Published: 11 September 2023

Almost £3,000 worth of coins have been salvaged from a Dan-yr-Ogof pool, thanks to the ingenuity of two Wales Air Ambulance volunteers and the generosity of the Showcaves and South Wales Metal Finishing.

Inside one of the Swansea Valley-based Dan-yr-Ogof caves is Coracle Pool, which has a sign asking the public to ‘throw in a coin’ for the Wales Air Ambulance. Earlier this year, the pool was emptied and the money was kindly donated to the all-Wales Charity.

Sadly, the money recovered was in poor condition and needed significant cleaning before it could be cashed in at the bank and used to support the Charity’s lifesaving work. 

Dedicated Wales Air Ambulance volunteers, Graham Hirst and Barbara Williams, who have supported the Charity for over ten years, were determined to salvage the donation, which equated to £2,895. 

Graham located a firm in Treorchy called ‘South Wales Metal Finishing’, which was able to process metal. He said: “I was sat in the house one evening and it dawned on me to try a metal platers, after not having much luck with other avenues. I came across South Wales Metal Finishing and they were extremely helpful.”

The firm had never cleaned money before but agreed to take a sample to see if it could be saved.

Luc Demaid, Production Director for South Wales Metal Finishing, said: “When we heard from Graham, we thought ‘let’s have a look and see what we can do’. We have cleaned manufactured metal buttons in the past so thought it might be similar.”

Fortunately, the sample had been successfully cleaned and the family-run business kindly offered to clean the whole amount, free of charge. The process involved numerous trips to Treorchy due to the weight of the coins.

Barbara said: “It took eight trips to the company because the buckets were so heavy but I am so glad that we managed to salvage it and the money wasn’t wasted.”

Luc Demaid said: “We carried out the cleaning process by placing the coins in our barrel processing equipment and rotated them in industrial cleaning solution before rinsing them several times in clean water. They were then centrifugally dried ready for collection.

“Many of us have witnessed Wales Air Ambulance in medical emergencies locally and recognise how the Charity is an essential facility in saving lives. We appreciate what they do and were more than happy to assist in this small way.”

The kind donation from Dan-yr-Ogof is part of an ongoing partnership between the National Showcaves Centre for Wales and the Charity. Last year, it announced that Wales Air Ambulance had been chosen as its Charity of Choice for five years. The partnership was created with the help of Wales Air Ambulance volunteer, Veronica Evans.

Since then, the popular tourist attraction has raised money via ‘The Charity Express’, a land train that transports visitors between the National Showcaves Centre and the Shire Horse Centre and Farm. Dan-yr-Ogof also has collection boxes across the Centre.

Ashford Price, Chairman of Dan-Yr-Ogof, said: “We have seen first-hand the work of the Wales Air Ambulance where one of our staff went into a diabetic coma and the service probably saved her life. We are really pleased that we were able to donate such a large sum from a small underground lake 500 ft below the surface.

"This is in addition to the dedicated Air Ambulance land train, where a commentary is played to visitors about the wonderful work that the Air Ambulance do and then requesting a donation.

"There are also more fundraising ideas to come, maybe involving one of our dinosaurs.”

Dr Sue Barnes, Wales Air Ambulance Chief Executive, said: “This is a remarkable story and highlights the importance of our volunteers and the incredible generosity of the organisations involved. This collaboration between Dan-yr-Ogof, Graham and Barbara, and South Wales Metal Finishing has contributed a significant amount to our lifesaving service.

“It was a wonderful gesture from Dan-yr-Ogof to donate the money and we are very grateful for their continued support as their Charity of Choice. Likewise, South Wales Metal Finishing is a great example of how businesses can support our Charity by supplying services that would have otherwise cost us, or in this case, lost us money. 

"Our volunteers have played a significant role in our relationship with Dan-Yr-Ogof, with the initial partnership being instigated by Veronica. In the case of the salvaged money, Graham and Barbara went over and above to ensure that the significant amount of money collected did not go to waste and that the people of Wales could benefit from it through our lifesaving service.

 “My heartfelt thanks go to all those involved.”