Exploration Club, The Belfry,
Editor: John Williams
Front Cover: Earl
Clarke with a handful Pech la Vayssiere,
Photograph by Gary Cullen.
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
B.B. Editor John Williams
April; and spring is with us. With spring comes not only a
young man’s fancy (which could mean anything in these so called politically
correct times!!) but also …. The Belfry Bulletin.
Seems the club is starting to rev up for 1996. I notice in the Belfry hallway there is a
list of members offering caving trips to new and prospective members –
something that was prevalent when I first joined the BEC. In past years this seems to have died somewhat
and groups of people have tended to do their own thing. One of the things I always liked was that I
could ask people if they’d take me caving and they’d say ‘Sure … where dya wanna go??! I know these days I get asked for a lot of
Cuthbert’s trips but there are far more caves on Mendip than just that. Maybe now we’ll start to see a few more trips
written up In the caving log – I certainly invite anyone to ask me for trips
(and I don’t mean LSD) and I know there are many other ‘older’ members who feel
the same way. I would also remind the
membership – particularly newer members – that! we have a very competent and
willing caving secretary in Jeff Price …. He only has to be asked and trips
will be arranged.
The 60s/70s Disco on 9.3.96 organised mainly by Hilary
Wilson, to whom all credit and thanks must go, was a resounding success. I know there were others who put in a lot of
effort as well and thanks are also due to them. What a brilliant chance to resurrect those clothes that have been living
in dustbin bags at the back of the wardrobe for 20 odd years. (Trevor Hughes actually looked quite smart –
a shock to many a system). More than
this, it was amazing to see so many people taking advantage of the chance to do
all those dances we haven’t dared to for years. You know, the ones that make you look a complete prat when you think
you’re being dead cool. ‘Saturday Night
Fever at Priddy Village Hall’. I noticed
that there was however, an absence of platform shoes/boots, I guess we all
learnt about broken ankles the first time round. The turnout was much better than
expected. I would guess there were about
100 people there – so the event more than paid for itself. There was some talk of the proceeds going
towards ‘digging funds’.
The club would like to thank Roger Dors for providing and
tending the bar I have a sneaking suspicion you quite enjoyed It Roger!!
Meanwhile, a little further down the drove, Priddy Green
Sink, which should really be renamed Priddy Brown Stink if the state of the
regular diggers is anything to go by … is steadily yielding more finds to the
‘gentle persuasion techniques’ of Jarratt and Co. The last report I had gave three probable
leads after about another 150′ of passage was found. There was a 25′ ladder pitch followed by
three free climbs, totalling some 70 in depth. Doubtless there will be more before I go to print, so this is probably
out of date already. This is probably
the most exciting digging prospect on Mendip at present and hopes are high for
major discovery in the not too distant future.
An interesting quote from Jane Jarratt when a team of
diggers showed up to see Tony one Sunday afternoon, straight from the site …
” You can come in if you dont smell” …. I’m not
sure if she was referring to the Cowsh encrustations borne with such pride by
these fellows – or just their general personal hygiene!!
Still in Priddy ……….
Priddy Folk Fayre will take place on 14, 15 & 16th of
June this year. Based as usual around
the Hall and school, Friday night’s concert will include Cantoris, Fastest to
Yetties. Saturday sees many events including
dancing and a craft fayre with a barn dance and/or concert in the evening. This has been a steadily growing event and
this years has the makings of an excellent weekend. Tickets are available in advance or on the
day – tho’ the Friday night concert may well sell out. Further information from Yours Truly if
Finally, I have been asked by Charterhouse Caving Company
Ltd to remind everyone of the necessity to obtain permits before going
underground in Charterhouse caves and to please observe the No Novice
rules. There have been incidents
recently where agreements have been broken. Not only does this compromise the BEC but also jeopardises access for
all cavers in the future.
Thats about it for now …. I’m sure Spike will fill you in
on some of the local gossip later. Thanks again to those of you that have provided me with articles. Keep the stuff coming in …. I always need
extra material for publication and the more I get, the More BBs you get.
See you all around ….. Good Caving. Jingles.
Report From Clean Up.
A small group of people turned up to help with the clean up
– many thanks to them.
We managed to clean the Belfry main room completely &
deduced from this that the main room badly needs a coat of paint; despite
bucketfuls of soup (I think she means soap … but who knows??? .. ed) most of
the grime is still on the walls & ceiling. We are hoping to paint it on 13th/14th April, any ideas for colour
schemes, etc let me know. (Habitat revisited at the Belfry??? .. ed)
There are many other jobs badly in need of attention; the
ones I have knowledge of are listed below. If you can offer any assistance with the jobs or provide cheap or free
sources for the equipment needed to do the work, please let me know.
Rear Bargeboards: The ends need sealing ASAP but
ideally the boards need replacing (the front bargeboards were replaced last
Windows: We have 2 new windows waiting to be fitted
at the tackle shed end of the building- these are a priority job. The window on the members bunkroom is poor,
but the rest are OK for now but will need considering soon.
Outside Walls: Need a coat of paint.
Woodwork: Needs treating and repainting.
Bunkroom Firedoor: Needs repairing or replacing- the
wood in the panels is rotten.
Porch: The felting needs sorting, so the roof doesnt
leak onto the electric switch.
Outside Lighting: Any ideas?
Painting: Main room a priority.
Showers: Left hand one needs new shower unit fitted
(we have a new one waiting to go in). Both showers desperately need a new coin meter does anyone know a good
Central Heating: Needs a cage around it. (Perhaps we should tame it then!).
Toilet: The one by the front door needs a new cistern
fitted. The old one leaks and keeps
Kitchen: Pipes need upgrading to copper ones on the 2
If anyone has noticed any other work that needs attention
let me know so I can add it to my list
The dates for the working weekends are: 13th/14th April,
22nd/23rd June, & 31st August and 1st September. Please come along & help, the more the
merrier and the better the partying on the Saturday night!
The History of Singing River Mine.
Altitude 495 ft – Depth 80 ft – Length 300 ft.
30 ft entrance shaft which requires a ladder, 2 ft belay and
a lifeline doubled for the return.
In a field behind
calamine working with 300 ft of galleries, it is known locally as Singing River
Mine. The entrance to the shaft is
perfectly circular, the most suitable form of construction, holding back 30 –
35 feet of clay which covers the ore bearing variety of different types of
It was the last remaining mine in the Shipham (Known then as
Sipeham) and Rowberrow area to be mined extensively through the 18th and 19th
centuries for calamine, the ore of Zinc and Lead.
There is no real evidence down on paper, but it is possible
that Singing River Mine, towards its end, was being worked for lead by a
company, Messrs Barwell and Wright – and was later opened by Hussey and Vivian,
again mining for lead.
In the mine there are shafts of up to 100 ft deep, climbs,
traverses, squeezes, crawls, labyrinths, lakes, pools, canals and streams
giving a wealth of information on the techniques of Mendip mining, especially
about the underground water problems.
In 1961, Axbridge rural district council employed Messrs
F.G. Clements & Co from Easton, near Wells, to drill for water in Shipham
to add to the public supply. They
cleared a mine shaft that was filled in and drilled to a depth of 200 feet. This was the “Singing River
Mine”. They also changed a system
of galleries into one large chamber for the reservoir, which produced 16,000
gallons a day.
The reasons for the fall of the calamine mining industry in
Shipham and Rowberrow were poorly understood. One possible reason is the discovery and development of new mineral
deposits elsewhere, although a more exciting tale for the historian (According
to J.W. Gough) is that by 1830 the workings seemed to have encountered the two
problems of poorer deposits and increasing water at depths at up to 200 ft
below the surface.
The water in the mine came from the
which flows through a natural stream passage which the miners broke into while
extending the mine.
By 1853 all mining in Shipham, including the Singing River,
had come to an end.
The passage ways which may be visited by cavers today are a
mixture of mine workings and a natural cave system.
(Article by Mark
Riches – Shipham Scouts. Forwarded by Dr Andy Newton.)
That Sinking Feeling
Various reports were filtering through to me that Priddy
Green Sink had gone or was ‘going’, to somewhere in Swildons 4 seemed
certain. Having never been in the cave
or seen photos of it I decided to do my bit for caving journalism and rang
J-rat one evening re access. ‘No
problem, dear boy,’ was the reply so nearer the time I decided to get a bit
more clued on what to expect.
‘It’s a collector’s item – a bit tight – been down West End
series?’ I was told. Somewhat committed
by having persuaded Carl Jones of SWAG (South West Adventure Group) to join me
and my camera I arrived at Tucker Street one Saturday morning for a final
briefing. With a crumpled Grade 0.5 plan
3 new batteries, an ersatz Petzl Zoom (I was warned waist mounted cells were a
pain) and instructions to do the cave backwards Carl and I headed for Priddy
The green seems quiet nowadays – have the entrance changes
in Swildons deterred the weegies? We
rapidly changed and approached the unlikely entrance. The short manhole shaft opened into a
surprisingly roomy passage exuding a cowshy fragrance, from the walls hung
festoons of ‘slurrictites’. We
obediently reversed down the passage with Carl in the lead.
A short crawl from the steeply descending streamway led into
a small high chamber – RAF aven – the site of the first breakthrough. A descent over boulders led past a loose
chamber (Hanwell Hall) through another crawl to a short rifty climb. ‘OK so far’ I thought as we entered a steeply
sloping highly modified bedding – The Blasted Bastard. I should have known better. We dropped out of the BB into stand up
passage. A knackered drill battery case
lay on a ledge and bang wire led up a rift which after reference to the survey
we decided was Barrel Series. A nice
stoopingish vadose rift doubled back – Virgin One. Carl scuttled round the corner and thrutching
Round the corner I could see why because he’d just passed a
vice like speciality which clearly was diggers’ dimensions but not perhaps
mine. The squeeze was like a funnel the
narrow end nearest me. Lying on my side
right arm extended I expired (well – breathed out) thrutched and to my surprise
and relief passed the crux. Three metres
later I was standing at the top of a short climb the sound of falling water ahead. Down the climb Carl was inspecting the next
A 5 metre ladder pitch dropped through a slot into a small
damp chamber. An awkward squeeze at
floor level led off. This was the one
J-rat had suggested we approached illogically. Carl just did it. I tried every
which way cussing at two lumps both easily hammerable which I just could not
negotiate. Carl disappeared down the
next climb the sounds of this progress fading while I spasmodically banged the
knobbles feeling like Alice in Wonderland without the right edibles.
I noticed my lamp going dim – after 1 1/2 hours. Show down at Bat Products later I
decided. Booming rumbling noises wafted
up the shaft. After 20 minutes I had got
bored with sorting the camera and trying to enlarge the squeeze. More booming rumbles – what the hell was
going on down there? I started to twitch
– what if Carl had hurt himself? I
started shouting. More rumbling for five
minutes then incoherent shouts. I did
some incoherent shouting too. The word
‘light’ seemed to echo back. ‘You’ve got
no light?’ I shouted. ‘Yes!!!!!!! ‘Shit!’ I thought.
It was now 2 pm. I
was supposed to be back in Chard by 5; not having to think about rescue
callouts. Thoughts of mutterings about
‘guts’ and ‘garters’ from Angie before I left prompted my next move. I rashly (good word for what happened next)
decided to try the squeeze again. Stripping to underpants and wellies I wriggled in and began thrashing
about. Talk about sado-masochistic
acts. I can see the headline ‘GP gets rocks off grovelling in gravel’. Two minutes of this and I had acquired a
symmetrical line of abrasions down my body suggesting a night of passion with a
grizzly and, even worse, I hadn’t passed the squeeze.
Meanwhile Carl was groping his way upwards following the
stream. I began to assemble his spare
light. I’d just begun to poke the spare lamp in its transparent BDH container
(on the end of a handy rope) through the squeeze using a handy pry bar in the
hopes that it would bounce down the pitch towards him when I heard him bellow
that he could see my light. He was soon
back through the squeeze and I’d dressed decently again.
My lamp then dimmed faster than the lamps at the local
Odeon. To add to the fun Carl’s spare
packed up as well. Groping around we
found more batteries and by touch inserted them in the fake zoom. And we hadn’t even started the photography!
Dash and glimmer describes our exit. If you find a bit of black plastic casing at
the bottom of the ladder pitch it comes off Carl’s slave flash which for some
strange reason he started playing with in the dark. Photos of a variable standard were
taken. The vice like squeeze is a sod
for big people on exit – while in it I realised I would never have got out solo
for a call out. I needed a helpful shove
to pass the end of the funnel.
I could have kissed the spacious floor of the Blasted
Bastard – it meant we were virtually out of the cave. Two more battery changes later and we heaved
ourselves onto the green.
Things could have been worse. Carl is the ‘alleged PCG midget’ who pushed
the bottom of Longwood in the ’70’s. He
got to the end of the Virgin Series and then his collapsible chest allowed him
further, the booming rumbles that I heard being boulders he shifted to move
forward. When I started shrieking down
the pitches he’d been passing a particularly tight section (‘must have been
tight ‘cos I never take my lamp off – and I did’) and had had to go through and
turn round. At that point the cave was
still going and enlarging. If his light
had packed up then the ensuing rescue would have been very interesting.
Some of the pictures weren’t too bad as well! I can recommend the trip as definitely being
a collector’s item.
There have been numerous articles written with varying
descriptions of the caves available from previous B.B.’s so I’m not going to
repeat our trip with complete write up’s. Instead I’d like to mention a few changes and points that might be of
interest to future trips.
Gary Cullen (BEC), Pete Guamaccio (Wessex) and myself met
other friends out at Gramat. We arrived
with previous write up’s from B.B.’s with literature from S.M.C.C and Wessex
journals. We had a possible itinery of
about 50 caves. I would like to thank Em
Porter at this point for the information she provided us with which was
Igue des Combettes.
Various articles just state there is a large imposing fence
around the land the cave is sited on and they thought it better not to
continue. If you continue up the tarmac
road to the second farm for permission there is no problem with access at
all. The owner even took us back to the
fence pointing out the entrance and the gate further up for the access
path. This is a worth while trip
descending a series of pitches on SRT to the horizontal streamway passage at
the bottom. We rescued a partridge at
the bottom which had fallen down the series of entrance pitches.
Gouffre de Revillion
The description we had described access into the Grand Salle
as requiring “combined tactics” to enter a high level passage. A few years ago when I was down here the cave
ended a short while after the second pitch, and we noted a possible climb but
as there were only two of us we failed to climb it. This time with climbers in our party we
successfully climbed a wall to find it in fact went nowhere. Continuing down the cave I was surprised to
find the cave did not end in a mud and gravel choke as before but continued for
a considerable way on. We turned right
at a junction and scrambled up a scree slope. From the top a short 15ft drop required a ladder, follow the passage to
a tight flat out squeeze similar to ladder dig in GB. As you get through, the passage ascends
another scree slope but this time be careful because as you climb up you tend
to fill up the hole you’ve just come through blocking your exit. Continue climbing until you reach a
horizontal passage which finally emerges in the Grand Salle. Huge impressive chambers go in both directions,
right finally ends but if you climb high into the roof and through boulders it
continued in more of the same. Left
takes you to a free climbable mud ridge. Beyond the floor is like a dried up lake. You walk across spongy mud which has dried to
form hexagonal blocks with deep cracks and is quite unusual.
Gouffre de Roque de
The information we took said the farmer has blocked the
access path in several places leading to the entrance because his sheep
(Mouton) keep getting out due to cavers. It suggested walking up the single track railway line to near the end of
the cutting and climbing out on the right. This we did. On returning and
walking down the middle of the track I noticed a train coming in the cutting
and unable to climb out, the train fast approaching, we dived to the wall
before getting run down, much to the drivers amusement letting rip his air horn
only feet away. On getting back another
group just took the blocked farmers path which is now obviously
accessible. Another thing we noted was
an abundance of cave life. Notably
dozens of toads were in Gouffre de Revillion. Trout like fish in Gouffre de St de la Pucelle. A Salamander in Igue de St Sol and a snake we
rescued in Igue de Pendant along with the partridge from Igue des combettes.
We also met a French group which are building a club hut and
offered us possible accommodation and contacts for the future. They have also just published a book with 500
cave surveys and map references which although quite expensive is well worth
purchasing as one of the main problems we found was locating the
entrances. One cave we did from this
book was Pech la Vayssiere a short cave with three entrances and very pretty. We did a photo trip and hence the interesting
front cover of the BB. Captions
If anybody is interested in the data we have collated
his computer and if you write to him he would be willing to pass the
information on. He is also able to give
you the address in
if you wanted to purchase the book.
Return of the Son of ‘Spike’
Howdy folks, I haven’t been around for a while as I’ve been
lying low due to death threats after my last contribution …. some people have
no sense of humour!!
Seems the club is reviving itself after the winter
hibernations and annual membership culling.
We seem to have had a fair influx of new members recently
but I haven’t managed to dig up anything suitably embarrassing on any of them
Easter saw a fair contingent of BEC in the Yorkshire Dales
largely centred in Dent and I gather a good time was had by all. Babs had such a good time she can’t even
remember Saturday night and I have witnesses to the fact that she was sick in
Yordas Cave on Sunday … Organic Caving???? Mike Wilson and JC were last seen heading in the direction of Bull
Pot…tho if Saturday nite is anything to go by it was probably Bullshit Pot!!
The loudest noises on Saturday night were from Jeff Price,
who tiring of the singing of other locals decided to regale us with .. “As
I was walking through the wood” …. etc. He managed to silence the whole place temporarily … or was that
I recently came across the following picture of one of our
members, showing what he gets up to in his spare time. I think this begs a caption competition so
please send ’em to Jingles and he’ll buy a pint for the writers of the best
ones. (Must remember to tell him about that!).
The Wessex Challenge is coming up, its set for Saturday 8th
May 1996 and will be at Priddy village hall hosted by The M.C.G. although as
has been observed they really should be called the ‘G’ as none of them seem to
be from Mendip and as for going caving .. well … ??? Do we want to enter a team this year …. ? I
guess its up to the membership.
Priddy Green Sink seems to be the hot news lately, as
mentioned elsewhere in this rag. Every
time there is a deadline for this, or other, publications – P**ing “JRat
II & Co. go and discover some more ….. the latest being a 70ft aven
(although when this was climbed and actually measured ten feet was lost –
making it a sixty foot aven!!) and I expect there’ll be more as soon as this
goes to print… .. No consideration for deadlines or publishers !!!!
People are mystified as to why Jingles has been diving in
the lake in St Cuthbert’s. When I asked
him why he replied .. .’Coz its got water in it!! I s’pose it makes sense really as its a bit
pointless carting diving kit down to a place where theres no sump!!!
Roger Stenner demonstrated his water analysis techniques at
the Belfry the other week to an interested audience. Apparently the results were very interesting
…. another article forthcoming perchance??
Although it is most out of character, I would like to pass
on my condolences to Blitz who has apparently done his back in again. As I understand it he’s pretty immobilized
and not in a very good way. Incredibly
‘m not even going to take the piss out of him about it.. .. I’ll leave that to
you lot…why break the habits of a lifetime etc etc … !!!
Seriously tho’ We hope you mend well soon Chris.
Enough from me for now ….. any decent gossip …. pass it
my way & I’ll try & get sued!! See Ya.
Fools Rush In
The phone call came on a stormy winters night theres a
rusting iron monster that might need some dynamite ……..
Theres a rusting iron monster on the mendips for all to see
where a gang of experts work there from the mendip demrock company.
These are no ordinary folk as they sweat and toyle for all
to see. The big explosion about to be
…… Some suger, some weed killer and the men from MDC.
“stand clear” for theirs going to be an explosion
cried the “Demrock rep” looking out to West Harptree alas t’was not
to be !!!!!! .not a bang but more shit from “MDC”.
Through the long days of spring time and while summer
breezes flee, the rusting iron monster remains there for all to see.
“stand back”. We’ll give it one more try i’m sure that’ll do it shouted the man from
“MDC” … Alas twas not to be. But just more shit from the “Demrock Company”
Just one more try!!!!!! Shouts “Davy misfire”. This bastard will work its called “plan
Five hundred kilos of co-op, some superflex and 3 tons of
“tnt”. And a prayer for the men from “hdc” ………
While people looked on in sheer delight. The “hooter” did sound over this wonderful sight. The word of “fire” echoed around to
a thunderous roar that shook the ground.
Faces looked on in sheer surprise as the “rusting iron
monster” disappeared before their eyes !!!!!.
The smoke had cleared t’was a sad sight for all to see. The
“rusting iron monster” still there but no sign of the “Demrock
Company” … While up in heaven the angles flew. The good lord looked down with glee.
“when i order armageddon i wont send for the
“Mendip Demrock Company”
But to be continued”