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Team: Joanne, Tim, Colin, Aisling, John
Route: In dry entrance, down towards Bronx Maze, back to Grand Canyon, down to Coleman Corner and on to Emma's Hall. Back through maze parallel to Emma's Hall, down to Sphynx, Tortoise Chamber and Mud Hall. Return to dry entrance.
Approximate trip lenght: 3 and 1/2 to 4 hours

It was decided some time ago to get away from the Burren and explore some of Irelands other caving areas. Earlier attempts at Ovens cave proved unsuccessful and lengthy walks around in the scrub lead to not much else then a few scratched knees. It was then decided to get back on to our roots and get Colin down to show us the way. Contact was made with John Savage of UCC, who is carrying out some work on Cloyne cave, to shed some light on the caves in the area.

We entered the cave at mid day to what is aptly named the maze. The cave itself looks like something from a kids film with many tunnels and junctions that the baddies and monsters could be hiding down. Previous cavers have laid down a mass of horse tape and twine to aid the finding of ones way....if you don't trip over them and kill yourself first! John has been studying in this cave for over 3 years and it was certainly comforting to know that he knew the way out. Otherwise, I would have been very glad of these 'finding devices'.

The going is mucky in general, as can be seen from photos taken by Aisling and Colin, but it is worth it. It is a strange and usual cave with odd shaped rock and mud formations, slinky passages and eerie poke holes. There are some areas with impressive straw formations and a few well established columns but generally the appeal of the cave is more in the shape of the rocks, the quantity of mud and the maze nature rather then its calcite formations. There are also some strange hard black substance on the cracks of some of the walls that was clay deposits which had then been smeared out due to tectonic stresses. These were all were aligned in an east-west direction. A long bellie and knee crawl leads to Straw Hall which could hold a candle to the straw formations in the Burren. The crawling is easy on the knees however, due to the vast quantities of soft sticky clay mud.

We were assured that the mud dripping from the roof was merely the mess left behind after the water levels regulate in the cave every summer. The cave spends the majority of the year under a very high water table in the area and is generally only accessible from March until September. Route finding is the most important aspect of the cave, with passages off to the left and right every few meters. As the cave was formed under pheatic conditions, with water expanding the cracks in the rock, there are many ways to get lost. Taking the left right, left right approach may not work, as cavers of the past have found out, with some being lost down here for over 2 days. Also due to the amount of mud it is hard to keep anything clean, especially when changing batteries and getting the connection mud free. The cave also holds the record of the longest stay underground, with cavers camping down there for 3 days straight.

We crawled through Mud Hall to the terminal chamber, or terminal mud wall. From here we followed the finding tape back to the dry entrance and left the cave for a power hosing down at about 3:30pm. It may not be the most calcite fantastic cave in the country but it definitely holds some appeal for future photography for the unusual rock shapes and mud banks. Watch this space!
amazing mud cracks in cloyne cavegroup in cloyne caveColin John Tim Joanne and aisling exiting cloyne cavejoanne in cloyne cave