Slaughter Stream Cave (to Kuwait Passage and back via Coal Seam Passage)

27 June 2011

Posted by
Matt Ewles

After caving for seven years without ever visiting the Forest of Dean I was very excited about our trip to Slaugter Stream. It sounded too good to be true - a mainly horizontal sprawling system with a main streamway and interesting formations. What more could you want!

We drove down on the Friday night, in the pouring rain, arriving at Rushmere Farm campsite near Coleford at around 11:30pm (also in the pouring rain). Saturday morning the weather had improved and it was an overcast but mild, almost warm, morning. After collecting the key we arrived at the parking spot, at the exact grid reference indicated by Selected Caves (parking is actually on a narrow grass embankment opposite a garden). Finding the entrance is easy, simply walk across the field towards a telegraph pole, across the style, and bear right and follow the track down into the depression with the gated entrance.

The entrance comprises several ladder climbs of excellent construction, a testimony to the dedication and resourcefulness of the local cavers (and an apparant fetish for solid steel ladders). Four ladders down and a short stoop then reaches the pitch from where a couple of anchors allow a less than perfect hang down the first section (you can kick off the wall to prevent rope rub), followed by a much better hang for the second section. The SRT is very easy indeed, and a 40m rope would have been more than adequate (we came armed unnecessarily with a 60m).

From the bottom of the pitch a couple of minutes of awkward crawling on gravel reaches the main streamway.

Following the Selected Caves description, we followed the main streamway downstream, taking the obvious dry bypass to sumps one and two (passing the obvious entrance to Coal Seam Passage on the right) to return to the streamway for a pleasant and easy trip down towards Sump three. Just prior to Sump three, the streamway widens and gains an impressive T-shape canyon, well worth seeing.

Just before Sump three an obvious passage on the right leads for some distance through stooping and crawling into Kuwait Passage. This is basically a perfectly straight line rift passage, interspersed with crawls breaking up the rift-like sections. The rift walls further on are jet black, very unusual indeed and worth seeing. We reached the nice helictites that Selected Caves had promised, pushed on a little further but when the formations ran out we decided to turn around.

Returning upstream, we took Coal Seam Passage to complete the round trip. From this point onwards, Selected Caves is slightly vague so follow this description:

Coal Seam Passage is a fairly straightforward passage, stooping, stomping and crawling, fairly mundane with no notable features and continuing for longer than desirable before popping up through blocks at The Connection into a medium sized chamber. The way on is left as you climb up from Coal Seam, as a well worn slither through a boulder choke into another chamber. From here routefinding is not immediately obvious (and it is a little hazy in my mind) however, by a process of elimination, a worn low crawl can be followed for approximately 20-30m to emerge after only a couple of minutes into the massive passage of The Chunnel at a T-junction.

Left leads up to the main North West passage of the cave (a separate trip in itself) however, right is the way on and this stomps for a short distance down the Chunnel until an obvious right turn is reached. Follow this past The Graveyard (bones are seen) and straight on until water is heard coming down a dead end aven on the left (possibly no water in dry weather). Straight on in the obvious passage another aven is seen and heard on the left. Climb down this aven (this is an easy staggered climb with water entering on the left part way down) to reach floor level. From here there is only one way on, through a crawl in the water to emerge in stomping streamway only 30m upstream from the entrance crawl leading back to the bottom of the entrance pitch.

We surfaced at about 4:30pm into glorious warm sunshine. A quick refresh and beer at the campsite was followed by a drive up to Symonds Yat West where we left the car and pub-crawled our way back to the campsite at Rushmere Farm (including a pub-ferry across the river to an excellent pub in Symonds Yat East serving superb food and beer).

Slaughter Stream is a superb trip and I am looking forward to returning to do the other main passages in the future.

I can highly recommend Rushmere Farm in Coleford for camping - they were extremely friendly, happy for us to arrive very late on the friday night, happy with groups of cavers, only £6 pppn and nice facilities and good flat camping fields.