Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

Editor: Ted Humphreys

1990 – 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Stuart McManus
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson


If I hadn’t been so idle I could have made this BB much
longer, but it had to be out in time for the A.G.M.  This means that with the articles I hope to
receive soon the Christmas BB, whoever produces it, should be a bumper
one!  Locations will include such places


(did the BEC start the fight?) Jamiaca, Sima, Vimy Ridge,
and many more.

In the last BB, I included a political article (Wig’s) and
in this one are included differing viewpoints (from Bryan Ellis and Andy
Sparrow).  Wig’s article was included
because the committee thought that the membership should be aware of what is
going on nationally in cave politics and the replies are included as members
must have the right to reply.  In future,
however, I would suggest that articles on national cave politics be sent to
nationally distributed commercial caving publications such as Descent (the
caver’s magazine).  Caves & Caving
(the bulletin of the BCRA) or Speleoscene (the newspaper of the NCA).  After all, the BB is merely a club bulletin,
almost entirely funded by the club, and to spend more than £10 a page on
something that few will read is unproductive.


St. Cuthberts Swallet

The St. Cuthbert’s Report and Survey have now been
published.  Copies will be on sale at
both the Club Dinner on 5th October and the Vintage Dinner on 26th October.

Copies are also available from committee members, Joan
Bennett and other responsible members of the club at the Hunters and the

If you require a copy by post send to Joan Bennett whose
address is given below.

Surveys sent by post will normally be folded.  Others may be flat or folded on request.  Surveys are only available with the report,
and are not on sale separately.

The retail price for the report and survey is £10, but is on
sale to members for £8.  Postage of 50
per copy is payable.  Members who
pre-paid £5 per copy will be supplied at that price, but it would be
appreciated if payment of the difference could be made in order that production
costs are recovered as soon as possible.

Joan’s address is: –

Joan Bennett.
Nr. Cheddar.



Caving In The Raw

Dave Yeandle

Things were not going according to plan.  The night before, in the Hill Inn, it had
seemed like a great idea to offer my services as a bottle carrier on Alan
Downton’s proposed Hammer Pot dive.  Now
I was regretting my involvement as outside the Bradford Pothole Club hut, at
Brackenbottom, Alan and myself desperately tried to motivate a motley
collection of hung-over cavers.  When
they had tried most possible excuses, all of which we rejected, they simply
drove off with a vague story about doing Simpson’s instead.

It was a beautiful summer’s day in the Dales.  The sun was shining, the birds were singing
and a very gentle breeze was rippling through the abundant flowers and
trees.  Why go caving? – and I very
nearly didn’t!  Alan still wanted to do
something though and mentioned that the NCC were doing Strans Gill Pot. with
Rupert Skorupka diving a sump.  They had
already set off but we could follow them down; see the Passage of Time and help
de-tackle.  “O.K. lets do it”
and we set off.

After driving a while it became clear that we weren’t at all
sure where Strans Gill was.  I thought it
was in Littondale while Alan assured me that it was in Langstrothdale.  He had been to the entrance several years ago
but couldn’t quite remember the way.  So
we drove to Langstrothdale looking for the NCC or their cars.  With no sign of either we asked a farmer for
permission to visit Strans Gill. “Well it wasn’t on his land was it”, but he told us whose land
it was on “and could we please leave his rapidly”.

After some fairly aimless wandering around the right
farmer’s land we found a stream-bed which seemed familiar to Alan.  Following it upward gave us some enjoyable
climbing at around severe standard.  This
turned out to be an unnecessarily hard approach when we intersected a footpath
along which a family with young children were walking.  We followed this path and surprisingly found
the entrance.

We quickly changed and I set off down the entrance
pitch.  After a short distance (actually
my head was still above ground) I came to an abrupt halt.  This was a tight entrance.  I climbed back out and tried entering in a
different position.  I still couldn’t get
in and tried several more times before deciding that the entrance was too tight
for me.  What an excellent excuse!  Anyway I was probably getting a bit old for
this sort of thing.  Time for the
pub.  Why did I find myself taking off my
wetsuit jacket and having another try? In any case, I was soon fully underground and committed.  The rest of the entrance pitch was slightly
less desperately tight and at the bottom I was able to put my jacket back on.

Alan started down the entrance pitch, with none of the
traumas I had experienced, while I carried on into the cave.  It was still tight and I was totally appalled
when after about 5m.  I encountered an
absurdly tight squeeze leading directly to a pitch.  The wetsuit jacket was taken off again with
difficulty and the pitch descended after a struggle.  “What a silly carry on” I thought
“never mind, that must have been the tightest bit”.

At the bottom of the pitch (inappropriately named Hope
Pitch) I once again put back on my jacket while Alan came on down, again with
no trouble whatsoever.  The cave really
did appear to be getting bigger as I moved forward and I started to enjoy
myself.  My illusions were shattered when
I found myself jammed in an upward squeeze ending in an insanely small hole
through which I could see a descending slightly larger tube.  I didn’t really want to accept that this was
the way on so I reversed out and had a chat with Alan.  He managed to convince me that this was
indeed the way on, that I was doing very well, and he was enjoying caving with
me.  Reassured I yet again started to
peel off my wetsuit jacket; feeling now a little bit like a tart in a French
brothel on a busy Bastille Day.  I set
off into the tight upward passage pushing my jacket in front of me.  My progress was O.K. but the jacket jammed in
the tiny hole.  Annoyed, I punched it
hard.  It shot through the hole and I
followed, having to exhale almost totally. The downhill section of the squeeze was bearable and I was pleased to
see that my jacket had already carried on down the next pitch.  Trouble was, when I reached the pitch, there
was no rope going down it and the way on was around to the left.

It turned out to be a short distance to the top of the big
pitch of 50m.  I decided that the pitch
descended by my jacket must connect with the main shaft.  I felt confident that I would catch up with
my jacket at the bottom of the pitch or at worst find it waiting on a ledge.

The pitch turned out to be a moderately wet spacious
rift.  I swung around a bit keeping a
lookout for my jacket.  I touched down
after a superb abseil in high spirits only to suffer a complete attitude collapse
upon finding no sign of my wetsuit jacket. I had lost it!

All through my years of caving this sort of thing has
happened and as I waited, now shivering, for Alan to descend my mind went back
over some of these incidents.  Like the
fin that fell off in Tatham Wife sump or the numerous line reels dumped in
haste prior to speedy exits from various sumps. Or the complete set of diving gear, mostly borrowed, abandoned in
Langcliffe after major floods delayed our exit. The more I remembered the worse I felt. Why only a few weeks previously I had dropped a battery for a Bosche
drill in an impenetrable rift in Long Kin West. As a result the trip had been a total waste of time for five people with
no progress made at the dig more than 500 feet from the surface.

By the time Alan reached the bottom of the pitch, which is
called Charity Pitch (again, in my opinion, inappropriately!) voices could be
heard ahead.  The NCC were clearly on
their way out.  The lads were surprised
and pleased to see us as we strode along the impressive streamway towards
them.  They found my state of undress
very amusing, “I can see your gear hasn’t improved” said Lugger.  Rupert had had a desperate dive in a tight
sump and it was clear that the lads wanted to get out as soon as possible.  It was agreed that Alan and myself carry on
down to the Passage of Time and then follow the others out de-rigging as we

The cave was now easy and impressive and we soon reached the
Passage of Time.  A large, dry,
wonderfully decorated passage.  We
followed it until it became low, and turned back.

We found ourselves to be an effective de-rigging team and
quickly reached the top of the big pitch. Things continued smoothly until the squeeze where I had lost my
jacket.  I simply could not get through
even with near total exhalation.  I
reversed back and undressed some more. Wearing only underpants, kneepads and boots and feeling rather foolish I
launched myself into the squeeze.  I made
it, and we got the tackle through the obstacle. I was, by now, getting rather cold but reasoned that I might as well
leave my trousers off for the rest of the trip. I had had enough of dressing and undressing for one day.  I did however put my helmet and light back
on. Alan now decided to remove his wetsuit jacket as he too was having more
trouble going out than in.  We seemed to
have lots to carry what with ropes. ladders, SRT gear and articles of clothing.

In what seemed a short space of time we reached the bottom
of the entrance pitch.  On looking up I
was shocked and thought, “How did I get down that!” it looked
impossible.  One metre up I found I
couldn’t bend my legs sufficiently to make upward progress.  This was solved by removing my kneepads.  The middle section of the pitch was
impossible with helmet and light and these were removed as well.  I was now left wearing underpants and
boots.  Nothing else!

I knew I could make it out but I did have one fear.  The NCC could well be lurking near the
entrance ready to mount some sort of attack. In the past they have put slugs in my helmet, stolen my Mars bars,
pushed me into a sump (without bottles) and thrown rocks at me.

Pushing my head back into the World, wondering what life was
going to be like without that nipple I felt sure had just torn off; I looked
gingerly around.  No NCC!  They had gone.  I soon found out why when hordes of midges
descended upon me.  As I leapt for my
surface clothing, madly hitting myself in an attempt to be rid of the pests
feasting on blood from hundreds of small cuts, I reflected that some days
really don’t run according to plan.


Digging News

Tony Jarratt


Following much drilling and blasting beyond “Butch’s
Arse” (Quote – Wigmore will never go as long as I’ve got a hole in my arse
– Alan Butcher) a breakthrough was made on the 12th of August.  Rich Blake, Graham Johnson and Vince Simmonds
eventually squeezed through the terminal rift and descended the 35′ deep Black
Pudding Pot – named for the colouring of the conglomerate walls.  This fine pitch was followed by an inclined
thrutch and the attractive Yeo Pot, 25′ deep and formed in scalloped white
calcite and red and black conglomerate.

The explorers were now excited to fever pitch by the noise
of roaring water and. climbing down into a passage at the base of the pot, were
confronted with a rare sight a large stream cascading out of a roomy passage
into a 10′ diameter sump pool.  They
restrained themselves from exploring the streamway (for which I am eternally
grateful!) and laboriously climbed out to celebrate in the traditional way.

The following evening Jake and Vince were joined by Trev
Hughes and the writer who followed the upstream passage for 220′ to a shallow
sump.  This streamway is the upper River
Yeo, the top end of the



and carries a lot of water – at present about as much as Swildon’s 4 in wet
weather.  It lies at 300′ depth and is
trending towards the sinks at Red Quar, though there is little water sinking at
present and the source of such a large stream is something of a mystery.  It is all in conglomerate and is a superb bit
of passage.

On 18th August Vince, on his first cave dive, passed
Upstream Sump 1 after some 8 feet into a large airbell and Upstream Sump
2.  This was then dived for about 15 feet
by the writer who had been forced out of cave-diving retirement by the nature
of the discovery!  Both sumps were
free-dived by Jake, Vince and
Pete Bolt
and the team explored a further 150′ of aquatic streamway to the deep Upstream
Sump 3.  (This has been looked at by Trev
Hughes and Tony Boycott but not yet passed. It is about 12′ deep and the visibility deteriorates rapidly).  Pete and Jake investigated Downstream Sump 1
but did not fancy a long dive using single bottles.

After much hammering and a tremendous amount of colourful
expletives, Dany Bradshaw was eventually delivered to this sump which he dived
for over 100′ until complete lack of visibility forced a retreat.  This is not an easy dive due to the silt
problems and a selection of roof pendants. Future dives are planned at both ends of the streamway – now about 500′
long altogether.

Most of the cave has now been surveyed and various loose
ends tied up.  A report will appear in a
future BB and the survey and photos will be on display at the A.G.M.  Anyone visiting the cave is reminded that while
only 1600′ long and 300′ deep it is a fairly severe trip.  Upstream Sump 2 is a dangerous free-dive and
the use of single kit is recommended. There are no formations and lots of mud but much of the lower series is
very photogenic as
Pete Bolt‘s
slides have proved.  No tourist trips are
allowed between October and March due to the pheasant breeding and murdering

Potential: – at least one mile upstream and five miles
downstream.  Another 680′ depth to go to
the bottom of Sump 3 in Gough’s.  We
await the barrel of beer from the

diggers in joyful


A new surface/underground dig has been commenced due to the
remoteness of Wigmore for evening trips. This mineshaft is on Forestry Commission land at Stock Hill.  It was pointed out to Vince and the writer on
the 28th. of January by Bob Elliot who stated that it had been open at least
four years.  A 25′ deep. partly lined
(ginged) “lead mine” shaft led to a crawl in thick clay and what
seemed to be an infilled natural passage, choked with large rocks and
draughting strongly.  After a couple of
tentative digs the site was left to await official permission to explore.  This was gained in August.  In the meantime a locked steel lid had been
cemented onto the shaft top.

Digging commenced on the 19th of August and to date
(18/9/91) we have hauled to surface 540 skip-loads and 56 heavy winch-loads
(each the equivalent of 3 skip-loads). The mud and rock infill would appear to be the result of some 20′ of
ginging having collapsed and it looks like we are almost through this.  The shaft has been mined to take advantage of
a natural rift and bedding plane and there is some stalagmite wall coating.

The mine is probably post 1680 as shotholes are much in
evidence, indicating the use of explosives. For this reason it is unlikely to be one of Thomas Bushell’s 20
shafts  (


of Mendip P.173. Wheel Pit).  Digging
takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights and during weekends.  Check with the diggers for access procedure
so as not to upset the Forestry Commission or local residents.


Work continues here. Gonzo. Karen and Zot are quietly beavering away in search of the middle
bit of the

Cheddar Master
.  A dam has been built to deflect the stream
from Corner Dig and assistants are doubtless welcomed on Tuesday nights.


Quiet John’s and Tim Large’s dig at the end is temporarily
postponed due to an excess of “Cowsh” in the cave.


Martin Grass and Trebor et al have re-started work at this


Wot No B.E.C.

Over the years a large quantity of the “BEC GET
EVERYWHERE” stickers have been placed in all sorts of places.  But, alas. very few have been placed in

During the last 3-4 years two poor northern divers have been
placing signs in sumps stating “WOT NO BEC” with a picture of a diver
peering over a rock.  The divers, namely
John Cordingly and Russell Carter, have been dismayed that no BEC member has
taken up the challenge and placed BEC stickers next to their signs.

Well the quest has started! On 8th June 1991 I dived upstream from Keld Head towards
Kingsdale Master
accompanied by Russell Carter and Malc Foyle (A tall

member).  At the 440m. tag, I found the “WOT NO
BEC” sign and duly hung a BEC sticker on it.  One down, seven to go!

The number and position of the other signs is as follows:-

1. Edmunds Rift, Wookey Hole.

2. -53m in the final sump, Wookey

3. Far Sump, Peak Cavern.

4. 700m from base in Malham

5. Dead Man’s Handshake, Keld


6. Emergence Du Ressel.  800m from base at -50m.

7. Doux De Coly,  1800m from base at -60m.

This one could be a problem! Anybody got access to a submarine? As and when these are crossed off the list I will let the readers know.

Bubble, Bubble for now

Robin Brown


Hon Secretary’s Report 1990-91

This has been my second year as secretary and I am very
pleased and proud to be the secretary of the Bristol Exploration Club who after
25 years can actually say that the St Cuthbert’s Report and survey has been
published and is available for sale.  I
would like to thank all those involved in getting it to its final state – it
was certainly worth waiting for!

1991 has been a relatively quiet year for the club
politically so I do not have a lot to report. Work has continued on the hut and the club has been very active on the
caving scene.  Both these areas will be
covered in more detail by the relevant officer’s reports.

Unfortunately one member has been banned from the club by
the committee this year and has not sought to explain actions before the
committee.  It is assumed he has lost
interest in the club.

Ten committee meetings have been held this year and the  attendance has been as follows;

Martin Grass                 9
Jeff Price                       9
Chris Smart                   9
John Watson                 8
Chris Harvey                  8
Stuart MacManus          8
Nigel Taylor                   8
Ted Humphreys             8
Ian Caldwell                   7

I intend standing for the Committee for the forthcoming year
although I, with the other Committee members, recognize the necessity for new
blood on the committee.

Martin Grass


The Complete Caver

The following was written to celebrate the appearance of
“St Cuthbert’s Swallet”, 25 years after the complete survey was begun
– Kangy.


If you’re anxious for to shine and be a caver fine and a man
of prowess rare,
You must build a firm foundation on a mass of information and your intellect
There’s some very special matter – not the common caving chatter – found
compact in useful guides,
Truth that’s far ahead of fiction clad in rich and varied diction that the BEC
And the caving crowd will say,
As you walk down Priddy way,
“If he has carefully trained his mind when muscle is enough for me,
Why what a many sided, versatile, all round man this caving man must be”.

When you’re drinking in the Hunters and you’re telling all the punters of your
latest Club Report,
Every caver’s greatest dream is to go down in your team just to be there for
the sport,
For there’s not a rock or slab’ll make you writhe or gasp or scrabble or
disturb your grace serene,
Whilst they pant in struggles frantic you’ll observe the grotte’s romantic
quoting Irwin in the “Speleo Scene”,
And the Belfry crowd will say.
As you stroll down Priddy way,
“If he reads “Mendip Underground” when the “BB” is
good enough for me.
Why what an almost over-cultivated caving man this caving man must be”.

And the twenty thousand hours at the limit of man’s powers spent amongst St.
Cuthbert’s drips
And the drawings made of surveys from the earliest of days cannot fail to check
all slips,
So the Report about this Swallet is worth the contents of your wallet to
complete your mastery,
Of the subtle sinuosities and wriggling rugosities known to the BEC.
And the caving crowd will say,
As you stride down Priddy way,
“If buying the Cuthbert’s Report is good enough for him which must be good
enough for me,
Why what a very wonderful report this Cave Report must be”.


Kangy, 11th September

(With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, sing to “The
Aesthete” from “Patience”)


B.B. Editor’s Report 1990-91

I’ve just been reading the report I made last year and was
sorely tempted to retrieve it from disc and just change the date!  In other words, the number of BB’s produced
during the year was again five, the total distribution is still about 250 and
J’Rat still saves the club lots of postage by kindly volunteering to hand out
as many as possible.

However, this year, many more people have put pen to paper
so that I have actually had more material than I could publish for the last six
months or so (but don’t tell anyone!). Thank you very much to all of them and please keep the articles
coming!  Please don’t think that an
article not published immediately is being rejected.  It’s just that I, for the first time, can try
to balance humour, information and controversy. I’d also like to thank the committee for their support, especially
Blitz, who has a computer compatible with mine and has put several articles on
disc for me during the year.

I will be standing for the 1991-92 committee but agree with
other members that changes to the committee are desirable.  All the present members of the committee have
been members of the BEC from at least the 1970’s, so where are the more than a
100 members who have joined since then? Surely some of them would like to have a hand in helping to run the

Ted Humphreys


Hut Engineer’s Report 1990-91

Every year on Mendip one can guarantee to witness the sight
and sound of the “Lesser Spotted Mendip Wyndger”.  It is an unusual species, often its
“cawing” sounds repetitive. Doubtless, the species is often confined to only one solitary example
flitting through its nesting habitat at or near the Belfry, or seen regularly
at nearby watering holes.  Not dissimilar
from the Common Magpie, or Crow, this creature also hops about making a lot of
noise, but makes little or no constructive contribution to the local community.

The individual of the species can often be seen in the
company of other genus, twittering away furtively about the state of its
habitat, and decrying the efforts of the more social members of its nesting
site.  But, ALAS! when attempts have been
made to domesticate it, the creature flits away mystifyingly to other
domains.  Indeed, watchers of this
species have recorded that in the last two years a migration of the breed occurs
for a twenty four hour period … just prior to any Belfry working weekend!

As I outlined in my Hut Engineer’s report in 1990, I decided
to continue the ‘One day Working Meet’ linked with a Belfry-binder or
Barbeque.  This has proved successful
again with the few stalwarts who always turn up for the work on our hut.  I am also grateful for the ‘Out of Sight’
work undertaken quietly by some of the younger members mid-week, off their own
bat.  It all helps to keep Our Hut up to
a minimum standard.

However, there is no room for complacency.  On the most recent working meet at the hut,
on the August bank holiday, the condition of both the end windows and fire
door, when stripped-off, showed them to be so badly rotten that our subsequent
painting serves only as a temporary measure. They will need replacing within the next twelve months.  I formally propose that the A.G.M. takes this
opportunity to replace them with hardwood double-glazed frames.  These should then be ‘Sadolin’ or similar
type treated, thus reducing long-term maintenance costs for heating and

Gradually other frames can be replaced as required should
the A.G.M. agree.  The entrance porch
roof must be stripped-off and rebuilt and the A.G.M. may well consider if it is
worth enlarging the porch at the same time.

At last year’s A.G.M., a proposal was accepted instructing
this year’s committee to examine a fire extinguishing system for the
Library.  I have undertaken this task and
three separate site meetings were held at the Belfry.  The three quotes obtained will be presented
to the A.G.M. as an item for discussion. I expanded on the A.G.M. brief and have also obtained secondary quotes
to cover the whole of the Belfry with an alarm system. These costings will also
be presented to the meeting.

Furthermore we have now signed up AEGIS FIRE PROTECTION to
make annual inspections of the hut and service the equipment and, over a two
hour period at the hut, all the extinguishers were examined.  What he discovered gives me, and I hope the
Club, serious cause for concern.  The
main fire extinguishers were found in the following condition:-

Extg: 1 DISCHARGED, but possibly refilled with water, but no
chemicals.  (Note: this cylinder was also
in a corroded state, and has now been replaced at a cost of £59).

Extg: 2 CHARGED, but with a foreign metal object apparently
deliberately inserted into the hose nozzle, totally preventing its discharge.

Extg: 3 DISCHARGED but awaiting a re-charge having been
discharged as a prank a few weeks ago.

This left the club with only one operational fire
extinguisher, by the changing room.  On
Sunday the 8th. of September, a water fight occurred at the Belfry, and the
re-filled fire extinguisher was then set-off by a member!  At the risk of being branded a
stick-in-the-mud is this what _Y_O_U want at the Belfry?  Water fights O.K … but to deprive the club
property of any fire-fighting appliance, in my book, is tantamount to sheer

The discharging of fire-extinguishers has now occurred no
less than FOUR TIMES in the last two years that I have been Hut Engineer.

The local District Fire Officer, Mr. Brown, has advised me
unofficially that under section 10 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971, if it is
deemed that “an excessive threat risk exists to persons in the event of
fire” then a prohibition of use under the Act can be imposed
immediately!  This could be an instant
closure of the Belfry.  He further
advised me that new proposed legislation is in hand to encompass ‘Hostel type’
accommodation, bringing it under closer scrutiny and inspection by the fire
service authorities, though this is not yet set down in law.

I ask the A.G.M. to consider carefully the action it wants
committee to take with regard to this ‘Horseplay’ and to take a positive
decision at the meeting to prevent any re-occurrence.

I had intended stepping down from the post of Hut Engineer
this year to make way for fresh, and hopefully, younger-blooded members,
however if no one steps forward for this position, I shall offer myself for
re-election to whatever post the A.G.M. has on offer.  May I close in thanking the present committee
for their continued support throughout the year, and also those individuals who
unstintingly have done much work upon the Belfry over the last year, too many,
I am sure, to name in person,

everything to excess!

Nigel Taylor


Caving Secretary’s Report 1990-91

My first job was to update the St. Cuthbert’s Leader’s
List.  The one I was given was several
years out of date!  This was done,
published in the BB and displayed on the Belfry notice board.  To date we have 25 BEC leaders and 11 guest
leaders.  This enabled me to clear a
backlog of trips that had built up. Rogue keys had been in use, and some damage was done in Victory Passage
(this is now closed until further notice – repairs are being done) therefore a
new lock was put on the entrance and a leaders meeting arranged.  Most of the leaders actually attended!  There were a few rule changes, the current
rules being published elsewhere in this BB. Everything now seems to be working well. Zot and Mike Wilson have repaired/replaced the fixed tackle in St
Cuthbert’s, a very big thank you to them.

A meets list was arranged with an average of one trip, home
or away, each month.  This was slow in
starting but, now established, things are picking up.  If anybody wants trips arranged get in touch
with next year’s Caving Sec., A.S.A.P.

We are currently paid up with our subs. for BMC and CNCC so
permits are no longer a problem.  On the
digging side of things Mendip and
South Wales
have been continuing, see J’Rats bit on Digging News.  On the away expedition side, members have
been active in
Scotland and

.  Ted is chasing these people for articles for
the BB. (Ed’s note: Some of these I’ve already received, some are on the way
and some, including my 5 week trip to the

, are still to be written).

The IDMF granted Graham Johnson (Jake) £100 for the BEC
Speleo Philippines Exp. later this year, the report should be interesting!

Regards & Good Caving

Jeff Price

It was requested by last years A.G.M. that the Caving
Secretary publish the IDMF rules for application: –

I.D.M.F.  RULES etc.

Trustees/Referees :- Sett, M. Palmer, Current Caving
Secretary and Treasurer.  (Sett is happy
to continue but I haven’t heard as yet from Mike – JRP).  The fund’s purpose and conditions are as follows:

Purpose :-

To assist junior members to cave on the continent (or
anywhere else abroad – ed.)

Conditions :-

  1. Applications
    to be submitted (in writing) to the current caving secretary.
  2. With
    applications, a prospectus should be included of work to be carried out.
  3. A
    report of the trip to be sent to the BB (at least four A4 pages) within
    SIX weeks of return.
  4. The
    applicant must be a fully paid up member of the BEC.

A meeting is being arranged for the trustees to discuss: –

1.                    Who is eligible

2.                    Destinations

3.                    Limit of grant

4.                    Program of work

5.                    Reports

6.                    Future of fund

7.                    Any other business

When the meeting has taken place.  I will report back to the BB.

Jeff Price, Caving


St. Cuthbert’s Swallet Rules

After the

Cuthbert’s leaders meeting the rules to follow
on any trips into the cave have been revised as follows :-

  1. Parties
    are limited to five cavers per leader.
  2. Trips
    into Rabbit Warren Extension and Canyon Series are limited to 3 persons
    plus the leader and even with these numbers great care must be exercised.
  3. No
  4. No
    carbide lights to be used.
  5. If
    visiting a particularly muddy area of the cave try to wash off in the
    streamway to avoid muddying other sections of the cave.
  6. All
    tourist trips into the cave must adhere to one of the recognised tourist
  7. Only
    take parties into September Series if requested as this area is suffering
    particularly from damage.
  8. Do
    not take parties into Victory Passage unless requested.  If you do so, take no more than three
    people and a leader must be present at all times. (Until further notice
    Victory Passage is closed owing to damage)
  9. Do
    not use vulnerable routes such as :- Rabbit Warren Extension to Struggle
    Passage via Erratic Chambers, Vantage Point to the Cascade and Rabbit
    Warren to the Fingers.
  10. Write
    all trips in the Cuthbert’s log.
  11. A
    50p tackle fee IS payable by all non-BEC members.
  12. No
    digging is to be undertaken in the cave without the permission of the
    Caving Sec/BEC Committee.
  13. No
    more than three cavers at a time should enter Curtain Chamber.
  14. No
    persons under 16 years of age should enter the cave.



5th September 1991

Dear BB Editor,


I don’t know how else to address you!—- Ted perhaps.

In the BB just out you published a piece from Dave Irwin
which I cannot let pass without making some comment upon it.  I fully understand, and agree with Dave, that
the last subject you want filling the BB is caving politics but as Blitz said,
this is an important issue and that piece was, in my view, full of
inaccuracies.  In fact it was very unlike
something from Wig.  My guess is that he
cobbled it together in a hurry without checking the accuracy of his
statements.  I think a gauge of how
strongly I feel is that it has caused me to write my first piece for the BB in
nearly thirty years!

Anyway, my piece is attached.  I tried to keep it short (honestly) but did
not succeed very well.  I hope you will
manage to find space for it as it is an important but boring subject and as
many views as possible should be made available.

Here’s strength to your elbow in the thankless task of
producing a “Belfry Bulletin”.

Yours, etc

(Bryan Ellis: Memb No 322 – a
long time ago)


Re-Structuring Caving’s National Organisation

Bryan Ellis

I must keep this brief! Please refer to Wig’s article in the last “BB”.

1)       I
wish to endorse Dave’s plea that if and when cavers receive the questionnaire he
mentioned they do take the slight touble and expense to complete and return
it.  He and I may disagree on details but
we do agree that the final solution must represent the views of the majority of
cavers – as far as that can ever be ascertained.

2)       It
should be remembered that there is always a number of viewpoints on a topic
like this.  Dave’s was one; here is
another; there must be more!  Read about
it, think about it, and make up your own mind. It’s boring but the future of caving DOES depend on getting the right

3)       I
think that any new national organisation for British caving – which may or may
not be the NCA – should have both club and individual members.  So …

a)       A
less parochial view than Dave’s is that while ‘serious’ caving is still club
based, especially on Mendip (and long may it continue that way), the club
dominance is slowly waning.  These days
an increasing number of cavers nationwide are not members of a club – a pity
but a fact – and while I think they should be less selfish, I do not agree that
their views should be ignored.  At the
moment they put nothing back in to caving but that could just possibly change
if they were members of a national body. And where did the idea of a National Caving Club come from?  Certainly not from the Gang-of-Eight.  (Incidentally, Dave’s ‘opponents’ did not say
“the club has no importance … ” but ” … clubs still play a
major role in caving although this is very gradually diminishing with increased
mobility … Any new national body should both protect and encourage club
participation in the sport.”  Rather

b)       If
club membership is the accepted form of electing the executive you will be
disenfranchised unless your club is prepared to join the national
organisation.  I have refrained from the
capital letters but that should sound familiar; it is the opposite side to
Dave’s statement.  But if there is also
an individual membership cavers do have a way around the problem.  Further, if one has to go through a club to
contact the executive, what if your club doesn’t (for any reason) support
YOU?  Again, individual membership is one

c)       “_the
existing system…can be streamlined simply by enabling clubs to contact the
national executive directly_”  Why
not streamline it further?  Simply alter
“clubs” to read “individuals”, after all, the Regional
bodies have already been removed from the direct reporting line.

d)       How
will any new body be financially viable overnight?  But with two types of membership there will
at least be a larger pool to dip into.

e)       What
is wrong with an individual membership? Dave didn’t say.

f)        More important than arguing about classes of
membership is to resolve points such as: stopping one group being able to
impose its will on the whole by removing the veto, etc; making the executive
committee a true Executive by giving it authority (as we do a club committee)
and making cavers’ contact with the Executive as direct and rapid as possible.

4)       What
was the relevance of the ‘let’s praise the existing NCA comments in the middle
of a discussion on the future structure of a governing body?  And its accuracy, well.  Currently NCA does not provide legal advice,
insurance, a library, overseas contacts, expedition planning, meetings and
conferences, published reports, or a glossy magazine.  What are these?  The eight services it was thought should be
provided by the national body, as specified by half or more of the respondents
to NCA’s questionnaire.  And on another
point, 24% of respondents thought practical caver training should be provided
at a national level, 29% at a regional level and 31% by specialist
organisations (which might, or might not, include commercial ones) not
overwhelming but hardly Dave’s “little support”.

5)       Similarly,
what was the necessity or relevance of Dave joining the “let’s bash
BCRA” bandwagon in the middle of his paper?  But he did, so here are a number of

a)       Dave
knows that the attendance at most AGMs is inversely related to members’
satisfaction.  If Dave asked himself why
he hasn’t attended BCRA AGM’s when he is so unhappy, he may find the answer to
his own comments.  Why not vote out the
existing Council?  Or, on a lesser scale,
there are currently vacancies on council that could be filled.  It’s not a lack of democracy but that dreaded
apathy again.  But the AGM attendance has
never, at least in the last ten years, been as low as 30, let a lone 20, as
stated; and it has never been inquorate, which is more than can be said about
some clubs (and Regional Councils).

b)       Dave
knows that over 25% of BCRA’s individual

members answered the second NCA
questionnaire and that this level of response gives, statistically, a high
level of confidence that the results are reasonably typical of the whole.  He also knows that 56% of those respondents
positively (i.e. not by default) indicated a preference for individual

c)       Dave
knows that SCRA Council’s current policy to prefer a future structure incorporating
both individual and club membership “is based on the response by
Association members to questions in the recent NCA questionnaire.” he has
access to the Council Minutes where this is stated (also in C&C No 52, page

d)       In
fact this paragraph doesn’t read like Dave’s style; it lacks his usual
coherency and is more like the ravings of a bigot!  What got you, Dave?

Finally, hope am right in assuming that the club committee
has already listened to alternative views on this question?

‘Nuf said.

September 1991



Andy Sparrow


Belfry Bulletin Editor

Dear Sir,

I am prompted to make some comments having read Dave Irwin’s
article on NCA re-structuring in the last issue.

My first point concerns Chris Smart’s introduction to the
article which contains grave warnings about the seriousness of this issue and
even manages to raise the spectre of losing cave access.  Mendip cavers are justifiably sensitive on
this point and it’s very easy to play on these fears.  I would like Chris to explain how the issue
of cave closure relates to NCA restructuring.

On the broader and emotive issue of individual membership
versus club based membership: surely who votes and how is largely irrelevant
when there are so few individuals prepared to stand for executive posts. Lets
face it, at the end of the day it’ll be the same old familiar names in the same
old jobs.  If a new membership structure
seceded in introducing a few new faces would that be such a bad thing?  I think not.

However, my principal reason for writing has little to do
with NCA structure, though it was a line in Wig’s article that motivated me.
Quote: “On the training front there is little support for national
training or commercial training.  The
second questionnaire clearly showed that the club was the best place for this
to be done.”  Absolute nonsense.  There are lies, damn lies, and statistics;
this statement is a combination of all three!

As I recall, the questionnaire revealed substantial support
for training.  It is hardly surprising
that cavers felt this should provided by the club; who wants to pay for
something which should be provided for free? Had the questionnaire also asked: ‘does your club offer adequate
training?’ the answer would surely be an overwhelming ‘no!’.

Let me provide some alternative statistics.  Last year over 150 cavers attended training
courses run by myself (and I mean serious cavers, not novices).  Most of these trainees were members of
established clubs; even the BEC was represented!  Several club committees had advised new
members to attend training courses. 

I am only one of about 6-8 caving instructors offering such
courses in

.  The total number of cavers attending courses
last year was almost certainly over 1000. I believe this is about three times the number who bothered to fill in
the questionnaire!

If the NCA, and others, choose to believe that cavers
training requirements are being met by the clubs, fine. In the meantime I, and
several other instructors, will continue to prosper by offering an unwanted
service to a non-existent market!

Yours faithfully

Andy Sparrow

PS I do believe that clubs should provide training.  I also believe that cavers have a right to
choose between professional and club training, and that fair and healthy
competition between these options will raise standards to everyone’s benefit.

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