QUODCUMQUE  FACIENDUM : NIMIS  FACIEMUS

Editorial

Season’s Greetings

The editor would like to take this opportunity to wish all
club members; all readers of the B.B. and all cavers everywhere a very Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year,

Help!

Unless somebody comes up with a scheme for distributing the
B. B. a damn sight more cheaply than the Post Office currently charges, the
days of the large Christmas B.B. are probably a thing of the past.  Apart from a shortage of contributions, the
size of this one has been chosen to be the maximum which will go for the lower
rate when the limit is reduced next year from 60 to 50 grams.

Next month, the thirtieth volume of the B.B. begins.  The 29 volumes so far produced since the B.B.
started in 1947 have been edited by a total of 7 club members, of which the
other six have produced 12 volumes between them.  There are no prizes for guessing how many
have been produced by your present editor.

It seems a good time to remind members that when I came back
to the job in 1970, having retired in 1967, it was on a temporary basis until
some new editor could be found.

That, of course, was five years ago now and nobody appears
to be clamouring to do the job.  I am
finding it increasingly difficult to carry on, at any rate to carry on
single-handed because I get less free time than I once had and feel that I am
not on Mendip enough to chase up contributions the way I should.

What I would like to suggest is that a volunteer be found
who would be prepared – to start with – to give me a hand.  The details can be sorted out when a suitable
volunteer is found.  From this point on,
there are three possibilities.  The
Assistant Editor can remain as such, in which case I would be prepared to carry
on.  The Assistant Editor can gradually
take over, in which case I would be happy to retire at whatever stage suited
us. The third possibility is that the Assistant Editor would get fed up, in
which case we would have to find another. By this means, somebody could come forward without committing himself
(or herself) too deeply to start with. If they found the job to their liking, they could take it over
completely.  If they did not, they could
leave and some other bloke be found.  I
would like the club to take this seriously, because I realise that I cannot do
the job alone for much longer, so I hope the club will hear my plea for help!

Fairy Tales

Traditionally, the Christmas B.B. contains some element of
would be humour.  Owing to the fact
already mentioned that I am finding it hard to get people to make contributions
of articles etc. for the B. B., a great deal of space is taken up in this B.B.
by my own annual screed for which I apologise to one and all.

Yes, once more you are stuck with Pete Pushem and his band
of mythical B.E.C. members – and once again, can only hope that the future as
painted by this tale will never actually come to pass!

“Alfie”

Notices

The Editor would like to apologise to one and all, and
especially to our Membership Secretary – Angie Dooley for the errors in the
list of members published in the last B. B. It appears that he did not have an up-to-date list and suitable
corrections will appear in the next B.B.

The Hut Warden would like to appeal for MATRESSES, LARGE
DINNER PLATES and DINING CHAIRS.  If
anyone has any of these or other useful items, please bring them out or contact
Chris Batstone, who will arrange transport,

 

Round and About

A Monthly Miscellany, by Wig

203.      Additions to the Library: Two large
piles of new material are to be installed in the club library.   B.C.R.A. Transactions and Bulletins, and
other club exchanges make good reading. The Limestone and Caves of Mendip has been purchased by the club.  This year it is hoped to rebuild the
collection of cave surveys and these will be available for reference only
because of the large capital sum involved and the difficulty of replacement.

204.      Who did it?  I’m led to understand that it wasn’t Tony
Johnson who donated the collection of C.D.G. newspaper cuttings to the club
library.  Perhaps the kind donor would
let ‘wig’ know who he was?

205.      Christmas at the Belfry: At the
time of writing publication dates are not my problem! – it appears that a boozy
time was had by all.  No doubt Mike W.
will be giving a suitable account.

206.      Politics again: The N.C.A.
recognises that there is a feeling throughout the country that cavers are not
exactly happy with N.C.A.  Some, in fact,
would like to see it go quietly into a corner and die.  Others see it as being purely an organisation
for the cave politicians to play expensive games with, and producing a great
mountain of paperwork.  As a result, the
N.C.A. have formed a special committee consisting of Phil Davies (W.C.C.) Nigel
Dibben (D.C.C. and B.E.C.) Alan Ashwell (S.W.C.C.) and Jack Rasdell.  This team is roving around the regions to
listen to the caving population – to listen to YOUR views.  The meeting for the Southern Region is being
held at the Hunters on the weekend of February 14/15.  If you as individuals have any thoughts about
N.C.A. and how it should work then go ahead and speak your mind.  I realise that most cavers are cheesed off
with politics or have never been interested in the first place.  However, there is no doubt that the need for
a national body does exist.  Pressures
from the Department of Education and Science; the Nature Conservancy; the National
Parks add to pressures from bodies like Local Education Authorities, the Sports
Council and the C.C.P.R.  The public are
waking up to the fact that caves exist and are another source of leisure
activity.  The horror of the situation is
that very few of the people who are clamouring to use caves will ever become
second trip cavers – the first trip will satisfy their curiosity.  Should cavers adopt an elitist attitude and
try to close caves to outsiders by taking over control of all available
caves?  Do we try to reduce the numbers
of new participants by negotiation with the various organisations
concerned?  To do either, we need a
national organisation that can represent caver’s views.  Most cavers agree up to this point, but areas
of disagreement start when we consider how the N.C.A. should operate.  Should it be the hub that directs all caving
activity – or should it be something which merely keeps itself in a state of
readiness to take on external problems when they arrive?  One last point.  Grants will only be made to a governing body
of any sort – in our case to N.C.A.  Such
grant aid is available, for example, to help establish permanent entrances to
caves.

Editor’s
Note:     And that, unless ‘Wig’ changes
his mind, is the end of ‘Round and About’ – the longest running feature which
has appeared in the B.B.  Many readers
have told me how useful they have found the information which ‘Wig’ has so
consistently brought to our attention. If find that we cannot ‘lean on’ Dave Irwin to carry on, then the sort
of information collecting that he has been doing is something that we need a
volunteer to take on.  Failing that, we
must hope that ‘Mik’ might be able to expand his activities and peregrinate
amongst active cavers!

A very big and public ‘thank you’, Wig, for over two hundred
items of news!

 

Letters

Hilston,
Cleveland Walk,

BATH
.  BA2 6JW.
20th January 1976.

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

Dear Sir,

Having read item 194 in ‘Round and About’ I am, to say the
least, incensed.

‘Wig’ has every right to his personal opinions, for many of
which I have the greatest respect. However, this article seemed written purely to inflame the ‘Them against
Us’ feeling that is destroying the credibility of the C.S.C.C. (which, of
course, includes us.)

The setting up of an Equipment Committee represents perhaps
the first action of the N.C.A. that is not purely political.  It is, too, likely to be of real use to
cavers since the committee will give honest and unbiased reports on equipment;
will liaise with manufacturers to produce new equipment etc.

The reaction from a few Mendip cavers has been ‘anti’ the
Equipment Committee – it is so very easy to criticise and not so easy actually
to do the work – but I can confidently say from many discussion in the Hunters
etc. that most cavers in the region genuinely want the committee to exist.  I myself feel that it is in the interest of
any active caver to at least give the committee a chance to prove its value.

Yours, etc.,
Mike Cowlinshaw.

*****************************************

A reply from ‘Wig’ follows.

Although this reply will be somewhat belated, as Mike and I
will have discussed the current situation and hopefully cleared the air, an
immediate reply to Mike’s letter before this happens might still be
useful.  I feel that the comments I made
were far from being critical except for a certain amount of journalistic
licence in my title!  I was writing as a
member of B.E.C. and not as the Hon. Sec. of the C.S.C.C.  It is, of course, difficult to wear two caps
at once.  I merely reported that C.S.C.C.
had voted to refer the Equipment special Committee’s report back to them for a
more detailed account of what they intended to do in 1976.  The report lacked specific details of their
intended actions, and C.S.C.C. felt that it was not prepared to contribute
towards the sum of £200 of their anticipated administrative costs that has to
be financed by the regional and other constituent bodies of N.C.A. (these costs
are not grant aided) without more specific details that were worth this high cost.  I’m sure that any club committee that spent
£70 on the report issued by this committee (£70 was its cost) would have been
thrown out by its club members in no time at all!

However, having said that, I hope that I balanced matters by
asking for any professionally qualified person who was interested in helping
with the work of this committee to come forward.  Finally, Mike’s comment that local cavers
want this committee to exist frankly surprises me, but if this is true, he’d
better get them to attend a C.S.C.C. meeting and ensure that their views are
heard.

Your editor (thinly disguised as the chairman the C.S.C.C.)
would also like to make a comment on this letter.

The aspect of Mike’s letter which I find a trifle disturbing
is that the C.S.C.C. is generally ‘anti’ just about everything – and that this
intransigent attitude is destroying its credibility elsewhere.

At the risk of sticking my neck right out, I feel that the
C.S.C.C. have adopted an attitude of hard commonsense over the last few
years.  The fact that this attitude has
brought it into conflict with some of the other constituent bodies of N.C.A. is
unfortunate but possibly inevitable.  The
C.S.C.C. are not against things just for the hell of it, but because in many
cases, they feel that they have thought the thing through and can see snags
which might have been overlooked in the general enthusiasm for getting
something done.

In the case of the report in question, it is vague.  I am sure that Mike, in his professional
capacity at work, would not think much of a report which gave no details as to
exactly what work was proposed, together with a cost and time estimate for each
section of the proposed task.

Without such detail, we are in no position to know exactly
what is planned.  For example, it has
been estimated by two people independently (one of whom is associated with the
special committee) that to write a realistic specification for the ‘Cave
Qualification’ of ropes for use as lifelines, taking ropes which are already
manufactured to a general specification, might cost from £30,000 to £50,000 if
carried out in professional labs to a standard approaching that of a B.S.

Bearing in mind the authority that such findings may be
credited with (even if the Special Committee did not intend their results to be
used in this way) some people think that nothing less than an equivalent B.S.
standard would be of any real use. Imagine a bloke saying “Our lifeline was a rope which the N.C.A. said
would stand 50 hours of underground use providing it was visually checked
between trips.  We did this, and it had
only been used for a tota1 of 16 hours when the fatality occurred.”  Members of the Equipment Special Committee
could be in for a pretty rough ride after such an inquest.  Like Wig, we are not saying “Stop
it”, so much as saying “Please tell us more about what you intend to
do, so that we can judge if we think it is sensible, or practical, or even
possible.”

 

Northern Weekend

Another thrilling episode in the Wilton-Jones saga

by Graham Wilton-Jones

‘It is still more comforting to spend two trips, laddering
on one and de-laddering on the other.’ (David Heap)

I can think of nothing less comfortable than doing two trips
into Penyghent Pot, even if spaced by a week or so of work.  Perhaps carrying
all the tackle in and out on the same trip could be worse, but our Fred had
arranged better than that.  He had
organised three groups; one to start early on Saturday morning and ladder the
pot to the bottom; a back-up party to help tackle hauling through the canal as
necessary; and us – Fred, Bernard, Brian, Throstle, Bucket and Graham – do
de-rig.  We were to go down about mid
day.

Originally I had decided to spend the weekend on Mendip, but
a phone call from Bucket on Friday morning changed my mind.  So having dashed down from
High
Wycombe
and endured the committee meeting, I forfeited the call of
the Hunters and sped northwards, arriving at 1.30 on Saturday morning.  Not the best sort of preparation for a
relatively strenuous trip later that day!

The days caving did not start well.  We were not at all welcome at a certain
caving headquarters near Horton, where we had previously stayed on a number of
occasions.  However, such pettiness was
soon left behind as we climbed.  Jangling
with hardware, up the slopes of Penyghent. Across the fields we saw the back-up party heading towards the ‘Crown’ –
sensible fellows.  Up at the entrance to
the pot, a small orange tent was the only sign that anyone was ‘at home’.

By 1.30 we were all making our ungainly way through the
canals and crawls of the entrance passage. The stooping, hands and knees progress and flat-out crawling in icy cold
water sometimes half-filling the passage is not excessively arduous, but it can
be slow, awkward and painful as it proved when we returned, tired and worn,
with piles of tackle.

When we finally reached the first pitch we were all
surprised to find two ladders belayed there. However, we soon discovered the reason, for up the passage came a party
from a

York

club.  One of their members was ill, so
they were taking him out and abandoning the trip.  This was just as well, as C.N.C.C. booking is
required for this area.  We had access
for the whole weekend and were more than a little annoyed to find the

York
party pirating this
access.  Incidentally, this also meant that
they were trespassing and this could have jeopardised a very carefully
negotiated agreement with local farmers and landowners.  We were more then glad to see them come
out.  Consider the implications of a cave
rescue under these circumstances from the nether reaches of the system, and the
ensuing uproar!

The second stretch of passage is designed for people who are
five feet high and involves almost continuous stooping all the way down to the
next pitch.  Fred turned back because of
old injuries which this aggravated.  This
section was soon over and, below the next pitch, we found ourselves lying flat
in a bedding plane looking out over a big pitch with no sign of a ladder.  Had we read the appropriate literature more
carefully, we would have been quicker to find the alternative descent to the
left.  The first 18m (59 feet) section of
this is free-climbable, but the ladder for the next 20m (66 feet) or so, hangs
mostly free near one wall of this wind and spray swept pot.

The rift passage that follows contains a number of short,
vertical sections, roughly half of which are free climbable.  Mostly we were in the stream, but
occasionally it was easier or drier to traverse above for a while and climb
down at a more convenient point. Suddenly the passage drops out of this joint-controlled rift, down a
short cascade and into a bedding plane. A little bit of wading brought us into the Boulder Chamber – a brief
enlargement of the passage with an aven and some large loose fill.

Here we caught up with the tackling party, led by Mick.  They had had some difficulty in finding the
route in the Rift Passage, where it is possible to traverse at the wrong level
(as in Dowber Gill) and so had lost time. While they now set off on the last section, we sat around to let them
get ahead and consulted the survey. After some time and some food, we continued down between boulders and
the edge of the chamber, back into the stream. Below the next pitch, in the half-flooded bedding plane, we came upon
the slightly warmer water emerging from the inlet from Hunt Pot.  I had a look along the passage, but the
thought of crawling in all that water did not appeal.  Bucket had to go up and look as well, and shouted
back that he could stand up, and that the passage went on like that.  Disbelievingly, we crawled along and came,
indeed, upon a brief rise in roof level, only to see B.C.T. crawling along the
next bit of bedding plane, muttering excuses about not saying that the standing
up section went on for ever.  We told him
to come back and not be so silly, which he did. We continued downstream.

These final sections of passage are not joint-controlled but
do follow the jointing fairly closely. This results in the floor being cut up with deep grooves, just right for
twisting ankles or braking legs.  We
therefore went more slowly and with caution.

We rapidly descended the next two pitches and caught up with
the advance party once again, who were having some difficulty in laddering the
final pitch –
Niagara.  The impression on this pitch is somewhat of

Niagara Falls
, and the
resemblance must be closer in flood conditions, but the pitch is short and easy
like the previous one and can be free climbed out of the water.

Soon we were down at the sump, where we lingered a while –
for the advance team had only just begun its exit.  Although foam was visible high up in the roof
in places, we were not particularly concerned, since the forecast was excellent
and conditions had been dry for some time. We had not gone far on the route out when we caught up with the other
team again – and this occurred on several of the pitches.  The journey back to the surface was fairly
straightforward.  We had abseiled down
most of the drops and I was to self-lifeline out first.  However, this only proved necessary on the
big, open 20m (66ft.).  On this I had
great difficulty moving my Jumar up the rope, and hung on the rope several
times to get more tension in it.  (Brian
held it at the bottom).  I was therefore
just a trifle upset when I reached the top to find this line, with a bight part
way along it, casually draped over a rounded flake of rock and a bloke’s hand
on the top to stop it jumping or slipping off. After a few pleasant words about belaying, I lifelined the next man up
and we started hauling tackle.  Except
for one silly display of incompetence, when the tackle fell from a great height
– scattering those below – all went well. I must stress that this incident was the fault of the collectors and
tiers, not the haulers.  We only hauled the
tackle up the 18m (59ft) and the 20m (66ft). On all the other pitches it was possible to carry it or hand it up.  Perhaps this was a mistake on the first
pitch, for the take-off is rather awkward and carrying tackle up this was, at
least for me, a great effort.  From the
bottom of this pitch to the end of the canal was hard and the only thing that
made me hurry was the thought of a jar at the Crown.

So at last we reached the entrance, after eight hours.  Willing hands appeared – I don’t know whether
they were from the laddering or the back-up team – and helped us out with the equipment.  Thanks, anyway, and thank you, Fred, for such
excellent organisation.  You missed a
good trip, but I shan’t go again.  Once
is enough for anyone!

The title of this article did say ‘Weekend’, so I suppose
some mention of the following day should be made, Fred’s house is not too far
from a disused railway viaduct which has 70 foot (21m) arches.  After bones and muscles had recovered a
little and I.B.S. had diminished, we went out for a couple of hours A & P –
or S.R.T. – or whatever you like to call it.

I think that when I give up caving, I shall take up railway
arching!

 

The Coming of The Mark III

——– I ——–

It is a fine spring afternoon.  In the board room of British Caves Limited,
the bright sunshine falls on bone china teacups and polished mahogany.  We are moving in very distinguished circles,
for a board meeting is in progress.  The
Chairman and Managing Director, Sir Percival Makepenny is speaking.

 “….and this, I regret
to say, leaves only one last possibility. Gentlemen, I am in no doubt that our prototype Mark III cave is being
sabotaged.”

The Marketing and Sales Director is head to mutter something
about ‘those rats from Plasticave’. Sir Percival turns towards the source of
this interruption and continues,

“Commercial sabotage by our competitors can be ruled
out.  We have got to look elsewhere.  The situation is so serious that I took the
unprecedented step of meeting the Chief Executive of Plastcaves, Ted Tacky.  It seems that their research is proceeding on
very different lines to our own, and we are, in effect, aiming at different
markets.  We can hardly be said to be
competitors at this stage, and they would have no motive for any form of
sabotage.”

“Perhaps, Sir Percival,” smoothly suggests the Company
Secretary, “You would give us a little more detail?”

Sir Percival absentmindedly picks up his teacup, mutters
‘Cheers’ and drinks it down, spluttering on the unexpected tealeaves.  “It would appear,” he says at last, “that
Plasticaves are aiming at what one might call the coastal market.  Their new model is designed to float and can
be moored on any convenient body of water. Of course, they are emphasising cheapness of installation.  I might add,” says Sir Percival in his best
lecturing manner, “That British Caves have always aimed at providing a
traditional cave, soundly constructed of British steel and concrete.  Speaking frankly, gentlemen, I regard
Plasticaves’ venture as little more than a flashy gimmick.  Supposing one of their new models breaks away
from its moorings and drifts out to sea with a full complement of school cavers
aboard?  Apart from the outcry that would
occur if it sank with all cavers, can you imagine being seasick in tight
bedding plane?  No, gentlemen, I fancy we
can forget all aspects of Plasticaves.”

There is a discreet murmur of approval, until the members of
the board recollect that they are there to solve a problem rather than to slate
their competitors.  Sir Percival clears
his throat and returns to the main theme.

“The Mark III is of crucial importance to this company,
and we must have it operational.  As you
know, gentlemen, the Sports Council, for ease of administration, insisted at
the time our first caves were put into service to cater for the growing demand
for caves, that all cave should be identical in design.  That was why the so-call natural caves were
all sealed up as soon as enough of ours and, I regret, Plasticaves, models had
been opened.  At first, we had enough
work just catering for the demand and the Mark I was installed over most of the
country.  Then we developed the Mark II,
which is designed to be erected above ground and which has proved such a great
success in East Anglia and other low-lying areas where the deep excavations
required for the Mark I were not really practicable.  The Mark III contains a number of new
features which, if they are successfully demonstrated, will convince the Sports
Council of the need to install them in all our existing caves to bring them up
to a new uniform standard.  I need hardly
add that the increased sales will result in a corresponding increase in
Directors’ salaries.  We must get the
Mark III operational.

There is an awkward silence, broken Technical Director.  “I have on my staff,” he suggests,  “a keen young engineer who we might well
entrust with on-the-spot investigation. He is both intelligent and discreet.”

Nobody else having any ideas, there is a general murmur of
assent.

——– II ——–

Sid Spanner, for it is he who has been selected for this
delicate task, climbs wearily down the ladder to Checkpoint 13.  Once again, he looks through the view
port.  He sees a narrow bedding plane
through which successions of schoolboys are crawling.  He broods on his problem as he idly watches
their slow progress.  All the mechanical
systems work perfectly.  The adjustable
squeezes adjust.  The hydraulics are spot
on.  The ‘DRY-NORMAL-FLOOD’ control
leaves nothing to be desired.  The
automatic sump drainer, which can empty the sump in five seconds should a caver
stop moving through, works every time. The only thing wrong is the new infra-red lighting, which enables the
supervisors to watch cavers even when they appear to be in complete darkness,
and even that fault is confined to a particular section of the cave.  Sid is baffled.  His gaze returns to the view port.  A particularly fat schoolboy is halfway
through the squeeze.  With a sudden
vicious twist of the appropriate levers, Sid closes the squeeze down two
notches and sets the water control to FLOOD. He is losing his temper.

——– III ——–

It is later that same day. Sid’s temper has now been restored by two cups of canteen tea which he
has imbibed in the Supervisor’s Canteen – situated between Checkpoints 7 and
8.  Whilst in the canteen, he has become
convinced that the decision to convert one of the earliest Mark I caves to this
new Mark III standard has been a mistake. In Sid’s opinion, the firm should have built a brand new cave.  Besides, he muses, this cave is on Mendip –
one of the old notorious natural caving areas – now, happily, a thing of the
past.  He distrusts the entire setup.

He decides to return to the problem area, that part of the
cave quite near the bottom and viewed from Check points 16 and 17.  Arriving at Checkpoint 16, he looks into the
bottom of the Main Chamber.  A small
group of scruffy looking older individuals is passing through.  They must, Sid reflects, be some of the few
club cavers left.  He returns to the
ladder and descends once more.

At Checkpoint 17, all is now in darkness.  Sid waits for the arrival of the party he has
just seen.  In a few moments, he starts
to see their lights as they climb downwards over the concrete boulders.  They appear to stop somewhere between
checkpoint 16 and 17.  One by one, their
lights go out. Sid, now thoroughly alert, climbs rapidly back to Checkpoint
16.  It is now in darkness too.  He waits for the party to return.

To Sid’s amazement, this takes nearly two hours.  It is only ten minutes caving from checkpoint
16 to the end of the cave.  Just before
they arrive, the infra-red goes on once more. Sid Spanner feels that he is on the track of the saboteurs at last.  Promotion, he feels certain, is in the bag.

——– IV ——–

It is a week later. Sid has laid his plans well.  He has identified the cavers.  They are from one of the few caving clubs
still in existence.  It is called the
B.E.C.  Once more they have arrived at
the cave and Sid has run down all the supervisor’s ladders to Checkpoint 16 and
opened an emergency door into the cave. He is dressed in old fashioned caving clothes like the B.E.C.
party.  He squats behind a large boulder
and waits.

Soon, the party approach the spot.  They have the sort of voices one would
associate with their general appearance. They stop quite near the place where Sid is crouching.

“Any ruddy Weegees about,
Fred?”

“All clear, Pete.”

“Right lads, drift over and
do, your stuff, Ron!”

The man called Ran comes almost to where Sid is hiding.  Pulling some sort of instrument from his
pocket he applies it to a spot on the cave wall.  Whatever he is doing takes a little
time.  Presently he removes the
instrument and takes from his pocket a little tube through which he squints in
all directions.  “O.K.”, he calls,
“All I/R’s are off!”

From his place of concealment, Sid reflects that he has just
witnessed an illegal act.  These B.E.C.
cavers, he grimly notes, shall pay dearly for this.  But more is to come.  Before his astonished gaze, one of them tugs
at a section of cave wall which slowly swings outwards.  One by one, the party disappear through the
resulting hole.  The last man pulls the
wall section back into place after him.

Sid waits for a few moments before getting up and going over
to the wall to investigate.  To his
surprise, it is a concealed emergency door, of the type fitted to all

British
Caves
so that supervisors can, if
necessary, get into the cave from the supervisors section.  However, this door is fitted where no door
should be according to the plans.  With
some misgivings, Sid opens it and sets off into the blackness beyond.

——– V ——–

Sid’s first reaction to his new surroundings is one of
professional chagrin.  This new section
hardly looks like a product of British Caves Limited.  He doubts whether it even conforms to the
British Standard.  Sid examines the wall
closely.  It is not like the rough
imitation stone of a cave section or like the smooth concrete of a supervisors
section.  It does not even look as if it
has been manufactured at all.  With a
sudden start, Sid realises that it has not been.  He is in a natural cave.  With a totally unaccustomed feeling of not
knowing what to expect, he moves cautiously onwards.  He is now in a chamber of sorts, with rocks
strewn most untidily and unprofessionally all over the floor.  Suddenly, he hears faint sounds of the party
returning and conceals himself once more behind a large boulder. As they
approach, he realises that they are talking and he catches a fragment of their
conversation as they pass by his hiding place on their way out.

“It’s no ruddy use, Fred.  We might be able to keep up this ruddy caper
a bit longer, but sooner or later one of their ruddy engineers is bound to
catch up with us.”

“There must be something we can
do, Pete.  We’ve always managed to be one
up on the system se far.”

“We’re getting blinded by ruddy
science this time.  When we got Sam to
apply fore a job as a supervisor, he slipped up by talking about sump 2.  Clean forgot British ruddy standard caves
have only one sump”

The words become blurred as the party continues on its way
out.  Sid waits until he hears the door
shut before switching on his light.  His
course is now clear.  He will beat them
to the entrance by using the supervisor’s ladders and get the Cave Manager to
detain them as they surface.  The company
will, no doubt, bring charges against them. After a few formalities, he will be free to leave and get back to the
company headquarters – to receive congratulations and, no doubt, promotion.

Meanwhile, the cave remains utterly silent, save for the
quiet drip of water from somewhere nearby. Quite suddenly, Sid is seized by a desire to know what lies beyond the
chamber he is in.  He cannot understand
what is happening to him.  He is in the
grip of something which, although suppressed by years of training, has
nevertheless been lying dormant within him. It is the natural urge to explore. His promotional prospects suddenly forgotten, Sid starts off
purposefully in the opposite direction.

——– VI ——–

It is a few hours later. Sid has free-climbed two pitches; pushed his way through several
squeezes and wad through a deep canal. He turns the next corner and finds himself in a beautifully decorated
passage.  The variety, quality and sheer
quality of the formations take his breath away. Compared to the few miserable-looking bits of formation contained in a

British
Standard
Cave
,
these are fantastic.  Sid’s professional
manner re-asserts itself as he starts to compute how much a passage like this
would cost to construct – only to be relegated to second place, in his mind for
ever as he realises that one cannot put a price on beauty.  Taking care not to damage the place in any
way, Sid sits down and contemplates the scene. He remains motionless and silent for some time.  He is thinking hard.  At last, he gets up, takes one last look at
the passage and starts to make his way out as quickly as he can.  He has a lot of hard work ahead of him and
very little time to spare.

——– VII ——–

Once again, we are back in the board room of British Caves
Limited.  As one might expect, Sir
Percival is in the middle of a lengthy speech.

“….the excellent report by Mr. Spanner which I am sure
you have all read thoroughly.  It was, of
course, a great disappointment to find that the new infra-red lights suffer
from technical disadvantages which I have no doubt you have grasped from the
paper.”

There is a pause while Sir Percival drinks his tea and hands
the empty cup to his secretary muttering some thing about ‘another round’.  The members of the board are all trying to
look as if they understand the subject of infra-red illumination – with varying
degrees of success.

” However,” continues Sir Percival, “it is a
matter of great comfort to know that any form of sabotage has been ruled out
completely although, without the new lights it is difficult to see enough
advantages in the Mark III to be able to put a convincing case to the
Ministry.”

The members of the board all assume expressions of
intelligent interest and concern.  This
latter comes easily to them, as the promised increase in directors salaries
will not, presumably occur.  Sir
Percival, however, has something up his sleeve.

“I must confess, gentlemen, that until a few hours ago,
the situation hardly looked promising. However, just before this meeting, I was handed a second report by Mr.
Spanner.  It outlines an entirely new
scheme.  Briefly, the entire supervisory
system is to be controlled from a central monitoring room by a single
operative.  He will be able to view any
part of the cave by television cameras and to control all the hydraulic and
mechanical systems by suitable electronic controls.  The saving in manpower is very significant.  Even the registration clerk is to be replaced
by a computerised system which will record all visits to the cave and persons
below at any time, I will not bore you with the details, but I might add that
the suggestion has my full approval.  The
only difficulty appears to be that we do not at present have an Electronics
Department.  I suggest that we form one
without delay.  We will, of course, need
a suitable man to lead this new department. I would welcome any names you might put forward.”   Guided by these broad hints, the board
unanimously appoint Sid to this new job.

——– VIII ——–

It is now several months later.  It is, in fact, Christmas Eve.  In a cosy Mendip Pub, the members of the
B.E.C. sit morosely drinking.  For months
now, the only natural cave still open has been denied them by gangs of men
installing new electronic equipment in the artificial cave above it.  It is certain in their minds that the door
they persuaded one of the original workmen to fit when the cave was being
constructed has now been discovered.  So
low are their spirits that Fred Ferrett has just bought a round without
protesting that he bought the last one. A caveless future stretches grimly before then as they gaze unhappily
into their pots.

Out side the pub, a car crunches to a halt in the crisp
snow.  It is a brand new Range
Rover.  It belongs to Sid Spanner who has
just returned from the successful trials of the Mark III and has seen the contract
signed for the modification of over two hundred caves to the new standard.  It is widely rumoured that he will be offered
a seat on the board of British Caves Limited.

As Sid gets out of the car, he looks thoughtful almost
worried.  A trifle nervous.  It is one thing, he muses as he walks towards
the front door, to force ones way to the top of a large company.  It is quite another to attempt to join the
B.E.C.  However, he is not without hope,
for there are aspects of the new improvements which – so far – are known only
to himself.  There is the small box he is
carrying in his left hand coat pocket for instance.  When this box is switched on down the cave,
it becomes impossible to activate the T.V. cameras in its vicinity.  Thus, a party can move about the entire cave
unobserved.  There is the other small box
in his right hand coat pocket, which operates the gear on the door leading to
the natural cave below.  There is also
the fact that a new cave has been ordered for Mendip and that some privately
commissioned work has established the existence of a large and hitherto
unexplored cave below the site which

British
Caves
have been persuaded
to recommend.

Even so, Sid thinks as he enters the pub, the B.E.C.
doubtless have their pride.  They may
well consider that he is trying to buy his way in.  Perhaps if he bought them enough beer?

——– IX ——–

It is much later that same night.  The hour is just past midnight.  Technically speaking, it is now Christmas
Day.  At the Belfry, nothing stirs.  The moonlight, filtering through the icy
windows, falls on the motionless figure of Pete Pushem as he lies stretched out
on the floor, his pint pot still in his lifeless hand.  Nearby lies an ungainly heap consisting of
Ron, Fred, Sam and Sid.  Slowly, this
heap stirs and the figure of Fred Ferrett detaches itself.  He staggers outside.

The quiet of the night is suddenly broken by a
characteristic sound.  It is Fred
honking.  He staggers back, closes the
door, trips over Sid’s feet and falls once more on to the top of the heap.

“Merry Christmas!” he mutters thickly as he sinks
into a deep stupor.

 

 “…….there’s this computer”

Club members holidays like club members, are never ordinary
affairs as this contribution from Janet Setterington shows.

It was going to be ‘that sort’ of holiday.  It was obvious from the moment that Sago and
Sett said “There’s this computer that we want to have a look at near
Carnac.  We want to
do a lot of work and mix in a little wine, a little food and a little
conversation.”  So that was how we
came to take a house on the Quiberon Peninsula of Brittany during the late
spring for Sett, Sage, Tich Set Jan, Julian and Vanessa.

Armed with everything from pamphlets by Thom. (and if you
don’t know who he is, you’re lucky!) to toothbrushes the advance party set out
to make the crossing from

Plymouth

to Roscoff.  Sage was to follow
later.  Nothing untoward happened except
that we nearly missed the boat entirely due to the rotten timekeeping of
British Rail that particular day – oh, and Vanessa distinguished herself by
depositing her tea all over the floor (deck) BEFORE they had untied those ropes
that stop the boat floating off before the car doors are up.  Having cleaned up the mess and persuaded the
offender to get some sleep, we settled down for a pleasant crossing.

If you like globe artichokes, Roscoff is the place for you
in the springtime.  We left the boat and
for over half an hour drove through fields – acres – masses of them, all ready
for picking.  It was a sight to gladden
the heart and stomach of a true devotee. Leaving the gleaming, green globes, we continued south across

Brittany
, along lanes
lined with foxgloves and other flowers that are fast disappearing from our own
hedgerows, to collect the key to our house from the watch repairer in a tiny
Breton village.

We drove on south, and suddenly, there it was – the
computer.  The great, grey stones of
Carnac.  Some of us
had seen them before and were pleased to see the impression that they made on
the uninitiated, who thought that
Stonehenge
was the be-all and end-all of megalithic calculators.  Compared with Camac,
Stonehenge
is merely pocket sized – the sort of thing an adoring wife would buy her
husband for Christmas.

We found our house in the

village of
Kerhostin

with aid of a local map and, having unpacked little Wol, we sat down to a meal
of bread, cheese and wine.  Then Sett
indulged in the age old B.E.C. pastime of ‘sleeping it off’ while the rest of
us drove slowly into Quiberon to do a mammoth ‘shop’.  While we were there, two of us bravely tested
the sea for bathing and found it was cold enough to etc.  Titch and Vanessa were very amused.

The advance party was supposed to recce the area but what
actually happened was that Jan went down with the tummy bug, feeling decidedly
queer in a hypermarket and needed nursing. Still, she recovered enough to cook a couple of memorable noshes; at
least, they would have been if the wine had not set in.  Then, the day before Sage was due, disaster
struck.  Sett was overcome by the Revenge
of Montezuma and was forced to take to his bed, so it fell to Titch and Jan to
drive back to Roscoff for our friend.

Leaving dad to the mercies of Julian and
Ness,
we started out before the dawn to meet Rice off the seven a.m. boat.  It was a long journey and everything would
have been fine if a big French lorry hadn’t tried to use our bit of road while
we were standing on it.  Little Wol’s
near side was somewhat modified, and the lorry had the mud knocked off his
bumper.  Still, as Jan had a witness,
Sett didn’t kill her, and even allows her to drive the car again – sometimes!

The return from Roscoff was not so eventful and we actually
stopped and did some sightseeing at the lovely old slate-covered market at Le
Faouet.  On reaching Kerhostin we got
down to the serious business of the trip and had an enormous fish souffle,
washed down with an adequate supply of vin blanc.

Having decided that we loved our stomachs, it was with
difficulty that we set out to see the Grand Menhir, which lies at Locmariaquer
and is the centre of the complex.  The
menhir, which is broken in five pieces, 64 feet long and when standing could be
seen for many miles around.

Then we set out on our tour of the alignments.  They are spectacular – of that there can be
no doubt.  Sett and Sago were like a
couple of small boys let loose in a toy shop. Measuring; calculating; sighting and arguing they kept us enthralled for
several hours.  The consensus of opinion
was, in the end, that the whole thing was a lunar observatory as, indeed, the
books said.  Numerous expeditions were
made to see the larger, more important outlying stones, but if you want to know
the significance of them you will have to talk to Sett – as maths and astronomy
are not the writer’s strong points.

We contemplated the purpose of this vast structure beside a
lake in the golden afternoon sunshine with a delicious picnic laid out in front
of us.  Golden hours indeed.

A grand tour round the Golfe du Morbihan was also on the
agenda and it was interesting to see, in some areas, the locals still recovering
salt from brine pans.  The little piles
of white crystals look like mountains in miniature when the sun shines on
them.  During this tour we went to look
at the ruins of a chateau at Suscinio. The relevant government department is in the throes of restoring this
fantastic old building, and we were impressed with the lengths to which they
were going.  It is far from being
‘pretty-pretty’ as many of the buildings of the Loire, but it is a real, solid,
working castle complete with a moat full of water.

The areas in which we stayed is renowned for its seafood –
oysters in particular.  One Sunday we set
out for some lunch.  Actually, we were
supposed to be on the lookout for some crepes, but we were all hoping.  We found our oysters and made pigs of ourselves;
then we showed what gluttons we were by downing some delectable crayfish – and
that was just the fish.  The memory
lingers.

The crowning achievement as far as food went was Sago’s
exhibition of how to eat mussels.  Julian
and Vanessa opted out and went for omelette. Between four of us there were nine pounds of moules – cooked in a little
white wine and served with a sauce of white wine, tomatoes onions and
herbs.  The shellfish filled a large
tureen, two large casseroles and a large meat dish.  Each adult was equipped with a washing-up bowl
to take the debris.

The great eat-in began. Jan soon dropped out and moved on to the more mundane salad and
cheese.  After a couple of pounds, Sett
called it a day and Titch soon followed – but Sago kept right on eating.  Mussel after mussel found its way down his
throat.  The procession was endless.  In spite of pleas to his better nature; the
state of his digestion and the possible state of the loo at some later hour, he
kept going.  It should be pointed out
that the fish were accompanied by large chunks of bread and were washed down
with copious draughts of wine.  Few of us
can have been privileged to witness such a feat of Falstavian eating.  Eventually, with a regretful look at the
almost empty dish, he stopped. Replete.  Then, with beaming face
and jovial tongue, he helped clear the board and wash the dishes.  And, do you know, he had not one twinge of
discomfort – the lucky……. What a man!

While in Camac we visited the local museum.  It is almost exclusively devoted to
prehistoric exhibits and was founded by a Scot – J. Miln.  We also had a look at the

church of
St. Comely
,
patron saint of horned cattle.  This
building is unique in

Brittany
.  It dates from the 17th Century and boasts a
porch that is surrounded by a canopy in the form of a crown.  Michelin describes the roof as being ‘covered
with curious paintings’.  These pictures
are obviously very old and show the life of Christ from his birth to
death.  They are painted directly on to
the wood and the colours have suffered somewhat, but they are well worth
looking at.

We tried to view the interior of the St. Michel tumulus but
the guide didn’t seem terribly anxious to take us round.  However, since they had visited it on the
recce, Sett and Jan were able to assure the party that it was quite like other
tumuli – dark.  So everyone was
satisfied.

Inevitably all good things come to an end and we had to come
home.  And that was a pantomime.  You will have gathered that we were six in
number, plus vast quantities of luggage. How, do you ask, did we fit everything and everyone into a B.L.M.C.
1300?  It wasn’t easy, but we
managed.  Nobody is going to pretend that
Titch, Jan, Julian and Vanessa were comfortable in the back – being covered
with old coats; cameras; compasses and all sorts of things that the ‘boffins’
had thought that they might need.  However,
they bore it nobly.  The final indignity
came when an extra load of 18 litres of rough French plonk was hurled in on top
of them and they were not allowed so much as a sip.

At Roscoff, we found a right old picnic.  The Dockers had just ended a dispute which
had held up many voyagers and the owner of the shipping line had that day to
throw his boat open to the locals.  It
was rather a battle to get on board and a fight to get up the companionways
beset by Frenchmen oozing free booze. Still we made it.

On getting home we found that we hadn’t had a working
holiday at all.  Really, all that we had
accomplished had been an eating extravaganza. So we shall have to go again. That’s the nicest thing about
Carnac,
it’s an excuse that isn’t likely to run away!

 

Monthly Crossword – Number 63

1

 

 

2

 

3

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

6

 

 

7

 

 

 

 

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

10

 

11

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across:

1. Tall brows as belay points?
(9)
5. Passage which provided more water to 4 down. (5)
7. One of twelve perhaps, made during a survey? (4)
8. Knot. (5)
9. Edges of pool in this tone. (4)
11. Collective description of other clubs in the Mendip scene. (4)
12. One of two dry alternatives to 13. (5)
13. ….and the other one. (3,3,3)

Down

1. Caves found on Mendip or in
Firth. (5,4)
2. Common to Eastwater, Nine Barrows, Stoke, etc. (4)
3.

Galena
?  Pyrites? (4)
4. Waste Mary underground? (9)
5. Individual entries on a list of gear, perhaps? (5).
6.  Both caves and cavers get this on
occasion. (5)
10. Type of cave represented by an exclamation in the South-west. (4)
11. Short Mendip Templar? (4)

Solution to Last Month’s Crossword

D

O

L

O

M

I

T

I

C

A

 

B

 

A

 

I

 

H

N

O

 

D

I

N

N

E

R

Y

 

B

 

N

 

N

 

I

R

E

E

F

 

B

E

D

S

O

 

F

 

A

 

R

 

T

G

R

O

O

V

E

 

A

M

O

 

R

 

I

 

T

 

A

T

H

E

W

E

T

W

A

Y

 

Club Headquarters

The Belfry,

Wells
Rd
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
. Telephone WELLS 72126

Club Committee

Chairman          S.J.
Collins

Minutes Sec      G.

Wilton
-Jones

Members           Chris Batstone, John Dukes, Chris
Howell, Tim Large, Mike Wheadon, R. Marshall, Barry Wilton.

Officers Of The Club

Honorary Secretary        M.
WHEADON, 91 The Oval, Englishcoombe,

Bath
.  Tel :

BATH

713646

Honorary Treasurer         B.

WILTON
, ‘Valley View’,

Venus Lane
,
Clutton, Nr. Bristol. Tele :

TEMPLE
CLOUD

52072

Caving Secretary            TIM
LARGE,

15 Kippax Avenue
,
Wells, Somerset

Climbing
Secretary         R. MARSHALL, 7 Fairacre
Close, Lockleaze,

Bristol

Hut Warden                   C.
BATSTONE,

8 Prospect Place
,
Bathford,

Bath
..

Belfry Engineer              J.
DUKES,

4 Springfield Crescent
,
Southampton. SO1 6LE  Tele : (0703) 774649

Tacklemaster                 G.
WILTON-JONES, ‘Ilenea’,

Stonefield
Road
. Nap Hill,
High Wycombe,
Bucks. Tele : (024) 024 3534

B.B. Editor                    S.J.
COLLINS, Lavender Cottage, Bishops Sutton, Nr. Bristol. Tel : CHEW MAGNA 2915

Publications Editor         C.
HOWELL,

131 Sandon Road
,
Edgebaston,

Birmingham

17.  Tele : (021) 429 5549

B.B. Postal                    BRENDA

WILTON
  Address as for Barry

Spares                          T.
LARGE,  Address already given

Membership Sec.           Mrs. A.
DOOLEY, c/o The Belfry.  TO WHOM ALL SUBS
SHOULD BE SENT.

 

Any contribution to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of
officers of the club, are not necessarily the opinions of the editor or the
committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, unless explicitly stated as being
such.

© 2024 Bristol Exploration Club Ltd

registered in England and Wales as a co-operative society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, registered no. 4934.

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