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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

In a dark dark hole… a visit to the Welsh showcaves

I am standing in a dark, echoing cave, carved by millions of years of rain water trickling through. The air grows cooler as you pass through the entrance. The underground labyrinth has begun.

I weave my way through the stalagmites and stalactites in the Dan-yr-Ogof cave brushing my fingers against the stone, wondering how many droplets of water it took to make it this smooth.

Water is dripping from the ceiling and I can hear what sounds like a waterfall in the background.

The rasher of bacon, by Rachel Slater- Flikr

The rasher of bacon, by Rachel Slater- Flikr

Round the dimly lit corner is a pillar of stone in a pool of water- a stalagmite and stalactite which have met each other on their quest upward and downward.

Cascading from the ceiling is a frozen waterfall of fingers hanging down.

And then… a rasher of bacon? A bizarre looking stone which unbelievably does look like a rasher of bacon.

This is followed by a group of stalagmites called the nuns and the angel.

At the far end is a real treat. The waterfall  I heard in the background from before. You have never seen a waterfall until you have seen an underground waterfall, truly spectacular. There is something about the sound of water falling onto rock that seems so peaceful.

As I reemerge from the cave, the humidity of the warm air outside (yes it is still Wales) comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise.

The sun is shining as I make my way up a very steep hill to the Cathedral cave.

Cathedral cave is huge. Water is flowing from the rock face above and there is a small river floating through to collect it. At the far end is a pulpit of flowers and a sign saying couples are able to get married in the cave- hence the name. Sounds like a pretty cool idea for an alternative wedding. But I leave pretty quickly as the area is already getting crowded.

Below is a video of the daytrip to the caves. Shot at the end is the water leaving the caves and forming the River Lynfell. You can take a virtual tour of the caves, which are in the Brecon Beacons in Wales with this link. More photos to come, so watch this space.


Filed under: Activities, blog posts, Cardiff sport, Videos, , , ,

Cardiff student first in Wales to get judo black belt through school system

A CARDIFF student is the first person in Wales to achieve a black belt in Judo through the school system.

Joe Troughton, 17, beat five black-belt opponents through ipon strikes (knock-outs) in the Welsh National Judo Championships in December last year and was awarded a black belt for his achievement.

Mr Troughton started training at the Cathedral school in Llandaff in September 2000 with independent coach Steve Withers.

Mr Withers said: “Joe has managed to achieve this before he has even started shaving and five months before his 18th birthday.

“It was a fantastic achievement especially as the men he beat were all heavier, older and a higher grade than Joe.”

Mr Withers said there are a number of other promising young pupils including 14-year-old Edward Pearce who has just achieved his brown belt with the school.

Since gaining his black belt Mr Troughton has started training with adults at the Cardiff Central Youth Club as there is no longer anyone good enough to match his talent at the school.

The judo club at the Cardiff Youth Centre train on Wednesday and Friday evenings. For more details contact Kirsty Macentee on

Filed under: Cardiff News, Cardiff sport, Martial Arts, Portfolio

Good news for Cardiff surfers as bilingual surf shop opens in the city centre

Lobster Bob, sponsors of the Welsh surf team, have opened a bilingual surf shop in Cardiff city centre.

The shop, which covers two small floors, opened last week on Queen Street opposite the Capitol Centre. There are Santa Cruz surfboards, Gill wetsuits and a range of surf clothing brands including their own Lobster Bob range. They also do board wax but only under the Billabong brand.

Lobster Bob also arrange surf lessons both for beginners and advanced surfers. Beginner sessions start at £25 and there is an opportunity for sessions with four-times British surf champion Simon Tucker. There are also opportunities to arrange rib rides in the bay.

Lobster Bob also sponsor the Welsh Thundercat racing team and surf kayaker Nathan Eades who is ranked number nine in the world.


The Welsh surf team outside Lobster Bob on the day of the opening

John Davies, owner of Lobster Bob, said: “As a welsh company we decided to sponsor the Welsh team to promote and encourage Welsh youth to partake in a hugely exciting sport.

“We decided to move to the city centre having had a successful six months down in Mermaid Quay, and decided what Cardiff needed was a quality outlet that not only stocked great clothing but also great technical gear that allowed people to try different water activities.

“In our first week we’ve had a really positive response from the general public, who both love the location and the range of products at very competitive prices.

“The plan for 2009 is to double the amount of stores again, get involved in more water based activities, run the British Surf kayaking championships and support all our team riders!”

The Cardiff shop is Lobster Bob’s second shop as they also have one in Brighton. Mr Davies hopes the new store will be as successful as their previous location at Mermaid Quay in Cardiff Bay.

Filed under: Cardiff News, Cardiff sport, Surfing, ,

Shaolin Monks Wheel Of Life

The world-renowned Shaolin Monks performed their Wheel Of Life show this week at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.

As Cardiff families found their seats and awaited the start of the performance, a musky incense smell filled the air. A loud recorded voice, explaining the story of the monks and their beliefs in the Wheel Of Life, marked the start of the show.

The hall dimmed. Through the incense smoke, the monks emerged, entering through the audience in a ritualistic slow march with the elder monks leading the way. As they climbed up onto the stage, they bowed to the Budda carefully painted on the backdrop and sat cross-legged meditating through the show’s back-story.

Five young monks, aged maybe only six or seven, started the move sequences by flying across the stage in phenomenal acrobatics and demonstrating their incredible flexibility. This drew excited gasps from one youngster in the audience who could not help shouting out “wow” from his seat. Later the young monks also demonstrated their perseverance through five-minute-long headstands and upward splits at either side of the stage.

The elder monks were next, demonstrating the speed and the cleanness of their moves in what looked like the drunken monkey and praying mantis style (see below video clips).

Above: drunken monkey style, below: praying mantis style

Afterwards, especially for audience members with little specific kung-fu knowledge, they demonstrated bare-foot walking over razor blades – proven to be sharp through the ferocious slicing of a melon, followed by a monk-nail sandwich which made the audience squeal with anticipated pain. A Chinese dragon dance with music strummed gently on stage, was performed for those more interested in the artistic element of the Chinese culture.

Almaas Yusuf, 22, a Wing Chung Kung-Fu enthusiast, said: “I wasn’t so sure about the stunts with a super-natural edge to them, like the shattering of spears, but it was impressive to see some very complex kung-fu moves being performed without flaw.”

When asked if he would come again he said: “Maybe, although I do think this show focused on the artistic and spiritual side of kung-fu.”

Two day earlier, the monks gave a taster performance to the media (see video clip below) to encourage a huge audience. Sadly on the evening, the hall was only half packed – perhaps people were unaware of the show or maybe there are not many martial arts enthusiasts in Cardiff.

All round it is a fantastic show to watch if you have some martial arts knowledge but for those just looking for entertainment, the show is perhaps lacking some theatrical components. A basic kung-fu knowledge makes it easier to appreciate the complexity, training and hard work which goes into accomplishing the flexibility and technique required for the move sequences. However, the monks did to some seem bored by the show – perhaps because they have repeated the same routine so many times or perhaps because the element of realism is foregone in place of commercialisation.

Out of five, the show gets two stars for entertainment and four stars for martial arts technique.

It is also worth noting that the view from the upper side-stalls in St David’s Hall is not particularly good and it made you feel slightly disconnected from the atmosphere of the show.

The monk’s public relations officer has not return emails asking for comment.

Filed under: blog posts, Cardiff sport, Martial Arts, Reviews, , , , ,

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