2nd-3rd November. Gower

Last trip to Harry Thomas Cave this season, closing for bats.

Saturday: I had sorted most of my stuff out yesterday afternoon, just the final few things to pack and load and I was ready to set-off. The weather forecast wasn’t great for today and the drive west to Gower is going to be miserable. At least I’ll have the rugby to listen to most of the way. Left home at 08:05. Very wet and windy along the M4 and the rugby turned out to be very disappointing. The torrential rain resulted in flooded roads on Gower, some deep puddles to negotiate, and progress was much slower than expected. Arrived at Overton at 10:40, John was waiting.

A soggy walk along the coast path to Harry Thomas Cave. I kept my wet weather gear on to go underground, it was a cheap set I had purchased for just this sort of occasion. While I was sorting out the hauling system Danny McCarroll turned up, so a good team today. Danny took the first hauling stint on the surface and had brought along an umbrella to keep the rain off too, good forward planning. I was on the lower platform loading bags into the bucket, John carried a few bags up from the end chamber before returning to the surface to move bags along to the end of the path where they could be emptied later. We stopped for a bite to eat and drinks and then swapped around. My turn to haul out. Stone first, these were stacked neatly in the entrance, and then more bags. John disappeared for a short time to photograph surface run-off streams flowing into a sinkhole higher up the slade. When the lower platform was cleared Danny moved up to the next one and that was cleared. By now John was very wet and he hadn’t put any leggings on, the rain hadn’t stopped all day. It was close to 16:00, light was already fading, we were all damp. The last action of the day was to return underground to the end chamber to compare UV lights. I had recently bought a 365nm UV light and John had his 395nm UV [black] light. The difference was noticeable: non-flourescent material shows blue with 395nm, a more natural colour is obtained using 365nm. Interestingly, exposed fluorescent material under 365nm UV light showed a significant after-glow. Obviously, some more experimentation needs to be carried out. It was time to pack up and leave, the cold was beginning to set in, the cave was secured, and we made our way back to Overton.

John and I went to the Ship Inn for supper, Danny declined and went home to dry out and warm up. After eating john and I parted company and I headed up to Cefn Bryn for a nights ‘vamping’. It was wet and windy through the night. There were no other vans on the hill!

The Slade, opposite the entrance to Harry Thomas Cave.

Sunday: A wet and very windy night. I was disturbed by a vehicle in the early hours sounded like it was stuck in the mud. I went back to sleep.

I arose c.07:00, the wind had eased, and the rain stopped, there was even some sunshine to greet the day, a chilly breeze though. Hung my wet gear out to dry, packed away sleeping bags and got the water on for coffee, a wash, then breakfast.

There had been substantial dripping of water in Harry Thomas Cave yesterday and planned to wear wet weather gear over the cotton boiler suit today. Hopefully, will spend more time underground today, we’ll see.

A comfort break in Port Eynon, then up the hill to Overton to meet John at 09:30. Many of the puddles along the track yesterday have dried/drained away and the sun was still shining, blue sky too. At the cave we were quickly underground, John went down to the end chamber to do some recording while I set about de-rigging the hauling system, the ropes coiled and suspended from the back of the ladders, all the metalwork will go back to John’s to be cleaned and dried. I went down to join John in the end chamber. moved a few bags around, exposed more faunal remains, experimented with UV lighting and took some photographs. All done, sample bags filled with bones and sediment were transported out of the cave in buckets along with some more delicate items that were not to be left in the cave over the winter period. The faunal remains were re-packaged into a box to be carried back to Overton later in the day. Scaffold tubes and acrow’s that had been left on the surface were moved close to the cave entrance and will be covered over later in the week. Rucksacks were packed with equipment, samples boxed, the cave secured, and all was ready to go. The sun was still shining, and it was a warm walk back to Overton.

Back at the vehicles I decanted my rucksack into John’s car, then back to the van to pack away my own kit. A brief discussion with John before setting off for home at c.13:50. I was a bit tense, the clutch on the van was playing up making it difficult to select gears, probably a consequence of driving through the deep puddles yesterday. However, by the time I got back home it seemed fine. Hopefully, all dried out now.

Author: mendipgeoarch

Archaeologist, geologist, speleologist.