Milestone Date for UK's Finest Natural Wonder as Caves Celebrate 100 Years; MAZE OF TUNNELS DISCOVERED BY MORGAN BROTHERS IN 1912

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 21, 2012 | Go to article overview

Milestone Date for UK's Finest Natural Wonder as Caves Celebrate 100 Years; MAZE OF TUNNELS DISCOVERED BY MORGAN BROTHERS IN 1912


Byline: ROBIN TURNER

A HUNDRED years ago today the labyrinth of spectacular caves beneath Dan-yr-Ogof in the Swansea Valley lay undiscovered.

A century later and now known as the National Showcaves Centre For Wales, the maze of underground tunnels are among Wales' best-known visitor attractions, welcoming more than 70,000 tourists a year.

Set in the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park, in 2005 the caves won a TV search for "Britain's finest natural wonder" beating off competition from the likes of the Cheddar Gorge and even the iconic White Cliffs of Dover.

The caves have hosted concerts and weddings and were used during World War II to hide art treasures in the event of a Nazi invasion.

And the attraction now also boasts one of the biggest full-scale model dinosaur parks in the world as well as a replica iron age hill farm, a Victorian farm, a museum, a collection of working shire horses and a millennium stone circle.

The discovery of the caves was down to present day owner Ashford Price's heroic relatives, local farming brothers Tommy and Jeff Morgan, who were the first to discover the caves in modern times on August 21, 1912.

The Morgan brothers were not initially looking for a vast cave system but were trying to find the source of water which was constantly pouring out from a cave entrance on their farm at Dan yr Ogof in the Upper Swansea Valley.

Not knowing what they would find underground, the intrepid brothers armed themselves with a revolver and took along ropes, candles and supplies of food.

The brothers' initial expedition was halted by a large lake so, using arrows marked in sand and earth to find their way back, they returned to the surface to get a coracle in which they crossed the "underground sea".

The pair discovered a wonderland of spectacular underground stalactites and stalagmites which dated back to the time of the dinosaurs.

They eventually crossed three more lakes in the same manner, but were stopped by a tight crawl. Once the caves had been discovered the Morgan farmers took tourists on trips into the caves using candles to light their way.

Mr Price said: "Tourists in the early days of the attraction were expected to wade and swim through icy cold water, to climb underground cliffs and negotiate huge boulders covered in slimy mud. …

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