Peter Harvey's Caving Memoirs
collected by Jem Rowland


Inside the Black Mountain - Dan yr Ogof
the Observer article 1966

The Stationmaster's Granddaughter
Anne-Marie Rhys-Evans

Past Times 1964 - 1974
by Brian Jorgensen


Club History (the short version!)

In common with several other limestone regions, the earliest documented accounts of cave exploration stemmed from the work of 18th century archaeologists notably Buckland, Boyd Dawkins and Rutter. The obvious open caves along the coast of the Gower Peninsula attracted early attention. Here, Paviland Cave, with its famous 'Red Lady' skeleton of the Aurignacian period, found by Buckland in 1823, is probably the best known. Minchin Hole, Culver Hole, Bacon Hole and Cathole Cave have all provided interest for early diggers on the Gower.

The Morgan Brothers of Abercraf carried out the first recorded cave exploration in the Swansea Valley when they penetrated the river entrance of Dan-yr-Ogof in 1912, found the climb up into the present show cave and reached the Third Lake. It was not until 1936, when cavers from Yorkshire and Somerset arrived on the scene, that speleology took firm root in Wales.

The names of Ernest Roberts and Gerard Platten are prominent in the early explorations during which members of the Mendip Exploration Society, Yorkshire Ramblers Club and Wessex Cave Club declared their interest in Welsh caves by forming the 'Dragon Group'.The Lakes in DYO were finally 'conquered' in 1937 and this year also marked the discovery of Pant Mawr Pot. Will's Hole and Ogof Fawr were found in 1938 and Pwll Swnd in 1939. Incidentally, the name A. H. Hill, the first Secretary of SWCC, is associated with both the latter discoveries. Another founder member, E. J. Mason, commenced archaeological excavation in Ogof-yr-Esgyrn, above DYO, in 1938. Dan-yr-Ogof was opened as a show cave in August 1939, only to be closed in 1941. The outbreak of World War II rather slowed down the pace of work in South Wales; however, by the end of 1942 serious attention was being given to the rising of Ffynnon Ddu and the sinks at Pwll Byfre and Sink y Giedd.

Two significant events occurred in 1946: the South Wales Caving Club was formed at Easter and Ogof Ffynnon Ddu was entered by members Peter Harvey and Ian Nixon in August.

Work on OFD continued for twenty years, culminating in a series of breakthroughs in 1966/67 - the dive through to OFD II, the connection to Cwm Dwr Cave (discovered in 1963), the digging of Top Entrance and the extension into OFD III. The first survey of the complete OFD system was published by the Club in the early 1970's.

Following the re-opening of the Show Cave in 1964, the Long Crawl in Dan-yr-Ogof was finally passed by Club members at Easter 1966, leading to the entry into DYO II and then, in September the same year, DYO III was discovered. The next ten years produced further extensions, notably in the Far North and Mazeways. These achievements tend to overshadow the entry into Tunnel Cave by Club members in 1953.

Club expeditions to Italy, Spain, China and notably the Balinka Expedition to Yugoslavia in 1966 (the Club and four members were awarded the Order of the Gold Star of Yugoslavia in recognition of their assistance in recovering the bodies of WWII partisans from a very deep shaft) refute the words of the caving song 'And from our native valleys we seldom care to roam'

The Club's enthusiasm for exploration continues unabated. Although major finds are proving elusive, members can be seen setting off for on most weekends. Members have in recent years been involved in the exploration of Ogof Draenen in the Llangatock area. Recent discoveries include Cwm Dwr II (first discovered in 1938 during quarrying operations and lost until 1991) and the latest extensions at Twyn Tal Draenen in the Dan-yr-Ogof catchment area.

The Club's first HQ was a detached cottage at Pen-y-bont, beside the Llynfell stream from DYO. Thoughts of higher things accompanied a move up to the more spacious premises at Penwyllt in 1960. This consisted of a row of ten small, semi-derelict cottages, originally built to house workers at the adjacent quarry and brickworks. Since then the accommodation has been steadily improved, mostly by club members, into todays caving cottages and HQ. In 1999, with the aid of donations from members and a 50% grant from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), the Club successfully bid for and purchased 62 acres of land and about 2500 acres of mineral rights in the immediate vicinity of Penwyllt. 

For some fascinating insights into the history of Penwyllt click here

Today SWCC has at least 300 members of all ages, from all walks of life, and from many parts of the country. It plays a key role in administering access to the local major caves and acts as host to thousands of visiting cavers each year. SWCC is proud of its history and confident of its future.