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  The 26km² enclosed depression of Matienzo is about 30km south east of Santander in northern Spain. The imperviously-floored valley is surrounded by limestone hills with water resurging into the basin at a number of points and sinking at the northern end. Notable caves are included in the 5158 documented sites, e.g. The Four Valleys System (67.4km long), Cueva Vallina (35.5km) and the almost-linked South Vega System (34.8km). There are also numerous sites of archaeological interest, with extensive Iron Age deposits. Scientific work by staff and students from Lancaster University has revealed past climates with possible links to the Neanderthal demise.

   A major Spanish caving expedition took place in the summer of 1964 and British-led caving expeditions have been occuring up to 3 or 4 times a year since the late 60‘s. The length of known cave passage in the area has risen from some five or six km to 404km (February 2022). On average, three to five kilometres of cave are found each year, although in 1989, 2008 and 2009 over 15km, 13km and 14.8km respectively was surveyed. Cave diving has resulted in new discoveries and collaboration with Spanish groups has resulted in new cave exploration. An area map shows the major caves.

   Permission to explore is given by the Cantabrian government and Spanish speleological authorities within both geographical (about 106km²) and time limits. Good relations are kept with the villagers, the caving authorities, and other spanish caving groups. We have had the support of the Ghar Parau Foundation which recommended grants for many years. Recent grants to the Matienzo Caves Project Expeditions can be seen here.
  During the expeditions, many cavers camp in the field behind Casa Germán. The restaurant here is also the HQ - a computing and drawing up area. Hostel accommodation is available at La Taberna in the village, at Casa Tomás in Ogarrio and at the Restaurante Pension Anjana near Ramales. There are also a number of self-catering facilities within a few kilometres of Matienzo.

(Updated February 2022) 

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