Occasional Paper Number One - IRELAND 1959

Note that this is a re-print of the original publication, based on a scanned copy. During the process of converting the original paper copy to this electronic version, the original formatting, page layout and page numbers have been lost. All diagrams and surveys have been scanned from the original and are consequently of poor quality.

 

Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club

An account of the caving activities in Ireland by members of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club during the summer of 1959; with special reference to the Marble Arch area of Fermanagh.

JM Boon, KR Dawe, MM Thompson, JM Wright October 1960.

(edited by Sheila Paul)

Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club in a series of Occasional Papers on Speleological Subjects.

Copyright

Neither the authors nor the publishers of this publication have any objection to the material it contains being republished provided that its source is acknowledged.

Contents

Section

One

Introduction

 

 

Two

Marble Arch & Cradle Hole

JM Wright

 

Three

The Monastir System

JM Wright

 

Four

Aghinrawn Cave

MM Thompson

 

Five

Pollnagollum & the Skreen Hill Passages of Marble Arch

MM Thompson

 

Six

Digging at the Sruh Croppe & Legalough Sinks

KR Dawe

 

Seven

Pollnabrock Caves near Ballinafad, Co Sligo, Eire

KR Dawe

 

Eight

Some Caves in Eire

JM Boon

 

Members of the Expedition

JM Boon, KR Dawe, Sheila E Paul, MM Thompson, WJR Willcocks, JM Wright

1. INTRODUCTION

During the early months of 1959 members of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club planned a caving trip to Ireland, to be concerned mainly with an investigation into the systems in South Fermanagh, and accordingly they arrived in Northern Ireland on the 25th July with the prospect of a fortnight's work ahead. One member of the party had spent the previous few weeks in Eire and the report of his work there is included in this paper.

There are three main caving areas in Fermanagh: of these the party selected for study the Marble Arch rising cave and its feeders from the Cuilcagh Mountain with the potholes along their courses. The streams flow down the northern slopes of the Cuilcagh ridge, sinking where the Yoredale rock meets the soluble limestone.

Marble Arch Area

Map 1 – Marble Arch Area

Two large streams, the Sruh Croppa and Owenbrean River, sink and resurge at Marble Arch augmented by the Aghanrahn River. The Sruh Croppa sinks about a quarter of a mile from the Owenbrean. The present sink lies just south of the road (see map 1), the water disappearing between the boulders of the stream bed: there is no possibility of the following the stream underground at this point. Just north of the road on the left bank of the stream (see map 1 and section six) a small surface hole was enlarged by digging and gave access to the stream passage via a short mud and boulder slope. The passage was about three feet wide by four feet high and approximately thirty feet long, the Sruh Croppa river flowing very fast through it. A sump at the upper end is under a rock wall, but with no hope of an air space, and downstream the water sinks amongst small boulders. This could be pushed but the reward would probably be small and the effort would entail every boulder removed being taken out of the cave up the muddy slide. The surface course of the river from the present sink downstream is a well defined channel, in wet weather carrying the excess water which is taken in at Cat's Hole, a large mud choked swallet (see map 1). Fluorescein put in the water at this sink (ref: CPC vol 1, no 6, 1951, 'Cat's Hole, a Fluorescein Test' - H Holgate) showed in the river emerging at Marble Arch (the Cladagh), and in the Grand Gallery inside the cave.

The Owenbreen river disappears at the foot of the Monastir Cliff, an impressive rock wall 130 ft high: flood debris lodged in crevices in the cliff face show that the water must back up forty to fifty feet up the cliff at times. It is surmised that the confluence of the Sruh Croppa and Owenbrean River is in the neighbourhood of Cradle Hole (see map 1).

The third stream, augmenting the water emerging at Marble Arch is the Aghanrann above whose conjectured subsurface line of flow towards the Skreen Hill Passage lie the surface features of Polldownlog, Pollthanacarre and Pollnagollum. This water, taken at Pollasumera, has also been dye-tested and traced to the Cladagh River via Pollnagollum and the Skreen Hill Passage (ref: CPC vol. 2, 1956). The distance between Pollasumera and the Skreen Hill Passage is quite considerable and though some previous exploration has been made of the pots which are assumed to lie above the underground course of the Aghanrahn, there seems to be scope here for more detailed study.

The following reports of the various sections of this drainage complex examined by the party do not give in detail descriptions of previously well known cave: the chief concern was to record original discovery or to extend and clarify points arising from earlier work in the area.

A certain amount of new cave was found: some digs were made: and a rewarding trip was made outside the main area of study to examine the Pollnabrock Caves near Ballinafad, Co. Sligo in Eire.

The authors would like to make acknowledgement to Mr C Cullingford (Editor) and Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd (Publishers) for their kind permission to reproduce, with amendments, the sketch map of the Marble Arch area from "British Caving".

 

2. MARBLE ARCH AND CRADLE HOLE

The best plan of the Marble Arch Cave is by Broderick in Baker's "Caving". This gives an excellent impression of the series of huge shakeholes on either side of the main river, and the dry series of Pendant Passage and Pool Chamber, which have now been forced to the Skreen Hill Passages.

Perhaps the best expedition is the complete traverse of the main stream from Marble Arch to Cradle Hole. In places the passage is fifty feet high and wide, whilst elsewhere the roof almost touches the water, and swims of 100 feet are necessary.

One reaches Cradle Hole after about 1000 feet and emerges in the strong daylight into a huge shakehole. Probably formed by the collapse of a cavern, it is 150 feet across, with eighty feet high cliffs at the north and south sides. The river flows from under the immense mound of debris and it seems likely that it is at this point that the Sruh Croppa river joins with the Monastir system.

Crossing the shakehole, one can follow the river again upstream for a further 600 feet of wading in deep pools, passing under the aven of Pollnabrock en route. The passage now turns sharply right but on the west side a short climb leads to some magnificent gour pools, the largest being ten feet in diameter and as yet, unspoilt.

Upstream, the water deepens, the roof lowers, and one arrives at the sump. This was passed by Michael Boon on a solo exploratory trip in May 1959 and is only eighteen inches long, leading to two small chambers. The current flow is strong and one can feel a roomy extension underwater in the west wall of the second chamber.

On the same occasion Michael also discovered the Upstream Chambers. A small mud slope exists on the south side of the river ten feet downstream from Sump I, and after moving some boulders which choked the passage, he was able to squeeze from this slope upwards into the first chamber.

This chamber, forty feet high by twenty feet wide, slopes upwards to an awkward twelve feet high climb. Immediately above the squeeze two passages lead off from the chamber well. One connects to the chamber upstream from Sump I whilst the other passes over the main streamway to emerge on a stalagmite shelf on the north side of the river.

We then turned our attention to the twelve feet climb and by combined tactics I was forced up this greasy pitch and rigged a rope so that the others could follow. On the left was a forty feet high rift but low down on the right a muddy crawl led to the Second Chamber, containing a pool and two high avens.

Beyond, a crawl continued before an uninviting static sump was reached after sixty feet. The crawl had only three feet headroom but from the shape of the roof and the fact that the floor was of soft mud infill, I gained the impression that the original tunnel was once of considerable size. This observation was also true of the crawl between the first and second chambers.

 

3. THE MONASTIR SYSTEM

After we had failed to progress further in the Upstream Chambers we examined the Monastir area to try to discover a clue to one quarter mile of unknown cave between these two places.

The Owenbrean River flows in a tree lined gorge before sinking at the base of a 130 feet high cliff. We were fortunate in having very dry conditions but in wet weather the river backs up to form a lake forty feet deep.

Monastir Cave is followed for 150 feet through masses of flood debris until, as Baker reports, the walls of the rift narrow and the cave ends in a deep pool. On closer examination Michael Boon and I were able to cross the pool and climb fifteen feet up the opposite rift. A narrow passage, twenty feet long, led to a small chamber where a five feet long duck in deep water gave access to a second chamber containing a further pool.

Here the main stream entered (flood debris was ten feet above water level) but in spite of a prolonged search around the walls no definite sump was located. Two small avens were climbed but these were choked after twenty five and forty feet.

The other known cave in this area is Pollbwee which lies in a shakehole 250 feet NE of the Monastir sink. A rift, with a bridge, about thirty feet by ten feet wide lies in the east side of the depression. From this a twenty foot pitch leads to a boulder ledge with another thirty feet pitch below, followed by a steep twenty feet scramble.

Michael and I descended this awkward entrance pitch and arrived at the edge of an eighty feet long lake. The whole chamber showed signs of extreme solutional development with spongework and rock curtains with windows, etc.

There was no obvious water movement and we could find no definite sump around the edge of the lake, which was out of our depth throughout. There were many small continuations under water but these were again solutional in character.

Some days later Michael Thompson and Ken Dawe were shown a cave entrance by the McGovern children. This is in the Monastir Cliff about 150 feet east of the river and we later called it Monastir Cliff Pot. Although the marks of rubber farm boots were noticed in one of the upper passages we can find no reference to previous exploration.

The Pot is strongly developed along one fault line and descends steeply to a twenty five feet deep pitch. At the bottom a five feet drop on the left hand side leads into a large parallel rift which descends at a low angle to a second pitch. This is also about twenty five feet long and could be attempted without tackle but was on this occasion laddered. Michael Thompson descended and stepped off the ladder into deep water flooding the bottom of the rift. There is no apparent continuation to this flooded rift but from approximate observations it seems likely that it is on the same level as the lake in Pollbwee and no more than 100 feet from it.

From the parallel rift a passage through unstable boulders led to a small chamber with a sound connection to a cavity in the cliff face. A sixty feet long tortuous crawl led on, with the increasing roar of a large river, until we emerged, to our embarrassment, forty feet up the Monastir Cliff, directly over the river. Opposite us in an angle of the cliff face was a second small tube which we later traced to an aven in Monastir Cave. These discoveries led to a futile session of gymnastics for we examined the rest of the cliff face with ladders in the hope of finding some further small tubes.

The remnants of ancient cave passages in Temple Bawn (an abandoned dry series on the west bank of the Monastir Gorge), in Monastir Cliff Pot and in Pollbwee gives rise to the interesting suggestion of an abandoned high level river passage perhaps once emerging in the now dry Upstream Chambers in Cradle Hole.

If this theory were true, the chances of forcing access to the present low level route would not be great for this could be flooded and restricted due to its more recent origin.

 

4. AGHINRAWN CAVE

This cave is located 250 yards ESE of the Monastir sink in a shallow valley (ref: maps 1 and 4). We could see no sign of previous visitors although Alan Ashwell mentioned in a letter to J Wright (21 Sep 1959) that he had seen the entrance but had not himself explored its possibilities. From the survey it will be seen that the general trend of the cave is NW towards the Monastir Cliff. The entrance is partially concealed by bushes and consists of a wide low bedding plane with a small stream flowing on the south side. After forty feet the bedding plane heels over and becomes a well defined stream passage. Despite numerous twists and turns it maintains its general direction until after 300 feet the stream disappears into a tight rift, opening out below into a thirteen feet deep pot. Above the pot the rift continues to a small muddy tube with a connection to a shakehole on the surface. We were able to pass our equipment through, but that was all. Immediately above the pot a climb in the roof gives access to a steeply inclined bedding plane. The lower extension appeared to end in a vertical drop. We later confirmed that it connects with an aven which we entered from the bottom of the second pitch. Beyond the bedding plane a passage continued for about eighty feet before ending in a choke.

We descended the first pitch and followed a lower continuation of the rift. Almost immediately we came to a second pitch of seventeen feet. Five feet from the bottom we found a ledge and the aven previously mentioned. This vertical section of the cave is very reminiscent of the Yorkshire pots, being in clean, grey, water-washed limestone. Having got so far we were hopeful of getting near to the Monastir; in fact within a few feet of the second pitch we came to a boulder chamber with no exit. We descended a rather loose rift in one corner but it was choked at the bottom. More in anger than in hope we started shifting boulders but without result. We should have been warned by the shakehole which is immediately above this part of the cave and which accounts for the choke. We could hear the stream running below, presumably on its way to join the Monastir, although we found no sign of a tributary in the Monastir sink. The catchment area for this cave is quite considerable and it must occasionally take a large amount of water.

 

5. POLLNAGOLLUM AND THE SKREEN HILL PASSAGES OF MARBLE ARCH

From the general description of the area it will be appreciated that the most likely location for new discoveries exists between Pollnagollum and the upstream sump in the Skreen Hill Passage of Marble Arch. Pollnagollum ends in an outsize boulder choke which, despite numerous attempts, has never been passed. We examined both obstacles without success but nevertheless it is worth reporting the efforts which we made.

Pollnagollum appears to be a collapsed cavern of considerable size. Part of the roof remains and what has fallen provides on easy scramble to the head of the first pitch. At this point the floor consists of jammed boulders through which an obvious gap gives access to the pitch. From the chamber at the bottom, a short descent through a boulder ruckle leads to the streamway. We turned downstream along a passage littered with jagged boulders. After about 100 feet the water disappears into the main ruckle. We split the party and attempted both the streamway and the higher levels. Unfortunately the higher we climbed, the smaller became the boulders until it was virtually impossible to cave through them. In the stream itself we had no better luck until we came across a small hole some fifteen feet upstream from where the water disappeared. We entered a small chamber and Jerry Wright managed to squeeze through a narrow crevice thus rejoining the stream. He was able to push on for about twenty feet before coming to a small chamber with the noise of a small waterfall beyond. He judged that the boulders were too loose to permit any gardening and we came to the conclusion that whilst it might be possible to force a route along the stream, the job could wait for someone who does not mind "elastic squeezes" in six inches of water.

Related to the size of the collapse, the ruckle must be of considerable length. It would seem to be a better prospect to dig one of the numerous shakeholes that exist on the other side of the road.

Turning to the other obstacle, that is the sump in Skreen Hill Passage, we had hoped that the exceptionally dry summer might have made enough difference to the water level to open an air space. We entered Marble Arch through shakehole "E" (ref: plan of Marble Arch Cave by Broderick, 1908) and proceeded through the Boulder Chamber to Pool Chamber. After a certain amount of defective route finding we found the crawl over Pendant Passage into New Chamber. A high level passage then emerges twenty feet up in the side of Skreen Hill Passage. First of all we examined a peculiar little system of flooded passages into which the stream sinks. Upstream the cave assumes impressive dimensions. In its lower reaches the floor is covered with boulders but further upstream the boulders give way to gravel banks. At only one point does the roof descend and it is here that there are some fine stalactites. Beyond, the cave assumes its former size until at the beginning of the canal it becomes broader and lower. Michael Boon and I were the only ones with watertight immersion suits so it fell to us to swim the remaining stretch. It is difficult to gauge distances under such conditions but it must have been some 200 feet before the roof come down into the water. It was by now obvious that it would take more than a dry summer to make any appreciable difference to this mass of water. We kicked around below the surface but could find no obvious inlet. On the left, however, is a peculiar little sill over which it is possible to climb into a narrow passage containing deep water. After fifty feet of progress we passed a very low duck, only to be confronted by a sump. Michael thinks he found an air space on the other side but the passage was too narrow to allow any attempts at diving.

In any event it seems probable that this was only a tributary passage. On the way back we searched each wall but without finding anything of note.

It is particularly noticeable that the water in Skreen Hill was a great deal colder than that in the Marble Arch and Cradle Hole series. It seems reasonable to suppose that a large part of the unknown watercourse consists of deep canals with slow water circulation.

 

6. DIGGING AT THE SRUH CROPPA AND LEGALOUGH SINKS

Despite our fair success in finding uncharted, if not definitely unknown, cave systems, the real key to future major cave discoveries in County Fermanagh probably lies in digging or diving. Numerous unentered swallets can be found in the area but practically all of these require a certain amount of pick and shovel work before one could hope to enter. The two sinks that we investigated were those of the Sruh Croppa and Legalough streams.

The Sruh Croppa Sink

The Sruh Croppa flows north from the Cuilcogh Mountain and under dry conditions sinks in its bed a few yards south of the new moor road, where it passes the farm tenanted by Mr McGovern (see map 1). When the water is somewhat higher a considerable overflow, from this main swallet flows into Cat's Hole about 500 yards further north. The first sink is a jumble of large and small boulders, appears completely unstable and is probably unenterable.

Immediately north of the road lies a small cleft from which comes the sound of running water. This was the scene of our first attempt to enter the Sruh Croppa cave and a mass attack by the party commenced.

The cleft was about ten feet long and by moving a few boulders we soon managed to get into a rift-like hole about five feet deep and with a ghastly looking rock bridge suspended over the top. Two holes led out of the rift, the first a continuation of the crack at the eastern end, and the second at right angles to the crack at the western end immediately underneath the worst section of the bridge. Because of the state of the roof our first point of attack was the eastern tunnel. This was not absolutely full and a few hours work enabled us to break into a minute chamber about twelve feet down the tunnel. The "chamber" was about six feet wide, six feet long and three feet high. A narrow rift appeared to lead in the direction of the stream, but was quite impassable.

Before attempting work on the second tunnel we decided to collapse the boulder bridge. This was quite good fun and at one stage we had two Land Rovers (our own plus one belonging to some Orpheus club members) attempting to haul out a particularly large rock. We could not lift it out but we did manage to pull it to one side out of the way. Fortunately we took fifty feet of hemp rope to Ireland as expendable belay - it was reduced to several pieces when used as a hauling line attached to a Land Rover. A large sandstone boulder in the centre of the hole proved to be a sticky problem but it was finally stabilised by knocking out the odd chockstone, thus dropping it a few feet until it became more firmly wedged.

The bottom of the shaft near the new tunnel was very restricted and digging proved awkward. At that stage in the proceedings Sheila announced dinner and the dig was abandoned for the night.

Next day Mike Thompson, Wally Willcocks and I continued the digging whilst the rest disappeared to investigate various possibilities of which Mike Boon had heard. Digging was still very slow and constricted but by mid afternoon we were able to kick rubble down a shaft and into water. After a short period I just managed to wriggle into the shaft and it was then comparatively easy to enlarge the tunnel from the inside. The shaft was tight (although Mike later managed to remove a large boulder which I had dismissed as solid bedrock, making it fairly roomy), and dropped vertically into the Sruh Croppa Cave. A quick reconnaissance showed a short length of stream passage with a sump at either end. Mike Thompson and I adjourned to don immersion suits to prod the sumps: neither proved remotely possible.

The cave was found to comprise of about thirty feet of rift passage, less than two feet wide and four feet high. The whole of the Sruh Croppa flows through this narrow passage so there is quite an appreciable current. The upstream sump is about two feet deep and there is no sign of the roof rising in the first five feet. As this sump is only 200 feet from the sink it is not very important. Downstream, the other sump is quite impassable being full of small boulders. The roof dips at this point at about 45° and it is possible to force ones body up to the waist between the rock wall and the boulder pile but any further progress requires the removal of the boulders and due to the restricted space and fast flowing stream each boulder would have to be lifted up the entrance shaft. If the choke could be cleared it is quite possible that a way on would become evident but we considered this too great a task with only a short holiday in front of us. It might well go if anyone is willing to spend four or five days there, and would probably yield a most sporting wet cave.

The entrance shaft has now been filled in with pieces of thorn bush. It would only take ten minutes to clear out again. Permission should first be obtained from Mr McGovern whose house overlooks the cave. Twenty five feet of rope, belayed at the surface, is useful to get back up the entrance shaft. To anyone attempting to clear the terminal sump I extend my hope for the very best of luck.

Legalough Sink

The Legalough lies on the northern fringe of the Cuilcagh Mountain on the border between Co. Fermanagh and Co. Cavan, (OS Ireland 6 inch : 1 mile sheets Fermanagh 31 and Cavan 4). Access is via the moor road from Marlbank, south of Lower Lough Macnean, the swallet examined lying about a quarter of a mile SSW of the farm on the west side of the road (the farm coinciding with the name "Derreen” on the Fermanagh map quoted above).

The stream flows eastwards from Legalough and sinks amid a jumble of small boulders, parallel to, and on the north bank of, the stream & small rock bluff extends for about eight feet, ending at the boulder pile where the stream sinks.

A mass attack along the base of the bluff by the two Mikes, Jerry and I exposed several holes, but loose boulders were everywhere. A small chamber at the western edge of the cliff fell in immediately. Gradually our efforts became concentrated at the sink end of the rock and we dug out a rift-like hole about five feet deep and with an apparent way on under the inevitable loose rocks. This closed down immediately but a most tantalising sound of roaring water could be heard; a sound which appeared to come from some distance away and which took the form of a continuous roar, as from a pitch. Damming the stream caused the noise to stop but only after more than a minute had elapsed, so the source of the sound must have been several feet away. Unfortunately further progress appeared quite impossible because of the mass of small boulders. An attempt to force a way in at the actual sink failed for the same reason. A few days later we returned and filled in the dig.

After abandoning work we had a look around for other possible ways of entering the system, for it appears likely that a system does exist here. Immediately north and west of the sink several small shakeholes containing small boulders can be found. Several isolated rocks also protrude to the surface. About 100 feet from the swallet in a NW direction the ground suddenly rises. This does seem to indicate that the whole area may be one gigantic boulder ruckle. If this is indeed the case the best hope of entry would lie not at the sink but at some point along the apparent edge of the ruckle, preferably diametrically opposite the sink. A small shakehole does lie in such a position and a dig at this point could possibly be successful. It is interesting to note that there is no knowledge of a resurgence associated with this sink. Fluorescein testing by certain members of the Wessex Cave Club a few years ago gave a completely negative result. The Hanging Rock rising about two miles away was watched for twenty four hours after the dye was introduced into the swallet, but no colour was observed at the resurgence.

 

7. POLLNABROCK CAVES NEAR BALLINAFAD, COUNTY SLIGO

(Ref: OS Ireland 6 inch : 1 mile sheets Sligo 40 and Roscommon 3)

Pollnabrock Caves form a complete cave system in miniature. Two swallets, taking water from the Curlew Mountains, feed one resurgence. The distance above ground between the major sink and rising is about 200 yards, a similar distance separating the rising from the other sink. The system lies 14 miles ENE of Ballinafad (near Boyle) on the Ballinafad - Arigna road which skirts the southern edge of Lough Arrow. A small wooded depression twenty five yards north of the road contains the resurgence. The minor sink lies about 200 yards east of the resurgence, and the main sink lies in a depression on the south side of the road. The stream flows into Lough Arrow. Permission to visit the caves should be sought at the farmhouse adjacent to the major swallet. Although the caves are quite open this account is, as far as we can ascertain, the first record of a full exploration. No evidence of a previous visit was noticed, but we know that Jack Coleman, of Dublin, had, as he put it, "a quick look .... in 1955" - this entailed a trip of about 300 feet upstream from the rising, without survey.

A survey to CRG Grade III was completed by J Wright and M Boon (see survey 4).

Pollnabrock I – The Resurgence

A small gorge fifteen feet deep leads into the entrance which is a tunnel about ten feet high. Immediately inside the route divides. The right hand route, taking the water from Pollnabrock II, the major sink, can be followed for about 100 feet before it closes in a sump. Except for the last few feet when the roof lowers towards the water, the passage is six to eight feet high. Some good flowstone formations can be seen.

The left hand branch inside the entrance carries the water from the minor sink, Pollnabrock III, and can be followed for about 450 feet. For over 300 feet the passage is quite roomy, being generally six to seven feet high and about two to four feet wide, with the occasional squeeze. The portion of the cave is very well decorated, both stream walls being a profusion of flowstone. The passage ends in a small boulder-choked chamber. Immediately before the chamber the streamway takes a sharp left turn. The rest of the watercourse then degenerates into a low, wet, and in places, fairly tight crawl before ending in a duck blocked by a calcite barrier. Debris gave ample evidence of occasional flooding to the roof, but the existence of flowstone does seem to indicate that flooding is only a very temporary affair.

Pollnabrock II – The Major Sink

An active stream in a well defined valley flows into a large opening at the base of a small cliff. A twenty feet high stream passage can be followed for about 450 feet before the roof descends abruptly to an impenetrable sump. This sump is only twenty five feet from the sump in Pollnabrock I. Both cave walls are extremely well decorated with flowstone.

Pollnabrock III – The Minor Sink

The swallet, dry in summer, for the stream sinks in its bed fifty feet further up the valley, can be entered through a tangle of flood debris. A tight squeeze on the right hand side just inside the entrance descends to a low bedding plane where the water, during our visit a mere trickle, is met. The highest point in the bedding plane cannot be over twelve inches and the stream flows into an extension too low to enter. Altogether a charming spot: very low, very wet and totally uninviting.

Other Caves in the Area

The existence of three other caves in this area was mentioned by the local people in Ballinafad. Unfortunately time ran out and we did not have time to visit these.

The caves are:

(a) Another Pollnabrock: a resurgence cave with a large stream, near Coradoo Lodge 1 mile west of Ballinafad.

(b) Quarry Cave: at Highwood on the east shore of Lough Arrow and said to be extensive.

(c) a swallet alleged to run into on open cave one to two miles SE of Highwood near the Ballinafad - Arigna road.

 

8. SOME CAVES IN EIRE

Cloolagheen Swallet – Co. Tipperary

The swallet is situated about two miles from the village of Burncourt near the Burncourt to Ballyporeen road. The stream, which crosses the road, sinks about 150 yards NE of a prominent roadside quarry. The swallet is about 450 feet above sea level.

The cave takes the drainage of a large valley running due east and the stream is large. The stream falls into a boulder-filled rift and the cave is entered by a vertical shaft eight feet deep to the left. The swallet depression is some eight feet deep where the stream sinks.

At the foot of the shaft a tight tunnel leads through a right angle bend to the stream passage; additional water enters from a tight rift to the left. The stream passage, oval in section and averaging three feet high and four feet wide, continues for forty feet to the entry of an ascending bedding plane, choked with mud in both extremities. Beyond two right angle bends the stream runs over small boulders for seventy feet to the sump.

The sump chamber lies at right angles to the predominant direction of the cave. It is about twenty feet long, tapering off in a closed rift, and eight feet wide at the widest point. From water level to roof is about ten feet. At the far side of the sump is an underwater ledge set into the sump at an angle of about 45° and extending to between four and five feet down. At the water line a pocket some six inches deep and ten inches wide has been cut into the top of the ledge.

After a period of twenty four hours continuous rain the cave was still able to take a stream swollen to eight or ten times its normal size. From froth and vegetation found in the roof of the sump chamber next day it is evident that the chamber fills completely in flood. In normal weather the level of the sump is constant, however, and it could probably only be passed with diving equipment. The total length of the cave is about 150 feet.

Burncourt Quarry Cave – Co. Tipperary

Nearby, at Burncourt, in a small quarry 150 yards north of the Post Office, is a rectangular cave network like the neighbouring Mitchelstown Caves seems to be mainly of phreatic origin. The cave passages, some of which are well decorated, end in mud choked bedding planes. The total length of the cave is about 400 feet.

Poll Ballynahoun – Co. Clare

The cave is situated at the foot of the more westerly of two small parallel valleys running NE - SW down the southern slopes of Slieve Elva. The entrance is ½ mile slightly south of due east from the Kilmoon River reservoir. Although the cave seems to have been formed by a stream running down from Slieve Elva to the SW, at present it only takes a small stream from a wide shallow valley running due west from the entrance.

Access to the cave is by a nine feet drop in fluted limestone, originally tight at the top until enlarged. At the foot of the drop is a rift chamber with a small stream entering from the eastern end. A low crawl leads to a curious meander passage too tight to follow, with a bedding plane incised below. A few feet beyond this point the bedding plane gains height and the stream flows in a narrow trench.

Beyond a squeeze past a stalactite the stream flows along a pleasant scallop-marked tunnel averaging thirty inches high and sometimes tight. 220 feet from the entrance the stream flows into a low bedding plane to the left, but the cave continues as a tight meander passage with a floor of stones. After twenty feet the water rejoins the passage from a small tunnel on the left.

At this point a bar of stalactite weighing several stone blocked the way but it yielded surprisingly quickly to a stone breakers hammer. Standard equipment for opening the rest of the cave, with three stalactite grilles blocking the way, was a light hammer.

410 feet from the entrance the whole of the upper part of the tunnel is blocked by a very solid stalactite flow. Investigation with a stick at this point indicated that the cave continues beyond, but the stalactite blockage extends for at least four feet, leaving only a few inches of air space above a shallow pool. It is important to note that one can turn round some thirty feet from the end of the cave. The total length of the cave is 420 feet.

Kilmoon Stream Cave – Co. Clare

One and a half miles north of Lisdoonvarna (Co Clare) the Kilmoon Stream, which drains the southern slopes of Slieve Elva, sinks. It rises 300 - 400 yards lower down the valley. Not all the distance between the sink and rising is negotiable since for much of the way the stream flows in a wide horizontal crack between the limestone and the overlying shales. The sink is about 450 feet above sea level.

The cave can be entered at three points. At the lowest entrance, Fall Entrance, where an ungraded tributary falls into the "roofless cave" below the entrance, the passage is about six feet high and four feet wide. Forty feet upstream is a second large entrance, the Main Entrance. Upstream the passage quickly deteriorates into a series of crawls among large boulders. Seventy feet upstream of Fall Entrance the stream flows from a low bedding plane which continues for 230 feet, averaging fifteen inches high and sometimes so choked with gravel that excavation was needed.

One hundred feet north of Fall Entrance daylight can be seen from the left and a short distance upstream of this point the bedding plane can be entered from the surface, through the Brambles Entrance. Some 300 feet upstream of Fall Entrance the stream flows over a gravel bank filling the bedding plane to within six inches of the roof. Daylight is visible at this point. The daylight probably comes from a long surface depression, at the foot of which the stream can be seen flowing along a gravel choked bedding plane. The total length of the cave is about 300 feet.

Survey 1 – Upstream Chambers, Cradle Hole

Survey 1 – Upstream Chambers, Cradle Hole

Survey 2 – Monastir Cliff System

Survey 2 – Monastir Cliff System

Survey 3 – Aghinrawn CaveSurvey 3 – Aghinrawn Cave

Survey 4 – Pollnabrock Caves

Survey 4 – Pollnabrock Caves

Survey 5 – Kilmoon Stream Cave and Cloolagheen Swallet

Survey 5 – Kilmoon Stream Cave and Cloolagheen Swallet

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