Orchid Cave


I came upon Orchid Cave one winters day in 2000 as I wandered through the Big Covert, the path was covered in a blanket of pristine snow and mine were the only footprints as I trudged through the snow. That was until I stumbled across the prints of a Badger cutting across the path and heading uphill. I decided to follow, who knows I could find a new Badger Set or even a cave. The prints lead me straight to a cave I had no knowledge of, the prints didn’t disappear down the cave but walked past it. The entrance was triangular in shape and about a metre high, it was time to venture in. The passage descended steeply but fortunately steps had been cut into it making it easier for me to exit. At the bottom of the shaft the cave disappeared off to the right in a passage too small for me to enter. Rummaging amongst the deposit at the bottom of the shaft I found the bones of Badger and Sheep, and surprisingly, what looked like the proximal end of a human ulna. The steps cut into the passage and the mound outside the cave suggested that the cave had been excavated but by whom, I had no idea?


The cave is difficult to locate as it is in the middle of a large forest with no obvious features to mark it, other than a limestone ridge that runs north – south. A GPS reading placed it 100 metres east of Maeshafn Cave. Visiting the cave again in 2002 I found the cave was being excavated with equipment lying around to remove soil from the cave. I searched the spoils and uncovered the canine of a wild boar and a human toe bone. Whoever was digging was not an archaeologist. 

Searching some old records, I found a reference to an Orchid Cave in the Big Covert that had been excavated 23 years earlier by a Dr. G Guillbert, could this be the cave? It transpires that the cave yielded the remains of three human individuals with a radiocarbon date of 4,170 BP placing them in the Neolithic. Along with the human remains were a few flint implements and a carved bone toggle. Potholers have opened up the cave further and each time they leave a bag of bones that have been uncovered whilst they have been searching for that cave that might open up a new cave system, every potholer's dream. Each time there are more human bones in the bag whether they represent another individual or belong to the original three is not known. It is not a cave that would be habitable and so like Maeshafn Cave, this one has been utilised for sepulchral purposes. 

John Denton Blore