Dan yr Ogof – now you’ll pay

Straw chamber, Dan yr Ogof: photo credit Martin McGowan

As from 14 February 2022, cavers now pay £5/head to access the cave beyond the Dan yr Ogof show cave. This has created quite a stir on the Ukcaving forums. Up until then, the show cave management had provided free access to bona fide cavers who had proven their experience and their ability to find their way around the cave.

As a Conservation Warden for the cave over a number of years I consider it to be a privilege to have access and it is great that the caving community has the support of the owner of the Dan yr Ogof show cave complex. However, it is a challenge to many cavers sense of justice to be either barred from known caves or to be required to pay for access to them. There is a generally well established level of cooperation between cavers and many landowners and farmers that means the caves and the land on which the entrances are found benefit from a caring management input by cavers, helping to keep the caves safe and the access routes tidy and in good repair. But not always.

DYO, as it is known amongst cavers is a very active resurgence cave that drains a large catchment on Mynydd Du the upland mass to the west of the Cwm Tawe. The Afon Giedd sinks in a large shakehole several kilometers from the shows cave but currently offers no physical way into the cave below. This sink is also on land in a different ownership to the show cave. Up on the plateau, exploration fever is high, now being fuelled by the perceived injustice of the new charge to access DYO through the showcave. The hope is to find a connection into the known system, but preferably into an as yet undiscovered part of the cave. The obvious way in for the water at Sinc y Giedd is blocked by mud, silt and rocks. But there are other smaller possible holes to be looked into and it is hoped one of these will link into the main system. And therein lies the issue. The DYO show caves management do not own all the land under which the cave lies and so does not have the right to stop caver access to the subterranean world beyond the show cave. It’s just that they own the front door and currently there is only one significant cave on the plateau that connects with the show cave complex, known as Top Entrance, Tunnel Cave, a vertical pothole which the show cave management allow cavers to access so they might enjoy a “through trip”, exiting down in the valley from the Cathedral Cave. Discontinuing the cooperative access arrangement has been threatened by the showcave owners due to both insurance and liability issues but also due to the loss of control to the Show caves themselves. Both Tunnel Cave and now Dan yr Ogof have barriers installed at the end of the show cave sections and these could be locked in the event that the access agreement is withdrawn.

So for now, the new access arrangements bed In and peace reigns. Let’s see what happens when a new top connection is found though.

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