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Thirty years ago - the great flood.

By Dave Irwin

Seems like only yesterday that one of the most talked about occasions in the history of 20th century Mendip caving occurred.  At the time it happened I was caving in Ireland with a bunch of BEC, SMCC and WCC members.  The weather had been perfect and several wet caves had been visited or pushed, including St. Catherine's II with its thrixotropic mud filled passage.  Just before our return we met a party of UBSS who told us of the rain storm that had hit the Bristol area a couple of days previously.  Hardly had we got in the door to the flat in Bristol, with our sodden rucksacks, than Tim Reynolds and I were set upon by Roger Stenner!  'You know about the floods in the area' he commented.  Then suddenly with great excitement he uttered 'The Forty's gone!'  'Settle down Roger.  What do you mean the Forty's gone?  It can't go anywhere.' Gradually, regaining his senses, he told us the story that the Water Rift in Swildons Hole had been scoured out by the flood waters and that no-one any longer needed to ladder the pitch.  A way had opened up near the bottom.

There then followed a few days of intensive caving in the evenings and as a result the BB, published a week after the flood, contained the first detailed article, written by the writer of this note, on the changes that had occurred in the caves about central Mendip.  This was reprinted in the CRG Newsletter and British Caver shortly after.  To amass a good summary of this famous occurrence perhaps caving members who were about at this time would put down on paper their observations and perhaps Estelle could published the lot as joint article in the next BB.  Just to give a gentle nudge, Pete Rose, Nick Chipchase and Pete Glanvill were among the last to see the Forty Foot Pot in action, Dave Turner and Brian Prewer were among the first down G.B. Cave and Swildons Hole respectively - so get pens to paper - or fingers on those computer keys.

Just to whet your appetite here are a few piccies from my photo archive collection of Cheddar Gorge the day after!