University of Bristol Spelæological Society

Access on Mendip & South Wales

For those who have recently joined the club (and for some who joined ages ago), you may be wondering what esoteric rites you have to go through to get permits, keys and leaders for some caves. Many caves are gated or controlled by individual or consortiums of caving clubs, often at the request of the landowner. The largest of these is the Charterhouse Caving Company (CCC), of which the UBSS is a member, originally set up as the Charterhouse Caving Committee, at the request of Bristol Water to administer access to the caves on their land.

The caves include GB, Longwood-August, Reservoir Hole and Charterhouse Swallet. When the land was finally sold off a few years ago, access agreements were maintained at the request of the new landowners including the Somerset Wildlife Trust. Many of these caves are gated to prevent any animals or members of the general public from coming to grief. In addition, many are SSSI's (Special Sites of Scientific Interest). So here's a list of some of the more popular caves on Mendip & South Wales with their (hopefully) current access agreements and the reasons behind them. Note, Some access arrangements may have changed, for up to date information look at

The Council of Southern Caving Clubs website


GB Cave and Charterhouse Cave

Both these caves are situated on land formerly owned by Bristol Water and thus falls under the jurisdiction of the CCC. The land is currently owned by the Somerset Wildlife Trust and the CCC have negotiated an lease for access for member clubs under a permit system to prevent damage to the fine formations in the cave. As the UBSS is a member of the CCC, permits and keys are available from the committee via the tackle store. The trip limit for GB is 6 people, and no novices or carbide lights are allowed. In the case of Charterhouse, because of the pristine nature of the formations a leader scheme operates. Clive Owen and Andrew Atkinson are the current UBSS leaders who can take up to three other people.

Longwood-August and Rhino Rift

Again both these caves were originally on land owned by Bristol Water and thus controlled by the CCC. Sited in a nature reserve and next to a popular footpath, both entrances is gated for safety and conservation reasons. A key and CCC permit are required, available from a committee member via the tackle store. No carbide lights or novices.

Tynings Barrows Cave

Gated at the request of the landowner. The cave is gated and the key is held by Mr Dave Reakes, Tyning's Farm. Park tidily along the verge before the farm and use the stile provided for access to the field. There is a small goodwill fee.

Swildon's Hole

Access is over farmers land in Priddy. This cave is not gated, but a goodwill fee of �1 each is payable at Homefield Cottage across the road from the gate en route to the cave. Also has a changing barn, so consequently very popular. Please park tidily on the green or preferably by the church.

St Cuthbert's Swallet

Magnificent system controlled by the Bristol Exploration Club. They operate a leader system to both protect the many formations, but also to prevent numerous rescues from a very complex and potentially difficult cave, and to make sure the dam system at the entrance operates. The UBSS has several members who also belong to the BEC, of which Tony Boycott is a Cuthbert's leader. Contact him or the BEC direct.

Eastwater Cavern, Manor Farm Swallet & Thrupe Lane Swallet

All these caves are open but call at the farm for permission. A good will fee is payable for Eastwater Cavern (50p each) and Manor Farm (£1).

Reservoir Hole and Grebe Swallet

Both these caves were dug open by Willie Stanton. Access is controlled, primarily for conservation reasons. Both are operated on a leadership system, so contact either Linda Wilson or Chris Binding. Grebe Swallet has a trip limit of leader plus three, and Reservoir, leader plus five, although check with Linda for details. As Reservoir Hole is located in Cheddar Gorge, it is closed during the busy summer months. Carbide is not allowed in either cave and as both caves contain very fragile features, they are not recommended for 'sporting' trips.

Singing River Mine, Cuckoo Cleeves and Coral Cave

These three caves are gated with the standard CCC key which can be obtained from committee members or via the tackle store. Change discretely for Singing River as you are next to houses!

Wookey Hole and Cheddar Caves (Gough's Cave)

Both are commercially owned show-caves, but access to the passages beyond the show-cave can be obtained by writing in advance to the cave management in both instances.

Box Mines and Browne's Folly Mine

Caving in Box Mine

Currently open with no access limitations, but take a survey! The entrances are periodically gated so check the latest Mendip Underground. Moves are afoot to gate the caves so watch this space… As at the time of writing, both entrances to Box (Jack's & Lady Hamiltons II) were open.

Pen Park Hole

Access controlled on behalf of Bristol City Council by the UBSS, BEC and WCC, as the entrance is in the middle of a housing estate in Southmead. Access is by a leader system, our leaders are Clive Owen and Elaine Oliver or contact Graham Mullan for further information.

Burrington Caves

These caves have open access, although technically the UBSS is the only club with express permission to enter and dig in any of the caves on Burrington Common. Tween Twins cave is gated and requires a leader, ask Clive Owen.

South Wales

Ogof Draenen

Access controlled on behalf of the landowner by the Pwll Ddu Cave Management Group. the cave is locked and UBSS holds a key. No carbide lights and a trip limit of six.

Ogof Daren Cilau

Open access, but has it own natural access restrictions!

Ogof Craig a Ffynnon

Operates on a leadership system. Key and leader required, party size limited to 6. Check 'Caves of South Wales' or Cambrian Caving Council for current address to write to.

Agen Allwedd

Access controlled by the Llangattock Cave Management Advisory Group who administer keys. Need to write in advance, party size limit & no carbide as it is a major summer bat roost. Check Cambrian Caving Council or Caving Press for up to date contact address.

Little Neath Cave

Call at Blaen Nedd Isaf Farm to request permission. A goodwill fee may be payable. Access often impassable when wet.

Ogof Ffynnon Ddu

The entrances to OFD I, II & Cwm Dwr are located on land owned by either Natural Resources Wales or South Wales Caving Club (SWCC), access is administered by SWCC by means of a permit. Unless you are a member of a club with an annual permit, you will need to arrange this in advance by contacting the Permit Secretary.

The cave entrances are gated, keys can be collected from SWCC HQ on production of the permit. Such permits are available, via the Permit Secretary, to members of clubs which are member clubs of the BCA and to Direct Individual Members of the BCA. Permits are normally valid only for a specified date. Applications for permits that are valid for one year will be considered, but such permits are normally granted only to clubs that visit the cave frequently and have, over a significant period, demonstrated a responsible attitude to safety and conservation. The UBSS has an annual permit, so call into the SWCC Hut at Penwyllt, find the duty officer and fill out the green chit and pick up the key. Party size limited to 6.

SWCC have reopened OFD but have issued interim access guidelines and procedures that must be followed during the Coronavirus pandemic and until further notice.

Dan yr Ogof

A commercial show-cave, but access administered and keys held by the SWCC. A leader scheme operates with Identity cards held by the leaders. Entry and exit via the River entrance may be required when the show-cave is closed. Dan Yr Ogof leaders are Clive Owen, Tony Boycott or as a last extreme resort Andy Farrant.

Otter Hole

Leadership scheme, usually booked up months is advance. Locked to preserve best formations in Britain and to make sure no-one drowns in the tidal sump. Access only at low tide and usually flooded all winter. Check caving press for up to date contact address. Was closed due to diesel pollution and bad air.

For the latest access arrangements, check the latest editions of 'Mendip Underground' or 'Caves of South Wales', or ask one of the old lags in the pub. Many older UBSS members are also members of other caving clubs and may be able to advise on access arrangements elsewhere. Happy Caving.

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