We were here with Cwmni Da (S4C) filming an eitem on Darwin's tour for a programme called "Darn Bach o Hanes" to be broadcast in the New Year (2012). I had been invited to present the item, for which, to paraphrase Darwin's words "I will never cease to be thankful". This is not a site that is open to the public and therefore the presenting job provided me with a rare opportunity to visit the cave and to do so in the company of local historian Meuric Lloyd Davies.
Meuric in fact, I had met a week earlier when I attended the St Asaph Archaeology Society Christmas Party, and it was so interesting to hear Meuric's stories of visiting and exploring the cave during their childhood years - what a playground and what a brilliant place to explore, if a little dangerous of course with high cliffs etc.
The Cave itself is a SSSI, we saw bats inside the cave and also sadly many recent "archaeological remains", ranging from beer bottles to candles and some very modern cave paintings - some time in the future there will be archaeologists talking about "ritual activity" in the C21st at the Cave - a multi period site indeed !
The one thing that struck me was the length of this limestone cave and the Victorian period steps - either rock cut or stone built steps leading to two other entrancaes to the caves. As the old photographs show this must have been a popular destination for Victorian Visitors / tourists and an ideal picnic spot looking down on the River Elwy.
During the filming we talked about Darwin's discoveries here - at a time when finds were still scattered on the floor of the cave and also the implications of all this - the very fact that "the facts" as presented by Book of Genesis would now come under the microscope - made these pioneers of geology, archaeology and eventually via Darwins publication "On The Origin of Species" in 1859 - brave men indeed - heretics almost and it was so sad in a way to read out Sedgwick's letter to his former student as the closing piece of the eitem
"I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false & grievously mischievous.”
Rhys Mwyn inside near Vicorian steps