Little Neath River Cave

Party: - C. Iddon, N. Dunton & friends.

Having had enough of climbing (in O.F.D.)-we, or at least I, decided that a nice wet cave would be in order, Little Neath Cave was chosen. My enthusiasm waned somewhat as we stood looking at the entrance, an uninviting flat out crawl with much of the River Neath flowing into it. The entrance is below river level & only an insubstantial dam prevents the rest of the river from
flooding the cave. We sat for several minutes hopefully discussing the possibility of rain, but the glorious sunshine soon put paid to this idea and there as nothing else for it but to set off down. Nick disppeared in a flurry of water and I soon followed, head first into the cold. The six foot flat out entrance crawl, soon gave to a hands and knees passage (or sideways wriggling depending on the size of ones hips!) which we followed round 13 right angled bends before dropping several feet into a very narrow rift passage - still proceeding at a crawl (unless one is a “thin man”- fat woman have no option but to crawl). The passage started to enlarge here apart from the odd squeeze & we continued to follow the stream down. Several routes, either at stream level or, bypasses over the top presented themselves and the party split up into water lovers and climbers. I began. to think it was a mistake to be a water lover when I submerged trying to follow the stream through a  rather low duck.

This is Tributary Passage which gradually increased in dimensions until about 30 feet high & wide - a splendid stream passage with lots of interesting formations.  We came into Sand Chamber - quite large with huge yellow sandbanks (perhaps it would be more aptly named Blackpool Beach?). when we crossed the sandbanks we were surprised to see that the stream was f1owing in the opposite direction. This, we ascertained was the water from Bridge Cave which joins Tributary Passage.
We followed the resulting small river which turned through 90 degrees to the general direction around a sharp left—hand bend. And into a superb canal formed by a bedding plane enlargement. We found the canal to be about 3 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide and 2 feet deep in water. We floated down this silent waterway, one by one, walking on the bottom with our hands. Looking back up the canal at the string of lights following was a sight not to be missed. This continued for some 5-600 feet, the roof gradually rising to 3 feet above stream level where one can stand up. The river then bends to the right in Junction Chamber where the passage again assumes co1osa1 dimensions up to 90 feet high. (Well that’s how they described it in the book). Following the river we passed huge mud & stone banks, aptly named the Old World Series with Genisis Gallery being found over the top of the mud banks. The river flow disappeared between fallen boulders which we had to scramble over. In one place, Bouncing Boulder Hall, the passage was almost fil1ed with potentially loose boulders. Several routes were again possible, under and over, until we all met again in a low bedding plane to Sump II.

After ten minutes rest we set off back up the streamway, this time turning off at Junction Chamber to follow the Canal Bypass: I couldn’t persuade anyone to accompany me back up the canal - I wonder why? The Canal Bypass, however, was worth a visit, although rather hard on the knees being mostly crawling. The end of the passage above the canal was particularly notable being almost completely filled with old gour pools. The bypass comes out by a large beehive-shaped stal above Sand Chamber. (Hence we missed going into Mud Hall which goes off from there.) We returned slowly & again noted the wealth of formations in the stream passage before negotiating the 13 bends, more difficult against the flow of the stream.

The smell of the outside greeted us before the sight of the lovely summers afternoon. After having squeezed our way out we spent a happy half hour wallowing in the river, feeling content after a pleasant “Sunday cave”.  

Carol Iddon.

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