OFD Columns

Cheddar Caving Club Club Trip - “The Columns Open Day”, OFD: Sunday 30th May

Andy Sparrow, Melanie Lloyd, Glynn Rowland & Chris Binding.

After a relatively pleasant telephone enquiry from Andy (who sounded like he was calling from Spazackstan at the time) the previous evening to determine my proposed arrival time in South Wales, we all met at SWCC, Penwyllt, at 11:00am after a mostly uneventful drive through footie supporter traffic going to the Millennium Stadium thingy to watch some pointless game about which I have no interest whatsoever. The permit and key were all sorted out and it was off to visit the pretties about which I had heard much, seen photos but never actually been to visit myself and see with my own eyes, visually. For those who are not in the know, the Columns at OFD are jealously guarded under lock and key and there are a few occasions during the course of the year when the padlock is unlocked and wardens are stationed in the chamber and cavers can come and gaze upon the magnificent formations known as “The Columns” (not too sure why they're called that but it's probably something to do with them resembling columns, if you close one eye and squint with the other!). For the rest of the year everyone in South Wales denies the Columns even exist and all passages leading within a mile of them are filled in with sandbags, gravel and warning signs stating “Nothing interesting exists around here, go back you fools!”.

Andy, Mel and Glynn: Glorious day..

Doing a 'Blair Cave Project' gurn.

Glynn dribbles at the pretties.

'Almost as good as Tratman's Temple?'

The underground journey was all plain sailing and we managed to locate the Fort Knox gate blocking the way to Column Chamber only to find it was locked! This was the open day so what was wrong? Andy said he'd spoken to someone who was supposed to be coming along to unlock the molybdenum & platinum alloy padlock for us to gain entry but where were they? - had they got lost, fallen down the hole we had to traverse over to get here, lost interest and gone home or simply taken one look at us, made a rough guess at how long it would take us to get to the locked gate and then gently slid the baking tray with an uncooked chicken into the hot oven for lunch? Who knows but we had no choice other than to sit around in the hope that people with keys would be turning up very shortly. After a few exchanges of happy banter and the taking of some photos we started to get silly and bored. The Blair Cave Project was one of many topics of conversation while we waited; finally we gave up and headed off only for two cavers to metaphorically waltz around the corner and say they had the key! - we'd been waiting an hour (!!!) and the first thing I asked the chap with the key was “Do you use a sundial as a watch?”. After more pleasantries were exchanged and the conversation became polite we managed to get in to Column Chamber and finally to see what we had come for… all very amazing. The Columns really are something to behold and some of the filigree work seems to defy the laws of gravity! The photos above do not have sufficient resolution for you to be able to discern the complexity and delicate detailing of the sight before our eyes. Unfortunate, eh!

On the way out I remarked that I needed to purchase a survey of OFD and that I hoped someone had a key to the cupboard where the surveys were kept. With any luck today would also be “Cupboard Open Day”.

After this we decided to take a new route down to Salubrious (a good one, too, as it turned out) and eventually up out of the stream way to Gnome Passage and the exit. All in, we spent three hours underground. The cupboard key was found in next to no time and I was relieved of £5 of my parents' hard earned money in exchange for a 5 x A1 sheet survey of Ogof Ffynnon Theeee. Whoopee! - I can now go and visit this superb cave without fear of getting lost while being allegedly lead around by cavers who occasionally softly exude the words “Mmm, this bit looks vaguely familiar….” (A famous quotation from Martin G***s).

Chris B.

Last modified: 01 May 2013 20:17