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In view of the fact that this B.B. is again rather late, in fact it is unlikely to be read by members until after the month of May is out – it is rather poor taste that we mention that this B.B. marks a milestone for the Editor (or do I mean millstone?). Anyway, it seemed a good excuse for the oversize B.B. – the occasion being that the present Hon. Ed. has produced as many B.B.’s as all the previous holders of this horrible club office put together.

 (Shouts of “Resign!  Chuck him out!” &c.)

However poor the excuse, the B.B. this month IS larger and what is more contains practically nothing but CAVING in one form or another.  Two articles on a cave discovery, an article on a caving trip, caving notes and a letter on a cave rescue.

The remaining long article is also about an aspect of caving which (quite deliberately) rarely gets into the pages of the B.B. – Spelaeopolitics.

Nevertheless, it is probably good for us to think about the sort of plans which the bureaucrats are thinking up for our sport and the article brings you up to date on one aspect of this and also suggests what we might well do about it.  A certain amount of correspondence on this subject might not be a bad idea – providing we don’t devote too much space to it!

 “Alfie”

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Don’t forget the Date of the A.G.M. and Dinner – it is always the FIRST Saturday in OCTOBER. While you’re at it, how about putting in an entry for the Photessay composition?

The first of our accounts of the new discoveries in Dan-Yr-Ogof is reproduced from the C.R.G. Newsletter by kind permission of the author, Bill Little: -

Dan-Yr-Ogof: Notes on the New Extensions

As readers will be aware from press reports, some major passages were discovered on Tuesday and Wednesday, 12th and 13th of April.  Some members of S.W.C.C. had completed a scaling operation up Dripping Aven without revealing anything ‘new’.  Afterwards, Eileen Davies was anxious to make another attempt to squeeze through the endless crawl with other thin members willing to follow her.  After negotiating a number of very awkward narrow bends, we had found a calcite floor the next barrier to progress.  The difficulty was as much due to the associated bending as to the lack of height.  Some of the calcite floor was chipped away, and beyond we found room to turn round. Although this passage is exhausting, the worst psychological barrier had now disappeared.

A thirty foot ladder was rigged down a muddy chimney which opened out dramatically.  It was already late, and the formidable third lake was well above the average level.  About half the party followed Eileen, whilst the others were either prevented by their size or were put off by the crawl – now renamed the Long Crawl.  A support party was called in to assist the initial explorers.

The first passage into which the ladder dropped (Gerard Platten Hall) has a mud and boulder floor. A small stream flows along the centre from some mud-choked passages on the right.  Following down this stream, the passage is wide and higher, comparable with Davy Price Hall in Tunnel cave.  A side passage and two potholes on the left were descended some hundred feet to a lake, where the clear water of the little stream joined a murky, deep lake. The mud banks suggested that this was the main river, still much nearer to Llynfell (the Dan-Yr-Ogof resurgence) than the Giedd (its main course).

Along G.P. Hall, a clean swept floor of bedrock led to a three foot deep crystal-encircled pool which occupied the full width of a junction.  Ahead, ‘Flabbergasm Chasm’ is a lofty arched passage with a sand floor and some seven or eight foot straws (macaroni).  It ends in a sudden drop to the other passage.  This is the Grand Canyon and, after becoming loftier, meanders in broad sweeps.  The black, ripple-marked walls are pasted with gypsum crystals. There are some patches of well developed eccentrics; long straw; columns and a few knobbly stalactites.

A decline in height causes stooping before one climbs ten feet up into a large chamber.  Large passages lead in two directions before hills of mud meet their roofs.  To the right the noise of rushing water led us to a little stream cascading in a clean washed gully.  Climbing this revealed the water falling from a boulder choke about a hundred feet above the bottom.

Between the last chamber and this waterfall, a climb amongst large rocks revealed another chamber and the Green Canal.  This – when first seen – was quite clear with the sides encrusted with crystals below water level.  There was negligible outflow.  Swimming a short way along this five or six foot wide tunnel suggested the desirability of the use of a dinghy.  There were no handholds or footholds for a heavily booted caver to rest upon.

It was now morning and we retired.

Another party came in later on Wednesday and boated through the Green canal while the writer attended to his business.  Outside there was a heavy snowfall and blizzard, but larger and longer passages were reported to have been found.  The was some three quarters of a mile, I reckon, between the Long Crawl and the Green Canal, so that suggests at least one and a half miles of ‘new’ passages traversed.

Exploration stopped at the top of a reputedly sixty foot pitch for want of another ladder. Hereabouts were reported huge sandbanks of peaty sand with green sprouting grass seeds suggesting recent flooding on a larger scale than in the previous known parts.  At the weekend, the level of the Third Lake was up higher and the thawing of the late snow, together with the saturated bogs seemed to point clearly to the likelihood of any party going in on the Saturday being cut off.  We did not venture though the few inches of air space, and waited for most of the Sunday before the level dropped one inch.  A small party swam through the chilly melt water in Lake Passage.  For a few hours the squeeze resounded with grunts and hammer blows as the remaining calcite floor was ripped up and stowed away in corners.  Much remains to be done to ease the other bends.  A brief visit was made to G.P. Hall and the Pothole Passage to collect fauna, now sent to the Biological Recorder.

It is the wish of the original explorers of those new parts, that the formations are photographed before being damaged, and also that the work of blasting out obstacles in the Long Crawl, together with the placing of Preservation Tapes and Survival Rations, goes ahead without disturbance at every safe opportunity.  Because this cave now represents a unique site in the country to study the invisible as well as the obvious biological phenomena, in both ‘clear’ cave waters as well as in the separate river system in the lower levels, every effort will be made to sample all the indigenous populations from bacteria upwards before any appreciable contamination is carried in by human agencies.  It is therefore desirable that as few as possible should enter during this period.

We hope to have the patient co-operation of all cavers whilst a few selected experts finish and scrape samples into sterile containers.  As we have waited at the end of the show cave for the swirling waters to recede, nature has seemed to cling to her mysteries as tenaciously as ever.

W.H. Little.

We follow Bill Little’s “official” account with a rather more personal and B.E.C. orientated article on the same discovery…

Gerard Platten Hall

…by Alan Coase and Colin Graham.

Eighteen months ago, intensive work was begun in Dan-Yr-Ogof and this includes work in a passage called Long Crawl, at the furthest reaches of the cave.

A few weeks ago, late on a Sunday, Alan Coase and Eileen Davies reached a squeeze, but lack of time made them turn back.  Flooding prevented any more work until Tuesday, 12th April when Eileen Davies and Bruce Foster, followed by Colin Graham, Neil Anderson and Alan Coase passed the squeeze and the following chimney and twenty foot pitch into the new extension, called Gerard Platten Hall, in recognition of his work in the cave before the war, and assistance given to Alan Coase and others in recent years.

The series is very large by any standard and must rank amongst the major finds of recent years. Exploration is still in the initial stages.  Time, high water, and a sixty foot pitch have so far prevented any deep penetration, but the remarkable thing about the passages is that they are becoming larger the further one penetrates.  It is interesting to note that in the first part of the new extension, there is a great abundance of formation, the greater part being straws with most well over seven feet in length.  There is also a quantity of excellent mud formations and crystal pools in this section, but perhaps the most interesting feature are the banks of helictites.

Once a deep and clear canal is crossed (by dinghy) a stream passage is reached.  This obviously floods on occasion and there is evidence of peat mud.  Formation here is rare and although the passage is over seventy feet high.  There is also an aven, the height of which is impossible to assess.

A further level was reached with a large stream flowing.  This section floods considerably.  Further exploration is being curtailed while the extension crawl is being enlarged, a telephone installed and emergency rations carried in.

Caving Notes

by Dave Irwin.

Giant’s Hole – Derbyshire.  The thirty foot fixed ladder has been removed from Garland Pot. All those tackling this system need an extra 30’ ladder with about a ten foot tether.

Cuthbert’s Report.  The first two parts of the fifteen Cuthbert’s Report will be available in September from Bryan Ellis.  This will be as follows.  Part ‘G’ Cerberus and Maypole Series and Part ‘O’ Miscellaneous Details including Access Details, Leaders List, Tackle Details, Rescue Procedures, etc.

Nife Cell Spares.  Most parts are available to special order.  (see Dave Irwin for price list).

Fauna in St. Cuthbert’s.  In addition to the list in the C.R.G. Biological Supplements, the following have been found in the cave. RIVULOGAMMARUS PULEX, SIMILIUM ssp. Larvae, DIXA spp. Larvae, LUMBRICIDAE spp.

ACCESS TO AGEN ALLWEDD.  A circular from Bill Maxwell (C.S.S.) states that indemnity chits are no longer required.  Formalities must, however, be completed at least two weeks before a proposed visit. A printed list of names and addresses of all in the party should be sent to Bill, together with £1 deposit for the entrance key.  Also indicate (a) name of club, (b) leader of underground party and (c) date of proposed trip.  The key will be sent to the leader approximately one week before the trip and should be returned as soon as possible to W. Maxwell, 12 Heybridge Drive, Barkingside, Ilford, Essex.  Send two S.A.E.’s when applying for permission.  The permits do not give permission to dig, camp, bang or use water tracers etc.  All the forgoing require special permission.

Dan-Yr-Ogof.  A club trip will likewise be organised to the new extensions to this cave as soon as practicable.

Pembrokeshire.  R. (Kangy) King is organising a club meet to this area if sufficient support is given. Several potholes were bottomed last year.  All interested should contact Kangy at 22 Parkfield Rank, Pucklechurch, Nr. Bristol.

Agen Allwedd

by Geoff Bull.

Not until I looked at the survey a few days before, did I realise what I had let myself in for.  By then, of course, it was too late.  A wavering line stretched across the page representing a mile and a half of Southern Stream Passage.

The directions to get to this passage could not be simpler.  “From the first boulder choke – reached by taking every left turn for a thousand feet or so – walk down Main Stream Passage for about two thousand feet, pass Main and East Passages and turn right into another large passage.  From there, either drop down through a hole in the floor or continue along the passage and then drop (literally!) through a narrow tube and climb down a rift into Southern Stream Passage.”

I found, at the cost of some effort in the tube that, although there may well be two entrances to Southern Stream Passage, only one exists.  In coming out, simply keep on to the end of the passage among the boulders.

The way down Southern Stream Passage involves crawling, stooping, wallowing in the stream under low roofs, scrambling over and around boulders and – just occasionally – walking upright.  The endless passage might be monotonous if you had time to think about it. After nearly a mile, however, there is a short stretch of “wide” passage and a pothole with a fine piece of symmetrical coloured fluting in the wall.  Then it’s back to the old slog again.

At the end of Southern Stream Passage is the huge Stream Passage, leading to the Terminal Sump from Biza Passage and the Fourth Boulder Choke.  Some people had the energy to look at this, but for the writer it was – with apologies to Alan Thomas – a case of Aggy Aggy 5; G. Bull, nil.

Nylon Rope

When to discard?

The Spring 1965 issue of “Mountaineering” – the Journal of the British Mountaineering Council (Club Library) has an article “Your Rope” which includes detailed notes on the inspection of used climbing (or caving) ropes.  This will be reprinted as a B.M.C. circular for ease of reference.

What type of rope?

The British Standards Institution have published a British Specification for Nylon Climbing Ropes.  This is B.S. 3104, 1959.  It gives the highest possible energy absorption in order to protect against the risk of rope failure on falling.  The recommended rope is a number 4 or “Extra Full weight”.  Viking ropes are made to B.S. 3104.  There are of course other nylon ropes available, but it is possible that these may not match up to B.S. 3104 performance which was arrived at with some trouble.  For example, the War Department purchased a number of ropes on open tender which turned out to be very bad in practice – some becoming so stiff as to be unmanageable and others coming unlaid.

R.S. King.

Towards a National Council ?

by Dave Irwin.

Having recently discussed the subject of a National Council of Caving Clubs with several people, I found that most seem evenly divided over this matter and on the face of it, only a few have really given the matter any thought at all.

So far, little or no mention has been made in the B.B. regarding either the proposed National Council or the Council of Southern Caving Clubs (C.S.C.C.).  What follows is a general outline of the points of disagreement and some thoughts of my own that do not reflect the official policy of the B.E.C.

In 1963 many of the northern clubs banded together to form the Council of Northern Caving Clubs. This was because several of the major caving areas in the dales were closed to cavers.  In order to re-open these areas, landowners would only listen to a single body comprising the local clubs who could then speak with one voice. Eventually, Casterton and Leck Fell was re-opened due to work if the C.N.C.C. for certain times of the year. Much of this heath land is used by the owners for breeding and shooting grouse, and cavers now have access to the area during the winter months.  Permission to enter the systems is given by the C.N.C.C.  It should be said that at this point that information given to the writer by a northern caver had led him to believe that cavers in the north seem to think it is their right to be able to enter caves without due regard to the local landowners or farmers.  Before the control of caving areas by the C.N.C.C., caver/farmer relations were at a low ebb.  Because of these problems, a point if view was developed that a National Council of caving Clubs would be a responsible body to deal with cavers’ problems and which the farmers and landowners could contact and meet with to solve troubles as and when they arose.  It was also argued that a National Council; would also solve problems in the field of public relations.

Leading cavers of the southern clubs were in general opposed to the formation of a National Council, but were driven into action by a letter circulated to all major caving clubs by the C.N.C.C. which suggested that if clubs which were not members of the C.N.C.C. were not interested in the formation of a National Council then they – the C.N.C.C. – would take the matter into their own hands and proceed with the formation of a National Council by themselves.  It was also suggested that this body would be eventually affiliated to the National Council for Physical Recreation.  As a result, the C.S.C.C. was formed to look after the interests of southern clubs as it was felt that, if the northern clubs went ahead with the formation of a national body, then the southern clubs would not have a say in matters affecting their own areas.

At the same time, as the C.N.C.C. letter was circulated, the club representing the Midlands – the Cave and Crag Club – proposed the formation of a British Caving Council.  The S.W.C.C., taking an independent line, in my opinion stated the root of the matter and said, “…we feel also that the independence of caving clubs must be maintained with the minimum of outside interference, and that club affairs should be governed solely by the individual club members through their committee.”

The C.S.C.C. comprises most of the major caving clubs in southern England and its basic policy is to ‘Live and let live’ In other words, to take no action where individual clubs can or would prefer to try to solve the problems which occasionally face them.  Also, in the event of a N.C.C.C. being formed, it could then voice the opinion of southern caving clubs.

As a result of all this activity, the C.N.C.C. backed down and said they would not pursue the matter of the formation of a national council unless they had full agreement of the C.S.C.C.  The question is now – do we want a National Council of Caving Clubs?  If not, then do we still want the C.S.C.C. now the threat of having one formed whether we like it or not has receded?  Or has it?

Perhaps the most difficulty part of this matter is to produce an argument of substance against a national council.  Should this be formed, and then followed up with affiliation to the C.N.P.R. it might mean that we poor cavers would be able to obtain grants from the state to build luxurious caving huts.  Under the title of “Pothole Politics”, Ray Kershaw states “….there IS going to be a National Association.”  He goes on to postulate that such a body will probably evolve rather than suddenly be formed and suggest that the first step in this process would be the combining of rescue organisations.  He continues to state that he thinks the B.S.A. is the ideal body to be the National Council.

After this length preamble on the “state of the art” the writer would like to set down his views for further discussion through the medium of the B.B.  Why such a council as proposed is unnecessary and what he would prefer to see develop.

Most cavers tend to cave in the main nearest their homes (water or gas main? – Ed.) occasionally visiting other areas when time allows.  Hence they become parochial in outlook.  When visiting other areas they generally visit the more well known caves in the area.  Cavers from the north, for instance, will, when visiting Mendip, have Swildons in the forefront of their mind.  They will not be particularly interested in the little dig around the corner from the caving hut at which they happen to be staying.  Their interests in this direction lie in their own hunting grounds which they know well.

Clubs too have their individual characteristics, reflecting the interests of their members. Affiliation to a political council would tend to make for a uniformity and to mould individuals into ‘army thinking’. The formation of a National Council would eventually take away the control of access to caves now managed by local clubs.  This trend would inevitably bring open caves under their control.  On Mendip Cuthbert’s G.B., Pinetree Pot, Lamb Leer etc. would all become National Council controlled caves and would be joined by the open caves of Swildons, Eastwater etc.  When discussing problems of cave preservation, access, etc who knows best how to deal with all forms of local interest?  The local clubs every time – not a National Council Secretary of a committee meeting held, perhaps, a hundred miles away.  Local difficulties can always be solved by maintaining good relations with local people.

References are always being made about the ‘Cave Cowboy’ or ‘Yobbo’ problem.  It is felt in some quarters that, by using the power of a National Council to gate caves, the troublesome element would be greatly reduced, if not completely eliminated.  The mechanism would be to force prospective cavers towards the established clubs, or, where they formed a new one, to refuse access to the caves to this club until some laid down standard had been achieved.  This would have the effect of virtually forcing new clubs to join older clubs.  Admittedly, there is a danger amongst the clubs which have lately been springing up all over the country who are found caving with inadequate experience, clothes or tackle or who run into difficulties through taking novices on arduous trips (Longwood 1962).  This problem could just as easily be tackled through the local clubs by methods suggested later in this article.

It has been suggested that a National Council would form a group to deal with public relations to put the cavers’ point of view at a national level.  In my opinion, this would achieve very little.  The best way to put our sport over to the public is by word of mouth and by helping to reduce the number of preventable accidents and hence the press’s chances to scream.  The British public are essentially ‘sporty’ but this only applies to sports that they can watch.  Thus more films of caving activities – made by the clubs – could easily fill the gap.

Rescue organisations are, according to the Ray Kershaw article already referred to, being organised into a National Body.  From what I have heard, no one on Mendip knows about this, if it is true.  Could this be the thin edge of a wedge?

M.R.O. is a bo0dy unto itself and makes its own decisions to suit its local problems.  The local clubs contribute financially when necessary for equipment etc.  Personally. I feel that cavers should not look to public funds to finance our rescues. An occasional meeting between C.R.O.’s would pay dividends, but this should not be mandatory.

To sum up.  What then is needed?  Some will still say “A National Council”.  Others will, no doubt say “Follow a laisser faire policy”  I personally am against a ‘political’ form of national council.  The free sport as we know it will become organised to an extent that will discourage many.

I’d like instead to suggest a centre which could act as a clearing house for all caving information. This body could act in an advisory capacity, information centre, library, museum etc  –  in other words, a much expanded C.R.G.    At the moment this body is undergoing a ‘face lift’ perhaps going some way towards this goal instead of their nebulous backroom body it has seemed to the average caver – that is, if he has even heard of it.  This type of system works very well in another hobby of mine – philately. The Royal Philatelic Society of London acts in a similar manner to the council I propose, and is open for individuals to join but not clubs.

The threat of the N.C.C.C. is still a real one.  Murmurs are heard even on Mendip.  Do we want a political body that would take away the responsibilities of individual clubs and fill our lives with form filling, or do we want to encourage a body already in existence to provide a service of lasting and genuine interest amongst the caving population?  The choice is yours.

Dave Irwin.

Letter

Unfortunately, the letter which follows arrived just too late for inclusion in the last B.B.  We understand that, after John’s successful recovery, he sportingly put on a barrel at the Hunters for his rescuers.

Bryher,
Bodgworth,
Nr. Axbridge,
Somerset.

To the Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

Dear Sir,

I shall be most grateful if you would permit me to make use of your excellent journal for the purpose of thanking those members who took part in the rescue last month when I fell in Cuthbert’s

The speed and efficiency of the party was really first class and they performed what could be genuinely be described as a ‘painless extraction’ of victim from cave!

I hope to be about on Mendip again when I shall have the opportunity to thank personally those concerned.

John Stafford.

List of Addresses.

Those of you like to keep your last list of members’ addresses up to date like to add those of some recent new members as follows…

G.S. Watt

B. Crewe

A.J. Whiteman

Miss G. Staplehorn

A.J. Handy

P. Bridges

D.L. Rebori

J.R. Henderson

A.H. Reed

59 Southbrow House, Duckmoor Rd, Ashton, Bristol.

16 Pine Wood Rd, Midsomer Norton, Somerset.

1 Golden Rd., Clifton, Bristol 8.

83 Throgmorton Rd., Knowle, Bristol 4.

2 Coleshill Drive, Hartcliffe, Bristol.

51 Rockhill, Wellsway, Keynsham, Somerset.

11 Kellaway Ave., Westbury Park, Bristol.

8 Oldfield Place, Hotwells, Bristol 8.

156 British Road, Bedminster, Bristol 3.

And the following members’ changes of address….

Mr & Mrs J. Major

Capt. R.F. Kitchen

P.H. Blogg

8511 L/Cpl G. Dell

Saint Cross, Greendown, Litton, Bath, Somerset.

25 Furse Hill Rd., Tidworth, Hants.

Hunters Field, Chaldon Common Road, Chaldon, Surrey.

9 Platoon, 3 Bad, B.F.P.O.40.

Explanation

This has been added since printing to explain to members just what IS going on.  We have had some extremely bad luck with the duplicator which, apart from all the other troubles it has been suffering from of late; has just acquired another quirk..  It apparently will print anything on any paper EXCEPT the paper we have got for the B.B. This has made this MAY B.B. extremely late – and I don’t suppose many of you will actually get it until well into June.