Caves of South Wales Dragon

Lesser Garth Cave

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Overview
Lesser Garth Cave has also been known as Ogof Tynant, this cave combined with Ogof Ffynnon Taf represent the longest cave system in the area. The main feature of Lesser Garth Cave is the long and tall chamber with its vertical walls covered in magnificent orange calcite flows. Following the discovery and exploration of Ogof Ffynnon Taf in 1986 there is now a connection to this cave, doubling the length of the cave and also introducing some physical caving challenges. Ogof Ffynnon Taf is no longer accessible via the quarry and can now only be approached from Lesser Garth Cave.
Length 400m including Ogof Ffynnon Taf
Altitude 110m
Grid ST 12540 82120
History
Neolithic or early Bronze Age artifacts have been found in Lesser Garth Cave indicating a long period of intermittent occupation and use. Archaeological excavations in the cave during 1912, 1922 and 1963-4 have revealed skeletons, pottery fragments and urns in the entrance portal.
Ogof Ffynnon Taf was uncovered by quarrying in March 1986 and explored by John Breakspear, Martin Probert and Paul Watson to the Toll Gate Chamber. Over the following days they were joined by Dave Lewis, Andy Ward, Phil Jayne and Keith Jones. After digging in the floor of the Toll Gate Chamber failed to produce a lead, they turned their attention to a fractured bed just below the roof. After several hours of digging Andy Ward was able to squeeze through to the Oliver's Secret Garden and the chambers beyond. Ogof Ffynnon Taf was explored and later through digging was connected to Lesser Garth Cave.
Location
Lesser Garth Cave is approached from a public footpath that runs between the car park of the Tynant Arms and an area of allotments. About 10m after the path veers to the left to pass along the back of the allotments, a smaller path can be seen to the right that heads directly uphill through the woods. Follow this very steep path straight up until a small rock outcrop is found about 10m from the top of the hill. The gated but unlocked entrance is found in the base of the rock face.
Map of the major caves of South Wales showing the location of Lesser Garth Cave and other significant caves.
Location map - click marker to show entrance photo
Access
The cave lies in and area of Garth Wood that surrounds the limestone quarry. The cave is on private land and is gated by the quarry owners.
Description
The entrance leads to a low and wide area with several blind rifts that drop down between the calcited boulders. After a 30m the passage gains height at an area of large calcited boulders. This area acts as a vantage point overlooking the tall passage of the Main Chamber that heads off into the distance at this point. To the left of this balcony is a narrow rift passage with two points where it can be rigged for descent. The rift to the North is about 10m deep and leads to the route to Ogof Ffynnon Taf. This pitch has two P hangers and 8mm spits to allow rigging from. Descending the rift to the South leads to a choke close to the area of the entrance.
The descent from the balcony into the Main Chamber is best made from the left hand side near the rift pitches and can be free climbed with the aid of a handline. The Main Chamber is an impressive tall passage that has walls covered with fine calcite flows and can be followed for almost 200m where it eventually reaches a boulder choke with no clear way on. Near the end of this main passage is a small rift on the right hand wall, this offers an alternative route to the boulder choke at the end of the cave.
Back at the balcony, the rift can be descended on the Northern-most side to reach the route to Ogof Ffynnon Taf. The tall rift passage narrows down very quickly at a point of a large calcite flow. The way on is at floor level through a very tight squeeze past the calcite projection. This intimidating obstacle if the first of several that will prove a serious challenge to most cavers. Beyond the squeeze a short section of larger passage leads to a point where a passage on the left leads to zig zag route to a higher level. Just before the passage appears to end a squeeze upwards up on the left allows entry to 10m of walking passage a short respite before the next obstacle. At the end of this section in the floor is a squeeze that leads down into a passage over a calcite flow. This passage closes down ahead, but before it becomes too tight a climb up on the left leads into an alcove with a high level crawl leading off. Following this crawl through a small pool of water leads to a squeeze into the top of a calcite walled rift passage. Again the way onwards is found high up in the left hand wall where a route can be followed up through boulders. This is now Ogof Ffynnon Taf and to the right leads to an area of boulders, while to the left the passage quickly increases in size as you reach Oliver's Secret Garden, a large and well decorated passage. Along most of this passage are seen tree roots descending from the roof and spreading across the calcite formations. The passage is formed on two levels, the upper level is followed past the tree root covered calcite flowstone and past the 2m tall bright orange Surah's Column to reach a chamber decorated with curtains and straws before ending at a choke. Following the lower route passes some fine formations ending in a grotto with some of the finest curtains seen in any cave in this country.
In the passage near the climb up into Ogof Ffynnon Taf is the Toll Gate Squeeze and the original route into the cave from the quarry. This would be about 30m of additional passage if it still exists.
Tackle
Climb down into the Main Chamber 10 metre handline
Rift Pitch 10 metres
Video
Lesser Garth - Ogof Ffynnon Taf Video
References
Cambrian Cave Registry entry for Lesser Garth
Descent 70 Article p9-11 - Ogof Ffynnon Taf | John Adams
Descent 84 Article p14-17 - Lesser Garth Cave Under Threat | Chris Howes
Caves of South Wales | Tim Stratford | ISBN: 1-871890-03-9 | Published by Cordee
Caves of the Southern Outcrop | Tony Oldham
Warnings
The connecting passage from Lesser Garth to Ogof Ffynnon Taf has some extremely tight squeezes.
Ogof Ffynnon Taf lies close to the quarry face and contains fractured rocks and loose boulders.
Disclaimer
The photographs and information of this page has been provided to help cavers planning trips. Caving can be a dangerous activity, if you are interested in exploring caves please join a caving club so you can enjoy a safe introduction to this sport. Local caving clubs are listed on the links page or you can visit try caving for more options.
If you feel that any of the information is incorrect or should be updated please contact us.