The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford


Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee


We had a great time in India as you can see from the article later in this BB.  I’m sorry if you have given me an article recently and it is not in this BB.  Most of the articles were ready to go before I went to India and I have had very limited time since I got back. I  will endeavour to get the articles ready for the next BB in about a month’s time.

Apologies to Trevor Hughes for the failure to get one of the surveys from Five Buddles in the last BB – don’t know what happened to it, it must have got lost somewhere in the printing as it was perfectly OK in my final draft!!!  The surveys are reprinted in this edition.

The mystery photos in the last BB were all taken in Swildon’s by Pete Glanvill and the exact locations are as follows: 1 – Carl Jones in North West Stream Passage.  2 – North West Stream Passage Pitch.  3 – Ken Passant at The Landing.  4 – Tate Gallery.  5 – Alan Hobby in Shatter Passage Duck.  6 – Brian Johnson in Sump 9.  No-one actually got them correct so there are no winners!  There are more mystery photos later in this BB – answer next BB.

Cut off for the next BB is April 14th, not the 7th as published as I decided it was too quick after this one.

Please bear in mind that I only have three more BBs to do then it will be someone else’s problem!! We need to find a potential replacement editor(s) fairly soon as there is NO WAY, with my other commitments, that I will be able to do another year.

All BEC members should have a pull out addendum in the centre of the BB on the AGM minutes and accounts; this will not be in the BBs that go to reciprocals or are sold to non-members.  If you do not receive one please let me know.


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match – 2nd January 1999

As per previous years the Wessex won again!!  The BEC started well, but by the third round we seemed to miss more skittles than we hit!! The Golden Gnome mysteriously disappeared after the event with a message left that it had ‘gone south on holiday’ .


Photos are still required for the photo-board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin. Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  All slides or prints will be returned if requested.  The photo board has had the same set of photos on it for many months now so it would be nice to see some changes.

BEC Stomp

The BEC held a stomp on 30 January 1999.  The theme was The Wild West and despite the original band cancelling two weeks before, a new band was found and the evening was a great success.  Well done Roz Bateman and her helpers.

BurringtonCave Atlas

I still desperately need photos for the Burrington Cave Atlas.  The text is ready to go, but I am seriously lacking in photos (or pictures). Please can anyone help me out on this???   Ed.


I have had some response to this, but I know there are many more of you out there who have nicknames, so come on tell me how they came about.  Ed.

BEC Computer

There is a working 486 computer with a CDROM in the BEC library.  Thank you to anyone who donated bits; I have sold some and used some in the BEC’s computer.  The final remaining profit from any sales will go towards an external Zip drive as this is an important piece of equipment for the ‘new’ editor for moving larger files around.  Ed.

“Berties Sink”

Six “Bertie stickers” with a ‘Cable and Wireless’ balloon attached, were unfortunately forced to ditch in the sea off Japan in early March due to bad weather. Congratulations to Andy Elson, Colin Prescott and their team on having at least captured the ballooning (an indeed nonrefuelling aircraft) endurance record.

It’s up to the Breitling Orbiter 3 now.   J’Rat

Millennium Celebrations

The BEC committee is looking for ideas for celebrating the Millennium.  We have had ideas about T -shirts/sweatshirts etc. but need a design. If anyone has any design ideas or any other ideas for celebrating the Millennium (also our 65th birthday) please contact a committee member.  Ed.

BEC History

Dave Irwin has suggested a Millennium publication of the history of the BEC.  He has said he would co-ordinate the data but needs other members of the club to work on editing chapters of the club’s history.  The areas that have limited information are 1935-1960, with regards to the Belfrys and the digs during this period – if anyone has any information or photographs, please contact Dave.  More details on the plans for this will be available over the coming months.  The plan is to try and release it as a special BEC publication at Christmas or early next year.

BEC Library Acquisitions

  • The Caves of Fermanagh and Cavan
  • ClassicCaves of the Peak District
  • Selected Caves of Britain and Ireland
  • Grand Travesias  – 40 Integrales Espanolas and Surveys:  High quality publication detailing classic through trips throughout Spain.  A superb ‘holiday caving’ guide!



Thanks to Joan Bennett for the donation of numerous climbing guides and a very comprehensive collection of O/S maps covering most of Scotland at 1:50,000


Dave Irwin and Graham ‘Jake’ Johnson are planning to catalogue the BEC library soon.  Can anyone who has books out from the BEC library please return them before the end of April.


A polite notice from the ladder making consortium:

If just by chance you are in possession of a BEC ladder (it doesn’t matter how old or useful) could you please drop it back to the Belfry as we could do with the rungs and ‘C’ links to make new ladders.

Now for the Grovel:

If anyone out there could help with rung scavenging it would be a great help.  Requirements are:

a)                    Pillar drill and a good ‘N’ point drill bit @6mm

b)                    Time and patience.

c)                    Ability to switch brain off and/or a drink or two

Yet more:

Could anyone help with ‘C’ link manufacture, another mind numbing operation I’m afraid, but we do need them.  Lengths of chain available to take away at the Belfry.   Graham Johnson

CSCC Meeting News

Split Rock – Training bolting has been in place on Split Rock for some time.  The CSCC has directed that no further bolts should be placed.  This policy has been required as climbers also use the site and have complained that fixed aids were not on their route maps.

Training – The NCA still has lots of money to give away in the form of training grants.  Unfortunately these tend to be 50% grants and not total freebies.  All members are reminded that they are entitled to approach the BEC committee if they have training programs/events that they wish to pursue/attend.  If members want structured training weekends then they can be arranged by the committee, however the club may require costs to be met by the participants.  Please advise us of any help you need – we are not psychic!

Time Team TV Programme – Following the slanders on the character of cavers in general, as ‘irresponsible, reckless cavers who mindfully destroy precious artefacts, the CSCC and NCA feels duty bound to write to Channel 4 in complaint.  The main reasons for this were:

  • The allegations were fabrications made up to sprite up a dead boring program, adding intrigue and deviltry into an otherwise uneventful shoot.
  • The dig was declared not of sufficient archaeological significance to worry about’ when cavers approached a leading archaeologist over a decade ago (source: Graham Mullan)
  • Cavers do not wilfully destroy artefacts as has been illustrated by the recent, careful exploration of Five BuddIes.
  • Young prospective cavers must not learn that caving and destruction go hand in hand.  Calcite formations which so many fight to preserve may suffer.






CSCC AGM – will be held in the back room of the Hunters Lodge on 15th May 1999 at 10:30am.

Rebecca Campbell

Members News

Congratulations to John Christie and Judith Mellor who are getting married on the 20th March.

Also congratulations to Andy Thomas and Clare Marshall who are getting married on Easter Saturday.


The Mendip Newspage

By Andy Sparrow

His Lordship’s Hole

A consortium of cavers from BEC, Wessex and Cotham recently organised the excavation by Hymac of this site close to both Attborough and Wigmore Swallets.  Attempts to gain cave here by traditional methods had yielded nothing but the mechanical digger quickly uncovered a promising rift.  This was too tight for immediate entry but a way on was visible, so work focussed on laying pipes, back-filling and restoring the swallet to it’s original contours.

In the days that followed members of the consortium enlarged the head of the rift to reveal a vertical pot a few metres deep.

This was descended on the 31st January to reveal a narrow inclined streamway leading on for a few more metres before becoming too tight.

A choked fossil passage was also found providing two possible options for future digging.  It seems likely that the water sinking here will join the  Attborough stream before entering  Wigmore via the upstream sumps.  Cave passage is not easily won in this geologically complex area but the prospect of a Lordship’s-Attborough-Wigmore system must be a long-term possibility.


Above: The newly excavated entrance to His Lordship’s hole (Rich Blake and John Williams)

Left: Preparing to enlarge the constriction (Rich Blake and John Williams)
Right: Job Done! (Rich Blake)


The entrance pipes – set at an entertaining angle

Digital images by Andy Sparrow

Stock’s House Shaft

Meanwhile Tony Jarratt and the BEC, having been defeated by the winter flooding at Five BuddIes, turned their attention to yet another infilled mine shaft just a stone’s throwaway. An obvious spoil heap here identified the site and digging quickly commenced.  This shaft proved to be cut through solid rock and was just over a metre square – a much easier proposition than the large collapsing shafts of Five BuddIes where much engineering had been required.

The dig descended rapidly amid disparaging ‘why bother with another mineshaft’ remarks overheard in the Hunters’.


The newly excavated Stock’s House Shaft

Tony had the last laugh when, at nearly 15 metres down, the shaft met flowing water.  An impressive stream was revealed flowing in a short section of natural passage.  Work continues and further finds are eagerly awaited.

Access Again to FairyCave Quarry

Yes!  It really does seem that there is to be a new access agreement for these excellent caves after what must be over 15 years.  The larger systems of Shatter and Withyhill will be subject to a leadership system but the smaller caves, FairyCave included, will enjoy fairly unrestricted access.  The system is not expected to be in operation for a month or two to allow time for conservation work.  Further details to follow.

 (Late breaking news on access: The contact for information regarding any news on access is Martin Grass.  The current information is that Shatter, Withyhill and W/L will be leader systems with 15 leaders across the Mendip caving fraternity and keys to be held centrally on Mendip.  FairyCave and Balch’s Cave will be gated but access will be fairly unrestricted.  As this is a quarry there are security guards on patrol at times, so if you wish to go into any of the caves in this area, even the ungated ones, you MUST inform Martin Grass of your intent so they can inform the security.  A list of leaders and final information on access arrangements will be in the next BB.

Please be patient and respect the ongoing access arrangements as it would be a shame if a few reckless idiots stuff this up for everyone else. – Ed.)

Rhino Rift – Late report

Rhino Rift is due to be P-anchored on Saturday 20th February.  The plan is to use a surface generator to power the drill which should ensure the whole of the direct (left-hand route) can be completed in one day (but please avoid the cave on the Sunday in case work is continuing and to allow testing of the new anchors.)  Subsequent conservation work is planned to remove and fill the old anchor placements, which should restore much of the cave to its pre-bolted condition. There are no current plans to P-anchor the alternative Right Hand Route but this is likely in the longer term as the spit placements begin to fail.



A Note on Early BEC!

In BB 499, Kangy’s article on climbing triggered very ancient memories!! – The reason why we are an “Exploration Club” and not a “Caving Club”.

In our inaugural meeting in 1935 we had no idea that what we were proposing would become one of the leading cave clubs.  If I remember correctly, we cast our net quite wide in the quest for “Adventure”.  The idea was to form an organisation that would reflect the various tastes and inclinations of the inaugural members.  We drew up a “Constitution and Rules” and the sentiment we stated – “The exploration of caves and mines, rock climbing and other such activities that will from time to time meet with the approval of the BEC committee”

As a result of this, one of our lads, who lived in Bath and was interested in the supernatural coerced us into spending a night in mid-winter waiting to see a “coach and four with a headless driver” come galloping down from Beechen Cliff – how the BEC has changed since then!

It is a pity that the “Climbing Section” is non-existent, perhaps Kangy’s article will cause a revival.

Harry Stanbury


A Brush With Darkness – WellsMuseum.

Hot on the heels of their exhibition in Cardiff, a Brush with Darkness at the Wells museum provided ISSA with yet another successful show of cave art.  The exhibition ran from Sunday 15th.  November to Saturday 28th November and was visited by many Mendip Cavers.

The private view was well attended and several major sales were made.  Artists included Robin, Chas and Gonzo with Chrissie Price completing the Mendip set.  Her watercolours of caving teddy bears caused a lot of interest and ‘discussion’ – you either love them or you hate them.  Also showing were Ceris Jones whose drawings of cavers and cave divers are widely enjoyed, David Bellamy, Jenny Keal and Bud Hogbin who showed some near abstract paintings of Gough’s Cave.

Chas had his, by now famous, Five BuddIes Sink mugs on sale and several changed hands at the opening. (As seen on the Big Breakfast Show)

Many of the senior members of the BEC turned out to support the event and it is good that Mendip is prepared to back and also invest in its cave artists.

WellsMuseum was well pleased with the show and has agreed to stage A Brush with Darkness 2 during October 1999.  The date for your diary is 3rd to 30th October with everyone invited to the opening for wine and nibbles.  Any artist who has a picture to exhibit in this next show should contact Gonzo, Chas or Robin. It would be good to include other local picture makers who sometimes use caves and cavers as inspiration.


Roger Hasket reporting form a fishing division!!


Pestera in Padis, Barlanes in Budapest

By Emma Porter

Our trips to Hungary started in November 1996, when Cara Allison (MCGrrSG), John Christie, Sean Howe and myself made a trip to the beautiful city of Budapest. On that occasion, five days before travelling to Hungary, I received a phone call from a caver in Budapest informing me that he had organised free accommodation and caving trips for every day in different regions – this was to be the start of a great caving friendship.


Team photo (LR) in Budapest, Hungary.
Top: John Allonby and Pete Gray.  Bottom: John Christie, Jude Mellor and Emma Porter. Photo by Moha

The summer of 1997 saw our Hungarian friends working in England for several months, and of course, caving (but not managing a trip down to Mendip) and it was this summer that we made our return trip to Hungary, and also travelled to their neighbouring country of Romania.  The team for this trip consisted of five members of CPC: John Allonby, Pete Gray, John Christie (BEC), Jude Mellor and myself (BEC).

We had already been travelling for hours as we approached the Hungarian/Romanian border.  We’d left Pete’s house at about 5am to get the plane from Manchester to Budapest, caught a taxi to our Hungarian friend’s house and awaited the arrival of the hire car.  Feeling exhausted, we looked at Moha and Andi in amazement as they told us we were setting off in two hours for Romania.  Negotiations began as the hire car arrived but it was pay a £1,000 deposit for the car, or no car, we had little choice.  (People are very wary about taking vehicles into Romania, as the Romanians are desperate for car parts and guide books even tell you to remove windscreen wipers!)  It was an uncomfortable ride to the border with five cavers, camping kit, food and wine.  Our Hungarian friends had warned us to take enough food for our duration out there as food would be difficult to obtain, so we had done a quick trolley dash before departing, making the most of the amazingly cheap prices.

It was about midnight when we stood at the border paying our £22 for a visa to enter Romania,  surviving the awkward custom officer,  and then our trip into the

John Christie and Emma Porter in Szamosbazar Aragyasza, Romania. Photo by Jude Mellor

unknown began.  The road quality rapidly deteriorated as we left the border, and tracks became riddled with potholes and combined with a blowing exhaust we could see our deposit dwindling away before us.  At 4.30 am, we arrived at our destination where tents were quickly erected and we crashed out.

The heat and daylight woke us from our deep slumber.  I was quite amazed when I emerged from my tent to see we were in a very forested area with lots of tents clustered around both sides of the stream and with horses grazing – this was to be our base for the week, the Padis Plateau, a classic karst area, with large cave systems and great potential at a height of about 1000m.

Our first day there began with a gentle introduction to the area in an attempt to recover from the tiring journey, visiting the cave Szamosbazar Aragyasza.  I was surprised at what a popular tourist attraction this is, as we met quite a few people visiting this cave.  Only equipped with wellies, we walked through this not very lengthy cave with its roughly made bridges with several daylight entrances in the roof, into a small but beautiful gorge.  After spending some time pottering around, we headed back for the pub in the pouring rain.  We stayed longer than intended, but had an extremely adventurous walk back in the pitch black with about ten drunken campers, following one of Hungary’s orienteering champions – no wonder they don’t win much, we went round in circles before stumbling along the several miles of rough ground descending to the campsite.  We fell asleep listening to the beautiful sounds of a saxophone in the distance.

The next day, was the start of many mornings of waking up to rain.  However, not to be put off the Hungarians said that we should do Pestera Neagra de la Barca ( BlackCave) part of an extensive cave system.  We agreed, assuming that as they knew the area we wouldn’t go down if it was affected by rain.  The cave consisted of five relatively short pitches  which  John A. and Pete rigged, adding spits were necessary.       (The Romanian cavers have only just really been able to obtain Petzl equipment (those who can afford it) and so many of the caves are not bolted for SRT). Once at the bottom, we ventured along the fine stream passages to the sumps.   Unfortunately, our exit from the cave did not prove to be as smooth as our entrance. 

Unknown to us, it had been raining quite heavily all day and the pitches were beginning to take quite a lot more water.  For one of our Hungarian friends with us this brought back terrifying memories of spending thirty hours hanging from his harness in the Berger when it was flooding, which had been almost two years to the day.  Our supposedly two hour trip turned into eight and a half hours, as each pitch was re-rigged until we ran out of spits and then natural belays had to be hunted down to avoid the water.  By half eleven at night the cave was de-rigged and it was the most fantastic feeling looking out of the cave into the torrential rain, knowing we were all safe and no longer in danger of the flooding cave system.

From then on, each day we woke up, the rain pounded on our tents, so we left the caving and instead walked around the area.  The Padis area is extremely popular for hiking and there are many marked trails, one of which leads to the largest cave entrance in Romania.  A descent via wooden ladders, steps and a rope climb leads one to the river, which must be crossed in order to reach the 70m-cave entrance.  The torrent of swirling brown flood water put all but John A. off crossing the river, though it was entertainment enough watching his antics

The largest cave entrance in Romania. (Cetatile Ponorolui) Photo by Jude Mellor    

The following day, John C, Jude and myself, escaped off the mountain where we were camping to drop one of the Hungarians at the bus station in Beius.  We left John C. guarding the car as we didn’t want it being stolen, knowing no one would try as John looked so dodgy and out of place.  We used this opportunity to get some fresh food, however, this turned out to be quite a trial.  We went into various shops and I was surprised to see just how empty the shelves were.  I had expected the shops to be basic but I didn’t anticipate them being this empty! For example, one shop we went into, we bought them out of cakes, and we only purchased three!  The market was also an experience, one woman trying to sell ten withered carrots, the next the most deformed and squashed tomatoes ever and washing powder boxes looking like they had come from the 1950s.  I also tried to make a phone call from the post office – fifteen attempts and half an hour later I was informed that a line was now available, not surprising really, when you think that in Romania there is a sixteen year waiting list to be connected!  The weather had been fantastic down in the town, but as we returned up to the top, the cloud was lingering around.  When we reached the camp, Pete and John A’s tent seemed to be at a rather alarming angle, and on closer examination, their tent had been bitten into by the horses after bread and all that was left were crumbs – and I had been worried about the bears!

Left: John Christie in Focal Viu Ghetarul Barca, Romania. Photo by Jude Mellor
Right: Emma Porter looking over the typical forested mountains, Romania. Photo Jude Mellor

That evening we had a wander to one of the local ice caves, Focal Viu Ghetarul Barca.  On descending the rickety steps, the temperature change was very noticeable and thick ice covered the floor.  At the far end of the cave, huge thick ice stalagmites guarded the continuing passage, where we were prevented from going further due to a steep icy drop.  It was the best ice cave that I have seen but that was to be our last cave in Romania.  The weather continued to deteriorate and we experienced a fearsome storm that night as lightening and thunder seemed to bounce around the mountain for hours, and I’m sure I heard something growling.

The next day was spent in the pub, too wet and dangerous to do anything (though it’s a great feeling spending money in Romanian pubs, as you can’t get rid of your money).  We decided that the following day we should evacuate.  But nothing is ever easy, especially as ten of us had arrived in two cars and now there were six of us and one car.  The only thing to do was for John C to drive two people just across the Hungarian border (as Romanian transport is not reliable) and then to drive back and collect the rest, meeting up in a caving region in northeast Hungary.

It was one of the longest, coldest and most desperate days ever as three of us sat in the tent waiting for John to return.  My hair had been wet for about three days without drying, and the atmosphere was so damp that we couldn’t even feel the heat from a stove.  The camp was a muddy mess, and it was an effort to do anything but try and get warm in your sleeping bag.  It took forever for John C to return but seven hours later it was an amazing feeling to eventually get out of the damp, into the car and heading to Hungary.

John Allonby, John Christie, and Pete Gray – John C. showing off his beer belly!! Romania.  Photo by Emma Porter


After fleeing from Romania, the weather became hot (30 degrees) as we headed to a karst area in the northeast of Hungary on the Slovak border, known as the AggtelekNational Park.  This area is one of the most popular caving areas, containing the longest cave in the country.  After an uncomfortable journey we arrived at Josvafo, a little village we had visited in ’96, which thrives on its cider industry and cave tourism.  As before, we stayed at a hostel, often populated by cavers and about £1 a night.  We met Moha and John A. in the local pub, making the most of the 20p a pint beer. After exchanging our stories of the mountain evacuation, we set off on a long awaited trip underground.

For years, speleotherapy has been utilised for asthma treatments in Hungary, and Boke Barlang was declared the first cave health resort in 1965, after many experiments in the 1950s.  One enters via a manmade entrance, descending down many steps until reaching the second longest streamway in Hungary.  For a non-caver entering this mysterious world for medical treatment it must have seemed very daunting!  The cave entertains a superb streamway; the walls draped with stal and is a great trip. The following day, Moha, John A and myself were the only underground venturers, crossing the Slovakian border whilst doing Also-hegy.  In the evening, the same three visited the 1.4km Kossuth Barlang, the entrance of which consisted of a wet tunnel, with metal bars and a traverse rope installed to keep out the water (not to be advised after drinking wine as it is hard to keep one’s balance!).  The others had spent the evening in the pub, so not to miss out on the drinking time we ended up gate-crashing a local caver’s 50th birthday party and had a great time.  In fact, I didn’t know where to begin drinking, as I was given three drinks – red wine, champagne and the ‘ladies drink’, as much food as we could eat and were given a copy of the latest caving book hot off the press ‘The Caves of Aggtelek Karst’.

Our last day in this area was spent doing a through trip of the longest cave in Hungary, Baradla Barlang (25km) which stretches into Slovakia.  The route we followed took the main branch of the cave for 7km from Josvafo to the village of Aggtelek.  It is an easy walk along, spectacular in places and caters for everyone, even having picnic benches half way along.  My most memorable part of the cave was the Concert Hall, and because of its wonderful acoustics is a regular music venue, complete with stage and seating.  Pete couldn’t resist but to stand on the stage and try the acoustics which sounded fantastic with Moha on lighting, until all of a sudden he stopped, at the bottom of the hall appeared what seemed thousands of tourists on tour of the cave – we quickly scarped!  That evening we headed back to Budapest, Jude and myself volunteering to take the train. An experience I don’t wish to repeat as we hardly saw another female but found ourselves the centre of attention with the soldiers on the train.

It felt like being at home again returning to the beautiful city of Budapest with all its interesting architecture, lively streets, sprawling over both sides of the Danube.  And as far as caves go, Budapest is quite unique, having the highest density of thermal caves anywhere in the world.  We stayed in the same location as our previous visit, in the BeverleyHills part of Budapest, in a caving hut above the prettiest cave in Hungary, Joseph Hegyi.  Of course, our trip would not have been complete without a trip down here, sometimes described as a mini Lechuguilla.  John A, Pete and myself visited several of the other caves in Budapest, Ferenc Hegyi and Matyas Hegyi all labyrinth like and very warm (so warm, we all took to wearing no undersuit, just oversuit and underwear).  We had an interesting explore around the largest cave in Budapest, Pal Volgyi which is part show cave, and then met some of the local caving clubs who meet at the bar of the show cave on a Thursday evening.  Our last trip under Budapest took us to the show cave Szemhegyi.  Above this showcave is a small memorial garden to cavers who have died. It is a beautiful setting, with a piece of limestone and plaque for each caver.  The guide allowed us to wander around and explore in the cave, and on leaving the showcave, to my surprise I bumped in to a caver I know from Gloucester SS.

Our last weekend was spent to the west of Budapest at a caving hut near a village called Tes in the BakonyMountains and we were joined by Antony Butcher from Shepton Mallet CC.  The cavers were very welcoming but spoke little English, though we entertained each other by singing caving songs and lots of actions.  We ventured down one of the longest caves in the area, Alba Regia, notorious for bad air and rather Mendip like and ended the evening in the pub. Then it was back to Budapest, where we ended up at our favourite restaurant, eight of us eating and drinking as much as we could for £30.

Our favourite restaurant in Hungary. Photo by Moha

That was the end of a great holiday.  Romania, though extremely wet and poor, is a very beautiful country.  There is great potential in the area we visited if you have good weather!  We only spent £10 each for the week; drinking every night and filling the car with petrol twice, though it’s a good idea to take as much food with you as possible.  Hungary was the other extreme, very hot with shops containing almost everything you could want and still cheap!  However, in Hungary the access to caves is quite restricted, many of them being locked.  We could not have seen as much as we did had it not been for our Hungarian friends, who as in our trip in 1996 went out of their way to help us, and special thanks must go to Moha.

Emma Porter

(This article has also been published in The Record (CPC) Number 51)


A Transcript Of The New Answering Service Recently Installed At The Mental Health Institute.

“Hello, and welcome to the mental health hotline.  If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly.

If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you.  If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6.

If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want.  Stay on the line so we can trace your call.

If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship.

If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press.  If you are a manic-depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press – no-one will answer.  If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969.

If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the hash key until a representative comes on the line. If you have amnesia press 8 and state your name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number and your mother’s maiden name.

If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, slowly and carefully press 000.

If you have bi-polar disorder, please leave a message after the beep or before the beep.  Or after the beep.  Please wait for the beep.

If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.  If you have short-term memory loss, press 9.

If you have low self esteem. Please hang up.  All our operators are too busy to talk to you.”



Meghalaya 1999

By Estelle Sandford (taken from the IB Log)
(Photos by Estelle Sandford)


British: Simon Brooks, Tony Boycott, Tony Jarratt, Estelle Sandford, Tom Chapman, Fraser Simpson, Andy Tyler.

German: Daniel Gebauer, Ritschi Frank, Georg Baumler, Thilo Muller, Christine Jantschke, Herbert Jantschke, Christian Fischer.

American: Mike Zawada

Meghalayan: Brian Kharpran-Daly, Kyrshan Myrthong, Babha Kupar ‘Dale’ Mowlong, Adora Thabah, Zuala Ralsun, Neil Sootinck, Betsy Chhackchhuak, Alfred Vanchhawng and VanIal Ruata (Mizorarni and adventurers), Badamut Hujon, Shron Lyngkhoi (bus driver), Asif (cooks assistant), Raphael Warjri.

A 6 strong British and 6 strong German team left their respective countries on the 31st January for a month of caving in ‘The Scotland of the East’.  After several days travelling and picking up Daniel Gebauer and Brian Kharpran-Daly on way, we arrived in Lumshnong in the Jaintia Hills to start the caving.  The main aim was to consolidate previous years’ work and tie up as many loose ends in the Lumshnong area.  The two main systems in this area being the KotsatilUmlawan System and the Synrang Parniang system.  Other areas, which were given attention from smaller groups, were the LukhaValley area and Cherrapungee.  We were well equipped at the Lumshnong base with a minibus, a generator and also catering and washing staff to make life easier.

Wednesday 3rd February

Tony, J’Rat and Thilo, went surface walking with a GPS near Synrang Parniang to try and find the coal mine entrance (noticed from inside about 40m above the river level in 1998) to cut the trip down by about 5hrs and Ritschi, Tom and Christian went down Synrang Parniang to survey some passage near the entrance.  Simon Brooks, Georg Baumler, Daniel, Brian, Herbert, Christine and Fraser met Zuala and left for the Lukha valley just after lunchtime; they were lucky enough to find a house to stay in.  Tony’s team found the coalmine, known as Cherlamet, plus 4 other new caves and Ritschi’s team made Synrang Parniang the second longest cave in Meghalaya by surveying an extra 80m.

Thursday 4th February

We decided to experiment with a different route to Cherlamet starting from Thangskai.  We found a couple of interesting sites on the way, which included Krem Mutang, which has an Alum Pot style shaft, but ends in a coalmine, there are a couple of possible holes there that need a ladder. We continued along the path, past a monolith and the track came out right by the Cherlamet Coalmine with the hole in the bottom. The hole had appeared while blasting about a year ago and fortunately no one fell down it.   The locals had lowered a man down 80ft to look at the roof of the area they are mining.  J’Rat and Tom rigged the entrance, and then disappeared for a planned 6 hour survey trip.  Tony, Kyrshan and Estelle wandered back down the hill via checking out Krem Diengiong, which ends in a choke, and checking out the bottom end of the stream by the coalmine. Tom and J’Rat came back at 9.30pm having surveyed a further 900m and still going.  This takes the length of Synrang Pamiang to about 8km


Cherlamet Mineshaft Entrance to Synrang Parniang, with the miners busy clearing the rock to reveal the coal beneath.
The hole that had appeared made an excellent spoil dump for them.
The mountain inside was pretty impressive!!

In the Lukha, Daniel, Georg, Brian, Fraser, Herbert and Christine took a day trip to Sielkan Pouk. Georg, Daniel and Fraser survey 870m downstream, Brian, Herbert and Christine survey 170m of side passages.

Friday 5th February

Tony, J’Rat, Tom and Estelle walked from the IB to a track on the right on the way to Lumshnong by the Lalit entrance.  We located a cave and hacked our way to the cave entrance, cave was called Krem Plat ( CatCave?).  We continued the walk along the track to the next obvious dark space in the jungle; there was a drop needing a ladder to a possible canyon style passage.  There was also a similar looking cave on the other side of the track.  Continued along the track looking for other sites, there were many other possibilities as there are many dark areas in karst behind the jungle cover.  The next main hole was located on the right of the track and was a big hole right next to the track.  Need a rope for this one!  Continued walking to the village of UmLong. We asked about Krems and no one appeared to understand, but one man said about nine Krems and beckoned us to follow. He took us along a wellused track to the village’s washing area.  The cave is known as Krem UmRiang, it is a resurgence cave with many entrances.  The man from the village also took us to their watering hole, which was a sump just inside a cave entrance, in daylight view. The next one was a drop requiring a rope, with water in the bottom looking promising.  This may be the Krem UmLong that we have been told about but with no translator it is hard to tell.

Lukha – Local guide organised and Fraser and Simon spend a frustrating day on hillside opposite (South) of Khaddum looking for WindCave.  Guide clearly did not know where the cave was and only one small dry cave was explored. A 6.8m free climbable shaft leads to 40m of dry rift passage.

Daniel and Herbert went to VillageCave in the centre of Khaddum and explored 50m of grotty passage.

Georg, Brian and Christine went into Paltan Pouk and surveyed the remaining wet passages and find 120m.

Saturday 6th February

Estelle and Tony B went to Krem Plat.  Surveyed first upstream through limestone pendants to a duck which was followed almost immediately by a sump.  Downstream continued to a boulder pile with a large frog.  Climbing around the boulder pile got us back into the stream again, where it got spidery and lower and eventually we could see daylight through a boulder choke.  J’Rat and Tom attacked the boulder blockage in Porcupine passage in Krem Kharasniang to try and get through into Urn Lawan, but failed; they gained about 20m of passage – this needs explosives!!

Our chef cooked us roast beef for tea tonight!

Lukha – Daniel, Herbert and Simon went to Pielkhlieng Pouk and surveyed 460m in the missing section of main stream between fossil bypass and large chamber.  They then survey another 400m upstream of 1998 limit. Georg, Christine, Brian and Fraser to lower section of Pielkhlieng Pouk and survey 600m of side passages off of boulder choke.

Sunday 7th February

Tony, J’Rat and Estelle went into the lower entrance of Krem MaLo and into a downstream part that had not been pushed or surveyed.  Surveyed 250m up 2 passages and then Tony and J’Rat went up to have a look at H Stream. They found 50m of really nasty passage beyond the previous end, but were so unimpressed, did not survey it.

Tom, Betty and Neil went to Krem Mutang and found nothing significant below the big shaft. Ritschi, Thilo and Christian went to Krem Labbit and found not a lot.

Simon, Daniel, Georg, Brian and Fraser returned from the Lukha valley with lots of cave found, but no supplies left.  They came up for a freshen up, clean clothes and a square meal, and also to get more food and supplies to take back down.  Christine and Herbert stayed down the bottom in the cottage they were now living in at Khaddum.  They have 2 main caves in progress, which still need several days work so most are going back tomorrow to carryon.

Monday 8th February/Tuesday 9th February

Thilo, Ritschi, J’Rat, Fraser and Estelle went to Cherlamet mineshaft at 6pm for an overnight pushing trip in Synrang Parniang, as it can now only really be accessed at night so as not to disturb the miners working.  The miners had finished work by the time we got there, so we immediately started rigging the pitch.  One of the miners turned up with two steel ‘jumper’ bars to put in the drilled bang holes as a back up belay. Thilo and Ritschi went off to survey some upstream stuff in side passages and J’Rat, Fraser and Estelle went downstream to continue the main survey.  We arrived at the final point after about 1½ hours of slippery boulder and stream passage. The cave is a massive rift passage maybe 50m high, with a stream in the bottom; there are no side passages in the lower section so far.  We continued with the survey and the cave entered a deep section of water, fortunately the lake didn’t go over chest deep, so we carried on.  We named the lake, Loch Assynt and a later lake we found Loch Borralan. We turned a comer and into a big bouldery section, which shortly after started draughting in the other direction, and was very cold.  This probably indicates another entrance, particularly as the main stream way disappears under a very large boulder collapse.

Tom rigging the pitch at Cherlamet Mineshaft, while Fraser, Ritschi, Andy and the miners watch over.

We surveyed a stal section to the right of the collapse, but that got too small to sensibly follow.

We left a side passage on the left, which was possibly going to take us past the boulder pile but was too awkward to follow at that time of the morning!  We backtracked to the comer where we found an inlet passage, draughting strongly and with debris, so there is probably a way out of this as well. As it was 1:30am, we decided we had had enough and went back upstream to the large pile of rubble that is where the mineshaft is.  We were about an hour early so we rested before going up the pitch.  Just as we were getting ready to go out the Germans turned up having surveyed 900m.  We had surveyed 550m.  The pitch is 33m free-hanging in a chamber about the size of GG main chamber.  When we were all up, we derigged and started walking back having done 12 hours 15 mins of caving/surveying.  The bus and Tony met us at Thangskai at 7.20am.  Back to the IB, we had tea and breakfast and then went to bed.

Lukha – Herbert and Christine found two small resurgences in LunarRiver. Simon, Georg, Daniel and Christian return to the Lukha with supplies late Monday.

Tuesday 9th February

Tony, Tom and Brian went to see if they could find the end collapse of Synrang Parniang from the surface, but failed, they found more new caves though and looked at some of the caves that had been recced at UmLong.

Lukha – Daniel, Simon and Herbert go to Pielkhlieng Pouk and after 600m connect cave to Sielkan Pouk. Surveyed inlet and find another 500m.  Georg and Christine surveyed 400m in Sielkan Pouk and find a new entrance.

Wednesday 10th February

Tony, Fraser, J’Rat, Brian and Estelle went searching for a partially surveyed system called Krem Mahabon Four.  This is near the road just above the coal depot above Thangskai.  We had a bit of trouble locating the cave, but after bashing through the jungle for a short time, J’Rat found a recognised entrance to the cave.  We kitted up and went into the cave to Cauliflower Junction, where there was a section unsurveyed.  Tony and Estelle worked in this section, while J’Rat, Fraser and Brian carried on to the other entrance in the cave where there was a couple of 3-4m pitches that needed to be descended with a ladder.  Tony and Estelle initially surveyed the higher dry passages, before going back to the start of our section where there was an awkward climb down into a small stream.  Upstream was too small to follow, so we opted to follow the downstream section.  This started off at almost walking/almost crawling size passage and increased and decreased at regular intervals.  This was not anticipated to be as long as it turned out to be so Tony was using electric rather than carbide; we had to stop 1/2 way and go back to the entrance for a change of light.  On our way back to the end of our survey we heard voices and realised that J’Rat and Co. were very close by.  They were separated by some very small sections.  At our last survey point before the break, they were able to come across and link in.  They had been surveying very small passages!  We continued our survey along the stream, and they went back into the dry cave they were surveying and we carried on into deeper water until the cave ended in a pool followed by a boulder choke, which seemed very close to the surface.  There were quite a lot of beasties in this cave, including, spiders, small frogs, millipedes, crickets and small shelled snails (strange creatures that looked like slugs with useless too-small shells!).  We surveyed 500m between us.  Ritschi and Tom went to Urn Synrang and surveyed some inlet passages.

Lukha – Christian, Herbert and Simon went on a photographic trip into Pielkhlieng Pouk.  Daniel, Georg and Christine surveyed 400m of side passages in Pielkhlieng Pouk.

Thursday 11th February

Market day in Lumshnong and J’Rat bravely opted for a quick trim at the barbers, which includes a head massage and he came back a little shorn.  After market we had a bus journey down to Sonapur where there is a big bridge crossing the Lubha, which is the Lunar and the Lukha rivers combined. Tony, J’Rat, Fraser, Tom and Brian went to survey Krem Wah Labbit which is in Lumshnong village by the Kot Sati entrance.  They came back after 3 hours having surveyed 440m of large dry passage.  Lukha – Daniel, Simon and Christian survey another 400m of side passages in Pielkhlieng Pouk. Zuala, Georg, Herbert and Christine survey 400m of rift passages in Pielkhlieng Pouklet to connect to main Pielkhlieng Pouk cave.

Friday 12th February

Tom, Ritschi and Andy were going to survey an inlet passage in Synrang Pamiang, via entering the mineshaft and coming out the original entrance.  Fraser and I went up with them to take the rope and SRT kits back. Tony, J’Rat, Brian and Thilo went back to Krem Wah Labbit in Lumshnong and also went to look for other caves unsurveyed in the village.

The Synrang Pamiang team set off from the MaLo track and after an hour were at the entrance; we had to wait while they blasted it before going into the mine.  They have now reached the coal seam and are able to mine coal after that blast.  The entrance had significantly changed and the extra length of rope was required to back up to a bar in a shot hole.  They stopped throwing spoil down the hole whilst Tom, Ritschi and Andy went down the shaft, Fraser derigged and pulled up the SRT kits and we walked back to Thangskai. Fraser and Estelle sorted out kit and met the others in Lumshnong.  We all then went to Krem Wah Labbit, partly as a tourist trip for them who hadn’t been down and partly for J’Rat to have a dig in the boulder choke.  Nice cave but the boulder choke didn’t go.  Earlier the Lumshnong team had resurveyed by accident the forest entrance of Kotsati as far as the main stream before realising it was a bit familiar.  After we had finished in Krem Wah Labbit we went to look in another doline for more caves and found a cave with nail varnish marks on the wall, which none of us knew which cave it was but it had obviously been surveyed before!!  The cave turned out to be Krem Pohshnong.  We finished the day with a videoing trip through from Krem Umsynrang Liehwait (forest) entrance of Kotsati to the Lalit entrance.

The Synrang Pamiang team found another entrance up the side passage (Colourful Inlet) they surveyed 375m in.

Lukha – Daniel, Zuala and Simon investigate springs in the LunarRiver valley. Georg, Herbert and Christine survey 800m below 7m pitch in Pielkhlieng Pouk.

Saturday 13th February

Tom, Tony, J’Rat, Andy, Ritschi and Thilo went prospecting in the UmLong area.  They split up and Tony and J’Rat surveyed Krem UmRiang, and the others looked at possible sites but found nothing significant.  Fraser, Brian, Bok and Estelle went to Khlierhiat to try and get the camcorder battery charger repaired; it had blown a capacitor when it was given 495V when the generator was faulty.  The Lukha team arrived back having connected Sielkan Pouk and Pielkhlieng Pouk and totalled the cave to 9km, which makes it No.3 in India.  Ritschi, Thilo and Andy turned up from their walk having surveyed Krem Charminar.  The rest of the UmLong recce teams arrived back at dusk with Krem UmRiang surveyed to 350m and lots of possible area/sites for future.

Sunday 14th February

After voltage problems with the generator, Simon had a look and found the problem.  With the generator now up and running, Daniel, Simon and Estelle took the opportunity to catch up on the data inputting on the computers.  After a lazy morning playing Caroms, Fraser, Tony and J’Rat went along the UmLong track to one of the sites that Tom had pointed out, but hadn’t been to.  They hacked through the jungle and found an entrance and followed the cave for 200m before they were stopped by a flake that needs a hammer to get past.  They named the cave Krem MaTom, which means ‘Mr Tom’s cave’.  This needs a revisit with a hammer.  Georg, Andy, Brian and Adora went looking for a reported resurgence near a track that runs directly from Lumshnong to Khaddum.  They had no luck.  The rest of the team went to Krem Umsynrang on a photographic and pushing trip. There is a climb in a very muddy passage there; that Anette had looked at last year, but no-one had been up yet. Tom climbed up using a piton to get there and found more mud about chest deep, which continues, unsurveyed.

We are now on three course evening meals, with tonight’s being tomato soup followed by sledge hammered chicken followed by chocolate mousse!

Monday 15th February

Apart from Georg, Brian, Christine and Herbert, everyone went to Krem Musmari, which is the new entrance off Colourful inlet in Synrang Parniang.  The above team went to a new cave Krem UmPeh which is not very big! They surveyed 524m in there.  The Synrang Parniang teams were split into J’Rat and Tom trying to pass the boulder choke at the end after the overnight trip, Tony and Andy having a good look around the boulder pile by Loch Borralan, Simon, Fraser and Estelle taking photographs in the inlet and main passage and a final team of Ritschi, Thilo and Christian, surveying more inlet passages in Colourful inlet and Swabian inlet.  We caught the mineshaft entrance at the right time with a spotlight from the sun shining in onto the wall as a beam of light.  Ritschi and Co. surveyed 230m of side passages.  At 9.15pm the rest of the Synrang Pamiang team came back in smug mode, they had passed the ”Terminal” Boulder Choke and continued surveying for a further 400m finding more streamway of same size and larger than the passage before the choke and also climbed up into a fantastic upper series passage, 40m high, 15-30m wide and fantastically decorated.  They followed it in the upstream direction for 100m, and didn’t even look in the downstream direction.  There were loads of cave pearls and formations all over. They named it Titanic Hall, as there is a large ship’s bow-like boulder in there.  Tony and Andy had climbed to the top of the dodgy boulder pile at Loch Borralan and found a big passage, which they surveyed for 750m before running out of time.  They followed the last of the passage and found another entrance.  This new entrance involved a tricky climb, but fortunately they had Tom with them and he climbed it and rigged it with what slings, short bits of ladder and other kit they had.  They got out into the jungle and fortunately found a freshly cut path from the cave entrance; it passed a coalmine and continued out of the doline. They were able to get a GPS fix about half way up and found they were only a short distance from the monolith on the track to the Cherlamet mineshaft – all this in the dark!

Tuesday 16th February

Time for a major Synrang Parniang pushing team!  After pancakes for breakfast (well it was Shrove Tuesday after all!!!) 8 of us climbed into the bus and went to find the new entrance of Synrang Parniang; it was named Krem Eit Hati, which means elephant pooh, as they had found elephant pooh at the top of the doline which was the only distinguishing feature of the area at the time of night they came out!!  Tony, Fraser and Estelle surveyed from the entrance to complete the survey to where they had got to yesterday and also surveyed two side passages.  We carried on and joined the downstream team of Tom and J’Rat.  The boulder choke that they had found a way through was full of interesting looking ‘henries’  followed by a low

A few of the cave pearls in Titanic Hall, Symang Pamiang.

sandstone section of stream, then opened up into passage similar and sometimes bigger than the passage before the boulder choke.  We followed the passage and met them at a comer where they had just been a little way up a side passage and found cat (?) footprints.  No obvious signs of an entrance though!?  We left them surveying and continued downstream to find a suitable section about 200m further to start a leapfrog survey.  Unfortunately, the passage deteriorated into a short free-climbable pitch followed by some grotty passage, followed by another pitch.

While we were changing our carbide, J’Rat and Tom caught us up, so we sent Tom down the next pitch to find out what happens and see if the rest of us can free-climb the pitch.  He came back reporting another bigger pitch. J’Rat went down to join him and they decided they needed 50ft of ladder to descend the next pitch.  The pitches were named ‘The Wet Nightmares’.  We all turned round and after a quick tourist trip into Titanic Hall to look at the cave pearls and formations and also a successful fishing trip for blind cave fish (caught two)  in Gour  Passage, we came back out of Krem Eit Hati entrance.   Simon,  Thilo and Ritschi had gone up into Titanic Hall in Synrang Pamiang and surveyed downstream direction for 400m to a boulder choke.

We also had arranged two guides for today so Brian, Andy and Daniel went with the guide Spding Dkhar to Wah Umso, just above Thangskai and were shown to 3 caves, all goers which need revisiting.  They also looked at the sink of Krem Labbit (Cherlamet), but this is impenetrable.

Strange formations in Titanic Hall, Symang Pamiang
The other group of Georg, Adora and Zuala went to Krem UmTyrngei, south of Lumshnong. We had roast pork for tea and lots of beer.

Wednesday 17th February

Most people were absolutely knackered after the long Synrang Pamiang trip yesterday and had decided on a easier day with a long bus ride to a new area north of Lumshnong called Sutnga and found out some useful leads, with 12 named caves.  Fraser, Daniel, Andy and Adora went back to Wah Umso to continue looking at the caves there.  Neil turned up with some explosives and slow burning fuse for J’Rat to blow up the boulder in Kharasniang.  Neil then took a couple of local people down Synrang Thloo for a tourist trip and found a snake just inside the entrance; he came back to  tell  us,  so Tony,

Tony Jarratt and Asif (cooks assistant in the boat) in the canals at Krem Synrang Thloo entrance of Krem UmLawanIKotsati

J’Rat,  Tom and Estelle decided to get our kit sorted quickly and take a boat as well so as to take Asif (the cooks assistant) from Synrang Thloo to the main Kotsati entrance.

We found the snake just before the deep section of the canal.  It was not a cave racer as we had first thought it would be, so we were fairly careful around it.  It was about 3-4 foot long and very bright green with a diamond shaped head and was later identified as a bamboo pit viper – instant paralysis and death in 30 minutes!

Andy, Fraser and Daniel went back to Wah Umso and surveyed 630m in Krem Umda 1/Umso and Krem Umda 2.

Later Tony, J’Rat and Neil went to bang the boulders in Kharasniang and got a misfire.

Bamboo Pit Viper about 100m in Krem Synrang Thloo entrance ofKrem UmLawan/Kotsati

Thursday 18th February

Fraser, Andy, Adora and Estelle went to survey the northern end of Titanic Hall in Synrang Parniang and take some photos and video footage.  Simon, Tom and J’Rat also came to Krem Eit Hati with the tackle to rig the Wet Nightmares.  Titanic Hall was surveyed upstream to a very terminal looking boulder choke (the Iceberg), just after the Titanic Boulder.

Simon and Co. rigged the pitches at the end which went to a big chamber, which they named Trainspotting Chamber, due to J’Rat wearing an anorak to keep dry on the pitches. After hunting around for leads as most were well choked, Tom noticed a rift and climbed out of  there and came out of the resurgence, Krem Khlieh Trai Lum.

Neil Sootinck and Tony Jarratt with the small selection of explosives that were to be used to try and further progress in Krem UmKhang/Kharasniang.

They surveyed 60m to end, but more side passages to do.

Ritschi and Daniel wallowed in the Muddy Waters at Krem Umsynrang and surveyed 280m to another climb.

Tony, Zuala, Brian, Herbert, Christine, Christian, Georg, and Mike went to do the through trip from Synrang Thloo to Urn Lawan, but the boulder choke has moved at the Urn Shor/Kotsati connection so they came out at Kotsati into Spindro’s Back Yard and went back in Urn Shor to complete the through trip.

We were informed on arrival back at the IB that a certain green snake from Synrang Thloo was resident in a lemonade bottle in the kitchen.  Alfred and Ruata, who had arrived from the Mizoram Adventurers, had gone into the cave and caught it; how they got it’s head through the lemonade bottle I will never know!!!

Friday 19th February

Before breakfast Mike, J’Rat, Tony, Kyrshan, Neil, Alfred, Ruata, Badamut and Shron Lyngkhoi (the bus driver) had a successful bang trip to Krem UmKhang/Kharasniang; this time the charge went off.  They videoed and photographed the whole experience, then came out via a tourist trip in the rest of the cave and came out of Urn Khang entrance – someone had built a house over the path so they had to climb out under the floor, much to the locals amusement.  The driver is dead keen on the caving, maybe next time he’ll take a light and helmet!!

Simon, Tom, Fraser, Estelle and Tony walked up a hellishly steep path from Umstein village which was where they came out yesterday from the resurgence of Synrang Parniang. Interesting walk, Krem Khlieh Trai Lum entrance was successfully GPSed and was found to be 500m south of Krem Plat. Tom and Simon went in Synrang Parniang to derig and complete the survey of the lower sections.  We made our own path through the jungle to arrive at Krem Plat and the Lumshnong/UmLong track.  When we arrived back to the IB we found J’Rat already back – he had managed to lose Andy, Alfred and Mike somewhere in Krem MaTom, but they appeared later.

Georg, Ruata, Christian, Thilo, Zuala, Neil and Ritschi went to Synrang Pamiang original hunting side passages that may connect to Krem Umsynrang.  They found some holes high up that could do with a bamboo maypole!! They then surveyed Krab Inlet to a boulder choke.

Simon and Tom entered Synrang Pamiang via Krem Khlieh Trai Lum resurgence entrance.  They surveyed and detackled the cave apart from the entrance ladder.  They also checked out the boulder chokes at both ends of Titanic Hall.

Saturday 20th February

Neil, Betsy, Alfred, Ruata, Tony B and J’Rat went back to Krem UmKhanglKrem Kharasniang for another pre-breakfast trip.  Yesterday’s bang had done an excellent job.  The spoil was removed and another half stick charge laid and successfully fired. Betsy saw a 2m brown/grey snake near the entrance.  Midday J’Rat, Tony B and Neil returned to clear the debris and lay the third and last charge.  An open strongly draughting crawlway lies below and they will be in on the next trip. They then went to the end of Anglo-Sikh Series in Urn Lawan and spent a couple of hours hammering the flowstone blockage; they now have roomy passage visible above, a bit more work and they will be in on the next trip.

Simon, Fraser, Kyrshan, Badamut, Mike, Brian, Betsy, Alfred, Ruata, Christian and I went to Synrang Pamiang Krem Eit Hati entrance.  We managed to hitch a Shaktiman as far as the monolith. Kyrshan and I went in the front and the rest rode on top.  It was a brilliant experience, the guys on the back had great fun holding on, while from the cab it feels like riding in a caterpillar type vehicle; the driver only used 4-wheel drive once on a really steep bit.  We continued the walk and on the way into the doline, Ruata and Alfred cut 2 bamboos for maypoling entrance side passage for on the way out.  We started in the inlet, which was quite amusing as the Mizoram boys spent the whole inlet traversing to stay out of the water until one of them fell in!!  Eventually we arrived in the streamway where we had to complete the survey and Simon, Fraser and Mike stayed to take some photos whilst Estelle took the rest of the party to Titanic Hall. Christian and Estelle left the Meghalayans to explore, and went back to the streamway.  Fraser and Mike then went to Titanic Hall to organise sightseeing, video and photos while Christian, Simon and Estelle surveyed the unsurveyed section of streamway.  When we had completed this part of the survey we went back to the inlet and to the side passage by the entrance where Simon put up the bamboo maypole and climbed the ladder into a passage bigger than the inlet!  The passage went 40m to a climb down which will need a revisit with either tackle or a stronger climber.

Tom Chapman, Zuala Ralsun, Thilo Muller went walking near Umstein searching for Wah Lariang resurgence and caves in this area.  They confirmed that the river valley that Synrang Pamiang resurges into is Wah Lariang.

When we arrived back at the IB there was a group of the ladies from Shillong; we had a brilliant night’s singsong and lots of beer and rum.

Sunday 21st February

J’Rat, Neil, Alfred and Ruata went to Krem UmKhangi Kharasniang and checked out the last bang and also did about an hour’s digging. The Mizoram boys are dead keen on the digging and J’Rat had a job to persuade them it was breakfast time!

After breakfast the party of ladies from Shillong were kitted out and taken on tourist trip into Krem Lalit accompanied by Brian, Tom and Andy.

Fraser, J’Rat, Thilo, Tom, Mike, Kyrshan, Badamut and Estelle left for Shillong for a night in the Embassy Hotel before going to Cherrapungee.  The rest are staying on to continue work in Lumshnong.  The water was off at the Embassy so we had to wait for a bucket of hot water for washing and they had to supply us with water for flushing the toilet!  Later the electric went off as well!!

Monday 22nd February

We left early for Cherrapungee and fortunately were able to stay in the Circuit House there, so after settling our kit in we kitted up and went caving.  We managed to get all 8 of us in an Ambassador taxi to the limekilns and then split up.  Fraser, Thilo, Raphael (who had replaced Badamut) and Estelle went to Krem Mawria after obtaining permission as this is the water supply and has pipes and dam in entrance.  Nice cave with meandering passage, which eventually loses the stream up a smaller side passage and ends in a boulder choke.  We surveyed 630m to the boulder choke; ‘side passage’ which has the main stream remains unsurveyed at the moment.

Tom, J’Rat, Mike and Kyrshan went to Krem Soh Pang Bniat and surveyed 270m of passage.  The entrance and small passages had been looked at but not surveyed, so they followed down to the streamway and then finally came out of another entrance at the bottom of a cliff.  As they could not tell where the entrance was in the dark, they had no choice but to go back in the cave and come out of their original entrance. Kyrshan did all this in his only set of clothes with his video camera in a shopping bag.

Lumshnong – Tony Boycott, Neil and Alfred went digging in Anglo-Sikh and got back into the original passage.  They also went back to Krem Urn Khang, banged dig passage, dug out and passed for 15m in 0.5 x 0.3m tube to too tight squeeze for Alfred to follow.  Ritschi, Ruata and Daniel trying to climb at the end of Muddy Waters without success so they went and surveyed a side passage instead. George and Zuala had a trip to Lunar valley and visited/surveyed Krem Shong Skei, Krem Mih Urn, Krem Urn Peh. They also released the Bamboo Pit Viper; there were conflicting stories on the release!!!   One was that they had opened the lid and thrown the bottle away as hard as possible as the snake was halfway out of the bottle and the other was they put the bottle at the side of the path and the snake had gone by the time they came back!!!

Tuesday 23rd February

Fraser, Tom, J’Rat and Estelle went into Krem Soh Pang Bniat entrance and followed the right hand passage surveyed by Daniel just before Xmas last year. We split into two survey teams and surveyed some of the maze that exists in this cave.  Total surveyed approx. 500m.  Fraser and Estelle walked back in daylight from the new entrance (Krem LumsWan 1) and found it was not that far from the limekilns.  Tom and J’Rat went back into the cave and surveyed a connection into Krem Rong Urn Soh.

Mike, Raphael and Thilo surveyed 600m of side passages in Krem Phyllud.

Lumshnong – Daniel and Ritschi did a surface survey on the Cheruphie plateau surface above Umsynrang and Synrang Pamiang.

Simon, Brian, Andy went to UmSynrem and surveyed 70m and collected info on other local caves and survey 6 x 4m in UmShor Washing place caves

Entrance of Krem Phyllud, Cherrapungee

Wednesday 24th February

Fraser, Mike and Estelle went to into Krem Phyllud and completed the survey of the areas worked on yesterday. Surveyed to two different entrances and also a side passage off one of the entrances, total surveyed about 250m. Tony, Tom and Kyrshan went into Krem Lumshlan 1 + 2/Krem Soh Pan BniatlKrem Rong Urn Soh.  They had gone in via the walking sized Krem Lumshlan 1 and surveyed downstream past Putrid Pool to a duck.  Tom went through to find another entrance – Krem Lumshlan 2. They surveyed upstream inlet finding it to actually be downstream Krem Rong Urn Soh.  They had actually surveyed part of this streamway 3 times! – Once last year and once yesterday!  They then went on and surveyed White Woodlice Way and 100m or so of the large upper level bat roost passage until time ran out.  Left at least 100m of the passage unsurveyed.  Thousands of bats in residence.  Lots more to do in this system.

Thilo and Raphael went to Krem Mawria to survey the main stream inlet passage and surveyed there about 120m in crawly passages.  Some? are left, but not very inspiring.

The Sumo that we had arranged wasn’t there when we arrived at the road and 1 hour later, there was still no sign, so we got a taxi to the falls at Mawsmai and found it there; the communication must have got confused as it looks as though he assumed he had to meet us there and had been waiting for a long time, wondering where we were! We took the Sumo back to the IB and packed up the kit.  The driver had no idea of loading on roofracks so Tom got up and did the business. We were soon loaded up and on our way to Shillong.

Lumshnong – The team packed all the kit onto 2 buses and a jeep and trailer and headed back to Shillong to meet the rest of us at the Embassy Hotel.  Between us we had found a total of 20km of new cave in the last few weeks.

Thursday 25th February

Sorted out kit and took a trip to Brian’s to drop off any kit we are leaving behind and any kit of theirs we still had.

We had a birthday party at Diana’s on the other side of town as our last night’s entertainment – we discovered He-Man beer which did a very good job on most of us!!!

Friday 26th February

We left the hotel long before the hangovers had a chance to set in and walked up the road to Police Bazaar to meet the bus.  We were very glad when the bus stopped for us to have breakfast about ½ way.  We arrived at Guwahati airport in plenty of time and after going through the usual rigmarole of immigration, we settled down in the restaurant for beer for breakfast, well for those of us who could take it!!!!  The Germans flew Jet Air and left 20 mins before us.  We were soon boarded and on our way on our Indian Airlines flight. After collecting our bags we made our way out to the few taxis that were running, as there was a band (strike) on. We managed to fit everyone (6 of us and 4 Germans) in 3 taxis and made our way to the Fairlawn Hotel, in Sudder Street, Calcutta.  We had our evening meal, which was typically British, then sat in the beer garden until they refused to serve us any more.  They stop serving at 9.30 pm and turn the lights out at 10pm!!!

Saturday 27th February

We had a traditional English breakfast and then it was time to go shopping.  We spent the afternoon with 3 taxis doing a ‘tourist trip’ round the sights of Calcutta. Back at the hotel later we had a mass repack to try and fit everything in!  Evening meal was steak on a stone – excellent!!

At 1am we left the hotel and went to CalcuttaAirport to start the long journey home.

Sunday 28th February

Unfortunately we are all home and have to get back to reality!!!


Song – At Our Belfry On The Hill

Tune: Much Binding in the Marsh
Author: Dizzie Tompsett-Clark
Source: Belfry Bulletin Vol 2 No 8 December 1947

At our Belfry on the Hill,
The purity campaign has really started,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
From swearing and bad manners we’ve departed,
We’re fixing up a swear box on the table by the wall,
And Don must pay a shilling if he lets his fig-leaf fall,
In case the Bristol Brownies should decide to pay a call,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
Politeness is the order of the day there,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
In fact it’s really quite a strain to stay there,
Our dear old maiden aunties could not blush at what is said,
And fairy tales and fables are the only stories read,
At night we say our prayers and then we toddle off to bed,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We used to talk of motor bikes and caving,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
But now we’re concentrating on behaving,
You can bring your little sister and your favourite blonde up too,
They wouldn’t mind out language, but they mightn’t like our stew,
But if they start complaining, well, they know what they can do,
At our Belfry on the Hill.

At our Belfry on the Hill,
We’re sure you’ll like our tablecloth and flowers,
At our Belfry on the Hill,
We sit and knit to pass away the hours,
Quite early Sunday mornings we go off to church in twos,
But first we clean our teeth and comb our hair and shine our shoes,
And if we’re offered pints of beer, we graciously refuse,
At our Belfry on the Hill.


Water Studies In WookeyHoleCave. Somerset.

A brief report by Roger Stenner.

A full report on this study has been submitted to the B.C.R.A. for publication (with joint authors Tim Chapman, Alex Gee, Alan Knights, Clive Stell and Roger Stenner).  This paper will contain full experimental details, including analyses for sulphate and nitrate by ion chromatography, by Alan Knights of the Inorganic Chemistry Dept. of Bristol University and a discussion of problems given by colloidal calcium carbonate.

Between 1966 and 1975, many samples from the River Axe from the 3rd Chamber 3 of Wookey Hole were analysed by Stenner.  Magnesium concentrations in the samples varied very widely, and there was no pattern to the results.  In August 1974, there was more magnesium in a sample from the 5th Chamber than in a sample taken a few days later from the 9th Chamber.  There were two possibilities.  There may have been a gradient in magnesium from Wookey 9 to Wookey 5.  Alternatively, the data could have reflected general changes in Mg levels between the two dates, with no magnesium gradient between the two sites on either occasion.

According to Hanwell’s survey of the cave, the River Axe flows from limestone into Triassic conglomerate at Wookey 12, approximately only 50m upstream of Wookey 9.  Also, in 1975 it had relatively recently been shown that when hard water which is low in magnesium, with zero aggressiveness, is shaken with powdered dolomite, magnesium from the dolomite will dissolve in the water (Stenner, 1971).  The two facts led Stenner to think the first explanation was more likely to be true. A study of water samples from deeper in the cave would be worthwhile, and might explain the data from 1974.  In 1996, when Alex Gee was regularly diving to Chamber 22, “pushing” the aven which trends towards the surface (Gee, 1996) he agreed to collect some water samples on some of these trips.  As the study progressed, Colin Chapman and Clive Stell joined the exercise.

The first attempt was called of because the cave was in flood.  On the next trip, on 14.12.96, the water was still high, but the results were amazing, in spite of analytical problems given by colloidal calcium carbonate in the samples.  Samples were collected from the tops of the major loops of the River Axe, at Chambers 3, 9, 20, and 22.  At Wookey 23, samples were taken from the huge Static Sump shown in Alex Gees B.B. article, already mentioned.  At Wookey 22, the sample was taken from Sump 22 above the point of entry of the main stream (coming from Sting Comer).

Chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels were, within experimental limits, the same in all the samples.  But whereas magnesium was 32 to 35 x 10-5 Molar in all the main stream samples, it was only 9.8 x 10-5 Molar in the Static Sump.  The similarities could have been a coincidence.  Remote, but just possible, and the next batch of samples was awaited eagerly.  They came on 25.01.97, and this time, although the river was still high, there was no problem with colloids.  This time, calcium, chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels were the same in all the samples (within experimental limits) and this time magnesium in main river samples were 42 to 43 x 10-5 Molar, and 13.6 x 10-5 Molar in the Static Sump.  Bicarbonates in the static sump were less than in the main river, the decrease balancing the magnesium difference.  Now there was no room for co-incidence.  The water chemistry of the static sump was the same as that of the main river, except that it had less magnesium bicarbonate.

The results from the first two sets of results meant that somewhere upstream, the river and the water in the Static Sump had been the same, with the same chemistry.  Either the water flowing to the Static Sump had lost magnesium, or the water in the main river had gained magnesium.  With the pH range possible in the water (and the measured range of aggressiveness to calcium carbonate) there was no mechanism by which magnesium could be removed selectively from the water.  However, water low in magnesium can dissolve magnesium selectively from dolomite, at the same time producing solid calcium carbonate from the calcium component of the dolomite (and there is plenty of solid calcium carbonate in the silts of the cave, and in suspension in the water of the Axe).

So, this is the picture. Somewhere upstream, the Axe had chemistry like the Static Sump.  Then the river splits.  One branch flows through a bed of dolomite, dissolving magnesium carbonate from the dolomite as magnesium bicarbonate, to become the main River Axe, the smaller branch flowing to the Static Sump.   From the river in Sump 22 to the entrance, the chemistry of the river did not change. This has another consequence.  The location of site(s) where the four main sources of the Axe (St Cuthbert’s, Eastwater, Swildons and percolation water) join, must be upstream of the main stream/Static Sump junction.

There was a word of caution about future results.  The flow to the Static Sump could be intermittent, so the link in the chemistry between the Static Sump and the main river might not hold as the size of the river falls (the Static Sump water chemistry would then be linked to a previous water chemistry in the river).

The next question, with a good distance between Wookey 22 and Wookey 25, was whether the junction where the flow splits was within the known cave.  After a few false starts, a set of samples was brought out on 20.07.97. Samples were collected from the previous sites, plus a sample from Wookey 25, where the river wells up from Sump 25.

The results from the samples collected in December 1996 and January 1997 were utterly unexpected, and the possible implications were intriguing.  A high priority was placed on making another collection, including samples from upstream of Wookey 23.  A series of attempts to collect a set of such samples was made between March 1997 and July 1997, all of which failed for a number of reasons.  At last the gremlins were defeated, and a third collection of samples was made on 20.07.97 from the same sites as on 14.12.96, with the important addition of a sample from Wookey 25, immediately before the long descent into the 25th Sump.  Water levels were low.

The results from 20.07.97 were positive.  The water chemistry from the Wookey 25 was the same as that in the rest of the river, the magnesium content being 33 to 35 x 10-5 Molar.  The content in the Static Sump was 11.9 x 10- Molar.  As had been predicted, the links between water in the static Sump and the main river was no longer as close as in the previous samples, when the flow was high.  Chloride, sulphate, nitrate, sodium and potassium levels in the Static Sump were now significantly different from those in the main river, certainly because the chemistry of the main river had changed since the water had last flowed into the Static Sump.

The July 1997 results push the junction (and the Dolomite zone where magnesium dissolves) upstream of Wookey 25.  It also follows that the water in the Static Sump has come from upstream of Woo key 25. As the drawings in Alex Gee article (referred to earlier) show, the Static Sump is huge.  It has not been thoroughly explored.  As soon as the route through to Sting Comer, and on to Wookey 25 had been discovered, the Static Sump was seen as rather irrelevant. There must obviously be some caution here, because a huge flow of water can flow through fissures far too small to be passed by a diver, but if the water comes to the Static Sump by a route which by-passes Sump 25, this route must be worth looking at again. With such a long distance, there must be a very good potential for making worthwhile discoveries here.  In fact, there are several static sumps in this part of the cave.  The next stage will be to collect samples from all of the static sumps between Wookey 20 and Wookey 25, to discover more about their water chemistry.  The amazing sequence of floods since last summer has delayed this exercise, but watch this space!


Gee, A., 1996.  Recent exploration in “Wookey”, Belfry Bull., 48(1) 7-10. 4.

Hanwell, J.D., 1970. Digger meets diver, J Wessex Cave Club, 11(128) 34-9.

Stenner, R.D., 1971. The measurement of the aggressiveness of water Parts II and III, Trans. C.R.G. 13(4),283-295.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support given by the management of WookeyHoleCaves to members of the Cave Diving Group in their work in this cave.


Notes on photographs

1. Photographs from Tankard Hole, 18th January 1959.

The photos were taken after finishing the survey of the cave, with Roger, Pete Miller and Dave Dolan, on a Dacora 2¼” folding camera on 200 ASA film, PF1 bulb.  Pete took the photo of me in the final chamber.


The second (on the next page) was about 100ft beyond this chamber, to record the fossil, with the boot to give the size.  Eight photos were taken, one of which no longer exits.  I remember that several people in the club were angry that we should go ahead with the trip in such a “dicey” cave, the day after a fatality in Swildons.

2. The day of the flood, 10th July 1968.

Three of five photos taken in Bedminster by Roger at about 9.00pm while rain continued, and flood water was still raging.  There was no way of getting out of Bedminster.  I don’t know of any other photos taken during the storm.  The photos show:

1.         Raging water at the beginning of Whitehouse Lane, from underneath the railway bridge near Bedminster Railway Station (and the road to Sainsbury’s supermarket).

2.         St. John’s lane, Bedminster.  Water shooting up after blowing the lid off the culvert carrying the old stream from Claney’s Pond to the Malago Stream.  The pub is the Engineer’s Arms (for a while some foreigners called it the House that Jack Built).

3.         St. John’s Lane, Bedminster.  The walker had turned back after failing to get much further, with the water level above his waist and rising, and the water ahead raging.  The Engineer’s Arms on the right.

Taken with Exacta Varex IIb SLR, 50mm Tessar le4ns, Ilford FP3 (125ASA0 flash.



By Kangy King

At the back of my mind I’ve been aware of two mountains in the Pyrenees which I’d always wanted to climb when I lived near Toulouse but had never found time.  And then I met Janet again and suddenly it was the right time to attempt the Pic du Midi d’Ossau and the Balaitous.

Pic du Midi is nearly 3,000m high and Balaitous is well over that meaningless criteria.  But at least the height gives some sort of idea of the size of these impressive mountains.  Both are at the western end of the Pyreneean chain.  From here, the mountains of the Pyrenees Oriental decline gradually in height until they meet the Atlantic Ocean.

The Pic du Midi – in the OssauNational Park – is a sensational peak; isolated, steep, set in a breathtakingly beautiful landscape crowded with wildlife.  It simply cries out to be climbed. Fortunately the ordinary route to the top is not easy.  It has three steep sections which require rock climbing skills and which add interest to the usual slog over boulders teetering at precarious angles.  The main problem with these pitches is that lots of aspiring alpinists tend to bounce all over them at the end of ropes held by very strong guides with infinite patience.  Which causes queues.  However, I admit to not complaining on the way down when a delightful young woman being lowered out of balance and right at the end of her tether rotated gently and sat on my head.  She apologised profusely.  I was most polite and did not laugh.

The Pic du Midi d’Ossau is a day’s climb, about four hours up and down from the first rock pitch and very satisfying.  The Balaitous by contrast hides itself coyly in a wilderness of high peaks.  Just getting to it is an interesting technical problem.  The first to the top, the respected surveyors, Peytier and Hossard in 1825, had a hard time finding it.  Their first attempt on Balaitous finished on an adjacent mountain, the Palas, another shapely 3,000m summit from which they saw to their disgust (or delight perhaps) that they’d climbed the wrong mountain!  Balaitous is one of the great peaks of the Pyrenees and a mountaineering challenge because even the ordinary route needs careful route finding.  The actual dangers are the difficulties of moving quickly over shattered terrain, and higher on the mountain the ever-present risk of stone fall.

We were already installed at the comfortable campsite at Bious-Oumettes and when we studied the map to plan our route we saw that our preferred ascent line would mean driving for best part of a day to get into another valley.  So we decided to carry a bivvy to the Club Alpine Francais (CAF) refuge at Arremoulit.

It was not meanness that caused us to ignore the comforts of the Refuge but practicalities.  Such is the demand on limited resources that during the climbing season the CAF Refuges are invariably fully booked and it was most unlikely that there would be spare places.  Booking is done by telephoning the Refuge and making a reservation just like booking a hotel.  Members or affiliated members of the CAF pay half price.  So prudence determined that camping near the Refuge with its facilities was the best option.  We took Janet’s single person bivvy tent.  This much-loved lightweight shelter had given sterling service on cycle trips.  It featured a low height and required a somewhat inconveniently large area to pitch it.

We left the car on the roadside at the Caillou de Soques at about 1,400m on the way to the Col du Pourtalet.  From here we had to climb to the Col d’ Arrious at 2,260m and drop down to the Refuge d’Arremoulit (2,305m).  Then up to the Col du Palas, then down to Lacs d’ Arriel, then up to the summit of Balaitous, then return.  Well that’s what a detailed reading of the map and guide indicated.  What it didn’t reveal was just how difficult the ground was. We had to be careful in good visibility. It would have needed very careful attention to detail in poor visibility because picking the right col from below to avoid finishing up in another valley was not easy.

The long straight walk up a vee-shaped valley to the Col d’Arrious should have been delightful with flowers, butterflies and birds to distract us, but it was very hot and gravity tugged at our big bags.  Placing one foot in front of the other, slowly, got us to a narrow false col with a clear stream and a picture postcard view of the Pic du Midi.  Here we drank, ate and recovered from the heat.  Getting to the Col d’Arrious took a little longer.  Eager to shorten the work we chose to take the Passage d’Ortaig, an alternative route, which was not recommended if you were carrying a large pack because of its ‘passage difficile’.  This turned out to be a splendidly irregular narrow ledge, climbing across and incised into the vertical face of a wall, over a very large drop.  It was safeguarded by a thick cable detached at several intended anchor points.  They were right about the large packs.  It did make things awkward especially with the exposure nagging away at the mind.  The sun shone, we arrived above the Refuge, and soon discovered that flat spots for tents were not easy to find.  The best we could find, admittedly romantically situated on a narrow strip of grass between the edge of the Lac d’Arriel and a boulder in the lake, meant that each end of the tent hung over water with the guys tied off to stones in the water – very ingenious.  We kept things cool by immersing them at one end while a small beach at the other served to shelter the cooker.  The bit in between was just long enough to lie flat.  It was enough.  We were content.

At about 6.0 o’clock the mists came down just after we had identified the right Col du Palas (LH) as opposed to the wrong Col d’Arremoulit (RH).  We walked a little to be sure of the path to take for an early start.

The stars that night were amazing.  We were both concerned about the mist, which might cause problems, and during the night, waking together, we lay with our heads outside gazing at the astonishing crystal clear phenomenon of a glittering Milky Way while attempting to identify the greater stars.  Superb.

The morning was clear too. We breakfasted efficiently, packed a small bag rapidly, and were pleased to get off to a good start.  After an hour’s steep walk up a good track we crossed the Col (2,517m) and eagerly sought the next stage.  We identified Lac d’Arriel 300 metres below.  And then we looked for the start of the climb to the Balaitous. There was no obvious path.  It was a long way down even to get to the next uphill bit.  The ground was rocky and crossed large scree.  It looked terrible.

The next hour was spent picking our way slowly on a downward diagonal line across to the foot of a cascade. Concentration was essential both to pick a reasonable line and to be careful on treacherous loose rock.  It felt like a trap because should the mist return it would be hard to retrace our steps.  A herd of Izard making light work of the terrain raised our spirits.  There wasn’t much other wildlife apart from the whistling of marmots.  Nearly off the rough stuff we could soon stop to work out the next moves.

From the cascade mentioned in Kevin Reynold’s Guide we had an interesting time fiddling up gullies and ribs to reach the Gourg Glace at 2,400 m.  And now at last we could get to grips with Balaitous.  A path appeared.  We were back on a regular route and the next fix, the Abri Michaud, a small but useful shelter at 2,698m, gave us confidence to climb the easy but dangerous gully above which seemed filled with large loose rocks.  This gave onto a pleasant grassy area, the beginning of a ridge. We’d had enough of loose rock and continued sticking to firm rock ribs until we were forced out onto the true ridge which gave wonderful views, stimulating exposure and no hope of continuing without a rope.  Reluctantly we skirted several gendarmes before admitting that we were off route. A friendly shout assured us that it was ‘easier over here’.  It might have been easier but once again it was depressingly loose only made bearable by being in the mountains shadow, out of the fierce sun.  We’d got so high on the ridge that we had to traverse across the face below the summit to get to the final gully.  It took ages.  Eventually we sat on the long anticipated summit of Balaitous at 3,144m.  Rock climbers appeared and chatted to us.  We knew that theirs was the better way.  One commented that it was rare to see a couple on a mountain (of our age he implied!) because the woman usually stayed at home and grumbled.  Had we done much climbing he asked?  I missed the opportunity to say that we had climbed the Aneto, the highest in the range, 42 years before.  But you always think of the perfect reply too late.

The descent was slow and the required concentration tiring.  A single lapse disturbed a stone which after a slow trundle suddenly accelerated and mercifully missed a pair of climbers a hundred metres below – very frightening.  However, now firmly back on route, having missed it on the way up, we climbed down and across the face following the large fault line called ‘La Grande Diagonale’. This finished enjoyably by traversing an exposed ledge which led back to the grass at the start of the ridge.  The ledge was similar to the Passage d’Ortaig which went to the Refuge, but lacked the comfort of a security cable.

The return climb up to the col from Lacs d’ Arriel was tense too.  Constant attention had to be paid to unstable rock.  Gradually the slope eased, the green oasis of the Col du Pal as arrived and then and only then we felt as if we had climbed the mountain. A very unforgiving one.


Harry Bamforth

 – A pioneer cave photographer.

By Dave Irwin

Though many photographs of cave scenes were made prior to 1900 few were taken by the active caver of the day.  Those that were published widely had been photographed by house photographers of well-known publishing companies or resident photographers of the major show caves. Those of importance include Francis Frith of Reigate; Ben Haines (USA); Kerry of Sydney, Australia and McCarthey, resident photographer of the JenolanCaves.

Interior views of caves first appeared in Britain about c.1886.  Frith’s of Reigate had samples of their products on sale at Cox’s Cave at about this date.  By 1890 interior views of Gough’s OldCave were also available, some possibly by Frith and certainly those of Stanley Chapman of Dawlish.  The contemporary handbills make known the fact that a wide range of photographic prints were available on the premises.  These  early photographs were later used for illustrating picture postards c.1902 in Britain though mid-European cave photography views were on sale as early as 1895.

Early caving expeditions seemed to be as well equipped with the latest up-to-date gear as any modem equivalent.  The golden years of cave exploration were rigidly organised by men with great leadership qualities such as Simpson and Puttrell.  In Derbyshire, Jack Puttrell, a house painter and decorator from Sheffield, lays claim to being a pioneer of cave exploration in the HighPeak.  Explorations took place at Castleton in Peak Cavern, Blue John Mine and Speedwell Cavern. The earliest photographically recorded expedition appears to be the successful expedition to bottom Eldon Hole in 1900.  A year later a strong party led by Puttrell explored the Bottomless Pit in Speedwell Mine.  Similar exploration work was being carried out in Blue John Cavern and Peak Cavern. Some of these exploits were fully documented in Wide World Magazine and local newspapers.

The emergence of caving as a scientific pastime brought together not only the skills of the archaeologist, climber, surveyor, biologist, geologist and botanist but also that of the photographer who often recorded original officially record the events as they exploration as it occurred.   In fact, expedition leaders, taking their example from the surface expeditions, sought willing photographers to officially record the events as they occurred.  In Britain, during the first decade of the 20th century, several photographers emerged, though most are now forgotten or remembered for other reasons.  Their names include Balch, Baker, Burrow, Hastings,  Savory, Simpson,  Stringer and later Sergeant and Evens

Among those active during the golden age of cave exploration in Britain was Harry Bamforth.  During the years 1900c to 1905 he appears to have been active on Mendip and in Derbyshire.  A member of the Kyndwr Club, he met and befriended Ernest Baker. The two caved and climbed regularly both in Britain and on the Continent.  The photographic evidence would imply that his main field of activity was Derbyshire and Mendip but Baker also records Bamforth being present on an early exploration trip into Stump Cross in the Yorkshire Dales.


Biographical details are sparse – even from his descendants.  Harry Bamforth was a son of James Bamforth, an adventurous businessman who developed the publishing company of Bamforth at Holmfirth. James Bamforth was a son of a painter and decorator and he became interested in photography in the 1860s.  By 1870 he had started a company producing lantern slides promoting the entertainments of the day.  During the 1890s Bamforth had entered the race to produce early cine films but the southern based companies eventually won the day, largely because of the generally better weather conditions that prevailed in the south-east.  However, printing being the main form of business led him to the production of picture postcards in 1902.


1 – Speedwell Cavern. First descent of the ‘Bottomless Pit’ by Puttrell, 4th May 1901.  Note the use of multiple light sources.

2 – Bamforth Song card set: Please Miss, Give me Heaven. [Harry Bamforth is ‘acting’ the part of the grieving father]

Today the company is still a major producer of picture postcards principally the saucy seaside comic cards.  During the early years of this century (1903) and on to the end of the First WorId War, the Bamforth company’s fame rested on their ‘Song and Hymn’ cards, depicting a scene or scenes of popular songs or hymns, and usually published in sets of three or four cards.  Each scene was staged and local inhabitants, enthusiastic to dress-up, took part for a small fee.  Children rewarded with sweets.

Later during the 1914-1918 war they created cards expressing the sentiments of parted families, loved ones leaving home, grieving parents and lonely graves – a style that appealed to the contemporary emotions of the British public.  The modern public would be appalled at the deliberate ‘tear-jerking’ products – or would they?

3 – Harry Bamforth. [Enlargement of the first song card illustrated]

Harry Bamforth was born into this hugely successful family and eventually became involved in the operations of the company.  His privileged position in society enabled him to travel and become an active rambler, climber and caver.  His period of caving activity in Britain was to span the years 1900 – 1905 for about 1906 he was sent to New York, to manage the American branch of the company.

Bamforth married and had one daughter.  He died in the 1930s.

The only known commercially published photo of him is on a set of three Bamforth Song Cards entitled “Please Miss, Give Me Heaven”.


From the photographic evidence and Balch’s reference to him in the text of “The Netherworld of Mendip” (1907) his visits were wide ranging both on Mendip and Derbyshire. In March 1903 Bamforth accompanied Baker and Balch on his first extended exploration of Eastwater Cavern when the Rift Chambers and Traverses were discovered. The difficulty of moving through the cave meant that his cameras had to be left at the head of the 380ft Way. 

A similar event took place in Swildon’s Hole in December 1904 when his cameras had to be left at the Well, in the Wet Way, when progress became difficult and he feared that the water would cause damage to the equipment.  The object of the visit was to attempt the first descent of the Forty Foot Pot but the strength of the water made this impossible. Another seventeen years was to pass before  the passage beyond could be explored and it was left to another photographer to record the discoveries J. Harry Savory. However, the 1904 trip wasn’t a waste of time; Baker successfully explored the Short Dry and Long Dry routes in search of an alternative to the wet and uncomfortable stream route, connecting the Long Dry Way with the entrance bedding chamber.  Meantime, Bamforth went back to The Well and transported his camera equipment to the Old Grotto and took many photographs of the chamber and its side passages.

4 – Swildon’s Hole, Old Grotto – No. 5763 – photo. taken on 27th December 1904.

5 – Swildon’s Hole, Old Grotto – No. 5766 – photo. taken on 27th December 1904.

6 – Peak Cavern. Jack Puttrell at a new entrance in Cave Dale.  1st March 1902.  From Wide World

7 – Speedwell Cavern, Castleton, East Rift. Exploration party on 4th May 1901

8 – Lamb Leer Cavern. Life-lining at the cave entrance. I – r : E.A. Baker, H.E. Balch and H.J. Mullett-Merrick. Easter, 1903

9 – Eastwater Cavern entrance. No. 5760. Note the spoil heaps. Easter 1903

10 – Speedwell Cavern, Canal. [No. 5705].  Taken on the Bottomless Pit expedition, 4th May 1901.  Note the double flash lighting.

11 – Peak Cavern, The Vestibule, c.1902. No. 5723


The visit of Martel to England in 1904 included Bamforth as a member of the host party in the company of Balch, Baker, Puttrell, Troup and others.  It is probable that the photographs of Gough’s and Cox’s Caves were taken at this time.  Other Mendip caves were photographed by Bamforth and those recorded include Lamb Leer (note 1), Goatchurch, and the Great Rift Cavern ( WhiteSpotCave) in the Cheddar Gorge.

During the period 1900 – 1903 his photographic record seems to be limited to Derbyshire, though a number of postcards have been found of villages in the Yorkshire Dales, probably the result of hiking in the area.  Examples of his Derbyshire work appeared in the Wide World Magazine in 1901 and 1902.  A friend of J. W. Puttrell, Bamforth was invited to be the official photographer on a number of Derbyshire expeditions.  This work resulted in a number of interior views of Peak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Blue John Mine and Reynard’s Cave in the DovedaleValley.  Surprisingly, none have been found of Dove Holes.  Historically his photographs of the Puttrell led expedition to the ‘Bottomless Pit’ are the most interesting.  This took place in May 1901.

Bamforth developed new lighting equipment for the trips and further used new innovations for obtaining his photographs.  In one case he developed a spot-light that is seen used in Photo – 1 and he seems to have been one of the first to use multiple lighting sources: see Photos 1 and 10.    The spotlight was also used to pick out features of the cave particularly in large chambers as in Peak Cavern.

In addition to his contemporaries, including Croft and Wrightman, Bamforth had the advantage of many later photographers in that his work includes the activity of cavers on original exploration.

During the course of Bamforth’s activities in the United States, the Bamforth company published three photographs of Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, taken by Ben Haines the resident photographer at the cave.  All of these photographs had been published previously by H.C. Ganter the then owner of MammothCave. Whether Bamforth ever visited this or any other American cave is unknown.

Bamforth’s work exists in three formats: books, photographic prints and picture postcards. Collectively the photographs form an important record of caving activity in Britain during the first decade of the 20th century. Successive photographers of these early years, Holt, Hastings and later Savory, continued the task of pictorially recording the known British caves.

Identification of Harry Bamforth Photographs

Bamforth photographs published in the books and periodicals listed under references are usually credited by an imprint at the foot or in the acknowledgements at the end of the article. The early releases of the postcards (c.1903-5) and photographic prints are more difficult to identify as only a few include any form of imprint.  The commercially printed ‘real photographs’ and officially published by the company, Bamforth of Holmforth, generally bear the imprint on the back of the card. These were published about 1920. In the case of the ‘reprints’ the title layout and the letter character style is quite different.  Usually they are hand inscribed italic capitals whereas the early releases have a crude but very distinctive, hand-written title, in capitals, on the negative.  It is the original releases that are being discussed in this section.


BSA     BSA British Speleological Association

CC        CC Caves and Caving. Published by British Speleological Association

MCC     Moors, Crags and Caves of the HighPeak and Neighbourhood. E.A. Baker. John Heywood Ltd., Deansgate and Ridgefield, Manchester. 1903

MSC     Mendip – Its SwalletCaves and Rock Shelters. H.E. Balch. 1st. ed. 1937 Clare, Son & Co., Wells, Somerset

N          Netherworld of Mendip, E.A. Baker & H.E. Balch, Simpson, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London. 1907

P          Photographic print

PC        Picture Postcard

S          Les Cavernes et les cours d’eau souterraine des Mendip Hills, Somerset, Angleterre (Explorations de 190 1­1904). H.E. Balch. Spelunca No. 39 (December 1904)

WM      WellsMuseum (Savory Collection)

WW      Wide World Magazine

[]          Number of reference

(§)        With or without number

(+)        No number or title on image

(#)        Number only on image

Recorded Photographs

The list of photographs fall into four categories:

1          Numbered photographs (two digit number inside parenthesis)

2          Numbered photographs (three digit number)

3          Numbered photographs (four digit number)

4          Un-numbered photographs

List 1

(51)       The Cliffs, Cheddar   PC

(52)       Cheddar Cliffs, Horseshoe Bend.   PC

(58)       Peak Cavern, Castleton. [same photo. as 5723]   PC

(66)       MiddleCave, Wookey Hole, Somerset.                                PC; P-WM

(67)       Peak Cavern   PC

(68)       Peak Cavern   PC

(75)       PeakCastle and Castleton.   P

List 2

659       Cavedale Castleton             PC; WW[6]

669       Entrance to Blue John Mine Castleton        PC

List 3

4576     Reynard’s Cave, Dovedale   PC

5695     Blue John Mine, Castleton                                                             PC(§)

5697     A Lord Mulgrave’s Dining Room, Blue John Mine, Castleton.  PC

5698     The Passage, Blue John Mine, Castleton.   PC

5699     Lord Mulgrave’s Dining Room, Blue John Mine,  Castleton.  PC

5700     Variegated Cavern, Blue John Mine, Castleton.          PC(§); P

5702     Crystal Waterfall, Blue John Mine, Castleton.           PC(§); P

5703     The Fairy Grotto, Blue John Mine, Castleton.           PC(§); P

5705     Canal, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.   PC(§);WW[3]

5706     Halfway, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.       PC(§);MCC

5707     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.         PC(§); MCC; WW[3]

5709     Entrance to Canal. Speedwell Mine. Castleton                PC(§)

5711     Going down Bottomless Pit, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.  PC

5712     Waterfall, Bottomless Pit, Castleton.  PC(§); WW[3]

5713     Speedwell Cavern, Castleton.    PC(§); P; MCC; WW[3]

5714     Peak Cavern.  PC

5718     Arches and river, Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC; P; WW[6]

5720     Devil’s Cellar, Peak Cavern, Castleton.                 PC(§)

5721     Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC; P; WW[6]

5722     Arches, Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC(#); WW[6]

5723     Peak Cavern, Castleton. [identical to (58)]   PC

5726     Approach to Peak Cavern, Castleton.   PC

5727     Looking down steps, Speedwell Mine, Castleton.               PC(§)

5728     Eastwater Cavern, Boulder Chamber               P- WM

5731     Descent to Speedwell Mine, Castleton.   PC

5742     Gough’s Cave, Mendip Hills.                P-WM

5743     Entrance to Goatchurch Cavern, Burrington Coombe.         PC(+); WM

5744     “The Grill”, Wookey Hole.  PC(§); N(p58)

5746     Entrance to Lamb’s Lair.            N(p.136)

5747     Mr. Puttrell entering Peak Cavern by … new entrance P(#); WW[6]

5749     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.     P

5750     Gough’s Cave, Mendip Hills                p.WM

5751     Lamb Lair, Harptree, Mendip Hills.                          p.WM

5753     Speedwell Mine, Castleton.                  P(#)

5757     Loading the Collapsible Boat after visiting Cliff Cavern    CC[7]; P(#)

5758     Lamb Lair (roof of Great Chamber). Harptree.              P- WM 5759 Beyond the “Bottomless Pit” – A rock- arched passage     CC[7]; P2

5760     Entrance to Great Cavern Eastwater Swallet and Cave, Mendip Hills           P-WM; N(p.59); WM

5762     Beyond the grottos, Swildon’s Hole, Mendip Hills  PWM

5763     Stalactite Chamber, Swildon’s Hole. N(p.80);               P-WM3

5764     Swildons [sic] Hole. Mendip Hills. 4                 P-WM

List 4


Cox’s Cave:

In Cox’s Cavern, Cheddar               N(p.92)

In Cox’s Cave, Cheddar, Mendip Hills [Transformation Scene]      P-WM

The Font, Cox’s Cavern, Cheddar                P- WM

Eastwater Cavern:

Eastwater Swallet                 S(p.8)

Eastwater Cavern [head of 380ft Way]    PC

Gough’s Cave:

Gough’s Cave, Mendip Hills [View of Solomon’s Temple]    PWM

Great Rift Cavern [Whitespot Cavern]:

Great Rift Cavern, Cheddar Gorge         PC; N(p.93)

Lamb Leer Cavern:

The “Beehive” Chamber, Lamb’s Lair N(p.1l8); S(p.22)

Stalactite Wall, Lamb’s Lair               N(p.1l9)

Entrance to Great Chamber, Lamb’s Lair    N(p.120); WM

Stalactites in Entrance Gallery, Lamb’s Lair              N(p.122)

The Beehive, Lamb Lair          MSC(p.79)

Above Beehive. Lamb Leer. Mendip Hills                 P-WM

Swildon’s Hole:

Swildon’s Hole – The Pagoda Stalagmite                 P-WM

Entrance of Stalagmite Chamber. Swildon’s Hole               N(p.78)

Stalactite Curtains. Swildon’s Hole                                      N(p.79); WM

Swildon’s Hole in 1901                                                        S(p.17)

Wookey Hole:

Wookey Hole. Stalagmites in the New Grotto                   S(p.29)

Wookey Hole. The Witch                                                  S(p.28)

The Subterranean River. Wookey Hole                             S(p.26)

Hyaena Den and Badger Hole. Wookey Hole                    N(p.23)

The Great Swallet of Bishop’s Lot                                      N(p.28)

In the First Chamber. Wookey Hole Cavern                       N(p.49)

New Stalactite Grotto. Wookey Hole                                   N(p.57)

The Source of the Axe. Wookey Hole                               N(p.59)

Wookey Hole [view of resurgence]     PC

Wookey Hole [view of canal]     PC

Wookey Hole. Looking into the 1st Chamber [man in white clothes] 5      P-WM

Ebbor. Nr. Wookey     PC


Blue John Mine:

Crystal Cavern. Blue John. Castleton     PC

Passage. Blue John Mine. Castleton [2 men in passage]     PC

[Party outside Blue John entrance – cabinet card]        P

Blue John Mine [man in passage with light in background]        P

Peak Cavern:

CottagesNr.Peak Cavern. Castleton     PC

(no title visible – photo. of Ropewalk)     PC

Mr. Puttrell …prepares to descend the newly-discovered entrance WW[6]

The members of the party                                                              WW[ 6]

Arches. Peak Cavern. Castleton [no man in picture as on 5718]   PC; WW[6]

High up in the Victoria Aven                                                         WW[6]

“The Five Arches.” … [similar to 5722]                                          WW[6]

Entrance to Peak Cavern [low level view of Ropewalk]    PC

Speedwell Mine:

Speedwell Mine. Cliff Cavern. Over 100ft high      P6

Speedwell Mine. On the way to Cliff Cavern                              P; CC[7]

Speedwell Mine. Cliff Cavern. Stream at low level              P; CC[7]

Through this cottage one gains access to the tunnel       PC7; WW[3]

…. explorers. with their impedimenta …               WW[3]

Canal. Speedwell Mine.   PC8

Descent to Speedwell Mine. Castleton     PC

Entrance to the Winnats [includes entrance to Speedwell Mine]     PC

First descent to “Bottomless Pitt”                                          PC9;WW[3]

Mr. Puttrell sets out to explore the mysterious lake                WW[3]

The party after the descent … at the bottom of Speedwell Cavern        WW[3]


Yorkshire Moors Nr. Langsett     PC

Hepworth [general view]     PC

Cathedral. Wells     PC

Church and Cave. Woodhouse Eaves     PC

[unidentified resurgence]        P

Burrington Coombe [Rock of Ages]    PC

Cave Dale. Castleton [view of valley]     PC

Cave Dale. Castleton [view including castle]    PC

Castleton from the castle     PC

PeverilCastle and Cave Dale    PC

Wookey Hole [village showing church and cottages]     PC

Russet Well. Castleton     PC


1)                  Anon1901 Exploring the Speedwell Cavern. Manchester Evening News 15 August 1901

2)                  Anonl936 [2 photographs of exploration of Bottomless Pit] News Chronicle 12 Nov. 1936

3)                  Baker. E.A. 1901 The descent of the “Bottomless Pit” Wide World Magazine 8(43) pp 49-55. iIlus [dated 1900 in error]

4)                  Irwin.D.J. 1982 Early cave photographers and their work. BEC Belfry Bulletin (406-407)10-21

5)                  Ford. T.D. 1982 Pers. Comm.

6)                  Puttrell. J.W. 1902 The Secret of the Peak Cavern.  Wide World Magazine 9(54) pp 544-551

7)                  Puttrell. J.W. 1938-39 The “Bottomless Pit” and beyond. BSACaves and Caving (2) pp 44-47; (3) pp 85-88; (4) pp 125-126


The article was originally written in 1985 and has been in the stockpile ever since in the hope that more biographical details may become available – none have.  The lists have been updated and modified.

[Update July 2014]  Information recieved on his sons, Jack and James, who died in WW!.  Interered at Hillside CemeteryCortlandt Manor, Westchester County, New York, USA
Plot: Evergreen Section, Lot #196

Jack Bamforth was a student at Farmingdale State College which was then known as the New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island.   Hi is listed on a passenger list for a ship called the Campania, sailing from Liverpool to NY, Nov 11, 1905.

The list shows Harry Bamforth travelling on business, and lists his occupation as a photographer. He is travelling with his sister Frances, wife Mary Lydia, and 3 children—Irene (age 8), Jack (age 6) and James (age 5).

Jack Bamforth was in the Marines, and died in France in 1918.

There were ship lists for many sailings that included the young Jack, I guess he travelled a lot with his father.


Acknowledgements : The author would like to thank Drs. Trevor Shaw and Trevor Ford for details of photographic prints in their collections and to the Trustees of Wells Museum for use of photographs. nos: 4.5 and 9. from the Savory collection.

Dave Irwin. Priddy. 2nd December 1998.


  1. Baker, E.A., 1903, A forgotten stalactite cavern.  The Standard. Saturday April 11th



In the last BB. No. 499. p.27. an error occurred regarding the listing of the photographs in one of Arthur Gough’s booklets.  Revisions to the relevant sections of GCB 060 is given below.  One of the problems of copying and pasting on a computer !! Thanks to Don Mellor. librarian of Craven Pothole Club and Pete Rose who both raised the query.

Ref. No. : GCB 060

Sequence of photographs:

page     title

2          The Pinnacles. Cheddar Gorge

3          Rising of Cheddar Water at foot of caves

6          The lion Rock. Cheddar Gorge

7          The Diamond Stream

10         The Fonts

11         A Group of Pillars showing wonderful variety of form

14         Stalactite drapery

15         The Archangel’s Wing. a stalactite curtain 15 feet long

18         The Cascade in St. Pauls

19         The Niagara Falls

22         In Solomon’s Temple

23         The Fairy Grotto

26         In Solomon’s Temple, a magnificent column 11 feet high

27         View of the boulders

30         Hartstongue Fern growing in the cave

31         Skull of the Cheddar Man

Cover: buff card with red and black text and black sketch of ‘Reflected group’ all inside red. single line. frame.

Ref. No. : GCB 070 is unchanged.

Many apologies.

Dave Irwin. 2nd.

December 1998


Five Buddles Surveys




Five Buddles Sink, Chewton Mendip (Provisional)

ST 5481 5138 BCRA Grade 5d. June 1998.

Original Scales 1:100, 1:200

Photo reduced for BB

Surveyed by: T. Hughes, C. White, T, Jarratt

Drawn by: T. Hughes.


Guess the Cave





There was a time when the owner of Swildon’s Hole would lock the cave and refuse access if he considered the water levels to be hazardous. This was back in the pre-neoprene and fibrepile days and the death of a caver ffom hypothermia in Swildons in 1959 (plus another in Longwood four years later) was no doubt a factor in continuing this practice. Sometime in the ’70s this restriction ceased and it became a matter of judgement for the caver to assess the conditions and to decide if descent of the cave was advisable. With the ‘Forty’ gone, and with the advent of specialist clothing, it was soon discovered that the Streamway could be negotiated reasonably safely in almost any conditions and a new ‘wetter-the-better’ attitude prevailed.

October this year saw some of the highest water levels since the great flood 30 years ago. Saturday 24th October began with torrential rain which continued steadily throughout the day. With the ground already water-logged and stream levels high the level at Swildon’s rose steadily. A number of vehicles on the Green, including a minibus, testified to the presence of several parties in the cave. By mid afternoon the water submerged the upper pipe and by anyone’s definition the cave was in spectacular flood. Fortunately everyone emerged safely from the system, all the parties being well equipped although there were adult novices included.

A week later on Hallow’en saw even higher levels. By midmorning the upper pipe was submerged and the level was still rising. By early aftemoon the water was flowing over the lip of the blockhouse door. Even these levels did not deter several groups of cavers who entered the cave (despite being strongly advised not to!). The slightly more cautious of us waited until later that night, when the levels were clearly dropping, before going underground. The biggest surprise in the cave was the volume of water over-shooting the Showerbath at the head of the Wet Way and flowing into Binney’s Link. Jacob’s Ladder is not an all-weather escape route – and an inexperienced or tired caver would have great difficulty under the conditions we witnessed. Down at the Forty the eyehole at the head of the wet climb was half submerged. It was very hard getting back through against the force of water – again this would prove extremely difficult for the tired or inexperienced. At the Twenty the usual ladder hang was under a deluge sufficient to sweep a caver off the ladder and traversing across to a safer area was necessary. The short crawl just beyond the pitch (approaching the Shrine) was easily passable downstream but proved much harder against the flow.

The trip illustrated graphically two facts about Swildon’s in flood – it’s a great trip, but it’s potentially very dangerous. We have to remember that a misjudgement under these conditions will have very serious consequences. There is a serious risk of being swept off waterfall climbs, or being struck by dislodged rocks propelled by the current. The cave environment is extremely hostile in these conditions – the combined spray and draughts would quickly combine to induce hypothermia, even in a well equipped caver. Rescue would become increasingly difficult imagine the aggravated problems in carrying a stretcher through a cave in flood – and the effect that repeated torrential soakings would have on any casualty.

So please take care. Enjoy Swildon’s in the wet – even in flood – but treat it with the respect it deserves. Be very selective about who is suitable for this type of trip and that their personal kit is adequate. Cavers should be free and able to make their own judgements on safe water levels for themselves, and for their party. Let’s show that we can.

Andy Sparrow

GB Cave

Following a recent ‘rescue’ when the hasp had to be sawn off of the door, the cave is temporarily secured by a wire strop and padlock. Please operate the lock with clean hands and more importantly with a clean key, as this would appear to be the cause of most problems. Anybody who has problems with the lock should report it to the place where they obtained the key and to Graham Mullan the Secretary of CCC Ltd address overleaf.


Lectures / Training Friday 11 th December Orthopaedic Trauma 7.30 PM at Hunters Lodge inn. Further lectures in January February and March but no dates confirmed yet apologies but some lectures have to be on Fridays due to lecturer commitments


The new CSCC financial year begins on 1st January 1999, following last AGM’s approval to move it from springtime. Member clubs are due to pay 1999’s subs in time for the start of the year. So I have already put in the post the invoices for your club’s 1999 subscription to CSCC and, where you pay via us, the National Caving Association 1999 sub. Both subs are £ 10 each. You may issue one cheque for both subscriptions if you wish, payable to CSCC. We shall receipt both, and forward the NCA sub to that organisation.

Send the sub to me, at Bridge House, Wanstrow, Somerset BA4 4TE, or bring it to the next CSCC meeting at the Hunters Lodge at 10.30 on Saturday 5 December 1998. I shall be grateful if you will pay promptly, as NCA has advised us that under further revisions to Sports Council funding, there are currently no national grants for regional expenditures. This means that CSCC is wholly dependent on its members’ subscriptions.

I am also requesting subscription arrears for 1998 from a few clubs. The following are currently overdue and have not advised me that the money is on its way:

Avens Cave Exploration Group (CSCC & NCA 1998)

Avon Outdoor Activities Club (NCA 1998)

Border Caving Group (CSCC & NCA 1998)

Mendip Exploration Group (NCA 1998).


Hon Chairman                                  John Dobson

Hon. Secretary                                 Dave Cooke

Hon. Treasurer                                 Jon Roberts

Conservation and Access                  Martin Grass

Training                                           Andy Sparrow

Equipment & Newsletter Editor          Les Williams

NCA Representative                         Graham MulIan


Welcome to the Cheddar Caving Club, a new local members club, based on the Mendips, who joined us at the last meeting.

CSCC Controlled Caves

AII the padlocks for the various caves controlIed by CSCC have been replaced with new locks. All existing keys should still work although some people have had problems. These have since been rectified and no further problems are anticipated, although anybody experiencing problems with these locks should contact the C&A officer, Martin Grass.


This cave is now locked with the standard CSCC padlock. Keys are available for any member club of CSCC and from the C&A officer Martin Grass.

Dates to remember

15th Dec           CSCC Meeting Hunters lodge inn

16th Feb           CSCC Meeting Hunters lodge Inn

19th March        MRO Annual Meeting Hunters Lodge

20th March        NCA AGM

10th April          CCC Ltd AGM Hunters Lodge

15th May           CSCC AGM 10:30  Hunters Lodge inn

10th to 12th SeptemberBCRAConferenceLeedsUniversity


Views contained in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Editor, the CSCC. or its officers.

Any relevant news items should be sent to the Editor either on a 3.5 floppy disk as a TEXT file, in the body of an E-mail, as a TEXT file attachment to an E-mail or alternatively Phone or write, address below.

Best wishes for the new Caving Year.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details –  Contact

26/3/99                      Robin Gray Painting underground demonstration at WellsMuseum, 7.30pm – Robin Gray

4/4/99                        OFD Columns Open Day

9/4/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am – CCC Ltd.

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Cut off – Editor

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out – Editor

24/4/99 – 9/5/99          BEC/GSG Meet in Sutherland, Scotland – Tony Jarratt

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/5/99                      CSCC AGM Hunters Lodge 10.30am – CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off – Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out – Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire – BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

24/7/99                      Mendip Challenge, based around Priddy Stomp at Priddy Village Hall in evening, with the Cheddar Blues Band – details to follow – John Dobson, ECG

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off – Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out – Editor

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor – Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP – Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close – Secretary

10 – 12/9/99               Hidden Earth ’99 BCRA Conference, Leeds – Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos – John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner

3-30/10/99                  Brush with Darkness 2 WellsMuseum – Robin Gray


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registered in England and Wales as a co-operative society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, registered no. 4934.