BB532 04

Ave Cavers!

BB532 04A goodbye from Nick Harding – your editor in Residence since 2006

Well my tenure as BB editor has come to an end. Although it was an enjoyable experience I’m afraid I just have too much on my plate at the moment. I will be handing over the position to the redoubtable Hannah Bell and I wish her all the best and good luck in hounding down articles from reluctant scribes.    

This edition contains Jrat’s last articles expertly prized (split infinitive?) from his laptop by the Audsley whose tenacious hammering sounds and swearing could be heard as far away as the coast. 

Yer Ed, Nick

For the last couple of years I’d been helping Nick with the formatting of the BB and had stepped aside after the last issue. The BB is a reflection not only of the Editor but also of the membership’s activities and dedication to put pen to paper. Once again this year we’ve had just two copies of the BB for the third year running.  Ultimately it is up to our members to invigorate the BB by putting pen to paper to empower the Editor to deliver more issues.  I know that many of our members have been on expeditions and been pushing in the UK. Let’s hear more about it!

A big thank you goes to Hannah Bell who has provided a great deal of assistance in getting this issue out the door.  

Henry Bennett

Forty Odd Years Well Spent

By Tony Jarratt

“I shall be gone and live, or stay and die.”


It seemed a good idea at present to knock up an article on my caving and digging experiences over the last forty-four years.  This would hopefully illustrate the changing nature of our way of life to complement the current series of Descent articles on a similar theme.  Any of the characters mentioned herein could have written an almost identical tale involving a whole host of different personalities and events in the karstlands of Britain, but I just happened to be anorak enough to write it down!   The classic books on this subject are those written by my old mate and top raconteur Jim Eyre, which should be read and enjoyed by all up and coming cavers and Alan “Goon” Jeffreys has also penned some classic articles in Descent.  Dave “Pooh” Yeandle’s autobiography covers much the same period and people but with a greater emphasis on diving and the Dales.

I started off as a 14 year old, naive Brummie school kid who cycled with his mates to the dangerously unstable but very impressive limestone mines in the Black Country town of Dudley.  Most of these are now fallen in, destroyed or otherwise inaccessible – doubtless a good thing for the health of the local kids.  I remember that our lighting was primitive – torches and hurricane lamps – but at least I had a pressed-fibre miner’s helmet given to me by my collier “uncle” Glyn Thomas from Tredegar.  My inspiration came from “How Underground Britain is Explored” (Showell Styles), which I unearthed in Saltley Grammar School library, and also from watching dramatic cave rescues on black and white TV.  My mother regularly stated that I would not have a motorbike or go potholing!   She was wrong on both counts.

Very soon after this we moved to Congresbury, Somerset and I attended Nailsea Grammar School where, after a couple of years, I found a like-minded soul in the person of the adventurous Steve Shepstone.  Thus commenced my real caving career with endless visits to Burrington Combe and even the Ystradfellte area – reached then by car ferry and very remote compared to today.  We both joined the Exploration Group of North Somerset [EGONS] and added Eastwater, Stoke Lane and Swildon’s to our trophies.  I had laddered the Forty Foot Pot by 3rd July 1966 and was now committed to a cold, wet, muddy and totally absorbing future in the world’s entrails in company with some of the craziest characters on the planet.  On the 4th February 1967 things got even worse when I commenced my first dig in the Water Chamber of Goatchurch Cavern and was able to see into a small stream passage with a decorated 2m diameter chamber above.  This was eventually reached on the 2nd July and though only tiny, its exploration proved to be the final nail in the coffin of normality and the beginning of a life now dedicated to digging grotty holes in unpromising and obscure places throughout the land.

Devon and Yorkshire also were visited at this time and Steve and I then graduated to membership of the Axbridge Caving Group and Archaeological Society along with Stu McManus, Dave Yeandle, etc.  Here we met older and more experienced Mendip cavers such as the still active John Chapman (Tom’s dad), Dr. Bob and Ann Everton, Mike “Fish” Jeanmaire and James Cobbett (these latter two my lifelong heroes), Dr. Stan Cannicott and many others.  Social contacts from other clubs included Zot, Jok Orr, Bob Lewis, Malcolm Cotter, Tony Knibbs, Simon Knight and eventually just about everyone in our newly discovered “Centre of the Universe” the Hunters’ Lodge Inn.  Here we learnt to sing both caving and foul songs and to destroy our few brain cells with cheap cider and ale.  The five-mile walk from the Axbridge hut often doubled on the way back!  I was overawed by the hard men in the pub and was particularly wary of the rude and crude B.E.C. – a club that I swore to avoid joining at all costs!

Our caving gear at this time was essentially “wool next to the skin”, long johns, string vests, boiler suits together with army gaiters and a hemp waist line and hobnailed boots.  Wellies were frowned upon and wetsuits were just about to appear to revolutionise caving, though the French sharkskin neoprene was very expensive and only for the truly dedicated.  To get mine I sold my golf clubs!   Nylon ropes were coming into use but the occasional rope and wood ladder was sometimes seen – I did Centipede Pitch in Bar Pot on one.  Cycles, motorbikes, scooters and sometimes illicitly borrowed vehicles got us about if it was too far to walk.  Cardboard miners’ and plastic construction helmets held “stinky” carbide lamps, crappy battery cycle lamps or bloody great heavy NiFe Cells for the real “Tigers”.  Old batteries and carbide dumps littered the depths of Eastwater and Swildon’s along with boot soles and bits of flesh burnt off by alkali!  All trips were acetylene scented.

Our next dig started in the abandoned Nettle Hole, Nordrach on the 10th September 1967 and was soon to move to the adjacent “Foot and Crutch” depression where we were allowed to continue work during that year’s foot and mouth outbreak.  I also got dragged through my first sump in Stoke Lane so that I could sherpa bottles for my heroes – another prelude to future misery as a not very dedicated cave diver.  This was to be a tool to get me to the parts that other diggers couldn’t reach.  Chris Richards, Clive North, John Cornwell and team had now discovered Sludge Pit Hole and we were recruited to dig here at the sump bypass.  1968 saw the discovery of Ubley Warren Pot via the “Foot and Crutch” entrance, the discovery of the initial section of Tynings Barrows Swallet and the washing away of the floor of the Forty Foot Pot – and an illegal re-entry of Pen Park Hole in Bristol. 

Digging at Netherwood Swallet, Nordrach, started early the following year but was not to last.  Seeing what lies below it now maybe we should have persevered!   Working trips to St. Cuthbert’s Swallet in the company of Dave “Wig” Irwin, Bob Cross, Butch, Crange, John Riley, Martin Bishop, Brian Woodward and Dick Wickens may have indicated the shape of things to come and work, in the form of a surveying course at the Ordnance Survey H.Q. in Southampton, definitely did.  The next 19 years was to see my horizons much expanded and whole droves of new characters discovered.  A drunken weekend dig at the flood-blocked Eastwater Cavern saw a bunch of young reprobates from the Axbridge, Severn Valley, B.E.C. and E.G.O.N.S. re-entering the system, much to the surprise and annoyance of the older and wiser Hunters’ bar-proppers such as Mike Dewdney-York!

On a trip to Derbyshire, Eldon Hole chamber was entered after a very long time by laddering down the side of an underground snow crevasse, thus proving that winters were indeed harsher then.  I was very taken with the Peak District and vowed to spend more time there with its tough Eldon and Pegasus cavers.  Back on the Hill I undertook my first cave dive on Boxing Day under the tutorship of Alan “Satanic” Mills.  This presented a minor problem due to the cold water and the fact that I had just had most of my teeth removed and couldn’t grip the gag properly!  I also couldn’t swim.  My kit consisted of a brand new and expensive Deepstar valve, a pressure gauge and a side-mounted ex-WD “Tadpole” bottle with pillar valve.  These were off Mosquito bombers and cost 2/6d.  After hours spent unwinding the bullet-proof wire wrapping and emptying out the rust they were ready for (hopeful) filling by some unsuspecting compressor owner (Midland Diving were reputed to fill a brown paper bag for a price) and they saw sterling service throughout Britain.  Mike Boon’s had a unique bayonet fitting and now hangs in the Wessex hut, having been retrieved from Swildon’s Nine by Pete Moody and I.  Usually over pressurised they were best kept out of the sun and not dropped.  I once fell off my motorbike with mine strapped on the back – exciting!

1970 and I was now resident in Shrewsbury, Shropshire and commuting regularly at weekends to Derbyshire, where I joined the Pegasus Club along with Mac and James Cobbett and gained many new friends such as Paul and Jud Thomson, Cheg Chester, one-armed Dave Lucas, Pete Watkinson, Barrie Parker and Vic “the Wop” Holland.  Eldon mates included Clive Westlake, George Cooper, Paul Deakin, Bobs Toogood and Dearman, Dave “Grotty” Gill, Bill Whitehouse, etc.  Here, and in Shropshire and mid and north Wales, my continued interest in old mines was rekindled and a major digging project commenced in the fabulous and deep Hollandtwine Mine above Castleton in the search for the lost “Great Swallow”.  Shropshire also generated an interest in other subterranea in the form of the artificial Hawkstone Caves, Nesscliff Cave and others.

This same year, the next caving apprenticeship took place when I joined the Nottingham University Caving Club expedition to the Picos D’Europa in Northern Spain where a good amount of exploration and diving took place in a very mellow spot between the mountains and coast.  Spanish cider, lakes of cheap booze, hot sun and warm caves had rapidly converted us to the idea of foreign expeditions – which was later brusquely altered in the depths of Austria!   The only British discovery this year was the entering of Rum Aven, Swildon’s with Satanic and Al Thompson.

The new year saw me briefly diving in Pont Newydd Rising, Cilcain, Flintshire, several training dives in White Lady / Cwm Pwll-y-Rhyd and Porth-yr-Ogof, P8, Redhurst Swallet, Bagshawe Cavern and Swildon’s – where the sump 6 bypass was opened up.  My most novel “dive” was for some 500m in the dry but gas-filled Leigh Level, Minsterley, Shropshire to reach the foot of the blocked Blue Barn Shaft.  Supposedly with an atmosphere of methane, sulphur dioxide and sulphuretted hydrogen, this may not have been a good idea at the time – especially as I had left a work colleague at 600m in to await my return!  An interesting free-diving trip in Bridge Cave, Ystradfellte yielded some good new passage which was written up in a Westminster S.G. rag but the arsehole who wrote it forgot to mention that I was in front of him (or even that I was there at all!) and a dive in Ogof Fechan frightened me shitless when I blundered into big, open passage which was way beyond my capabilities.  A tourist dive to Little Neath River Cave 5 with Dick Pike was another epic when we came out on a single light.

Digging at last paid off in Hollandtwine Mine with the discovery of several hundred feet of attractive natural passages leading off from the 360ft level but not, alas, the Great Swallow.  Keith “Mad Ben” Bentham, famed digging eccentric, also a character and Jerry Wooldridge failed to find it some years later but the current diving team of Jim Lister and friends are trying to get there from beyond Ink Sump in Peak Cavern and I wish them the best of luck. According to the Old Man’s sketch section this apparently undescended natural shaft is on a par with Titan Shaft!   One of our digging team was the newly recruited Sulo Sulonen – a travelling, erudite Finn with a German registered sports car, an Irish girlfriend and heaps of charisma.  We soon got completely used to his broken accent as he worked his way up to club secretary, got regularly paralytic, became a cave diver and was submerged in the caving ethos.  More on Sulo later.  He was instrumental in organizing our Christmas visit to the truly magic land of County Clare where I discovered fantastic, clean-washed river caves, traditional Irish music and endless supplies of Guinness at the famous O’Connor’s Bar, the world’s most hospitable people and even romance.  Since then, Clare and I believe Ireland in general, has been ruined by European handouts and lost much of its character – though I am sure that the locals prefer their new lifestyle.  My memories remain happily frozen in time.

Back home 1972 was spent caving and mine exploring throughout England and Wales with notable dives in Pridhamsleigh Cavern and Swildon’s Hole. The latter involved the free-climbing of the, to me, awesome Victoria Aven in company with the redoubtable Pete Moody (I was now a Wessex member).  This was particularly satisfying as it had been my ambition since I had heard of the place and a major reason for learning to dive before some other bugger scaled it!  A fascination with Bob Dylan picked up from John Norris of the Axbridge inspired the name Desolation Row for the appropriately grim extensions at the top.  U.B.S.S. divers Tony Boycott, Bob Churcher, Aldwyn Cooper and Julian Walford later assisted here and joined my growing band of cronies.  At this time we were all under the fairly rigid control of the superbly eccentric Dr. Oliver Cromwell Lloyd – of whom there will never be the like again – and whose birthday parties in Swildon’s Old Grotto were truly memorable with sherry, cake and bods in evening dress, playing banjos or, in Roger Dors case, carrying a tray of booze and with a dog on a lead! 

In the Peak District, Ray Mansfield, Bob Mehew, other Shepton men and I joined Paul Deakin, Dave Draper, P.B. Smith (another “over the top” character), Mick Durdey (yet another, but more volatile!) and a host of E.P.C, B.S.A. and B.S.G. enthusiasts at a pumping session at Knotlow Mine, where an ancient and complete rag and chain pump was discovered.  This was a major find in the world of mining artefacts so even more satisfying as it was the Mendippers who identified it!  It now resides at Matlock Mining Museum.  

In North Wales, Pont Newydd Rising came back in favour and I passed my first virgin sump.  Only 23m long and with a mere 12m extension beyond but all mine.  In the extensive, aquatic and bloody dangerous Hillcarr Sough, Derbyshire, our Pegasus team joined Nottingham Mines Research Group members Lawrence Hurt and Dave Epton on the rediscovery of some 4-500m of neck deep canal over 3km into the level, the atmosphere of which was essentially composed of methane, carbon dioxide and sulphuretted hydrogen (familiar?) and which necessitated the use of a canoe full of air bottles to keep us alive.  Oh, the folly of youth – but what an adrenalin buzz!  (On missing Vic the Wop before leaving, we providentially found him lying on the floor, underwater and without air.  He still owes us a pint).

Apart from all this normal(?) caving activity there was usually a good sprinkling of rescues throughout the year.  One in Giant’s Hole stands out as a classic.  Two of our lads were reported overdue, so three of us went for a look and found the cave rapidly flooding.  Halfway down The Crabwalk we met Al Steans who shouted, “Leave me and get to Chuck.”   Our man was wedged horizontally in The Vice with only his head above water and as we reached him this backed up then flowed right over him.  I pushed him and he was swept away downstream, luckily to stop on the edge of a pitch from where Andy “Honker” Sutton and I dragged him to an alcove.  He and I were to spend some hours here while Andy left for help and a knife to cut Chuck’s waterlogged heavy duty Goon Suit open.  Chuck was too exhausted to move.  Disembodied voices beyond The Vice proved to be Daves Draper and Allsop.  The former provided coffee and aid and the later an utterly useless NiFe cell – far too blunt!  To cut a long story short, I retreated amongst a crowd of incompetents with my (actually Pete “Ratarse” Webb’s) wet suit trousers being partly washed away and the glorious sight of a hard Eldon team traversing in above.  These lads took 16 hours to get Chuck out on this minor epic.  The finest sight I saw on my retreat was the sudden, rapid and unplanned descent of Dr. Hugh Kidd from the ceiling amongst a cloud of whisky fumes.  Where are such heroes in today’s land of health and safety? 

The year was concluded with a relaxing (read drunken) County  Clare session, but a Doolin Cave through trip earlier in the year is worth recording to illustrate the charms of the place.  Jim Shannon, my girlfriend Peggy Faughnan and I laddered Fisherstreet Pot with a borrowed 20m Coastguard ladder taken to the entrance by motorbike.  In dry grots and with bike lamps and quarrymens’ helmets, we waded upstream to emerge in glorious sunshine and hitch a lift back to O’Connor’s Bar on a donkey cart.  The E.U. provided none of this.

Pont Newydd Rising featured again early in 1973, when another 21m of dry stuff was found and the second sump of 12m passed to a black space.  This became blacker when “light pox” set in.  At Thistle Pot dig in Derbyshire, some 20m of pretty but loose rift was found with a 4m deep, blocked pitch below.  In World’s End Cave No.4, Llangollen, I was forced to drag my drowning staffholder, the infamous Gordon “Poison Dwarf” Parkin (Eldon P.C.) from a low duck as we were supposed to be at work at the time.  Some of his other claims to fame were being left down Giant’s Hole for three days with a Mars Bar until he was surprisingly missed and of pebble-dashing his own arse in a dig when his tiny bit of scrounged slow burning fuse detonated as he tripped running back down the passage and dropping his stinky. His kind offer to assist some Welsh farmers rescue a terrier from a slate fissure near Trawsfynydd resulted in another day skiving off mapmaking, many soggy and distressed press operatives, the top half of a mountain blown off and, unsurprisingly, a decidedly dead dog.  Surveying at night by torchlight rounded off this novel day.  He did join me at a new dig at Ogof Rhewl near Ruthin, where I was now stationed, but this promising site still awaits a good push.  

After a brief spell in the Shropshire Mining Club I was now involved in the formation of the North Wales Caving Club – a conglomeration of independent groups who still exist but were once again fragmented to a degree by the dreaded club politics.  Crispin Ebbs, Graham Woolley, Jerry Dobby, Phil Hunter, Mel Davies, Pete Appleton, Alan Hawkins, Phil the Miner, Derek Brandon and a host of witty Scousers provided much amusement and some good digging trips with not a little passage found in this remarkably unexplored and promising area.  On the evening of the 8th June I just happened to be at the club dig in the dry river bed at Cilcain where I had done only one previous shift.  Pete arrived and after an hour or so of boulder shifting, I was able to squeeze down into a surprisingly large passage.  Pete joined me and, passing a duck in our clean clothes, we proceeded to explore one of the largest caves in North Wales – Ogof Hesp Alyn.  Within two days we had over 2km of superb phreatic tunnels, chambers and pitches and lots of leads including a static sump.  North Wales was suddenly in the news and is now in its rightful place as one of Britain’s top caving areas with a magnificent variety of caves and mines opened up by the N.W.C.C. and Grosvenor Caving Group amongst others. 

A choice mining treat this year was a visit along with twenty two other Mendip cavers, mainly B.E.C, to Somerset’s last working colliery, Writhlington.  The 1,461 feet deep downcast shaft was descended and a mile or so of “gates” and workings inspected before got a ride back on the conveyor belt.  Oh, the heady pre health and safety days were in another world.  A surface geological visit to the Avoca Mines in Wicklow with my Welsh “cousin” Jeff Thomas and an introduction to the Blaenau Ffestiniog slate quarries also took place.

This year’s expedition was the surreal “Amazin’ Raisin Show” to the Reseau de la Pierre St. Martin in the French and Spanish Pyrenees in the company of Eldon, B.S.A, B.E.C,  D.C.C,  L.U.S.S,  A.C.G,  W.S.G,  French and Polish cavers. Ladders, abseiling and self-lining were our preferred techniques as S.R.T. had yet to make a real impact (though James Cobbett and I had experimented with dreaded Heibler jammers in Spain in 1970) and this was to make rigging hard work but classically satisfying for  our mainly north Midlands heroes.  Here we met Max Cosyns, maker of the infamous winch from which Marcel Loubens fell, got filmed by a Bulgarian T.V. crew in the Salle Verna, attempted to rescue five Poles doing an illegal through trip, burnt off Rubin “Gonads” Gomez (self professed top Frog caver), got sunburnt and stuck without passports in no man’s land, de-rigged a 1300 ft pitch with ledges and came out by the light of a Camping Gaz stove (Ken James and I), set off across the lapiaz to call out a rescue at 2.00 am (Nigel Taylor and I), arrived to find the Speleo Club de Paris lying in pools of vomit outside their wine-soaked tents, pissed off Max, drank far too much and had a thoroughly excellent time.  To round it off, I got beaten up by an irate Polish road-hog in North Wales on the way home.  I think we may also have found some new passage.

Back in Wales, the Tan-yr-Ogof Caves near Abergele became my new dig as they may have provided a tourist attraction for the adjacent Gwrych Castle, a medieval banqueting site, resulting in endless free beer.

On the 29th September, the fun (but certainly not the surrealism) ceased when our Pegasus team went to look for a lost calf at Eldon Hole.  Sulo volunteered to abseil down but stupidly neither he nor I used lifelines to reach the ledge at some 40m from the floor.  As I climbed out he passed me, then fell to the ledge. Before we could react, he had rolled over to his death.  Endless repercussions then started as it was soon realised that Sulo Sulonen was only one of many names used by professional London con-man Paul Wynne or Frost (the latter following his theft of a very fine Rover car from the Russian Embassy).  A great friend to us all, if he walked in the Hunters’ tomorrow no-one who knew him would be surprised!  We upset the local coppers again in November when a mighty, drunken firework display down Oxlow Caverns caused at least one rescue and the heady sight of linked chains of revellers emerging in puffs of smoke, running off and then returning soberly from a different direction as responsible D.C.R.O. members.  Sulo would have loved it.

Discoveries in 1974 were some 150m of workings in Pant y Buarth (Mold) Mine with local expert Chris Williams, a 15m, decorated extension at Tan-yr-Ogof, 20m of high level stuff in Ogof Hesp Alyn and 200m at Allt Wen Mine, Llanrwst with Shon Scheltinga, Neil “Bardic Nonsense” Weston (B.E.C.) and Arwel Roberts (the only man ever brave enough to give a speech in Welsh at the Pegasus dinner!).

Two grim rescues marked out this year.  The first, at Lamb Leer, involved “Black Wal” Willcocks’ and young Rich Bainbridge.  A fantastic turn-out saw them both to the surface within two hours.  A month later in Merlin’s Cave, Derbyshire, John “Shag” Smith of the B.S.A. – another great character – died on an exploratory dive.  I assisted the legendary Tom Brown to remove his body – which actually involved a lot of sitting on it and telling bad taste jokes.  Tom had been worried when the police arrived to collect him as he had spent most of the night in a drunken poaching spree and rescuing a mate had not been in his uppermost thoughts!

Back in North Wales, my mining enthusiast mate Shon had a plan to remove a 1905 Thomas Evans steam sinking pump from the depths of Cyffty Mine 45m entrance shaft.  With the help of mine explorers from Derbyshire, Mendip, Mid- and North-Wales and power from Cheg’s Land Rover, this hefty iron monster was eventually stripped down and winched out for future display at the Llywernog Silver Lead Mine Museum near Aberystwyth.  Not before time either as just as we had finished the estate agent turned up to throw us off the land!  The bugger had nearly killed me at one point when the hauling rope snapped – luckily just after I had untwisted a guide rope from around my wrist.  The descending cast iron section ripped out 10m of stempling and the hauling rope stood 45m vertically in the air, Indian style.  Another interesting and particularly hairy bit of mine exploration was my ascent of 20 odd metres of compressed air pipes in a shaft at the end of Coed Mawr / Pool Mine’s kilometre long and truly monotonous Level Fawr, Betws-y-Coed to an unreachable level and waterfall shaft beyond, wherein were said to be abandoned rock drills.  I don’t know if anyone ever followed this up.

On rapidly to 1975 and a minor epic in March at Raddle Pits on Moss Rake, Bradwell Moor, Derbyshire.  This involved the rediscovery of lots of both cave and mine passage and an entertaining rescue starring the Peak’s latest raving looney Derek “T-Pot” Staples, almost certainly the only man ever to eat my snot – and live.  As I pottered along one of the lower levels of this artefact filled ancient lead mine a mighty rumble from a ginged climbing shaft above announced the arrival of several hundredweight of deads and a severely bruised T-Pot.  The little sod was packaged and hauled 90m up the engine shaft and off we went to celebrate at the Three Stags’ Heads, our favourite traditional Derbyshire hostelry.  Unfortunately, our plans to push on next day were thwarted by an enormous and irascible sparman who denied all knowledge of giving our mate Paul “Torchy” Foster permission to explore and threw us off the land.  Back in those days access at least was not as easily obtained as today and much “pirating” was necessary. Soon after, during a Pegasus trip down Disappointment Pot, we were accosted by Vic, shouting “Bill McGuinness has fallen down Bar Pot”.  With thoughts of a paper bag job, we arrived to find that he had considerately only peeled off on the 10m first pitch, so we left the C.R.O. to fish him out and went on an alcoholic tour of Craven with Bob Cross and Jim Abbot instead.

As an interlude, a tale of the Stags springs to mind. Al Steans, a furniture remover, parked his van outside the pub en route to a delivery job in Manchester and had the foresight to lay out the customer’s mattress at the back as a mighty P.U. was in the offing that night.  In the early hours he staggered from the boozer suitably refreshed and eventually forced his way into his pre-arranged pit.  Later that morning he awoke in discomfort to find his sleeping bag unoccupied and himself firmly ensconced among the springs of the mattress into which he had ripped his way in his emotional state.

The Gouffre Berger was this year’s Great Irish / Welsh / English / Australian Expedition with guest appearances by such household names as Rich Stephenson, Martins Bishop and Farr, John Parker, Paddy O’Reilly, Mike Orr, Hywel Ball, Phil Collet, Dave Drew, Pete Lord, Sue Jordan, Dave Tringham, Jeff Phillips, Julia James and Neil Montgomery amongst many others.  A fantastic cave bottomed in magnificent company.  Paddy’s superb reflexes were demonstrated as a rucsack fell down Aldo’s Shaft while we gazed upwards and he leapt 5m sideways at the shout of “below” to receive the bag full on his head.  We were now into both ladders and rope-walking and I had been lent a home made, supposedly self-stopping descender made in Frome by Glyn Bolt of the Wessex.  The design for this was not quite perfected and I returned up Aldo’s with peculiarly sore and short legs, but on showing the device to a certain local entrepreneur, by name Fernand Petzl, I received a big smile and my only ever sight of a Frenchman’s eyes revolving with Franc symbols.  The “Buggery Box”, invented in the famed Mendip Hills, is actually the proud father of untold numbers of the far more catchy sounding “Stop”!  The finale of this fine trip involved lots of drinking, “football” and welly-throwing sessions with N.C.C. stalwarts John “Lugger” Thorpe, Bob Cockeram, Derek Crossland and mates who were to feature prominently in the future.

Back to Britain, and a Land Rover drive north for not far off the same distance, took me to my next field post – the stunning county of Sutherland in the Northern Highlands of Scotland.  The gods were really on my side and this is still my (almost) favourite caving area and to my mind scenically unrivalled in the U.K.  Here I met Pete Dowswell, Chick Calder, Jim Campbell (who had caved with Neil Armstrong [the astronaut] in Ecuador), Bill Ritchie and other old mates exiled in the north, the G.S.G. having a long-standing contingent of Mendip members.  I soon joined the Grampian Speleological Group and got stuck into the digging.  Within a few weeks Chick and I had a short, loose and dangerous extension in the squalid Otter Hole but I was hooked on the previously unrealised potential of these remote limestone glens and have never looked back. 

In 1976 I even started a dig at Smoo Cave, on the north coast at Durness, but it never went far.  Bob Mehew, Julian Walford, Andy Parkes and Bill Ritchie (crofters’ hero) joined me at a major dig at Uamh Cailliche Peireag, another unfinished project and on the 4th April Bob, Jim Smart and I dug into what later became known as Rana Hole.  At least I don’t have to write that epic up now!  Lots of other caves and caving areas throughout Scotland were visited at this time and all were found to be fascinating and virtually unknown in the overcrowded south of Britain.

France was graced by our presence again this year and the Reseau Felix Trombe received the doubtful benefits of scores of assorted Derbyshire types drinking to excess and finding virtually nothing, even with sub-aquatic messrs Cobbett and Fish. We did get caught breaking into the important archaeological site of the Grotte de Montespan where Norbert Casteret did his famous free-dive to reach the “oldest statues in the world”.  Torchy and I were blissfully unaware of the two car loads of irate Frogs berating James at the entrance as we were already inside, Torchy having previously intensively studied the insecure lock.  A small, elderly gentleman shouted up at our 2m high leader who replied in his own inimitable style, “My good man, we are the British Expedition to the Reseau Felix Trombe”.  With a confused Gallic shrug the old chap replied, “But, I am Felix Trombe!”  At the end of the day all went well.  We drank wine and cooled bitter with our new chums, I spent a fine trip following  Monsieur Trombe’s niece’s derrière throughout the cave and Torchy’s bag was found to be remarkably free of 20,00 year old clay bison statues!  A visit to the spectacular Grotte Casteret ice cave was also made and a thoroughly good time had overall in the Bar Centrale (St. Girons) and the cavers’ bar at Arbas.  Perhaps our greatest triumph was in being evicted from the campsite at Prat by armed gendarmerie.

Around this time my long-suffering girlfriend Peggy got very understandably fed up with my selfish and totally obsessive lifestyle and went her own way.  She had been dragged down caves and mines throughout the British Isles and to not a few club dinners and P.U.s.  We once even took loads of people in wheelchairs down Gough’s Cave and found it to be bloody hard work.  She still keeps an eye on me via our Irish émigrés Cheg Chester and Pat Cronin and if she ever reads this, I thank her for some cracking years.

While our Mendip contingent slaved away in Assynt, Pete “Snab” Macnab was bribing Farmer Mac Payton of Tyning’s Farm with Scottish sheepdogs and pipe music to regain access to Tyning’s Barrows Cave.  It worked – read on.

On the 13th February 1977, I passed a squeeze in this dig, hotly pursued by Ross White, John Dukes, Andy Sparrow and Graham Wilton-Jones.  Taking turns to lead we pushed a kilometre of roomy passage in under 6 hours and running out of light, decided to stop and “call it a day”.  The end has been called “A Day” ever since!  This was almost a unique occurrence in a Mendip dig and the only one who moaned was Snab, who was absent at the time (but gracious enough to write a song about it).

In May, I fell out of the top bunk in the Belfry at 7 am and broke my femur, so prepared myself for some enforced leisure.  This was not to be and the results roll on to this very day.  The 24th June saw Bob Cross, Bill Combs (European Grotto, N.S.S,) and your cripple touring some of the old mines and digs of Mendip.  One of these was recorded as “a very interesting site in dolomitic conglomerate” and bore the name Wigmore Swallet.  We must have found it particularly interesting as next day we had permission from another Scot, farm manager Frank Booth, to dig it and Nigel Taylor, Bob, Stuart Lindsey (Cotham C.G.), Ross White, “Father” Sid Hobbs and your crutch-balancing scribe were hard at work with a bucket and pulley system which soon materialised in the improbably gorgeous summer weather of those days.  Fresh enthusiasts and the S.V.C.C. winch from Hillgrove Swallet arrived next day to bash on with our latest project as it was obvious that we would soon be in!  It had been dug and abandoned by the M.N.R.C. in 1934-7 and by the W.C.C. in 1938 but now the B.E.C. had arrived.  To cut a very long story short, there now followed some fourteen years of sometimes hectic and intense and sometimes sporadic digging by hundreds of cavers from across the planet resulting in (a) egg on the faces of the experts who said it would never go and (b) one of Mendip’s finest stream caves.  The potential for many more kilometres of the Cheddar Rising system is obvious, especially since the brilliant discoveries of Chris Jewell, Stu Gardiner, John Maneely, Duncan Price and team, following in the bold fin-steps of Mike “Trebor” McDonald and Ross White.  Read all about it in old and new B.B.s, the Wigmore Swallet report and Descent and watch this space as a mighty Dave “Tuska” Morrison digging epic takes place to get normal diggers dry and direct to the end.

In Derbyshire, we cleared artefacts and digging gear from Hollandtwine before the sparmen filled in the engine shaft and we then took over the old Stockport Caving Club dig at Duce Hole, Foolow.  For light relief, a trip to the Castle Hill Mines / Canal Tunnel at Dudley ended hilariously with us floating along the tunnel on a fortuitously discovered polystyrene settee – and why not?

The first three months of 1978 seems to have been spent in either Wigmore or Uamh Cailliche Peireag  (some 630 miles apart).  My Assynt drinking partner and I split up the year with a quick evening trip down the short and damp Glenbain Hole between “swallies” but due to carbide lamp failure and general alcoholic incompetence, we emerged under the guidance of the Assynt Mountain Rescue Team some 18 hours later (after I had failed to turn up for work).  A dour, frugal and thoughtful Willy Morrison, mine host at the Inchnadamph Hotel, kindly offered us hot soup, much to our grateful thanks.  He only spoiled it by saying “That’ll be 36 pence”.  Our whisky bill was well worth it and the Team managed to acquire status and radios because of this shout but Alan “Goon” Jeffreys, Ivan Young and Dave Warren never forgave the rescue team for fishing us out before their free helicopter ride to The Inch from Edinburgh was over! 

Europe was again our summer destination but Austria bore the brunt this year and was the start of an ongoing tradition kept up to this day.  Stunned by the magic scenery and the whole aura of the Dachstein Massif we did lots of recce and discovered the deep (for us), cold, tight and wet Maulwurfhohle.  At Christmas we were off again but this time to do a tourist trip in the Holloch, Switzerland, an incredibly long phreatic system with super-efficient Swiss organization making life below the surface a pleasure.  Here we were privileged to meet Prof. Dr. Alfred Bogli, doyen of the system and a really nice bloke.

1979 and a return visit to Victoria Aven with Pete Moody resulted in my peeling off Triple Avens some 4m up with my new NiFe cell breaking my fall (and almost my back!)  I also had a possibly broken wrist.  Getting out was character building but easy in the sumps and was made a damn sight easier by Pete’s strength and assistance as he lugged most of the kit and aided me on the up bits.  My wrist was only badly strained and I have a blurred recollection of playing sofa rugby that evening so it couldn’t have been that bad!

The Dachstein featured again in July and we pressed on down in Maulwurfhohle.  Here an epic occurred when lightning struck near the entrance and knocked out Chris Smart – forever afterwards known as “Blitz”.  Over 100m below I had just begun talking to him on the field telephone and also was knocked out for a few minutes.  I apparently then stood up, shouted “Oh my God” and fell over again.  Big Jim Watson (W.S.G.) rushed to my aid thinking that I had been felled by a boulder and Trev Hughes rushed up the ladder below to assist.  As many a young lady can verify, waking up with Trev gazing fondly into your eyes can ruin one’s whole day.  Apart from a burnt and sore ear and paralysed finger and thumb I was okay once my memory returned and was soon out.  Staggering across the lapiaz in the dark, we scattered at the least sound of thunder. Next day was spent eating, boozing and playing crib in the relative luxury of the Weisberghaus.  A few nights later our old mate Hermann Kirchmeyer dragged us to a surprise piss-up in Hallstatt where we were “entertained” by coachloads of German old age pensioners and a local folk band playing “arse-kicking” music.  The sight of Trev on his knees dancing with a granny was rare indeed.  Some devious dealing involving a glass beer stein ended up with Hermann, Trev and I being accosted by a waitress later that morning as we lay rigid in a gutter in the town.  She suddenly recognised the Germanic member of the foul and antisocial trio and decided that discretion in this matter was the better part of valour – Austrian chiefs of police not being noted for their pleasantry upon being woken from a deep drunken sleep in a roadside drain!

Later that morning good old Hermann’s robust sense of humour was evident again as he led us an hour’s vertical walk up a cliff to the Hirlatzhohle – bastard.  This vast and rambling phreatic system with its rock-hurling draught is well described by “Madphil” Rowsell in recent BBs.

1980 and Belgium featured in January this year, in the company of Pieter Staal and his Speleo Nederland colleagues.  Caving in the Ardennes was not unlike on Mendip but the spectacular range of character altering monastic beers was a real eye-opener and was to lure us back in the future.  For me, the foreign travel extended somewhat in June when I was seconded by the Ordnance Survey to a six month posting with the Lesotho Lands and Surveys Department in the unfortunately limestone-free but spectacularly scenic Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa. Here I explored many surprisingly large wind and water eroded rock shelter caves in sandstone, many being decorated with San bushman rock paintings.  On a short break in the Republic I met up with fellow B.E.C. exile Colin “Pope” Priddle and we ended up exploring and digging into a choke of dry bat guano in the wild section of Echo Cave, a show cave near Ohrigstad in the Transvaal with thousands of resident “Berties”.  We drank heartily with the Afrikaans owner and his mates and illegally with Isaac the Zulu night watchman and had a great time.  Twelve days later both of us practically collapsed with headaches, nausea, lethargy and severe breathing problems.  Dehydration, fever and profuse sweating followed.  At this time I was with my Basutho surveying assistant and his trigger-happy soldier mate in the remote Sehlabathebe area of Lesotho – some two days horse ride from the nearest doctor way down below us in Natal.  After a couple of days rest, enlivened at times by my pissed but worried colleagues trying to cheer me up with sporadic rifle fire, I felt capable of driving the Land Rover back to Maseru and on to a doctor in the Orange free State.  After prompting him I got confirmation that I was suffering from Histoplasmosis – uncurable, but only a passing problem if one is fit.  The Pope, back home in Germiston, was off work and in bed for three weeks and his specialist had given him two months to live before he, likewise, put the bloke right.  We never again dug into dry bat shit!  Our next outing involved a tourist trip to the spectacular Cango Caves in Cape Province and some serious research into the South African wine industry.

Back home on Mendip another bloody epic was about to commence as on December the 30th Mike “Quackers” Duck, Dany Bradshaw and I started digging below Morton’s pot in Eastwater Cavern.  Quackers and I were back on the 1st January 1981 together with Fish and Pieter Staal, our first of many foreign diggers.  In October 2004 the bloody place eventually connected to the West End Series thanks to magnificent dedication by hundreds of often “press-ganged” labourers and the later major work of Madphil, Graham “Jake” Johnson, Adrian Hole, Emma Heron and Kevin Hilton (W.C.C.). This has all been written up in a series of B.B. articles for your delectation.

This year’s classic rescue took place in Agen Allwedd, Llangattock and involved the retrieval of a Croydon Caving Club member with a compound fracture of the lower leg from the far end of the notorious Southern Stream Passage. Around 250 Welsh, Mendip, Midlands and southern English rescuers were involved and after 52.5 hours our man was back on the surface and later recovered well.  I remember overhearing a local lad saying to his mate “Bloody ‘ell, did you see the size of those Mendip blokes!”

Twin Titties Swallet, Priddy received the attention of Martin Bishop during the year when much of the entrance shaft was cleared using my new Suzuki jeep as a motorised winch.  N.H.A.S.A, the original diggers, later returned to the site, but digging permission was eventually rescinded and this highly promising site still awaits a push.  The noisome Haydon Drove Swallet also got some attention but coming out with used bog paper adorning one’s helmet did not exactly encourage a lengthy relationship with the place.  Surprisingly this one is also awaiting further work!

Now working in the Surrey area I moved into Blitz’s house in Woking and we spent many happy hours visiting the underground stone quarries in the area and floating up and down the Greywell Canal Tunnel near Basingstoke.

On to 1982 with work continuing at Wigmore and sporadic digging taking place at Castle Farm Swallet II.  In Kent I found three possible blocked adit entrances to the Snape Iron Mine, but was not in the area long enough for a dig.  It was reopened years later by the Kent Underground Research Group.  On the Hill, a small cave unintentionally dug by someone else was explored.  St. George’s Cavern, alias The Hole in the Road, was broken into by Irish digger driver Peter Cosgrove beneath the centre of the Old Bristol Road.  He then bravely descended the resulting 4m deep hole on the boom of the excavator into a 7m long chamber.  Throngs of Hunters’ types then swarmed to the place to survey, photograph and eventually dig their way into five more small chambers before the place was unfortunately filled in.  At least it was interesting to experience quite roomy cave development in the limestone and dolomitic conglomerate at this low altitude and so near Wells.

In the far north, I squeezed down a severe, blasted vertical squeeze in Uamh an Claonaite to enter some 30m of roomy and slanting stream passage between Sumps Two and Three.  Getting out was “interesting”.  In the Dales, I assisted Howard and Debbie Limbert and Lugger with their digs in Dalebarn Cave and on Scales Moor and sherpered bottles for Geoffs Yeadon and Crossley along a 100m+ grim wallow of a crawl in Ingleborough Cave.  They got within 20m of Gaping Gill on this trip.  Under Alan “Butch” Butcher’s leadership work started on dam building for the great St. Cuthbert’s Swallet Sump Two drainage project and some blasting was undertaken at the end of Tyning’s Barrows Swallet.  The Suzuki again went into action at Gough’s Cave where it was used to bring a trailer load of spoil from Chris Bradshaw’s dig halfway along the main passage – a very novel exercise.  Another novelty was an hour’s digging at the 70m level in the 100m deep Beeston Castle Well, Cheshire where Peter Stewart, Angus Innes, Dave Turner (B.E.C.) and North Staffordshire Mining Club characters were searching for “gold and hidden treasure”.  Needless to say they never found any but the place at least had a very nice view.  At Wookey Hole Trev Hughes started yet another long term project at Hallowe’en Rift and we explored some 30m of low, phreatic bedding passage here in dolomitic conglomerate.

This year’s foreign trip took place in the winter for a change.  Bob Cork, Dany and I had been invited on the British Speleological Expedition to Mexico – essentially a Derbyshire / Yorkshire run affair filmed by Syd Perou and Guy Meauxsoone (Group Speleo Alpin de Belgique).  Initially little of interest was found but later in the trip the very providential addition of three semi-aquatic Mendip men to the team saved the day when Bob free-dived a fairly committing sump at the end of the superb resurgence cave of Veshtucoc.  The cave had also been entered by free-diving a shorter, but snake-infested, entrance sump, Dave Gill being the hero.  Several kilometres of very fine river passage resulted and this, together with the fact that half of the expedition team developed Histoplasmosis, caught in the nearby cave of Boruhuix, made for a very entertaining film.

 This trip took us well into 1983 and on returning to Mendip reality took hold in the shape of Tynings and Hallowe’en Rift.  Reality then suddenly got even starker with the discovery by Keith Gladman and Andy Lolly (B.E.C.) of 200m of passage beyond Ifold’s Series in Eastwater Cavern!  Much of the year was then spent in a series of hard digging and pushing trips in this new West End Series and these are well documented so you need not relive their horrors with us!

A dose of light relief took place in December when our Speleo Nederland and Speleo Limburg mates took us on a late night pirate trip into the Grotte de Han show cave in Belgium.  A great time was had visiting all the accessible passages but alas the underground bar was locked up.  The fun continued next day with a visit to the Café du Rocher, a pub with a cave in the back yard and an illegal trip up the working Lustin railway tunnel into the Resurgence Lucianne cave accessed via a 10m climb into the ceiling.  Once inside, we found the place to be like the League of Nations with cavers from Germany, Belgium, France and Holland milling about in seeming confusion.  Great stuff and well supported by further extensive field trials on the local ales.  Other away trips this year were to Counties Mayo (Aille River Cave), Clare and Kerry (Crag Cave) and a tourist holiday on which many French and northern Spanish show caves were visited with Jane Thomas, a very luckily gained ticket into the famous and stunning prehistoric painted Cueva de Altamira being the highlight.

“Big Pushes” at St. Cuthbert’s occurred on the 21st July and the 22nd and 23rd September when some good progress was made into Sump 2 and the pumping system thoroughly tested.  Together with a Wessex team of Pete and Alison Moody, Pete Watts, Paul Whybro and Geoff Newton, Tim Large, “Quiet” John Watson and I were busily pushing new stuff in West End Series during September, October and November.    Some industrial archaeology made a refreshing change at Middle Engine Pit, Nailsea where Trev, Cheg, John Dukes and I assisted John Cornwell with coal mining investigations.

It was the 27th April 1985 and an early morning run to Sump 1 in Swildon’s started off my wedding day!  It ended with a massive sing-song and P.U. in the Hunters’ when my newly acquired father-in-law came back downstairs from his room as “they words” were less easier to make out in the immediate vicinity of Roger Biddle’s passionate piano playing!  A few days later Jane, Phil and Lil Romford and I were in Crete.  Here a few grotty show caves, some artificial subterranea and the quite impressive Sarchos Cave near Heraklion were visited.  Phil and I had a particularly atmospheric overnight trip to a short but impressive cavern located high on the mountain of Sela Digeni.  With an entrance 60m wide by 80m high Kamares Cave held a population of choughs, swiftlets, bats and the odd goat.  The views over southern Crete and the Aegean Sea were magnificent.  Here we bivvied down following crispbread, sardines and hot whiskies and woke to watch the local goatherd at work.  A couple of hours poking about in the boulder ruckle floor of the main chamber revealed masses of Minoan pottery shards (Kamares Ware).  We then staggered back down to Kamares village to meet the ladies and have an impromptu session with the locals and a French and Dutch couple.  In this surreal, magic place the locals were not out of context!  Pub landlord Michaelis was a tin whistle playing, 80 year old ex Spitfire pilot with a distinct eye for the ladies and his mate Georgio was an equally ancient and sparkly-eyed Greek Orthodox priest who danced the afternoon away with Lil.

The St. Cuthbert’s project was wound up in June after a magnificent effort and with better technology will no doubt be continued in the future.  In Swildon’s, Oliver Lloyd got the last laugh on us when at his underground wake a rescue of ordinary cavers developed due to flooding.  I arrived to find the victims being escorted out by a wobbling selection of singing “mourners”.  After pushing a small extension in Eastwater with Dave Nicholls and Mark Lovell, I climbed the 55ft Aven in Ifold’s Series and another project, still not completed, was on the go.  A vocal connection was later established here with the Wind Tunnel / Boulder Chamber area in the upper series – see later.

It being the 50th Anniversary of the B.E.C., a big trip to the Gouffre Berger was this year’s foreign outing and involved lots of assorted Mendip characters.  A great time was had by all and lots of people bottomed the cave – the eccentric Bob Lewis doing it stylishly in a furry suit!  I would still like to know why there was a kid’s pram in the Great rubble Heap but Matt Tuck photographed it for proof anyway.

A truly memorable Dinner was held on the 5th October, made even better as the evening before was the 50th Anniversary Celebration of cave diving at Wookey Hole where three barrels were laid on.  It was a privilege to be in the company of such heroes as Graham Balcombe, Jack Sheppard, John Buxton, Steve Wynne-Roberts, Mike Wooding, John Savage, Eric Hensler, Willy Stanton, Dan Hasell, Bob Davies, Oliver Wells, Luke Devenish, Alan Rogers, Robs Palmer and Parker, John Parker and many others.  A double 40th birthday bash at Barrie Wilton’s house on Sunday finished off this very bleary weekend.

 The attempted connection to the 55ft Aven in Eastwater started off 1986 and a dig in the floor of the Boulder Chamber itself soon led into some 7m of roomy, descending passage leading to a pitch or rift of about 5m.  Unfortunately, the unbelievably horrific boulders in which the “passage” lay made it suicidal to push so it was named Death Row and at a later date infilled after the whole lot started to collapse around me.  A smoke bomb fired by Jim Smart in the Aven revealed an alternative possibility and we were hard at work on this when Howard Price materialised to drag us off to a rescue at Longwood Swallet.  Glad to be away from dodgy boulders, we gratefully left the cave but were soon in for a shock.  In the Main Chamber a very tall 16-year old novice, Attila Kurukz, had died from chest injuries following the slippage of a large boulder.  Getting his body out was difficult and stressful in the extreme but luckily there was a great team of experienced Mendip and Derbyshire rescuers at hand and it was all over by 9.30 pm.

A rescue of a Hades Caving Club member from the Double Pots in Swildon’s, into which he had fallen brought the following comment from Rich “Kermit” Warman, “If I’d known he’d had an epileptic fit I’d have taken my washing down!”.

Back down Eastwater, a second front was opened up by Tim Large blasting up towards the Boulder Chamber from the top of the aven combined with working downwards in a more stable area below the Wind Tunnel.

Tourist “show caving” in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Yugoslavia revealed the spectacular systems of Postojnska Jama and Skocjanske Jama and the delights of the classic Karst.  A more serious trip to the region came with this year’s Dachstein Expedition where a fine cave was quickly found after digging out a doline 4 minutes walk from the Weisberghaus in search of a supplementary water supply for barmy landlord Robert Pilz.  Unfortunately it soon bottled out but below the hut the deep Jagerhohle system kept the team amused as it headed down towards the Hirlatzhohle below.  Coming out of here totally knackered I was somewhat distressed when my harness came apart near the top of a 50m pitch as I had failed to screw up my main maillon.  Honking with fatigue and stress and nearly losing my teeth back down the pitch would not have been a problem if there had not been a large audience of South Wales Caving Club bods to hand!  This pot ended up some 600m deep after 25 pitches and was to be the target for the following year.

On Mendip, Wigmore continued to yield passage and a new dig at the aquaphobic Bowery Corner Swallet was started following abandonment by Pat Cronin’s team – and never finished.

Our first breakthrough in 1987 was off the 55 ft Aven in Eastwater where the 10m high Aven Skavinski was climbed.  A 5m addition was also found at the top of the main aven following a bang.  Yet another dig came on stream, this time at the end of Sanctimonious Passage in Hunter’s Hole.  This was to become a major banging operation resulting lots of very bad headaches!  A dig in Midnight Passage, Agen Allwedd, also took place and on this trip I assisted a slightly lost elderly gentleman from the cave.  It was only later that I was realised that I was caving with the legendary “Black” Ken Pearce – the “Iron Man of British Caving”!  He had fortunately mellowed over the years since his Berger team mutinied underground and he was very pleasant.  Once, when diving with James Cobbett in Speedwell cavern, James complained that Ken was standing on his hands as they surmounted a climb.  Without moving Ken replied, “I don’t like caving with soft people”.

Huntingdonshire, in the Fens, is not renowned in caving circles, but at this time I was working in the small town of Ramsey and went for a pint in the Jolly Sailor pub on the surprisingly wide main street.  On the walls were photos of the “underground river” and I realised that I had been missing out.  With workmate Roger Smith and Martin Grass in tow, a rubber dinghy trip up the 2,336 ft long brick lined tunnel running the length of the town was undertaken.  A straw decorated sluice chamber and various side passages added to the interest.  It was later surveyed and written up for a Subterranea Britannica Bulletin as I was a member of this society.  It is well worth a visit for those exiled in the far east.

Arduous digging in Bowery Corner, Hunters’ Hole and Hallowe’en Rift took up most of the latter part of the year and on the very last day Trev Hughes, John Chew and I were at the end of the latter looking up into a 5m high passage and dreaming of a last minute barrel-winning extension.  After Trev had hammered out this banged viewpoint I was able to squeeze up into the passage to find it only 3m long and 1m wide but attractively decorated with splash formations.  There was no obvious way on in this rift (after five year’s work!) but it was at least large enough for the three of us to sit in and open a bottle of sparkling cider in celebration / commiseration.

In January 1988, I took renowned folk singer Vin Garbutt to Swildon’s as he really looked the part but he decided it was not for him and wrote an excellent song about the cave, White Pit and the Hunters’ Lodge Inn instead.  In February I got an invite to Graham “Jake” Johnson’s long term dig at Welsh’s Green Swallet where one plaster charge was fired and another was washed away downstream.

The 16th April saw two Wessex and one B.E.C. team at work in the very depths of Eastwater.  Returning from the Jubilee Line to the Chamber of Horrors, the sound of a large stream was heard.  This had suddenly poured from an inlet passage at around 4.30 pm and was then followed by another roar from Blackwall Tunnel indicating that we were probably about to get into deep shit!  I raced off to Cenotaph Aven to warn Geoff Newton, Jake Johnson and Nick Pollard but they thought it was a B.E.C. con and were loath to leave their almost completed climb.  Eventually, everyone free-dived the almost sumped Blakwall Tunnel crawl and headed for Lolly Pot where a thundering waterfall practically filled the shaft.  A desperate struggle out revealed a diving team on standby as the cave entrance had actually sumped up at one point – not bad for a 30m boulder ruckle!  A couple of tremendous downpours in the North Hill area created the problem.

        A novel trip to Nenthead, Cumberland saw Pat Cronin and I assisting Cheg with his dig in the extensive Smallcleugh Mine and the next day pushing some 180m of neck deep adit level in Brownley Hill Mine – well, it was neck on me anyway – Pat had to swim half the time.

A bang above the First Rift Chamber in Eastwater was done for Jake and Nick Pollard in the company of Peter “Snablet” McNab, who for some unfathomable reason did part of the trip on a skateboard!  Next day they cleared the spoil and entered some 70m of quite impressive passage – Dark Cars and Sunglasses.  Banging other people’s digs was obviously the answer.  Snablet was also with me on an 18m breakthrough in Hunters’ Hole, which, though fairly well-decorated and roomy ended poorly and marked the termination of this difficult dig.  We didn’t even bother to open the “Champagne”.  The place was later adorned with a Gas Street sign pinched many years earlier from Newtown, Montgomeryshire.

In September, Jane and I flew to the United States and visited most of the fabulous show caves of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.  Luray Caverns, one of the world’s greats, was particularly notable for its Great Stalacpipe Organ, invented by one Leyland W. Sprinkle to bash buggery out of the formations with lots of little rubber trip-hammers (this is The States after all).  The result as this imaginative instrument tapped out the haunting notes of “Shenandoah” was actually very eerie and moving.  Underground war memorials are also a novelty in this cave.  The treat at Massanutten Caverns was owner Brad Cobb who was crippled by a stroke and arthritis and did the whole cave on two sticks at tortoise speed continuously mumbling “Weird, weird, weird”.  He was great entertainment value though as he damned cave vandals and apologized for burnt out lights.  This great, old-time caving character had two ambitions left – to see the 100th Anniversary of the discovery of the cave in 1892 and to visit the Mulu Caves. I hope he managed both.

On to West Virginia and our next cave owning character, Gordon Mothes, whose 600 acre farm holds seven of the entrances to the 47 mile long (at the time) Friar’s Hole System.  I managed trips into the Snedegar’s, Cruickshank, Toothpick and Rolling Stones sections of this great cave along with lots of cave crickets and a couple of “spelunking” cows.  One entrance bore a sign warning S.R.T. cavers that, “Rats may chew the rope”.  We stayed in Gordon’s personal timber caving hut, well known to many British and Canadian cavers who seem to have adopted the system.  The nearby tourist section of the 40 mile long Organ Cave System was also visited and was fascinating due to the saltpetre mining artefacts left over from Confederate Army operations in the Civil War.  Cave owning character no.3 had a southern drawl, was a top bullshitter and was proud of his long but grubby cave with its bare light bulbs hanging on obtrusive cables strung from rotting poles and with the occasional tatty lamp shade.  Well worth a visit.

World famous Mammoth Cave, Kentucky was next stop, always the longest on earth and at this time with 325 miles surveyed and about a mile a month being added.  A couple of tours were done here before Jane started suffering from over exposure to the underworld and the guides / rangers found to be informative, professional and thoroughly in charge. I also slipped away to Sand Cave where Floyd Collins died in 1925 and found the experience particularly eerie in the wet and misty conditions of this lonely spot, where it was almost impossible to visualise the 10,000 rowdy onlookers at the abortive rescue attempt.

Back into Virginia and possibly the most novel caving trip ever as I wandered through the impressive 850 ft long and 100 ft high Natural Tunnel river cave accompanied only by the engineman of a fifty-car freight train on the tracks of the Southern Railway which used the passage as its name suggests.  Dixie Caverns also proved to be different when the attractive lady guide, having found out that I was a caver, got me to do much of the tour!

In Tennessee, Bristol Caverns just had to be done and was well worth a visit……

Tony Jarratt
August 2008

NOTE: Tony started writing this when he was told about the terminal nature of his cancer.  He tried very hard to complete it, but in the end he got beaten.  The account is incomplete, but no one but Tony could complete it, so here it is, as it is.

The account has a refreshing immediacy about it, perhaps an indication of his rush to try to finish it.  I have edited the text only slightly, largely limited to scattering a handful of commas over it and putting in a few paragraph breaks.

Tony Audsley

11 July 2009 

BEC Word Search

Below are 30 hidden names of caves or digs which can be found in or near Burrington Combe. A pint each from the Hunters to the first 5 people who send Hannah Bell the correct list of the 30 found names.





























Correct answers and winning names will be published in the next BB.

Mendip Cave Survey Scheme

A selection of Mendip cave survey scans is now freely available from the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive website at the following address.

These surveys were previously available through the scheme, which has now been wound up since the surveys were rarely requested and many are now rather out of date.

The Mendip Cave Survey Scheme was an informal working relationship between the BEC, CSS, MCG, MNRC, SMCC and the WCC. 

BEC April Working Weekend 2009.

Luckily for all of us the weekend weather turned out to be fine and dry, there was a long list of jobs to be done and Henry Dawson had posted the work on the notice board. A big tidy up in the car park area was high on the list, and thanks to Martin Grass and Zot a trailer was loaded up and hauled down to the tip. A good turnout of members [including Kangy King] meant that there as a good chance that all the vital work would be done in 2 days.

Hannah has already set the trend by cleaning the walls in the upstairs new room, and Henry had put a vent in to aid circulation. Faye concentrated on the tackle store and also emptied the old inner sanctum, [she kept finding unknown antique items in dark corners] which was fun .We have yet to find the snowshoes belonging to Blitz.

We now have a better overview regarding ladder-making kit etc.

A huge wall cleaning effort was put in on the main room [ not an easy job!!] and then the walls were painted by an assortment of people accompanied by the sound of music, Wormster Rich and Ruth [the 2 r’s] and several young members of the club. Many thanks to all of you.!!

The Rope Washer has been refurbished by Slug and the Belsen shower area is in the process of being converted into an inside rope washing area. A big improvement, no excuse for not cleaning the ropes. We are anticipating a supply of new ropes soonest. Faye will sort those out in due course.

Entertainment was supplied by Wormster’s 2 children who proceeded to paddle in the washing pond and then have mud-slinging fights with each other, finally finishing up resembling Baby Hippos. Meanwhile on Saturday afternoon Ben the digger kindly loaned his JCB to us [in return for a few favours!!] so myself and my trusty Banksman Tony Audsley started digging the drainage trench and soakaway, in true BEC style it became the Time Team dig!! We had only 3 days to complete the task!! Tony turned out to have a good eye for anything that resembled treasure in the trench, we unearthed a pre roman axe head and Boadicea’s bedstead, plus several shards of iron age metal which we decided could be possibly ritual [or just junk!!!!!!!!!]. A magnificent parabola was cut to the prescribed depth and fall, followed by a deep soakaway.

When questioned closely by Mendip Knowall re the curve I told them that the 1972 GPS system in the JCB had failed!!!!!!!!!  Dany kindly measured the fall for us and the land drainpipe was duly laid in the trench with gravel. We can now grade and gravel the car park at a later date. 

Saturday finished up with a slide show provided by Faye the subjects were really interesting ie Lava Caves in Hawaii and caving in Brazil.

Food by Slug and Beer by Rob rounded off the day.

Ps Apparently Faye is an important English Caving Journalist,!! and as such can command great respect and assistance whilst on international expeditions, thereby increasing the tourist potential of Any Region in the World she chooses to visit.

I must try this ploy the next time I visit Australia.

The old club spirit has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes of the foot and mouth era.

Mike Wilson the virago viagra man

New French Caving Shop

Ever wondered how you get a job designing new gear for Petzl? A team of crack French designers have setup by themselves and are now selling an eclectic range of caving devices online at 

This first full catalog (and only) of virtual caving equipment is perfectly inappropriate and totally incompatible with daily practice. Why deprive ourselves of superfluous kit in our favourite activity, when most of the things we buy every day already do almost nothing? Think about what you could not do with these aberrant devices, our devices are strange and crazy with no real utility.

Latex helmet

No more problems of adjustment, which becomes dirty knobs, caps of moldy and never the right size. This revolutionary model, tested individually, comes in several flavours: chocolate, vanilla, honey, papaya, guava, banana and of course bat guano!

Shell coated with lubricant to facilitate the passage of narrow.

Finally a helmet that you will like a glove …

€ 69.00 (per box of 24) 

Super Elastic Survey Tape

Who among us has not been disappointed one time or another, realizing that the wells that the sound is measured 50 meters, after clearing, a mere projection of 6.  How sad, what blow to morale for the thrill! Here is a device that will change your life.

This consists of a retractor which is mounted an elastic square super-resistant black. How does it work?

You want your well is a P 50. Pull down two or three lengths of elastic, block by block dérouleur incorporated. Enter the white marker and write 50 on the elastic. You can start topo your colleague takes the tip of lower decameter R6, you move the coil of decameter to the top and let the elastic stretch. Read then the specified height: 50 m.You’re a superb P50 noted in your notebook or exits the club!… QED …

CAUTION: Do not drop the coil of decameter after reading: risk of serious injury to your teammate!

€ 34.00 decameter in the square black elastic super durable.

8.00 € marker for white elastic, washable.

Carabiner special node Mickey

With its dual symmetric gates, it will allow you longer on the two loops of Mickey node at a time and distribute the tension in a balanced way on both sides.

How come we not have thought of that before?

NB: Please read the instruction manual before use to avoid opening two fingers of the hook at the same time.

18.00 € sold complete

Spare parts: 11.00 € up, € 14.00 down with your fingers.


Harnesse for Siamese cavers

BB532 20


Do you have a Siamese brother or sister? Are you are passionate for the exploration of potholes?

This harness is for you, no need to cobble together two different harnesses which may decrease the safety of all, finally the solution to all your problems underground exploration!

Harness for Siamese triplets on request.

Model € 85.00 double, ask for a quotation for other models.


Acetylene lamp LED

Finally the advantages of LEDs (autonomy, simplicity of implementation, reliability) and acetylene (diffuse light, heat) combined in a single device.

The top fans to reconcile the two types of lighting.

The manufacturer refuses to disclose the unique process of making electricity from the acetylene gas which is obviously top-secret!

€999.99 (delivered without fuel, water, batteries, without fixing a helmet, without fixing belt, guaranteed 20 years or 2 outputs groundwater).



Perforated Drums

Canyon, you are probably already happened to find your water bottle filled with water tight, in case of defective O-ring or cover badly screwed.

In order not to unnecessarily increase the bag, the bottle allows automatic removal of accumulated water.

 Indissociable kit perforated canyon, this is the solution to all your problems of wear or dizzy.

Optional accessory: waterproof bag to place inside the perforated drum, for those who really want to stay dry.

from € 8.00 to 3.5 liters and 40.00 € in 28 liters of € 12.00 to € 54.00 the inner bag.

Overview – Caving in the Abode of the Clouds – 2008

By Simon Brooks  & Mark Brown


An International Team totalling 42 Cavers (comprising of 20 from the UK, 6 from Meghalaya, 4 from Ireland, 4 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, 2 from Canada, and 1 each from Austria, Iran, Sweden and Belgium) spent up to three and a half weeks (4th to 27th Feb 2008) in the Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya focusing on the caving areas of Shnongrim Ridge in the Nongkhlieh Elaka, the Litien Valley to the East and in the Semmasi Area to the North East of the Ridge.

During this time a total of 37 caves were explored, mapped and photographed to discover 13.978 kilometers of new cave passage.  Of the 37 caves mapped 17 of these were entirely new caves with the rest being extensions to systems that were partially explored in previous years.  Key achievements from this year’s exploration include:

  • The linking of the Liat Prah Cave System to Krem Labbit (Moolasgni) via a 3m sump free dive and the connection of two other potholes into the system and surveying of new side passages created a cave system of 30.957km in length.  This firmly established this system as the longest cave known to date in the Indian Sub-continent and more significantly made it the first Indian Subcontinent cave to exceed 30kms in length.
  • The extension of Krem Tyngheng in the Semasi area from 9.866km to 12.960km in length via some long swims to make it India’s 5th longest cave.
  • The surveying of two other caves in the Semasi area; Krem Labbit Kseh at 883m in length and Krem Bliat at 613m in length.  The former which is ongoing. 
  • The pushing of many side passages and climbs in a bid to link together cave systems on the ridge.  One aven of over 30m height was climbed in Krem Umthloo, which with other extensions and the proper linking to Krem Synrang Labit made this system 18.181km in length maintaining it as the third longest cave in the Indian Sub-Continent.
  • The extension of several existing caves in the area including: Umsngad River Sink that was extended from 1.25km to 2.15km in length and is still ongoing; Krem Kdong Thloo that was extended from 1.18km to 1.58kms.  In Krem Um Manong a bolt climb gained a high level passage taking the cave from 105m to 922m in length; Krem Synrang Ngap was extended from 4.51km to 4.92km in length; and Krem Mawshun from 3.33 to 3.624kms. 
  • The discovery and exploration of several new caves in the previously blank N.E. section of the Ridge near to the Liat Prah system including Krem Lumthymme that is 1.1km in length but unfortunately failed to connect into the Liat Prah system
  • The discovery and exploration of two new caves on the south flank of the ridge, that are likely to connect and form part of a larger system in what was previously a blank area on the Shnongrim Ridge map.  Both containing large sections of trunk passage and Krem Thapbalong Sim is currently 351.6m in length and ongoing and Krem Shyrong Shrieh is 1,390m in length and is also ongoing.
  • The discovery and exploration of new caves that have, once again, increased the total length of cave passage explored and surveyed on the Shnongrim Ridge from 139kms to 148.3 kms in total.  This being the greatest concentration of cave passage in one place within the Indian Sub-Continent.        
  • The completion of the surface mapping project of the main area of the ridge and Letein valley, which in combination with the cave mapping gives a clearer picture of the geomorphology and hydrology of the area.  This exercise alone has played a significant role in unlocking the secrets of the Ridge, contributing to the locating and exploring of additional significant cave systems as detailed above and giving a much better understanding of how the caves on the Ridge were formed.

In addition to the cave exploration, an International Conference entitled ‘Discover Meghalaya – The Caving Experience’ was held at the Pinewood Hotel in Shillong on the 22nd to the 23rd February.  The Government of Meghalaya Tourism Department and the MAA (Meghalaya Adventurers Association) hosted this with a significant input being made by the European team members.  The conference was attended by some members of the expedition, the MAA and over 60 delegates drawn from the Meghalaya Government and its various departments along with representatives from the coal and limestone extraction industry and Adventure Travel Agencies from across India and Bangladesh.  Regretfully the small independent mining industries could not be present.  The aims of the conference were to raise awareness of the great cave resource within Meghalaya; highlight the threats to the caves posed by the recent increases in the limestone and coal extraction industries (particularly the small independent mining operations) and try to identify ways of addressing this issue; and to develop strategies to promote the use of caves for tourism and local economic development.  The conference was a great success and was followed by a field trip into the Liat Prah System for 25 of the delegates that gave them the chance to experience the underground cave environment first hand. 

To date (March 2008) the whereabouts of over 1,150 caves are known in Meghalaya of which 669 have been explored to yield in excess of 324 kilometres of surveyed cave passage, with much more still waiting to be discovered.  Much of the cave that has been found to date is impressive river cave mixed with huge fossil passage that create cave systems equal in size and beauty to any found elsewhere in the world, putting Meghalaya firmly on the world-caving map as a significant caving region.

In the achievement of the above the Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project is indebted to the help and support it has received from; the Meghalaya Adventurers Association, the Government of India Tourist Office (East and North East India) Kolkata; the Meghalaya State Tourism Department; Officials and Government Departments within Meghalaya; and, very importantly, the People of Meghalaya.


Simon Brooks (Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project Expedition Coordinator) 
Mark Brown (Expedition Leader 2008)
3rd March 2008 

Meghalaya 2008 Hard Work Beneath the Ridge Produces a 30.9km+ System

By Tony Jarratt.


The Caving Team:- 

Austria – Peter Ludwig (LVHOO).  

Belgium – Jean-Pierre Bartholeyns (GIPS/SCBLS). 

Canada – Guillaume Pelletier (SQS), Joel Beauchamp.  

Denmark – Louise Korsgaard (DSS), Torben Redder (DSS).  

England – Simon Brooks (GSG/OCC), Mark Brown (GSG/SUSS), Imogen Furlong (SUSS), Richard Furlong, Peter Glanvill (BEC), Philippa Glanvill (WCC), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Alys Mendus (SUSS), Henry Rockliff (SUSS), Jayne Stead (GSG),Elizabeth Stead, Jeff Wade (SUSS), Terry Whittaker (NCC), Anne Vanderplank (BEC/WCC), Tony Boycott (BEC/UBSS/GSG).  

India – Brian Kharpran Daly (MAA/GSG), Ksan Kupar “Ronnie” Mawlong (MAA), Lindsay Diengdoh (MAA).  

Iran / Germany – Shary Gazy (DAV).  

Ireland – Robin Sheen (BC), Rowena Sheen (BC), Des McNally (UCDCPC), Sharon Hennessey (DITCC).  

Scotland – Ross Davidson (GSG), Fraser Simpson (GSG), Mark Tringham (GSG), Hugh Penney (GSG/GUPC), Kate Janossy (GSG).  

Sweden – Axel Rosen.  

Switzerland – Thomas Arbenz (SNT), Martine Joye Hapka (SCMN), Roman Hapka (SCMN), Rolf Siegenthaler (SGHB).

(An independent mini-expedition comprising Rob and Helen Harper (BEC), Stuart MacManus (BEC) and Keith Sanderson (WCC) were in the Garo Hills area of western Meghalaya from the 4th to the 18th February.   They had a very successful trip, which hopefully will be reported in the BB.) 

The Support Team:- 

Bung Diengdoh, Adison “Adi” Thaba (camp managers), Myrkassim Swer (chef), Munni Lyngdoh (Mrs.Swer), Vinod Sunar, Telford H. Dkhar (cooking team), Robin Gurung, Marius Lyngdoh, Alphon Massar, Albert Massar, Edmund Massar (drivers) and two others. 

Guides, Informants and Caving Friends:- 

Raplang Shangpliang (Shnongrim), Evermore Sukhlain (Shnongrim), Carlyn Phyrngap, Menda Syih, Pt Syih, Shor “Pa Heh” Pajuh, Kores Sukhlain (all Shnongrim), Na-U-Sukhlain (Dolloi – Nongkhlieh Elaka), Pherki, Abres (Khaidong), Dennis Rayen (Laitkynsew), Gregory Diengdoh (MAA – Shillong), Maureen Diengdoh, Shelley Diengdoh (MAA) and the Ladies of Shillong, Robin Laloo, family and friends, the people of Nongkhlieh Elaka and Semmasi. 

Journalists, Environmentalists and Tourism Promoters:- 

Sandeep Mathur, Christina Heyniger, Salim Merchant, Arup Ingty John, Amarjyoti Borah, Tarali Goswami, Sahir M. Latif, Vikram Mazumder, Manishanker Ghosh, Kyntiewbor War, Quiverland Langte, Kyrmen K. Ryja, Seniorsingh K. Ryja. 

As can be seen from the above list of participants, this year’s Expedition fielded thirty-nine characters from Europe, India and the New World with a variety of caving skills from virtually none up to professional rigging standard.   Luckily Meghalaya has enough variety to cater for all tastes with vertical stuff aplenty and a few extensive horizontal systems accessible without SRT equipment.   Useful surface work includes mapping and reconnaissance; so all personnel have plenty to keep them occupied.   This report is compiled from the writer’s logbook and the Expedition diary and the usual apologies are made for the boring bits.   It is more of a historical record than an exciting adventure story – especially this year as much time was spent tidying up the area, resurveying previous finds, training the novices, faffing about and failing to make the prophesied major connections!  A total of almost 14km of new cave was surveyed and, more to the point, a good time was had by all. 

The expedition results are here summarised by caves and not in chronological order as previously. 

Khasi Hills

Mark, Alys, Henry, Jeff and Dennis explored 56.15m of sandstone rift in Missing Waterfall Pot at the Eco Park near Mawsmai.   They stayed briefly at Dennis’ resort at Laitkynsew and also visited the magnificent living root bridges. 

Jaintia  Hills 

Work began on the Ridge on the 5th February.   Cross Rift Pot, in Krem Synrang Ngap was rigged by Mark, Jeff and Alys and pushing commenced.   Next day, the writer and Anne joined Jeff but were stopped at a depth of 90m by two too-tight rifts so surveyed out.   At the downstream end of the cave Henry, Guilllaume and Rolf enlarged the squeeze and surveyed 277.8m of large passage to a draughting boulder choke.   The latter two and Jeff surveyed another 42.8m next day, but failed to connect the choke to Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and so de-rigged. 

Krem Iawe was another priority and on the 5th Robin, Des, Sharon, Ronnie, Joel, Axel and the writer attempted to find a way through the main river passage choke in vain.   Other possible leads were investigated and a couple of climbs noted.   This was also an introductory trip for the newcomers who were suitably impressed by this stunning river cave.   The 12th saw Henry bolting the two climbs, your scribe and Kate digging, Pete G. photographing and Terry generally assisting. No extensions of note were found.   Another one bites the dust! 

Back near the camp, Krem Wah Lukor 3 was rigged and the 50m Scurion Pitch connected to the Krem Um Thloo / Krem Synrang Labbit system.   Also on the 5th, Krem Labbit Moolasngi 3 was rigged and some digging at the start of the upstream canal by Guillaume and Henry lowered the water level some 10-12 cm, which later was to prove important when, on the 10th Robin, Anne and the writer reached the upstream sump to find a tiny airspace – only noticed when lights were extinguished and it failed to get dark!  In Video Passage, Krem Liat Prah, Henry and Guillaume, arriving at exactly the planned time, were just visible and after much joyous shouting and bawling Robin did a committing 3m+ free-dive to connect the caves and push India’s longest up to, eventually 30.958 km.   The connecting Krem Rubong was photographed by a team on the 8th and another large team photographed Liat Prah on the 21st.

Krem Um Sutiang was laddered by Robin, Axel, Joel and Ronnie on the 6th but a too-tight squeeze with clean-washed passage beyond halted progress.   A possibility for the future? 

Also today [6th] Mark, Alys. Rowena, Jean-Pierre and Peter L. hunted for Krem Myrliat 1 & 2 in vain, but J-P. almost fell down a “new” one.   A 10m deep pot with a chamber and a squeeze, passed by the slim Rowena, led to a second pitch.   The original pots were found next day with the aid of Henry and your scribe and the “new” one turned out to be 2 after all.   Some S.R.T. training was done here by Alys, Rowena and Ronnie and the cave surveyed and squeeze enlarged.   A choke ended exploration without a connection to Um Thloo and it was de-rigged while 1 was rigged to Um Thloo by Henry, Mark and Guillaume.   The latter accompanied Rolf, Anne and the writer through the squalid connecting crawls into Krem Synrang Labbit to check the survey and vainly push the upstream boulder choke and nearby leads.   Another failed connection resulted. On the 17th, the squalid crawl was re-surveyed by Rolf, Shary, Axel and Jean-Pierre before the system was de-rigged. 

On the 7th the neglected Krem Syrnun received a revisit by Tom, Peter L, Des, Kate, Axel and Joel – some of whom surveyed.   Next day Des, Jayne and Liz and Kate, Axel and Joel surveyed in two teams and work continued on the 18th.   The total cave length went from 193 to 528.7m.

Also today Robin, Sharon and J-Pierre surveyed a 

——-< Tony’s account ends here >——

[Note: J.Rat habitually wrote in longhand before typing the article into his computer.   The very last line above comes from this manuscript version and, strictly speaking, should refer to the following day (8th).   Everything else is as it was typed into his computer.  I have made one change to his punctuation.

What follows is taken from J.Rat’s logbook and checked against Simon Brooks’ diary of the expedition].

– – – – –

On the 8th, Harry, Jeff and Peter rigged to the bottom of Krem Um Manong and started a bolt climb to a high level passage.   Jeff and Rolf continued the climb on the 9th, reaching a 3m diameter phreatic tunnel.   This was surveyed on the 11th (approx 200m) and a side passage dug to reveal a pot.   Two days later, Terry, J.Rat and Jeff returned to the tunnel with the intention of pushing beyond the pot.   J.Rat’s description of the passage is too good to leave out so:-

A superb, flat, mud-floored phreatic tunnel c. 3m in diameter meandering for a couple of hundred metres was followed amongst some fine formations and millions of glittering crystals.   One section of the floor sparkled so much that it was difficult to see properly and felt like having a bad migraine!

Unfortunately, the pot did not live up to expectations and was choked 22.5m down.    The phreatic approach tunnel was named Zig and Zag Passage.

On the 15th J.Rat, Imo, Louise and Joel, with the assistance of a barefoot local man, visited the impressive Krem Shrieh Doline.   Imo decided to have a “fun abseil” down the vertical doline wall and in doing so, came across a draughting phreatic passage 8m down, provisionally named ‘Upper Cliff Series’.   This was explored and surveyed as far as two pitches, which required rigging.   An inlet passage was followed up to a second entrance in the jungle.   The team believed that this was new cave, but there was the slight nagging doubt that it might be part of the nearby Krem Pohjingtep, which none of the team had explored.   On the 16th, J.Rat returned with Imo, Joel, Ronnie, Brian and Tom.   Tom and Brian inspected the jungle entrance and assured them it was not Krem Pohjingtep.   Tom and Brian then left to recce the Letein Valley, while the rest of the team entered the new cave.   Imo and J.Rat worked on rigging the fossil pitch, while Terry Louise, Joel and Torben worked on rigging the active lower pitch.   Meanwhile, Ronnie, acting as courier, shuttled back and forth between the two parties ferrying the one and only drill the team possessed to do the rigging.   Eventually, Imo was able to descend the fossil pitch to a huge breakdown passage and a further pitch lipped with boulders, one marked with a pink nail varnish survey station.   The connection to Krem Pohjingtep had been made.   The lower pitch also made a connection, this time to the roomy phreatic passage not far beyond Krem Shrieh main entrance.

On the 23rd, J.Rat, Kate, Henry Axel and Joel set out to resurvey Swiftlet Pot and to attack the calcite squeeze blocking the way on.   The party descended the impressive entrance shaft and several other pitches to a depth of 62m.   Once at the bottom, Henry and Axel attacked the calcite blocked passage, located near a large heap of swiftlet guano, as J.Rat’s log reads:-

A good draught and incredible echo, plus the fact that the 18Km+ Umthloo / Synrang Labbit system lay below, made this a very promising site.

They worked at the calcite with lump hammers, chisels and crowbar until it was time to leave, when Henry and Axel used up the remaining battery power by peppering the blockage with holes.   The climb out was memorable, J.Rat writes:-

The entertaining climb out, with its ”interesting” rigging, was considerably spiced up by the arrival, at 5:30pm of the resident swift colony, who insisted on sharing the same limited space as ourselves!   Axel got caught in a tight section as the clicking birds tried to get through and he expressed the hope that they didn’t have bird ‘flu.

The next day, Axel, Ross and J.Rat put in another 4 hours work nibbling at the calcite but still could not get through, although all three could squeeze in up to their waists.   Finally, the 24th saw Axel, Ross, Anne and J.Rat back again, this time armed with the drill, three batteries, two 12mm drills and plugs and feathers (and a video camera).   After 3½ hours chiselling, Ross stripped down to t-shirt and trousers and passed the desperate squeeze and Axel struggled through behind him.   They entered a 4m-diameter aven (Stonemason’s Aven), which was over 20m high, but there was no way on at the bottom.   They left the cave just as the nightly swiftlet inrush began.   J.Rat summarised his feelings:-

A bit of a disappointment, but at least we have ticked off a long outstanding question mark.   This was the last trip of the expedition for me and pretty much summed up the whole trip – lots of hard work and a good time had but for a limited result.

Notes on the Article.

At the time that he died, J.Rat had been working on several articles, the Home Close article, which appeared in the last BB, an autobiography, this article on the 2008 Meghalaya Expedition and some other fragments.   He was working on this Meghalaya article up to the 23rd August 2008, just over a week before he died.   Unfortunately, J.Rat’s laptop was also not in good health and Tony did say to me that it was a question of which of them would go first.  Well, the laptop is still with us, but it did manage to corrupt the Meghalaya article really rather thoroughly: –

Computers frequently produce gibberish but backwards text is a new one on me.   How about gninnuts, gnihpargotohp and gniggid?J.Rat had multiple copies on floppy disk, but sadly, they were all corrupt to more or less the same extent.  However, it was fortunate that he had not emptied his computer’s “waste basket/Recycle Bin” for a long time and that his computer hard disk was liberally scattered with the junk that Word leaves behind it every time there is a crash.   Although these files also tended to be corrupt, it was possible to piece the overlapping good bits together.   

So, the article comes with a heath warning, I think that the first part is complete, as J.Rat wrote it, down to the marker.   The second part has been created from his logbook (XIV), checked against Simon Brooks’ expedition diary.   Simon also checked over the final version, for which many thanks. 

I have no idea what J.Rat would have included in the second part of the article had he been able to finish it.  I have chosen those episodes in which he played a part, because I think that it is fitting.   It does mean, however, that this second section is probably not as balanced account of the expedition as J.Rat would have produced.

Tony Audsley, 17 March 2009.


May Day Forest Of Dean Meet

By Emma Porter and Mike Wilson

This meet was arranged by Emma Porter and Mike Clayton, who always give an open invite to all BEC members.  All of the forest caves are listed in the meet and all of them are available complete with keys, a guide where necessary, and permits – this means that anyone on the meet has total access to all the caves.

Zot and myself also brought 3 canoes along, as the rapids at Symonds Yat are a great canoe trip.

All in all over the weekend a large number of cavers turned up at the campsite (74 including day trippers). The BEC was represented by Pete Hellier, Kat Denham, Emma Porter, myself and Zot – pretty poor really!!!  The rest were Dudley Caving Club, Shepton Mallet CC, Craven PC, Gloucester SS, Royal Forest of Dean CC and some ex-Portsmouth Uni cavers.  Plus a contingent of Hungarian Cavers (many of whom I had met in Budapest).

The beer tent (with cheap beer) was provided by the Gloucestershire Cave Rescue Group.  It was originally suffering attempts to erect it inside out, but being a quick erect tent, it soon became obvious that the guy ropes were on the inside……  hey ho, up it went easily (wish I had a video camera).

Zot also brought 2 tents, one for each foot, the small quick throw up tent was up in seconds but when the time came to fold it back up it was a different story.  He spent some considerable time tent wrestling much to our amusement!! Still, his contribution of a large quantity of wood for the fire borrowed from the forest kept us all warm that night.

Shepton Mallet CC was the largest group, headed by Shepton Sean an ex-BEC member.  They arrived with some nice twee flags (so they could find their tents when inebriated). Unfortunately, one disappeared over the weekend never to be found again!!! I blame the Hungarians, you can never trust Johnny foreigner.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They were still searching when we left. Watch this space.

My tin knee stopped me caving (poor quality solder supplied by the national health) but we did manage several walks in the Wye Valley, including the ferry and rope bridge in the Biblins, only possible with a bucket full of painkillers and 2 ski poles. Good job I didn’t have to be risk assessed!!

A big thank you to Mike and Emma who worked hard organising the keys, permits, transport to the remote caves down forest tracks.  The meet raised a donation for the Gloucestershire Cave Rescue Group as a bonus.

Emma Porter and Mike Wilson

May Day Forest of Dean Meet 2011

I know it is a long way off…but I’ve already been asked when the next Forest weekend is.  

Mike and I organise the weekend every two years and we have already had offers from local cavers to lead trips for that weekend – so put it in your diary now!

Progress at Caine Hill Shaft

Tony Jarratt

Continued from BB 530.

Further Digging:- 21/6/08 – [22/8/08 *See Notes].

 At the start of this report ca. 4129 bags of spoil had been removed from the cave – an approximate total of 37.16 tons if under-estimated at averaging 10 kilos a bag.   Thanks to local historian Barry Lane, the mediaeval boundary document mentioned in the last article is herewith illustrated (Ed’s note – we’re still looking for this.).

Jake Baynes dug at the end of down-dip Pastel Passage on the 21st June and next day he was joined by the writer for more bag moving and digging – mainly by Jake who was in better health.  Quite a lot of bedrock walls and floor were revealed. Monday 23rd saw a redundant Trevor Hughes, a train driver with a day off – John “Hatstand” Osborne (W.C.C.) – and your scribe dragging piles of bags throughout the cave and continuing work at the face with about thirty bags filled. Later that day, Jane Clarke filled a few more and unearthed a large rock.  She had been inspired to go down for a look after listening to the enthusiastic ramblings of the morning’s diggers in the Hunters’ and waxed lyrical on the progress made since her last visit.  Trev reported the way on to have closed down to a narrow, infilled rift.  

100 loads reached the surface from Son of a Pitch on the 25th and fifty were Land Rovered to the dump.  Tonight’s operatives were Mike Willett, John Walsh, Paul Brock, Jake and your scribe.  Jane, on a solo trip on the 29th, did a superb job of clearing most of the bags on the bend back to S.o.a.P.  Next day, the writer continued digging at the bottom of the “3rd chamber” and found the way on to be more hopeful than he had been led to believe.  He also stropped and shifted previously filled bags, replaced the worn out drag tray in Root 66 and emptied thirty plus sun-dried loads at the dump.  Two more Land Rover loads reached here on the 2nd July while 50 bags were hauled out from S.o.a.P. by Phil Coles, Pete Hellier, John Noble, Sean Howe, claustrophobic Geordie novice James Summerill and your scribe.  In the depths Mike, John W. and Martyn Compton (R.U.C.C./B.E.C.) dug and shifted bags back to the “2nd chamber”.  They reported a low airspace at the face and a possible enlargement to the south but also the generally poor quality of the air – possibly due to the prevailing warm and still weather conditions.

Ginging work above the lintel commenced on the 4th when Tony Audsley affixed a metal working platform.  With a change in the weather to bloody wet and miserable the air conditions had improved by the 6th when Trev, Fiona Crozier and your scribe dug at the bottom and, briefly, in the RH up-dip Pastel Passage.  The bottom dig became impossible to work without a dose of bang or plugs and feathers so Trev cleared the supposed “inlet” above – the NW trending continuation of Pastel Passage and logical way on.  After an initial pinch point he was amazed to find the passage enlarging beyond and seeming to come in from the SW (almost certainly from the lowest point in Root 66, only 2-3m away) and heading off to the NE.  The infill consisted of attractive stratified bands of different coloured sediments ranging from black through to grey, yellow and orange.  Seeming to be a separate cross-tube it was named Rainbow Passage after the multi-coloured layers and to avoid confusion (?) with the lower, Pastel Passage dig.  It will now take priority over the latter.  The writer was back here next day but total body failure meant that only a dozen bags were filled.  To assist with Tony A.’s project the wire ladder on the entrance was replaced with two alloy builders’ ladders.  Foul weather and Priddy Folk Festival then brought a lull in digging.  

On the 14th, half a Land Rover load reached the dump where Jane and the writer emptied almost all of the full bags.  A poor turnout on the 16th resulted in Mike and Trev struggling to clear S.o.a.P. and getting 44 loads to the surface.  The latter was back on the 20th with Duncan Butler.  They concentrated on bag shifting from the “1st chamber” to S.o.a.P. while the writer delivered one Land Rover load to the dump.  More bags were re-positioned throughout the cave on the 23rd by Mike and John W.  The rest of July was frittered away.

On the 6th August a strong team – consisting of Mike, John W, Jane, John N, Phil, Sean, Guy Munnings, Jake and Paul were briefly overseen by your scribe and Jeff Price as they moved bags from the “1st chamber” and S.o.a.P. outwards.  130 reached the surface to the satisfaction of the assembled.  Phil and John N. dug and bag shifted on the 9th, Jane tidied the three “chambers” on the 10th and Mike emptied bags at the dump next day. On the 13th Mike, John W, John N, Trev, Phil, Paul, Sean, Pete, Henry Dawson and Neil Usher got 101 loads out, eighteen of these freshly dug.  The latter worked in agony throughout due to a hernia but even lapsed B.E.C. men are capable of Excess!

NOTE 1: Tony’s account ends here on the 13th August.  What follows is taken from his logbooks, XIV (pp157-159) and XV (p2). 

On the 16th, Phil and John N. filled 20 bags at the current end.  On the 20th, Henry D, Jane Phil, Paul, Mike, Pete, Jake and Anne Vanderplank got 112 loads out, thus clearing the cave.  Henry D then filled a dozen more at the end, where digging is easy and sandy and the ceiling is going up.

On the 21st, Tangent and JRat took one Land-Rover load, about 50 bags, to the dump to dry out.  The 24th saw Jane filling 13 loads at the end, Tangent, Darrell Insterell and JRat taking a 60 bag Land-Rover load to the dump and Henry D, Andy McDonald and Barry Lawton digging and shifting at the end.  The next day, Tangent filled ten bags from the right-hand up-dip Pastel Passage and another ten from the end.

NOTE 2:This article was found on Tony’s computer after he had died.  Tony had been working on it between 7th and 25th August and had nearly completed it when he died.  I have taken the final entries almost verbatim from his last two logbooks.  The last entry is dated 22nd August 2009.

This, therefore, concludes Tony Jarratt’s involvement with the digging at Caine Hill Shaft.  Other hands must now take up his pen, it won’t be easy; he is a hard act to follow.

Tony Audsley, 13 July 2009



The “Cane Hill Document”

Local historian, Barry Lane of Westbury-sub-Mendip has turned up an interesting document dating from the time of the dissolution of the monasteries (round about 1540).  This refers to Cane Land and Cane Hill (although a possible alternative reading of ‘Cane’ could, in fact, be ‘Cave’ !).  The document also mentions Cokkes Close, which could possibly have corrupted to Coxton, as in Coxton End Lane.


Barry had suspected that the area mentioned in the document lay close to and rather behind Manor Farm, but he was not aware that the area was referred to as Caine Hill until a random (as ever) conversation with Tangent in the pub led him to make the connection.   

In the early part of the 16th Century, Henry VIII was having an argument with the Church over a wife.  As was the rule in those days, he won the argument.  He then followed established custom by grabbing all the church land he could get his hands on, had it valued and then sold or rented it and took the money; that being the important part.  

A ‘Court of Augmentation’ was set to administer the property seized by the King and this produced records of valuations and incomes, many of which have survived.  In particular, there is a reference to some land in Priddy and I am grateful to Barry Lane for supplying an image of the document in question.  I am even more grateful to Barry for supplying a transcription and a translation of the same.  

The document, a sort of early spreadsheet, consists of columns of preamble on the left, two central paragraphs of description, then valuations on the right.  The two paragraphs refer respectively to land at Priddy and West Harptree.  Only the Priddy paragraph is described below.

As was commonly the case with such documents, it is highly abbreviated, (a bit like mobile phone txts).  A transcription is appended here with  line breaks as in the original:-

FIRM unius pec Terr Dnical vocat

Cane land cont xvj acr, Cane Hyll

cont viij acr unius Claus voc vj

acr & iij Claus voc Cokk cont vj

acr, ac pasture ad CCC Oves ariet

sup Coiam de Menedipe, unacum decis

Garb ibm & arund quolibt alto anno,

cum alijs decimis Capell Sci laurenc

ibm ptim in tea Johis leng p annu, 

The suggested full text:-

FIRMA unius pecie Terre Domininicalis vocatur

Cane land continentis xvj acras, Cane Hyll

continentis viij acras unius Clause vocantur vj

acr & iij Clausarum vocantur Cokkes continentium vj

acras, ac pasture ad CCC Oves ariettas

super Communiam de Mendipe, unacum decimis

Garbarum ibiemm & arundinum quodlibet alterno anno,

cum alijs decimis Capelle Sancti laurencij

ibidem partim in tenura Johannis leng per annum,

 The translation, (complete with the preamble from the left columns and the valuation):-

County of Somerset

Lately of the Monastery of Brewtone in the aforesaid county.

Predie within the Parish of Westbury.

Is worth in,


THE FARM of one plot of demesne land called

Cane land, containing 16 acres, Cane Hylle,

containing eight acres, one close called Six

Acres & three closes called Cokkes containing six

acres, and pasture for 300 ewes

on the common land of Menedipe together with tythes

of sheaves and reeds there, each alternate year,

with the other tythes of the Chapel of St Lawrence

there, partly in the tenure of John Leng, yearly,


106 Shillings 8 pence 


In 1540, this could be expressed as an exact amount, one third of a pound was  EXACTLY six shillings and eight pence (6/8).  Today, it involves a recurring decimal which cannot be expressed so neatly so the best that we can say that the amount is just over:-

£5.33333333333333333333333333333333 ……

Such is progress.  

Tony Audsley 20 August 2009.



Belfry Access System

In 1969 the old Belfry burnt down (see BB 259) and the current Belfry was built over the next couple of years. In December 1971 new locks were installed and keys started to be issued. Since then we’ve had over 650 members join the Club and hundreds of keys issued.

Besides the fact that the keys are expensive and difficult to get cut there was also very little control over who actually had a copy.

A decision was made earlier this year to replace the locks and it was decided to go for an intelligent electronic key system.  One of the benefits of the BEC is that our members have knowledge and expertise in a wide range of professions. Stu Gardiner was able to advise us on cost effective and highly reliable solution that is used in a large number of commercial buildings.

The chosen solution is from Paxton Access who specialize in the manufacture of access control systems. Access control provides security by giving flexible control over who is allowed to enter Belfry and when. 

Each door has a controller which is connected a lock, key reader and exit button.  The controllers are interlinked and are programmed by management software that is connected via a TPCIP interface.

Over a period of a few months the required hardware was sourced via eBay by Henry Bennett. A computer was donated to the club by Hannah Bell to run the management software and this is located in the library. Stu Gardiner installed the door controls and we tested it on the library for a few weeks.

The management software running on the computer enables us to control exactly who has access to the Belfry. Since each key is individually controlled we can disable it when a member lapses. Similarly if a guest key is lost then we just disable it.

The system is completely backed up by a standby battery system so in the event of a power cut it will still be operational.

Henry Bennett

Assault on Assynt – Mendip Migration – 2009

By Stuart Lindsay 

Its 2009 and almost a year on from the untimely departure of Jrat, the April migration of Mendip for the assault on Assynt has started. Paul “Brockers“ Brock was the first to arrive, very apt, and was there to greet the overnighters Estelle and your scribe, arriving at 7 am. Straight to bed of course, but not to sleep, an untimely cup of mega strong coffee around Perth, and a GSG member and lady friend arising from slumber dashed all hope of that. So stowed the gear, had a conflab about an easy trip later in the day and got to bed about 10 am, arising 2 hours later. 


Allt Nan Uamh Stream Cave – survery detail.

An easy trip, an easy trip at Assynt? You have got to be kidding! Brockers taxied us to the car park, up by the “Inch” to go to the cave fondly called Knockers, (cnoc namh uamh) It was my first visit to Assynt so I was completely unaware of where the cave was, in relation to the car park, Estelle and Paul were fully clued up of course, being veterans. Suffice it to say therefore that a pleasant walk was rewarded with an interestingly fun trip of about an hour or so. The major feature is the fantastic water shute, at 45 degrees, water cascades down at a rate of knots, terminating with froth coating the ceiling over and around a sump. The climb back up is interesting, as exposed to daylight the rocks can be a bit green and slimy.

Crawls, stoops, wet stream passage, dry and dusty decorated chambers are features of the higher entrance, herein exploration still continues amongst “pooey gloop”? and the odd inviting passage that will eventually, in the decades to come receive attention. There is an exposed 3rd entrance, which Paul managed to exit from, about 20 feet or so deep. Knockers was an absolutely fantastic cave to warm up in for the assaults ahead.

What happened next? 

You walk back down the valley, admire beautiful scenery, distant deer, and eagles floating overhead, get changed and go for a couple pints in the “Inch” true Mendip style caving!

DAY 2. (26th April) More arrivals time, with 12 or more persons now ensconced in the hut. BEC representation now the aforesaid mentioned 3 plus Pete “hold It, hold It, damn the flash hasn’t gone off” Glanvill, the “explosive” Tony Boycott, Pete Rose and Trevor Neath made it 7. Tav had joined the merry band, along with “storming” Norman Flux, Milch and Kirsty, and Derrick “can you model for me” Guy.

Caving on day 2, another valley, another cave. Estelle, Paul Brock, Stuart L and Derrick joined with Tav to explore the possibilities of dig sites within ANUS C. (Allt Nan Uamh Stream Cave). Within the predominately Cambrian Limestone 4 or 5 sites were investigated, a little exploration around Drip chamber, Siphon chamber and then a touristy bit through the twin flat out crawls at sphincter, and crossing a couple of very interesting traverses it was possible to drop into the streamway and wade down to the “thundergast” a waterfall! At this point 3 of the 5 declined this submersion into near freezing water and all but one visited the upholder (lack of energy) to see the formations. Exit was uneventful, and for the more portly returning through the crawls at sphincter was less daunting.

Results of the investigations was that off of siphon chamber a dry, a small dry, passage referred to as Estelle’s Dry Crack was earmarked for future attention, as was the Pete Glanvill dig around the sphincter area. To these sites we would return. ANUSC is an active stream cave, with boulder choke terminations. Work is very periodic in a number of sites with plastic tubes pipes and the suchlike awaiting further use in situ or other promising targets within the system. ANUSC is a friendly system, with varying and interesting features. It is wet, dry, dusty, tight, exposed and eeeerroouuuuummm wouldn’t touch that bit!

You walk back down the valley, get changed and go for a couple pints in the “Inch” then back to the hut for another “master chef” meal from the recipe book of Mr Brock, with yours truly elected to prepare, chop and slice the supplied ingredients and prevent the simmering pot from burning…..for an hour or so!

Extract from the GSG log.

Team: Tav, Paul Brock, Estelle Sandford, Stu Lindsay, Derrick Guy.

Mission: Investigate 5 dig sites and tourist trip.

Extract: “then over to Damoclean – dug through the silt and gravel to get back to a depressing and dodgy end. Then dumped a load of digging kit at Toll Radian. Still looks a promising lead _ the week will tell if it’s a long term goer. Finally relocated Titian Pot for its second descent in 10 years. Good productive day with several leads noted”. Tav.

Day 3 (27th April) The day we met Coln Coventry. After 2 days of marching up and down the valleys a rest was called for, well it was a holiday! So a day off sightseeing up to Durness and a visit to Smoo and the infamous pie shop in Lochinver seemed in order. The party was Paul, Estelle and yours truly. In no time at all we had done the pretty route, visited a waterfall some 300m from the road, patronized the local shop in Durness for chocolate, ice cream and fizzy drinks and made our way down the stairway to the very impressive entrance of Smoo. A lonely figure sat back some way inside the massive entrance arch, an array of helmets piled up on a table beside him. As Paul got close, instant recognition resulted in handshakes, greetings and introductions. A short bit of spiel and we were off, into the boat, mind your head.. oooops duck…under the waterfall.. feed the piranhas…and on to shore, well passage and….. I will leave it like that as it may spoil it for you should you visit. However a 10 minute or so discussion ensued at the end of the passage, about the passage, inlet and sump and what, how, why and when things may have transpired, and then back in the boat to the entrance. Bidding farewell to Coln, back up the cliff, Paul and Stu then wandered over the top of the waterfall, and off across the cliff top after Estelle and out toward the sea. Took some pics and then headed for Lochinver and the pie shop. It was pretty obvious that a visit here meant no grub needed back at the hut so we terminated at the Inch, the usual finale.

Extract from the GSG log:

Teams: Tav, Tony Boycott and Pete Glanvill with Derrick Guy.

Mission 1 Blow up roof flakes at Estelle’s Dry Crack. Blow up roof of Toll Radian. Tav/ Tony Boycott

Mission 2 photos / filming and investigating PG dig in sphincter area. Pete Glanvill / Derrick Guy.

Extract: “Then off to Toll Radian to convince a boulder to relocate. (bit of hanging death in roof!) This was done successfully, but there is more hanging death to sort out before serious digging commences, it may be necessary to remove all and uncover the full rift to the surface. Then back to ANUSC- we were unable to look at the effects of the bang due to the presence of hanging fumes. So we wandered off to look at PG’s new dig. Spent an hour digging and looks pretty interesting” Tav

“voices were heard and it turned out to be Tav and Tony who had fought their way through clouds of fumes to check we were still alive” Pete Glanvill.

Day 4 (28th April) BOOM BOoooOM DAY and photos, too. The return to ANUSC and the assault on sphincter and Estelle’s dry crack dig with a little chemical persuasion, administered by Tony Boycott. Elsewhere a photo session with Pete Glanvill and strategically modelled by Derrick and latterly with Stu around the traverse and near the entrance to Oxford Street…All going well …when, off go the flashguns and BOOOoom, Tony had fired off the charge in PG’s dig near sphincter, and was headed our way, a hasty retreat is called for, off to the entrance is requested, as it was necessary to bang the charge at Estelle’s Dry Crack, before the combined fumes began to fill and percolate up toward the entrance… we all got out safe. 

What happened next?

(1) A note was left at the entrance, to warn the odd lone caver who may pass and decide to enter. As yesterday to the surprise off the visiting party a caver ascended from the depths on their way to thundergast! ! ! !

(2) Usual stuff, off down the valley into the pub, back to the hut and get some grub, have a few cans, back to the pub then hit the pit….NO 

Not quite, firstly up another hill to Toll Radian, and Titian Pot, as per the following log report, then to the pub!!

Extract from the GSG log: 

Team: Estelle, Stu Lindsay, Derrick, Pete Glanvill Tony Boycott along with Tav, joined by PaulB.

Mission: Clear Estelle’s Dry Crack, (ANUSC) and chemically encourage a bit more width! Also widen the dig near sphincter. Next to garden and tidy up Toll Radian entrance and reduce roof rocks to handy size.

Extract from GSG log: “…where Tav turned the hanging death into footholds (not without excitement). Pete Glanvill and Stu Lindsay cleared a load out. Roughly 30 skips in all. We opened a second entrance to make the hanging death safe- there is a large wedged block between the two holes…( not removed as would leave a large hole at surface)….Another bang to finish to remove the large boulder which used to be in the roof” Tav

DAY 5. (29th April) In search of the draught. Armed with my capping kit we set off for ANUSC, Paul, Estelle and yours truly. It was a heavy load but my fitness was growing. Estelle still suffered with a bad foot, a legacy from her liveaboard adventure in the Red Sea the week before. At the dig, Estelle’s Dry Crack, Estelle was soon at it pulling out the debris from the bang. Paul decided to go off to investigate the other site. I then set about removing a couple of lumps in the floor and a bit in the wall. Testing out my new rods of stainless steel 3 lots of rock were popped out. Drill chisel moved some more till it jammed, so lump hammered it and some rock out. Estelle attacked a similar bit of wall removing a fairly sizeable lump. Just before the return of Paul I managed to get in a couple of body lengths and scooped out a freezing cold hand full or two off salubrious mud.

Paul attacked the passage with vigour, a lump hammer and a shovel. The gooey mud was passed back down the chamber to Stu, about 8 buckets full, and duly disposed of either side of the entrance crack. Debris from the dig, rock that is, was used to under pin a boulder on the slope at entrance to the now enlarged but now damp crack. Both Paul and Estelle were getting cold, Paul because he had been flat out in the freezing goo, and Estelle due to lack of activity. Estelle had one final clean out and look up the passage, and exited to the sunshine outside. Stu crawled in for a couple token photos, tidied up and an exit was made. The passage, according to Tav is now about 4 m, 3 or more body lengths, and visually about the same amount again ahead. The direction seems to be going under the surface stream bed and heading under the opposite bank, near to the entrance. Estelle said she heard banging coming out of the rocks in the stream bed, as she soaked up the warm sun, prior to the arrival of Paul and Stu.

What happened next? The walk, the pub. Hut for grub a few cans and bed.

Extract from the GSG log.

Team: Peter Glanville, Tony Boycott, Tav and Derrick Guy

Mission. To complete the Foinavon Traverse.. a major walk, not a caving hazard.

Quote .“Foinavon Traverse from lane to Gualin House. Very fine walk 16 miles 11 hours could have been shorter if the truth be known” Tav.

Day 6. (30th April) Turmoil Thursday. It was a day when we “ were” then “weren’t” then “might be” but “might not be” but “ could be” but “wasn’t” and then “didn’t”. So Paul and I decided on a walk, a walk toward Suilven! A delay of some 45 mins due to heavy rain, and a later than expected start somewhat curtailed our effort. A walk up past the Kirkcaig waterfall took us to the other side of the loch, toward Suilven. It was drizzle, rain and a strong breeze, so 2 ¼ hours after leaving the van we returned. On the way back found a slo worm and heard a cuckoo. But there was no sign of the heron we saw on the way up. We returned via Lochinver, but didn’t buy any pies! The round trip, by road from the hut is a single track road passing through some spectacular scenery.

Extract from the GSG log.

Team: Tony Boycott, Tav.

Mission. Kit to Rana, grid to Toll Radian investigate bangs in ANUSC.

Quote. “The sink chamber dig, (Estelle’s Dry Crack.) is still interesting. The draught comes from a tight vertical crack which must connect back to the stream choke. The solid tube however continues beyond the current end in a straight line and seems to get bigger beyond. It has a chance of crossing beneath the surface stream and who knows?” Tav.

Day 7.(May Day) Confirmation day. Well this day was to execute the new “orange” whistle test, find the missing links, and complete the Rana to Claonite through trip via a couple of sumps, Estelle probably the first female diver to complete this. All was easily, well in caving terms easily achieved, as the connections seem close, and conversations could be had at both sites above the sumps. 

Now Rana is a spectacular system, especially if you are on the less skinny side of the divide between big and small ! The entrance is quite impressive, around 30m / 100ft of fixed ladders and “via a stainless hoopla” (makes via ferrata look tame) cows tails strongly advised. At the bottom, a rift, around 20 to 40 cms wide, and on this day with 5 foot of freezing water has to be negotiated to gain access to the main cave. It seemed awkward but was easily passed after “the it takes your breath away” inevitable immersion. The rift was in 2 parts. After climbing over a cluttered stone wedged in the passage the second part was passed above the water level. GOOD fun but more to come. This trip was for Pete Glanvill and Estelle the divers, making the whistle connections and doing the through trip. Paul Brock, Tony Boycott, Derrick Guy, and Stu Lindsay accompanying Tav on this mission……to find the links above or around the sumps. 

Past the skyeway progress was made to the black rift through a lot of breakdown in inclined bedding, and a couple of squeezes. The ladders on the split pitch total about 40 foot, cowstails advised for the access and midway switch from one to the other. At one point in the ancient history of this cave the passages must have been quite large, as the slabbing in them now is quite chunky, and extremely plentiful. Eventually you gain the streamway and the sump, 6b. Kitting up the intrepid pair set off about 15 mins after our arrival, Tav took the most likely point of access and 3 of us spread out, Paul had gone on his own “expedition”. Simple really, dive the sump prepare to blow and there you are chatting to each other a couple metres apart…………who needs whistles! Meanwhile Derrick sets off on a voyage of discovery, in the direction of the duelling pianos, Tony can’t follow, Stu is on point duty at the sump .Paul returns and with Tav heads off to Edward concrete head, latterly followed by Tony and Stu and all 5 of us meet up in the massive breakdown chamber, Derrick had found his way from one side of the sump to the other through the boulders, the whistle blowing Tav having confirmed the second potential link.

Now the Neofleece, is a good concept, but a bit cold if left standing around for half an hour or so. But soon to be warmed up, Tony, Derrick and Stu head off for the highlight, (touristy bit of the trip ) TGNTM…The Great Northern Time Machine. Tony had a minor memory lapse from 6 years ago, and after all, massive great lumps of dusty mud covered rock everywhere do cause the odd bit of confusion, but it all adds to the suspense. Eventually found the sandy, dry “mud” covered floor which leads up hill on hands and knees to the centre piece. A MASSIVE lightly decorated chamber/s with strategically placed tapes as protection for most of the caverns delights. OBSERVATION. Always remember to carry a spare battery, take less pics or battery is fully charged, especially when wishing to take photos. Sods law, 2 of the best pics using a small camera were lost, when the over worked battery of Derricks camera gave up. At this point we were joined by Paul and Tav, and although it would have been nice to have spent a little more time here in, viewing and exploring, it was prudent to leave.

Getting out was going to be more difficult than getting in! It was all uphill after the crawl down through the muddy sand from the Time Machine. On reaching the ladders at black rift, and in hind sight it may have been advisable to have employed a life line. But whilst the climb is “tight” any error may have resulted in an awkward situation. A cowstail is advised for the swap to the upper ladder, and the exit off from it is awkward, being a “squeezy” bit up the last bit.( the ladder being hung some 6 foot lower than the entry / exit point). Derrick followed me up, and found it as exhilarating as did I, your scribe!!! BUT now it got interesting…………..

…………the next squeeze, for me, it was a bit tight on the way down, but I did have gravity on my side. Going back, you reach up and pull a bit, but get little help from the ground. Shoulders are in the breach, but hips with belt and cows tails are caught, wiggle wiggle, a little panic. I’m stuck, no I dropped back down. Off came the belt, as I added the comment, “well I suppose if I don’t do it this time off comes my coverall”.

(My mind also drifted back to an Aggy trip, where through the lower 2nd squeeze in a boulder ruckle, it had been necessary for my complete wet suit, down to my birthday suit being removed. Covered in scratches from being tugged remorselessly by the feet through the last 2 boulders, we eventually returned to the hut, only to be advised “oooooops forgot to tell you the boulder ruckle” it moved last week and the squeeze is now different and tighter).

Back to Rana, arms up, pull wriggle wriggle no foot holds, pain in chest, lump of rock sticks into sternum, push my feet please need something to push on, Tony and Derrick oblige, I am up, thanks again lads. Now, I still do not know if this was a character building exercise, as Tav sat patiently grinning just out of reach as I exerted through the hole, is there an easier route up? Did I go down through this one? ? ? uuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmm. ( 3 days later I had 2 large bruises on the chest )

By the time the last 3 of us reached the Skyeway, Tav and Paul had gone. Norman who had been beavering away when we entered had also departed. Crossing the rift to the ladders over and in the water was achieved, and the exit up the ladders was without incident. Even the hoopla course was a pleasant experience. There is quite a lot of rusting iron work in the shaft, and not just around the fixed ladders. I guess at some time in the future, this may be removed and a rope or ladders will need to be taken to the hole for future visits.

The divers had made a successful exit and collected their kit from the top of the shaft. Took a picture, and had a BOVRIL along with Pete and Tony Boycott, a good day and experience, and an appreciation, and admiration of the work that had been done, and a small tear as I thought of Jrat, and what he must have added to the many days of endeavours….jokes, stories … his spirit lingers on, I never dug at Rana but I could guess at what his presence at this achievement would have cast… I bet it was fun. Thanks to all diggers of Rana Hole.

What happened next?

Well a well spread out line of souls marched off down the hill, passing the bear caves, trudging over the spring and discarding wet and grubby clothing in preparation for a visit to the “ Alt”. Same tradition but different pub. Some ate within, all had a few pints and some returned to the hut to feast….A fantastic day, a fantastic cave trip, fantastic company and only a day to go as it turned out!!!! 

DAY 8. How to cajole! 

Three Mendippians set off for TOLL RADIAN,( the new one!), it’s been blasted, cleared a bit, tidied a bit and now needed a cover. Tav, Estelle and Stu Lindsay in rain and drizzle carry 2 grills of 4ft by 2 ft up to the dig.

(Pete Glanvill Derrick and Kangy King with Ivan go back into Rana for photos. Tony Boycott joins storming Norman to blow up some boulders, and MarkT is also there as well, but herein is a different story.) 

The toll of walking up and down the valley begins to show, 7th time in our visit, or maybe it was just the knowledge this was the last adventure, or nothing exciting was likely to happen, or simply carrying a lump of metal up a mountain for a few miles in inclement weather, I don’t know, but Estelle and myself were struggling, even Tav stopped a couple times ! Was it the rain?, for a breather? Or just to be sociable?

Got there, windswept and damp. Tav was soon down the hole, tap tap tapping, wedging gingerly around, under and wherever to “secure” the hanging death, at least he was sheltered from the elements, whilst the wind and rain was making it miserable for Estelle and me. 

Now how to cajole?

T “I’ll get the wedges in and we can go back down”! 

S “I reckon we ought to dig out at least 3 buckets”, 

E “OK just 3 buckets then”, 

S “Well 3 EACH that is.. jokingly!”. 

Rain has stopped, first bucket, 5th bucket, 10th bucket,

S “might as well make it 20 then.”

E Quick shout to Tav, ( at 17 buckets out), might be going to rain in a minute how many do you reckon?….. 

T “We’ll go for a quick 30, if it rains stop at 25”,

So 30 it was, the rain started upon reaching 30, but lasted for about 30 seconds. A quick tidy up, I took a couple of photos and that was it……………done and dusted, well, done and drenched!

What happened next?

Well as has been the way, back down the track to the little car park, stopping at the rising to wash out the kit. The Toll Radian entrance is only small but my is it mucky. There is a mixture of black, and I mean black, homogenised peat, mud and gravel amongst the pulverized roof rock and infill debris. It sticks and stains..urgghh..

Finally we down the last couple of pints at the Inch, cheers and beers and then reluctantly back to the hut. Collect up all the gear, tidy up the log, have a chat and finally go to bed in the small wee hours, it’s just a short nap! and an early breakfast.. we left early.

The route home took us via Ingleton, for a quick spend, “ouch, 3 figures”… “there’s a hole in my pocket dear Eliza….”

And that was that, fantastic week……………….when is the next one???? 

Rana Hole / Claonite


Over the past few weeks a number of GSG (Grampian Spelio Group) have been in the process of decommissioning the digging side of Rana Hole. The entrance shaft of Rana at the time of the Mendip Invasion back in April / May was a true classic descent, and a testimony to the diggers ( including our own Jrat and Brockers) as they progressed down via a hotch potch of scaffold bars fixed ladders and stainless steel hoopla’s, I was lucky to have done it. It is now in the process of being de rigged and fitted with eco anchors. The Black rift is also being eco anchored and stabilised, just the odd loose boulder to be wary of!

The plan is to try and get all this work done by the end of September, but unlike Mendip it is not exactly on the doorstep. Plug and Feathers have been used to “tidy up” various anomalies to good effect, but, as has been found here on Mendip drill battery capacity is soon used up with the larger 20mm or 25 mm Plugs. Our own TrevH using 14mm Plugs  seems to have struck a happy medium, as my 10mm work, but are efficient only for chipping brick size lumps at best , Trev’s 14mm size is more than capable of  breeze blocks plus. There is loads to do up in Assynt, so if you find your way up there,  or want to try something different, explore/assist, have fun, walk, enjoy a couple good pubs or juuuust laze around in the sun lounge and watch the occasional eagle glide by get in touch with the GSG. 

 Stu Lindsay 

You Bet We Will

When Jrat left his parting message to his mates he signed it off “keep on digging”.

This in turn was turned into a very marketable charity Tshirt by Tony Audsley who has sold gazillions of them and raised a whole heap of cash for charity. Well done Tony!


However the slogan has been taken to heart by certain members of a well known digging massive. It seems not a week go past without seeing a tag line Keep on (Digging, BBQing, Drinking, enter your random word here) closely followed by “You bet we will”. 

So enthused is one member that he even got it on his van…..

Diggers Shovel Award!

Jrat was very specific that he didn’t want anything named after him. But after the Rat-Fest we thought that it would be very fitting that some of the money you all raised and more specifically some of the money Roger and Jackie Dors kindly raised at the Hunters would go towards a “diggers shovel”, really its a stainless steel entrenching tool. 

This would be placed on the wall above the settle in the Hunters with a plaque showing the club or group that has discovered and surveyed the longest bit of cave on Mendip that year. 

The competition in keeping with Jrat’s enthusiasm for all digging on Mendip will be open to ALL clubs and groups. We thought that it would be appropriate that this award would be acknowledged on the anniversary of Tony’s birthday 21st November, which we think is a happier occasion. More information will follow but put a note in your diary for 21st November for the unveiling of the award at the Hunters lets say 20:00 hours shall we? 

So all you diggers you will need to get a move on to beat the Charterhouse team but who knows ……Keep on digging ! 

Steel carabiner without gate 

This is the steel carabiner that many cavers looked forward, it has so many qualities: 

• Better stiffness in the direction of the width 

• Greater resistance to shock

• No risk of forgetting the carabiner open 

• More pinch gloves with the finger notch 

• More body blocked by rust or clay 

• More blade spring oiling


€ 8.49 (delivered without hacksaw or lime)

Note: The pin pads and ratchet to the carabiner above are now available.

Descender 16

Twice more convenient than the 8 descender, this tool will allow you to multiply the possibilities of rappelling down the rope, whether you’re right or left handed.

• Single rope on the right side or left side.

• Rope double the right side or left side.

• Two strings single, double, on both sides.

• Two double strings, in four, the two sides at once: for cavers very very heavy.

Very soon we will release the exclusive supplier in descendeur 24: SOUTERNET is always on the cutting edge of progress!

€ 16.16 each (also sold by lot for 16 communities).

Pitons, pins and pads ratchet 

You wait for months and we ask very often. Our office, always at the forefront of technological research and innovation for people who love the mountains and the underground world you finally: the cone and ratchet pin to use the hooks without finger. MAVC a ratchet is currently on the drawing boards. Who better than SOUTERNET forward your explorations?

€ 8.50 peak in the steel plate anodized black. 

8.00 € le piton classic stainless steel.

13.00 to 21.00 € pin ice (available in 4 sizes).

6.00 € Zicral the plate bent or twisted.

NB: models of indissociable finger without carabiner sold above.




Display Model already used. Scope 10 metres. Led 25 CDs. Battery lithium 1/2 AA 1300 mAh long duration (autonomy!), may explode in very wet conditions. Waterproof: mastic glue coating flexible on mini-dipswitch. If you lose in a hole: pull the Twine!  

5.00 € (delivered without batteries)




The Ancient And Honorable Order Of E Clampus Vitus

Creda Quia Absurdum 

(I believe it because it is absurd)

Motto of the Clampers

Underground toiling in one form or another has always been associated with beer and raucous activity but perhaps the greatest example, other than numerous BEC stomps, is a mock secret society called E Clampus Vitus set up in 1851 (or 1845 or 1852 depending on which research you read – the Clampers are heavily into vagueness while clarity is frowned on – hoorah!) in the Northern Californian gold mining town of Mokelumne.

Inspired by the Freemasons and the Odd Fellowship, two of the largest secret societies in America at the time, the miners got together to develop their own mock fraternity but one best suited to the riotous behaviour, humour and the general lawlessness of gold prospecting. 


Chapter banner

The brotherhood was organised around chapters and had meetings “at any time before or after a full moon”. These of course, and in the best tradition, were held in bars and saloons with the commencement of meetings started by the noisy discordant blowing of the Hewgag, a kind of improvised trumpet. These meetings were well oiled with beer and cheap whisky and were presided over by such titled sots as Noble Grand Humbug, Royal Gyasticus, the Clamps Petrix, the Clamps Matrix and the Grand Imperturbable Hangman.  

Initiates had to undergo all kinds of daft pranks to be admitted. Including being trundled about in a wheelbarrow while sitting on a damp sponge aka the Rocky Road to Dublin or hoisted into the air on a block and tackle usually after being asked some question mocking those of other secret societies. (The BEC committee should not take this as a suggestion for initiating new members) Once in, the new member was called Chairman of the Most Important Committee. 

Clampers, as they were known held parades with a billy goat as their mascot. They also sported a woman’s skirt as their banner with the motto, “This is the flag we fight under”.

Yet they also did more serious work. Life in the gold mining towns could be brutish, nasty, short and violence was prolific. Their down to earth humour helped build a strong community spirit. Clampers also raised money for widows and helped those out who had lost their homes to fire or flood. On the back of these activities the Clampers soon became the biggest albeit mock secret society in California. 

Sadly as the gold began to fizzle out so did the Clampers. They last held a meeting in their original form in 1916. But all was not lost. Fifteen years later Adam Lee Moore one of the few surviving members of the original brotherhood founded a new chapter in San Francisco and soon the order spread to Oregon, Nevada and Arizona keeping many of the old ‘ceremonies’ alive. All that is except public drunkenness, which is now frowned on.


A modern day Clamper

The Clampers are still in existence and wear red woollen shirts covered in badges, patches and medals made of tin can lids. Knowledge of Gold Rush history is one of the requirements for membership. They refer to themselves as an ‘historical drinking society’ or sometimes a ‘drinking historical society’. They can be found on Wikipedia and various lodges have their own websites, e.g. Grub Gulch chapter.

Long may they prosper!

Yer Ed. 


Digging for Mendip Caves

W. I. Stanton


(From: Studies in Speleology, Vol. IV, September 1983, 77

Reproduced here with the kind permission of Dr W. I. Stanton).


Only one-eleventh of the cave passage presently known under Mendip was accessible before 1900.   Most of the remainder was discovered by digging.   Of a range of possible surface digging sites, the most promising are the shale-edge sinks of Central Mendip.   Underground, almost any choked passage is worth a dig, as long as cave scenery and interest are conserved. Experiences in passing boulder ruckles and disposing of tipstuff are described.   Most diggers are either short-term opportunists or long-term planners.   It is argued that the supply of easily-found caves and grottoes is nearing exhaustion, so that conservation of those that remain is supremely important.


he Mendip caves are hidden.   Twelve out of the fourteen major systems were nameless hollows in the ground before digging revealed their existence.   The importance of digging to Mendip cavers may be judged by the fact that, in the year 1900, only four of these systems were known, and one of them, Wookey Hole, had always been open.   Their total passage length was 2.5 km.

By 1982, surface digging had opened the other ten major systems, underground digging (and diving) had vastly extended most of them, and the total passage length had increased to 35 km.   Nor was this all.   A large number of medium-sized systems (roughly defined as 120 m to 800 m long) had yielded to the spade.   In 1900 only seven of this category (passage length 1.6km) had been open, but by 1982 the number was 31 (passage length 9 km).

Statistically, then, the popular Mendip sport of cave digging is amply justified by results.   Every digger hopes that his work will add significantly to the length of known cave, but the main reason for digging is personal.   To the experienced worker, the moment of breakthrough into unknown caves, after months or years of effort, is incomparable.   In the darkness ahead lies mystery, beauty, challenge, danger, knowledge, fame – all the thrill of virgin exploration, so incongruous in exhaustively-charted Britain.   There, also, new facts may be gleaned, ancient questions answered, longstanding theories proved or disproved.   The unexpected is the rule.

So the speleologist strives for the excitement and the discipline of exploring new cave systems, and the months or years of digging are counted time well spent.

To some, digging is a fairly tedious chore, and they are only sustained by the hope of triumphs to come.   To others, the digging operation itself is fascinating.   It is seldom simple.   The larger digs demand skills comparable, in their complexity, to those of the engineers who built the railways.   Shafts are sunk, trenches driven, best routes chosen, solid rock blasted, boulder ruckles penetrated, unsafe ground made stable, flooding problems overcome, grottoes preserved, tip space found for tons of rubble, hoists or tramways established, and so on.   It is vital to foresee potential problems and prevent them arising.   A major setback, such as the collapse of a shaft, can so dishearten the digging team that the project is abandoned.

More for the specialist, but interesting, apparently, to many cavers, is the study of the sedimentary deposits dug through.   Mud, sand and rocks do not accumulate haphazardly, but as the result of certain well-understood processes.   By diligent observation the stratigraphy of a choke can be worked out, and, especially in surface digs, this can give clues to the history of a wide area.   For example, a dig at Charterhouse provided new evidence of the way that lead slaggers operated a century ago, and of local conditions in the Pleistocene periglacial climate thousands of years before that (Stanton, 1976).   Another Charterhouse “cave”, Grebe Swallet, was proved by digging to be an 18th century lead mine with ore deposits still in situ.

Where to Dig.

“Caves be where you find ’em”, the famous axiom first stated in the sixties by Fred Davies to express his scorn for speleological pundits, has been proved true time and again.   Tyning’s Barrows Cave, one of the biggest to be found recently, appeared on its own when the ground collapsed in the great rainstorm of July 10th, 1968.   Little digging was required to open its full extent.   No-one could have predicted the presence of Wookey Hole Cave’s top entrance, a few feet beneath the grass of a featureless field, had not a diver explored it from the inside.   The same diver, John Parker, discovered a vital link passage in Wookey Hole by climbing high into the roof of the Seventh Chamber, where no reasonable speleologist would have expected it.   These and other caves have just turned up, against the odds, whereas dedicated diggers, toiling for years at ‘promising’ sites, have had to modify Fred’s axiom to “caves be where you make “em”.

Be that as it may, some parts of Mendip are more likely than others to yield unknown caves.   Basically it depends on how long a particular region has been subjected to cave-forming processes.   Central and West Mendip are the oldest karst areas, and in East Mendip the length of time that the Carboniferous Limestone has been exposed to the elements grows shorter the further east one goes.   Most of the East Mendip resurgences are immature (Barrington and Stanton, 1977, 208-209) and, unless abandoned upper levels exist, like those intercepted by Fairy Cave Quarry, the caves leading to such resurgences are likely also to be immature.   The St Dunstan’s Well catchment is an exception, and on present form it is wildly optimistic to look for major caves in the Gurney Slade, Ashwick, Whitehole, Finger, Cobby Wood, Seven Springs, Holwell, Hapsford and Oldford catchments.

Having chosen a favourable area, where then to apply shovel to ground? Experience shows that the biggest swallet caves are those that engulf sizable streams from the Old Red Sandstone hills.   Not all of these streams break surface.   At Sludge Pit, Tyning’s Barrows, Cuckoo Cleeves and in Fools Paradise in Swildon’s and the August Series of Longwood Swallet, streams that enter or entered the systems not far below ground level have come direct from the Lower Limestone Shales.   On this basis, any depression at the edge of the Shales could lead into an important cave.

The hundreds or thousands of simple dolines that dimple the main limestone outcrop, well away from the Shales, are different.   Many have been dug, and several worthwhile caves entered (Cow Hole, Hunters Hole etc.), but only one is of major size.   The reason is the tiny catchment area of each doline.   Only a little water funnels down at the best of times, and its dissolving power is soon exhausted.   The stream, a mere trickle, is underpowered.

It would be wrong to assume that the limestone dolines are not worth digging.   The major exception to the general rule is Lamb Leer Cavern, a fossil system formed when the water table stood 150 m or more higher than now.   It is genetically unrelated to any modern streamway.   Several other limestone doline caves are fossil phreatic systems.   I suspect that many, even most, of the limestone dolines are the points at which the ground surface, on its downward journey under the influence of dissolution, has intersected ancient high-level caves.

There is always a chance that the immature system beneath a doline will connect, fortuitously, with a major streamway.   Cowsh Avens (Davies, 1975) are a classic example, with their roomy splash-carved shafts and tiny connecting creeps dropping 130m almost sheer from an infant doline to Swildon’s Four.

A third class of depression is common in the Devil’s Punchbowl – Wurt Pit – Wigmore area of Central Mendip.   They are termed leakage hollows, because they mark the points where small streams, gathering on a surface layer of residual clays, leak through into the Dolomitic Conglomerate below (Barrington and Stanton, 1977,223).   A few have been dug (e.g. Pounding Pot, Wigmore Swallet), but only at Wigmore has a small cave been found.   The streams, though often larger than those of the limestone dolines, are still underpowered, and they may be incapable of clearing the masses of clay that slump into the hollows.

Summarising prospects for the hopeful digger, West and Central Mendip are more promising than East Mendip, and the shale-edge sinks are probables, the limestone dolines possibles, and the leakage hollows doubtfuls.

Inside the caves the question of where to dig is basically simple.   Almost any choked hole, however narrow, may lead to an extension.   The obvious continuation of a main passage is not always the best site – as in G.B. Cave, where work in the Ladder Dig creep proved more fruitful than the assault on the terminal choke of the mighty Gorge.   Few digs have been pressed harder than the one at Blackmoor Flood Swallet, Charterhouse, where some 300 working visits were made by two teams in two years.   The passage being followed was a major abandoned streamway, starting from a shale-edge sink, but a mere 122 m of advance was achieved.   In contrast, an hours’ work on the Blasted Boss, at the end of a flat-out crawl in Swildon’s, opened up the St. Paul’s Series, the key to several kilometres of passages and streamways.

What are the signs of a promising underground dig? The most popular preference is for a draught, the stronger the better.   A current of air blowing into or out of a small hole usually means that there is a large volume of emptiness, or a way to another entrance, on the far side.   (Beware, however, of the bodyheat convection draught, a local phenomenon created by the presence of the observer.   A draught rising past you is suspicious).

The outstanding example of an obstinate Mendip cave betrayed by its draught is Reservoir Hole, which in 1950 was no more than a chink in a cliff in Cheddar Gorge, emitting a powerful gust.   We blasted past the chink and two more tight places and came to a small chamber.   Beyond was a vertical rift jammed full of rocks, up and down.   The draught blew down at us among the rocks, so, after some unsuccessful ruckle-sapping, we blasted a 2.5 m tunnel through solid rock to enter the rift 7 m higher up.   Here it was open, a chamber with a boulder floor.

How now to find the draught? Bee-keeper fashion we ignited rolls of cardboard, filling the chamber with smoke.   Creeping through the murk, we located clear air zones at floor level.   The draught was welling up between boulders encrusted with moonmilk like Camembert cheese.   Four years’ digging took us down 33 m through the boulders to a chamber.   At one end was a tunnel with our friendly draught emerging over an earth choke.   Months later we crawled forth from the choke into a larger gallery.

Our draught seemed lost, but one day it was noticed, much weakened, trickling out of a boulder pile that terminated an obscure alcove.   A few exciting days collapsing the boulders, and we were up in a rift chamber.   Delicate smoke tracing detected our draught, a mere zephyr now, wafting out of a massive boulder ruckle.   Digging up vertically through the boulders, 25 m in three years, we entered Golgotha Rift, which is draughtless.

There have been provocative draughts at many other successful digs including Lionel’s Hole, the Fairy Cave Quarry systems, Manor Farm Swallet and Tankard Hole, and a strange reversing one at the Blasted Boss, already mentioned.

The other fluid that enters and leaves caves is water, but it is much less meaningful than air.   Even a large flow, several million gallons per day, easily traverses passages impenetrable to man.   Many large streams in East Mendip arise from or enter caves so immature as to be hopeless prospects.   The same may be true of springs like those of Axbridge, Ludwell and Dunnett Farm in West Mendip, but the limestone hills surrounding the lovely Winscombe valley have a history of ancient karstification that is still obscure, and surprises are possible.

Although modern water may be unhelpful, ancient streams have sometimes left us messages saying “dig here”.   In Gough’s Cave the scalloping said “dig in the Boulder Chamber”, and the message was reinforced when excavation revealed a passage full of riverborne sand that had been punched through earlier mud deposits (Stanton, 1965).   Alas, the choke was found to extend below the water table.   Scalloping and the sediments left by old streams can even indicate the best direction to follow through boulder ruckles

Solving Problems.

My first cave dig was in Rowberrow Cavern in 1942.   Since then I have dug in 46 different Mendip caves and mines.   Most were straightforward digs involving well-tried methods (Cullingford, 1969), but a few required the development of novel techniques to solve special problems.

In Reservoir Hole, the commonest obstacles were extensive ruckles of small to medium-sized boulders, clean and free of mud.   The first major dig was downwards beneath Moonmilk Chamber, and we shored up the ruckle with timber and corrugated iron.   Rocks kept slipping down from outside the shoring, and we tried to stabilize them by pouring in liquid cement.   It worked, and suddenly a great light dawned.   Forget the timbering, just use the cement!

We used limestone dust and Portland cement in a 3:1 ratio, premixed dry and dragged down to the site in car inner tubes.   (These can survive falling, full, down 15 m shafts).   The grout is made up with water caught from local drips to a consistency varying from porridge to “Montezuma’s Revenge”, depending on the depth of penetration desired.   It is poured into the ruckle to form a curtain round the area to be excavated on the next visit.   The setting time can be shortened by using an accelerator.   We found that the grout was best applied with a small tin, to avoid pouring too much at one place by mistake.   If lateral penetration round corners is required, a funnel and flexible hose can be used.   Large voids should be filled with stones before applying grout.   When overhanging ruckles need reinforcing, special skills are involved – the successful practitioner of the ‘sweeping upward undersloosh’ is a real craftsman!

In this case, grouting gave quick and easy results.   No constructional skills were needed and the shaft is secured for ever, as grout does not rot or rust.   In effect, it is ‘instant stal’, which will consolidate any clean ruckle or scree.  

The next big ruckle in Reservoir Hole was beyond Topless Aven.   This time we wanted to work vertically upwards through it, and we adopted a flexible sapping/building approach.   By the delicate use of explosives, key rocks in the overhead ruckle were dislodged, an action that had two possible effects.

The first possibility was that a few boulders would fall, but the main mass of the ruckle would hold firm.   In this case, after a decent interval for stabilization, we would break the fallen rocks with a big sledgehammer and repeat the treatment.   As the roof of the boulder chamber thus formed rose, we distributed the rubble to support the walls and build up the floor.   So the boulder chamber would rise through the ruckle like a giant bubble, until it burst out into the space above.   Access to the chamber from below was maintained via a climbing shaft like a stone-lined well, carefully built of large rocks and extended upwards to keep level with the chamber floor.   After blasting, fallen rocks might cover the top of the climbing shaft, or balance precariously on its edge, or jam part way down it.   The first ascent after firing a charge was always interesting, and more than once the volunteer climber (an agile bachelor, for preference) was observed by his cynical comrades to shoot out of the shaft bottom a few inches ahead of a high-speed boulder.   “Forgotten something?” they would enquire.

The second possibility was that the whole overhead ruckle would subside.   When this happened, all the debris had to be removed before the next blast.   Gradually, as work continued, the ruckle slid down to the blasting point like sand into the hole in an eggtimer, and when the breakthrough occurred the first explorer popped up like an ant-lion at the bottom of a highly unstable funnel.   The first job then would be to make the funnel safe by building up a climbing shaft and adjusting the walls to a lower angle.

Working under the constant threat of bouncing boulders induces a state of tension, and it was no coincidence that workers in the Reservoir Hole ruckles tended to abandon them in the spring for some surface dig that was less emotionally taxing.   Even when the surface dig developed into a nasty underground one it was not easy to swap (for example) the cold, wet, slimy, miserable, safe conditions of Blackmoor Flood Swallet for the warm, dry, terrifying ones of Reservoir.   In fact only one injury occurred during the whole exercise, when a rock slipped and dislodged the end joint of a digger’s finger.   He made a fast exit from the cave, leaving a blood trail, and the wobbly digit was sewn together by a kind doctor in Cheddar.

I have mentioned elsewhere (Stanton, 1982) the value of building temporary dry stone walls to protect cave scenery from the effects of blasting.   Scenery is damaged not only by flyrock (quarryman’s term) but also by flymud from the tamping of plasters, which coats stal and passage walls with a messy brown film.   We resorted to shothole blasting where there was a risk of this kind.   A well placed shothole requires far less explosive to achieve the same result as a plaster charge, and it can often be tamped with water to avoid the mud problem.   In Blackmoor Flood Swallet we tried incorporating a length of heavy steel rod in the shothole tamping to increase its inertia, and it seemed that more rock was broken.   Drilling shotholes by hand is a chore that can yield proportionate rewards.   We found that penetration rate was increased by angling the hole downwards and adding water very frequently.   The cuttings then squirt out with every blow of the hammer – straight into your eye!

Water in a dig is a mixed blessing.   It can be invaluable when there is mud or silt to be removed.   In one dig we had a spoil disposal problem – lack of dumping space.   But the narrow canyon leading to the working face was cut in great banks of mud.   When the stream was in spate we demolished the mudbanks, allowing the floodwaters to remove them in liquid form.   It took us several days of furious trampling, knee-deep in inky fluid like demented vineyard workers processing the grape harvest, but we cleared the passage of mud and made space enough for months of tipping.  

In the lowest level of Reservoir Hole we cleaned up a section of disgustingly muddy passage by damming a tiny stream and sending it down a hose to a spray nozzle which removed the mud, over a long period, as slightly muddy water.  

On the debit side is the difficulty of digging a choked sump that floods as soon as it is disturbed.   In Blackmoor Flood Swallet we soon learned not to prod the terminal sump in the hope of draining the pool.   Usually the opposite happened, and we presented a sorry spectacle as we sat on submerged upturned buckets, drilling shotholes in the stal blockage beneath which the stream seeped away.   On one occasion the cave end was a deep pool and the way ahead was sumped.   To pass it, four wet-suited diggers packed themselves into the pool like lead soldiers in a eureka jar, displacing an equivalent volume of water forwards, downstream.   When they climbed out, water level fell enough to give a small air space in the sump, so the bravest wriggled through and removed the obstruction beyond.

All digs produce rubble that has to be dumped somewhere.   The method of disposal is a measure of the diggers’ expertise and imagination.   At many places in Reservoir Hole we used tipstuff to build paths, as part of the routemarking that is vital to conservation.   This involved carrying bucketfuls of rubble for quite long distances.  

Sometimes the lack of tip space becomes critical, as in the case of Blackmoor Flood Swallet where we washed away the mudbanks.   This action created a tunnel some 2m in height and width.   Our strategy was to backfill it with rubble, leaving only a hands-and-knees crawl in the roof as a way out.   Backfilling began at the furthest point from the working face, and for obvious reasons the gap between tip and face gradually lessened.   The crunch, when the tip catches up with the face, never came for us, as we pulled out to return to the terrifying ruckles of Reservoir.   This may have been why we never had trouble with bad air; in Reservoir Hole’s South Passage dig, where we used the same backfilling principle, ventilation through the narrow access passage could not supply the diggers’ oxygen needs and remove their CO2 and the dig was abandoned because of splitting headaches.

Dig Psychology.

Characteristic of the Mendip digging scene is the infinitely variable approach of different digging groups to their subject.   Some believe in mechanisation and set up tramways or cableways with motorised winches and clever automatic tipping devices.   The trouble with this approach is that, because so much energy goes into the installation and maintenance of the equipment, the dig itself may suffer.   Sod’s Law also applies, in fact another diggers’ axiom (Lawder, 1954) states “The use of elaborate apparatus automatically ensures that an impassable rift will shortly be encountered”.   But impassable rifts are not as terminal as they were, as was shown by the elaborately equipped excavation that laid open Rhino Rift (Audsley, 1971).  

Others believe in ‘getting on with the dig’ and limit their equipment to the basics: pick, shovel and bar, bucket, rope and pulley, hammer, explosives and cement.   Debris is removed by hand in buckets or sacks, sometimes by a human chain.   Some digs need no aids at all.   The clay in a passage in Lamb Leer was so sticky that it was dug by hand and formed into Hensler’s Prefabricated Balls, which were passed along a human chain to the tip.

Diggers are either opportunists or planners.   The opportunist thinks in terms of a dig lasting a few days.   He ferrets ahead, opening a route no larger than is necessary to squeeze through.   If he breaks into a cave, the gamble has paid off.   If there is no breakthrough, and the dig, though still promising, becomes impossible to work because of its small size, he goes elsewhere.

The planner prepares for a long siege.   The stronger the enemy, the sweeter the victory.   He aims to be unstoppable, so he tries to create an appropriate working environment.   Physically, there should be plenty of room, stable roof and walls, a clean dry easy approach, and reserves of tipping space and engineering ingenuity enough to challenge the most formidable obstacle.   Psychologically, there should be no risk of major setbacks.   An inexorable march forward, even if slow, generates confidence and enthusiasm.

Sometimes the planner is forced by circumstances to lower his standards.   This happened in North Hill Swallet, where the relentlessly small dimensions of the natural passage forced the diggers to become ferrets, working in excessive discomfort: wet, muddy, oxygen-starved, in flat-out crawls, with no tip space except far away in the surface depression.   They were, as luck would have it, a special breed of hard men, whose machismo and sheer stubbornness ruled out any thought of defeat.   Their legendary exploits made them heroes in their own lifetimes, and a society was formed in their honour, by themselves, whereby the memory of those great years is kept forever green.

Most diggers follow a course between the extremes of planning and opportunism.   The two ethics do not go well together.   At Blackmoor Flood Swallet (Stanton, 1976) we dug on different days to another group who made no secret of their intention to explore all there was, if the breakthrough occurred on one of their trips.   As they were given to ferreting, while we were planners, we feared that we would do most of the work and they would make most of the first explorations.   Perhaps fortunately, no great breakthroughs were made, but we resolved never again to share a dig.

‘Value for money’ is a familiar concept, praised by all, but ‘value for effort’ in digging is by no means generally accepted.   The planners are kept going by the conviction that if they persist long enough, the reward of the first exploration will be theirs.   Some opportunists, it would seem, take care to be in the right place at the right time.   The first explorers of part or all of a new cave may be persons who contributed little to the dig or the buildup, as happened at Manor Farm Swallet, Wookey 24, Charterhouse Cave, and elsewhere.   Others may shrug their shoulders and say “that’s life”, but to planners, the injustice is distasteful.   ‘Reward for effort’ is the planners’ creed, and if a regular digger is absent on breakthrough day they will hold back, sometimes for weeks, until he can lead the way into unknown country reserved for him.

Some will argue that it doesn’t matter who first enters the cave, as long as the cave is entered.   They are not usually planners, or diggers of any persuasion who have ever put a great deal of effort into a dig.   Few cavers will deny that the most exciting exploration is a ‘first’.   Certainly the cave pirate must crave a ‘first’ desperately, if he is prepared to steal it from his fellows.

Keeping up with the Conservationists.

The observant digger will now and then come across things that he would like to preserve for others to experience.   There may be stalactites in the middle of the passage, a big exotic boulder, attractively coloured or sculpted rock walls, an ore vein, mining relics, a puddle containing cave bugs, sediments of geological or archaeological interest, a gour holding back a duck, crystals, mud formations or footprints in the floor – the possibilities are endless.   Such items make a visit to the cave more interesting, but they can seriously hinder the digger.

Features of this kind can mostly be preserved and displayed, given a little determination.   The immediate need is to protect them from the diggers, so face work must stop while the conservation works are carried out.   First the threatened site is clearly marked so that its existence cannot be overlooked.   Coloured tapes are invaluable for this job.   Then a path is laid, a wall built, even a notice placed.   Tapes (removable for photography) dangling beneath stalactites remind crawlers that there is something overhead to be careful of.   Rather than blast away the gour, a hole can be drilled through it, or a narrow channel chiselled, that can be blocked when the dig is finished.   If an object is loose, and liable to be collected, it may be walled off and a peephole left in the wall.   The vital thing is to do the work at once – yourself.   If it is left for someone else to do, later, the prized object will be damaged or destroyed.

It is not practically possible to preserve some things.   Stalactites that must be squeezed past, sediments in the choke that has to be dug away, a crystal pool in the floor – either they are dispensed with, or the dig judders to a halt as people lose patience.   All that can be done for doomed features is to photograph them, in black and white (for publication) as well as in colour.

A simple way to clean up a muddied passage is to place a bucket under a drip and sloosh the water around on every visit.

The Future.

It may well be that the golden age of Mendip digging is coming to an end.   Nearly all the large active shale-edge sinks of Central Mendip, and many of the minor ones and their dry equivalents, have been opened into cave systems.   A few enigmatic areas remain, where in spite of much work at apparently favourable sites (e.g. the Hillgrove group of swallets) nothing much has been found.

The shale-edge sinks further east have produced only one large cave, at Thrupe Lane, but Withyhill and Shatter caves show that they exist, at least in the St Dunstan’s catchment.   The sites of the natural sinks on the north side of the Beacon Hill pericline are seldom obvious.   Further west in Mendip the Burrington swallets, in a unique position on the inner edge of the Burrington erosional terrace, form another puzzling group whose apparent potential has yet to be realised.

The limestone dolines offer a sporting challenge, but they are rapidly being lost as farmers and others fill them with rubble and rubbish.   Some, such as Tankard Hole, could have led to great things.   Of the leakage hollows, the less said the better.   One of them, one day, may lead to something good.   Intercepted caves, as found in gorges, valleys, mines and, alas, quarries, are more promising and will produce surprises.

Wookey Hole Cave is an astonishing anomaly in the Mendip scene.   It is the only large resurgence that has been penetrated and yet it is Mendip’s third longest cave.   There must be a comparable system at Cheddar.

Underground digging still has great potential, but inevitably the scope for ferrets and opportunists will diminish, and progress will require the prolonged efforts of the planners.   Here too the divers will play an increasingly important part.

Less than a century has passed since digging for Mendip caves began.   When the century is up, in 1990, the golden age will be almost over.   Subsequent generations, looking back, will be amazed at how easy it was to find Mendip caves in the Twentieth Century.   And how the cavers of that age squandered their finds! ‘Easy come, easy go’ was their attitude to the lovely fascinating places that they discovered in such profusion.   The present movement towards cave conservation is born of necessity, as grottoes fade and are not replaced.   When our grandchildren sink their mineshaft into Tankard Hole, bypassing the rubbish-filled depression, and plan the usual Twenty-first Century five-year-dig, they will have learned the lesson of bitter experience.   Conservation of the natural wonders and beauties that they encounter will be their first priority.   Or so I piously hope.


AUDSLEY, A. 1971. The history of the present dig at Rhino Rift. J. Wessex Cave Club 11, 236-240.

BARRINGTON, N. & STANTON, W.I. 1977. Mendip, the complete caves and a view of the hills. Cheddar Valley Press, Cheddar, 236pp.

CULLINGFORD, C.H.D. (Ed.) 1969. Manual of caving techniques. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 416pp.

DAVIES, F.J. 1975. Not now and again, but again and again and again – VI. J. Wessex Cave Club 13, 224-227.

LAWDER, R.E. 1954. Back to Shakespeare, or how now old mole. J. Wessex Cave Club 3, 6-8.

STANTON, W.I. 1965. The digging at the end of Gough’s Cave. J. Wessex Cave Club 8, 277-283.

STANTON, W.I. 1976. The dig and deposits at Blackmoor Flood Swallet. J. Wessex Cave Club 14, 101-106.

STANTON, WI. 1982. Mendip – pressures on its caves and karst. Trans. Br. Cave Res. Ass. 9, 176-183.


Meditation Boulding Mats

After an internship in Nepal climbing you have done a tour in India among the monks and mages Oriental income you are followers of yoga and meditation?

This mat is for you: you will but you on the passage of the most difficult to revise your mantras and consolidate your meditation.

An article motivating!

€ 130.00 standard, 150.00 € with stainless nails.

140.00 € model training with small nails slightly rounded at the end.



Closed universal key to open oneself

All your key problem of specific aperture resolved: do the same so you closed model with chrome vanadium cemented! You can finally open MAVC, screw the bolts and I could go with a single key.

You’ll also be able to fit the holes with the screw anchors to the specific shape of your key and thus secured against theft: the ultimate! Take advantage of our bundle.

1.00 € key universal.

140.00 € per disqueuse, optional but highly recommended!

Lot of 3 moorings atypical.

€ 150 .00 lot together: 1 key, 1 disqueuse and 1 batch of atypical moorings.


Always North Compass

Tired of looking for the North and never find it? Tired of GPS which the batteries are always empty or will not work on land? Full back to try the foam on the trunk of trees or try to remember which side is the sun at noon at the solstice? You aimeiez material infallible, which shows North all the time and with which it is impossible to be wrong?

These compasses are revolutionary ones you waiting for!

28.00 € style stainless steel bracket (Option: 5.49 € to hang the chain compass blocker chest).

€ 34.00 patinated brass model of the former.

Not pictured: €84.45 waterproof model with prism for sighting area topography drowned. Greatly simplifies the layout plans syphons: rapporteurs, trigonometry formulas and computing software are now useless. A simple rule is enough!

Earlier this year a new caving shop opened in Cheddar called So enthused was Mr Albert  Bat that he secured for the proprietor and redirected to a Captain Jack Sparrow appreciation society site until a suitable ransom had been paid to the MCR.


The BEC get everywhere (even in cyberspace!)



New Members

Over the last year we’ve had quite a few new members joining. Please join me in welcoming

 Ben O’Leary Joanna Meldner Marc Cox

 Chris Belton Brian Bell David Waidson

 Siobhan Jenkins Nicholas Winter Bill Combley

 Paul Lever Paul clement walker Mark Denning

 Andy MacDonald Gary Kiely


BEC Officer Reports for 2008 – 2009

Secretary’s Report – Henry Bennett

The BEC continues to go from strength to strength and this is due not only to the committee but through the diversity of activities of our membership.

Over the year there are things that have gone well, some that haven’t and a few items that need more attention next year. The year started in inauspicious circumstances following the temporary appointment of Phil Romford as stand in Secretary at the AGM. This was quickly resolved and the committee got off to a good start with an acceleration in the speed of identifying tasks, researching and actioning them. A driving force behind this has been the adoption of email communications outside of meetings thereby empowering the committee to come to and action decisions more efficiently than previously.  

The meetings minutes mirror the offline discussions so there is no question that items haven’t been discussed, recorded and ratified officially.  The benefit to the Club is that there has been a significant gear shift in action over previous years while still retaining the oversight that only a formal and open meeting can provide. I was however saddened when Tim Large, old standing life member, attended the first committee meeting in November and aggressively threatened to take the Hut Warden outside to “sort her out” in the mistaken belief she was part of an anti Nigel group to remove him from Club activities.

At the AGM the club heard that early discussions had started in private about the potential purchase of the land under the Cuthbert’s Lease with Inveresk. Nigel Taylor agreed to continue work on this on behalf of the committee & trustees and this culminated in direct discussions with their Chairman in June.  I attended a number of meetings with the trustees to discuss the progress which eventually led to the calling of an EGM in July. Given the discreet nature of the negotiations with Inveresk it was agreed that details of the meeting be kept quiet until just before the meeting due the timings. At the EGM we outlined the full details of the negotiations and the status of our current legal “holding over” lease under the protection of the 1954 Landlord and Tenets Act.  Stuart McManus, Faye Litherland and I were instructed to fully investigate our position and report back at the AGM.  Stuart McManus brought a great deal of experience in dealing in contract negotiations and this resulted in our appointing Wards solicitors to work for us.

The uncertainty surrounding Mendip Farmers Hunt’s ownership of Underbarrow Farm continues. It’s now been 21 months since they purchased the farm with the intention of moving their kennels there and no planning application has been made. Currently the farm is rented to a pleasant couple unrelated to the Hunt. Independently of my role within the BEC I’ve been actively working with the locals involved in Priddy CANINE in campaigning against any move. Whilst some might see this as being “hot air” I truly believe that we would have hounds next door by now if no action had been taken.

Henry Dawson has done a fantastic job driving forward work on the Belfry. The Belfry extension was completed inside, the exterior rendered and in May we finally managed to get Certificate of Completion from Mendip District Council. The number of jobs completed is impressive but some were more urgent. After a number of years of being advised by the Trustees that the windows need replacing we now have new double glazed windows throughout the Belfry. I wonder how long it will be before a Belfry crockery cricket match occurs or we get a bullet hole through one of them?

Nigel helped replacing the oil tank but this didn’t go quiet as smoothly, as we had planned to drop it to the ground, but instead it was mounted on wooded sleepers on top of the original uprights which don’t adhere to planning regulations. To compound matters it was fully filled even after we requested the half load discussed be put on hold until we resolve the positioning. This will need remedial work once the tank is empty again. Bizarrely someone unknown decided to nick one of the old metal tanks which had holes in it. To prevent any future thefts from the Belfry Stu Gardiner installed CCTV cameras to watch over the site.

By the end of the last club year we had run out of spare Belfry keys to issue to our new members and ran into a number of problems with ex-members turning up and using club facilities and cave keys unannounced. Additionally on a number of occasions the Belfry was found unattended and unlocked midweek.  Since the keys had been in use for 38 years and hundreds had been issued it was high time to upgrade the Belfry access. Stu Gardiner, an Integrated Security Systems Project Engineer, provided advice and guidance on product selection and I sourced a complete solution at significant discount from eBay. Stu installed the system in May and we bedded it in for a month before issuing keys in June. We have procured sufficient locks to control all the relevant doors in the Belfry with future spares and a significant quantity of “keys”. The keys are standards based and will be easy to source in the future. Hannah Bell donated a PC to replace the aging system in the library and this is used to update the system when required. Since we realised that other members will need to assign keys in the future a comprehensive operations document has been written specifically for the Belfry.

When I took over the role there was no documentation or correspondence passed over with the role. Clearly this is not a very efficient way of running the clubs posts and I’ve asked all the officers to produce a knowledge base which can be passed on from year to year. The information in these ranges from where does the water pipe run across the car park to how do I handle bookings using our online calendar. It is hoped that this will significantly ease changes in personnel moving forward.

After several months of chasing we finally managed to get the Trustees legal paperwork sorted out with. Considering that we were paying solicitors fees for this work it is hard to understand why this took so long.

Toby Maddocks ran a well supported club trip to SWCC early in the year before stepping down as Caving Secretary due to work commitments. Stu Gardiner has stepped up to the mark and is not only ensuring that we are represented on the CSCC and other organisations but also in driving forward our caving interests. Congratulations go to both Stu and Henry Dawson on becoming MCR wardens. Meanwhile Faye has taken over running the Cuthberts leaders as a new leader herself. Bookings for Cuthberts trips can now be made online and sent directly to all leaders via a mailing list. Also since becoming a leader we have seen a significant increase in the collection of Cuthberts tackle fees. Leaders are reminded to collect the fees from non BEC members visiting the cave.

In the spirit of the club being an exploration club digging has continued a pace at Home Close, White Pit, Caine Hill, and Draycott Sleights. Many of our members have been involved in foreign trips and sport caving activity is high.

Hannah Bell has tirelessly kept the hut in a clean and well provisioned state. This is one of the most important roles in the BEC and also one of the most demanding. While there is a never ending list of tasks to do she has made the Belfry a desirable place for visiting clubs and members to stay at. Proof of this is in our bed night numbers which are up 33% over last year.

Hannah has also continued to act as the “social secretary” for the club by organising the Annual Dinner, much of the BBQ, and a sponsored walk.

Faye Litherland has laid down the foundation of a fine tackle store.  She has invested not only in new ropes, ladders and survey gear but also in the process and tools necessary for keeping it clean and available. Ian Gregory built and installed a new rope washer in the old Belson shower that Henry Dawson had converted into a washing station. Moreover she is rigidly enforcing the washing of all kit before it is returned to the tackle store. You have been warned!! Over the years the club has seen significant “shrinkage” of its available tackle and it is hoped that the new signing out process will prevent kit from walking off on its own.

A fresh range of Club clothing has been printed up by Faye. No longer do we have to merge into the crowd at the Hunters but can claim our rightful place in full visibility at the bar. We also have a supply of new BEC stickers which I had commissioned.

Mike Wilson has continued to steer the club down the road of financial stability and has provided a degree of governance over the investment and direction of the club. He has also tirelessly assisted in many activities around the Belfry.

Ian Gregory has slaved away at collecting subs and keeping our membership details up to date. However I think he would be first to agree that the role really requires someone located nearer Mendip. Hey Slug, when you going to move down this way?

Thanks go to Ron Wyncoll for checking our fire extinguishers and Fiona Crozier for her dedication to the Belfry firewood store.

The Belfry Bulletin has not been a good experience this year as we had just two issues again for the third year running. It’s not since 2000 that we’ve had more than three a year. Nick Richards has stepped down as Editor and should be a priority next year to attempt to return to bi-monthly editions. Producing the BB is a time consuming role (I know as I’ve formatted, printed and distributed the last few) and needs to be undertaken by someone with enthusiasm and IT skills.

While the majority of members who use the Belfry are supportative, I have been saddened by the small minority who seem intent on stirring things up. All officers’ roles are Honorary and that means voluntary. Whilst it is always going to be “hot in the kitchen” I would remind members that if you haven’t got the balls to voice your concerns face to face or over the phone then maybe you should refrain from flouting the etiquette of email.

By working as an integrated team the committee has achieved more this year than the last couple of years and I extended my sincere thanks to all the team: –  Hannah Bell, Henry Dawson, Stu Gardiner, Ian Gregory, Faye Litherland, Stuart MacManus, Toby Maddocks, MadPhil Rowsel, Mike Wilson, and Hels Warren. Thanks also to the small band of helpers who have worked on many other tasks around the Belfry and for the Club.

Overall this has been a positive year with much more activity than normal and I have enjoyed acting on your behalf. Whilst this year has seen primary focus on the Belfry I would be happy to serve the club again next year as Secretary with a stronger focus on communications and furthering caving activity.

Hut Warden’s Report – Hannah Bell

My strange liking for cleaning and tidying seemed to continue from the 2007-2008 year, through the AGM into this year.   Major new improvements to the hut have included the signing off the extension as a tackle store and members bunkroom, double glazing the entire hut, and fitting a new security system.   With the assistance of committee and dedicated members on working weekends the hut is in a good, clean and comfortable state.  The double-glazing will undoubtedly reduce heating and wood usage in Winter (and possibly block out dog barking if the hunt move in next door!).  The introduction of the new security system was low cost with most parts secured by Henry Bennett from EBay with free fitting by Stu Gardiner.  Before the new system there had been a few incidences of the hut being left open with no one around and cave keys going missing.  The new system means that whenever a person opens a door a central computer logs the action.  If the hut is left open the committee will be alerted to the fact and can easily pop over and close the doors.  It also means that ex members will no longer have access to the hut unless they pay their subs when their electronic key will be reactivated.

The main bunk room mattresses continue to have clean covers and pillows which are washed once a month which makes the bunk room stay fresher and visitors continue to commented on how these changes have made the hut a more welcoming and comfortable place to stay for guests and members alike.

After the decrease in 2007 and 2008 of large University clubs staying at the hut, we now have regular smaller groups staying such as Exeter, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Aber as well as older clubs such as Red Rose, South Wales, Chelsea and Axbridge to name but a few.   This has resulted in new BEC members coming from Chelsea, Aber, Exeter and Portsmouth clubs instead of just large University clubs as was the case in the early 2000’s.

Below is a graph of hut use over the last three club years taken from signing in book entries.  It shows total hut nights against each month.


As can be seen from the above chart there have been almost double the guest bed nights each month compared to members stays with a consistent number of member nights especially around fireworks in November, Easter, May and August Bank Holiday activity.  There was a number of reciprocal bed night stays over Christmas, Easter and bank holidays.

The total number of guest bed nights in 2008- 2009 was 885 with members nights totalling 677.  Below is a chart detailing the number of total bed nights each year between September 2006 and August 2009.



The above chart reflects the total number of bed nights from September through to August each year for 2006/7 to 2008/9.   As can be clearly seen the number of guest bed nights continues to increase whilst the number of member nights has risen following a small slump last year.  The large number of working bed nights in 2008 reflected the final push to get the extension finished for signing off.

In the next issue of the BB I will be detailing a report of number of bed nights by member over the last 10 years.  Early statistics show that over the last two years the person to stay most at the hut was Mad Phil Rowsell with 131 nights between March 2006 and December 2008 whilst Henry Bennett stayed 128 nights and on more occasions than Phil by averaging one night a week over the same period!  Have these men no homes to go too?  It is good to see the hut regularly used by dedicated members.  It is also very pleasing that hut nights all round are up on last year.

Many members have continued to commented that the new members bunk room is comfortable and clean with the added bonus that there are single bunks for those who dislike sleeping on one big bed!  I have noticed that on many weekends when the main bunk room is only half, full the members one has been completely full as many active members prefer to stay in the separate bunk room and use the single and double beds.  Recently a mirror and bin has been added to this area.

Whilst the 2008 Christmas Curry Evening proved relatively successful with 12 local members going out for dinner, the August BBQ have again been very popular with 5 barrels of bitter and cider being downed.  Also this year I have organized a sponsored walk for Water Aid, which raised almost £300 for the charity – a large thank you to everyone who supported this event as well as those who took party.  After the success of last year’s annual dinner we are again going to the White Hart and tickets have almost sold out.  Next year’s dinner will be a massive affair and plans are in full swing to ensure a very large birthday party for the BEC!

In conclusion this year has been highly productive and my special thanks go to Henry Dawson and Henry Bennett for their hard work getting the extension signed off.   I would also like to thank the rest of the committee and those dedicated members who gave their time and experience in working on the hut over the last year especially Dany for fitting the double glazing!  

I would also like to add that I have very much enjoyed the role of Hut Warden over the last two years but feel it is time for someone else keen and enthusiastic to make their mark on the role.  I will be stepping down as Hut Warden at the AGM but would like to continue on the committee as I have time, enthusiasm and drive to get things done for the club.  I will be standing for the role of BB Editor with the issue you are currently reading having been mostly organised by myself.  If you choose me as your editor I will ensure bimonthly editions with regular dig, expedition, caving and mining updates as well as being a professional, readable and entertaining magazine.  If you do not choose me as your editor then I hope to continue on the committee as a floating member to serve your needs for the club.

I look forward to seeing you all at the AGM and dinner.

Caving Secretaries Report – Stu Gardiner

  As a floating member on the committee I took over from Toby Maddocks as Caving Secretary part way through the year, who stepped down due to work commitments.

Myself and Henry Dawson have started to get the BEC more involved with Cave Rescue as we feel this is an important part of Mendip Caving, the first Practice is arranged for 19th September and the aim is to hold at least two underground practices a year with a few surface sessions looking at equipment and techniques, one of these which was held just before the recent BEC BBQ where a practical demonstration with the stretcher followed a questions and answers session, where I feel many of the younger members gained an invaluable insight into what may be expected from them if a rescue were to occur. 

Digging is as always at the forefront of the BEC with several exciting projects underway. Caine Hill is as always progressing onwards with a dedicated team pushing hard (you bet they are). Estelle and others have an interesting site below Cerberus Hall which, although conditions are atrocious, is looking very good and could prove very fruitful indeed. Whitepit is ongoing with dig’s in Talus IV and at the terminal sump.  Jrats last dig at Holme Close (back door to Wigmore) is a feat of engineering brilliance and it is surely only a matter of time before this breaks through into the high level rift above the Young Bloods extension.  And a recent dig started on the Draycott Sleights proved to be a long forgotten Ochre mine which has received some interest by Somerset Wildlife Trust.

During Toby’s reign a trip to South Wales and a stay at the SWCC saw some good trips in OFD1,2 and Cym Dwr, DYO and Pant Mawr.  It was encouraging to see a good mix of members young and old and the feedback received was that the weekend was enjoyed by all, even if the weather was awful.  If I am fortunate enough to be Caving Secretary full time I would like to arrange a full calendar of trips throughout the year across the caving regions, with even an Ireland and possibly a European trip.

Caving at the BEC by members and visiting clubs has been consistently good and I would say that virtually every weekend the Belfry is buzzing with cavers coming and going from various trips on Mendip.  We also have a great selection of cave leaders including St. Cuthberts, Charterhouse (including 2008 extensions), Reservoir, DYO, OFD etc, however I would encourage more people to write up their caving and digging reports in the Log Book located by the trip board as this is a record of the clubs activities for future generations.

The callout board has been slightly modified to encourage cavers to add a little more detail to their trips so that the information can be correctly gathered in the unfortunate event of an incident.  This has been very successful and the majority are using this correctly, however there have been a few occasions where people forget to erase their trip afterwards or mistake PM for AM (please use 24 hour clock) etc.  Please can I ask everyone just to double check their trip details before heading off to avoid a potential callout.

We have a fantastic mix off people at the BEC with a huge wealth of caving related experience to call upon, be it digging, diving, surveying to list but a few and for this reason I feel we are the strongest club on Mendip if not the country (maybe the world), and although the Wessex may have Charterhouse and the MCG have Upper flood, the BEC has pure passion to just keep on digging and caving no matter how tough it gets.

2010 is going to be a great year and the Digging Shovel will be ours …………

Treasurers Report – Mike Wilson

  Again it has been a very busy   year      financially, the expenditure being split between the tackle store [we finally have a good one] and ongoing renovations of the hut. The major costs should be met by the year end [the windows being the final element to be paid for]. Unless there is a major disaster our outgoings should now settle down .unless we approve chintz curtains for the lounge!! The current account will stand at approx £3,000.00 which I will monitor as it gains little or no interest. The Cuthberts account is healthy at £2,000.00 approx but in the light of recent events I hope we can raise the bar and add pledges to the account. This year I have to reapply for the rates relief and unless the goal posts have moved we should get by ok. Next terms modest expenditure will probably be aimed at improving the interior of the hut [the committee will have to set the agenda]. Interest rates need to improve drastically as I am sure you all know that clubs get the minimum percentage on investments. I intend to stand for committee this year and hope to carry on the clubs wishes.


Hut Engineer’s Report – Henry Dawson

This year has seen more extensive improvement to your club premises. There have been a few working weekends on which attendance was fair to good and those who attended worked very hard. The last one of these was of particular note as a long list of jobs on the blackboard was completed by half way through Sunday leaving those present with the rest of the day to relax and go caving! 

The 2 large jobs scheduled for this year were rendering of the extension along with painting of the outside of the building and the long awaited installation of double-glazing at the club. I am very happy to report that both jobs have been completed in full. 

The other two slightly smaller jobs included installing a land drain in the car park. The price for gravel to fill it was the same for a larger load so the rest of the gravel was used to cover the car park. This has given a substantial improvement to the appearance of the garden and car park at the hut. It actually looks quite smart! The soak-away for the land drain has been finished as a small planting area to keep cars from driving over it.

The other small job was the installation of a tackle and rope washing area in the old shower. This was completed successfully and now gives excellent facilities for taking care of personal tackle and no excuses for leaving club tackle in a grubby state. 

I can now state that the extension has been signed off by building control. 

Below is a summary (not comprehensive) of jobs completed this year:

1. Fitting guttering to porch

2. Painting the front of the building

3. Fixing the changing room WC

4. Tidying up the outside areas of the hut – ongoing (digging gear has been tidied not thrown away and many trips to the tip have been made to get rid of waste)

5. Vents have been installed in the members dormitory to prevent condensation mould and mould cleaned off the walls

6. The bunk room squeeze machine has now been unveiled

7. The water heater has been replaced in the kitchen

8. The boiler has been serviced and adaptations made to the flue to give a much better combustion of fuel

9. The fire escape for the bunk room now has a hand rail

10. The fire escape for the extension now has a hand rail

11. The algal growth causing the fire escape for the extension to become slippery is now resolved. 

12. The changing rooms sinks have been embedded in a worktop to give somewhere to set down wash bags etc. 

13. Almost indestructible toilet roll holders have been placed in both WCs

14. An electronic pass entry system has been installed to the front door, tackle store and library. Most members have been issued with keys. This has been an important task run by Henry B and Stu Gardiner after a number of problems from unauthorised entry using ex-members keys. It will also quickly pay for itself in key deposits as keys are vastly cheaper and easier to obtain than Abloy keys used previously. According to one member the new keys can also endure a full wash along with all your clothing!

15. Bertie the Bat can once again squirt water on hapless individuals walking into the main room. 

16. The coping stones behind the BBQ have been rebedded in mortar

17. The common room has been repainted

18. A projector screen is now available that can be hung up quickly and simply

19. The tackle store now has passive ventilation and fittings for a dehumidifier

20. A large picnic bench has been put in place on the grass. It has a nice long chain on it to slow down the Wessex. 

21. Planting around the stream has been done to prevent walkers from stamping all over the wild flowers behind the BBQ. 

22. Installation of guttering to rear of extension. 

23. Painting around washing area to prevent falls

24. Repair of changing room external door

25. Fitting of hooks to allow gear to be hosed down outside

The front parapet wall of the Stone Belfry been refurbished to prevent water ingress. Maintenance of this building now resides with MCRO. 

A jobs list for the hut has been passed around the committee for comment to plan future works. This has also helped budgeting for works to ensure those scheduled for the financial year do not require us to dip into our savings. 

Jobs I would like to carry out this coming year if I am voted in include: 


• Blinds in the members dorm

• Extending central heating to the new extension

• Installing a digging store in keeping with the area

• Make the front door more secure

• Replacing rotten wood on the porch

• Moving wood store back to wall

• Replace ceiling in common room with new solution that avoids the cracking problem

• Tiling kitchen, showers, toilets and possibly drying room. 

• Socket for pressure washer in changing room


I would like to take this opportunity to profusely thank all of those who have contributed in any way (including making the tea) to works carried out on your club. The hard work and superb results seen this year could only be achieved following your generosity with your time and efforts. Thank you very much everybody. 

I would like to run again for committee serve the club as hut engineer for the next year. 

Membership Secretary Report – Ian Gregory

  It has been a good year for membership, with numbers remaining high, currently standing at 200.

Of those, there are the usual life, and Honorary Life members, totalling, and Joint members, and the Ordinary’s 

What we have seen this year though is a slight increase in New and Probationary members, 22 of them. Most are those who have joined are from their respective University Clubs, and as such I feel that the B.E.C. should continue to extend a warm welcome to such groups to help foster good relations with our potential future members.

There has also been some who have become Belfyites through other routes, mostly as friends and associates of other members, and the odd returnee, who have rejoined after a long break from the underground life.

There has been the usual loss of a few Members due to the phenomena 

Of “Natural Wastage”, e.g. giving up caving altogether, Personal Circumstances changing, Relocation to other area’s and the like. BUT, so far, at the time of writing, the Club has not lost a single member to the Grim Reaper, which, after the sad toll of the last few years is a most heartening and pleasant way to end my report. 

I am happy to stand for re-election for the 2009/10 year Committee, and will serve the club in whichever role that the membership chooses to appoint me to.

Tony Jarratt Caving Log Books 1956 2008

Before Tony Jarratt left us he kindly gave the Mendip Cave Registry & Archive permission to photograph and make freely available the contents of all 15 volumes of his personal caving log books, dating from 1964 to 2008 and detailing in meticulous detail all of the caving and digging trips he has been involved in. They make for a fascinating and often entertaining read.

Alan Gray has painstakingly photographed every page and insert within these books for the archive, and these images are now being made available to the general caving community via the MCRA website.

All fifteen volumes are available online now at in the form of a picture gallery.

The website allows comments to be added to the pictures; please feel free to add your personal notes and observations on the entries, especially if you were there at the time!


Tackle Master Report – Faye Litherland

 Well, it has been quite a full year so far.  I have not managed to achieve everything on my “to do” list, but have certainly made progress.  

My focus this year has been on generating systems and buying equipment to ensure that any tackle purchased now and in the future could be looked after properly and maintained correctly.  For example, I saw no point in buying rope when we had no functioning rope washer.

The past year has seen the implementation of a new Tackle Management System (TMS) which comprises of the tackle booking out and usage logging system and also a new fault reporting system.  A deposit system has also been introduced as part of the TMS for high value and easily lost items such as survey kits and mobile rope washers.  In addition, we now have a full inventory of all tackle store items available for loan and whether or not they require a deposit.  This inventory is laminated and hung up in the tackle store.  

During the last year and since the introduction of the new TMS we have one ladder and spreader unaccounted for and the TMS seems to be working well with a very high compliance and acceptance rate from all members.  I am still hopeful that the lost equipment is at the back of someone’s car boot or shed and will be returned eventually.

The tackle store has been organised and we are well on the way to having a place for everything and everything in its place.  

We also have a brand new wall mounted indoor rope washer and indoor kit washing area, collectively known as the Rope Care Suite (RCS) as well as the existing outdoor kit washing area.  This means we are now the envy of many other clubs who have to stand in the cold and the rain to wash their gear.  Just to make sure you can get all of the equipment sparkling clean after each use, we also have a lovely new pressure washer.  Waterproof sockets are being installed in the very near future near the two hose outlets to allow convenient inside or outside usage.

When I took over as Tackle Warden I was disturbed to find that we apparently did not have a single set of working survey instruments in the club.  As I am continually told that we are primarily a digging club, I am proud to present the completion of two full, all singing and all dancing, survey kits.   We can now accurately survey our finds and stand a chance of winning the new J’Ratt Memorial Digging Shovel!  These kits which are contained in yellow waterproof boxes and are available for a deposit include:

• Suunto compass and clinometer

• Leica Disto A3 (one kit only)

• Survey tape

• LED Station light

• A5 Survey notebook cover and folder

• Scale rulers and protractors for accurate sketching with BEC branding

• Pre-printed waterproof survey sheets in offset station format

Several club members have signed out these survey kits and so far the feedback has been very positive.  Other club members who have seen them have gone away green with envy, especially over the loose leaf survey notebooks containing  the offset station format survey sheets, the small LED station lights, the protractors which have bats printed on them and the scale rulers which have “Everything to Excess” printed across the middle.  

Unfortunately this year’s post BBQ ladder making workshop was cancelled due to hangovers, lack of enthusiasm, heavy rain and unavailability of key personnel.  The intention was to make a number of ladders of both 5m and 10m lengths along with another Swildons Ladder.  It has been rescheduled for later in the year.

You will recall that at the last AGM a tackle budget of £1,250 was allocated.  I used part of this money to take advantage of the clearance stock from Bat Products and build stock of some items for the future.  To date £1,186 has been spent which roughly groups into the following equipment areas (full details available on request):

Ropes £31.95

Ladders & Spreaders £175.00

Tackle Bags £255.00

Ladder Making Equipment £122.00

Survey Sets £479.75

Miscellaneous £122.53

The full list of equipment purchased or donated is below:


• 11mm Static (Beal) 21m

• 9mm Dynamic (Beal) 18m

• 10m Lyon Ladders x 2 

• Tandem Suunto

• Rope Protectors x 5 

• Rope Washers (portable) x 2 

• Spreaders x 3 

• Suunto Compass and Suunto Clino x 1

• Draper 12v Engraver

• 30m Survey tapes x 2 

• Leica Disto A3

• A4 waterproof paper x 250 sheets

• Survey book covers x 2

• A5 survey folders x 2

• Karcher 3.99 Pressure washer

• Sketching instruments

• Waterproof Case x 2

• Petzl Classique x 4 

• Petzl Portage x 2 

• led lights for survey stations x 2 

• Rope & Ladder hanging hooks

• Rope Washer

• Plastic boxes for drill batteries x 2

• 11mm Static (Beal) 34m lengths x 8 (donated by Emma Porter)

• 200m 4mm ladder making cable

• Ladder making consumables

• 36V Hilti Drill, 2 batteries and assorted drill bits (donated by Jeff Price)


One truly gratifying thing is the way that over the past year equipment has magically appeared in the tackle store.  One minute you think you have everything tagged up and indexed and then “Poof” another six wire tethers, or occasionally a ladder turn up.  This has meant that the tackle store inventory has continued over the year to be a living document with pen additions until the next print.  A big thank you to those tackle store pixies, your help has been much appreciated.

Plans for next year (if you re-elect me!) include:

• New digging store by the wall to the farm yard

• Re-commissioning and re-location of the rope testing rig

• Ladder building workshop

• Purchase of additional rope for ladder lifeline

• Equipment inventory and FAQ to be available in members’ area on website

• Continue and complete the tackle store layout so that there is a place for everything

A very big thank you to everyone for your support this last year.  I am standing for committee again this year and would very much like to carry on with this role for another year to complete the work I have started. 

St Cuthbert’s Warden Report – Faye Litherland

As some of you are already aware, Toby Maddocks had to step down from his role as Caving Secretary due to work commitments.  Since then, Stuart Gardiner has taken on the role of Caving Secretary and since he is not a St Cuthberts Leader, I was asked to take over the St Cuthberts Warden role.

Update in brief since the 2007-2008 AGM:

• Two new St Cuthberts leaders have been appointed.

• St Cuthberts leaders email list is up and running so that we can all keep in touch with each other.

• Rope fixed aids have been removed from the cave and only pull through guide ropes remain.

• Three new dig sites have been approved by the committee.  These are: One in Cerberus Hall, one in the stream way at the bottom of Everest Passage and also a further attempt at Sump 2.

• Email discussions are ongoing regarding maintenance / replacement of existing fixed aids in the cave.

• Generation of a handover file for the next Warden (ongoing).

Plans for next year:

• Complete handover file for the next Warden.

• Hold leaders meeting for the discussion of fixed aids in the cave, especially on pull through routes.

• Resolve current maintenance issues with existing fixed ladders.

I have deliberately not covered the current St Cuthberts Land issue as that will be the subject of a different report presented at the AGM.

Thank you to everyone who has helped out over the last year with selling St Cuthberts Reports, taking tourist trips and generally being supportive and patient.  I am standing for committee again this year and would be happy to carry on with this role for another year.  

Librarians Report – Tim Large

I took over the position of Librarian on July 4th following the resignation of Phil Rowsell.  It was apparent that he had started some good work in sorting everything out, but as always there was still a great deal to be done.

Mike Wheadon (Archivist) and I have been checking and sorting the boxes left to the club by Wig and J-Rat.  Many of the documents comprise historical records that will be filed and catalogued.  In addition, Wigs collection includes club records from Alan Thomas dating back to the 60’s.  Mike and I were able to recognise the importance to the club history of some of these documents and therefore have not consigned them to the recycling bin!

Books have been donated by Kangy, Dizzie, some more books/journals from J-Rats collection, and recently a collection of material from Viv Brown.  This comprises his research into Caving songs.  There are hundreds!  Even our biggest devotees have not been able to recognise all of them, (now there’s a challenge). I am currently sorting these, with a view to releasing them as soon as possible to the library.

All the books need assessing as to their relevance to the clubs activities and whether there is any unnecessary duplication.  Any books under these headings could be offered for sale with any money raised being reinvested in books that members would find more relevant/useful/interesting.

Eventually I would hope to see a fully catalogued library list available on the website, so that members could scan this to see what is available.  This would also assist with a catalogue exchange system.  Having discussed Library matters with the Wessex Librarian, who thinks an exchange of catalogues, would be beneficial to all cavers, giving them a broader research base.  I am sure suitable arrangements could be made for interclub exchange and library access could be facilitated to members of other clubs on request or arrangement.

Another information service that could be offered via the Library is a database of websites of useful information and research that may be of interest to members.  I have my own which is updated (and added to) constantly so the nucleus of the scheme is ready and available; members could then update and add as they wished.  I am sure that there are many personal lists already out there just waiting to be shared!

Finally, one last project to be considered- a library of DVD’s on Cave, Mine or Karst related topics or indeed anything that members might feel of interest to caving life.  Any donations?

As you can see, there is much potential in our Library, although much to be done, and some time will be needed. 

Since I began caving, books, publications and research on caving/mining and related topics have always been of paramount interest to me, being the other side of the coin to the active digging, surveying and exploration.  Should the club re-elect me to the post of Librarian I will strive towards the aforementioned goals.


So Who Actually Uses The Belfry Regularly? 

By Hannah Bell

Active Locals, Active Visitors or Armchair Cavers?  A Belfry Usage Overview


Recently I was asked by a new BEC member how many other members stay at the hut within a year.  I was stumped as to the answer and all I could say was that I believed there was a core number of very active cavers who use the hut regularly, some other members who visit the hut annually and then a lot of old armchair cavers who never stay at the hut and only appear around AGM time.  Thinking perhaps my assumptions were wrong I decided to analyse the Belfry signing in book to see exactly how many members regularly use the club hut and who they are!  After a month of research I can now outline my initial findings for who has stayed at the hut over the 22 months between March 2006 and December 2008.  


In total, 95 members have slept at the hut during the period March 2006 to December 2009.  Bed nights were only counted when the person was actually a member.  If the person stayed as a guest either before being a member, or after leaving the club, the nights were not counted.  The top twenty people to have slept at the hut are listed below with number of bed nights listed in brackets.

1) Mad Phil Rowsell (131) 11) Barry Lawton (46)

2) Henry Bennett (128) 12) Duncan Butler (46)

3) Hannah Bell (83) 13) Rich Bayfield (45)

4) Henry Dawson (82) 14) Emma Heron (44)

5) Bob Smith (68) 15) Faye Litherland (44)

6) Chris Jewell (68) 16) Rich Smith (39)

7) Ian ‘Slug’ Gregory (62) 17) Jim Smart (38)

8) Jane Clarke (48) 18) Anne Vanderplank (37)

9) Helen Warren (47) 19) Louise Bayfield (35)

10) Stu Gardiner (47) 20) Ruth Allen (31)

The full list is at the end of this article.  Will your name be on it?  

I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of the current committee feature so highly on the listings with seven of the 2008-9 committee within the top 10!  I was also pleased to find that two of our current club trustees also have chosen to stay at the hut – Mike Wilson and Phil Romford.  It is good to see that those who run the club choose to get involved socially and to spend time using the facilities and meeting the people who actively stay there.  The furthest anyone has travelled to stay at the hut was Pete Bolt who visited from Columbia!  The person to travel the least distance to reach the hut was Bob Smith, who whilst currently not a BEC member, had been a member during this period whilst living on Priddy Green.

Another interesting statistic is that 8 of the top 20 people staying at the hut were women.  Twenty eight of the total members using the hut during the period were female.  This is just under a third of the total.

My research also looked at the number of times a person visited the hut to stay over the same period.  This is interesting as some people visit for a week at a time as a holiday, some visit only at weekends whilst others stay Wednesday after digging as well as at weekends.  Below is the list of who has stayed at the hut on the most number of individual occasions during the same period in time.  The number of occasions is in brackets after their name.

1) Henry Bennett (73) 11) Ian ‘Slug’ Gregory (26)

2) Henry Dawson (73) 12) Duncan Butler (25)

3) Hannah Bell (50) 13) Anne Vanderplank (24)

4) Mad Phil Rowsell (46) 14) Stu Gardiner (24)

5) Jane Clarke (41) 15) Rich Smith (23)

6) Chris Jewell (38) 16) Louise Bayfield (22)

7) Faye Litherland (37) 17) Helen Warren (21)

8) Bob Smith (34) 18) Tim Ball (21)

9) Rich Bayfield (28) 19) Ruth Allen (19)

10) Barry Lawton (26) 20) Jim Smart (16)

The above information shows that the same people who stay at the hut the most often, are also the ones who visit the hut to stay the most number of times.  For Henry Bennett and Henry Dawson to rack up 73 individual visits each over 22 months, this equates to almost one night per week every week was spent at the hut.  Have these men no homes to go to?  Pleasingly, five of the 2008-9 committee are in the top ten for number of stays with the top four comprising of the current Honorary Secretary, Hut Engineer, Hut Warden and ex Librarian.  It is good to know that those who run the club for everyone are so actively involved in the Mendip scene and are so regularly around the Belfry.  This means that guests staying at the hut have regular active BEC around to show them what a wonderful, vibrant and dynamic club we have!  


In conclusion, my initial belief was correct in that there is a core group of BEC members who regular visit and stay at the Belfry, with another group of members who visit the hut less regular having travelled from further afield.  As only 95 of our 180 plus membership had used the hut during the period, this shows that there is indeed a large number of people who never stay at the belfry.  Interestingly, seven of the top ten people to have stayed at the hut most often live within 15 miles of the Belfry.  It was my initial belief that some of the older members who attend the AGM and Dinner would stay at the hut afterwards for the barrel but I was proved wrong as the majority do not come back to socialise afterwards.  Those who attend the AGM and Dinner and do come back to the hut afterwards are those who also stay at the hut at other times during the year.  Having so many of the current committee so actively using the club facilities on a regular basis is great news in that it means that there are always active, welcoming, knowledgeable members around to meet and greet visitors and introduce them to the BEC!  This can only be good news in increasing our membership levels and in spreading the word about what a wonderful club we have.  I believe that there is nothing worse than regularly staying at a club hut where there are no members around to chat to and to get to know the local  area and caves.  I hope that these statistics prove that we have a good group of members, as well as committee and some trustees, who are regularly around the hut to not only go caving, but also to socialise and welcome the many varied guests we have staying!  I believe they are the ambassadors of our club!

In the next BB – statistics for the last ten years!  Will your name be amongst them?

Bed Nights from March 2006 to December 2009.


Mad Phil 131

Henry Bennett 129

Hannah Bell 83

Henry Dawson 82

Bob Smith 68

Chris Jewell 68

Slug 62

Jane Clarke 48

Helen Warren 47

Stu Gardiner 47

Barry Lawton 46

Duncan Butler 46

Rich Bayfield 45

Ems Heron 44

Faye Litherland 44

Rich Smith 39

Jim Smart 38

Anne Vanderplank 37

Louise Bayfield 35

Ruth Allen 31

Andy Kuszyk 30

Tim Ball 22

Charlotte Harris 21

Crispin Lloyd 21

Mark Stephens 18

Rob Bruce 18

Batspiss 17

White MEG 17

Nick Gymer 16

Maxine Bateman 15

Dave Garman 14

Helen Brooke 14

J Rat 14

John Christie 14

Rich Beer 13

Pete Eckford 12

Andy Norman 11

Ernie White 11

Jo Hardy 11

James Collings 10

Tangent 10

Kate Humphreys 9

Chris Belton 8

Estelle Sandford 8

Ken James 8

Tom Wilson 8

Rhys Davis 7

Ian Holmes 6

Carol Macnamara 5

Claire Footitt 5

Clive Betts 5

James Vile 5

Neil Usher 5

Rich Marlow 5

Steve Footitt 5

Stuart Lindsay 5

Tim Large 5

Dafydd Morris-Jones 4

Dom Gane 4

Gary Cullen 4

Jim Cochrane 4

Mike Wilson 4

Robin Lewando 4

Ron Wyncoll 4

Simon Clow 4

Sue Dukes 4

Viv Brown 4

Martyn Compton 4

Babs Williams 3

Helen Stalker 3

Matt Tuck 3

Phil Romford 3

Batstone 2

Donald Rust 2

Emma Porter 2

John Noble 2

Lil Romford 2

Matt Edwards 2

Olivia Dawson 2

Robin Gray 2

Steve Woolven 2

Sue Gray 2

Alex G 1

Dany Bradshaw 1

Greg Brock 1

Jinni King 1

Kat Denham 1

Paul Christie 1

Pete Bolt 1

Phil Coles 1

Roz Simmonds 1

Stu Sale 1

Toby Maddocks 1

Vince Simmonds 1

Zot 1



BEC Summer BBQ 2009

This year the BEC Summer BBQ took place on the August Bank Holiday weekend.  Around 150 cavers from the BEC as well as other clubs attended the event.  Whilst late afternoon caving games had been planned, the changeable weather and the fact that most people had actually gone digging prevented any activities from taking place.  The tackle store was converted into a bar and opened at 4pm and was manned run by BEC member Brian Bell who did a sterling job pulling the pints and making sure that all caver’s thirsts were quenched.

The BBQ was run as usual by Slug with assistance from Dany.  Hot dogs, burgers, coleslaw, salad and a variety of home made sauces were on offer for the discerning BEC member!

Above: A selection of the 10 barrels of beer on offer.                                Was Wormster’s Special Chilli Mustard too hot?

Music was excellently provided by DJ Martin Compton followed by DJ Mad Phil Rowsell.  Everyone had a good boogie and many a shape was cut on the dance floor by young and older alike.

Left to Right: Babs, Lil Romford, Brian Bell, Brockers,.                           Left to Right: Brockers, Estelle, Mark Denningt

Estelle, Mike Wilson, Rosie Freeman, funky chicken

The dancing and partying continued until dawn with many members not hitting their sleeping bags until gone 5am.  In total 5 barrels of bitter and one barrel of cider were consumed as well as countless burgers and sausages.  

My thanks go to Slug and Dany for catering, Brian Bell for managing the bar and to everyone else who cleaned, tidied, set up or put away.  We all worked together as a team and the weekend was a special one.  Thank you!

Combination pet

For those interested in caving with the “50 Million Friends” and never getting rid of his favourite companion.

Available in several models for: dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, boas, red fish. For an orang-utan take a man size XXXXL.

Model pictured: dog suit (available in model dog with whistles included).

From € 4.99 (model Hamster) to € 3845.00 (model Elephant)

BEC Sponsored Walk for WaterAid


In June 2008 a large group of both young and old BEC attended the Glastonbury Festival together.  It was a highly successful ‘caving holiday’ with much drinking, dancing and singing.  Some members chose to wear caving kit to the festival and we had a Camp BEC complete with club flag.  Then in March 2009 it was announced in the newspapers that there would be a sponsored walk from Priddy Green to the Glastonbury Festival site to support the charity WaterAid.  WaterAid provide both education on hygiene, as well as build wells, for impoverished people in third world countries.  For a gift of just £15 WaterAid can provide one person in Africa or Asia with a lasting supply of safe, clean water, sanitation and hygiene education.   The walk was announced as “Water Walk” and would take place on the 10th May.  After much nagging your scribe rallied a team of 5 BEC to take part on a walk which would be 10.75 miles in length and cover a large section of the Monarch’s Way.  By the day of the walk the team had already gathered over £200 in sponsorship money.

The morning of the 10th May dawned bright and clear in spite of the night before having been spent in the Hunters!  Faye Litherland, Barry Lawton, Jo Hardy, Rich Smith, Ruth Allen and I (Hannah Bell) arrived on Priddy Green for the 9am start only to be told that the route had now been extended to 12 miles!  With press photographers poised for interesting stories we dispatched Barry back to the hut to collect the BEC flag in order to make ourselves more noticeable.  Ironically the first mile of the walk was along the road almost back to the Belfry before turning over the fields towards Templeton.  The sun was warm, the wind light and the company merry.  After just over an hour we arrived in Wells for a short lunch stop.  Below is a picture of the group on our descent into Wells.

After Wells the walk continued through woodland into the village of North Wootton before descending into the village of Pilton.  It was at this point that we lost the correct path and ended up walking more than a mile south of Pilton making our walk more likely to have been 13 or even 14 miles in total length!

We crossed the finish line tired but elated that we had stuck together and all finished the walk.  Our time to complete the route had been five hours excluding our lunch stop.  Whilst we had not beasted it, we had made steady progress along the walk, finishing somewhere in the middle of all the walkers.  At the finish line was Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis and an ice-cream van.  So exhausted and tired were we that we completely ignored Michael and the swarm of press photographers and instead rushed to get Mr Whippy 99 Flakes from the van.  The strawberry sauce was divine!  We then had to wait almost two hours for a bus back to Priddy.

Some sponsorship came through after the event but I am pleased to confirm that Team BEC raised £295.64 (including gift aid) which whilst small is still significant and will make a lasting difference to those without basic water and sanitation.  A huge thanks goes to both the walkers who took part and those who kindly sponsored us.  


Majorca 2008






In early 2008 I decided I wanted sun, sand, sea, surf, sangria and speleology.  Luckily several other BEC I spoke to in the Hunters wanted the same thing.  The English weather had resulted in a washed out summer in 2007 and 2008 was likely to go the same way.   Having been on a caving expedition to Ibiza with Southampton University Caving Club in 2003 (no clubbing – the trip was with Christian Teetotallers alas but we did find cave!) I turned my attention to the other limestone covered Balearic islands.  This was when I stumbled upon a website selling caving and canyoning trips in Majorca.  Pricy and tacky I decided to organise my own  BEC trip to Majorca and only weeks after advertising had 12 members signed up as well as the odd Cardiff and Nottingham University caver.   In total 14 cavers travelled out to Majorca between 6th and 20th September 2008 with the express intention of finding cave and jumping down some major canyons.

Whilst a large amount of research had been conducted before the trip on the caves and canyons, unfortunately only a very limited amount of written material in English exists.  Luckily Kate Humphreys arrived on the third day with a printed copy of come cave descriptions, unfortunately to our misfortune the print out was not stapled together.   Our first whole group caving trip was to reach the Cueva Con Sion which according to the survey was a 30 minute walk from the car up a short mountain forestry track, just outside of the village of Campanet in the North of the island.  The survey print out said that full SRT kit was needed.  After two hours climbing up the mountain we finally found the cave at the bottom of a small cliff.  Everyone eagerly kitted up and in we went.  However after over an hour of exploring no pitches could be found although the size and shape of the cave formations were breathtaking.  Feeling very confused, after some more hunting for the way on, we left the cave.  It was only back at the villa that we realised that we had picked up the first page of the location of Cueva Con Sion and the internal description of a cave the other side of the island.  Next time we remembered to check the page numbers on the print out!

Below: Henry Dawson examining the Salt Crystal Pool, Cuevas Santa Maria, Majorca.

Above: BEC Girlies ready for Canyon Action (Left Jinni King, Right Kate Humphreys).

Another day was wasted trying to find two caves which since our cave descriptions had been written had been built over by trashy coastal hotel complexes.  We did visit the Cueva Santa Maria which was a large pothole into which early Christians had built two small chapels for safe pray during the Moorish control of the island.  Behind both alters we spotted small dark voids.  As none of us were particularly God fearing we decided to push through to see what we could find.  Alas we did not find Hades or the Stix but we did find some amazing floating salt crystals in large shallow pools, a wide column and lots of bat guano.

Whilst we broke into groups to go on various cave finding and canyoning trips we all undertook the Torrent de Baix together in a fast and a slower team.  This canyon is entered just outside the village of Carmari in the Northwest of the island beside a small arched road bridge.  The guide book said the trip would take a fit person 2-3 hours but even the fast group took 6 hours to complete the 6km route.  The vertical range was just under 400 metres with 17 pitches ranging from just a few metres to the last few which were around 10 – 16 metres in height.  This was a very good canyon for those new to the sport and was very pretty with amazing views towards the Northern coast and villages below.  All but the last couple of pitches were bone dry although according to the guide book it 

Above: Scrambling down the Torrent de Parias – a canyon with 300 metre high cliffs ending in the sea.

is a raging torrent in Winter and Spring.  The bottom of the canyon ended in a ten metre high dam which had to be climbed over. We all missed the stone cut steps and tried to scramble over loose boulders to the top before noticing the easier route.  Everything to excess as they say!  After the dam the way out to the car should have been through a gate on the river bank.  However after much searching we found no gate only a style into a farmer’s field.  We could hear the bark of large dogs nearby so decided to turn our lights off and walk across the field in search of the car.  The field ended next to a large villa complete with barking dogs.  Henry Dawson used hypnosis worthy of Crocodile Dundee to woo the dogs over and we all legged it through the villa complex and onto a road towards the cars.  It turned out that we had exited the river too early.

As well as caving and canyoning a large amount of snorkling and some diving was also undertaken.  After much exploration all over the island we can all recommend the Cala Carbo beach at Cala Sant Vincent to be the best for fish and sea life (Having revisited the area this year I again found this area to be best for snorkling).   There were noticeable underwater resurgences around both sides of the cove which produced very cold water and haloclines when swimming through them.  It would be interesting to find out whether anyone has dived these to any great depth!

All in all it was a very successful caving holiday although I cannot call it an expedition as we unfortunately found no new cave passage but this was not for want of trying.  We visited the two show caves Cuevas Del Drach (overpriced) and the Coves de Campanet (value for money).  Whilst on the trip one member turned 21 and another turned 22.  We also celebrated JRat’s wake with the consumption of vast qualities of Sangria.  The age range of those on the trip ranged from 19 to 43 and it was nice to have a variety of people including students, engineers, the unemployed and salesmen as it created a diverse group of BEC members.  My thanks go to Mike Wilson for supplying a large amount of information about Majorca before the trip as well as to everyone who took part  for making it so special.  All the information recorded on the trip including corrections to the printed cave surveys will reside in the BEC library for future cavers to use.

Above: Final Meal Out. 

Trip Members Left to Right: Graham Whelan (CUCC), Hannah Bell, Henry Bennett, Rhys Davies, Kate Humphreys, Charlotte Harris, Faye Litherland, Ralph Delaney (NUCC), Siobhan Jenkins, James Vile, Henry Dawson, Maxine Bateman, Jinni King. Missing – Paul Lever.


DD helmet (like Sustainable Development) 

DESCRIPTION: After the transition to electric lighting diodes which permit the emission of CO2 and smoke, this is the ultimate environmental change. This headset is surprisingly: helmet fibre biodegradable vegetable origin (from cake cereal Bio processed by an ultra-secret process), accessories colored with natural pigments (carmine cochineal, blueberry juice, saffron), chin strap Bio linen, harness natural latex (from plantations ‘Bio rubber), photovoltaic cells, the latest generation high performance, coupled with wind cell battery without heavy metals. Weight: nc

PRINCIPLE: cells recover 30% of the energy used by lighting diode and their stand is removable by a clip (which is identical to that of the lamp). In turn, the wind turbine also produces electricity. Maximum efficiency in case of large air flow during the rapid descent of pitches and when you run into major galleries. The mast of the turbine is telescopic (from 15 to 40 cm) to take advantage of the best drafts and folds back to ease through narrow passages plus the rotor blades are flexible for greater longevity. Leave your helmet in the full sun or wind while you dress and travel to the entrance of the cave, then when underground enjoy over 100 hours of light totally free and with no impact on the environment.

€ 1345.90 helmet equipped, 100% recyclable, guaranteed 20 years and 0% carbon equivalent. Comes with a voucher for 5 free sessions of physiotherapy and osteopathy (massages and realignments of the cervical vertebrae).

OPTION: € 15.00 that allows the crank to get the extra light for long expeditions in narrow zones and little broken. Connects to the base of the turbine after déclipsage thereof: 30 towers will give you 2 hours of additional light.

Note: Deduct 35.00 € ecological bonus (see terms in-store)





Who stole our Bat?

On October 18th last year one of the BEC’s historical signs was crudely ripped off the entrance porch wall. The Belfry was reasonably busy that weekend with a couple of student groups staying. There were BEC members in the student groups and extensive questioning soon turned up that they knew nothing about the incident and were definitely not involved. 

Our suspicions are that it was nicked by a early morning raid by person(s) unknown who were not staying at the hut. Several clues soon surfaced on the AditNow and UKcaving forums. A long search was conducted over several months which led to trips down Box where it was reportedly seen and investigations of the forum posters. Unfortunately nothing has turned up.

The sign in question is not the one that was recovered from the burnt Belfry which is still hanging in the hallway but a similar looking sign as shown in the picture. It may be the sign hanging on the Belfry shown above.

If anyone hears any news about this we’d be very interested. 

A message to the perpetrator – The BEC is a peace loving club – Rest In Peace! We have not forgotten.

So Long

Producing the BB is a labour of love. Over the last three years Nick Harding has done a sterling job as editor. Getting the BB out the door requires many many hours of dedication for each issue. I suspect it works out at well over half an hour a page. On top of all that it requires good document skills and the ability to big up the membership to produce articles.

It would be really good to get back to regime where the club is producing Bulletins at least every couple of months.  However it won’t happen by just relying on new editor to push this through.  The club needs all of you to think what you can contribute. Been on an expedition?  Done something out of the ordinary? Been pushing cave, mines or the boundaries of sobriety that is worthy of comment?  Let’s have your articles and high resolution full colour photos so that together we can have a BB we are all proud of.

I’d like to wish the new Editor every success.

Finally – the digging shovel – oh yes….it will be ours! Happy explorations!

Henry Bennett


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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.