Committee Members

Secretary:                            Vince
Simmonds
Treasurers:                         Mike and
Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary:    Sean Howe
Editor:                                  Greg
Brock
Caving Secretary:              John Williams
Tackle Master:                   Tyrone Bevan
Hut Warden:                       Roger
Haskett
Hut Engineer:                    John Walsh
BEC Web Page Editor:   
Estelle Sandford
Librarian:                            Graham
Johnson
Hut Bookings:                    Fiona
Sandford
Floating Member:              Bob Smith

Note from your new editor

As you may or may not be aware Adrian Hole has had to stand
down from his post as BB editor due to other personal commitments.  Thanks were given to

Adrian
by the committee for all his hard work
as BB editor over the past years.

I have now taken over the job as BB editor for which I need
your help.  The BB is a journal for all
BEC members and is written by BEC members. Therefore if you have said things like: Why haven’t we had a BB for
ages? Why is there not much in them?  Why
aren’t they coming out on a regular basis? The answer to all those questions is because you haven’t written an article
to put in it.  So all those budding
journalists out there can now put pen to paper and send your articles in.

I would prefer all articles be sent to me by e-mail.  If you do not have access to e-mail then you
could always send me a 3½” floppy disk, by post, with the article on.  Failing that your handwritten work can also
be posted to me for inclusion into the BB. Any photos or surveys you want to include within the BB can be posted to
me and I will ensure they are sent back to you as soon as they are put into the
BB.

Remember that this BB is not possible without your input.

I look forward to receiving your articles.

Thanks

Greg Brock

Have you visited the new club website yet?

It is full of all the latest events and information as they
happen.  Keep up to date with the latest
progress down Hunters Lodge Inn sink by seeing what you are missing in the
photo gallery.

Thanks to
Estelle Sandford
who has put a lot of effort into designing, creating and regularly maintaining
our website.

If you have anything to add to it please contact: webmaster@foff-spammers-bec-cave.org.uk

Your Club needs YOU

Sean Howe will be stepping down as the club’s Membership
Secretary at this years AGM.  We have yet
to find a replacement!  Please contact a
committee member if you would like to be next years Membership Secretary or if
you would be interested in holding any other Committee post.

On the same note: Nominations for the 2004 – 2005 committee
need to be with the Secretary by the end of August 2004.  This is so that a ballot can be arranged if
necessary.  It should be noted that it
must be ten years or so since we last had a proper election and that some key
positions need filling i.e. membership secretary to name but one.

Remember: You don’t have to live locally to the club to hold
a committee post.  There are a number of
committee positions that can be undertaken away from the area.

Mendip Mega Stomp

This happened with great success.  The money that the BEC raised out of the
event, the committee decided, will be passed onto Tony Jarratt for purchasing
explosives etc for the club.

Tony Jarratt: Received with thanks.  The money has been spent on a 24mm drill bit.

Are You To Blame !!!!

Extracts from a recent BMC Summit Magazine

By Mike Wilson

I recently had a magazine passed to me because the walker
thought that the comments were very relevant to our [Caving] activities!!!

In fact the article made very interesting reading and
generally verified what a number of us have suspected for years ,that groups of
people partaking in any dangerous sport will not find it easy to claim against
a fellow caver /climber/hill walker .This is due to what legal eagles call The
Standard of Care.

According to the article “and it appears fairly obvious “
that the standard of care owed to a novice is far higher than an experienced
person .Therefore it is very important to make the novice fully aware of the
risks.  Apparently in

USA
it is the norm to keep
documentation to this effect !!!

The important part about the standard of care will be, in
the context of a group, the standard of care owed to others will be higher for
the more experienced member. From a practical point of view this means that
while you would not routinely check your partner’s buckles and knots harness
etc you would be expected to do so for a novice who does not know the ropes!!!

The law is about fault, about the consequence of actions
[this is called the chain of causation] so if your actions have led to actual
damage to another it is possible that you are at fault and then you may be
liable.

Luckily it is not as simple as that and there are all sort
of criteria that have to be satisfied before you panic .For a successful claim
for negligence to be made the claimant has to demonstrate firstly that a duty
of care was owed .That the duty of care has been breached, and that actual
damage or loss has been sustained as a result of that breach of duty of care.

One of the first defences apparently is the BMC
participation statement an experienced Climber [Caver, Walker]? would find it
hard to show that he/she is unaware of the normal risks associated with outdoor
recreation.  Most important [and I have
typed this verbatim]a willing person cannot be injured!!!

This defence that is linked with the BMC Participation
Statement is the principle of “volenti non fit injuria” literally a willing man
cannot be injured –this is a very old common law principle.

It was passed as a defence by the Occupiers Liability Act
[1957] which does not impose any obligation on a landowner or occupier to a
visitor who willingly accepts risks .This act was amended by the Countryside
and Rights of Way Act [2000] to remove occupiers and owners liability for
anyone injured as a consequence of the natural features of the landscape, such
as falling down a cliff, POTHOLE, or waterfall.

Knowledge of this act may help us in future negotiations
over access to new caves digs etc.

The www link is     www.countryside.gov.uk/access      which gives anyone further details of the
CroW act.

The chain of causation means that the loss or injury has
been caused by the act or omission in question .In a negligence case, the
negligent act must have caused the injury. If there is some other factor, such
as the action of another person [or the person injured] which caused the injury
then the chain of causation between the alleged negligent act and the injury is
broken and the person who committed the alleged negligent act is not
responsible for the injury.

I have tried to cut the article down to readable proportions
in the hope that it will not prove to be mega boring .Personally I hope that
common sense will always prevail and no one will ever break the unwritten code
of caving conduct,ie the risks are shared by all and No One should ever claim
off a fellow caver .!!!       

The Original article came from the Summit Magazine issue
23.  

In the light of recent events, this article becomes even
more important because due to the fact that the BCRA have had their insurance
scheme dropped by their insurers at short notice [thereby dropping them in the
proverbial] it leaves most cavers without insurance cover.

Sadly the various caving bodies have been forced to close
all caves under access agreements to protect the Owners / landowners etc.  This has not affected the Derbyshire Caving
Association who have their own insurance.

I would like to add that the Wig informs me that the French
insurance runs to £100.00 pa at the moment lets hope that we do not arrive at
the same figure.  Currently all the
relative caving bodies are trying desperately to resolve the issue!

Mike Wilson

Editor: This has now been resolved.

From the Past

What was going on in the BEC 30, 40, 50 years ago?  Some of you may be able to remember and some
of you (like me) were not even born!!  I
have included a section in the BB called ‘From the Past’  where I have gone through the BB archives and
re-printed some of the interesting articles of what the club was doing all
those decades ago.  For some this will
jog memories of what happened in the past and for others it will give them a
deeper insight into the history of the BEC.
 

History of the BEC by T.H.Stanbury

Extracted from BB Vol 1, No.3 – April 1947

The first notes will, I am sorry to say, will be very
sketchy as all the earlier records were lost in the blitz.  They were posted to me from Keynsham and
never arrived, so I have only my memory to assist me.

In 1935 a group of my fellow-employees approached me and
asked if I would be willing to take them to Burrington and other places
caving.  Most of these lads had had a
little experience of Caves and Caving, and as my own experience was little
better than theirs, I was extremely diffedent about the whole arrangement, but
agreed.  The following Saturday I took
them to Goatchurch, and the trip turned out to be a great success.  The next four week-ends we were similarly
employed and then many difficulties loomed large before us.

How could we get to the larger caves?  How could we get equipment?  Would the owners let us into the deep
caves?  There were two solutions.

The first and most obvious was that we join one of the
recognized and established Cave Clubs of the district.  This was debated at length and it was decided
that in view of the fact that we were a group of working class men and that
there were a number of points in the existing societies we did not care about,
that we should not associate ourselves with any body already in existence.

The second course open to us was to form an entirely new
caving club, and after many misgivings the Bristol Exploration Club was duly
formed with an initial membership of about a dozen.  If we could have foreseen all the
difficulties and troubles that beset us, I very much doubt if the project would
have been launched.  At the inaugural
meeting a set of rules were drawn up, and although they have been modified and
added to, to meet changing conditions, they were essentially the same as are in
use today.

For a time all went smoothly; our subs enabled us to buy
ladders and ropes etc.  We familiarized
ourselves with all the smaller caves and then turned to the larger ones.  Here, too, we were successful, and our first
year concluded with the knowledge that we were still in existence, and if not
exactly flourishing, we were holding our own.

Membership did not increase very much in the following
years, we were not keen on too many members at first as we felt we did not have
sufficient knowledge to hold them after they had joined.  We preferred to move slowly, consolidating
our position as we went, so that when the time came, as come it would, when
members started to roll in, we should be in a position to offer them something
good.

The outbreak of the war in 1939 found the BEC in a stronger
position than ever before, although membership was still only 15 we had
suffered one bad loss, our Treasurer, who was also our Photographer, had been
stricken with an affliction of the eyes necessitating his withdrawal from all
club activities.  The last trip that he
came with the club was to Lamb Leer, where we went as guests of the UBSS.

The older members were called up, one by one, so that except
for one fortunate incident, we should have had to close down, like other Mendip
clubs for lack of active members.  We
were fortunate to absorb in the BEC the Emplex Cave Club.  The ECC was composed of employees of the
Bristol Employment Exchange and had formed a club on similar lines & for
similar reasons as the BEC.  These men
have since done, and are still doing, yeoman work for the club, although they
are only able to be present when on leave.

1940-41 saw us jogging along as before, a number of new
recruits always balancing those called to the forces, but 1942 saw the most
severe crisis in the history of the BEC. There was a very violent call-up, the result being that we were left
with only about half a dozen active members, all of whom were actively engaged
in the war effort.  As those in the
forces were all made honorary members during their term of service, we were hit
badly financially.  For six months we
struggled along, and then came our salvation.

A number of persons of fair caving experience applied for
membership and from that moment our worries vanished.  It is mainly through the hard work of two of
these men R.Wallace and D.Hasell, that the BEC is where it is today.

In 1943 a forty foot duraluminium and steel wire ladder was
constructed, followed later by a similar one twenty feet in length.  These ladders were our answer to the problem
of transporting tackle to Mendip on push-bikes.

During 1943, 44, 45, certain “persons unknown”, instead of
following the orthodox method of obtaining the key, broke into certain

Mendip
Caves

and we learned later that we had been blamed for this vandalism.  We were not responsible, and we managed at
least to convince others of this.  During
these three years our membership increased by leaps and bounds and we emerged
from our obscurity to take our place among the most active clubs of Mendip.

The year 1946 was a monumental one, our membership rose to
80 and we were able, through the generosity of a certain person, to purchase a
large hut as Mendip headquarters.  Our
dig at Cross Swallet brought us into contact with the Bridgwater Cave Club,
whop have since been our guests at the Belfry for their 1947 Easter meet.  We absorbed the Mendip Speleological Group,
and became, individually, very active in the Cave Diving Group.  Besides that we became members of the Cave
Association of Wales and also of the Cave Research Group.

We look to the future with every confidence, and we still
claim, as we did in 1935, that the Bristol Exploration Club is unique in that
it is a’ personal’ club, wherein everyone, whatever their age and standing is
welcomed, and is encouraged to take an active part in the running of their
club.

by T.H.Stanbury

Extracted from BB Vol 1, No.3 – April 1947

 

St Cuthbert’s Sump II – Where do we go from here?

By Stuart McManus

Summary and Short History

Ever since the discovery of St Cuthbert’s by the BEC in
1953, the major efforts to discover new passage along its streamway have always
been fraught with difficulty as the mud and lead tailings that choked the sumps
have prevented divers from pushing through in to the passages that lie beyond.
The usual method employed on these occasions required the construction of dams
and the bailing of the water back into them to drain the sumps to enable the
removal of the build-up of silt and mud by diggers.

Since the breakthrough in sump I on Halloween night in 1969
by diggers during a dry spell, and the discovery of over 275 metres of
streamway that is Cuthbert’s II, and which terminates in Sump II there have
been numerous attempts to pass the sump both by digging and diving but to no
avail.

The basic problems with Cuthbert’s II Sump are similar to
Sump I, in that the sump is heavily silted with lead tailings from the washing
ponds from the old mineries used by the lead miners of old and muds/silt
brought in by the streams as well as the continuing erosion of silt banks
within the cave. The water retained within the catchment area is far greater
than can be drained by damming the Mineries pond and therefore stored on the
surface.  Here is an excerpt for the last
push made on Sump II from 1982 – 1985.

In 1982 the attention of Butcher (SMCC) and McManus (BEC) returned
to Sump II.  Ideas were discussed and
plans were afoot to repeat a similar exercise to that of 1967. Rock drills had
been used several years previously, but new attempts were made in 1982 to blast
a way across the top of the sump.  This
very slow procedure forced the diggers to re-consider the situation.  The conclusion reached was that the most
effective way to overcome the problem was to bail Sump II and remove the
infilling.  The number of dams in the
cave was reassessed.

The 1977 dam used for draining the sump remained at Sump II
but an additional one would be required. So, in April 1982, the sand-bag dam was built doubling the storage
capacity to about 4,000 gallons.  Trial
digs were attempted; the Mineries dam would be inserted some three weeks before
the event and the Plantation Stream diverted into the St. Cuthbert’s
Depression, allowing the water to flow down into Maypole Sink and overflow into
the floor of the depression.  The surface
dams prevented most of the water flowing into the cave entrance.  The general idea was to drain the ‘spongy’
ground over which the surface Plantation Stream flowed.  However, as on previous occasions, this
storage medium held far too much water and, although Plantation Stream had been
diverted from Plantation Swallet and was flowing into the valley, too much
water from the ‘sponge’ was flowing into the cave at Plantation Junction long
after the dams had been put in.

With the dams operating in the cave holding back the water
draining into the system, the sump bailing teams were able to empty Sump II to
the infill level.  When the stream is
prevented from flowing into Sump II the sump partially drains itself reducing
the water level by some 1.5ft indicating that this sump is a true siphon
draining through gravels at the downstream end. It took a dozen cavers about
eight hours to drain the sump of water. All this effort allowed an inordinately short time for digging.  It was realised that the greater the volume
of infill removed, the greater would be the volume of water to be bailed on
subsequent occasions.  Continued digging
pushed the choke face still deeper. 

To make matters worse bad air formed because of the large
numbers of cavers working in such a confined space.

The ingenuity of Mendip diggers never fails to amaze the
onlooker.  To overcome the problem of
bailing the sump and reduce the volume of water, hundreds of plastic bottles
were obtained and placed in the sump making the place look, to quote one caver,
more like a “Moroccan bazaar than a cave passage”.  The use of the bottles and two 1500 gallon
double diaphragm hand pumps gave some success but the actual digging time was
still only an hour or so.  With only a
couple of men operating the pumps the foul air problem was considerably
reduced.

A ‘big-push’ was arranged for the summer of 1985.  This time, ideas of driving a 110 Volt  submersible pump took shape. 3,000ft of cable
would be required.  With this in mind,
all the dams were refurbished, both on the surface and underground and a 5ft
third dam – “The Kariba” was built close to Sump II, designed to holdback a
further 4,000-5,000 gallons of water!  By
the autumn of 1984,the Mendip Rescue Organization was preparing for the 1985
National Cave Rescue Conference to be held on Mendip.  Suggestions were made that it might be
possible to borrow sufficient fire hose from the Somerset Fire Brigade to
convey the necessary air to drive a submersible centrifugal pump at Sump
II.  The Chief Fire Officer, Nigel
Musslewhite, agreed and the tremendous task of transporting 60 fire hoses into
and eventually out of the cave was a major task in its own right.  The logistics for the event were considerable
and included the setting up of kitchen facilities, laying of telephone cables
and the transportation of the pump. McManus wrote:

 “With everybody
keeping an eye on the weather the Mineries dam was inserted … to reduce the
water retained in the catchment area … The operation was probably the biggest
pumping operation that had been carried out by cavers at that time, a case of
the BEC ‘doing it to excess’ again”.

Suffice to record the air-driven pump worked successfully on
18th May 1985.  The pumping capacity was
extremely high (more than 16,000 gal/hr) and the sump was drained in less than
thirty minutes!  Digging now commenced
within an hour of the start of pumping! On the first day over eighty cavers went to the dig site in teams of
six.  The initial task, once the sump had
been drained was to remove the hundreds of plastic bottles that had been placed
in the sump during the course of the previous year.  This took a couple of hours though it had
taken a year to put them in!

Once the water had been pumped out digging commenced.  The infill being removed consisted mainly of
lead tailings from the washing operations of the miners.  Water was continually draining back from the
downstream end of the sump.  Consequently
it was necessary to keep the pump running in order to keep the digging face
reasonably free of water.

So successful was the weekend’s activity that it was agreed
to repeat the entire operation weekly until the sump had been passed.  However, though great strides had been made
the choke was not cleared.  By the middle
of July 1985 digging had to come to an end when the borrowed pumping equipment
had to be returned.  However Sump II had
been excavated to a depth of 25ft and 65ft in length but still with no
indication of the roof rising.

A further 10,000 gallon dam “The Aswan”, was constructed
during 1986 – 1988 though this has still to be used in a successful pumping
operation at Sump II.

Future Operations

The pumping exercise of 1985 demonstrated that the use of
compressed air provided the best means of pumping the sump, for two reasons.
The use of compressed air as the motive power, rather than electrical power, enables
a relatively low weight submersible pump (DIP 25 Atlas-Copco) for its pumping
rate can be used when compared with the equivalent weight of an electrically
driven pump. Air also allows for flushing/purging of bad air that always
accumulates at the sump area due to the number of and time that cavers need to
spend there during the pumping and digging operation.

What’s required For a Further Push?

Dams

Since 1985, Sump II has refilled with silt and mud and the
dams will need to be refurbished, though this should not constitute a major
problem since additional capacity in the

Aswan

dam is available. The dams at the Beehive and Gour Hall will  need refurbishing as will the other smaller
dams dotted along the active streamway. The major expenditure here will be
cement.

Pumps & Equipment

The ideal system would be the loan, or purchase of an Atlas
Copco air driven submersible (DIP –25) pump direct from the manufacturer –
sponsorship would be quite attractive. The obtaining of over 1,000 metres of
standard fire-hose from Angus Fire Armour again by sponsorship would also be
desirable. The major expense with the fire hose is the couplings that connect
the 15 metre lengths of hoses together. The use of longer lengths could be
considered, though this would need to be assessed from any offer.

The final piece of kit would be the standard 7 barg road
compressor that would be needed to drive the pump from the Belfry car-park. The
diesel to drive it costing some 25p per litre.

Manpower

I would consider it possible to muster sufficient cavers and
volunteers to work on a six week-end period to re-establish the sump to its
1985 condition, once the dams had been refurbished and there was a definite dry
spell. These dry spells are normally early spring and early autumn. The autumn
is more favorable as summer flows into the cave should be somewhat lower than
the early spring.

Stuart McManus

The trials and tribulations of Eastwater

By Madphil Rowsell

This is a collection of three short articles, updating the
work/progress in Eastwater Cavern that has been made during the last year or
so. It includes; another attempt on digging Morton’s Pot; a chance find of some
new passage (‘Unlucky Strike’) and the surveying of Southbank.

Part 1: – Morton’s Pot 2003-2004

In the summer of 2001, Adrian Hole and myself had made yet
another attempt at digging Morton’s Pot (BB 153 –“Life, the Universe and
Eastwater Caven”). While attaining the deepest attempt yet, its flooding had
resulted in the dig being aborted. It had been left abandoned ever since. In April 03, I returned from

Tasmania

with the sole intention of tidying up Morton’s Pot as it would no doubt be in a
real mess.

My first trip down was pretty disappointing, the sack dams
we had left for silt traps had all washed through leaving ripped up sacks
strewn everywhere. I couldn’t even get into the chamber above ‘A Drain Hole’
for the debris. Demoralised, I started the clean up operation, a fatal
mistake!! After a while, I finally made it into the little chamber and looked
down ‘A Drain Hole’. I was really surprised to see that it wasn’t full of water.
What was more we had only lost 3 of the 6 metres to fill.  With this, I headed out with crazy ideas of
trying to get the dig going again!!! After another clean up trip I was hooked
again, but finding takers to dig the place was the same old problem.

A miracle then happened. Graham “Jake“ Johnson (a Morton’s
Pot veteran of 15 years ago)  decided to
come on board.  I felt quite honoured!
With both Jake and I unemployed at the time, we could hit the place pretty
hard. We would dig most days if not twice a day.  We soon had the old seilbahns up and running
again, the slit traps and  the debris
cleared.

Together we formed a pretty good team. Jake had some great
ideas of losing the spoil, a problem that had always plagued previous digs. I
had just picked up a good shuttering technique from (Gadget) Nick Williams on a
recent visit to Assynt. This would be a winner for applying in ‘A Drain Hole’
and keeping it stable. It  looked like we
were on for a good attempt this time.

Finally it was time to go on a recruitment drive.  With suggestions of a digging charter to ban
the loading of the dig site with sacks, and insurances that  everyone would
have  a fair go at digging, we hit the
Hunters’. Amazingly some more of the old Morton’s Pot veterans stepped forward;
Pete Hellier, Paul Brock, along with some new additions to, Sean Howe and Nick
Mitchell. Even Tony Jarratt appeared on odd occasions.  With this number we could shift the sacks
from the dig site right out to the top of the 380ft way. Finally we could make
real progress. During the week, Jake and I would sort out the shuttering and
back fill as much as possible. On digging nights, the team would come,  dig and pull the bags out.

It worked pretty well and good progress was made. Things
took a turn for the worse after about 2 m of digging when we dug into water.
Worse still it didn’t seem to be draining. After several sessions of digging
wet bags things were pretty hopeless. I had noticed a worm hole at the top of
‘A Drain Hole’ during the 2001 attempt that seemed to take water when in
flood.  We managed to bail some water
into here for a bit but then it blocked! To make matters worse bad weather had
completely flooded the dig again. It looked like the show was over once again.

On a failed last ditch stand to solve the water problem we
used the good old survival bag dam technique. I decided to have one last  look
for the possibility of another drain point. Scratching about in the mud on the
opposite wall I miraculously found another worm hole heading off in the mud.
Man did the water disappear down here! It gave a lovely burping noise when the bucket was empty. Winner, the
show will go on!! The dig was soon bailed and digging resumed.

By now we had uncovered the rib of rock that had been exposed in 2001. Previous speculation was
that  this was forming a perched sump
with the water draining off behind the rib. In 2001 the dig had flooded before
we had had the chance to remove it. After a number of bangs, the rib and rift unfortunately narrowed down
and pinched out, so it was back to digging on down.

Progress was slow during July and August.  A heavy flood coupled with the lack of
comrades (I had headed over to

Austria
)  had left Jake a hard task of clearing up the
dig. A new digger appeared on the scene – Lincoln Mick (Mick Barker) which gave
Jake some salvation.  By September we
were back to siege techniques again. At the end of September we were down 8m in
‘A Drain hole’, 2m past the 2001 last attempt.

At 8.3m, we surprisingly saw our lovely 1m wide pot narrow
down to 10cm across the dig face. Quite stunning!! An attempt to dig under the
remnants of the rib of rock yielded the same results, with it narrowing down to
10cm. Nightmare! The only other place was to dig back under the shuttering.
Again after a metre or so under here the narrow floor was still there. What a
disaster; all this effort to see our dig site narrow down completely to 10cm!!!
Totally dejected and lacking enthusiasm we decided to put the dig to bed for
the winter and see what the wet weather might do.  It was mid October. What a waste of time and
effort!!

In mid November, during a trip down to Southbank, I was
stunned to find a piece of wood down at the terminal sump along with some blue
strops. These had only come from one place. I even knew where in the dig   the wood had come from! How cruel could you
get; a piece of wood this size could get down but we couldn’t.  It did, indicate however that there must be
reasonably open passage to Southbank. We must be missing something at Morton’s
Pot.

The next day I headed back into Morton’s to have yet another
good look around.  I checked every nook
and cranny on the way down but nothing. I finally headed down to the bottom of
the dig and was amazed to see a badger sized hole had been blown through and I
could see about 6ft to a little chamber. This would explain now how the wood
got down to Southbank. May be there is a cave god after all!!

It took a bit of convincing to get Jake to come down, I
think he thought I was pulling his leg!! We enlarged the badger hole enough to
get through and squeezed down to the small chamber. It was full of spoil but
there looked like a way on into a rift. The echo in there was amazing.  It was bang job, but no more bag hauling!!!!
Whooppee!!

The next week saw a frantic session, virtually drilling and
banging around the clock. Our thanks have to be extended to Tony Jarratt for
sacrificing his need for bang, to allow us to continue when supplies were
running low. (Many thanks). We finally broke into a small rift  like feature (a mini 13 pots). This was it,
we were finally off. We only got about 4m around the corner where another small
rift headed off to what looked like a pitch. More widening before we entered a
small pot 5 metres deep with another tight rift heading off to yet another
drop. Again, a great reverberating echo.

With deteriorating weather it was almost a race against
time. The increased levels of water were also making life exciting as the small
breakthrough chamber had now become a nasty little duck. It also didn’t do one
of the drills too much good either – sorry!!! More awkward blasting finally
gained us access to the drop, only to be disappointed once again, dropping into
another pot with another narrow rift heading off.  The prospects here didn’t look good either,
another big banging job not being very inspiring. With water levels becoming
critical we retreated. It was late November.

That was the last trip down to the pointy end until
recently, a combination of water levels being too high and lack of
enthusiasm!!  We did over the winter
however undertake a number of clean up trips, capping spoil, taking out the remaining old sacks and rubbish from the
dig. Even the seilbahns and the old metal silt traps have now been removed,
leaving the Morton’s dig site looking more like cave again rather than a bomb
site!!

In mid March 04, we finally got the chance to head back down
and survey the new passage and contemplate our next moves. The duck required a
bit of clearing but otherwise the place was pretty clear and open. Even the
final rift looked more promising with a possible widening/corner further down.
The survey showed we had made a total of 25m.

With renewed enthusiasm we decided to continue and widen the
rift to the potentially more open passage we could see and have another evaluation, neither of us were really keen
to undertake a major mining exercise. After a few sessions the rift surprisingly broke into a very immature
tight rift/canyon passage, just too narrow to allow easy passage. Progress is
only possible with selective widening, yielding a metre or so more of very
awkward passage each time. The use of a recently made Hilti bar will hopefully
make progress more rapid. To date a further 12m has been gained, it will be
interesting to see what further passage is found.

The passage is very reminiscent of the lower Lambeth Walk
passage and definitely not the place to be caught in a flood!

 Graham “Jake” Johnson hauling
sacks up from the base of Morton’s Pot.
Photo: Sean Howe

 Madphil looking down ‘A Drain
Hole’ standing on the back filled shuttering. The scaffold bars held into the
rock by a 6” rebar pin at each end drilled 3” into the rock.
Photo: Sean Howe

 

 

 Pete Hellier pulling sacks up the
380ft way with the ‘scrap heap challenge’ skip.
Photo: Sean Howe

 Jake sat demoralised at the
bottom of ‘A Drain Hole’ before the break through. His left foot on solid rock,
his right in the now 10” wide rift!
Photo: Sean Howe

 

 

 

Observations

The recent surveying of Southbank and Lambeth Walk (see
later article) has indicated that there is about 70m to the junction in Lambeth
Walk where it is now known the Mortons Pot water flows to. The surveying also
shows that a “big pitch” (as previously speculated in the previous article
BB153) is now unlikely, and the passage will probably continue to follow the
bedding plane down to Lambeth Walk. How the
Soho
rift fits into the scheme is also now confused.

Thanks

Firstly my full gratitude has to be extended to Graham
“Jake” Johnson, who has equally put a lot of time and effort into this dig over
the last year or so. During the course of the dig we have worked really well as
a team, having a good laugh, but also sharing disappointments, despondencies
and madness! His conviction to leave the dig site as free from debris as much
as possible is commendable and one I fully support. We have had many sessions
clearing debris and while not completely finished the dig is well on the way to
being returned to normal cave passage. Its been a good session, and long may it
continue – many thanks.

We also need to thank all the other diggers not mentioned in
the report who have put trips in to help dig (pull bags out from!) Morton’s
Pot.  Thanks also goes to Sean Howe (the
team photographer) for taking and allowing the use of his photos.

Finally thanks to Tony Jarratt for his support during the
widening phases often sacrificing his need for bang to allow us to continue.
Most commendable.

 

Pete Hellier looking up from the
base of ‘A Drain Hole’ now some 7m deep. Photo: Sean Howe 

 

Part 2:- Unlucky Strike

With Morton’s Pot being too wet, Jake and I were in the
market for a new dig. We discussed several options, but decided to have a look
around the Rift Chambers on the Eastern Side of Eastwater Cavern. There were
several dig sites around here. On this recky trip, we decided we would have a
go at Becky’s dig, a very tight tunnel half filled with mud. The next day we
headed in (with Mick Barker) and spent several hours digging in very tight
conditions until the roof came down and prevented progress without chemical
widening.

As we still had some time left we went for a look around the
2nd Rift Chamber, one place I had never had a good snoop about in.  Just after standing up in the 2nd Rift
Chamber, instead of heading straight on up the climb, I had a look back and saw the rift continuing on in the other
direction. Being inquisitive I headed up to have a look. It headed back  into a tight chimney which broke out into a
small rift. One way headed back and looked down into the 2nd Rift Chamber. The
other way was blocked by stones but draughted and had darkness beyond. The
stones rattling on down the other side sounded pretty good!! Mick confirmed
they weren’t heading back in to the First Rift Chamber. Looked like this was a
winner!

I managed to push most of the stones out of the way, but I
couldn’t shift a big one blocking the way. Shouted to Jake that reckoned I had something good here and needed a
hand. After some persuasion (no doubt another of my “great leads”!) he came up
and we managed to push the boulder over the edge and clear a path into the
unknown. Man did it rumble down a slope for a long while!! Even Jake was
excited now.

After a short crawl, a large rift chamber was entered with a
4m climb down. Halfway down the chamber the rubble slope changed to calcite
flow with a huge calcite curtain (inch plus thick, 20-25ft high) stretching
down to the floor like a big door. The only disappointment was that there was a
small chunk taken out of the bottom. The damage looked fresh and was probably
the result of my bowling attempts breaking in to the passage.  This gave rise to the name, finding a lucky
strike but unluckily damaging a bit of formation. We did search around for the
fragments but didn’t find any so may be it had broken earlier. Who knows?

The passage continued on down through nice stal and
flowstone to end in a calcited choke. Didn’t look too promising but it did take
water from a pool on the left. This pool turned out to be a tight duck. The other
side leading to a short low calcited passage turning up dip but becoming too
tight.  Heading back out the duck proved
somewhat difficult and I had to be pulled out by my feet! (The following day
surveying, I had to be pulled out again – be warned it is an awkward return!).
We had a quick look at a rift heading up but didn’t seem to do much. We headed
out, pleased with our find. It was poetic justice for all the hard work that we
had put in to Morton’s.  It also couldn’t
have happened on a better day either, the BEC diggers’ dinner!!

Jake and I surveyed what we had found the following day and
discussed digging options. We put several bangs into the end where the water
sinks but it doesn’t look promising. During one session Jake had another look
at the rift climb and spotted a chamber through a narrow rift high up with a
good echo. After one bang a small rift chamber with a small aven heading up was
entered but no way on.

A small phreatic tube in the right hand wall was also found
on this climb up, both of us missed this one several times!  After a small amount of digging this yielded
a short passage heading down into a little chamber but with no going
leads.  All leads have been essentially
exhausted, but the orientation of Unlucky Strike heading off into an unknown
blank area of Eastwater Cavern may warrant a further look and a more determined
dig/ bang effort at the sink at the end of the chamber.

The survey of Unlucky strike is shown. Approximately 74m of
passage was found, along with some reasonable formations.

 

Part 3:- The Surveying of Southbank

During the 2000 digging attempt in Morton’s Pot, an effort
was made to correlate all the survey data for Eastwater Cavern into an
electronic format, to better understand the cave’s layout. The resulting
computer model indicated that the position of Southbank (particularly Lambeth
Walk) was of some significance to the Morton’s Dig and a new find in
Soho. Both indicated a probable connection. (This was the
subject of the previous article “Life,
the Universe and Eastwater Cavern” by Phil Rowsell, Belfry Bulletin 153
)

While most of the cave had been surveyed over the course of
time, Southbank (beyond

Waterloo
)
discovered in the late 1980s had never been surveyed by its explorers. All that
was available was a sketch map in a Wessex Log Book by Pete and Alison Moody.
The accurate positioning of these lower passages would be of prime importance
to the Morton’s and
Soho digs and hence its
need to be surveyed.  It would also be
fitting that a complete survey of Eastwater Cavern be finally published!

Trying to find willing accomplices to survey Southbank
however was a difficult task. I did manage a trip with Alison Moody down to
Tooting Broadway pushing that to its conclusion, a sump.  (Phil Short later attempted to dive this and
the terminal sump to no avail) but progress on the survey front was non
existent. I guess no one relished the thought of spending hours collecting data
in squalid conditions. In September 03, I finally managed to persuade two of
the BEC Austrian Exped lads (Tim Lamberton and Ollie Gates) to do a trip down
and we managed to survey from the start of Tooting Broadway back to the
Terminal Sump. A great start but unfortunately the lads were unwilling (too
busy!) to head down again.  Nightmare –
back to square one i.e.  no progress.

Thankfully salvation finally came from Kev Hilton and Emma
Heron (
Wessex) who were keen
to see what all the hype about the
West End
was. Our first trip down was a guided tour but it resulted in a 2”x 2” x 6”
piece of wood being found at the Terminal Sump. The wood was recognisable to
have come from Morton’s Pot, indicating that a connection was present. (This
find also resulted in the surprise fact that the Morton’s Dig had broken
through!). Most of our subsequent trips down have been highly productive and
most of Southbank and its side passages have been now surveyed to Grade 5
accuracy. At the time of writing only the far reaches of Tooting Broadway are
still outstanding. In addition to surveying some water tracing was also
undertaken.

Observation from the survey

The survey from
Charing Cross
is shown and the updated computer model is shown in Fig 1 & 2. It shows
several interesting facts:-

  1. Morton’s Pot – Lambeth Walk Connection
    The piece of wood and strops at the Terminal Sump proves that a connection
    with Morton’s Pot exists. Furthermore during the surveying of Lambeth walk
    a digging sack was seen in the initial deep trenched part indicating that
    Morton’s Pot does connect with Lambeth Walk and not some other known or
    unknown passage. It is highly probably that the connection will be found
    by continuing up the deep trench which branches off from Lambeth Walk
    halfway up but is currently too tight to follow. The upper parts of
    Lambeth Walk actually head up towards the water inlet between Gladman’s
    and Lolly Pot. – see survey. The survey indicates that missing passage is
    some 85m.

    Also of note is that the angle of Lambeth Walk seems to indicate that the
    passage will continue at the same angle along the bedding plane and that a
    “big pitch” in line with the other pitches in the cave as previously
    hypothesised – see BB – is doubtful.  Only further digging at Morton’s Pot will establish this.

  2. Results of the Water Tracing.
    A new rabbit hole up from the entrance has developed and now takes  most of the stream in low water. This
    water re-appears at the drinking fountain in Ifold’s then flows on to the
    Soho rift. It also appears in the
    Strand.
    This water then finds its way to the inlet between Gladman’s/Lolly, and
    then…………..

    onto the sink in the Chamber of Horrors via Blackwall Tunnel. It also find
    its way to the small stream that appears just after ‘Never Hurry a Murray’
    which flows to the Terminal Sump. A separate test showed that some
    Soho water does flow to the Gladman’s/Lolly inlet.
    While not proven, it is believed that some of the Soho water also flows to
    the stream seen in the top part of Lambeth Walk and is the feed for the
    stream just after ‘Never Hurry a Murray’ that continues to the Terminal
    Sump.

    This may also indicate that the
    Soho rift
    may not connect with the Mortons Pot/Lambeth Walk Passage as previously
    suggested.

  3. Chamber of Horrors and the Terminal
    Sump.

    From the survey it can be clearly seen that the deepest part of the cave
    is the base of the Chamber of  Horrors at 155m deep and that the Terminal “perched” Sump (and
    hence the whole of Tooting Broadway) is some 10m above (145m depth).

    With the Chamber of Horrors being the deepest part of the cave the sink is
    of great interest as possible stream passage can be seen, but widening
    will be necessary. Several other “drainage” points near the Chamber of
    Horrors are also of interest in accessing possibly this lower streamway.

    The fact that the Terminal Sump is perched is also very interesting. Water
    backs up here in high water to a head of approximately 1m, judged on flood
    debris. This may, as was previously concluded, be due to the rest of the
    cave sumping up (the Chamber of Horrors having flooded from the base on
    one known occasion) but could also be perched due to a flow restriction.
    This again offers some opportunity to potentially access the lower
    “Chamber of Horrors” streamway past the Terminal sump or from Tooting
    Broadway. Some tests are currently planned to observe the volume of
    water/backflow in the Terminal Sump to see if digging is possible. The far
    end of Tooting Broadway also now warrants another look for digging
    possibilities.

  4. Pea Gravel Dig
    Again from the survey it can be seen that the dig is only 4m in plan
    distance from the Terminal Sump but more significantly at the same height.
    This would explain the account of the dig suddenly flooding, the diggers
    having breached the sump water. In light of the above, if the Terminal
    Sump proves only to be of relatively small volume this may provide a
    better digging site to by-pass the sump.

Further work

  1. Work
    will continue at both Morton’s and Lambeth Walk to see whether the
    connection can be closed and to see what fossil passage may be
    intercepted. The parties involved however do not envisage “mining” a
    connection for connections sake.  Only if reasonably long sections (humanly passable) of natural
    passage are intercepted will the connection be sought.
  2. The
    survey of the far reaches of Tooting Broadway will be (if not having been
    done by publication) surveyed as well as the tidying up of several side
    passages/leads.
  3. A
    number of dig sites have been identified and will be perused over the
    coming month.
  4. Once
    the survey of Southbank is completed a full survey of Eastwater Cavern will
    be issued.

Credits Due in the surveying of Southbank.

  1. Without
    the help of Tim Lamberton (BEC), Ollie Gates (BEC), and particularly Kev
    Hilton (

    Wessex
    )
    none of this work would have been achieved. All have done long trips,
    surveying in particularly poor conditions to collect this data.  My sincere thanks.
  2. As
    credited in my previous BB article, I would also like to thank all the
    other people who have given me survey data (or partook in its collection)
    for the cave. It has allowed the development of this computer model and
    the correlation of a complete survey.

    The nature in which the survey data was freely given is of great credit to
    those who gave it and shows what can be achieved by the pooling of data.
    This is in stark contrast to what seems to be the usual disaster scenario
    that seems to plague many of our cave systems with data being withheld
    from the caving fraternity by individuals with a variety of
    incomprehensible or petty reasons!! In keeping with this open spirit the
    computer model and the full survey will be issued shortly and available to
    those requesting a copy.

 

Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink – Summer Season at Stillage Sump

by Tony Jarratt

Continued from BB 518:-

During the rest of April and early May work continued at
both the Cellar Dig inlet and the left hand wall dig in Hangover Hall. The former
was abandoned after some 4m of blasting. This low ascending crawl is some 6m
long to a too tight, choked connection with Lower Bar Steward Passage. The
latter dig was hoped to bypass Stillage Sump but after a couple of metres of
digging the solid LH wall veered round towards the sump and so this site has
also been abandoned. The sump itself was re-dived by Jon Beal, assisted by
other Frome C.C. members, and confirmed to choke after about 1.5 metres at a
depth of 2 metres. Quackers rightly pointed out that the name is incorrect and
the descriptive word needed was “ullage”, the stillage actually being
the wooden firkin rest. As it’s too late to change now the next shitty feature
will bear this name.

A new site at the top of R.R.R. was treated to two blasting
trips but closed down after some 4 metres in huge boulders located beneath the
floor of H.H.H. The use of joss sticks, a flashing red light and a radio
rendition of “Five Live” failed to provide a nasal, visual or aural
link to either H.H.H or B.B. so this site has also been scrubbed.

On the 13th of May the survey was continued from R.R.R. for
18.35 metres to Stillage Sump and a concrete dam was constructed over a short
section of plastic pipe inserted into the base of the H.H. spoil dump. Four
days later an experimental baling trip proved that the system works and that in
an hour or so the sump can be drained of the couple of hundred gallons of water
which it contains by emptying it into the abandoned LH wall dig. On this trip
the sump was not completely emptied and no digging was done due to a shortage
of manpower but we were much encouraged by the ease of the operation and by the
discovery of a stubby stalagmite on the floor of the calcited passage. The now
redundant submersible pump was painfully removed from the cave on the way out
so that it could be cleaned and serviced.

Two days later we regretted this as after a three hour
baling session it was realised that the pump would make life a whole lot easier
and would have to be, again painfully, brought back down! About a metre of
depth had been gained in the narrow sump pool to reveal a calcited left wall,
more stalagmites on the floor and a shallow bedding alcove on the right. Thick
silt blocked the apparently even narrower way forwards and the proximity of
closing time called a halt to proceedings.

The 21st of May saw Sean Howe, the writer and Grampian
digger Martin Hayes dragging cables, hoses and the skip-encased pump back down
the cave where it was all set up for future operation. Two days later more
Grampian members transferred drums from H.H. to R.R.R. in the morning and in
the afternoon Trev, Jake Baynes and the writer pumped out the sump and removed
seven bags of silt and rocks before blasting off the top of the bedding plane
on the R.H. side to give more working space. Next day a return was made by Jeff
Price, Tim Large, Jake and the writer to find that the bang had done a superb
job. The remaining bang fumes drove the wiser Jeff and Jake to the surface
while the two other idiots drilled and set another charge. They were later to
much regret this as they struggled out of the cave feeling like death. Having
recovered and left the fumes to clear for a couple of days a return was made on
the 26th for another pumping, clearing, drilling and banging session. The
“calcite” filling the top half of the fault-guided passage was
thought to be possibly aragonite. Fearing the accumulation of fumes the next
visit was five days later when much of the water was pumped back into a dozen
or so 25 litre drums at R.R.R. and the rest stored behind the dam. This was
meant to improve the air conditions by keeping the passage open longer but the
prevailing still weather meant a lack of draught throughout the cave. Tim
suffered worst this time as fumes released from the bang spoil got to him.
Despite this another 8 hole charge was fired and a very unlucky leech sent to
the big artery in the sky! Communications between H.H. and R.R.R. were by
Motorola walkie-talkie. This site was now becoming a bit of a problem and it
was decided to leave gaps of a week before revisiting it.

The next visit was a full week later when draughtier
conditions prevailed and the air was much improved. The usual pump, drill and
bang operation took place but we were spurred on by both the opening up of a
narrow, clay filled rift, which may be the drain for the sump, and the recent
discovery of the main way on in Wookey Hole by Rick Stanton. Another repeat
performance took place on the 14th when a 110 volt drill was used to place four
24mm shotholes to take gelignite sticks. A week later we returned with the
battery drill for yet another banging session. On this trip Tim noticed
possible rat droppings in Pub Crawl so visitors should be reminded of the risks
of Weil’s Disease in this cave.

On the 25th June, during the clearing of spoil from the last
bang, a distinct draught was felt blowing into the top of the narrow rift above
the sump and it was decided to blast upwards following this. This was done on
the 28th using 100 gramme detonating cord. A lucky toad got a lift back to the
surface on top of Jeff’s head – under his helmet. Our guest digger today was
Boyd Potts of the Orpheus.

In

Broon Ale
Boulevard
climbing has recommenced at the three
remaining avens. That partly scaled by Nick Mitchell   (now named Old Nick Aven to keep with the
booze theme) was pushed some 4m higher by Eddy Hill on the 9th of June and a
bolt placed. Two days later the writer, supported by Ernie White, gained
another 7m to reach a narrow and muddy passage at a height of 15m heading
up-dip but needing enlargment. This was done by Trev Hughes on the 13th and the
writer was able to squeeze into a larger section of passage which quickly
terminated in several impassable inlets and a too tight hole in the floor. On
the 16th this was surveyed and bolting commenced at the final aven(s) in B.A.B.
(Old Peculier Aven). Five more bolts were put in on the 23rd by Tim, your
scribe and Nigel Strong of the Eldon Pothole Club. At the furthest point Nigel
gained a view of “walking size” passage heading off down-dip and
continuing vertical development above. Trev placed the final bolt on the 27th
and reported that both ways on soon closed down though another visit is
necessary to confirm this and to survey the aven.

The first, blind rift, previously climbed by the writer, was
eventually surveyed and retrospectively named Old Fart Aven.

At the bottom of Pewter Pot the rapidly drying out Slop 3
dig saw a lot of attention on the 20th of June when Trev, Ray Deasy and the
writer cleared and stacked mud and rocks from the unstable slope leading to the
ongoing passage.

This report will be continued in BB 520.

Bone identification

Bone identification – updated – with the usual thanks to Dr
Roger Jacobi for his time and effort. He has closely studied and measured the
diameters of seven antler bases from the twenty fragments recovered in the
large selection of reindeer and bison bones making up sample HLIS 28. These are
17.1 and 14.8mm, 8.4 and 15.8, 20.6 and 19.2, 25.2 and 22.8, 23.5 and 24.2,
20.2 and 18.1 and 19.6 and 14.4. “… they all appear to be from females
or juvenile males supporting the idea that the area above the cave may have
been a calving ground.” This sample also includes the first evidence of
Brown bear (Ursus arctos) from the cave.

27         Bison priscus          Right scapula.

28(1)     Unidentified             Various fragments.

28(2)     Rangifer tarandus (reindeer) – Mid-shaft
portion of juvenile right femur.

28(3)     Mid-shaft portion of left metatarsal.

28(4)     Distal shaft fragment of left metatarsal.

28(5)     Distal shaft fragment of right metatarsal.

28(6)     Proximal right tibia.

28(7)     Partial left innominate.

28(8)     Distal right humerus.

28(9)     Mid-shaft portion of juvenile right
humerus.

28(10)   Fragment from anterior margin of right
scapula.

28(11)   Five rib fragments.

28(12)   Fragment from anterior face of left
metatarsal retaining part of proximal articulation.

28(13)   Mid-shaft portion of right tibia.

28(14)   Distal right tibia.

28(15)   Antler. Nineteen pieces (including five
bases).  All potentially female/young
male.

28(16)   Proximal phalange.

28(17)   Distal left femur.

28(18)   Diaphyseal fragment of left tibia (posterior
face towards proximal end).

28(19)   Diaphyseal fragment from internal face of
left tibia.

28(20)   Shaft of juvenile right tibia.

28(21)   Distal shaft fragment of right metatarsal.

28(22)   cf Bison priscus      Eight rib fragments.

28(23)   Fragment from spine of left scapula.

28(24)   Incomplete cervical vertebra 4.

28(25)   Ursus arctos (Brown bear)   Fragment from lower shaft of right radius.
“It is a large bone and, given that the bone is juvenile, the adult would
have been of some size. The bones at Banwell are noticeably large and, as you
know, I think that the fauna there may be of about the age of yours.
Interesting!”     R.J.

29         Microtus oeconomus (Northern vole)   Incisor and two molars.

30         Rangifer tarandus       Right tibia.

31(1)     Distal left tibia.

31(2)     Proximal right tibia – gnawed at proximal
end.  Distal epiphysis lost.

32         cf Bison priscus         Right M3.

33         Rangifer tarandus      Left P3.

34         Distal right humerus.

35         Bison priscus        . Horn core. “An important
find   which confirms your bovine as
Bison priscus rather than wild cattle – Bos primigenius.”     R.J.

36         Right naviculo-cuboid.

37         Rangifer tarandus     Distal right tibia.

38         Bovini cf Bison priscus     Proximal left metacarpal (unfused distal
epiphysis lost Slender).  Smaller range
of Isleworth.

39         Distal left tibia? Gnawed at proximal
end.

40         Rangifer tarandus     Shaft of left humerus.

41         Antler fragment.

42         Base of shed antler. Female? 18.2 and
16.8.

43         Mid-shaft of left femur.

44         Base of shed antler. Male? 18.8 and
17.8.

45         Shaft of juvenile right humerus.

46         Antler fragment.

All the above have been deposited at

Wells
Museum

with the exception of numbers 35, 37, 39, and 42 which will reside at the
Hunters’.

Additions to the team and acknowledgements.

Gordon Coldwell (CPC), Ryan Jackson, James Daly, Julian
Herbert-Smith (all FCC), Christian Degen (Germany), The B.E.C. Committee and
Chris Falshaw for their generous donations to the Digging Fund, Charles Adcock
(Event Horizon Pyrotechnics), “Yorkshire” Dave Hodgson (GSG), Andy
Chamberlain, Fiona Crozier, Nigel Strong (Eldon PC), Boyd Potts (Orpheus C.C.)

 

Orthoceras
Photo by Sean Howe

 

Zaphrentis
Photo by Sean Howe

 

  
Tony Jarratt
in Hangover Hall

Of

Boulder

Chokes, Bats and Irish Musicians – Meghalaya 2004

by Tony Jarratt

A BEC/GSG member’s view of this year’s expedition to
NE India. Refer to Belfry Bulletin 115 and GSG bulletin
October 2003 for background information.

“U Ramhah died on the hill-side alone and unattended,
as the wild animals die, and there was no one to regret his death. When the
members of his clan heard of his death they came in a great company to perform
rites and to cremate his body, but his body was so big that it could not be
cremated, and so they decided to leave it till the flesh rotted, and to come
again to gather his bones, but it was found that there was no urn large enough
to contain them, so they piled them together on the hill-side until a large urn
would be made. While the making of the urn was in progress there arose a great
storm, and a wild hurricane blew from the north, which carried away the
bleached bones of U Ramhah, and scattered them all over the south borders of
the Khasi Hills, where they remain to this day in the form of lime-rocks, the
many winding caves and crevices of which are the cavites in the marrowless
bones of the giant.” Rafy, 1920    (Pinched from Daniel Gebauer’s magnificent South Asia Cave Registry,
without his permission but with grateful thanks.)

February 6th saw the Mendip contingent – Tony Boycott
(BEC,GSG) Jayne Stead (GSG) and the writer joining Simon Brooks (OCC,GSG) for
the flight from Heathrow to
Calcutta via
Amman and

Bombay
.
In

Calcutta
we
met Joe Duxbury (GSS) and Jonathan Davies (GSG) before flying on to Guwahati
where we were met by Gregory Diengdoh (MA). A Sumo ride to Shillong followed
and here we found Peter Ludwig (LVHOO-Austria), Thomas Arbenz
(SNT-Switzerland), Brian MacCoitir, Robin Sheen and Quentin Cooper
(BC-Ireland), Damien Linder (SCJ-Switzerland) and the Meghalayan Adventurers;
Brian Kharpran Daly (MA,GSG), Shelley Diengdoh, Dale and Ronnie Mawlong,
Brandon Blein and others, plus their relatives and friends. Beer,
Chinese/Indian food and more beer set the seal on the start of the expedition.

On the 9th several of us hired a Sumo jeep and headed for
the

village of
Shnongrim
in the Jaintia Hills of
eastern Meghalaya – scene of past glories and with more to come in the next
three weeks. Tents were set up on arrival as our purpose-built bamboo camp,
like a Spanish hotel, had yet to be constructed.

Our caving started in earnest next day with the discovery of
an extensive pothole system only some four minutes walk from camp! Krem Krang
Wah (lower sloping ground cave) was a fine series of Yorkshire-style pitches and
canyon passages with a miserable streamway at the bottom. Brian M. and Quentin
undertook the rigging and did a grand job, their skills being honed to
perfection by the end of the expedition. The adjacent Krem Krang Riat (upper
sloping ground cave) was tied into the system and the impessive 80m deep Tiger
Mouth Pot – part of Krem Krang Wah – also connected to eventually yield 2252.22
metres of sporting and attractive cave. Thomas and Peter, later in the week
joined by Simon and anyone else that they could “press”, recommenced
work in Krem Synrang Labbit 1 and 2 (bat shelter cave) eventually surveying
4332.56 metres to give a combined system length of 5986.45 metres..

 

During the next few days more of the team arrived at camp
including Imogen Furlong (SUSS), Andy Harp and Nicola Bayley (RFODCC), Mark
Silo (OCC) and Danny Burke (BC).

On the 14th some of us had a “rest day” and were
driven to the base of the ridge to visit an ancient, dry resurgence cave
recently discovered near Lamyrsiang village by the locals and featured in the
Meghalayan media. Krem Bam Khnei (rat eating cave) was surveyed for 738 metres
to a massive and impenetrable boulder choke. Many of its beautiful flowstones
and gours were covered in Hindi graffiti and rubbish was strewn everywhere as,
due to its ease of access and lengthy, roomy galleries, it has become a
subterranean religious shrine for immigrant coal miners working nearby. It must
once have been a stunning system of deep and clear canals but now, alas, it is
doomed. We were glad that the terminal choke was impassable but were very
impressed by the speleological potential in this area. Despite the mess we were
filmed and interviewed in this cave by a team from Doordarshan Kenora – the
Indian government cable TV network – and so I had the dubious privilege of
appearing in both British and Indian caving documentaries filmed just a few
weeks apart.

With Krem Krang Wah finished we dropped the impressive 20m
pot of Krem Bir (mud cave) in the hope of entering the continuation of the
ongoing Krem Synrang Ngap (bee shelter cave – see BB 115 & GSG Bull. Oct.
2003). This latter, extremely promising cave never got visited this year due to
other projects so has been left for the 2005 Grampian contingent. Krem Bir
unfortunately dropped into an enormous, unstable boulder choke – part of which
was pushed into a short section of ancient fossil tunnels ending in more
awesome chokes which were left well alone. A strong, misty draught indicated
big cave below but there was no safe way to reach it. This was a muddy, gloomy,
uninspiring and quite frightening cave which we were glad to leave. One of its
few redeeming features is a mini gypsum chandelier. The surveyed length was
332.4 metres

The 18th was spent in glorious sunshine on a reconnoitre of
the ridge and catchment area above Krem Wah Shikar and the finding of Krem
Mulieh 1-4 (soft, white rock which cures diarrhoea cave!). 1 and 2 were
connected via a 40m pot but the promising passage below degenerated into a wet
crawl which even the redoubtable Quentin was indisposed to push, even with his
helmet off. In this cave I was climbing a large rock pinnacle to establish a
good survey shot when the top 1.5m started to topple backwards. By a miracle I
managed to regain balance and avoid falling for 4m, feverishly embracing half a
ton of spiky limestone! This was a sharp reminder of the perils of virgin cave.
The other Krem Muliehs also bottled out but at least we could now write them
off. On the walk back from these a local showed us several caves in the Um Im (living
or permanent water) area which were later to provide the main focus for the
expedition. With no local names they became Krem Um Im 2-5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The
previously partly explored and locally named Krem Um Im became number 1. This
latter cave was soon to be connected with the 9km long Krem Liat Prah which the
main explorer and surveyor, Michael Laumanns, had written off as
“finished”. Absent from this years trip he was destined to soon
receive many smug communications informing him that his “baby” had
now grown into a teenager and was very likely to get bigger next year!
Jonathan, Brian M. and Robin made the first connection with the Liat Prah
streamway after surveying 200 metres of canals at the bottom of the vertical Um
Im 1 system. After this refreshing swim they surveyed upstream Liat Prah along
an inexplicably previously missed passage for 313 metres, again mainly
swimming, to a boulder choke from below which the stream emerged. The nearby
Laumann’s Pot was descended down 27m and 43m pitches to provide an easier way
in and lots more passage mapped.

Krem Um Im 2-5 is an interconnected system of attractive
passages on several levels. It is adjacent to, and connects with in two places,
a superb jungle-filled doline which became known as the “Lost World”.
A pleasant 30m pitch could be by-passed by descending the equally deep doline
and entering a low and narrow streamway at the bottom. This was followed to
where it became a wide, low bedding plane which eventually debouched into the
side of walking sized canyon passage leading to

Craggy
Island
.
This large, oblong collapse chamber heralded the start of yet another horrific
boulder choke where Quentin’s talents once again came to the fore as he
pioneered a complicated route through it for c.50m to an echoing area. The
writer, scouting ahead for the survey, got to push the last bit to reach the
head of a 20m pitch into what appeared to be huge, dry canyon passage. Having
no tackle we left a 10m tape hanging down in the hope that this would be found
from the newly discovered and adjacent Krem Um Im 6, the entrance of which was
only a few metres away from 2-5 and also in the floor of the Lost World doline.

In this cave, once again, an enormous, frightening boulder
ruckle had to be pushed and the good Dr. B. got the short straw on this one. He
wormed his way downwards between boulders as big as the Hunters’ until a lack
of ladders to descend the gaps between them curtailed his exploration. These
were eventually provided and the ruckle pushed to a depth of some 35m to where
it opened up into solid cave at a stepped 30m pot. Quentin rigged this with one
of the world’s most frightening take-offs; the hanger being in the underside of
a boulder weighing hundreds of tons and not only forming the ceiling of the 30m
pot but also holding up all 35m of choke above!!! This was a classic hang which
caused much ring-clenching on the prussik out.

Below the pot a large, active and beautifully decorated
river passage bore off downstream to reach yet another boulder choke after 274m.
Valiant attempts to pass this initially failed but by a stroke of luck we had a
jar of fluorescein with us and some of this was chucked into the stream –
mainly for the benefit of the video. Next day a party finishing off the survey
were amazed to hear voices and then even more amazed as Mark and Jonathan
emerged from the choke having pushed upstream from Krem Liat Prah. They had
seen the green water and this inspired them to greater efforts – a marvellous
and superbly timed stroke of luck. Um Im 6 (and by definition Um Im 2-5) were
now part of the rapidly expanding Liat Prah system. Also on this trip, and at
the suggestion of your dig-fixated scribe, an obscure hole at the base of the
30m pot was cleared by Quentin in the hope of passing the upstream sump in this
cave. Sure enough open but decidedly squalid passage was entered and left for
another day.

When that day came a couple of hundred metres of filthy and
unpleasant phreatic tunnels were surveyed and the main way on desperately
searched for. It just had to go. Our last chance was a tiny inlet canal with
thick mud under the water and a definite “collector’s item”. With
nothing left to survey we went for it and after 30m of misery the passage
improved slightly in that we were no longer scared of disappearing forever into
the quicksand of “Shit Creek”. A good echo hinted at better things ahead and suddenly we gained a view
of black space as we entered a 15m high bore passage at right angles. We had
hit the jackpot again! A massive dry tunnel bored off upwards to the right.
This was later mapped for several hundred metres and contained some stupendous
formations. A huge side passage turned out to be an oxbow to the main drag and
provided an airy balcony for the video team and some awe-inspiring views of the
river passage below – this being reached by turning left at the initial entry
point. This 15m high by 8m wide tunnel carried the main stream which was soon
found to issue from an impenetrable choke on the RH side after 200m. Ahead the
passage increased in size and gained height to form a gigantic,
breakdown-floored square tunnel which we surveyed in a straight line for 390m
to a point where the boulder floor met the ceiling. The heat and lack of
draught indicated that a way on was unlikely but a wristwatch altitude
measurement indicated that “The Grand Trunk Road” was not far from
the surface. On the way back a small but interesting inlet, “Shnongrim
Subway”, was found which may well be explored further next year, our
lesson on not ignoring the obscure passages being well and truly drummed home
after this discovery! Krem Liat Prah had now entered the big league with some
14km of passage and looked quite likely to become

India
‘s second longest. This was
confirmed after Brian, Jonathan, Shelley and team, who had meanwhile been
dropping Krem Um Im 7 and 8 and connecting these to the main system, pushed the
total surveyed length to 15118.01 metres. (There is some doubt as to the actual
connection of these last two caves to the main system but if they are ignored
the overall length is still 14828.90m). Michael’s response to all this was;-
“….. your discoveries make my nice speleogenetic model of the whole area
totally OBSOLETE. Arrghhh ^’**uu!=)=!?=/!”S$%/()=!!!!!”

A selection of seemingly ancient bovine jawbones, limb bones
and a horn, found in Um Im 6, have been given to Tony Audsley who will attempt
to identify them.

With no sign in 6 of the tape left hanging in 2-5 a return
was made to the latter cave with 20m of ladders for the pitch. The nature of
the place precluded dragging full SRT kit through and the last section of choke
almost precluded us as a highly dodgy “spiral staircase” of loose
Henrys had to be negotiated to reach the pitch head. At the base of the pot the
huge, dry canyon had metamorphosed into a grotty little stream passage well
endowed with crabs, crayfish, assorted cave fish and bats aplenty. Having got
there we were then obliged to survey “Shnongrim Sewer” so set off
downstream in a healthy draught. After 200m of mud, bats and gradually deepening
water most of the team mutinied when it reached chest height – or in Jayne’s
case eye level! With the alluring draught and echoing nature of the passage the
writer just had to look a little further and after only c.50m of not unpleasant
ducks he emerged into the side of a 6-8m diameter river passage. Once again a
grotty lead had led us to the big stuff and we wondered how much had been
missed over the years by people only exploring the “holiday sized”
passages. To the left the water got deep and there may be a sump, judging by
the ample mud deposits in this area. To the right it was wide open and well
populated with bats, who almost certainly did not enter via the low streamway.
The passage bore a distinct Jamaican feel and so was named

Ratbat
River

as their patois would have it. Only a cursory glance was had before the writer
retreated with Dr.B and team to the surface, well pleased at having found what
we believe to be the continuation of upstream Liat Prah beyond the choke.

Ratbat
River

is located below Shnongrim village and heading straight for the Krem Wah
Shyngktat (prawn stream cave) system (alias Krem Synrang Moo/Pineapple Pot). A
dye test should confirm if the downstream sump in Shyngktat is the main feeder
of

Ratbat
River
and thus Liat Prah. A connection
to this fine system, plus a link through the downstream boulder choke into Krem
Umtler, would make the complete “Megha-system” over 19km long.

Thinking to find an easier, safer and more direct way in we
decided to revisit Krem Shrieh (monkey cave), located on the north side of the
ridge but known to have a large bat population and an unpushed streamway
heading in the right direction. The previous, obviously soft and wimpy
“explorers” had chickened out when the undergound wildlife had become
too much for them in a walking sized (just) streamway called “Half Bat
Half Fish”. Full of confidence Robin, Quentin and I descended this truly
spectacular doline and 60m pot to the bat-infested depths where the very air
consisted of bat piss and ammonia, plus the odd falling parasite and selection
of guano. As we approached the unpushed streamway the airspace became less but
the bats became more. With our upper bodies taking up most of the space scores
of these black and somewhat loathsome little buggers were bouncing off us and
the walls and dropping into the stream. Not content with decently drowning like
nice, cuddly British bats these monsters then took off from the water or swam
rapidly to the walls (or Quentin) to gain height for their next dodgem flight.
Several actually took time off for a quick shag within inches of our heads
before resuming their frightening antics. Meanwhile, below water level, huge
blind fish smashed into our legs and lower bodies and almost certainly the
crabs and associated fauna at floor level were also up to some dirty tricks! It
then dawned on us that one of the last people here had been Martin
“Lump”

Groves

– a man not renowned for his wimpishness so we hereby apologise for our
preconceptions and would like to state that the original explorers did a
magnificent job in actually surveying this horror story! Anyway, we pushed on
into huge passage and were about to take off our face protection and heave a
sigh of relief when Robin noticed the rope hanging down the entrance pitch – bugger.
Needless to say this cave did not provide an easy route into the Liat Prah
system but it is obviously part of something much bigger and needs further
investigation next year. A possible, draughting dig may pay off and the
undescended pot in the floor of the doline should be dropped. Apparently the
locals are very impressed by cavers who visit this place as it is a well known
venomous snake habitat!

An attempt to join the resurgence

cave of
Krem Umtler

to the lower end of the system was also doomed to failure due to the immense
size of the intervening boulder choke where fears of getting lost forever
seriously gave us the frights. A better thought out attempt may be made next
year as a connection would considerably extend and tidy up Liat Prah as stated
earlier. It is potentially

India
‘s
longest cave.

Not far away the superbly named Krem Bun (sorry Daniel)
eventually yielded a pitch system of 209.15m to Thomas, Shelley, Imogen and
team. This cave was not jokingly named but in honour of their local guide, the
diminutive Bun Sukhlain. His mate’s name was Never Full so it could have been
worse.

Most of our exploration plans for this year never got done
as the sudden growth of this system overshadowed all else. A whole new area was
also opened up at Semmasi (0r Samassi, Sem Massi, Sammasi, etc.*) village where
the superb river

cave of
Krem Tyngheng
(wide
open mouth cave) yielded 3752.41 metres and Krem K’dong Semmasi (Semmasi corner
cave), 902.75 metres. With at least nine more known caves there is a lot more
to do in this hardly touched area despite it being a bit too Christian and
heavy on the TEMPERANCE!!! Apparently our colleagues were the first westerners
most of the villagers had ever seen so the headman, Bikin Paslein, took lots of
photos of them – a nice role change! Other caves were explored near Daistong
and another new area to the south, beyond Tangnub village was briefly
investigated. There are tales of large caves here so roll on February 2005!

Nicky, assisted by Andy and Jonathan, recorded much of the
expedition on video in the unlikely event of surpassing her excellent
production from last year. Many people took a comprehensive selection of
photographs and images, some of which accompany this report – with thanks to
their owners.

Long, hard days underground were balanced by the usual
evening entertainment and every night the traditional bonfire was patronised by
the cream of European and Meghalayan socialites. Quentin and Danny, our
professional Irish musicians, did us proud with fiddle, mandolin and guitar
sessions and most of the locals were also accomplished musicians, particularly
on the guitar. One memorable night saw the real “Shnongrim Combo” in
action with Carlyn (harmonica), Pa Heh (guitar, drum), Heipormi (guitar,
vocals), Menda (guitar, vocals and hymns) and other passers-by playing
traditional Jaintia festival tunes. Plenty of beer kept the troops happy and
Carom and Cribbage were popular with the intellectuals. The re-employment of
Myrkassim Swer and his Muslim cooking team was much appreciated as was the
excellent job done by Bung and Addie in organizing the camp and driving us
around. Addie’s new found fame as a submarine jeep driver may last some time!
The people of Nongkhlieh Elaka and Semmasi were once again superb. Special
thanks must go to local guides

Raplang,
Pa
Heh, Carlyn, Heipormi, Menda,
Bikin and Bun – and others – who actually found the caves for us to go down.

The finale of the expedition was a party held at Donbockwell
“Bok” Syiemlieh’s farm, between Shillong and Guwahati, where a bamboo
bar, bunkhouses and stage were laid on and a local rock band provided. The
evening was much enlivened when the month-long unwashed Quentin, looking lika a
poor man’s Alice Cooper, joined them on stage to play some superb rap and blues
on electric guitar, much to both their and our astonishment and delight. Our
very grateful thanks must go to Bok and his staff, the Ladies of Shillong
(Barrie, Dabbie, Maureen, Rose etc) and everyone else who helped make this trip
yet another magnificent epic. Only 10 months to go…

Top Tips for Pushing

Meghalayan
Caves
!!!
Check everything accessible and don’t worry about a lack of draught. Tight
squeezes, ducks, grim boulder chokes and short digs are all worth a go and, as
this expedition proved, often pay off big time. The presence of Heteropoda
spiders may indicate routes to the surface above or nearby and plenty of
“Snotgobblers” (web-building fly larvae) invariably are a good sign
of lengthy, draughting passages – they are an excellent indicator of routes
through boulder ruckles. Very few Meghalayan caves are “finished”, or
ever will be.

 (*I have adopted the
spelling favoured by Carlyn Phyrngap and Daniel Gebauer and apparently
appropriate for the place name “Cowshed” – many other spellings are
used by locals, mapmakers and visitors.

 

Lodmore Hole – When You’re In A Hole… Keep Digging

by Phil Hendy

Lodmore Hole is located in a fenced depression in a field
some 200 metres east of East Wood on the Yoxter ranges at grid reference ST
5354 5343 and altitude  260m AOD.  The field is level, but covered in patches of
gorse and bramble, with many shallow pits and depressions.  Some of these are natural, but others are the
traces of old mines.  In 1872 East Wood
(or Lodmore Wood as it was then known) and the surrounding area was extensively
mined for iron ore.  The shallow cuttings
can still be seen in the wood; although some crevices in the lower parts of
Lodmore Hole were filled with red ochre, there are no traces of mining in the
cave, and it is believed to be entirely natural.

What set this depression apart from others in the field,
apart from its size, was the outcrop of rock in the lower northeast part of the
pit.  Jim Hanwell had noticed the
depression some years ago, but in 1988, Ros Bateman, then living at nearby
Lodmore Farm, obtained permission to dig from the M.O.D. through the Brigadier
in Taunton and with the agreement of Mr. Cook, the then Yoxter range
warden.  Interest in the area had been
stimulated by a letter written to Ros’s father by Dr. J.D. Wilcock of
Stafford, detailing the results of his dowsing results in
the Yoxter area in December 1987.  Ros
had accompanied Dr. Wilcock around the fields, and relates that he was quite
eccentric – following his dowsing line by taking a direct route, even through hedges. 

THE DIG

Digging commenced in May 1988, with cavers from E.M.I. in
Wells.  Digging tailed off towards the
end of the year, although the team had uncovered the two main walls at right
angles to each other.  At about this time
the BEC expressed an interest in the dig, and obtained permission to work
there.  In November they fixed netting to
the sides of the dig and secured the shoring. By April 1990, the dig was about
25ft deep, and plans were being made to pipe the entrance shaft.  A month later, the first side passage had
been found and enlarged, but it did not look promising, and the way on
continued downwards.  Measurements made
at the time showed that the surface depression was 13ft deep; the shaft to the
platform was 25ft deep, with a further 5ft excavated below that.  The dig here was 3ft wide.  The side passage (5ft below the platform) was
16ft long.  However, by the summer of 1990,
some slumping was occurring from the bottom of the shoring, and interest was
waning. Over the three years that Lodmore Hole was dug, the EMI/BEC team had
excavated under the outcrop, exposing a steep bedding plane wall on the east
side, descending at an angle of approximately 85o from the horizontal. The
north wall appeared to be gently undercut, and the rock was tantalizingly
fluted and water worn.  The dig seems to
have been abandoned by August 1990.

By 1992 NHASA had been forced to leave its dig at Twin
Titties Swallet, just when it was becoming promising.  The diggers heard of Lodmore Hole, and
arranged to help with the dig.  Access
was reaffirmed with Ron Dawson, who had by then taken over as warden at Yoxter,
and arrangement was made with James Bateman, the farmer at Lodmore, to park in
his yard, and walk through his farmyard onto the ranges.

NHASA started digging on August 26th, 1992.  It was decided to make the excavation
NHASA-sized, an option which would allow a proper look at what lay below the
surface, and minimize the chances of missing any way on. Over the first few
weeks a stile was built over the fence, a shelter was erected over the surface
winch, a path was leveled down to the site hut, and existing spoil heaps were
stabilized.  The original shoring was dug
out, and the new shaft was made about 4m square.  The old chain-link fencing was laid around
the steep unprotected earth bank to the east of the shaft; as vegetation grew
through it, the slope was prevented from slipping into the hole.  As the shaft became deeper, it was decided
that the usual shoring of angle iron and boards would not be strong enough
(having found this out the hard way in Twin T’s) so a cemented stone wall was
decided upon.  Of course, it was not
possible to build this in the traditional way, from the bottom, because the
bottom of the dig kept moving downwards. Therefore, a method was developed of building from the top
downwards.  The wall was built in a
quadrant for strength, abutting each end of the two natural rock walls.  Side passages were left open by building
arches over them.  The fill was mainly
stones and mud, with some larger rocks. Cement was usually carried over, but stone dust was transported by
vehicle. Dust runs were not without their incidents.  In March 1994, the weather was atrocious, with
torrential rain.  Dave Turner’s vehicle
became bogged down in the mud, and when we pushed it clear, I found that my
boots had sunk into the mud.  The 4WD
surged forward, leaving me off balance, whereupon I fell full length into the
mire.  At that point, the rain began to
fall as near-horizontal hail, which drove straight through the fuzzy bush I was
trying to shelter behind.  Dave himself
became bogged down, and had to be towed out by tractor.  Pug (Albert’s technical term for mortar) was
mixed in an old car roof; water was collected from the hut roof and collected
in barrels.  The pug was lowered down the
shaft in buckets.

By June 1993, the shaft had been built down to -5m, and old
shoring was still being taken out.  Spoil
was winched out using a tripod; the buckets were then transferred to an
inclined cable, up which they were hauled to be tipped around the sides of the
depression.  As we went deeper, a series
of dry stone retaining walls were built around two sides of the depression, to
provide a series of terraces for tipping. A wooden gantry was built over the
side of the shaft opposite the winch, from which buckets could be handled.  The fixed steel ladder was moved to the wall
at the foot of steps adjacent to the top winch. All ladders in the dig were of rigid steel; this allowed safe rapid
descents, though towards the end, ascents were much slower!

By December 1993, it was reckoned that we were no more than
1m above the point reached by the original diggers.  The side passage to the left of the dig
(westwards)was re-opened.  It was nothing
more than a gap where rocks had settled under the overhanging wall.  This passage descended as a crawl, about 3.7m
long, with a sloping roof on the right, and an unstable-looking boulder pile to
the left.  It was not dug seriously, but
was left open, just in case.

The first pitch was about 10m deep; at this point, the dig
area was quite large, so the opportunity was taken to reduce the area by
building a platform.  Another winch was
bolted to the wall, with the rope running over a pulley to the back of the
shaft to allow a better hang for the bucket. All winches were car back axles, converted by Fred Davies, with a handle
fitted where the transmission formerly entered the differential.  The drum was simply a car wheel hub,
sometimes with extra sections welded on to increase the rope-carrying capacity.

Digging continued, and by July 1998, a second ledge was
built about 4m below the first.  The
shoring wall was being constructed as vertical as possible, but the back wall
was receding, thereby increasing the working area.  This back wall showed thin near-vertical beds
of limestone, with a 5cm band of chert adjacent to the main bedding wall.  We were now well into unknown territory.  A second side passage was revealed on the
left (December 1994); it was similar to the first, and just as unpromising.   Some air spaces began to appear under the
back wall, but they proved to be no more than settlement gaps.  The depth reached 13m, and digging continued.  Now the back wall became very unstable, and a
concrete lintel was cast under it.  The
decision was taken to build masonry under this wall as well.  To decrease the working area yet again, due
to the cutback of the far wall, a third platform was laid 3m below the second
one.  This platform was L-shaped, with a
narrow section running along the left hand wall.  The fourth ladder was fixed below this.  A third winch was then bolted to the wall.
The fill was still mainly mud and stones, but with some clay pockets.  At times, there was a heavy drip, but there
was no sign of any running water.  This
surprised James Bateman, who expected us to hit water as he had a 40ft deep
well at the farm, at about the same altitude as Lodmore Hole.  Even at our maximum depth (37m), there was no
trace of water backing up the hole. Mixed in with the limestone we found odd pieces of chert, and some
rounded old red sandstone cobbles.

As the fourth section of the dig was deepened, excitement
grew as what appeared to be a half-tube began to be revealed in the bedding
wall, adjacent to the platform. However, at 3m, the ‘half-tube’ ended, and
proved to be no more than an alcove.  The
bedding wall continued relentlessly down, thus widening the dig area to the
right, although as we were building a wall under the back face, it was not
being extended in that direction.  Five
metres down the fourth pitch we decided to build another platform, really more
of a ledge, with a fixed ladder bolted to the wall. 

By August 1997, we had a measured depth from the top of the
main shaft of 83ft (25m).  It became
difficult to drag buckets up from below the third winch, and in June 1999, a
length of conveyor belt was hung down from the fifth ledge to smooth the
way.  On the 23rd June 1999 we were
digging as usual, although some members of the team were beginning to become
disheartened, having dug so far with no result. Jonathan Riley completed building a section of wall, and then I began to
dig.  Suddenly I felt the floor move and
heard a rumbling sound from below.  I
moved back smartly, and then began to grovel in the floor.  By pulling stones and mud out of the way, a
25cm triangular black hole appeared.  To
the right was a chert band, matching that in the back wall of the dig.  Lying against this at an angle was a slab of
rock, some 50cm square and 15cm thick. Looking down the hole, I could see a drop of about 3m, appearing to
widen as it got deeper.  Only one side
(the bedding plane wall) was solid, the rest was loose stone.  There was an obvious cold outward draught, and
what looked to be walking-size passage leading off at the bottom.  Time was getting on, so after everyone had
looked down the hole, we covered it, changed and returned to the Hunters’ Lodge
for our usual debrief session.

The following week there was, not surprisingly, a good
turnout.  Some spoil was removed in
buckets, and then the big slab was raised using the winch, and carefully laid
to one side.  A short length of rigid
ladder was fixed in the hole, and Jonathan gingerly wriggled down a steep
rubble slope and into the slot.  We found
that our masonry wall at this point was only a short way above solid rock.  The drop was about 2m, landing on a boulder
slope in a rift about 60cm wide.  At roof
level, leading upwards for about 3m with the bedding wall on the left, and
heading under the third platform that lay above, there was a steep crawl-sized
passage in rubble.  It did not lead
anywhere, but was left open, once the jammed stones supporting the floor had
been supported with cement.  The boulder
floor under the drop sloped steeply down for about 2m back under the present
floor of the shaft.  It was not possible
to enter it; the ‘walking-size’ passage was an illusion.

It was decided to carry on digging out the floor of the main
dig, to intercept the cavity below.  This
was done, revealing a large jammed block to one side of the floor (south).  It was immovable, so was left in situ.  We uncovered solid rock opposite the main
wall and descending at the same steep angle, so we found we were digging in a
fairly narrow rift.  As we went down, the
main wall became undercut where slabs had become detached.  Some unstable looking ones were levered off,
partly for safety, but also to increase working space.  Eventually, the solid block was completely
exposed, and was left bridging the rift.

We continued working most Wednesday evenings (the traditional
Mendip digger’s night) except for when the ranges were required for the defence
of the realm. On one memorable occasion, RAF troops covered in camouflage paint
and firing blanks unexpectedly surrounded the diggers as they walked to the dig
after they had unwittingly walked through their tripwires, setting off
thunderflashes.  The strangely-dressed
cavers did not deter the RAF, although later it was found that they were
exercising on the right night – but at the wrong place!  Aerial attack of a more natural (though much
more threatening) kind occurred when the team ceased work early due to a
massive thunderstorm.  They were chased
off the field by lightning, with strikes hitting the ground behind them, and
advancing as they fled.  One night, a
heavy snowstorm caused an early withdrawal from the dig, causing a few
route-finding problems on the way back to the farm.  We also had a few problems finding our way
through the thick Mendip mist.

The floor of the dig was now rapidly being lowered as the
working area decreased in size.  Several
large slabs of rock, which had become detached from the bedding wall, were
broken into more manageable pieces by using a sledgehammer, but one resisted
all attempts to crack it.  On 17th
November 1999 Aubrey Newport was asked if he would do the necessary.  Four 25cm lengths of Cordtex were inserted
into the holes, and the charge was detonated from the surface.  Fumes prevented examination of the damage
until the following week, but then we found that Dr. Nobel’s Magic Rock Remover
had done its stuff, with no collateral damage. The fragments were removed, and digging continued.  Some sideways development was now occurring
as the main wall was undercut, and in early December, a space was revealed
beyond a large vertical slab.  By
squeezing over it, a low crawl was entered, with a possible continuation to the
south – under the boulder pile, which we had been carefully stabilizing with
copious amounts of pug!  The slab was dug
around and smashed, and we continued to lower the floor, being careful to
preserve the continuation of the crawl. Jonathan bravely wriggled into this and reported what looked like a pit
at the end, approximately 3m deep but largely choked with boulders.  We hoped that as we carried on digging the
main shaft we would find a safer way to this pit, but it was not to be.  Some metre and a half lower, we found that
the two solid walls of the shaft had converged to the point where further
digging would be extremely difficult if not impossible.  There was no chance of reaching the pit at a
lower level.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it now appeared that
what we should have done was to remove the massive boulder pile found on 23rd
June.  This now loomed nearly 2m above
us, and would present a real challenge to break up and remove, thanks to our
generous grouting.  There was no option
but to engineer the crawl under these boulders. Between June and August 2000, Jonathan Riley gradually worked his way
into the crawl, carefully removing some stones, and cementing in the
others.  At least the left hand wall was
solid.  A level floor was laid, and at
the end, where solid rock with a chert band was again encountered, there was
just room to turn round.  The crawl was
about 2m long, and there was still an encouraging draught.  In September, work was started on digging out
the pit.  We removed several large
stones, which quickly increased the working space.  Much of the debris was used to backfill the
bottom of the main shaft to within half a metre of the crawl level.  The pit was found to be about 1.5m deep, with
a further metre visible descending steeply along the line of the crawl.  Once we were in the pit, spoil hauling became
a real problem, as it was impossible to drag full buckets along the crawl
without leaving most of the contents behind. The old Twin T’s technique was brought in, whereby mud was placed in
bags, tied with a tape strop using a lark’s head knot, and dragged out of the
crawl. Eventually we entered a short section of natural open passage.

Digging continued along and downwards. The solid rock we had
found at the end of the crawl did not extend very far down, and we soon
realized that this wall was merely the downwards continuation of the boulder
pile.  The roof, however was solid, and
showed some small half-tubes.  Some
joints in the left hand wall were filled with red ochre, and there were a few
short stalactites.  The floor was mud and
stones, but as we progressed, the mud became a deep thick glutinous mass, with
large rocks in it.  Eventually, the roof
dipped to the floor, just above which there was a small phreatic tube, and
digging in this direction ceased. However, gaps began to appear in the right hand wall, which ‘windowed’
into the base of the boulder ruckle. This appeared to offer a continuation sloping downwards, offset to the
right.

Being fully aware of the mass of boulders lying above, we
carefully began to remove the base of the boulder ruckle.  It appeared to have some solid roof, but it
was decided to try to cement a wall at the top end of the space, supporting
everything with a framework of scaffolding until the cement had set.  This was started in January 2001, but it was
very slow work.  Enthusiasm was beginning
to wane, for a variety of reasons.  The
death of Richard Kenney, our stalwart top winch man, in December 2000, and soon
after the withdrawal of John Ham for personal reasons robbed us of two valued
members of a workforce, which was diminishing just when more people were
needed.  To dig and remove spoil to the
surface now required at least seven men, but due to the slow rate of progress
caused by the need to carefully support the boulder ruckle, many diggers just
stood around idle for long periods of time, and were fast losing enthusiasm.

The outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in February 2001
hastened the decision to pull out.  For
six long months digging had to cease, which gave us plenty of time to consider
the options over many pints in the Hunters’. We decided it was time to move on. When access was again permitted, we would remove our tackle and make the
entrance safe.  We had a certain amount
in the kitty, and with a small legacy from Richard Kenney, we decided to build
a cap over the shaft – after all our efforts, it would be criminal, indeed
almost impossible, to backfill it. However, in August that year Brian Prewer and I met John Locke, the Army
land agent and his assistant Nigel. We showed them the site, and descended the
hole.  John was very keen to preserve the
hole, possibly as a training site (?!!!), and suggested that the Army maintain
the perimeter fence and shaft, provided that we left the fixed ladders.  We gratefully accepted the offer.

NHASA returned on August 22nd.  It was realised that the dig at the end was
too dangerous to allow access for non-cavers, and so with great regret the
entrance to the crawl was sealed with a thin wall of cemented stone, leaving
just the main shaft of four pitches and six ladders.  It would be easy to reopen this crawl if
necessary.  Once this was done, we began
to remove the winches and other equipment, and stack it on the surface.  The next problem was to get it removed.  Luckily, we were able to do a deal with the
Priddy Friendly Society.  In exchange for
paying for two of its members to attend a firework training course (to allow
safe running of the November bonfire and firework display), they agreed to
provide transport to take the gear away.

On November 14th 2001, we met Steve Sparkes, Chris Winter
and Fred Payne of the Friendly Society at Castle Farm, and with permission granted
from Sharon Brown crossed her fields with 4WD vehicles and trailers.  It was a drizzly day, but it did not take
long to load everything up, and take it to Upper Pitts for storage.

All that was left was to say goodbye to NHASA’s longest
dig.  On October 14th seven of us walked
for the last time across the muddy fields to the dig.  There was distant lightning in the
south.  We assembled on the second
platform, where we celebrated our achievement with sherry, champagne and Brenda
Prewer’s famous cake.  A last visit was
made to the bottom; it was a gloomy place now that the tackle and electric
lighting had been removed.  We exited,
and made our way to the Hunters’, releasing on the way an amphibian which had
taken up residence.  We rescued many
frogs, toads and newts over the years, and on one occasion a small adder that
had fallen down the shaft.  Thrushes
nested in the entrance shaft, and swallows raised families in the shed.  They were very tolerant of being disturbed by
the diggers and our noisy generator once a week.  So the Lodmore Hole dig came to an end.  Others may take up the challenge in later
years, but for us it was time to regroup and move on.  Chancellor’s Farm Dig was waiting.

DESCRIPTION 

The cave is located within a fenced area, entered via a
stile in the northwest corner.  Steps
lead to a path around the shaft to a wooden viewing platform.  This was beginning to deteriorate (April
2004) and should not be walked upon.  The
shaft is partly protected by a scaffolding fence.  All pitches have fixed ladders (safe in
2004).  The first entrance pitch of 10m
is roomy, with the near-vertical bedding plane wall on the left, and a joint
wall, with thin exposed beds at the back. There is a band of chert in the angle between the walls.  The rest of the shaft is a curved wall, built
to retain undug infill – the complete extent of the shaft is not known.  The ladder is a little short of the bottom,
but it is easy to reach the first platform, where No. 2 winch (‘John Ham’s’)
was bolted to the wall.  A low 3.7m crawl
under the hanging roof extends to the left. It was enlarged from a low passage, where infill running in from the
left had settled, leaving a gap under the roof.

The second 4.5m pitch leads to a slightly larger ledge, with
a side passage on the left similar to the one above.  The bottom of the third pitch (4m) is another
ledge, where the third winch was located. There is a scaffold bar cemented in place above the main pitch below,
and just below the lip on the far wall, a concrete lintel can be seen.  This was built to support some
unstable-looking rocks above.  Down to
this point, the natural rock can be seen to the right and ahead, but below the
lintel, all but the bedding wall was constructed of masonry, as the far (joint)
wall became very loose and needed supporting.

The next 16m pitch is descended by using three ladders.  The first, 5m deep and leading from the left
of the 3rd ledge, ends on a narrow platform. Opposite this point, and slightly
lower, an alcove can be seen in the bedding wall.  From there, three ladders (5, 3.5 and 2m) are
fixed to the back wall.  Halfway down the
second, the shaft begins to become restricted, and the jammed boulder,
discovered on 23/6/99, is passed.  The
bottom ladder ends on a very small ledge, from where an easy climb of 2m ends
on a backfilled boulder floor. From the foot of the final ladder, the opposite
wall is a cemented boulder ruckle.  By
ascending this, under the jammed block, a loose passage ascending for 3m along
the bedding wall to the south, can be seen. It lies under the ledges in the main shaft.  The loose floor has been stabilised by
cementing the stones at the bottom of the passage, but entry is not advised.

To all intents, the cave ends at the infilled floor, but
there is a continuation, now sealed, alongside the bedding wall, running to the
northwest.  Behind the seal, a low 2m
crawl, dug through the boulder ruckle, leads to a 1.5m drop into natural
passage.  There is little space to turn
at the end of the crawl, and most diggers chose to enter this feet-first.  The drop leads via some built steps into a
passage some 7m long and 2.5m high.  Some
rock has fallen from the beds on the left, which makes this a roomy place.  There are a few short stalactites and small
areas of flowstone, and red ochre fills some of the cracks in the left hand
wall.  At the end, the roof has some
phreatic tubes; it narrows and descends to a mud floor.  Although at the beginning the passage wall on
the right is solid rock, it soon gives way to the base of the boulder ruckle.  This is loose and unstable, but a view is
possible of a space through the boulders, descending to the left, slightly
offset from the passage.  This space was
never entered, and marks the end of the dig. The depth to the foot of the shaft (from datum, 2.7m below field level)
is 33m.  Total depth is 37m.

Few formations were found in the cave, although some white
flows and short straws are developing as lime is leached from the cemented
walls.  Lodmore Hole is an unusual site,
in that the bedding was nearly vertical. No significant lateral development was seen, and we can only speculate
about what the hole would look like if it was completely excavated, as is
currently happening at Templeton.  The
cave appears to be fault-related, and although the depth achieved is something
to be proud of, the logistics of spoil hauling did not allow us to come to a
satisfactory conclusion.

DIGGERS.

Over the years, members of the digging team came and
went.  The main clubs represented were
EMI and NHASA, with members of the BEC and WCC, and several non-club
diggers.  There were too many to be named
here.  On any one night between three and
24 diggers could assemble, in all winds and weathers.  Any interclub rivalries were set aside,
though there was plenty of leg pulling and in-jokes.  On one occasion, I asked for a bucket of
small stones for backfilling the wall, and was sent a kit – a few large rocks
and a lump hammer.  Woe betide anyone standing
at the foot of the entrance shaft when Albert Francis was in playful mood –
they might receive anything from a snowball to a bunch of nettles, depending on
the season.

ACCESS.

Permission must be obtained from the range warden at Yoxter,
and a telephone call to Lodmore Farm is necessary to ask to park in the
farmyard.  From the yard, walk to the
right of and behind the farm buildings, and cross a stile into a field (part of
the ranges) by a pond.  Turn left, and
follow a cattle track through gorse bushes to a gap in the wall leading to a
field on the left.  Head roughly south to
a gate into the next field, then southeast to the fenced depression.  Alternatively, at the gap in the wall, follow
the left hand fence to the field corner (this field is roughly triangular) and
crawl under the barbed wire fence.  Walk
to the nearest M.O.D. range notice, and continue straight on to the
depression.  WARNING:  although live firing does not occur on the
ranges, apart from at the butts, the area is often used, day and night, for
training exercises.  Do not enter the
ranges without permission, especially when red flags are flying – and keep an
eye open for RAF cadets lurking in the bushes!

Thanks are due to Ros Bateman and Vince Simmons for help
putting together the early history of the dig. The survey data was compiled by Kathy Glenton, and the survey was drawn
with help from Brian Prewer.  Photographs
are by Brian Prewer and the author.  A
more complete description of the dig is available, together with a collection
of photographs on CD-ROM.

 

 

Cave Rescue Practices

Mendip Rescue Organization Training Programme 2004
(These are also included in “Dates for your Diary”)

23rd October –
Rescue Practise, Eastwater

Including an evacuation from the bottom of Dolphin Pitch to
the top of the 380ft way and beyond if time permits.

As with last year’s

Thrupe Lane
practice this will be run by
the Caving Club team leaders and just overseen by MRO wardens.

A series of First Aid courses (First Aid in the workplace
certificate) are being planned for this year. More details will become
available as we have a clearer idea on how many people wish to attend. If you
would like to take part please contact me on the number below.

Further details can be obtained from:

Gonzo (Mark Lumley)
MRO Training Officer


WBCRT
Cave
Rescue Training Programme 2004

For those of you who live in

Wales
or want to go for a weekend
the below information may prove useful.

4th September – Technical Training Day.

Multiple workshops to cover pitch rigging, tyroleans,
stemples, etc. Venue is the SWCC headquarters at Penwyllt. Meet 10.00am prompt.

4th December – Big Rescue Practise in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu or Dan yr Ogof.

This will be another large scale practice in a major cave
system. Details will be finalised later in the year.

If you have any training queries or requests from West
Brecon Cave Rescue Team then please contact Jules Carter on
julescarter4@hotmail.com or tel. 02920 844 558.

Bertie Bat Enamel Badges

Available soon – Bertie Bat enamel BEC badges.

To enable us to afford them send a cheque for £4 (to include
postage & packaging) made out to BAT Products,

6 Tucker St
, Wells,

Somerset,
BA5 2DZ

or give J.Rat £3.50.

All profits to the Club

Consequences of Beer

The picture below shows the consequences of drinking too
much beer.

 

Hint: Look at it upside down.

BEC Working Weekends

Your help is needed on the following dates.  The more people that turn up the easier it is
for everyone.  Please put these dates in
your diary and make an effort to attend. You never know you might enjoy it!!

3rd & 4th July 2004
25th & 26th September 2004

Dates for your Diary

6th August 2004            20:30
– BEC Committee Meeting
3rd September 2004       20:30 – BEC
Committee Meeting
2nd October 2004          BEC AGM &
Annual Dinner
23rd October 2004         Rescue Practise,
Eastwater
5th November 2004        20:30 – BEC
Committee Meeting
3rd December 2004        20:30 – BEC
Committee Meeting

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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.