QUODCUMQUE  FACIENDUM : NIMIS  FACIEMUS

The views expressed by contributors to the Belfry Bulletin,
including those of club officers, are not necessarily the views of the
committee of the Bristol Exploration Club or the Editor, unless so stated.  The Editor cannot guarantee that the accuracy
of information contained in the contributed matter, as it cannot normally be
checked in the time at his disposal.

Editor:  D.J. Irwin,
Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Nr. Wells,

Somerset
.

Dates for your diary:

December 9th

Longwood – contact Richard
Kenney, Tel. Meare Heath 296

December 10th

B.C.R.A. Winter Meeting, Hunters
Lodge (new room) 4p.m.

Programme:      Water Pollution – Dave Maneley

                        Rock
and

Fountain
Cave
– John Parker.

The lectures will be followed by
a buffet supper at 7 p.m.  Price (for
meal only) £2.75, Bookings to Bryan Ellis,

30 Main Road
, Westonzoyland, Bridgwater,

Somerset
, by 3rd.December
3rd. 1977.  Following the meal, at
8.30p.m. Jerry Wooldridge will be showing his slide sequences of Fairy Cave
Quarry and La Cigaliere.

December 17th

Brecon Beacons – walking.  Bring pack lunch, waterproofs, boots,
transport will be shared. Leave Belfry 8a.m. sharp. All interested contact Bob
Cross, address in Nov B.B.

January 8th 1978


White
Scar
Cave
– details from Martin Grass.

March 11th

BCRA Symposium – Cave Photograph,
UMIST,

Manchester
.

Russ Jenkins writes:

The B.E.C. are now members of British Mountaineering Council
and as such are able to avail themselves of the facilities of Club Huts in the
following areas.  Lakes, 17 huts; others
at
Lancaster, Derbyshire, Swanage and
Cornwall: 30 huts in North Wales and 17 in
Scotland and
Isle of Skye.

Climbers Insurance

It is now certain that climbers are NOT covered by BEC Insurance.  However, insurance may be obtained through
the B.M.C. via the Club.  It is not cheap
however and varies between £8.00 per person contemplating climbing in
U.K. and the Alps or £6.00 restricted to

U.K.
  This does not include damage or loss to equipment,
money, ropes, etc.  To cover those items
a further increase takes the price up to £9 (first £20 of any claim is void) so
it would appear the £6.00 would be in most demand for

U.K.

climbers.  These prices are only
approximate and fuller details are available from me.  There is a BMC administration fee which
reduces pro-rata.  It is a block policy
which has to be submitted in one go, so I’m thinking of getting all applications
to be submitted on Jan. 1st or so.  Money
to be paid at time of application.

 

Alfie resigns from the BEC

It is with regret that we have to announce that Alfie has
resigned from the club committee.  He
tendered his resignation at the November Committee meeting without giving any
reason.  At the same time he also handed
in his resignation as Trustee for the Club. Most members will be now aware that several changes took place at the
Annual Meeting held back in October.  But
there are many who did not attend either the meeting or the dinner and may not
know the situation.  The best way of
explaining the position as it stands is by publishing an extract from the
official minutes, compiled by Alfie:-

The Belfry Bulletin Report
followed.  It had been published and the
chairman asked the editor if he had anything to add to his published
report.  Alfie replied that he had not,
but that he would be pleased to answer any points which might arise during any
discussion of the report.  Mike Palmer
then reminded the meeting that he had acquired a reputation for outspoken
comment and assured the meeting that he would not disappoint it on this occasion.  He said that the content of the B.B. was the
major grouse and proposed that Dave Irwin be appointed to take over the Belfry
Bulletin forthwith.  This was seconded by
Martin Grass.  The Chairman said that he
would take note of this resolution but felt that some discussion ought first to
take place.  Colin Dooley said that he
felt the existing B.B. was right for its purpose.  Some years ago, the club had decided to
separate its more serious work from the B.B. in the form of the Caving Reports
and more recently ‘Cave Notes’.  If it
was felt that the B.B. was not tbe right publication to exchange with other
clubs, then Caving Reports and Cave Notes could be substituted.  Dave Turner said that he would like to
recommend Dave Irwin to the meeting on the basis that he would have more time
to devote to the B.B.  Nigel Taylor
suggested that perhaps Alfie could be asked to provide a regular feature in a
B.B. otherwise run by Dave.  Mike Palmer
said that this was not an occasion for compromise of any sort.  Alfie’s B.B. had let down the image of the
Club and was a laughing stock amongst other clubs.  A far as B.E.C. members were concerned they
were fed up with reading the thoughts of Chairman Alfie in his so-called
editorials.  Colin Dooley said that it
was therefore a question of style and the choice was not between two people as
between two contrasting outlooks.  Tony
Corrigan queried this and said that any editor prints what members send in.  Dave Turner said that this was only partly
true.  For example, the B.B. could easily
carry more caving news and news of other clubs etc. if the editor wished to
include it.  Pete Franklin made the point
that the content of the B.B. was aimed at club, members who rarely visited
Mendip and should not therefore be judged by a meeting which was not
representative of the readership being aimed at.  Bob Cross said that the B.B. as a rather poor
newsletter and social sheet masquerading as journal.  Tony Corrigan said that a properly produced
journal would be expensive.  Roy Bennett
said that when Dave Irwin produced the B.B., its sales to people outside the
club paid for only additional production costs. Nobody would buy Alfie’s B.B. because it was not good enough.  The Chairman then invited Dave Irwin to
explain what he would do if he were appointed as editor.  Dave said that he would make no radical
changes but would increase the topicality with much more up to date
information.  He said that he did not
disapprove of features like ‘Fifth Column’ but that a proper balance between
such features and more serious matter would be achieved under his
direction.  The B.B. would remain as a
monthly publication and retain its present format but would be about 50% larger
in pages.  The Chairmen then thanked Dave
Irwin and put the resolution to the vote. The meeting appointed Dave Irwin as Editor of the Belfry Bulletin by 27
votes in favour two 6 against.

Alfie has added a footnote to the minutes end is as follows:

According to the authority I have
consulted, the Chairman had a number of possible courses of action open to him
when Mike Palmer proposed his resolution. He acted quite correctly by choosing one of the possibilities (i.e.
taking the resolution to discussion, putting it to the vote and declaring it
carried without first taking the report) but this particular course of action
means that the 1977 B.B. Report had not been adopted by the A.G.M. and it is
thus important to make this clear to members as otherwise a precedent will have
been set which could have awkward repercussions in future.  Therefore, as the report in question has been
published in the B.B. a disclaimer should now be published as soon as possible
to the effect that this report was rejected by the AGM and has thus no official
standing.  Members of the club who did
not attend the A.G.M. will otherwise have no means of knowing that this report
does not now define policy.

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

An up to date report of the situation regarding the Club
Trustees will be given in the next issue of the B.B.

 

Note from the

Hut
Wa
rden

The Hut Warden wishes to announce that all utensils and
cutlery has been removed and both members and guests will have to bring their
own.  For several months now, the various
items cooking equipment has been left in a pretty tatty condition and until
people can do their own washing up and general tidying up, cooking at the
Belfry will be with your own personal equipment.

Guests staying at the Belfry have been turning up on spec
and causing the Hut Warden quite a headache. Will all guests please note that
at least SIX WEEKS NOTICE is required thus allowing Chris Batstone to allocate
bunks fairly between members and guests.

Note from the Tackle Master.

On the weekend of the 11-13th November a member wanted to
use some tackle for an away trip.  There
was no rope in the store, and there were only four lengths of ladder.  No equipment was signed out in the tackle
log.  Please fill out the required
details in the log such as: item of tackle, using code; cave or area; name of
member; dates out and in etc.  As a
reminder, ladder codes are now on top and bottom rungs.  Rope codes await a cheap supply of shrink-on
numbers (as used in the electrical trade). Of these are not forthcoming (they were promised) we shall use copper
ferrules.  Tethers have aluminium
tags.  Many people are not bothering to
wash tackle, especially rope.  I found
one hanging up stiff’ with mud a while ago. So the Drinking Pool has dried up – use the sink or the showers!

Graham

P. S. Where are all these donations of old SRT rope for
digging????

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

ALL SUBS PLEASE TO Tim Large, 72, Lower Whitelands, Tynings,
Radstock,
Avon.  They are due in January.

NOTES IN BRIEF: £75 rebate from
Cliff
Hotel for poor service at Club Annual
Dinner; John Dukes has been appointed publication Sales Officer; ADDRESS
CORRECTION: Barrie Wilton, 27 Valley View,

Venus Lane
, Clutton, Nr. Bristol,
Avon.  Tele:

Temple Cloud
52072
.

A Headache For M.R.O.?

Reports have been coming in of a Mendip caver working with
the social services is taking 11 and 12 year olds caving.  Nothing wrong with that you may think.  But taking them to Swildons 4 may give you
food for thought!  In addition he takes
them on his own with no other adult in the party.  The Wells Scouts have now crossed him off
their list but your correspondent is informed that he is a free agent for other
organisations.  However good a caver he
might think himself there can be no excuse for taking such young people so far
into a system that can be so treacherous at all times of the year.  In fact, a serious accident in Swildons 4
would give MRO a considerable headache because of the well known squeeze at the
lower end of Blue Pencil Passage.

There is little that MRO can do about it, nor indeed, want
to do about it – in other words MRO would not wish to be put into a position of
being a judge.  The Council of Southern
Caving Clubs will feel there is nothing that they can do except perhaps to contact
the club to which this character belongs and offer some legal advice regarding
the position of a minor.  I feel sure
that such activities will be deplored by responsible cavers on Mendip and elsewhere.  This stupid action should be given the widest
publicity in the caving press to ensure that to warn responsible clubs that
such activity is taking place.

‘Wig’

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

CARBIDE and CARBIDE LAMP SPARES are available at the Belfry
– ask the Hut Warden – the prices are the cheapest you’ll find anywhere!

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

DON’T FORGET THOSE CAVING REPORTS – the latest is Number
19.  Those members who are not up to date
with their collection should send off to John Dukes at the Belfry for
copies.  A full list will appear in the
January B.B.

 

Ogof Graig & Ffynnon

(Rock and

Fountain
Cave
)

By Irwin

On the old

Clydach
Gorge Road
lies a pub well known to cavers in the
area.  For several years a dig has been
worked above the pub, slightly to the west. In September 1976 the diggers broke into a large cave system over five
miles in length.  23rd October 1977 the
author and Fred Davies were lucky enough to pay a visit to it and take in its
underground splendour.

The layout of the Agen Allwedd system, the 15 mile long
system, is well known to cavers, with its rambling passages stretching across
the top of

Llangatock
Mountain
near
Brynmawr.  Since its discovery several
relatively small sites have been explored, a few end in fragments of very large
passageways.  The water flowing through
the ‘Aggy’ system resurges near the upper end of the Clydach Gorge, but a small
rising higher up intrigued cavers and so the Rock and Fountain dig commenced,
some 100 yds from the rising itself.  In
September 1976 the diggers decided to bang a small hole above their main site
in the hope to reach the underground streamway.

After a combination of digging and banging a passageway was
soon opened up leading to a squeeze into a 15ft long duck and on to a very
unstable boulder choke.  Initially this
was climbed with the aid of 20 ft ladder but shortly after the cave was opened
the boulder walls decided to reorganise itself thus blocking the route
through.  However, once opened the Second
Boulder Choke could be worked on. Attacking this required a really determined effort on the part of the
diggers to blast their way through a torturous route some 120ft long to emerge
in a series of very large passages separated by a tedious crawl, mainly flat
out for some 800ft to end in two enormous chambers.  To date some five miles of passage has been
surveyed – in fact there are still nine boulder chokes to be pushed – each one
breathing the famous
South Wales draught.

The cave can be divided into three sections – the entrance
series to the 2nd Boulder Choke (ruckle, if you are a confirmed Mendipian)
followed by a single large passage, beautifully decorated, extending for,
perhaps 3,000ft.  This continues to the
long crawl passing en-route to a superb phreatic rift passage ending in the two
enormous chambers.  Below the chambers a
lower stream series is being explored and a comment from John Parker was ‘you
know you’ve been on a caving trip after going down there!  Again there are fine formations to be seen
there.

After only having been in the cave once it is quite
impossible to accurate locating the smaller but fascinating features; so a
summary of the highlights in the entrance series may be slightly (even grossly)
out of order between the main features.

From the entrance a 150ft flat-out crawl leads to a squeeze
through boulders into a small, 20ft diameter chamber at the opposite end of
which lies an uninviting hole some 2ft wide and perhaps 10″ high – this is
the start of the 15ft long duck. Normally it has some 4 – 5″ of airspace but this is considerably reduced
in the winter months, usually about 2″ which must be quite off-putting to
say the least.  The duck widens along its
length and narrows again at the downstream end. From the far side of the duck a stooping passage leads to the First
Boulder Choke after a series of grovelling crawls and squeezes.  As many will know, boulder chokes in
South Wales tend to consist of small boulders and
numerous pebbles tending to make them very unstable.  With great care, a 20ft. climb (watching a
dangerously poised boulder at the top!) gives way to a long hands and knees,
very gravely, very straight, crawl giving way at the end to a low roofed
pool.  The passages here display fine
formations that are typical of the area – grey and slightly muddy.  The explorers have laid red and white plastic
tape forming pathways between the formations from the area extending throughout
the remainder of the main cave.

Soon the 2nd Boulder Choke is reached and is considered by
many that it’s a bit of a ‘pig’. Initially, a 20ft ladder gains a narrow ledge above which a series of
short steps and a 15ft ladder gives access to the base of the choke
itself.  A very narrow passage through
the boulder opened up by blasting; ascends in series of short steps, some very
tight, to emerge at the head of a stalagmited boulder slope leading downwards
to a 15ft wide passage.  From here the
passage gradually widens until it reaches huge proportions – some 60ft across
and at the far end the passage widens again to 80ft and up to 60ft high.  Formations abound and can be related to DYO
in character, though some considerably finer. As I have mentioned before, tapes have been laid throughout the length
of this section forming a meandering pathway to get the visitor close to the
finest formations.  At the far end, on
the right, a low hole leads into the 800ft long crawl passing under the 3rd
boulder choke en-route.  This is a rather
tedious affair generally flat out and very hard on the arms and knees!  General relief is felt when the high passage
is reached.  Over 1,000ft long and about
40ft high the passage as straight as a die throughout its length.  On the sides of the walls are great areas of
selenite crystals, some examples being up to 3” long.   The way splits at the far end; to the left a
series of smaller passageways but to the right is the first of two very large
chambers.  On entering this one is
immediately taken aback by its size.  The
huge wall at the far side is immense, perhaps 250ft long and up to 30ft high.  The floor spreads cut before you like a great
off-white sheet dotted with mud stalagmites. To the left a scramble up over boulders enables the second large chamber
to be reached – this is roughly circular and per-haps 200ft in diameter and up
to 60ft high.  Opposite the entry point
is one of nine boulder chokes – all draughting – that is being worked at the
moment.  This point is some two miles
from the entrance.  Below this area is a
lower stream series entered via fine 50ft pothole which we did not enter.  After a session of throwing a grappling iron
up into a high level hole in the first chamber, John prussiked up to it, only
to find that the thing was locked amongst some stalagmite and not by the hooks
but the back of it.  A few choice Welsh
words followed but eventually he made it only to find that it continued as an
aven that would require more climbing gear. Following food and coffee (coffee bags at that!) a short digging
operation and banging operation followed in the choke.

From dye tests to date, the stream that resurges by the
roadside does not come from the Aggy System and the new cave is thought to be
quite separate and not a fossil part of Aggy. Only when the 800ft crawl is reached does the cave rise up into the
Oolite beds in which Aggy is formed.  The
sections of the cave in which formations are found lie in Dolomitic and because
of its hardness, passages tend to be smaller than except where large collapses
have occurred.  The survey is well
advanced and is being drawn up by John Parker and some 5 miles of passage has
been explored.  At the moment all trips
are of a working nature and it will be some time before the cave is fully
pushed and open to cavers in general. When they do it is to be hoped that cavers will respect the enormous
amount of work that has taken place to open the cave and that they will keep to
the pathways laid through the cave.  The
cave is gated and one should remember that the cave lies under nature
conservancy land.  Now, a final
warning.  The entrance crawls, the 15ft
duck and beyond to the 1st Boulder Choke is subject to flash flooding quite
without warning.  It is not yet known
under what weather conditions cause this, so take great care.  Not only does the water flow out of the
entrance sump but wells up throughout the passage in the entrance series.  The 15ft. duck has been known to fill up in just
a few seconds.  This cave might be
considered a more serious proposition than the tidal sump in Otter Hole.

 

Letter To The Editor

Dear Wig,

The Severn Barrage mentioned in last months B.B. is
unfortunately for Mendip, a necessary evil in the future and will be
built.  The Severn Estuary is the best
location in the world for such a scheme, i.e. generating electricity using
tidal flow, as the largest tidal range exists on this part of the coast.  Once the problems of silting have been
overcome the scheme, I think, will go ahead.

Instead of forming pressure groups to try and prevent this
scheme a few suggestions on alternative materials to Mendip/South Wales limestone
be more profitable.  Coal tip heaps have
been suggested but a means of binding them is needed.  I am sure many people in the B.E.C. have
suggestions as to what could be used, some sensible ones I hope, so how about a
few letters to the B.B. and a few to the odd M.P.?

John Turner.

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

ALL SUBSCRIPTIONS TO
TIM LARGE PLEASE

SUBS ARE DUE IN
JANUARY.

SUBS NOT PAID BY
APRIL 1978 WILL MEAN THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO RE APPLY FOR MEMBERSHIP – THIS IS AN
INSURANCE CONDITION.


Juniper
Gulf

Looking over past BB’s there’s been lamentably little
written about actual caving, so this article is an attempt to put things
right. 
Juniper
Gulf is one of Yorkshire’s classics
and here I describe a trip down it that I made with a

Cambridge
University

party.  We tackled the pot on ropes,
which I think, adds to the skill and spectacle of it all, and at the same time,
it removes a lot of the sweat.

We walked up to the Allotment from Crummack Dale on a dull,
overcast
Yorkshire day in autumn.  The wind howled through those embarrassing
holes in the wet suit that you wished you’d stuck the night before!  After a mile or so we reached the fairly
unmistakable entrance.  A large stream
pours over steep cascades at one end of a large rift.  The entrance rift is perhaps a hundred feet
long, up to seventy feet deep and the width is jumpable.  (More easily done in some places than others;
and the stakes are high!)  We rigged it
with a hundred foot rope and abseiled down. A fine free hang can be obtained using the stake belays on the east side
of the shaft.

From the bottom an easy climb down leads to an obvious
traverse line.  Not only are the ledges
mega sized, but also the stream runs in a pretty narrow slot in the floor.  The stream trench starts off at about ankle
snapping depth and then it drops away. Soon the passage widens, the ledges peter out and we realised that this
was the second pitch.  This we rigged
with a twenty five foot ladder.  The
third pitch follows immediately and another twenty five foot ladder was
used.  These two pitches were lifelined
as one.  The third pitch dents Juniper’s
all weather image a little.  In general,
most of Juniper’s horizontal passages are traversed above stream level, and its
pitches are rigged far enough out to be dry. The third is perhaps the exception to this.  It was a little wet near the bottom.

We traversed on again and the stream dropped away
again.  The traverse became low and
developed into a crawling traverse.  And
then we reached the infamous ‘Bad Step’. The passage became wide, ledges rather sparse, and the walls covered
with a thin layer of slippery, clay like mud. I took a run at it, ‘wall of death’ fashion, made an horrific leap
through space and grasped a micro flake on the other side with my clawing
fingers.  No I didn’t.  I had been led to believe that that may be
the necessary technique, but in truth it was a non too desperate straddle that
was further eased by our placing of a traverse line.  The traverse line was mainly for getting the
tackle bags across but I was quite thankful of it when my super ‘go faster’
wellies began to struggle for a purchase on the muddy walls.

Almost immediately afterwards the fourth pitch occurs.  This drops some ninety feet or so back to
stream level.  There are two ways to rig
the pitch, the original way, and an alternative way.  After a lot of wittering, we saw that the
alternative would have a nasty rub about twenty feet down, so we searched for
the original.  This we found harder to
locate than the alternative.  We couldn’t
see the ale for the barrels.  There it
was right in the floor!  We belayed our
rope to a bombproof flake and backed it up to the end of our traverse line from
the Bad Step.

The fourth is a pitch of contrast.  It starts in the floor of a small muddy
bedding and ends in a spacious clean washed rift.  Like the entrance pitch, the fourth is a
complete free hang, displaying again Juniper’s eminent suitability for
SRT.  The book of words reckons that the
landing is ‘spray lashed’, but we found it dry all the way, with the main force
of the water being about ten feet away at the bottom.

We approached the final. Again this pitch too has an original and an alternative hang and again
the alternative, if anything, we found the easier to find.  The original, being wet was of little
interest to us, so we followed a climb up through boulders and went across a
traverse to what was obviously the head of the alternative final.  So this was it.  The magnificent final shaft of
Juniper
Gulf,
the finest picture of which is reproduced on the cover of

Bedford
‘s ‘Challenge Underground’.  (What? Well get it from the library then!) We easily found a couple of likely looking boulder belays.  ‘Biggles; the Bluewater!’

With the pitch rigged, we began to descend.  And yes, it surely is a very fine shaft.  The best I’ve ever seen.  A breathtaking descent of two hundred feet is
made, hanging free in the middle of a massive, finely fluted and sculptured
shaft.  The pitch is thankfully clear yet
enticingly close to the roaring Juniper water. I landed and marched off downstream.

The route goes on down several climbs, through some deep
pools to a sump.  I paid my respects to
this real Guinness special and was about to borrow a carbide lamp in order to
smoke on the wall a quick ‘Gets everywhere’, when I noticed that they where
covered in flood debris, right up to the roof! ‘Hmmmm, not worth the effort,’  I
thought,  ‘Soon get washed off.’  And so I left it, and made my way back up to
the foot of the final.

Soon it was my turn to prusik, and off I set.  My light was doing a bit of a glow-worm special,
so to save it I prusiked some part of the pitch in darkness.  Dangling on a rope in free space, in
darkness, listening to the continual roar of a waterfall is an object lesson in
sensory depravation.  Mind blowing!  I reached the top and we de-rigged.

I climbed over the boulders and was on my way back to the
fourth when suddenly; ‘Clatter, clatter, clatter.’  ‘Oh, no!’ I’d not done up the screw gate on the krab carrying my descender.  It had twisted open and my precious rack had
fallen off and dropped down through the boulders.  Had I lost it?  Not quite. I could see it perched precariously on a boulder a few feet down.  I stripped off my chest harness and squeezed
down.  At the third attempt, at full
stretch, I got a finger around the top of it, and so back came the rack. Phew!

We plodded on out, up the fourth across the Bad Step
(possibly worse in this direction), up the ladders, and so to the
entrance.  We prusiked up the entrance
pitch with me doing it by the light of the moon.  And so ended our trip.  Juniper is a fine pot, so short yet so deep,
and it culminates so magnificently with that final shaft.  A great cave!

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

Thanks Nick for the article on Juniper and I understand that
there is another on its way dealing with ‘Floating Cams’ which should be good
for a series of letters from our rope experts.

 

Review


Red
Rose
Cave

and pothole Club Journal No.7

This edition of the R.R.C.P.C. Journal is up to standard
that is expected from the northern clubs on the production and printing
side.  The front cover has a good
photograph and the plastic spine holds the 66 pages together without the worry
of the odd page falling out.  The
sketches and surveys are clear and understandable.

The contents however, are not as substantial as expected
since this journal covers four years. The last one appeared in 1973 and this edition has rather a lot of, what
could be termed padding.  It would seem
that Red Rose are going through the doldrums with regard to work on Leck Fell
and other areas, with only the Maracaibo extensions in Lancaster Hole reported
as a significant find, and this took place in 1973!  The journal also suffers from lack of authors
as 50% of the articles were written by three people.

There are some articles I did enjoy reading, one by Jim Eyre
although based on an old event, is written in a very humorous way and along
with his cartoons bring a touch of light hearted relief to this journal.

The article on last years Los Tayos Expedition to

Ecuador

runs to five pages but I was left feeling that a lot had been left out as this
would appear to have been a rather unusual caving trip.

To sum up this journal, I think that it would be a useful
addition to a club library, but is not worth buying to add to a personal
collection.

 ‘Buckett’

 

Wigmore Swallet Dig

Provisional Report – The Story So Far:

By Tony Jarratt

Inspired by visits to the Windsor Hill and Viaduct dig sites
in June of 1977, several B.E.C. members decided to begin a surface dig to last
them through the pleasantly festerous summer months till once again they could
adjourn to the Hunter’s fireside, and with beer fuddled minds dream and talk of
things they had done in ages past.  So
various sites were investigated, including the old Bucket Hole site of Jok
Orr’s (Who?) and Wigmore Swallet.    The
latter showed most promise, and the day after our

first visit, on June 21st, Tony Jarratt and Nig Taylor
negotiated preliminary permission, digging starting a mere ten minutes later!

The dig is situated in a pleasantly tree-shaded depression
in the coppice adjacent to the Old Wigmore Farm barn, roughly a mile north of
the B3135 Frome to Cheddar road (NGR: 55715256 , Sheet ST55SE.)  An obvious dry stream-bed leads into the
depression which, at the time of our first visit, was full to some six feet
below the lip of the shaft.

The site was originally dug from 1934-37 by M.N.R.C. and in
1938 by the W.C.C.  At thirty feet the
shaft was abandoned for no obvious reason, though the war may have caused
this.  It is a six feet wide by
“N” feet long in-filled rift in rock of County type,
Sandstone/Conglomerate nature.  Large
amounts of ochreous material and poor quality iron ores are present in the
spoils.

THE PRESENT DIG: During the first few weekends the depression was cleared of nettles,
scrub and general farm waste, and a cableway, hauling bucket (Ex Plantation
Swallet) and a hand winch (generously loaned by the Al Mills Foundation) were
installed.  An overhanging boulder was
soon removed from the top of the shaft by the Mendip Chip Bang and Chisel
Company’s last Survivor, Mr. ‘N’, and Stu Lindsey erected what appeared to be a
squirrel box on a nearby tree!

With a variety of diggers, mainly B.E.C. but also C.C.G.,
G.S.G., W.C.C. and, of course, the M.C.G., work began in earnest.  The infill included many old, but worthless
bottles, dead sheep and even deader dogs, rotten shoring, etc.  Soon the hand of ‘J. Arthur Rat’ was to be
seen erecting craftsman like walls around the spoil heaps (all above three feet
so as to be put onto the next O.S. maps). At shaft bottom Ross White re-enacted his ancestors by smashing up
boulders!

By the end of July we were twenty feet down, into a six by
eight feet shaft.  Minor events kept the
diggers entertained, a full spoil bucket missing Trevor Hughes by ¼”, and
the incessant inane bickering of the infamous duo, Bob Cross and Mr. N.

More unsuspecting diggers were press-ganged during the
following months including Milch, and the

Pitten Street
team, and the M.C.G.
Showband, who supplied the dig with a Villiers 250 c.c. Motor winch.  To house this mechanical marvel our resident
craftsmen (?) Chris Batstone and Bob Cross constructed what at first appeared
to be a sixth rate brothel in

Vietnam
,
but later emerged to be an engine house, the seed from which grew the Wigmore
Mining Company.

Now boasting the name ‘Wheal Wigmore’ and resplendent with
tea-pot, and garden furniture erected somewhat uselessly by an equally useless
Dig Carpenter the dig lowered to thirty feet.

In early August the team, and Mendip Folklore; were enriched
by the addition of Snab, family and dog. The former promptly wrote two songs on the spot, whilst the latter
commenced his own dig in a nearby rabbit hole. The site was now becoming somewhat of a social centre with visits from
the usual Mendip horde, and fellow cavers from further a field: Ian Lewis from
Australia; Linda Hastie from Canada; Mario Vitale from Italy; Stephen Kemp et
al from Germany; and Jeff Philips from the Irish Caving Club (?).

More recently, latest work has concentrated on trundling
vast boulders into the dig purely for the benefit of Alan Thomas who then casts
spells on them for the rest of us to remove again as gravel or even bigger
boulders!  Because at the depth, it
became necessary to shore the sides of the excavation.  This later proved much to the disgust of Phil
Ford ‘The Miner’ when he graced us with his presence in the late summer.

Prospective timber men, face workers stopers and grovers are
requested to contact the adventurers and Old Men at the Myne.  They will be dealt with in strict
rotation!!  Apologies to all not
mentioned in this article, Captain J. Rat, Overseer and Maister, Wheal Wigmore,
for the Wigmore Mining Company.

Access: The site is on Lord Waldegrave’s land, and we are
privileged to have his permission for the dig. Vehicles can cause disturbance to cattle and farm traffic.  Park on the main public road only, and walk
up the farm track past the dairy to the old barn.  Only use the gates and stiles, leaving them
as you found them.  Do not climb over any
fences.  Also, bring 10p each for the dig
fund!  It’s expensive these days.

 

Acknowledgements:To Lord Waldegrave for permission to
excavate the site, and; to Messrs. Majors and Thompson, and Mr. Booth for
materials, assistance and bewildered understanding!

References, compiled by Nigel Taylor:

1.                  Ms. Diary, H. Murrell, 2 49 (1934) Start of old
dig.

2.                  MNRC Diary/Report (27) 65 (1934) Note on dig.

3.                  Ms. Diary, H. Murrell, 131 (1935) History of
dig.

4.                  MNRC Report    (28)
42 (1935) Brief excavation notes.

5.                  Thornber, Stride, Meyers,

Britain

Underground (1953) p.203.

6.                  7 & 8.

Barrington
,
Caves of Mendip (1957), (1962), (1964).

7.                  10 & 11.
Barrington
&

Stanton
,
Complete Caves of Mendip.  (197l),
(1972), (1977).

8.                  

Mendip
Cave
Register.

9.                  Dig Log.

10.              Gough, Hines of Mendip.

11.              Ms. Diary, A. Jarratt (1977).

12.              Ms. Diary, N.

Taylor
(1977).

On the facing page we are pleased to publish one of Jayrat’s
sketches – this one of Wigmore Entrance.

 

Jottings

compiled by Niph

Book News – Until recently Thrum’s S.R.T. book (American)
has been the rope mans bible.  Now a
second book on S.R.T. is on the market, this time by Montgomery (Australian)
published by the Sydney Speleological Society, at £4.50 (Rocksport).  Opinions vary, but some cavers feel it is
more thorough and more up to date than Thrun.

A note inside refers to a new American S. R.T. rope.  Called Pigeon Mountain Rope, it has lower
stretch and higher abrasion resistance than Bluewater, but as yet no cost is
available.  With so many S.R.T. ropes to
choose from, it will be interesting to see if this one catches on in

Britain
.

Clearwell
Caves,

Forest of
Dean
.  These ancient iron mines, open to visitors
are currently being re-opened on a commercial scale.  The iron ore is said to be purer than Swedish
ore.  The owners are not really worried
if the project is unsuccessful.  Tourists
pay more than enough for the company to keep going.

N.C.A. Equipment Information.  October Extracts. 

a)       Five
failures of fixed aids in caves are cited. There is little doubt that the Tyning’s Barrows Swallet entrance ladders
would have failed had they received much more use.  Several people are presently concerned about
the state of fixed tackle in St. Cuthbert’s particularly Arête ladder.  How many cavers do check fixed underground
tackle before or while using it, e.g. bolts, ladders, ropes, chains, handlines,
traverse lines?

b)       Rope
shrinkage.  Nylon contracts with wetting
and usage, up to about 15%.  All ropes,
for S.R.T. particularly, should be soaked, both before initial use, and
frequently thereafter, and measured carefully before a trip where exact length
may be critical.

c)       Several
people have been concerned over flaws, or apparent flaws, in new rope.  These show as lumps, little knots or ends,
and there is no cause for concern. Bluewater, it should be noted, has no core splices, and sheath splices
are only necessary in lengths of over 300ft.

d)       There
may eventually be a British Standard for caving ropes.

e)       If
you buy ‘Marlow’ rope for S.R.T., specify ‘Marlow 16 plait caving rope’.  Otherwise the rope is not straight cored.

f)        A list of recent British articles on caving
equipment and techniques is now available from the library.

C.S.C.C.  The new
agreement on Lamb Leer has now been passed, arrangements to be organised by the
SCC Co. Ltd Secretary – Tim Reynolds.

Baker’s Pit,
Devon may be
re-opened soon, but who will dare to brave the nasty fumes and pollutants
seeping in from the ever-growing dump above.

Hermann Kirchmayer, one of the Austrian visitors at the ISO
Mendip Meet and known to club members who went on the international Raucher
meet in 1967 said of Swildons Hole, “That’s no cave – it’s a wet and muddy
mouse hole.”  He’d just been on a
Troubles Round trip.

Loxton
Cave:  Wells
Scouts have sent their midgets into the Morgan Chambers of

Loxton
Cave

and surveyed them.  This survey will be
attached to that made by Chris Howell and will appear in a later B.B in the New
Year.

 

Proping Prid

by Jane Wilson

I think we first started talking about pushing the sump in
Prid. in February.  By the end of July we
had run out of excuses and delaying tactics so one early morning saw a motley
assortment of not so enthusiastic Speleo’s looking un-longingly at the sea of
cowsh at the entrance of Pridharnsleigh Cavern in Devon.

Rumour has it that Prid 2 had been dived to 130ft but had
not been bottomed.  I had already blown
my mind on the ‘tourist trip’ into the Prid 2 airbell and naively thought that
an afternoons diving would sort out these confused rumours of great depth.  I persuaded Richard to keep me company so I
led the dive from the rear.

It is surprising just how much gear is needed for a trip
like this.  Rich decided that clad in his
soopa new Unisuit he would superheat and explode if he carried much so we were
delighted to find two errant Plymouth Caving Group members lurking in the
bushes near the entrance.  We did not
have to make too many threats before they offered to help move some of the
equipment to the
Lake. “But we only
wanted a quite trip into Dog Hole” they pleaded a so we struggled and
slithered in, with 30lb of lead (to sink the S.S. Stevenswine) fins, masks,
valves, gauges, line, lights; the problems we should have had transporting Big
Bertha (Siamese 60 cu. ft bottles) were solved by the amazing subhuman strength
of one of the sherpas.

Having rendered 50% of cur assorted gauges and meters
useless by breaking their straps and making sure that Bishop’s beam gun was not
working, we plummeted down the submerged rift of Prid 1.  The vis (=visibility) dropped to about twelve
inches as we churned up the mud from the walls and inch diameter white
limestone chips floated past reminiscent of giant snowflakes.  Eighty feet down the line goes through a
window into the vast underwater chamber of Prid 2 where the vis can be as much
as 28ft and everything looks clear, clean and blue.

Rich tied on to one of the permanently fixed lines and
disappeared into clouds of red brown mud. Following in the 6″ vis I soon bumped into a soft red object that
gesticulated in an incoherent manner. “Start again” he seemed to be trying to tell me.  We finned back to the ‘base’ line and
repeated the performance swim – thud – confused gesticulations – back.  Silly!

Richard raised two fingers – a signal that I instantly
recognised as meaning “Well if you don’t mind, I think we should be
thinking about going to the pub now.” He zoomed off along the fixed line, homewards.

We surfaced back in the lake again where we discovered that
we had not been under long enough or deep enough to worry about decompressing.  I had plenty of air left in my 60 cu. ft
bottle plus a full 40 so borrowed Richard’s line.  While he looked around at the bottom of Prid
1, I went back into Two.  To my surprise,
I managed to tie a bowline first time (something I cannot usually manage on the
surface, un-narced) and returned to the swim – thud – routine, thus I banged
into the hard white limestone. I chuntered around the wall of the chamber for a
while – hand stretched out to feel the way – then paused to try to work out how
much air I had left in which bottle.  I
meditated on my excellent bowline coming untied and losing the way back to air,
while I attempted to swim up and out of the mud.  It did not take long to realise that
exploring the bottom of Prid Two was going to take more organised and concerted
effort.  The deepest we had been able to
get was a little over 110 ft but in such poor vis we could have easily missed a
deep pot in the floor or a way though a hole in the wall.

I surfaced in the air bell of Prid Two and looked around
with my failing light.  The intricately
folded curtain that perhaps due to the nitrogen narcosis, I had imagined as a
giant jelly fish, on the exploratory trip the day before, was not there and
everything looked unfamiliar.  Was this a
new section?  Feeling lonely, un-intrepid
and a long way from home a cruise along the steep walled chamber, much too
steep to climb out of the water.  I
spotted the electron ladder leading up to the emergency supplies left in Prid
Two – so I was not the intrepid cave explorer “boldly going where no man
had gone before.”  Rats!  I passed some time neatly crocheting the line
around my aqua lungs, gags and assorted dangles but decided that there was no
future in it and that it was time to go home. Returning to the fixed line, I untied and came back through the
“window” and rumbled and crashed my way back up the rift.

Richard, snug and warm in his Unisuit, was already
de-kitting so it was not long before I was shivering beside him, wondering why
I had not invested in a new wet suit years ago. But the struggle to get the gear back to the surface through the good
quality Devonian mud soon warmed us up and we all enjoyed a good cold bath in
the stream before we headed home.

Conclusions – Prid One bottoms at about 100ft, not 120ft and
we did not get much deeper than 110ft at the bottom of Prid Two – take a spade
if you want a deeper dive.  But the sump
has possibilities.

Many thanks to the sherpas. Those present: John Dukes (BEC), Geoff Lloyd (POG), Steve Mayers (POG),
Phil Sadler (XPPS), Richard (as seen on TV) Stevenson (WCC & BEC), Graham
Wilton-Jones (BEC) and Jane Wilson (XPPS, BEC).

 

 

International Speleological Congress 1977

The Mendip Caving Camp.

‘Wig’

Following the ‘core’ conference at

Sheffield
University

the 500 visitors went their various ways some home, but many, on the organised
excursions and caving camps held in the caving regions.  The caving camp is a new innovation at the
International meetings in the hope that the ‘ordinary’ caver will get involved
rather than the academics.

Here on Mendip there were two excursions, hydrological and
archeologically and a caving camp.  The
two excursions were organised by Tim Atkinson, Pete Smart and ‘Trat’, aided and
abetted by Chris Hawkes.  Both excursions
were based at the University in

Bristol

and apart from laboratory demonstrations there were daily trips to places of
interest on and around Mendip including a novel meal for both the hydrologists
and archaeologists in the 3rd.  Chamber
of Wookey Hole.  The meal was designed
around a mediaeval banquet complete with hunting knives and drinking
horns.  The event paid for by the show
cave management and organised by Nick Barrington.

The caving camp, on the other hand was based at the Belfry,
an honour indeed for the club.  As
organiser for the Mendip camp the author would like to thank all those cavers
who gave up their own time to take the foreign guests underground and help in
the background.  Many thanks then to
Martin Bishop, Chris Batstone, John Dukes Graham Wilton-Jones, Tim Large, Chris
Smart, Brian Prewer, Mike Palmer, Chris (Zot) Harvey, Ross White; while from
other clubs are John Letheron, Fred Davies, Don Thomson, Ian Jepson, Phil
Hendy, Liz and Graham Price and last but not least Jim Hanwell and Wookey Hole
Caves Management.

Cavers from
West Germany,
Switzerland,
Austria,
USA
and
Hungary 12 in number
arrived at the Belfry during Saturday 17th September having found their way
from
Sheffield.  The Austrians arrived by their own transport
having first gaining a glimpse of Weston-super-Mud, so did the West
Germans.  The Swiss congregated at
Rocksport and the Hungarians were picked up by the camp hired mini-bus doing it
the hard way, walking along the Priddy straight.

Later that evening a short slide show and discussion was
held the Wessex Library where Jim Hanwell gave an outline talk on the structure
of Mendip and its relationship with the caves. This was followed by the necessary ‘jar’ in the back room of the Hunters
which went very well in spite of the ‘foreign wog’ comment by a then principal
officer of the BEC who promptly left for the main bar.

Sunday saw the visitors at Fairy Gave Quarry.  After taking three trips into Withyhill
Graham Price was heard flatly refusing to take a fourth into the cave
consisting of BEC members tagging along for a trip!  At the same time, Graham’s wife, Liz, was
trotting through

Shatter
Cave
with the other
members of the party.  The visitors were
so impressed by the formations that they requested a return trip during the
week, but this was not to be due to lack of FCQ leaders and time.  Sunday evening was filled in with a walk down

Longwood
Valley
where they could see typical
Mendip swallets and dig sites.  Having
been picked up at Black Rock a quick run through Cheddar Gorge followed and on
to Wookey Hole where Martin Bishop and Chris Batstone demonstrated the MRO Sump
Rescue gear.  Inside the cave, Jim
Hanwell gave a conducted tour of the show cave demonstrating his intimate
knowledge of the structure of the system. Chris and Martin then demonstrated the diving equipment and dived from 3
to 9 watched by the visitors from the bridges over the 7th and 8th
Chambers.  Following the inevitable visit
to the Hunters a slide show was given at the Belfry from the slide collections
of Brian Prewer, Don Thomson and yours truly.

During the next three days the guests were taken into GB,
Longwood Swallet, Swildons , the Troubles Round Trip and Black Hole, Sludge Pit
and, of course St. Cuthbert’s Swallet – Pulpit/Maypole and various photographic
trips.  Hermann Kirchmayer and Helmut
Planer both took a look at the Cuthbert’s sump and decided to give it a miss
though they did the Round Trip in Swildons – perhaps it was a case of Hobson’s
after going through the wettish sections of the Swildons Upper Series.

During the evenings the events ranged from the ‘serious’ to
the truly social.  The MRO equipment was
demonstrated by various Wardens and a further visit to Cheddar Gorge having
first paid a visit to the Cathedral in Wells. The grand finale was at the Hunters, in the new room where the cavers
and hydrologists got together for a buffet and final beer-up.  So magnificent was the meal that the bar
didn’t do much trade!  In fact, there was
so much food that nearly everyone took it away with them in ‘piggy bags
supplied by Roger and Jackie – certainly an evening to remember.

I can’t end without a personal note to say how delighted I
was to welcome Helmut and Helene Planer and the comedian of the camp, Hermann
Kirchmayer – all three of whom are well known to BEC cavers who went to

Austria

in the middle 1960’s on the Raucher and Ahnenschacht trips.  The next International get-together in

Kentucky
will be held in
1981 so start saving your new 1d’s (sorry p’s) now!

 

Lifelines

by Tim Large

Unfortunately this month I start with the news that Alfie
has resigned from the Committee and as a Trustee of the Club.  I am sure everyone will echo my sentiments of
regret at his action.  As a result there
is now a vacancy on the Club Committee. But in fact the Committee has decided to advertise for two more
posts.  Therefore you could deduce that
one Alfie equals two of anyone else. The reason for the second post is because
Russ Jenkins is not able to attend committee meetings on a regular basis
because of his shift working, but he is still prepared to continue as Climbing
Sec.  Members are formally asked to
contact myself or any committee member if they are interested in serving.

The Club welcomes four new members this month:

Gill Durrant,

14 St. Andrews Rd.
9 Broadstone, Dorset.
Stephen Short,

78 Greenwood Ave.
,
Laverstock,

Salisbury
.

Dany Bradshaw, 37 Creswicke, Bristo1, BS4 1UF.

and last, but no means least, being a very infamous Mendip
caver of many years standing: –

Stuart McManus,

33 Welsford Ave.
,
Wells, Somerset.

The St. Cuthbert’s Leaders met on 31st October at the novel
venue of Cerberus Hall!  Fifteen leaders
were present and the main topic discus was the question of insurance
cover.  The opinion of leaders was that
they are required by a committee ruling (1976) to obtain insurance cover at
their own expense.  Thereby, they are
subsidising the Clubs access arrangements which they consider to be somewhat
unfair.  The Committee has agreed to look
into the situation, but no change can be contemplated until the 1978 Club
Annual Meeting.  Ted Humphries has been
accepted as a Cuthbert’s Leader bringing the active total to about 27, which
includes 9 guest leaders from other clubs. It is hoped to publish a list in the near future.

The Club has some leaders for other controlled access caves
who are: –

O.F.D.: Mike Palmer,
Graham Wilton-Jones, Rich Stevenson, Andy Macgregor, Dave Irwin, Roy Bennett
and Tony Meaden.

D.Y.O.: Graham Wilton-Jones
and Rich Stevenson.


Fairy
Cave

Quarry
: Mike Palmer and Dave Irwin.

NCA Matters:  On
November 19th there is a meeting of CSCC when a decision will be made on
proposals to be put to the NCA Annual Meeting to alter its constitution to
ensure the rights of the grass roots caver and individual groups.  One particular point of contention will be
the insistence of the inclusion of the veto at NCA General Meetings.  It is felt that is necessary to protect
individuals and groups.  On Mendip this
is particularly important where, for instance, access arrangements are
negotiated by clubs with much success; training schemes are arranged locally
e.g. CSCC scheme with Somerset LEA. Under no circumstances should a far removed National Body pass judgement
or otherwise interfere with such local arrangements.  The local cavers are the ones to decide and
nobody else.  Perhaps the NCA would do
well to adopt the CSCC  motto “Live
and let live.”

LAST BUT NOT LEAST – A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR
TO ONE AND ALL

From the Editorial Staffffffffffffff !!!

© 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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