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By N.W. & J.P. Tuck

Editor:D.J. Irwin, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Somerset.

Further copies are available from B. M. Ellis, Knockauns, Combwich, Bridgwater, Somerset.



Some Roman sites shown as follows:-

      Legionary fortress

¦ Fort

•   Town

o  Settlement



Page 20, 2nd para, line 10 should read:-

found on Page 32).    The comb was        …………..


We wish to express our appreciation of the help given by many-people, who willingly gave information and  encouragement.

We are particularly indebted to: -

Dr. H. N. Savory, M.A., F.S.A., and Mr. G. C. Boon, B.A., F.S.A., F.R.N.S., of the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.

Mr. A. Griddle, B.Sc, Iff.Sc., who has made a detailed study of the mineralisation of this area.

Professor J. Piatt, and other staff of the University College of Wales, Department of Mineral Exploitation.

Members of the Forestry Commission, in particular Mr. Geoffrey Rose, and many caving friends.

We also wish to thank the Forestry Commission and Residual Lands Limited who allowed us to carry out this exploration.


Permission to explore the workings within the forest must be sought from the Forestry Commission, whose local office is situated just south of the Maen Llwyd Inn, Rudry.

Permission should be obtained also from the holders of the Mineral Rights who are: -


Part of the area is leased to Glamorgan Naturalist Trust.


Roman Mine was first entered, in March 1965 by a party of four cavers including the authors.  (1)

The discovery was made quite by chance - we were Looking for Draethen Mine which we knew lay in one of the depressions.  While searching for the entrance to Draethei Mine we came across this depression which had a small hole in the bottom.  Stones dropped in fell an estimated distance of fifty feet, there was a strong draught, and the expedition to Draethen Mine was abandoned in the search of the unknown.

Much digging widened the small hole from about a foot across to a size big enough to let us through.  An incredible length of ladder was fed in (and unknown to us piled up on the slope inside! and we slid in down a long earthy slope.  Our excitement grew as we began to follow the passage, for beautiful stalactite and stalagmite was everywhere and we were sure that we were the first to see the mine probably since it was abandoned.  Charcoal lay everywhere, some with stalagmite formed over it; we became more convinced that we were in a mine of respectable age.  As we explored more passages, we came to the conclusion at the time that we were in a natural cave which had been much worked over and enlarged by the miners.  The walls were smooth and the stalactite so profuse that it was difficult, to believe otherwise, but this conclusion has since been proved erroneous.  In fact the delay in producing this report has been due so the ability of Roman Mine to produce constant surprises, and new evidence contradicting what seemed to be so certain a short time before.

It was not until about four hours later that we made our first important discovery within the mine.  At the end of one passage blocked by a pile of miners infill, lay a piece of pottery, and while searching among the rocks for more shards, we found pieces of comb carved out of bone.  The pottery was later identified as Roman, and we then knew that we had found something quite out of the ordinary.


The hill of Coed Gefn Pwll du lies on the south-eastern rim of the South Wales "basin and consists chiefly of Carboniferous Limestone.  The strata generally dips to the north-west, usually at an angle of between 20° and 35°, but this is variable.  The hill is associated with the Caerphilly Syncline .

Draethen Brook has cut its course mainly along the Old Red Sandstone, near its junction with the Lower Limestone shales, and above these shales lies the Carboniferous Limestone series.  At the north-western side of Coed Cefn Pwll du this limestone dips under the Millstone Grit, three coal seams (which have been mined) and eventually the Pennant Sandstone.  Coal can be seen outcropping along the forestry road which runs south from the forestry gate near Rhyd-y-gwern.  However, the whole area of the hill under which the mines Lie consists of Carboniferous Limestone which has been dolomitised, the succession being as follows: -

6.         Coal Measures

5.         Millstone Grit

4.         Dolomite (recrystallised with pseudobreccia)

3.         Lower Limestone Mudstone

2.         Lower Limestone Shales

1.         Old Red Sandstone

Within the dolomite mineralisation took place along the joint patterns which subsequently acted as loci of tectonic movement, faulting affecting most but not all of the complex vein systems.  Many of the mines were worked in the more intensely faulted and brecciated veins.  A. J. Griddle considers however that some of the ore bodies represent cavity or cave infilling, and the origin of the two kinds of mineralisation is still debatable.  (2)

Minerals  occurring (in order of decreasing quantity approximately) are : -

Barytes, calcite, galena; dolomite, Limonite, quartz; sulphides of copper - bornite, digenite, chalcopyrite; carbonates of lead, copper and zinc - cerrussite, anglesite, malachite, Smithsonite.  Sphalerite has recently been found in the cavity infill deposits near Rhyd-y-gwern and in the mining debris on the tram track leading down to Cwm Leyshon.



Whilst this report deals chiefly with the Roman Mine-Draethen Mine line of workings, a note will be made first of the various groups of mines in the vicinity.  These are :-

A.        Ochr-chwith.  

Extensive areas of large depressions, now grassed over, between Machen and Ochr-chwith, in dolomite as at Coed Cefn- pwll-du, and with similar minerals to be found in the vicinity.  Although there is faulting nearby, the mines are not on a fault line and the veins of barytes with galena appear to pre-date this faulting.

A possible reference is in the Tredegar MS. (3)  This is an article of agreement made in about 1665 for mining to take place "in the parish of Mauchon in the Co. of Monmouth.  .  . for one and twenty years".  The workings are well described in the Powis MS (4) which is tentatively dated to the last quarter of the 18th century.  (The extract is quoted in this Report, Ch. 7) William Coxe in his book of 1801 mentions 'mines of lead, calamine and coal' on Machen Hill, just west of Risca, which probably refers to at least some of these (5).

Whether mining was carried out in much earlier times is not know but the workings might be interesting to investigate because they are above and only one mile away from Lower Machen. Roman settlement.

B.        Shaft at Rhyd-y-gwern.  (6)    

A twenty-foot deep shaft leads to workings running in a north-south direction.   About 150 feet of passage is known at present but further progress is often barred by very deep water.  The level of this fluctuates greatly and is probably dependant on the water table since a spring rises nearby at about this level.  Beyond the pool the passage has been blocked with rubble, presumably from the surface.

The ore is very profuse indeed even in the entrance shaft and consists of galena, quartz, barytes, sphalerite, with minute quantities of arsenic etc.  This is one of the few places in the South Wales outcrop where quartz is found in association with galena. The ore may have originated in a cave infilling.  There appear to have been natural fissures here before the mining.

From the richness of the deposits remaining, it is thought that the mine was commenced and then deserted at an early stage.  Shot holes can be seen in the walls, indicating that these workings are comparatively modern.  They may be trial workings following the license given in 1871.  Map reference: 214 884.

C.        Line of depressions on side of hill overlooking Draethen Brook (East end).

Shallow depressions, not yet investigated.   No shafts known.  Map reference:    214 875.

D.        Depressions just north-east of Maen-llwyd Inn. 

Small pits giving access to small workings about ten feet under surface.  Passages variable in size, up to 7 feet in height.  Little stalactite, but barytes, galena and calcite can be seen in them.  Their age is unknown but they were probably grubbed out sometime before the 19th century working, their haphazard nature suggests that they are neither Roman nor 19th century.  They might have been mined in the 18th century (8).

The shaft marked on the 6" Ordnance Survey map is now only eight feet deep (blocked).  One working leading off is about 7 feet long, 3 feet high and 3£ feet wide.  There is a vein 6" wide in the roof, and other veins and pockets of barytes and galena. Sootmarks cover the walls »   Map references 204 868.

E.        Workings south of Penhow in Coed Llwyn-hir.

Very large square cut shaft, probably a trial, now filled in but revealed by settlement of infill.    Shaft vertical.

Much ore has obviously been taken from these mines and there are large dumps of spoil; rakes and cuttings can also be seen in the vicinity.  A tram track led from here to Cwm Leyshon, and these shafts are clearly remainders of the last period of mining. Map reference:   208 870.

F.         Long rake near Penhow entrance to Forest. 

Age uncertain but the shothole in the underground working at the end, and the rake's proximity to the 19th century excavations and the tram track, suggests that it belongs to the more modern period of working  (See E).  Map reference: 207 870.

G.        Cwm Leyshon.  

An adit leading north-west and draining water connects with a vertical shaft leading from the surface and about 130 feet deep to water level.   Another vertical shaft also connects with the adit, calcite gangue 5-6 feet across can be seen.  The adit can be followed across the water in the shaft and continues north-west but cannot be followed further owing to the exceedingly dangerous conditions of the roof.  When the water level is low, lower galleries can be seen leading off below the adit, and probably others exist, but the level of the water precludes exploration.  Great care should be taken by anyone risking entering this adit - both the floor and the roof are on the point of collapse at points not far from the entrance.

These mines must also belong to the last period of mining on the hill at about 1850.  Map references:  211 872 & 211 871.

H.        Cwm Leyshon.   

Series of small depressions in a line from the above shafts in a westerly direction? and up hillside to the north­east .     No information, may belong to same period as (G).  Map reference: 212 871.

I.           Adit in quarry near valley bottom near Draethen village. 

Nothing known, probably not Roman or modern.

J.          Mine workings south-east of Maen Llwyd Inn.   

These are for haematite and show that the galena zone dies cut here, giving way to the iron deposits which occur from this vicinity to Llanharry, Glam.

These Rudry haematite mines were worked from 1868 to 1876. T he ore follows the base of the main limestone which here dips to the north (12). Map reference:   204 865.

K.         Depressions each side of Forestry road, just south of Draethen Mine. 

Large but blocked.  Before the road was built, a gallery could be followed for about 100 feet in an approximately westerly direction, but this was destroyed during road making.  It was entered at the bottom of a depression, was constricted at first, but continued as a rift about fifteen feet high and over six feet wide. Map reference:    214 875.

L.         Circular pits just to the west of the Forestry gate past entrance to Penhow. 

Now filled.  There are a few deads around, pieces of barytes can be seen. Map reference:   207 871.

M.       Draethen Mine - Roman Mine line. 

The hillside is scarred with pits and dumps from mining activity, but the most obvious pits lie in the line between these two mines, marking the direction of a main run of ore and the subsequent faulting.  The group consists of both shallow and deep depressions, sometimes with rock sides, and sloping shafts giving access occasionally to underground workings. (Not Draethen shaft which is vertical.)  They are situated about half a mile from the Roman settlement at Lower Machen.

The hanging (south; wall frequently shows slickensides in both Roman and Draethen Mines, and the shape of the passages is very dependant on this fault which appears to have had some vertical movement.  The passages of the Second Rift in Roman Mine also exhibit signs of faulting by more slickensides in certain places - for example in Hoot Passage.


Vein of calcite

Oxidised galena

Against the hanging wall lies fault breccia intermixed with galena and other minerals already described.  In Roman Mine at Mouse Corner there are signs that brecciation followed the deposition of galena.

Draethen Mine might have originated as a tectonic chamber.  Signs of the working of about 1850 can be seen three-quarters of the way along the western galleries, but most of the working appears to be earlier.  The eastern workings are quite different in character from the rest of the mine.

It is difficult to assess the richness or size of the veins of galena before they were worked, as the remnants are usually poor, especially in Woman Mine.  In Draethen Mine small deposits of rich ore can be seen in the lower rifts under the modern workings.

However, most of the galleries in both mines have been so worked out that it is hard to find anything but minute veins and pockets left.

Ores taken later from Coed Cefn-Pwll-Du and Machen Hill have been examined by A.J.Griddle who has found that their silver content is reasonably high, between three and six ounces of silver to the ton.  This proportion of silver is much greater than in any other lead ores found in South Wales.

Map reference of Roman Mine:   217 877

Map reference of Little Mine: 216 877

Map reference of Draethen Mine: 214 876


The pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain mined Lead, and it is not impossible that the Silures knew of its existence at Cefn Coed Pwll du, or even that they mined some of it.  The Romans first came into contact with the Silures in AD 47, but guerrilla warfare continued until AD 75 (13) when Julius Prontinus gained the stronger hand.  Caerleon was founded in AD 74 - 75, a Roman fort (14) was estab­lished just north-west of the present Caerphilly Castle in AD 75 (inhabited until about the middle of the 2nd century) and the Machen area was in Roman hands by AD 75, even perhaps before (15).

The invaders began mining at sites in Britain at the earliest possible opportunity, as they required large quantities of metal both for export and for use in their settlements.   Caerleon and Caerwent must have need considerable quantities of lead for roofs, piping and other purposes.  Part of a pig of lead found during excavations in House XXVIN at Caerwent in 1947 can be seen in the National Museum of Wales; the inscription reading L)EG II AVG denotes that it was the property of the legion, and the fragments of slag embedded in the under-surface show that the pig came direct from the smelting works.  It was considered that the lead of this pig could have had its source in the Draethen-Maonen area.

Lead mines were Imperial property and, in such newly-settled country as this part of Wales, lead mining may have fallen under military supervision.  The Second Augustan Legion, who had been overseers at the extensive lead mining works and smelteries on the Mendips, were transferred to Caerleon which remained their head­quarters during most of the Roman occupation.  It is possible that they supervised the lead workings at Coed Cefn Pwll du for a time(16).

In 1937, excavations for the new road at Lower Machen revealed a Roman settlement extending from the Post Office for 400 yards eastwards along the south edge of the old road (17).  Amongst the finds were layers of charcoal with numerous pieces of lead, lead ore and pottery of the late 1st century and the 2nd century.  It is thought that the site was a small mining settlement under government control from Caerleon, about eight miles away and the nearest military station.

In 1779, John Strange observed " some old lead mines at Keve'npwll du, near Machen, are very deep and large caverns in the limestone rock, which, as well as from their great extent, as the manner in which they appear to have been worked, are supposed by the inhabitants in the neighbourhood to have been opened by the Romans.  However that may be, Roman coins, especially of brass, are not uncommonly found there" (l8).  Again, he says that coins of Nero and Domitian have been found in workings for lead at Coed Cefn Pwll Du (19).

The precise provenance of these coins not being known,  it was assumed that Roman lead mining in this area would not be surface pits, and it was not until March 1965 that more evidence was forth­coming when Roman Mine was discovered and an investigation found under ground galleries obviously unentered for a considerable time (1).

Late in the 4th century the Romans left Wales and almost no mining took place in South Wales from then until 1066.  Viking raid­ers swept in from the coasts between the 9th and 11th century, even raiding Newport in the reign of William I.  They may have had some permanent settlements, possibly near Cardiff (13).

A little lead mining is known in Monmouthshire and Glamorgan in the 11th and early 12th century, but none is known in the vicinity of Machen.   In 1268 Gilbert De Clare started building Caerphilly Castle (21); one is tempted, to think that he may have obtained lead from the sources near Machen.  In England, more lead mining took place between 1350 and 1400, and many old workings dating before the intro­duction of gunpowder could belong to this period (22) but again there is no evidence of interest in the Machen area.  North (23) considers that mining in Wales restarted in 1485, getting into its stride about 1564.  A great period of lead mining came in the 17th century; gun­powder was in use before 1700 and was frequently used by the end of the 18th century (11).  Another change in mining technique took place at the end of the 18th century.  From Mediaeval times until the 18th century underhand was general, but after this overhead stoping was introduced (25).

An Article of Agreement drawn up in about 1665, between William Morgan of Tredagar and Robert Stanfield and William Sawer of Llantrisant, allowed the two miners to dig for lead in the parish of Machen in the county of Monmouth for twenty-one years, and provided that they could deliver the seventh part of ore as payment " such place as the same oar shall wased and purified" (3).  These workings would presumably have been to the east of the Thymney be­tween Machen and Ochr-ehwith.

According to the Powis Manuscript, ore was taken out by Mr. Hopkin Rees and Company about 100 years later.  These documents can­not be accurately dated, but perhaps belong to the last half of the 18th century, probably nearer 1800.  Since one described so fully the state of mining activities in the neighbourhood at that time, it is here quoted in full:-


An account of the Mines proposed to be taken of Mr. Morgan of Tredegar.

(commonly known by the name of Machan Mine in two different parishes)

The mines are situated within the County of Glamorgan and partly within the County of Monmouth.  The Veins make their courses E and W, crossing the River Romney which divides the said counties.

These mines were discover'd and work'd by the Romans more than a mile up-on the Glamorgan sides in a western direction, to a certain point where Mr. Morgan's lands are cut off by the Earl of Plymouth's estates, and even into these, for some range, the workings were confined;  tho', seemingly, upon the declension:  Which, with some degree of probability, may thus be accounted for. Viz. that here the Bearing Beds dipping fast to the westward, by open-cast (the only method of mining in use with the Romans) they could scarcely be reached to in the Earl of Plymouth's lands:  Yet visibly many ancient attempts were made, for that purpose.  From the River to this boundary, the Ground rises; and here a Flat, suddenly intervening, may naturally occasion the fast dipping of the beds.  Three or four Capital Veins (running parallel to, and at inconsiderable distances from each other) were here wrought upon within Mr. Morgan's limits.  A deep level may be gained from the East, and be driven upon the course of the most eligible of these veins; and hence, by Cross-Cuts, discoveries (at a very small expence) may be made into every other of the parallel veins.

Upon the eastern side of the river (in Monmouthshire) all these Veins (with some others) have likewise been wrought.  Hillocks (now coated over with the common Verdure of the Mountain) are here also to be traced, in a course of Two Miles; abounding with tender Lead-Ore, and plainly indicating immense treasures formerly to have been scooped out of their adjacent Veins.

No appearance of Adit, or Shaft (Inventions of much later date than Roman Era) is, in any place, to be met with among these Old Workings.  Modern Powers were then wanting to prosecute such discoveries in depth; and adepts, of later ages, have largely availed themselves thereby.  Commodious Levels are here to be gained from the west, with equal advantages arising there from, as from that already mentioned, upon the other side of the River.

There remains no tradition of these Works in the Country; and casually (with in Twenty Years) the Eyes of its Inhabitants in some small measure, were thus open'd concerning them.  An Hillock, having been broken up for the repair of an adjoining High-Road, Lead Ore appeared therein, in such plenty, that the Pile was turned over, and cleared to good profit:   some Roman Coins were, likewise, discover'd to be in it.

A lease far the term of Seven Years was hereupon solicited for, and obtained by Mr. Hopkin Rees and Company.  An Eighth ton was given in tribute and the lesser allowed timber for the necessary uses of the Mines.  Their Tryals were made to the Eastward, wide of the range of the Veins afore mentioned: there the Adven­turers discover'ed a Belly of Ore which yielded many Hundred Tons, at an easy expence; and continued to yield ore until the expiration of their term.  The Company avoided to look: into the Old-Works, which, under so short a limitation, would have been imprudent to have attempted.

At the expiration of the Lease, the Proprietor,  judging this to be an object well meriting his own attention, took up the advenure; prosecuting the same, at large cost, only in such places where the Company had, heretofore, been engaged.  The Metal having in a greater measure, been hence exhausted; The Project, in course of time, and expence, became discouraging; and totally disregarding those Ancient Remains which point out the surest riches.  These Valuable Mines stand, to this day, entirely neglected.  Streams of water may plentifully be obtained for the uses of them.  The Neighborhood abounds with timber; and their situation not more than five computed miles distant from Water Carriage.   In short, regarding all circumstances, this affair may well be judged, in the mineral way, to be one of the most desirable objects in Great Britain.

Whilst the possibility of mediaeval as well as Roman lead-working at Coed Cefn pwll du and Machen Hill must not be over­looked, the Powis MSS clearly indicate that much of the working on these hills had already been carried out by the end of the 18th. cent.  Lewis (8) quotes a little lead-mining in Maen Llwyd in the 18th.cent.  It is odd that John Strage does not mention any contem­porary or recent workings at the time of his writing in 1779.

After 1800, following indications of earlier workings, a new generation of lead miners began work on the hill of Coed Cefn Pwll du, and evidence of their efforts has been found in part of Drae­then Mine, only 1,000 ft. west of the present entrance of Roman Mine.  The remains of a tram track, modern shafts, clay pipes, nails, broken shoes, etc., tan still be seen - but so can stalag­mite obviously existing prior to this time and turned over by these miners.  Working is thought to have taken place until 1855, since when the mines have been disused.  It is said that the ore was washed in the Draethen Brook near Gwm Glesyn (Cwra Leyshon), and it is supposed to have been smelted at a furnace at Farm Furnace Blwm at the west of Caerphilly Common (7). Lead slag has been found near the junction of Cwm Leyshon and the Maen Llwyd - Draethen road; suggesting that it belongs to the 19th. cent, working.

A license to dig trial pits for ore in Rhyd-y-gwern and Rudry was granted in 1871, but it is not known if any mining followed this.  The agent of Lord Tredegar would not allow the lead to be washed in Draethen Brrok which was used by the Draethen villagers(28).

The records of these later periods of working are so scanty as to be misleading.  It is clear that large quantities of ore have bean removed from this hill throughout the last two thousand years, and yet the only tonnages recorded are very small.  Perhaps because of this, North thought that "the ore is rarely present in paying quantity and efforts to exploit it in modern times have been short lived.  (27)


Main Passage is cut in fault breccia, and the miners have excavated the breccia which is here interpenetrated with ore.  The southern wall is fairly straight, following a fault line, and shows frequent slickensides; it hangs over the passage at an angle of about 70°.  The northern wall is irregular, its shape depending on the distri­bution of the ore.  Supplementary veins have been taken out of pockets at high and low levels, and a ledge behind the hearth has been cut to follow a thin horizontal vein.  The roof is generally rounded, meeting the south wall at an angle.

Scraped out veins of galena can be seen; a vein ½" wide has been left although wider veins have been left in places.  There are tool marks going up vertically into the ceiling.  They were made by a pointed implement of square cross-section, the longest mark seen was ¾" deep.

The floor along Main Passage consists of rubble (in size from mud to rocks of about 18" in diameter) to a known depth of eighteen feet in places and probably considerably more.  Mixed with this is much charcoal, often with stalagmite overlying it.  All the rubble has settled down towards and under the southern wall, following the angle of the rock walls.  The hearth has heaps of deads about 15 feet to each side of it, the one on the east may be spoil from cavities above, and the heap on the west perhaps from other cavities with the little pool.  Stalactite and stalagmite is very profuse.

This passage is at present between 18 inches and twenty feet in height and nearly three hundred feet long.    It may have extended past Mouse Corner in the west and certainly extended past the present entrance towards the eastern edge of the hill.  This end is choked with a cone of mainly earthy material down which one climbs from the entrance, but digging between the rock wall and this debris shows that the passage extends downward and eastward without change so far as we have excavated.

Including the present entrance shaft, there are five possible openings to the surface above; the distances between them are approximately 60 feet, 60 feet, 90 feet, and 40 feet, from east to west.  At Mouse Corner is an area of collapse which may disguise a connection to the surface.  Before the survey of the mine was carried out, readings were made with a radio-location device at the junction of Mouse Corner and Mouse Crawl which indicated that this point lay 98 feet under the surface.  However this was not borne out by the survey, which showed that Mouse Corner was 70 feet below the surface.  A sloping shaft from this junction could connect with the depression a few yards east of Little Mine.

The archaeological evidence found in Main Passage will be discussed later.  As the roof above the hearth is solid, the pottery and other finds at this point could not have fallen in from above.  There appears to have been little or no settlement of the deads at the hearth site since the hearth was used.




MOUSE CRAWL: - CROSS SECTIONS                                                                     Scale: 1” reps. 4ft.

Lower end (looking approx. to North)

Junction looking to Mouse Crawl


Stalactites ½” long


Rubble with charcoal floor.  Two small stal. Flows on deads.  Deads to depth unknown at this point.

Flat rock floor.

Deads and charcoal at sides.

Although this passage is small, its width and depth would be much greater if the deads were cleared out.  They appear to have run in or to have been piled in from the western side, and could indicate a gallery or shaft behind Mouse Corner.  The passage has a rock floor only 2 ft. 3" below the roof at one end, but for the most part its depth and shape are unknown.

At the southern end of Mouse Crawl (on the west wall) a vein can be seen about ½” thick and dipping to the south-west.  It has been worked out to leave the roof sloping at the same angle as the original vein.  As the vein rises towards the direction of Mouse Corner, the roof becomes higher until the vein is either too far in or too inferior in quality to be worth following.   The roof height immediately drops to the low portion of Mouse Crawl.

The wide shape of Mouse Crawl, as it now is, perhaps caused by the flatter angle of the vein, is quite different in cross-section from the usual rift-shaped workings of the Mine.


Comb Rift has a rift-like appearance, slopes at about 60°, and extends downward for at leash thirty feel and upward indefinitely.  N. Tuck's excavations to find the route upward have completely changed the appearance of this pact of the mine.The passage a few feet to the west of the point drawn above appears to have been cut to follow a vein of ore dipping at about 70° to the south east.  There are several chambers in the vicinity which are now almost filled with deads and thickly stalagmited.

It was found (1965) that the width from the edge of the passage to the west side was ten feet, and there was open space downward for twelve feet from this point and five feet upward.  The rubble lay at a just stable angle of about 50° and consisted of large rocks (up to 15" diameter) mixed with small rocks, charcoal, and animal bones (domestic).  There was no stalactite.  Lying partly between and partly on top of these large rocks were portions of a Viking bone comb, none of which were more than six feet apart.  (A report by Dr. Savory of the National Museum of Wales can be
found on Page          ).  The comb was fragile and would certainly have been crushed had such rocks moved far; because of this we consider that when the comb was dropped in, the shaft must have been open almost to this depth, causing the comb to land on the deads only a few feet above Potsherd Passage level.  Since then, movement of the rubble scree has separated the segments of the comb.  A search was made as much as possible for the remainder of the comb, but the angle and size of the deads made their removal so extremely dangerous to anyone digging there that we were not able to follow the rift downwards.  As the continuing shaft below is filled loosely with deads for at least twenty feet below the level of Potsherd Passage and thus below the comb, it, must have bean filled to this point before the 11th century.

Many tons of rocks have since been brought down from the upper part of the rift, but it, has still not been possible to clear a way upward.  The large deads were followed by small rooks and earth, more animal bones, one piece of (?) 1st century pottery, and a piece of white glass bottle thought to be of modern manufacture which makes it evident that the shaft has been almost open with the surface until recent times, and probably connects with the sur­face.  The presence of the Roman shard above the comb is not difficult to account for on such a steep slope of rock debris, as any movement would have caused parts of the infill to move down­wards for differing distances.  The pottery might also have been knocked into the shaft at a much later date.

When rocks are moved in this rift, there is corresponding move­ment at another unknown place combined with loud distant rumbling, and it is therefore probable that other open galleries exist above, perhaps extensions from Mouse Corner.  Rocks moving in Comb Rift can be heard at Mouse Corner, and vice versa, so that there must be a direct connection between these two places which is not accessible at present.  There must also have been workings below connected to this shaft, for it appears to be too large to be merely a trial shaft or a hauling way for the small vein of ore along Potsherd Passage.  Possible workings underneath must at this stage remain conjectural, but points to be considered are (a) the workings if any would be expected to run in an east-west direction following the veins, and (b) there are continuous surface indic­ations of workings of unknown age from this point towards the west.  Perhaps the Romans threw deads into the lower part of this shaft and moved on to the next valuable part of the hill, or perhaps deads in an undiscovered working above collapsed into Comb Rift at post Roman, pre-Viking times.  This cannot be clarified until further excavation of the shaft is carried out.

A provisional survey showed that Comb Rift lies in the vicinity of Little Mine, and we therefore attempted to dig down into it at this point.  An excavation to a depth of about twelve feet was made at the bottom of the slope into Little Mine, and it was found that a cut shaft continues (blocked with earth and leaf humus) below this point, but that shoring would be necessary before work could be continued.  Another excavation was made in the furthest and deepest part of Little Mine.  This revealed that the rock wall continued downwards under the miners' waste, but after only two feet it was found that the rocks were not only covered in stalag­mite but were cemented solidly together: proof that the way to Comb Rift, following a modern glass bottle, could not lie here.

Another effort to prove a connection was made in September, 1968, when a smoke flare was set off in Comb Rift.  All the depressions around Little Mine and Roman Mine were watched with only negative results.  No smoke came up the present entrance of Roman Mine either.

In January, 1969, readings with a radio-location device were made to find the exact position of Comb Rift in relation to the surface.  An instrument measuring the electro-magnetic field was set up in Comb Rift at the level of Potsherd Passage floor, and the signals received indicated that this point lies vertically underneath a small mound about 30 feet south of Little Mine, and 85 feet under the surface.

This was not borne out by the Survey later, which shows that it is in fact about 86 feet below ground level, and under a point about 50 feet east of Little Mine, i.e. nearer the next depression.  It will be necessary to excavate in Little Mine before the pattern of workings in this vicinity can be plotted with certainty.


Upper Ledge Passage was worked to follow a vein of ore.  A hole in the floor and a connection towards the western end gives access to Middle Passage.

At the eastern end this gallery becomes a ledge at the top of the Aven, from which a low passage (Gour Passage) opens into Main Passage at high level via The Windows.

The whole of Upper Ledge Passage is heavily decorated with stalactite and thick flows of stalagmite over the floor.  There are shallow deads mixed with charcoal.

MIDDLE PASSAGE (at second hearth)                                                                                     Scale: 1” reps. 4 feet


Middle Passage was excavated to follow a very steep vein 1” wide which can be seen in the roof of the passage.  Supplementary veins have been picked out in pockets.  The veins continue up into Upper Ledge Passage and down into the deep rifts under Bloody Ledge.  There are deads on the floor mixed with charcoal; their pattern indicates that they were thrown back by miners working towards the west.  Many stalactites have formed.

A hearth of unknown date can be seen. A search was made under and around the hearth for archaeological evidence, but nothing was found.


Remains of a thin vein are visible in the Lower Traverse Passage; the direction in which it was worked is not known.  It is obviously deeper, at the western end under the deads which now nearly fill it.

Charcoal is mixed with the debris and stalagmite has formed over the floor.  There are many stalactites.  The walls are blackened, probably with smoke.

Under the Lower Traverse Passage are two short tunnels, one only a few feet long.  The other, named Lower Traverse Cul-de-Sac Passage, was excavated to follow a small horizontal vein which can be seen along the roof (now ½” wide).  Both must have been worked from east to west, have shallow deads and much charcoal stalagmited in over the floor, and are very pretty with profuse stalactites and thin curtains of flowstone.  Fine examples of the types of stalactites peculiar to this hill are found here (a description of these will be found elsewhere).



Cut to follow the deep portion of the main vein of ore which slopes down from Upper Ledge Passage.  They were worked downward and the ore hauled up.  A vein 3" wide can be seen in the roof of the westerly working.

The actual depth of these rift-shaped passages is not known as the base is filled with mixed rubble and charcoal.  They are free of stalagmite.  The roof and walls are covered with a soft black deposit ?" thick, probably carbon deposited from the smoke of fire-setting.


Scale: Roughly 1" reps 8 feet


The Aven is a main shaft sloping to the south.  The width varies between 20 and 30 feet broad from east to west;  between two and six feet broad from north to south.  The total height of the Aven is just over 50 feet.

It does not cut through to the surface, which lies about 63 feet above the roof, but gives access to all the passages in the Second Rift.  Most of these now (partly blocked with deads) are constricted.  A ledge about twelve feet above the bottom has charcoal and rubble lying upon it.  At the bottom but along a few feet to the west, is a pool about five feet deep.

Below this same ledge is a small working, rift-shaped, leading down to the west.  A portion of clay pipe stem was found in this, lying on the deads a yard from the Aven.  No further pieces could be found, but it is possible that the pipe fell down the Aven and that the remainder could be in or near the pool.

Because of the irregular shape of the Aven, it is thought that it was probably excavated to follow a larger deposit of ore, although it may have doubled as a raise.


This is a narrow but lofty rift, the main connection between Main Passage and the Second Rift Passages.  High in the southern wall at the lower end is another working heading towards the east at about the level of the lower chockstones across the Aven.

Many deads fill the lower part, there is also charcoal.  Stalac­tite and stalagmite is present, particularly at the Main Passage end.

This gallery presents a problem.  From its position it should have been a throughway for the ore to be brought out, but at the levels now accessible its width is fairly constricted and no effort has been made to widen the passage for easy portage of ore.   Perhaps it is larger under the present layer of rubble, but this is doubtful.


Dangerous Passage has been mined to follow the lower part of a vertical vein below Pool Passage and below Main Passage with which it appears to have connected.  Deads of variable depth fill the nar­row part at the bottom of the rift.    There is charcoal but little stalactite.

Although parts of the roof of this passage are of bedrock, others are of loose deads which have been thrown in from the gallery above.  The ceiling in one place is so unstable that it will not be possible to pass under it without a strong roof support, and because of this we have not been able to follow to the end although the passage can be seen continuing in a straight line to the east.

The survey indicates that it ran through to the bottom of the entrance rift but was probably not used as a throughway for ore from the Second Rift passages as it was awkward and constricted.

It must pre-date the eastern end of Main Passage, or the deads in the roof could not have been piled in from above.


ROOT PASSAGE                                                                                                   Scale: 1" reps. 4 ft.

-The Entrance.

Looking north into Aven.


                                     stal floor

East of Aven: Cut to follow a narrow vein in the middle section from the Aven to beyond the long pool.  The vein has been picked out as far as is practicable.  Beyond the pool, the vein lies parallel with the southern sloping wall which may be another fault plane.  The miners have taken the vein out to a total depth of perhaps twenty feet, leaving a tall narrow rift-shaped passage, but as the lower parts are filled with deads, the lower limit is not known.  This peters out 130 feet east of the window into the Aven.  The rift-gallery at this end is usually only two feet or so wide.

There are deads of variable depth, and charcoal.  There is profuse and very pretty stalactite, some of the longest in the mine, and appearing quite undisturbed.  Stalagmite lies over much of the rubble.  This passage rises towards the surface but does not connect with it.  Decayed hair roots from the trees above can be seen hanging from the roof in places.

West of Aven: The passage branches into about three small parts where ore has been worked out, generally lower than the windows. Stalactite is profuse.

The only outlets for both these workings are the two windows into the top of the Aven, and all the ore must have been brought out this way.



The discovery of the comb and shead during the first exploration, of Roman Mine led to the finding of a hearth in the Main.  Passage, remains of a fire place in the Middle Passage, and other smaller objects in various parts of the mine.  All the small finds are in the care of the National Museum of Wales (Reference 66.518), on loan from the trustees of the Tredegar Estate.


It was not possible to carry out a formal archaeological excavation because of the cramped conditions in most of the mine, and because of the enormous volume of miners' deads often piled up at steep angles.  Artefacts found could not be attributed to any particular stratigraphical position as any object dropped on the floor in the past would be likely to fall two or three feet through the debris.  For these reasons we decided to limit excavation to the careful examination of the floor of each passage and not dig to any depth except in certain places as here described.


A mound of rocks in one of the wider parts of Main Passage attracted attention when large basal shards were seen lying on the surface beside and under the skeleton of an animal, and a circle of rocks filled with charcoal was revealed about two feet to the east.  A site 15 feet long and about 5 feet wide was taped off, and excavated to a depth of three feet by the hearth and two feet at the western end.  The hearth itself was not disturbed.



Large grey basal shards

Grey shards similar to (4)

Light grey, portion of rim

Black with undulating pattern.

Rough dark grey,  large wavy patterned


Lying with fox remains on top of deads

Just under surface and at deeper levels

Depth 15"

Depth 12"

Depth 10"

Ref No


6, 24, 30





Copy of Antoninianius Tetricus II AD 270-274 (12mm diameter)

Copy of coin similar to (5) AD 274-282

Many small bronze pieces

Bronze coins, indecipherable

Bronze blanks         


Just under the surface

Just under the surface

Scattered over many feet

Depth about 10"

Depth between 9" - 12"




14, 23, 28

19, 20

22A, B, C, D


Bone and hair of fox

Iron nail

Two pieces of iron

1" long stalactite straw

Piece of bronze length 7/16"

Two cave pearls

Many tiny cave pearls

Soft material

Much charcoal throughout



Inside hearth ring in charcoal and ash

Depth about 6"

On rock upturned amongst deads

Depth 13".  This appears to be the remainder of a bar from which coin blanks were cut

Depth about 13".  These stalagtitic formations were found out of natural context.  They must have been dropped there by human agency, not formed there in the deads.

Depth about 12".  Mixed with charcoal.  Out of context.  Appeared as if a small shovelful had been dumped in deads.

Probably the remains of wood

Not in significant pattern




16, 17





18, 35



Somwe digging was done to investigate workings below the entrance door, at the bottom of the Entrance Rift and beyond Mouse Corner. But nothing of archaeological significance was found at these three places.


Dark grey course shard

Dark grey course shard


Under south wall, about seven feet east of hearth.  Fitted into pot with (4), (6) etc.

At junction with Pool Passage.  Stalagmited with deads and galena.  Possibly same vessel as (4) etc.

Ref No




Iron nail ¾" long

Mixed bones, probably domestic animals

Wood bough


Near junction with Pool Passage under a stone

Near junction with Pool Passage

Found on first visit leaning against wall near Gour Passage window.  Roughly trimmed and rotten






A fire place was discovered and this area well searched with no result. See scetch facing page.




In Potsherd Passage, one foot away from edge of Comb  Rift,  lying on smooth mud floor a shard of carinated bowl was found.  Described by the National Museum of Wales as "hard, coarse, grey ware; outer surface smoothed with a tool.  Groove just above the carination.  This type of bowl, usually in a much finer grey ware and often black-surfaced, is common in Flavian contexts at Caerleon (cf. Archaeol. Cambrens. 1929, 229, fig.36, No.120 (Jenkins Field); 1932, fig.63, Nos. Uk5 - 6 (Prysg Field); and the present specimen is probably a local copy of this type".   At first this shard was dated c..A.D. 75 - 110, but it could be as late as 3rd. Century.

Shard in dark grey ware Wood bough


Pieces of bone comb.

Above comb in Comb Rift


In Comb Rift, mainly on level of Potsherd Passage.  Pieces within about 6ft of each other and in loose deads to a depth of about 12"




The National Museum's report on this find is as follows: "Portion of a single-edged bone comb of the normal composite form consisting of six sawn plates held, by bone pegs, between two, slightly arched, lateral strips; a decoration of four scored lines at the end of each strip, as preserved.  The end plate is of a slightly horned shape.  This type of comb is not Romano-British, and in so far as it can be dated, clearly belongs to the Merovingian or later periods on the continent, i.e.  to the VIIth cent,  or later.  Cf. Anna Roes, Bone and Antler Objects form the Frisian Terp-Mounds (Haarlem, 1963) PI.XIX,5.  The Draethen example is plainer than this, but it exhibits the beginning of the more correctly designated 'winged' where the end plates protrude above the line of the back.  In the winged type, however, the back tends to be more boldly arched than here.  Dr. H. N. Savory informs me that combs of similar type have recently been found, in Viking period contexts, during excavations in the city of Dublin.  In the full medieval period, the tendency was for combs to become once more double-edged (cf. London Museum Catalogues, No.7 Medieval Catalogue (1940),291).  Although, therefore, the Draethen comb cannot be said to be closely dated, it would appear most likely to have been of "Dark Age" to early medieval date, with the emphasis probably on the 9th-llth centuries".

Base of bottle in white glass

Bones of domestic animals

Above comb, loose in deads.  Of modern manufacture, probably 20th Century

Throughout deads




Fragment of clay pipe stem 

About 4 feet from junction with Aven. Lying on top of deads.


This little working was searched to a depth of about twelve inches but nothing more was discovered.



The pieces of pottery found throughout Roman Mine are the remains of probably six pots, including one large grey urn of height one foot (no pieces of the rim have been found), one carinated bowl, and two cooking jars.  All are probably late 3rd century in date, although one shard might belong to an earlier period.

The evidence of the coins and the remains of about one dozen counterfeiters blanks shows that forgers were using the deserted mine probably between A.D.  275 and A.D. 282.  The hearth itself cannot be identified positively as belonging to any particular century, but as it hardly been disturbed by later natural move­ment, it can probably he associated with the counterfeiting activities, for sufficient time must have elapsed for the deads to have settled since working ceased in the Main Passage.  The site is the widest convenient place for resting in, especially if the then easiest entrance was in the east.

There is thus no evidence of the exact date of the Roman mining, except that it had ceased in the Main Passage a consider­able time before the arrival of the counterfeiters.

Amongst the deads of the hearth site and under some of the shards was found the equivalent of a small bagful of tiny cave pearls, mixed with charcoal.  Two larger cave pearls were found above them, about 13" below the top of the deads.  They could not have formed in this position, and prove that either natural fissures existed nearby which were dug away by the miners, or that there were at least two periods of working with sufficient time elapsing between them for the growth of this stalagmitic formation elsewhere.  In confirmation, amongst the deads between the hearth and the hanging wall, was found a rock with a stalactite "straw", lying on its side.  Like the pearls, this must have been thrown there, and must have been derived either from a pre-existing natural cavity or from previous workings.  In a very few places pick marks can be seen in stalactite, but this cou1d have been done by casual explorers within the last few hundred years.  (Little significance should be given to the presence or size of stalactites in the different galleries of Roman Mine, and because a passage is bare of decoration, it should not therefore be presumed that it is more recent.  For example, many of the galleries in Draethen Mine have no stalactites, but t he re is quite a thick flowstone over the  new workings) .

The discovery of the Viking Comb is of considerable interest and value , not only in itself, but because it proves that the shaft of Comb Rift is very old and must have been open partly, probably to the surface, before the eleventh century.  The close distribution of the pieces within a few feet indicates that Comb Rift could not have been used by later miners as a route to take ore out.  The shaft extends downwards at least twenty feet, perhaps to other galleries, and must have been filled to just above the level of Potsherd Passage in pre-Viking times.  In addition, the presence of 20th century glass proves that the shaft remained partly open until recent times; it is not clear how this could have passed down the shaft past the many deads, or whether miners' debris of a later date has been dumped into the shaft.


Just over half a mile to the east at Lower Machen lie the remains of a Roman mining settlement where many traces of lead smelting have been found.  It is thought to have been inhabited from about 75 A.D. to the  last years of the second century.  If lead was needed by these smelteries for about a hundred years, it is likely that mines other than. Roman Mine were opened at Oced Cefn Pwll du, unless a richer source was found elsewhere at an unknown site, for example, on Machen Hill.  However the close proximity of the settlement, to the workings indicates that Roman Mine itself was probably excavated during the time of the settle­ment, possibly during its earlier years since the mine seems to have been worked out.  The survey shows that Comb Rift might be the  lower part of Little Mine, and if this proves to be so, it would seem that  lead-workings took place in Little Mine in Roman times also.

The recorded coins of Hero and Domitian found in "some old lead mines" (or "in an old lead mine") at Coed Cefn Fwll du (20) have too vague a source to be used as evidence for any particular mine or depression, but again suggest an early date for mining on the hill.  No access has yet been gained to the workings under the length between the western end of Roman Mine and the eastern end of Draethen Mine, but there is every reason to suppose that underground galleries at present blocked by roof collapse link these two mines.

The deads now filling several of the shafts in the Main Passage may have been dumped there by Roman workers, but some access way was available in the third century when the mine was used by counterfeiters.

The possibility of mediaeval or later working on the hill must not be ignored, but nothing definite relating to Coed Cefn Pwll du is known until the report by John Strange of "very deep and large caverns" showing that in 1779 there must have been access to more than one mine on the hill, and indicating that there must have been fairly substantial remains in the eighteenth century, either of shafts or of opencast mining.  The Powis Manuscripts state specifically that Mr. Hopkin Rees, and, later, the "Proprietor" did not mine the "Old Works" but made their excavations elsewhere.

The 19th century mining activities seem to have taken place to the south and west of Coed Cefn Pwll du, the workers taking ore out of Lraethen Mine and ignoring Roman Mine.

Finally, the evidence of the pipe-stem and the branch shows that, at some period between Elizabethan times and 1900, Roman Mine must have been explored.  (Wood in a similar condition is found in Draethen Mine in conjunction with artefacts of about 1850).   It is not possible to say whether Roman Mine has been open for long periods, but the unbroken stalactites and undisturbed hearth is almost in the middle of the Main Passage surest that few people have visited it since it was deserted.



Before describing mining techniques used in the Mine, it will he necessary to discuss whether all the galleries are of Roman age.

The pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain mined lead and the Romans are known to have taken over their mines immediately the relative part of the country was in their hands.  It is therefore not impossible that the existence of lead in the Machen area was known to the Silures, for the Machen mining settlement was established very early (15).  The shape of the mine is not unlike pre-Roman workings found in Montgomeryshire (10) but no evidence at all of British working has been found in the mine.

If we list the possible ways that ore could have been taken out of the Mine during its history, we find that these consist of five openings upward from Main Passage to the surface, horizontal passages to the side of the hill from the large rift under the present entrance, and Comb Rift.

The presence of the pottery and coins at the hearth site proves that Main Passage, the largest part of the mine, is 3rd century at latest, and since the archaeological remains are undisturbed it seems in the highest degree unlikely that ore could since have been brought along to the outlets between Pool Passage junction and Mouse Corner.  Comb Rift must have been more or less blocked from Dark Age times, as has already been discussed, so ore could not have been hauled up this shaft after the comb was dropped there.

If any ore was worked after the departure of the Romans, there­fore, it could only have been worked in the multiple passages of the southern rift, but the only possible means of carrying ore out in later times from these were (a) up Pool Passage and out via the eastern end of Main Passage, or (b) along to Mouse Crawl and up through the outlet behind Mouse Corner.  Either of these seems unlikely and should have caused some disturbance of the Hearth.  The two pieces of pottery found near the junction of Pool Passage and Main Passage could have been picked up and dropped by post-Roman visitors, so no conclusions will be drawn from their presence here.

This later lack of a route to carry ore out, and the similarity of working in all the galleries, allowing for differences in the quantity and the lie of the ore, disposes us to think that if the Mine was worked at all in post-Roman times, it could have been only in the smallest way.  Whilst there is no archaeological evi­dence from the Seeond Rift passages to show this, the fact that no mediaeval or other important remains have been found might be an indication, for the piece of clay pipe can be easily accounted for.

In contrast to the adjacent Draethen Mine, there is the negative evidence of no shotholes, no recent timbering, no clearly-cut vertical shafts, and no track or easy walkways, which rules out any but the slightest of mining in the nineteenth century.

A hypothetical order of working could have been as follows:

The earliest mining probably took place along the fault line outcropping down the hill, where levels were cut towards the west along a promising vein of galena.  Surface working along the top of the hill may have started from this time to find the lie of the veins or to remove valuable ore.

The main run of the ore would have led the miners along deep under what is now the Entrance Rift and into Dangerous Passage, and as the galena was excavated upward, it would have been convenient to pass it out to the side of the hill through a higher gallery.  There are clear signs of levels (a) about 30 feet below the entrance and (b) about 70 feet below the entrance.  There may be at least a third level.  Deads can be seen most of the way down the hillside.

The miners did not cut formally shaped galleries, but followed the shape of the ore bodies, throwing the waste material into the worked out spaces at the bottom or where convenient.  The passage walls therefore slope at the same angle as the veins.  Deads were thrown into the lower part of the workings, now the roof of Dangerous Passage, and work proceeded at a higher level of Main Passage.

Work in the Main Passage probably proceeded in advance of that in the Second Rift, for the greatest volume of ore-bearing rock lay along the Entrance Rift-Mouse Corner line, and should not have been difficult to follow 9 lying up against the slicken-sided wall of country rock.  Also, the ore from the Second Rift must have been passed out through Pool Passage into the existing lofty part of Main Passage, and later through Gour Passage or through to Mouse Corner.  It would have been easier to ventilate the galleries of the Second Rift if Main Passage with its surface exits was already there, and, if these exits did not exist, it would have been very useful to have extended the Aven through to the open air, an extension which was not made.

During the history of the Mine the Romans seem to have gradually worked upwards and westwards through these two main lines of galena-bearing minerals.  They used a form of overhead stoping, and beam-holes can be seen particularly in the Entrance Rift.  Perhaps they attacked this steeply inclined ore material as high as could be reached, standing on deads or wedged stemples and platforms across.  To reach the loftiest part of the present galleries along Main Passage, the miners must have had to use timbering.  No definite beamholes have been found here but there are possible niches for stemples between the Windows and Mouse Corner.  At intervals, the Romans have followed the hanging fault wall upwards as a shaft to the surface, perhaps because there was ore at these points or simply for light or as ventilation shafts and hauling ways.  Marks on the footwall of the Entrance Rift show that it was filled with deads to a height roughly the same as the deads along Main Passage and settlement probably accounts for the slumping.

The ledges and the chockstones in the Aven also suggest that it was cut from below towards the top, since access was needed across it to reach the higher workings.

Finally, the roof of Mouse Crawl seems to have been cut from the Junction towards Main Passage, partially following a small vein rising at a shallow angle.   Potsherd Passage seems to have been worked from east to west.


The Romans were competent miners, and skilled at the cupellation of silver from lead where profitable under the standards of the time.  Generally their method of mining was to open pits for ore to a depth of about fifty feet, but after this depth to drive shafts and tunnels, as the removal of such an overburden would be too laborious.  They worked in an orderly fashion, sinking shafts at frequent intervals both for removing ore and for ventilation, and supported the roof when necessary with wooden beams (29).  At Ogofau gold mine (26) timber was found which appeared to be beams for support, cross-pieces for resting upon them, and boards and branches for stopping stones from falling upon the workmen.  The entrances to mines were usually steep.

In Roman Mine charcoal is frequent throughout even in the smallest tunnels, mixed with deads, lying on ledges, and often coated with stalagmite.  Much of this charcoal is derived from the practice of fire-setting which was a method of cracking rock in use up to the early nineteenth century, even after the intro­duction of gunpowder.  Wooden fires were laid against the rock until this was heated sufficiently, and then cold water or vinegar was thrown upon it, causing it to split into angular pieces.

The fire-setting produced much smoke: a black patina can be seen over many of the walls and roofs, often incorporated in the stalactitic flows, and the deposit is ?" thick in the deep rifts under Bloody Ledge.  Partly because of this need for a good through draught, the Romans sank shafts at frequent intervals.  Whilst the Main Passage is well supplied with outlets to the surface, the passages of the Second Rift must have been difficult to clear of smoke while they were being worked.

When the gallery could be entered again after fire-setting, the miners broke the ore by hand and sorted it in the mine itself, packing the waste into deserted pockets and chambers.  The brecchia of the Main Passage is relatively easy to hack away, and working in the mine may have been facilitated by small natural cracks or fissures, some of which can be seen still.  The walls' appearance now is remarkably smooth, the main tool marks being along the remains of the veins which have been picked out.

Tools known to the Romans are similar to many used by miners up to the present day; gads, chisels, hammers, crowbars, and single-bladed picks (30).  Iron tools were used, so also were stone wedges and hammers.  Stone tools are known to have been used up to Antonine times (31).  No tools have been found in Roman Mine, but pick marks are frequent.  They were made by a pointed tool of square cross-section, the deepest mark seen being ¾" deep.

No identifiable pieces of timber have been found and this is not surprising, for wood in the adjacent Lraethen Mine is totally decayed after only about a hundred years.  Beamholes can be seen in the Entrance Rift wall, most about 4" across and at distances apart varying from 20 inches to 40 inches.


Davies (32) thought that in Britain miners were usually free but employed under compulsion.  Nash Williams (17) considered it likely that the labourers employed from Lower Machen were slaves and convicts under military supervision, and that they would have been accommodated in barracks grouped together.  Although mining workers often lived in deserted parts of mines, we have found no recognisable traces of this in Roman Mine.  Bones of domestic animals were found in Main Passage/Pool Passage junction, Mouse Corner, and Comb Rift, all places where they probably came from the surface, dumped in with rubble.  Although the Romans took some care of their workers, the lives of miners at this time were usually short (33).

They worked in Roman Mine in what were often very constricted places even inches wide when the vein was being followed out. Some of this labouring could be attributed to the employment of children.


The rocks obtained by picking or by fire-setting were separated into deads and ore-bearing pieces in the mine, and the rubble was packed into worked-out galleries and chambers.  The ore could have been dragged on wooden trays or wheel-less trolleys, or carried in leather sacks or wooden buckets (34).  A bucket and windlass was probably used to haul it out of the shafts as this was the usual Roman method.  Beamholes can be seen in Little Mine but until this is excavated, their age will be uncertain.

Tips of waste on the surface lie spread around the depressions along the fault line, and there is a large deposit of rubble down the hill east of the entrance (NGR.218 876).  From this we de­duce that the once-sorted ore material was hauled to the surface, and sorted over again near the shaft mouths.

It does not seem to have been washed on the hilltop.  Although the Romans were accustomed where necessary, to channel water to convenient places for washing ore (for example, at Ogofau gold mine they constructed an aqueduct seven miles long) it would have been arduous to bring water to the top of this dry hill when two large streams ran close below.  The washed ore was then taken to the smelting hearths near Lower Machen.

Although the Romans could not extract such high proportions of ore as can be done by more recent processes, they had an abundant supply of cheap labour and little machinery, so that they were able to work ores which could not be profitable in succeeding centuries.  They usually followed the vein, but if they lost it, were seldom able to find it again. (35)

The surface of the hill has been so disturbed by mining activities of different periods, road making and tree planting, that it is difficult to know where surface buildings if any may have stood.  Perhaps traces will be uncovered by the Forestry Commission in the course of its work which will tell a little more about the methods of the miners.



Some of the for mat ions in the workings at Coed Gefn pwlL du are of a most unusual type, and as far as is known have not been found elsewhere in Britain in such a well-developed form.

The stalactites and stalagmites throughout these mines are of hard crystalline material and are not the soft growths more usually associated with artificial excavations.  The archaeological evi­dence dates them as being formed during the last nineteen hundred years.  Some, usually the largest, are of pure white crystal, but many have incorporated the brown or red colouring from the iron present in the rock.  Occasionally the stalactites have horizontal stripes of colour, but in some places in Roman Mine the stalactites are lined with brown or red material inside the ordinary creamy exterior.  "Snow" formation is found on stalactites and on some of the flowstone.  A similar soft deposit is found inside some of the stalactites giving their interior a white, limey, appearance.

It is the shape of the stalactites, however, which is so notable.  It will be seen from the sketches that many of the stal­actites begin like the usual straw formations, but soon change their shape.  The bottom of the new stalactite instead of being circular develops a split at the side as it grows, often associated with a thickening of the lower part of the stal.  This may widen very rapidly into a bell or boot shape, nearly always slit at the side.  The effect is apparently caused by the water drop hanging to one side, thus depositing mineral around most, not all, of the rim.  As the stalactite grows in length or thickness, the water drop may change position and build up a deposit at an angle to the previous growth.  An irregular line is often seen down the stalactite, representing the former slit of the opening which has since been closed as the stalactite grows.

Other types of this stalactitic formation begin immediately from the roof, as in diagrams 5 and 6, with an exceptionally large water drop.  In Draethen Mine some of this shape had a large crystal floating on the surface of the water, in one case the crystal was firmly attached to the rim of the stalactite.

All types have the bell end filled with water which has passed down through the neck via the usual small space.  The edges of the bell are often very thin and fragile, but some, in contrast, have edges which are thick and smooth.  The most fully developed are of a nodular appearance, on average about 1½ inches across and 2 inches in length, when growth has been mainly outward.  The most usual length for others is 1 to 4 inches, but longer slit-sided stal have been seen, and there seems no limit to their possible size except time.  The stalactites are found at all depths, down to 150 feet below the surface.   They do not seem to be dependent on possible ventilation draughts or temperature.  Although one would expect that the slope of the roof would influence the course of the water drop in the early stages of stalactitic growth, causing the slit-side to form on the side facing the upper slope of the roof, this is not so.  Examination of groups of stalactites showed that they faced all directions.

About 80% of the formation in these mines is of this unusual shape, and it appears that whether the stalactite begins as straw, helictite or anything else, it almost always develops this tendency to bell out.  It is clear that the sloping bottom edge of the stal, and the slit-side, are caused by the drip running to one side and depositing crystals accordingly, but it is strange that this is not common also in caves in other areas(*).  Probably this out of the ordinary feature is dependent on the actual mineral content in solu­tion in the water, deriving in this area from the limestone rich in magnesium, and the nearness of these mines to the surface and plant acids.

N.W. and J. P. Tuck

* Ed. note:- Since this paper was written similar slit-sided for­mations have been seen in a cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset.





by D.J. Irwin.

Following the discovery of Roman Mine several important sites of archaeological interest were found within the system.  A need to accurately position these sites and to relate surface features to the mine made the requirement of an accurate survey a necessity.

The instruments used were an ex-WD liquid filled prismatic compass, clinometer and 50ft. fibron tape.  All of the instruments were calibrated and read to conform to the requirements of a Cave Research Group Survey Grade 6.  Because of the horizontal nature of the passage from Bloody Ledge to the base of the Aven the survey was carried out minus the clinometer.  Only one traverse was comp­leted to Grade 6 (Main Passage; Mouse Crawl; Bloody Ledge; Top of Aven and through window to Main Passage.)  Length 294-60ft.; Horizontal misclosure 1.29ft. and Vertical misclosure 0.17ft.; Slope error 0.44%.

Length of Roman Mine                                           Surveyed:       840.2ft.

Unsurveyed: 100.0ft. approx.

Total:- 940.0ft. approx.

Depth =  64ft.  from Ground Level (surveyed end of Dangerous Passage)

            = 46ft. below entrance gate.

The symbol         indicates the position of the hearth in Main Passage.



      1. British Caver, Vol.42 (1965) p.40 - J.Tuck
      2. M.Sc. Thesis 1967, University of Wales - Mineralisation in the Carboniferous and Mesozoic Strata in the Area of the South Crop of the South Wales Coalfield. - A. Griddle B.Sc, M.Sc.
      3. Tredegar MS 756; Pettus, p.33
      4. Powis MSS 3977 and 3978
      5. A Historical Tour Through Monmouthshire,  (Davis & Co., Hereford, 1904) - William Coxe (1st print 1801).
      6. Mem. Geol. Survey, Part (Geol. of S.W.Coalfield), 2nd Ed. 1909,  p.22
      7. Mem. Geol. Survey, Part (Geol. of S.W.Coalfield), 2nd Ed. 1909,  p.22
      8. Leadmining in Wales (University of Wales Press, 1967) p.164 - W.J.Lewis.
      9. ---------------       
      10. Lead mining in Wales (University of Wales Press, 1967) p.24 -W.J. Lewis
      11. Lead mining in Wales (University of Wales Press, 1967) p.l60 -W.J. Lewis
      12. Mem. Geol. Survey, Part 1  (Geol. of S.W. Coalfield) 2nd Ed. 1909 p.22
      13. The Cardiff Region - A Survey (1960). The Roman Period -L.Alcock.
      14. Archaeologia Cambrensis, Vol. CXV (1966), p.67 - J.M. Lewis
      15. Archaeologia Cambrensis, Vol. CXV (1966), p.67 - J.M. Lewis
      16. Archaeologia Cambrensis  Vol. XCIV (1939), p. 108 -V.E. Nash-Williams
      17. Archaeologia Cambrensis  Vol. XCIV (1939), p. 108 -V.E. Nash-Williams
      18. Archaeologia,   Vol.V (1779) p.377 - John Strange
      19. Archaeologia,   Vol.V (1779) p.35 - John Strange
      20. Archaeologia Cambrensis, Vol.XCI (1936) p.379 - V.E. Nash-Williams
      21. H.M.S.0 Publication - Caerphilly Castle, Glamorgan.
      22. Mining for metals in Wales (Cardiff, 1962) p. 32 - F.J. North.
      23. Mining for metals in Wales (Cardiff, 1962) p. 33 - F.J. North
      24. M 11 11 11
      25. Mining for metals in Wales (Cardiff, 1962) p. 53 - F.J. North.
      26. Mining for metals in Wales (Cardiff, 1962) p. 16 - F.J. North
      27. Mining for metals in Wales (Cardiff, 1962) p. 27 - F.J. North
      28. Journal 1871 (November 25th) p.l052
      29. Roman Mines in Europe (Clarendon Press, 1935) p.19 - O. Davis
      30. Roman Mines in Europe (Clarendon Press, 1935) p.32 - O. Davis
      31. Roman Mines in Europe (Clarendon Press, 1935) p.38 - O. Davis
      32. Roman Mines in Europe (Clarendon Press, 1935) p.14 - O. Davis
      33. Roman Mines in Europe (Clarendon Press, 1935) p.16 - O. Davis
      34. Roman Mines in Europe (Clarendon Press, 1935) p.30 - O. Davis
      35. Roman Mines in Europe (Clarendon Press, 1935) p.16 - O. Davis





The Commune of Balagueres (see map) is situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees and consists of a valley surrounded by limestone hills containing many shafts, but few caves of any length.  The area has only been partly explored and was offered to us by Georges Jauzion of the Societe Meridional de Speleologie et de Prehistoirs who arranged for us to stay at a disused school house in the village.



Operations started on Saturday 8th August when the party, R.S. King, M. Webster, D. Yendle, C. Clarke, M. Hauan, R. & J. Bennett carried vast amounts of tackle up to a centrally placed but and inspected an area of Beech Woods to the west of the village, near a place called Uchau, which was riddled with shafts of all shapes and sizes.  The French cavers had mapped the area and numbered most of the shafts, and the team picked two which looked interesting.  The first went to 40ft. only (P.U. 13), while the second (G.U. l) was descended via a 260ft entrance shaft and a small, climbable pitch to a pool by Dave Yendle.  It was discovered later that this shaft had been bottomed by the French via three more pitches, (50ft. 50ft.  210ft.) making it the deepest in the area.

The second day was spent looking for and at the Gouffre de la Gargale, a huge shaft which we were informed had been descended once, many years ago.  This was towards the top of an area of steep hillside covered with dense scrub and took several hours of temper fraying, floundering about in the rain to find.  It was very impressive however, and presented itself as a huge mist-filled shaft connected via a short tunnel to an even larger vegetated depression.  Time was short and Roy Bennett descended for a quick look around and reported that it was big all the way, about 270ft. deep and had no extensions.

The next day efforts were extended in two directions.  The main party, augmented by Tony Meadon and Yvonne returned to the Gouffre de la Gargale where Martins, Webster and Hauan and Kangy King descended the shaft in the rain.

Dave Yendle and Martin Fauam had arisen very early to look at the Hount des Espuats, a small effluent cave at the head of the Balague valley.  This had been explored by the French for about 260ft. to a low duck with a draught.  This duck was found to be 20ft. long with a minimum air space of 5 ins.  At the end a small hole in stalagmite gave access to a meandering passage leading to a shorter and more roomy duck followed immediately by two short stalagmited climbs and a section of dry stream passage   ending in a choke.

On the fourth day the explorers were joined by Roy Bennett and the choke was climbed to a blockage of overhanging boulders with a draught, a well decorated grotto found near the end, and the new discoveries surveyed.  Meanwhile the rest of the party continued to look at shafts and caves in the Uchau area, in particular a huge depression on the hill crest to the west of the area.  A small hole some 30ft.  down in the S.W,  corner of this led to a system of shafts which were explored and measured by Kangy King and Martin Webster.

After this activity, the party had a rest day, and started with a conducted tour of the Laboratoire Souterain at Moulis, arranged by Kangy King who acted as interpreter.

Work at this unique laboratory is divided equally into Speleology and the study of physical phenomena.  There is a surface building housing laboratories and a very large and comprehensive library.  The most interesting part, however, is the underground laboratories which have been fashioned out of a nearby cave and in which much original work is being done, particularly in the study of cave animals and micro-animals, and such things as tidal effects in cave waters.  On leaving, the party was presented with a beautifully produced booklet on the laboratory.  (See B.E.C. library).

After this a visit was paid to the Grotte de Niaux, a show cave with prehistoric paintings.  The trip involved a long walk through a large passage to a terminal chamber with phreatic pockets in the walls in which were painted animals.  They were smaller than expected, but beautifully executed and preserved, so that they appeared quite fresh and lifelike.  This was a very worthwhile trip.

Thursday saw the team back in the Uchau area assisted by John Elliott and Roger Solari of the Royal Forest of Dean Caving Club.  Various interconnecting holes of P.U. 16 were pushed and surveyed.  This system consisted almost entirely of shafts and was an interesting example of the type of cave development to be found in this area.  The shaft bottoms had coalesced by collapse to give short lengths of boulder floored passage under which there was presumably more vertical development. In addition some digging was done in a draughty hole labelled P.U. 15A.


Friday saw the last trip into the Hount des Espuats when photo­graphs were taken, the final choke again inspected and a tight inlet passage at the top of the first climb pushed for 40ft.  The potholing party found a 100ft, shaft in the hillside above the Balague Schoolhouse - Gouffre de Boucheroudet.  This started as a small hole flush with the ground and was well decorated.  Another 50ft.  shaft was noted in the hill above.  Castel Segui).

Saturday and Sunday saw the caving ended with the descent of Coume Ferrat, the largest shaft in the area.  This shaft, 204 meters (680ft.) deep was first descended in September 1965 by the French after several previous trips.  Subsequent to this it had been used to test a new 2 man winch designed for rescue work from deep shafts.  The ensuing expedi­tion put a large number of cavers at the bottom so that the system had been quite well explored and the shaft was tackled 'because it was there' rather than in the hope of fresh discoveries.



Saturday was spent in gathering together nil the available tackle and laddering the first part of the shaft (128 meters, 420ft.) and rigging a pulley and lifeline.  The party were astir early the following day and had completed the long walk to the cave by 8.30 a.m.  After some preliminary sorting out Martin Webster started to descend an hour later and was soon on the ledge at -128 meters.  As no contact could be made with him using the two-way radios the telephones were brought into use.  This involved a weighted wire which at first failed to make contact because of the poor visibility.  Eventually this problem was solved by using a lighted torch at the end.  Roy Bennett then descended, followed by the tackle and the lower pitch was rigged (76 meters, 250 ft.).  Martin Webster was again the first to descend and describes the lower part of the trip as follows:- "As soon as the tackle for the lower part of the shaft landed on the ledge, Roy Bennett and I set about threading the various lengths of ladder down over a prominent stalagmite slope and on into the 250ft. abyss which forms the lower part of the 680ft. shaft.  When sufficient ladder had been lowered the belay, which was secured through an obvious eye-hole at the top of the stal. slope, was fixed on and I prepared to descend.

Dave Yendle had by then arrived on the ledge and gave a life-line.  The descent commenced, but after descending only 10ft. progress came to an abrupt halt when our telephone cable broke and our life-liner became engulfed in great coils of wire.

Dave was soon unravelled and I set off once more down the slope and over the edge into the gulf.

This was completely different to the vast 420ft. shaft above.  Initially, it descended through rotting flowstone barriers, which looked decidedly shaky.  We were warned to look out for cut hands in the next bit, where it funnelled into a 20ft.dia. cylinder, the walls of which appeared to be made up of close packed rocks, which were found to be very loose when touched.  At last, after some 120ft. of struggling down, freeing the tangle of ladder from the myriad of sharp projections I climbed out through the roof of a vast vault which stretched away into the inky blackness far below.  After a further 70ft. a large rocky basin was encountered.  Here the remaining ladders had to be disentangled and thrown on down.  Tackle being lowered down the shaft will almost immediately get caught at this point so it is best to lower it firstly to the 'basin'  and then carry it on down the remaining 60ft. of ladder to the chamber floor.  This was promptly done, and while Roy was preparing to join me, I set off to do quick reconnaissance trip.

One way the chamber led into a large rift about 15 - 20ft. wide and of indeterminate height.  This ended after some 200ft. in a rock face with some crawls.  In the opposite direction a hole under a gigantic boulder led up a mud staircase onto a ledge, and on through a crawl under a small blockage to a short muddy drop.  This obviously needed a handline, so I returned to the foot of the shaft and waited for Roy.  He soon arrived and after a quick look around the large rift passage we made our way back to the short drop and quickly fixed a belay onto a very doubtful looking knob of rock and slid (fell!) down the slope into the passage beyond.  After two short climbs we came to a junction, one way to the right, down a 12ft. pitch, the other, to the left, through a crawl.  We were looking for a tight 60ft. drop with a stream at the bottom, which we eventually found beyond the crawl.  This was a particularly miserable affair which had a continuous cascade of earth and rocks pouring down it as you climbed the ladder.  The passage at the bottom was a tight meandering stream way with a mass of razor rock on the walls which continually tore our clothes, virtually reducing them to ribbons!  Finally after some 300ft. of arduous crawls, climbs and squeezes, we emerged in a slightly larger passage and were confronted by a short pitch with a pool at the bottom.  This did not appear to be on the survey, though we found some survey points close by, and it appears that this, lower section was flooded during the French explorations.  Here we had to finish exploration as we had not brought sufficient tackle for this drop, so we returned to the big shaft feeling somewhat cheated!

After taking a few photographs, Roy set off up the shaft and soon Dave came into view high in the arched roof, moving rhythmically down, his light illuminating the tiny thread of silver ladder which disappeared into the gloom above.  When we reached the floor, we set off to have a look at the pitch we had seen at the junction, which according to the survey was an ascending passage with various climbs and drops.  It turned out to be exactly this, although we found it had rather more pitches than anticipated, and after two 20ft. drops, one handline descent and various climbs, using an array of very dubious looking belay points, and an absolute minimum of tackle, we arrived in a large boulder chamber and found ourselves at the top of a 25ft. pitch with a marked absence of any tackle for descending the offending 'hole'.  The point reached was however, only about 50ft. from the end of the known cave, so we were not too depressed.

Now we came to the problem of getting ourselves and all the tackle back up the shaft.  This turned out to be much easier than expected.  Dave and I climbed the ladder as far as the rock basin, here we pulled up all the ladders, passed the extremely awkward final drop, and unclipped the ladder so that it would not snag on the 'basin'.  I then climbed the rest of the pitch and spent an anxious 30 mins. trying to get the lifeline back down.

Finally we succeeded, and Dave pulling the tackle we had taken off behind him, was given a strong pull up to the ledge.  The remainder of the ladder came up quite easily, as we managed to keep it away from the walls by traversing out a little way and giving it an outward pull."

Once the tackle was back on the ledge, the worst worry was over.  Much of the credit for this must go to Georges Jauzion whose advice on siting the ladder etc. was invaluable.  The ledge party had in the mean­time had a little trouble due to the telephone wire becoming tangled in the lifeline and getting broken.  This could have been quite a nuisance, but fortunately the Stannaphones were so powerful that voice contact was just maintained in some way through the ladder and a second illuminated wire could be lowered again before any communication difficulties arose.  Another useful point of technique - each time the lifeline was lowered down the big pitch it was weighted with an army pack containing food or stones.  This avoided both the possibilities of getting the line threaded through the ladder, and also the problem of catching up the lifeline which can occur if coils are thrown out into the middle of the shaft.

The upper pitch was free all the way, and presented a fairly strenuous climb.  This is where the lifeline party of Kangy, Colin Clarke, Tony Meadon, Roger Solari and John Elliott came into their own and sweated at the top to provide welcome uplift for the climbers.  In order to reduce the load on a long haul of this length the lifeline was rigged via pulleys and prussikers to give a mechanical advantage of three (see diagram). This certainly reduced the strain on the lifeliners, but gave short pulls on the climbers alternating with no pull as the traction prussiker was slid back along the rope.  Some form of winch would have been better if available.  Anyway, it sufficed, and tackle and bods were all up by about 8.00 p.m. the shaft detackled and everyone out and back at the schoolhouse by 11.15 p.m.  In addition to the above support team, Joan Bennett operated the telephone, Yvonne provided food and George:; Jauzion gave general advice and some useful suggestions.

This rounded off the trip quite nicely and the party then left for some mountaineering in the High Pyrenees.


As can be seen the amount of known cave passage in the chosen area is quite small and the typical cave development is of vertical shafts, blocked at the bottom.

The Hount des Espuats is an exception to this.  It lies under a usually dry valley which rises up towards the shafts of Coume Ferrat and the Gouffre de la Gargale and probably drains only the area of this valley.  The terminal choke could merely connect with the surface, but the end passage is heading under the steep valley side and appears to take a fairly large stream at times.  The cave may act as an overflow system as the stream can rise to a very high flow only to fall rapidly to near its usual level.  Thus the terminal choke could well repay demolition (from a safe distance), particularly in view of the draught.

Much of the drainage in this area goes east then north to Alieu in the next valley where it emerges from a much larger effluent cave (Groxte D'Aliou) which ends in a sump which has been dived to a depth of 230ft.  The French have concluded from flood pulse analysis that there is an extensive length of open stream passage behind the sump, hence their great interest in the innumerable shafts in the area.  A visiting team would have to be very lucky to succeed here, but could perhaps shorten the odds by either pushing shafts known to connect with the main rising or by looking for unexplored shafts near and to the south of the rising.



Hount Des Espuata and P.U.16: Hand held prismatic compass and clinometer

Various shafts, etc. - Hand held prismatic compass and direct vertical measurement.


l.    R. S. King (Kangy)    Description of a trip to the area.  Belfry Bulletin 23 (12) (Dec.1969)   248

2.   General Map               Institut   Geographique   National l/20,000   XIX - 47 ASPET No. 4



by  R.H  Bennett

Published by the Bristol Exploration Club 1973

Editor: D.J. Irwin, Townsend Cottage, PRIDDY, Nr. Wells, Somerset

Further copies obtainable at the Club H.Q.: The Belfry, Wells Road, PRILDY, Nr.Wells, Somerset.

Price:    25p members

30p non-members





This Report of the western area of St. Cuthbert's Swallet, commonly known to many as the Long Chamber/Coral Area, is additional to B. E. C.  Caving Report So. 7 - A Second Report on St.  Cuthbert’s Swallet - now unfortunately out of print.  It attempts to summarize the recent discoveries made since that Report was published and to tie them in with the parts of the cave mentioned in the 'Second Report'.  The section of the earlier Report on the Coral Series has been rewritten in this one.

For many years this area of St. Cuthbert's has remained an unknown quantity with many leaders knowing it in part only. This has caused a great deal of confusion, particularly when discoveries were reported.  No one could be absolutely sure that they were new as they may have been ent­ered several years earlier and only vaguely reported.

It has been felt for some time that an all out effort should be made to explore and survey this area.  Now, with the co-operation of several leaders, most of the known passages and chambers have been recorded, togeth­er with additional finds made this year totalling many hundreds of feet.

The survey produced with this Report is thought to be complete as regards the known passages, except those noted in the text, but many points have still to be pushed, photographed and surveyed.  So apology is made for the detailed description given in the Report as the area is so complex.  To ease the interpretation of the survey it has been produced on two sheets; the Long Chamber Series being - above Coral Chamber and its associated pass­ages.  The accuracy of the survey cannot be given as the area was surveyed as chambers were entered but the grading is between C.R.G.,  grades 1 and 3.  It is planned later this year to commence a new survey, at as high a grade as is possible, to be attached to the 1962 St.  Cuthbert's survey (B. E. C. Caving Report No. 8).  Anyone who has been in the area will appreciate the difficulties that a surveyor will encounter, e.g. in the region of Annex Chamber there are five levels!  However, the present survey, together with these notes, will help leaders to find their way through the area without any great difficulty.


Confusion has arisen due to people not recognising chambers that have already been discovered because the descriptions of them have been vague.  Consequently several chambers have been given names already allocated to another chamber; in addition one chamber - Long Chamber Extension - has been known under two names with many leaders believing two chambers existed!  To name all the chambers in the area (which now exceed 40) would be absurd, so for reference purposes chambers will be referred to in the text by a chamber number and the name (if any).

The survey shows that this area can be divided into two basic series of chambers in addition to the Rocky Boulder Series.


Consisting of Long Chamber, Long Chamber Extension, Upper Long Chamber, Chandelier Passage and accompanying passages, exten­sions to the west of Long Chamber Extension (including chambers 9, 10 and 33), etc.


Consisting of Annex Chamber, Coral Chamber and Fracture Rift.


Consisting of Rocky Boulder Chamber and part of Rocky Boulder Passage.

In addition to the two main levels there are:-

a.    Pillar Extensions  

These passages and chambers are up-dip of Upper Long Chamber and connection between the Long Chamber Series and Pillar Chamber can be made.

b.   Marble Hall Area

At the time of writing, only partially explored; it consists of Marble Hall and a ruckle at the south end, together with a pot

c.   Quarry Passage

This passage and its associated passages above Boulder Chamber connect Boulder Chamber with Upper Long Chamber.

Seven passages connect the two basic levels but they are in general only of a minor nature, but enable a variety of routes to be chosen, although in some cases care must be taken due to loose boulders, etc.  The connections are shown on each survey sheet by a capital letter.

N. B.  Only part of the Rocky Boulder Series is shown on the survey and described in the text; the remainder of the Series leading to Lower Mud Hall and the Sew Route has been included in a grade 5 survey being carried out by Roger Stenner which it is intended to publish at a later date.


As mentioned earlier, several extensions have been found notably Marble Hall and Upper Long Chamber areas and the possibility of more finds is extremely good.  The areas suggested for further probes (in addition to scores of other holes) are at the south end of Long Chamber Extension, 1962 Extension, Ruckle Passage, Marble Hall area, Rocky Boulder Chamber and Upper Long Chamber.  Who knows, if the fault line can be breached an Eastwater - St. Cuthbert" s through trip might just be possible.


LONG CHAMBER (Chamber 15).

A climb over the boulders on the west side of Boulder Chamber leads to Long Chamber (Ch. 15).  There are several routes connecting the two chambers, that most commonly used being to traverse along the top of the boulders to a cluster of dry curtains.  Bear right, over the large boulders and follow the hanging wall to the chamber (see figure l).

This chamber of high triangular shaped section is the lower half of Ch. 15 (Long Chamber) and has three ways on.  To the north (directions in the cave can be determined as the dip is very approx. N - S.) through a triangular hole on the left hand side of the wall of boulders leads to Ch. 8 (Upper Long Chamber) to the south a climb over large boulders to the right of the stal. bosses on the floor, then left for twenty feet leads to the further reaches of Ch. 15 (Long Chamber).  Finally a hole in the floor below the west wall of the chamber leads to Ch. 13 (Annex Chamber).     In the centre of the cham­ber are some fine coloured formations in the form of stal. bosses, the top of one containing a colony of Springtails (1964).   High on the east wall of the chamber is a very fine curtain over eight feet long.

The climb to the south mentioned above leads to the upper levels of Ch. 15 (Long Chamber).  This section is basically a rectangular bedding plane overlooking Ch. 24 (Upper Curtain Chamber) and is on two levels as shown in figure 3.  Traverse across the first section to a point fifteen feet down dip where a long, low hole leads to a higher level traverse across to the far wall where there is a short, steep climb upwards through a boulder ruckle leading to Ch. 16 (Long Chamber Extension).  There are several entrances to this ruckle.

A climb down into Ch. 24 (Upper Curtain Chamber)  can be made from the lower end of the higher level traverse.  A further climb from this chamber can be made to the lower part of Curtain Chamber (Ch. 25) but this MUST NOT BE MADE in order to preserve the formations.

From the beginning of the traverse take care not to dislodge stones as there are some fine formations at the lower end; also the hand and foot holds flake easily in the second half of the traverse.


Climb from Long Chamber (Ch. 15) through a ruckle, then Long Chamber Extension (Ch. 16) is soon reached.  Discovered in 1962, the direction of the axis of this high chamber is almost due north - south.  The chamber, about eighty feet long and fifty to sixty feet high, has a high boulder pile forming a false wall behind which one can climb and overlook the chamber.  Below this point is a traverse to the 1962 Extension.

Remaining at the lowest level of the chamber, climb towards the north end of the chamber and a hole under the hanging wall leads to Upper Long Chamber (Ch. b) via the top of Fracture Rift and a bedding plane.  A short climb from here heading north-west leads to a forty feet long passage (actually a boulder filled section of Ch. 16 (Long Chamber Extension)).  Here the boulders take on a light grey appearance.  The passage terminates with a ruckle of tightly packed boulders.  The floor contains many holes, most of them leading to the top of Fracture Rift.


Straw Chamber (Ch. 38.) and Miscellaneous Passages  (Figure 8 ).

An indeterminate route vertically through the boulders from the bottom of the north-east section of Ch. 16 (Long Chamber Extension) soon widens to a series of climbs and traverses to a gravel floored chamber -Chamber 37.  On the right is a large open trench in a passage containing several climbs; after 100 feet, or more, it ends in a ruckle.  Under the third climb three fine nests of cave pearls and spherulites may be seen in the same pool, (figure 9).  This is known as Pearl Passage.

A climb out of Ch. 37 on the left wall leads to Straw Chamber (Ch. 38), aptly named, with straws up to three feet long.  A fine curtain attached to a pillar can also be seen.  A bedding plane over the entrance leads to two passages.  The left is well decorated and has not been probed further than a crystal pool; the right hand passage becomes choked after about forty feet.

Ruckle Passage (Figure10).

This passage through the ruckle at the most northerly point of Long Chamber Extension (Ch. 16) connects with Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber).  Of the three possible routes in this area connecting the two chambers, this is the safest.

At the far end of the north-east passage of Long Chamber Extension (Ch. 16) the boulder floor drops away then rises again exposing a large smooth area of the overhanging wall.  Towards the top of the far boulder slope there is a hole in the boulders marked by a block of black rock with white calcite banding.  A more convenient hole enters from the side.

Climb down over the 'bridged' rock and through a hole on the right of the floor; straight ahead is a squeeze in the floor. Bear right imm­ediately below to a small chamber with a rift passage on the left leading to Marble Hall (Ch. 36).  Straight ahead is a hole in the wall giving access to Coral Chamber (Ch. 14).   Care is needed when entering Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber) as the floor drops steeply for over thirty feet.

Bedding Planes West of Long Chamber Extension (Ch. 16).

At the end of the passage at the north-east end of Ch. 16 (Long Chamber Extension) a small passage leads to the right for fifteen feet.  The way on is through a hole on the left; this enters Ch. 28.  Four feet in front of the entrance is a squeeze leading to a lower chamber - Ch. 11.  By climbing in a northerly direction, or to the right of the entrance hole, continue upwards until the bedding plane narrows at the entrance of Ch. 9.

A ten feet deep hole exists in the floor of this chamber and is hidden by loose slabs of rock - care is required.  A small intermittent stream, thought to be the one feeding Coral Chamber, enters on the far left.  This can be followed to Chamber 33.  Following the stream, or stream bed through Ch. 33 a rift passage can be climbed until it becomes too tight.

Alternatively, before entering Ch. 9 bear left to a continuation of the bedding plane, turn down dip to the lowest point where a small stream enters on the right.  Straight ahead is a. large chamber over thirty feet high, Far Chamber (Ch.  10) - see figure 11.  To the right in Chamber 10 (Far Chamber) is a rift passage through boulders that forks but soon closes down.

At the bottom of the bedding plane (opposite the stream) near the entrance to Ch. 10 a hole in the floor leads to Ch. 11 via a short ruckle.  A hole in the floor of Ch. 11 loads to an awkward climb down to Coral Chamber (Ch. 14).

Long Chamber Extension (Ch. 16) to Coral Chamber (Ch. 14).

Instead of climbing up dip in Ch. 28 towards Ch. 9, go through a squeeze in the floor to Ch. 11 and down an awkward climb over a hole in the floor leading to Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber).  The hole gives access to a twenty five feet deep ladder pitch into Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber).   Ch. 11 is an L-shaped chamber and at the bend there has been a recent fall of rock.

At the far end of Ch. 11 a route exists leading to Coral Chamber (Ch. 14) but this should not be used as it is very unsafe.

Passage ‘A’ Over Long Chamber Extension.

By bearing left after entering Long Chamber Extension (Ch. 16) one may climb up the wall of the boulders that terminate at a point over­looking the chamber.  Just below this point on the climb is a hole lined with muddy stalagmite on the right.  A thirty foot passage leads to Ch. 47 via a very tight squeeze or a very low bedding plane.  A bedding plane on the right and a passage opposite the entry to the chamber have not yet been entered.

Passage ‘B’ Over Long Chamber Extension.

Bear left at the entrance of Straw Chamber (Ch. 38) and continue to the end of the chamber near the fifteen inch long erratic.  Follow the passage into boulders.  Drop down ten feet to a point where a stal. flow emerges from boulders, then climb up through two squeezes to a low chamber with a very fine stalagmite cascade.  This passage continues for a further thirty feet than closes down.

UPPER CHAMBER (chamber 8)

Climb through the hole in the north wall of boulders in Ch. 15 (Long Chamber).  Above this point is an awkward fourteen foot climb through jammed blocks into the lower end of Ch. 8.  To the left and above the climb is the entrance to Chandelier Passage.  Ch.  8 (Upper Long Chamber) appears to be on the same plane as Ch. 15 (Long Chamber) (Fig. 2).  It is roughly rectang­ular with a continuation on the west side not readily seen as the roof drops to within 2-3 feet of the boulder floor.  The overall dimensions are: length of roof, 75'; width, 30';  roof height,  2 - 12'.

From this chamber there are several ways on as shown in Fig. 7.

    1. To chambers above8 (Upper Long Chamber)
    2. To bedding planes
    3. To16 (Long Chamber Extension) via bedding plane
    4. To crystal pool
    5. To15 (Long Chamber)
    6. Chandelier Passage
    7. Entrance to Quarry Passage
    8. To Ch. 7 (Bell Chamber) via a very tight bedding plane
    9. &  10 Bedding planes not yet fully explored

11) &12)   Miscellaneous holes interconnecting above roof

13)    Rift Passage to Ch.  14 (Coral Chamber).

Passage 1) from Ch. 8 (Upper Long Chamber) (Figure 7)

At the top of Ch. 8 a hole in the boulders bridging a transverse rift leads to a tight and very awkward bedding plane.  After fifteen feet this leads to a ruckle, bearing right soon leads to Upper Stream Passage.

Passage 3) (Figure 7)

From Junction 5) & 6) (Figure 7) cross the chamber to the continuat­ion (Figure 6) and climb to a low passage in the north wall of boulders.  Bearing left after eight feet leads to a twenty feet long low tunnel showing signs of solutional activity in the roof.  At the end, bear left, keeping right at a junction after ten feet. This leads to a bedding plane leading dorm dip at approximately 55 - 40°.  The floor of the bedding plane is fluted similar to the bedding plane in the Catgut Series.  After 25 feet bear left to the top of Fracture Rift.  To cross the rift climb over the boulders on the left (care required) and follow the passage for fifteen feet to a low hole in the wall on the right, leading to Ch. 16 ''Long Chamber Extension).  Various holes in the floor either lead to Fracture Rift or close down.

Passage 4) (Figure 7)

From Junction 5) & 6) (Figure 7) cross to the continuation of the chamber (Figure 6) under the low roof.  High up in the boulder wall a stalagmite flow will be seen.  An awkward climb will avoid the stalagmite and lead to a low, wide passage with stalagmite continuing up the passage in a trench to a large white crystal pool.  To avoid the stal.  stream, a hand line looped around the muddy stalagmite boss on the right of the trench will be found useful.  The passage is blocked with stalagmite on the far side of the pool.

Passage 6) (Figure 7) Chandelier Passage

At the top of the fourteen foot climb from Ch. 15 (Long Chamber) to Ch. 8 (Upper Long Chamber) a narrow stream passage leads to a ten foot climb.  Carry on up the passage to where the passage appears to end (the formations at this point are taped off) (Figures 8 & 9).  A low level passage on the left leads to a twelve foot climb to Quarry Passage.  A climb at the end of Chandelier Passage (fifteen feet) leads to Ch. 22 (Top Grotto).  This climb must not be made in order to preserve the helictite cluster at the base.  The 'Chandelier'   can be seen high on the right hand wall.  Climbing the tight slit in the left hand wall gives access to a high level passage leading to Ch. 7 (Bell Chamber) and is an alternative route to Ch. 22 (Top Grotto).

Bell Chamber (Ch. 7) and Associated Passages

Bell Chamber is a small triangular shaped chamber formed along the path of the inactive Upper Stream Passage.  The boulders in the roof are unstable and should not be climbed.  A steeply inclined passage under the ‘Bell’ leads back to Chandelier Passage above the ten foot climb, or by following the bedding plane to a rift, again at the top of the ten foot climb leading to Upper Stream Passage.

On the left of the entrance- passage is a tight bedding plane joining up with Ch. 8 (Upper Long Chamber).  An awkward 45° trench on the left side of the ‘Bell’ leads to a bedding plane above the chamber, after two squeezes one above the other.  Bearing left and traversing across the bedding plane leads through a short ruckle to Upper Stream Passage.  Bearing right above the squeezes a narrow crawl passage, about four feet long, leads to a small 'chamber' containing formations flowing from boulders in the roof.  A dry rectangular crystal pool can also be seen.  A ten foot climb down through the hole in the floor to the right of the crystal pool leads to a passage on the right.  Ch.' 22 (Top Grotto) is soon reached which contains some very fine formations, the most outstand­ing being the rimstone pools covering about twelve square feet, forming a fine crystal lacework over the floor.  A passage behind a stalagmite candle has not been entered in order to preserve the flows.

From the chamber containing the flow from the roof, i.e.  the one above Ch. 7 (Bell Chamber), an awkward climb up through the boulders in the roof (not the hole from which the flow emerges - this closes down) leads to a richly decorated chamber, Ch. 5.  To the right in the stal. floor is a small crystal pool.  There is .also a passage on the opposite side of the entrance but this soon closes down.

Above Ch. 22 (Top Grotto) and Ch. 7 (Bell Chamber) are several passages and bedding planes which interconnect but shortly close down.

Upper Stream Passage

Continuing from the bedding plane above Ch. 7 (Bell Chamber) traverse across the top of Upper Stream Passage to the level of the boulders.  Following the passage for twenty feet, over a 25 feet deep pot (see below) with Ch. 47 on the left, leads to a fair sized boulder chamber, Ch. 17.  A climb on the north side above the large boulders leads to a continuation of the passage but two loose and balanced boulders have to be negotiated on the way.  This finally ends in a ruckle.  This passage is very unstable.  A climb to a rift passage high up in the wall of Ch. 17 leads to a series of tight passages.

Climbing down ten feet to the floor of the stream way below the trav­erse from the bedding plane above Bell Chamber, a tight rift passage conn­ects with Chandelier Passage.  A short 'passage' on the left of Upper Stream Passage connects with the bedding plane loading to Ch. 8 (Upper Long Chamber).

Pot in Upper Stream Passage

A careful climb through the boulders leads to the lower part of a stalagmite flow.  Then follows an easy climb of twenty feet to the pass­age leading to the junction in Pillar Chamber Extension.  (This lies between Ch.  30 and Ch.  3l).


These are a series of two bedding planes and a rift at the southern end of Long Chamber Extension containing several boulder choked avens.  It has been reported that a rift some 100 - 150 feet long runs behind Lake Chamber from the extension but this has yet to be established.



(Figures 13 k 14)

This is a large, low roofed chamber, inclined at approximately 40°, running across dip and downwards against the strike.  The roof height is generally about twelve feet.  The most striking feature is the Gorge, a large channel, cut by the stream, running almost the full length of the chamber.

A side passage joins near the bottom of the chamber and connects again at the top end of the chamber near Coral Pot (a blind pot 30 feet deep).  A traverse across the top of the pot leads to a bedding plane that closes down.  Another noticeable feature is the hole in the roof.  This was maypoled and found to connect with Rocky Boulder Pitch after two low squeezes and 30 feet of passage (Figure 12).  Near the entrance to Ruckle Passage (q.v.) a bedding plane can be seen in the roof but this soon closes down.

Coral Chamber to Boulder Chamber

Following Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber) to the lowest point leads to a sandy floored passage with a large natural bank of gravel on the right.  A short climb soon leads to Ch. 18 (Rocky Boulder Chamber).  A climb to the roof on the left wall of Rocky Boulder Chamber leads to an upper chamber, Ch.40. Alternatively, a tight but sporting rift with a chock stone wedged midway leads to the same chamber.  This is located at the end of the passage from Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber).  Immediately opposite the top of the rift is the entrance to Rocky Boulder Passage.

A ten foot climb in Ch. 10 which is rather loose, leads to a hole in the roof via a prominent ledge on the solid wall, giving access to Boulder Chamber below the climb to a rift leading to Ch. 13 (Annex Chamber).

Boulder Chamber to Coral Chamber

From Kanchenjunga bear right at Quarry Corner keeping to the same level at the foot of the climb to Ch. 15 (Long Chamber).   Climb down over the boulders to the hole in the floor that leads to the rift with a chock-stone and Rocky Boulder Passage.  To the left of the hole an inclined rift will clearly be seen.  A short climb leads to Ch. 13 (Annex Chamber) - a muddy chamber with two ways on.  To the left a short climb leads to Ch. 15 (Long Chamber).  A rift opposite the entrance leads to Fracture Rift.  At the junction with Fracture Rift a step across, the rift to a passage leads to Coral Pitch.  Bearing left at this junction and traver­sing down the rift by an obvious ledge to a short climb, leads to the lowest level of the rift.  A tight vertical squeeze on the right at the end of the rift leads to Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber) near the 'hole in the roof.



From Ch. 27 (Pillar Chamber) bear right behind the ten foot high pillar to a passage ending in Ch.  3.  After a short climb down bear right to a passage leading south under Ch. 27 (Pillar Chamber).  The passage soon narrows and shortly ends at the head of Rocky Boulder Pitch (20 feet).  At the same level, but opposite, is Coral Pitch and the cent­ral hole leads to the 'hole in the roof of Coral Chamber.  At the bottom of Rocky Boulder Pitch the passage widens to a bedding plane on the left loading to Lower Mud Hall and the Now Route.  On the right a wide passage loads to a low crawl that is again on the right, to the top of Oubliette Pitch, a twenty feet deep blind pot.  Following the passage on the left, a short slide leads to a tight rift on the right, which in turn leads to Ch. 40.  Immediately opposite is the entry to Chockstone Rift.


At the lower end of Chockstone Rift, a hole on the left or a short climb down, opposite the rift lead to Rocky Boulder Chamber.  An alternative entry to this chamber may be made by the larger built caver by bearing left at the top of Chockstone Rift and making a difficult twenty foot climb through the roof of Rocky Boulder Chamber.

In the floor of Ch. 18 (Rocky Boulder Chamber) close to the entrance, a passage can be seen.  This ends by a short rift in the floor, with a passage through the boulders leading to an inclined down dip bedding plane on the right.  This enters Ch. 19 with a passage located on the far wall terminating in a final, small, mud choked chamber with fine rock pendants, Ch. 46.



This hole leads to approximately 30 feet of passage over Mud Hall.


At the lower end of Pillar Chamber (near the three runged ladder) bear right over the shattered stal to a hole in the roof to Ch. 30, a small boulder chamber.  Bear left to a hole in the wall leading to a ruckle.  After 40 feet the ruckle leads to a high chamber, Ch. 31, with remains of a water worn pot forming the floor.  Behind the wall a squeeze overlooks Ch. 3 at the head of Rocky Boulder Passage (30 foot drop).  Turning left at the entrance to the chamber a careful climb will load to a larger chamber, Ch. 32, about 30 feet long.  On the left wall is a 25 feet high narrow rift that closes down but six feet from the bottom of the rift on the right hand side is an awkward squeeze that leads to a. wide rift about 25 feet long with fine stalagmite flows at the far end.  Climbing down the rift to the edge of the stal. gives access to a bedding piano on the left.  After ten feet the head of a 54 feet deep pot is reached; belay tackle to the boulders in the floor of the rift when descending.  At the bottom of the pitch is a squeeze giving access to bedding planes that connect with Ch.  32.  A short series of bedding planes leads to Ch. 8 (Upper Long Chamber).

Near the entry to Ch. 31 an aven on the right leads to Upper Stream Passage (q. v.).



This is reached by entering Ruckle Passage from Ch. 14 (Coral Chamber) to the small chamber.  Immediately opposite is a continuation to Ch. 16 (Long Chamber Extension).  On the right is the entrance to the rift pass­age through a vertical hole four feet high and about two feet wide.  This opens immediately to a wide inclined rift.  After 50 feet a small hole in the floor leads immediately to another hole above a small rift chamber.  In the left wall of the chamber a rift passage leads to a lower chamber, Ch. 35, via a short climb, with stalagmite flows on the left wall.  Immed­iately left again at floor level is a squeeze opening out into Marble Hall.  This chamber, about 45 feet long, is entered by climbing down a very steep bank of eroded breccia.

The chamber is developed in what must be the Lake-Gour Hall fault.  To the east (up dip) holes enter along the bedding; these may be followed to the ruckle mentioned below.  The west wall is part of the fault and has some mineralization.  On the loft of the chamber, at the lowest point, a climb vertically downwards can be made and the way on is through boulders on the left leading to a steeply inclined passage.  At the bottom several passages lead off but are choked with a coarse gravel fill - the dip of the rocks at this point appears to be nearly 90°.  A 25 foot aven can be climbed above the lower part of the passage but has been found to re-enter the lower part of the first vertical climb from Ch. 36 (Marble Hall).  A dig is contemplated at the lowest point of a side passage that contains a considerable drip.

MARBLE POT (Figure 17)

In Ch. 35, instead of bearing left to the squeeze to Marble Hall, continue to the end of the chamber and climb through a hole in the floor to a short passage.  On the left is a blind passage; on the far side in the floor is a split tube - go through the left hand side to a lower rift chamber.  Opposite the entrance a squeeze in the floor gives access to a 30 foot climb down.  At the bottom is a small open horizontal tube about six feet long.  (N.B. The split tube is extremely difficult on the return journey and is not recommended for the larger caver.)


Climb up the wall for ten feet at the far end of Marble Hall (Ch. 36) to a hole in the boulders that leads to a spacious ruckle.  To date the ruckle passages soon close down except for three chambers above the ent­rance hole; much further work is required in this area.


From Junction 5) & 7) (Figure 7) climb up the chamber to a large hole in the floor by the east wall - some twenty feet from the junction.  A ten foot climb down over, boulders leads to a lower passage sloping downwards in an easterly direction.  High on the right wall is an awkward muddy stalag­mite' climb that connects with Chandelier Passage.  Continue down the pass­age to a right angle bend where the passage has cut through several solut­ional tubes.

The first leads to the drip above the Kanchenjunga carbide dump, a branch of this leading to a hole overlooking the south side of Boulder Chamber looking towards Everest Chamber.  A tight rift passage near the drip leads to a large passage above Boulder Chamber having another entry near the mud slope to the Vantage Point.

The main Quarry passage continues, from the right angle bend, down dip and leads to .Boulder Chamber under the Quarry Corner overhang.  In addition there are numerous other passages producing a miniature rabbit warren.  A rift, approximately 30 feet deep, near the exit to Boulder Chamber has not yet been climbed.


There are several extensions off the main route from Pillar Chamber to Kanchenjunga.  These may connect with the upper reaches of Chandelier Passage when pushed.  Also, two holes, in the roof of Boulder Chamber and in the roof of Cascade Chamber, may well connect with the solutional tubes already known to exist in the roof of Boulder Chamber and above the Cascade.



Coral Chamber


Long Chamber


Long Chamber Extension


Long Chamber Extension–various passages


Quarry Passage

December 1963

Upper Long Chamber

December 1963

Marble Hall

July 1964

Chandelier passage

March 1964

Marble Pot

August 1964

Pillar Extensions

September 1964


October 1964


Long Chamber Series

1590+ feet

Marble Hall area

300+ feet

Quarry Passage & associated passages

200 feet

Rocky Boulder Passage/Coral area

920 feet

Pillar Chamber extension

150+ feet

Total passage length approximately

3200 feet


- Additional to that listed in Caving Report No. 7.

Marble Pot                    Depth:  45 ft       40 ft lifeline with foot loop (optional) required for return journey.

Marble Hall                                                   10 ft ladder and 20 ft tether required for entry to ruckle.

54 ft Pot                       Depth:  54 ft      60 ft ladder, 120 ft lifeline and 40 ft tether required

Chandelier Passage to Quarry Passage        12 ft      60 ft hand line required.



------(off Ch.  32)


Curtain Chamber


----- (rift to 54' Pot)


Everest Chamber


-----  (off Rocky Boulder Pass.)


Pillar Chamber


54 Foot Pot


---- (off Ch. 16)


-----) (above Ch. 22)


Mud Hall




---- ) (off Pillar Ch. Ext.)


Bell Chamber


---- ) (off Pillar Ch. Ext.)


Upper Long Chamber


---- ) (off Pillar Ch. Ext.)


----- (off Ch.  16)


---- (off Ch. 9)


Far Chamber


---- ) (chambers loading


----- (off Ch. 16)


---- )    to Ch.  36)


Rocky Boulder Pitch


Marble Hall


Annex Chamber


---- (off Ch. 38)


Coral Chamber


Straw Chamber


Long Chamber


(Recorded by Roberts (l960), not yet located


Long Chamber Extension


---- (above Ch. 18)


---- (above Ch.  7)


---- ) (in passage A above Ch. 16)


Rocky Boulder Chamber


---- ) (in passage A above Ch. 16)


---- (below Ch, 18)


---- ) (off Ch. 36)


1962 Extension


---- ) (off Ch. 36)


Boulder Chamber


---- ) (off Ch. 36)


Top Grotto


---- (below Ch.  18)


Cascade Chamber


---- (off Upper Stream Passage)


Upper Curtain Chamber











SECTION ONE - Introduction

Background to the Report.

For many years, the writer of this paper has felt that more attention should be paid to the Presentation of Cave Survey data.  As a result, a paper on this subject was -written in December 1 964, and shown to a few cavers.  Their comments being favourable on the whole, the writer then prepared a brief paper called 'A new approach to Cave Surveys' which he circulated privately amongst about 30 cavers from a number of clubs and invited their comments.

These comments were very interesting.  Nearly all those contacted thought that the work should be published as a B.E,C. caving report, but their individual reactions varied from very much against to very much in favour.  Two such comments are reproduced below to illustrate these extremes:-

Comment 1.

"The general effect of this effort will be a regrettable increase in the amount of paper produced by armchair experts who forget that a lot of fun is gained when exploring caves and overcoming the unexpec­ted."

Comment 2.

"Until reading the note I hadn’t realised how specialized present surveys are.  I have no intention of using again the present formal system which I believe to be inadequate and confusing even for Engineers."

Equally of interest were some of the comments which, unfortunately, showed that some readers had jumped to wrong conclusions.  This was, no doubt, the fault of the brief paper although it had been hoped that the use of an eye catching layout would have driven home the points.  To correct any of these conclusions at this stage, some comments are attached below:-

    1. This paper is NOT concerned merely with advocating the use of present¬ation methods like the Severity Route Diagram or forms of isometric presentation. Some readers seemed to think that they were being asked to abandon more conventional forms of survey altogether. The message is "There is a place for everything - including the conventional survey'. The fact that very little is said about the conventional survey is merely because it is assumed that the reader is familiar with it and does not want to be told what he already knows.
    2. This paper does NOT advocate 'clutter'. It warns against the dangers of introducing information in forms difficult to understand. In some cases, it advocates surveys which are almost free from any information other than that of the cave outline. In others, it suggests that the maximum possible amount of information is given consistent with clarity.
    3. On the other hand, this paper DOES suggest that the present methods of presentation are limited and should be used with discretion, in particular it suggests that the present C.R.G. system of grading and presentation should not be regarded as the only worthwhile method of presenting survey results. Frankly, it would like to see it die a natural death. This should not be regarded as a revolutionary suggestion but be seen as a natural culmination of trends which have been gathering momentum over the last few years.
    4. Finally, this paper DOES NOT attempt to replace existing systems with a system worked out in great detail. Every science demands a discipline from its practitioners and a state of complete anarchy will do no good. On the other hand, it can be equally bad to settle into a rut. What is being suggested is a framework within which a number of types of survey will have their place.

Since the original paper was written in December 1964, the problem of presenting portions of St. Cuthbert’s Swallet have already begun to lead the surveyors, concerned into experiments with novel presentation systems.  In this cave system it is likely that the complexity will eventually demand new methods of approach and the author hopes that this paper may have some degree of relevance towards the solution of this and other problems.

The Instrument Engineer's Approach.

Cavers, and cave surveyors, are drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions.  That of the writer happens to be Instrument Engineering and, as a result, it appears natural to him to look at the subject of cave surveying in terms with which he is familiar and experienced.

As in all problems involving the taking of measurements by means of scientific instruments, Cave Surveying may be regarded as an exercise in measurement.  Such exercises normally fall into three parts.  The first of these - Data Acquisition - concerns the employment of the measuring instruments involved with particular emphasis on the errors associated with the conditions under which the instrument is actually used.  The second part - Data Processing - involves the handling of the data as obtained from the instruments and includes such steps as the application of corrections.  The final phase - Data Presentation - concerns the use of this processed data to produce the final result in the form required by the user.

The problem is ideally tackled by first obtaining from the user of the information a clear picture of what he wants and expects to receive.  Sometimes his wants are beyond the scope of known measuring instruments under the circumstances in which he wants to use them and he must the be told that his wants cannot be met.  However, assuming that they can be, the most suitable instruments are then chosen and a method of arranging the results to comply with the form in which they are to be finally presented is then worked out.

The task of realistic definition by the user applies with particular force to the determination of the accuracy required.  Accuracy, in all fields of measurement, is only increased beyond a certain point at the cost of greatly increased time spent and expense of the equipment involved.  Time spent in search of one aspect of the requirement beyond the real need of the user is not only wasted, but often results in time not being spent on other aspects.

This then, is the approach to be adopted. T he next step is to see how far these remarks apply to the subject of Cave Surveying.

Applications to Cave Surveying.

Since the days of William White (i), the earliest cave surveyor known to the writer, the object of the cave surveyor has been to produce the best possible survey consistent with the tools, time and skills at his disposal.

To this end, considerable thought has been given to the choice of suitable measuring instruments and to their techniques of use and of mutual consistency.  Since the war, many workers have contributed to this aspect of cave survey practice, particular examples being the work of Butcher (ii) and, more recently, that of Ellis (iii) and Warburton (iv).  It can be reasonably claimed that the subject of data acquisition as applied to cave surveying has not been neglected.

Data processing in this context consists of applying suitable corrections to the data produced; checking the accuracy and consistency of such data and handling it in a manner that does not of itself introduce further errors.  A good example of this type of data processing, carried out in a scientific manner, may be found in Crickmay and Bendall's paper (v) on the survey of G.B. Cave.  We may again conclude that this aspect of cave survey work has received sufficient attention, especially when we remember that much of the general literature on the handling of survey data is applicable to cave surveying.

Although it would be idle to suggest that no work has been done in the field of data presentation, the writer feels that this is an aspect of the practice of cave surveying which has been relatively neglected compared with the former subjects.  As an example here, it may be of interest to examine the findings of the Mendip Cave Survey Colloquium (vi).  Under the heading of "Presentation" were discussed scales; gridding; symbols, and sizes of sheet. In no case were departures from present practice of more than a marginal nature discussed.  The colloquium was attended by most of the Mendip cave surveyors and it would be reasonable to assume that the subject of presentation was one in which little further progress was felt to be either desirable or necessary.

This, in the writer's opinion, may well be because the problem of producing a cave survey, regarded from the point of view mf the instrument engineer, has traditionally been approached from the wrong end.  The surveyor, having decided to produce a survey, asks himself "How accurate, and possibly detailed, can I make this survey, given the instruments and time at my disposal and the working conditions existing?"  In case it is felt that the writer is manufacturing a case, the reader should make enquiries amongst owners of cave surveys and determine for himself how much real use is, in fact, made of surveys carried out on this general principle.  It is suggested that the correct way of approaching the problem of producing a cave survey is for the potential surveyor to ask himself, "Who will want to use this survey, what for, and under what circumstances and how can I produce this data in the form which will best satisfy these requirements?"

If the two questions produce the same survey, it can only be because either there is only one possible way to produce a survey, or because all cave survey users are cave surveyors.'

Assuming that these statements are not true, then the approach should be: -

(1)   To attempt a realistic working definition of user requirements.

(2)   To decide from these what data is required.

(3)   To explore the best methods of producing this data.

Objects of the Paper.

The objects of this paper are therefore to follow this line of reasoning with the assumption that the bulk of the study required will be in the least studied field of Data Presentation.  Later in this paper, methods of presentation in which the writer has made some crude initial progress will be described.

It must not, however, be supposed that the writer is attempting to 'lay down the law' on cave survey presentation.  The attempts shown later are no more than the first tentative attempts at breaking new ground.  It is probable that a considerable amount of time must elapse before any new method of cave survey presentation can be said to have evolved sufficiently for standardisation to be considered.  In fact, the introduction of sets of standards into any field of enquiry must always remain a two edged weapon.  On the one hand, a welcome degree of consistency is obtained and the user - once having learned the language - is enabled to read any number of similar presentations with a minimum of effort, misunderstanding or confusion.

Against this, the acceptance of a standard tends to stifle originality by equating in people's minds the labels 'Non-standard'  and 'Sub-standard'.  By this token, some potentially good original work will always tend to be lost, since nearly all workers will tend to use the accepted standards rather than risk the non acceptance of their work because of a departure from accepted practice.

The ideal state of affairs is almost certainly to have a set of standards, but to introduce them at the right 'state of the Art'. Too early an introduction will produce the loss of original thought already mentioned while too late an introduction may bring the entire subject into disrepute through untidiness.  Unfortunately, the timing of an introduction of standards remains largely a matter of chance and the writer ventures to suggest that, as far as cave survey presentation is concerned, it has probably occurred at too early a stage.

It is thus in an attempt to stimulate fresh and original thinking on the subject of presentation that this paper has been written.  Its author will naturally feel pleased if any of his ideas find a measure of approval or form eventually a basis for some more advanced presentation system.  If, on the other hand, the paper does no more than to create a feeling that finality has not yet been reached in cave survey presentation methods, its object will have been largely achieved.

SECTION TWO - The Uses of Cave Surveys

User Requirements.

The first step which must be taken is to attempt to produce a specification of" user requirements and this must be carried out before any further deductions can be made.  It is not, however, easy to find good working definitions.  The opening paragraph of the chapter on Cave Surveying in 'British Caving’ (vii) is probably as good a starting point as any.  It reads:-

"A survey drawing can be of interest and use to every type of caver, whether he is a casual sightseer or a scientific worker. It gives him a preview of the underground system; it enables him to plan his visit and calculate the ropes and ladders necessary and a route map saves waste of time in a complicated cave-system.

Most research work connected with caves requires a survey of some sort, but the standard of accuracy required for investigat­ing the geology of a cave system is greater than a mere route map demands.  Archaeologists, Biologists, Hydrologists and many others work in caves, and. all need a survey on which to plot their findings."

The point implied here seems to be that cavers need a survey as a route map; a means of obtaining a mental preview of the cave system, and as a basis on which to estimate tackle.  Cave research workers need a survey in connection with their work.  This latter use requires a rather more accurate survey than does the former.  Let us now examine some user requirements in more detail to see whether this viewpoint can be substantiated.


Although exploration is not mentioned in the above quotation as one of the uses to which cave surveys may be put, it is only omitted because the reference book in question has already devoted an earlier chapter (viii) to the subject.

Explorers use a survey to note likely places for further investigation and to decide whether their attempts at further penetration of the system are likely to lead to success.  They may thus use a survey in one of two ways:-

      1. As a notebook on which they may record future plans and decisions made in the cave, or...
      2. As a means of making such plans and decisions where possibilities as revealed, by the survey itself.

It would therefore seem that the needs of explorers will probably be largely met by any reasonable survey - preferably drawn to a fairly large scale to enable detail to be sketched in around places of interest and to allow ample room for the making of notes applicable to the portions of the cave system under close investigation.  A really high degree of accuracy is highly desirable but not essential, since most decisions to force likely connections or new ground will be taken by on the site inspection, using the survey as a general guide as to probable direction of the new passage.


The archaeologist requires a cave survey to act as a reference framework on which to plot his findings.  In addition, he is often more specially interested in the entrance zone of a cave, and here he may even require a special microsurvey of a very small portion of the cave to a very large scale for the accurate relative placing of finds.  This would constitute a specialist requirement not shared by other workers except possibly those interested in improving entrance facilities and occasionally by biologists.  Apart from this specialised need, any reasonable survey would satisfy his general requirements.

Geology and Hydrology

As suggested in the paragraph on requirements already quoted, the geologist and the hydrologist are concerned with problems of passage alignment and. relative level, with relation to the dip and strike, and with a variety of similar requirements all of which demand the highest possible degree of accuracy.  In addition to this, the geologist and the hydrologist require sufficient date, on the probable degree of accuracy actually obtained to be able to estimate their chances of error in conclusions they may draw on cave alignment and water flow when correlat­ing their observations and measurements with the data as given be the survey.  If this is accepted, then we already see that different types of user require different degrees of accuracy.


It is suggested that the biospelaeologist (or spelaeobiologist if preferred) will be catered for by the requirements of the archaeologist already discussed.


The photographer who wishes to record viewpoints taken and to note future work will, it is felt, be satisfied, with surveys in line with those discussed in connection with exploration.


The word spelaeologist has been quite deliberately omitted from the title of this section, as the type of user to be considered here is the ordinary general caver rather than the scientific underground worker and it is thus the intention to contrast (if and where applicable) the requirements of the general caver with those of the various specialists previously referred to.  Referring once more to the user requirements noted earlier, we remember that three uses were suggested by 'British Caving' as being in line with the requirements of the general caver.  These were:-

      1. To obtain a mental preview of the cave system.
      2. To plan a visit and to calculate the tackle required.
      3. To plan a route through a complicated cave system.

A mental preview is not an easy thing to define.  Ideally, a grade 1 sketch will provide this, providing that the artist(?) has that happy knack of suggesting the type of cave in his drawing.  The late Don Coase possessed this flair to a marked degree.  The writer was present on one occasion when Coase drew an elevation of the arête pitch in St. Cuthbert’s.  The entrance rift at the time was still only 7" wide and the writer as a result had not yet been able to visit the cave.  The degree of 'mental preview' afforded by Coase's sketch was extremely great:  so much so that, on seeing the actual scene later, the writer had a distinct feeling of having seen the place before.  Such a degree of pictorial representation is not, however, possessed by the average surveyor and, whilst no surveyor or caver possessing this gift should fail to use it to its utmost, any practical system of presentation must assume an average of this type of aptitude on the part of the surveyor and no more.  However, the mental preview is a useful requirement and this aspect of the use of a survey should not, as a result, be overlooked.

In order to plan a visit properly, much more than a knowledge of the tackle required is wanted.  Caves may demand anything from ordinary 'Mendip' clothing plus a helmet and lamp to a full set of gear for coping with sumps - and preparations for the trip may range from almost none to the organising of food, changes of clothing, provision of waterproof containers etc.  The ability to satisfy the need for sorting out all the gear required by means of a survey will require much thought.

Again, planning a route through a complex system will require much more then just an indication of the possible routes.  Some passages may not be passable to all the party, or not under all weather conditions, again, much thought will be required if this use of a survey is to be reasonably catered for in the presentation.

Having discussed briefly some of the problems which will arise from attempting to meet the requirements as laid down in 'British Caving’ it remains to be seen whether there are any further requirements likely to be of interest to the general caver.  In this connection it may be of interest to quote from the findings of the Mendip Survey Colloquium as follows:-

"The purpose of a cave survey is to portray the form of a cave and the nature of the cave passage, together with details of general (non-specialist) interest.  The general caver does not want his survey covered with specialist information."

These remarks seem to the writer to be very true, with the possible exception to the emphasis placed on the need for accuracy.  The general caver, who, after all comprises the great majority of potential cave survey users, does not want specialist information.  We should, at this stage, have a fairly clear picture of what he does want.  He wants his survey to tell him as much as possible about caving in the cave.  His questions will therefore be of the form 'What sort of cave is it?  What and where are the main obstacles?  What tackle will be required and what is provided permanently?  What and where are the sights particularly worth seeing; noting or photographing?  How long can any given trip along a particular route be expected to take, given a party of average cavers under average conditions?  What portions of the cave arc liable to flood­ing and are these liable to cut the party off from the entrance?  What passages, on the other hand, are only negotiable in times of drought? How wet is the party likely to get?  How muddy?  (This might be of importance when contemplating, say, photography).  What places have heavy drip which could put out a carbide lamp?  Are there any places involving long delays or unusual caving techniques?  Are some passages only negotiable to cavers of smaller than average physique?  Are there any places where particular attention should be paid to hazards   such as unstable rock, poor vent­ilation etc? T he answers to any of these questions are rarely found on any sort of survey.

That, one may justifiably ask, is the real use of a survey drawn from a highly accurate centre line to a reasonably large scale to the general caver when it contains - apart from a bare outline and some symbolised chamber and passage detail items such as the position of permanent survey stations; spot heights above O.D, and similar inform­ation, but contains none of the answers to questions such as those posed above?

Summary on User Requirements.

    1. Although there are several main types of user, their broad requirements may be divided into two classes.
    2. The Specialist Caver, requires an accurate framework on which to annotate his specialist information and for general referenceAs a result of his use of a survey, he will convert it into a specialised survey of interest and information to all classes of caver; whether they be fellow specialists in his own field, in other fields, or general cavers.  He is numerically in the minority but his work is important in furthering underground knowledge and justifies the work spent on preparing for him an accurate survey to the greatest possible degree of precision.  He is normally a skilled and experienced caver who probably does not want any general caving information.  If he does, he would probably prefer to obtain this from a separate survey, leaving his type of survey relatively un­cluttered so as to act as an accurate blank (or nearly blank; form on which to compile his information.  Indeed, the Mendip Cave Survey Colloquium is quite definite on this point and concludes that 'the specialist does not want specialist information recorded on the survey for him by a non-specialist surveyor!  The specialist will, or should, disregard such information as being unreliable.  Since he is also, as we have already noted, unlikely to want general information either, the 'accurate blank form’ concept results.
    3. The General Caver, requires a survey which tells him as much as possible about theHe does not necessarily require a high degree of accuracy although, if this is available, so much the better.  Ideally, he should be able to visit a strange cave and, from the survey, know what sort of party to take; what tackle; what clothing; how long to allow for the trip; what lighting; whether food will be necessary; if it is worth taking a camera and a whole lot of similar information.  He therefore requires a survey telling him a great deal in a form readily understood and assimilated.

Having found our user requirements, we note that the present method of presenting a cave survey fulfils neither of these requirements ideally.  We must remember that the one class of caver for whom a survey is not specifically aimed is the cave surveyor, and that any survey should thus be directed towards some class of user and not produced as an end in itself.  We can, in fact, go further and note that the present type of cave survey presentation is more aimed at the specialist user than at the general caver, who forms the least catered for class in spite of his great numerical superiority.  Work must therefore be directed towards extending the scope of cave survey presentation to include this wider public.  Such work is more urgently required than that which goes into perfecting what is already good practice on the present type of cave survey.

The remainder of this paper shows some ways in which the necessary steps can be taken, and starts by suggesting some presentation techniques which may be of use in compiling surveys aimed, at specific groups of users which will fulfil the requirements of that type of user.

SECTION  THREE - Presentation    Techniques

Before we can go on to actual surveys, we must examine some of the techniques which can be used. Caves (like cavers) vary enormously end even when presenting the same type of survey (for example, one intended for use by the general caver) it may be necessary to vary the present­ation technique to suit the size, structure and complexity of the cave system.

The aim, therefore, of this section is to examine some of the possible techniques since, in order to work effectively, the surveyor should have as wide a variety of tools at his disposal.  Some of the techniques may have a varying range of application but should not be disregarded on this account as the 'off beat' approach may at times be more suitable than more conventional methods.

Topography and Topology.

For the purpose of this paper, a topographical presentation may be defined as one which attempts to portray the size and shape of the cave by suitable geometric drawing.  Topology, on the other hand, is concerned with the properties of geometrical figures if we imagine them to be drawn on a surface which can be stretched or deformed out of the original shape.  It is sometimes known as 'rubber geometry'.  Under these circum­stances, an ellipse is the same figure as a circle.  Properties of figures which remain constant under topological conditions are called invariants and one such is the sequence of points along a line.  Thus, a topological route map would not allow distances or directions to be measured from it, but will always give sequence correctly - an example being the London Tube maps.

The advantage of such diagrams lies in the improvement in clarity. Examples of topological techniques will be found later in this report.

The Plan, Elevation and Sections.

The usual form of topographical presentation involves the use of some form of plan, elevations and sections, and is sufficiently well known and understood to warrant little further comment.  Some variety in detail is possible however and a few examples follow:-


Whereas, for instance, the plan always consists of the projection of the cave system onto a horizontal plane, an elevation can be taken as a projection onto any convenient vertical plane, and this can enable the surveyor to choose a plane for his principal elevation which will enable him to present the vertical structure of the cave to the best advantage or enable some prominent feature, such as a major rift development, to be presented with greatest clarity.  In some cases, a number of subsidiary elevations may be considered to be useful.

Another elevation technique sometimes employed, known as developed elevation, consists of altering the plane of elevation to lie along the centre line of the passage, thus producing a "stretched out" elevation of the passage in question.  The places it which the plants of elevation changeare normally shown as dotted vertical lines.  This method of presentation, although giving a much clearer idea of total passage length, suffers from the disadvantage that where a passage branches and later joins up again, if one branch is relatively straight and the other has a number of bends, the shorter passage must be shown with a break in the elevation to enable joining up to take place.


In the case of a cave plan which is determined by jointing, the major joint pattern may decide the most suitable ‘grid’ on which to present elevations.  Indeed, in a cave of this type where the entire system lies between two parallel planes dipping at about 30° to the horizontal and about a hundred feet apart, a plan could be produced by projection onto one of these planes.  This would have the effect of obviating the foreshortening of dip wise distances with respect to strike wise distances and would not only enable the (almost) true passage length to be read directly off the main, but, to a reasonable approximation the depth of any part of the cave could be read off as its down dip distance from the entrance shown on the 'plan'.  It is of course assumed that the plane of projection would be arranged so that it cut the surface at the cave entrance.


Sections are usually included at points of particular interest or where confusion might otherwise be caused.  Unfortunately, a degree of confusion cannot always be avoided even by the most careful choice of sections.  Places occur where the limits of the cave are arbitrary -perhaps a rift or bedding plane with a caving route through it, but whose boundaries consist of gradually tightening cave space.  Sections can go some way towards clearing this type of confusion by dotting the extremities, but the problem of limiting the amount of cave shown on the plan or elevation remains a problem.

Thus even with the well known system - dismissed at such short length in this paper because a high degree of familiarity is assumed -there are some cases in which a strictly topographical presentation has to give way to a conventional symbol or some form of more diagrammatic presentation.  This leads us to consider the use of pure diagrams.

Simple Topological Diagrams.

As far as is known to the writer, the only topological treatment ever given to a cave system is that drawn of St. Cuthbert’s. This cave was depicted in this form by the writer of this paper (xi).  This diagram was later modified by him and displayed for sometime at the Belfry and was later modified and used by Ellis (xii) and more recently by Irwin (xiii).

It will be noted that already a convention seems to be naturally evolving whereby circles are used to represent pitches.  With this type of growth in mind, the writer has for sometime had the idea that perhaps an extension of this type of presentation could result in the drawing of a sort of 'circuit diagram' of a cave.  The result of about a year's work on this subject will be found in the next section.

The Severity Route Diagram.

'No cramped constriction; water chill,

Nor dicey drop dismayed our Gil'

The above quotation from Spelaeode Six illustrates the three main types of severity to be encountered underground namely constriction, immersion and exposure and it is these three main types of severity which form the basis for the diagram.

The diagram is completely symbolic and topological and, as mentioned earlier, may be compared to an electronic circuit diagram.  The latter uses only a few easily remembered symbols and is extensively used . Perhaps on these grounds, there may be hope for the future of the Severity Route Diagram.

The two basic elements of the diagram are the PASSAGE and the PITCH.   The passage, which is not necessarily horizontal, but which does not involve climbing, is drawn as shown:-


...and denotes a clear passage with no particular restrictions to normal cave travel. The pitch is circular and is show thus:


 ... the blocked side is the UPPER passage, which will be evident if we consider the symbol as the plan view of this state of affairs: -


Thus we can draw our cave as a combination of passages and pitches.  To this, we now add three more symbols, to represent constriction, wetness and exposure.  With the addition of" these basic symbols, the diagram becomes complete.  Admittedly, a number of different ways can now be found by which the symbols may be used in conjunction with each other, but this is no more than saying that with five letters of the alphabet, it is possible to make a number of words.  The actual process of learning the basic symbols is not difficult.  The symbols are as follows:-


At this stage, it should be possible for the reader to gain a reasonable amount of information from a severity route diagram without bothering to read further.  However, it is possible to portray a variety of shades of meaning with the symbols described, and we go on to explore the possibilities further.


The  symbol for constriction CR12-003 must be such that it is possible to use it without ambiguity in any way up or

round, so that   CR12-003   ,  CR12-004   ,     CR12-005       and      CR12-006       all refer to the same thing.  This being highly desirable, we must introduce a further slight addition to the basic symbol for constriction to dist­inguish between rifts and beds. We shall see later that this addition can be useful in other connections.  The addition is as shown:-


CR12-005 CR12-007
      rift   bed

without any further additions, we can now derive all of the following: -



Passage with no obstacles.  Normal cave travel possible.



Rift passage sufficiently narrow as to prevent normal travel.



Tight rift passage.  Wall touching average caver when travelling sideways.



Bed.  Average crawling necessary.



Tight bed.  Reasonably flat out crawling.



Drainpipe.  (A mixture of the signs for rift and bed indicating constriction in both directions as once.



Narrow drainpipe.



Localised squeeze.  Rift type.



Localised squeeze.  Bed type.



Localised squeeze.  Hole type.



Wriggle.  Meandering rift.



Wriggle.  Meandering bed.



Wriggle.  Two dimensional.

Very tight versions of the last three signs are denoted in the usual manner.



Heavy drip or falling water.



Pool or stream.

Note how the signs for rift and bed have been adapted.  Vertical water is associated with the rift sign and horizontal water with the bed sign.



Travers.  Exposed side shown.



Bold step.



Rift traverse by travelling above the floor.

The above signs show nearly all the possibly combinations of the passage signs.  The signs, however, have been arranged so that they can be combined further if necessary, as an example, the sign…..


….would represent a passage consisting of a narrow rift with two localised rift squeezes containing also a pool or stream way on its floor.  As an exercise, the reader might like to work out what the following means…..



We saw earlier that the basic diagram for a pitch was a circle, broken at the downward end.  Now we derive: -



Pitch.  Drop in feet can be written alongside if required.



Rift Pitch.  A vertical descent down a rift, as in St. Cuthbert’s entrance.



Chimney.  A vertical drainpipe.



Wet pitch.




In addition tackle signs may be inserted inside the pitch symbol,


For fixed ladder


For flexible ladder


For rope and


For chain or knobbly dog

An example of the amount of information which can be presented by means of the severity route diagram symbols will now be given.  This is supposed to represent a small part of a cave system and the description which follows the diagram can all be written directly from inspection of the diagram with no further knowledge of the cave concerned.  The amount of space saved by the use of the Severity Route Diagram will thus be seen.  It will later be shown that even more information may be conveyed by the use of this type of diagram with the addition of conventional signs, which can also be used with more usual types of cave survey.


Additional information (which is mentioned later in the text) includes how far the entrance (in time by the shortest route) when there is instability, where photograph scenery is to be found, how deep the water in the wet passage is, and when the floor is rocky.

(Reading from right to left.)

".................. the passage continues with its wet floor, but affording no other obstructions until the first choice of route occurs.  A fifteen foot chimney widens out into a twenty five foot pitch which is followed by a twenty foot climb.  The pitch is laddered from the top of the chimney, a 40' ladder being necessary.  The chimney and pitch are wet, but it is possible to avoid the water during the final climb after the pitch has been descended.

This drop leads to a wide passage, with a stream or pools on its floor.  After a while, a point is reached where heavy drip or falling water must be crossed and the passage continues - wet but unobstructed to the foot of the next pitch.  This pitch is the lower end of the second route down.  Instead of descending the chimney and pitch, it is possible to enter a fairly narrow rift at the head of the chimney until a traverse is reached.  The ledge on which the traverse is made becomes very narrow and, to add to the difficulties, heavy drip or falling water is encountered at this point.  It is possible to climb off the traverse end a 35' climb lead to a bedding plane which becomes very tight and eventually leads to the head of the pitch previously mentioned in the lower wet passage.  This pitch is fifteen feet deep and has a permanent fixed ladder provided.

If, on the other hand, the traverse is completed, it leads to a rift which widens slightly at first and then becomes an unobstructed passage leading to a thirty foot rift pitch down which it is possible to climb without tackle.  The rift continues across the head of this pitch, but becomes too narrow and closes right down.  Descending the thirty foot pitch, a narrow hole leads to the bedding plane and the fifteen foot pitch to the lower wet passage.  The other route from the bottom of the
rift pitch leads, via a further rift traverse, into the wet passage a little further on.  The wet passage now continues as a fairly narrow rift        "

We can see that the Severity Route Diagram forms a convenient shorthand, whereby much descriptive writing can be compressed into a relatively small space.  In fact, by the use of conventional signs added to a diagram of this type, it is possible to obtain a complete descript­ion of the cave without any descriptive write up being necessary.

We must, however, remember that the Severity Route Diagram is neither a plan nor an elevation of the cave it describes.  In the case just quoted, it appears to take the form of an elevation, but we must not be misled by this into thinking of this type of diagram in these terms, nor must we pay any attention to relative lengths of passage or to direct­ions or changes of direction shown.

Variations on the Severity Route Diagram.

If, as the writer hopes, the Severity Route Diagram finds some measure of use as a method of describing the conditions to be found in a cave system, further signs will, no doubt, be added.  Three such signs have already been suggested by those to whom a preview of this system has been given.   These are as follows:-




Boulder strewn floor necessitating clambering over the boulders.


Large chamber through which a route or routes pass.

These signs are compatible with the others since, in the case of a sump, the only other sign likely to be added to that indicating pools or streams is that for falling water or drip which will not occur in a sump.  The boulder strewn floor symbol will not conflict with the symbols for con­striction since, if a passage is both constricted and partially boulder filled, it will be shown as a wriggle.

In most, if not all cases, it should be possible to include a key to the symbols used on the diagram.  This will prevent confusion and obviate the need for premature standardisation.  Further examples of Severity Route Diagrams will be found at later stages of this paper.

Conventional Signs.

The use of conventional signs in connection with maps and surveys is a well established practice and probably dates back about as far as the first map, or certainly as soon as it came to ,be realised that a convenient and simply understood form of visual shorthand would save clogging a map up with too much written detail.  The terms 'Conventional Signs’ or 'Symbols'  in the context of this paper is taken as including short words, since it is sometimes better to agree to use a word rather than a pure symbol.  For example, if it should be agreed to be too difficult to produce a convincing and easily recognised pictorial representation of mud on a cave survey, it is probably better to write the word MUD where it occurs than to indulge in some arbitrary code of hatchings or shadings.  Symbols which rely on memory association are very good, again provided that they are simple in form, easy to draw, and that the memory association is not unduly obscure.  To quote an absurd example - a diagrammatic representation of Flanders and Swan to represent mud would not only be difficult to portray in a sufficiently simplified form, but its association would be far too tenuous and be merely an example of someone trying to be too clever.

We should therefore concentrate on simple, easily drawn symbols whose meaning is clear either from the start or at least from the first time it is explained.  It is, of course, realised that a number of such symbols or conventional signs already exist, and it will be left to the reader to decide which of these fall in line with good symbolic practice.  The more important study here is not so much to assess those signs which already exist as to determine what new signs are required to delineate

cave features not at present covered in this manner.  If conventional signs become more widely used and more meaningful, any bad examples will fall by the wayside in the course of natural selection providing that we avoid the danger of premature standardisation.

In order to find what additional signs would be useful, it may be of interest to examine once more the list of questions we earlier postulated as examples of what a general caver might reasonably want to know from a survey about a cave.  These are listed here as follows:-

      1. What sort of cave is it?
      2. What are the main obstacles?
      3. What tackle will be required?
      4. What tackle is provided permanently?
      5. What and where are here sights worth seeing or noting?
      6. How long can any given trip be reasonably expected to take?
      7. What portions of the cave are liable to flooding?
      8. What portions are liable to be cut off from the entrance?
      9. What passages are only negotiable in times of drought?
      10. How wet ere parts of the cave?
      11. How muddy?
      12. What places demand involved caving techniques or cause delays?
      13. What places demand abnormal physique?
      14. What places have unusual hazards?

Let us now take these fourteen points and see how far we can readily cover them by the use of conventional signs.

      1. This is, of course, a general question and will depend on the total use made of symbolism plus the general standard of theIt is not therefore possible to answer this specifically.
      2. Pitches are usually marked in feet on cave surveys and some idea of constriction can often be gained from descriptive names such as "Nutmeg Grater", "Sausage Machine" and “Vice"Other obstacles come under question 14.  Again, this is rather a general question which must be largely covered by the answers to later questions.
      3. Tackle required should be marked alongside places which require it wherever possible. There are a. number of ways of doing this and two are suggested here. Firstly, a very simple system would be merely to list the ladder, tether and rope lengths against the pitch. Thus we might have:-

T 15

L 30

R 60

indicating that a 15' tether, a 30'  ladder and a 60’ rope were necessary at the point shown (symbolism used for the actual pitch here is standard C.R.G. practice).  Alternately, pictures can be used in the Severity Route Diagram, and we might have


      1. Permanent tackle, it is felt, should be symbolised using the signs of the Severity RouteWhere a rawlbolt or other form of permanent belay is provided, the letter 'B' could be used.
      2. A suggestion here is the use of the symbol CR12-046 to indicate places of scenic interest. Most people who have been shown this symbol have correctly identified it as a representation of a camera on a tripod, or have had no difficulty in agreeing to this it has been explained. It is suggested that this sign be used for places where spectacular formations, good underground views or interesting sights are to be found, in other words, those places where the average cave photographer is likely to want to stop and take a picture.
      3. Information as to trip length can, it is felt, be easily shown by conventional signIt would, of course, have to represent the time taken by an average party under average conditions.  The shape chosen for the symbol is that of an hour glass.   Two systems are envisaged. In the simpler of these, which is perhaps more applicable to small caves, the symbols would be spaced at a constant time interval (say ten minutes) whilst in the more complete system they would appear at strategic points with the time in hours and minutes from the entrance.  Examples of the two systems are given below: -


……for the simple system….


….for the more complex one.

7, 8 & 9    All these questions are concerned with water under sump or similar conditions.  The questions respectively are 'What portions are liable to flooding?  What portions are cut off from the entrance by flood (actually, it is the exit rather than the entrance one would be worried about under these circumstances!) and what portions are normally flooded but are negotiable in times of drought?  These are all variations on the "When is a sump not a sump?" theme.  The writer regards this as one of the most difficult subjects to portray adequately by means of conventional signs - so much so that he suggests that the reader try this for himself before reading further, whilst remembering that good symbols should be concise, easy to draw, readily identified and not able to be confused with any other symbols.  Let us start with the symbols used at present by the C.R.G. to indicate sumps. These are: -


For a sump in the streamway, or….

For a sump pool

C.R.G. practice suggests annotation to indicate whether it is a duck or trap and the length of the submerged portion. Rather oddly, it makes no mention of the 'state of the tide'.

Sumps have also been drawn as breaks in the cave plan as under: -


Sump II


……or with break lines as shown in the next example….



The difficulty, as the writer sees it, lies in the enormous differ­ences between sumps.  Let us quote three imaginary examples as descript­ions and see if we can think of a single method of representing sumps which would allow all three to be fully described.

    1. This sump lies in a stream and remains ten feet long under all stream conditions, neverHowever, it ranges from easily free diveable under normal flow to completely impassable even by fully equipped divers under flood conditions owing to the extremely fast current and the complete absence of any holds.
    2. This sump is normally a duck in a streamUnder really dry conditions it is passable with reasonable airspace but under flood conditions it becomes a sump of unknown extent at its downstream end, since no caver is in a position to inspect it, by the survey it is presumed to be over sixty feet long under these conditions.
    3. This sump is an isolated pool which never changes its length in plan but, owing to the steepness of its elevation, becomes too deep to free dive under 'high tide' conditions.

The solutions suggested by the writer are only partial ones.  The first consists of adding to the C.R.G. symbolism a high and low water mark as under:-


The normal outline indicating the normal length, and shape, the 'F' lines the boundaries of the sump under flood conditions, and the 'D' lines those under drought conditions.  In cases where the sump ceases to exist under drought conditions, a single 'D' line in the middle of the sump would indicate this.

The second method is a purely symbolic solution and consists of the symbol as under….


i.e. This sump is 30 feet long under flood conditions (when full) ten feet long under normal conditions, and non-existent under drought (empty) conditions.

      1. Wetness, as distinct from sumpiness, takes two main forms, falling water or water through which one has to wade orIn the case of heavy falling water, which is enough to seriously wet an otherwise dry caver, it is suggested that the sign as drawn below might be useful and certainly self explanatory….

If it desired to indicate how wet one becomes through wading or crawling in water, a series of stick men seem the only real answer as below:-


      1. Symbolism can, however, be carried tooIn particular, it is well to avoid signs which have no obvious connection with the feature being represented. It is therefore suggested that, where mud becomes a problem, the word MUD is written alongside the passage at intervals if necessary.
      2. The writer has no idea at all to offer here!
      3. Passages permitting only thin cavers to negotiate them (the most usual case of selection by physique) may be easily represented by the symbol.....
      1. The writer found the idea of instability very difficult to convey in a simpleThe final suggestion (although this is felt not to be the most elegant possible answer) is as under....

Having suggested some conventional signs which might form a convenient shorthand for some of the features of a cave system of interest to the general caver as an aid to the practice of caving, we should turn our attention to other conventional signs.  It is not proposed to suggest any signs suitable for the specialist, as he no doubt, will be in a much better position to form his own.  Signs pertaining to aspects of cave preservation, rescue work and permanent amenities might well form 'a subject worth some consideration however.  The following are therefore suggested as a start:-


Carbide dump for spent carbide.


Food dump.


First aid box.


Permanent phone line.


Tapes marking boundaries of permitted caving to protect formations etc.


Guide wire (as installed in sumps etc.)

Isometric and Solid Techniques.

However good a survey presentation may be, a cave remains very much a three dimensional object and all two dimensional presentations will fail, to a greater or lesser extent, to capture the essential "feel" of a cave system.  In general this is a fact which is recognised and we do not expect a survey to provide us with the kind of picture that a non caver would understand at first glance.  Good surveys and/or diagrams can, after all, provide the caver with most if not all the information he actually requires and, just as we do not expect a map to say, show us the beauty of a particular view, so we recognise similar (if more pronounced) limitations to cave surveys.

This would tend to be the end of the subject were it not for the fact that people who have never been down a cave have literally no idea of what a cave is like or how a typical cave is constructed and thus have nothing on which, to build mentally when looking at a cave survey.  In contrast to this state of affairs, anyone looking at a map for the first time has at least a familiarity with the subject being presented in this manner.  We are therefore suggesting here that the main use of isometric and solid techniques, lies in the presentation of caves to non cavers.


Turning first to Isometric techniques, these may be divided into two basic types which the writer has called the Isometric Section and the Isometric Diagram respectively.  The Isometric Section imagines the ground to be cut away   in suitable slices so that the major features of the cave system are half uncovered.  Even if working from an accurate and detailed survey, the making of such a section calls for a very high degree of artistic ability indeed of the kind possessed by commercial illustrators who draw out away versions of machinery entirely from engineering drawings, often before an actual example of the piece of machinery is in existence.  No such example of a cave drawn in this manner is included in this paper, the writer not possessing this ability.

It is to enable isometric techniques to be used without the need to be an artist that the writer has evolved the Isometric Diagram.  This is prepared from a survey of conventional form by 'squaring off all passages, chambers etc. and imagining them to be composed of, and to run in straight lines.  These can then be drawn to scale onto isometric paper.  The previous page shows such a diagram of a portion of G.B. cave drawn on these lines.  It is possible to extend this idea slightly within the scope of the average cave surveyor and the next page shows a portion of St. Cuthbert’s Swallet using a slightly different technique in which the main route has been diagrammatically sectioned, leaving the other passages as apparently solid shapes.  It is felt that this technique may go some way towards enabling a reason­able three dimensional picture of a cave to be built up without requiring abilities which are too scarce to warrant their general use.

Isometric paper does however suffer from the disadvantage that no tapering away to a point at infinity is included.  No doubt a grid which did this could be constructed using the methods of projective geometry and, although this might take a long time to prepare, it could, once produced, be copied and used as a master for this type of work.

Solid models fall again into two categories.  The "inside out" model - in which the cave airspace is represented by a solid shape and the surrounding rock by air (as though one had filled the entire cave up with solid and then dissolved away the surrounding rock) has the advantage of being reasonably easy to make, but the great disadvantage of not being readily identifiable as a cave.  A model of this type was made by the writer and exhibited at the "Our Way of Life" exhibition held in Bristol in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain.  The subject was G.B. cave, and the data for the model was taken from the Crickmay and Bendall survey.  It was found that non cavers were completely at a loss to understand what the model was supposed to represent, and even some cavers found it difficult.  On the other hand, those who could form a picture from the model found that it showed jap the structure of the cave at a glance in a way that no two dimensional map ever could.

The other form of solid model is, in fact, the solid version of the Isometric Section.  Anumber of specimens of this type of cave presentation are known to exist.  The work involved in the preparation of such a model is, however, veryconsiderable and beyond the scope of this paper to discuss in detail.

The Use of Colour.

The reason for including the use of colour at this particular stage of the review of presentation techniques is that it is not generally practical to produce coloured surveys for widespread distribution, as the cost of any colour printing process tends to be prohibitive by caving standards.   Because of this, coloured diagrams, like solid models, fall more into the heading of special techniques.

Simple coloured additions have already been used on published survey work.  In cases known to the writer, these have been added to the printed copy by hand.  One such example is the survey of Eastwater Cave by Warburton, in which the stream was coloured.  The practice of hand colouring printed surveys in order to emphasise certain features is probably more widespread than the writer's limited experience suggests.  One obvious use for such copies of surveys is to colour those which are displayed in Club Headquarters or Club Libraries.

Having suggested a limited area of use for coloured surveys, some attempt must now be made to classify methods of using colour.

1. Feature Colouring.

Cave features may be rendered clearer by the use of colour as already suggested.  Obvious choices are blue for water, brown for mud, yellow perhaps for sand or gravel deposits etc.

2. Series Colouring.

Complex cave systems often involve the superimposition of some parts of the cave over others, on the usual plan and elevation techniques.  Some degree of clarification can sometimes be achieved by colouring the various series of the cave system in different colours.  Filling in the cave space by colour washes is not a good idea, as confusion will often result when two or more colours are overlaid.  Since the survey will be already printed in black and white, the methods to be adopted are either to draw coloured lines, dots, hatchures etc outside the existing black lines, or to arrange to print the survey very lightly so that the lines can be drawn over in colour.


3.  Layer Colouring.

To the writer's knowledge, this has only been done once, and he has in his possession a colour contoured plan of G.B. cave in which layer contouring of the floor heights has been carried out at ten foot intervals.  The result of this very considerable amount of work was not felt to be justified, as a surprisingly small increase in the clarity of presentation results.  Nearly fifty tints made by mixing Pelican inks were used.

4.  Specialist Colouring.

This would seem to the writer to be the most important use of colour in cave survey presentation.  In a later stage of this report, the problems confronting the publisher of a final survey are discussed.  One of these is how to include all the information obtained by various specialists.  The inclusion of all data obtained on one survey copy may well make that document impossible to read with any clarity.   On the other hand, it may well be decided that the publication of a number of separate overprints of the final survey would be unwieldy.  One answer to this type of problem may well be to mark all information relating to (say; geology in red; hydrology perhaps in blue; biology in green etc.  Providing the amount of this sort of information was not too great, it might be practical to do the actual colouring by hand on the final copies.

With this reminder of the basic difficulties inherent in the use of colour as applied to a number of copies, it is felt that the use of colour has been discussed as far as is warranted in a paper of this type.


Although a survey is primarily a scientific record of the work carried out by the surveyor and other specialists, to some extent it may also be regarded as a work of art.  While it is not being suggested that the surveyor take a lot of time drawing little cupids blowing winds in the style of old maps of the world (or perhaps little devils stoking fires), there is no reason why he should not add the odd individual touch if he so desires.  One traditional place where such self expression is traditionally permitted is in the drawing of a North Point.  The restrained use of the odd embellishment does not necessarily reduce the survey to the level of a comic cartoon.  It may well be a way of making the surveyor's point that he has spent a lot of time on the careful laying out and drawing of the survey

This mention of embellishments brings this section on techniques to a close.   It is unlikely that all possible techniques have been covered, and of those dealt with, the subject has not been treated exhaustively.  The main point that the writer wishes to put over here is that the surveyor - having made up his mind by conscious thought as to what class of audience he is directing his survey - should use any technique which seems to him best fitted to achieve his object.

The next section of this paper suggests what such objects might well be.

SECTION FOUR – A System of Cave Survey Presentation


We should, by this stage, have some reasonable idea of what is wanted by­way of survey information.  We have also explored, in the last section, some of the techniques by which this information can be presented.  What now remains to be done is to tie our knowledge of what is wanted and how it can be produced into a system.  We have already said that such a system must not1 be too inflexible - and condemned the present C.R.G. system for just this reason.  On the other hand, we must introduce some degree of method into whatever system we advocate on the lines of this paper.  Such a compromise has been reached by the author, and will be described in this section of the paper.

The Preliminary Diagram.

Let us suppose that a new cave system has been entered.  We will see that the system to be described will work equally well in the case of an established cave, but it is perhaps simpler to take the case of the new cave system as a first step.

At the early stages of exploration, it is usually not politic to embark on a detailed and accurate survey.  One reason for this is that it may still be possible that new connections between known parts of the cave system may be discovered and enable awkward parts of any survey to be tied up much better by closing what are, at present, open traverses.  This objection to the starting of an accurate survey does not apply with such force to small caves or to caves which are very simple in structure.  However, under the present method of working, a reasonable time usually elapses before a survey of a new cave is produced - either for the reason already given or because the cavers who will do the survey are much too busy on exploration or are generally short of available time.  It is, however, at this stage of a cave's history that the greatest number of cavers want some form of information on the new cave.  An article describing the main features of the cave usually will appear in the relevant club journal within a short period after the discovery, and this may be accompanied by the odd Grade I sketch.  Referring to the list of things which the average caver might well want to know about the cave which appears earlier in this paper, we find that the information normally presented within the first few weeks after initial discovery falls painfully short of these requirements.

An objection has been raised by a number of cavers to whom the original of this paper was shown which must be dealt with at this stage.  The essence of their objection is that cavers prefer not to have data on a new cave as the interest in exploring a new cave is largely lost if they feel that everything has already been worked out for them and presented to them 'on a plate'.  This is a reasonable attitude - especially amongst experienced cavers, but we should again remind ourselves that we are discussing the usefulness rather then the necessity for cave surveys, and that those who have no requirement for any caving information before descending a new cave need not refer to such information.

For the remainder - and it is suspected that this will include the majority of ordinary cavers - some sort of picture should be produced as soon as possible after discovery.  This preliminary information has been called THE PRELIMINARY DIAGRAM - and the aim of such a diagram should be SPEED . It's job is to show the general caver what he is likely to be up against in "doing" the new cave, and should take any one of the following forms depending on circumstances and the nature of the cave system in question:-

      1. A C.R.G. Grade II survey with accompanying descriptive article.
      2. An annotated C.R.G. Grade II survey.
      3. A C.R.G. Grade II survey with additional symbolic information.
      4. A Severity Route Diagram with additional symbolic information.
      5. A Grade II survey with a superimposed Severity Route Diagram.
      6. An Isometric Sketch with additional information.

In all cases, publication within a few weeks of the initial entry should be the aim.  The object of the Preliminary Diagram is to acquaint the general caver with as much information about the cave as is possible and to this end - whatever form of presentation is used - it should be packed with information - cluttered if you like - as the survey itself will not be an accurate one and need not be left free of "clutter" for the specialist.

The General Diagram.

In the case of a cave which has been discovered some time ago, and which has probably already been surveyed, it may still be useful to publish the same sort of picture for he benefit of new cavers or those from other caving areas.  In such cases, the existing survey can be used as the basis of a similar type of presentation to a preliminary diagram.  The term General Diagram has been suggested here, because the information is that of most use to the general caver.

In some cases, several issues of the preliminary diagram may become necessary as new discoveries are made following rapidly on the original entry.  In the case of established caves, the discovery of a new series may warrant the reissue of the General Diagram or the publication of a Preliminary Diagram covering the new series only.   It is thus important that all Preliminary and General Diagrams should be correctly dated and once more we must remind ourselves that the prime object is Speed.

The form taken by the Preliminary or General Diagram will depend on the nature of the cave and on the particular aptitudes of t he surveyor.  Some general guiding remarks follow:-

1.    Grade II survey with accompanying descriptive article.

A survey made without instruments, by sketching down the cave, should be basically capable of showing cavers the main features of the cave system concerned.  Such as survey will tend to be almost useless as a tool, and obviously no measurements should be taken from it, as the survey itself was produced without measurement.  On the other hand, the survey will show the routes through the cave with some idea of relative size.  Its support by a descriptive article seems the best course where a number of caving techniques must be employed or where difficulties are encountered in finding the route.  Possibly, one has to squeeze round a boulder through one of a number of almost identical holes in the floor of a boulder chamber.  A survey might be hard put to distinguish the correct hole to the scale on which it may be drawn.

2.    Annotated Grade II Survey.

A simple system may not warrant an accompanying article, but may have a few features which will not be obvious from a simple survey alone.  In such cases, the writing of short explanations on the actual survey, as and where appropriate, might be a satisfactory method.

3.    Grade II survey with additional symbolic information.

It may be possible to present the annotations in the form of conventional signs or symbols - on the other hand, a mixture of this and the last method might be considered most suitable in some cases.

4.    Severity Route Diagram with additional symbolic information.

Where the hazards and relationship of routes are considered to be more important than the presentation of a picture of the cave, or where the form of the cave is such that a confusing survey results, it may be considered best to use the Severity Route Diagram.  This by itself is probably not enough and so the addition of symbolic (or written) information will perhaps, be considered to complete the amount of information desired.

5.    Grade II survey with superimposed Severity Route Diagram.

Where the type of cave permits, this method allows the information of the Severity Route Diagram to be combined with the picture of the cave in more conventional form.

6.   Isometric Sketch with additional information.

If the surveyor possesses the ability, and the shape of t he cave permits, this form of presentation will give perhaps the best overall picture of the cave.

The Basic Survey.

When circumstances permit, work can start on the Basic Survey as the next step in the presentation sequence. The aim here is to produce as accurate a framework as possible, for use on all future survey presentations of the cave and to present specialists with as good a tool as possible on which to base or to record their work.  The centre line should be such that it need never be done again, except perhaps where an independent team may decide to check it, or where a new discovery requires an extension to the existing line, or permit a closed traverse to be obtained.  All survey stations should be of a permanent form and noted on the survey.

The first use of this survey will be to produce the 'blank form' required by specialists.  The drawing should therefore be produced at the largest size consistent with the accuracy achieved and with the size of the system generally.  The survey should be accompanied by information about the accuracy.  An accurate North Point, a grid and the date of survey should all be included on the actual drawing.  This is a survey done by one specialist for others and hence should not talk down to its users.  An appraisal of probable errors, in feet arid degrees, together with the method used in making the estimation of accuracy is essential rather than a general grading figure.  Where possible, the grid references of principal stations, in Eastings and Northings from a marked origin should be included, with probable errors.



A word on the somewhat controversial subject of grading might not come amiss at this point.  If we accept the need for only two types of survey data - a rough picture as far as accuracy is concerned, albeit with a wealth of detail, followed by the most accurate survey possible under the circumstances, completely free from all clutter except for a statement on its accuracy -   there would seem to be no room for the present system of survey grading.  It has already been argued that the use of instruments on anything but a highly accurate survey tends to be a waste of time, since none of the information so obtained will be of use when a later, more accurate, survey is done.  The removal of the various shades of grey associated with the present system, and the substitution of a black and white situation, with one type of survey of no real accuracy and the other type of very high and stated accuracy will, the writer hopes, lead to the eventual abandonment of the grading system.

The basic survey should be kept as 'clean' as possible.  No information as to types of floor, depths of pitches, or any aids to caving should be incorporated.

As with the Preliminary or General Diagrams, the Basic Survey will, it is assumed, be used - in this case, by various specialists.  Thus, a series of marked up versions of the Basic Survey will gradually appear which have been marked up with data obtained by specialists.  One such version may have the distribution of various types of cave fauna marked upon it.  Another may contain geological and/or hydrological data.  Yet another may be concerned with the present or future state of further exploration of the cave system.  It is hoped that contact between these specialists and the surveyor would be maintained, and that the surveyor would be sent copies of all such specialist surveys.

The Final Survey.

There would come a time when, apart from unexpected new discoveries, it could be assumed that the cave system had been fully explored and worked on by the specialists.  At this stage, the production of a Final Survey should be contemplated.

The form of this document - whose aim should be completeness - must be dictated by the nature of the cave.  As every caver knows, caves vary very considerably - in fact, no two caves are the same - and it therefore seems unrealistic to expect that the Final Survey of two caves such as St. Cuthbert’s and Badger Hole should be of exactly the same form.  The task of the surveyor at this stage will thus be one of deciding how best to present the information at his disposal.  In simple cases, it may be possible to present all the information on a single survey sheet.  In others, it may be necessary to publish a series if sheets, each illustr­ating some aspect of the cave system.

Although the aim of a Final Survey should be that of completeness, the surveyor may, quite legitimately decide not to include all the information which he has received.  As an example, it may have happened that a caver interested in underground communication may have used a copy of the Basic Survey to plot field strengths in parts of the cave with respect to a transmitter set up in the system.  Such information is of very limited interest and will probably have in any case been published separately.  The surveyor may decide merely to include a suitable reference to the work without actually including it.

Thus, a Final Survey will be published - varying from a single-sheet to a comprehensive collection of surveys, and the task of the surveyor completed., at least as far as normal survey documents are concerned.  Even at this stage, it may still be decided to go m for one of the 'one off types of further aid.

SECTION  FIVE - An Example of Survey Presentation

Problems and Limitations.

A paper of this nature would not be even approximately complete without some form of example of the presentation system and methods discussed in earlier sections, and thus some attention must be paid to the inclusion of at least some forms of suitable examples.  It is at this point that considerable problems appear.  The writer is very conscious of the fact that the method he has finally chosen is by far from being completely satisfying.  Perhaps it would be as well to examine the problems before describing the solutions offered in this section.

Size and Scale of Examples.

The inclusion of a number of very large sheets of paper in a report of this nature is felt to be impracticable.  Perhaps one would be not too unreasonable, but the subject here demands a number if it is to be covered fully.  Thus, we can assume that we will be limited by the size of paper on which this report is printed.

This being so, we now have the choice of including large areas of cave survey as our examples ( of necessity to a small scale) or small areas of cave to a larger scale.  On the one hand, it will not be possible to show any detail, and on the other, the area of cave will be so small that a representative range of features will not be able to be included.  The only answer to this problem is to try to effect some sort of compromise.  This has been done.

Selection of Cave System.

This, if anything is an even bigger problem.  After some thought had been given to this aspect, the choice appeared to narrow down to two.   Either the cave used as an example should be known to almost all cavers - or it should be known to none.   In the first case, the reader would be able to compare what he saw on the surveys with what he knows of the cave - although this very knowledge would prevent him from seeing just what he could learn from the survey.  A cave that is known to nobody would not suffer from the last snag, but would suffer from the first.

Solution Adopted.

At first, it was planned to include a very large number of examples, of every sort of presentation suggested in this paper -  to large and small scales - and of both little and well known caves.  In the original version of this paper, the inclusion of a very large number of examples seemed to distract rather than aid most readers on whom it was tried out.  The following has therefore been adopted.

In this Paper.  An entire imaginary history of survey presentation, along the lines discussed in the last section of this report, will be presented as an example.  Some portions of the survey history will be drawn on a small scale, and roughly suggested rather than be accurately detailed while others will be small fragments of larger surveys.

Elsewhere it is hoped to do a series of General Diagrams - taking the Upper Series of Swildons Hole as an example of a well known cave - and to publish these later along the lines of normal surveys.

Hawthorn Hole - Some preliminary remarks.

The use of an imaginary cave system has some advantages, as have already been mentioned.  The main one of these is that the reader- is placed in the position of a caver who has never entered the cave and. cannot obtain information from other sources than the data which is presented, to him via the survey.

Hawthorn Hole was originally conceived by the writer in conjunction with a fictional story with a caving background, which was written in 1957.  The cave as drawn then to illustrate the book differs in no way from the cave as used new, and thus it is not a cave system expressly designed to illustrate presentation techniques.  There was a strong temptation to alter some of its features to bring out some of the things already discussed in a more forceful manner, but the writer felt that no good purpose would be served by using an example which 'happened' to fit too well with the arguments advanced.

Let us therefore imagine that Hawthorn Hole - a western Mendip cave situated somewhere near G.B., was entered by members of the Beacon Caving Club - an equally imaginary body - on the 12th of July, 1957.  Preliminary exploration was such that, by the 25th of that month, a preliminary Diagram had been published.  This diagram is shown on a very small scale below.  The surveyors chose an annotated Grade II sketch for the very human reason that the size of their discovery turned them against a diagrammatic form which would not emphasise the large passages.  This is a perfectly valid line to take if we remember that one of the functions of a survey drawing is to enable a mental preview to be made of the system.


Preliminary Diagram - First Edition.

The drawing below shows the type of Preliminary Diagram first produced.  Comparison of this with the later Basic and Final surveys will show that very considerable inaccuracies exist in this diagram, but it nevertheless serves its purpose in giving a quick look facility to newcomers, together with a few remarks on the cave.  In fact, such a diagram would contain rather more information than can be indicated on such a small scale plan.  This is suggested by the "Notes on Caving" in the box on the bottom right of the drawing.

Underneath the Preliminary Diagram on the previous page, will be found a simple illustration of one of the uses of such a diagram.  This is a copy which we will imaging has been marked up by cavers who arc concerned with the further exploration of the system.


Preliminary Diagram - Second Edition.

It was mentioned earlier that the problems associated with any cave are such that each cave must be taken on its merits.  The general system of cave survey presentation outlined in the last section of this paper must therefore be taken as an overall guide only.

In the case of Hawthorn Hole, let us imagine that, shortly after the making up of the copy of the Preliminary Diagram illustrated under the drawing on the previous page, the sump was successfully dived.  This led to the discovery of a large new series (Porter's Series) which also connected with the hole noted 50' up the wall of the Hall opposite Tributary Passage.  A second passage on the other side of the Hall (The Ramp) was also found to connect back to the Hall - in this case in the roof at the junction of the Hall and Tributary Passage.

Within a few clays of these discoveries, arrangements were in hand to publish a new version of the Preliminary Diagram - along the same lines as the original.  When Porter's Series was discovered, the explorers did a Grade II as they went, and it was assumed that a separate Preliminary Diagram of this series would be produced.  The other connection with the Hall (via the Ramp) meant that the whole of the cave would have to be presented again.

Before this could be done, a further discovery was announced.  The passage at the end of Banwell's Chimney had now been pushed and a very tight passage (Pantomime Passage) found, which led from there to the top of the Ramp.  Before this information in its turn could be dealt with two more discoveries were made.  The first was the forcing of the connection between Boulder Chamber and the Main Stream Passage beneath.  This revealed a very large discrepancy in the original Grade II survey.  The second was a minor connection from the end of the entrance boulder ruckle to the stream passage.

In view of all this activity, it was now decided to republish the preliminary diagram as a Severity Route Diagram with annotations or additional symbols.  This form of presentation was decided upon for two reasons.  Firstly, the cave system was by now fairly complex, and a route diagram of some sort seemed a good idea.  Secondly, publication in this form would remove the need for performing a new Grade II survey of the whole cave, which could be left until an accurate survey was eventually carried out.

It is hoped that most readers will be reasonably convinced of the usefulness of Preliminary Diagrams by now.  Imagine yourself in the position of a caver who was unable to revisit the cave after the first discoveries had taken place.  You will be in this position if you refer to the original preliminary Diagram.  Now imagine that you constantly hear talk of places like Dogleg Passage, Procrustes Passage, Birthday Chamber and the like.  A new Preliminary Diagram will give such information in a convenient form.

The drawing opposite shows a small portion of this second Preliminary Diagram.

Basic Survey.

It must now be supposed that work would start on the Basic Survey.  The surveyors would find that both the Preliminary Diagrams were of some use in planning this.  The Second Edition could be used as a key on which to plan the various closed traverses while the first would provide them both with a rough shape of some of the actual cave and with a warning of the discrepancies which had already been found.


The drawing opposite the next page of text shows the shape of the cave plan as revealed by the basic survey, and is also intended to give an overall impression of the type of survey envisaged.  As with the first Preliminary Diagram, it is reproduced on too small a scale for any detail to be shown, but gross features such as the overall gridding and the general clean appearance can be seen.

The next drawing shows an enlarged portion of this Basic Survey.  Some of the survey notes are now readable, and the positions of main, permanent survey stations can now be seen.  It is likely that a table of Eastings and Northings of these iterations would be incorporated somewhere; on the survey sheets.

The drawing following this again shows a copy of the basic survey as used by a geologist.  Once again, the small scale prohibits anything but the merest suggestion' of data to be shown (and in any case, the writer must apologise to any geologists for the no doubt completely fallacious data he has imagined).  It should be imagined that this is one of a number of copies of the Basic Survey which have been used by specialists - some of which may have been used by them to illustrate papers, reports etc but copies of all have - we hope - been passed back to the original surveyors.






This particular copy suggests possible discrepancies in portions of the Baric Survey.  By feeding such information back to the surveyor, he will be kept in the picture and be able to decide whether there is any need for resurveying.

Final Survey.

Eventually, when the surveyors have satisfied themselves that their survey information is as accurate as possible, that as much specialist information as they are reasonably likely to receive has come their way, and that the likelihood of new major discoveries now seems remote, a final survey will be published.  This may, of course, by added to later if necessary, or even reissued, but the general aim is to present a complete picture of the system and so it will wait for quite some time - a number of years in the case of a system of the size of Hawthorn Hole.  The final picture, facing the next page of this paper, is that of a portion of the supposed Final Survey of Hawthorn Hole.  In this case, we imagine that it has been decided to include all the information on one survey drawing.  As only a very small portion is shown, many of the features cannot be included at all, but we see that some symbols have been used, and we conclude from the red 'geological' line that specialist colouring has been adopted.

In no case, during the course of these examples has any elevation been shown, and in only one case are there any sections.  This should not be taken to mean that cave plans are most important rather than elevations or sections, but that limited space and facilities in a paper of this nature have made the writer concentrate on plans only.

With this rather sketchy outline of a presentation system in action, our description of this imaginary cave, and out treatment of the whole subject comes to an end.  It must be once again emphasised that none of the illustrations in this paper are of anything like the standard which one would hope to see in actual work, and the reader is asked to exercise some imagination and indulgence in this direction.

It now only remains to summarise and conclude.

Summary and Conclusions.

This paper has been written to stimulate thought and to spread the writer's contention that the presentation of Cave Survey Data should be a much bigger and more interesting subject than present usage allows.

The time and effort spent on any survey is only justified by the subsequent use to which such a survey is put.  In order to ensure that it is so used, some thought must first be given to the type of use - and hence the type of user - for which the survey has been designed.

Having decided this, then any technique of presentation which seems best fitted to achieve the object should be employed.

There will probably be more than one type of survey of the same cave as a result of this approach.  The stages at which each type could best appear have also been discusser, and a framework suggested of Preliminary Diagram - Basic Survey - Final Survey.  However, in all cases, this framework must be fitted to suit the cave, as was shown in the example.

In conclusion, the writer hopes that a user based approach may become more common practice, and that the success of any survey should be measure by how quickly copies wear out through constant use.  In this connection, he hopes that this paper may stimulate others into perfecting and consolidating this tentative venture into what is largely new ground.



(i)   WHITE, W. "A Plan & Section of Pen Park Hole." (Pen & ink drawing as the frontispiece of G.S. Catcott Ms. "Relation of the Rev. Mr. Thos. Newman's falling into Pen Park Hole." 17th March, 1775.)   White's notes are on pages 25 to  31.

(ii)   BUTCHER,  R. "Cave Survey" Cave Research Group Publication No 3. 1950.

(iii)  ELLIS, B.M. et al. " A Preliminary Survey Plan of St. Cuthbert's Swallet." B.E.C. Caving Report (8), Feb. 1962.

(iv)  WARBURTON, D.  W.C.C. Journal. No 89, Vol 7 PP 166 - 181.

(v)   CRICKMAY, J.H. & BENDALL, R.A. "ASurvey of G.B. Cave - Charterhouse on Mendip" U.B.S.S. Proc.6, (2) 174/85 1949/50.

(vi)  ELLIS, B.M. ed. "Mendip Survey Colloquium." M.C.S.C. Rep. 13.8.63.

(vii)  BUTCHER, A..R. "Cave Surveying, (Ch. 17 of) Cullingford, C.D.H. British Caving. 1st Edn. 1953 PP 389/415. 2nd Edn 1962 pp 509/535.

(viii)  RA,ILTON, C.L. "Searching for Caves." (Ch. 12 of) Cullingford, C.D.H. British Caving. 1st Edn. 1953. PP 312/319 2nd Edn. 1962 pp 424/430.

(ix)  CR0OK, B. & PEARCE,  R.

(x)   COASE, D.A. Belfry Bulletin 121 pp 1/2 Feb 1958.

(xi)  COLLINS, S.J. "  Topological Diagram of St. Cuthbert's Swallet." Ms. 1961. and Belfry Bulletin 133 Feb 1959.

(xii) ELLIS, B.M.  "Adiagrammatic Route Plan of St. Cuthbert's Swallet." B.E.C. Caving Rep (7) Frontispiece (Feb 1962)

(xiii) IRWIN, D. Report on St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.


All the illustrations were originally numbered and were set out in the same way as the main text (i.e. always on the right hand side of the open book as it is read).  It was felt better to alter this, so that in most cases, the illustration could be referred to at the same time as the appropriate piece of text is read.  Thus the illustrations are no longer numbered, and are all printed so that they appear on the left hand side of the open book as it is being read.

All the illustrations (with one exception) are referred to in the text, which also explains where they are to be found and the order in which they should be considered as the text is read.  Thus the text provides a series of instructions on looking at the illustrations, which it is suggested the reader follows.

Apologies are made for the poor standard of reproduction of some of the illustrations and readers are also warned that the dies used in the Banda process which has been used in order to allow different colours to be used are sensitive to light.  

The book should thus not be left open at one of the illustrations in strong sunlight.

The above does not apply to this version as it has been printed on both sides of the page in order to conserve paper, but it still applies to the illustrations where appropriate.



The intention of the following report is to examine in soma detail the Caves of Western Mendip.

These Caves are all quite small, the longest, Loxton Cave, having about 300 feet of passages.  Most of these have been known for many years and have been much used by cavers and spoiled by vandals.  Never the less they are all worth a visit and most of them have many interest­ing features which are not apparent from the few terse sentences in the well known cave gazetteer, "The Caves of Mendip".

Denny's Hole and Loxton Cave are excellent 'beginners caves' and there is just a chance that there is still something to be discovered in them.

Coral Cave and Banwell Bone Cave have controlled access by the Axbridge Caving Group and Archaeological Society and are, therefore, not well known to many cavers.

Biddlecombo Mine and Rift Cave, although not situated in the Western Mendip region, are in an area about which little is known and have, therefore, been, included for general interest.

It is hoped that the Report will stimulate some of the veteran cavers to examine these caves once again and encourage newcomers to see for themselves what they have to offer.

The references to "The Caves of Mendip" are to the second edition (1962), and to "The Mendip Caves" to the second edition (1948) of the third book - "Mendip, its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters'.

Banwell Bone Cave – BAKER EXTENSION

Length:    150 feet.     Depth:    30 feet.     N.G.R.    383588.


NOTE:  There was no photograph on the copy that this electronic version was derived from.

Most of the formations in the photograph have been cracked by natural agencies.  The large stalagmite in the foreground was found lying on its side and has been replaced on its base.  The short column in the background is cracked at both top and bottom.

Dimensions given are those below the old Bone Cave; this is approx­imately 100 foot long, and at the connection with the Baker Extension is 20 foot deep.  This new series in the Banwell Bone Cave was discovered by members of the Axbridge Caving Croup in 1952.

A short excavated passage from the 'West End' of the Bone Cave leads to an excavated shaft about ten feet deep which has boon fitted with a permanent iron ladder.  At the bottom another short passage enters Ruby Chamber, the floor of which is covered with small angular boulders.  The roof is smooth washed and is stained in places with mineral deposit which makes it deep red, hence the chamber's name.  A passage in the southern wall of Ruby Chamber, known as Mud Passage, leads to Gas Chamber.  It was found that the mud fill of this small chamber gave off large quant­ities of carbon dioxide and this was so dangerous that the chamber was sealed off.  It is believed that the .carbon dioxide is derived from rotting vegetable matter in the mud.  Ruby Chamber is 40 feet long, 15 feet wide and 10 - 12 feet high.

A low opening at the bottom of this chamber leads to the 'Galleries' the second and larger chamber, though it is not so high.  It is about 50 feet long, 20 feet wide and 5-6 feet high.  Again the floor is covered with angular boulders except for a flow of mud to the right of the ent­rance passage.  At the eastern end of the chamber a crawl among boulders leads to a squeeze and a little domed chamber, of phreatic origin, known as the 'Pilgrim's Pause'.  A recess in the south western wall of the Galleries denotes the entrance to a short climb and the 'Frozen River Grotto' which contains some fine splash deposit.

The cave throughout seems to be phreatic in origin, the roof exhib­iting large clean washed areas with domed surfaces.  There is also the impressive wide rock span in the Galleries.  The smaller angular boulder which cover most of the floor appear to be an intrusive feature.

One of the most curious features of the system is the fact that nearly all of the stalagmite formations have been broken from their bases or at least cracked and left in position.  The clay fill in some of the choked passages contains broken stalactites and stalagmites but these are usually quite small and are considerably decayed, probably by chemical action.  Some of the formations in the open cave, however, are quite robust and are made of hard calcite.  These, too, have been broken from their bases, notable examples being a column in the Galleries about 2-3 inches thick broken at top and bottom, a largo stalagmite 4 or 5 inches thick in the same chamber broken end toppled from its base, and a short stumpy stalagmite in the Frozen River Grotto, very strong, about 2 inches thick and only 3 or 4 inches high, broken from its attachment point.  There are also examples of collapsed stalagmite flooring at the beginning of the approach passage to the Frozen River Grotto.

As the cave was sealed off in prehistoric times no human agency can account for this destruction.  It is possible that a local earth tremor may have caused it, or the cave may have become flooded and whirling boulders in the flood water may have wrought havoc among the formations.

Other notable features of the calcite formations are the splash de­posits in the Frozen River Grotto and the colour of the flowstone cascade known as the Tapestry in the Galleries.  This exhibits wonderful pinks and reds, the darkest being almost magenta in colour.

In contrast to the numerous fairly large stalagmites there are few stalactites and none of any size.


Delineations on 1IW Somerset (Sutter, 1829)   pp 1-46-8.

Cave Hunting (Dawkins, 1374)   p 293.

Netherworld of Mendip (Baker & Balch, 1907)   pp 22, 28.

The Mendip Caves  pp5, 102, 129, 144.

The Caves of Mendip  pp12.

U.B.S.S. Proceedings Vol2, No. 3  pp 261-273;  Vol 6, No. 3  p222.

Wessex Club Journal No. 80  p237.

Axbridge Group Caving Journal Vol 1, No. 4  p29;  Vol 2, No. 3  p20;  Vol 2, No. 4  p35

Note:   A very comprehensive bibliography, with special ref­erence to archaeology, is given in Vol 7, No 1 (pp 23-34) of the University of Bristol Speleological Society Proceedings.

Survey (CRG Grade &):   Axbridge Caving Group Journal Vol 2, No 4, facing page 21.  This is reprinted as the Frontispiece of British Caver, Vol 27.

Ludwell Cave

Lengths 110 feet.      Depth: 15 feet.      N.G.R.    358592.


This cave, situated close to the track to Ludwell Farm, is one of the few resurgences that have been penetrated for more than a few feet.  It was first entered by members of the Wessex Cave Club in 1951 who dived a tight and dangerous sump.

The stream emerges from a very low cave which is completely flooded after a few feet during wet weather.  However a large entrance in a nearby cliff face loads to a small descending passage which gives access to the stream inside the cave.

Just inside the entrance there is a short side passage leading off to the right.  Lower down on the left a tight passage leads back to­wards the surface.  At a depth of fifteen feet the stream is encountered and in wet weather the inner end of the sump is here to the left.  It is possible to lower oneself into a pool about two feet deep end enter a duck with a couple of inches of air space which sumps completely after three or four feet.  The passage appears to be low and wide.

On the right a short length of boulder filled passage leads to the first chamber, twenty feet long, ten feet wide and six feet high.  The stream rises from stalagmited boulders on the left at the top of this chamber.  An iron bar could be pushed between these boulders without meeting any obstruction for several feet.  A dig at the end of this chamber leads to a second which is fifteen feet long, twelve wide and four feet high.  This must come very near the surface as there are tree roots at its upper end.

There are very few calcite formations in the cave, just a few tiny straws and a little flowstone where the stream rises.  Splash deposits however are abundant on numerous boulders and in the sump.  These are of the simple variety, none of the branched type occurring.  There are also a few recesses lined with dog-tooth spar and several calcite veins which include a little galena.

References: The Caves of Mendip   p 37,

Wessex Cave Club Journal No 29,   p

Denny's Hole

Depth: 25 feet.     Length: 250 feet.     Altitude 160 feet.    N.G. R.  397550.


This cave is the largest of a group of five caves in the S.E. spur of Crook Peak and was first mentioned by Rutter in 1829.  The large open entrance is situated right on the ridge of the spur about 200 yards from the road.

A short climb loads to a long muddy slope that widens into the main chamber which is about thirty feet wide and ten foot high.  In the south­ern corner of this chamber three small passages lead off but these soon combine to form a single passage with several tight squeezes, ending in a hole which drops into an even tighter passage which is impassable.  Just before this there is a small branch passage.

On the northern side of the main chamber a fairly tight and awkward hole in the floor gives access to a tight squeeze into another chamber.  The passage continues parallel to this chamber.  The chamber is divided into two; the left hand section (from the entry squeeze) ascends rapidly over a boulder floor and ends with a domed phreatic roof at its upper end.  The right hand section ascends a step of about five feet and then descends gradually to a small pool at the end of the chamber.  The height here is about five feet, as is the width.

Calcite formations .are few in the main chamber, consisting in the main of a few small straws on the roof at the lower end of the chamber and in several niches at ground level.  There are several patches of 'splash deposit' and other formations in the south passage but most of these have been damaged.  The best formations are in the inner chamber and seem to be of two ages.  The older consist mainly of masses of flowstone, chocolate or deep ochre in colour.  There are short stalactite pendants where an overhang occurs and short dumpy stalagmites, many of which have been destroyed.  The later formations consist almost entirely of short pure white straws, a few of which are developing into solid stalactites.  The drip from two of these straws falls on to a bank of chocolate coloured flowstone raid has dissolved small pits into the tops of two very low stalagmites.  The pits are pure white and smooth inside whereas the surrounding flowstone is rather rough.  In one case the pit is round, about an inch in diameter and almost conical in section with a tiny hole in the bottom.  The other is oval in plan, about an inch and a half along its greater axis, almost removing the top of the stalagmite completely.  In both cases there is a thin film of white stalagmite form­ing on top of the brown flowstone, radiating from the re-solution pits.  It is not clear whether this calcite comes in solution with the water from the straws or from the re-dissolved flowstone which may be white under the chocolate crust.

The cave seems to be mainly phreatic in origin as do most of the caves in this area.  The rounded roof in part of the inner chamber and the solutional features which form the squeeze into this chamber, are evidence of this.  It is also fairly obvious that the cave has little relation to the modern topography but it is merely a remnant of a larger system, long van­ished.

It may be possible to extend the present cave by work in the south passage or the inner chamber.

Archaeologically the main chamber floor may be worth investigating and there is a mass of cemented breccia in the southern corner.


Delineations on WR Somerset (Butter, 1329)   p 166.

Netherworld of Mendip (Baker & Balch, 1907)   p 111.

The Mendip Caves   pp 99,  111, 132.

The Caves of Mendip   p ,20..

British Caver Vol 1   pp 10, 53; Vol 3. p  25.; Vol 12   p 11.

Coral   Cave

Depth: 70 feet.     Length: 200 feet.     Altitude: 300 feet.     N.G.R.406554.


Discovered in 1905 by H. E. Balch, the cave was closed in 1945 after an accident to a schoolboy.  The usual method of descent used to be by bosun’s chair but ladders have been used since the cave was re-opened in 1958.  The re-opening was undertaken by the Axbridge Caving Group who have fitted a trap door as a safety measure.  It is situated in a rooky outcrop close to a cottage on the south side of Wavering Down.

The entrance shaft is fifty feet deep and because of its smooth appearance with solutional evidence it seems to be phreatic in origin, as does the rest of the cave.  There is a ledge about half way down the shaft and this necessitates changing sides on the ladder to avoid climbing the lower section between the ladder and the wall.

Below the shaft a boulder pile descends for about twenty feet, con­sisting mainly of small angular rocks.  The domed chamber rises to a height of about forty feet.  At the bottom of the boulder pile an arch­way ten feet high gives access to a muddy chamber with large rocks on the floor.  It is here that the splash deposits, which give the cave its name, occur.  Apart from these, there are few calcite formations in this cave.  Some of these formations have four or five small branches about 74 inch long.  This part of the cave floods in wet weather and forms a lake about six feet deep and twenty feet across.  The lake appeared in 1960 (November) for the first time since the cave was re-opened in 1958.  From here the gallery extends for 100 feet rising about twenty five feet over its length and is approximately ten feet wide and six feet high.  At the end of this gallery there are some fine examples of three dimensional phreatic solution.  This forms the present end of the cave though the Axbridge Caving Group are digging in a muddy extension.


 Netherworld of Mendip (Baker & Balch, 1907)   p 28.

The Mendip Caves   pp 114, 132.

The Caves of Mendip   p 18.

U.B.S.S. Proceedings, 1923.

British Caver Vol 1, p 55; Vol 4, p 5

Axbridge Caving Group Newsletter, December 1960.

Equipment:      50 feet ladder and 60 feet lifeline.


N.G.R.  397550.


This small cave opens a few yards further up the south east spur of Crook Peak than Denny's Hole.  The entrance is a tight chimney nearly ten feet deep.  This leads, round an awkward vertical bend, to a wide but very low chamber which soon becomes too low to follow.

There are no formations but usually dozens of horrible black spiders and sometimes bats.

The cave is no doubt another small piece of the large system to which Denny's Hole belonged.


Netherworld of Mendip (Baker & Balch, 1907) p   110.

The Mendip Caves   p 113.

The Caves of Mendip   p 26.

British Caver Vol 12,   p 11.

Loxton  Cave

Length: 400 foot.     Depths 30 feet.   Altitude: 190 feet.     N.G.R. 373560.


This cave was broken into by miners about'1740 and an' account of a visit to it appeared in the Gentlemen's Magazine for 1794.  The minors were apparently responsible for the destruction of some of the calcite formations.

The gated entrance, usually left open, leads to a low passage which appears to have been excavated and was probably the work of the eight­eenth century miner.

After a low squeeze a domed chamber of about seven feet high and the same in diameter is entered.  From here two passages branch off, the largest of which, the left hand branch, ends after about twenty five feet. 
Near the end there are calcite cascades and rimstone pools.  The main passage is about, four feet six inches wide, and two and a half feet high, and after twenty five feet a low ascending bedding chamber is reached.  A small passage on the right of this leads into another bedding chamber which is very unsafe.  At its lower end there are a few tiny curtains and a little splash deposit.

An arch about four feet high on the left of the first bedding chamber leads immediately into a domed chamber about ten feet high and twenty feet across.  There are two chimneys and three rounded recesses in the roof of this chamber.  These latter seem to be the beginnings of three more chimneys.  This indicates a phreatic origin for the cave, the domed chamber arid the recesses being formed by water pressure from inside.

Formations in this chamber include one stalagmite about eighteen inches tall and nearly one foot thick, one or two simple hook type helictites and some milky flowstone on the roof.

The south west side of the chamber' descends into a wide bedding plane which soon narrows down to a small passage, triangular in section.  Then follows a squeeze through calcite cemented boulders and a right angled turn to the right into a long low bedding cave.

A six feet high step at the top of this gives access to the main chamber, the largest in the cave, about fifty feet long, twenty wide and nine feet high at its highest point.  There is a mound of earth at its upper end and above this a chimney three feet in diameter ascends twenty ­two feet, to the surface.  This can be climbed without tackle but it makes a good practice ladder pitch for beginners.

There are few calcite formations in this chamber, only a few broken stalagmite bosses and some small straws at the upper end.

A short climb on the northern side of the main chamber leads down to the last chamber and the end of the cave.  This is steeply inclined and has little of interest except for some loose slabs and some flowstone at the far end.

This completes the main cave system but in the entrance passage, just past the first big side passage, there is a very tight tunnel which leads to an oven tighter vertical squeeze which some cavers can pass.  Beyond the squeeze are the New Grottos which contain some good formations.

The cave has been formed along one bedding plane and most of the chambers are in it.  The entrance passage is formed along a joint and this forms the lower limit of the chambers.  Several of the chambers have domed roofs which indicate modification by phreatic pressure.  There is little else to indicate how this cave was formed.

The University of Bristol Speleological Society have found poor Pleistocene deposit in the cave but their report does not state the exact location of this.

The Survey:    The survey of Loxton cave was undertaken for the following reasons:-

    1. as a relatively simple exercise in cave surveying,
    2. to see if fairly simple instruments would give worthwhile results,
    3. to determine the best method of drawing the survey to illus­trate the relationship of the cave to the geological formation in which it occurs.

The instruments used consisted of a pocket compass readable in single degrees but probably not accurate to more than three to five degrees, a tape measure six feet long and a clinometer which consisted of a ruler, for sighting along, a centrally mounted protractor and a plumb line.

After the first traverse through the cave the readings obtained were drawn on one inch squared graph paper.  The plan so obtained was compared with the sketch by H. E. Balch on page 111 of his book,  "Mendip - It's Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters", and it was immediately obvious that the cave was much more compact than indicated on the earlier survey.  It also showed that some of the chambers were very near to one another and that some connection was likely.

On a subsequent trip these possible connections were looked for and two were proved, a third being nearly proved but positive results could not be obtained because of the tightness of the connections.

This close proximity of the chambers to one another also makes the distance from the entrance to the chimney shorter than it would seem from Balch's plan.  The distance on the surface was checked and found to be approximately correct, that is 106 feet.

It can be soon from this that a reasonably accurate cave survey can be made with simple instruments provided that their limitations are re­alized and that great care is used when taking readings.  It is import­ant, however, not to claim too high a Cave Research Group survey grading for the results.


The Mendip Caves   p  109.

The Caves of Mendip   p  37.

U.B.S. S. Proceedings    Vol 3, No. 1   p  5.


Loxton Quarry Cave.

Length: 150 foot.     Altitude: 140 feet.'    N.C. R. 373560.


The cave is situated in a rubbish filled quarry to the north of Loxton village.  The entrance, which is quite large opens into a wide sloping bedding chamber, the upper end of which is very damp and covered with ferns.  The floor is covered with a sandy deposit.  This is also found in the tunnel like passage which leads away at the back of the chamber.  Two more passages are to be found at the bottom of the chamber


The Mendip Caves   p 109.,

The Caves of Mendip   p 37



N.G.R.    396550.


The Devil's Hole is situated in a quarry on the northern side of the south east spur of Crook Peak and has a fairly largo entrance about eight feet high which at one time was used as a donkey's stable.  It is only 100 yards from the road,

After a stop about five feet high the height is reduced to four or five feet although the cave is some twelve foot wide.  About thirty feet from the entrance a squeeze appears and this leads to a small domed chamber four feet high and ten feet across.  An even smaller squeeze leads to yet another domed chamber which has a choked passage leading off from its south west side.  It might be possible to extend this.

There are no calcite formations but the floor is covered with sand in places and there are beds of limenite  in the walls.  Numerous flies and spiders, and also two lesser horseshoe bats, were seen.  This cave also seems to be phreatic in origin.


The Mendip Caves   p   113,

The Caves of Mendip   p   60.



N.G.R. 569477


Biddleconbe is a deep wooded valley which lies to the north of Wells, its southern end being near to the Mendip Hospital.  Near the village of West Horrington the coombe turns north-east.  It is here, on the eastern side, just below the top of the combe, that the caves are found.

Biddlecombe gets its name from the old 'Buddie Houses', the remains of which can be found near the stream in the bottom of the valley.  No doubt these were used in connection with Biddlecombe Mine although this is so small that it seems unlikely they were erected solely for this mine.  This may indicate that there are other workings yet to be found in this district.

Biddlecombe Rift Cave is natural throughout.  The entrance is a very tight vertical rift.  It is too tight to pass at ground level, the only place wide enough being about an arms length from the ground.  After passing a chockstone the rift descends steeply for about ten feet.  It is never much more than a foot wide and only ten inches in some places.  This rift extends for about forty feet in an easterly direction then it becomes too tight to follow.  Its maximum height is about twenty feet.

About ten feet before the end of the rift there is a low passage at floor level.  This is quite difficult to see and is more easily found by feeling with the feet.

After executing an awkward bending movement, which must be imposs­ible for a tall man, a low descending passage can be entered.  This leads to a parallel rift which is entered near its roof on a 'floor' of choked boulders.  Another short passage and a muddy slope give access to the bottom of the rift.  This is too tight to follow in both direct­ions.

Biddlecombe Mine

The Mine is situated about thirty yards further down the combe than Biddlecombe Rift Cave; it consists in the main of a mined passage but there are several natural features.

For the first few feet the passage is very low, two to three feet high, but after about twenty feet it is possible to walk.  Some fifteen feet from the entrance there is a small passage on the left, the first few yards being mined but the end is natural.

The main passage is approximately eighty feet long and the floor is covered with small angular stones, probably miners'  "deads".  There are shot holes at floor level which point upwards, so in order that these could have been drilled the floor must have been lower when the mine was working.  Again, as the mine is so small it is difficult to see where this infilling has come from.  There may be further workings to be found.

The roof consists of a sandy fill in a narrow rift.  The fill con­tains some mineral ore, probably galena.  The passage ends in a natural tunnel-like passage choked, with a similar sandy fill which contains pockets of calcite crystals.

The only other feature of the mine is a climb into the roof of the main passage, to the right of the small side passage.  This may be nat­ural and leads to a small muddy chamber near the surface.

The end of the Mine heads in the direction of the Rift Cave which cannot be far from it.

Supra Sandy Hole

N.G.R,    396550.

Supra Sandy Hole lies above, and a few yards to the west of, the Devil's Hole.  It is situated in an ivy covered cliff.  The entrance en­larges to the left into a small chamber end as this is only about thirty feet long the end can be seen from the entrance.


 The Caves of Mendip   p   66.

J.H. Tucker.

June 1S62.