Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Joint Treasurers: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary / Hut Bookings : Fiona Sandford (958)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts

Acting Editor: Dave Irwin (aka –
BEC Web Page Editor:
Estelle Sandford
Librarian : Graham Johnson (aka- Jake)

Club Trustees: Martin Grass, Dave
Irwin, Nigel Taylor and


Cover photo:
Picture postcard of Fingal’s Cave, from the Marvels of Nature series published
by Lombard Chocolate,


c.1900. (From Dave Irwin’s collection)


The Club urgently needs a BB Editor. Dave Irwin is currently
Acting Editor. The BB not only informs members of the fine work currently being
undertaken by the members it is also the medium through which the Committee can
inform the membership of its actions asnd other club news.  So, where’s that budding editor?  Pay is low but the work is extremely



Ten years ago
this week I penned a “From the Belfry Table” article, gleefully explaining that
we had just celebrated our Sixtieth Dinner and had been only 2 persons short of
the magical 200 number. Well, ten years on and I can only comment that we were
only 2 short of 150 dining members at our Seventieth Dinner.  Sadly many faces are no longer with us,
however, many old friends were ‘arm twisted’ into coming, and, with little
exception, a good night was enjoyed by those who did attend. 

Member Number 1,
Harry Stanbury sent a personal message wishing the Club well, and stated that
being only 92 years of age, he still hoped to make it to the 75th!

Members will also be
to hear that Roger Dors was rushed into


a week after he and Jackie attended the Dinner. I will not make ill informed
comment on his ailment, but I am sure that everyone will wish him a speedy
return to good health, and extend any support to Jackie and the family that may
be needed.

Jayrat and team
continue well at

once again he has written some excellent accounts of his endeavours in the BB
for all to see.

A “Burns Night
will be run at the Belfry towards the end of January 2006 to raise
funds for the Extension and all are welcome, details from the Committee.

Dave Irwin has done
it again
, The massive “Mendip Cave Bibliography 2nd Edition” has been
produced. This two volume work was a mammoth undertaking, over 520 pages,
25,000 references and 1.1 million words, is a worthy addition to all caving club libraries and any caver’s

Starting in the
, we intend to run a series of “Little known

visits. These will be for the benefit of enthusiasts and novices alike. The
actual locations are still to be decided, more details will appear later.

Due to the absence of
a regular BB
, I believe that members have been kept generally in the dark
about what has been happening, or was about to happen on the Hill. It is my
intention therefore to work closely with the BB Editor, committee, and the
general membership to produce a “From the Belfry Table” newsletter in times of
BB sparsity. If this is to succeed, I shall need regular and up-to-date
snippets of caving and Club info to bring before the membership, PLEASE HELP.

Those who attended
the Annual Dinner
will recall that Roger and Jackie Dors, together with Les
Davies MBE (Senior Warden, Mendip Hills A.O.N.B),were our joint Guests of
Honour. Roger and Jackie were presented with a Welsh ‘Davy’ lamp as a measure
of thanks and the esteem in which the BEC hold the Dors family for present and
past generations. Roger in reply, warmly thanked the Club for the gift, which
they both accepted also on behalf of their family.

Les Davies has
written a letter of thanks, from which I quote; “….Would you be so good as to
thank everyone from the BEC for a splendid evening…it was a great pleasure to
spend the evening with you all and to be able to share in your 70th.
Anniversary….” He continued; “Caving and Mendip are inseparable…I do
consider you all to be pioneers, whom each year make more discoveries and
unlock more secrets of the Mendip Hills. Long may you all continue ”.

The Secretary has
suggested  to the Committee that we
pursue a pro-active approach to raising the interest in Caving locally. He put
forward a plan to write not only to local papers, but to contact Young Farmers
Clubs and other Youth groups to ascertain local interest. Whilst a minimum age
restriction of 16 exists within the BEC, these persons will obviously be the 16
to 25 year age group worth targeting to offer an insight into caving, and what
the BEC has to offer in particular.

Just so that you can plan to be away from Mendip if you want to miss the
Working Weekends, the dates are: 8th/9th January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th
July, and 24th/25th September, 2006. On the other hand we need you and your
skills, if you haven’t got any, well maybe you could turn up and learn some
from others for free!!.

Well, for the time being, its time to get down from the
table, regards to all,

Nigel T
Hon Secretary.


Vale – Steve Tuck

Some Memories of Steve Tuck:

Matthew Tuck had a father! He was Steve Tuck who joined the
BEC in the late 50’s and caved and climbed and rode motor bikes and drank beer
(and rough) and sang songs and was a generally all round good bloke.

Steve has just died at
leaving two lovely daughters, Beth and Jessica, his son Matthew and his second


Steve was one of the crowd who joined the BEC from the
National Smelting Company. He shared a flat in

with a couple of other BEC members. A
feature of their flat was a large astronomical telescope set up to view –
horizontally? All was revealed when it was explained that if you turned your
head upside down to make sense of the inverted image you could see the nurses
living opposite! 

He was an enthusiastic person and very good fun to be with
on the long trips in the early exploration of Cuthberts. He came on climbing
meets but became more careful after falling off a VS in the Avon Gorge. Many
years later I visited him in
Devon and we did
a climb on The Dewerstone where he chatted happily all the way up.

I have an excellent photograph somewhere of him hurtling
past the Belfry on an underpowered OEC; an antique motor bike. Steve maintained
that this stood for Old English Contraption. And not just motor bikes he liked
bicycles as well. Three of us, Lin. Steve and me, had a really good week bike
touring along the coast of


camping in tiny tents with Steve as a first class bike mechanic when things
fell off. He could mend anything.

Latterly we shared long walks and interesting conversations
when we could and I shall miss that.



Vale – Joan Bennett

Joan Bennett is no longer with us. She passed away on the
1st September in Axbridge after a long illness. The club has lost a member who was staunchly protective of the BEC and
who undertook many tasks requested of her with total commitment.

In her ‘teens she was involved with YHA and that is how she
made her connection with the BEC.  She met
and married Roy Bennett, and because of their common interest in skiing,
climbing and caving they slotted into the BEC’s wide ranging interests in these
sports during the 1950s and 1960s.

She not only caved and climbed regularly in the

. She climbed
in The Alps and was an active member on the two Austrian caving expeditions in
1965 when she descended the Hirlatz and in 1966 joined an international
expedition to the Raucherkarhohle where, with a party of BEC members, she
camped underground for over two days. On the way out

and ‘Wig’ wanted to get photographs of
the huge chamber, ‘Gigantedom’ and so they began setting up the cameras when
Joan caught up with them. After two days at near freezing conditions she threw
a wobbly and threatened


with a divorce if he didn’t make a move towards the cave entrance. So ended a
great photographic trip! She and Roy were strong members of a BEC expedition to
the deep potholes near Balague in the
liaising with Kangy and Georges Jauzion in 1970.

In 1967 she was caving in
and helped survey the
first explored by


and ‘Wig.’ It was a gloomy  place and one
could frequently feel ‘nasties’ swimming against the wet-suited leg in the 250m
Long Canal.


commented that he hadn’t known her to be so quiet, for so long, before! Joan
was the first woman to enter St. Cuthbert’s II in1969 and she helped Wig on a
number of surveying trips in the cave.

She and Roy were inseparable. They were immensely loyal and
supportive of each other so much so that they were referred to as “the
Bennetts”. When


took up pioneering hang gliding she often helped and on one occasion they
carried a 70lb machine to the top of Skiddaw.

flew down in a few minutes while Joan
trudged down resignedly hours later!

Roy’s death in a
mid-summer skiing accident near their retirement home at Newtonmore

, Joan
returned to Mendip inconsolable after her loss. However she built a new life in
her new home at Draycott where she had a fine collection of books and,
interestingly, caving paintings. Latterly she had several trips to the
Antarctic which she spoke about with great enthusiasm.

 Joan had a fine mind,
was a vigorous debater and held a number of posts in the club. For many years
she was librarian, then auditor and lately a trustee.  Whatever the task required of her she always
gave it her full attention and commitment. She leaves a large sized hole in our

‘Kangy’ and ‘Wig’


Vale – Albert Francis

Another loyal friend and Life member of the BEC has passed
away.  Albert joined the BEC on the 3rd.
July 1958. His introduction to caving was through Mike Palmer’s dad enabling
him to meet Herbert Balch at his Badger Hole excavations. He then met up with
the ‘3 Mikes’, Mike Baker, Mike Palmer and Mike Wheadon at the Wells YMCA

In the early days he helped on several building projects at
the Belfry site on the ‘Stone Belfry’ and the Carbide store.  For this he was elected an Honorary Life
Member.  Following the destruction of the
Belfry in 1969 Albert spent much time with others on the fabric of the new
Belfry, notably installing the electrics.

Albert was involved with several discoveries in Fairy Cave
Quarry but his main claim to fame occurred in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and Manor
Farm Swallet.  Albert was on the trip
that entered the September Series in St. Cuthbert’s along with Mikes Palmer and
Wheadon, Brian Prewer and Tom Neill.  He
and Kangy were later to be the first team to make the connection with Rabbit
Warren Extension and High Chamber, via Catgut Series and the notorious
Cross-Leg Squeeze.  Wig remembers being
the first non-UBSS members allowed into Bat Passage and Great Chamber with
Albert and Prew to view these fine passages..

For many years Albert was one of the mainstays of the NHASA
digging team, working at North Hill Swallet, Double Back, Twin T’s, Lodmore and
Chancellor’s Farm Dig but he declined working at Templeton as he said ‘it
wasn’t his scene!’

Nigel T remembers that in Manor Farm many happy hours were
spent digging with him.  The work
culminated with the hoped for breakthrough leading to NHASA Gallery. A feature
in the cave was christened in his honour “Albert’s Eye” for it gave him grief
on the first time he tried to pass it. . Once retired from active digging he
could be seen enjoying a half in the diggers company on a Wednesday night at
the Hunters. Albert was a gentleman with a twinkle in his eye to the last!

Kangy, Mr. ‘N’, ‘Prew
‘and Wig


On Surveying the World’s


by Tony Jarratt

“Wait till you see
Fingal’s Cave
properly. That’s the entrance to it there,” said Alistair, breathless with

Jane drew in her breath sharply. “It’s magnificent! …”

“To-morrow I’ll show it you from the inside. You’ll understand
then why people say its like a great cathedral. That other great opening in the
cliff is the

. Just round the
little headland here, is MacKinnon’s Cave. … There are more caves further up
the coast.”

“Gosh!” exclaimed Jane. “What fun to explore them

 “Do you happen to have
brought provisions for a week?” Alistair teased her. ”
Staffa‘s just riddled with caves.     

Fingal’s Ghost  1947

When, at the Grampian Speleological Group’s annual dinner,
Bob Mehew mentioned that he had a cunning plan to survey the sea caves of the
isle of
Staffa I was immediately captured. My
last (and only) visit was on July 5th 1976 in a 12 seater RIB  which took 45 minutes to cross from Ulva
Ferry on the

island of
. Since then I had
accumulated a great deal of books, postcards and pre-1900 engravings of
Staffa and its caves and was itching for a return visit.

“Off the west coast of
Scotland lies a lonely little island which has
probably won more world-wide renown than any other natural feature of

This famed islet is
Staffa. Foam-girt by
stormy Hebridean seas, it rises serene, presenting colonnaded cliffs and caves,
amazing not only in size but in form and symmetry. Since the island was
“discovered”, in 1772, its most imposing rock structure,
Fingal’s Cave, has ranked among the foremost of the
natural wonders of the world.”          
Staffa 1975

Once privately owned Staffa is now a Site of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the hands of the National Trust for


and is looked after by Scottish Natural Heritage. Bob’s well thought out
proposals to them, his professional risk assessment (he is a safety inspector
for Sellafield) and his general persistence persuaded them to allow a group of
six of us to camp on the island for several days in order to survey the major
caves and undertake scientific work on the columnar basalt pillars and marine
flora and fauna.

The only published survey of Fingal’s Cave found is that in
the first edition of MacCulloch but this is not drawn to scale though it has
many detailed measurements. All the main sites have been frequently measured
over the last two hundred years but the dimensions differ as much as the
enthusiasts themselves. Ours would be the first surveys done by cavers as
opposed to travellers or naturalists. Our “bible” for this
mini-expedition was to be ”
by Donald B. MacCulloch (MacCulloch, 1975).  Earlier editions of this erudite and encyclopaedic volume were titled
“The Isle of Staffa” and “The Wondrous Isle of Staffa”.
MacCulloch mentions the following caves of note:- Clamshell (Scallop) Cave,
Fingal’s (An Uamh Binn, An Uamh Bhin – Musical Cave, An Uamh Mhor – the Great
Cave), Boat Cave, MacKinnon’s Cave, Cormorants’ (Scarts’) Cave, Goat Cave,
Gunna Mor (Big Gun, Gun, Thunder Cave, The Cannon) and a cave on the western
coast which “hardly deserves this term”. He dismisses other possible
caves as of little interest. The 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey map shows five named
caves (MacKinnon’s being incorrectly located), seven unnamed caves and a
natural arch – totalling thirteen sites. Due to lack of time not all of these
sites were visited but they are almost certainly all caves from a speleological
point of view and two others, Gunna Mor and Horses’ Cave are not indicated on
the map at all. At least one more cave in the

north west
of the island can be added to
give a total of sixteen sites of interest to a caver. Also,


is in fact two separate and parallel caves – but let’s not push the point.

This project created surprisingly little interest in the
Scottish section of the Grampian though two prospective expeditionaries
unfortunately couldn’t make it due to work commitments – poor Dan Harries
having to earn a crust diving off the
Galapagos islands
– bless. Only


based John Crae (GSG) was a true native and the rest of the team were trawled
from south of the border. Bob Mehew (GSG / SMCC), Tony Boycott (GSG / BEC),
Vern Freeman (GSG / BEC), Duncan Butler (BEC / RUCC) and myself (GSG / BEC).
Also, a brief guest appearance by Canadian professor Stephen Morris gave us a
bit more scientific credibility. Our esteemed photographic team of Descent’s
own Chris Howes and Judith Calford were also, alas, unable to attend but
generously provided photographic equipment and advice.

For the Mendip contingent the expedition commenced, as is
traditional, in the Hunters’ bar on Tuesday August 16th. Next day the four
Sassunaichs drove north to meet Bob and John in Auley’s Bar in Oban from where
the car ferry was taken to Craignure on
In atrocious weather we drove across the south of the island to Fionnphort and
set up camp in driving rain at Fidden Farm. To dry out we were forced to sit in
the Keel Row Inn where plans were made for the next few days.

Luckily next day was dry, bright and sunny and, as arranged,
we boarded the good MB “Iolaire of Iona” – deeply impressing its
skipper, Chris Kirkpatrick, with the mountain of equipment piled up on the
harbour side! Chris had a load of tourists on board but was very laid-back and
we were soon on the high seas admiring seals, guillemots, kittiwakes and
cormorants on the one hour voyage to the “wondrous isle”.

Landing at the concrete jetty near Clamshell Cave was the
start of the first epic as the pile of kit was unloaded and painfully dragged
up the stairway to the island plateau out of the reach of the rising tide and
sea spray. The caving kit was dumped and the rest ferried to the centre of this
mile and a half circumference grass-covered rock where we set up camp.
Outstanding views of Mull,
Iona, the Treshnish
Isles, Gometra and Ulva surrounded us and once the tourists departed our only
companions were the birds and insects. As to the latter we initially thought
that we had got away with it until the breeze stopped and the fearsome Scottish
MIDGIES rose from the greensward to devour our lifeblood!

Once set up we immediately set off cave-hunting and Dr.B.
quickly found the obscure entrance to Gunna Mor situated in the basalt pillars
a few metres above sea level on the north side of Port an Fhasgaidh inlet. This
peculiar cave, later surveyed to a solid end at a mere 5.07 metres, is somewhat
of an anomaly on this basalt island. Inclined upwards at 35 degrees it
resembles a 1 metre diameter phreatic tube and theories on its formation
abound. A small “rockmill” pool at the entrance apparently once held
a large round stone weighing 5 lbs which was violently agitated in storms to
give the cave its name. A legend states that the stone was pinched before 1800
by Irish tourists.

With the island now devoid of visitors we followed the cliff
top around to
Fingal’s Cave where the tide was
rapidly rising. My Russian rubber dinghy – the Battleship Potempkin – was
inflated ready for next day and Bob, John and

commenced their separate tasks of
measuring the basalt pillars around the entrance of this stunning cavern. After
a meal at camp most then recced. the cliffs on the north and west sides of the

Friday 19th turned out to be another fine day with a few
showers. The surveyors continued with their projects while Tony, Vern and I
concentrated on crossing the sea inlet to
Fingal’s Cave.
Tony swam across and I followed in the Potempkin with Vern hanging on behind.

“Leaping into the boat, he
seized the oars and skillfully pushed out into the eddying sea; then, waiting
an instant for the reflux of an enormous wave, he was carried right in front of
the cave. Here the boat was nearly upset, but with a dexterous movement of the
oars, Oliver succeeded in keeping her straight. Had she been caught amidships ,
she would inevitably have been capsized.”…”A cry of horror came
from the spectators, for it seemed that the boat must inevitably be dashed
against the rocks to the left of the entrance.”         The Green Ray  1885

120 years later and nothing has changed! All exciting stuff
due to the swell and a certain inability on my part to swim. A rope was rigged
across the inlet and later used as a tyrolean (even more exciting!). The NW
wall of the cave was pegged and a length of handline installed for future use
by photographers and surveyors.

Now feeling cocky we carried on round the base of the cliff to
see if we could gain access to the permanently flooded


before which was a very rough sea inlet with a small and horrifically floodable
cave at the end – later to become labelled Horses’ Cave. In crossing this we
all had epics; getting smashed onto barnacle-covered rocks and almost being
swept out to sea to eventually become malodorous seawrack on the shores of

Considerably wiser we eventually relaxed in the much calmer water of the Boat
Cave inlet then took the Potempkin into the attractive and smoothly sculpted
tunnel ending in a slope of huge cobbles after some 50 metres. Compass and
clinometer readings were taken but the lack of a tape or laser measurer
precluded the survey from being completed. Photos were taken before a hasty retreat
was made to Fingal’s. It was noted that


is formed in the yellow tufaceous ash layer with the lower columnar basalt
layer forming the ceiling. This was also later found to be the case with
Horses’, Cormorants’, MacKinnon’s Caves and the sea-filled lower section of
Fingal’s Cave.

At Fingal’s we met Professor Steve who has done much work on
the cooling processes of lava to form hexagonal pillars and was luckily
holidaying in Scotland from his temporary base at Cambridge University. He had
arranged with Bob to meet up and exchange ideas. Back at the camp he was
impressed enough with our Wilkins’ Cider to ask for a second mug! (Our thanks
to Roger Dors for the supply of this elixir which certainly prevented scurvy
amongst the team). Unfortunately the midgies were also attracted by the nectar
so Vern, Tony, John and I scuttled off down the eastern cliffs to


– actually two parallel, short sea caves – and the adjacent Natural Arch, a
c.8m tunnel which Vern swam through. Rushing into


to avoid the midgies we disturbed thousands of sand fleas which were almost as
bad. Several wrens were flying around in the cave apparently feasting on these
unpleasant bugs. The cave was surveyed and photographed and a short, blind cave
nearby examined. These caves are located in the slaggy lava bed above the
columnar zones.

The evening working trip to Fingal’s was almost an overnight
one as the causeway to the cave was partially flooded by the tide on the
surveyors’ return and the handlines inside the cave were underwater – as were
Vern’s only trousers!

Saturday 20th was yet another day of superb weather and
having previously worked on the
Hebrides I was
thoroughly amazed. The noise of breakers hitting the cliffs or surging into the
caverns seemed particularly noticeable today, as was the screeching of the
sea-birds. At Fingal’s we found a great deal of carved graffiti whilst
searching for the inscription “J.B. 1772”. This had been noted by a
Miss Barker of


in 1928 and it was suggested that the initials were those of Sir Joseph Banks,
the island’s “discoverer” and populariser. Eventually I unearthed
“J.B.” but could not confirm the date. Many other dates, including
1776 and 1801, were found but most of the inscriptions are difficult to decipher
due to sea erosion and a thin algal film. A separate visit to record many of
these using brass rubbing techniques would be an interesting historical project
before they completely disappear. Not being allowed to chisel proof of our
visit I emplaced the ubiquitous “Bertie” sticker but suspect that it
was quickly removed by the Shepton element (good job he missed the second one).

Dr.B. donned his diving gear and swam the length of the cave
to report that there was no possible way on at the end – another legend
de-bunked. The shingle beach noted by MacCulloch had gone and been replaced by
large cobbles. Apart from a few small fish and crabs the only items of interest
in the depths were sections of the old iron handrail. The depth of the cave
floor was noted at several points as he swam back and out to sea. Here he swam
into a shoal of mackerel but missed the nearby seal and basking shark which we
had been admiring from the shore.

Bob captained the Potempkin, assisted by Vern, in order to
make a photographic record from the NW wall while John and Duncan persevered
with their measurements despite the growing crowd of tourists milling about.
Being redundant I went off on a solo trip to Cormorants’ Cave, shedding my
trousers to pass the knee deep pool in the strongly draughting connecting
passage to MacKinnon’s Cave. Here I was amazed to see Tony and Vern silhouetted
in the entrance. Tony joined me to complete a through trip whilst high on the
cliff top above a couple of tourists admired my shapely legs. (They were lucky
– I had intended to go for a dump!). This fine cave is almost as impressive as
Fingal’s and far more colourful, being decorated with pink algae, light green
and orange sponges, purple sea-anemones and white dog whelks in abundance.
There is an inaccessible high level passage which almost certainly connects
back to Cormorants’ but would need bolting equipment to reach. The cormorants
in residence may not take kindly to this.

Meanwhile Vern pushed the, at that time, unnamed cave
between Boat and Fingal’s for some 35 metres, taking advantage of the low tide
to avoid being pulverised by breakers. He reported it as still passable for
another 5 metres or so but discretion proved the better part of valour and he
retreated. The son of the boat owner David Kirkpatrick later told us that he
knows this as Horses’ Cave due to the “white horses” formed by the
tidal surges. Chris Kirkpatrick knows it simply as “The Blowhole” but
agreed with us that the former name is more suitable and has indeed now added
it to his tourist spiel.

In the evening Bob photographed along the SE wall of
Fingal’s, including some of the graffiti and Duncan and Tony swam to the end of
the cave, the former getting a good wave-bashing for his pains – and indeed,
causing them.

Before settling down for the evening cider, wine and whisky
a team planted stakes at the top of the west cliffs ready for an attempt on the
unnamed cave below next day.

Sunday 21st saw normal Hebridean weather at last as a
forecast front arrived with damp, overcast and breezy conditions soon turning
to continuous rain but at least keeping the midgies down. 15 metres of ladder
hung over the cliff gained access to a sloping, grassy ledge leading directly
into the SW end of this crescent-shaped cave and Dr.B. drew the short straw.
Duncan and I joined him and this pleasant but short cave was surveyed by taking
14 separate legs from a base station. Two side passages were relatively well
decorated with calcite “cave coral”. Huge amounts of driftwood and
fishing floats lined the back wall and gave us the field name of ”
– the finding of part of a plastic doll almost resulted in “Baby’s


but this was sadly rejected. A Meta merianae or
menardi (?) orb web and a large marine “woodlouse” were observed in
one of the decorated passages and at the other end of the cave, just outside
the drip line, three fat and fluffy gull chicks screeched at us from their

While Tony and I surveyed
traversed the base of the cliffs to the north to reach a triangular cave
entrance which Chris later told us he knew as ”


due to the noise of breakers entering when the swell is from the west. This
could not be entered due to high water but an adjacent cave was partially
explored by


for some 40m before a bold, wet step curtailed his progress. On the O.S, map
only one cave is marked at this point. Another visit using ladders from the
cliff top is needed. We now had to take advantage of the tide so all set off in
dribs and drabs to Cormorants’ Cave where Tony and I surveyed through the
strongly draughting connection passage into MacKinnon’s Cave. Bob, assisted by
Vern, completed a photographic record of the system.

With plenty of time left a one leg survey of Gunna Mor (five
minutes) was accomplished followed by an identical operation in

. Being thoroughly soaked we gave up
the idea of lunch and Tony, Duncan and I pressed on to survey Fingal’s starting
at Duncan’s EDM position and using a laser distance meter for the final leg to
avoid a watery grave in the maelstrom below.

“Before them opened a
spacious lofty cave, filled with a dim, mysterious light. The space between the
two sides of the cave, at the level of the sea, measures about thirty-four
feet; to the right and left the basaltic columns, wedged one against the other,
like those in certain cathedrals of the latest Gothic period, hide the main
supporting walls. From the top of these columns spring the sides of an enormous
pointed arch, which at its key-stone rises fifty feet above the average water-mark.”     The Green Ray, 1885

A few extremely bedraggled tourists heralded the arrival of
Iolaire of Iona so the opportunity was taken for a weather check with Chris who
informed us of force 9 winds forecast in two days time and suggested that we leave
Staffa the following day  to avoid an extended and doubtless miserable
extension of our holiday. We were happy to agree and sloshed our way back to
camp to dry out and fester for the rest of the day.

We awoke on Monday 22nd to a glorious day, possibly the best
yet, but were not going to be conned by the vagaries of
weather. Everything was dried out, the camp packed up and all our kit portered
back to the jetty. Tony and I returned to Fingal’s for one last trip in order
to check for magnetic anomalies by taking compass back bearings. None were
found. The others continued with their separate projects and Vern assisted Bob
with his short photographic survey of Gunna Mor before racing back to the jetty
to join Tony and I who were taking the first boat back with most of the kit. A
pleasant journey o’er the sea to Mull and the joys of unloading all the
equipment and packing it in various cars only added to our salt-spray induced
dehydration and before long we were installed in the Keel Row and on the outside
of some welcome McEwans 80/-. The others arrived at 5pm to join us in the pub
for some real food and a few more swallies. The weather had now deteriorated
and once again we set up our tents at Fidden Farm in the pouring rain.

We returned to Oban on the 23rd and the Mendip
contingent  were back in the Hunters’
that evening sampling the first decent ale in six days.

This expedition was very successful in the amount of work,
some unexpected, that was achieved in such a short space of time. Unfortunately
the loss of a day prevented some of the planned work being finished and coupled
with the realisation that the island is more cavernous than expected will
almost certainly result in a second visit next year. Bob is planning to write
up various scientific reports, including one for Cave and Karst Science. The
G.S.G. Bulletin and Descent will also have write-ups. I would like to express
our thanks to Bob for the inordinate amount of work he put in on this project
and for the privilege of becoming temporary inhabitants of the, truly, Wondrous

“To those who have set foot
Staffa on fine summer days, the
friendliness of this tiny island remains with them for ever, and keeps a place
in their hearts, even if they may never return.”     
Fingal’s Cave   1961



Anon,  April/May 2005,
Fatalities at Fingal’s,  Descent (183),

Fidler, Kathleen, 1947, Fingal’s Ghost,  John Crowther Ltd.

Jones, Rosalind, 1997,
in the Making,  R. Jones.

Oldham, J.E.A, July 1974, Fingal’s Cave,
Staffa – by Air,  British Caver,  vol. 62, pp.75-78.  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony,  January
2004,  The Caves of

Bibliography,  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony, 2004, The New Caves of

,  A. Oldham.

Scott, Thea, 1961,
Fingal’s Cave,  Pandora Press.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1927 (1st edn.),  The Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1934, 1957 (2nd and 3rd edns.),  The Wondrous Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1975 (4th edn.), 
Staffa,  David & Charles.

Verne, Jules, 1885 (reprinted 2003),  The Green Ray,  Wildside Press.

de Watteville, Alastair, 1993,  The Island of Staffa – Home
of the World Renowned Fingal’s Cave, Romsey Fine Art.


Bob Mehew for the initial idea, thorough organization and a
great deal of hard work.

BCA and DCA for the loan of the Disto laser measurer.

BCRA for a grant to assist with the hire of the Total



I thought as my 70th celebrations
and the BEC’s and fifty plus years in The Club nearly coincided I’d send a
climbing article to cause some editorial consternation.    


My birthday was actually last year and on the 5th May last
year Janet and I stayed at her Club Hut the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club
“Black Rock Cottage” in Glencoe. We had the intention of climbing Buachaille
Etive Mor by way of the North Buttress. We woke up to the dreary sight of clag
down to roof level and the bottom of the Buttress covered on snow. So we went
to the ‘Ice Factor’ the big climbing wall at Kinlochleven instead. It was warm
indoors but hardly a celebration. We asked for and got an OAP discount.

This year, suddenly, we had free time and a spell of good
weather and at the beginning of August had lovely sunny day climbing the 1000
ft North Buttress from the bottom to the summit.

Taking the Lagangarbh path from the road we got to the
buttress easily in a half an hour. The route, my old guidebook says, was first
climbed in 1895 following the line shown in the photograph.

”Start at the centre of the buttress and climb to the foot
of the steep section Traverse right to the Great Gully and take the easiest
line above.”

After the initial scramble through heather and rocky bits we
romped up nice easy angled slabs until the buttress wall loomed.

The ledge we were on was in sunshine, it was 12.30 and so we
munched lunch.    

Janet can be seen on the lower slabs silluetted against the
steep section of the climb. The route tends to the right hand edge and then
jags back to climb steep cracks in the centre.

Rucksacs were repacked, crumbs wiped from sticky fac

es and
the intriging move to the base of the next section started. We peered into the
void of the Great Gully. Lovely We moved rightwards along a narrow gangway
which was beautifully exposed. Rounding a corner we found a perfect belay below
the next section; the vertical chimneys. Three of them as it turned out.      

Happily it was my turn to lead and I enjoyed the good holds,
the interesting position and the feeling of being on a real mountaineering
route, Janet did the next slab pitch to another chimney. This one was partially
blocked by a large boulder. I heave-hoed over it. Janet was subtler and found a
better and more graceful way of climbing it. After that we happily wandered
diagonally left until the ground became less steep and we could see the

which is near the top of Stob

Ten minutes later we had arrived on the only summit in the
area free from cloud. So we decided that it was our 70th Birthday Climb and we
dedicated it to my favourite Club.


Happy Birthday BEC.

From Kangy

Membership Fees are now due for RENEWAL

If you pay before 30th November 2005 the discounted rates

Single membership – £30;  Joint membership – £44

For those requiring caving
insurance there is an additional charge of £15 per head

After 1st December 2005 the rates are:

Single membership – £35; Joint
membership – £49

Caving insurance as above

All Membership Fees should be given or sent to:

The Membership Secretary :  Fiona Sandford, Priddy, Wells,


Do not put in with the hut fees or leave in The Belfry –
there is no guarantee it will get to me!


Digging for Cheese

By Prof.  Will Shrabbit, Dept of Comestibles,

University of
[arranged via J’Rat]

I remember as a small boy, the excitement of the first lunar
landings. NASA had managed to propel a tin can full of people to the moon and
back using less computer power than an average modern mobile phone.  This “small step for a man” was not only a
“giant leap for mankind”, but analysis of the rock samples collected enabled
scientists to dispel an age-old myth. The moon, it turned out, was not made of cheese!  This of course came as no surprise to
geologists.  Cheese, being of sedimentary
origin, could not possibly have formed in the water-free lifeless lunar

Here on earth, cheese is normally found in association with
limestone rocks, Wensleydale and


are among the best known examples. The West of England is particularly well
blessed with cheese, with two of the largest outcrops occurring in the Mendip
hills, these being at Cheddar and in the area immediately west of Frome.  Cheese has been extensively quarried in
Cheddar since the iron-age leaving the huge excavation now known as Cheddar
Gorge as an impressive monument to the cheese quarrying industry.  Now silent apart from the wind and the birds,
it is difficult to imagine that this was once the workplace of hundreds of
“cheesemen” and the source of around sixty million tons of Cheddar cheese.

The other, less well known source of Mendip cheese was the
area west of Frome around Whatley, Mells and Leigh-on-Mendip.  The large workforce who worked the quarries
included a number of French immigrants whose experience of Brie borehole
drilling was invaluable.  It was from
this French connection that Frome received its name. “Frome”  being derived from “fromage”, (French for
cheese).  All known deposits have now
been worked out and the parent carboniferous limestones are now worked on a
large scale.  The only permanent reminder
of the cheese quarrying industry in this area is the Frome cheese show, which
is now in its 128th year.

Early cheesemen were aware that the Cheddar deposit was a
finite resource and would eventually become exhausted.  A great deal of effort was devoted to finding
a sustainable substitute and it was eventually discovered that cheese could be
produced from grass. The process makes use of cows, which eat the grass,
producing milk.  The milk is then allowed
to rot in controlled conditions, producing a slurry.  The aqueous component of the slurry is
separated, and the retentate is stored at ground-rock temperature (often in
caves to mimic natural geological conditions). The resultant material becomes
cheese after a period of hardening and maturation.  Cheese produced in this manner is virtually
indistinguishable from quarried cheese. Most modern cheeses are produced by this process.

Cheese quarrying probably peaked around the seventeenth
century, and slowly declined until around 1840, after which, few (if any)
quarries remained working.  As the
quarries became exhausted, many were abandoned and the cheese barons switched
to the production of cheese from grass. Other cheese barons were quick to respond to the growing demand for
road-metal and limestone aggregates which occurred around the same time as the
demise of cheese quarrying. They converted their quarries to limestone
production and many of these quarries are still working today.

Although there is undoubtedly plenty of cheese left in the
Mendip hills, there are now no working quarries.  Cheese can still occasionally be found in
stalagmitic forms in Mendip caves, sometimes in the form of straw stalactites,
(probably the original “cheese straws”).  Formations are now protected by law and must not be removed or
defaced.   Cave-cheese would have been a
magnet for hungry prehistoric animals. Banwell stalactite cave for example still contains fine examples of
stalagmitic cheese, whereas the nearby Banwell bone cave was almost completely
stripped of cheese by hyenas and brown bears. Many animals became lost or suffered falls underground in their quest
for cheese, and the bones of these unfortunate creatures can still be found
throughout the cave.  Shallow
surface-deposits of cheese are occasionally found by farmers who have right of
ownership by ancient charter, to any cheese found on their land.  These deposits are usually quickly quarried
away for home consumption, and the news only reaches the cheese geologists long
after the event!

While most of the evidence of cheese quarrying has now been
obliterated, one may still occasionally find artefacts and snippets of cheese
quarrying history.  Pubs in the

levels often
adorn their walls with what they claim to be “peat cutting” tools.  These are more often than not, the very tools
that the cheesemen of Cheddar would have used all those years ago.  A few phrases in our spoken language also
reflect this bygone industry:  To be
“cheesed off” for example, now refers to being unhappy. This derives from the
days when a cheese quarryman would be laid off for the day because of bad
weather, and would therefore earn no pay. Another phrase worthy of note is “hard cheese”, meaning “bad luck”. This
derived from the time when a quarryman would hit a harder patch of cheese in
the quarry, and would have to work longer hours to extract it.

The phrase “as different as chalk and cheese” probably
derives from one of the first skills that a cheeseman would have had to
learn.  It was essential (although not
difficult) to tell the two apart in a cheese and limestone quarry. (Limestone
is often referred to as “chalk” by quarrymen; chalk is a variety of
limestone).  While both are high in
calcium, nobody likes too much limestone in their sandwiches!

The geological origin of cheese is thought to be similar to
that of coal, coal being the fossilised derivative of carboniferous forests.  Cheese is of a far more recent geological
origin, and would have been formed from the fossilisation of the Cretaceous
grasslands.  The grass would have decayed
to a viscous fluid (as in the modern cheese making process) and flowed into
hollows and fissures in the country rock, where it would have hardened and
matured at the ideal storage temperature.

What of the future of the cheese quarrying industry now that
all the known larger outcrops have been worked out?  Extraction of the remaining deeper deposits
would require large-scale overburden removal or shaft mining techniques.  Extensive pumping operations would be
necessary to extract sub-aquifer cheese, which would be prohibitively expensive
and environmentally unacceptable. Now that cheese making from grass is so cost
effective, it is unlikely that cheese quarrying could ever again become
economically competitive.  Small scale
cheese prospecting has resulted in periodic attempts to open small cheese
workings, but planning applications are generally refused on environmental
grounds or simply not taken seriously by the planning authorities.

‘Cheddar in a Cheese’ – From an old postcard in Wig’s

Gaping Gill Meet –

A Way

Of Life.

Mike and Tobias Wilson.[VSB]This year I decided to attend
the Craven meet in August.  Originally the
plan was to spend a week on the Gill camping and caving on my own. To make up
for spending the last 3 years struggling with knee problems and a gallstone op.
this all changed when my Grandson, Hilary, and Kath said they would like to
visit the cottage and do some walking as well .

Eventually Tobias decided he would like to attend the Meet
for a few days to see if he liked it!! Pete Gray kindly offered me the use of
his tent [to save my knees] and this made it possible for me to arrange a carry
within my capabilities. Many thanks to Pete who made the trip possible; I hope
you enjoyed the rental!!

Vsb and I decided to walk up to the Gill on Friday
morning.  Tobias became Vsb because it
has many differing interpretations, e.g. very small boy, very smart boy, very stupid boy, ad infinitum. His
father had packed his rucksack and it seemed quite heavy to me, but before we
got away there occurred a small mishap. I locked the car in the Craven PC car park, went to clip the keys onto
my belt for safety and missed dropping them to the floor and lo and behold
straight down the only drain in the area!! [as Sean would say ‘what a to do’!!]

First we used a broom handle to find the depth of the drain
whilst dodging cars and motorbikes. It was very deep. Then we tried to lift the
drain cover but it was glued in with tarmac. So we borrowed a crowbar from the
dig store and prised the cover up. Luckily, by stripping off to the waist and
diving full length into the drain, [Cath held my feet] I managed to grope in
the foul sludge and find the keys.!!  Vsb
was volunteered to be lowered in by his feet but he refused to co operate!!

And so onward to Clapham and upwards. Vsb struggled with his
heavy pack but with a modicum of assistance from the rest of us he did very
well to make it the Gill. We settled into Pete’s tent which turned out to be a
trick one. If you open the wrong end you can’t get in!! A brew ensued of course
and Vsb reported the following conversation across the Beck. “Neville we have
got your burgers.” Neville replies “How much do I owe you?”  The answer was holding up the empty packet
“Nothing, we have eaten them all!!” 

I introduced Tobias to the intricacies of meet life and
signed him and myself up for disc duties that afternoon. He had great fun
selling postcards to the tourists and the odd poster after we found them
cunningly concealed in a tub. Just to add to the fun we had a superbly
indecisive grockle who wanted to take his family of 6 down, but wasn’t sure how
much time they had!! Having held the queue up for some time with ponderings
over the 2 hour wait, plus the 25 min guided tour and a guesstimate wait for
the return, he bought 6 tickets and was given his discs. A large queue and 1
hour or so later he came back and asked if he could possibly have a refund. We
complied and breathed a sigh of relief. I used to be indecisive but I think I am ok now!!

Later that evening Vsb and I decide to go to the Trenchfoot
Arms, and try the toxic daddy longlegs plus the excellent Marilyn beer. There
is so much to do on the hill!  Tom asked
me to spell him at the bar for an hour so Vsb learned very quickly how to pull
pints, to the tune of “that’s a short pint lad.” and other kindly comments. He
passed the test fairly well !!

Neville very kindly aimed his telescope at the Moon which
was full and extremely bright [a fantastic sight] and then apologised for the
fact that we could not see the American Flag that night. We think Osama Bin
Laden has hidden it!!

All weekend the weather was very bright and sunny, with
bright moonlit evenings. A wonderful sight when urinating at 3 o’clock in the

Saturday dawned with the arrival of the tractor. A certain
member, Nellie, was given the Bell Award – to be worn around the neck all day –
for having a large cool box break on him spilling all the tins everywhere. Vsb
and I had a lazy midday looking for crinoids in the Beck and then did a spell
guiding in the Gill. Vsb’s first time. At the end of our shift we had to search
for 2 missing tourists who had strayed from the main chamber. We checked Sand
Chamber and back to Bar Pot.  That was
far enough for VSB. Luckily the other group found them in the region of  Mud Hall.

That night it was back to the Trenchfoot Arms for copious
amounts of beer. There was the usual sneaky filching of food served by the beer
fairies; onion bargees very tasty! Brian the role model dog, the complete
opposite of Eddie autobark, followed me back to my tent, whereupon he snuggled
up to Vsb and fell asleep much to Vsb’s surprise the next morning when he woke
up with a hairy muzzle in his face!

Just a comic note from Cath : by order of the 3rd Reich when
using the toilet tent [for a big jobbie] you can only use 2 sheets of paper per
person you can use both sides of the paper YUK although with permission of the
leader 3 sheets can be used if you have a particular problem .[ I guess that
this means the leader has to inspect your glutimus maximus before issuing you
with a personal 3rd sheet .This definitely caused a fit of the Gaping Gill

Having come off the hill we retired to the Crown that night.
Has this pub become a repository for foreign labour? Cath went up to the bar to
order a round and asked for a packet of pork scratchings. The barman said “Pork
scratchings, vass ist thees?  He then
looked along the shelves and asked “Is it a viskey?” much to the amusement of
the few drinkers there. We spent the rest of the evening making up pork
scratching jokes. In spite of only limited time underground due to my knees we
had a great time with a lovely crowd of people; many thanks to them all. The
pub incident was a great end to our
trip .

This article is not intended to be a hairy blow by blow
account of tough
Yorkshire caving ,more an
insight into the spirit of caving meets .

PS Eddie autobark is a real dog who has been adopted from a
rescue centre .He is a lovely well behaved mutt but cannot resist barking at
everything .Brian is a stuffed full size toy Labrador who has been adopted by
Neville Lucas and most other people ,he is so lifelike that when he is sat by
the tent with his drinking bowl people have been seen patting him !!


Dates for your diary, 2005-6


Club Committee Meetings : [First
Friday of each month commencing at 8 pm.]

CSCC Meeting at the Hunters’
Lodge Inn – 3rd December, 10.30am

Caving Events Week. Charterhouse
Field Centre, 12th – 16th December, all at 7 pm. 

Costs shown in []

12th : History of Swildon’s Hole
– Dave Irwin  [£4];

13th : Film : A Rock and a Hard
Place [£2] ;

14th : Mendip Rescue Organization
[£4, donated to MRO] ;

15th : Cave Diving – John
Volanthen [£4] and

16th : Try Caving ! [5.30 – 8.30
pm [£13.50]]


Working Weekends : 8th/9th
January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th July, and 24th/25th September, 2006


The Caves on Brean Down

By Nick Richards and
Nick Harding

Brean Down is a limestone promontory jutting out into the
Bristol Channel just south of Weston-S-Mare. It is some
3.5km long and no more than 0.5 km wide. The limestones dip at c 40 degrees to
the north.  Apart from Reindeer Rift
(Barrington and Stanton, 1977) no other caves have been described.

There are numerous sea caves – rifts and bedding planes
formed in washed out Neptunean dykes and mudstone bands – averaging between 20
– 30 feet in length. They are so numerous that only two sites are of special
interest. There is only one phreatic cave.

All the caves are located in the sea cliffs on the north
side of the down.



Length 31m, VR >6m

At the east end of the down near Half Tide Rock (NGR
30215892) Inclined bedding cave with an entrance 5m wide and 0.8m high. A fine
traverse across the bedding for 31m leads to a second entrance in a cove to the
west. The second part is rather restricted but some flowstone and a crab
infested rock pool adds interest.



Length 54m, VR >15m

Located in a major embayment in the cliffs directly below
the WWII gun emplacements (NGR 29655895) 

At the back of the cove is a double entrance to an extensive
bedding cave, bisected by fallen blocks. (Dipping 40degrees N). The left hand
section (to the east) is 19.5m long, 0.6m high and at least 6m wide before the
bedding pinches in upslope. The traverse passes some extensive red flowstone
slopes with ribbon formations on the roof in places. Near the end an easy
squeeze over jammed footballs reaches the ‘terminal’ grotto where there is a
group of small but attractive stalactites.

The right hand section is more extensive. A similar traverse
westwards in a passage 10m wide and 0.6m high reaches a dead end after 25m.
There is more flowstone, ribbon formations and a few small stalactites

Part way along the traverse daylight enters through an 8m
rift forming a third entrance. These formations came as a complete surprise to
us – one does not expect to find stal grottoes in a sea cave.

3. Fiddler’s


A proper phreatic cave! 15.9m long over a vertical range of
6m. (NGR 28755915)

A superb inclined circular entrance 4.5m wide leads after 8m
into a 5m high chamber displaying a profusion of phreatic solution hollows. At
the back of the cave and in the roof of the chamber is a rift choked with ochre
and Pleistocene? gravel. The deposit must have once filled the rest of the cave
and been washed out by the tides as some gravel remains welded to the back of
some of the solution hollows. Note the limpet scouring marks on the entrance
‘kerb’. This cave is almost certainly more extensive and has the appearance of
a fossil resurgence.

Note: Brean Down Resurgence

50m or so to the west (along the cliffs) is an interesting
feature. A small patch of red brickwork blocks up a hole about a metre up the
cliff face. This has been done to divert a flow of fresh water through an
adjacent crack into a natural rock basin below – from which small stream flows
down the beach. It fails in dry weather. This brickwork probably dates from the
time when there was a short-lived attempt to build a harbour on the north side
of Brean Down.

Acknowledgement :
Thanks to Mark Helmore for his snaps, much appreciated!


Further Work in


Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga
from BB522.

Further Digging 22/6/05 – 5/10/05

       On the hot and
insect-infested evening of the 22nd June Phil Coles and Ben Ogbourne did a magnificent
job of hauling out 48 skiploads dug from all three phreatic tubes in Paul’s
Personal Project. Pete Hellier also brought out one newt. Several gallons of
brackish water poured into Bored of the Rings reappeared (at least partly)
halfway down the corkscrew wriggle to Aglarond. On the morning of the 24th the
writer took advantage of imminent heavy thunderstorms to insert the leat pipe
into the entrance then rushed to work to flog wellies to Pilton Festival goers!
Returning on the 26th with Fiona Crozier it was found that surprisingly little
floodwater had entered the cave (it being realised later that the leat was
blocked). A dozen or so bags were filled and stacked but further work was
prevented by a large boulder in the floor. This was banged by the writer next
day and Tony Audsley hauled out 23 loads which Rich Witcombe emptied. The
debris was cleared by a seven man team on the 29th when about another 40 loads
came out.

     July digging
commenced on the 4th with Fiona excavating down through boulders while three
old gits hauled back the spoil. Even more old gits hauled 51 loads of it to the
surface two days later, including a few bags from Pete’s Baby and yet another
grateful newt. 20 more loads emerged on the 10th and another 8 next day. It was
now apparent that the dig below the connection point – henceforth known as
Connection Dig – was potentially unstable and would require shoring before
further work could be done. On this trip some 5m of new passage was explored by
the writer, assisted by
Estelle Sandford,
above the most southerly point in Aglarond 1 and is probably where water
sinking in the original dig site enters the cave. An interesting choked bedding
plane was earmarked for future investigation. Tony A. and John Noble assessed
the hanging death in Connection Dig, Rich W. constructed a new spoil heap wall
and surface workers Bob Smith and Ian “Slug” Gregory cleared out the leat and
washing pond to enable the stream to flow freely.

     Shoring of the
Connection Dig commenced on the 13th with Tony commuting to the surface to cut
timber then repeating the operation when it didn’t fit! He was assisted by Ben.
On the same evening the writer, John and Gwilym Evans started work in the
Aglarond 1 high level dig (A1 Dig) which seems to be at an horizon of ancient
phreatic tubes and has a steady draught. A couple of hours of awkward digging
gained some 2m of descending passage which desperately needed enlarging and
making safe. Our impression was that it lies on the line of the main fault and
heads SE, above and parallel with Aglarond 2. Two days later a charge was fired
to break up three large, loose boulders in the dig and the resulting debris was
cleared on the following evening when access was gained to a steeply descending
tube on the north side of the dig. A vocal connection with Aglarond 2, some
distance below, was established. Sunday 17th July saw three diggers hauling a
large slab and many bucket loads of spoil from the dig until the cold draught
drove them out to the heat-wave above. Even more came out next day when the
bucket was replaced by a skip and the crawl to the dig face enlarged.
Eventually Fiona was able to squeeze down into some 2m of pleasant, flat roofed
bedding passage running back under the crawl and having a floor of calcited boulders.
This became “Fi’s ‘Ole” after the following enthusiastic invitation was
issued:- “In a minute you can all ‘ave the joy of lookin’ at my  ‘ole”! Meanwhile, somewhere above, Tony and
Mike Wilson emplaced a second pit-prop in the Connection Dig. An attempt to
trace the draught from A1 Dig to Connection Dig using a joss stick failed.
Digging continued in A1 Dig on the 20th and on the 22nd four long shotholes
were drilled in obstructing boulders and a 40gm cord charge fired, the debris
from which was cleared next day when another four hole charge was fired to
remove more large slabs blocking the route towards a tantalising void just
visible ahead.

     This void was
entered on the 25th after much clearing of rock, clay and cobbles by the Monday
morning team; today Vern, Tony A, Rich W, Estelle and the writer. It proved to
be another section of “passage” with a solid left wall but boulder ceiling and
right wall. The novelty was that it had taken a sharp left turn. After a couple
of hours enough spoil was cleared to give us some 3 metres of progress – not
much but as Richard would say, “Not without interest!”. Another c.3m was gained
on the 27th when John N. pushed forwards under the hanging death to enter a
small boulder chamber with a relatively solid left wall and a potential dig in
the floor. At least we could now turn round at the end. Many bags of spoil were
hauled out by Pete H. and stacked in Aglarond 1 and these were taken to the
foot of the Corkscrew climb by Andy Norman and Ernie White on the 29th. The
writer and Chris Batstone cleared more spoil from the entry to the terminal
chamber on the 31st and after some tentative digging at the end it was decided
that the place was too unstable to push further. Indications were that drainage
was back towards Fi’s ‘Ole and that this should be cleared out in an attempt to
find a bedding passage below A1 Dig and above Aglarond 2.

     August 1st saw
work recommence at the Connection Dig where John N. revealed the start of a low
passage descending back under the floor of Bored of the Rings. Estelle and Rich
W. hauled out 15 loads from here and the writer returned in the afternoon to
bang the lip of this passage. He cleared the spoil next day and on the 3rd
further work was done here and another charge fired to enlarge the passage
entrance. Also all the spoil from the foot of the corkscrew was hauled to
surface – 24 loads in total – plus the obligatory newt. Following further
sessions on the 5th and 7th August it became obvious that the way on in the
Connection Dig was not over large. Directly above the drop down to this dig an
initially promising site was cleared of the usual clay, gravel and cobbles with
22 loads out on the 7th  and another 29
out on the 8th  when it was established
that this was merely an alcove with several tiny phreatic inlets. Tony A. did
some token digging in the P.P.P. upper phreatic tube but decided that the
rock-breaker was needed to make life easier. In desperation a three shothole
charge was fired in the floor of the Connection Dig. The resulting 12 loads of
spoil came out on the 10th (along with a frog) and another three holes were
drilled and fired. Digging, hauling and stacking also took place in the A1 Dig.
Two days later the spoil from the last bang was bagged and stacked. Fi’s ‘Ole
saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then regularly throughout September
and into October with lots of tedious bag hauling, particularly up the
Corkscrew. 98 more loads had reached the surface by the 5th October. Hannah
Sarjent of

undertook CO2
testing in the cave as part of her dissertation – with negligible results. Work
has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this now has little

Additional diggers

Andy Watson (MNRC), Ian “Slug” Gregory,
Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson, Amy Cork, Andy
Norman, Ernie White, Toby Maddocks, Sam Batstone, Henry Bennett, Hannah Sarjent
(Sussex University), Carole White, Nick Gymer, Kev Gurner; John Wilson, Alan
Richards, Jim Lee, Rob Norcross (MOLES).


“Slopperations” :  a note on recent
digging activity below Pewter Pot, Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink

By John ‘Tangent’

Since the initial major discoveries made in Hunters’ Lodge
Inn Sink during 2003,  potential dig
sites located in the deepest parts of the cave have remained flooded. This
resulted in the diggers attention turning firstly elsewhere within the cave,
and ultimately  elsewhere on the Hill.
The long period of dry weather experienced this year has enabled digging to be
recently resumed in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink.

Digging efforts are being focussed upon the formerly flooded
Slop 3 site, located at the base of the Pewter Pot Pitch. Slop 3 was first
examined in late 2003, by  Trevor Hughes
who had viewed the site in low water conditions and reported a passage
described as a canal continuing beneath a roof of uncertain quality. It was not
pushed at the time , as the rest of the regular diggers were away in

. Since
that time the site has remained flooded, the only other notable visit being by
Fiona who undertook a practise dive, in approximately 5-6m of water.

Recent digging trips have concentrated on bailing the site
dry(ish), which takes approximately 30 minutes. The water is disposed of down Slop 1, and does not return to
refill Slop 3 (at least during the duration of digging sessions). Spoil is
being removed in buckets, then stored  in
large bags at the base of the pitch. The occasional large rocks which are found
within the slop are being used to build a wall to hold back the spoil, and also
help stabilise the slope running down to the dig site.

It is intended to install a small bilge pump to make the
removal of the standing water more efficient, and with the progress during
recent digging sessions it should be possible to continue digging into the
winter months.

Hair of the Dog Sump (now completely dry), located beyond
Slop 1 enroute to

Brown Ale
, has also  been investigated. Digging has been  undertaken amongst mud, gravel  and large boulders which will need banging if
further progress is to be made there.

Digging sessions are taking place on Wednesdays / Sundays.

All welcome, although visitors beware that the insitu ladders
are both old and a little too short!

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Mad Phil for banging a large
boulder blocking  the route through Slop
1. Thanks to all the ‘bailiffs’ & ‘sloperatives’ who have worked at this
site to date.


William Eggy-Belch

The man and his orifices. Being a brief history of one of the lesser-known gentlemen of

caving history
of the 18th century.

(A result of half a dozen requests)

By  Nick “ Hawkins *” Harding

Ed. Note : Nick presents the last in the series.

Author’s note: William
Eggy-Belch has often been mistaken for one John Aubrey of Chippenham due to
their almost simultaneous altering of their nomenclatures. William Eggy-Belch
was born Jonathan Aubrey while John Aubrey was born Aaron Henkels Electrometer.

Contemporary image of William Eggy-Belch complete with
familiar egg mess on his left breast.

In his liberating
and little known book The Sounds My Feet
, William Eggy-Belch the one time sand yachting Epicurean vicar of
Bridgwater often made it clear to his erstwhile flock that humour, particularly
that of a flatulent nature, was the key to a long and richly fulfilling life.
His oft quoted mantra ‘Tis a pour arse
that canst nay rejoice
’, has now entered into

ignominy. Indeed no gentlemen’s
excursion that he attended was complete without his gaseous exuberance. He
could often be heard ‘letting one loose’
in Wookey Hole where his ‘boisterous
reports echoed full long and hard
’ sounding, as highlighted in one
contemporary diary entry by his colleague and fellow caver Isiah
Komputer-World, like the ‘blasted,
concussive and thunderous eructions of some sulphurous goblin

Peter St John
Being, his roommate at Cambridge, who remained a lifelong friend, often regaled
the fellows of the high table with stories of the ‘industrious colonic machinations’ of his Somerset friend,
manufacturing a reasonably faithful facsimile of his rumbustious privy noises,
as punctuation, during after dinner speeches made by the Dean, who history
recalls, ‘as the most persistently
tedious dullard in all of Christendom

After studying
theology Eggy-Belch returned to his beloved Wells, via a brief detour as a man
of the cloth in Bridgwater (little is known about his activities there except
that he mastered the fine art of sand yachting), where he took on the task of
restoring the biblical compliance of the local heathenish miscreants of that
parish. Realising that a fire and brimstone attitude would push them further
away from a life of pious worship Eggy-Belch introduced a humorous element in
his sermons through the use of bodily gas. It was reported, although one is led
to think that it is nothing more than a mythic nonsense, at least apocryphal
guff (no pun intended) that he could quote Psalm 23 in one rude out-blast of
air. What is not clear is which orifice he was using.

Eggy-Belch would
often address his congregation sporting a varied selection of in-season fruits,
stitched to his vestments while regaling his rapt audience with tales of his
derring-do in the privies of the county in which he would often wait for an
unsuspecting party to utilise the adjoining convenience then let slip the fogs
of warmth, usually on the back of a thunderous outpouring of noise. 

While travelling in
the area to administer his priestly duties he could often be seen furiously
bouncing down the lanes of Somerset on his ‘font-astic’
a pogo-stick, of his own creation, fashioned from a stout ash pole with a small
ewer of holy water with which he blessed anyone who happened to be passing. He
always sported a smear of egg on his coat from his ‘excessive haste consuming his morning comestibles in the form of
breaking his fast
with the fruits of
the chicken
.’ (Isiah Titty, Memoirs
of A Somerset Git

Sadly his clerical
existence was brought up short after badly bruising the Bishop of Bath and
Wells, Jeremiah Alternating-Whippet, with a desperately mistimed biff to the
hooter, the result of which was a dramatic bout of public defrocking not ten
feet from the walls of Wells cathedral. Despite Eggy-Belch’s skill with a
mitre, soundly thrashing his opponent in under three rounds, it was not long
before the Bishop saw to it that the man was swiftly frightened out of the
county by a gang of hired Shipham ruffians. Half an hour later Eggy-Belch crept
back into the Wells area, having spent ten minutes hiding in a cave in
Burrington (which one is not known), deciding that what he really wanted to do
was explore the inner world and subterranean levels of the Mendips and not tour
as a member of the ecclesiastical comedy outfit the Crazy Croziers. They had
been touring the area with their production of “More Tea Vicar?” (Described by the Gentleman’s Magazine as – “Two beastly hours of noxious vapours,
bookended by four of ghastly anal ineptitude.

Fortuitously for
E-B his spinster aunt Regina Stiffbits Belch passed noisily away one afternoon
leaving the young man a country estate near Shepton Mallet and a handsome
inheritance. For a short time he administered to the running of a large country
house and the estate with its numerous staff, servants and general layabouts.
But the young William was restless and in need of ‘orificular stimulation.’ He was not a businessman but was a
peripatetic individual who often took to exploring the hills to escape the ‘yawning and bowel squeezing dullness of
’. After that almost mistimed visit to Snapcock’s Wig Emporium
(See The Wig in Caving, Belfry
Bulletin Summer 2005, Vol.54, No. 2 Number 522), E-B came into possession of
the famous Devon Loafa and never looked back. 

With no experience
of such subterraneous activity E-B sought immediate council with a local old
soak who had great experience digging numerous mines in the area. This fellow,
whose name has slipped from history (although evidence has lately surfaced in
Wells Museum that the individual might have be none other than Jedediah Fridge,
inventor of the cave swing) told E-B to find the muttering waters of
Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole (now lost), which sounded like ‘the drunk ramblings and frenetic utterances
of a Glaswegian ne’r do well
’. Why this particular hole was chosen against
the easier Wookey for instance is beyond the ken of cavers to this day.
Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole is, as we know, but only according to legend of
course, a ‘super severe’ especially in the long pitch and all too tight muddy
crawl that was its fabled entrance. Whatever the reason E-B took to it with
firm enthusiasm. Knowing that this cave’s furthest reaches were as yet
unplumbed and its overall length unknown he decided that his mission would be
to discover all that he could about it. 

I didst find myself
as if a turd in a privee outflow yet reversing said journey back into the
bowels of the Earth. I was ever surrounded on all sides by malodorous and
foetid doings the cause of which I dared not consider.   After an hour up to his lobes in filth E-B
popped out, rather unceremoniously into the First Great Chamber, which Catcott
described in I Like Holes as a ‘numinous cavern of certain cyclopean
magnificence, except for the little bit at the end shaped like a job
.’   Here E-B was met with his first proper view
of the subterranean world. Or he would have done had he brought something to
light his way. It was a rather embarrassed E-B that surfaced several hours
later none the wiser for his vigorous activities underground.

Keen to put that
obvious mistake behind him E-B sought further council from the Old Men who
promptly pointed him the direction of Voluminous Titty, ex of the
Somerset cheese police and grandfather of the famous
biographer of some of

greatest explorers Isiah Titty. (Isiah Titty would become famous for his Memoirs of A Somerset Git 1848, in which
he describes various conversations with himself).  Voluminous Titty was no stranger to
underground exploration but preferred the armchair variety to actual descent
into the caves of the Mendips. 

In his own book
Voluminous Titty describes his first meeting with E-B while experimenting with
his ‘Titty’s Patent Gentleman’s Field Stilts’, ‘a brace of poles two and half fathoms in height for the execution of
continuous and swift perambulations across ye levels of Somersetshire.’
means of travel that he swiftly dispensed with after trying to walk home to his
residence in Oakhill from an excess of libational behaviour at the notorious Pump and Glottis, a well known Inn on
the Shepton Mallet to Wells road. Titty spent nearly two weeks hopelessly lost
in a field. This hilarious incident is recorded in Underground Adventures with Dr Pleems, a children’s book from the
1930’s and also makes an appearance in the Ladybird book, What To Look For In Stupid People, 1966.   

Titty had had many
conversations with Catcott about subterranean activities and was thus able to
introduce E-B to a variety of illumination devices – a number of different
length candles, a bag of gas and some odd device of Titty’s with which Catcott
had been experimenting.  What that odd
device was no two modern scholars of caving can agree on except that E-B was
suitably unimpressed by it. ‘Inserting
the hose is deemed unworthy of a gentleman and one is sore dashed if it is
decent for one’s favoured servant to do likewise.
’ But it had nonetheless
planted a seed E-B’s mind. 

After vigorously
thumping Titty for being a prize arse and chastising Catcott for continuing
with the man’s ‘device of rude magnitude’,
E-B decided that the best way was further experimentation. Keen to return to
Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole E-B opted for a device of his own.

On June 14th  1761 visitors to the Wells area would
have been witness to a bizarre sight. Lined up in Augustus Dildee’s top field
were numerous prize heifers ‘a few short
of a herd
’, more than a handful of E-B’s servants and ‘several rugose gentlemen of the vicinity’.  E-B’s servants were unwinding a thick hose
down the entrance of TCMH in slow deliberate movements. With ‘a system of winches, pulleys, weights and
brass constructs
’ the hose had been connected to three cows at a time. From
these ‘bovine reservoirs much
illuminatory gas was drawn to the satisfaction of all
’.  E-B spent many hours exploring the system
until around three in the afternoon there was a ‘loud report that issued from the depths thus causing the ground to
oscillate in undulations of a rude nature
.’ Shortly afterwards it is said,
two cows both ‘sporting demeanours of
incredulous and mistimed surprise eructed in violent detonations as if struck
by several broadsides of artillery
.’ E-B was never seen again and it was
not long after, a week or so, that the entrance to Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck
Hole was sealed due to the collapse of the very dangerous pitch near the
opening now highly unstable as a direct of the subterranean explosion.

A week later EB’s
singed and muddy Devon Loafa popped out into daylight in the river Axe having
obviously found a route from TCMH into Wookey.   

*Due to an inability
by Richard Whitcombe Esq. to get my name right.


2005 Annual Dinner. Were you there?

– a selection of piccies from Pete Glanvill’s

Memory Lane



The Last Word

Compiled by J’Rat and

ERRATUM; BB 522.   Meghalaya 2005.   Computer problems caused the deletion of the
following. From the bottom of page 43 it should continue:-

“… us through the tight bit after
an hour of hammer and chisel work – fair play to ‘em. For one of the gentlemen
(who shall remain nameless but he said “feck” a lot) disrobing to his shreddies
was necessary and had the secondary benefit of reducing the girlies to
hysterical laughter as he cursed his way through. They were suitably impressed
with the extensions so we left them brewing up and admiring the place while we
headed out to our beer supplies stashed in the cave entrance where we intended
to bivouac until morning. With tongues hanging out we sweated up the 100m of
rope only to find that the local kids had snaffled most of the ale – bastards.
Luckily Greg had extra supplies and a couple of rum-filled Coke bottles were
unearthed from the depths of tackle bags to quench our alcoholic thirsts. A
fire was lit outside and Greg cooked soup as the others gradually emerged from
the depths to the night sounds of the jungle. Honorary thin man Brian M,
relieved to have escaped from the jaws of the squeeze, produced a bottle of
Courvoisier and the mini-party got into full swing before we retired for a few
hours draughty kip.”    

Reprint of Rutter.
[DJI]  Bibliophiles in the Club will be
interested to know that John Rutter’s famous 1829 book, The Delineations of …
N.W. Somerset, has been reprinted under the title ‘Somerset. ’  The new edition has been produced as a
softback and was brought out by Nonsuch Publishing in April, 2005.  The price is £16 and is available at any
bookshop; ISBN 1 84588 070 6.   For those
wanting a bargain can get the book from Amazon for £6 + £2.85 p&p – this
price has to be a mistake but the company accepted my money!  The original, depending upon which version,
small cut, large page, various bindings, etc., can vary from £100 – £350.

Ben Barnett has
been in contact with Fiona Sandford and he has told her that he is travelling
Indonesia and is
currently in

70th BBQ photos.
[DJI]  Several people have asked who took
the photos on the back cover of the last BB. Guilty I’m afraid.

Gibbets  Brow Shaft. [ARJ]  In the summer of
2004 Alan “Butch” Butcher of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club was shown
a stone-capped, 8 metre deep lead mine shaft in the field across the road from
Lamb Leer entrance and located strategically between the Great Chamber and the
Pond Rift aven in this currently “out of bounds” cave. Work commenced
to clear the shaft and by June of this year the Shepton diggers had
unfortunately bottomed out at 20m depth but with a tiny, draughting side passage
at 16m. Madphil Rowsell was sub-contracted to blast this to
“Butch-size” and had made some 7m of progress before leaving for

handing the contract to your scribe. One further bang allowed the Shepton to
explore some 17m of snug phreatic tube forming an L in plan and with potential
digs at both ends. Matthew Butcher also found a too tight but open rift in the
floor with larger passage visible below. Six banging sessions were necessary to
allow Matt to drop into 10m of 2m diameter phreatic tunnel choked at both ends
with clay. This very fine section of passage is still some 20m above the
highest points in Great Chamber and Pond Rift but each end is heading towards
one of these voids and digging is easy. Not so removal of spoil which is a
chore. Poor air can also be a problem. We wish the Shepton team the best of
luck with this important project and hope that free access will soon be
regained to the fascinating underworld of Lamb Leer.

Ogof  Cwmwl Ddu   (

[ARJ]  Situated on the eastern slope of Blorenge
mountain, south west of Abergavenny, this extremely promising dig was located
by Henry Bennett,
Pete Bolt and Rich
Blake and many other B.E.C. members and friends have been dragged across the
Channel to assist. It is being dug in collaboration with Charles Bailey, Chris
Brady and others from the Brynmawr C.C. Chris and the writer have banged it a
few times resulting in some 50m of steeply descending and well decorated
passage well endowed with sticky clay. On the night of 29th September the top
of a c.3m pot was opened up but not descended due to bang fumes. This cave may
connect with the remote regions of Ogof Draenen but there is some 1.5km of
virgin limestone between the two. It is also dead handy for the Lamb and Fox!
Watch this space…

Fiona’s ‘Ole saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then
regularly throughout September and into October with lots of tedious bag
hauling, particularly up the corkscrew. 98.more loads had reached the surface
by the 5th October. Hannah Sarjent of


undertook CO2 testing in the cave as part of her dissertation – with negligible
results. Work has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this
now has little promise.


Many thanks to Tyrone and his mate Mick who have continued
to work on the Belfry extension. This is the situation on 25th September. Not
only have made great strides when one compares the photo in BB 522 but still
manage the occasional smile when well meaning observers offer advice !

Photos Wig


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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.