Committee Members

Hon. Secretary: Nigel Taylor (772)
Hon. Treasurer: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary: Henry Bennett (1079)
Caving Secretary: Toby Maddocks (1310)
Hut Warden: Jane Clarke (983)
Tackle Officer: Chris Jewell (1302)

Non-Committee Posts
Bulletin Editor: Nick Harding (1289)
BEC Web Page Editor: Henry Bennett (1079)
Librarian: Nick Richards (1290)

Club Trustees:
Martin Grass (790) and Nigel Taylor (772)


Ave Cavers!

As everyone will now know weÙve lost two more. Wig and Barrie W. 

Strange indeed. One moment youÙre talking to someone on the phone (or indeed sharing several pints) and the next theyÙve shuffled off this mortal coil.  I for one will miss the verbal dressing down after the publication of each BB.

Apologies to the loyal readers of this esteemed organ for the late arrival of said journal. This is due in part to the sad departure of the Wig whose second part of the history of the BEC will have to remain unfinished (as far as I know) until such time as someone else is willing to become club historian. This lengthy screed would have taken up a large chunk of this BB. This meant I had to round up some more dispatches from around the caving globe. There were also some personal writing projects that also fell in the way (deadlines and all that). But anyway, itÙs here now.

Well as per usual an error slipped through. On the cover of 527 I made Harry Stanbury 10 years older than he was. So, mea culpa and six of the best trousers down for your editor who was not tired and emotional at the time – no sir… 

The cover photo shows Jrat in probably the best fluffy anyone has ever seen. If you get the chance see the original colour image – itÙs bright enough to startle blind spinsters. 

Nick Harding

BEC Summer of Excess 2007

11th – 12th August – BEC BBQ (Mendip)
Getty messy on Mendip at the annual BBQ complete with disco!

25th – 27th – August – Yorkshire long weekend @ YSS
3 days of top class caving, BBQÙs in the summer evenings and drinking in the Helwith Bridge. Contact Chris Jewell to book places.

22nd – 23rd Sept – Hidden Earth@Tewksbury – Summer Excess reunion!!
Listen to tales of expedition caving during the day and party the night away at the national caving conference.

6th October – BEC AGM and Annual Dinner


Vale: Dave “Wig” Irwin. 1935 – 2007.

Dave sadly passed away in April this year. I had the honour of being asked to read a eulogy to him at his funeral and write an obituary to him for the BB. I spent a lot of time researching his life and writing and rewriting his eulogy until I felt it reflected what Dave had achieved in his 71 years. I have therefore printed below, in full, the transcript of the eulogy as my obituary of Dave.

He will be sorely missed not only for his knowledge of caves, caving politics and bibliography but also for his vast musical knowledge. As well as by cycling friends and post card collecting enthusiasts. With the committeeÙs permission we plan to erect a memorial tablet to Dave in Cerberus Hall in St. CuthbertÙs in recognition of his enormous contribution to the cave and particularly to the survey of the system. It is hoped that the official unveiling will be followed by a few drinks at the Belfry as a celebration of DaveÙs life.

Martin Grass.

A Tribute to Dave “Wig” Irwin.

I am told that there is a guide to eulogies that recommends that you concentrate on one subject of the deceasedÙs life, but in the case of Dave that is not possible as whatever he did he did it with passion, conviction and dedication. He was a member of the Somer Valley Cycling Club for about 16 years and was honored with life membership several years ago for his services to the club. He was also obsessed with his classical music collection and undoubtedly his favorite composer was Mozart. I remember fondly one incident when as teenagers Chris Hannam and I had convinced him he should widen his musical remit and he reluctantly let us play some heavy metal LPÙs on his beloved and very expensive sound system. He was not impressed with the music but was surprised how his windows rattled!

However I knew him best from caving and that I believe was the strongest of all his passions.

In fact in an email he sent to an old caving friend in Canada shortly before his death he actually wrote that he was “completely married to caving” and often said he was not interested in it, “just obsessed”.

Dave started caving in 1953 and in the early years was a member of the Westminster Speleological Group. However he soon joined the BEC and on the 10th.June 1963 became member number 540. Within three years he had become a life member of the club and over the years held many posts including librarian and Belfry Bulletin editor. 

Dave was a team member of the 1960Ùs trips the BEC made to the deep pits of Austria and was an inspiration and a source of much knowledge to the many trips that followed right up to the present day. In June 1967 he and his great caving friend Roy Bennett explored the Aille River Cave in Co. Mayo Ireland just before a team from the Craven were due out to look at it. I know when we went there twenty years later, and I went to him for information, he delighted in explaining that he and Roy had not bothered with boats or fins (as the Craven planned to) to explore around 3000 feet of swimming passage! 

St. CuthbertÙs Swallet was DaveÙs favorite Mendip cave and all those interested in the system would go to the “Wig” for information. He knew every part of the cave and was always willing to direct you to possible new dig sites or suggest passages that needed looking at. He was the driving force behind the high-grade survey of the system and with so many complicated and interconnecting passages he became famous for his “closed traverses”. These were never more than a degree or two out, quite a feat in pre computer days. After his first heart attack in 1995 he never went back down the cave but I know on speaking to him he had completed in excess of 750 trips into the cave and at the height of the surveying and digging in the Dining Room during the late 60Ùs and early 70Ùs he would clock up over a dozen trips a month.

Dave wrote many articles on numerous subjects for the Belfry Bulletin over the years as well as a number of Caving Reports. The long awaited publication of the St. CuthbertÙs Report in 1991 along with the very detailed survey was the culmination of many years hard work and will remain as a testimony of his dedication and love of the cave.

As well as his membership of the BEC Dave was a founder member of BCRA and contributed many items to them for publication including most recently “Cave Studies Series” on “SwildonÙs 2 & 3”. Articles were also regularly published in the Shepton Mallet CC journal and as a member of the University of Bristol SS he was a contributor of numerous articles, many on obscure caving related subjects, to their proceedings.

Dave was also an Honorary Vice President of the Wessex CC and had been editing their long awaited “History of SwildonÙs”. The final copy of which he had just sent out for proof reading.

He was also a warden for the Mendip Rescue Organization from 1966 to 1982.

He co-authored four editions of “Mendip Underground”, the first two with Tony Knibbs and the later ones with Tony Jarratt. We all remember the phone calls and scraps of paper asking for final confirmation of a passage description or details on access. I even went underground at a very late stage in the completion of one copy to confirm some detail or other and to take a particular photograph that he wanted.

Like many of us Dave collected caving books new and old but his main passion in caving collectables was post cards. He literally had hundreds, we all bought them back for him from all around the world and he always wanted at least four copies of each one. The collection had a great number of Cheddar Caves and he even published a very large bibliography of them. I am sure he never knew how many he had but he did tell me once he thought it was around 50,000!

He chaired the Mendip Cave registry and in 1997 and again in 2005 compiled and published the two volumes of the Mendip Cave Bibliography

Over the last couple of years he also contributed monthly articles on Mendip Caving to the Mendip Times.

That is just a brief history of accomplishments for a man who did so much. I did not touch on his work life, but I do know he worked for a year in Los Angeles on the thrust reverses for ConcordeÙs Olympus engines. On his return in 1972 he purchased Townsend Cottage in Priddy where he remained until his death. He loved Townsend and had an open door for cavers old and young. Everyone went to him for information and 9 times out of 10 he knew the answer without looking it up. He was a mine of information and helped all who asked. You even got a cup of coffee if you could find a clean cup.

Being a youngster I did not know Dave as long as many of you here, only a mere 35 years, but as a fellow trustee of the BEC along with Nigel Taylor and the recently departed Barry Wilton, I know he always had the ClubÙs best interests at heart. He took me all those years ago on my first trip to sump one in SwildonÙs and we surveyed Wigmore together as well as a few other trips. We all have our own special memories of time with Dave and we will cherish these, and if there is a heaven, I am sure it will not be long before we see a high grade survey of it and all start receiving a collectorÙs pack of postcards from on high.

In true BEC style Dave throughout his life did EVERYTHING TO EXCESS, we will all miss him.

Farewell old friend.

An Ode to Wig on the Occasion of his Birthday (Opus 70)

to the tune of Brighton Camp, an 18th Century melody commonly known as “The Girl I left behind Me”

Words by Snab

(As sung at the great manÙs wake!)

Some men win fame and great acclaim, like Brunel or Charles Darwin
and their names grow big, for example Wig was once plain Dave Irwin.
Then he said one day, having lost his way, ‘IÙm off to the caversÙ purvey
IÙll get all the gear, my aim is clear; IÙll do the Cuthberts survey.

So with compass, clino and with tape, as far as I remember,
he mapped the underground landscape, from Whitsun to September.
For years and years and years and years, every crack and squeeze and streamway
and potential dig was checked by Wig, while doing the Cuthberts survey.

Now, for months on end, he would descend, to check, recheck or discard
until some friends driven round the bend would communicate by postcard.
He made an inventory of them till he got one from Chris Harvey,
saying, ‘this is Zot, Have you lost the plot? Have you finished the Cuthbert survey?

A curse did smite this Belfryite; he just had to list each item,
so locating nibs he began to write Mendip Underground despite ‘em.
The postcards then came flooding in, from Mulu, France and Torbay,
with queries from the Hunters Inn, ‘Have you finished the Cuthberts survey?Ù

The contents of his house did grow; he was trapped by books and postcards,
but was rescued by the MRO with the help of local coastguards.
The same age as the BEC he blamed, they blamed his failing memÙry,
as they pulled him out he was heard to shout ‘IÙve lost the Cuthberts survey!Ù

They searched WigÙs house all through the day, round Mendelssohn and Schubert,
while Swildons just got in the way, there was no sign of St Cuthberts.
Then a smile appeared across WigÙs face, and they cheered as he said ‘DonÙt worry,
ItÙs down at Tony JarrattÙs place, IÙve finished the Cuthberts survey!Ù


From the Belfry Table

Well greetings again from the Belfry Table!  Much is happening, both underground and atop the Hill.

It was a particularly sad start to the year with the passing of Harry Stanbury, Barrie Wilton and Dave Irwin, amongst several other long standing members.

Also though not members, but close friends of many in the B.E.C, Roger DorsÙ brother in law and ValÙs husband Phil, and Nigel Fraynes mother, Di Frayne. Both were particularly friendly people whose time had come all too early, and we extend the ClubÙs sympathies to their respective families.

There have also been a spate of both marriages and births amongst the younger members and this serves to demonstrate lifeÙs rich cycle – “Bobble” to Bob Whites daughter Roz “Rose” White, and a child to Rosie and Vern Freeman.

The event planned for HarryÙs Tree Planting was postponed due to planning problems and this will be held later in the year, probably in the Autumn, as will a retirement “Do” to mark the retirement as MRO Wardens of Tony Jarratt and Alan Butcher after many years of stalwart service!

Dave Irwin will be remembered again in the Autumn,  – though the date is yet to be confirmed, by way of a “Stomp” in memory of the Wig, which will follow on after an earlier in the day event – when a plaque erecting ceremony in St.Cuthberts will be held. It is intended that a memorial stone will be added in memory of all the incredible work Dave had undertaken in St.CuthbertÙs during his lifetime and the end result of his production of the impressive survey of the system. Further details will follow as arrangements are set in place.

Tony Jarratt et al are well at work on their “Caine Hill” Dig atop the Batch in Priddy. My informants advise that he has unearthed about a pound and a half slab of pure galena recently ….!

The MRO/ St CuthbertÙs Mock Rescue was held on Saturday 23rd.June and common consensus was that it was deemed a great success with various techniques being applied and tested in various regions of the cave. Many BEC members took part, and hopefully much useful experience was gained by younger members.

Mike Wilson and co, held a very successful weekend in the Forest of Dean, and a wide cross section of members attended with varied activities undertaken.

COMMITTEE 2008: Have you thought of playing a part in your Club? This is the first call to encourage anyone interested, to think of standing, to speak to me or any Committee member and make their presence felt, though traditionally as Secretary, I should call for nominations in August, the frequency of the BB might not match this date, so PLEASE… act soon if you are interested. All you need is to nominate yourself and be seconded by a ratified (full) member in writing and send it to the Hon. Secretary.

OFFICERS REPORTS are also now called for, in order that they can be published in time prior to the AGM, on Saturday 6th. October 2007.

The ANNUAL DINNER will be again at the Bath Arms, 7.30 for 8.00, Saturday 6th. October, MAKE A NOTE NOW!!!

Bob Smith is soon to build a “clay oven” at the Belfry, so if we are not careful, it may be the Shepton for T, the BEC for pizza and the WCC can still 4 coffee!!.

Time to get down from the Table!,     Have a Good Summer,

Nigel T,
Hon. Secretary, 24th. June 2007


Vale: John “Jingles” Williams 1956-2007

Henry Bennett

Back in 1987 John burst onto the Mendip caving scene.  For those of you who remember, those were heady days when the BEC regularly had a whip round for a barrel when the Hunters closed.  John was often at the forefront, pushing back the limits and taking the club motto to heart. Eventually he moved from London to live on Mendip to become more involved with the club. As well as a caver, he was also one half of the Belfry Boys who entertained many with their singing for several years in the 90s. Eventually after eleven years in the club he left to pursue other interests and was no longer seen much on Mendip.

After a long period of illness he finally succumbed and died on 20th March 2007.  His funeral was well represented by BEC members past and present. The following eulogy was given by his sister, Babs.


“The element potassium is a metal which, when dropped into water, dances fast and furious across the surface. Then quite suddenly it bursts onto the most exquisitely beautiful pink light. The light burns so brightly that it hurts you eyes. It is a really magnificent sight. So it was with John. He arrived in this world and danced, always trying to live life to the full. He was a very intelligent man who explored life in every way possible.

He explored the earth physically, both on land and at sea, through his passion for caving and scuba diving and in later years by combining the two when he took up the very challenging sport of cave diving. In all of these pursuits he was fearless and a great leader. For those of you who enjoyed these sports with him, you will know that he was enthusiastic and great fun to be with, always bringing a little bit of magic to any trip.

John also explored the world creatively. He had a great love of music and his tastes knew no bounds, as he loved rock, pop, folk and classical music equally. He was a very competent guitar player and enjoyed many years of singing and performing folk music. His creativity also expressed itself in the form of writing and he has written several short stories and poems and was actually in the process of writing his first novel.

John explored the world of technology and was a gifted computer whiz. He always astounded us with his ability to understand the latest cyber gadget to come on the market and I donÙt think he ever needed to read any instruction manuals!

John explored the world spiritually and had an in depth knowledge of most religions and beliefs. It was this side of him that made him a kind and caring person who was very generous with his spirit.

But for me he was the most wonderful brother. I could not have wished for better. He was always there for me through thick or thin and I will miss him dreadfully.

He was the light that burnt so very bright.

I will now read an anonymous poem, which I believe, conveys a message that John would want to leave you with.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there I do not sleep
I am a thousand wings that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain
When you waken in the morningÙs hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there”

Babs Williams


Hirlatz Expedition, 3rd-11th February 2007

Expedition Organiser: Madphil Rowsell
Report by: Andy Kuszyk

Participants: Peter Seethaler, Madphil Rowsell, Rich Hudson, Chris Jewell and Andy Kuszyk.

Apparently, according to Rich Hudson and Madphil Rowsell, the way to pack socks and your SRT kit is to pack your socks in your SRT kit, as well as fitting Snickers bars down those little gaps left at either end of your sleeping bag when itÙs wedged in a bag, and pilling as much as possible into your mug before trying to squeeze it in the billy can. It was only the first morning of the expedition, we hadnÙt even left for the cave, and already I was realising that I had much to learn about mostly everything.

To be fair to the guys, packing our bags well was definitely a priority. We all needed to fit as much gear in as possible to prepare for our seven-day camp in the Hirlatz cave, Dachstein, Austria. Madphil and Rich had done a carry into the cave (about half way to the end) the previous day but, even so, a significant amount of kit was still left to be taken in. Having arrived late the night before, I was frantically trying to fit everything in my bag on the morning of the trip.

With our bags weighing in at 17kg and my rucksack for the walk up to the cave standing at a blistering 24kg, we eventually set off up the snowy mountain side. Peter Seethaler picked out a route up the tricky slope towards the cave. After about 45 minutes slogging up the snow, feeling very glad I had pointy walking poles, we were trudging across a shelf of snow, pearly white, approaching the base of a towering Alpine cliff. Greeting me was the sight of the metre-wide entrance to what I was sure was the longest cave I would have ever been in.

I wasnÙt really sure what to expect from the cave, having heard bits and pieces from various people, but my overriding impression was that it was going to be big, with various Indiana Jones-style fixed aids. Having passed the entrance series, filled with icy pools and various ice formations, the cave did not disappoint. Ladder after ladder seemed to lead up enormous slopes only to deliver you at the head of yet more ladders leading down a similar distance. After a few hours we reached an awe-inspiring metal bridge spanning a 60m canyon that really serves as a tribute to the amount of work put in by Austrian cavers to make the journey in as efficient as possible (and very much reminded me of a scene from the Lord of the Rings!). Very soon, however, the cave started getting big(ger) and we began wandering through huge galleries and passages. Many were larger than any I have seen in Britain, making the Time Machine in Daren Cilau look like a small tube. Not only is the Hirlatz long, but it is also impressively sized, presumably due to its ancient lifespan.

After about 6 or 7 hours on our first day, we finally reached the first camp that we were to be staying at, Grunkogel Biwak. We brewed some dinner (dehydrated Indonesian rice!) and whilst the others headed back to retrieve the gear carried in the previous day, Rich and I retired to our bags to keep warm – a necessary activity since, by our best guesses, the ambient temperature was between 3 and 5oC.

The next day saw us make a swift Ready-brek breakfast before packing our bags and heading off. Strapping roll-mats to the side of our heaving bags, we still left 2-3 loads behind when we set off for the far west. We were to return for this extra gear later so that we could fully establish a camp in the west. By about 2pm we had reached Sahara. This was the site for our camp and is an impressively sized chamber, immediately before the final sump. Sahara was something else, filled with copious amounts of desert-like sand, stretching out around me beyond the limit of my faint LED light.

We established our camp in Sahara on a shelf of sand by one wall, quite close to the first aven we were to climb. Having dumped our bags and unpacked, Madphil and Chris prepared to start bolting using the petrol drill we had borrowed from the Austrians, whilst Peter, Rich and I headed back to the previous camp to collect the rest of the gear. After a couple of hours, we were all reunited back in Sahara and I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the guys had managed to start bolting – after only about 2 hours they had managed to bolt about 15-20m up and across the wall of the chamber towards the aven itself. Rich and I continued to climb after Madphil and Chris had finished and by the end of the day we had managed to begin the ascent into the aven proper – not bad after a few hours on the job!

The third morning dawned cold and black. After someone had finally volunteered to get out of their sleeping bag to put on a brew, we enjoyed a hot cup of tea and some porridge before setting off to work. Madphil and Chris immediately began to continue climbing the first aven. Peter, Rich and I moved over to the second aven that weÙd come to look at, nearer to the entrance to Sahara. This aven had a long slope running up to vertical walls, so we began by bolting a traverse in order to reach the slope. Free climbing the slope lead us to the base of the chamber wall which Peter and Rich began to climb. In the afternoon, Peter took Madphil and Chris to look at other leads nearby, whilst Rich and I returned to finish the job with the first aven. MadphilÙs account of the top didnÙt sound encouraging and we soon found that the aven ended around 60m off the deck. At the top were a couple of tight, muddy rifts that led off, far too tight to squeeze into with no large amounts of space beyond. After having de-rigged the aven, Rich and I brewed some dinner, ready for the guys to return from their scouting trip.

Upon the return of the others, we shared the news of the close-down and started making plans for the next day. Madphil and Rich were going continue bolting the second aven, whilst Chris and I were to go with Peter to look at a lead further away.

The next day Peter led Chris and I to another large chamber a couple of hours away called Untertisch-Kathedrale (Under-table Cathedral). We took PhilÙs battery drill as well as the usual climbing gear and plenty of rope with the hope of starting to climb a large aven that had been spotted in previous years. Having crawled through large amounts of thick, sticky mud to reach the chamber, we began climbing up the loose and slippery slopes to the base of the aven, which was extremely muddy. In fact, the bottom of the aven (which was massive) reminded us of the bottom of any number of larger pitches at the top of the mountain – exciting stuff! We began the ascent and after a couple of hours fighting against many mud slopes and loose climbs we finally found ourselves facing another sheer cliff face that led up into the dark abyss above. We could do no more that day, not only had we run out of rope, but it was also getting late, so we decided to start heading back. We left our rigging in place, because next year the aven definitely deserves some serious attention.

Returning to camp we found that Madphil and Rich had already hit the sack having had another hard day in their harnesses. TheyÙd made significant progress, rigging about 70m off the deck with the aven showing no signs of stopping. Chris and I brewed up our dehydrated HunterÙs Stew and called it a night.

The next morning I allowed myself a lie-in, being pretty knackered from the late finish the day before, and when I awoke was greeted by an awesome sight. I could hear the distant sound of a petrol engine whirring and upon sitting up (presumably with perfect night vision from my 8 hours) saw the whole aven illuminated by the caving lamps of Rich and Madphil. The shaft was immense, with an enormous bridge stretching across its span part way up. The guys had climbed a long way but the shaft was still far from complete, tunnelling straight up into the unknown. It was a fantastic sight.

Chris and I spent the remainder of the day resting and cleaning our SRT kits (which were completely covered in thick, gloopy amounts of sticky mud) and some ropes, whilst Peter headed out of the cave alone. Madphil and Rich came down half way through the day before returning to the mammoth task of climbing what was definitely becoming a monster aven, at least in my eyes.

That evening, the remaining four of us headed over to a small inlet nearby so that Chris could practice a bit of bolt-climbing. The climb didnÙt lead anywhere in the end, but it was a good exercise and worth completing.

Thursday, our sixth day underground and last day in Sahara, dawned with a slightly urgent air to it. Chris and I were busy packing up the camp all morning, trying to sort out as much gear as we could, whilst the guys were making a last, desperate effort to reach so much as a ledge in the aven. However, after a few hours, their efforts were not wasted and we managed to gather from the echoing yelps that a discovery had been made. Although the aven was far from over and the roof was still completely out of sight, Madphil and Rich had reached a slope leading off from the aven that led into a chamber. From here, a passage led off but this was left for the Austrians to explore since the aven had been discovered by the Austrians around 10 years previously.

And thatÙs how we left it. Rich and Madphil came down, we packed our bags to bursting level, stowed what camping gear was remaining out of the reach of the spring floods and left Sahara. A few hours later we reached Hal Des Staynens (HDS) Biwak, a camp about 4 hours from the surface where we stopped for the evening. We had a leisurely dinner, treating ourselves to copious amounts of custard for dessert and began to discuss the prospects for next yearÙs expedition, a thought that we were all very keen on.

Four hours after setting off the next day, I found myself crawling through the low entrance. There was a howling draught rushing past me into a passage ending in a blazing slot that opened onto a stunning mountainside. The sky was a brilliant deep blue; the trees a thousand shades of green and the valley itself took up an incredible amount of space! Spending a week in the Hirlatz hadnÙt felt at all strange, but the sight of open hillside was certainly a beautiful one.

We donned walking boots and descended the entrance ladder onto the snowy slope that awaited us, spending the next hour or so slipping down the slope towards the bottom of the mountain. Arriving at the car park I felt both hungry and tired, but I also felt that weÙd definitely achieved something in the cave. WeÙd completed all of our objectives and confirmed a couple of very interesting leads, leaving plenty to be explored on future expeditions – a privilege that I hope IÙll be able to undertake in future.

My thanks go to Madphil for organising the expedition. RichÙs help was also invaluable, not least for sorting out some surprisingly tasty dehydrated meals. Peter Hubner deserves a special mention for, although he was ill and couldnÙt join us underground, he still picked Chris and I up from the airport and drove us all the way to Obertraun. Finally Peter Seethaler and the Austrian cavers deserve a thank you for allowing us the opportunity to explore the Hirlatz on what I can only describe as a first-class expedition. I would also like to thank the BEC for making the trip possible via access to the Ian Dear Memorial Fund. 



To see a full size  image of the above map click here.


Caine Hill Shaft – Priddy

By Tony Jarratt
Photos Tony Audsley

“Our Miners in digging dayly meet with these caverns, which are of different widenesses, some of them being very large;” – J. Beaumont, 1681

NGR ST55/5248.5103 Alt. 253m

Digging Operations 2003 – 16/5/2007

Desperately needing a change of scenery from the squalid conditions of Rose Cottage Cave a few of the team have recommenced work at this interesting site situated in the front drive of Caine Hill Cottage, Coxton End Lane, The Batch, Priddy. Beneath a manhole cover a 5m deep ginged shaft leads to a waterworn and steeply descending natural rift partly enlarged by the Old Men as they followed a calcite vein in search of workable lead or ochre. The shaft was uncovered by Priddy tree surgeon Tim Andrews whilst enlarging the entrance to his drive in 2003. It was covered with a metal sheet and below a now demolished dry-stone wall but it is now entered via a manhole frame fitted by Alan Butcher (SMCC) and the late Barrie Wilton (BEC). Mike Thompson (WCC) heard about it in the New Inn and in 2003 commenced digging with John Walsh (BEC), Dudley Herbert (BEC), Tony Audsley (BEC), Rich Dolby (BEC), Mark “Shaggy” Howden (BEC), Tim Andrews and others but they dropped out for various reasons after a couple of years and the place came up for grabs. Tim was very happy to see it dug again and is an essential team member as he gets the spoil disposal job. Research into the name Caine Hill has failed to yield much information as to its origin though it may refer to the hill on which The Batch group of cottages is situated. A workman at St. CuthbertÙs lead works, Silas Vincent, once inhabited the nearby Windy Ridge ( ? ) Cottage (now demolished) but there is no evidence to connect him with its excavation. The discovery of a possibly nineteenth century clay pipe bowl, some domestic rubbish and scattered animal bones – later identified as deer by Hannah Bell – may be derived from an earlier cottager with a taste for ‘baccyÙ and venison.

The writer had previously dug there on 16th August 2004 in company with John Walsh, Jeff Price and Matt Butcher (SMCC) when 51 bags of sandy clay and a few rocks were brought out and loaded onto TimÙs pick-up truck. Further work was out of the question, all the breathable air having been used up by the diggers. He returned on 19th March 2007 with Trevor Hughes to find an alloy rigid ladder in the shaft, a second one partway down and many full bags awaiting removal. Lots more were filled and a total of 50 were hauled out with a few more left for the next session. Trevor was overjoyed with the dryness of the place and the ease of digging. The writer returned on the 21st along with Phil Coles, Sean Howe, Hannah B, Bob Smith and Henry Bennett. Another 35 bags were hauled out and tipped into TimÙs truck, which he had parked alongside in anticipation. Passing Templeton diggers were astonished to see the BEC working on an obscure, unknown and apparently secret dig! On the 25th he was back along with Trev H, Bob S. and Tangent (surface operative) and another 31 loads came out. It was now obvious that we had gone beyond the Old MensÙ trial and were in completely natural, and very old, cave passage with probably glacial infill. Small phreatic solution pockets containing calcite boxwork emphasised this. Next day Trev and your scribe continued digging and after the timely arrival of Tony Audsley and Rich Witcombe a total of 39 loads came out – much to RichÙs delight as he quickly claimed most of them for infilling at Rose Cottage Cave. Tony also brought up some photos of the site taken before August 2003, some of which are reproduced here along with others taken this year. A chat with Tim revealed the fascinating information that when his new cottage foundations were dug over seven years ago the builders opened up a large, deep hole down which stones dropped for some time and which was apparently trending in the direction of the car parking area in front of Manor Farm on Priddy Green. This may have been natural or mined. The writer was once shown a very strongly draughting hole under the kitchen window of Tree Tops, The Batch – only a couple of houses away from Caine Hill Cottage and apparently the drainage from the septic tank in front of this house flowed freely into another hole so there is obviously something reasonably sized in this area (albeit malodorous!).

On the 27th March Trev H, on a solo trip, filled another ten bags and reported that the LH wall seemed to be undercut enough to allow further downwards progress though the narrowness of the passage was not encouraging. It became even narrower on the 28th when Phil C, Sean H, Jake Baynes and the writer filled another twenty-one bags. The total of 31 (and one frog) were hauled out by Bob S. and Hannah B. Next day your scribe returned to fill another twenty bags and prove that the rift was not pinching out, though digging in the constricted space was awkward.

April FoolsÙ Day saw some of the finest back at the working face. Trev H, the writer, Henry Dawson, Jane Clarke, Tim Ball and Fiona Crozier removed 54 spoil bags and did some tentative digging in the higher level of the rift as the bottom was beginning to narrow down. This problem was solved on the following day when your scribe, assisted by Tony A. drilled and banged the constriction to give more working space and used the vacuum cleaner to clear the fumes. They were later joined by Rich W, Paul Weston and Mike Hearn (the latter two “pressed” from the HuntersÙ) and 24 bags of clay and bang debris were hauled out for infilling at Rose Cottage Cave. Passing walkers thought that we were either mining (true!) or cleaning out a sewer. Another 22 loads came out on the 4th with Jake B. clearing the rift below the second alloy ladder, Pete Hellier and the writer working at the bottom and Phil C. and Darrel Insterell hauling. Seven bags were filled at the bottom on the 6th when your scribe drilled one shot-hole and the following day he drilled a second, charged the two with mixed diameter cord and gave Tim the chance to blow up his own cave! The fumes were again sucked out to pollute the pure Priddy air. The spoil from this bang was cleared on the 9th when Tony A, Bob S, Paul W. and the writer laboured underground while Mike H, Rich W. and Nicks Harding and Richards provided afternoon surface support. A total of 42 loads came out and the diggers were greatly encouraged by the opening up of a draughting hole on the right hand side just beyond the banged section – 13 metres from the entrance. Most of the spoil was taken away and dumped by Tim during the lunch break. Rich did a useful PR job by rebuilding the drystone wall opposite the driveway and Tony took more record images underground.

On the 11th April both the bottom and part way down digs were worked by Jake B, Sean H, John Noble, Paul Brock, Phil C. and your scribe with Bob S. as surface operative. 40 loads came out. Hannah B. took away bones unearthed by the previous diggers for identification at Wells Museum. Another 17 loads came out on the following evening when Jake B, the writer, Andy Norman and Ernie White (the Barnsley Boys) continued with both digs. Andy suggested that the crystallization is of hydrothermal origin and he collected a lump of dogtooth spar for further study. On the 15th Chris Batstone, Faye Lillington, Tim B. and the writer dug at both sites and Martin “Milche” Mills (SMCC), Bob S. and John “Tangent” Williams hauled 25 loads out (and one frog) with another 12 loads from the bottom dig coming out next day courtesy of your scribe and Paul W. 31 loads came out on the 18th with Jake B, Hannah B. and your scribe digging and John N, Phil C, Pete H. and Sean H. hauling. Jake and the writer returned to their respective favourite digs on the 20th when the former opened up a passage on the RH side of the upper dig with limited airspace and the usual soft clay floor. 11 loads from here were hauled out. Another 53 loads, mainly from the upper dig, came out on the 22nd when Trev H, Paul B. and the writer took turns at the face where the excellent calcite boxwork on the phreatic-pocketed ceiling was admired. On a solo trip next day your scribe continued digging here and was able to squeeze in some two metres. Further work here would require the removal of a layer of the solid rock floor and the lack of airflow is not encouraging. It is suggested that this short but attractive feature is called Boxwork Passage. Further excavation was continued at the lower dig where it is now possible to work beyond the entrance squeeze and bag up the multicoloured ochreous infill. The second aluminium ladder was replaced with a wire ladder to give more working space.

The two enthusiasts were back at their respective digs on the 25th April, accompanied by Alex Livingston and Sean H, the latter recording progress with his digital camera. A record 61 bags were hauled out in very poor air conditions. Many more bags were filled from both digs on the 27th – Jake B. concentrating on Boxwork Passage and your scribe on the lower site. 1 load came out but dire air conditions discouraged further work. On the 2nd May Bob S. and Hannah B. hauled out these full bags, 27 in all and two days later Jake B. filled up lots more at Boxwork Passage and the main rift below it. Bob S. returned on the 7th May and he continued here while the writer pressed on at the end where the sudden opening up of a tiny, draughting hole made air conditions far more pleasant and enthusiasm was re-kindled. 54 loads came out on the 9th May when Bob S, Hannah B, Jake B, Pete H, John N. and the writer turned up in inclement weather when the best place to be was underground; as it was the following evening when the latter filled several “Tesco” bags and removed a large rock at the end. He suggests that this passage is called Root 66 due to the enormous amount of said growths sprouting from the infill. More work was done at both sites, next day by their respective enthusiasts and on the 13th and 14th May the writer continued clearing sticky clay from Root 66. He carried on disinterring a large rock here on the 16th, aided by Phil C. who also dug below Boxwork Passage. The short scaffold tripod left by the original diggers was replaced with the trusty, telescopic alloy one recovered from a long sojourn at West Horrington Shaft but due to a lack of personnel only 2 loads came out.

The current length is c.19m.and the depth is c.12m. Work continues.

To be continued in BB 529. 

Upper Canada Cave

By Harding and Richards.
Bad Photos by Yer Ed. Good ones by Sean Howe.

In the ongoing quest to track down the Lost Hutton Cavern to add to the Catcott collection the Two Nicks reopened May Tree Cave that was last looked into in the 70Ùs by Chris Richards who suspected there might have been a way on at the end of a small chamber stacked with deads. In his quest Chris had found the initials DW candle marked on a wall down an apparent dead end. With this as a spur, David Williams a local man of the cloth had visited Hutton Cavern, the boys ploughed on.

Rather than wrestle with little stacking space in May Tree the Two Nicks deciding it would be easier to empty boulders upwards rather than struggle below, it was back to the surface. Digging down they found a small tight bedding chamber (after 5 months of toil) and an ochreous slope under which they found the other end of the boulder filled chamber. An old stemple (presumed) was found in the rubble over which it was concluded buckets were hauled up from below. At least for this section of the cave.

This was cleared (the nearest stacking space sadly was the connection to May Tree Cave) and a shaft was found, complete with large blocking stone, descending steeply but easily free climbable, its right-hand wall comprising of a huge pile of well stacked deads. This shaft descended into a series of low ochreous chambers that snaked back under and beneath the entrance shaft (as well as being below May Tree). A two hundred year old spade head was found at the base of the entrance shaft as well as a small number of Pleistocene bones (these have been given to Weston Museum), which were found amongst the boulders. Further evidence that perhaps this is generally the right area for the lost Hutton Cavern.

The last small chamber appeared to be a dead end but was merely a blocked squeeze. This was soon cleared with prestigious use of a lump hammer, and a tight, gently angled descending passage called Clay Pipe Passage, complete naturally enough with clay pipe, was followed for 10m or so to a 2 m drop into a chamber. In the ceiling of this chamber was a shaft that probably connects with something above – just where this connects is a mystery, as there appears to be no ‘downÙ connection in May Tree above. it will need banging of course. Looking gingerly up one can see several large boulders wedged into it, but quite what popping it will bring down is anyoneÙs guess.)

Through a narrow slot on the other side of this room both gained access to a chamber known now as Watership Down, after the unwelcome discovery of a rotting corpse of marooned rabbit. The walls here were relatively clean and ochre free. In the floor of this chamber was a narrow opening, which led into a long steeply descending rift The Combe – down which the miners had lobbed rubble the removal of which, in certain sections along the sides may reveal something interesting. The whole rift felt deeper than it appeared. The section is very airy but as yet from wither this air comes is anyoneÙs guess.

At the end of this rift stal covered boulders had blocked the way on, although void could be seen beyond – a half hour dig and the Two Nicks slipped through into a very large bedding chamber 15m+ long and 6m+ wide now known as The Field. Disappointingly this fizzled out or at least appeared to but at the far end there exist two or three possible digs into tunnels. This chamber was more than expected but less than hoped for but still a good find. It appears as though no one had been in there before as there were no scuff marks etc to suggest miners. The chamber was airy which suggested further connections.  Both Jrat and Jane C  – second and third pairs of eyes to visit Upper Canada Cave, busied themselves in the further extremities of the chamber and decided that perhaps it does go on. 

As can be seen from the survey the length is 77m but this leaves out the May Tree Cave the connection of which is now choked with boulder spoil.

ItÙs not Hutton Cavern but will add something towards the barrel!

We are of course rapidly running out of pits to open – this will either bring us closer or more disappointingly away from the lost Hutton Cavern. Either way weÙll know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. 

Thanks to Jrat, Jane Clarke, Madphil and Richard Marlow and to Dave and Bernard Cole, the landowners for their patience and generosity. 

NB. The cave entrance is on private land so visits have to be arranged through the Two Nicks.

In the diagram of the pits below – the entrance to Upper Canada Cave is the pit adjacent to Blind Pit.

The dynamic duo at the western end of ‘the FieldÙ

The surface entrance to Upper Canada Cave

The 200 year old spade head      Pleistocene bones from Upper Canada Cave


Meghalaya 2007 – Extending India’s Longest and Creating its Third Longest Caves

By Tony Jarratt and Henry Dawson

“Hundreds and thousands of feet below the earthÙs crust, far from human view, lies meandering passages, waterways, spectacular sights in the form of stalagmites and stalactites, and rumbling waterfalls. Those who have explored the innermost depths of Meghalaya marvelled at the sights which greet them while exploring the caves that are abundantly found in different parts of the state.”

E.D. Marak, Minister, Information and Public Relations, Meghalaya.

“Natures Exotic Gift The Caves of Meghalaya” – Brian Kharpran Daly, 2006

The Team:-

India: Brian Kharpran Daly (M.A.A./G.S.G.), Shelley (nee Diengdoh) Syien (M.A.A.), Maxwell Syien (M.A.A.), Duohi Jeet, Com Mo Dias, Arki, Sngap Bha (Tongseng village).

Germany: Heidrun Andre (H.F.G.N.), Georg Baumler (H.H.V.L.), Rainer Hoss (H.F.G.N.), Herbert Janschke (H.F.G.O.K.).

Austria: Peter Ludwig (L.V.H.O.O.).

Switzerland: Thomas Arbenz (S.N.T.).

U.S.A: Barbara am Ende (N.S.S.).

Canada: Ian McKenzie (A.S.S.).

Ireland: Des McNally (U.D.C.P.C.), Brian Cullen (D.U.P.C.), Quentin Cooper (B.C.), Robin Sheen (B.C.).

U.K: Simon Brooks (O.C.C./G.S.S.), Mark Brown (S.U.S.S./G.S.G.), Tony Boycott (U.B.S.S./B.E.C./G.S.G.), Kate Janossy (G.S.G.), Tony Jarratt (B.E.C./G.S.G.), Neil Pacey (R.R.C.P.C.), Henry Rockliff (S.U.S.S.), Fraser Simpson (G.S.G.), Jayne Stead (G.S.G.), Peter Glanvill (B.E.C.), Phillippa Glanvill, Henry Dawson (B.E.C./R.U.C.C.), Joe Duxbury (G.S.S.), Amanda Edgeworth (S.W.C.C.), Mark Tringham (G.S.G.), Rhys Williams (S.W.C.C.).

Zoological Survey of India (Eastern Region Station):

Ilono Kharkongor (scientist), Silbaster Swell (collection tender), Madhar Soonar (lab. attendant), Gerald Japang (driver), Shinoti Kharkongor.

The Support Team:

Bung Diengdoh, Adison “Adi” Thabah (camp Gods), David Kimberley Pakyntein (driver/organizer), S.D.Diengdoh (bus driver), Jonathon Wanniang (driverÙs mate), Myrkassim Swer (chef), Munni Lyngdoh (Mrs. Swer), Vinod Sunar, Robin Gurung, Raja Paul, Champa Thapa, Radha Rawat (indispensable helpers), Bod Kharkongor (driver), Khraw Mylliem (driver).

Guides, Informants and Old Friends:

Evermore Sukhlain (Shnongrim), Larsing Sukhlain (Sutnga), Shor “Pa Heh” Pajuh, Kores, Gripbymon Dkhar (Semassi), Raplang Shangpliang (Shnongrim), Prusly Tangliang (headman, Semassi), Ramhouplien Tuolor (headman, Sielkan), Carlyn Phyrngap (were-tiger), Menda Syih, Na-U-Sukhlain (doloi, Nongkhlieh Elaka), Bill Richmond Marbaniang and the Meghalaya Police, the people of Sielkan, Semassi and the Ridge, Maureen Diengdoh, Robin Laloo and our friends in Shillong – and the staff of the Nazareth Hospital, Shillong.


Brian Kharpran Daly and the Meghalaya AdventurersÙ Association, the Government of India Tourist Office (East and North East India) – Kolkata, the Meghalaya State Tourism Dept, officials and government depts. within Meghalaya.        

Compiled from the Expedition diary, a G.S.G. newsletter article by Simon Brooks and Mark Brown and the writersÙ log books.

By 3rd February a team of five had assembled on the Shnongrim Ridge where our bamboo base camp was located and last yearÙs ultra-promising cave, Krem Labbit (Moolasngi) 3, was rigged by Henry R. He was joined by Robin and Brian C. and underground sites of interest were noted. Next day they were joined by Tony B. when they rigged Krem Wah Sning entrance pot to reach a 60m crawl and second pitch. Meanwhile more of us had gathered in Shillong and a select two hit the local beer to excess resulting in your scribe admiring the marble floor of the Cloud Nine bar from extremely close quarters! On the 5th two more pitches were dropped in Wah Sning and a complex series of walking and crawling passages entered, three of which were left unexplored. Henry R. and Quentin surveyed upstream through deep water in K.L.(M).3 to reach a sump – almost certainly the downstream end of the sump at the end of Video Passage in the 22km long Krem Liat Prah system ( IndiaÙs longest cave).

A stream sink, Krem Wah Sarok 2, was descended by Mark B, Robin and Brian C. on the 6th when a strongly draughting canal, almost blocked by flowstone, was reached after a series of classic pitches. More of the team arrived at the camp. On the 7th Mark B. rigged Krem Umsohtung in Lelad village (cleaner this year and losing its nickname of “Toilet Cave”) and, joined by Pete G, Phillippa, Barbara and Henry D, surveyed the remaining lead in the first upstream side passage. Due to Barbara being tired and dehydrated a slow, assisted and very late exit was made. Back at camp there was more excitement as your scribe was found unconscious as a result of his head-banging activities and was unceremoniously transported to the Nazareth Hospital in Shillong for a CT scan and a night under observation. He is very grateful to Dr.B, Jayne and Shelley for their concern and company and would like to state that the scan proved that he does have a brain! Meanwhile Des, Joe and Peter L. rigged two pitches in Krem Wah Sarok 3 and Henry R, aided by Brian C, climbed into high level passages in K.L.(M).3. One of these was surveyed by Neil and Quentin to a point very close to the attractive resurgence cave of Krem Rubong 1. Next day they returned with Mark B, Henry D. and Robin and continued the survey to a boulder choke where they fortuitously heard Pete G, Phillippa, Thomas, Barbara and Brian K.D. who were on a photographic trip in Rubong 1. The removal of a boulder allowed the ExpeditionÙs first major link to be made and the surveys to be connected. Much of the K.L.(M).3 streamway was also surveyed. In Wah Sarok 3 Joe, Des and Peter L. explored and surveyed.

They returned with Brian C. next day and pushed on down to make the second important connection when they popped out in Video Passage, Krem Liat Prah. A large team in K.L. (M). 3 surveyed and photographed and pushed a couple of unpleasant crawls. Others recced on the surface and the invalid and his minders returned to the Ridge to join in the fun. Much more surveying was done in K.L.(M).3 on the 10th with teams going in from both entrances. Some odd problems were found with loops failing to close and after discounting ghostly activity (the local spirit inhabits the adjacent Krem Wah Shikar) they were blamed on local magnetic anomalies. Further up the Ridge Brian C, Thomas and Peter L, guided by Raplang, found Krem Dngiem 1 (Bear Cave) and also, as a bonus, Krem Dngiem 2, Niang Ju and Toss Rock Pot.  200m of fossil passage was surveyed in Dngiem 1.

Sunday 11th saw Peter L, Brian C. and Quentin finishing the Wah Sarok 3 survey while Henry R, Joe and Peter G. dropped into the impressive jungle doline of Krem Moo Sata 1 to swing into an ongoing upstream passage 15m off the floor. The hope in this area was to find a link between the Liat Prah (“northern” Ridge system) and Krem Synrang Ngap (part of the “central” Ridge system). The writer and Des, meanwhile, abseiled into Liat Prah via SnowmanÙs Pot but failed to find the route to Video Passage. The survey of Dngiem 1 was continued by Tony B, Thomas and Phillippa resulting in 250m more in the bag while Mark B. rigged the End of the World traverses to reach a big pot. A c.40m pitch before this reached big passage. At K.L.(M).3 Neil, Robin and Henry D. completed the streamway survey and located a large, ongoing inlet. Barbara and Jayne continued the surface recce.

The K.L.(M).3 inlet was pushed next day by Neil, Phillippa and Quentin along 120m of flat out crawl to an aven. At Moo Sata 1 Joe, Henry D. and Peter G. rigged the opposite side of the great doline to find a downstream passage. The undescended pot in Dngiem 1 was dropped for 42m into Liat Prah at the junction of No Draught Passage and the Aircraft Hangar to give the third connection of the Expedition while nearby Barbara and Robin recced in the area of the Knee Wrecker Pots finding six new shafts. Tony B. and Jayne photographed bones and rescued a calf at the nearby Knee Wrecker 2. At Wah Sarok 3 Henry R. and the writer checked out Video Passage in the hope of connecting with K.L. (M). 3 but were confused by the old survey which bore little resemblance to the passages entered. Back at camp things were hotting up with first the welcome arrival of our German colleagues and later the decidedly unwelcome arrival of a delegation of twenty eight threatening coal miners demanding that we leave the area or our safety could not be guaranteed! The team discussed options and our friend Bill Richmond Marbaniang, chief of the Meghalaya police, was phoned. The next arrivals were a team of five biologists from NE India University and a well-armed squad of camouflage-uniformed para-military policemen who had been sent by Bill to guard us. All this fuss was due to forthcoming    environmental problems which will adversely affect the Ridge, its stunning and important cave systems, the biology and hydrology of the area and the lifestyle of the local villagers – though our worries are more about the rapidly developing quarrying industry than the less threatening coal mining, destructive though it has been to the once idyllic countryside to the north west. A Public Interest Litigation had been filed by the Meghalayan AdventurersÙ Association to the Indian Supreme Court in a bid to protect the Ridge and the mine owners were concerned that this would threaten their livelihoods.

On the 13th belongings were packed and caves de-rigged as the team prepared to leave while Simon arranged a meeting for the following day with Brian K.D, the police, mining representatives and a lawyer. Tony B. took the biologists into Krem Rubong 1 to take samples and photographs and Fraser managed to get some video footage during the de-rigging so the day wasnÙt completely wasted. Torrential rain heralded the day of the meeting and resulted in the police truck having to be towed up to the road. Biological work continued in Krem Wah Shikar where the two Peters and Barbara accompanied the scientists. Simon and Brian K.D. returned in the afternoon to announce that a favourable outcome had been reached with the miners and the Expedition could continue. Sighs of relief and celebrations all round!

Krem Dngiem 1 was revisited on the 15th when photography (Des and Mark B.) and videoing (Fraser) took place with the writer acting as reluctant model on the exposed End of the World traverses. Mark dropped the superbly decorated pot at the end into Trafalgar Square in Liat Prah then dropped the pitch below the End of the World into another part of the same cave – our fourth and fifth connections. In K.L.(M).3 Henry R, Ian, Brian C, Quentin, Phillippa and Neil continued surveying inlets both up and downstream. Joe, Barbara and Peter G. finished the Krem Moo Sata 1 survey and Pete photographed the cave. This was not to be the hoped for missing link. Robin and Peter L. bottomed Krem Moo Sata 2 (?) at 17m – another possible link written off. An eight strong Anglo-German team left camp for the Sielkan area where they would stay for several days in a bamboo hut on a less exotic diet but with no shortage of rice! The recent rain meant that the last 3.5 kms of road had to be walked carrying full kit to reach the path back to the village. Navigation problems caused the team to walk to the base of the hill and back twice before being rescued by a bizarrely equipped local with a digital camcorder who showed them a video of Georg! Eventually they gratefully collapsed in the headmanÙs hut with a brew of tea. 

Sielkan Pouk

On the 16th Peter G, Barbara and Thomas surveyed the connections from Liat Prah to Krem Dngiem 1 where Joe, Brian C, Fraser and Peter L. were surveying the traverse and Trafalgar Square Pitch. More photography and videoing was done and the cave de-rigged. Des and Robin descended the large collapse doline of Krem Umthymme and dropped a 5m pitch into a boulder choke which was dug to open up a squeeze and route through boulders to the head of a 15m pitch. At the ever popular K.L.(M).3 Quentin, Henry R. and Neil continued tidying up the survey. Mark B, Ian and your scribe returned to Krem Umsohtung to finish the downstream survey when a flowstone blockage halted all further progress. In the stunning river cave of Sielkan Pouk Georg, Kate, Herbert and Henry D. surveyed 620m of inlet at the end of Perfect Passage while Simon, Heidi, Rainer and Mark T. took photos. All then had a communal “cave bathe”. Perfect Passage was heralded as the most beautifully and extensively decorated passage yet seen in Meghalaya – and for many of the team it was the finest ever seen! Several branches of the system were explored but only the high level fossil passage and an inlet “went”. The main passage was left ongoing as time ran out.

At last, on the 17th, the spectacular Krem Labbit (Khaidong) system (the upstream part of Liat Prah) was revisited by Brian C. and Henry R. who examined several outstanding possible leads. Des, Fraser and Joe videoed and de-rigged Umsohtung while Neil, Robin and Mark B. rigged Krem Um Im 1 which needed resurveying. A fresh sump stopped progress after a couple of hundred metres so they de-rigged the cave and set off back to camp. Today the Gods were with them as a plume of warm air was noticed rising from a nearby doline – probably caused by the cold temperature following heavy rain. A draughting walking-sized passage was found and named Dragon Hole. It looked good. Not too far away a surface recce team of Quentin, Phillipa and the writer checked the Krem Waipong area and found three steaming and draughting caves roughly above the western end of K.L.(M).3. Peter L. and Thomas recced and mapped in the rarely visited area around Krem Umsngad at the opposite end of the Ridge. Others recced and found that Krem Wah Sarok 2 was correctly called Krem Heh U Reh. At Sielkan Pouk about 660m was surveyed by Georg, Mark T, Herbert and Henry D. in the fossil passage. This large and geologically interesting gallery followed the contact between the limestone and sandstone above. It was carpeted with gypsum needles but unfortunately choked, though there may be potential for digging. (Good man Henry!). Meanwhile Simon, Heidi, Rainer and Kate went bamboo maypoling downstream but with little result.

Sunday the18th saw Robin, Henry R. and Phillippa bolting up a wall at the side of the boulder choke at the end of Disto in Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and entering a continuing, large fossil passage. At Dragon Hole Fraser, Peter G, Barbara and Brian K.D. surveyed 149m to a 20m pitch. Videoing and photography was also done. Neil, Quentin and your scribe, back down K.L.(M).3, removed a boulder in the promising but low and exceedingly grotty “All Bound for Moomooland”. Beyond, more squalor led to a view through an impassable rift into bigger stuff beyond but without bang or caps there was no way of getting through into what was assumed to be part of  Liat Prah. The hoped for major link was thus left for a determined siege next year. A crowbar and reflector were left in the rift in case it could be found from the far side. Joe and Brian C. descended two pitches in Krem Dngiem 2 and got the ExpeditionÙs sixth connection by arriving in an aven just off No Draught Passage in Liat Prah. They surveyed the link. Mark B. and Peter L. rigged the old favourite, Krem Synrang Ngap, in preparation for a big push. At Sielkan Zuala Pouk was explored and surveyed for 36.39m by Simon and Henry D. but dense jungle obscured the whereabouts of Bak Pouk.

Bats – Sielkan Pouk

Despite the resolved problem with the coal miners it was around 3.15am sometime this week that Peter L, awake at the time, heard a shotgun being fired over the camp by a passing well-wisher and the pellets landing on the tents.

Next day Ian and Brian C. surveyed the new fossil passage in Krem Labbit (Khaidong) for over 200m to a choke. Robin and the writer took the supposedly easy option of Krem Wah Lukor 1, located within walking distance of the camp. This turned out to be a 9m deep blind pot with a narrow shaft to one side which has yet to be dropped and will connect with the adjacent Krem Wah Lukor 2 where a 30m pot was dropped into a series of horizontal passages intersecting a deep daylight shaft, Krem Wah Lukor 3, 17m above the floor. The cave had a good feeling about it.

Peter L, Des, Fraser, Barbara and Peter G. returned to Dragon Hole. A 23m pitch, canyon, traverse and 45m pitch led to a large passage or chamber. Photos and video were taken. Way down the Ridge Thomas and Brian K.D. followed the dry Um Sngad riverbed through a gorge to reach two flood-prone cave entrances below a cliff with a 5m climb down into a large passage. The big push in Krem Synrang Labbit involved Mark B, Henry R, Phillippa and Quentin who reached the impressive M.A.A. Chamber in 3 hours. They pushed on through draughting passage heading NE, the Kit Kat Trail, but ran out of time and emerged at 2.30am after a 14-hour trip. Imagine their delight when the planned radio contact failed and they had to walk home. Four more cavers arrived in camp today. At Sielkan a spectacular through trip was made from Sielkan Pouk to Pielklieng Pouk with 60m of new, high-level passage bagged on the way. This was found with the aid of the bamboo maypole but was only an oxbow.

Stal – Sielkan Pouk

On 20th February local stars Pa Heh and Kores, accompanied by Henry R, joined Robin, Mandy, Rhys, Joe and the writer at Krem Wah Lukor 2 in order to identify the daylight shaft located in a patch of jungle. In the cave more rigging and surveying was done until the rope ran out at a 10m pitch into a large passage at right angles. At Sngad River Sink Peter L, Thomas, Max, Shelley, Fraser and Brian K.D. explored and videoed. Large washed in trees were a hazard! The Dragon Hole team of Neil, Des, Brian C. and Pete G. dropped the 50m pitch into the ceiling of the Grand Trunk Road in the Krem Um Im 6 section of, guess where, Liat Prah to get the seventh connection of the Expedition. Another 600m was surveyed by Georg, Herbert, Mark T. and Rainer in Sielkan Pouk along Footprint Inlet before running out of time.

Simon, Kate, Heidi and Henry D. were guided to a blind 50.5m deep shaft through sandstone into limestone and because of the localsÙ tales called it Ongoing Cave. It dropped down to a rift with climbs that tapered down in size – not going! The villagers called it the “hole with no end” and it was described by the headmanÙs wife as “the hole, which, if a stone is dropped down, it will fall for five minutes”. (ThatÙs deep!).

The 21st was the occasion of the Moolasngi village fete which most of the camp dwellers attended. Sadly there were no fighting bulls at the event. Six of them then changed places with the Sielkan team. At K.L.(M).3 Quentin, Henry R. and Brian C. tidied up the survey while Neil, who had forgotten his helmet, located a rift passage and three shafts on the walk back to camp. The latter may have been Krem Skap 1,2 and 3. Joe, Barbara and Peter G. went to Krem Iap Ksew ( Dead Dog Cave) and a nearby steaming rift, which they named Dog Breath Cave. In one of these Joe dropped a 10m pitch into some 50m of ongoing canyon passage. Robin, Peter L. and your scribe were back at Krem Wah Lukor 2 and the final pitch was dropped into the farthest upstream end of the superb, 14km long Krem Umthloo – the writerÙs baby!

This was Expedition connection number eight and particularly satisfying as it was likely to herald further exploration in this very fine, and far from finished, system. The Sielkan Pouk team of Simon, Georg and Heidi had a photographic trip before heading back to camp. With the others they hiked out to find no waiting jeeps and wondered if the miners had had their way. These turned up three hours late and without beer (!)  but the relief was such that the drivers  were forgiven.

DogBreathCave or Krem Iap Ksew 2 was revisited on the 22nd by Quentin, Pete G. and Barbara who surveyed 70m to the top of a 24m pitch. Peter L. and Simon surveyed in Sngad River Sink and reached a sump. Robin, Mark T. and Joe were in the same area. The writer, Ian and Neil revisited Video Passage in Krem Liat Prah via Krem Wah Sarok 3 – fully intent on sorting out the fictional survey but were gobsmacked when they realised that survey stations found were of very recent origin and that they had unwittingly connected with Krem Wah Sning – link number nine of this very lucky Expedition! Not trusting a rope protector on the big pitch they left Liat Prah by the main entrance having completed the first through-Ridge trip in the lower part of the system. Heidi, the two Henries and Brian C. surveyed 144m in Krem Dngiem 2. Mark B, Phillippa, Mandy, Rhys and Fraser videoed and photographed in Pielklieng Pouk then most did the through trip.

On the 23rd Quentin, Peter L. and Mark T. dropped a pot and pushed a squeeze in Krem Iap Ksew 2 then followed a streamway to more deep pitches which Peter bolted while the others surveyed 3 Rats Passage – complete with itÙs particularly active and apparently “cuddly” residents! Mark B, Phillippa, Mandy, Rhys and Fraser photographed and videod in Pielklieng Pouk before returning to camp. Robin, Des, Ian and Neil descended Krem Wah Sarok 3 to survey and confirm the link to Krem Wah Sning from Video Passage in Krem Liat Prah. In Krem Labbit (Khaidong) Brian C, Kate, the Henries and your scribe checked all possible leads near the Krem Chuni entrance including a high level passage which the Henries bolted up to (amongst a spray of vomit from one of them!). The only one of interest led to a dodgy vertical boulder choke with an open, stepped aven above which either needs bolting for safety or dropping into from the surface. Eight of the team set off for Semassi village where Peter G, Georg, Joe, Simon, Rainer and Heidi took a bamboo maypole into Krem Tyngheng to check high level leads in this fascinating and labyrinthine river cave.  

Next day Mark B, Quentin and Phillippa recced in the Dukan Sha and Lumthari areas finding a blind 30m shaft (which may have been Krem Kacha and some entrances in the base of the escarpment NE of the chai shop. At K.L.(M).3 Kate, Henry R, Mark T. and Rhys pushed three climbs, which led to short lengths of passage. Krem Wah Sning was visited by Robin, Ian and Brian C. to survey a couple of passages and check out an aven for a possible link to K.L.(M). – in vain. The writer, Neil and Mandy took the chance to carry on a project attempted last year but foiled by poor route finding. Krem Myrliat 1 was dropped (after confusing it with the undescended and adjacent Krem Myrliat 2) into the far reaches of the 14km long Krem Umthloo (part of the Southern System) and a couple of inlets leading north from one of the main upstream feeders were checked. Your scribe had noticed the proximity of these inlets to the 4km long stream cave of Krem Synrang Labbit (part of the Central System theoretically feeding the Krem Iawe resurgence at the far eastern edge of the Ridge and with a potential length of over 20kms) and had a wild idea that they may be connected. After a couple of blind passages we reached Letter C Gallery, explored and surveyed to an apparently too low crawl by Thomas Matthalm and team some years ago. A strong outward draught was followed through a roomy but muddy low section to reach two fine avens, which were not on TomÙs survey and with a dearth of survey stations. Beyond these, and at a total distance of only 134m from known passage a sluggish streamway was met flowing from left to right in a rather complicated area of chambers, chokes and low, muddy passages. Here an obviously differently marked survey station was found and tied into. Confusion then reigned as the explorers argued as to where the Hell they were! After a snack of Britannia coconut biscuits they headed out – filthy, wet and tired but keen to compute the survey figures. Mandy got this job and all were soon admiring the perfect fit of the ExpeditionÙs tenth and most important link. Umthloo and Synrang Labbit were now IndiaÙs 3rd longest cave at 18kms and part of the revised Southern System – the Central System now being redundant! A link with the Northern System of Krem Liat Prah and its satellites is now the project for next year and would be well on the way towards the creation of a 100km + Meghasystem. As German Tom and Austrian Peter L. had failed to push low passages from both sides this new link was named (with tongue in cheek) after our biscuits – the Britannia Connection! Suitable celebrations were held that evening. In Krem Tyngheng Georg, Heidi, Rainer and Peter G. surveyed 483m of maze passage while Simon, Barbara, Herbert and Joe pushed and surveyed passages in the Fossil River Series.

On Sunday 25th February Mark B. rigged a series of pitches in Peaceful Cave, Lelad, whilst Rhys and Brian C. surveyed. At base level small and decidedly unpleasant draughting ducks drove them back out. Krem Wah Shikar was visited on a tourist trip for Tongseng village lads Duohi Jeet, Com Mo Dias, Arki and Sngap Bha, led by Robin, Fraser and Des. They thoroughly enjoyed it and were duly photographed and videod. At Dukan Sha chai shop Henry D, Peter L, Mandy and Phillippa explored and surveyed 350m of spider-infested small passages, a larger fossil passage and a streamway / canal in a low level cave apparently called Krem Son Pow 2 and nicknamed “Drunken Goldfish Cave” when it was realised that “son pow” was their guideÙs request for “more money”! It later became Krem Kdong Thloo. Neil, Henry R. and Kate bottomed Krem Mih Dohtli 2 at 20m after two short pitches and Krem Mih Dohtli 1 after a 25m-drop to boulders. Quentin, Ian and Mark T. went to Krem Iap Ksew 2 and failed to descend the last shaft “due to blind shafts within the shaft, before locating a 15m draughting shaft”. At Krem Tyngheng a total of 533m was surveyed by the same teams as the previous day to the NW and SW of the main passage.

Krem Iap Ksew 2 was revisited next day by the same team who finally bottomed and surveyed the pitches and got the ExpeditionÙs eleventh connection when they tied into survey station 105 in Krem Shyien Khlieh just north of the camp. Fraser, Des and the writer descended Krem Wah Lukor 2 to the ledge with a stunning view of the Pinetree Pot daylight shaft, Krem Wah Lukor 3, in order to video Henry R. and Peter L. abseiling in from the open shaft in the jungle where a 1.5m long snake had earlier been seen. After almost two hours of waiting and listening to Henry drilling and whistling somewhere above the cameramen got fed up and mutinied. The writer descended the next pitch to suddenly see Henry appear high in the ceiling of a towering aven offset from the daylight shaft. The “Snake Shaft” was not the correct one but had also connected (Expedition link number twelve) via a window reached by a desperately exposed traverse above a blind, 40m deep shaft. It thus became Krem Wah Lukor 4. With some very imaginative rigging Henry reached the floor, followed by Peter who de-rigged Krem Wah Lukor 2 while Henry and your scribe surveyed out and de-rigged 4, at one point pausing to admire a small, black and deadly-looking scorpion resting on the cave wall. The aven became “Tubular Bells Pot” after the tunes played on the superb formations decorating its walls, and the views from the window – 40m above the floor and with a 40m-drop only some 4m away on the other side – were spectacular. Crossing the traverse scared the shit out of one particular old Mendip git with a headache! Robin, Neil and Kate went to a supposedly new pot named B6 but found it to have been previously bolted. 45m and a 25m pots were dropped to a lot of awkward, draughting cave ending in a small streamway. They were informed that it was Krem Syrnum – partially explored in 2002 but positioned incorrectly on the map. Phillippa, Henry D, Mandy and Rhys continued surveying for 175m in Krem Kdong Thloo, mainly in upstream walking-sized passage whilst Mark B. and the Brians surveyed 635m downstream and through a duck to an entrance shown to Mark two days earlier. Simon, Heidi, Herbert and Peter G. surveyed some 200m in a maze of wet, downstream passages in Krem Tyngheng then walked back to camp, feeling somewhat vulnerable as they trekked through the mining settlements! Tyngheng, the never ending cave, was left with 30 unexplored passages!

Nice Passage!!

February 27th and the last caving day of the Expedition. Krem Synrang Ngap saw the Marks, Henry D. and Brian C. pushing several grotty side passages in the far reaches and failing to find the major connection to Krem Synrang Labbit while Henry R, Heidi and the writer went for the soft option at the much closer downstream choke – two boulders were blocking the way to black space beyond. They were lucky to get there as Heidi sustained a badly twisted ankle en route but insisted on continuing. Here Henry produced his not very secret weapon – three “snappers” made from shotgun cartridge black powder scrounged from Pa Heh, inserted in drilled holes, tamped with cornflour and water paste and electrically fired one at a time. The first failed and the others produced smoke and noise but little else. It was a good effort though. A calcite rib on the wall was then chiselled off just enough to allow the skinnier Mendip member of the team to squeeze through and enlarge the place from the far side so that Henry could join him. They explored some 160m of huge and splendidly decorated high-level passage ending in a proper boulder choke with several ways on down in the floor. It was named “Adventurous Hobby ExplorersÙ Hall” following a derisory comment from one of our Germanic colleagues! Lack of time prevented surveying or pushing but it will be a great start to next yearÙs trip. There is a good chance of connecting with Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and / or Krem Bir 1 or even of bypassing these altogether and heading for Krem Iawe. Robin, Joe and Kate pushed on in Krem Syrnum and got the thirteenth and final connection of the Expedition when they appropriately dropped into the old favourite Krem Liat Prah to bump up the length of IndiaÙs longest cave to 26kms. Great stuff! A large Sngad River Sink team clocked up a lot more metres in this seemingly endless maze cave.

The following day all packed up, bid a fond farewell to the Ridge and its amazing cave systems and returned to Shillong where Daniel Gebauer, Sebastian Breitenbach and Norbert (?) had arrived – too late to join us but intent on doing their own thing. Andre Abele had been with Daniel in another part of India and he was met later in Calcutta on his way home.

Mark Tringham post dump?

The evening of 1st March was spent at the lakeside residence of Robin Laloo where many partied the night away before leaving for Guwahati and Calcutta on the 2nd. The 3rd was Holi festival and many of the team, particularly Phillippa, got plastered in the traditional coloured powder or liquid dispersed on this occasion. Cold beers at the Fairlawn finished the day and by 2.15 on the afternoon of the 4th Dr. B. and your scribe were supping proper ale in the HuntersÙ after a very successful, if somewhat traumatic, Expedition with 16kms surveyed and 13 important connections established. Apart from the above lots of people spent days recceing, rope washing, computing data and drawing up surveys. Fraser and Phillippa introduced a novelty item with a spoof video of “Big Brother Meets Father Ted” – essential viewing at this yearÙs Hidden Earth Conference! The usual thanks go to all those who worked hard in many ways to accomplish this and particularly Maureen and Brian for again letting us turn their house into a transit camp and caving hut.    

Some facts and figures

24 caves, 16 of which were previously unexplored, were surveyed and photographed resulting in almost 16 kms of passage, 11.8 kms of this being on the Ridge where there is now 138 kms – the greatest concentration of cave passage in one area on the Indian sub-continent. The total length of passage found by these Meghalayan Expeditions is now over 310 kms in 653 caves with another 450 yet to be explored! The Krem Liat Prah system was extended from 22.202 kms to 25.225 kms and the almost connected Krem Labbit (Moolasngi) 3 from 649 metres to 3.775 kms. Its connection with Krem Rubong 1 gave a final length of 4.590 kms. The Krem Umthloo / Krem Synrang Labbit system has jumped into third place at 18 kms. Krem Tyngheng went from 7.752 kms to 9.221 kms and the Pielklieng Pouk / Sielkan Pouk system from 10.428 kms to 12.434 kms. Two promising caves for next year are the Sngad River Sink at 1.265 kms and Krem Kdong Thloo at 1.185kms. Much of the Ridge exploration was greatly helped by Thomas ArbenzÙs magnificent map to which he has dedicated most of his limited holidays. A reduced and simplified version appears with this article. 

The Longest and Deepest Limestone Caves in the Indian Sub-continent – March 2007-04-17

1.         Krem Liat Prah System – 25.225 km.
2.         Krem Kotsati / Um Lawan – 21.53 km.
3.         Krem Umthloo / Synrang Labbit18.091 km.
4.         Synrang Pamiang – 14.157 km.
5.         Pielklieng Pouk / Sielkan Pouk – 12.434 km.
6.         Krem Tyngheng – 9.221 km.
7.         Krem Shrieh – 8.862 km.
8.         Krem Mawkhyrdop – 7.194 km.
9.         Krem Lymput – 6.641 km.
10.        Mondel Kol – 5.831 km.

1.         Synrang Pamiang – 317m.
2.         Krem Kotsati / Um Lawan – 215m.
3.         Krem Umjasew – 197m.
4.         Krem Umthloo / Synrang Labbit – 188m.
5.         Pielklieng Pouk / Sielkan Pouk – 180m.
6.         Pakaw Pouk – 170m.
7.         Krem Shrieh – 169m.
8.         Krem Risang – 154m.
9.         Krem Wah Ser – 145m.
10.        Krem Shyien Khlieh – 143m.

All are located in Meghalaya state.

Selected references

Belfry Bulletins 516, 519, 522, 525, 527 (This diary article was published in error, all information therein being included in the article in 525).

Grampian S. G. Bulletins 3rd Series, Vol. 5 Nos. 4, 5.  4th Series, Vol. 1 Nos.2, 5.  Vol. 2 Nos. 2, 4.  Vol. 3 No. 1.


Rana  Hole,  Assynt –  the  Saga Continues.

By Tony Jarratt
Photos by Paul Brock

The article on page 36 of BB 527 (not listed in the contents!), having failed to lure any new diggers to this epic project, it was a very limited “Mendip Invasion” that headed the 625 miles north at the end of February. From the Hill; Paul Brock and your scribe, from Chard; Peter and Philippa Glanvill and, later in the week, the Bristol contingent of Tony Boycott and Jayne Stead. Mark Brown and Norman Flux had travelled up from Sheffield a few days earlier in the trusty “big van full of more digging technology”. Perfectionist Norman had designed a winch with three cycles in parallel to replace the tandem version and had thought up various improvements to the hauling system. They were joined by Edinburgh digger Roger Galloway. Derek Guy drove up from Stirling and arrived with the Mendip team to find that the lads had, thankfully, already transported the new winch up the mountain and were in the process of fettling it.

Mark fettling the headgear while Norman adjusts

the ‘Fluxcavator Mk 5Ù cycle winch

On the 29th February seven diggers set off up the Allt nan Uamh valley in glorious weather but with extremely strong wind. Your scribe, dressed in green wellies and a pale blue and pink tartan fleece suit and carrying two conspicuous road signs provided much amusement and curiosity to several walkers visiting the Bone Caves. Trying to explain what he was doing was not easy and the road signs were much regretted when he rounded “windy corner”, just beyond the Bone Caves, and was blown off his feet by a strong gust. With an almost vertical drop down to the valley floor he got away lightly but practically crawled the rest of the way. At Rana Hole he joined Paul to fill bags with spoil while the engineers continued the good work. 17 kibble-loads of spoil were hauled out, mainly from the now collapsed pile of mud and rock to the rear of the floor of the shaft. Much junk was also pulled out and a huge perched boulder was drilled and banged. Red dye was dumped into the trickle of water sinking at the bottom but was not detected in the underlying Uamh an Claonaite when visited by Simon Brooks later in the week. Does this mean that Rana goes somewhere else? Time will tell. While all this was going on Pete, Philippa and Derek, after a tourist trip in Claonaite, had found a possible new cave near the main stream sink. This was tentatively called Three GÙs Cave for lack of a local name and was later dug and banged before the team headed down for libations at the Inch.

Next day there was no support for Rana so Paul and the writer drove north to Durness and Smoo Cave. Here they abseiled the 24m deep Falais Smoo (Chimney of Smoo) directly into G.S.G. member Colin CoventryÙs inflatable dinghy which he had paddled across the lake chamber below: he runs short tourist trips in the cave. After inspecting his dig above the flowstone barrier at the end of the large inlet stream passage they were ferried out to the landing stage at the Starrsach (cave threshold) before heading to the Smoo Cave Hotel for replacement of lost body fluids. Earlier in the day a salmon sandwich had been purchased here for ColinÙs lunch and delivered to him by the simple expedient of chucking it down a skylight in the roof of the cave – “fast food” indeed! The extremely dry conditions had made todayÙs abseil a pleasure as usually the whole of the Allt Smoo stream accompanies one down the pot making the descent spectacular, noisy and bloody wet.

Overall view of the dig

Back at Rana on May Day, after a diversion to clear some 3m of spoil from Three GÙs Cave, Paul and the writer continued digging, rock breaking and bag filling at the bottom while the engineers fettled away above them. The three GÙs themselves later assisted and, watched by a Golden Eagle, 70 kibble-loads of spoil were winched out. The Mendip duo walked back down via the ridge of Beinn an Fhuarain surrounded by spectacular vistas and feeling too warm in T-shirts at 7.30pm! They were so impressed that they mobile-phoned the absent Jane Clarke to describe the view and inform her what she was missing. Photos were taken as evidence.

The walk up the valley was almost too hot next day and it was good to get underground. Another 70 loads of spoil and one toad came out courtesy of the new winch – the “Fluxcavator Mk. 5”. Tony Boycott, Jayne Stead and Julian Walford assisted Norman, Paul and the writer today and the others went walking or climbing in the continuing heatwave. Sunburn was suffered by several of the team!

Julian, Mark and your scribe returned on the 3rd to fettle, bail and dig. There were too few people to winch, as A.N.U.S. Cave and Three GÙs Cave were being visited, photographed and dug.

A thirsty man but nattily dressed!

(The colour scheme is spectacular. Ed)  

A large team made up for this on the 4th with Ivan Young, Norman and Paul below and Mark, Julian, Philippa, Tony and the writer on cycle duty. 120 loads came out including a large, netted boulder and several drums of water. The rather obvious spoil heap was pretty much levelled at the request of George Vestey, the landowner. He is happy with the dig as long as his deer are not molested. As if…

Another 70 loads came out on the 5th when Norman, newcomer Caroline Stubbs and your scribe went below and Mark, Paul, Ivan, Philippa and Julian put up with the gradually changing weather conditions on the surface. This was the last day and with a total of 347 loads out and the eventual perfection of the new hauling system all were satisfied. The site was “put to bed” and the redundant tandem winch painfully wheeled back down to the road before celebrations took place at the Inch. Richard, the landlord, was not well today after having overdone it with hotel residents and Jamaican reggae band the Skatalites * until 5.30 am.

During the week Simon Brooks and the Glanvills dived in Claonaite with Fraser Simpson videoing and Simon also dived and dug underwater in the Cnoc nan Uamh System upstream sump. A few other minor caves were visited and Hugh Penney, Marco?, Carol Walford and Kate Janossy got some climbing in. A magnificent week – and not a midgie in sight!

Brockers in A.N.U.S Cave

* ‘The Skatalites meet at King TubbyÙsÙ is a particularly good album featuring the fine drumwork of Leroy ‘HorsemouthÙ Wallace.  Ed. Iree!


Rose Cottage Cave  – Connecting the Entrances and Other News

By Tony Jarratt

“Well, if you know of a better ‘ole, go to it.“  –  C. B. Bairnsfather

Continued from BBs 522-527.

Further Digging: – 15/12/06 – 30/12/06 and the connection.

On 15th December J.C. and T.J. pumped out the pool in the Inlet Tube of the Surface Shaft and filled around eighteen bags with sloppy, gravelly mud. Two days later these two were joined by T.H. and 43 loads were hauled out. Another thirteen bags were filled by T.J. on the 18th and stacked ready for removal. R.W. and T.A. continued with the ginging project. On the freezing cold night of the 20th, after the team had hauled out 15 loads, P.B. and T.J. dug and stacked over a dozen full bags of squalor from the Inlet Tube while H.B, P.C, S.H. and P.H. established further hammering contact from PaulÙs Personal Project in the main cave but were still baffled by the direction in which to dig. The annoying puddle here was drained and 12 skip-loads were hauled out. J.C. filled six bags in the Inlet Tube on the 22nd during a session of “soggy digging” and later that day T.J. filled eleven skips at P.P.P. where he attacked a new site about half a metre above the dig by the drained puddle. This seemed to be a steeply ascending phreatic bedding plane with a stringer of grey organic mud – identical to the Inlet Tube and a good contender for the connection. Masses of heavily calcited breccia blocked the route and were almost impossible to hammer off so next day T.J. and J.C. returned armed with the Hilti drill and detonators. An experimental session of  “micro-blasting” resulted in the removal of two skip-loads of breccia and rock and considerable confusion on the wisdom of wiring detonators in series and using a flat firing battery. The resulting supposed misfire was checked by T.J. and J.C. on Christmas Eve and they were relieved to find that the detonator had actually gone off and was intact enough to provide the latter with an interesting festive pendant. Some token digging was done but the warmth of the Belfry soon lured them away.

With T.J. off to Sutherland for a weekÙs digging at Rana Hole this left J.C. to continue alone at the Surface Shaft side and on the 28th she filled several bags with slop and frustratedly wrote in the log book “How much further can it be?” She was  joined next day by T.H. when the misery of the Inlet Tube drove them to P.P.P. A suggestion that an iron fence rod should be thrust into the dig face just above the micro-blasted site led to J.C. returning to the Inlet Tube where she almost got her eye poked out when the eternally over-enthusiastic T.H. applied this technique! Another hour or so of digging enabled the connection to be made and the first exchange trip done. H.B. and Doug Harris (MCG) did the second one following a drilling session at Plan B Dig on the 30th. This was the last trip of the year.

Halfway and Plan B Digs:- 3/1/07 – 9/5/07.

A major clear up at the Inlet tube and P.P.P. took place on the 3rd January when over 70 loads were hauled out via both entrances and much of the digging gear removed. The tidying team was M.S, H.D, H.B, B.S, Hannah B, S.H, T.J, A.V. and P.H. Halfway Dig was visited by J.B, J.N. and P.C. who continued clearing spoil from the site and gave thanks that the connection dig was over so that they could recruit the staff. R.W continued with the entrance walling on the following day.

Plan B Dig was banged by H.B. and T.H. on the 7th while J.C. and T.J. cleared rocks from Halfway Dig and dumped them further down the cave in any convenient space available. On the following day R.W. continued drystone walling while T.A. extended the length of the steel ladder in preparation for its permanent emplacement in the Surface Shaft entrance. More clearing of both digs took place on the 10th by H.B, H.D, T.J, P.C, B.O, A.L. and Hannah B. On the 14th January T.J. and J.C. continued removing rocks from Halfway Dig and also pumped out the pool in the lower Surface Shaft dig in order to flush out the connection crawl. The Surface Shaft steel ladder was finally bolted and cemented in position by T.A. and R.W. on the 15th. Two days later H.D. and H.B. drilled 13 shot-holes at Plan B Dig and fired a mighty charge while at Halfway Dig J.N, P.C. and A.L. continued clearing while P.B. gave them the benefit of his recently perfected dig engineering knowledge. Four other regulars succeeded in escaping the mayhem to visit other clubsÙ digs – J.C. and T.J. to bang the West Passage chokes in Upper Flood and S.H. and P.H. to assist the Shepton in Gibbets Brow Shaft. More digging and clearing at Halfway took place on the 22nd January when J.B. and T.J. shifted a large amount of mud and rock and measured the spoil rift for future scaffolding. Two short lengths of this were taken down on the 24th by J.B, T.J. and Rob Harper. More clearing was done at Halfway and a three shot-hole cord charge was laid in two boulders to give future working space. H.B. and H.D. continued clearing at Plan B Dig and fired the Halfway charge on their way out. The Henries were back at Plan B on the 28th but due to damage of the electric cable caused by rocks thrown down from Halfway Dig no drilling could be done so they assisted T.H. and T.J. with disposal of said rocks. The bang debris was cleared from Halfway and another charge fired on the half-boulder remaining.

The 29th January saw R.W. and T.A, briefly assisted by T.J, continuing with the shaft walling, spoil heap walling and general tidying up of the site. Two days later H.B. and T.J. fitted the scaffold bars in the Halfway Dig spoil rift. H.B. then drilled thirteen shot-holes at Plan B Dig while T.J. and P.C. continued clearing Halfway. The former then joined H.B. below to assist in charging the holes with mixed cord before firing on the way out. The spoil was cleared on February 11th by H.B. and Rich Bayfield who then “drilled for England”. Three days later H.B. and S.H. laid and fired a 14 shot-hole charge here.

The 17th and 18th February saw T.A. at the Surface Shaft where he “Sneaked in some concrete blocks … while Richard wasnÙt there. (Fixed the foundations for the gate).” He and R.W. continued walling next day and on the 20th R.W. fixed the spoil heap wall and steps.

Halfway Dig was visited by J.B, P.C. and P.H. on the 21st when photos were taken and two scaffold poles inserted as shoring. No digging took place due to lack of dumping space.

On the 26th February H.B. and Hannah B. returned to Plan B Dig (after an abortive trip on the 18th when bad air stopped play) and did some clearing in more breathable conditions. The same area was visited by J.C. on 3rd March when she led a tourist trip for Dominic Gane, Steve and Claire Footitt and Peet Stracey. The problem today was exceptionally wet conditions, which soon drove them back to the Belfry. Allegedly the inflowing stream had been coerced to go down the new entrance by T.H.

R.W. and T.A. continued walling on the 5th in equally unpleasant conditions and on the 7th T.A. bolted on the steel grid gate. Later that day T.J, B.S. and J.C. descended this shaft with intent to dig a side passage but they were defeated by a 3m+ deep pool. A quick trip to Bored of the Rings in the old cave and a grovel through the link gained a view of the pool from the far side. The noise of falling and flowing water made the whole cave feel more “alive”. By the 12th March the weather was much improved and R.W. and T.A. continued walling, briefly assisted by T.J. All admired the colourful addition to the landscape in the form of an ancient and decrepit JCB – severely bogged down in its self-made swamp between the Belfry and the cave and bearing recently added “L” plates. Anyone requiring further information should not ask Ben “Driver of the Year” Selway as a smack in the gob often offends!  In its favour it came in useful as an extra prop in a short documentary film commenced on the 14th March by Alistair Koliasnikoff and Predrag “Pedja” Nikolic of Thames Valley University. H.D, S.H, P.B, P,H, J.C. and T.J. were filmed and interviewed either coming out of the original entrance shaft or hauling skips, four of which, full of rocks for R.W.Ùs wall, reached the surface. Some filming was also done in the HuntersÙ but the underground shots failed due to humidity affecting AlistairÙs camera. H.D. and P.B. checked the state of the drill left at Plan B Dig (it was in good condition despite the recent flooding) then helped J.C. dump six bags of poo, which she had filled in the utterly squalid Halfway Dig. The consensus of opinion tonight was that everyone needed a change of digging scenery!

The next bang at Plan B Dig took place on 21st March when H.D, assisted by M.B. fired a six shot-hole charge while many of the team paid heed to the above and escaped to the relative comfort of Caine Hill Shaft (see separate article). A brief visit was paid on the 26th when R.W, T.A, T.J. and T.H. used 38 bags of clay from this shaft to help infill around the new entrance.

The spoil from the Plan B Dig bang was cleared by H.B. and H.D. on the 28th and seven more shot-holes were drilled.

Another 24 loads of Caine Hill Shaft spoil were dumped on the 2nd April by R.W, T.A, T.J, Paul Weston and Mike Hearn. The seven shot-holes were charged and fired by H.D and H.B. on the 4th and cleared on the 11th. Meanwhile, on the surface Ben S. used his resurrected JCB to improve the Priddy Pot water leat. The Henries returned on the 18th to fire an eleven-hole charge, which they cleared on the 25th before repeating the process. Sometime at the end of April Jake B. continued clearing spoil at the Halfway Dig. On the 9th May the Henries were back at Plan B Dig where they cleared more bang spoil and fired a ten-hole charge.

Landscaping of the spoil heaps has been continued by Rich W, Tony A. and the writer using soil and turf resulting from Ben SelwayÙs JCB operations.

To be continued in a future BB.

New and Resurrected Diggers

Doug Harris (MCG), Bob Smith, Hannah Bell, Rob Harper, Rich Bayfield, Matt Blount, Paul Weston, Mike Hearn.

The Old Brigade

Jane Clarke, Tony Jarratt, Trevor Hughes, Pete Hellier, Paul Brock, Phil Coles, Sean Howe, Henry Bennett, Tony Audsley, Rich Witcombe, Martin Smith (OSCG), Henry Dawson, John Noble, Anne Vanderplank, Jake Baynes, Ben Ogbourne, Alex Livingston, Ben Selway.

The Film Team

Alistair Koliasnikoff, Predrag “Pedja” Nikolic, Mario Michalidis, ( Thames Valley University).   


Charlie Adcock (Event Horizon Pyrotechnics).


Website and mailing list updates

Henry Bennett

Since the last BB was published, a private email mailing list has been set up. So what the heck is a mailing list? In short it is a tool for broadcasting a single email to every member of the club who we have an email address for. Any mail sent to the list from a certified address will be sent to all club members with BCA active caving insurance directly and via digest to other members. Since it is a private list it is not possible for spammers to abuse.

IÙve implemented this to empower all members of the club to communicate more effectively.  Previously to broadcast a notice of an upcoming event meant doing it before the BB went to print. This has meant that in the past many members were not aware of events as it didnÙt appear on their radar.

IÙve also implemented tools to enable you to update your personal details online, in case you have moved house. This has been as part of an effort to consolidate membership records and any payments you have made. For those of you with concerns about the Data Protection Act, donÙt worry, we are fully compliant.

Bob Smith has moved the weather station from the Belfry roof to the Wessex where it is now accessible online via the web. Want to know how much rain has fallen before you plan a trip down West End? Simply look up weather on or go direct to



By Harding and Richards

NGR 40675884. Banwell.

Length: 6.5 ms   VR 5ms

Alco-hole is a previously missed ochre cave in the woods that crown the hill not far from a ruined cottage. It is a rift with an ochre vein in ceiling and it has been used as a dump for numerous bottles; gin in the main, hence the name. The floor is choked with material and it appears that the mine goes deeper. Bats have taken up residence.

There are other filled in workings in the same woods that lie south east of Alco-hole at around 100 ms distance. There are also badger holes in an ochre cave 100ms south west of this location. 

The Adventures of Zot 2

‘Zot goes to Thrupe Lane SwalletÙ

By Mike Wilson

As I was involved in this venture, with Rich Long, and others I have noted their comments and then filled in the gaps accordingly.

So here we go, one year, many moons ago Zot and I decided on a trip to Thrupe so he and ZotÙs Dog got themselves ready for the off by having a last drink or six in the Hunters the night before!!

Sadly as had happened many times before, ZotÙs Dog didnÙt make it any further than the pub because Zot wandered off and left him there. Still I guess this avoided any complications at Somerset Customs regarding rabies [not that I am in any way saying that either Zot or his dog were Rabid!!] Just in case you are all wondering what happened to the dog left in the Pub, his friends would either take it home for him or look after it until we saw him again. It wasnÙt just dogs he used to leave in the Pub it was girl friends as well!! H and I once had to take a young lady home from a pub in Mells when he decided to go home and leave her there. ItÙs a long walk from Mells to Paulton in high heels!!!!!!! [I canÙt be doing with this!!]

I digress; we arrived at Thrupe Lane Rich Long Mark, myself and eventually Zot, with the intention of going to Atlas Pot via the EagleÙs Nest route. We changed in Mrs ButtsÙ garage entrance and politely declined a glass of their cider [deciding that later was safer than sooner].

Zot opened his screw top drum and this wonderful aroma of rotting clothing and damp wet earth wafted out. It doesnÙt pay to wash or dry caving grots too often he said, its bad luck!! Actually the smell was a little like compost when wet. Or a recent grave dig!!

Next question, “hey team has anyone got a spare oversuit!!” Obviously the answer was no, not many people carry two suits except for Shepton Sean who has three in case the conditions change. “Well” said Zot, “I will just have to use this one that I found by the side of the road!!” He held up an emaciated heap of tattered road workers yellow waterproof overalls that had obviously been thrown away in a dirty ditch and left to rot. The zip was useless so he tied the waist and sleeve cuffs with baler twine [very effective stuff in the wet], poured washing up liquid into his wellies [he always did this to hide the smell and help him prise the boots on]!!!!

And so on down the cave. As you all know beyond the entrance pitch is a rift, which is quite sharp, spikey and not at all water worn. ZotÙs suit was soon shedding yellow bits everywhere and making tearing noises. This continued all the way down through to Butts chamber, down the streamway to the top of the waterfall. Mark, Rich and myself abseiled down the pitch while Zot guarded the rope, at least that was his excuse. When we were prussiking up, Rich was heard to say that we would have no problem finding our way back just follow the yellow markers. This proved to be the case. There were chunks of ZotÙs suit all the way back to the entrance. !!!! Having filled 2 gallon containers with Mrs ButtsÙ excellent homemade cider we retired to the Belfry to share it amongst our mates.

NB the other effect of filling your wellie boots with washing up liquid is that they foam at the mouth as soon as you encounter any water much to the amusement of your mates, just another route in the life of a caver.


Multi-Club meet to Forest of Dean Fri 4th May to Mon 7th May

By Peter Hellier

Because of all the other things in oneÙs life, I decided to pop over on Saturday morning and return Sunday evening. This maximised time caving and face-showing on the domestic front, as well as a bit of socialising on Saturday night.

Worried that some keenos may have been setting off at 9:30, I arrived at about 9:15 and looked for the BEC contingent. Mike Wilson was still/again doing battle with his knees, and not going underground. I decided that Chris (Zot) Harvey was probably not caving as no caves had streams big enough for his kayak, but knew Sean Howe was up for something. So, I found myself heading for Slaughter Stream Cave after the key had arrived at 10:30. In the meantime I experienced EmmaÙs wonderful organisation by completing the Camping Register, the Going Down a Cave log, and the What I Want from the Chinese tonight order.

To be honest, my presence turned an 11 man SMCC trip into a 12 man multi-club trip, and I somewhat relied on their tackle, but at least they need not worry about being ‘the slow oneÙ with me around. Based on a laminated A4 survey (thanks again to Emma), and a little bit of ancient memory, we had a cracking trip.

This was my first Forest of Dean caving trip so I did not have a great deal of pre-conceptions. The entrance consisted of an impressive series of fixed ladders against endless stacked, shored and cemented-in boulders, and a final fixed ladder out of daylight. The first pitch to rig was just a few metres, but we rigged it properly with ladder and line, though really it was only needed for one small part. The main pitch was a rather nice 11m freehang. The breakthrough crawl led quickly to a streamway which we followed downstream. By then we had split the party up, and I was in a group of 5.

The plan was to do a round trip as referenced in the guides, with a bit on the side to see the famous dog skeleton and prints. Having left the stream just above Sump 1 , we regained it and followed down towards Sump 2 before returning to The Coal Seam and the circular trip. Generally we were on a fairly well beaten track most of the time, but without the A4 survey we would have needed a copy of descriptions from somewhere. I was very surprised at just how much fossil cave there was, of good caveable proportions – I think I was expecting something less mature. The dead dog had travelled (when it wasnÙt dead) a considerable distance judging by the footprints in the now dried up mud, quite apart from the mystery of how it got there. Now, even its bones appeared powdery, though its collar, bowl, teething ring and lead seemed to be in very good condition.

On returning from there we met the other party of 5 (2 had returned earlier), who had done the same trip as us. I still canÙt work out how we did not meet them on our return from the lower streamway earlier…

The connection back to the breakthrough crawl was down a climb that was a bit splashy even after the very dry weather we had in April, but a nice end before the climb back up to the late afternoon heat. We spent 4 – 4.5 hrs at a sensible pace with quite a number of social stops. There was not much very technical or demanding, though my knees and back found the Sand Deserts hard work, and we all got a bit warm in some of the very dry areas. The sand in this cave being, I believe from the limestone itself, which is largely a brown sugary textured and coloured dolomite, and not any nearby sandstones. 

A superb trip overall, and suitably celebrated at the pub on the way back, courtesy largely of ‘Butty BachÙ a local brew.

Sunday, and a trip to Wigpool Mine. On the upside, this was a lead trip with fine formations, so not to be missed, but on the downside was the fact that it was a mine, and ‘smallÙ. When our guide turned up on a motorcycle combo, and changed into shorts and sweatshirt, I think I was not the only one to fear for the worth of the trip. Our leader, ‘MoleÙ obviously lived and breathed mines like this, and was a wealth of information about the mines in the area. Unfortunately he forgot the key to our exit, so we had a half hour to enjoy the bluebell woods before pacing off to the entrance.

The trip started in what was more badger hole than mine, and very red and ochreous. The theory is that the upper levels had all been dug out as miners extracted the ore, traces of which could be seen at times, though it was clear that at least some of the surfaces were fully natural. In fact the upper series felt more of a cave than a mine.

It has to be said that this was a photo trip, which lent a relaxed air to the proceedings, and normally there were formations to be viewed while the photographers did their stuff ahead. The formations in the cave were generally pure white, which was particularly stunning against the very dark reddish rock. And they were good. They were also very fresh, and small in size, though not extent, which supports the idea that the passage did not exist before the voids were mined out.

We then dropped to the mid levels of the mine, which were very mine-like, and one could march off along the 2m square section passages, and we were shown where the different shaft would have entered. There was little hardware remaining other than a few timbers.

The plan was to do a circuit into the lower levels, but water levels prevented us from completing the loop. This meant we had to head back up which certainly generated some heat, first back to the main haul-ways, then on up to the highlight of the trip, some more formations.

This involved a climb up the dip of the rocks which here were very steep, and caused a few slippages. The main body of the formations were on a deep shelf of rock, so could be viewed as it were from the side. The highlight being a small pool containing some pom-poms under the water, and worth the trip for those alone. It was not far from there to the exit, for which we were glad Mole had obtained the key.

One of the main mysteries was how Mole had managed to avoided getting his knees filthy, and seemed to have avoided sitting on a wet rock for the whole 4 hr trip. Presumably he was more agile than the party, which was half his age (writer excluded).

WhatÙs happening at the Belfry

By Henry Bennett

Since the beginning of the club year a huge amount of work has gone on at the Belfry. This has been achieved through working weekends and a few members putting in time when they get a chance. One of the main driving forces has been our Hut Warden, Jane Clarke, who has input a huge amount of effort and time. Numerous maintenance jobs have been undertaken including repainting the main room, hallway, loos, doors, outside walls, providing more visitor storage in the bunkroom and mattress covers, new seating and better storage in the changing room, taps replaced, automatic lights fitted…the list goes on. As well as this, a massive effort to clean up the Belfry, inside and out, has been undertaken and several loads of rubbish have been dispatched to the council recycling centre. Many thanks to all involved, you know who you are.

Recently we identified that the gas cooker was a serious hazard and need urgent replacement. Fortunately, Ian “Slug” Gregory had some contacts in the kitchen equipment auction market and managed to provide us with a fantastic commercial oven and hob to replace it. After the initial problem of it not fitting through the door (amazing what an angle grinder will do) we got it in. Chris “Batspiss” Batstone also pulled out all the stops to getting it plumbed in. Many thanks to both of you!!

Work on the extension is progressing steadily. While many might not see any material progress a huge amount of effort has been made on arranging quotes for work and getting key things ordered. The stairs are due to be delivered later this month and we expect a rush of progress after they are installed. Once again we need skilled bodies (or people who can work under instruction) to move things forward. Contact Henry Dawson if you can help.

HungaryBudapest Caving

By Zot and Mr Wilson.

Some months ago Zot and I were invited on a trip to Hungary, starting in Budapest doing some caving there and then on to Aggtalek for the rescue conference. We decided to go to Budapest for a very long weekend and then return to England for various reasons.

There were other BEC members on the trip Emma Porter and John Christie plus various members of the CPC .In fact it was a fairly international occasion with 2 cavers from the Lebanon and of course several Hungarians who were a great help.

We decided to travel to Luton Airport as the fare was only £50 return from there [the drawback being that the flight left at 7.00am. The plan was to all meet at the airport and travel together. Thanks to Slug we stayed overnight at his flat in Bedford and travelled down to Luton early in the morning. Arriving at Luton car park Zot says, “here Wils IÙve left my wallet at Slugs!!!” No chance of going back to Bedford so we decided that I would sub him for the trip.

We had forgotten what a dump Luton airport is!! The baggage wait was huge and disorientating and the security check was worse. Zot was stopped because he had a tube of toothpaste in his hand luggage, not in a clear plastic bag !!And everyone had to take their shoes off [this did not include Zot as he was wearing wellie boots to save baggage weight!!]

Budapest airport was a complete contrast, clean and tidy with no delay; Emma had laid a bus to take us to the caving hut. Thanks Emma!! [Called the JÓSEPH-HEGYI] it was situated on the edge of a hill with a wonderful view of the Danube and the City a really peaceful spot. See photo.

There was a little co-op type shop nearby which sold food and beer. Dino, one of the local cavers kindly negotiated a price per crate [3 per day].

The main cave in this region is situated in the cellar of the hut and is called Jóseph-Hegyi-barlang. It was found while excavating the foundations for a house on the site and is a geothermal cave. The entrance is a concrete tube with a fixed ladder [of the window cleaner type] approx 10m long. This is followed by a fairly small twisting route down to an awkward 14m vertical free climb with a hand line. After another series of crawls the cave opens up into a series of chambers. These are extremely beautiful with gypsum crystals, and a wonderful floor that resembles a collapsed wedding cake [this was a lake that had dried up and collapsed leaving layers of icing like sections on the cave floor]. There were also gypsum and aragonite flowers in various sections of the chambers. All in all a fantastic place to be!! We managed a fairly lengthy photo trip thanks to the local cavers who provided access and a leader.

Out in time for a sausage barbecue, kindly put on by the local cavers, slightly marred by one of the Hungarian group who seemed to think that green leaves are a good thing on a fire, not true!!! ItÙs oh so hard to be happy when you are engulfed in choking green smoke, but the cheap beer helped no end. There was also a very yappy sausage dog, which was extremely lucky to escape the barbecue!!

Day 2 saw us walking to the next cave, which was about 1km away. This cave was called Pál-völgyi-barlang. A round trip was planned with a bonus [a bar at the end]. Quite a large group that day so we split into 2 groups. I believe the cave was about 2 km long. Tourist entrance and then a lot of tortuous crawling passages, some tight, interspersed with several small chambers. The cave itself was formed by geothermal activity so it was warm and fairly dry. The best kit is grots and overalls and plenty of liquid. Just a small anecdote, Zot was following a Hungarian girl, and got stuck in a tight twisting tube. Three of us were following behind and heard him say, “Here love I think I am stuck can you pull on this, harder, harder!!” The imagination ran riot at this moment and we all fell about laughing. Luckily he got through only to find a tight spot further on.

We also had a contingent from Guantanamo Bay with us, all wearing orange overalls I donÙt know how they managed to escape the regime!! Its tricky caving with chains around your ankles and a blindfold!!

This was a 4-hour trip in what was in places very soft rock, which is a kind of marl [not red]. Very interesting cave and bar.

The last day for us was spent in Budapest R and R; Dino took us to a Gothic spa where there were several pools some warm and sulphurous and some cool. There was also an outside pool with a wave machine [great fun]. To cap it all 2 scantily clad young ladies in thongs took ZotÙs eye, while I pointed out that there were a large number of East European ladies with blue floral swim hats and oceans of cellulite [he wasnÙt interested in those].

We finished the trip off in a restaurant, which did eat and drink all you can for 2,400.00 florints about £10.00 in sterling. Many thanks to Mr Dyson, Dino, Emma and all the other Hungarian cavers who helped to make this trip a success.

I Forgot More Than YouÙll Ever Know (About Wigs)

Music:  Don & Phil Everley
Lyrics:  N Harding and D Irwin

For those of you who have yet to visit HuntersÙ Lodge Inn Sink a myriad of delights await the visitor. The strenuous exertions of negotiating the 45-degree incline of Pub Crawl is amply rewarded by emerging into Happy Hour Highway with its splendid vistas.  Beyond that a fine, well mud-padded crawl through a phreatic tube leads to the wonderful formations and colours of the BarmaidsÙ Bedroom, with the bones yet to come, and below a fine descent on the stal flowed Pewter Pot leads to the awesome connection into Bron Ale Boulevard.  However the cave does have its Siberian section.  On entering Happy Hour Highway one can levitate under a menacing boulder and enter an unpleasant descending crawl, which is guaranteed to rip holes in all new oversuits.  A rope assisted descent of Rocking Rudolph leads to a tight crawl, which in turn becomes a strenuous contorted wriggle and we emerge gasping into the Stygian gloom of Hangover Hall, a truly unpleasant place of oppressive menace.  From there we dug a further 20 feet into Stillage Sump chamber.  For six months we attempted to penetrate further by bailing said sump.  This involved the construction of an elaborate dam system by which we blocked the stream, which backed up Rocking Rudolph whilst in our self-inflicted tomb we attempted to dig and pump the sump. However, like St Genevieve and King Cnut before us, we failed to hold back the water and eventually with winter storms coming on we abandoned the dig and adjourned to the relative comforts of the new dig at Rose Cottage. 

Jake Baynes was convinced though that further extensions of HuntersÙ Lodge Inn Sink were not to be found at the bottom of Slop 3, at the bottom of Pewter Pot which seems to be the general consensus, but by trying to achieve a high level bypass of Stillage Sump.  Fine in theory, but the actuality is that above Stillage Sump there is a fearsomely unstable looking boulder ruckle.  For some months Jake has been asking me to accompany him down to inspect said ruckle and I had been able to fob him off with a series of well-constructed excuses.  Finally though, Jake resorted to emotional blackmail and said that he was going come what may and if I refused to go with him he would make a solo trip.  So, on a fine Wednesday evening in August when all sensible folks were frolicking in the warm embrace of Rose Cottage, I reluctantly returned to the dig.  It was worse than we remembered, the detritus of the abandoned dig lay everywhere like a failed gold rush claim. Everything was covered in inches of black silt, a clear sign of the winter ravages.  Surprisingly a large toad had survived and as on our previous trips we frequently extracted small toads, this time we rescued one fat toad, which at least gave some point to the trip.  Jake meanwhile had ascended into the ruckle and urged me to take a look for myself, which I did with some reluctance and it looked just as dangerous and hostile as remembered.  Jake urged me to imagine this potential digging site when safely shored and with proper shoring he is convinced that we can then move horizontally above the sump. This idea, danced just over the horizon of my imagination, failed and all I could achieve were visions of the whole lot crashing into the sump.  So I made a hasty descent whilst Jake pushed and prodded at the boulders, several of which made ominous rumblings.  I decided it was foolish to remain below on the downward side of the ruckle and so moved upstream listening to the alarming crashes and bangs coming from above, thinking that at least from an upside position I could retreat for help should the whole lot collapse. To take my mind off the situation l looked again at the leaking dam and wondered if in CattcotsÙ day the remedy would have been simply to block the holes with some fine weasel hair, horsehair and wildebeest hair wigs as per Nick HardingÙs excellent articles on The Wig In Caving.  Eventually the foul air, which was giving us headaches, was made worse by JakeÙs noisy injections of methane gas so we called it a day and retired to meet the Rose Cottage crew in the HuntersÙ.

Being intrigued by NickÙs article I had begun doing some research into both The World of Wigs and Samuel Butler of “Fleas are not Lobsters, dash my wig” quote.  Relieved as I was to get out of H L I S, I began spewing Samuel Butler quotes all over the digging crew until Tony, desperate to escape my word hoard said “why not put them in a BB article Phil” and so for those of you who would like to know more about Samuel Butler here are some more of his quotes.   Its was surprising to find that many of them are in every day common parlance including “spare the rod and spoil the child” which because of change in usage of words became twisted by the Victorians as an excuse for adults to inflict violence on children, whereas originally it was to protect against such activities, spoiling at that time having beneficial not detrimental connotations.

There are lots of others such as “it is better to have loved and lost” etc. etc. but here are a few less well-known ones that seem apt to BEC.

 “You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it.”

 “ Independence is essential for permanent but fatal to immediate success”.

 “Though analogy is often misleading, it is the least misleading thing we have”.

 “Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises”.

 “Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on”.

 “Any fool can tell the truth but it requires a man of some sense to know how to lie well”.

 “The advantage of doing oneÙs praising for oneself is that one can lay it on so thickly and exactly in the right places”.

 “The public buys its opinions as it buys it meat, or takes its milk on the principal that it is cheaper to do this than keep a cow.  So it is, but the milk is more likely to be watered”.

 “Morality turns on whether the pleasure precedes or follows the pain.  Thus it is immoral to get drunk because a headache comes after the drinking, but if the headache came first and the drunkenness after it would be moral to get drunk”.

 “It is the function of vice to keep virtue within reasonable bounds”.

 “Civilisation rests on two prerequisites.  The first being the knowledge that fermentation produces alcohol and the second being the voluntary inhibition of defecation”.

(Imagine the BEC dinner without either of the above.)

 “And shall I unlock my word horde?  Nay for I do fear it much.”

(This when cornered by a rampant bore in the HuntersÙ.)

As for wigs themselves, the custom of wig wearing is of great antiquity.  If, as seems probable the curious head covering of a prehistoric ivory carving of a female head found by M. Piette in the cave of Brassempouy in Landes represents a wig (see Ray Lankester, Science From An Easy Chair, fig 7) the fashion is certainly some 100,000 years old.  Wigs were known amongst ancient Egyptian, Greek and Chinese cultures either as an adornment or to supply the defects of nature.  They were also used theatrically and in second century Greece various comic and tragic masks had hair suited to the character represented.  A. E. Haigh, (Ancient Theatre page 221, 239) refers to the black hair and beard of the tyrant, the fair curls of the youthful hero and the red hair characteristic of the dishonest slave of comedy.

Both Romans and Carthaginian Empires were major centres of wigness.  Polybius (iii, 78) says that Hannibal used wigs as a means of disguise.  The fashionable ladies of Rome were much addicted to false hair and we learned from Ovid that the golden hair imported from Germany was most favoured.  Juvenal (vi, 120) shows us Messalina assuming a yellow wig for her visits to places of ill fame, and the scholiast on the passage says that the yellow wig was characteristic of courtesans. 

In more recent times the wearing of false hair was prevalent amongst the ladies of Europe.  Queen Elizabeth I had 80 attires of false hair and, interesting for a virgin Queen, one merkin.  For those of you not familiar with the merkin, it is a pubic wig initially first documented in the 14th Century and later used by ladies of the night as a means of disguising the ravages of syphilis.  During the American War of Independence and War of 1812, a merkin, because of the similarity of pronunciation, was used as a pejorative term by the English for an American.  I understand that such use has recently reoccurred on the Internet.  I am also told by my researchers that merkins are now widely used in erotic films where the elder viewer dislikes the modern tendency for a shaved pubis.  Mary Queen of Scots also had numerous wigs.  When her fratricidal relationship with Elizabeth culminated in her beheading, the High Executioner, being drunk on Malmsey, botched the job taking three wildly inaccurate swipes before severing MaryÙs head.  As tradition demanded he then held the severed head aloft for the traditional round of applause.  Consternation ensued when he found he was in fact clutching a wig and MaryÙs bald head bounced to the ground and rolled towards the less than pleased audience.

It was not until the 17th Century that the wig, or peruke, was worn as a distinctive feature of costume. The fashion started in France at the court of Louis XIII who was prematurely bald and wore a wig imitating natural hair.  The fashion gradually spread through Europe and as most folks were plagued by lice (creeping dandruff) the advantage of taking the wig off and not having to scratch was much appreciated. Wigs became larger and under Queen Anne obtained maximum development, covering the back and shoulders and floating down over the chest.  It was at this time that their shape and forms altered and began to denote rank and occupation with the wonderful names and descriptions in NickÙs previous articles. The fashion began to fade in the reign of William IV and now only remains in the judiciary and parliament. Hats and for certain occupations helmets took precedence.  In caving the practice had more or less died out before the 2nd World War except for the occasional ceremonial use.  Older members will no doubt recall the famous BEC powder blue wigs worn by committee members right up until the late 60s when they were consumed in the fire, which destroyed the Belfry Mark II.  If any older member has any of the famous colour slides of the committee members in full regalia, perhaps they could submit to HenryÙs excellent web site.

EdÙs note: This article had been lurking at the bottom of Phil CÙs cupboard of curiosities and having been rejected by the Wig on a previous occasion it was high time it went in.

A Caving Anecdote

Phil Coles

For reasons I don’t pretend to understand – rugged individuality?-cavers generally don’t like organised team sports especially spectator sports like football. However there are a few cavers that buck the trend….

Paul Brock phones the Noble household to see if John can come out to play i.e. go caving. John’s good lady wife Julie answers the phone and tells Paul that John has gone to watch a football match with Phil Coles.

Paul, disappointed that John is not available, tells Julie that he would quite like to see a football match but he is put off by all the fighting/swearing/drinking and general unruliness that he might encounter.

Julie retorts, “Well Paul, you don’t HAVE to go with John and Phil”

Boom boom

Reciprocal Rights with Other Clubs

Henry Bennett

The BEC maintains a reciprocal rights scheme with a number of clubs around the country and weÙve recently been confirming and reviewing the list.  At present this is the list of clubs who we have rights with:

  • Bradford Pothole Club
  • Craven Pothole Club
  • Grampian Speleological Group
  • South Wales Caving Club
  • Yorkshire Subterranean Society

If you are planning on staying at one of these clubs you should ensure that you book in advance of your visit and avoid members only weekends. Most clubs now have online diaries and booking systems which you should take advantage of.

These arrangements enable you to pay members rates for use of facilities.  No other rights or privileges are conferred by these arrangements. In particular, we remind you that reciprocal rights do not bring any access to caves managed by these clubs. The normal permit systems have to be followed.  Additionally, you should check in advance about access to hut keys if required.

Hollow Hills

Make Hay!

So little time – so many caves.

The one certainty in life is that we are here for a short time then itÙs off into that great darkness where no caverÙs lamp will illuminate. With more recent losses in the club it should remind us that it is ever more important to keep caving. All the trivialities of day-to-day existence amount to nothing in the end and it is not so much how we live but what we leave behind. So the more caves you find the more you will be immortalised in speleological history and the more glasses will be raised on your passing.

There are no excuses! Keep digging.

Just a reminder about submitting articles: Text files are fine, preferably as a word document. Photos: BLACK and WHITE JPEGS – and make sure the image sizes are reasonable – no 1000cms x1000cms please! I think most, if not all photo packages will convert colour snaps into B and W.  Photoshop will get good images down to and below 100kb or so. 

If you are able please could you also email a copy of the images to Henry for the web version of the BB. Full color and hi-res is what we need here!


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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.