We have a fair few caves in the Brynmawr area, some of which
are the longest in Britain and also come in at a respectable place
in the World Long Cave lists.
Some of the finest caves in Britain can be found within a five mile radius of Brynmawr. The potential for major finds is still here as well with the long awaited link up of the major caves of the Llangattock escarpment still there to be discovered. There is also enormous potential beneath Mynydd Llanganydyr. A large area with very little known cave of any size, although water tracing has shown evidence of a large vadose system waiting discovery. Members of BCC broke into a respectable but difficult cave in this area in 1997 that descends deep into the limestone and has shown that the potential is indeed there.
Directly below Brynmawr is the Clydach Gorge. Here a great deal of the water that flows through the mountains resurges to join the Clydach River. A fine day can be had just traversing the gorge, following the river and inspecting the various features that can be found on the way. Drop down into the gorge at the right spot and you will find the Fynnon Gisfaen Resurgences, here millions of gallons pour out from a number of spots, mostly covered over by the water board. It is here that the water from Ogof Carno, entered via an old adit several miles away, sees the light of day again.
One recent discovery that has been one of the most exciting in recent years is that of Ogof Draenen. It is part of the Clydach Gorge area although one could argue that it should have an area all of its own. In fact management of this cave has been given over to the Pwll Du Cave Management Group. A spectacular system that has the potential to become the longest in Britain. Indeed, some would argue that if you take the number of entrances into account, then it should already hold this honour. It had always been a know site and part of a number of small interesting features to be found in and around the Pwll Du area. Theo Schuurmans wrote in "A Caver's View of the Clydach River" published in 1986, "A small but interesting cave which is found by following the small stream near the turning of the track off the main road." He continues, "It is a phreatic tube, first explored by Cwmbran Caving Club that ends after a tight left hand bend in a small boulder choke. A very strong draught is present at most time and the cave might certainly 'pay off' with a 'bit of a dig'." How right he was, after an extensive dig, members of Morgannwg Caving Club broke through and the cave rapidly gained in length until today it is in excess of 60 kilometers. One autumn myself and a mate were poking around the Pwll Du area. We were following Tony Oldham's "The Caves of Clydach" and looking into the small caves to be found in this area. We came to Ogof Draenen and I went in, my mate (who is a large chap) decided the entrance was too small (!). Looking down a scaffolded shaft shaft I called back what was there and enquired if he was coming in. A negative reply was forthcoming so I decided that it wasn't worth decending as it didn't go anywhere anyway, and so we moved on. Little did I know that the previous week the Morgannwg diggers had finally broken through and were probably romping through huge virgin passages with whoops of glee below our feet as we slowly trudged back up the hill. This is a huge cave with on-going potential that seems almost certain to rob Ease Gill of its crown one day. I will not attempt a description here, instead, see the description provided by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones along with survey here.
Another major cave of the Clydach Gorge area, a bit away from the gorge itself, is Ogof Carno. The cave entrance is within a Welsh Water tunnel in Cwm Carno, and is a break in the brick lined wall a mile from the entrance. This tunnel itself is worth a visit, it doesn't deviate from a straight line for the full length from the entrance until the cave entrance is reached. Looking back, daylight can still be seen as a small spot of light over a mile away as you enter the cave.
It can be said to be a strange cave (bloody 'orrible I hear some say), the breakthrough point is a blasted crawl that leads to a pitch down into a large chamber. It looks promising at first until you find the way on is a neck-deep duck that sets the tone for the rest of the trip. Long sections of crawling are connected by short sections of upright walking so it seems that you are continually crawling from one standing space to another. One can come to love it though and it is definitely a fascinating place with potential if only because few go back a second time to look at leads. There is more information within this site with articles and a partial survey to be found here.
Of course one cave that shouldn't be forgotten is Ogof Craig y Ffynnon. This is arguably one of the most spectacular caves in Britain with huge passages and breathtaking formations that extend throughout the cave length. The entrance leads to a passage that brings one past many formations almost within shouting distance of the gate and on to the first choke. Ascending this and a crawl through a wet gravelly crawl will take you to the bottom of a double pitch. this is generally climbed with the assistance of a chain to take you to the base of the second boulder choke. A bit of sweating and you find youself in a large passage that after some of the most comfortable crawling in South Wales, leads to truly huge and spectacular passage that gets bigger and better as you progress. This passage ends as it turns the corner into the stupendous Hall of The Mountain King, usually accompanied by an appreciative expletive by those there for the first time. After just sitting and admiring natures handywork, further progress can be made via the third choke and a long crawl that starts out as flat out and improves to hands and knees. Eventually Severn Tunnel is reached, a tall, straight, impressive passage, that leads to Severn Tunnel Junction from where you turn into another huge passage bigger than that leading into The Hall of The Mountain King. The passage continues until the fourth choke is met that is passed by entering on the right and exiting on the left via a chambe in the middle of the choke. (Beware, this choke is reportedly now unstable). After passing the choke you regain the huge passage that finally bends to the right and ends at the fifth boulder choke. Before this however you can descend a pitch (ladder required) that takes you on into the Promised Land.
The cave is gated and access is strictly controlled, the results being that a beautiful cave has been preserved for all. If you wish to visit this cave, then you must apply to Jeff Hill of the Grwp Ogoffydd Craig-y-Ffynnon. His address can be found in Caves of South Wales by Tim Stratford.
If you want the big caves, then you go along the Hafod Road towards the escarpment. Here can be found the two longest caves in this area after Ogof Draenen, namely Ogof Daren y Cilau and Agen Allwedd. These cave are again amongst the most impressive in the country with huge passages and startling formations.
The Central Northern Outcrop is the area that encompasses the rest of the limestone area not covered by the Clydach Gorge and the Llangattock Escarpment. Most of the caves are small, but there seems to be massive potential here for large systems deep under the moors. A recent discovery by Brynmawr Caving Club is that of Crescent Cave. Formerly a "Lesser cave or site of special speleological interst" in Caves of South Wales, this cave has now been extended deep into the limestone and is now one of the longest in the area. Many of the caves are well worth a visit, Chartists Cave is over 1400ft in length but enigmatic in the large chambers with many small passages leading off that should by all reasoning go somewhere. Ogof Cynnes is a delight to those that like mud but also quite extensive with water traced to the Ffynnon Gisfaen resurgences in the Clydach Gorge. There seems to be a lot of cave under this area, unfortunatley, it is also very difficult to get into. Evidence points to a large vadose system under the Llangynidr moors, that if entered could link up with other large caves such as Agen Allwedd and Ogof Carno.
I hope to update this page at some point with longer descriptions for The Llangattock Escarpment and The Central Northern Outcrop. So please check back here soon.