Saturday, 2 November 2013

A Caving Adventure in the Beacons

Tuesday we went to Dan yr Ogof Caves in the Brecon Beacons.  I'd been planning a trip ever since a friend gave us her free family ticket a couple of weeks ago.  At first I was going to take Grandma during her visit and just take the two smallest, since the older ones went with school back in the summer.  The weather was never favourable on the days when we could have gone, however, so we decided to make a Half Term trip with all of us.

Miss I, Mr J and Miss A have been raving about their visit the whole of the summer and were very keen to show off their knowledge of all things Dan yr Ogof.  So, on a slightly damp morning after the weekend storm - with the forecast for a bright day - we set off on the short journey into the Beacons to begin our adventure.  I was very impressed with myself for driving there - which I only got to do because Husband's back was hurting so he was (for once) willing to let me take the wheel.

We arrived just after 10am, not realising (along with a fair few others) that the ticket office didn't open until 10.30am.  While we waited there were a few dinosaurs to examine.  Suddenly the ticket office opened and we queued up only to discover that there were no toilets on the 'other side' - which when you have a two year old who is toilet trained is a definite disadvantage.  While I bought the tickets Husband took Miss C into the cafe to use the facilities 'just in case'.  (I should note here that you can exit and enter the park as often as you want in the day, so this wouldn't be a worry for most people.)

As children two and under were free this meant with a "Two Adults, Two Children" family ticket, we only had to pay for one child - so for £8.50 seven of us got to go and explore.  A definite bargain.  The lad in the office was kind enough to warn me that there was a Halloween theme in the main Dan yr Ogof cave that might frighten small children.  Any one who read my earlier post on Halloween will understand why I was grateful for the warning.

We headed into the Dan yr Ogof cave, with Miss I, Mr J and Miss A telling us with great gusto of all the wonders we would see.  Mr J paused by the entrance and explained to us how the caves were formed.

As we wandered through the caverns I had to keep slowing them down so I could actually look around me - they were so intent on what was coming next.

A family that had entered before us were heading back out and I heard one of the children say to the others (in much the tone of voice mine would have used) "We don't celebrate the darkness, do we?  We celebrate the Light of God."  This statement made me both amused and aware that we were headed towards "something scary" and it wasn't long before we came to a small snow storm that warned us of the approaching 'Halloween Show'.  Killjoy that I am, I halted the rapid advance of the eldest three and we retraced our steps out of the cave again.

Then it was on to the other attractions in that area:

* an Iron Age Village, which was an excellent static display that could be viewed from the path.  It would have been much more fun if we could have explored it properly up close, especially if there had been real people 'living' there and explaining their lives in the way you sometimes find at historical attractions.

 * the Dinosaur Park, which consists basically of lots of large model dinosaurs set in the area between caves with their names and details of where their fossils were found.  As Husband pointed out the maps were a little excentric - for example Mongolia  located somewhere in the southern part of China.  The children didn't care about that, though.  The dinosaurs had been one of the things that had particularly impressed them on their visit with the school, and they were still fascinated.

* the Cathedral Cave, in which - the children were keen to point out - you could get married, and wet...  Hopefully any bridal party would be warned to take umbrellas to avoid the latter.

* the Bone Cave, which I refused to take the children into as I have a 'small problem' with small spaces and it is a particularly low cave.  Husband would have taken them but couldn't have bent over with his sore back.  Miss A was particularly disappointed by this as she hadn't been able to go in during the school visit.

* Finally, the Museum, which had a few very simple displays covering the extinction of the dinosaurs, Iron Age society and modern wildlife issues.  The most interesting display for us was of the feathered dinosaur which Daddy explained to the Children was an ancestor of our Chickens.

Then it was back out of the cave section of the site, a quick toilet stop and a short picnic in the car since it was raining. 

At this stage I was tired from carrying Mr M in the sling (they don't recommend taking a buggy as access is limited), Husband was struggling somewhat with his back, and Miss C was getting tired.

We weren't finished yet, though.  A short walk down the hill to the entrance brings you to the Shire Horse Centre and Farm which is included in the ticket.

At the Shire Horse Centre there were a couple of Shire Horses, some Shetland Ponies (one of which shared Miss A's birthday) and some static displays of  Victorian life which the children found reasonably interesting - especially the blacksmith scene ("man with hammer" as Miss C said).

After a quick visit to the horses and static displays in the drizzle, we headed into the play barn for some shelter.

It was empty when we arrived there just ahead of a heavy rain shower, so all four older children were able to enjoy playing (despite the age restriction of 6-10 years), and we must have spent a good hour there - eventually we were joined by some other families and I was struck again by the social confidence of our tribe as they welcomed the two or three children who entered their new domain.

There are slides and bridges and climbing nets and a fort - basically everything a group of small children could desire.  Miss C struggled initially getting onto the play apparatus (she is only 2) but as soon as we took her socks off she was away!

Finally, we headed back outside and as the weather was clear we took some time to enjoy the interesting combination of standing stones and mountains, rheas and ducks, goats and llamas.

Then it was time to struggle back up the hill to the car, which Miss C pitifully worried had been taken (I think because she didn't know why it was so far away).  We then discovered that our car was blocked by a few badly positioned cars in the second row of parking.  This meant that Husband, much to his relief, had to drive the car out of the parking place and home since I didn't feel confident manoeuvring in the tight space.

All in all it was a fun but tiring day and if you're in the area on holiday it's well worth a visit.  It was a shame that the weather wasn't brilliant as apart from the caves themselves there is very little shelter, and I would have liked a few more 'interactive' elements to have engaged with.  The play barn was a definite plus (although if we had stuck to the age rules we wouldn't have been able to stay there long as Miss A and Miss I wouldn't have been able to play) and it was interesting to see the contrast of ancient and modern throughout the park.  I doubt we would have visited if we hadn't had the free ticket, however - but then we very rarely visit places we have to pay for with five children.  I was also glad we didn't have far to drive!

I'm linking this post up with Country Kids!
 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


  1. Sounds like there is so much to do there and looks great outdoor fun too. I'm with you though I couldn't have gone in the caves! The Iron Age village looks really good but what a shame they haven't done more with it so you can explore. Definitely a bargain for the price!

  2. Jocelyn (@ihavecards)2 November 2013 at 11:24

    Wow - loads to do there, looks like a brilliant way to spend a day. We've been to Wookey Hole caves, though Boo wasn't keen down there, and I wasn't too sure of them myself!

  3. Last time I went to Wookey Hole I was about 8, but I remember being pretty impressed. Dan yr Ogof is more low key, I think, but still lots to do.

  4. It was a lot of fun, but was hard work dodging the rain! I would have loved to have had a closer look at the Iron Age village, but I guess then you have to have more staff to protect the exhibits.

  5. Sara (@mumturnedmom)2 November 2013 at 22:21

    Wow, what an amazing place! Love the look of the caves. There was so much to do, what a busy day :) You must have been exhausted!

  6. There is a lot to do, but it doesn't take long to do any of it! About 15-20 minutes in each of the caves... We were tired though!

  7. Coombe Mill (Fiona)4 November 2013 at 22:08

    For the price you paid it definitely looks like you had a bargain day out! There was quite a lot to see and do and the caves look brilliant places to explore. Thanks for linking up and sharing your visit with Country Kids.

  8. It was a real bargain. The children loved the caves, although they were so busy running ahead they didn't really look around them at the amazing water sculpture!

  9. This looks like so much fun! I can't wait until my daughter is a bit older so she will enjoy this kind of thing. Thanks for the comment on my blog - I look forward to reading more :)

  10. It was a lovely time out as a family and even the two year old got quite a lot out of it which was great.


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