What does the BEC do?
The Bristol Exploration Club (BEC) is one of the major caving clubs in the United Kingdom. We cater for all forms of caving from novice trips, through sporting, through to advanced digging techniques. We definitely do not do any form of splunking (whatever that is). Besides venturing into the great indoors we tend to be a sporty group and many of our members waste their time by climbing, mountain biking, and consuming vast quantities of Butcombe in the Hunters Lodge.
Where are we?
We have a "hut" called the Belfry on the eastern edge of the village of Priddy, on the Mendip hills in Somerset. While many of our members are local we have members all over the UK and many who now live overseas too..
How long have we been around?
We were formed in 1935. Clearly not all of us have been around for that much time but we still see a lot of the active cavers from days gone by.
When do we go caving?
Every weekend our members are doing something underground. Every Monday there are trips on Mendip and Wednesday night is a traditional time for hordes of Mendip cavers to go out and dig for new cave. In short there is always something going on and we therefore don't really organise club trips as our members use there own initiative to get out there.
Also, since caving is not dictated to by daylight hours or seasons there ain't much that stops us getting stuck in. (with the exception of opening hours)
How do I know if it is for me?
You could make a really nice cup of tea, put your feet up and tune into one of those caving programmes on the Discovery Channel. Of course you'd learn stuff all about the experience. Bit like watching football on the telly.
Alternatively you could give us a shout and arrange to meet up and do some real caving that matches your abilities. We have a stack of active cavers in the Club who are always willing to give someone a taster of what it's all about. Afterwards you can withdraw to a suitable hostelry and relive the hole experience with some pintage.
Outdoor sports all have flash gear, is it expensive?
There aren't many designer cavers out there. Most of what we wear is just kit designed to be rugged and warm. For instance the best footwear is a pair of plain old wellies and we generally have enough kit knocking about to help out for the odd trip. You can even hire everything you need from a local supplier. A couple of hundred quid will get everything you need but of course you can always spend more - generally speaking its a pretty cheap sport.
OK, so exactly what do we wear?
Have a look at our stripable model for an idea of what the best dressed cavers wear. Of course we are all individuals and there are many manufactures of the various items we use. Clearly if you wear everyday clothes they are going to get trashed and are pretty uncomfortable to wear. Caves tend to be wet, muddy and cold environements so it is best to be prepared.
Where do we stay?
For those members who live off the hill we stay at the Belfry, our club hut. It cost less than a pint to stay the night for members and non members can also stay for a very reasonable rate. We also have reciprocal rates at many other huts around the country which empowers us to visit other regions without going to great expense. As a bonus the Belfry is also the only hut on Mendip with its own bar.
Is the Belfry the center of the Universe?
No. That would be the Hunters Lodge.