Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Nr. Wells, Som.  Telephone: Wells 72126.

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,
Som.  Tele: Priddy 369

In the next few months issues of the Belfry Bulletin the
following material will be publishes: Wigmore survey; Loxton Cave survey; New Year in the Dales; Holloch;
Wookey Hole survey; Cadbury Hill mine shaft; Austria 1978; Isometric surveys;
Reviews of some new books; MRO Annual Report; Details of the Annual Dinner and
Mid-Summer Buffet and several surveys of western Mendip caves and two new

Subscriptions 1979 (to October 1979)

Full members    £2.00

Joint Members   £3.00

Under 18’s         £1.50

Subs are due at the end of January 1979.  Don’t forget to send them in to Sue Tucker,
B.E.C. Hon Treasurer, 75 Lower Whitelands, Tynings, Radstock,

Useful addresses:

Hon Sec: Tim Large, c/o Trading
Standards Office,

South Street


Hut Warden: Chris Batstone,

Prospect Place
, Bathford,
Tacklemaster: John Dukes, Bridge Farm, Dulcote, Nr. Wells,


Odds and Sods:

DYO – ladder into Gerald Platten Hall removed  31 December 1978

Nick Burke Awards. The award is a tribute to the memory of Nick Burke, the BBC cameraman
who lost his life while filming the ascent of Everest in 1975.  The competition makes awards to expeditions
and is organised by the BBC Natural History Unit in

and the Royal Geographic Society.

There were 90 applications for the 1979 award of which six
were successful.  Each of these will be
lent two super 8 movie cameras (a Braun 801 and a Braun 148) and a tape
recorder together with sufficient tape and film for 90 mins filming.  It is intended to show the films on BEC’s
programmer series ‘The World. About Us.’



By Tim Large

Christmas has come and gone. A large group enjoyed their traditional Belfry festivities in the usual
B.E.C. manner.  This was completed by
heavy snow blizzard cut off Priddy from the outside world for a day or so.  On New Years Day a rescue call was received
at the Belfry to help evacuate a youth group from the Outdoor Centre in Velvet
Bottom.  A motley crew from the Belfry
managed to drive by Land Rover to the hut making it rather a non-event.  Shortly afterwards the Cheddar Cliff Rescue
Team arrived on skies complete with all the latest gear having somewhat over-rated
the situation.  As usual the BEC gets
everywhere – and gets there first!


This will be held on Wednesday 28th February at 8.15p.m. in
the Arthur Tyndall Memorial Theatre, Physics Dept.,

Tyndall Ave.,

8.  The subject will be

“British Wild
Water Canoe Expeditions of the 1970’s”

by John Liddell.

He was a member of the Himalayan Canoe Expeditions.  The lecture will be supported by over 100
slides.  All are welcome and admission is


A new tie has been ordered. The design is similar to the old one but with a choice of colours:
maroon with gold bat or dark blue with silver bat.  The cost will be about £2.50 each.  More details when supplies available.


Some concern has been expressed by members over the new
tackle arrangements which were taken in an effort to minimise tackle losses and
keep track of its whereabouts.  Some
members feel that the new arrangements are too restrictive and penalise
bone-fide members who cave regularly and return tackle soon after use!  In order to resolve the matter the committee
will be discussing it at the next meeting on Friday 2nd February.  Anyone who has any view on the subject is
encouraged to come to this meeting.


John Riley, c/o Cravenhouse
Marketing Ltd., Carleton New Road, Skipton,
North Yorks.

Colin Priddle,

15 Mons Road
Delville, Germiston 1401,

Teresa Rumble,

29 Cotham Road


Don’t forget to let me have your address changes or
corrections together with the postal code.


Jayrat sends in this snippet of news:

B.E.C. recently beat the W.C.C. at Skittles at the New Inn.

Many thanks to Sid Hobbs’ eldest son acting as sticker-up –
young Edrich.



Tynings Burrows Swallet

Members are getting their fingers out and starting to work,
in earnest, at the job of re-opening the cave. At the moment it’s blocked below the Second Pitch at the start of the
30ft crawl.  Whether the breakthrough
point is blocked will no doubt be told in future BB’s – this will be a problem
area.  Diggers are needed from now with
1979’s first project.  Digging will be at
most weekends – contact the Belfry or form your own team.  WIGMORE is temporarily blocked.


The NPC have discovered a new cave in the bed of Easegill
Beck.  The cave has a 60ft pitch at the
entrance and then bombs off downstream for the next two miles.  There are about 16 inlets.  Exploration of the inlets have connected
Lancaster and Pippikin giving an estimated length of at least 40 miles thus
creating and new national record for cave length.  The enormous OFD lies, now, in second place
at about 30 miles.  In the world stakes
for length


must now rank about 7th longest.

News from the north;

Leck Fell

This area is thoroughly booked at
weekends until August 1979.


Access arrangement is in jeopardy
if clubs keep going to Casterton without permits.

Penyghent/ Gingling

All clubs wishing to visit
Gingling this year should have their requests to the meets secretary by the 1st
February 1979.

Birks Fell/ Mongo Gill

A major rescue had to be mounted
after an incident down

.  The two members who were concerned were
Derbyshire Caving Club and Glasgow University Spelio. Society, they had gone
down without permission during the closed season on the Fell.  Correspondence is taking place between
ourselves and the agents to try and repair the damage which the two clubs have
caused.  After this incident the Upper
Wharfedale Cave Rescue are contemplating the fixing of a permanent telephone
cable through the connection crawl. Would all cavers treat this wire with care and respect.

Other areas

Washfold Pot.  The farmer has been gripping the land in the
catchment area for Washfold.  Would all
cavers please not that the water now raises very quickly.


.  Cobbler Aven climber giving
up 1,000ft of new passage and is known as Mazeways 3. 

– Optimistic Cave now
127,000m long.  It is hoped to connect
this enormous system with the nearby

of 104,000m.  If this attempt is successful then this will
become the longest cave in the world. The current number 1 is mammoth Cave in


at 253,000m.  Alum Pot,

. Greasy Slab bolt is missing.  Now
requires a 12ft belay.  Tony Sutcliffe
wants information regarding Pipers Hole, Tresco on the Isles of Scilly.  His address is Dept. of Palaeontology,
(Natural History)


  The BEC explored Belfry Pot
(well known to G W-J and JD) has been descended by Paul Courbon and he has
carried on to the bottom of the PSM and out again by the same route.  I seem to remember G W-J stating that a full
trip would never be done – he said it in front of the audience at the 1975 BCRA
Conference as well!

New publications available.

Caves of Mulu by Brook and

.  44pp surveys and photos.  £2.00 from Bryan Ellis.


– a concise explanation.  Pub.
Dalesman.  32pp.  Price 50p.

Somerset Sump Index, revised by
Ray Mansfield.  Pub. CDG.  Price 50p from Oliver Lloyd.


Thrupe Lane Swallet

Even in this modern age of wet
suits and other caving clobber, cavers on Mendip still hold on to the old style
of dress, the good old woollies and boiler suits.  The following account by Marie Clarke gives
one a feeling of ‘Hell, I’ll keep to my warm and comfy rubber clothes…

During August 1977 Clive North invited me to accompany him
on a trip to Thrupe Lane Swallet, the weather had been inclement and the stream
was considerably swollen.

The route to the bottom of the cave was to be via
Perseverance Pot, Butt’s Chamber, Marble Chamber and the streamway to Atlas Pot.  From there on, the 20ft pitch to the
platform, followed by the descent of the muddy Slither Pot route and so arrive
at the bottom of Atlas.  This route was
chosen in preference to the Atlas Pitch, as the trip was being undertaken after
continual rain, and high waters were anticipated.  But how high, we were yet to discover.

The party consisted of Clive North, Richard Whitcombe, Simon
Meade-King, Dave Everett, plus a few members of the West London Caving Club,
including two novices and the writer.  Quite
a large party!

The first wetting was down Cowsh Crawl, but this was only a
minor indication of what was to follow. In Butt’s Chamber there was a sudden reshuffling of the boulder slope,
which quickly dispersed the cavers of the party.  This may well have been the result of the
water rushing through the mass of boulders. However, we proceeded to Marble Chamber where a shower bath greeted us,
reminiscent of a downpour above ground. The streamway looked high and I followed Clive who had become jammed in
the streamway with the outsize box he was carrying.  This contained equipment used at regular
intervals to flood light the cave; all extremely impressive.  But this was no time to become jammed with a
box as the water rose immediately behind us. We were an effective dam.  Care
was necessary at the head of Atlas Pot where the water that was rushing down
the streamway could easily sweep a caver over the pot.

It was agreed that the only possible route to the bottom of
the cave was by Slither Pot, and at this point above Atlas, the two novices and
one other caver turned back.  The descent
of the 20ft was uneventful, although when once on the platform it was very
draughty.  In fact, I shall always
remember that platform for the intense cold, which appeared to be caused by the
rush of water over the edge of Atlas and doubtless channelled up Slither.

As I only use a carbide lamp and the trip seemed to be
lengthy, I was allowed second down the pitch. I found I had run out of rungs before reaching the bottom, but a swing
on the ladder to a more or less convenient boulder and I was down.  Dave Everett followed me being the only other
carbide caver in the party, and with Simon we went to look at the Atlas stream
thundering over the boulders.  To
accomplish this we crawled under a low arch which seemed to assume a magnitude
of almost a sump, and climbed up about 8ft to witness the magnificent spectacle
of a thundering cascade.  On my return
under the low arch the draught blew out my lamp and I was plunged into darkness
and up to my neck in water.  Simon rushed
to my aid and we both tried to re-light the lamp, but without success.  By this time Dave, who was still on the Atlas
side of the arch was also plunged into darkness, so Simon hurried off to Dave’s

By this time two more cavers had arrived at the bottom of
the pitch, but none of us could re-light the lamps. So we patiently waited for Clive’s box to arrive with the
matches.  Lamps once again lit, Clive
decided that Dave and I would have to return up the pitch because of our
inadequate lighting, and also on account of my wearing the usual caving gear of
boiler suit and woollens, not possessing a wet suit like the rest of the
cavers; or like Clive, who was wearing a dry suit.  I was beginning to feel cold and even wet
suited cavers were complaining too, of the cold.

While climbing the 70ft pitch, at about 20ft from the top I
became aware of not possessing as much strength in the right arm as the
left.  This was due to having torn a
ligament some months previously; and I was feeling the unwelcome results of
this minor injury.  This I felt was no time
to discover my incapacity, so exerted extra effort; to battle my way up the
remainder of the ladder.  Once at the top
I experienced some difficulty in untying the bowline, but was assisted by the

It was while waiting near the platform below the 20ft pitch,
that shivering spasms began, the effects of exposure I knew.  Soon afterwards, Dave Everett joined me here,
and I told him that I was experiencing shivering spasms.  He decided that we would make our way out as
soon, as the next caver arrived equipped with a NiFe cell.  Dave and I could not attempt the exit
together, as it seemed impossible to negotiate the 20ft pitch without being
plunged into darkness by spray from the stream and our lamps were now burning
low.  Matches and spares in Clive’s box
were somewhere at the bottom of the cave!

However, when the next caver did arrive he was reluctant to
climb the 20ft pitch without a lifeline for fear of being swept off the ladder
and down Atlas Pot.  It should be
remembered that the trip was being undertaken in high water conditions and the
water was running over the ladder.

So the three of us waited for another caver to appear who
would climb the 20ft pitch and light it for Dave and I if necessary.  However, there seemed to be some delay at the
70ft Pitch, and my shivering spasms continued. I may have been standing on the platform for nearly half an hour; when
Dave took the initiative and decided to climb and I would follow.  At this, the reluctant third caver sprung
into action and climbed first after all, lighting the pitch for Dave and
I.  The climb was straight forward and
presented no difficulty, though very wet, and now fortunately we were both well
lighted for our exit.

Once I started climbing the shivering stopped and did not
re-occur even after another soaking in the streamway.  Our progress out of the cave may have been a
little slower than the descent, but this was to be expected.  The extra weight of clothes, when soaked, is
considerable and only fully realised when removed after a trip.  The only incident at Perseverance Pot was
when Dave’s light finally failed before reaching the top.  My light was barely glowing and after a short
distance was completely extinguished and so we three reached the entrance shaft
caving on the Nife cell only!

Form this experience I have learned, that once thoroughly
soaked you must keep moving and above all, especially where there are ladders
to climb, on this occasion there were four, it is essential to prevent the
circulation from cutting off to the hands. I do this by wearing a pair of nylon gloves under rubber gloves and when
wet can be wrung out if necessary.  Also
on this occasion I warmed by hands by placing them on my neck as it was vital
to be able to grip the rungs of the ladders.

Regarding the shivering spasms, I was fully conversant with
the consequences if this state continued, but I was also determined to reach
the surface again and I knew I could do it without help.  Determination increased tolerance and I
remained calm, and also being a caver of some experience I felt I was capable
of climbing all the ladders, and take further soaking in the streamway.  Never for one moment did I entertain the
thought that I should not regain the surface.

Congratulations To Roy Pearce

‘Caves in Camera’ is the title of an appreciation of the
cave photographer and member of the club – Roy Pearce.  He has the privilege to address the zoology
section of the British Association. Those who know


will be well aware of his series of ‘bug’ photographs that are quite unique.



– Corchia

The search for the Main Drain of
the Carchia and the discovery of 150 unexplored cave entrances are some of the
ingredients in Stan Gee’s 3rd Italian report….      

Having returned from the Apuan Alps I am able to give you a
more up-to-date account of the work carried out and the progress made in the
area of the Antro del Corchia and Buca del Cacciatore (Abbisso Fighiera)

In the Antro del Corchia, now established as deepest Italian
cave at -950 metres, an attempt to blow open a supposed higher entrance has failed
and the project abandoned.  This attempt
was made because no connection has yet been found between the Corchia and the
adjacent Abisso Fighiera.  In fact hopes
of a connection are fading because the Fighiera is heading in the wrong direction
entirely.  However, it still seems
inconceivable that two caves of such a size and close proximity should not

In the Fighiera, 4 bottoms have been reached between -800
and 850m, the deepest of these ends in a siphon and is in a part that is
heading well away from the Corchia. Explorations and the survey have been held up due to adverse weather
conditions during the winter and spring. In fact there was two feet of snow on July 12th.  Another problem has been the closing of the
Tavolino quarry road due to vandalism and theft of quarry machinery.

This road gives access (land rover type vehicles) to within
a few hundred feet of the summit and the alternative is a 3 – 4 hours slog up
4,000ft of big, big hill.  To date some 7
kilometres of passage have been surveyed and it is estimated that about another
5 – 6 kilometres remain to be surveyed. The main galleries, which are described as a labyrinth, are heading away
from the Corchia and towards the nearby Tana del Vomo Salvattico (The lair of
the primitive man or Wildman) and, in fact, towards the main Corchia resurgence
‘la Pollacia’ or ‘Spring of Bitter water’. It has been suspected for some time that a main drain exists between the
Corchia bottom and la Pollacia, some 4 kilometres away, and that this drain
takes water from Vomo Salvattico and probably from Buca del Cane as well.  It is possible that the Figheria is not going
to touch the Corchia at all but drop straight down into this main drain.  If this happens then the Figheria is
certainly in line for the deepest known cave as it must enter the drain at a
point below the present known bottom of the Corchia.

The access restrictions that were in force last year appear
to have been lifted and nobody seems to be bothered about who goes down
now.  One of the local groups G.S.


are hoping to erect a hut close to the entrance of Figheria.  This will be known as the Bivacco or Capanne
‘A. Lusa’, in memory of Antonio Lusa who died last year.  The bivouac will sleep about 8 in beds and 4
on the floor and will be available to C.A.I. members only or others by
arrangement.  This should ease
tremendously the problem of winter exploration and it should be completed about
October this year.

Our own explorations this year were centred on the Buca del
Cane which was descended by Nigel Dibben and two Italian friends.  Unfortunately, the hoped for extension above
the last pitch proved to be too tight for further progress.  After last years futile search the caves of
Monte Forato were eventually found. These proved to be copper mines breaking into natural cave almost
immediately.  Nothing much was known
about these caves and the Italians, generally, don’t bother too much about
caves-cum-mines.  Undoubtedly they are in
the right area but are severely blocked by miner’s debris and thus require
extensive excavation.

A visit was made to the area at the back of the Pania del la
Croce and particularly to Panio del Vomo Morto (Dead Man’s Gulch) and Val de
Inferno.  It turned out to be a very
interesting area containing about 150 known entrances, noted by G.S. Bologna
and including the Abisso Ravel, a single shaft of 950ft!

Many of these caves have not been explored and I feel that
there are many more entrances still to be found.  The area is particularly interesting as it
lies at approaching 5,500ft and some 4,000ft above the two large resurgences of
Grotta del Vento and la Tana che Urla (

Cave of

and Hole that Shrieks).  However the only
approach is on foot and though a rifugio exists nearby, all supplies have to be
brought up by mule from the nearest road some 3 – 4 hours walk away and it is a
steep climb.  This area could undoubtedly
stand a thorough investigation but its location prevents difficulties that
would require a lot of prior preparation. There are a number of good paths to the area but which ever approach is
made entails a long hard climb of at least 2½ – 3 hours and our initial
investigation suggested that the explorations will consist of mostly of deep
shaft work.  I doubt whether a
‘shoestring’ expedition would prove very effective.

Our friends from


report the discovery of a 19 kilometres long cave in the Lessini Alps.  Further information as it arrives.

A man has died of a heart attack whilst attempting to dive
the Corchia resurgence at la Pollacia.

Stan Gee.

(Ed. note: my apologies for the late publication of this

Stan adds the following notes for would be adventures:

A reasonable camp site can be found at Levigliani.  Costs, this year, were 500 lire a night
(about 32p).  This includes use of
toilets and wash basins. 


Food – a good evening in the restaurant costs about £2.00
including wine.

Beer – expensive, between 30 – 40p a small bottle, but
better quality than of previous years.

Spirits – very cheap. 1 litre of


about £1.20.

Wine – reasonable.  2
litres of red or white under £2.00.

Fags -very cheap, between 20p and 35p a packet.  The latter King size.

Petrol. – without coupons about £1.50 a gallon.

Rifugio – The use of rifugi by non-members is allowed but it
is expensive.  A word of warning, the
reciprocal arrangements between European Alpine Clubs only apply if you are a
national of that country of which you are a member.

Map based on the footpaths map published by CAI Lucca

Scale 1 – 50,000 (not very accurate)


Mountain  ridges


1.                  Buca del Serpente (A.C. lower entrance)

2.                  Antro del Corchia (old entrance)

3.                  Buca del Cacciatore (Abisso Fighiera)

4.                  Vomo Salvattico

5.                  Buca del Cane

6.                  The caves of Fredona

7.                  I a Pollacia (A.C. resurgence)

8.                  Tan ache Urla

A – B: – supposed line of the main drain.


Grand Mendip Digging Challenge



For a barrel of ale
to be bought by the losers.

All new cave passage found between 26th November 1978 and
the 25th November 1979


N.B. BEC winning to date – 12 feet in Wigmore Swallet!!!


© 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.