The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: John Williams

 

1993 – 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor

 

The Christmas Editorial

Well i’ll start by wishing you all a very merry christmas
and a happy new year, seeing as how its that time of year (yet) again.   It doesn’t seem like five minutes since the
last one to me, still it’s the festive season again and this is the xmas
ish.   I’ve had to cobble this one
together quite quickly to get it out in time (hopefully), i apologise in
advance to anyone who gets it after xmas, i’m doing my best.   You will notice that some articles have not
been retyped, this again is due to lack of time on my part but i felt it better
to include them anyway.   Many thanks to
those of you who have contributed articles – please don’t stop writing – and
also to anyone who has helped out in other ways, particularly J-Rat for his
help with the distribution (and others too numerous to name here).

This being the xmas ish i’d better report on the xmas dinner
held at the Wellsway on 11.12.93.

By 8.30 there were some 65 of us assembled at the
aforementioned hostelry, most already getting stuck into the (cheap) beer.   The atmosphere being one of general
conviviality.   There seemed to be a
contingent from each of the local clubs (even the Wexies!!).

Xmas dinner was served up and in some cases actually eaten,
but it is true to say that a fair bit found its way to the Wexie table by other
methods that were to say the least airborne, resulting in the temporary
evacuation of a table or two by those not wishing to wear dinner.  (Vince knows nothing about this at all !!)

Eventually dessert was served, the wait caused by the highly
attractive waitresses (not that i noticed them you understand) having to remove
quantities of the first course from the walls.

By this time people were getting ‘into the swing of things’
– which roughly translates as pissed.  B.E.C. Get everywhere stickers were doing just that, getting everywhere,
including onto dubious parts of other pubgoers anatomies and i gather the
inside of Glenys’ trousers!?!?  And
things deteriorated nicely from thereon in!!!

At least Glenys still had trousers unlike Estelle who had
hers forcibly converted into shorts (culprits anonymous see Estelle for
details)

The rest of the night was a disco/pissup which seemed to be
enjoyed by all, i even saw Rich Blake “dancing” at one point (i use
the phrase loosely).   This went on until
the early hours of Sunday morning generating a few king sized hangovers in the
process.   Those that did surface the
next day had had a good time.    I can’t
speak for the rest.

A vote of thanks to Estelle for her efforts in organising
it.

Well thats about it from me, on with the rest of the issue,
save to say comments are welcomed, also please note my new address inside
cover.  Estelle has also moved and i will
publish her new address as soon as i can, she can be contacted at the
Belfry/Hunters in the meantime……….ta ta for now & Merry Xmas…..Jingles

 

Letter

Mr & Mrs RP. & M Hill,

Muscat
.
Sultanate of

Oman
.

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

September 5, 1993.

Dear Sir,

During my recent brief visit to Mendip I was interested to
hear some of the banter in the Hunters concerning the membership fees for 1993.

Out of interest took the figure for 1978-79, when I joined,
which if I recall was £8, and compounded it at 8% per annum.  I think this is a reasonable average rate of
inflation over the years.  The result was
£25.38p.  I think those who complain
about £20 a year should think again.  I
cannot remember what Hut fees were in those days but I suspect that they have
barely kept pace with inflation as well. The phrase that springs to mind to those perenial complainers about
membership fees is “You get what you pay in real terms for”!!

It would seem to me to be logical to assume that as The
Belfry gets older the cost of maintaining it will increase.  Therefore we should be anticipating raising a
real term increase in income to pay for this. The argument for how to collect this money, Hut fees or Membership fees,
is of course an emotive one in this club. My own opinion is that, without a base, the club would cease to exist in
very short order.  It must therefore be
the responsibility of all members to ensure the continued survival of our
headquarters.

On a sour note for a minute I have been “accused in
public” so to speak of not paying my hut fees.  This I have found out today when I received
my April BB!!!!!!!!!!!

It was sent to me surface mail!!

I did receive a BB in February but unfortunately there was
no mention of the fees fixed at the AGM I wrote to the Membership Sec.
(Airmail) receiving no reply and finally deposited a Cheque in the Hut fees box
on a visit in May.  This cheque has not
been cashed so I expect it to be returned or destroyed.  I have since paid my dues for this year and
will willingly pay those for next year as soon as the amount is decided
provided somebody has the wherewithal to let me know how much!!!

What I really object to is the manner in which my name is
highlighted in the BB as a bad boy when a personal approach would have
prevented me from having to point out where the incompetence really lies.

To sum up then: Please fix the fees sensibly this year, put
them in the BB, send it to me Airmail, and if you want me to pay extra for this
service?, I will willingly do so!

Sorry I can’t make the Dinner, enjoy it for me!

Bob Hill.

 

How to fit a new one!!

By an anonymous
contributor.

A Peeping Tom overheard this conversation in a lay-by near
G.B. Cavern

There was a van and two B.E.C. members

One male and one female!!!

(He)      “Shall we strip off here Lover?”

(She)    “O.K. perhaps we should stay in the van.”

(He)      “Can you give me a hand? I always find this a bit difficult.”

(She)    “Sure, but I have never opened one of these packets before.”

(He)      “No worries, you just tear off the strip and pull it out.”

(She)    “WOW!!  It’s big and
black!!”

(He)      “Yes, I thought you’d like it. Perhaps you’d like to peel it over.”

(She)    “Bloody Hell!!  I didn’t
think I’d need two hands for this.”

(He)      “If you sit on my stomach and pull really hard, it will fit.”

(She)    “Oh God!  I’ve gone and
torn it!”

(He)      “That’s totally ruined our fun for tonight, I could only afford
one!!”

 

                        …and
that’s how a B.E.C. member tried on his very first wetsuit.

                                                (I
‘spec…..you pervs…..!)

 

1993/1994 B.E.C. Committee meetings

These will be held at 20.00, at the Belfry, on the following
Friday nights..

5th November

3rd December

7th January

4th February

4th March

8th April

6th May

3rd June

1st July

5th August

2nd September

The A.G.M. and dinner will be held on Saturday 1st October
1994

The A.G.M. will start ay 10.00am at the Belfry

 

Over The Edge

It was all Brian’s fault. ‘Grotte de Moulin Maquis – that’s something different.  I bet few British cavers have been there! he
announced.  It transpired that this
particular cave opened from a ledge 3/4 of the way down a 400 metre cliff in
the Vercors region.  The idea simmered at
the back of our minds until one afternoon last summer I suddenly found my legs
dangling ever 400 metres of nothing with the Bourne gorge below me.

The
Vercors
National Park south west of the French city of

Grenoble
is a cliff girt
limestone plateau riven by deep gorges. The mountain peaks at the fringes rise to 2000 metres and are popular
with walkers in the Summer – while the winter months provide excellent
opportunities for skiing both on piste and cross country.

Cavers have spent decades exploring the subterranean
complexities of the region, in the process discovering some of the deepest
caves in the world.  Several cave systems
emerge in the walls of the Bourne Gorge including the spectacular grottoes at
Choranche.  Opposite Choranche the 100
metre high portals of the Grotte de Bournillon are the biggest in
Europe but are dwarfed by the cliff adjacent to it over
which tumbles the Moulin Maquis waterfall. Our descent would take us down the line of the waterfall.

The French have a name for this sort of activity
‘canyonning’; they abseil down cliffs and gorges to leap with glee in and out
of plunge pools.  Popular sites have
permanent belays and guide books are published to assist the enthusiast.  The Moulin Maquis was no exception; the fixed
belay points were reassuringly described as ‘bon’, and the only warnings were
to keep teams to a minimum of three and avoid winter descents when icicles hang
suspended over the assailers heads like so many Dameclean swords.

At 4 pm a mud stained trio, who had warmed up in a typical
Vercors ‘aven’ (pothole) could be seen marching through the woods from the tiny

village of
St. Julien
of Vercors.  An ancient muleteers track wends its way
steeply down to a choked cave entrance issuing the stream which we, were soon
about to accompany. Ropes were laid out, oversuits donned, harnesses attached,
and bladders emptied.  The system we were
using to make the descent used two ropes, each approximately 50 metres
long.  The pull through rope had a loop
in one end through which was clipped a karabiner.  The abseil rope was tied to the pull through
rope and lowered, the karabiner being used to hold the ropes together below the
belay point.  This provided an automatic
locking system for the abseil.  When one
reached the bottom one pulled on the other rope and theoretically the abseil
rope would then be pulled through the karabiner and down the pitch for the next
section.

Brian was launched into space first (it was his idea)
dropping out of the sun dappled wood onto the brightly lit greenswarded
cliff.  A shout two minutes later
indicated it was my turn.  After gingerly
shuffling about on the tree branch we started from I found myself swinging in
space. As I gently dropped I watched the stream splattering over the lush grass
growing on its downward path.  Some
scrabbly penduluming was required to reach the next ledge where a brief test
confirmed the pull through was working before – John the third member of the
trio came down.

John arrived.  We
tugged the pull through rope and for two minutes it remained obstinately jammed
before suddenly snaking down in a heap at our feet.  We were now committed – 360 metres to go and
no turning back.  Brian reached into his
pocket to consult the hastily drawn sketch map of pitch lengths and
belays.  A trouble free descent dropped
us onto a wide ledge where the stream provided a cooling shower.  Beyond here we were out of the tree zone with
9 pitches to go.

Progress was slow, for pull throughs became trials of
strength.  The sun swung behind a cliff
and in shadow the cooling stream lost its attractions.  The pitches began to pass overhangs making
the pull throughs even more tricky and each assailer’s arrival would be
heralded by showers of tufa and moss tweaked off the cascades.  The ledges shrank and we could understand
why, the Guide Book recommended no more than three persons per party.  One memorable ledge was no larger than a
coffee table, the only encouraging features being the firmly cemented belay
rings to which we attached our ‘cows tails’.

Our mood lifted as the lowering sun emerged from its
temporary hiding place but sank when on the next pull through the ropes
obstinately refused to move even with our combined weights bouncing on it.  The lightest member of the party, Brian (of
course) volunteered to prusik back up and release the snag.  We had all taken the precaution of bringing
ascending gear hoping we would not have to use it.  We were now glad of our caution.  Even so ascending a single rope which lies
over an overhang and which may be rapidly fraying is not a nice experience.  We were both relieved to see Brian again
descending at normal speed with the rope running freely.  Things from then on went from bad to worse.

We had started our descent at 5 pm and had asked our wives
to meet us near the base of the cliff at 8 pm. Even without problems this was typical caver’s optimism for the French
gave 4 hours for the descent.  At 8 pm by
the light of the sinking sun 2 matchbox sized cars swung into the car park ¼
mile from the base of the cliff.  If we
weren’t in trouble on the descent we were certainly going to be in it at the
bottom!

The wives viewing the cliff were mystified to see dots
moving up as well as down.  Unfortunately
although we could hear them shouting the sound of the cascade drowned our
replies.  The ingredients were in place
for what we cavers tend to call an epic (euphemism for cock up).

The situation had now reached the point where we had
established a routine in which the last man down was lowered on the down rope
to avoid pull through snags.  We landed
on the massive ledge from which our original goal the Grotte de Moulin Maquis
led.  Time expired, we ignored it
pressing on into the deepening twilight. John went first and a few minutes later some shouting suggested he was
on the next ledge.  I followed and having
located him in the gloom pendulumed across; my residual adrenalin reserves were
squeezed dry when I landed on his precarious perch and he announced it had no
belay point.  We clutched rock, grass
rope and each other while bellowing for Brian to send down the bolt kit
(another precautionary item we had packed). It slid down the line like manna from heaven and John began to belt in
the self drilling bolts.

Meanwhile, at ground level, the wives were increasingly
confused by the toing and froing.  When
two lights came on and not a third panic was not far from their thoughts.  There were only two lights because I had
decided not to bother with mine – the biggest mistake I made that day.

The bolts were secured, hangers attached and a sling placed,
then with a short prayer, John launched onto a pitch of unknown length which
thought (hoped) was less than 50 metres! Brian’s water stained creased crumpled map seemed to suggest that if we
could make the next ledge we could walk off it and scramble down – to the gorge
bottom.  John made it with 10 metres to
spare and was rapidly joined by Brian and myself.  Rapidly coiling the ropes we blundered our
way through bushes and boulders busily concocting the excuses we would need to
placate our irate womenfolk and trusting we could still get a cool beer at
11pm.

Canyonning is fun but make sure you give your-self plenty of
time for it!

Notes

 

Our guide book for the descent was Infern’eaux published by
Didier- and Richard.  ISBN
2-7038-0065-7.  It is available in book
shops in the Vercors but not in this country as far- as I am aware.  The techniques for- descent need to be
rehearsed properly (as you may have gathered) and one should be prepared for
all eventualities.

 

Letter To All Members

The following letter has been received from Tim Hodgson, an
old ‘Ex’ B.E.C. member.

I have written to Tim saying that I will see if there is
interest in an expedition to

Costa
Rica
.

If anyone is keen, please let me know.  I would also like to hear from anyone who
remembers Tim, he mentions ‘Wig’ in his letter so he must be very old!!!

Martin Grass.

Full letter follows on next pages …………..

The Secretary,

Bristol

Exploration Club.
The Belfry, Priddy,

Somerset,
England
.

Dear Whoever got stuck with the thankless job.

It’s been many years since I’ve been in contact with the
club, in fact I doubt if anyone will remember me now but I was a member once.

The reason I’m writing is because there are unexplored caves
in

Costa Rica
,
and maybe it’s time something was done about it.
Costa
Rica
, as I’m sure you are aware is the country between
Panama and
Nicaragua,
it’s not some unknown beach on the south coast of
Spain,
nor is it to be confused with
Puerto Rico.  It’s about the size of

Wales
.  But, because of its mountains, the highest is
over thirteen thousand feet; it has a climate that varies between bloody hot on
the coast to freezing on the tops of the mountains.

Between the two extremes are climates to suit everyone.  There are tropical wet forests, tropical dry
forests, cloud forests and much more, the country is very beautiful, with a
wide variety of fauna and flora.  There
all sorts of exotic wild animals, from Jaguars, Tapirs and Peccaries to
boa-constrictors, and poison-dart frogs. There are all sorts of tropical fruits and vegetables, most of which are
unknown in
Europe, but surprisingly things
like blackberries and strawberries grow all year round, as does asparagus,
broccoli and cauliflower. 

San Jose
, the capital, is
just a little under four thousand feet, and has a very agreeable climate, with
an average temperature of about seventy five to eighty degrees all year round.


Costa
Rica
is volcanic and in an earthquake
area.  It is on the joint between the
Caribbean and Cocos tectonic plates.  This probably leads to a certain amount of instability
in the caves.  Nonetheless there is one
show cave with a twenty foot entrance pitch, which fat little old ladies
descend on an electron ladder.  Gawd
knows how the guides get them out again, but I’m assured they do.

I’ve recently been in touch with a dentist who is an active
caver, he tells me that there have been several expeditions from Europe and the

U.S.A.
  The local cavers assist in every way possible
and can usually find horses for transport, and help with accommodation.  They prefer expeditions of a scientific
nature but original exploration is not discouraged.  They ask only that they get copies of any
surveys or other useful information. They know the location of the bars nearest to cave entrances, and behave
like other cavers in that they drink beer, sing songs (in Spanish) and pursue
anyone who wears a skirt.  The dentist
has promised me more information on the caving association here, and details of
the various caving areas.  I’ll send this
information on to you as soon as I have it.

It might be interesting to arrange a trip from

England

in the foreseeable future.  I could help
with arrangements at this end, I’m president of a new hotel in the centre of

San Jose
which could be
used as a base.  It’s a very good hotel,
and is not to be treated in the same way as some of the establishments we have
patronized for our annual dinners in the past!

During a recent tourism exhibition here, there was a travel
agent from

Bristol

called Joanna Clarkson.  She has an
agency called Trips, in

Clifton
Wood Crescent
. I spoke to her on the phone about a month ago, and she said she would
gladly provide any information she could about Costa Rice, and would be glad to
take care of the travel arrangements; should the need arise.  Her phone number is 02-72-xxxxxx.

I would very much like to be able to show the caving
association here a sample of the work done by the BEC.  Could you help me be sending me a part of the
“Wigs” Cuthbert survey, if he ever finished it, and anything else
that might help the locals to know what a good caving club the BEC is.  Keep the cost down, I’m not rich, perhaps you
could fax me the cost, and I could arrange for my mother to send you a cheque.

I am enclosing some rubbish about the hotel, and if I can
find anything that isn’t too bulky something about

Costa Rica
.  I hope to here from you in the not too
distant future, even if it’s only a copy of the Belfry Bulletin.  I also hope there are some doddering old
armchair cavers who still remember me.

Your sincerely,

Tim Hodgson

 

The Song of the CPS

Tune: The Bold Gendarmes. Author: Dickie Ray

Source: Belfry Bulletin No 104 May 1956

We’re Cavern keepers
disingenuous,
Of Stalactites we take good care,
We never do anything strenuous,
When danger lurks we’re never there.
But if we see a moderate pothole,
Not too far, and not severe.

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

Some term our duties extra rural,
And little troglodytes we chase,
And when we see formations mural,
We stretch red tape all around the place,
And if we see a natural fountain,
That’s set in nature holy sphere,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

‘To lock all caverns’ is our motto,
And save the goodly caves from sin,
But just as we are finished,
Some blighter digs another way in,
But with our rope and tape and placards,
We’ll battle onwards, never fear,

We rope it in, we rope it in,
We rope it in, we rope it in,
To show the C.P.S. are here.

(CPS – Cave Preservation Society)

 

From Desert Sands To Mountain Snows

A Traverse Of The
High Atlas Mountains Of

Morocco

Expedition Report

Doctor Andrew Newton FRGS

Introduction

This report describes a traverse of the High Atlas Mountains
of Morocco during the Spring of 1993.  The
inspiration for this journey came from two previous expeditions to the High
Atlas Mountains during the winter months of 1991 and 1992, during which ascents
of
Jebel Toubkal and Ighil M’Goun were
undertaken.  Having climbed in the Atlas
mountains with the object of ascending specific peaks I decided that I wished
to explore the more remote valleys and uplands of the M’Goun area in an attempt
to see more of the “lifestyle” of the local Berber people and document
some of the facets of this lifestyle before it is too greatly affected by the
development of tourism and trekking within the region.

I set myself the objective of completing a traverse of the
High Atlas Mountains from the desert in the south via the Draa valley following
the course of the river Draa to its source in the mountain snows of the M’Goun
plateau and subsequently descending to the fertile valleys of the Bou Goumez
region to the north of the High Atlas chain.

General topography

The Atlas Mountains of Morocco run as a single chain of
mountains stretching in a curve from the north-east of the Country to the
Atlantic coast near to Agadir in the west. The northern extent of this chain is termed the “Riff”. The
central section being of moderate elevation is termed the “Middle or Moyen
Atlas”, whilst the southern section of the range- is known as the
“High or Haute” Atlas.  The
High Atlas is split into two distinct areas by a mountain pass which runs south
east from the city of
Marrakech (formerly known
as

Morocco

city).

The south western section of the High Atlas includes the
peak of
Jebel Toubkal
(at 4,165 metres the highest peak in
Africa
north of the Equator) – whilst the north eastern section of the High Atlas
includes the mountainous plateau known as the M’Goun range.

 

Travel to

Morocco

Travel to
Morocco
is very straight forward with regular air services between London Heathrow and
Casablanca, the modern capital city of

Morocco
.  From
Casablanca
internal flights serve the other major cities within the Country including
Marrakech which is regarded as being the normal starting point for expeditions
into the mountainous regions of

Morocco
.  During the winter months the National Airline
(Royal Air Moroc) is the only carrier to fly regularly: however, during the
summer months regular charter flights are available to the majority of
destinations.

Land travel within

Morocco
is equally straight forward
with an efficient National Bus Company (CTM) as well as a number of smaller
local bus and coach operators.

Expedition Report

Marrakech makes a wonderful starting point for any
journey.  Constantly bustling with
humanity the city acts as a commercial centre for the Central High Atlas as
well as being a popular tourist destination. The city is split into two sections, the old part or
Red
City
comprising of an ancient medina and kasbah whilst the modern

new city
boasts luxury hotels and
French-style colonial architecture.  The
old town or medina is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways bursting with
shops and trade stalls selling both local products and tourist goods.  The nearby square (the D’Jna El Fna or
‘meeting place of the dead’) is famous for its street entertainers, snake
charmers and soothsayers.  Around the
edge of the square tented fast food stalls offer an amazing variety of Moroccan
culinary delicacies.

From Marrakech I journeyed south with CTM over the
Tizi-n-Tichna pass to the city of

Ouarzazate

(in translation literally the ‘place where there is no noise’).

Ouarzazate is unfortunately a modern town created for the
tourist industry.  However, it does serve
as a useful starting place for journeys in the south of

Morocco
.

At Ouarzazate I managed to procure a slightly battered
Renault 4 on rental for a couple of days. Using this vehicle I drove down through the Vallee du Draa to the oasis
town of
Zagora widely recognised in
Morocco as being the starting point of the
Sahara desert.

Zagora itself is a modern colonial border town consisting of
a military garrison and administrative offices. However, to the south of the town on, the opposite side of the river the
ancient kasbah of Amzrou is an entirely different world.  Surrounded by Palmaries and protected from
the advancing sands of the desert by restraining walls and fences, the town has
been a trading point for desert Nomads for several thousand years. Sadly, the
town of
Amzrou has recently become the home to
many nomads deprived of their life style by the fighting in the Western Sahara
and by drought in
Mali and

Mauritania
.

Having visited the point at which the waters of the River
Draa disappear into the sands of the
Sahara
desert, I commenced my journey north through the Vallee du Draa using the old
trading route which runs on the opposite side of the Valley to the modern
tarmac highway.  This route passes
through many Berber villages and kasbahs offering an ever changing kaleidoscope
of views of an agricultural way of life which has remained little changed over
the last 1,000 years.  The lands
immediately adjacent to the Draa river are highly fertile being irrigated by
the waters of the river and fertilised by silt washed down by the annual flood
cycle of melt waters draining from the
Atlas mountains.

Having returned the Renaut 4 (in an even more battered
condition), I journeyed by local agricultural transport to the market town of Skoura.  After a frustrating four hours of searching
for a mode of transport to take me deeper into the
Atlas
Mountains
, I finally located a transit van belonging to the
commune of Irni-n-oulaoun which was due to leave Skoura that evening to take
villagers back into the mountains.  After
several false starts from the market place in Skoura (and two tyre changes) the
transit van finally departed with a load of 22 villagers and their purchases
from market, plus a roof rack full of provisions and supplies for the village
store, squeezed into the corner of the van with my rucksack, I immediately
became the centre of attention and throughout the six hour journey into the
mountains, I was constantly questioned about my home, my family, my country and
my view on Moroccan politics.  The Berber
people are naturally gregarious and hospitable to travellers and even when
travelling solo in the mountains of

Morocco
one is rarely alone.

The transit van eventually arrived in the mountain

village of
Imi-n-Qulaoun
just before sunset so I
gratefully accepted the offer of overnight accommodation with one of the
families who had travelled up from Skoura. The following morning after a breakfast of unleavened bread and very
powerful black coffee served by the 7 year old son of the family with whom I
had spent the night (since his parents had already gone out to work on the
fields), I commenced my trek on foot. From Imi-n-oulaoun I followed the Ait Moudzit valley north passing
through a succession of small villages as I ascended the steeply sided valley
towards the M’Goun plateau.

Whenever one approaches a village in the High Atlas valleys
one is met by a crowd of Berber children whose daily duties include grazing the
flocks of goats and sheep away from the village.  In the lowland valleys it is now normal for
these children to instantly demand “un bonbon”, “un stylo”,
“de l’ argent”, however, in the higher valleys the welcome is much
more genuine with offers of food and hospitality abounding.  Long before one actually reaches the village
one has gathered a large following much akin to the pied Piper of

Hameln
.

The upper reaches of the Ait Moudzit valley offer splendid
walking at high level with the mountain track skirting precipitous crags
perched above an impressive gorge containing the white foaming waters of the
river.  All the small hamlets on the way
up the valley are surrounded by impressive terraces of fields contained by
restraining dry stone walls.  In the
spring months the terraced fields are planted with maize and vegetable crops
which are irrigated by the spring melt water which is channelled from the river
via an ingenious set of man-made contouring water channels built along the
field boundary walls.  Each terrace is
sheltered by overhanging trees (palms in the lower reaches of the valley and
almonds or flowering cherries at higher altitudes).

I reached the

village of
Tissougune
in the
later afternoon of the second day of the traverse.  Tissougune is the last major settlement in
the Ait Moudzit valley and is one of the most remote settlements in the
area.  As with all Berber villages I was
met by a large group of children who escorted me into the village where I was
met by the local Imam who insisted that I adjourn to his house for mint tea and
bread and oil (a typical Berber mid-afternoon snack).  Before many minutes had passed the entire
village congregated in the Imam’s courtyard curious to investigate the
foreigner in their midst.  On discovering
that I was a Medical Practitioner the Imam immediately summoned a selection of
his ailing parishioners requesting my assistance with medications and
treatment.  (Modern health clinics are
only found in the major agricultural communes of the Atlas region and even if
they make the long journey to visit such a clinic the majority of Berber tribes
people cannot afford to purchase the prescribed medications.  Consequently, the only medicinal treatment
available in the mountains is that dispensed by travelling Herbal Practitioners
and religious Faith Healers).  My
afternoon surgery complete, I continued on my way accompanied by the village
teenagers who insisted on escorting me up the precipitous waterfall behind
their village.  As the sun started to
sink towards the snow capped peaks on the horizon I selected a site for my
mountain tent and much to the intrigue of the Berber children, I built my house
for the night.  My evening meal of
dehydrated high altitude rations aroused equal interest; the only time I have
ever given a dinner party for ten in a two man tent at 3,000 metres altitude!

The third day of the traverse consisted of a long ridge
ascent on to the main M’Goun plateau itself. The plateau consists of a long ridge running from north-east to
south-west.  The ridge lies entirely
above 3,500 metres with individual summits around the 4,000 metre mark.  Amsoud, the highest point on the ridge has an
altitude of 4,071 metres.  The terrain is
predominantly scree with limestone outcrops forming craggy edges and buttresses
which afford easier walking than the main scree slopes of the plateau.

Unfortunately the good weather of the preceding few days had
led to a rapid melting of the snow on the southern slopes, making the last 500
metres of ascent to the ridge a long slow and painful four hour slog through
thigh deep wet snow.  My efforts were
rewarded however as on gaining the ridge firm neve was reached allowing me to
make rapid time to the summit of M’Goun prior to setting up my evening camp in
a col at 4,000 metres.

The following morning I made an early start to take
advantage of the overnight freeze and maintaining an excellent rate of progress
I descended to the north into the Toufrhine valley (a high level valley lying
between the two main mountain ridges of the central High Atlas).  I followed the valley north east to the M’Goun
gorges which offer a dramatic and rather sporting descent of 2,000 feet over
the space of one mile.  (To traverse the
gorges it is necessary to climb down in the waterfalls following the exact path
of the river as it cascades between limestone walls up to 500 feet high).  At the bottom of the gorges the river emerges
from a spectacular rocky defile to flow through open green pasture, my surprise
at meeting this unexpected view was surpassed only by the surprise of the small
Berber herds boy who looked up from his flock to see me appear from the river
soaking wet and somewhat bruised, (but nonetheless elated to have completed the
descent).

This young herds boy escorted me to his house in the nearby
village where his family made me immensely welcome lending me a warm dry wollen
jalaba for the evening and plying me with large quantities of hot food.

The following morning I continued along the course of the
river to the

village of
Agouti
in the
Bou-Goumez valley.  The Bou­Goumez is one
of the most fertile of the valleys of the Northern Atlas and is known by the
local Berbers as the “bread basket of

Morocco
“.  The
village
of
Agouti forms the road head of the
Azilal road which penetrates the
Atlas Mountains
from the north.  Although I had initially
hoped to be able to pick up a land-rover from Agouti, I discovered to my dismay
that the winter snows were still closing the high mountain passes to the north
and therefore I found myself compelled to spend a night in the village of
Agouti (staying at the Mosque guest house) before continuing on foot to the
village of Tabant from where I was able to secure myself a place in a land
rover heading north the following day.

The land rover ride out to the regional marked town of

Azilal
consisted of an
eight hour journey on loose stone pistes skirting precipitous valleys and
passing through some of the most fantastic alpine-type scenery.  After an unscheduled stop to deal with a
blow-out (a common occurrence on Moroccan mountain roads); interesting scenes
ensued as it transpired that the only instrument available for re-inflating the
tyre was a pair of old furnace bellows provided by the nearby village.

At Azilal I joined forces with a couple of Moroccan school
teachers wishing to journey to Marrakech and between us we commissioned the
hire of a grand taxi (the Moroccan equivalent of a long distance chauffeur
driven limousine) and for the princely sum of six pounds I journeyed the
remaining two hundred kilometres back to Marrakech in bone shaking dust ridden
luxury.

Conclusion

During the course of my traverse over the central High Atlas
I was struck by the unspoilt nature of the valleys and the continuation of the
Berbers’ traditional way of mountain life. This is by stark contrast to the over development of the valleys in the
Toubkal region which have become highly popular with visiting European
climbers.

Following my return to Marrakech I was fortunate to be able
to meet some members of the Moroccan Mountain Guides Association who confided
in me their concerns about the development of tourism in the Atlas.  It seems that lessons are being learned from
the mistakes made in the Toubkal region and it is to be hoped that greed and
political pressure do not get in the way of the development of sustainable and
eco-friendly tourism.

The remote valleys of the central High Atlas are stunningly
beautiful but they are also stunningly fragile. Unless treated with respect the
high Atlas valleys could rapidly become yet another statistic on the trail-of
tourist destruction.

 

MRO News

Number 5 Nov 1993

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

***  HELP WANTED  ***

Saturday 15th January 1994

MEETING RE

BRITISH
CAVE
RESCUE COUNCIL
CONFERENCE.

MRO is to host this biennial conference based at Eastwater
farm on July 8th,’ 9th & 10th 1994. Obviously, it will require a great deal of effort by Mendip cavers to
make this event run smoothly and it is essential that work should start as soon
as possible.  Individuals, and clubs, who
are willing to make a contribution to the organization and running of the
conference, are asked to attend a preliminary meeting at The Hunters Lodge Inn
on Saturday January 15th at 7:30 pm to start the ball rolling.

Saturday 29th January 1994

CERVICAL COLLARS & SPINAL SPLINTS

Video presentation followed by
practical session with MRO kit.  Hunters
Lodge Inn, 7: 30 pm.

Saturday 19th February 1994

RESUSCITATION WORKSHOP

In view of the response to last
years lecture and recent events both underground and on the surface, MRO has
decided to hold this workshop annually. As before, the emphasis will be on the practical.  You owe it to yourselves and your friends to
be up to date with Artificial Ventilation and External Chest Compression techniques.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Friday 11th March 1994

MENDIP RESCUE ORGANISATION

Annual meeting of the committee

Hunters Lodge Inn, 8:00 pm
prompt.

next evening 

Saturday 12th march 1994

MRO KIT CIRCUS

Hands-on experience of MRO
equipment for small groups circulating around various demonstrations.  At the same time there will be discussions
with club team leaders.  Please ensure
that your club is represented. 

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 16th April 1994

MEETING RE

BRITISH
CAVE
RESCUE COUNCIL
CONFERENCE

A further meeting regarding the
organization and running of the BCRC conference.   Please offer any help and time you can.

Hunters Lodge Inn, 7:30 pm.

Saturday 30th April 1994

PRACTICAL COMMUNICATIONS WORKSHOP

An afternoon session both on the
surface and underground with the MRO radios and molefone in use.  Venue and times to be decided.  Watch for more details and posters.

July 8th.  9th     and   10th    1994


BRITISH
CAVE
RESCUE COUNCIL
CONFERENCE

EASTWATER FARM, PRIDDY.

Surface and underground sessions,
lectures, practical demonstrations, stomp, bars, cave rescue game, hangovers
and much, much more.  Watch out for more
details or, better still, come along to the meetings on January 15th and April
16th to see how you or your club can help make this event a success.

CLUB MEMBERS – PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOUR

TEAM LEADER PASSES
ON

ALL MRO INFORMATION SUPPLIED TO HIM.

 

The Boys of the Hill

By ‘Snab’

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the

village of
Priddy
,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the hill.
Have a drink in the Hunter’s pub,
There’ll you meet the caving clubs,
They’re the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
 
Cavers come from miles around,
On Saturday nights they’ll all be found
Raising their tankards and drinking their fill.
The Shepton brood, the BEC,
The

Wessex

and the MCG,
They’re the ones that get called the Boys of the Hill.
 
Why not stop and have a jar,
In that fine old flagstone bar,
There’s plenty of barrels of Roger’s good ale.
Why not try the Butcombe brew,
That’s the stuff for me and you,
We’ll all have a pint say the Boys of the Hill.

In the back room you will find,
Music there of every kind,
New songs and old songs that they sing there still.
Some’s all right and some are good,
Some are downright crude and rude,
‘Cause we like they words say the Boys of the Hill.

Bodhrans rattle~ singers sing,
They fairly make the rafters ring
Squeeze boxes play and a whistle loud and shrill.
Simon’s on the melodeon,
Tony Jarratt’s drunk again,
Aren’t we all say the Boys on the Hill.

Lads and lasses come with me,
To the

village of
Priddy
,
In the heart of Mendip on top of the Hill.
Had a drink in the Hunter’s pub,
There they met the caving clubs,
See you next week say the Boys of the Hill.


 

 


Sussex

Underground.

By John King.

Back in May 1990 there appeared in the B.B. an article and
survey by Andy Garrod concerning Broomers Hill sandstone mine at
Pulborough.  Intrigued by the article,
Charlie (McQue) and I paid a visit with Jo (Hills) to the site and spent a
while just browsing around. Charlie asked me “Where does this go?”  Marked on the survey as ‘Mr Badger’s House’ I
said it would probably be wise not to find out. Curiosity, however, got the better of us and so a few days later we
returned.  Armed with a diver’s knife and
a sharp stick for the badger, and a compass and a knotted string for the
survey, we ventured through the crawl very warily, the first 100′ was very
small due to the whole mine being backfilled with earth, through a final
squeeze and into more adits like those in the first part of the mine but again
backfilled to about half depth.  No sign
of badger but we did find a nest of sorts with daylight entering through a
small hole nearby.  Piles of rusting
‘artefacts’, mainly cans and drums, had been dumped here some time ago.  Most areas are passable by grovelling.  Although the survey is very crude it does
show the extent of mining to be much greater than previously thought.  Pacing out the length on the surface, we
found what appeared to be a cess pit in a field.  This would be over the final adit area which
is only 20′ down.  Hope it holds out!!!

While in the area it was decided that a disused canal tunnel
nearby would make an interesting diversion. Joined by Barry with the coordinates and other information we were soon
searching farmland around Hardham.  A
suspiciously double fenced depression in a field was obviously what we were
looking for, so, over the fences into a morasse, overgrown and smelly.  The canal route had been filled in almost up
to the tunnel entrance.  The thin veneer
of water was supported by at least six feet of mud (couldn’t find a longer
stick!) just inside the brickwork tunnel. Several bricks fell out on being prodded, obviously not the most
inspiring waterway in

Sussex
.  The footpath which followed the route on the
surface headed due south and very soon crossed a railway bridge.  On close inspection a cavity on the trackside
appeared to be right over the compass bearing. We estimated the time between trains to be sufficient for a recce.  On the trackside we lifted a capstone and
descended a fixed ladder, back in the canal again.  Nearly blocked by mud in both directions it
was obviously impassable by canoe. In the southern distance was a splash of
green light.  Back on the footpath we
wondered about the new compass bearing as the metal ladder and the railway line
were competing for attention when it was taken. Abandoning the ‘wild’ bearing we headed southish and eventually found
the exit, where the relative water level was lower and the water itself quite
clean.  This was the point from which any
water borne exploration would commence. There was a snag however; the child proof entrance grille had only a
small chink in its armour.  The tunnel
was also too narrow to turn a canoe in and paddling backwards for half a mile
or so did not appeal, so the good old plastic dinghy would have to do.  Some days later the said appliance was
smuggled into position.  One tries to
avoid drawing attention to oneself, one being a conservative type like all
cavers etc etc etc … As I couldn’t persuade anyone that it would be a
delightful afternoons boating, I had to paddle, measure the distance and the
depth so as not to rip out the bottom, take photographs, all this without aid
was quite tricky but I slowly measured my way north to an area of unbelievable
beauty.  Red, black, ochre and white
curtains, erratics and a myriad of straws with the prize specimen in excess of
four feet and almost touching the dinghy as I passed.  The measuring suddenly took a back paddle in
favour of photographic frenzy.  A whole
roll of film went by, not bad for a brick tunnel.  Considering the delicacy of the pretties
added to the fact that I was surely trespassing I think that the location must
be withheld but if anyone wants to take a look, at their own risk, then contact
me for arrangements.

There are several ‘shifts’ in the walls but it all looks
quite safe, the water is mainly shallow but the silt persists all the way.  It resembles quicksand with water on top and
is very deep, so falling out of the dinghy would be serious.  Trains could be heard going past nearby,
which is a bit alarming at first.  The
water is very clear and as the pretties testify there is little air current and
no flooding, not even a rise more than 2 or three feet.

John King

 

 

Access & Conservation Round the Regions

DERBYSHIRE

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries
about Derbyshire access, please contact Derbyshire Caving Association’s
Conservation & Access Officer direct::

Pete Mellors, Edingley,

Newark
, Notts

KNOTLOW MINE
POLLUTION

At present there is very serious pollution entering the mine
in the region of Ihe old Knollow Engine Shaft and the mine level which connects
this to the foot of the Crimbo Hollow (Fourways) Shaft. The water in the level
is stinking, brown and carrying some solid matter. The pollution can even be
smelt in the open air above the Fourways shaft. The water moving in from
Waterfall Chamber carries the pollution from the foot of the Fourways Shaft,
down-stream along the coffin level, past Rift Chamber and on down into the
Crimbo Swallow. There is likely to be bad air in the region of the pollution
and there may even be methane gas since the pollution appears to be organic.

You are strongly advised to avoid this area of Knotlow Mine
for the present and, in particular, be wary of using carbide in this part of
the mine since methane can form an explosive combination with air.

Derbyshire Caving Association is aware of the problem and is
currently taking steps to trace the pollution and to get it stopped at source.
Even when the source is found and stopped, the pollution is likely to take some
time to clear so you should continue to be wary.

DANGER OF WEIL’S
DISEASE

As with all pollution related to agricultural practices and
faming, there is a danger of contracting Weil’s Disease from the recent
episodes in Derbyshire. This is a potentially fatal disease which can be caught
from water contaminated by the urine of rats. Cavers should be careful to take
precautions: cover all sores, cuts, grazes, etc. and try to wash in clean water
as soon as possible after caving. Remember too that, even where pollution is
not obviously apparent, there may still be danger, as in the Stoney Middleton
caves.  Water in surface streams may also
be contaminated.

Cavers planning to visit Youd’s Level or Long Tor Grotto
should note that both entrances are active soughs which pass below houses in
Matlock Dale and rats have been seen in the area,.

NCA has issued a free leaflet giving information on this,
including where to obtain medical advice quickly. To obtain a copy send 9” x 4”
s.a.e. to DCA Secretary, Jenny Potts. Also is available is a credit card sized
information card on Weil’s Disease to fit in your wallet, for this send S.A.E.
plus a 20p stamp or bulk orders for clubs are 18p each for 10+ cards, incl.
postage. (Cheques etc. payable to DCA.)


MANIFOLD
VALLEY

Between Welton Mill and Hum the National Trust are currently
assessing the value of caves for their paleontological and archaeological
deposits and their wildlife interest.     DCA’s   Conservation   and  Access   Officer has been told by
the Warden of the Trust’s South Peak Estate that once these studies are
completed, DCA will be invited to discuss with the Trust ways in which caver
access and conservation needs can best be met.

Meanwhile cavers are asked not to dig in caves above river
level without written permission. The Trust is prepared to prosecute anyone who
ignores this request. Access to caves in the river bed remains unaffected, as
does access to old mine workings. In some cases permission to enter these may
have to be obtained where the Trust is not the owner – consult the DCA Handbook
for details.

REPAIRS AND
RENOVATIONS

KNOTLOW SHAFT TOP:
This has been “ailing” for some time and the bolts didn’t fasten
properly. Thanks to the Crewe C. P. C. the top has now been re-fettled and new
bolts and nuts provided. You Call either collect the official spanner from the
Bull in Monyash or provide your own large adjustable. Just make sure that all
is fastened securely when you leave.

P8 LADDER: The
fixed ladder which bypasses the 2nd. pitch in P8 has now been replaced. Many
thanks to the group from Crewe C. P. C. who did the job. The old ladder snapped
when it was taken down, but the pieces have now been removed and are in the
possession of the
Crewe cavers, so if anyone
would like to re-claim them, contact Ralph Johnson 011 0782-xxxxxx.

WATERWAYS CAR PARK:
The car park is now re-surfaced so there shouldn’t be any problems with bogged
down cars for quite some time. Special thanks to the three Darfar P. C. cavers
who shifted and spread 16 tons of hardcore in a day!

RAVEN MINE: Some
parts of the route through to the new extensions are extremely unstable but Ben
Bentham has been doing stabilising work recently and has also rebuilt the shaft
top.

You may like to note that the cost of materials for all
these access projects is funded by DCA, however the hard work, as always is
done by individual cavers from DCA member clubs.

THE DCA HANDBOOK
is currently under preparation for publication in 1994.

For information on Derbyshire Caving Association, send
S.A.E. to: Hon. Secretary, Jenny Potts, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

CAVE CONSERVATION
PLANS DERBYSHIRE PILOT SCHEME

Conservation plans involving DCA. English Nature and the
Limestone Research Group are to be produced in respect of two newly discovered
sites in the region, namely the White River Series in Peak Cavern and the Upper
Entrance Series of Lathkill Head Cave (or Lathkiller Pot). English Nature,
which sees its role as facilitating this kind of initiative in the regions,
will meet any costs incurred.

Conservation plans offer an opportunity to document more
fully the scientific aspect of specific SSSI’s. They enable the  risk to  sites  to be  assessed  and monitored.  Just as important,
they involve cavers in helping to protect for the future a unique environment
which they in particular value and enjoy, not least because of the time they
spend in exploring and publicising that environment. In the initial stage, the
plans will involve locating and documenting the nature and extent of scientific
interest. Reliable surveys and a photographic record, if not already in
existence, will need producing. While River Series is better off in this
respect than Lathkill Head. It is also subject to more controlled access, being
located in a remote and not easily accessible part of a large and extensive
cave system. You can do a lengthy, exciting and eventful trip in Peak Cavern
without going near White River Series, Lathkill Upper Entrance, on the other
hand, makes an exciting through trip now possible via a single main passage,
and is vulnerable for that reason. The amount of use this cave gets is not yet
known. In contrast to Peak, there is no monitored access.

The main danger to regional conservation plans such as these
proposed in Derbyshire is that of an uncoordinated approach, to ensure success,
the various parties to the plans must work together throughout and carry the
support of cavers with them. For their part, cavers must learn to adopt the
higher profile in leading the effort to conserve the caves they rightly value.

Peter Mellors, Conservation & Access Officer, Derbyshire
Caving Association.

DEVON AND

CORNWALL

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries
about access in Devon and
Cornwall, please
contact Devon and Cornwall Underground Council’s Conservation and Access
Officer direct: A. Neil,

Plymouth

PROBLEMS IN PRID

There are erosion problems in Pridhamsleigh Cavern and Dog
Hole. Both are SSSI’s and the damage has come to the notice of English Nature,
who want a conservation plan drawn up as soon as possible.  DCUC are working with NCA to draw up a
comprehensive plan. The worry is that if the cavers themselves do not do this,
English nature are likely to impose one which may stop access to both caves.

For information on Devon and Cornwall Underground Council
send SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Mike Hunting, Lifton,

Devon
,

MENDIP

 

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries
about Southern access, please contact Council Of Southern Caving Club’s
Conservation and Access Officer direct:  Dave Morrison,
Clutton

SWILDONS HOLE
POLLUTION

After recent heavy rain very strong diesel fumes were
encountered in the section of cave immediately before Sump 1, so much so that
one party aborted their trip because members felt sick.

CSCC HANDBOOK

The Mendip Access Handbook is in production, due out next
year.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send
SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Steve Cottle,
Clifton,

Bristol
.

WALES & FOREST OF DEAN

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries
about access in
Wales,
please contact Cambrian Caving Council Conservation and Access Officer direct: Mrs
E. Little, Abercrave,

Swansea
.

PROBLEMS AT
LLANGATTOCK

This are is extremely “sensitive” as regards access ar
present with local residents up in arms about excessive use of the area by
cavers, so please make sure you don’t do anything to exacerbate current
difficulties.  Welsh cavers are working
hard to sort the problems and have been able to prove that many allegations are
unfounded.

Part of the problem relates to fears of residents on the
Hillside about threats to their water supplies from the
activities of cavers.  Certainly they
rely on springs but there is now hope that the Welsh Water may be able to
provide a mains supply and even public flush toilets at the Daren Car Park.

Please don’t use the road up from LLangatock to reach the
car park by Daren Cilau as there are severe traffic problems on this very
narrow and steep road. Instead drive along the tramway from Brynmawr.

You MUST park in the Daren car park and not outside the
Chelsea S.S. HQ but beware of thieves who are regularly raiding vehicles left
by cavers in the car park and take suitable precautions.  Be warned that thieves have recently injured
a dog left in a caver’s car and that a policeman in civvies on surveillance has
been injured by attackers.


SLAUGHTER
STREAM
CAVE

At the request of the Landwoner, access is restricted to
weekends only, maximum number of 6 visitors, experienced cavers only.  For further details contact the trips organiser:
Andrew Clark, Nr. Monmouth

NO ACCESS TO
CLEARWELL MINES

Currently there is a complete ban on access to the mines in
the Clearwell area of the

Forest of
Dean
because of
pollution.  The ban will remain in force
until the pollution is eliminated.

CCC HANDBOOK

The new handbook has just been published and is available
direct from Cambrian Caving Council Secretary, Frank Baguley, for £1.00 + 50p
post and packing. (Cheques payable to C.C.C.)

Also available from Frank is the CCC Journal, “Red Dragon”
for £2.00 + £1.00 Post and Packing.

For information on Cambrian Caving Council send SAE to: Hon.
Secretary, Frank Baguley, Ystradgynlais,

Swansea
.

THE NORTH

If you have any information to pass on or have any queries
about Northern access, please contact Council Of Northern Caving Club’s
Conservation and Access Officer direct: Phil Parker,
Leeds.

MEREGILL

Recently a group of cavers ripped up turf to dam the stream
running into Meregill Hole.  The area is
an SSSI so this came to the attention of English Nature and the dam was
removed.  The CNCC view is that during
rescue situations it may be necessary to dam the stream and it would therefore
be acceptable but, during general caving and with modern techniques it is
unnecessary to dam the stream.

IBBETH PERIL

Please replace the gate over the entrance on departure – it
is to prevent dead sheep and other rubbish entering the cave system.

CASTERTON FELL

There has been some digging on the Fell recently for which
no permission has been sought or given. You are reminded that this area is an
SSSI and permission is required for ANY  digging activity underground
or on the surface.  Failure to observe
this will further complicate an already delicate access situation.

HAGG GILL

You are reminded that this cave is particularly sensitive to
damage from inexperienced cavers and CNCC do not recommend that this cave be
attempted by novice cavers.

BRAIDA GARTH FARM

During busy periods (most days) cavers parking at the
roadside by the farm have caused problems by making access to the farm track by
agricultural vehicles impossible. Farmers are working 7 days a week! Please allow them adequate access to
their property. Failure to park sensibly will lead to parking restrictions and
ultimately access restrictions

CCNC HANDBOOK

Current edition on sale in caving shops.  Also available direct form CNCC Secretary,
price £1.40 incl. post and packing.

For information on Council of Southern Caving Clubs, send
SAE to: Hon. Secretary, Les Sykes, Lancs.

 

Book Reviews

by Nick Cornwell-Smith

KENT
AND
EAST SUSSEX UNDERGROUND
(ISBN 0948193-581)
price £5.95  128pp.

by Kent Underground Research Group published by Meresborough
Books 1991

One that I picked up recently was “Kent and East Sussex
Underground”.  Any book about
underground activities in the South East of England always attracts my
attention as having lived in that area.

Being a South West club, the members of the BEC, seem to
disbelieve that caves and underground passages exist East of Watford Gap,
unless they are on the mainland of
Europe.  But it should be noted that there are many
old and new underground excavations in the South East, witness the latest find
by a combined French and British team of diggers.  A superb, classic phreatic shaped passage
extending from the chalk of Shakespeare Cliff to

France
.

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been
producing publications on underground sites in their area.  Some of CSS are also members of the Kent
Underground Research Group and explore many of these passages.  This book is not a guide book on the lines of
the Dalesman publications but, mainly a brief narrative history about the
various types of underground passages and caverns that can be found in
Kent and
East Sussex.

The book starts of with a series of chapters about the
various mines that are found in the area. Yes, that was right I did say mines. Most of them are old mines used to get at various types of rock and
material such as Fullers Earth, sand and sandstone before the advent of easier
transport from cheaper sources.  Gypsum
is still mined in a vast complex with underground tunnels capable of taking
land rovers and was first mined over 100 hundred years ago.  Small deposits of Purbeck and Ragstone
Limestone were also mined from early Roman days.  Some of the limestone was used to construct
St. Paul’s Cathedral and the

Tower of
London
.

Coal has also been a mining activity in the Kent Coalfields
since 1886, and still continues, but for how long?  The miners in the Kent Coalfield mainly from
the
Midlands. At one time there were between 8 and 10 collieries producing coal in
various quantities, but it never really challenged the coalfields of Yorkshire
and
South Wales.

The most common type of underground mine or quarry was the
denehole used for excavating chalk to spread on agricultural land.  These were often dug at the sides of fields
for individual farmers.  Chalk was also
removed to produce cement, and one of the more famous in the area has been used
for this purpose, namely

Chislehurst
Caves
.  This cave was also used during the Second
World War as an air raid shelter.  There
is a short chapter on military uses of underground passages.  These include forts at

Dover
and on the River Medway.

The last chapters cover other uses such as water supply, and
storage, ice houses, sewers and cess-pits and finally natural caves.  There are a number of caves that have come to
light particularly along the sea cliffs. Some are just sea caves caused by the action of the tide, but others are
genuine fossil phreatic caves.

This book gives an interesting insight into underground
passages in an area of the country that many BEC members just travel through on
‘the way to the ferry to

France
.  A potted History of the various activities is
given and in some cases details of the sites, with maps and surveys are
included.  Access details are also given
in some instances.

If you are interested in other geographical areas, then it
is a good read.

CAVES AND TUNNELS IN
SOUTH
EAST ENGLAND
Part 10 (ISSN
0309-409X) price £3.50 74pp.

by Chelsea Speleological Society published by CSS 1992

For many years the Chelsea Speleological Society have been
publishing the Records of CSS.  Apart
from the first two volumes, they have concentrated on the various caves, mines,
deneholes, tunnels and other underground features which they find or research
in the South East of England.  This
latest volume, number twenty, is no exception to the usual mixture of natural
and man-made cavities delved into by the CSS either in person or researched via
books and articles.

This years selection of caves include the
Hellfire
Caves
of
West Wycombe.  These now public caves were dug as a folly by
Sir Francis Dashwood.  They were used as
a meeting place for the Hellfire Club, where various “forms of vice and
perversion” took place, including “less reputable women procured from

London
, dressed
as nuns.” Alas, these activities have now ceased.

Nearby, in
High Wycombe, is
a bunker, used by the Ministry of Defence during the Gulf War.  Needless to say the CSS have not had a guided
tour, but gleaned the information from the London Standard of January
1991.  Other military cavities included
are the various types of RADAR bunkers and control centres used during the
Second World War and beyond.  Plans are
included of some of these and details of their current status where known.  Also mentioned are the tunnels bored by the
Royal Engineers in 1916 to test out tunnel boring machines for use in the
trenches of the Western Front.

A further interesting man-made structure detailed is the
Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway.  It is
described in many books and newspaper accounts, but the actual site has been
lost since the great fire in 1936.

Mines such as the Mote Park Ragstone Mines, Bassingbourne
Coprolite Mine and Chadwell Chalk Mines are described, with a plan in the case
of the former.

The only natural cave given a review is
Seaford
Head
Cave, in
East
Sussex
.  This fossil
phreatic passage has been exposed in the chalk cliffs at the mouth of the River
Cuckmere, but is blocked a short way in by a choke.

This gives a hint of the type of underground cavity which is
included in this, and other volumes of the CSS Records.  I personally find the series of publications
interesting as they give an indication of the underground environment in the
South East, an area not noted for its natural caves, and what lengths cavers in
the area go to, to get their “underground thrills”, and I am not just
talking about the Hellfire Club.

 

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders

BEC September 1993

Chris Batstone
Ian Caldwell
Chris Castle
Andy Cave
John Dukes
Pete Glanville
Martin Grass
Chris Harvey
Pete Hellier
Jeremy Henley
Dudley Herbert
Ted Humphreys
Dave Irwin
Kangy King
Joc Large
Tim Large
Mike McDonald
Stuart McManus
Mike Palmer
Brian Prewer
Estelle Sandford
Chris Smart
Andy Sparrow
Nigel Taylor
Dave Turner
Greg Villis
Mike Wilson
Bassett
Brian Workman
Jingles

If people want leaders for trips down Cuthbert’s they can do
it through me or contact one of the above leaders directly.    Jeff Price – Caving Sec

St.  Cuthbert’s Guest Leaders

Ric Halliwell  (CPC)
Graham Price  (CSS)
John Beauchamp  (MCG)
Malcolm Cotter  (MCG)
Tony Knibbs  (MCG)
Miles Barrington  (MEG)
Alan Butcher  (SMCC)
Mark Sims  (SMCC)
Tony Boycott  (UBSS)
Ray Mansfield  (UBSS)
Alison Moody  (WCC)

 

Letter

I have received the following letters from Jeni Galligan,
the “Victim” in a recent Mendip rescue. The first was sent to Tony at Bat Products, the second to the Editor.

3rd November

Dear Mr. Jarret

I would be most grateful if you would display this letter of
gratitude in a prominent position in your shop to enable fellow cavers to read
it.  Many thanks.

On the 23rd October 1993, I found myself in a bit of a
sticky predicament.  Whilst exploring
G.B., I was unfortunate enough to break my leg in four places at the 40ft
pitch.

With the combined efforts and a great courage of several
caving clubs, these men and women saved my life, and to them I am eternally
grateful.  Although it is impossible for
me to thank everyone individually, I shall be writing to each caving club and
ambulance crew that was involved in the rescue.

I must express my warmest regards to Vince Simmonds who
brought me back to the land of the living, had it not been for Vince and his
quick actions, I might not have lived to tell the tale.  Vince, a great big thank you!

I came out of hospital on the 1st November, and thanks to
all you rescuers.  I am now on the mend
and look forward to resuming my caving activities as soon as I am able, and
also look forward to meeting you all again under better circumstances.  Once again a great big thank you.

            Yours
sincerely…….Jeni Galligan.

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

04.11.93

B. B. Editor, C/O Brian Prewer.

To the Editor,

On Saturday, 23rd October whilst caving in G.B., I had an
accident.  I sustained four fractures to
my right leg.  It took 60-70 men and
women five hours of sheer guts and determination to get me out.  I would be most grateful if you would publish
this letter to express my sincere gratitude to all concerned.  They are as follows:

My team:

Paul Curtis, Damien Walker &
Lynne Niland
Vince Simmons, who administered artificial resuscitation.
M.R.O., M.C.G., W.C.C.,
B.E.C.
Imperial
College
Caving club,

London
.
Roger Tomlinson, Paramedic.
And to anyone else who kindly assisted.

Yours sincerely…….Jeni Galligan

 

The 1989

Romania

Trip – Better Late Than Never

On Friday 8th August Tony Boycott, Richard Stephens, Mark
Lumley, Tony Jarratt, Rich Payne, Nick Sprang and Brian Van Luipen flew to
Vienna to board the Orient Express to

Budapest,
Hungary
.  Memories of the journey are blurred by the
vast amounts of booze consumed but struggling with great heaps of luggage and
nearly losing Loopy featured heavily.

The journey on the train from Budapest to Arad, Romania was
even mere drunken with a hint of excitement provided by the writer staggering
off the (luckily stepped)  train in the
middle of nowhere for a piss and nearly getting left behind, passportless.  His last memory was of hanging on to the
accelerating train with one hand, clutching his still functioning member with
the ether and being shouted at in Hungarian by amazed locals as he was whisked
off’ into the night.

At 5.30am on Saturday we arrived at

Arad
and spent some hours wandering around
the gloomy, depressing square in front of the station.  The grey skies and greyer buildings and the
overall sense of communist oppression were not encouraging.  Armed soldiers and police patrolled the
station and streets and the lack of goods in the few shop windows added to the
stark reality of life in

Romania

at this time – only a few weeks before the Revolution and deposing of Ceasescu.

Eventually one of our contacts appeared – Liana, a female
member of the Aragonite Club, could speak good English and told us that her
friend Pelo was on his way.  Suddenly, at
the far side of the new packed square, a huge rucksack could be seen bashing
its way through the crowd.  Beneath it
the small but perfectly formed Pelo; bespectacled, bearded, hairy and ragged,
stomped purposefully towards us.  His
English was non-existent but he typified the Caver worldwide and there were few
communication problems.

We left
Arad on a local train
and after some 50kms of flat, boring farmland reached the

village of
Helod
.  A walk along the track took us to a pub with
grim draught beer dispensed through a hose like petrol.  After an enforced 6½ hour wait we got a train
to Sudrijo from where we bribed a bloke driving a contractor’s tractor and
trailer to take us 36km up into the attractive limestone
Apuseni
Mountains near the

village of
Padis
.  The fare worked out at about £1.50 and two
packets of fags – no wonder the driver was a miserable sod.  Mind you, with all the other illicit
passengers he crammed in he should have been a rich man.

It was 9.30 pm by now. Pitch black, isolated, 1150m up in the middle of
Transylvania
and we’d forgotten the bloody garlic!  A
25 minute walk with our mountain of kit, get us to our lonely campsite where a
brew and food preceded much needed sleep.

The following morning we awoke to find ourselves in a
superb, wooded alpine valley Valea Cetatilor, near Grajduri.  While we got organized and acclimatised our
resident nutter, Pelo, set off on a 50km walk to try and get some carbide.  He reappeared that night with no carbide and
a bottle of Vodka.  His heart was in the
right place.

20/8/89 Pestera Neagra (

Black
Cave
)
was reached by a long walk through the pine forest.  Several large entrances led to a pitch.  Dressed only in shorts and T-shirts and with
no tackle we could not descend so we carried on a few hundred metres to Pestera
Ghetarul de la Barsa (Barsa Ice Cave) accompanied by six Romanian youths
carrying torches and a hand held carbide gobbler.  We followed the lads in, using their rope as
a hand line on the ice slope at the entrance. Beyond lay several hundred feet of roomy but impressive passage and a
traverse to the head of a short pitch with a streamway below.  No ice formations were seen and only a few
calcite decorations noted in this well used cave.  Another entrance led us back to daylight and
the long walk back to co camp – picking wild strawberries and puff balls as we
wen.  These became hors d’oeuvr to a meal
of “goulash curry” washed down with Voika, Whisky, Gin and Appeal
orange drink!  That night an impressive
lightning display preceded heavy rain.

21/8/89 Up early to the sound of sheep bells.  Frankfurters, bread, peppers and tomatoes
made an interesting breakfast before another long walk to a series of potholes
in the forest.  The entrances of Avenul
Gemanata and Avenul Pionier were examined in the company of a horde of Romanian
ramblers before we reached our goal Avenul Negra (Black Pot).  This vast open shaft has a fine rock bridge
spanning it a few feet down.  We rigged
an almost clear free hang of 240 feet on to a huge sloping pile of jammed
“logs” – actually trees up to 50ft long.  A delicate traverse between and over these,
and a 50ft sloping abseil down an ancient fir tree trunk led to a large stream
passage.  Downstream went for several
hundred feet to a sump with the names of several Polish clubs written in
carbide smoke above it.  A side passage
led to a three way junction where two streams entered.  These inlets were followed for several
hundred feet to where they both ended in avens. Some of this was very spectacular, beautifully eroded streamway.

A mad rush was made from the pot due to impending lightning
strikes and on the walk back we looked at Pestera Caput – later followed for
some two hundred feet to a traverse/pitch.

The gourmet evening meal consisted of macaroni cheese,
sardines and Angel Delight.

22/8/89   An hours
walk brought us to Pestera Focul Viu (

Living
Fire
Cave
_ not Fuckall View
Cave!).  A steep ice slope led down
through a roomy passage into a large ice-floored chamber partly open to the
surface.  A couple of fine 20ft high ice
columns are supposedly very impressive when the sun shines directly onto them
through the entrance – hence the name of the cave.  A short ice climb with fixed log aids led to
another chamber full of ice.  Various
side passages were looked at.

Back on the march again down into a deep wooded valley with
an enormous entrance at the bottom – Cetatile Ponorului (Citadel Sink).  This was 300ft high by 100ft wide, took a
large stream and had fixed but rotten wooden ladders giving access to a massive
river passage and another huge entrance.

This was followed for some 600ft, past three more entrances
to a series of entertaining fixed aid traverses made from logs, wire and
string.  After some 2/3 mile from the
main entrance we were stopped by a deep lake. This passage sumps a few hundred feet further in.  A large side passage with an impressive false
floor was looked at on the way back.

A tremendous cave and well worth visiting – only marred by
our embarrassment at being in the same company as hordes of shorts-clad, torch
carrying tourists while we were fully kitted up!

Austrian soup, corned beef hash, Angel Delight and Whisky
finished off a great day.

23/8/89 We walked ever the hills to Padis which consisted of
a few huts and the singularly unattractive Cabana Padis pub.  Rumanian beer being unbelievably foul we were
forced to resort to Vodka banana liqueur, red wine etc. to accompany the local
delicacy of scrawny dead sheep soup.  It
being the Rumanian equivalent of Priddy Fair Day we get absolutely shit-faced
and only by a miracle made it back through the forest in dribs and drabs at
various times through the night.  Cut,
bruised, battered, lost and with rucksacks full of smashed wine bottles we had
had another good day.  No gourmet meal
that night!

24/8/89   Only three
of us were capable of investigating a nearby 20ft deep pot which dropped into a
large cave with the sound of a streamway below a second pitch.  Not knowing its true name it was christened
Avenul Mahmur (Hangover Pot).  This slope
and 15ft pitch was later descended and the streamway reached.   Upstream a cold duck led to a sump after
200ft and downstream a wet 30ft pitch dropped into another sump.  A nice little system conveniently located
near the camp.

25/8/89   We returned
to Pestera Ghetarul de la Barsa where a 20ft pitch was descended and a winding
streamway followed for some 200ft to a 15ft pitch.  Then several hundred feet of attractive streamway,
interspersed with technical climbs and a 30ft deep free-climbable pitch was
visited.  A deep sump pool soon barred
the way.

The adjacent Pestera Zapedia was next explored.  A large, square entrance in a deep log filled
doline led to a steep ice slope and 30ft ice pitch.  From here a long, awkward and meandering
passage full of climbs, crawls and squeezes debouched into a massive gallery
boring off into the distance – rather like parts of the Gouffre Berger.  As it was getting late we fought our way back
out of this fine, sporting cave intending to return another day.  This was not to be due to atrocious weather –
a great shame as we later found out that this system is some 20km long!!

26/8/89   Festered and
dug in local dolines – to no avail.

27/8/89   Avenul
Mahmur was revisited in the hope of finding new stuff but without diving gear
it was hopeless.  A promising surface dig
was also started but bad weather later thwarted us here.

28/8/89   A very long
walk over the ridge into the

valley of
Girda Seaca
took us to
Pestera Ceiba Mare near where the river Girdisoara sinks.  A 180ft wide by 100ft high entrance, the
largest in the country, split into several passages.  The first looked at turned out to be a unique
slimy, moonmilk covered ramp which was climbed for ever 100ft until it became
too exposed for safe progress.

Another passage led through a crawl to the main way on – a
lengthy stream passage and large chamber where the river entered.  Several hundred feet of beautiful phreatic
river passage ended in a wide, deep and log filled sump pool.  A series of high level phreatic tubes
terminated high above the floor of the entrance chamber.

29/8/89    Torrential
rain threatened to wash the camp away.  A
Romanian sheep milk cheese suffered this fate but was unfortunately rescued by
Pelo.

30/8/89    Thick mist
failed to conceal the Bad News:- mice had eaten the Angel Delight.  This was offset by the Good News that the
shepherds’ monstrous dogs had devoured the sheep milk cheese.  We had had enough so packed up the camp –
giving much of our gear to the shepherds – and headed off for (relative)
civilization.  A desperate 15 mile, 6
hour walk got us to Pietrosa where we caught a very tatty bus to Beius – the
most publess town in
Europe.  There followed an exhausting train journey to
Oradea and eventually

Arad
.

We travelled back via
Budapest
and a few days R & R in

Vienna

where we ate, boozed and festered to excess. We even got underground in the Seegrette at Hinterbruhl – a tourist
gypsum mine where Heinkel 162 jet fighters were made during the 2nd World War
(which we mentioned quite a lot).  The
lower levels of this working are flooded and it is advertised as the
“largest underground lake in
Europe.”  Even more inspiring was the nearby pub with 100
different beers.

So ended a particularly interesting but thoroughly
exhausting caving holiday.  The caves
visited were excellent but would have been more so if we had had more surveys
and information.  The oppressive
dictatorship at that time, lack of food, poverty and overbearing attitude of
the police made us glad to get out back to the West and the fleshpots of

Vienna
seemed on another
planet.  Only two weeks after we left
came the Revolution and hopefully change for the better.  I can think of one fat police officer in

Oradea
railway station
who almost certainly get put against the wall – and rightly so.

Our very grateful thanks to Florica, Liana and Polo for all
the time and effort they put in for us. Florica lives in
London but the others
are presumably still in

Romania

and hopefully alive and well.

 (Compiled only four
years late from log books written at the time. Some surveys and information can be borrowed from Tony Boycott).

Tony Jarratt     10/12/93

 

Odds & Sods …

There is a trailer at The Belfry, and it’s been there for
some time.  If anyone wants it they can
speak to J-Rat and make him an offer, or whatever.  Any money would go to the club.  Any takers… ?

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

LES DAVIS, the new Mendip Warden and the Burrington
Commoners have put forward two proposals for the Burrington Area as follows
…..

1)       To
close the Goatchurch car-park.  This has
recently been used for tipping/dumping and most cars parked there these days
end up being broken into, I know several club members can attest to this
fact.  The suggestion is to put up a soil
barrier, ‘one vehicle’ back from the road, whilst leaving possible Landrover
access for rescue purposes etc…

2)       Fox’s
Hole.  Due to problems there, involving
amongst other things the disposing of hypodermic needles, it is suggested that
the site be gated.  Access would be given
to cavers on some sort of key basis.  It
is also noted that the site is used by bats for roosting … so maybe a gate
wouldn’t do them any harm either.

If there are no objections to these proposals/suggestions it
is likely that they will go forward in the New Year.  Comments and feedback is welcomed and may be
addressed to Les Davis at the Mendip Wardens Service, Charterhouse Centre,
Charterhouse,

Somerset
.

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

LOCKERS at The Belfry are now numbered.  If you are currently using a locker can you
indicate which one is yours to the Hut Warden. If you wish to continue using it next year there will be a £2.00 p.a.
reservation fee.  Any lockers not claimed
and paid for by 31.1.94 will be forced open and emptied and given to someone
else who wants one.  If you don’t have
one and would like one, see the Hut Warden.

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

Access to Keys: The lock on the key cupboard (for guest
keys) has been changed.  The following
people have access to the cupboard for issuing keys and permits to visitors:

Martin Grass, Blitz, Estelle, Jingles, Jeff Price, Nigel
Taylor, Mr Wilson (Snr.), Tim Large, Brian Prewer, Ted Humphreys, Jake.

If anyone else feels that they should have, or needs, a key
please contact the committee.

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

EIGHT Ladders have gone missing/are unaccounted for.  They should be in the tackle store and are
not!!  If anyone has a ladder or knows of
the whereabouts of one or more of these, please contact Mike Wilson.  Please remember to log tackle out of the
store in the book provided.  The tackle
is the property of the club and therefore available to all for use.

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

STOP PRESS …..

“MEGA BASH at The Old Hill Inn, Chapel Ie Dale,
Yorkshire. 19 & 20.3 94!!!

Martin Grass has arranged with John & Sue Riley to have
a weekend bash at The Old Hill Inn, like we had when they opened, it would be a
weekend of walking, caving, diving & climbing, not to mention the usual
barroom activities (Ballet dancing, Whist drives etc.)

I am informed that the Saturday night will be a singsong
& P*ss up!!! (no one interested in that I’m sure). John & Sue are
holding all bedrooms on a first come first served basis, so members should book
through them on 05242 – xxxxx.  (Sounds
bloody good to me. – Ed)

Watch this space for any further details.

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

I am informed by Chris Falshaw that not only do the B.E.C.
GET EVERYWHERE!!! ………

They also DO EVERYTHING!! – i.e. Richard Roberts. (See St.
Cuthbert’s Report p.17 & reference p.76) A member in the early ’60s has won
this year’s Nobel Prize for Medicine.

When Chris told Alfie he said” Ah, the

Wessex

haven’t got one of them!”  Kangy
asked Chris what he had got it for and was told “Gene (Jean)
Splitting”. “Well” said Kangy “He could have split them
down St Cuthbert’s!!”

© 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.