South Wales Caving Club celebrates 75 years

Fred Levett addresses the members and friends of SWCC at their 75th anniversary.

Anybody visiting Powell Street, Penwyllt, in the last 18 months would have noticed how little activity there has been, largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the restrictions imposed on social activities. As if determined to demonstrate that they are very much still around and keen to get on with caving, members of South Wales Caving Club recently celebrated their 75th anniversary in style. A late summer pig roast took place on 29th August, attended by approximately 150 members and friends.

The evening commenced with an auction of donated items to raise money for the South and Mid-Wales Cave Rescue Team. With all vehicles being kept out of the car park in front of the SWCC HQ, there was plenty of space for a large marquee, and a field kitchen to cope with the large number of attendees, many of whom were camping. Something in the order of £1100 was raised.

The auction to raise funds for SMWCRT raised about £1100

As the light faded following a superbly sunny late August day, the attendees gathered around to hear SWCC President Fred Levett give a speech, celebrating the long life of the club, the numerous members who have sadly passed away, and the long service given by Brian Clipstone, SWCC cottage warden until very recently, when the baton was passed to Graham Christian. Before Chris Grimmett’s sudden demise, Graham and Chris has been secretly working on a memento to present to Brian, and it was with much delight that Brian accepted a highly polished brass water cock which had been found lurking in the dusty inner recesses of the cottage workshop. The cock had been mounted on a nice wooden base, and was handed to Brian with clear instructions to give it a good polish every day.

In previous years, the traditional celebratory feast at SWCC has been a pig roast, with one member, Chris Grimmett, having been the master roaster. Tragically, Chris died suddenly while out running, and the roast was undertaken by a local business and brought by van onto site for a 7:30pm start. There was more than enough for a good meal, and quite a bit left for second helpings.

Brian Clipstone receives his long service award as retired Cottage Warden.

Chris Grimmett had been a caver since the 1970s, and had been the SWCC Treasurer. Many of his friends both past and more recent from a number of clubs were there to celebrate his life. For me and, no doubt, for many others, it was a great pleasure to renew acquaintances with cavers I had not seen for many years, in one instance for more than 35 years. Equally, it was very encouraging to see so many young cavers at Penwyllt, surely a sign of hope for the future.

One of the Powell Street outhouses was converted into “Ye Olde Ferret and Dumper” and fully stocked with 6 casks of fine ale – Hepworth’s Sussex bitter, Hog’s Back Brewery TEA, Beeston’s “Worth the Wait” and Cheddar Ales’ “Gorge Best”, along with a good selection of bottled beverages. Friends attended from other clubs; these included Chelsea Speleological Society, Croydon Caving Club, Exeter University Caving Club and Wealden Cave and Mine Society, amongst others.

As the country slowly opens up, and attempts to control the Covid-19 situation continue, we can see the determination of cavers to get back to some semblance of normality, while remaining cautious and sensible about how this is achieved. Congratulations to SWCC for a great weekend and an event to remember for a long time.

Correspondent: Peter Burgess