Blunt Speaking

Once again, it has been necessary to produce a joint issue
of the B.B. – this time for April and May. After the March B.B. was completed, there was no material left to start
this one and, as I write this on May 6th, there is still only enough material
for about 5 or 6 pages of this B.B.

I have heard that the present position of the B.B. has been
the subject of some grumbling amongst club members.  It would be interesting to know against whom
any such grumbles are directed.  Not, one
hopes, against the editor who has already made it quite clear that he no longer
has enough time to chase people for articles; who has already appealed for help
with this matter; who has pointed out that he came back to edit the B.B. on a
temporary basis and who has let it be known that he would be only too happy to
co-operate in any way – including handing over the entire job to some younger

No, I am afraid that (with perhaps half a dozen or so
exceptions) if anyone is looking for a culprit to blame for the present state
of the B.B., then he or she need look no further than into the nearest
mirror.  The B.B. is not mine.  It is (or should be) yours.  What have YOU done about it lately?

Good News

Having got the above off my chest on the principle that I
really ought to type SOMETHING before June arrives, I am very pleased to be
able to announce that volunteers have now come forward.  Andy Sparrow and ‘Mr’ Nigel have promised to
do all they can to make sure that articles start to flow again.  The immediate aim is to get the B.B back to a
regular monthly basis again.  When this
has been done, Andy has expressed interest in taking a bigger part in running
the B.B., and it could be that a new editor is on the way at last.  In any case, let us hope that this period in
time marks the end of the current decline in the B.B. and the start of a new
phase of activity.

More Good News

A B.E.C. digging team, led by Snab, have re-opened a cave on
Western Mendip after a record breaking four and a half hours dig through
fifteen feet of infill.  To all those who
know the whereabouts of this hole, PLEASE do not visit the site without first
checking with Snab.  The reason is that
it is vital to maintain good relations with the farmer, who does not want to
see a general free for all happening on his property.  Nobody is trying to keep interested cavers
away – it is a question of either submitting to a certain amount of discipline
OR having the cave closed again. Incidentally, the diggers refer to themselves jocularly as the Tynings Institute
for Troglodytic Studies.


As many members know, the club’s public liability insurance
policy expires in August.  After this
date, the club must either have got itself a new policy or made some other
arrangement.  Unfortunately, the present
situation is – to put it mildly – somewhat confused.  It is hoped to include some sort of
informative article this B.B.

Councils and All That

It is reported that, currently, the Northern Council is
still in a state of disarray, with the pirates maintaining their stand and the
others pointing out the dangers of ignoring access agreements.  The Southern Council, although happily free
from this sort of internal trouble, failed to obtain a quorum for its annual
meeting and the chairman has had to ask the clubs who did not attend to ratify the
proceeding subsequently.

While this state of affairs may well please those who would
like to see an end to all forms of control over caving and who are, perhaps
rightly, suspicious of any form of representative bodies; it must not be
supposed that a collapse of the present council structure would achieve this
object.  In the absence of a credible
form of council structure, other interested bodies might well claim to
represent caving and the interests of cavers and over such bodies, the average
caver might well find he had less control than he currently has over the
council structure.  Many of us feel that,
whatever may happen, the control of caving on Mendip should remain in the hands
of the Mendip based clubs – and the Southern Council still appears to be the
most effective way of ensuring this.



Oh, No! Nor Again!

Our Hon. Sec. Mike Wheadon, shows
that the size of a cave depends to a great extent on your point of view!

Just over a million years ago, I think it was about 1957,
there was one of our periodic events concerning the B.B., that is, a shortage
of material for publication.  So, heeding
one of Alfie’s many appeals, I put on my pen and wrote an article which was about
nothing at all.  Strangely enough, lots
of people found it sufficiently interesting to write in and thereby make sure
that it was not necessary to publish articles about nothing at all for some
time there from.

Still, enough of this drivel.  If you are not bored by now, you must be
intrigued sufficiently to read on.  I
have observed that nostalgia is a best-seller with the club, so I’ll bring an
unbelievable amount of caving into the picture by mentioning Goatchurch Cavern

Some of our readership have already heard of this notorious
cavern, no doubt – but for the uninitiated, “It is situated about three hundred yards up the Lower Twinbrook Valley,
elevated some hundred feet or more above the little stream which is swallowed
up just below.”  Anyway, it was to this
place that three non-aligned novice cavers cycled from Wells one Friday
evening.  Their names were Mike and
Albert (shared between them, of course.)

Anyway, there was this bloke, Herbert Balch, who had gained
some sort of reputation on the caving scene prior to our arrival, and this
fellow had also written the odd book or two, which we had felt was compulsive
reading.  This book (particular)
“Mendip, Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters”, gave not only a plan
of the cave but also a description and, returning to my story, we decided that
we should search for a lost chamber. After all, what Balch could once find, we could also find.

Friday evening then, with no thought for the Hunters, Castle
of Comfort or the Feathers, we parked our cycles and humped our expedition
rucksacks up to the clean airy entrance where we charged carbide lamps and
changed into our warm woollies and overalls. Then, almost breaking our necks on the stairs, we straightway made for the
dining chamber to set up camp – we were, after all, expecting to spend several
hours in the cave.

Although we had all been in Goatchurch once before and were,
therefore, quite intimate with its passages (Shame! – Ed.) we nevertheless
explored all the passages carefully as they descended to the Water
Chamber.  Then, bearing in mind the
danger of getting stuck in the Drainpipe, we carefully writhed our way to the
Terminal Rift.  With today’s knowledge,
we can tell that we weren’t the most intrepid of cavers, but then we decided
that there was nothing more at the bottom, so we had better retrace our steps,
searching for the place where Balch “entered through the floor of the Boulder
Chamber above the slide” as he called it. We boldly went where no man had gone before – down the rift marked ‘Bloody
Tight.’  It was, but we made it, even if
we didn’t find the slide.

I could go on and on (I know, I have!) describing the
struggles and thrutchings we made searching for that “small chamber with a
stone pillar standing erect and supporting, as it were, the roof” but we
got fed up and decided that our time was up. We returned to the Dining Room, collected our gear and surfaced to
daylight.  Yes, daylight!  The trip had lasted over TWELVE HOURS.  I suspect that this is probably a record for
Goatchurch, but I can think of no reason to return to repeat the epic and if
this ever gets printed, it will at least fill a space.


This B,B. threatens to become a Goatchurch Appreciation
Number, judging by the next article, sent to us by Annie Wilton-Jones.  Club members should note that they are
obviously depriving themselves of valuable experiences (to say nothing of
material for their eventual memoirs) if they fail to visit Goatchurch regularly
– the Cave Where It All Happens!


Tailor – Made!

by Annie Wilton-Jones

Contrary to popular belief, the Wilton-Jones family isn’t

After all, there is no law which says that a man must spend
the last night of his bachelor freedom at a drunken stag party.  (I bet not many members of the B.E.C. knew
that: – Ed.)  It’s quite acceptable for
him to spend the time quietly reminiscing with his best man.  Which explains why, on the eve of our
wedding, Ian and Graham were to be found alone together – making my trousseau!

Several hours later, when I had been enlisted as a
Wilton-Jones, I was delighted to be presented with my lovely, new, handmade
suit.  I didn’t wear it for my ‘going
away’, but kept it wrapped up for a few days until we arrived at Inchnadamph,
Sutherland.  Then, for the very first
time, I wore my new wetsuit!  Well,
doesn’t everyone go caving on their honeymoon?

There was one slight problem regarding my wetsuit.  There had been so little time available for
the making of it that the pieces had merely been stuck together, the taping and
stitching being left until after the honeymoon. It was decided (by my beloved husband) that although the suit could be
worn, it must be protected by a full outfit of grot-gear over the top of
it.  Thus, our honeymoon is recorded for
posterity in a collection of slides showing a ten-ton rubber whale, wearing
jersey jeans, paddling across a river chamber and climbing an underground
waterfall like some ungainly salmon.

For those who don’t know it, to digress from the main object
of this account for a moment, Cnoc Nam Uamph in Inchnadamph is a very pleasant,
fairly small cave offering some sporting opportunities for those who so
desire.  There are sumps and a water race
– in full spate during our visit – river passages with cascades, a small
decorated chamber and rabbit warrens. Whilst I would not recommend travelling to the North West of Scotland
for the sole purpose of visiting this cave, it’s a worthwhile trip if you
happen to be in the area.

Honeymoon over, we returned home and, shortly wards, took
ourselves off to the Belfry.  I was in a
state of great excitement as, having served my apprenticeship on O.F.D. – Cwm
Dwr, St. Cuthbert’s and Swildons IV.  I
was now to be allowed to tackle the big stuff – Goatcurch.  The wetsuit was, needless to say, still in
its un-taped and unstitched condition, but Ian had actually said that I needn’t
wear grot-gear, which was lucky as I had forgotten to bring any.  The swimsuit I normally wear under caving
gear had disintegrated thanks to cave and so, clad only in wetsuit~ boots and
helmet, I entered into the weegee haven.

All went well until we slid into a side passage look at a
dig.  At that point, I felt a definite
draught enter my wetsuit at a place where it should not have been able to enter.  This phenomenon was soon explained when I
discovered that the neoprene cement had given way at an awkward place and a two
inch hole had appeared in the seam of my wetsuit trousers.  Undaunted by this slight setback, I continued
with the epic trip, arriving at the Drainpipe with the gap now a worrying six
inches long.  A quick wriggle along the
Drainpipe was followed by an even quicker wriggle back, as the gap was now all
of two feet.  A rapid retreat was
necessary before I was left with a pair of ‘two piece’ trousers.

Which is why I was caught, in my trousseau, escaping from
Goatchurch, to the astonishment of thousands of bareheaded, torch-carrying
weegees, crying,” I just can’t go on!”

However, I am not eccentric.


More Cave of Southern Wiltshire

Andy Sparrow bears out Fred
Davies’s famous dictum in this article, ‘Caves is where you find ’em.’

This article continues from that which appeared in the B.B.
for January 1975, describing some small finds made by the Salisbury Caving
Group in the Vale of Wardour.  The
previous article brought us up to the end of 1973, by which time we had found
over 1,000 feet of mine passage and one short natural cave – Ammonite Rift.

For Over a year, little attention was paid to the area.  Then we acquired a 2½ inch O.S. map of the
southern half of the vale, which appeared to show two sinking streams near
Tisbury.  On Christmas Eve, 1974, after a
lunchtime drink in the Compasses Inn (strongly recommended to anyone visiting
the area) we inspected the sinks.  We found,
not two but five Swildons size swallets, some of which were well
developed.  Plans were immediately made
to dig, but sadly have never come to life, since none of the S.C.G. live
locally any more.

Later, on the same day, we discovered the first open cave
entrance we had come across in the vale. We found this entrance in an old quarry just West of Tisbury.  Despite having no caving gear, and only one
lamp between us, we explored the cave immediately.  We found about forty feet of passage
involving several squeezes in a too tight rift. We named the cave 6X Cave – our high spirits at the time being due to
that particular ale!  For the next nine
months nothing of note was found in the area until, on the 17th September 1975
while walking on my own, I came across another open cave, again in an old
quarry.  Returning with a friend next
day, we followed a twenty foot crawl into a small rift chamber where we
disturbed two bats, which struck us in their panic to leave the cave – hence
the name Bat Hole.  No more open cave has
been found since Bat Hole, but numerous swallets have been come across.  Their total number now exceeds fifteen.  All of these take a large flow of water
through the winter though they tend to dry up in the summer.  Not one of them has been dug.  Anyone interested?


Some notes on Insurance

As many members know, the club’s public liability insurance
is due to run out in August, and much activity has been going on behind the
scenes to determine what should be put in its place.  This article was going to try to layout the
entire position so that members could see all the aspects involved.  However, it appears that more information is
still coming in, and it is obviously no good to present members with a picture
that could be out of date even before it gets read.

This article is thus going to try to put over the basic
problems – and leave out any possible ways of solving them until there is
enough definite information to be able to tackle this question properly.

Apart from the more obvious things, like providing tackle,
club funds have to be used for a number of purposes, like paying rates on the
Belfry and insuring the Belfry against fire etc.  One of these things which the club has used
some of its funds for is providing insurance cover for its members via its
public liability policy.

The purpose of this sort of policy is to protect club
members from any possibility of financial loss as a result of some legal action
in which damages might be awarded, for the payment of which a member or members
of the club might find themselves liable.

The different sorts of claims which are possible get quite
complicated, but basically, a club member could find himself or herself liable
in one of two ways – either because of his or her membership of the club, or as
an individual.

If we concentrate on members who might find themselves
liable because of their membership of the club, then there are six categories
attracting a high risk:-

1.                    Members who are financially well off.

2.                    Members of the committee.

3.                    Trustees of the Belfry.

4.                    The Tacklemaster, and any assistants.

5.                    Diggers.

6.                    Active cavers.

The main point to observe is that not all club members would
bee equally likely to find themselves liable in fact for financial loss because
of their membership of the club.  Thus, a
well-off tacklemaster, who is therefore a member of the committee and who might
also be a trustee of the Belfry and who caves and digs actively would have
cause for concern if he thought that the club had inadequate cover.  On the other hand, a member who took no part
in the running of the club, who had perhaps retired from active any caving or
digging and who had nothing much in the way of assets or income would not have
cause to worry.

As far as liability is concerned as a result of any
individual activities, when membership of the club is not a deciding factor,
then fairly obviously, the greater the caving and digging activity, the greater
the risk -although there are other ways by which a member could become
individually liable.  For example,
lending another person some gear which caused an accident and which had been
inadequately maintained by the owner might possibly lead to trouble under some

The club’s present policy covers all these, and other
circumstances.  However, it is thought
that it may not prove possible to obtain the same degree of cover that we at
present enjoy (until August!) at anything like the same payment.  If this turns out to be true, then the effect
of a much greater outlay on club finances must be taken into account.

One factor which the B.E.C. in particular has to contend
with its relatively large proportion of life members.  If a policy in future is quoted at so much
per member, then the members who pay an annual subscription would have to pay
every year not only for themselves but for the life members as well.  Unless peoples attitudes towards the cost of
annual subs alters drastically, any large addition to the annual sub to cope
with increased cost of insurance will drive some members away.  This will mean fewer annual subs to support
the life members and so, without any other change, the sub would have to go up
once again.  This process could run away
with itself, and we finish up with a club containing nothing but life members
with no income from subs and no way of affording any sort of insurance at
all.  Unfortunately, there is no way of
telling in advance how many people will leave the club if the sub goes up by
any particular amount.  All that we DO
know is that when the B.E.C. and the Wessex raised their subs by the same
amount, we lost a much great percentage of our membership than they did.

Thus, at this stage, when all the various ways by which the
club could get insurance cover have not yet been fully worked out, we can
probably write down some guidelines to be applied when all is known more fully

1.                  Any solution which involves drastically raising
the annual subscription is not on.  For
the same share of insurance premium, our members would have to pay more than
the members of a comparable club who did not have life members to support.  This would drive younger members towards
other, and cheaper, clubs and older members away altogether.  If this happened the situation might run away
with itself.

2.                  The solution will have to be towards cheaper
form of insurance, even if this means a less comprehensive form of cover.

3.                  Some means must be found for the protection of
those members who might be exceptionally at risk, if the general cover is
inadequate for them.

It is hoped to follow this with further notes when the
position becomes more certain. In the meantime, anyone who can shed further light
on this problem is most welcome to contribute.


Extracts from the Caving Log

General Caving

19-4-76 Ogof Hebog (Cave of the Hawk). Ian, Annie and Graham
Wilton-Jones.  More thorough
investigation of the site discovered over Whitsun 1974 at S.N. 752187, when a
15ft deep narrow rift was visible. Today, a large quantity of boulders was removed to reveal a cross rift,
the main part being 15ft long, aligned ENE-WSW leading to a small chamber with
a cobble floor.  This could repay further
digging.  An intermittent stream enters
above the chamber, sinking in the cobbles. A fox had made its home at the bottom and died there.    2 – 3 hours.        G.

20-4-76 Hunters Hole. A.R.T. (Not S.R.T.) and self to Dear’s Ideal, where the Mendip Chip,
Bang and Chisel Co. applied ½lb boulder-baiter. Duly fired and out.  Missed pub at
11.45 p.m.  1½  hours. “Mr.” N.

24-4-76 Singing River Mine. Rich Stevenson, Chris Batstone, Andy Sparrow, Sue Jordan, Jeff
Price.  The object of this trip was to
dive the sumped level at the bottom of the mine.  Rich dived into a small chamber with an
airspace.  He then investigated small
passage going for about 60ft. Total length of dive was 80ft.  1½ hours.        C.B.

1 -5-76 Manor Farm. Pete Eckford, Chris Batstone, Sue Jordan, Andy Sparrow, ‘Quackers’ and
Sandra.  Trip to try and dive the sump at
the bottom of N.H.A.S.A Gallery that most people think is a puddle.  After about half an hour of digging, baling and
diving, Pete managed to pass the sump. He succeeded in reaching an air bell about three feet in.  The sump continues with dubious potential,
and awaits either another dive or a mammoth baling session.  A good trip, though carrying bottles down
Manor is NOT recommended.  4 hours. A.S.

15-5-76 Manor Farm. John Dukes, Andy Sparrow, Pete Moody, Alison Hopper and (eventually)
Nigel Taylor.  Quickly down to the sump
to try to bale our way into Manor Farm 11. An hour’s energetic digging; baling and dam building broke the

After another half hour’s work it became passable.  At this point, all the hard work being done,
Nigel turned up.  Sparrow proceeded to
crawl through the porridge-like mud of the sump and emerged into a bell chamber
found on a previous trip.  From here, the
way was by digging upwards for six feet into a tight tube going for fifteen
feet.  Sparrow was attempting to pass the
squeeze halfway along this to get into the large cross rift visible beyond when
Dukes’s grinning face appeared from the said rift.  The dig connects through an unnoticed opening
in the wall of the twenty foot blind pot at the bottom of N.B.A.S.A.
Gallery.  Such is life. 3½ hours.  A.S.

Walking/Climbing Log

28-12-75. Tony and Sue Tucker, John Dukes and Mutley.  From the Belfry across to Plantation Swallet
where Walt-baiting took place.  Across
the mineries up North Hill to Priddy TEN Barrows, where now resides the Wessex
wheelbarrow, recently liberated.  Then
down to Swildons where we met Chris Batstone and Barney as they emerged with
the Belfry Avenue sign.  Finally, back to
the Belfry.  A working trip.  A.T.


You Name It!

Derek Sanderson sends this
account of some caving in Wales

DISCOVERY: Back in August 1 372, Roger Wing and I
were exploring the caves of the Nant-y-Glais, a small valley near Merthyr
Tidfil.  We spent several hours
photographing in the somewhat arduous and wet Ogof Rhyd Sych (SO 041 102) and
then had a quick probe into the sump entrance of Ogof Pysgodyn, a few yards
down valley, before we began  to walk
back down the rive bed towards the bridge.

The river was low, and the limestone slabs over which the
water usually flows were mostly dry. After a time, Roger noticed a small cavity under the right hand bank
behind a limestone block which we thought deserved a second look.  After shifting the block slightly, we were
able to push a way through numerous cobwebs into a small cave passage.  The roof and floor were unscratched and a few
largish stones had to be pushed aside before we could enter.  All the signs suggested that we were entering
new cave.

DESCRIPTION: The passage beyond the entrance is narrow and low, with a scalloped
floor and rough texture to the roof. Progress was by crawling and it was impossible to avoid scratching the
rock.  There are a few ribs of calcite in
the roof.

After about thirty feet of passage formed along the bedding
joint, the cave turns at right angles to the left and develops into a miniature
stream passage of about 3ft square, pleasantly scalloped in smoother grey
rock.  A few drops in the floor level – a
matter of inches rather than feet – and twenty feet on, the bedding development
begins to re-assert itself as the passage lowers, widens and veers to the

Passing some flood debris, a few feet further on, and the
passage become half blocked by rounded pebbles. Over the pebbles however is a six inch gap beyond which appears to be a
low but wide open passage to the right taking a small stream.

In spite of the fact that this pebble choke appears to be
very easy to push past, we turned back, as lights and time were running
out.  We had covered about seventy feet
of passage, and clearly there is more. We also paced the distance from the entrance to the bridge and found it
to be 100 paces.

COMMENTS: Soon afterwards, we wrote to Geoff Bull of
W.S.G. who had been doing work in the area and gave him a quick
description.  His reply seemed to confirm
our opinion that this small cave had not been entered before, though he did say
that their local representative thought he knew of the site of the entrance.

The cave is not particularly impressive in size, but it
could lead to bigger things.  Clearly,
there is potential in the area for, not too far away up-valley, are the
extensive passages of Ogof-y-Ci, as well as those caves previously mentioned –
over 4,000 feet in all.  It may be
however, that in normal conditions much of the cave is under water.  Perhaps others have visited the cave since
1972 (W.S.G.for instance) and passed the Pebble Choke.  If so, how about letting the B.B. know about

Roger, with such command of the Welsh language, suggested we
called the cave Ogor Sodof, but this seemed a bit unkind.  Neither did it reflect the short bit of fun
we had grovelling in it – so we decided to leave the naming of it to those who
follow and enter the miles of passage which, we are sure, must lie beyond.


Monthly Crossword – Number 66



















































































1. Strata like this are not
necessarily sub-standard. (7)
6. Cuthbert’s eater reorganised. (5)
8. Additionally short drink. (3)
9. It follows present times driven underground. (4)
11. Trap. (4)
13. Caver’s food in no showy form. (4)
14. Proverbially slippery. (4)
16. Mendip hole loudly that is around. (5)
17. Bits of gear to be checked at odd times. (5)
19. Supporting timber found in Trat’s Temple. (7)


2. Descend on 15, for example.
3. 15 down has to be this of course. (4)
4. ‘The same again’ includes teetotaller. (5)
5. Set chip for drops. (7)
6. Lies backward in tars and descend rope. (7).
7. Safeguards, harnesses or measures underground. (4)
10. This month, in short. (4)
12. Trips which sound as if they could be 13. (5)
15. Fifty one and two directions useful underground. (4)
18. In short, some sixth sense perhaps. (1,1,1)

Solution to Last Month’s Crossword



















































































Club Headquarters

The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

. Telephone WELLS 72126

Club Committee

Chairman          S.J.

Minutes Sec      G.


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

Officers Of The Club

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

.  Tel :



Honorary Treasurer         B.

, ‘Valley View’,

Venus Lane
Clutton, Nr. Bristol. Tele :



Caving Secretary            TIM

15 Kippax Avenue
Wells, Somerset

Secretary         THIS POST IS NOW IN

Hut Warden                   C.

8 Prospect Place


Belfry Engineer              J.

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

Tacklemaster                 G.

. 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.

131 Sandon Road


17.  Tele : (021) 429 5549

B.B. Postal                    BRENDA

  Address as for Barry

Spares                          T.
LARGE,  Address already given

Membership Sec.           Mrs. A.


All 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


© 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.