Ogof Shar Wlad (Common land Cave) was discovered by Jon Young and Andy Dawson on 31/12/84 whilst walking and poking around the area of common land between Ystradfellte and Blaen Nedd Isaf farm. Originally a narrow slot was excavated, leading to a short climb to the base of a stooping-height ascending passage ending at a T-junction. The left fork gave access to a constricted rift which could be followed for about 8 feet before becoming too tight. The right-hand fork led via a right-angle bend to a choke. A second climb down just inside the entrance led to the head of a steep debris slope, down which stones could be heard to roll some distance.
The entrance is located at NGR 9165 1440 amongst some old quarry workings on the eastern side of the western-most of three valleys running approximately North-South. It is most easily located by following the road to Blaen Nedd Isaf farm a short distance past the steep track down to Bridge Cave until a stile is encountered on the right. Follow the footpath across the field and up the side of the hill until you break out onto level ground with sections of limestone pavement. From here head roughly North (towards Fan Nedd) and pass through a single gate into the lower end of the valley. Follow this about two thirds the way toward the next gate and the entrance should be obvious from the spoil heaps high on your right. The walk takes about 10-15 minutes. The cave can also be approached from Ystradfellte in about 30 minutes via the track which begins next to the car-park and leads up onto the moor.
3 days of digging during January '85, (mainly by Jon and Andy) had shown that there was a great deal of spoil to remove before an idea of the sites potential could be determined. A scaffold tripod was constructed and carried to the entrance by Jon and Bill Gascoigne and the entrance further enlarged. With the tripod in place more effective digging and hauling was affected over four weekends in the period February to May. Peak productivity has been estimated in excess of 1 ton/hour!! Removal of rubble and digging stopped when a constricted section at the current low-point of the cave which ponds up in wet weather. A draught has been detected here though this is believed to be due to fissures connecting with the surface. Although a reasonable chamber has been excavated it is still not known what lies directly beneath the entrance.
On 5th May'85 Jon returned with Cohn Smith (Llandaff Caving Club) and investigated the choke on the right of the T-junction. After a short dig, rocks could be heard rumbling into a passage on the far side. It was evident that a previous connection with the surface had resulted in considerable in-filling, probably during quarrying. This was rapidly located and cleared giving access to a further 80 ft of passage. The choke was easily cleared from that side to give a total length just in excess of 200 ft. Two passages lead off from a standing height passage, one becoming too tight/blocked with rocks, the other ending at a sand/rock dig close to the surface.
The main entrance has been partially covered with a cement, scaffold and limestone structure. The second entrance has been permanently closed with a similar construction. The whole cave can now only be visited via the original slot entrance.
During November'86 two further digging trips were undertaken. First the dig at the base of the excavated chamber was investigated. This can only sensibly be continued during a period of dry weather. A second dig has been started at the northern-most extent. Unfortunately this is very close to the surface. Indications are that the passage section is of at least walking height but two-thirds full of sand/rock.
Many people have contributed to the above work, in order of their contributions: Jon Young, Andy Dawson, Chris Fry, Colin Smith (Llandaff), Ian Chandler, Ow Jones (SWCC), Ron Smith, Martin Hatton, Dave Kaye, Steve Goodall, Paul Stacey, Guy Jackson, George Pankiewicz, Bill Gascoigne (SWCC), Chris Crowley
A lot of hard work for a relatively small cave!! Worth a visit on a Sunday for an occassional dig or on the walk back across the hill to Godre Pentre after a visit to Little Neath River Cave It is a shame that this cave is so full of surface material (like the other short caves nearby). Although there are many shakeholes of considerable size within a few hundred yards finding cave of any real significance here remains as elusive as ever.
A full record of the work done in this cave and the full survey data have been deposited in the Club library - Ed