BB548 cover

BB548 cover

Front cover image: Robin Gray in Toothache Pot by Martin Grass




October 2013 Number 548 VOLUME 59 NUMBER 3

The Bristol Exploration Club. Wells Road, Priddy, nr. Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU
01749 672 126 Website:



Editorial October 2013

Well, here we are with another BB. It’s a pretty full issue this time and if you are bored with reading the stuff I have written then contribute some of your own work!

I’d like to start by congratulating Stuart and Hels Gardiner on their recent marriage. I gather a fine time was had by all the wedding and I hope they enjoy New Zealand as much as we did—just hope they like the camper van company we recommended.

The AGM and dinner have now passed so I hope everybody got their subs in in time and if not this is a reminder. The AGM was fairly well attended and I would like to say that Bob Cork did a superb job of chairing the meeting — one of the best I have ever seen. You can do it again next year Bob—if you want to.

Without going into detail it was good to hear club members airing their feelings and I hope their views will be respected in the coming year. We have a really good mix of individuals on the committee from old hands to new young bloods and they would like your support. At the end of the BB Bill Comlbey kicks off with a potted biography.

As you know we are an exploration club. I would dearly like more features on the digs that club members are involved with even if its only a few lines. I am thinking of Toothache, Home Close, and Halloween in particular but know of several other sites. Photos are always welcome of course. I know some people keep blogs and logs but a Journal record is quite nice for posterity.

I might as well mention the Jrat Digging award evening on 16th November this year as this BB should reach you by then. As some of you will know the venue has been switched back to the Hunters after being planned for Priddy Village Hall. One reason was the organizers were unsure how much attendance there would be this year. Having got involved in the proceedings I think this year’s format may encourage more participation and if it does then we might have a case for moving to a larger venue. The plan is to invited diggers to give a brief presentation on their particular site so that an audience can get an idea as to what is happening across the whole of Mendip. Teams that would like assistance can then also promote their dig and advertise their favoured day or evening. It should make the evening far more interesting and more in keeping with Tony’s enthusiasm for digs in general—not just his own.

This month you can learn how to get your digging spoil out, what happens in Assynt every April/May and something about the history of a well know Devon show cave amongst other things. Read on.

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Bob lays down the law
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AGM attendees—what a happy bunch

The BCA AGM Working Weekend Event and Cavers’ Party

by Ian Gregory

The weekend of 14th to 16th June 2013 saw the inaugural British Caving Association Annual General Meeting Weekend Event and Cavers Party.

“Why a Weekend Event/Party?” I hear you ask. Well, it’s simple….hardly anyone, outside of the Committee and Council ever bothers to turn up, leading in turn to allegations that British Caving is run by a “bunch of old farts” who are out of touch with the “grass roots” of our chosen activity. That sentiment may well be true, but we’re all to blame for that, because nobody turns up…..a circular argument if ever there was one.

To try to change this state of affairs, it was decided, by the BCA to make the AGM something that cavers, especially the younger generation, would actually want to attend, hence the Party Weekend. It was, though, much more than just a party, as there were also Caving Trips, Scientific Field Trips and Seminars on the programme.

Although it was a BCA event, a lot of the organizing was done by the Hidden Earth team, mostly Les and Wendy Williams (WCC), and some of the CHECC committee personnel, most notably Hellie Brooke (BEC). I was approached by Les to do the breakfast catering, with a Hog Roast on the Saturday evening.

The venue chosen to host this first attempt was the excellently equipped Rotary Centre in Castleton, Derbyshire, which boasts not only some very good bunkrooms, but also a “party room” and a well equipped kitchen and dining room…..with the all important built in Bar! Who could ask for more?

Friday was the meet and greet evening, where those attending were booked in, set up their tents or bagged a bunk, then retired to the Bar, which, as it was organized and run by Les Williams, with help from Martin Grayson (TSG) was serving Cheddar Ales Potholer (what else at a caver’s party) and Somerset Cider…..rumour had it that they were also serving soft drinks (whatever they are). Andy Eavis also provided a roast chicken supper.

Saturday morning was started with a 9 item Full English Breakfast, + toast & marmalade, and tea or coffee with a vegetarian option, at a very reasonable £4. That, I figured, would be enough to set them up for a good days caving. Following breakfast the cavers all departed to whatever trip or lecture that they had booked, and us “staff” were able to get a few hours rest, before the evening’s frivolities commenced.

Saturday evening was taken up with a Hog Roast and a Stomp. The Hog Roast, courtesy of Andy Eavis, was cooked by Henry Rockliffe, and the Stomp with a very good live Rock Band, was followed by a Disco supplied by Basher and Martel Baines from the BPC…..oh, and large amounts of beer.

According to Les, “If there ain’t no pictures, then it never happened!”, so, he was not chased around the site, cornered in the bar and disrobed by a dozen or so half naked young ladies….

Sunday started again with a damn good fry up, and then the serious business of the A.G.M. and Council meeting commenced. Due to the amount of cleaning and tidying in the kitchens I was unable to attend the meetings, however some of the other Belfyites present did, and a few of them were even appointed (conned?) into taking various positions. These individuals were Ben Heaney, who now holds the post of BCA Newsletter Editor, and Ruth Allen who is now an Individual Rep. on the council, whilst Chris Jewell continues in the post of Media Liaison Officer, and Dave Cooke heads up the I.T. Working Group.

As this was the first event of it’s type, a lot of lessons were learned by the organizers, and, though it wasn’t perfect first time round, the input from some of us, such as Les and Wendy, Hellie and myself, having been involved in the running of Hidden Earth and CHECC, certainly helped it to run a lot better than it might have, as a lot of the common mistakes and pitfalls had already been met and overcome by us before.The

Lecture and Field Trip Programm e for Saturday 15 th June 2013

  • The Hydrology of Speedwell Cavern, led by Nigel Ball.
  • Introduction to Cave Ecology, led by Dr. Paul Wood.
  • Introduction to Cave Archaeology, led by Prof. Andrew Chamberlain,
  • Introduction to Limestone Hydrology and Geomorphology, led by Dr. Paul Hardwick,
  • The Castleton Springs, led by Prof. John Gunn,

And, in addition to these, the British Caving Library also held an Open Day, and the day was finished off with a Slideshow and Presentation on the year’s Major Overseas Expeditions.

There are plans to continue this event in the future, and, whilst, at the time of writing this, nothing definite has been confirmed, there is the intention to hold next years (2014) at the Dalesbridge Centre in Yorkshire, and, as it can only get better, I would urge you all to consider attending.


How to move your spoil

By Stu Lindsay

The bags

Usually plastic, they come from a number of sources and the quality varies a lot. Good old fashioned fertilizer or animal feed bags are amongst the strongest but not always the easiest to empty. Yes, some bags do need to be emptied as cave digs do not always have masses of free space where they can be stored and, more importantly, hidden. Hand in hand with the plastic bag often goes the strop, a mini 60cms loop sling; this gives an easy grip for dragging, pulling about or hauling up pitches. It hooks straight on and most importantly it keeps the spoil contained. Used in conjunction with a drag tray they can make spoil removal much easier. In the past few years the plastic “hessian weave” type bag has become available as the more we drink the more the brewery’s use! They are easier to empty being less rigid and do not tend to grip muddy spoil with a near perfect vacuum-like resistance, as do fertilizer bags. They are also relatively safe moving boulders; we have done rocks to 40kgs in a well stropped bag…and one of over 50kgs in a double bag!

The drag tray

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There is a vast array of “models” in this category and they are mostly modified plastic drums of 25 to 40 litre capacity. The drag tray is a simple thing; you can get 2 from each drum. You cut it in half from top to bottom; each drum can yield slightly different trays if you cut it off centre. Using the handle as a guide you cut it so that the whole handle stays on one section; this gives a deeper tray and something to grab hold of if you need it to be tipped. The thinner section is great if you are merely using it to drag bags between points that are reasonably flat and in a straight passage, or up slopes. The most important thing with a drag tray is not to fall into the trap of “great, a nice convenient handle to tie the rope to” and then suffer with awkward moments if the tray is unstable or travels badly. Why should you avoid tying to the handle? Because you will find the pull is often above the centre of gravity. In all trays I have made the drag rope attachment points are as low as possible, wide apart and the leading/ pulling end always rein forced, using a sturdy thick rope with a thinner one on the return side if you


The kibble (bucket, skip)

BB548 003Again there are loads of models; the primary source is the 25—40 litre plastic drum. Preference and construction is usually down to the hands of the maker and the conditions in the dig. Most kibbles will operate in most digs, but for that awkward or odd point in the digging chain you can usually make something to suit.

Example 1: In Cainehill we have a rift 8m deep which is narrow and stuff needs to be got up it. Rocks in a bag would last no time at all so a simple solution was to cut the handle section from the top of a drum, attach an old bit of seat belt around it, reinforce the plastic one side and the webbing on the other with washers and use rivets to hold it in place down the sides and on the bottom. A maillon or old krab then joins 2 end loops together at the top and a sturdy flexible rock hauling vessel that is easily tippable in a cramped space is the result.

Example 2: Cut the bottom from a 25 litre drum then using 1” wide tape wrap around the handle twice, keeping the tape centrally placed, 2 equal lengths then go up the side, melt 2 slits (stronger than cutting) in each side above halfway and feed tape in and out, tie loops on the ends to affix a permanent maillon and you have a flexible kibble with a handle on the bottom for easier tipping. As in all instances a piece of chain tied to the handle also helps in muddy conditions.

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Example 3 & 4: A 25 litre drum holds probably more than 25kgs of solid stuff; that would be especially true if it was mud, and more so very wet mud. The metal framed kibble is useful in a variety of aspects; the frame of the kibble can be used as an integral lifting and tipping part. The metal frame is constructed around the top of the cut off drum using fairly wide metal, 20mm then 1 or 2 bands are affixed to this going down around the bottom then back up, these can be narrower metal, 10mm. The handle is fixed to the wider rim, it can be central or offset by an inch or so; offsets can make for easier tipping by hand or from a fixed rig. The handle framework also means there is a firm point for attaching to guide wires etc.


These metal framed kibble type buckets do not like to be bashed on the top edge, especially when moving claggy clay as the clay takes the shape of the bucket, the bucket is bashed more and more to get it to come out, the shape of the top changes with more banging, the clay is rather stubborn, preferring to stay as a squarer lump in the bottom and refusing to pass the modified exit.

True of most kibbles, when digging claggy clay a half sized kibble avoids overfilling, reduces weight and provides fewer surfaces to stick to. For rocky, dryish spoil or gravel use a three quarter drum. Handles to attach can be made from solid metal, rope, tape or chain. Always cut off the bottom as the top becomes a ready made handle on the bottom for tipping!

The rock kibble (varying sizes)

Used in Assynt and manufactured by those famous SUSS engineers (F & B) is the rock kibble, cut from the bottom of a round barrel, 40 – 200 litres depending on your fancy. It has four sturdy attachment points for chains. These are basically 2 flat metal bars (2” wide) which go at 90 degrees to each other under the bowl and are bolted into place; the chains come together at a maillon for a permanent attachment point, and are long enough to get a rock in and out when spread. They should easily be able to handle 60+kg rocks hauled to the surface up a pitch! The rocks are merely rolled in and rolled out! 80kg can be no problem.

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The enclosed kibble or cut away kibble

BB548 008An awkward looking bit of kit, this is usually attached by the existing handle. These are useful if there is a pull along a bit of flat passage with a section of vertical lifting ; depending on the spoil type they can prove difficult to tip as the cut out hole tends to govern the mass of the contents. The less viscous the spoil (slurry!) then the bigger the volume can be. If A is a 1/3rd of the kibbles depth the hole to extract or tip the contents from the loaded end by way of tipping and shaking is by virtue of the open diagonal, d to e, allowing just more than a 1/3rd of the volume to be tipped easiest. The load, clay or similar, in the bottom section below B should therefore be no more than 1/3rd of the kibble volume. A mistake often made is to fill them to the top, line A, with fairly thick claggy spoil that binds together, shaking causing it to lump up even more, so its true, little but often works best. Wet slurry type spoil, when being pulled flat can be filled to the point of over flowing, as when raised it should be below line A.

To make one simply catch hold of the handle, cut away the top corners/edge of one side, attach a strop or something similar to aid attaching to a krab or maillon, add a rope or bit of chain to the bottom and hey presto a few seconds later and you have a kibble. The main disadvantage is by using the handle for lifting there is a higher centre of gravity when dragging, resulting in stability being a negative point, but usually containers are “oblong” with the handle favouring the cut.

In the late 1970’s a converted beer barrel was commissioned to extract spoil at 50kg a time from Wigmore Swallet. Like all good plans it had to evolve. The second part of the plan was hatched as we went along on that first day; an aerial ropeway with 2 perfectly placed trees and masses of space for spoil. It just had to be! The concept was simple, as was the offsetting of the centre of gravity horizontally and vertically of the barrel and the krab release so it would tip itself. The barrel part worked excellently but getting it to the tipping point was a completely different story…another day perhaps.

Operation was simplicity itself a krab on the handle slipped over a fixed pillar on one side of the barrel. When lifted the barrel tipped upside down; the hardest part on the tip operator’s part was swinging the empty barrel back up and putting the krab back in place.
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It is not all about the receptacle in removing your spoil and performing a relatively simple lift up a vertical shaft. Inclined areas coupled with rough floors in a relatively cramped passage or crossing a void often needs a bit of thought. With the Tyrolean or zip wire in the armoury we can see that pretty much all aspects of spoil removal in most situations can be sorted using vessels, pulleys, (ropes) wires, poles, guides, maillons, krabs and anchors. Always start with KISS and if it doesn’t work then build up on it.

Providing there is something solid to attach to at both ends using a zip wire (preferred) or rope can be a godsend. The best operation is of course with a down hill slant, but providing the passage is straight a rope on either end of the vessel will work. Materials needed are a couple of anchor bolts, the spoil vessel, old rope for pulling to and fro and a maillon or krab or two. For a simple short term operation an old maillon sliding on the wire should suffice. For longer term use or maybe heavier loads a bogey as in Diagram 7 would be beneficial.

However, from the outset simple might be how you build a 3 wheel rig. It is basically 2 modified triangles of metal to form cheeks, 2 pulley wheels affixed to top 2 corners, a third lower and centrally positioned and 3 hanging points on the “sharper” end with spacers in the middle for rigidity and /or draw ropes or load points as necessary. The above system can go up/down quite steep slopes, across voids indeed anywhere where the vessel is mostly clear of the floor. Diagram 7 shows the bogey used in Locke’s Hole where the entrance shaft is near vertical but has many protrusions, especially the steps! I managed to get a guide that worked perfectly on the 3rd attempt. First task in setting up is to
get a piece of string attached to the centre of a head frame/ top anchor point then find a suitable line to a robust sturdy lower anchor point.

BB548 012Locke’s problem was that a mere guide did not suit as the weight of the load needed to be “suspended” on the wire, and opposing forces (pull, hang and sideways motion) seemed to negate the effort and readily wore through steel krabs/maillons, My offering for lifts greater than about 20 degrees from vertical must be the three wheeled bogey / pulley with attaching points to allow for 25+ kgs going up, and a free running zero load, or controlled 40+ kgs down. It works and I offer no technical info on how or why it does such a good job, whereas its immediate similar predecessors didn’t; it’s like most digging i.e. “suck it and see”.

In construction there must be adequate solid points to keep the plates apart and allow the wheels to revolve. In diagram 7 (the top plate is removed for clarity) there are 3 fixed points, good for attaching krabs and it is set up for pulling up a 20+ degree incline, if used more horizontally then the load could be put on the spare rigid fixing point.

In a vertical scenario, maybe a shaft with a reasonable dog leg and protrusion, a zip wire or guide wire may be needed to guide rather than support a vessel which should always hang vertically. The simplest guide is a krab/maillon between kibble and wire/ rope, great if minimum load is put directly on to it, but metal against metal (or rope) doesn’t last long. A guide wire will probably work without too much friction up to about 10 degrees.

Rigid rails

These can be in exceptional cases mono but are mostly double, and fixed to the floor, possibly turning gentle corners and able to tackle inclines and varying distances. If a long term project over a long hauling distance is planned then the time and labour may be well spent. We all know how a railway line works so that covers floor mounted aspects of rigid rail, so how about suspended ones:-

The short rail, attached at both ends above ground with its length dependant on the amount of sag that can be tolerated, has a block, usually like the triangular offering in diagram 7 but with a much larger wheel(s) ( 7-10 cms dia. and maybe 3-5 cms wide) with the end to end movement probably no more than 9-10 metres, supporting about 25 – 40 kgs.

In construction there are a couple of options; the block may have 1 or 2 running wheels, the equilibrium being based on the hanging load keeping the block up straight. Attaching a kibble or bag to the load point and walking it to the other end along a rail of 2” scaffold or similar pole is the simplest way as it allows for moving larger weights. Whilst 20kgs is fairly comfortable for most diggers to lug around, this rail could allow for loads of 35-40kg. If incorporated with a simple human influenced lift from the dig haul line onto the mono rail, and a method of semi automatically tipping at the other end, you get more load for less energy.

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This idea derives from the system in use in Assynt (see photos)

The 2 highlighted areas show a pulley with single wheel, and the end stop which the kibble hits and is displaced from the transporting hook under the pulley wheel by the impact so that through the wonders of science it lands upside down in the wheel barrow. A handle on the bottom is used to pick up the kibble which has usually disposed of its contents. The rig shown, with 7 people on site and about 5 hours working, raised 280 kibbles, each weighing close to 30 kgs…that’s over 1500 kgs an hour.

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Above Close up of pulley and tipping bar

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The author in action in Assynt
The BEC has been blessed with the rat haus a gift from Matt Clarke; what Jrat always wanted! It has a really sturdy bench, a massive vice, a grinding wheel, and will welcome any useable old tools! You can make your own stuff, so then there is no reason not to have the tools to go digging. How’s the song go…Oh yes, “We are the Exploration Club we………………………”

Reservoir Hole 13th update

by Peter Glanvill

Things have gone a bit quiet in the cave for the time being with few working trips being made during August and September owing to the absence of Nick (Old Ruminator) Chipchase. However a fair number of tourists have been in, marvelled, taken photos and gone away. We keep a log in the chamber of all visitors.

The Silo and Jill’s Slither have remained unvisited apart from spoil clearance from the Silo dig back to Grand Gallery with some re excavation of the approaches. Contrary to what some individuals might think we are not averse to offers of help. Some of the core team are retired and chose to dig in the day time simply because they live more than an hour’s drive from the hill. However the Silo would make an ideal evening dig for a small team of 3 or 4 and is only 20 minutes caving from the entrance. If any leaders from the club are interested they should make themselves known to Martin Grass. I know Estelle seemed quite positive and Henry Dawson was keen at one stage. The Silo has had the blessing of Mendip’s own cave geomorphologist Andy Farrant so there is everything to play for.

In the Frozen Deep Nick and Nigel have methodically worked round the walls spraying ‘smoke’ from a canister of Magican (available from Maplins). This pleasantly scented mist is cool so neutral in a draught and is ideal for detecting draughts. They found that there was really only one place where the draught was highly apparent and this was some way to the east of the entrance of Pickwick Passage on the southern wall. A dig (Magic Smoke Dig) was there fore started between the boulders and the wall, conveniently right beside the taped path. It has so far dropped 3 metres to a mud floor and a cool draught blows down the diggers necks. Unfortunately the floor currently consists of fine silt so we suspect some zig zagging downwards will be required to reach the cave that must exist below and beyond.

Skyfall may also receive attention at some stage. It draughts well but there are issues with digging upwards!


I have now received 2 letters (emails actually but any communication with the editor will do). Here they are:

From Vince Simmonds


Having read the latest BB I am more than a little pi**** off that you take it on yourself to suggest that we might need assis tance at Hallowe’en Rift. Let me make it clear that, if and when we require any help then we will ask for it ourselves, until then we are more than happy to continue with the team we have. I don’t recall that we have interfered with your teams antics at Reservoir Hole, and have the decency to spell my name correctly!

Vince Simmonds

(For those who read the last BB it’s clearly not worth contacting the Halloween diggers! The latest Reservoir update deals wi th
Vince’s second comment. Sorry about the typo, Vince, you lost a ‘d’ and I usually gain an ‘e’! I have also discussed these
issues with Vince more recently – Ed. )

From Liz Jeanmaire

Picture on last page is Wooding, Dave Savage, Martin Grass, Fish & I don’t know the 5th person.

It was in the marquee put up inside the Mill at Wookey hole for the Anniversary dinner in I can’t remember what year late
1990s, perhaps? and I can’t get at stuff to look it up because of the builders.

(She is absolutely right—its 1996 and if anybody knows the name of the fifth man perhaps they can tell me—Ed.)

A History of Kents Cavern

Part 1: 19TH Century Visitors and Guides

By Pete Rose

Following early visits to Kent’s Cavern in the late 18th century by John Swete, Richard Polwhele and William Maton the visits by J. Feltham in 1803 and W. Hyett (1805) appeared in print (1): “Having augmented our guides we entered the chafin, with each a candle and cautiously proceeded, after a short descent it opened out into a fort of a hall.” This trip describes the rescue of a party of naval officers who had entered with portfires (slow burning fuses) and one candle which went out!

In 1812 ‘A description of Kent’s Hole’ (2) stated: “A curious cavern amongst the rock to the east of Teignmouth. It is situated at the bottom of a rock and has 2 entrances. The largest and left entrance is about 4 feet high and continuing 12 feet, terminates in a chamber, with a descent leading into other vaults, sometimes the passage being only high enough for a person to creep along, suddenly leading into an apartment spacious enough to contain a hundred persons.There are 5 of these, but the largest is at the end of an entrance two hundred feet along, which barely admits a person going through. This is called the Oven, and here we meet with a lake of water which prevents further progress……. It is necessary that everyone who visits should take a light to prevent accidents by foul air etc. Attempts have been made to work the bones and spars, but they do not prove ornamental!”

In 1818 E. Croydon published ‘A Guide to the watering places on the coast between the Exe and the Dart’ (3). The land under which Kent’s is situated was owned by Sir Lawrence Palk (The Haldon Estate): “The approach to this awful retreat is by a path which winds through a thicket. The entrance, which is situated to the south, is through a narrow passage, in some parts not 5 feet in height. The passage gradually widens as you proceed, and takes a north easterly direction till you are introduced into a spacious hall.” Torches were used to light this trip, but there is no mention of a guide.

The first name connected with Kent’s Cavern in modern times is that of Thomas Northmore (4) of Cleve, near Exeter, who sought to establish that Mithras had been worshipped in early times in British caverns.

He entered the cave on Sept 21st 1824, with the dual objective of verifying his own theory and of discovering organic remains. With two assistants, Ferris and Rossiter, together with a draughtsman Gendall (sketches for the engravings) entered the cavern. “There were no bars, locks or bolts on the cave”. He declared that he was ‘‘successful in both objects’’ (5) but his theory was disproved quickly His interest caused him to write to Dean Buckland, who had been exploring caverns in Yorkshire. The latter urged him to proceed with his investigations, which he carried out with Sir W.C. Trevelyan.

Northmore was accompanied in his researches by Dr Greville, Capt. Sartorius, Mr Scudamore, Mr Barker, Mr Henderson, Dr Matthews, Rev Mr Daniel and Mr Edward Cary, Prof. of Oxford.

In 1825 he was accompanied by a party including John MacEnery, a priest. He had archaeological tastes and resolved to commence researches which would shed light on man’s early history. He was inspired by Dr. Buckland’s book ’Reliquaie Diluvianae’(6) which had appeared in 1823 with .the current theory of the deluge or a great flood, depositing bones into caves.

“Captain Welby , the coast guard , with Mr Northmore, and MacEnery entered in files , each bearing a light in one hand and a pick-axe in the other headed by a guide carrying a lantern before the chief of the party. Assembling in the vestibule Mr Northmore ascended a rock from which he issued instructions. He then distributed the guard through the chambers. The party were consoled by the discovery in the black mould of oak pieces and finally some teeth. 5 species on Mr Trevelyan’s plate were supplemented by deer, hare, rabbit, cat, birds, and an upper jaw of a hyena!’’ (24),Buckland visited in 1825 and was struck with the discoveries.

MacEnery found, below the recent deposits and a thick sheet of stalagmite, the bones and teeth of extinct animals and non native ones, together with flint implements of early man. This proved an antiquity of deposition over long periods of time, rather than just in a flood. When John MacEnery submitted his report to the British Association he was greeted with disbelief and ridicule, for few scientists then believed these flints to be genuine products of primitive man.

In 1829 in searching the surface mould(23) MacEnery turned over a stone and discovered pieces of pottery, charcoal ,human teeth ,flint relics, spear heads, copper, tin mouldings etc., and, near the entrance, human bones. Near the same spot a few days later a cranium and bones of another body were found plus mammoth, rhino, horse, ox, deer, wolf, fox, hyena, and reindeer remains. Further excavations were carried out over a period of about 15 years, but the results were meagre and misunderstood.

The ‘Panorama of Torquay’(1832) by Octavian Blewitt was quite controversial “The labours of the Rev .J.M. MacEnery have enabled him to form a cabinet of great value, and to enrich with the fossil treasures of Torquay the institutions of Plymouth , Bristol and other provincial towns and the splendid Museum of the Geological Society. But while hundreds have engaged in these investigation it is curious that few Geological works have condescended to notice the Torquay cave, although much space has been given to others, both foreign and British of far inferior interest.We have great pleasure in introducing two letters by Thos. Northmore.’’ (Pp110-138) (7)

He states that: “the guides were J.Heggery, mineralist on the quay, and Geo. Pearce at Tor to whom the keys are entrusted. Permission to dig is from Sir L.V. Palk”. The entrance is shown in an engraving.

BB548 027

South entrance 1848
BB548 019
North Entrance 1841

This north entrance was in general use from 1824 to 1865. There were 5 entrances the triangular entrance (north),the arched entrance(south),the first low level entrance, the second low level entrance and the oven entrance . Only the above two are now open,and 50 feet apart in the face of the same cliff. The other entrances were blocked to keep out stray animals. MacEnery used the north entrance which opened into the vestibule.

In 1840 Godwin Austen read a paper on ‘The bone caves of Devonshire’ before the Geological Society describing his own investigations.

Croydon’s Guide (henceforth referred to as Croydon) 1841(25) noted that George Pearce of Tor, Torquay dealt with applications for visits.

In 1841 ‘The Guide to Torquay’ by Cockrem and Elliott (9) has a new engraving of the North Entrance. “The entrance is now closed in order to prevent persons from carrying off the bones for sale, or incautiously losing themselves in the cave. It is more than probable that the skeleton which was found there had taken refuge in the cave and had been unable to retrace her steps!”

“When the fleet was stationed in Torbay during the late war, two midshipmen ventured to explore the cavern without a guide, and having extinguished their lights were so completely lost in its intricate windings that it was not until they had been missed and search made for them that they were discovered on the following day, by the tenant of Ilsam Farm .They were seated in the far recesses, without hope of making their escape. Determined to show his gratitude, and to terminate their adventure in the true spirit of romance, one of them resolved upon marrying the daughter of their deliverer and actually maintained a correspondence with her family for nearly 10 years, when all tidings of him suddenly ceased”

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Tor Churchyard

“The only guide who is now trusted with the key is George Pearce, of Tor, who will provide lights and everything necessary for visiting the interior.

Permission to dig for bones can only be obtained from Sir L.V. Palk, who is naturally averse to giving leave, except for scientific purposes. The extent of the cavern is estimated at three quarters of a mile. The effect on the stalagmites by lighting with blue lights is very striking. The other entrance, higher in the wood, which appears larger, is now nearly filled with earth.’’
MacEnery died in 1841.His gravestone is in the Tor Churchyard (poorly maintained). His work resulted in the foundation of the Torquay Natural History Society in 1844, and this Society, in 1846, appointed a committee to obtain specimens for their new museum.

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Rev. J. MacEnery

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Cavern Researches 1859
Vivian, W. Pengelly, Dr. Battersby and others undertook exploration of the cavern. Their results were embodied in a paper read to the Geological Society. These new ideas of ‘antiquity of man and beast’ were contra to the idea of a great deluge or flood, bringing into caves all those bones. This was incompatible with the story of creation as told in the Book of Genesis. In fact in the ‘Caves of South Devon’ by Howard (8), post 1879, Mr Howard was still arguing for the deluge.

In the 1848 Croydon (10) it is stated: “the entrance is closed. Apply to George Pearce of Tor for the keys, lights and a guide. Persons not allowed to dig for bones unless they have permission from Sir Lawrence Palk” (born1766).

The Palk family owned much of Torquay, and the old manor house was pulled down in 1843. Prior to 1857 Sir L.V. Palk lived abroad and returned to Haldon House .he died in 1860 and was succeeded by his son Lawrence. The 2nd Lord Haldon was L.H. born 1846 and the third was L.W, born 1869. This estate was heavily mortgaged developing Torquay and much land with the harbour sold off post 1855. The 2nd Lord Haldon died in 1903 and by 1914 the rest of Haldon property in Torquay had been sold off.

Croydon, post 1851(11) has the entrance closed by a door and: “visitors who wish to explore the interior must procure a key from John Underhay, Queen St, Pimlico, Torquay”.

By 1852 Croydon (12) has visitors procuring a key from Mr Ardley, Curator of the Museum.

The 1854 Cockrem Guide (13) states: ‘‘through the Curator of the Museum may be obtained permission to visit. It will be necessary to provide lights and a guide”, whilst in the same year Croydon (14) writes: “the entrance is closed by a door and visitors must procure a key from Mr Ardley, the Curator of the Museum in Park Lane”.

In the next Croydon, post 1854(15) visitors were procuring a key from John Underhay: “its extent throughout its windings is estimated at about ¾ of a mile. The effect, when illuminated by blue lights, is very striking”.

Meanwhile work was going on in other parts of the country, and in 1859 Darwin published his ‘Origin of Species’. Great interest was aroused, whereupon Sir L. Palk decided to revert to the larger ‘South Entrance’ (arched) which opens into the Great Chamber. Here the doorway was built, the usual entrance today now inside. John Underhay, whose name appears on the notice board, had been Sir L. Palk’s guide for many years. Philp’s Cavern was discovered in 1858 in Windmill Hill, Brixham and spurred on interest in Kent’s Cavern.

By 1864 the Cockrem Guide (16) has the cave closed. “Permission from Sir L Palk , guides and candles necessary . The cavern may be examined by applying at the Manor Office, near the Baths.”

In 1865 a committee was formed by the British Association to organise the excavations. It consisted of Sir Charles Lyell, Professor Phillips, Sir John Lubbock, John Evans, E. Vivian and William Pengelly. Nearly £2000 was spent during the next 15 years. The work was carried out under the direction of W. Pengelly. Each year a report was made and presented to the British Association (16 reports in total). Superintendents oversaw the work and kept keys. Visits to the digs by ordinary travellers were only made with workmen present.

MacEnery had previously found four distinctive deposits, with contents of charcoal, shells, ornaments, teeth of lion, bear etc and beneath these the fifth deposit was crystalline stalagmite,12 feet thick in one place(23) and the sixth layer of cave earth or breccia. The 5th deposit had only bear bones, the sixth- lion, bear, fox and man. “Man existed in Devonshire at a remote time uncalculated”.

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South Entrance in the 1860’s 

Charles Keeping, whose brother was a well known fossil collector, and George Smerdon, were hired in March1865. “Tuesday March 28th. The workmen had broken ground outside the cavern for the purpose of cutting a roadway through a talus of earth and stones, which almost closed the southern (arched) entrance, which for the present is to be the entrance used exclusively by the superintendents and the workmen the visitors and guide being confined to the northern entrance.”(27). This access was changed to the Southern Entrance (by Sir L Palk).

W. Pengelly spent 5 hours a day at the cavern, and the workmen employed were George Smerdon and John Farr. In the 6th Report to the Committee (1870) the workmen were excited! “A pound of candles (16 to the pound) were hung in their usual places. By 3’o clock 12 were missing, cutting marks rather than a gnawing of the wicks was noticed (rats were a problem). Before they left all the candles had disappeared!”

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William Pengelly

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South Entrance 1869t5 1925

The whole of the cavern was divided into cubic yards (3x1x1feet). To each cubic yard a box was devoted, and all the finds placed within. There were 4000 by Dec. 1866 and 7340 by 1880! Thus a scientific analysis of the cavern was carried out. (There is now a survey of these boxes, showing their location in the cavern).

“After a party had been taken through the cavern a lady said to Pengelly.’’ Do you think Mr Pengelly that this is more than 4000 years old?” “Yes madam. I think you may add another nought to that number and still another. In fact you can make it as noughty as you like”. (26).

The TNHS needed new premises and by 1873 had agreed on a site in Torwood Road , completed in 1875 and moved into by 1876.

Post 1871 Besley’s Handbook (17) indicates permission must be obtained from the agents of Sir L. Palk or of the committee of the Torquay Natural History Society.

Editions of John Murray’s Handbook for travellers in Devon and Cornwall appeared in 1872 (or earlier) (18). “Permission from No.1. Victoria Cottages, Abbey Road- a guide with a torch required. Charge 3/- and visitors who desire a good light should provide their own.” John Clinnick, a workman, discovered a chamber in 1875,and this was named after him. Nicholas Luscombe, employed at this time, became ill and William Matthews took his place. Matthew’s Passage was found 1876.
W. Pengelly gave many lectures, and one at Glasgow in 1875 described his thoughts on the antiquity of man. “I have gone to Kent’s Cavern every day of my life from the 28th March 1865, up to the present day, excepting those rare instances when I am home. I have had the pleasure of taking into Kent’s Cavern a great many distinguished men, amongst them my distinguished friend Sir William Thomson. There is a malicious story current about Torquay, to the effect that one day I was unable to go to the cavern, and my boots were met walking out of their own accord!” (28).His story continues, “We are careful not to give orders for any person to see the cavern, except with a guide, but not to where the work is in progress .The reason is we once did give an order to two young men, and they foolishly put a Roman coin into the deposits, and our workmen dug it out. I came by appointment to meet my young friends, when the foreman came aside to me and said “This is very disagreeable to us. These gentlemen must have put this coin in the deposit. It is quite bright.” I looked at it, and handing it to the gentlemen said “Will you be so good as to take your coin. It has done all the work you intended” From that time we have passed a self-denying ordinance, never again to give anyone an order to see the cavern.” I hold that scientific investigation should not be undertaken with any theological bias ,but that it must and should be undertaken with a religious regard for truth and accuracy, and hence the care we bestow and the restrictions we make”.

In 1880 the excavations were ceased by Pengelly, and George Smerdon eked out a living for the next 7 years showing around visitors. Smerdon received a small pension and was the custodian of the cavern, together with his son-inlaw Francis Powe. The South Entrance had a door, wall and bench and Topsy the donkey (seen in postcards by 1900). The North Entrance still showed as a wooden grill in paintings. When George was ill his son-in-law Francis Powe took over duties .George died in 1889, and Francis Powe then rented the cave from the Haldon Estate.

Westley 1882(19) only stated “guides and candles being absolutely necessary. It is well to ascertain, at the museum, in passing, what time anyone is in attendance”

Murray’s later edition 1887(20), indicates “A guide will be found 10 am – 5pm daily, with a charge of 3/-.” W. Pengelly died in 1894.

By 1895(21) the guide, from 10am – 5pm, was charging “1/6d for a party not exceeding 3, and the time taken is half an hour”.

Between these dates (1887 and 1895) Beatrix Potter visited and had indicated there were excellent booklets (none known).

1897 saw the Ward Lock guides(22) describing “There is an attendant,who shows the cave, and provides candles for visitors at a charge of 1/6d for 3 persons or less, larger parties 6d each.” About this time the cave was used as a carpenter’s workshop, making wooden bathing huts for the local beaches.

The Haldon Estate was still in financial difficulties and in June 1902 the Town Clerk reported to the committee a letter from Messrs Walker and Son, dated the 5th instant, offering to sell lot 121 (Kent’s Cavern) containing 8 acres for 800 pounds, and part lot 129 adjoining Lincombe Drive, containing 16 acres for 1600 pounds. The committee could not see their way to entertain the purchase of either lot. On the 1st Sept. the Roads Committee considered the question of purchase again, but no offer was made. The offer was modified and sent to Francis Powe, who negotiated a very good deal and signed for the purchase on 23rd April 1903. For the purchase the letter in Feb. indicated part of the lot had been sold and the reduced lot was offered. A 30 pound deposit was paid, and the remainder, totalling 300 pounds, in April. From now on the Powe family were in control. The first adverts for visits were placed in the Torquay Times on Friday 10th July 1903.


There had been 80 plus years of continuous discovery in Kent’s Cavern .The early years were marked by a free for all. Bones were sold to collections. There was digging and exploration. Sir L. V. Palk had good sense to control access and let the TNHS complete the early discoveries by Northmore and MacEnery through the very able W. Pengelly. The religious establishments took a long time to be convinced of’ ‘The antiquity of Man’; it was not in their interests.This history is in 4 parts as listed below and will be continued in future BB’s:

Pt 1. Visitors and Guides. Pt 2. J. MacEnery.
Pt 3. W.Pengelly.

Pt 4. The Show Cave years


1. Hyett .W. 1805. Exeter. ‘A description of the watering places on the South East coast of Devon, from the river Exe to the Dart inclusive’ . Pp 90-93

2. Encyclopedia Londonensis. 1812. ’ Kent’s Hole’.vol. x1. P. 674.

3. Croydon. E. Teignmouth 1818. ‘A Guide to the watering places on the coast between the Exe and the Dart etc’. Pp . 23-31.

4. Ellis. A. 1930. Torquay. An Historical survey of Torquay. Chapter 1.

5. Baring-Gould. Book of the West .Vol 1 .Chapt xv1

6. Rev. Buckland W. Reliquiae Diluvianae .1823.John Murray. London. Kent’s Cavern mentioned p 69.

7.Blewitt.Octavian.1832. pub. E.Cockrem, Torquay. Pp107-138

8. Howard J. post 1879. Torquay. ‘The Caves of South Devon and their teachings’

9. Cockrem. E. and Elliot. W. 1841. Torquay. ‘A Guide to Torquay’ .Pp 13-15 plus engraving

10. Croydon E. 1848.Teignmouth. Handbook for Torquay and its Neighbourhood Pp29

11. Croydon. 1851 Torquay. p 55

12. Croydon. 1852.Torquay.

13. Croydon. 1854. p 202

14. Croydon post 54. p 55 (mentions this present summer of 54)

15. Croydon post 55.p 56

16. Cockrem .1864.Torquay. p6

17. Besley and son. post 1871. Handbook of South Devon and Dartmoor. p72

18. John Murray.1872. Handbook for travellers in Devon and Cornwall. Pp169-171

19. A Westley.1882. Tourist guide to Torquay . Pp74

20. John Murray 1887.Pp159-160

21. John Murray.1895.Pp156-158

22. Ward, Lock.1897. ‘A new pictorial and descriptive guide to Torquay’, Paignton Dartmouth, Totnes . p41

23. J.T. White .1878 Torquay. .History of Torquay Pp 361-368

24. J. MacEnery. Cavern Researches 1859.Torquay. Pub. E. Cockrem. Dedicated by E. Vivian. P6

25. Croydon. 1841.

26. Ellis. A. An Historical Survey of Torquay .1930.Torquay. p10

27. H. Pengelly .A Memoir of William Pengelly. 1897 London. p 161. ‘from the Journal of William Pengelly.’ Pub. J. Murray. Entrance to Kent’s Hole p162

28. W. Pengelly. ‘Kent’s Cavern’. Its Testimony to the Antiquity of Man. A lecture Dec 1875 Pp16, 17.

General references

These include letters and papers read to societies and published by W.Pengelly. The Literature of Kents Cavern prior to 1859 (part1), Parts 2&3 .

The whole of the Rev. J. MacEnery ‘s manuscript (1869)

16 reports of The Committees for Exploring Kent’s Cavern (British Association from 1865) can be accessed at Torquay Library and the T.N.H.S.


St Cuthbert’s Cave

by Kangy

I’m a bit of a St Cuthbert fan. He might even be my patron saint. My wife Janet has made a good recovery from two new knees and as a Munroist and ex skiing instructor she ensured I got the message that we were to walk the St. Cuthbert’s Way. Once it had clicked that she was serious and that not only was St Cuthbert involved but there was a St Cuthbert’s Cave to visit on the way I was sold on the idea.

Being Old and Decrepit we took advantage of ‘Contours’ a walking outfit which takes your request and organises B&B’s and delivers your bags for you to the B&B ready to be used that evening. No more sniffy shirts, disgusting drawers and having to put up with wet clothing — nice.

The Way follows an imaginary route which connects two important influences in St Cuthbert’s life, Melrose Abbey and Lindisfarne on Holy Island. We walked the 60 miles from Melrose to Holy Island in an easy(ish) 6 days and had reasonable weather particularly on the highest point “Wideopen Hill” with good views and on the Cheviots where we had sunshine, mountain views and a 14 hour day which we hardly noticed in such spectacular surroundings.

The eagerly awaited St Cuthbert’s Cave did not disappoint. Seeing it from the approach it is impressive.
It is really a shelter under an overhanging sandstone roof. I liked the red earth – St Cuthbert’s red. It has graffiti scratched into the back wall, some of which are in copperplate and ancient which is a bit like ruins everywhere. St Cuthbert (635 – 687)) was carted about the place to keep his body safe from the Viking raiding parties (C 875) and his cave or rock shelter was one of the places where they likely rested overnight.

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On the hills

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St. Cuthbert’s Cave

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Inside the cave

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Then on to Holy Island. Worth a visit in its own right. The causeway is fun because it is underwater for 6 hour periods (the tide you know) .We just about made it with a quarter of an hour to spare. Tension, incentive to walk at top speed and exhilaration when we made it to Lindisfarne Priory. For the rest of the visit we loved walking the island from beach to beach. For info go to

Meghalaya – “Abode of the Clouds 2013” (Pt. 2)

by Peter Glanvill

On the final descent some Goon show like pings and clatters caused the driver to stop as a fairly significant bit of steel dropped from the truck undercarriage. This turned out to be part of the cab suspension. The driver shook his head and said ‘Problem’. Angie and I went back up the track looking for the missing part whilst Pete Ludwig, Nick Tringham and Oana carried on down the hill. We returned to find the driver hard at work cobbling together a repair and within half an hour he had turned a crisis into a minor hitch. The truck rocked and lurched its way down to the 2011 camp site and we clambered out to meet the others. To reach Kseh is a 10 minute thrash through dense waist high vegetation consisting of various tall weeds and vines but Pete had his trusty machete and we soon had a serviceable path. The plan was for part of the group to climb into a high level inlet part way up what is a huge active resurgence cave. The entrance is about 15 metres high and wide and retains these dimensions for a considerable distance. The locals have, in the past, trapped bats for food here and one can see the constructions needed to support the nets across the entrance. The cave has also been used as a water source and there are bits of ironmongery, pipes and dams in a couple of places (some submerged to trap the unwary). There is a also a tatty electricity cable running along the wall! Progress is wading then swimming – the water is reasonably warm but thin wetsuits and buoyancy aids were needed.

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Angie and a dug out canoe in Kseh entrance

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Gour in the river passage

The project left Angie and I free to do some tourism and photog- raphy so we headed off upstream leaving the others to explore their lead. At one point during a swim there seemed to be a heavy drip from the roof. I looked up (you only do it once) to see we were under a very large bat colony. Eeeeugh! Spitting frequently with heads down we vigorously paddled past the bombing range. After passing a couple of large gour dams we stopped at another realizing that if I was going to get any photos I would have to get cracking. After a successful shot we made our way back to the entrance catching the others en route (their ‘inlet’ was an alcove.) Soon changed we made our way back to the truck and after picking up the ‘Khung Back Door’ team whose cave was still going albeit horizontally headed back to camp and some welcome beer. Robin Sheen and Ralph Doyle arrived in some style on a hired Enfield motorcycle having done some recce work at the other end of the Shnongrim ridge. They stayed for a few days before chugging off back to civilisation.

After an earlier start the next day we admired Oana’s recently captured small fruit bat and a spectacular drongo trapped by the parasitologists. The drongo is a fine looking bird with a distinctive long plumed tail. Whilst the Khung Back Door team planned to continue work, a large group comprising Thomas, Angie, myself, Ralph and Brian were to recce a cave called Tiger Cave by the locals. It was a newish area relatively close to camp and reached by a steep trail through the pine forest. Thomas had announced that light weight gear and no wellies were the order of the day so, after a long downhill trek through forest, scrub and paddy fields we were slightly miffed to arrive at a river bed complete with river – requiring wellies. Not willing to get our surface walking kit wet Angie and I decided to go walkabout and waved the others off. They had gone upstream, so we headed downstream following the bank and, after just overshooting our homeward route were rewarded for our error by a cold draught blowing down a dry stream bed from a small side valley.

We quickly tramped up the valley to a scramble over and between boulders ending in a large cave entrance. Putting on our kit we scuttled into the low entrance passage. This soon developed into walking cave with ancient stalagmite flows on the walls. However after 80 metres we were back in daylight confronted by a pool. As our original reason for not following the others was to not get our walking boots wet this was a problem, quickly circumvented by hurling boulders into the pool to create stepping stones. Once across another passage segment emptied into a ‘lost world’ doline about 50 metres across, full of vegetation including a large Ficus (rubber tree family) and evidence on the sides that this might have been a partial chamber collapse. By clambering over the plants we could reach an open rift running along one wall and re-enter more relict passage that eventually terminated in a choke up to the surface bound together by some really stout tree roots forming a natural grille. The cave was latter dubbed Krem Lyer (lyer = wind).

Feeling quite chuffed over our little find we spent some time on photography but could do little else lacking surveying kit. Checking the time we decided to wander downstream further and examined another side valley. This time there no caves but it terminated in a pleasant little gorge and pool.

We then slowly made our way back up to the paddy fields and, en route, took the opportunity to inspect another doline at a dip in the track. This had a local name, Poh Lakhar, and initially seemed to consist of a network of mud choked rifts until at one end I found a climb down into what appeared to be a clean washed canyon passage. We returned to the track and met Thomas’ team further up the hill. They had explored and surveyed several segments of cave passage in the side of the gorge the river had run into but there was still work to be done. A long slow plod back up the hill got us back to the track back to camp and we ambled slowly back to a supper with chips!

The next day it was decided that Mark Tringham, Angie and me would survey Krem Lyer but en route recce Poh Lakhar. Back at the cave the climb looked a little tricky so a hand line was placed and a 3 metre scramble entered the canyon passage seen the previous day. It looked promising, so after a crash course in Distox surveying for Angie we started working our way in. The passage, about a metre wide and 3 metres high meandered along past a low silty section to a narrow drop past a large stal bank. It continued, steadily enlarging to something like 3 metres across with a boulder floor to a chamber with a daylight shaft and another drop negotiated by a traverse and climb over stal.
We passed through a chamber with an obvious high level passage after which the cave degenerated into a crawl over silt then mud and ended in a duck or sump with another daylight entrance. I decided to call this The Yuck. Feeling a little under dressed for this we headed out, taking photos, whilst Mark surveyed a short side passage on his own. He also briefly visited the high level stuff and pronounced it going cave that was nicely decorated. Noticing the time we made a rapid exit and ended up walking most of the hill in the dark on the way back.

After a slightly damp night the next day dawned warm and sunny and a large team set off to blitz the Tiger, Poh Lakhar and Krem Lyer systems. Our little Poh Lakhar team was augmented with Nick and Oana who was up for catching all the wildlife she could. I got brownie points for a couple of ‘prawns’ and Oana plucked a bat from the walls like an apple from a tree and then nonchalantly left it wriggling in a linen bag on a boulder to be collected later. She later insisted on a photo or two with the local spiders – not creatures a confirmed arachnophobe really wants to approach but I bravely did so though stood well back when she decided to catch one by pursuing it around the roof with a BDH container! Angie and Mark were meanwhile surveying a side passage – uncompleted to Angie’s frustration after Mark had decided after some metres that he had had enough of the low meandering crawl.

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Nick Tringham with cave pearls

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Oana and a heteropoda spider

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Angie Glanvill in the main passage of Poh Lakhar

The high level passage proved to be very nicely decorated in places with crystal pools and cave pearls but ended in a low airless humid bedding plane full of snot gobbler webs. Arriving at The Yuck I decide on some J Rat style digging and wormed my way into a low wet bedding parallel to the duck and floored by disgusting grey mud. After several minutes shifting brushwood and boulders I could wriggle up into a small boulder chamber and was surprised to see daylight ahead. It then became clear that the others could bypass the Yuck to one side so arrived substantially cleaner than I was! After a few metres we emerged from a large resurgence entrance high up on the side of a gorge (presumably that containing Tiger Cave). The blocks on the cliff were so large it was impossible to find a quick and easy way to the stream bed so after some more photos we started out back through the cave.

Unfortunately during the trip Angie slipped twisting and injuring her foot so on exit we made a slow and painful journey back to the truck rendezvous in the woods. Two months later back in the UK she had an X-ray to reveal a fracture of her 5th metatarsal (long bones in the foot)! Back at camp an excellent meal of cauliflower pakoras then beef and pumpkin was washed down with lashings of local beer.

Angie with a sore foot remained confined to camp but caving continued and it was decided to visit some other leads not far from Poh Lakhar. Ralph, Urs and me were dropped off at the rendezvous point and headed to the area that Ralph had visited once before on a recce. After about 45 minutes thrashing through the bush we emerged in some paddy fields that bordered a rocky tree filled dry valley. More prolonged searching eventually located Krem Myntlang that began as an overhung cleft in the side of the valley. Fighting off the burr like and prickly vegetation we changed and scrambled down the initial entrance rift. This ran both ways but the more likely route went as a crawl in the base to a chamber and a curious eroded steeply angled descending tube from which came the sound of a small stream. We had been surveying as we went in but as point man it was my job to determine the main route. Upstream got wetter and narrower so downstream it was. This proved to be even wetter as it became a hands and knees crawl into a canal, albeit with plenty of airspace. En passant I managed to capture another prawn for the biologists. After 10 metres of wallowing I was back in inverted keyhole passage very much like the caves of County Clare so I thought Ralph ought to be at home! It continued in this vein as a narrow rift zigzagging between joints with standing stooping and crawling sections. As spotter for the team, carrying my little bottle of cerise nail polish, I had the pleasure of encountering all the spiders first so occasionally the sound of the stream gently trickling would be interrupted by a girly scream as one burst from cover.

There was a good draught and the passage was widening a bit so hopes were high. Occasionally the passage would be partially obstructed by some chunky sparkling speleothems. Unfortunately just as we were beginning to run out of time we also met a short cascade into what looked like much bigger passage. Although it was a short drop it was overhung and without tackle we had no means to descend safely so packed up, beetled out of the cave and back to the truck taking only an hour to do it.

The entertainment back at camp was the arrival of a huge lemon yellow leaf-like Lunar Moth that fluttered manically around the biology tent before being released into what became a very chilly night. Angie was getting increasingly fed up with her enforced stay in camp but felt her foot was improving. The rest of the team had been either Khung bashing or pushing the potential back door. Rob Eavis had arrived by then for a short stay and was snapping away enthusiastically. He took a wonderful picture of the camp at night with the star filled sky above. Krem Khung was a big fossil system found the previous year. After more than a kilometre of giant boulder hopping it had branched, one end terminating in a pitch into a lake for which the team had had high hopes. Unfortunately once down the pitch this year’s group found that there was no obvious route on and came to the conclusion that it was an enormous terminal sump. However several other leads needed pursuing and explorers were kept busy for the rest of the expedition pushing into boulder mazes and watery canals but to no avail as far as getting a really significant extension.

On the 11th February Krem Myntlang received a return visit from me, Bhushan Poshe (a new caver from Delhi) and Urs. We found a much shorter route to the cave, which was just as well as I was lugging a drill in an Ortlieb bag plus some tackle for the pitch. Bhushan was not impressed with the canal and took some time to pass it! At the final survey point the Distox decided to pack up, I found a natural belay and on further inspection felt we could have done the pitch with a couple of belts tied together! It got worse; after a duck under a stal flow the passage turned abruptly left into a flooded zone. Above what appeared to be a very low duck or sump the draught blew over a thick calcite floor that had formed above it. Determined not to be beaten I grabbed the bolt hammer to enlarge the approach and slid feet first into the pool, much to Urs’ alarm. Pleas to come out were ignored until my lips were sucking air from gaps amongst the stalactites and I could feel no airspace or decent widening beyond my probing wellies. Anywhere else this cave would have been earmarked for further attention – it had a flowing stream and draughted and clearly was destined to go places. We had to abandon it for perhaps a future generation of Meghalaya cave pushers and we made our way out. At the entrance we pushed Bhushan down the rift going the opposite way where running water could be heard. I now think it was another route into the streamway. We then visited the next cave up the valley – only a few metres away really and by combined tactics Urs and I clambered down a spider infested rift into a ‘new’ streamway that we soon realised was an inlet to Krem Myntlang. We surprised Bhushan by doing the loop and coming back out by the original entrance.

On our return we were intrigued to encounter a JCB working on the edge of the paddy fields. No pick up being available we slogged all the way back to camp and a meal with delicious deep fried aubergine as a starter.

No mention has been made of the camp fire. That’s because there was very little action around it because of the small numbers there. Rob Eavis and Nick Tringham amused themselves one evening by spending the time manoeuvring a large trunk around that was currently forming the centre piece for it. This was when they weren’t involved in farting competitions. Angie (the only woman about) was unimpressed!

On the 12th a new area was visited. This had been recced by Brian K. Daly in previous years but the caves located had not been fully explored or surveyed. To get there involved a longish drive. We travelled there in style, that first time, in a Scorpio SUV with air conditioning and music no less, probably because Brian was going. He took along me with Bhushan. The track led initially along the ridge and then steeply downhill through the busy village of Moo Knor or Mawknor. After winding through low scrubby woods we emerged onto a bare spur with a fine view back to the ridge and onward into the distance. We left the Scorpio and strolled down a bare grassy hillside through a field of grazing cattle into a tree girt rocky area. At the base of some low cliffs were Krem Sahiong 1 and, 50 metres or so away, Krem Sahiong 2. We started on KS 1 which lay in the corner of the depression and had a man sized entrance bounded by limestone blocks. I had been delegated to keep the book and a pig’s ear I made of it too! Fortunately the Distox Peter Ludwig had given to Brian failed to work properly and got more and more recalcitrant as the trip continued. Brian’s refined language got progressively coarser and I was impressed at how many western swear words he had acquired. I then committed the cardinal sin of removing the batteries (which were pretty flat) and replacing them not realizing that recalibration is needed if you do this.

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Brian Karpran Daly and formations in Krem Sahiong
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Bhushan Poshe on gour dams in Krem Sahiong

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‘Should have gone to Specsavers’

Before we gave up surveying we had worked our way in down a heavily stalled up boulder pile into a dry stream passage blocked by the collapse at the entrance in one direction but wide open and draughting in the other. Brian had apparently been to the end of the cave and said it ended in a choke with a possible crawl onwards. Soon after we entered the cave there was an obvious T-junction. The right hand turn seemed larger although the main route went straight on but into a crawl under formations. A high level route later turned out to be an oxbow. Bhushan, as the smallest, was despatched to inspect the crawl. After some minutes he returned to say that the passage beyond got extremely low and so it was left for the nice walking passage. However you will read a lot more about it later! The walking passage continued roomy and joint controlled varying from a rift, to minaret passage shaped to a tube and, after some distance, passed some glistening gour banks into a side chamber. After a brief look we continued to the muddy final bedding chamber where there was a route down through boulders but it dwindled to a low humid airless flat out narrowing uninspiring crawl. We headed out taking photos including a side chamber near the entrance
where 7 horseshoe bats were hanging right beside a small stream trickling out of the ceiling.

After leaving we went over to Sahiong 2 and I scrambled down into an attractive walking sized stream passage full of wildlife including bats and rats. This ended in a slot from which the sound of a stream could be heard – this was heading for Sahiong 1. In the other direction the cave led to another entrance and a deep pool where I stopped and returned. Then it was back to the Scorpio and camp picking up Pete Ludwig who seemed to be out on a ramble. Camp was quiet and occupied only by the kitchen staff and Angie for the Krem Khung team were on a major surveying trip and didn’t make it back until 9 pm.

Another visit to Krem Sahiong and Krem Tin (on the opposite of the spur to KS) was on the cards for the next day. This time the KS 1 team consisted of me, Simon, Oana and Adi. I was designated spotter and we made rapid progress surveying to the terminal choke and back to the chamber where the glistening gours were. I explained to Simon that we hadn’t examined the rather grotty looking side passages here so, of course, they had to be surveyed. Squeezing through into a narrow rift past an unpleasantly rocky side tube I found an interesting aven with a slot in the wall beside it. The aven seemed to close down but then Simon forced the slot. A voice came echoing back asking me about the big chamber the other side. ‘What big chamber?’ I asked. It had looked to Simon as though somebody had been there already. Adi joined him and after deciding the slot looked a bit narrow I reasoned that the unpleasant rocky tube would go to the same place. It did, and I joined the others in the biggest passage in the system all of 6 metres wide and 15 metres high with a heavy drip from the roof. One end terminated in a boulder area and a bat colony. At the other after a relative constriction the cave enlarged again and sloped down to some strange draughting tubes. Simon insisted on calling the chamber ’Should have gone to SpecSavers’. The first photographs I tried here were badly affected by condensation so after realising the time we rushed out scooping up Oana en route so to speak. Back at camp it was a cold quiet evening until the Krem Khung team returned.
On St. Valentine’s Day a large team minus Angie and Urs went to Krem Khung. One group were to go the end of the cave whilst Bhushan, Thomas, Adi and myself were going to inspect a possible lead just before the cave got unpleasantly bouldery. The drive was the same as to Krem Lymke the first cave we had visited on the trip but on this occasion we took a route that led straight down a spur off the ridge on a rocky well worn path through woods. The valley below was dotted with small abandoned coal pits and paddy fields and we wended our way towards a line of low cliffs a kilometre away. The entrance to Krem Khung is a low stoop into walking passage at the base of a cliff by a pool. A large crowd of us slowly dispersed leaving Bhushan, Adi, Thomas and myself as tail enders. After a scramble through some ancient massive stalagmite formations cementing even bigger boulders we entered the main fossil passage – it was huge! Often 30 metres wide and high it stretched into the distance. The streamway followed one wall initially and after some stomping passage we were forced to climb down and wade through some neck deep water to make reasonable progress. The cave’s dimensions reduced to just ‘large’ and there were some attractive gour dams and stal banks to be seen. We stopped at a point where a large side passage entered and Thomas headed up it over a floor of calcited mud and drip pits. One end of it was dominated by a massive and, as I found out, loose choke whilst the other dwindled to a rift passage that Thomas and Adi commenced surveying whilst Bhushan and I attempted to take photographs. I took the pictures and Bhushan was the model. I was disappointed later to find that the autofocus failed to cope with the size of the chamber and many shots had just lost their edge. Adi and Thomas returned and we slowly made our way out Adi and me taking photos. Adi used an open flash technique with a tripod and his results were extremely impressive making most of my images look like snapshots! Back near the entrance he decided to remain in the cave doing some solo photography whilst the rest of us carried on out and slowly plodded back to the waiting truck about 45 minutes away. Simon, Rob, Mark Nick and Cookie returned some hours later having found and surveyed yet more passage.

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Side passage in Krem Khung

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Krem Kung Streamway

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Decorated area Krem Khung

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Biologist at work
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Walking to Krem Khung
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Looking for parasites
The following day Angie deemed her foot just about OK for a caving trip so joined a party consisting of Oana, Khlur ( a local cave biologist), Simon and myself to ‘finish off’ Krem Sahiong. Anticipating a brief trip I wore shorts under my over suit. We were soon at ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ by Simon and surveyed both ways. Despite some grovelling under boulders in the floor no way on could be found so we headed back to the entrance area prepared to run a couple of legs down Bhushan’s too tight passage, pack up and leave. Angie, on point, scuttled away giving a running commentary on the lines of “ It’s a sandy crawl, there’s a draught, it’s getting bigger, it’s walking passage – still going!” We all wormed through a very comfortable flat out wriggle in sand to a well decorated rift where progress was to made by traversing. At a junction it continued with the floor slowly dropping away until Simon pointed out that we could probably proceed at floor level. Backtracking slightly a wriggle to the base of the rift was found and we headed off downstream surveying as fast as we could. We were now in a 4 metre high half a metre wide joint controlled stream passage minus the stream at present. After 200 metres and with no sign of an end we had to turn back , picking up the biologists en route. Back at camp we found a threatened beer drought had been averted by a trip to town (probably something like 2 hours drive away – at least).

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The ‘very low’ crawl

Although keen to return to Sahiong Simon had other fish to fry and most people were working either in Krem Khung or on remaining leads in Krem Kseh so I had a day off in camp with Mark and Angie. Boredom rapidly ensued so Mark and I went for a stroll. A small stream crossed the lower end of the camp site then meandered down a small sandstone gorge before pitching over a 20 metre cliff. After some unpleasant thrashing in the bushes we located a scramble down to the base of the massively bedded golden sandstone cliffs. We worked our way along the base twixt bamboo clumps and bananas to reach the base of the cascade where enormous roots spread out into a rather uninviting pool. Mark returned and I explored further crossing the stream bed onto a very obvious path that led downhill through abandoned fields to a track and another dry valley. At this point the sound of crackling and the smell of smoke prompted me to make my way back as the locals seemed to have decided to do some scrub clearance in the area.

The next day began overcast. We planned to knock off the Sahiongs so a team consisting of Simon, Cookie, Angie, Thomas and me set off for Moo Knor. Thomas and Cookie were to survey Sahiong 2 and we were to work on S1. We were soon surveying down a stooping height passage with a gravel floor when Angie started to grumble about the smell. Around the next bend were piles of rotting fish, abandoned when the cave drained after the last wet spell. We hurried past them and got very excited when we reached a junction with an echo. The passage enlarged to about 1.5 metres wide but never more than 2 metres high although its shape varied considerably. Very joint controlled it allowed us to get several survey legs of over 30 metres. Occasional oxbows provided light relief although we had to ignore some inlets. Suddenly Angie’s voice really started to echo and we popped up under a strange shale band into a large trench like tunnel ending in a void. This turned out to be a 10 metre drop into a 25 metre long 7 metre wide terminal sump or lake full of white fish – The Lake of Terminal Gloom. A slippery side passage allowed me down to lake level and, to be honest, I almost shot into the lake which looked deep. A sweaty thrutch back out to a supportive Simon followed.

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Simon Brooks keeping the book, Krem Sahiong
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Typical canyon passage, Krem Sahiong
Back at the T junction Angie and Simon surveyed a short distance upstream before we realised time was against us. We made our way out well pleased with the day’s effort (something like 700 metres of passage surveyed) but knowing that we still hadn’t finished. It was now late afternoon and on emerging we found a grey twilight and a steady downpour. Trudging up to the truck rendezvous we met Thomas and Cookie who had managed to complete a survey of Sahiong 2. We stood dripping noticing an absence of truck very quickly. Deciding that starting to walk was preferable to standing like Clidders* preparing for dissolution we set off up the hill. Angie was limping badly on her bad foot and after a while her other foot developed a blister. The gloom intensified and every so often locals would splash past us in bare feet. The haul up through the village was interminable and we hoped to meet the truck at the top – no such luck. Strung out along the track we plodded through mist and rain completely disorientated with Angie going more and more slowly. At last I recognised the turn off for camp and we staggered down the track into camp. Apparently the truck driver had decided the rain would render the track impassable and hadn’t even attempted it! Large quantities of beer and food helped revive us and we crawled off for an early night.

The next morning Simon Adi and Cookie decided to ‘finish off’ Sahiong 1 (again) much to Angie’s frustration as she was pretty crippled after the previous day’s adventures. I was invited to join Mark Tringham and Urs (one of the Swiss members of the team) to look for a Krem Rasin. This turned out to be a country ramble on the opposite side of the ridge to our camp. The ground had dried well from the previous days rain and after walking past a farm and banana plantation we sauntered downhill through some pleasant pine forest to emerge among fields above a deep valley. I was despatched to the nearest house to get directions. This consisted of me saying ‘Kubhlei’ (the all purpose greeting/thank you word) then saying ‘Krem Rasin’ in an interrogatory tone and waving my arm vaguely. The farmer, continuing to strip bamboo with one hand, responded similarly by waving his free hand vaguely in the direction of the valley so off we went through the scrub, meandering downhill through trees and cycads following the barest hint of a path. Mark became increasingly despondent as we lost altitude and declared we were moving out of the limestone (if there was any in this area to start with).

We emerged onto paddy fields crossed by a large stream meandering across the valley floor. The odd cow mooched about. To our left some 30 metre high richly coloured sandstone cliffs came into view and in them were a couple of cave entrances. It looked like we might have found Krem Rasin. We continued downstream just for completeness until it was deemed that we were well below the limestone horizon and sat in the shade on the river bank for lunch. The river babbled past over moss and fern covered boulders. It was a really pleasant spot and very unlike others I had visited in Meghlaya.

After lunch we took a more direct route back to camp, inspecting the two caves on the way. Both were fissure rifts but clearly one was big enough to have a name so we are assuming that was Krem Rasin.

Back at camp the Sahiong team had tied up some loose ends but it was, apparently, still going! The evening’s entertainment was provided by Mark and Nick Tringham using the camp fire as a funeral pyre for their trusty old family tent, aided and abetted by Peter Ludwig.

The expedition was drawing to a close but Sahiong still beckoned. Angie, Brian and I launched the final assault and after taking some time to find the final survey station from the previous day’s efforts started work. The passage, which seemed to be an upstream continuation of the system, rapidly degenerated into a series of low muddy wallows until eventually we decided that it sumped (or if it didn’t none of us were going to face completed immersion to find out). There was certainly no draught. Sahiong had been finished off and, for what originally seemed like a cave needing only one survey trip, turned out to have 1.8 Km of passage—one of the longest new caves surveyed on the trip.

Some tidying up of the Kung survey was done by the team the following day whilst some us started cleaning kit and preparing to pack. Mark and Nick had an open air SRT session on the sandstone cliff below the camp where one could follow the line of a waterfall whilst dodging the massive tree roots at the base of the climb.

The next day after packing the kit the team started the long journey back to Shillong. This was enlivened by our encountering a number of election rallies en route before finally pulling into Brian’s compound well after dark. Shortly after this we realized that if we didn’t get out of town the next day we would be stuck there until after the election so the usual post expedition party never really took place and there was a mass dispersal the next morning .

For those of you who would like to go on one of these trips the dates for next year have already been set—basically
February 2014 when a different area will be visited.

Finally if you want to know more about caving in Meghalaya (and the Kopili area specifically) then get hold of a copy of Cave Pearls of Meghalaya Volume 1 —it has already won a prestigious award and is well worth the price.

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Brian K. Daly in upstream Sahiong 1

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SRT practice

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Krem Rasin


*Clidders were gelatinous creatures that were lost in the Flood.

Of Mice, Scallops, Stags and Cavers – The Mendip Migration 2013

By Stu Lindsay

This year’s migration was a busy affair with no less than 33 people (over 150 bed nights) making an appearance for a few days or more with at least half a dozen regular faces for various reasons failing to show. Lucky them! It had to come; a run of bad weather well bad to the point that it was not blue skies and sunshine until all had gone home except for Duncan and Stu. (The last day is always traditionally the best – Ed)

As always one of the main attractions was Campbell’s. This giant of a dig, up valley from Claonaite, had seen another wet damaging winter with large chunks of the peat overlying the lip being washed into the hole. For most of his time Stu L along with help from various members of the migration endeavoured to build up the final section at the top of the entrance slope retaining wall and pave the area of the stream bed immediately above it.

Meanwhile below ground some of last year’s efforts had been buried and another route appeared to have been partially washed out; this would be the focus of the 2013 effort. However as mentioned the elements were against us, with snow wind rain and cold all randomly available at any time of the day. To say conditions were unpleasant was an understatement until that is Jo Meldner, on her first migration, and Liz Wire stepped in and engineered Ye Hotel Comfy Depression in the larger (2 -3m wide) of the 2 storage depressions, with seats a shelf and even a mini roof! A pole driven into the floor soon found a space below the peat and the water puddling in the bottom drained away. We now had some respite to nibble our sarnies and drink our tea from the oft evil wind blown snow! Note that in the past five migrations 3 have been tee shirt and shorts weather, one has been 4/5 days from 12 when the weather was damp with the odd snow flurry but this year it certainly bucked the trend . Although 27 people and Digger the dog helped out at the dig the kibble count was down. The previous year saw 286 kibbles retrieved in about 5 hours but in the whole of the 2013 migration we only just came close to doubling it. Water on day one was measured at just over 20 litres a minute, (or 1.5 tonnes an hour!) running into the dig from the stream; there were days when it was double that, so no wonder progress was slow. It was cold wet muddy digging below and freezing cold on the surface. Progress was maybe a few metres.

The hole in the wall, just up from the stream which has received periodic attention from Mark Brown and Stu L over the past years was again not forgotten and on the final day all debris generated by a couple of visits in the week, (Jo M Barry and Stu L) was cleared into the stream to be slowly washed away. At the same time Stu spent the time clearing out a spring that had seemingly reversed itself in the old raised river bed. Simon Brooks declined the opportunity to investigate the metre by metre by over a metre and a half long passage because “The roof is only a few feet thick, and the grassed over boulders we are standing on are most of it”. Upon retelling the tale back at the Belfry (Stu’s ‘rivers of blood speech’, someone called it) about the digging exploits, procurement of the venison and other events I suggested in reverence to the departed and partly consumed stag (see text later) I ought to call it Oh Deer but it was promptly stated that I should have called it Venison Stu…… be it.

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View from the south of Campbell’s dig

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The walled stream bed
Normally Assynt has a pattern; people arrive and go digging, walking or caving, then the pub then there is a day off. It’s usually the curry evening on the Thursday night. Digging and walking forays usually end up at the Inch or the Alt for a couple of pints or a meal before returning to the hut where those that have fed start to drink and those that need to be fed cook. Around 22.30 most people are drinking chatting swapping yarns and joking around the little wood stove till the wee small hours. But often there is a diversion……enter the scallop shell, a bit of science and a cremation……

The little wood burner generates quite a concentrated heat; about a tenth of the Belfry stove on a bad day but it needs feeding regularly. Duncan wondered if a scallop shell would burn and as there’s plenty of these lying around he deftly placed one amongst the glowing embers. However, far from actually burning it changed colour and almost glowed. It was readily removed with the help of barbeque tongs for a closer inspection, and was now a pure white shell devoid of markings. Now earlier in the day a routine check of the mouse traps in the attic resulted in a mummified mouse being extricated and binned. One and one makes – you’ve guessed it! Somehow the poor thing was retrieved from the bin. “How sad,” said Duncan “A poor mouse binned. Let’s give him a decent funeral – a cremation.” So the fire was re-fuelled and another bed of embers sat there patiently glowing. The mouse, on its cremation vessel, was duly inserted, and a few more bottles of ale were consumed as the mouse gradually glowed to extinction and the shell was removed.

Some time later Stu happened to mention to Duncan that years ago they used to cook limestone boulders for 24 hours then immerse them in cold water and next day they had mortar or a form of quicklime. Back into the dying embers went the shell; again it glowed and was then removed to be immersed in a randomly selected cereal bowl of cold water. “Sssssssssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzz bubble bubble!” – and although the shell reappeared from the departing steam almost intact, the process had started and the now cold shell in cold water started to crumble aided by the odd poke of a finger At the same time the dish began to warm, (chemical reaction). It got warmer and warmer and warmer. “Blimey!” said Duncan, “We have created Plaster of Paris with essence of mouse!” Next day it was quite impressive. Anyone with a broken bone needing a splint?

May Day was truly a “Mayday! Mayday!” moment. Everybody was driving back from the Inch when a young suicidal stag decided to end it all by hurling itself across the road impacting the front of Stu’s van and staggering 20m to its final resting place – well almost final. With Liz having appeared looking for Matt as he was late all successfully made it back to the hut including Rambo, the one horned stag. Enter the butcher Mr Knief and with his willing apprentices Rambo was duly carved up with a couple of kitchen knives and a wood saw. “Beware yellow snow?” No, “Beware pink snow!” The GSG car park is on a slope and the tell tale signs of the impromptu carnage had dribbled down the lane and like invisible ink reappeared through the dustings of snow over the next few days. Fried venison, stewed venison, grilled venison (we would have had venison burgers if we had a mincer) was the primary source of protein for the rest of the week.

It is with many thanks Stu has to be grateful to Barry Lawton and to Bob Mehew. Bob for going into Inverness to collect spare parts and Barry for expertly fitting them. Duncan and I finally made it back to Mendip, thanks to a few bits of string and a roll of parcel tape (yep that’s the truth parcel tape) and string holding the front together in the absence of bodywork to attach the bonnet and light to.

On inspection the van was written off twice before the power of the community of the caving world and TLC took a hand. Who would have thought that (and most people know what a Tardis Stu’s van can be) a simple comment like “What am I going to do with all my caving kit?” would provoke an almost complete turnaround? “Oh, you’re a caver? I have a friend who is a caver – dives all over the world, usually has a pony tail, his name is Simon.” The TLC is a certain practice I employ with all my vehicles which is to never use tap water in the cooling system. Simon was Simon Brooks present at the feasting on poor old Rambo!

Two final well attended sessions took place at Campbell’s the second, on probably the best day weather-wise was a hectic digging session followed by the lowering of the tower. The weather this year was certainly the over riding influence, snow on 3 or 4 days with flurries on others, and nothing like the warm weather experienced over the past few years, but that is what makes it so much better in the majority of years when the sun shines the wind blows warm and the eagles feel free to soar. With the tower down, most went their separate ways, save Duncan and Stu for whom a fun day was still in store. Below two photographs of Barry Lawton in the dig

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The last day was spent with Duncan diving in the loch at Knockan. During the course of it a concerned visitor, Sue from Scottish Heritage appeared. However, after explaining who we were and what we were doing she relaxed as she was aux fait with the GSG and indeed had been to the GNTM. Sue was very to thankful to Duncan for not only removing a load of old and illegal fishing tackle but also his info on the shape of the loch edge; a series of steps and transit van sized boulders. There were small green or white sponges and finger sized sharp pointed green plants which grow on the 6inch layer of peat. No fish were seen. “Feel free to dive again and try to put a report into the GSG publications of your findings,” Sue said as she departed.

After dinner and with the sun blazing down a trip up from Stromcubie (sic) was made to follow up a lead found a couple days before. Duncan and Stu in tee shirts and shorts spent a few hours in the warm sun kissed hummocks of peat without successfully re finding the hole. They split up and Duncan found a bit of an anomaly in the upper river bed which he commenced to exploit. Stu found a number of active little sinks taking water before in a depression he found one with 2 streams entering. After building a couple of dams, easy with the peat, he built up a head of water whilst he cleared out the entrance way, With no tools it was limited but water did seem to go down a bit. Breaking the dams a surge of water entered, and after, the flood pulse gurgled away for a count of 15 seconds before it was quiet again.

After he joined Duncan the next hour was spent enlarging holes and peering into voids. The water flowing down the surface stream was less than the water appearing at the first point Duncan explored. After our efforts and some upstream efforts by Duncan, the water on the surface was reduced by half, however clearing out a number of small apparently unrelated resurgences in a radius of 3m or so trebled the water flowing onwards downstream to a water fall. There are some small cave passages there, and some intertwining springs, but what we achieved was more for the fun aspect in doing it than true research. All the way down to the water fall water appeared and disappeared, and high on the bank some 15m/20m higher and 20m or so from the edge three body size sinks were noted. At 8pm in glorious sunshine we called it a day and, a big mistake, went to the hut had food changed and went back to the Inch. It was closed – at 930pm it was closed! So we went to the Alt and spent a cheerful hour with some of the locals. The Mendip Migration may be a long way but it is really good fun with good beer good food great walks interesting caving and of course digging – if you like it.

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Foul Weather

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The author breakfasting

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Trevor the butcher

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Cul Mhor viewed from the GSG hut

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Barry Lawton by 3 G’s dig in high water conditions

Tale Piece

The Tale Piece is for anecdotes, people profiles, or any other interesting item that you like and, of course – tales. Ideas and suggestions are always welcome.


Bill Combley’s Bio

Groucho Marx once said “I would never join a club that would have me as a member!”, and for many years this held true for me.

I have been exploring mines, quarries and latterly caves since the age of about 10 when my father took myself and one of my older brothers on a walking holiday in North Wales and the Lake District, where we explored Rhosydd Quarry and some of T’owd Man’s levels around Coniston by candle light. I was hooked! Every holiday I begged to go back to Wales and explore more and, to that end, over the intervening 30 odd years I have managed to do so.

I had a break from exploring during the 1990s to the mid 2000s as I moved to the very south of England, got married and raised a family, but then a chance e-mail from one of my brothers (who lives in Australia) led me into the murky world of urban exploration which led to me joining the Dark Places forum in 2004 and to exploring Box Quarry and other Bathstone Quarries. Whilst living in the south, my nephew asked me if I had a boiler suit he could borrow as he was off caving with a friend of his. I lent him my spare “decorating” boiler suit and off he went. A few months later I was invited by the same nephew to come on a day trip to Mendip to go caving. We had a poke in Rod’s Pot and some of the other Burrington caves.

That was it. I was hooked again and I started spending more and more of my free weekends on Mendip, getting to know the caves and more importantly some of the local characters. I first started to stay at the Wessex, and most weekends I’d drop into Wells and spend money on shiny kit in Jrat’s shop (I’d always ask Tony if he would like me to leave the money in his pot at the Hunters, but he wanted it in the till). I think it was Slug who suggested I stay at the Belfry rather than the Wessex; well that happened and I enjoyed my visits. In 2008 I moved into the heart of Priddy and joined the B.E.C. At first I was a bit “off the wall” to say the least (!) and underwent a period of extra probation – lesson learned there. Here we are in 2013 and I’m now part of the club committee with the post of Tackle Warden.

My “grand plan” for the coming year is to maintain the club equipment that the previous Tackle Wardens have left me, I shall investigate the age and suitability of the club’s tackle and replace if it is deemed necessary. Please continue to use the tackle log to record where you’re taking the kit, and, don’t forget to wash it after use before returning it to the store!

Toodle pip, see you all at the Belfry, in a cave, or in the Hunters!

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Who can name this famous Mendip caver?


Back cover image: Locke’s Hole by Peter Glanvill

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