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PDCMG to block Drws

Cefn with surface grille

The summer general meeting set for 11th June was cancelled the day before by email.  It has been rescheduled for 15th October and the normal November meeting will be moved into 2018 or perhaps dropped. No new group chairman has yet been found since Mick Day resigned eight months ago. After aborting their plans for a reinforced concrete bunker wall or scaffolding bars at a narrowing, PDCMG now intends to close the Drws Cefn entrance at the surface.  This little cave was discovered in the 1990s and connected up with the big system in 2009. The gate shown in the photo above was gifted and fitted to address concerns over public safety and cave conservation whilst providing access to cavers. The PDCMG changed the padlock some months after to prevent further caver access.  The whole gate then vanished in July 2010.  So the Drws Cefn entrance, which is on CROW Access Land and on Urban Common which grants similar ‘air and exercise’ rights, has now been open to all-comers for seven years without untoward incidents arising. Since 2015 the PDCMG have discussed a ‘development’ class bat licence with NRW, but this kind of licence turns on the public interest.  A scheme to prevent a tiny number of cavers annually from entering the largest cave system in Wales, which just happens to be on CROW Access Land, can hardly be seen as in the public interest. NRW has recently issued new guidelines for “least restrictive access to the outdoors ... the aim being to create more places that people can visit”. NRW must also fear that any green light they give for blocking Drws Cefn to cavers will provide the basis for a Judicial Review of their narrow interpretation of the CRoW Act to place caving outside its scope.

Welsh Government

public consultation on

new access legislation

In the same week that PDCMG set out its latest plan to block up cave, the Welsh Government has announced their plans to legislate for better public access generally for recreational visitors to the countryside. The details can be downloaded from here.

Chapter Four, on Access to the Outdoors, is

the part most relevant to cavers.  The WG

received 5000 responses from the cycling

community in its last round of consultations

and this had a big impact even though many

of them used a downloaded template letter.

It will help this time around if caving clubs

and cavers write to their Assembly Member

about getting more legislative support for

caving, and also make a written response to

the consultation via the WG website link

above.  Those living in England can point

out the economic contribution to sustainable

tourism and the significance of Welsh caves.

AMs will vote on the eventual proposals.

You can ask that new laws for Wales should

refer to ‘recreation’ rather than ‘open-air

recreation’ and to make it clear that ‘land’

includes caves beneath the surface, and to

avoid narrow terms like ‘on foot’ which do

not suit rock climbing, caving, swimming,

skiing, sledging, taking baby in a pram etc. 

Opportunity needs to be curtailed for playing

word games that discriminate against some

sports when all sports should benefit from

the rights conferred by broadly-drafted laws.

Easier Dollimores Access

A group visiting Ogof Draenen turned back after encountering fumes lingering in the Last Sandwich crawl, reports Descent’s August issue. They assumed that this crawl had recently been widened at the notorious tight squeeze in the u-bend section.  If so, visits to MS&D - amongst the largest of cave passages in Wales and high level areas with very attractive cave formations -  is now less daunting than previously, though it is still an expedition not to be under-estimated. The group encountering the fume problem were themselves en route to Yellow Van passage which is an active cave dig aiming to link up with large passages presumed to continue South from the Big Country boulder choke.

National Park Watch

Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has fitted thin grilles over Pwll Dwfn cave entrance and perhaps a dozen old ‘cave digs’ on the hillside above Dan-yr-Ogof.  Some of these date from the 1940s.  A series of complaints lodged since 2015 allege a public safety issue in particular to young people doing DoE scheme walks.  The DoE charity denies any involvement.

Horse Shoe Pub Opens

The Horse Shoe pub in Llangattock is open

again after a recent refurbishment.  The

Vine Tree near Crickhowell bridge has also

been transformed and it re-opened earlier

this summer on more of a restaurant theme. 

Please send your pub reviews to the web-

master for a future local pubs website page.

An Open Access History

James Bryce MP attempted to introduce open access legislation each year between 1884-1913 and all his attempts failed. It was eventually enacted in the 1920s, after his death, as Section 193 of the 1925 Law of Property Act (LPA) giving public access for “air and exercise” on urban common land.  This includes the main Ogof Draenen area, Daren Cilau and Agen Allwedd.  Section 205 of the LPA defines ‘land’ as including any strata or seam of minerals or other substances in or under the land surface.  More.
CHELSEA SPELÆOLOGICAL SOCIETY Caving in Wales, the South of England, and beyond

Clydach Gorge Cave Closures

Cavers are reminded that Ogof Pont Gam and Ogof Nant Rhin will shortly be closed

until June 2017 while rock is removed to create the new A465 split-level east-bound

lanes.  Ogof Capel are expected to close later in the autumn onwards for the

construction of the split-level lanes going past Gilwern.  Ogof Capel has also been

given a new padlock in April, due to metal corrosion, and all the existing keys should

still work.  Caves on the east side of the Clydach Gorge like Shakespeare’s Cave and

Ogof Clogwyn are not affected by the dual carriageway road works provided these

caves are accessed from the minor roads serving the Gilwern Hill side of the valley.

For more photos of smartly dressed cavers in clean new everything, visit ogof.org.uk