Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

Editor: John Williams

Front Cover: Original
Artwork By Robin ‘REG’ Gray.

1995 – 1996 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel


Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Ivan Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Estelle Sandford
Membership Sec.    

Richard St
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Floating                   Hilary




Hello again and welcome to the first BB of 1996.  This one is a bit of a rush job as there is,
for good reasons, a deadline to meet. The first of which is to announce:


A 60’s Disco at Priddy Village Hall

This will take place on March 9th from 8.00 onwards.  There will be food and a bar provided along
with a disco and live music from the backroom band.  Tickets are £4.00 each and are available from
any Committee member.  Hilary Wilson is
organizing the event and also has extra tickets.  It is hoped that the membership will support
this function as well as invite their friends/relatives/pets etc.  Should be a good night.


Congratulations are due to Dr Andy Newton and his wife, who
have recently been blessed with a Wessex Member, oops sorry I mean small child,
of the male category – whom I gather they are naming Thomas.  (Doubtless!)


There have been quite a few new members to the BEC over the
past couple of months – some of whom have paid their subs, some not – I will
publish another address list in the near future, but nobody gets further BB’s
till subs are paid.


I have had communications both from Trebor, in the
Philippines – and from
& Ange

Cave, in


– these are published in this issue, so we have a bit of an international
flavour at present.  I know Treebs is
back in the country but is being replaced in the

by Mike O’Driscoll (or
‘Blubber – the bush Kangaroo’ as he is otherwise known) the latest BEC joining.


More on ‘Blubber’.  He
being also a Grampian member.  Himself,
Pete (Fat Boy) Mulholland and Jingles, both also G.S.S., have been diving in


in St Cuthbert’s Swallet.  There is a
line rigged through to the 2nd Chamber, which is accessible in dryer
weather.  This is NOT a free dive and
leaders should be aware of this.  The
dive, although fairly straightforward is deeper and longer than it looks and it
is easy to become disorientated.  The
line is not a permanent fixture and will be removed in due course.  The object of this exercise will be made
plain in time.


Work continues in Priddy Green Sink.  It has been suggested that the Priddy Green
Sink Song be resurrected so possibly I will publish this in a future issue – or
maybe we should write a new one? 

has promised me an
article chronicling recent events and I know the Wig has more than a little
info on this site so hopefully an article of interest will be possible.  It has been said that there are individuals
involved in the digging there who smell better AFTER a trip down there –
worrying isn’t it???


Thanks to those of you who responded to my request for info
on Wookey Hole – I still need more, so if anyone has anything I might be
interested in, please contact me.


Roger Stenner has offered to demonstrate his water sampling
and testing techniques, currently being applied to St Cuthbert’s and Wookey
Hole, for anyone interested.  This aspect
of hydrology is particularly interesting – the information fills in many parts
of the story of the development of a cave as well as how it is being affected
by the present water levels and chemical content.  Roger is happy to demonstrate this at the
Belfry one Sunday Afternoon or some such. I know there are several members who have expressed interest in
this.  I’ll sort out a date with Roger
and publish it in the next issue.


Adrian Hole, our ‘Trusty’ librarian – has been working hard
in his new found vocation (and I don’t mean the Yogurt factory) and will be
preparing a list of what we have for general consumption.  He will be purchasing new publications and
trying to bring other serial publications, such as Descent, up to date.  I will print the new list as soon as it is
ready.  There is a wealth of information
there and it is for the membership’s use.


There is a lecture on 23.2.96 by Chris Howes (Descent) on
photography.  This is at the Kings of
Wessex leisure centre in Cheddar at 7.30p.m. Tickets are £5.00 from Robin Gray.


M.R.O. lectures in the back bar of the Hunters are coming up
… Notices are up in the Belfry and the Hunter’s. Saturday 23.3.96 is Oxygen
and sump rescue, to be presented by Dany Bradshaw and



That’s about all for now, keep the articles coming in, they
are always welcomed and at the moment I only have a few for the next issue.
Next ish should be in about six weeks or so. Hope you enjoy this issue … Hopefully the next one will be a bit
bigger. I never know whether to try to bring them out smaller but more often or
to go for bulkier issues less regularly …. any thoughts????

Good caving ———



An Open Letter from the Club from the Committee.

Many of you will no doubt recall the last AGM, and the issue
of damage and unacceptable behaviour within the BEC during the previous
year.  Three members were dealt with by
the Committee and were banned for varied periods for their actions.  Happily now, two of these bannings have
expired, and the individuals have a clean slate.  Hopefully the third person will also be
reinstated if he so applies at this years AGM.

It is with great regret therefore, that the Committee met in
January 1996 and had to deal with a very serious allegation by a member,
(Staying with his wife and two young lads at the Belfry).  The member alleged that a large amount of
burning newspaper was deliberately thrown into his bunkroom during the night,
to the terror of his group.  It was later
found that with the exception of the Belfry Table, every item of furniture had
been carried out of the main room and piled up onto a bonfire outside.  Further, those responsible then removed the
interconnecting main room fire-door, and placed this upon the bonfire.  Three persons were identified as the sole
alleged culprits and these were summoned before the Committee.  Unfortunately only one of these members could
attend the meeting at which they were to appear.  However this person agreed that he was also
their representative.

After consideration of the allegation and upon hearing the
representative, all three persons were suspended from the BEC until the October
AGM.  The Secretary was instructed to
write to each of these persons and advise them of this decision and he has
effected this.  The Secretary also
advised them of their right of appeal either by calling an E.G.M or to the
A.G.M if those persons feel aggrieved with the committees’ decision.  All three will have to re-apply to the AGM if
they wish to rejoin the club.

This Committee fully accepts its responsibilities, and
further the feeling of the last AGM in this regard.  The Committee will not shirk: from this
position, in which all members are united. It is also obvious that certain members are unaware of the full facts,
and seem committed to washing the clubs’ dirty linen in public, most especially
in the Hunters.  A large amount of
vindictive and petty sniping and backbiting is being directed by a small
minority at members of the Committee.  No
member of the Committee will now discuss this further, other than at an
appropriate meeting at the Belfry, to which any member with a point of view is
most welcome.  To put it very bluntly,
either put-up, or shut-up!  It is not the
Committee or the AGM that is currently bringing the club’s name into
disrepute.  Other clubs have actually
considered banning the entire BEC from their premises as a result of this.  The Secretary has had to write apologies to
two sister clubs recently, as a direct result of the behaviour of some members
who have the self-inflated opinion that only they represent the true spirit of
Exploration and the BEC.  Indeed, one
could be excused for asking them “Just exactly what is the colour of the
sky on their planet?!

In future, any such serious breach of behaviour or bringing
complaint against the club will be dealt with most harshly.  Permanent lifetime banning may well be
enforced.  To the small minority to whom
this may apply, you have been warned. This Committee is not prepared to have members and guests frightened
away, and it will act in whatever way it deems fit to reinstate the former good
name of the Club both on Mendip and elsewhere.



A Letter from Treborus Pbillipinus.


Heavy rain in December obliterated many of the trails and
tracks so on several occasions we’ve had to use Caribou – Water Buffalo – to
transport our gear around.  Good fun but
O so slow!!  One particularly large,
belligerent, ugly and smelly Caribou was immediately nicknamed ‘Henry’!

The first few days in this area of Tumbali have been spent
sussing out the geology, hydrology and general layout of the land.  The immediate vicinity of Tumbali is set
below a curve in a plateau area.  The
plateau drops quite steeply down a heavily wooded and bambooed slope, with
various ravines, creeks and dry river beds. This opens out to various benches, cultivated with corn and rice paddy,
levelling out after a few Kilometres into a river flood plane.

The caves that undoubtedly exist, including the c8km

system discovered
in 1992, resurge in a series of ‘spring lines’ along the base of the
plateau.  Numerous, stonking resurgences
have been looked at, but they all sump or choke a short way in.  They are all obviously below a line of total
saturation and it is expected that the sumps will be long.  A few fossil caves have been found a little
above these resurgences but they too close out. It was hoped that these would drop down behind the sumps.  Extensive mud and flood evidence suggests
that the cave water within the active system rises up into these old
fossils.  The next step is to stop
looking at all these resurgences and concentrate on the plateau above to look
for sinks.

Trebor’s lesson for the day ……. Stay clear of poison
ivy.  Everything in the Phillipines is
designed to zap, bite, sting or poison you, or get you drunk!!!


A good day prospecting, the ‘jig saw’ of this pace is
beginning to fit together.

Great hilarity this evening, as during a Ginebra (Gin)
session, a lad spotted a snake up a mango tree with a torch (what the
snake????) and ten minutes of fun were had trying to shoot it down with an air
rifle.  Since the gun had a barrel shaped
like I-Rat’s elbow, needless to say they missed.

A local farmer said he had a cave on his land where a stone
dropped for 20 minutes.  He was a bit
unsure when I asked how he heard the stone hit the bottom!

Found a lovely looking cave today – a slightly smaller
version of Alum Pot.  However – rotten
rock, no trees overhanging and no nice cracks for a piton prevented a safe
descent.  Probably about a 50m
shaft.  We will get a piece of hose to
put the rope through for some protection, so we can just abseil over the
side.  I hope it doesn’t end like Alum!!!


Great excitement today. Caving was delayed as we had to search for our host’s pig which had gone
walkabout.  It was pregnant and had
probably wandered off to seek a comfy nest. We found it in a thicket, the proud owner of 7 piglets.  3 were still born.  He will fatten the survivors for 2 months
then sell them at 500 pesos each, an enormous sum for him.  Needless to say we celebrated all day on gin
and Tanduay rum and ended up senseless.

In the morning we went back to survey a cave Richard and
Henry looked at, believing it to be the downstream continuation of the


The passage looked similar to the sewer in

which Snablet reached in 1992.  Unfortunately it sumped immediately.  After surveying it we went outside and
followed the dry river bed down for 50m to a 10m diameter depression and a big
sink choked with logs and bamboo.  Ten
minutes of log chucking dropped us 5m into a superb section of cave, obviously
a continuation of the cave just looked at. Flood debris on the roof suggested caution, so – as it had rained the
day before – we decided to leave pushing and surveying until the morrow.

I had a heart attack in the next little hole we poked at
when I put my hand on an Ahass – snake – luckily it was only a discarded snake
skin, but several palpitations were experienced.

Later we went to look at a 12m pitch Richard and Henry had
found during Speleo


1995, dropping into a large stream way. This was significant as it dropped in behind a sumped major
resurgence.  I reached Richard’s limit
but could not get down the pitch safely. The rotten rock wouldn’t take a bolt and there was no belay within 300
miles.  Tape, tethers, belts and condoms
all strung together still wouldn’t reach a safe belay.  Frustrating is not the word!!  The only consolation, as Richard said, is
that there is no draught whatsoever and there is every likelihood that the big
passage sumps upstream immediately.

A shame, the resurgence is bigger than

‘s so there has to be another big
system in there somewhere.  It’s just
getting into the sod!!

Jun-O says ‘Hi’ to Jake, Snablet,
Richard & Henry.        Regards


An Epistle From a


Dear Jingly,

By the time you get this you might , (just might) have
received a postcard ­anything is possible! But if not.  Hi, we’re doing fine,
still hoping that you are coming out. Ange has got used to eating chillies (toilet paper in the fridge …
Ed).  Big mountains etc … Luv A&A.

Since I’ve taken the day off from the speleo things I
thought I might chronicle some of our more tasteful/less experiences for the BB
– assuming that the club has not yet been disbanded! (Oh the cynicism of an ex
committee member …. Ed!!)

The story so far …..

We left Mendip cold, wet and miserable (and horrendously
early so’s I could get them to the airport on time …. Ed),  but arrived safely at the Mongo residence in
N. Carolina.  With
his assistance we bought a small car, and stuffed it with a large pile of kit
and a certain Henry Bennett.  We then set
off south westwards on what was quickly dubbed ‘The road kill tour.’  The best way to see a large interesting selection
of the local fauna is to watch the hard shoulder.  We ourselves nearly added a rather sleepy
vulture, but perhaps its as well that we missed as he was wider than the
car!!  After various adventures involving
Gin, people in large hats and an unfeasibly large shooting star … REALLY …
we reached


and the home of Chris Lloyd.  After we
had spent two days picking lemons from his veranda, he showed up, accompanied
by Rich Blake, Vince Simmonds and ‘Skippy’ – they had been checking out another
area for the weekend.  We also had an
introduction to some Mexican Caving Politics ….. Yes Bollocks is universal.

Now read on …..

In due course we tore ourselves away from the bright lights
and expensive bars of the big city and drove down to Cerro Grande which is
about 150 miles SW of Guadalajara and about 30 miles south of the Volcan de
Colima.   This massif is about 100 sq k
of limestone which is 1500 – 1700 metres thick and only a few of the
innumerable holes in it had ever been investigated.  One of these, the Resumida del Paso Blanco,
is a single shaft 240 metres – the sixth deepest underground pitch in

. Sadly
it’s blocked with mud which was spewn out once upon a time by the
aforementioned volcano.  (I thought he
meant Mr Spock … Jx) – or by its still active neighbour Volcan del Fuego –
and so are all the others.  Our mission
of course was to find one that wasn’t. Despite the inevitable loss of narrative tension I’ll tell you ….. we

Here, however, a bit of local colour.  As you travel across from

the terrain is mostly scrub
desert and seasonal lagoons/salt flats, but in due course the road winds
through an Army roadblock.  (It’s a dope
growing area and they insist on a monopoly apparently) and up a green and craggy
valley, and then the dirt road winds up even more enthusiastically from about
1500m to the plateau on top at about 2400m. You then spend a while greeting some of the locals, because like most
remote parts of

it’s only remote if you don’t happen to live there!  It is a poor community – like a lot of
Mexicans they live in simply built shacks with daylight shooting through them,
but in contrast to most places – almost no one has satellite TV and thus have
to put up with the awful trash on ordinary broadcast.  (As opposed to the awful trash on satellite
… ??? … Ed).  It was obvious that we
were the proud owners of the largest stash of Booze on the hill, although I
noticed that over Xmas and the New Year the locals spent a lot of time driving
slowly along the forest tracks whilst singing and shouting inanely …… For
some reason we fitted right in!!

The top of the plateau is covered in enormous depressions,
full of smaller depressions and covered smothered with mixed forest, mostly
pine and oak.  In January its T shirt
weather during the day (if the sun shines) but drops to several degrees of
frost at night.  Since we were camping
this meant ever larger evening bonfires and sleeping in all our clothes.  Anyone who imagined us swanning about on the
beach can think again!  On Xmas day it
distinguished itself by raining all day in a dismal manner that made us all
feel quite at home.  My Xmas present was
the first descent of a 50m shaft about the size of Alum Pot.  It was, of course, full of mud at the bottom.

Nick & Sophia Hawkes joined us for the festivities, and
together, over 10 days we descended, or at least looked into, a large number of
holes – I wasn’t counting.  They were
almost all vertical and varied from 2 – 135 metres deep, sometimes down 3 or 4
pitches.  They were almost all bone dry
in a fetching pale grey limestone with occasional re-dissolving stal.  Unless they carried a good draught they were
also full of gnats, which were extremely unpleasant to inhale.  Needless to say there were also large numbers
of bats, crickets, beetles, centipedes, millipedes, spiders etc.

We found these holes either by wandering about waving
machetes or we were shown them by Oscar, our local guide.  Everyone in the village was his uncle
(apparently) and they all had a pet draughting hole that we just had to be told
about, but in truth – the wandering about method was just as effective.  Some of the holes did blow mightily (and some
of them sucked!!) in a manner suggestive of many miles of cave below, but all
ended with the air whistling through a tiny crack or through the mud
itself.  If we had been there for six
weeks with a few shovels, the story might have been very different.

Eventually we decided that we were wasting our time and that
we should go and look at one of the resurgence areas (very little known about
the hydrology of the region) but we were destined never to reach the Systema
Toxin, as the largest known cave is called, since the track up there proved to
be too severe even for Chris’s pickup, which broke down just as we started to
retreat.  However its worth noticing that
at Toxin there are few access problems (unlike the top of the plateau which is
largely ecological reserves) and that Toxin has been surveyed for 3km and left
going, with many unsurveyed side passages. If we return to the area that’s where we’ll go as there are reputed to
be other, un-entered entrances nearby.

The trouble with the truck and the dwindling number of days
left to most of the team, forced a return to

. Most people walked up the two volcanoes previously mentioned but Ange
and I wimped out and did a little shopping. Some friends of Chris’s showed us a nearby Qanat.  For the benefit of the ignorant, this is an
underground aqueduct – in this case 7km long, from the nearby hills, where the
water table is higher, to supply a small town. (After a recent dispute it has unfortunately become blocked by a large
fall.  A nearby explosives company knows
nothing about it – of course!)  It was
dug about 1900 and obviously something was miscalculated as the passage is 10 –
15m high, rather than 2m as is normal. It was dug more or less simultaneously along its entire length from a
series of some 70 access shafts, which were then capped – most of the capping
stones have long since gone and at the right time of day sunlight beams down at
regular intervals.

A few days later, the others left and Henry, Ange & I
set off across the country to join a mad team of Derbyshire persons here at
Cuezetlan, which is 150 miles E.N.E. of

.  The caves
here are NOT blocked with mud – we’ve found & surveyed 4km this week!!

……….. to be continued.

Right, that’ll do for a first instalment – after this (next
week) we have an invitation to join some Canadian friends of Chris’s in Chiapos
(the South.)

Needless to say there are already a thousand anecdotes from
…. ‘How Rich broke the nightclub window’ to ‘The tale of Henry’s leg ulcer
… Ugh!’ and we look forward to telling them to you in due course.  Suffice it to say that we have not regretted
coming for an instant.

In due course I shall get on to phase 2 ‘The Cuezetlan

See ya …… Andy (Cave).


Letter from The



We have moved a few klicks north east from our base at
Tumbali to the neighbouring barangay of Nangaulitan.  The barangay captain, Edmundo Ramas, visited
us in Tumbali and said he had lots of caves in his area.  As it turned out the caves were not far from
our base in Tumbali and there was no need to hump all the gear over to

The first day here we looked at a very impressive rising –
clear blue, cold water stonking up out of a hole in a very picturesque
spot.  This was clearly the water coming
from PT7 – looked at by Richard and Henry last April.

This has an impressive river at the end, sumping downstream
(the rising) and upstream after a 100m or so. A shame – a big cave in there somewhere. The place had a lot more water in it than when Rich and Henry saw it;
the heavy rain in December must have substantially filled the whole cave.  I’d like to know why Rich named it


We then had a look at two hole about 100m up the forested
hillside above PT7 to see if they might drop in behind the upstream sump – they

Then it was a 1km trek through scrub and forest to a ‘bito’
(shaft) known by the locals.  As we
wandered up a dry river bed it looked promising.  We came to a c60ft shaft, 2m wide and 10m
long, with running water audible at the bottom. We’ll abseil in tomorrow.  On the
way back to base we were shown the rising for this cave – a nice amount of
water about 0.5km away.


Abseiled into shaft looked at yesterday, using a totally
monstrous and outrageous deviation.  A
nice 60′ hang straight into waist deep water in a large lake chamber with an
absolutely ridiculous amount of water welling out of a very large, forceful,
blue upstream sump.  Downstream went
silly also. The whole flow running through a 0.5m wide tunnel full of
bamboo!  A nose-roof kissing job in
100mph water with sharp bamboo 6″ below the surface did not look too
inviting.  This is where we needed
someone disposable like Henry.  As we
knew the resurgence was only 500m downstream, we didn’t push the matter.  It was a disappointment that the upstream
didn’t go; that’s what we were looking for to get into the mountain.  You’d need cave diving gear with extra sized
fins, each with an outboard motor mounted on them to progress against the flow.

In the pm we hiked up the nearby mountain, through dense
jungle, in sweltering weather, to look at a few high level caves we were told
existed.  Halfway up the arduous going I
hoped it was going to be worth it.  One
cave was an old fossil (Just like Treebs …. ed!) with impressive chambers,
beautifully decorated but closing down. Traversing along the forested slope led to numerous cave features –
exposed limestone, dolines, shelters, small caves etc.  One huge doline was a hideout for NPA
Guerrillas until recently.  Another cave
looked interesting as it had a shaft some 20m deep but with no draught.  This closed down also.

We decided that there was not much prospect here so we
slogged back to Tumbali.


Today is the last day in this area, so we wandered around
the various sinks, resurgences and cave features to see how water levels had
changed after three or four days with no rain. Quite interesting observations were made to add to the jigsaw of the



A Letter From The Hut Engineer.

Dear Jingles,

Please can you publish in the BB the following …

Having been elected to the committee as hut engineer for
this year I feel I must state that I need the support of the membership in
order to accomplish the tasks that need doing.

There is a lot of work to be done on the Belfry and this
will require the efforts of quite a few people. I am not capable of getting this work done by myself and am thus
appealing to members for their help.

The Belfry is a communal property belonging as much to the
club as to each individual in it and thus it is in our own interests to main
tin it to an acceptable standard, sadly at present this is not the case.

I have set aside some dates for working weekends as follows

9.3.96.                Cleanup day (prior to disco at
village hall)

13&14.4.96.        Working weekend

22&23.6.96.        Working weekend

31.8 &
1.9.96.     Working weekend.

I aim to have specific tasks in mind for each weekend so
that the pressing jobs get done.

If anyone wants details of this, please contact me.

With a bit of work we can make the hut highly functional
again, it is the club’s hut. … and you are the club …. so please come and

Estelle Sandford.

……… High time a bit of work was put in, I can remember
working weekends where a lot got done and bloody good fun was had.  Lets hope we can do this and support Estelle
in her efforts ………. .Jingles.

© 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.