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News 2010

Caving news received too late for inclusion in Descent ...

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Welsh grants available

The application date for Welsh Sports Association grants for expeditions taking place between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012 has been extended to 31 January 2011. Thus far applications have been few and, although this is a grant available only to expedition members living in Wales for the past two years, or who are Welsh or who have Welsh parents or grandparents (which opens up quite a spread of eligibility), the expedition itself does not have to be Welsh. Click HERE to go to the grants section of the WSA website. (Descent 217)

Draenen gated

Descent (217) reported that the gate to Ogof Draenen was due to be replaced on the weekend of 27 November. The work was completed that Saturday so the original key is now required to gain entry; the gate may be opened from the inside without the use of a key. (Descent 217)

Otter film

A film about Dave 'Sparky' Parker's trip to the Hall of Thirty in Otter Hall at the age of 73 (see Descent 215) was premiered in the Palace Cinema in Cinderford on 11 October and subsequently entered into an online speleo film competition, as reported in Descent (217). At its close, the trailer had received 1,500 hits and the film was placed third. (Descent 217)

New cave at Ystradfellte

Since its discovery earlier this year, rumours of a new cave discovered near Ystradfellte have spread, despite the landowners' wishes reports Elsie Little (Cambrian CC & BCA Conservation Officer). She writes:

Those few responsible cavers using the site with permission were working with the landowners and hoped to carry out a scientific study and arrange an access agreement. However, others have entered the site without permission, carried out criminal damage at the entrance (which matter is now in the hands of the police), and interfered with the landowners’ privacy and water supply that originates in the cave. The result is a complete ban on caving here; the cave will be firmly sealed closed.

We thank the landowners for agreeing to do this in a manner that will not damage the cave, so that it will be properly protected, and we urge all cavers to respect the laws of property. We only have access to underground sites with a landowner's permission and landowners may be reassured that the Cambrian Caving Council, British Caving Association and the British Cave Research Association will always work with them in such matters. (Descent 217)

White Nose Syndrome

Descent (216) reported on the possible outcome if White Nose Syndrome, now prevalent across many states of the USA, became established in Europe (where the causative fungal species has been identified). Two bats have now been found in Wigpool Iron Mine in the Forest of Dean, both bearing a white fungal growth, and have been retrieved for analysis. Bats can die a natural death and then exhibit fungal growth so the outcome is far from certain, especially as WNS normally manifests more towards the end of the hibernation period, coming into spring, but safe is far better than sorry. All access to Wigpool Iron Mine, other than for essential trips as required and advised by the owners, is now suspended until the analysis is completed and more is known. (Descent 216)

Otter Hole film night

A film about Dave 'Sparky' Parker's trip to the Hall of Thirty in Otter Hall at the age of 73 (see Descent 215) was premiered in the Palace Cinema in Cinderford on 11 October. The evening was sold out and was such a success, with proceeds going to Gloucestershire cave rescue, that Paul Taylor has arranged a second evening on Monday 15 November. If you are interested in attending, contact Paul by e-mail: paultaylor [at] (Descent 216)

Smeltmill Beck Cave access

The landowner for Smeltmill Beck Cave near Brough, John Lord, has stated that all cavers are required to seek permission before they make a descent (landline: 01768 341686; mobile: 07812 364997) and let him know after you have exited the cave. Please park on the edge of the driveway to Light Trees, near the stream about 70m downstream from the entrance (NGR NY 8475 1465). Currently, most or all cavers have parked at the top and walked down the stream but in future you must follow the stream bed upstream; the entrance is a hands-and-knees crawl under a small cliff face. Do not climb any fences or stone walls. (Descent 216)

Otter Hole film

Descent (215) carried an article about a rather special caving trip to Otter Hole in the Forest of Dean – a trip by 73-year-old Dave 'Sparky' Parker, who discovered the cave back in 1970. A film was made of the trip and the date of its first showing has been announced: if you would like to see the results and meet both Forest cavers and some of those who were involved in the early days of exploration in Otter, contact Paul Taylor for further information (e-mail: chairman [at] The event is planned for 11 October in the Palace Cinema, Cinderford; tickets will cost in the region of £5 with proceeds going to Gloucestershire CRG. (Descent 216)

Ogof Draenen gates

During the evening of 7 July the gates to Ogof Draenen and Drws Cefn on the Pwll Du hillside in South Wales were stolen by persons unknown. The theft is being taken very seriously by the landowners and the Pwll Du CMG, which acts for the landowners on behalf of cavers. An accurate time for the theft is known and all keyholders have been asked to account for the whereabouts of their keys between set hours, to aid a police enquiry in progress.

Fortunately, at the time of writing the landowners have agreed that access may continue through the original Draenen entrance; no entry (or through-trip) is allowed via Drws Cefn. Please respect the landowners’ wishes related to caving on their land. Articles on the background to problems at Draenen and advice concerning legal issues and caving access in general appeared most recently in Descent (213) and (214).

Keyholders should continue to carry a key (which can be shown to the landowners if required, indicating that you have permission to be there). Non-keyholders should contact Sue Mabbett, PDCMG Secretary, 2 Garth Close, Morganstown, Cardiff CF15 8LF before undertaking a trip. (Descent 216)

Wes Skiles dies

Wes Skiles, renowned in both caving and underwater filming circles, died on 21 July while open-water diving off the Florida coast; he was 52 years old. He is reported to have left his companions to return to the surface for additional film stock; his body was later found on the reef. (Descent 216)

Peak District Mining Museum threatened

The Peak District Mining Museum in Matlock Bath has been threatened with closure. The Pavilion building where it is situated requires high expenditure to bring it up to standard and Derbyshire Dales District Council, the landlord, is taking the tack that it should be sold to a private buyer, which would force the museum to close. A Save the Pavilion Group has been established to raise awareness and funds to keep the Pavilion open: follow the link for more details. (Descent 215)

Aberystwyth CC sponsored walk

Members of Aberystwyth CC are planning a sponsored walk from Aberystwyth to Penwyllt in the Swansea Valley, ending at the headquarters of South Wales CC. The walk is expected to take four days from 10 to 13 August and is being undertaken in aid of the Cave Rescue Organisation, which celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2010. That's 75 miles for 75 years ... Donations are welcome in support of this worthy cause. (Descent 215)

Three Peaks challengers wanted

The CRO is organising a sponsored Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge on 7 August and is looking for volunteers to take part. The 24.5 mile circuit takes in Ingleborough, Penyghent and Whernside and by tradition is completed in under twelve hours. The idea for the CRO challenge originated with Phil Haigh, who died in 2009 before he could see it put into action for the first event that August with over fifty participants helping to raise money for the team

The 2010 challenge aims to be bigger and better and, if three peaks are too much, suggestions for shorter routes and even guided walks are available. Entrants are asked to donate the first £50 of their sponsorship receipts to CRO; the rest can be donated as well, of course, or can go to a different charity of their choosing. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a day out, to meet people and help the rescue team; learn more and register at the CRO website. (Descent 215)

Another Three Counties link

A team of cavers, including caving and non-caving members of the Misty Mountain Mud Mining Corporation, have made a connection between Ireby Fell Cavern and Rift Pot. This links Lancashire with Yorkshire underground and represents one of the last two key connections to remain in the Three Counties System. Ireby now contains a border control and a mud sign saying ‘Welcome to Lancashire’. A full article on this major success will appear in Descent (215), published on 7 August. This special edition is not to be missed. (Descent 214)

Cave fatality trial

The trial relating to the death of Joseph Lister in Manchester Hole was still ongoing when Descent (214) went to print, and the report in that issue was therefore only a partial one. When the trial concluded, it brought a verdict of not guilty. A full report will appear in Descent (215). (Descent 214)

Real rescues

Real Rescues is a television series which transmits in a morning slot on BBC1; it is hosted by Nick Knowles and takes a behind-the-scenes look at the emergency services and the work that they do. The programme has proved popular and the makers, Topical TV, have been commissioned to produce two more series to follow the two already screened and would like to include caving in the presentation.

The films often use archive footage shot by the public or the services themselves, combining this with news coverage and interviews with both those involved in the rescue and the service personnel. Topical is therefore hoping that cavers will have shot some footage at some time in the past that they can use as the basis of a programme. If you have any, or know of any, please contact the assistant producer Paula Tonks by phone (023 8071 2233) or e-mail (paula.tonks [at] She is keen to feature at least one cave rescue in the forthcoming two series. (Descent 214)

Caving talk: free entry (pay to leave)

Dave and Sue Ryall are presenting a talk on caving 'From Ingleborough to Vancouver Island' in Langcliffe Village Institute near Settle in the Yorkshire Dales at 7.30pm on Saturday 19 June. Scurrilous tales are promised ... Entry is free but donations are welcome (required!) in support of the institute. (Descent 214)

Caves on TV

Cavers able to receive BBC 1 Wales should tune in to Iolo Williams' new series on wildlife beginning at 9pm on Sunday 9 May. Included is a visit to Daren Cilau, filmed by Gavin Newman. The series is in English and is due to be repeated in September in all regions; details will appear in Descent when known. (Descent 214)

Giant's damage

On 6 April damage in Giant's Hole was reported to DCA. The damage occurred in a remote area beyond the reach of 'non-cavers', the terminal chamber of Wet Inlets. The vandals broke stal using a rock, including one section a metre long. The floor was described as 'a scene of calcite genocide'.

Giant's Hole is a SSSI and protected by law. Natural England and DCA are both keen to identify the culprits. If you have seen any damage in the cave, please report this with a date to help to tie this down. Photographs are required of the intact chamber to help to assess the damage. And of course, any information that might lead to identifying those responsible. To offer information, e-mail Dave Webb: conservation-off [at] (Descent 213)

Draenen access

Descent (213) contains a report on access to Ogof Draenen, specifically concerning the entrance dug at Drws Cefn without the landowners’ knowledge or permission and placing all access at risk. Here is the update from the Pwll Du CMG:

After a period of uncertainty regarding future access to Ogof Draenen, the PDCMG can now confirm that ongoing access to the cave has been secured. However, the conditions attached to this access are that it is only to be via the original entrance to the cave. Any further attempts to open or otherwise use other entrances to the cave on land owned by Pwll Du Conservation Ltd will result in termination of the current access agreement. We therefore ask all cavers to respect the terms of access.

Details of obtaining a key appear in a separate report, below. (Descent 213)

Shop closure

A report in Descent (213) on p5 concerns a new shop opening in Buckfastleigh. After Descent went to print, the announcement was made that the shop had closed permanently as the level of trade had proved too low to sustain it. (Descent 213)

Ogof Draenen lock

By request of the landowners, the lock on Ogof Draenen has been changed from a combination lock to one requiring a key. The new high security lock (keys cannot be copied without a security certificate) was installed on the weekend of 21 March. To gain access, clubs and cavers must now:

Apply for a key by post, with a letter on club letterheaded paper detailing when the key is required, together with a deposit cheque for £10 payable to PDCMG (Pwll Du Cave Management Group) and an addressed jiffy bag with correct postage for a large package (check new postal rates that apply from April). Send your request to Sue Mabbett, PDCMG Secretary, 2 Garth Close, Morganstown, Cardiff CF15 8LF. The cheque will be destroyed on return of the key.

Or, if your club is designated as one with permanent access and thus holds its own key, enquire from your club secretary whether a new key is available for use. (Descent 213)

Bulgarian caves

The Bulgarian Federation of Speleology has asked clubs and cavers to sign an online petition to show support for its stance in cave conservation, specifically to raise political awareness concerning caves in Bulgaria in the hope of introducing legal protection. Read more HERE [link no longer active]. (Descent 213)

Irish forum

The Irish Student Caving Forum is being held over Easter weekend, 2-5 April, in the Leitrim Lakes Youth Hostel, Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim. Hosted by Queens University Belfast CC, the event costs €40 – for further information e-mail: qubcc [at] (Descent 212)

Hidden Earth 2010

Details of the 2010 Hidden Earth national caving conference have been announced. The event will return to the high school in Leek for the weekend of 24 to 26 September. More details will appear in Descent as they are released. (Descent 212)

Irish Speleology

Irish Speleology (18) is reviewed in the current issue, but the price has been changed since Descent went to print. The price is now £9 or €10 for the issue, or £12 or €14 including postage to the UK. Make cheques payable to SUI and send orders to: Matthew Parkes, Natural History Museum, Merrion Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. Contact information for enquiries appears in Descent. (Descent 212)

A busy OFD

The West Brecon CRT is running a rescue practice at OFD on 20 March. Cavers should be aware that this will involve a stretcher carry and a lot of people in the OFD1 and 1.5 region of the cave throughout the day so if you intend undertaking a normal trip, take this into account. (Descent 212)

Job opportunity

The National Cave and Karst Research Institute in the USA is expanding its staff to include an Advancement Director, who will help with fundraising and promoting the organisation. Applications are being accepted until 15 March: more information appears HERE [link no longer active]. (Descent 212)

Tir Cymru

An S4C documentary series, Tir Cymru, is devoting its programme on 17 January at 9pm to underground Wales. For those not in Wales, S4C is the Welsh language channel; English subtitles are available on the 17th, or they are embedded in the screening in the repeat the following Thursday. Underground footage was shot by Gavin Newman. (Descent 212)

Tir Cymru