So it’s a contrived title, but give this trip report a chance – it’ll grow into the pun.
So as a pre-season warmer, and as part of my quest to get underground in the glorious people’s republic of Mother Gogledd Cymru (unsubtle reference to the title pun), I managed to arrange a trip to the Milwr tunnel – which I didn’t know existed until after agreeing to the trip.
Rewind to Friday the 6th of September 2013. I get a call about a trip I had been emailing about saying ‘Get ready quickly and we’ll go’, I duly did, stopping off in what I have been told is the 5th biggest Tesco’s in the country. Another stop along the A55 saw me off the roundabout heading to a friend’s old house, where my lift resided.
I pulled up to the house to find that a few things had changed – gone was the swing, the poly tunnel and the unfeasible cow pats (do cows really defecate over fences?). In their place was a green diesel ‘plant’, a boat, 3 renault? vans and a 101 Landrover.
Surprised not to see Glen near the thing, I went into the house and helped load up. John and his daughter Bella jumped in the truck and I duly followed. The landy started and was very, very noisy. We barely made any conversation during the hour and a quarter it took to get to (near) Holywell. We stayed at another Digger-called-Doug’s house. The aptly named gent and his wife were the perfect hosts and home brewed Gooseberry wine was poured. Absolute heaven. The talk quickly turned to digging and before long I found myself offering to survey a near by cave.
The selfless offer (nothing to do with the Disto X prize at Hidden Earth) aside, I awoke the next morning to be fed (at no cost to myself, I am further indebted to these wonderful people) and bundled into a landy to have my ears further bludgeoned. Eventually we rendezvoused at the Antelope pub (near Milwr?) and only I got changed after some advice from John. I was introduced to the other cavers whilst wearing my furry with the incredibly large groin hole. I believe the phrase is ‘Hello, Ladies!’. I then hopped back into the landy, smeared with French mud and we drove to a forested area.
I know, Dickens would be jealous of my attention to detail.
In the group we had me, John, Bella, Doug, John – a tall loveable sarcastic scouser, Les – a short bloke who didn’t
midget mind all the gremlin grief, and his two mates (Pat and Pricey) that had waited 4 years to do this trip. They had waited all that time and this was the only trip they had wanted to do (one of them gave Doug all his stuff after). They wanted to see… the lake.
We headed off a short walk to the entrance and I got chatting to Doug and John. After I told them I was a member of Sheffield University Speleological Society, I got a slight raise of the eyebrows and the comment ‘oh, you must be a proper caver then – they do a lot’. A warm glow flooded over me and I suddenly had a responsibility to maintain the reputation of the club I am so proud of.
We went down into the mine, walked along a cart level and got to some ladders. We went down some ladders, and then some more. We went down more ladders – 24 sets in total taking us ?130m down to nearly sea level. We were in the mine. A party of 8 are quite cumbersome and Bella being at the front was a little cold and so raced off to lead the way, I followed and we had a little wait while we regrouped at some mine carts. Food and tea broke out and a plan was made to get a team to the limestone workings and fetch the secret weapon (duh dum dum).
The plan was for a quick party to go ahead and we trotted off leaving the rest to take up the rear. I may have exposed them to a couple of caving songs at this juncture. We passed emergency dumps and old underground rooms used for storing ammunition (no longer there). We turned up a smaller side passage and Bella and Doug went on ahead, leaving John and I to poke around up a ladder and then follow.
This was the end of the road, or should I say TRACK. That’s right, the secret weapon is a diesel engine adapted to fit onto a mine cart body with a passenger rail in front and behind. A voice started singing in my head;
‘I’m on a train mother f*!@#r take a look at me,
Goin’ quick underground horizontally (I’m on a train)
I’m on a train (I’m on a train)
Take a good hard look at the mother f*@#ing train’
Many other verses followed but I wouldn’t want to bore you.
We sped, derailed and then sped to our destination, covering 3 or 4 miles fairly quickly, changing the points twice. Eventually we arrived at a big lake and bell chamber. The chamber used to be pressurised and supplied the Holy Well – until they mined into it, killing many miners in the process.
It now empties into the mine but has no obvious supply and remains at a constant level. I’m assured that it is very deep. I am very interested as to how this natural formation functions, there seem to be a lot of unanswered questions… I had a further poke around while people ate, going up a pole ladder 10m and then scarring myself as it wobbled. I ran ahead of the train to explore a ladder going off (a fair way as it turns out) and hopped back on before heading out.
Train tidied up, and the sense that trips in North Wales are all unconventional (see Croesor), we split into 2 groups to head out. I found a poor little frog and we rescued it – putting it in a tupperware box in a tackle sack about to climb 24 ladders. It survived, don’t worry. Trip took 8 hours in all and was great fun.
We went for a pint, and then to a party where I played a game involving inebriates wielding axes splitting logs and in return I introduced them to the pan and sling game. I had one hell of a hangover on Sunday (which is why I didn’t make it to Peak…) after the UCET party.
And I talked my way into a trip down OHA. Hells yeah.