next day we re-entered the cave armed with a lump hammer. Using brute force and ignorance the offending flake of rock was soon broken up, and we were able to squeeze through.
Whilst waiting for the others I explored a tributary passage which went north for 90 feet and ended in a mud choke. Carrying on in the main cave a squeeze was reached about 30 feet further on. The floor at this point was covered in a rich red mud (about the same colour as blood), and everything became plastered in it. 30 feet from this squeeze a tributary passage entered on the right. At this point the cave became much wider, being 20 feet in width and 6 feet high. Just past the tributary the first formations of any note were encountered. It was impossible not to spoil some of them because of their abundance. The passage was arched by a quite beautiful flowstone bridge (see section L-L'). The bridge was covered in rimstone pools, with stalactites and stalagmites at each end. Underneath, a series of almost circular rimstone pools descended in equal steps.
From here on, the formations became more profuse, and straw stalactites became quite numerous until it became difficult to avoid them. The going was easy with the roof about 4 feet above one's head, and the walls 3-4 feet apart. The gradient was very gentle following a dip of about 4 degrees.
400 feet from the last mentioned tributary, the floor became covered with thick viscous mud, and we were soon paddling up to our knees. When we reached an awkward squeeze 80 feet further, we decided to end exploration for the day because we had no spare carbide with us.
The next day we invited Dave Savage to join us and he supplied a tape so that a rough survey of the cave could be made. The squeeze was found to be much easier than we supposed, but the mud soon became waist deep, and progress was slow and strenuous. Ahead we could see the roof descend to almost the level of the mud, leaving a mere 6 inches of air space.
The "mud duck" was only a couple of feet long but getting through was by no means simple. The method employed was to lie out on the mud, and attempt to propel oneself using a sort of breast stroke. This is all very well in water, but in thick mud we found it very difficult to move our limbs. There were a few anxious moments in the middle of the duck, when one seemed to be struggling to no avail, and striving to keep one's head above the mud.
Figure 1 – Survey of Downstream Section of St. Catherines II
Thankfully there was a bank on which to rest about 30 feet past the duck. We noticed two passages on the right a few feet from here. The first was a dry crawl over firm mud which became too tight after 30 feet or so. The second passage was a continuation of the deep mud in a constricted hole, which Dave Savage followed for 80 feet and found very unpleasant. Straight ahead was a bedding plane crawl which Dave and myself followed for 40 feet until it was blocked by a stal choke.
We agreed not to use the tape until we were clear of the mud, and decided that we would 'guesstimate' the distances in this section. Ray Mansfield gave us quite a scare on the way back by saying the duck had sumped up. It had not, but his bow wave had obscured his view of the air space.
The survey stations were mostly 50 feet apart and at each station the roof height and widths were estimated. The tributary just above section L-L' was pushed on the way out and it yielded another 250 feet of cave passage.
When we returned to the surface after 4 hours underground we looked like walking clods of mud. It was even difficult to distinguish our faces from our boiler suits. Fortunately we were able to wash the mud off in the stream which flows into Smithy Sink.
Some Notes on the Cave
- The whole system is formed in the same bed of limestone, the dip being about 4 degrees.
- Most of the cave is T-shaped in cross section. This is typical of caves in County Clare.
- Meanders were not very much in evidence, the cave being fairly straight.
- The distances are made up as follows:
- Main Passage 870 Feet
- Tributaries 410 Feet
- Other Passages 100 Feet
- Total 1380 Feet
- The cave is going towards Doolin Dry Tributary in the Doolin - St. Catherines system. There is about 430 feet to go.
This survey came to hand quite recently as to our knowledge it has never been published. We make no apologies for doing so long after the event.
Getting to the place took two trips due to the difficulty of finding the way there. "Titch" Harris of the Chelsea Speleological Society has a nice scar on his hand to prove this, caused by falling down a pitch.
The survey is a CRG grade 3 and the instruments used were a hand held prismatic compass, read to the nearest degree and a "Fibron" tape. No elevations were taken, but as the maximum elevation could not have been more than a degree or so, this would have had little effect upon the accuracy of the survey.
Halfway up the extension are some very fine formations – mainly straws – and scalloping is very pronounced everywhere. In fact, as the passage height rarely exceeded 3 feet, crawling was very painful even in a wet suit.
At the extreme upstream end, the water flows from a narrow fissure 10 feet above the floor of the passage. This Peter Livesey has declared impenetrable – dare I say there is no chance of an extension?
Whilst exploring a small offshoot to the main inlet, I discovered a mark made in carbide smoke on a stal flow. I queried this with Mike Boon who thought that this was a survey station made by an organisation who surveyed the place but would not let him have a copy of the survey.
Figure 2 – Survey of Extension to Lost Johns Cavern
Original work done in Denbighshire and Flintshire by members of the club is described. This includes two cave surveys, six previously unrecorded caves, notes on seven other caves and the identification of some badly described caves in the earlier literature.
Apart from perhaps an odd visit, the club's history of caving in Denbighshire and Flintshire started in 1958 when Fred Davies moved to the area. In 1960 he was joined for a few months by the author and the result of this joint effort was the publication of the club's second Occasional Publication (1) that for several years was the standard reference work for the area. Unfortunately it has now been long out of print but most of the cave descriptions have since been incorporated in the Dalesman guide to the Caves of Wales (2). Both of us left North Wales in 1960 but since that time we have made several return visits with John Iles and our respective wives. This article records the 'discoveries' that have been made by members of the club on these later trips. Some of the work is certainly original but some of the discoveries, being of the usual large entrance type typical of North Wales caves, must have been known previously. However, a fairly extensive search has been made of the caving literature for this area (the result, nearly 200 references, is to be published as the club's third Occasional Publication) and they have not been recorded in these. Some of the other work recorded in this article refers to caves which although already recorded in the literature, it was done so in a very vague manner and the caves have been re-located by members of the club; more precise descriptions given here.
Most of the sites listed in "Caving in North Wales" (1) as possible sites for further discovery have been investigated by members of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club and by others, principally members of the Shropshire Mining Club. As these sites were first listed by this club in their publication, a record of the work done is given here even if it was not done by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club.
Bont Newydd Cave (SJ/015710)
Members of the Shropshire Mining Club removed the two drain pipes that blocked the end of the main passage and dug down the floor level until they could proceed for a further ten feet to a small chamber. Unfortunately, when this dig was inspected by the SMCC it appeared to have been abandoned after reaching a small chamber ten feet further on.
Dulas Cave (SH/914774)
This was explored and found to be about 700 feet long, considerably shorter than that quoted in some references. Parts of the cave appeared to be natural but much of it had been mined.
The Fourteen Swallets at Craig (SJ/200503)
The Shropshire Mining Club have recorded a resurgence a couple of hundred yards away on the other side of the wood and it seemed very probable that this was the water from the swallets. Most of the swallets have been filled with brushwood from nearby wood clearing operations but none had been placed in the thirteenth swallet from the farm; this is the one that takes most water. During July 1965 fluorescein was added to the stream entering the thirteenth swallet and a bag of activated charcoal was left in the stream from the nearby resurgence. When tested three days later a positive result was obtained thus proving the expected connection between the two. A previous test had been made earlier but no visual sign of the dye was seen within 35 minutes of adding it at the sink.
Moel Hiraddug Cave (SJ/062789)
This has been visited by the Shropshire Mining Club who found the dead sheep in a much less offensive condition and confirmed the cave to be as described in Britain Underground (3). They stated that the far end of the cave was showing signs of damage from blasting in the nearby Dyserth quarry.
Pont-y-Trap Rising (SJ/02307030)
A small amount of energy has been spent digging this resurgence both by Alan Ashwell of the CRG (who refers to it as Ffynnon Galltfaenan) and by the Shropshire Mining Club. Even at the end of the very dry summer of 1964 the resurgence was still active.
This site has not been visited by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club as it is now certain that this is a mine and not a cave.
This site was found by armchair caving. This is the name of a valley in which the Brasgyll caves are situated. It is almost certain that the information given in "British Caving" (4) was taken from "The Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Denbighshire" (5). It certainly refers to one of the Brasgyll caves, probably Brasgyll III which is in the east bank approximately 175 yards above the bridge at SJ/00607145. The further alternative name of 'Brysgill' appears to have originated with W. Boyd Dawkins in "Cave Hunting" (6).
This is another problem solved in the armchair. There was a quotation from the "Cambrian Traveller's Guide" (7) in volume 7 of the "British Caver" that described a cave near Aber. Reference to the original work showed that this is Aber near Penmaenmawr and that it is, or was, an artificial cave.
Plas Heaton Cave (SJ/03256915)
This is a well documented cave but it had not been visited by the club until 1963. The cave is very close to the house and permission must be obtained first.
This cave is mentioned in many of the scientific papers of the last century. Enquiries were made at Rhosddigre Farm but apparently the cave lies on land near to, and owned by, Rhos Isaf Farm. From this information and a study of the literature it is certain that Rhosddigre is one of those listed as the Llandegla caves – which one is still uncertain.
Coppy Cave (SJ/044666)
The "un-named cave" marked by Wild on his sketch map in volume 18 of the "British Caver" was searched for by members of the club. The map is very vague but a cave was found near Coppy Farm and this is thought to be the one. 300 yards north west of Coppy on the Denbigh – Henllan road (B5382) and 50 yards from the road is an outcrop of limestone. At the north west end of this outcrop there is a low arched cave entrance at ground level. The cave is a single passage about 25 feet long, two feet high at the entrance and gradually getting lower. On the day following this 'discovery' members of the Shropshire Mining Club noticed what appeared to be a cement capped cave nearby.
The River Alun near the "Three Loggerheads Inn" (SJ/199626)
This was again visited by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club on 8th August 1963 and the water was found to be sinking at two points further upstream than any of those shown on the sketch map in "Caving in North Wales" (1). (There is a typing error on that sketch map, the scale should read '1000 feet' and not '100 feet'). Members of the Shropshire Mining Club have dug at one of the sinks but without success. Success at any of the sinks is very unlikely as a paper in the 'Transactions of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy' (8) describes attempts made to seal the bed of the river to prevent the water entering nearby mine workings. These attempts failed because the water was found to be sinking down innumerable small fissures.
Afon Meirchion Cave (SJ/022694)
What has been perhaps one of the most interesting discoveries in North Wales in recent years is an extension to this cave. Since the publication of the club's Occasional Publication least two parties have attempted digging at the 'very dry weather terminal pool' of the cave. In September 1961 Peter Howden of Prestatyn dug in the shingle floor (there was no water in the pool) but although a way on could be seen the dig was abandoned because the shingle kept sliding back into the dig.
Figure 3 – Survey of Afon Meirchion Cave
Fourteen months later the Shropshire Mining Club again found the pool dry and after digging for an hour managed to squeeze through, only to find a further sump on the far side. The Shepton Mallet Caving Club visited Afon Meirchion cave in September 1964 to find that not only was the pool dry but that it was possible to get through after spending only a few minutes enlarging the passage. The sump found by the Shropshire Mining Club was also dry. The party continued along a constricted passage, containing two further squeezes, for 75 feet until it ended in a rift that was too narrow for further progress. A survey of the cave accompanies this article.
Dell Cave (SJ/024692)
This cave has been dug by members of the Shepton Mallet and Shropshire clubs, both with the same result. The silt floor of the small arch at the end of the main passage was lowered until access was possible to a short continuation. This was twelve feet long with a level silt floor, the roof dropping from a height of eighteen inches just beyond the arch, to nothing. Further progress would require the removal of the silt floor and this would be a very awkward dig because of the confined nature of the passage. While the digging was in progress the opportunity was taken to make a grade 5 survey; this showed the true length of the cave to be 110 feet. A copy of the survey is published here.
Dell Cave was found to be taking a stream at Easter 1965 so a small quantity of fluorescein was added. Charcoal detectors for the dye were placed in the streams emerging from Afon Meirchion Cave and from a small resurgence further down the Afon y Meirchion, on the same side of the river. Both of these sites gave a positive result thus proving that Dell and Afon Meirchion cave are part of the same system; something that has been suspected for some years but not previously proved.
Figure 4 – Survey of Dell Cave
Windy Cave (SJ/198593)
There was a brief mention to this cave in the earlier paper. It has been revisited and as the entrance is in featureless country to the south-east of the house called "Pothole" (marked on the 7th edition Ordnance Survey map) compass bearings were taken to three nearby hills. These bearings were Moel Famau 319°, Moel Cyw 245° and Foel Fonlli 291°. These bearings were only taken with a pocket compass so they may be a few degrees in error.
Castell Mawr Caves (SH/939766)
Two reports have been received by the author that neither of the two caves higher up the quarry face, (IV) and (V), are longer than ten feet, and not worth the effort of trying to reach them. As far as is known the 'boulder removing' dig in Castell Mawr (1) has not been attempted.
The Llandegla and Porthichwarau Caves
These caves have been visited recently by members of the club after several further caves, missed on previous visits, were reported in the literature. Another cave entrance was found approximately 150 yards south east of the others but it was completely filled with rubbish. The location of these caves is shown on the accompanying sketch map.
Figure 5 – Sketch Map Showing Location of Porthichwarau and Llendegla Caves
Cefn Natural Arch (SJ/021704)
It is difficult to imagine a cave of these dimensions being missed, especially as it was mentioned to the authors by Don Crown, but this cave did not appear in "Caving in North Wales"; nor, for that matter in "Caves in Wales and the Marches". The cave is situated at the base of Cefn Rocks, almost at river level and about fifty yards south of Cefn Cave. It is a natural arch twenty feet high by ten feet wide and approximately twenty-five yards long. There is another passage of similar dimensions that joins it about half way along its length. There is an abandoned dig at floor level.
Cilcain Cave (II) (SJ/185651)
Our earlier paper mentioned that the course of the stream past Cilcain Cave was not known below the cave. The stream was visited again in 1964 and found to be disappearing into a number of indeterminate sinks a few hundred yards below Cilcain cave. While following the bed of the stream towards the course of the River Alun a further cave was noticed in the opposite bank, i.e. the south bank. This is about 400 yards upstream from Cilcain cave (I) and consists of a large entrance to a single chamber. The chamber is ten feet long, the floor sloping down from the entrance to give a final roof height of ten feet. Another cave in this area had been reported by the Shropshire Mining Club (9) but their grid reference and description of its location agrees neither with one another, nor with this cave.
St George Cave
This is mentioned by EA Baker (10) and in 1963 a search was made to try and find it. The top of the hill from grid reference SJ/953760 to 962759, and also the large outcrop of limestone behind the quarry at 967758, were searched without success. The description of the location given in the book is vague but not as bad as some that have appeared in the literature; it is quite possible that the cave has now been quarried away.
This is another area where caves were missed by the authors of "Caving in North Wales". Although the Nant-y-Craig valley was searched on several occasions at least four caves were missed. Brasgyll (VI) had already been described in "Britain Underground" (3) but its small entrance was missed and the vagueness of the descriptions made it difficult to fit them to any of the caves found; this resulted in us not making a determined search. Brasgyll (VII) was also missed; it is described in "Caves in Wales and the Marches".
In 1962 Mr. Hywel Owen of Denbigh took members of both the Shepton Mallet and Shropshire clubs to look at Brasgyll (V). Stones were dropped down the narrow rift on the left of the passage and could be heard falling for several feet.
The banks of the valley were examined further upstream and a further two small caves were found. Brasgyll (VIII) is 300 yards upstream of (V), nearly at the top of the west bank, that is about forty feet above the river. It consists of five feet of passage, a tight squeeze and then an enlarged cross-joint which is about ten feet long. Brasgyll (IX) is twenty five yards further upstream of (VIII) and at the same height above the river. It is only accessible for five feet but can be seen to continue for at least another twenty five feet, as the floor is a soft soil infill it would be an easy dig.
Scree Cave (SJ/059803)
This small cave at the top of a scree slope near the railway bridge over the road to Gwsonysgor from the Rhuddlan – Prestatyn road (A517) was thought to be natural. No reference to it has been found in the literature although Peter Howden (11) has listed many of the mines in this area. The cave is a single passage about twenty five feet long.
Dyserth Castle Caves (SJ/066798)
If one takes the road to Gwaenysgor from the Rhuddlan – Prestatyn road (A547) and then forks right towards Newmarket (Trelawnyd), an overgrown spoil heap will be seen on the right of the road about 600 yards beyond the fork. (This spoil heap is from an underground feldspar quarry nearby which is worth a visit). To the west is a wooded valley, walk down this, over the first fence and then follow the second fence to the left until the cliff face is reached. There are two small caves in this cliff, Dyserth Castle Caves (I) and (II) which have been described by Howden (11). If the fence is followed to the other side of the valley and then one continues down the valley to twenty yards beyond a stone wall the limestone cliff will be found to turn at right angles to the valley. At the base of the cliff, around the corner, is Dyserth Castle Cave (III). This cave has a total length of forty feet and consists of two passages.
Howden has described a third cave in this locality but neither the description, nor the location, of this cave agrees with his description. It is not certain whether perhaps his description had been written from memory and contained errors.
Peter Howden has also recorded a number of 'caves' in the Prestatyn area and most of these have been visited by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club in 1963 and 1964. Although their names include the word 'cave', most of them were found to be old mine workings. These visited included Boot Cave (SJ/069815), Fish Cave (SJ/069816), Talagoch Cave (SJ/059803) and Three Storey Cave (SJ/071817). All of these were definitely mines.
- FJ Davies & BM Ellis – SMCC Occasional Publication 2, 1960. Caving in North Wales
- DW Jenkins & AM Williams – Caves in Wales and the Marches (Dalesman) 1963
- N Thornber, AH & RD Stride & JC Myers – Britain Underground (Dalesman) 1953
- CH Cullingford (editor) – British Caving, an Introduction to Speleology (Routledge & Kegan Paul) 1953 page 207
- E Davies – The Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Denbighshire (Lewis) 1929 page 288
- W Boyd Dawkins – Cave Hunting (Macmillan) 1874 page 149
- G Michelson – The Cambrian Traveller's Guide (Longman. Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown) 1813
- JB Richardson – Institution of Mining and Metallurgy Transactions, 64, (1953) page 211
- Shropshire Mining Club Yearbook (1961/2) page 33
- EA Baker & HE Balch – The Netherworld of Mendip (Baker) 1907 page 127
- P Howden – Caving in North Wales (published privately) 1962
No accurate survey of this cave was found when a literature search was made – only a couple of low grade sketches – and as it was desired to check the club's survey instruments in the mounting described in Series 3, Number 10 of the Journal, the opportunity was taken to make a high grade survey. This was carried out with the combined prismatic compass and Abney level, and a 100 foot "Fibron" tape. The instruments had been calibrated and were tripod mounted so this theoretically constituted a CRG grade 6 survey but “leap frog” method of surveying was used and back bearings were not taken. Several closed traverses were made, including a traverse outside the cave to connect the three entrances.
To enable the reader to form his own opinion of the expected accuracy, details are given of the closure errors that were obtained. The total length of cave passage was found to be 714 feet, considerably longer than the estimated 500 feet quoted in earlier literature.
Figure 6 – Simplified Sketch Plan of Cefn Cave
|Traverse||Length||No. of Legs||Feet per Leg||Closure Error|
|1||A, B, E, F, G, A||523.3 feet||14||37.4||0.6%|
|2||B, C, J, K, B||318.2 feet||10||31.8||1.1%|
|3||D, E, H, D||106.4 feet||4||26.6||0.6%|
Note: traverse 1 contains 257 feet outside of cave, and traverse 2 contains small passages
Figure 7 – Survey of Cefn Cave, Denbighshire