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Ashford Caves entrance photo courtesy Bob Brown and Dr Nancy Vickery

Entrance to Ashford Caves

Ashford Caves

Latitude -29.207586, Longitude 150.984005

Located in the New England Region of NSW, nearest town Ashford

Source:Office of Environment & Heritage, National Parks and Wildlife service, Guide to New South Wales Karst and Caves.

Link to Detailed Map

Ashford Caves is within the traditional area of the Kwiambal people. Tragically, many members of this indigenous group were killed by gangs of armed ex-convicts, who roamed the area after 1830.

Ashford Caves are situated in a National Park named for the Kwiambal people and their ancestors and this park protects many places of significance to local Aboriginal groups.

From 1916 to 1967, at least 3 of the Ashford Caves were sporadically mined for their phosphate -rich bat droppings (guano) which was used as fertiliser. The current entry to Ashford Main Cave is actually the result of an excavation of 1-2 metres of guano from the cave floor and then tunnelling through the bedrock.

Ashford Main Cave is horizontal in form, allowing easy access for visitors, outside of the summer bat-maternity season. During this period, when thousands of threatened species of bats use the caves as a birthing site, access is limited as disturbance can result in the abandonment and mortality of infant bats.

Ashford Caves occurs on the northern edge of a limestone outcrop, which stretches for 10 kilometres along Limestone Creek. The area's limestone is Carboniferous in age (about 330 million years old) and was metamorphosed into marble by the heat and pressure generated when nearby volcanic and igneous rocks formed.

Ashford Main Cave has approximately 560 metres of horizontal passage, with two main entrances and a number of smaller openings. However, while relatively large in size, the cave only has a limited number of intact decorations because of past mining activity and dissolution by bat waste.

Four types of fossil bone-rich sediments have been discovered in Ashford Caves. While the age of these sediments is unknown, they are considered palaeontologically significant as they lie between the Late Tertiary deposits of the Darling Downs and Riversleigh areas in Queensland (15 to 1.8 million years in age) and the 30,000-year-old Quaternary deposits found at Wellington in NSW. The sediments are also thought to have high potential to provide valuable information on past environmental conditions and the make-up of local fauna, although to date their use for these purposes has generally been limited.

Locally significant, the limestone caves of Kwiambal National Park are adjacent to the magnificent Macintyre and Severn rivers. These rivers are framed by spectacular, steep-sided gorges in their lower sections, and contain numerous waterfalls such as the popular Macintyre and Severn River Falls. Surrounding and complementing these features is a landscape dominated by huge granite boulders and rugged hills.

Getting There

Ashford Caves lies within Kwiambal National Park, which is located in the New England Region of NSW approximately 220 kilometres north of Armidale and 90kms north of Inverell. To reach the caves, follow the signs from Ashford Village for approximately 28kms. The area immediately surrounding Ashford Caves contains picnic tables and public toilets. Kwiambal National Park offers spectacular waterfalls, walks and camping areas and provides excellent opportunities for swimming and fishing in a number of locations.

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