The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not
necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in
general

Editors bit.

First an apology to the bright eyed who spotted that there
wasn’t an article about Veb by Tony Setterington.  I apologise to Tony for not putting same in.

I should like to thank all those stalwart members who have
sent in articles, pictures and other material. I would like to apologise once
again for all the lost credits to pictures, articles not published and so on.
Your magazine is to be edited by a much more active caver than myself, Adrian
Hole, who will doubtless put his own stamp on the thing.  He will still need stuff from you so, keep on
sending it in.  If you want to e-mail it
to me, I have agreed to pass on any bits.

See you in the pub, Martin

I received a letter of commendation from a member with
regard to the last year’s secretary’s report. I have transcribed it and include it here.

Dear Martin,

As the last of the “Original
Five” who founded the B.E.C.  I
would like to endorse Nigel’s comment at the end of his report in BB 511.  It was never anticipated that, in those early
days, the fledgling B.E.C. would become one of the countries leading Speleo
organisations.  I feel justly proud to
have been associated with the club for so long.

Keep up the good work.  All the best to all members. Harry Stanbury
(No 1)

 

A picture of this year’s Priddy Bonfire for all of those who
missed it!

 

Vale: Simon Knight

On the 5th of October a large crowd of relatives, friends,
musicians and cavers gathered at the Hunters’ to celebrate the life of this
superb melodeon player, shove ha’penny expert and long time caving song
exponent. Simon was a staunch Mendip Caving Group member in the 60s and 70s and
I am sure would have been very satisfied with his “send off” and the
amount of ale consumed!

Yet another great Mendip character will no longer enliven
“that fine old flagstoned bar” with his presence.  For a full obituary see the Pub notice board.

J.Rat

Hunters Lodge Inn Sink

by Tony Jarratt

Work continues on drilling and blasting along the immature
rift at the end of the dig, following the route taken by the wet weather
stream.  We are now some 10m from the
base of the entrance shaft and are just inside the field south of the Pub.

The surface walls, lid and fixed ladders have been completed
and a superb ceramic “Bertie” plaque sculpted by Ben Holden and
generously donated to the dig – has been cemented in position inside the wall
at the top of the shaft.

Our thanks once again to Roger Dors for his forbearance,
interest in the project and unstinting generosity.

 

Report Of The Hon. Secretary 2000/2001

It probably ranks as one of the worst years in the history
of the Bristol Exploration Club.  A
sweeping statement some may think, however I refer to the direct and
devastating effects of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) which has swept the

United Kingdom

this year.  FMD also had a major effect
on both the Club as well as the financial security of several members.  It further prevented any of the active caving
element from getting underground on Mendip from February until June, and at the
time of writing, “Swildons Hole” still remains closed.

To show a responsible attitude to local Landowners – upon
whom Mendip cavers rely for goodwill and access permission – The Club Committee
made a difficult decision to initially close the Belfry to all Guests on the
20th February, this was followed by Government action to close most footpaths
on the 21st February.  The Belfry was
subsequently closed and sealed off to all but a few local residents who were to
keep an eye on its security.

The Committee moved all monthly meetings to the Hunters
Lodge, and the Club should be grateful for Roger and Jackie’s permission to
hold several meetings there.

The closure was reviewed on a fortnightly basis, with much
advice sought from both locals,

Langford
House
Vet
College
and the now
defunct “M.A.F.F”.  Whilst
several members including Tony Jarratt at Bat Products, and Roger and Jackie
Dors suffered an overnight drop-off in visitors, and thereby income, most
members were left looking longingly around their caving bookshelf.

The Club also has suffered in two major ways, a massive
downturn in Hut Bed nights and sadly a non existent income in new membership
applications.  It may take several years
for both factors to recuperate. Unusually, I have received virtually no email enquiries at all this
year, and, it is the first year ever that I have not received any BEC
membership enquiries by letter.

I suspect that partly this is explained by the existence of
the excellent BEC Web-site produced by Greg Brock and his team.  I imagine that this has caused much interest
amongst prospective members, and answers most of their queries.  I feel the club owes Greg a big vote of
thanks for his work online.

The Closure of the Belfry, also has meant that little or no
maintenance works or working weekends could be held at the site, this must
sadly be the first time in many years.

Yet again, the BEC also owes a great big “Vote of
Thanks” To Fiona Sandford (Nee Lewis) who steadfastly and efficiently
carries out the role of Hut Bookings Officer, but now at last is deservedly on
the Committee!  Again as last year, but
more restricted by the “FMD” Both Vince Simmonds and Bob Smith have
been energetic in their roles as joint Hut Wardens, and Roz Bateman has worked
hard in chasing-up late payers and bringing out another Members Handbook

Those of you who attended the Annual Dinner in October will
recall one of the few Highlights of the Year, when it gave me great pleasure to
present on behalf of the BEC, Honorary Life Membership to Tony Jarratt.  He also has had further success this year in
the discovery of several hundred feet of passage, primarily at one of his two
digging sites at Stock Hill Woods.

The FMD prevented the Committees stated intention last year
to make a start in 2000 / 2001 on the proposed extension to the Belfry as a
start in construction must be made under granted planning permissions within a
five year period.  It is hoped that this
will be very much on the cards in the year ahead- 2001/2001.

Despite the ravages of “FMD”, The BEC remains united
in a healthy position, in this it’s 66th Year, but please support as many Club
fund raising events as you can, in order that we can revitalise our finances,
and strengthen our membership with new members in the year ahead.

Nigel
Taylor
Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club, 2000/2001
Sunday 19th August 2001.

 

Editors report (not given at the AGM) 2000/01

Thanks once again to all who have contributed and have
enabled the magazine to go to press when there might otherwise have been a shortage
of material; please keep articles coming in for the new Editor (see address on
front of cover).   I shall still be
around and about on Mendip and happy to accept articles which I shall pass on
to the new Editor.  See you at the
Hunters? 

Martin.

Treasurers Report 2000 /20001

This has been a very unusual year for this club mainly due
to foot and mouth disease forcing people to make very difficult choices
regarding caving, climbing, walking etc. I feel that all B E C members have managed remarkably well to keep the
peace with local farmers and not get into conflict with their fellow club
members.  Financially we “the
committee” have tried to keep expenditure down to a minimum this was
agreed earlier on when foot and mouth was just beginning to look like being an
epidemic.  The fact that we now do not
have to pay rates.  (Mega thanks to Blitz
the outgoing treasurer) has helped tremendously.  Also we have received a modest income both
from members and guests who have stayed at the shed in the periods when it was
open.  These factors combined with a
membership who have paid their dues and stayed loyal to the club have all
combined to ensure that this financial year will not be a loss.  Whilst I do not have a final figure at the
moment of writing, the annual accounts will show a strike even / modest profit
result.  All the committee members are
looking forward to a healthy year 2002

With the club moving on financially and actively, I will do
my utmost to improve the financial base of the club and build up both the
Cuthbert’s Account and the Ian Dear Memorial fund. I wish to take this
opportunity to thank Blitz for his help this year especially with the phone
bills – also Vince and Roz who have kept excellent records thus making my task
very easy.  Finally, my floating
assistant Hilary who has sifted through all the various bills and statements in
my absence.

Mike and Hilary Wilson

 

Cave Diving Adventures in the
Dordogne.

By Greg Brock

After joining the CDG Foot & Mouth on Mendip prevented
any diving training taking place so weekends were spent cave diving at
Dan-Yr-Ogof and other sites still open in

Wales
.  It was then that Martin Groves (SWCC) was
planning a trip to the Dordogne region of

France
.  When asked I immediately said yes to the
chance of going cave diving in one of the world’s best regions for such a
sport.  All I had to do now was beg and
borrow as much equipment as people would let me have but most importantly
obtain some vague diving skills.  Thanks
must go to Sean Parker (BEC/CDG) for helping me out on both these very
important points.

The few weekends left before we departed for

France

were spent with Martin and Krisha at open water sites across the country,
namely Stoney Cove, practising with bigger cylinders and buoyancy control.

The date soon arrived and we were soon heading off to

France

in a car rather overloaded with diving kit. The journey went smoothly and we eventually arrived to excellent
weather, which was to continue for the rest of the week.

The first days diving was at the Trou Madame, which didn’t
quite go as planned, as like most of the things I do.  High water levels meant the lakes/airbells
between the sumps had flooded.  If only I
had known this before I started the dive. 800m of diving later I still hadn’t surfaced and had reached thirds on
both cylinders so decided to turn back. After a 71 minute dive Martin was very relieved to see my exhaust
bubbles as I exited the cave.  By far the
longest dive I had ever done but at least I was in excellent surroundings.

A more gentle day was had the day after.  The Fontaine du Truffe was embarked upon and
excellent visibility was had.  Martin and
I dived to the end of sump 3 after noticing a pressurised airbell at -6m
depth.  After a relaxing tourist dive in
the Truffe it was clear this wasn’t going to last for long and the next day we
had an adventurous day in a rather intimidating place, the Emergence Du
Ressel.  We dived here with 2 x l5Ltr and
1 x I2Ltr cylinders.  We dropped the
12Ltr stage tank at the start of the loop (150m from base) and continued to the
top of the outstanding 50m shaft with twin 15’s.  We then completed the loop by going out on
the shallow route, I was just hitting 1/3s on the 15’s as I reached my stage
tank!!!  Martin indicated we should look
for the airbell, off the deep route, but I was not convinced as I was becoming
over powered by the size of this place (boulders similar to the Time Machine in
Darren) so we headed out rather relieved to see daylight and air.  Later that week we returned, laid a line off
the main route and located the airbell.

Other dives included a 600m dive at -20m in the Source de
Landenouse, after kitting up in the water in the bottom of a well 10m
down.  We also had to squeeze in some
caving while here, unfortunately the Goufrre L’oule was chosen.  The 1km walk down the side of the valley with
diving kit proved extremely hardwork. After so many hours of caving / diving we then had the task of walking
back up the valley with cylinders, wetsuits, caving kit, SRT & rigging kit,
bolting kit as well as all the other bits of diving stuff needed.  Once back at the car we were very dehydrated
and tired.

An excellent week was had overall, with lots of new skills
learnt and experienced gained.  A bit of
a jump from using single sets down Swildons as was the case a couple of months
ago.

 

Caving in
Crete by Emma Porter

Crete has a very agreeable
Mediterranean climate with a flourishing agricultural economy, several thriving
towns and a wealth of history.  It is the
largest of the Greek islands with the majority of
Crete
being limestone and hosting about 3000 caves. There are three distinct mountain ranges, in the west is the Lefka Ori
(or the White Mountains) in the central region is the highest peak in Crete,
Psiloritis (or Mount Ida) at 2456m situated in the Idhi Ori and to the east,
Dikti Ori (or Lassithi Mountains).


Crete can be a fairly cheap
holiday, particularly if you choose a package holiday rather than just a
flight. Mike Clayton and myself went out there for a week in mid October 2000
with big plans to explore the mountainous limestone terrain.  We flew from Manchester to Heraklion and had
pre-booked a hire car (which are notoriously expensive, insurance excludes the
underside and tyres) and to our horror, we were faced yet again with those two
dreaded words ‘petrol strike’ – suddenly, all our plans had gone to pot!

We had carefully chosen our base (within the package holiday
restrictions) on the north coast of the island between the
White
Mountains
and the Psiloritis massif so that we had easy access to
both mountain ranges.  Driving to our
base of Rethimnon, which sprawls for miles, we were constantly watching the
petrol gauge. We had just half a tank of petrol, every petrol station we passed
had redundant pumps and we had only just left a petrol crisis at home!

Sunday was our first full day and in order to conserve the
little petrol we had, we made a fairly late start and opted to take a taxi from
the centre of Rethimnon, heading to some nearby caves.  We suffered first hand experience of the Cretan
driving (it has one of the highest accident rates in
Europe)
as our taxi driver dashed through winding country lanes so that we could reach
out destination, Kournas Cave.  We got out the taxi, sorted our belongings
out and as the driver disappeared into the distance we realised that our first
caving destination was five kilometres from

Kournas
Lake
,
the tourist spot we had just arrived at!

Not to be defeated, we headed up the hillside in the midday
sun and after a fair uphill trek, the map indicated that the cave should be on
our right.  We continued heading up,
unable to see it and arrived at a bar which had a large sign outside which read
‘The famous deep

cave of
Kournas
‘.  We immediately went inside and attempted to
find out where the cave was, but the woman in there spoke no English and
proudly produced cave photographs for us to see.  In the end, we thought we would try and find
it ourselves and set off using the map we had. About ten minutes later, we heard the same woman shouting at us and waving
her arms.  Not understanding a word, we
started heading back and two tourists who had been drinking in the bar met
us.  Speaking in broken English, they
explained that we had to pay the equivalent of £1 to enter and that the lady’s
husband would take us into the cave.  Her
husband appeared and on seeing our helmets, nodded and said ‘speleo’.  We were led down a rickety wooden ladder,
descended an easy climb during which I received a lot of unwanted
attention.  Every foothold I took down,
the heavily perspiring Cretan man had his hands all over my legs – a problem
women travellers are warned about. Fortunately, he left us once down the climb to explore what was only a
large chamber with a few old stal.  We
had a quick look around and conscious of the time, we headed on out with what
was to be an epic walk.

We walked from village to village, enjoying the sun and the
scenery but not covering any substantial distance on the map.  Four o’clock came and went, then 5, then 6
and still we were walking.  As we passed
a sign with Rethimnon 20km, there was only one thing for it, to hitch.  But of course, we saw very few vehicles and
the ones we saw were either full of people or sheep and did not stop.  We were becoming very demoralised and were
wondering what we could do for the night when a car stopped and a big, friendly
German got out, who spoke English and offered us a lift and yes, he was going
to our town!  He left us on the very
outskirts of our destination and we hobbled our way back along the 4km of
coastline to our accommodation.

The next day, there was no rest for our feet.  We left our accommodation at 6am as we had
pre-booked a coach trip costing about £20 to take us to the most popular
destination in
Crete, the Samaria Gorge.  The gorge
begins in the Omalos plateau which nestles in the Lefka Ori (
White
Mountains
) and it is in this area that the French have discovered
deep caves, one being over 1000m in depth.

It was extremely cold when we arrived at Omalos, we had
breakfast and the coach took us to the start of the 18km gorge which is the
longest in
Europe.  The walk starts zig zagging down, plunging
1000m in the first 2km.  The abandoned
village of
Samaria
lies about halfway along the walk, a ghost town now as its inhabitants were
relocated when the

Samaria
Gorge
National
Park
was established in 1962.  The path levels, the walls of the gorge close
in, passing a huge area strewn in

cairns
,
occasionally crossing the stream until the Iron Gates are reached where two
rock walls rise sheer for a thousand feet. Once through this the gates widen, the valley broadens and you arrive in
the

village of
Ayia Roumeli
for a cold beer and to cool
your feet in the sea.  Every hour or so,
a ferry arrives at the village to take the tourists to their waiting coaches at
Hori Sfakion.

On the Tuesday, we opted for a lazy day deciding to look for
petrol and Gerani Spilia, finding
neither.  The

cave of
Gerani

is sign posted in the village of the same name supposedly near the bridge on
the main road. Like many of the caves here, it has been a place for
archaeological finds with local cavers exploring caves searching for bones or
Minoan artefacts.

As there was still no petrol to be found by Wednesday and
the White Mountains were just too far away to chance, we were up at 5.30am,
heading for the closest mountain range, Idhi Ori which contains the highest
peak in
Crete. We had come prepared for staying out in the mountains with a tent and
sleeping bags (but unfortunately a brand new petrol stove!) and our destination
was Psiloritis taking in one or two
caves on the way if we could.  We started
from the

village of
Kamares
which like a
lot of Cretan villages is very traditional, with all the women we saw dressed
in black and the most popular mode of transport being the donkey.

We followed what started off as a well signposted route (the
signs looking like they were bus stops) and red paint marking the path.  The scenery was fantastic as we ascended up
the limestone.  The side of the mountain
range we were using, was reported in a SUSS expedition report to be ‘almost
devoid of caves except for the known showcave Kamares’.  We too saw no other caves.  As we reached the plateau and the shepherds’
cottages of Alm Kotila our map did not seem to coincide with what we saw.  Guidebooks warn of the inaccuracy of maps and
as Geoff Newton states in his article this is due to the fact that ‘Good scale
maps are considered to have a security value by the Greeks who are still
nervous that the Turks or Libyans will invade’. This was no help to us.

We spent about two hours wandering on the plateau between
the rough dry stone walled mitatos or shepherds’ huts trying to establish the
way on.  We had seen no one all day and
almost on the brink of turning around and heading back down, we met an old
shepherd.  With none of us understanding
the other’s language, we eventually determined which way the mountain was by
gesturing and drawing in the dusty ground.

We reached the summit at about 7.30pm just as night was
drawing in.  On the summit is a small
chapel called Timios Stavros (which is the local name for the peak).  We did not stay long, it was quite cold and
we needed to lose as much height as possible. We headed down in the moonlight for as long as we could before switching
to electric light.  We backtracked our
route on the GPS, passing the points we had inputted in.  We passed one of our potential bivy sites but
chose to aim for the second which was lower down still.  We put our little mountain tent up in the
shadow of a huge rock and what seemed to be a goat or sheep hangout.  All night, we could hear gnawings, and I
convinced myself, that we would wake up with no tent left!

After a restless night, we rose again at 5.30am, rationing
our water out as we had passed only one watering spot.  As we descended the peaceful mountainside, we
passed the shepherd and his three dogs once more.  On the way down, we diverted to Kameres Cave which the SUSS report
described as ‘a huge boulder ramp followed by two chambers with all ways on
blocked’.  Of apparent archaeological significance
due to a huge cache of elaborate pottery being discovered, from a speleological
point of view, it was not worth the hour or so lost in the mist and the
diversion.

We arrived back in the

village of
Kameres
,
with aching feet and that wonderful exhausted feeling.  On our journey back, I left Mike in the car
whilst I aimed to explore a large gash in the landscape not far off the
road.  However, my journey was cut short
as I met a drunk Cretan man and his donkey. He had introduced himself to Mike and came up to me and grabbed me by
the face and kissed me on my cheeks three times.  As he attempted to do this again, I jumped in
the car and shouted to Mike to ‘go’ as I very angrily fought him off my legs
trying to shut the car door.  This was
the only aspect of
Crete I did not like – the
so called ‘liberated’ image the local men have of Western women.

During our drive back on the Thursday evening, we managed to
obtain that scarce commodity, petrol.  As
it was our last day, there was only one thing for it but to see how many
showcaves we could cram in during the day. The first one we headed for was

Melidoni
Cave
,
near Perama.  We followed the track up to
some impressive gates and walked up to the buildings.  We paid a small entrance fee, were given a
leaflet and left to our devices.  The
entrance is past a small white church and in a depression.  This cave is home of the mythical bronze
guard of
Crete, Talo but is more remembered
for one of the most horrific atrocities in the struggle for Cretan independence.  In 1824, 370 local inhabitants mainly women
and children, took refuge in the cave from the advancing army.  The army demanded that they come out and when
they did not, an attempt was made to suffocate them by blocking the cave
entrance.  As this did not work, they
piled combustible materials in the entrance and set them alight, asphyxiating
all. Inside the cave is a tomb to commemorate the dead.

Our next destination was

Sfendoni
Cave

which was only in its third season of opening and a lot of work had gone into
making a raised platform to walk around the cave and to be able to see as much
as possible.  Like many other caves, it
is of archaeological significance with many skeletons discovered, in particular
one of a young boy.  We spoke to the
guide afterwards, asking him about other nearby caves, chatting about our
different attitudes to caving and he found it extremely amusing when I referred
to caving as a ‘sport’.

In the afternoon, we headed to Hania and to the Katholiko
Monastery aiming for the Katholikou and
Gouverneto Caves
.  The Rough Guide
states that ‘The few visitors here and the stark surroundings, help to give a
real sense of isolation that the remaining monks must face for most of the
year’.  With this description in mind, we
were extremely surprised to see hordes of people bumbling around dressed in
their Sunday best suits and black dresses. We left the monastery as we followed the path down leading to the craggy
shores, hoping to escape the crowds.  Our
hopes did not last long as also heading in our direction were the crowds, from
babies to the elderly.  We headed for the
cave in which

St John

the Hermit was said to have lived and died and so did the crowds.  We wandered bewilderedly into the cave which
was lit with candles and heavily scented with incense, passing a white altar.

Mystified, we headed further down near the ruins of the
Katholiko Monastery, following a parade of people.  We followed them into another cave, each had
a candle and were struggling up and down climbs between stals in their black
dresses or suits, their posh shoes, the very old and the very young.  It took us about 40 minutes to reach the end
of the cave due to the sheer number of people in there.  At the end of the cave, prayers were being
chanted and each person who had just arrived would kneel down and kiss a
picture of the Virgin Mary.  We did not
stay long, not wanting to impose.  Once
outside, we tried to find out what was going on, but no one spoke English.  We can only guess that it was the saint’s day
Anna Petrocheilou refers to in her book.

That incredibly bizarre caving trip signified the end of our
holiday which did not go quite according to plan but was extremely
enjoyable.  One piece of advice, don’t go
there during a petrol strike!

A big thanks must go to Don Mellor and Ric Halliwell for
finding us so much information.

Bibliography

Books: FISHER,
John and Garvey, Geoff 1995
Crete – the Rough
Guide

PETROCHEILOU Anna The

Greek
Caves

1984

WILSON,
Lorraine
Crete – The White Mountains 2000 Cicerone

Journals:
FAULKNER, Trevor March 1988 Kera Spiliotsa, Vryses W Crete The Grampian
Speleological Group Bulletin Second Series Vo15 No 4

FELL, John Western
Crete
Omalos to Askifou High Magazine October 1999

GRAHAM Nigel Crete 1991 – or how not to go caving in karst
country Craven Pothole Club Record No 25 January 1992

GRUNDY Steve,
Sheffield
University Speleological Society
Expedition to

Crete
BCRA
Bulletin
Caves
and Caving No 15
(February) 1982

HITCHEN,
David
May
Sheffield
University Speleological

Society
Central
Crete
Expedition
BCRA
Bulletin
Caves

and Caving No 28 1985

JARRATT Tony The BEC Get Everywhere – Crete The Journal of
the

Bristol

Exploration Club Belfry Bulletin Vol 39 No 6 (No 432) December 1985

JEFFREYS Alan L Caving in
Crete
The Grampian Speleological Group Bulletin Vo15 No3 (March 1973)

NEWTON Geoff Speleological
Reconnaissance in Eastern

Crete
Part
One
Wessex
Cave

Club Journal Vol 21 (No 232) February 1992

NEWTON Geoff Speleological
Reconnaissance in Eastern

Crete
Part
Two
Wessex
Cave

Club Vol 21 (No 233) April1992

OLDHAM JEA Melidoni Cave
The British Caver Vol 59 July 1972

WEBSTER
Martin
Omalos
Cave Journal of the

Bristol
Exploration Club Belfry Bulletin Vol
XXVI No 2 (No 292) February 1972

WHALLEY, JC 1979 Wanderings in
Crete
Journal of the Craven Pothole Club Vol 6 No1

WORTHINGTON Steve SUSS
Expedition to
Crete 1981 SUSS Journal Vo13 No
2

Expedition Speleologique en Crete Spilia 94 Groupe
Speleologique Scientifique et Sportif

Speleologique en Crete Spilia 92 Groupe Speleo Scientifique
et Sportif

Visite dans l’ antre du Minotaure … Speleo No 28 October
-December 1997

Maps: Freytag and
Berndt Crete Hiking Map 1 :50 000

Harms IC Verlag
Crete
Touring Map (Western and Eastern) 1: 100 000

A copy of this article
has appeared in the Craven Record.

Emma Porter 2001



Emma Porter at the Entrance to Katho/icos Cave



Massive stalactite formation in

Kournas
Cave

 

Going to the Caves!

By Vince Simmonds.

2nd to 9th July
2001

Andy and

Ange
Cave
have been settled
into their home in Rigal, about 1 km from the Gouffre de Padirac, for nearly 2
years and we decided it was about time that we visited them.

Caught an early ferry from
Portsmouth
to

Le Havre

and, on a very hot day had a very leisurely drive south arriving at the Caves
house at 01:30 the following morning. Andy and Ange greeted us with some very welcome cold beers and
food.  The following day was a do-diddley
day although in the late afternoon we strolled down to the local open-air pool
for a dip.

The next day Ange volunteered to look after Callum so that
Andy, Roz and myself could go caving. This was to be a gentle trip to prepare for a longer trip later in the
week.

Grotte du
Jonauille (Causse de Correze. north of Cressensac)

Jonquille – from Narcissus jonquil/a, a bulbous plant with
small clusters of yellow flowers.   A
difficult cave to find without local knowledge, the entrance is a manhole cover
out in scrub oak woodland, luckily Andy had been here before.

A narrow drop lined with oil-drums leads to the restricted
top of a 35m pitch, which opened up after about 5m and drops into a dry fossil
passage.  Up-dip, leads to the loose,
original entrance and has some fairly decent formations, if a little
mucky.  Down-dip the passage continued
over some large gour pools, passing lots of black-stained flowstones and
formations before a 3m climb down to an active stream passage.  Downstream was immediately sumped, the way on
is upstream.  Initially progress is made
by traversing the stream past some rather deep pools and fast flowing water for
about 200m, eventually the passage shape becomes more elliptical with the
stream flowing gently past sand and pebble banks – very mellow!  The stream length is approximately 1 km and
the return is by the same route, the trip lasted a steady 4 hours.

That evening we all decided to go down the road to a local
restaurant to eat.  As we were enjoying
our meal it started to rain – very hard! The owners lent us a table umbrella to get back to Andy and Ange’s
place, the rain continued through the night and through the tent, in fifteen
hours 250mm of rain fell.  The next day
we went over to the Gouffre de Padirac, which was now closed, peering over the
edge of the 10m chasm the water could be seen, swirling around and disappearing
like water down an enormous plughole, down the steps that lead into the
cave.  The extreme water conditions meant
that our caving plans were binned and the day was spent diverting streams of
water away from the house.

By the next day the rain was more constant drizzle, Andy and
Ange kindly looked after Callum so Roz and myself could go caving.

Grotte du Fennett
(Assier –
Lot) 563.68(x) 263.04(v) Series
Bleue 2237 O

Situated in a doline just a short walk down a track off the
road and with a map not difficult to find. A low entrance leads almost immediately to a walking size fossil
passage.  After a short distance a small
climb up over some flowstone leads to a 10m drop over a large calcited flow
into a decorated chamber (the lead up to the 10m drop is quite slippery so a
traverse line from the top of the climb is a good idea).  From the chamber another 10m drop leads into
a large decorated chamber with a calcited, bouldery floor with a couple of
digs.  Halfway back up the 10m drop a
climb around the chamber wall leads to a continuation of the passage which
unfortunately was rather short (take care-muddy and slippery on the traverse
around the wall).

Roz and I then went in search of a sink marked on the map Perte D’ Abois 564.910(x) 263.900(y)
which turned out to be a short walking size entrance with muddy walls and a
fair amount of debris and closed down after about 10m.  There is a river cave just a couple of fields
away, which we did not look for, where the water from here re-appears.

As a consequence of all the flooding a farmer just along the
road from the Caves reported losing a horse in a hole that had opened up in his
field and which took a lot of water. Local cavers were soon on the scene and further investigation and some
digging revealed space amongst rocks and a stream could be heard and the farmer
was quite happy for them to continue digging.

We left the Caves and made our way north but made a detour
to look at some grottes marked on the map near to Saumur in the Loire valley,
and of course the weather had improved. We found a campsite next to the
Loire
river at Montsoreau and I ventured off in search of grottes while Roz was
tending to Callum.  These grottes turned
out to be wine cellars tunnelled into the valley walls and were rather
impressive.  There were several old
horse-carts at various places in the tunnels and some evidence of major
collapses.  Along the front small houses
were carved into the stone and were still inhabited although some of them were
being held up by lots of pinning – good views of the river though!  The following morning we all returned to have
a couple of hours wandering around before setting off to the ferry port at

Caen
.



Top:  The Wine
Cellars, Montsoreau, near Saumir,
Loire valley
Bottom L and R:  The entrance to
Jonquille

 

Stock’s House Shaft – The Breakthrough and Latest Developments

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series
of articles from BBs nos. 502, 504 – 511.

On the 15th of July 55 more loads were hauled out on a
double pulley system by “human winch” Mike Willet.  Next day saw “Mad” Phil Rowsell and
visiting novice Canadian caver Jeff Harding, on his second ever trip (!)
digging at the end following a pumping session. Phil was tentatively poking at the horrendous choke in Rake Chamber when
the bar suddenly burst through into open space. Jeff was despatched to summon the writer from the surface where he was
sunbathing, spoil dumping and generator guarding.  After about half an hour of clearing spoil and
propping up the worst boulders he was magnanimously allowed to be first into
the thirty feet or so of walking sized level which could be seen ahead while
the others stood by in case of collapse.

A rapid but extremely careful crawl and slide down a wedged
boulder pile was made into the level where another, partly silt filled tunnel
was immediately found on the LH side (Silt Level).  Above the entrance to this passage an area of
Old Men’s hand picking was noticed in the roof of a lead vein crossing the
level at right angles possible evidence of earlier workings intercepted by the
drainage level.  These are the first
recognisable signs of ore mining found so far. He then went to the first bend in the passage before retreating to allow
the others some fun – but not before the well chilled

Champagne
, kept underground for over a year,
was fervently polished off!

Phil and Jeff explored a further two hundred feet or so of
atrociously muddy, partly silt filled levels, leaving at least four ways on for
the Wednesday night team.  This included
the main Downstream Level which regained a reasonable height and bored off
round a comer to regions unknown.  Well
chuffed, our heroes spent the rest of the day imbibing suitable alcoholic
beverages.

A rough survey trip on the 17th saw 227.54 feet (69.35m)
mapped from the end of “Exploration Level” back to the breakthrough
point after Phil had dug through a silt choke c.40 feet before the end.  This level stops abruptly at a solid wall
with descending shothole sections from the Old Men’s final gunpowder charge.  It was named partly to honour the B.E.C. but
mainly as it appears to be an exploratory level driven forward from the
drainage adit to test the lead veins at depth. The other possibility is that, having made a drainage tunnel, this level
was being pursued towards Broad Rake in order to de-water the rich and flooded
workings there.  Unfortunately no
graffiti or artefacts were found but these may be buried in the ubiquitous mud.

Wednesday 18th saw the long hoped for night of the “Big
Push” with ten diggers turning up, doing a brief bit of bag hauling in the
Downstream Level then heading excitedly into the unknown.  Various injuries and afflictions such as a
badly cut foot, sore back, the squits and general mental instability were not
to stop these men but later resulted in the naming of the extension!

At the Exploration Level junction a presumed collapsed shaft
meant that a squeeze in the muddy streamway was necessary and the previous day
it had been enlarged to Chris Castle size. Just beyond it a crawl over fallen boulders gained the way on and here
Phil spotted a bent iron bar buried in the rubble.  This is the handle of a kibble or bucket used
to haul in the shaft and was photographed in situ.  The kibble itself may be of wood or iron and
will be carefully excavated and removed in the future.

Some thirty feet further the level split – straight ahead,
after twenty feet another shothole riddled blank wall, or forefield, showed
where the Old Men had again abandoned their drive.  To the left about fifteen feet of level ended
in a heavily silted sink with assorted bits of inwashed wood blocking a view
into a partly flooded and immature natural stream way below.  Amongst the wood an iron bound rectangular
section was revealed as one side of a small skip or tub.  It was cleaned off, photographed and carefully
moved to a safe place to allow the passage to be examined.  It is too fragile to recover and will be left
underground.  In the walls and ceiling
nearby a distinct dolomitic conglomerate / limestone boundary was noted.

The very narrow streamway in dol. cong appears to have been
followed from the surface by the Old Men who eventually ran out of money or
enthusiasm.  It now seems likely that
these are the 1774 workings of the

Bristol

adventurers, messrs Underwood, Riddle and Shapland – with possible later
extensions – and have no connection with the century earlier adits of Thomas
Bushell.  This leaves the question of
just where is Bushell’s adit and cave? After almost exactly five years of regular digging in Five Buddies and Stock’s House we can at least state where it is not!



The breakthrough team after consuming the cooled

Champagne

Meanwhile Pete, investigating Exploration Level and various
side passages, unearthed a rusted iron object which was later identified as a
wedge.

A tourist trip on the 22nd saw Nigel Bums photographing the
workings and artefacts.  The kibble
handle was further exposed and the “skip” measured.  Pat Cronin dug into a c.30ft length of
hand-picked vein workings opposite Silt Level which are assumed to pre-date the
adit.  Silt Level itself was the focus of
attention next day when Phil, Alex and the writer spent three disgustingly
muddy hours dragging rocks and tailings from its western and southern
branches.  The first became apparently
blind after c.15ft and the second ended in a collapse of clay and boulders
which, if dug further, may provide a by-pass to the breakthrough choke.  The draught issuing from this level was found
to come from a narrow and waterworn natural rift in the ceiling which may have
some connection with the tiny, draughting natural passages in the adjacent Five
Buddies Sink.  The southern branch was
again dug, by the

Newcastle
University
lads, on the
30th July while the writer moled his way towards the same area from the west
side of Rake Chamber, just before the breakthrough point.



The Morwellham Quay Wheelbarrow – photo A. Jarratt



Meanwhile, on the 25th, Prew and some of the redundant
N.H.A.S.A. digging team arrived to undertake a radio location exercise with
Phil and Adrian dragging the loop transmitter underground while the Cornish and
Clevedon contingents dragged full bags in the opposite direction.  Five separate points were located despite
having to battle with the undergrowth and midge population.  A surface survey was later done to tie in these
positions with the underground survey.

During the rest of the month further work was done in Rake
Chamber and the Downstream Level where the floor was deepened.  Everything downstream of the shaft was
resurveyed and lots of redundant digging gear was removed to the Belfry.  The kibble handle was disinterred and taken
out for cleaning and measuring (see illustrations) leaving the supposed wooden
bucket presumably still buried in the floor. It will be excavated once the immediate area is made safe but this may
not be for some time.  Some work was also
done below the Cornish Shaft in Five Buddies Sink.



The Geevor Mine Wheelbarrow Pic. A. Livingstone

Ben, Bob and the writer took the opportunity to visit
Morwellham Quay industrial museum near Tavistock to examine and photograph the
miners’ wheelbarrow which was found to differ little from our reconstruction –
mainly in the angle of the sideboards (see photographs).

Alex and family also visited Geevor Mine museum in

Cornwall
where yet another
original wheelbarrow was examined and photographed.  This differs slightly from our reconstruction
and appears to have been used in the surface dressing operations.

Winching recommenced on August 27th but only 32 bags were
hauled out when operations were curtailed by problems with the rope snagging in
the machinery.  The reconstructed
wheelbarrow was lowered down the shaft for future experimentation which briefly
occurred two days later when a few bags and rocks were moved with it.  It fitted well in the Downstream Level and
three full bags was found to be a reasonable weight to move if loaded towards
the front.  It was found that if a
‘barrow had been used in these workings it would have been shorter than our
reconstruction.  This trip also saw the
collapsed boulders in Pipe Aven, Upstream Level banged.  Much of the resulting debris was removed with
the barrow on the 3rd of September when access was once more regained to the
further reaches of the Upstream Level where little change had occurred over the
last few months.  Another 79 loads were
winched out on September 5th when a new static rope donated by Lyon Equipment
was rigged in the shaft and on the 10th another charge was fired on fallen
boulders as well as further clearing of the Downstream Level.  Two days later the spoil was cleared from the
last, excellent bang and many full bags were moved from both Up and Downstream
Levels to the shaft.  A

Wessex
team
took several photos for the forthcoming BCRA Conference.

The Treasury and Upstream Level were re-surveyed by Phil and
the writer on the 14th when the “Rupert II” boulder at the end of the
latter was blown up in a fit of vengeance. 65 bags were hauled out on the 19th of September and on the 30th, 4th
and 15th of October the stubborn “Rupert II” was again banged – (told
you it was a big bastard!).  An even
larger boulder apparently floating in mid-air just beyond was also
strategically bombed – twice.  Much
general tidying up has been done throughout the workings in preparation for the
wet season.

The 24th of October saw Mad Phil, Friendship and Andy Heath
successfully making the connection between Rake Chamber and Silt Level so those
working in the further reaches will feel safer in future. Restoration
operations are planned to continue over the winter months.


 

Artefacts

The handle is from a presumably iron-hooped wooden bucket
(elm?).  The word “kibble” is
derived from 16th century German. ” ….. secondhand kibbles varied from
7d to 2/6d each at mines near Eyam in 1746.” (J.H.Rieuwerts – Glossary of
Derbyshire Lead Mining Terms).

This example was made from forged iron bar, flattened,
pointed and perforated at the ends and bent from the horizontal at the 380mm
point.  Unlike many contemporary kibbles
there is no extra bend in the centre of the handle to prevent rope
slippage.  It was obviously knocked up by
the local (mine?) blacksmith for a specific purpose in these workings.  A nineteenth century kibble would probably
have had a sheet iron bucket like the one used in Lamb Leer and now displayed
in Wells Museum, and illustrated here. It is smaller than our example, with a sturdier handle 400mm wide by
365mm high and has the extra bend for rope location.  The bucket is made from four bent iron sheets
and is 380mm in diameter by 370mm deep.

The square headed, square section iron nail was found in a
stemple in the Exploration Level.

Pete’s iron wedge was at first thought to be a
“hack” or hammer/pick due to the shape but on cleaning there was
found to be no hole for a wooden handle. It would have been used for hammering into cracks in the rock following
blasting in order to clear the loose walls.

Additions to the Digging Team

Pat Cronin (Pegasus C.c.), Nigel Bums (P.C.C.), Jim Smart,
Ewan Maxwell (
Newcastle .C.C.), Katie
Livingstone (

Canada
),
Andy Shaw, Nick Mitchell, Phil Collett (S.M.C.C.), Ron Wyncoll, Tyrone
“Bev” Bevan, Mark Friendship, Andy Heath (Cerberus S.S.).

Radio Location Team

Brian Prewer, Phil Hendy, John Miell, Brian Sneddon
(N.H.A.S.A.).

Photographic Team

Mark Helmore (WCC), Vem Freeman (WCC), Mark “Bean”
Easterling (WCC).


End view of reconstruction diagram of wooden skip

 

Dimensions of the reconstructed skip:  diagram by A. Jarratt

  

Tony Jarratt in

Cripples
Canyon
examining the mud
choked natural sink.  Photo “Mad Phil”



Looking upstream to the collapsing base of the blocked
Kibble Shaft.  The kibble handle is at
bottom left.  .  Photo “Mad Phil”



Trevor Hughes recovering the wooden skip.  Photo “Mad Phil”

 

A Commercial Cavers View

by your retiring Editor

I had been working freelance at the Charterhouse Centre,
taking groups around the nature reserve and introducing young people to the
local ecology.  The Head of Centre, John
Baker, knew that I was a keen caver, and had asked if I would like to do my
“cavers ticket.”  I remember
being in J.Rat’s shop and posing the question to him, “What good would it
do me?”  His reply, sensible and
immediate was, “If you can earn money doing it, then do it!”  So shortly afterwards I enquired into how to
go about registering with the NCA and started training in earnest.  Actually, I asked Butch and Sparrow, then
logged my 25 years previous experience, and started accompanying groups down
Goatchurch.  The first thing I learnt was
that my experience as a teacher was very useful to me in how to talk to
children of differing ages.  Put simply
says it all – do not get too technical and assume they know nuffin (I blame the
teachers you know).  This was certainly
an important part of my training that I didn’t get from a course.  After passing my technical and group training
days, and with the experience logged at Charterhouse, I began as an officially
approved LCLMA part 1.  It took 2½ years
to get the paperwork through though!  Now
don’t go thinking that this is a passport to work, it is still possible to make
a huge cock up taking adults or children caving and blow the whole thing.  Yes, it has been done before.  It’s easy. Here’s how!  Terrify the teachers,
get them stuck in a squeeze, intimidate the kids or adults by spending 3 hours
down Swildons etc, and you won’t get much work. “Why not,” you ask. Well, the basic employment in the area is a small number of companies,
all of whom are in close touch with one another.  On any particular day during the season of
work – April to October, if you are lounging around at home, the phone is
likely to go, and it is (usually) someone DESPERATE for a caver.  Ah, you think, I can do as I want with the
clients!  Well yes, but don’t piss them
off, frighten them, get them lost, wet or terrified or you won’t get another
call.  Now the easiest way to do all
these things is to take the group on one of “your” trips.  Basically, if you are still having to do
trips for yourself whilst with clients, forget about being a cave leader.  Also, forget about doing a different cave,
it’s nearly always the same one- Goatthingy. Wear on the inside of your boiler suit a large clear message as follows
“it may be your thousandth trip – it’s their first.  Don’t louse it up for them!”  Bearing in mind these simple rules, I have
probably done 1000 trips there, but every one has been different and I have
learned something each time.  Here are
some tips for aspiring cave leader LCLMA part 1.  (muggins)

1.                  Get to know Goatthingy well, and believe me,
there are parts of the cave that are COMPLETELY unsuitable for novices unless
very closely supervised.  There is a
whole range of different variants to the basic trip, usually in the main
entrance, down the Giants stairs, along the dig past Bloody Tight, round the
Maze, down the mini stairs to the Boulder chamber via the Dining room etc.  It is rare to take primary groups down below
the Coffin Lid, although one often encounters lost scout groups wandering
around below this point looking for the way out.  Older groups and fit adults sometimes get as
far as the drainpipe, but in reality, an excellent trip can be had without
going down this “classic”.  I
am always amazed at the (poor) level of fitness of youth today (and not so
youth).  Many of them seem to have no idea
what power there is in their legs (or might be, in many cases).  Still, things can go wrong even on the
simplest trip and it is always worth taking careful note of the physical well
being of groups before they get to the cave. Asthma, wooden leg, half- wit etc.

2.                  The walk up to the cave is the usual
sorter.  It is very easy to spot a FLUB
(fat, lazy useless bastard) but not so easy to spot a blubber.  The flub is simply going to get stuck
everywhere and have to be hauled out of one of the entrances in a state of
lardiness, covered in slings, ropes, krabs and being pushed, pulled etc to
remove them.  What is best described as
“a hatpin job.”  It’s a shame
no – one uses carbide lamps today, they ALWAYS effect a removal!  Not so the blubber!  These lose all ability to propel themselves
once 5 metres into the Tradesman’s and totally Xuck up the trip for all!  The blubber will lose all limb co-ordination
and body control until you drag them to the Giant’s stairs.  Usually once down these they miraculously recover
and may even enjoy it.  Ignore all pleas
from anyone who says they are claustrophobic, this is just plain ball
tightening fear, blue funk or call it what you will.  Explain to the group it is normal for humans
to fear the dark- survival in the deep unconscious mind of the pre-man – (some
run close to this condition today) and you might get away with it, otherwise
get them close to you and pretend your light won’t work.

3.                  Adults are far worse than kids.  You only need one completely phased out adult
to effect all the kids in a virus like manner – shoot them first or hit them
with a rock and bury them just inside the entrance so you can use them next
week as an exhibit.

4.                  NEVER offer to take “special needs
groups” without at least one staff member per child, especially those
naughty ones who are training for a course at HMP.  These ones invariably run away as the
prospect of being lost/rescued appeals to their sick minds and they are just
trying to Xuck you up.  Best policy here
is again to bury them – a rock fall in the water chamber is probably the best
spot, followed by a hasty retreat.  Tell
the staff who blanked off the trip and who are waiting at the surface that you
will have to call the rescue and they will go and get them for you rather than suffer
the ignominy of a newspaper report.  (you
won’t get any more work after this, but you will feel good).

5.                  Final tip. Don’t tell any of the cavers you drink with what you do to earn
money.  Likelihood is that one of them
will berate what you do since you are destroying caves etc.

Anyway, to continue, if at the end of 5 trips in a day down
Goatthingy, you still fancy a caving trip at the weekend you are bloody fit or
stupid or just plain caving mad and I cannot help you.

Now, although Goatthingy is sneered at and avoided by the
elite of the clubs etc in the same way as no climbers ever do grades below E10
8c when they deign to talk at you, a surprising number of cavers DO NOT KNOW
WHERE THE BLOODY ENTRANCE IS!!!  Worse,
it is likely that many of them, having not been near the cave for years (or
probably never, or struck it from their student log or had electroshock therapy
to forget its presence) will not know where they are once in the entrance!  These same cavers are probably the ones who
sneer mightily behind their pints when us commercial cavers enter the pub!  So, next time someone is called to do a
rescue from the “smartie tube” or the “worm hole” or even
worse “the cracks of doom”, call the commercial caver!

There follows a series of pictures of the nether regions of
Goatthingy, but where?  Answers next
issue- thanks, Martin.



Somewhere in the roof of Goatchurch



Dropping into?



Emerging from a squeeze in?

 

Mammoth
Cave
National
Park
Airport

USA

I received an email recently regarding a proposal by
business and Government to build a 4000 acre Airport and industrial park on top
of the

Mammoth
Cave
eco system.

For those who do not know the system [and I have never
visited Kentucky] the Mammoth cave national park contains the world’s most
extensive cave system with approx 300 miles of known passages with probably
more not found yet!  The lower system of
passageways are still being formed by streams and rivers.

This huge system is already being threatened by river borne
pollutants and the 50 species of cave creatures are also under threat.

Above ground, there is an extensive system of graded trails
for hiking and walking and I presume that a fair number – if not all of these
routes – will fall foul of the development. The underground guided tours are numerous and seem to cater for almost
everyone, requirements even listing rest rooms on some routes.  These tours run from 50 minutes in length up
to 6 hours for which you pay the princely sum of $35.00.  No doubt this includes the rest room!

I personally cannot believe that anyone in their right
senses would even consider throwing away this natural resource, once lost never
to return.  On a smaller scale imagine
building an airport on the Mendip hills with all the accompanying infrastructure.
(

Bristol
? –
Ed).  We can only hope that the
population of

Kentucky

and the lobbyists manage to persuade the authorities to build on one of the
alternative sites.

If anyone wishes to express their views on this subject they
can email http://www.mammothcave.national-park.com/hike.html

Mike Wilson

 

New EEC Regulations On Climbing

As we all know due to the recent outbreak of foot and mouth
caving has taken a big knock on effect due to the closures of most of the
caves, so instead a lot of cavers have dusted off their rock boots and headed
to any available open piece of rock. This act has increased the population now climbing to a level, which has
attracted the attention of the Eurocrats. The upshot of this was a hastily formed subcommittee (who’s expenses no
doubt exceeded their budget) coming forward with a new regulation (section 42
subparagraph 6 of the safety in sports act) “All climbers undertaking a climb that is to exceed 6 metres on a
gradient of greater than 1: 1.235 must now equip themselves with a parachute
(BS 5926)”.

This is due to be put forward to the European Parliament on
01/04/2002, anyone wishing to object to this ridiculous infringement of our
personal freedom should write to their local MEP.  This is quite important as they might start
to regulate caving next.

Dave Ball


 

Caving Vet Safely back from Peru

Article and photographs courtesy of The Wells Journal


 

 

In the News

Tony Jarratt in the news again, although despite the recent
discovery of new passage, his “ultimate Goal” wasn’t there!  Diggers are always welcome at any of the club
digs. Contact the diggers at The Hunters’ Lodge or call at Bat Products in
Wells.


 

A still picture from a film being made by Andy Sparrow of
the discovery of

Fairy
Caves
. B.E.C. member
(your Ed) was part of the “props” dressed here as an “Edwardian
Caver”


 

Your members get everywhere!

 

Cartoons by Chas.



 

Well folks that’s it for me. Any comments and articles to the new Editor please.  I have enjoyed producing the magazine
although as any past Editor will know it isn’t all easy.  The magazine is your magazine you go caving
the members are out there and get this magazine.  It should reflect what you are doing. Please
keep the articles coming especially the ones with photographs.  All the best for the coming year of
“disease free caving”  Martin

 

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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.