The
Bristol Exploration Club,
The Belfry,

Wells Road
,
Priddy, Wells,

Somerset

.

Telephone: Wells (0749) 72126.

Editor:  G.
Wilton-Jones

Frank Frost

FRANK FROST, known to more recent members of the B.E.C. only
through the song, but to older members as their arch-enemy, died last Tuesday,
April 21st.

He was a founder member of the Wessex Cave Club and was, for
a long time, their President.  He was
involved with the Wookey Hole dives of the thirties and was an M.R.O. warden
for many years.

Our condolences go to his relatives.

News

SHATTER, W/L, WITHYHILL: These caves have now been totally closed by the owners, prior to their
preparation as show-caves.  The entrances
are being completely blocked.  According
to

Hobbs
, this
is to ‘safeguard their interests ‘ within the caves.

OGOF PWLL GWYNT:  The
spelling, or even the name itself, are not certain.  However, a pothole has been dug into above
Agen Allwedd.  The pitches are 68′, 30′,
30′, 15′ and 15′, being a series of rifts ending in oolite with phreatic
passage.  The Shale band that is met in
the top of the Main Passage of Aggie has not been reached and it is therefore
thought possible that the pothole leads to fossil passages running above
Aggie.  The location of the pot is at the
top of the scree slope that cuts through the escarpment cliff just south of
Aggie entrance.

NATURE CONSERVANCY CONTROLLED CAVES: Legal bodies advising
the Nature Conservancy about caves within the land they control have
recommended that all caves be kept locked at all times.  This recommendation has now become one of the
rules of access, and clearly we must abide by this rule if we are not to
jeopardise agreements between cavers and the Nature Conservancy.  Unfortunately it means that, however we may
feel about such a situation, we must lock ourselves into such caves and take
keys with us.  The Nature Conservancy are
making frequent and thorough checks to see that cavers adhere to this
rule.  The caver named as leader on the
permit must be underground with a party using a particular key.  This poses problems for such an instance as
the Llangattwg camp, and we are currently trying to formulate a suitable
solution.

Martin Grass &
Bassett.

John & Sue Dukes new phone number is Shepton Mallett
2566.   Now you’ll be able to tell John
the good news almost instantly when you find all that tackle you borrowed, and
forgot about, and left in your garage or the boot of your car.,

 

Static In The Cairngorms

by Roy Bennett

The western drought had dissolved into the usual rain and we
had run away east to Glenmore where the sun still existed.  A moderate forecast was belied by blue sky
and tempted us to a longish walk through the Larig Ghru to Cairn Toul, the
furthest four-thousander.

Two hours walking gave first sight of the peak, the sun
vanished, and nasty looking mist crept down over the high corrie walls behind
us.  Rain came and went and in a little
while we left a convenient shelter boulder to strike up to, and up the north
east ridge of Cairn Toul to a damp summit.

Mist persisted with increasing blackness above as we set off
to the stony expanse of the Western Cairngorm plateau, using the edge of Braeriach’s
great rough corrie for guidance.  A
precautionary ice axe was on the rucksack, point uppermost.  On stopping to un-shoulder this, I was aware
of an odd cracking sound reminiscent of electricity pylons in damp
weather.  It was not imagination – the
sound was coming from the axe point, increasing as this was raised and ceasing
near the ground.  In such circumstances
mountaineers are advised to lie flat on the ground until the danger passes –
not very practical with slow moving weather, and three to four hours of high
ground still to cover.

We therefore carried on with the axe held low, one feeling a
bit like a mobile lightning conductor, in the flat, misty expanse.  The blackness gave out a few rumbles as it
was left behind, and it was several miles before the axe stopped crackling when
held aloft.  Eventually it could be
carried as before, and the trip was completed over the rest of the peaks to the
entrance of the Larig Ghru, and back to the van.  Darkness was only half and hour behind.

Lightning

As many members will know, I have quite a collection of
stories about encounters with lightning. Two accounts are possibly of interest
here, both from the
Pyrenees:

Jean-Francois Pernette, on hearing of our many walks over
the Lapiaz during severe lightning storms, told us that the sheep huddle
together in small groups during a storm. However, it is not uncommon to find such a group of sheep all dead,
having been struck by lightning.  Lying
on the ground obviously has little helpful effect!

Malcolm Jarratt (remember him?) &
Co.
went to the summit of Pic d’Arlas during a storm, or at least the prelude to
one.  At the summit a metal stake is
fixed in a special hole in the rock. Someone took it out, wondering what it was for.  On replacement it began to buzz with
electrical noise.  Never before have so
many B.E.C. members shot so quickly off the top of a hill – a hill which was
immediately afterwards struck by lightning.

The theory is that the metal spike emits electrical
particles far more readily than the rounded rock of the mountain top, making a
lightning strike unlikely or at least, less severe.

Basset.

 

Digging In Little Neath

River
Cave

by Stu Lindsey

About two years ago I looked at some of the passages around
the North Eat Inlets in Little Neath River Cave.  Last Easter, 1980, another visit with John
Watson confirmed the possibilities of a further visit to establish the
feasibility of attacking the stal’d streambed. This occasion had to wait until Easter 1981 when, armed with a lump
hammer and chisel, we descended on the dig.

With a lamp of dubious duration it was predetermined that we
would spend one and a half to two hours in the cave – we actually spent
three!  Attacking the smaller cobbles
revealed a possible cause of the silting up four largish boulders, up to thirty
pounds in weight, were wedged across the narrowest point.  Removing these and making the next two feet
of horizontal gain took the better part of three quarters of an hour.  Progress then changed dramatically – it was
just like digging on the beach!  The next
seven feet took half an hour, the greater part being getting the spoil out – no
spades or accessories.  Leaving the dig
four feet short of a chamber, judged by John to be up to three feet high and
fifteen wide, we “flooded” the dig by breaking into a large pool that
had been lurking on the left hand side. This has effectively put the small stream through the middle of the dig,
but progress onwards seems to necessitate following it for at least the next
twenty five feet.

Progress reports should be forthcoming, but let us hope not
after next Easter!

Quote of the month.

“I didn’t know what getting pissed was until I joined the
B.E.C.”  Mark Brown.

 

The Enigma Of

Cheddar
Caves

by Dave Irwin.

Simply because the ‘

Cheddar
Caves

are commercial show caves and access to these systems is often barred to
cavers, little is known of their histories. It is surprising, too, that the cave management themselves are also
vague regarding the early years of the Cox and Gough families activities in Cheddar
Gorge.

As a result of the renewed interest in Gough’s Cave by
members of the B.E.C. during the past year or so, making another assault in the
hope of finding the lost

river of
Cheddar
, the writer
has been attempting to read a history of the system.  The more references that were read, the more
questions were posed, while the answers led to more questions and few answers

It is strange, to say the least, that the authors of the
early 20th century gave outlines of the historical background to the exploration
of these caverns but each is subject to a different interpretation.  What the author intends to do in this article
is to set down a number of questions and then attempt to answer them from
several noted authorities.  The term
‘authorities’ has been used in the broadest sense though several must be
regarded as being dubious, their sources of information having been copied from
earlier and often inaccurate sources.

There are three caves involved in our discussions: Gough’s
Old
Cave;
Gough’s

New
Caves
; Cox’s Cave.

When was Cox’s Cave discovered?

Complete caves of Mendip: (
Barrington
&

Stanton
)
p. 58 (1977)

“The cave was discovered in
1837 during the widening of the road, and was at once commercialised by Mr.
Cox.”

Heart of Mendip: (Knight) p. 439 (1915)

“Cox’s Cave, first
discovered in 1837, in the course of digging out foundations for a
stable…..”

The Story of Cheddar (Thorneycroft)         p. 52 (1949)

(quote from an old guide book)
“But the

Stalactite
Cave
, discovered in 1837
by Mr. George Cox”

The Story of Cheddar (Thorneycroft)         p. 65 (1949)

“About the year 1837 Mr. Cox
was the owner of a great mill behind what we now know as the

Cliff
Hotel

….needing more room for storage purposes and for parking his carts he
commenced to cut back into the cliff face…..”

Cheddar, Its Gorge and Caves (Balch) p. 10 (1947)

“He (Cox) was the owner of
the grist mill behind the

Cliff
Hotel
, worked by the
water of the big pond.  Requiring room
for his carts, or for the conveyances of visitors to his hotel, he commenced to
cut back the rock, and in doing so found the entrance to the cave.  This was in 1837.”

Cheddar, Its Gorge and Caves (Balch) p. 14 (1947)

“Inspired by his relative,
the late Edward Cox, whose cave opposite the

Cliff
Hotel

had attracted much attention in the ’30’s and ’40’s of the last century, the
late R.C. Gough .. “

History of Mendip Caving (Johnson)  p. 167 (1967)

“It was discovered in 1837
by Edward Cox, but there seem to be no authentic contemporary accounts of the
circumstances leading up to its discovery. The most common version of the tale is that Cox, was digging into the
rock face to provide more room for his carriages, and this seems as likely as
any other.”


Mendip
Cave
Bibliography, Part
II: (Shaw) No. 180A. (1972)

(Title of handbill. c 1857)
“Cheddar Cliffs, Somersetshire.
The most wonderful production of nature in this
Island
is the Stalactite Cavern, discovered by Mr. Cox in 1838….” (Shaw corrects
this date to 1837)


Mendip
Cave
Bibliography, Part
II: (Shaw) No. 180A. (1972)

(There are further handbills
noted, all quoting the same date. These are nos: 180B, 182)


Mendip
Cave
Bibliography, Part
II: (Shaw) No. 185. (1972)

(Title of handbill, 1888?)
“Cox’s Stalactite Cavern, accidentally discovered 1837-1838, …”

A Guide to Cheddar (Stevens) Adverts p.7 (1869)

(Advertisements)
“Cheddar Cliffs, Somersetshire.
Visited by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. The most wonderful production of nature in this
Island
is the STALACTITE CAVERN, discovered by Mr. Cox, in 1838…..”

A Guide to Cheddar (Stevens) Adverts p.29 (1869)

“This marvellously beautiful
cavern was discovered accidentally in the year 1837, by the late Mr. Cox, when
digging in front of his mill for the purpose of erecting a shed or
stable.”

From the above ten references, though there are others (all
the early Cox’s handbills. and advertisements state the discovery as being in
1838), there appears to be doubt cast on the often quoted 1837.  It is, of course, possible that 1837 was the
year in which the cave was discovered and that 1838 saw the opening of the cave
to the public.  The handbill (Shaw, no.
185) which states “discovered 1837-38” probably indicates the time in
which the cave was being explored and prepared for the “official”
opening.  The one clear fact that emerges
is that Mr. Cox, the owner of the mill, was clearing the area near his property
for a shed or coach house.  But which Mr,
Cox?  Was it Edward or George?

Shaw, in Mendip Bibliography, Part II (no 179) lists the
Cheddar, Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the Parish of Cheddar and
states: “includes records of the families of Cox (including George Cox,
discoverer of the cave)….”  Another
reference in the same work (no 442A) Kelly’s Post Office Directory of
Somersetshire with the City of
Bristol (1861)
details George Cox as ”
Cliff
Hotel and

Pleasure
Gardens
, & proprietor
of the stalactite cavern”. Thorneycroft, too, lists the discoverer as Mr. George Cox. Both Balch
and Johnson give the name Edward (probably Johnson used Balch as his
reference).

Kelly’s Guide is of little use in this matter, because
though Stevens refers to “the late Mr. Cox” (1861) the Guide was
published some eight years earlier.  It
must be assumed on present evidence that the discoverer was George, and that
Johnson was wrong, but it is interesting to note that he is only referred to as
being the “proprietor” in Kelly’s Guide and not “the discoverer
and proprietor”. Though George is quoted by more than one source it just
might be that he was the proprietor of the

Cliff
Hotel

in the 1850’s and not the actual discoverer of the cave.

The next question: When did the Prince of Wales visit Cox’s Cave?

The postcards published by the Cox’s Cave management from
1904 onwards include in their title “Visited by King Edward VII (or, after
1910, “Visited by the Late King Edward VII).  This perhaps begs another question when did
King Edward VII visit the cave.  The
answer is to be found, not in any regular reference, but in a Cox’s Cave
souvenir booklet of c. 1910.  Here,
inside the front cover, is a clear statement that the King had indeed visited
the cave when he was 15 or 16 years old (c 1857).

In 1903 Arthur Gough, (eldest son of Richard, the discoverer
of Gough’s

New
Cave
) discovered the skeleton of the
‘Cheddar Man’ in the Skeleton Pit.

Gough’s Cave, since its opening to the public at Christmas
1898 (Johnson, p. 172), he’d become a severe commercial threat to Cox’s
Cave.  Both managements made exaggerated
claims of the smallest discovery and following the unearthing of the skeleton
Gough’s made the most of the event.  In
fact the discovery made national news – this meant free publicity.  Cox’s had nothing “to sell”.  Their luck come in 1904, for Martel visited
Cheddar with Balch, Baker, etc. and after visiting both show caves, claimed (in
Cox’s visitors’ book) that Cox’s was one of the finest caves he had seen.  Whether he meant this or not, Cox’s went all
out and their hoardings, booklets and postcards all proclaimed that Martel
thought their cave the best out of 600 caves visited by the great French
explorer.

That was in June 1904. During July Cox’s made it known that King Edward VII had visited their
cave and, with the King a popular figure throughout the country, this must have
brought the people flocking in. According to the Cox’s booklet, on August 1st a third party rejected
this and issued a statement to the effect that the King had not visited the
cave and that the public should not be misled by this.  It is pretty obvious that this statement
could only have been issued by the Goughs and, as politicians never refer to
their opponents by name in an election, Cox’s refrained from naming the Goughs
as it would have amounted to free advertising for the opponent in their own
publicity material!  However, on the 16th
August 1904, Cox’s had received a letter from the King’s Secretary stating that
he had visited the cave about 1857.  So,
perhaps by modern trading standards this would not be acceptable. The King had
not visited the cave, but the man himself had.

And so to our next question: When did Richard Cox Gough, the
discoverer of Gough’s
New
Cave, become involved with Gough’s

Old
Cave
?

Gough’s

Old
Cave
seems to disappear
into the mists of time and it is fairly certain that this cave was the earliest
show cave in Cheddar.  Rutter, not the
most reliable of topographical writers says (p. 186):

“The visitor is not, however, permitted to enjoy or
contemplate the scene, without perpetual interruption from the resident
females, who unremittingly persevere in offering for sale, small, polished
specimens of rocks, or in recommending a visit to the several caves, few of
which are either striking or capacious. From a ledge of rock in front of the entrance, to the cave above that,
which has formed the comfortless habitation of a poor woman for upwards of
twenty years, the view amply compensates for the roughness of the ascent, being
considerably heightened by a bold, insulating mass of rock, rising
perpendicularly in front, on the opposite side of the chasm.  One cave above is deserving of a visit, its
entrance is nearly 100 feet above the valley, and it penetrates full 300 feet
beneath the rocks.  Its interior is
rugged and uneven, branching into several spacious vaults, producing a fine
echo.  Its roof and sides are covered
with stalactites, whose fantastic shapes have been gradually named after such
animate or inanimate things, as the lively imagination of the exhibitors or
visitors, have fancied them to resemble.”

The description implies that the old woman lived in a cave
with a ledge of rock below the entrance. This is probably Pride Evans Hole, though it could be a view from the
entrance to Gough’s Old Cave – bearing in mind that the Gorge must once have
been quite impressive before quarrying took place by the first bend (towards
the modern car parks).

Stevens (p. 21) also mentions a cave where a woman once
lived, and also describes Cooper’s Hole.

“Passing the lime-kiln (author’s comment – below Lion
Rock) and two or three cottages, there suddenly appears a fine effect of varies
outline, with abrupt rocks on either side. On the right the ground slopes upwards, partly covered with grass and
small shrubs…. On the left the precipitous rocks, arranged in terraced forms,
add yet more to the pleasing diversity of the scene.  A large arched cavern at the base of the
slope affords excellent shelter in a shower, from which, with the outlines of
arch as the boundary to the picture, pleasing sketches might be made, as the
effect of light and shade on a bright day present to the observer numerous
subject for the pencil.  On the opposite
side from this cave, about mid way in the height of the rock, another cavern is
seen, where for many years an old woman took up here residence; a rugged path
leads thereto for those disposed to explore it”

The two caves described by Stevens are without doubt
Cooper’s Hole and Pride Evan’s Hole (one wonders if any of the B.E.C. members
have been disposed to sketch the scene during their recent digging operations!)

The cave described by Rutter is probably that which we know
today as Gough’s Old.  The height up the
cliff face is about right and so too is the length.  Another reference to the cave:

“A Guide to Cheddar……” (Stevens) p. 20 (1869)

“near this point, forcing
their way from several outlets, are the streams that supply the lake, rushing
out impetuously from the base of the rocks, or bubbling up from beneath the
surface, and together forming such a volume of water, that those in ignorance
of the springs on the summit of the hills must be struck with surprise as to
its source.  In the vicinity of this
confluence are two caves, one of considerable extent, which has recently been
made accessible, and can be inspected for a small charge; but the stalactites
have been broken off and removed, and as a substitute, the walls have been
carved with names, dates and other barbarisms, to execute which seems to be the
chief delight of a certain class of English people.”

History of Mendip Caving: (Johnson) p. 171 (1967)

“There are no authentic
records of the discovery of this cave, though a local story has it that it was
entered through a hole in a garden of an old couple who showed visitors round
it at sixpence a head, an expensive charge in those days.”

Complete Caves of Mendip (
Barrington
and

Stanton
) p.
90 (1977)

“The cave was shown to the
public before 1837 and was fully opened about 1875 -1880 by R.C. Gough.”

“The Story of Cheddar.” (Thorneycroft) p. 52
(1949)

(quote from old guide book)
“Although limestone ranges generally abound with caverns or caves, and
there can be no doubt many such are within the cliffs, yet previously to the
discovery of the stalactite cave, the only one of any extent which has been
exhibited to the public, is that which lies on the right side of the cliffs,
opposite the lime-kiln, about 90 feet from the road.  It has been explored to the length of about
300 feet, and takes a north-east direction; there is nothing remarkable within
it, either of stalactite or stalagmite, or mineral incrustation”.

“The Story of Cheddar.” (Thorneycroft) p. 60 (1949)

“The Goughs were the first to
open caverns for public inspection – quickly followed by the Cox family, and
great rivalry developed between the two, one always vying with the other to
show the public the ‘latest and greatest’ discoveries”.

“The Story of Cheddar.” (Thorneycroft) p. 57 (1949)

(Quote from a letter by William
Gough)
“The caves discovered by my father, the late Richard Cox Gough; in 1877
are not now on view and it is doubtful if they ever will be as the new caves he
discovered on the same premises about 80 yards away in 1898 far surpass
anything discovered in Cheddar up to date 1947”.

Heart of Mendip (Knight) p. 440 (1915)

“Much more extensive….is the
cave discovered by Gough, just forty years later.  Its original entrance of vestibule, in which
carts were often stabled, and in which at times people even lived, was long
familiar to visitors who followed the road winding through the Gorge, but it
was not until 1877 that the real character of the cavern was made known and its
wonders first revealed.  It was, indeed,
only after years of arduous labour spent in clearing away vast accumulations of
earth and in the blasting through many feet of solid rock, that a way was
opened into that series of chambers extending far into the heart of the hills,
whose marvellous features have made Gough’s Cave so justly famous as one of the
most remarkable stalactite caverns in the world”.

Mendip Bibliography: (Shaw) Part II No 350 (1972)

“(1866 is the year in which
Gough developed Gough’s

Old
Cave
.)”

Mendip Bibliography: (Shaw) Part II No 351 (1972)

“See Gough’s New Great
Stalactite Cavern, discovered November 12th 1877, opposite the far-famed Lion
Rock. (Shaw continues) A descriptive leaflet of (Gough’s

Old
Cave
)
including the extensions found on 12th Nov. 1877″.

It would seem from the Rutter extract that visits were made
to Gough’s

Old
Cave
; probably they were taken in by the
villagers for a few pence.  Shaw stated
that Gough became involved with the cave in 1866 whereas other authorities give
the date as being 1877.  Stevens also
implies that the cave had been modified to make access easier, but
Barrington &

Stanton

put this date later at 1875-1880.

There seems to be confusion all round!  If the Shaw date is correct and it is to a
degree supported by Stevens, then many authorities have mistaken the 1877 date
which was none other than Gough’s discovery of the 3rd chamber.  Thorneycroft has got himself into a fine old
mess – at one time he says (from an old guide) Gough’s Old is said to be older
than Cox’s (as a show cave) William Gough states that the cave was discovered
in 1877 (but Dad must always be the hero!) and finally, Thorneycroft states
that the Goughs were the first to open a show cave in Cheddar.  The author feels that Thorneycroft had
confused the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ caves and if all is sorted out then the story
will make sense.  Knight is even more at
sea – the ‘New’ cave was not discovered in 1877 but between 1892 and 1898 again
he has confused the 1877 extension in the ‘Old’ cave.  Johnson is delightfully vague.

What justification have we for saying that Gough’s

New
Caves

were discovered in 1892 and extended in 1893 and 1898.  Most authorities give 1893 as the date of the
breakthrough but Johnson gives the discovery of the Fonts as October 1892 and
further digging and blasting opened up the cave as far as the Swiss Village on
16th January 1893 (History of Mendip Caving, p.172, (Johnson).  Thorneycroft writes: “About 1893 Gough
and his sons made a very great effort and broke through into the lofty fissure
near what has become known as the Fonts…” Thus Thorneycroft is giving room for uncertainty. He goes on to say that
the Goughs installed gas lighting, later to be superseded with electric
light.  He makes no mention of the date
of the opening up of
St. Paul’s and Solomon’s

Temple
area except to say
“some time later”.  William
Gough’s letter published in Thorneycroft gives the date of the discovery of the
new cave as 1898 and so we are faced with the definition of the word
‘discovery’.  In summary, the references
all give the date of the initial discovery as being 1893 but it is possible
that the initial breakthrough was made in October 1892.  The fact that Johnson Quotes and month and
year implies that he had a reference not yet found by the author.  There are numerous descriptions of the new
cave entrance before digging commenced and the date of 1890 is quoted in a few
books but there appears to be no contemporary reference to the starting date
and so cannot be assumed an exact date.

Using the references quoted above and additional information
from the same sources the story would appear to be something like the
following:

Gough’s

Old
Cave
has been accessible
at least since the early years of the 19th century, with villagers taking
visitors around this cave and also Great Oones and Long Hole.  Cox’s was discovered by Edward (or George)
Cox in 1837 whilst making a clearing for a coach house and he opened the cave
to the public in 1838. Gough became involved, or at least interested, in the
Old Cave about 1866 (Boyd Dawkins had dug there in 1863) and joined company
with Jack and Nancy Beauchamp, later to buy them out of the business.  In 1897 and on later occasions he made
further discoveries in the cave.  (Johnson
is completely at sea over this subject as he suggests that Gough opened up
Gough’s Old Cave before Cox made his discovery in 1837 – as Gough was born in
1827 he was quite an enterprising youngster!). References have already been made to the large cave entrance below
Gough’s

Old
Cave
– the entrance to the cave we know
today – as being a site large enough to store carts and other objects.
Barrington &

Stanton

claim that Gough could not dig there until an old lady died – this was in
1890.  By late 1892 he had broken through
to the ‘Fonts’ and by 1893 had opened up the main passage up to the

Swiss
Village
.  On November 12th 1898 he, Richard Cox Gough,
had broken into the remainder of the cave. Johnson claims that the opening date was Christmas Day, 1898, but what
is certain is that electric light was installed and used in 1899.  In that year a Cox’s Cave publication bore
the following: “Cox’s Stalactite Cavern, lighted by Welsbach Incandescent,
a brilliant white light, superior to Electricity.”

That then is the skeleton of the early history of the two
caves but much research is now needed to fill in the details.  Who was Richard Cox Gough?  Where was he born?  Who was Edward Cox (or George)?  Confusion abounds and a long term search for
material is now the only way to determine the history of the two caves.  Maybe most of the story will be lost in the
mists of time – a little mystery will help to brighten up the story, no doubt!

 

Monthly Notes

CAR THEFTS:  If there
is a B.E.C./Wessex digging barrel again this year, then this snippet should be
worth at least 1000 feet of passage.  The
accosting, pursuit and eventual arrest of a car full of the culprits just
before Easter was a major talking point for some of us at the
South
Wales
meet.  Since someone
has promised to write down for us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but
the truth, I will say no more.  Let us
hope that thefts from caver’s cars will now cease,

SOUTH WALES, EASTER:  This meet must count as one of the most
successful yet, with everybody and his dog in attendance.  There are two articles about the meet in this
B.B., and I have been PROMISED others. By way of excuse, any typing errors in this B.B. are entirely due to my
fingers being torn to pieces through excessive caving and my brain/neuron being
numbed by excessive drinking.

GAPING GHYLL: If you have not ordered your beer by now, you
are too late. You’ll have to buy your own and carry it up yourself.  Don’t forget the dates, Friday May 22nd until
Monday May 25th.  See y’all there.

BIG MENDIP FIND: Rumour has it that a 4000 foot cave has been discovered on Mendip.  No-one knows where or by whom, or even if it
is true at all.  However, there is
usually some truth in the rumours of Mendip! We shall see.

ST. CUTHBERT’S SWALLET: Sump I is gradually choking up with cobbles again and could do with a
good clear out.  Could anyone who goes
that way please remove a few rocks or handfuls of gravel.  If not we shall have to arrange a special
trip for a massive dig in the sump.  Tim
has been hard at work putting in the new pipe-work below the entrance dam.  However, all the water seems to be sinking
further back these days and the entrance rift is virtually dry on most
occasions.  Maypole sink is taking lot of
water, and the Coral Chamber stream has grown considerably over the last few months.

TACKLE: A great deal of tackle has gone missing recently –
particularly a large number of new tethers and spreaders.  John has said that he will withdraw tackle
from the store altogether if the situation does not improve, and tackle will
then only be issued from his house.  If
you have ANY B.E.C. tackle, please return it NOW.

Bassett

Peak Cavern

Far Sump may now justifiably be re-named Farr Sump – Martyn
Farr recently dived here and passed the sump after 1330 feet.  On the other side is half a mile of mostly
large passage.  The most surprising find
is that T’owd man was there first.  There
are miner’s deads and stemples up in rifts. Obviously there is, or was, another route into this section of the cave,
and the present assumption is that the miners came from somewhere in the
Speedwell system.

Eat your heart out, Jerry Murland!

 

Ogof Rhyd Sych

by Graham Wilton-Jones

South of the Brecon Beacons and only just north of the
sprawling industrial ugliness of Merthyr Tydfil two little streams grow on the
Upper Old Red Sandstone slopes of Garn Ddu: Nant Cwm-moel (bare valley stream)
and Nant y Glais come together and flow across the limestone outcrop to meet
the Taf Feehan just below the Glais bridge. The little valley created by the combined streams, reputed to be the
haunt of otters, is not so bare for its lower kilometre, being attractively
wooded with alder and hazel.  Typical of
streams in limestone country, this one is intermittent, frequently sinking in
its rocky bed or banks to resurge further down. The first sinks, upstream beyond the wood, have given rise to Ogof-y-Ci,
whose single stream passage of about 500 metres parallels the
Nant-y-Glais.  Ogof-y-Ci resurgence,
which lies just underneath its main entrance, is somewhat over 600m upstream of
the

Glais
Bridge
. Only 100m up from the bridge is another interesting site, first looked
at (underground) by Roger Wing and Derek Sanderson, back in 1972.  They did not push on through the easily
dig-gable, low passage and, as far as I am aware, no-one has visited the site
since. (see B.B. no. 340, p54).  A little
over 400m upstream from the bridge the valley sides steepen and close in, and
the stream runs through a small gorge, straight and with vertical sides about
6m high and 6m apart.  At the head of the
gorge a series of natural steps lead down the eastern edge to an obvious
entrance in the east wall.  This is Ogof
Rhyd Sych –

Dry
Ford
Cave
.

Martin Grass and I visited Rhyd Sych this Easter Monday,
allegedly to help Clive Westlake and Ian Davinson with their photography.  We had originally planned to go over to Pant
Mawr Pot, but no other B.E.C. members fancied the long walk over the moor (it
takes about an hour) and the pubs were open all day.  Since the weather was settled, almost fine,
Rhyd Sych seemed an ideal alternative – it is prone to very severe
flooding.  Furthermore it is only a short
walk from the road, and Clive knows the cave quite well.  Ray and Sue of the Eldon P.C. joined us, and
we set off into the spacious passage, with its small stream trickling over the
floor.  This beautiful entrance suddenly
reduces to a low, narrow duck at the end of a pool which covers the floor of
the ‘main chamber’.  Today there was
plenty of airspace but it does not take much rain to sump this section.

From the far side of the duck we dropped through a hole into
a crawl, then down another hole into a pool, out of which we crawled into the
first bedding plane.  The whole of the
next section of the cave, a major part of it, appears to be dominated by
bedding planes.  These angle down gently
and progress is generally across the strike and a little upwards.  The floors and grooves are well scalloped.  The first and second bedding planes are easy
enough, but the third is what the French would call ‘etroiture impenetrable’
and what normal cavers call extremely low and tight.  The stream can be heard through the fissure,
which is just wide enough to accept small people, and this only at one point.  Clive went through with little difficulty,
but Ian and Ray found the squeeze impossible. After three attempts I managed to get through – I found that the
tightest part was only a metre or so in, where a scallop projection pressed
right against my sternum.  Sue followed
me easily but Martin did not bother to try – he and the others went off to look
for the bypass.

On the far side of the bedding plane, some 20m beyond the
squeeze, we three came upon the stream, flowing down the far side of the
slope.  Following up the near side of the
water we popped up through a hole into a parallel bedding, and thence into the
streamway proper.  The passage upstream
becomes a narrow rift, and after climbing up one small waterfall we reached the
other end of the bypass and went off to search for the others.  Much confusion followed our attempts to
communicate with them – there were a couple of Pegasus members wandering around
in the complexities of the bypass and, amidst all the shouting, nobody was
really quite sure who anyone else was – but eventually we were altogether once
more, Clive and I had collected Ian’s gear from back through the third bedding
plane, and we could continue upstream.

After climbing up a couple of short waterfalls we found
ourselves in yet more bedding plane crawls. The floor has been deeply etched by interconnecting channels which take
the stream, and our progress here was particularly uncomfortable.  Although the bedding plane is wide and there
are several routes, the obvious way, in or close to the stream, seemed to be
the best choice.  After a couple of
‘false starts’ – brief enlargements of the passage with a few formations – a
final crawl brought us into the first of the large chambers.  The stal here is good, showing the sparkle of
crystal facets that Shatter used to possess. The most obvious feature of this chamber is a large stal column up on a
shelf of stale upstream from here the passage quickly enlarges to the
proportions one expects of Welsh caves. It is necessary to climb through and over stal; very carefully, to reach
the start of this large passage.  A big
boulder pile follows, which we crossed by the right hand wall and thence we
went down a loose looking climb – we were given the usual warning about the
wall and ourselves being in immanent danger of becoming the floor – to the stream
once more.  Up a little climb on the left
out of the stream led us back into the final stretch of big passage.  We dropped down a stal slope to a pitch
overlooking the end chamber.  On the
extreme right hand side it was possible to free-climb down to the chamber
floor, where the stream flows gently over gravel, out of a boulder choke.  The main formation here is a calcite flow
covered in minigours and forming a canopy over a crystal floor with nests of
cave pearls.

Having acted as models in a number of photographs Martin and
I had to head out – we had been four hours so far and fully expected to be a
further hour and a half making exit.  The
chambers are not places to hurry through, the stal deserving more than just a
brief glimpse.  However, ignoring the
splendours of the place, we reached the bypass to the third bedding plane in
only twenty minutes.  Where the water is
quite deep in the rift streamway there is another rift leading off to the left.  Along here 4m there is a hole 1m up in the
right wall.  Through here we climbed up
and followed back over the top of the previous passage until we crossed over
the course of the stream (not visible). The choice was now left or right. Turning left brought us to ‘the S bend’ which we both found reasonably easy.  A little further on we dropped down a short
step into a cross passage.  Down the dip
leads eventually to a tight connection into the stream, but the way on is to go
down only a couple of metres of the passage and then turn right into a
parallel, down-dip passage.  Most of this
series of passages is crawling (hands and knees with some flat out) and Martin
describes it as ‘very like Mendip passage, Goatchurch maybe’.  The route is fairly obvious now, and a slight
draught helped us on the correct way.  ‘Wrong’
side passages seemed to close down rapidly. Eventually we reached a squeeze through stal, closely followed by
another.  We were back where I had been
earlier – a low descent over gours brought us down to the passage that
separates the second and third bedding planes. Looking up from the third bedding plane squeeze, we had come out of the
bypass by the right hand passage.  I have
dwelt at length and in some detail on the bypass passage as it could be the
essential route for anyone of average or above average proportions.  However, it is not (as stated in Caves of
South Wales,

Stratford
)
much longer than the normal route, nor is it very tight anywhere.  We took ten minutes through this section –
the normal route via the third bedding plane would take a similar time.

A further ten minutes saw us out of the cave and cleaning
off all the mud of the entrance crawls in the entrance pool.  We were well satisfied with an excellent trip
and both intend to go back to photograph the end chambers and their magnificent
formations for ourselves.

 

Bournemouth Underground

by Chris Smart.

The title of Bournemouth Underground and the location –

Dean Park Road
may
mislead some people as, to my knowledge, there is an absence of caves or mines
in the
Bournemouth locality.  However, to quote one old saying (by Fred
Davies) “Caves is where you find them!”  Perhaps, more realistically, I may quote
another old adage which will explain this short article – “It may be sh*t
to you but its bread & butter to me.”

For the two sunniest Saturdays in April I was seconded for
employment to the firm of Kenmac, who are well known throughout the Engineering
world as tunnelling specialists.  Their
problem was connecting one 30m deep shaft to another of similar depth
approximately 700m away by a horizontal and straight tunnel.  For the technical, the tunnel contractors are
working to a specification of ± 35mm. off the true centre line.  Such a tolerance does not leave much room for
error and for that reason the use of a gyrotheodolite was required.  Such an instrument consists of a large
plum-bob suspended on a fine wire that is motored up to 22,000 revolutions per
minute about its own axis.  The plumb-bob
is then slowly released and comes into harmony about the earth’s own rotational
inertia, making it possible to track and measure its oscillations about true
North.  By such a method the pointing of
True North can be determined to approximately 20 seconds of arc.  By prior knowledge of the azimuth of the
required line between shafts it is therefore both possible and simple to turn
to required pointing and check the tunnel construction.

This construction is currently in the sedimentary
Bournemouth rock sand and tunnelling is the preserve of a
small bunch of ‘paddies’.  The ‘sand’ is
too soft to require the use of chemical persuasion and similarly too hard to
permit the use of picks and spades. Consequently the tunnel is inched forward by the use of hydraulic jacks
that bite into the sand and the spoil is then loaded onto a small wagon that is
towed out by a small diesel locomotive. All this may make the tunnel seem enormous, but the cutting produces a
1.8m diameter drive and this is then reduced to a 1.6m tunnel by the circular
concrete lining.



Mendip
Cave
Survey Scheme.

The following surveys of

Mendip
Caves

are available as dyeline copies. Prices quoted are correct at the time of this
printing.

If you require any of the following surveys then either
write to me or see me at the Belfry, when I frequently have a selection with
me.

Code

Survey

Price

4-1

9-5

6-2

2-5

2-1

8-4&5

6-1

7-9

5-5

8-7

8-6

9-3

7-8

8-3

1-1

7-2

6-5

2-4

1-4

7-1

8-2

2-3

6-3

7-7

4-3

9-4

9-2

5-6

9-?

5-2

7-5

9-1

Brownes Hole


Cheddar
Gorge
Caves

Coopers Hole

Cuckoo
Cleeves


Dallimores
Cave

Eastwater Swallet (2 sheets)

Goatchurch Cavern

Holwell Cavern

Hunters Hole

Hutton No.2 Cavern

Lamb Leer Cavern

Longwood Swallet (plan)

Longwood Swallet (upper series)

Longwood Swallet (sections)

Nine Barrows Swallet

Pinetree Pot

Quaking

House
Cave

Reads Cavern

Rhino Rift

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet (plan)

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet (sections)

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet (September
series plan)

St. Cuthbert’s Swallet (plan
inc, Cuthbert’s II)


Shatter
Cave


Singing
River
Mine

Stoke Lane Slocker

Swildons Hole

Thrupe Lane Swallet

Tynings Barrows Swallet

Ubley Hill Pot

Ubley Warren Pot


Withyhill
Cave
.

G.B,

Manor Farm, +report

40p

£1.00

50p

25p

25p

70p each

50p

55p

45p

70p

70p

£1.00

55p

70p

20p

55p

50p

25p

20p

55p

70p

25p

50p

55p

40p

£1.00

£1.00

45p

£1.00

45p

55p

£1.00

50p

70p

Certain surveys of caves of
Wales,
Derbyshire and
Yorkshire are also available,
price on request.

e.g. Agen Allwedd, Ogof
Ffynnon Ddu,  Porth y Ogof, Little Neath
River Cave, Hepste River Caves, Giants/Oxlow, Peak Cavern, Perryfoot, P 8, Leek
Fell,  Washfold,  White Scar.

© 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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