Bread of Heaven -
You know that good feeling. You’re off on holiday, a hard earned four day break - good caving trips ahead & plenty of beer swilling with your friends, The sun is shining, the air warm the car a magic carpet wafting you through the beautiful English countryside. The world goes spinning by in an effervescent euphoria. You never think to look at the fuel gauge.
Not, that is, until the sun
has gone down and you’re on the most obscure
B road in deepest, darkest.
But all of a sudden, there he is. The Archangel Gabriel, face glowing above a fag-end, thumb pointing at the Pleiades, impeccably dressed in white leathers sporting a badge “Jesus rode Honda”. God’s own AA man to the rescue. “Jump in, Taffy, I say: and then ask him the whereabouts of the nearest gas station. After a volley of words, he points up the road. Truly a sign, which is just as well as I haven’t understood a word he’s said. Taffy gets out at the garage and “runs down through the fields” as he puts it, though I must admit having visions of him scree running on huge slag-heaps. Fifteen minutes later I cross the railway line and bump down to Penwyltt. True to form, in the last few yards the headlights pick out another angel, swaying gently in the still cold air, feet braced a yard apart as he waters the flowers, hand clutching his Precious holy water to his chest.
Conversation leads to closer inspection and the holy water is a bottle of Pils. He’d obviously cracked before the 40 days were up. But the angel is most hospitable and after a quick baptism with the holy water I’m tucked up in my bunk and drifting off to sleep in a heaven full of leather jacketed angels reclining on fluffy clouds, drinking bottles of Pils.
I wake next morning to sunlight streaming through the window heralding four days of meteorological bliss. Down in the kitchen Chris Wilcox is limbering up with five rashers of bacon, three eggs and a mega pot of tea. I steal a brew and we go outside to reconnoiter. Jim & Jacky are obviously here, and the ripple we trip over in discovering this is Jack Sheldon in an army special Camouflaged ground sheet with six inch poles. The smart Force Ten (to rebuff outer wind or contain inner wind? ) is Graham, Bill & Peter. Andy is in kip with his friends, our leaders. Others soon arrive including Bob, Dave, Jack German Jnr., Mark, Keith & Sedbo.
Fifteen members in all - a macro meet. “Get a grip!”, some idiot shouts, and the next minute fifteen cavers are flogging up the hill to Top Entrance. To describe the epic of the O.F.D. through trip would take a long to read as it did to do the trip, so I hope someone obliges with the full account. High spots should be given space though. Andy gets lost in the first few hundred feet - but isn’t that what leaders are for? - to find the right way out of the wrong way. Andy gets gripped up on the climb down into Salubrious Passage - a hearty Ho! Ho! Ho!. from Keith, who then follows suit. Jim grabs a precious shot of Andy even more gripped up on Maypole Inlet, though Mick grabs the star spot by actually falling off. Sploosh! In the main streamway Army Intelligence meets its match as Jack disappears in one of the potholes - one up to civvy street. Finally, Jim gets us all lined up for a group photo, first captive evidence that the Red Rose has more than ten active members .... if it comes out, which with Jim is ever doubtful. The rest of the trip is lost in a blur of turns, climbs, crawls marching streamways. A superb trip accomplished in four hours, such speed allowing us full use of the Ancient Brit, which said pub has discovered that a hand pump is not just a cycling accessory or a form of manual relief. Wearing hangovers like medals we stagger into Saturday.
Hangovers or not, there is
little festering on Saturday morning & after huge breakfasts we follow the
sunlight down the valley. With three Dan-yr-Ogof leaders it will be possible to
accommodate the full Red Rose contingent in this revered cave - three parties
on three separate trips. Access would no doubt be more difficult if the
dinosaurs above the entrance were real. The duty guides wave us past groups of
startled tourists and we are swallowed up by the black waters of the stream
passage rumbling out of the underground paradise that, stretches far into the
hill. I can only say “What a cave”. (Hugh running out of words, that’s a compliment. Ed) Let
everyone tell their own story, but where I am taken, the Far North, is in my
estimation the finest caving trip in
Sunday, traditionally a rest day. Primus’s are
slow to light and breakfast is protracted into three course meals and umpteen
brews, consumed to the harmonic melodies of Pink Floyd from Sedbo’s disco.
Someone even mentions a fester in the pub. Such a blissful day as this should
never be squandered underground, but dutifully we make tracks for Little Neath
River Cave and indulge in a little rallying on the forest tracks. A brief stop is
made at a remote store for an ice-cream, a snack that Jack is in dire need of
after thumbing through the girly calendar on the wall of the place. Down by the
river it’s like
Bank Holiday Monday, the ideal day
for a pose. Those who have satiated their caving appetites take to the motorway
and head for
pointed over the hill and far away.. This leaves the exhibitionists to savour the dubious delights of
Eventually we get it right and
the tubes lead to some climbs and then without warning, the ever present iron
gate. Inserting our key in the Welsh cavers chastity belt we break into the enormous,
Who else but – H. St. Lawrence