Park Farm Cave
                      SJ2457751267 +/-10ft          
Length 30m            Esclusham Mountain

One of several interesting shakeholes about 100m west of the Sychnant gorge.
The entrance lies beneath discarded scrap metal and old vehicles. A tight crawl was excavated in the 1970s for 30m and then abandoned. Likely to connect with nearby Ogof Pool Parc.
Finding a route down through the metalwork may take some time and a little work.

The shakehole containing Park Farm Cave (looking south) in 2009
The Sychnant gorge can almost be seen top left

NB    See page 15. Springs sinks & shakeholes, for photos and locations of other nearby shakeholes (see under Park Farm Shakeholes).


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Plas Du Cave                                   SJ1994556027 +/-15ft            Length:  3m+           Llanarmon-yn-Ial

Merely a flat-out crawl that appears to continue beyond a bend in the passage. Potential for extending with a little careful trowel work.
First noticed by the writer in 1974 when not equipped with a torch. A return visit wasn't made until four decades later in 2016.
Entrance now requires ten minutes clearing work to gain entry.

A 2m square rock shelter of little speleological interest can be seen just 20m or so to the left (north) in the same rock face.

Consent to be sought from the landowner at Plas Du Farm which lies about 100 metres to the north at the top of the field.


View of the entrance looking north


Passage ahead appears almost large enough to enter


View looking southeast. The entrance is just to the left of the greenest tree in centre of photo


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Plas Heaton Cave                   SJ0321169130 +/-14ft.               Length 43m           Henllan         Archaeological (human)
 
 
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


A large entrance 3.6m wide x 6.7m high.
First excavated by Colonel J. R. Heaton and T. McKenny Hughes in 1870.
Finds included a human jaw bone, a flint and bones of cave bear, hyena and 'glutton' (wolverine) 10,000 to 12,000 years of age.
(Chesters Grosvenor Museum holds 183 items including wolf, horse, bison and bear).
 
Enormous quantities of deposits appear to have been removed by archaeologists. Unexcavated deposits remain however, the floor rising in benches (see survey) towards the end of the cave. As the earlier excavators appear to have abandoned these deposits, they were probably unproductive. The cave at the very end narrows at roof level, becoming sealed with deposits. Although only conjecture, the continuing passage could connect with Coppy Farm Cave 3, which lies 1.6 miles to the south-east. 


Cave entrance lies within about 50 metres of the stables of Plas Heaton Hall where prior permission must be sought.

 

Archaeological:

SMR: 100568, 100569, 100570

Excavation: J.R. Heaton, W.B. Dawkins & T.M. Hughes, 1860s

Curation: Chester Museum; National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (31.587, 92.234H)

Burials: 1

Finds: worked flints, bone implements, animal bones

Date: ?Mesolithic or Neolithic (4)

Source:  http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/wales.htm


Wolf mandible from Plas Heaton Cave.             Photo:    Courtesy of Cheshire West Museums
Grosvenor Museum Ref: 1992.234H/001




Figure standing on unexcavated deposits                                  Photo:  Jerry Dobby  


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Poacher's Cave                                SJ19086547             Length 900m             Alyn Gorge

Also known as Ogof Hen Ffynnonau (Cave of the Old Spring)


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Poacher's Cave (or Ogof Hen Ffynnonau) & Ogof Hesp Alyn
Based on cave surveys in "Limestones & Caves of Wales" edited by T. Ford


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Northern Pennine Club 1978 survey
NB This survey does not show north at top of page


Named as Poachers Cave by Northern Pennine Club (NPC) . The cave was discovered in 1978. The entrance was excavated by NPC along a boulder and clay-filled natural rift. A few metres from the entrance, a 3m pitch in the floor enters the old Dyer's Adit, a short blind mine passage. A small hole in the floor of this adit gives access to the cave which begins as a hands-and-knees passage. This soon becomes high enough to walk or stoop. About 200 metres from the entrance, a Rock Bridge is seen in the floor. Below this is a pot which offers an alternative route down to the lower series. Continuing past the Rock Bridge, the passage ascends, widens, then opens out in the wall of the main stream passage. The slope down into this main passage has a hole on the left (against the wall) amongst boulders, which also leads to the lower series. Ignoring this and walking upstream, the roof lowers at a couple of points where it is necessary to crawl in the stream, but beyond is further walking along a meandering streamway until reaching the Main Chamber. This contains a large stalagmite boss and other formations. A small stream enters this chamber via a constricted passage from the south which has thwarted all attempts to extend it by more than a few metres. The route continues at the far side of the chamber passing interesting formations and terminates where it becomes too low. This point is about 60m south of the parking area at Cilcain bridge.
The lower series is comprised of smaller, less mature passages with fluctuating water levels and a number of interesting digs.
 

Access: Currently unlocked.  

 

From the car park at Cilcain bridge (SJ18776518) walk up the steep road towards Pantymwyn to where the road bears to the right by a yellow council grit container. A scramble down the steep bank here leads to the footpath which continues downstream. The low entrance is clearly visible to the right of the footpath a few hundred metres downstream.

Warning: The cave can flood after heavy rains when the streamway fills to the roof and the cave resurges.


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


Entrance beside the lower leet footpath         Photo: Nigel Dibben


Main stream passage showing waters sinking in the floor


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Pontnewydd Cave                  SJ0152171029 +/-14ft         Length 45m        River Elwy          Archaeological (human)

Also called Bontnewydd Cave
 
Designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument ref: DE 116

Currently, the most significant archaeological cave in Wales containing human remains at least 200,000 years of age.
 

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

An entrance about 3m wide and 2m high leads through two doors to a single passage running east into the hill. A trench in the main passage and several short passages on the right have been excavated by archaeologists. The most easterly of these passages leads to a new second entrance. The cave is walled and securely gated.
Despite being designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1923, the cave was requisitioned for wartime use in 1940. The floor was levelled for the placement of duck boards, upon which were stored land-mines and depth charges.  An inner and outer wall built into the entrance, created a guard chamber once equipped with a coke stove.
Source: Neanderthals in Wales: Pontnewydd and the Elwy Valley Caves (2012).
 
Following the excavations by the National Museum of Wales, it is now known that the cave is the most northerly of only two such sites in Britain. Remains of an adult and two children were found by NMW. As a bonus, the earlier waste tips were re-examined and found to contain various items of interest including several stone hand-axes. Other remains include bones of lion, rhino, bison and bear (see also Cae Gronw Cave & Cefn Cave nearby).
 
Evidence for the age of the human remains: "In situ stalagmite on the surface of the Lower Breccia gives a terminus ante quem (a latest possible date) of c.225,000 years and a thermoluminescence determination on a burnt flint core from the underlying Intermediate has given an age of  200,000 years, plus or minus 25,000. These results, taken together, suggest an age older than 200,000 years for the human occupation".
Source:  Stephen Green in Collcutt S.N. (1986) The Palaeolithic of Britain and its Nearest Neighbours: Recent Trends.

The entrance is about 10m above the Bont Newydd to Cefn road, involving a short steep scramble.

Access:  The gorge forms part of Cefn Estate belonging to Sir Watkin Williams Wynn and is therefore on private property. Prior permission should be sought from the estate office at Cefn and from CADW who are responsible for monitoring the site. Due to its justified importance, the cave is normally kept locked.



Excavation chronology:
First excavated some time before 1862 by Herbert Watkin Williams Wynn (1822-1862), and NOT by William Boyd Dawkins as stated elsewhere (See explanation by Mark White below).
Then excavated in 1871 by T. McKenny Hughes and Rev. D.R. Thomas who found amongst the animal bones, remains of cave bear, grizzly bear and rhinoceros.
It was subsequently excavated by Boyd-Dawkins, author of "Cave Hunting", in 1874, who paid labourers by the ton excavated. Despite this, he still managed to find the only evidence at that time of Palaeolithic man in North Wales.
Final excavations were carried out by the National Museum of Wales between 1978 and 1985 (?).


Clarification of Boyd Dawkins' involvement:


Several sources claim that Boyd Dawkins was the first to excavate at Cefn Cave. It appears however that this was not the case, as explained in this extract (Pg 54-55) from the book: "William Boyd Dawkins and the Victorian Science of Cave Hunting: Three men in a Cavern" (2017) by Mark J. White.......

Pontnewydd Cave was “first noted by (the Reverend Edward) Stanley in 1832, who remarked that it had never been opened, it remained untouched for decades. The first excavation on record involved Dawkins, although his report in 'Cave Hunting' could hardly have been more superficial”. He described in seventy words finding brown, grizzly and cave bear in clay and water-worn boulders. “These seventy words tell us almost nothing. It does not even say when Dawkins was at the cave, although it must have been prior to 1874 (actually 1871), because Hughes had started to excavate by then. When T. McKenny Hughes and Rev. D.R. Thomas began their work at Pontnewydd in 1874, they noted that 25 yards of sediment had already been removed from the cave. This has often been assumed to have been largely Dawkins' doing. That Hughes and Thomas found felstone artefacts and a human tooth in the spoil thrown out by earlier workers is certainly consistent with the supposition that Dawkins was involved. As one critic would later remark  "….. Boyd Dawkins... Same old tale! Pick axe and shovel! Nothing smaller than a horse. It was always the same. He never [worked?] material as it should have been, so that he never got any small things. I have sent my friends and students behind him in the Caves and they have recovered lots of the small vertebrates, and from one of the most important caves one of my friends brought me out of material rejected by B.D. Human toe bones!'.

Yet there are good reasons to believe that Dawkins has been unfairly accused of despoiling the entrance to Pontnewydd. In the opening sentence of their first report, Hughes and Thomas stated in perfectly plain terms and with no room for misunderstanding that it was the landowner Mr Williams Wynn who had partly excavated the cave 'some years ago'. This refers to Herbert Watkin Williams Wynn (1822-1862), husband of Anna, which dates the work to sometime before his death in 1862. They did not mention Dawkins once in relation to the earlier clearances”.



Links:
The man in charge of the National Museum of Wales project was Stephen Aldhouse-Green who passed away in 2016. An obituary can be found here:  https://harngroup.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/professor-stephen-aldhouse-green/
For better photos: http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=5963
For a brief 2013 description by one of the two most important excavators at the cave: http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/articles/2013-03-07/The-Caves-at-Cefn-Tales-of-strange-creatures-and-evidence-of-Waless-earliest-humans/
 
 

Books:
"Pontnewydd Cave: A Lower Palaeolithic Hominid Site in Wales : First Report" (1984) published by the National Museum of Wales. Originally costing about £20, second-hand copies have been seen from £40 to £60.
"The Palaeolithic settlement of Wales research project: a review of progress 1978–1985" (1986) Green, H. S. In S. N. Collcutt (ed.) The Palaeolithic of Britain and its Nearest Neighbours: recent trends, 36–42. Sheffield, University of Sheffield
"Neanderthals in Wales: Pontnewydd & the Elwy Valley Caves" (2012) by Oxbow Books. This should be regarded as the final report on the excavations. A short review is given on Page 5: Archaeological Caves. The publishers frequently offer this book at a fraction of its original price. Check out their website at Oxbow Books: http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/catalogsearch/result/?q=neanderthals+in+wales
"William Boyd Dawkins and the Victorian Science of Cave Hunting: Three men in a Cavern" (2017) by Mark J. White. Although only a paragraph or two on Pontnewydd, it's an enlightening and detailed account of the man and his work.



Archaeological:

SMR: 102132

SAM: De 116

Excavation: T. McKenny Hughes, 1870s; S. Green, 1978-96

Curation: National Museum of Wales, Cardiff ( Accession numbers: 83.107H, 84.70H, 86.31H, 87.93H, 88.166H, 89.168H, 93.40H),

Burials: 3+

Finds: Microlith

Date: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic (1)

14C: 7420 bp (OxA-5819), 4495 bp (OxA-5820) on human bone

Source:  http://caveburial.ubss.org.uk/wales/wales.htm

 

Examples from the collections held by the National Museum of Wales:

Bear femur (acc. No. 86.31H/3.F775) 40000 +/- 600BP

Lion phalange (acc. No. 86.31H/3.F1014) 40300 +/-750 BP

Reindeer humerus (acc. No. 89.93H/2.F1186) about 36700 BP

Woolly rhinoceros phalange (acc. No. 94.38H/3.F4515) 33200 +/-650 BP

 




Neanderthal tooth from Pontnewydd Cave showing taurodontism

Source:   http://palaeo.gly.bris.ac.uk/Fossilsites/page48.html



Photo: Courtesy of Victor Lindsay


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Pont Newydd Rising                        SJ186650            Length 110m+           Alyn Gorge


Also known as Jarratt's Resurgence
 

A resurgence cave between the villages of Cilcain and Pantymwyn, explored by cave divers for 110m, .

From the entrance, a low wet passage can be followed for 4m to Sump 1, the limit for non-divers. 

Sump 1 is 22m long to an airbell where a dry passage 24m long heads back towards the entrance 1m above water level. There is a verbal connection from the end of this passage to the dry passage inside the entrance.  Sump 2 is 9m long to an airbell.  Sump 3 is 53m long to another airbell.  Sump 4 has been dived for 6m to where the passage divides at a depth of 3m. The passage was seen to continue ahead, but bad visibility hampered further progress. 

The entrance culvert is man-made, as water resurging here was once piped across the river to a pumping station (see photo below), the remains of which were removed in the late 1970s.

The source of the water rising here is the small dingle of nearby Coed Nant Gain (see Nant Gain Caves). Surface water flowing eastwards towards the River Alyn disappears into numerous stream bed swallows to resurge at Pont Newydd Rising. With landowners consent, several attempts have been made to open some of these swallows (and re-seal them), so far without success.


Diving chronology:

Sump 1 first dived 23rd Jan 1971 by Tony Jarratt for 9m

Sump 1 first dived 26th Oct 1972 by Tony Jarratt for 22m to airbell

Sump 2 first dived 28th Jan 1973 by Tony Jarratt & Dick Pike for 9m to airbell

Sump 3 first dived 28th March 1973 by Tony Jarratt & Dick Pike for 16m

Sump 3 to airbell & Sump 4 first dived 9th March 1974 by Martyn Farr & Rod Beaumont for 6m

(Source: Typed 1970s unpublished report by Martyn Farr)


Entrance is the west bank of the Alyn, 100m upstream from the Nant Gain confluence.



Entrance to Pontnewydd Rising showing flow entering dry riverbed 


Dry passage at Sump 1 (voice connection to passage from 1st airbell?)     Photo: Ian Adams


Pumping station near the resurgence in 1974


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Scouse Pot                               SJ1968959562 +/- 12ft          Length 30m            Maeshafn


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


A vertical entrance pot 8m deep opens into a chamber 6m x 2m. The floor of unexcavated deposits forms a pyramid below the entrance. Two passages descend steeply from the chamber, the longest silting up after 12m.
The deposits are of unknown archaeological potential.


NOTES
1)    The longest passages shown on the plan above may be blocked with soil and leaves, as when visited by the writer in 1976 neither were accessible.
2)    In 2013 the Forestry Commission began selling plots within Big Covert. Hence most now lie in private ownership.
3)    The
entrance pot was filled with small pine trunks (see photos below) by the new owner in 2013.
 

Mining notes:
On the hillside about 10m below the entrance is a trench that appears to be a blocked adit. If this is a mined passage, it may pass under or intersect Scouse Pot.
Could this also be the source of the draught shown on the above survey? If so, a dig to the pot from here could establish if the deposits hold any archaeological potential.
An open mine shaft lies a little further to the east at  SJ1988159722 +/- 12ft. It has been fenced off and has unstable boulders at the shaft top. Depth; perhaps 30 or 40 feet.
 

Park somewhere near the new house at SJ195593Walk east along the road past the houses, then take the track that runs behing the last house. After a few metres, take the steep footpath north up into the woods known as the Big Covert. After about 300m where the path levels out, take the first obvious footpath to the right (south-east) at a direction post (at SJ19555 59538 +/- 12ft). After a further 200m, the entrance can be clearly seen just to the right of the path.


Scouse Pot entrance, viewed looking east


In 2013 the new owner of Scouse Pot filled the entrance shaft with tree branches, presumably on grounds of safety.                                                                                     



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Siamber Wen Caves 1-3                    SJ1753767491  +/-37ft            Cilcain

(White Chamber Caves) 
 
The three Siamber Wen caves during a wet period


Cave 1:                                   Length: 4m

An active resurgence and t he most obvious of the three caves. Access is via an old pipe built into the entrance 

'Caves of North Wales' (1960) by Davies & Ellis of Shepton Mallet Caving Club states: "In July 1960 Fred Davies crawled up the water pipe. At the far end the water rose from a six inch wide rift to the left. The right wall was artificial".

The source of water resurging here lies to the south-west 600 metres away at Siamber Wen Sink Cave (see below).


Cave 1



Cave 2:                                   Length: 30m

A low, wet, awkward crawl eventually becoming too tight.

Obscured entrance 2m to the right of Cave 1 at stream level.



Cave 3:                                   Length: 12m

A short passage leads to a rift in the floor down to water. Excavated in 1981 by NWCC.

Entrance is 3m above Cave 2.


Cave 3 during a dry period (looking horizontally into the cave from the entrance)



Another nearby resurgence

Two further resurgences lie a couple of hundred metres to the north-east, the furthest of which is merely a small trickle and lies in the garden of a private home. It is of little speleological interest.

The other, at SJ178675, is more copious, and has never been excavated by cavers, despite there being about 60 metres of limestone above the spring in the direction of Garreg Boeth vein. The source of this water is unproven.


Park at the pull-in by Siamber Wen Caves, then walk 50 metres back along the road towards Cilcain. Take the style on the north side of the road and walk east to the spring.


Water issues from a point below the feet of the two subjects



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Siamber Wen Sink Cave                     SJ17046724               Length 250m               Cilcain

(White Chamber Sink Cave)


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE


CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Based on the above survey by Mike Smith



An active swallet cave first excavated by North East Wales Mines Exploration Group (MWMEG) during the Winter of 1973/74. During the 1975 season, hand-drilled shot-holes and the application of home-made 'linctus' became necessary to enlarge a narrow vertical rift. It was abandoned at a depth of about 5 metres due to flowing water hampering downward progress. 
V-notch weirs were erected by caver Graham Woolley at both sink and resurgence in 1974 to monitor flow rates. Interestingly, the sink only accounted for half the flow emerging from the resurgence of Siamber Wen Caves 600 metres to the north-east.

Further work in 1994, finally broke into the cave, at a point just one metre below the 1974 limit.
The entrance is a climb down through boulders  to a series of short crawls and further climbable descents where the stream is met, at a total depth of about 20m. At the bottom are a series of Yorkshire-like clean-washed, but narrow passages.


One of the earliest published references to 'Siamber Wen Swallet' are: Stride, A.H. & R.D. (1953) Britain Underground, by Dalesman Publishing .


Warning: Parts of the cave, particularly the entrance area, are unstable. The sink has a large catchment area which reacts rapidly to heavy rain.


Access or further information: Contact GCC or UCET.



Photo: Tim Watts



Photo: Glen Walker



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Skull Pot                    SJ1934665524 +/-18ft          Depth 15m+           Alyn Gorge         Archaeological (animal only)

 
A small entrance immediately opens out over the top of a 2m diameter vertical pitch blocked with clay at floor level.
First found in 1984 by GCC when a mandible of wild boar and many other animal bones were found lying on the floor of the pot.
The mandible was identified in 1998 by Paul Finnegan, Natural History Centre, Liverpool Museum, who described it as "Wild Boar (sus scrofa) which has been sub-fossilized. The age of the bone is probably around 5,000 years, may be older, but no more than 10,000 years old" (Source: Pers. Comm between Dr Dave Merchant and Paul Finnegan Oct 16th 1998).
Excavations in the floor of the pot, found no bones below the initial surface layer.
In the absence of a suitable local museum, the mandible is currently on display in a glass case at the Colomendy Arms, Cadole, near Loggerheads.

Access: Contact GCC or UCET for details
 
Park just north of Pantymwyn at SJ196657 (by a footpath sign and post box). Take the footpath westwards for 200 paces to where the path drops steeply by about 7 metres. Continue walking for another 160 paces looking for a stone wall that meets the path from above. Scramble up the hillside following the wall to a height of about 10m above the track, then Skull Pot lies 30 paces off to the right.


Skull Pot in 1984


Skull Pot in 2012. It is normally locked to protect dogs or walkers


View from the entrance looking vertically down


Part of the animal remains from Skull Pot  (in private hands)


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Strahan's Cave             SJ1991362477 +/-10ft  (Main entrance)           Length about 15m          Loggerheads

A short cave with two entrances connected by a single passage.
A well hidden site part way down a cliff face in dense woodland. As the entrances cannot be seen from above or below, the directions (in yellow) below are recommended.
First documented in the 1870s by the famous geologist Aubrey Strahan, who marked the site in pencil on his field notes whilst compiling the first detailed Geological Survey sheets of the area.

The site has only been tentatively named by the writer in the absence of any other documented name. Please get in touch if any other documented name exists.

Sir Aubrey Strahan 1852-1928.
Director of the Geological Survey of Great Britain from 1914-1920


Park beside the road opposite the Boundary Stone (SJ202626). Walk down the road towards the river for 100 paces, then turn left into the woods. About 5m above road level is a 3m wide old overgrown track. Turn right and follow this track for about 250 metres. Shortly after high stone walls are seen on your left, stop at the point where a collapsed wall on your left has thrown boulders part way across the track. Scramble down the bank on your right at this point descending for abut 5 metres. Then veer off to your left. This leads after a few metres to the smaller entrance. The main, larger entrance lies a further 12m beyond, after traversing a narrow, slightly exposed limestone ledge.   



Main entrance

Half way through


View of the smaller entrance from within



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