Saturday, 31 August 2019

Llethryd Swallet Dig

Team: Andy Freem, Chloe Francis, Duncan Hornby, Peter Kokelaar, Gareth Smith, Val Bednar, Claire Vivian

Date: 31st August 2019

About a year ago on a visit to Tooth Cave, we noticed a small depression full of cold cave air, near the sediment choked original entrance to Llethryd Swallet.

As cavers it was too much to ignore and a quick ferret around quickly exposed spaces between boulders underneath. This looked like it might provide a way round the blockages and regain access to one of Gower’s largest and best decorated cave system.

5 of 7 all looking clean and keen to get digging!
The site is on a SSSI. The landowners enthusiastically gave permission and applied to the NRW. Agreement to dig was also enthusiastically given by the NRW! This is allowing us to attempt to open this new route into Llethryd but also to expand the research we are carrying out on origins and the age of karst features in the area, which is on the southernmost edge of the last glaciation.

Fast forward a year and on a perfect weekend 7 of us descended on the dig site. I was blown away by how much Andy et al. had progressed the dig. A year ago it was a small muddy hole, now it was a clearly defined entrance with a surprising amount of surrounding rubble.

The entrance, already much work has been done bringing waste to the surface.
Therein lies the problem, the digging team had hit the age old problem of where to put the rubble in the now 30m long cave as they dug. The primary objective of the day was to move as much of the rubble to the surface which was then used to reinforce the ‘bunding’ surrounding the entrance. This was part of the requirement from the NRW who do not want the new entrance to ‘pirate’ floodwater from its normal overflow course down the valley.

Peter at the top of the improvised hauling line, cable is tied to a tree further back.
A conveyor belt of 7 people spent much of the day bringing the rubble and mud to the surface. A drill was used to break up the bigger boulders.

Andy loading a drag tray
After a tea break Duncan and Chloe went to the dig face to progress the dig, it was Chloe’s first time and the experience did not shatter her nerves. She is clearly made of the right stuff! Eventually Claire swapped with Chloe and had a crack at the dig face.

The dig face; consists of loose material, mud and with a draft!

Time dwindled away and we eventually collected at the surface to clean up the site and head back to the cars.

End of the day’s dig, extremely muddy and several tonnes brought to the surface. Val seems remarkably happy!

Back at Andy’s home, the only way to get the mud off was with a jet washer.
So watch this space Llethryd could soon be open for business!


  1. This sounds brilliant - go for it, its a really fabulous cave and one of the first I visited back in the mists of time!

  2. I have never visited it, other than this new dig, so when (not if!) we get into it I will finally be able to say I've visited it!

  3. Excellent efforts. That's a worthy dig.......

  4. Pity to see the original entrance so full of silt. I used to live in Llethryd farm until 2010 and always made sure that the sink was kept clean. Have seen photos of the came from back in the fifties and it looks stunning