This page is designed to provide anyone interested in caving with a brief overview of both the sport and the club. Don't hesitate to contact us if we haven't answered your question!
If you're new to caving. Speleology, caving and potholing - these are different words for the same activity; the discovery and exploration of caves. Virtually all caves are found within limestone rock and are formed by rain water, which is mildly acidic, dissolving away the rock leaving behind voids. Over thousands of years, the erosion of the rock by the acid together with the flow of the water form vast underground systems unlike anything on the surface.
Why do caves form in Limestone? It.s due to the nature of the rock. Its permeable, meaning water can pass through and it.s also soluble which means it can be dissolved by rain water. An area of limestone can typically be identified by a lack of surface drainage features such as lakes, rivers and streams. Such areas can also be identified by groups of people in bright orange and yellow overalls walking around with lights attached to their heads!
Within a few hours of London you can find the four main limestone areas in England, all of which have numerous cave systems. These are the Brecon Beacons of South Wales, the Mendip Hills of Somerset, the Derbyshire Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales.
Although the caves in each of these areas differ in character and size, each offers caving trips of a variety of standards, from the easy to the hair-raising. Even the easiest trip gives an introduction to a unique and fascinating environment.
The popular idea of a cave is a tight, wet, muddy hole and there are underground passages of just that description. That is far from the complete picture though, for there are plenty of caves with miles of walking size passage, leading to huge chambers containing strange rock formations that have taken thousands of years to form. Some caves contain deep underground shafts called pitches. These may be from twenty to hundreds of feet deep and are tackled with special ladders or ropes.
Caving is a co-operative sport, not a competitive one, relying upon a sense of team spirit. Most cavers belong to a club where the accumulated experience and skills (and not to forget, the tales and stories!) of older members are available for newer members.
About the Westminster WSG was formed in 1950 by a group of apprentice electricians from Willesden, "to propagate speleology both as a sport and a science, in the British Isles and abroad". It currently has about 75 members, drawn from all walks of life. Most live in or around London, or near to our cottage in the Brecon Beacons.
Caving Meets The club organises about two weekend trips each month. These have either a pre-determined caving trip in mind or a 'see what everyone's interested in when we get there" approach. The club is not bureaucratic or overly organised! At least half the trips are to the Brecon Beacons of South Wales, with the remainder to Yorkshire or Mendip, and the odd weekend in Derbyshire or the Forest of Dean. A meets list is published in the club's newsletter and all activities from caving trip, days out, birthday parties and more are accessed through the interactive club diary in the member.s website. You can even check which members plan to attend each trip and share a car with them.
Within this caving programme, we aim to lay on trips suited to all levels of experience, from novice to hardened caver, while giving all members the opportunity to develop their experience and skills. Of course, the organised programme is not the end of our activities - there are plenty of other trips arranged by members. May 2006 saw us exploring the Victorian Sewers under West London designed by J W Bazalgette himself!
The club has two evening meets, on the first and third Tuesday of each month. It.s a good idea to contact a committee member before coming along to your first London meet, so we can look out for you. There are good occasions to sort what caves you can be getting down and to sort out a lift to the next caving meet.
The First and third Tuesday of the month we meet at:
The Ship & Shovell
1-3 Craven Passage, Charing Cross, London, WC2N 5PH
We normally meet from 8pm onwards. Information
Caerllwyn is a 200 year old traditional Welsh cottage that WSG rented for many years and now own. It is on the edge of the 'waterfalls' area of the Brecon Beacons and close to many fine caves. It has sleeping accommodation for about 16 people, water, electricity, hot showers, a brand new kitchen, drying room, proper toilets, a big garden and a brilliant pub up the road. All you need for a weekend there is a sleeping bag and food. Members pay cottage fees of £3.00 a night, non-members £4.00 a night.
Membership and How to Join New members are welcome at the WSG. The main benefits of membership are:
There are two categories of membership - probationary and full. Everyone becomes a probationary member to begin with. Probationary members enjoy the same benefits as full members, except that they can't lead a caving trip in the club's name or borrow club tackle on their own. They can of course take part in club trips, and use club tackle, that is commensurate with their caving experience. This distinction between probationary and full membership ensures that club ropes and ladders are used safely (important if you're a beginner or the one using it next time!) and that special access agreements negotiated by the club are not jeopardised. It is common for probationary members to think about full membership after about a year - the main consideration is not whether you're a brilliant caver, but whether you're a safe caver. Membership costs £35 per year.
Cave Exploration The club has a long tradition of discovering and exploring new cave systems, both in the UK and abroad. You'll get a copy of the latest Bulletin when you join, with articles on several caves in the Brecon Beacons opened up by members between 1989 and 1994. We have an unrivalled knowledge of caves in the Pant Mawr, Hepste and Cadlan areas of the Brecon Beacons.
Over a few beers, older members will go glassy-eyed telling you how they were the first to set foot in a newly discovered cave, shining their light where no light has shone before. Finding new caves is a mixture of luck and experience. Being part of it is unforgettable and joining in is open to all. new or old. who are willing to lend a hand. There are lots of caves still to be found under South Wales.
Overseas Expeditions: During the last twelve years, WSG has run caving expeditions to Cuba (six times), Romania (twice),Russia, USA, France, Lebanon (twice) and Cyprus. We have also been part of other club's expeditions to Spain,South Africa, Zimbabwe. Nearer to home, Ireland(2001), France (2003), Belgium (2004) and Poland (2005)
Caving abroad invariably means teaming up with local cavers for
the exploration of new systems. This really gets you into the heart of a country
seeing places that are well off the beaten track. In return. we often host return
trips by those local cavers.
How you can start caving Start off by coming along to one of the Tuesday evening meets in London, where we can find out about the caving you're interested in doing and what sort of equipment and clothing you have that could be of use. We all started our caving wearing some old warm clothing, with a boiler suit on top and a pair of wellingtons. The three things that need to be arranged for you are a caving lamp, a lamp belt and a caving helmet. It is best to hire these for a few pounds from caving shops in the area we're going to. Some members have more than one set of these, so borrowing is an option as well. Most beginners start out by going down the big, old 'fossil' caves. These are either completely dry or have a stream running through them. The passages are usually big enough to drive a bus down, with occasional stretches of hands and knees crawling. Bridge Cave and upper Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 2 are typical 'first trips' like this. You can then progress onto caves like Pant Mawr Pot, with a ladder climb into a long stream passage linking big chambers, and Pwll Pindar, with a series of low crawls linking chambers (we discovered this one. so we're fond of it !). When to buy your own caving equipment depends on the level of caving you want to do. Most start off by buying their own lamp, belt and helmet. Trips like Little Neath River Cave, Ogof Fechan, Dan yr Ogof and Ogof Ffynnon Ddu 'Cwm Dwr to 2' are great fun, but you'll need a wet suit for them. Some members acquire the equipment to bottom the world's deepest caves within a couple of years of starting caving, while others go for years with just the essentials. It's down to you and your wallet.
If you are interested, or have any questions then please contact us at email@example.com we.d love to hear from you!