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Belfry Bulletin numbers 263 to 269 were skipped when the editor found he couldn’t count, so they do not exist.

Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston s Mare, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Bristol


Visitors to the Belfry site will know that a splendid looking new Belfry now stands proudly on the site.  That we should be in a position to start occupying the new Belfry within six months of that tragic day when the blackened shell of the Belfry seemed to mark the lowest ebb of the club, is an achievement of which we can take some pride.

Before we wallow in self-congratulation, we should remember that some £200 is still owing, and that – even when this debt has been paid – the total club monies stand at the vast sum of £45.  This has got to run the club.  Our fine new building can become the headquarters of a fine club – or can become a sordid, untidy, ill-equipped modern slum.  In the past, some members have been known to say that there was nothing much left to do in the way of equipping the club.  THERE IS NOW.  There is no reason why EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of the club cannot do something – even if it is only a question of paying his or her sub NOW.  We still need every penny; every willing hand; and every source of supply that we can lay our hands on.  Why not write now to John Riley, at School Farm House, Chew Stoke, Nr Bristol, telling him when you will be free to lend a hand, or asking him what he might want that you can obtain cheaply.  Bob Bagshaw, at 699 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4, will be glad to receive your subscription for the year plus any other gift of money you can spare.

The B.B.

It will take a little longer for me to get back into the swing of producing a monthly B.B. on time, after two years of not having to worry about the job, and I hope that members will have the necessary patience.

It is hoped that it will be possible to continue publishing a B.B. of the size we have come to expect since Dave Irwin started to edit and produce the magazine, but this will depend to a very great extent on members who produce interesting articles.  During the next month or so, to help catch up with the backlog, it may be necessary to consider reprinting one or two of the best articles from B.B.’s of many years ago, but I hope that a good supply of up to date articles will be coming along.



In future, WEDNESDAY NIGHTS are WORKING NIGHTS at the new Belfry.  Don’t leave it all to the other bloke.  When you come to the official opening on May the Ninth, make sure that it is with a clear conscience.  Apply to John Riley or JUST TURN UP ANY (or better still, EVERY WEDNESDAY).

Could You Run This Club On £68?????

£68 represents ALL the money we have at present for EVERYTHING we have to have to run the club in 1970.  It includes the money we must find for fitting out the new Belfry – it includes buying fuel for next winter, paying all the bills that come in – paying for stationery, postages stamps etc, and all the other items which are necessary for the running of the club.  YOU help can make this sum more like the sum we should have by PAYING YOUR SUBS now if you have not already done so.

Belfry Opening Night and Belfry Changes

Bookings for the Grand Opening Night on May 9th are now being taken.  Sleeping at the Belfry on that night will be for MEMBERS ONLY – and paid up ones at that!  Book NOW with Pete Franklin.  Charges for the new Belfry will be 3/- per member per night and 5/- per visitor per night. These charges will be reviewed after some experience has been obtained in running the new Belfry.  Opening night fees will be 3/-.

Stop The Clock

Books of tickets can be obtained from Pete Franklin.  YOU could sell time for this competition, in which the first prize is a watch worth £25 or the equivalent in other goods from Dembo’s the Park Street Jewellers. There are consolation prizes of bottles of sherry.  Take some books to work with you and SELL for the Belfry.  All further details from Pete.

Belfry Photographs

Historic photographs of the ruins of the Belfry will shortly be ready.  There may be some extra copies, so keep a look out or you will miss your chance to obtain one.

Pyrenees 1970

Members interested in a visit to the Pyrenees on a caving holiday should contact Dave Irwin as soon as possible.

Briefly, the details are as follows: - ‘Kangy’ King is liaising with George Jouzion and other cavers in the Toulouse area to act as guides where necessary and also to obtain information for any areas that need prospecting.  Caves and potholes abound in the particular area that is on the agenda, including systems that will be of interest to both ladder and horizontal men. George has suggested, just to whet the appetite, a pothole having a 240 metre pitch, broken into two pitches of 140 and 70 metres each.  However, the main object of the expedition will be to do original work in this area.

The area is also of interest, as several show caves are within easy reach, as is the world famous Moulis laboratory.  George is willing to arrange for a small party to visit the site if anyone is interested.

Accommodation is being arranged with the local priest, and further details of cost will be circulated to interested members later.  The total cost of a fortnight’s holiday should be in the region of £30.

The dates of the expedition are from 5th to 18th of August 1970.  This is one of the best times of the year to visit the Pyrenees, and the dates have had to be fixed already to enable a cottage to be booked in the village.

The party size will have to be limited somewhat to around a dozen or so members.  All interested should contact ‘Wig’ as soon as possible. Seven people ( five of whom are definite) have already handed in their names.

The Care of NiFe Lamps

by B.E. Prewer

There are now a large number of this type of Nife cap lamps in use, and it may be of interest to those who own such lamps to know how they may be kept in good condition.

General Description.

The NC 113C Nife cap lamp is manufactured by Alkaline Batteries Limited of Redditch.  It consists of three rechargeable cells, each providing approximately 1.2 volts although immediately after charging 1.4 volts may be reached.  The battery of three cells should, when in good condition and fully charged, run a 3.75 watt bulb for 12 hours or a 1.125 watt bulb for 36 hours. These bulbs are the main and pilot bulbs respectively normally found in the headlamp.  The cell electrolyte consists of caustic potash (KOH) plus lithium hydroxide (LiOH) and its specific gravity should be 1.20.

Charging and Discharging

For cells with new electrolyte the charging rate should be 1.75 amps for 16 hours.  For normal cells, the charging rate should be 1.75 amps for 8 hours starting with the cell fully discharged.  It is interesting to note that, unlike the lead-acid battery, the specific gravity of the electrolyte remains constant throughout the charge and discharge of cycle.  The only variation that may be observed is in the voltage that appears across the cell terminals.  This rises on charging to a maximum of approximately 1.4 volts per cell.

When fully charged, a cell is full with ‘gas’, and therefore it is important that the cell filler caps release the pressure that may build up.  The normal caps have built in release valves to allow for the escape of gas. The ‘gassing’ however, will go on after charging has ceased and may last for 12 hours.  If during that time, the cells are accidentally inverted, then some of the highly caustic electrolyte may be forced out of the filler caps. Cells are therefore best left for 12 hours after charging.  This is particularly important for caving, as cells are often inverted, and the author has heard of several cavers who have been badly burnt as a result.

A point worth mentioning at this stage is that of partially discharged cells.  If a cell has been partially discharged, then it is better to discharge the cell completely rather than to attempt to recharge it.  This assumes that the cell is not going to be used again for short periods until it is naturally completely ‘flat’.  If a partially charged battery is recharged, there is a possibility that one or more cells will, over a period of time, become only partially charged.  This means that the light output will drop after only a short period, and in fact it is possible for the cells with greater charge to charge one with less charge in the reverse direction and in this case, the voltage of the cell which has been reversed charged will subtract from the other two, lowering the light output even further.  This condition may be checked by measuring the voltage of each cell individually with a D.C. voltmeter.  The remedy, if this fault occurs, is to discharge completely each cell individually, and then recharge in the normal manner.

Routine Maintenance.

(A) Electrolyte

The electrolyte, as stated before, is made up of caustic potash (KOH) plus Lithium Hydroxide (LiOH). The qualities are as follows, 153gms KOH plus 12gms LiOH plus 500ml of distilled water.  The electrolyte should have a specific gravity between 1.16 and 1.20. If, for any reason, the specific gravity should fall below 1.16, then the electrolyte should be changed.

(B) Topping Up

Top up with distilled water only and always ensure that the plates are just covered with electrolyte. Overfilling should be avoided, as this may cause spillage.  A low level of electrolyte will reduce the cells capacity and will cause premature failure of the light.  Check that the specific gravity is between 1.16 and 1.20 after any topping up procedure.

(C) Cleaning

The tops of the cells should be kept clean and dry and the contacts covered in pure petroleum jelly. The rubber jackets round the cells should also be cleaned and dried and covered with French chalk.


(A) Battery Top and Cable

In the majority of cases, the NC113C headlamps have seen considerable use with the National Coal board and therefore it may not belong before some major fault occurs.  These faults are generally located in the battery lid or the cable.  It is proposed here to give details of how a new cable and contact set may be installed. However, beforehand, it is worth noting some of the faults that may occur in the lid or the cable.

1.                  Damaged wire in cable at the point where it is attached to the terminal post.  This is due to a slow attack on the wire at the terminal post by the electrolyte, or it may be due alternately to wire fatigue at this point.

2.                  Broken spring contact in the lid due to corrosion and/or fatigue.

3.                  Corroded bolts and washers attaching the terminal posts to the spring contact.

4.                  Corroded spring contacts preventing good contact to the battery terminals.

The lid may be dismantled by first removing the fuse and then the three 6BA nuts securing the three rubber sealing pads.  These pads may be discarded if the old type nylon cell vents are to be changed to the later type steel vents, part number 67416.  Two smaller nuts and washers securing the cable terminal should now be removed.  This will now allow the assembly to be removed complete with three insulating washers. The contact assembly (part number 70129) should now come away from the lid, leaving only the insulating sheet and the cable terminal posts.  By removing the cable reinforcing tube and clip, and undoing the cable gland nut; the cable and gland washer may be pulled out.  It is possible to re-use the cable if the damage is close to the terminal posts and the corrosion has not worked its way too far back up the rubber insulation. If more than 2 or 3 inches of cable has to be removed, then a new cable will be needed.  It is possible to use standard black covered (rubber) 5amp 3 core mains cable, and in fact I have had one in use for five years or more.  The correct cable has its insulated conductors tightly twisted inside the black rubber outer sheath too give extra flexibility. If three core mains cable is used, obviously the green wire is discarded.

Re-assembly is fairly straight forward, noting the following points: -

1.                  The red and black wires should be bared of insulation for about ⅛ of an inch and solder into the terminal posts before inserting the cable back into the lid.

2.                  In order to prevent the ingress of water into the lid and cable, black ‘Bostick’ may be used to seal the cable end.

3.                  The 3, 6BA nuts should be replaced with washers and insulating bushes although, as mentioned, the rubber pads may be discarded provided that steel vent plugs are used.

(B) Cells

These usually give little trouble an, apart from keeping the top clean and the terminals free from corrosion, there is little one can do in the event of a failure of a cell.  It is of course possible that the electrolyte level is too low or that the electrolyte has become contaminated in some way or that the specific gravity has gone outside the working limits of 1.16 to 1.20.  The remedy from this has already been discussed in the section on topping up.

(C) Lamps

The two most common faults here, apart from bulb failure, are cable damage at the point of entry into the lamp case, or a dirty or broken switch.  Dealing with cable failure first, the cable gland nut should be undone and the washer and rubber bush removed.

The cable must now be removed from its terminals inside the lamp case having first removed the bakerlite bezel, glass, bulbs and reflector – in that order.  It is possible to use the existing cable, provided that the cable is not made too short after cutting off the damaged section.  The two bared wires should be re-soldered into the lugs. The cable is now reassembled into the lamp case, not forgetting the cable gland, nut; washer and bush.  If the bush is omitted, then it is possible that the cable may be ripped from the lamp case.

Turning now to the switch, failure here may be caused by dirt on the contacts – the remedy is to clean them with a rag, or better still with a small piece of ultra fine carborundum paper.  If the spring contacts are in any way misshapen, they should be reset with a pair of fine nosed pliers.  Broken contacts should be replaced where necessary.

Parts List

Section ‘A’ – Battery and Lid















Contact assembly

Lid with all fixed parts

Cable reinforcing tube clip

Cable reinforcing tube

Cable complete

Fuse plate


Cable gland bush

Cable gland nut for lid

Insulating sheet

Ebonite bush for screw lid












Section ‘B’ – Batteries








Flat connector

Terminal locknut or flat connector nut

Cell complete

Steel vent plate

Seating washer for vent

Rubber sleeve for vent

Cell rubber jacket








Section ‘C’ - Headlamp
















Headpiece (lamp) with bakelite bezel

Bakerlite bezel

Armour plate glass

Reflector washer for armour plate glass

Cable gland bush

Cable gland washer

Cable gland nut for headpiece

Headpiece moulding

Reflector, standard (diffused)

Reflector, spot

3.6v, 1.0amp main bulb

4.0v, 0.3amp pilot bulb

Switch complete

Main contact spring

Pilot contact spring
















The prices quoted have been taken from a price list of about 1967, and so must be taken as an approximate guide.  The list quoted is not complete, but has been picked from the maker’s catalogue as being the most likely list of items which might need replacement.  The parts may be obtained from: -

Alkaline Batteries Ltd.,, P.O. Box 4, Redditch, Worcs., who should be contacted in the event of any other queries.

Monthly Notes Number 31

by ‘Wig’

Balch Scores Again!

The latest round of water tracing carried out by the Mendip ‘Karts Police’ (The Geography Department of Bristol University led by Tim Atkinson and Malcolm Newson) has brought about some very interesting results.  Pine Tree Pot (Nordrach) has been found to resurge at Cheddar, while Waldegrave swallet resurges at both Wookey Hole and Rodney stoke.  Both these results have raised many a caver’s eyebrows, and not without reason.  The point of resurgence at Waldegrave Swallet has been debated for many years, and old Balch appeared to be talking through his hat when he retold of the sink near the Miners Arms taking muddy water that coloured the Rodney Stoke water. 

When experts attempted to trace this water, the results were negative.  Balch never changed his belief.  Now, tracing the stream with lycopodium spores has established a connection between Waldegrave and Rodney Stoke.

The other surprise is, of course, Pine Tree Pot.  This small cave discovered by M.C.G. lies on the north side of the Mendip pericline yet it drains in a southerly direction to Cheddar, whereas the more westerly of the swallets in Nordrach and Burrington drain to the north and resurge at either of the two main resurgences – Langford and Rickford.

Access to G.B. Cavern

The key of G.B. may be obtained form the Hon. Sec. U.B.S.S., Spelaeo Rooms, University Road, Bristol.  At least a fortnight’s notice of the intended trip is required.  As far as is known at the moment, the Ladder Dig extension is still closed due to the dangerous state of the boulder ruckle through which one has to travel to reach Great chamber and Bat Passage.  1/- per head is charged as tackle fee.

Ear to the Ground

A new edition of ‘Caves of Mendip’ will be out later this year by Nicholas Barrington.

Picos de Europa

All unofficial spelaeological expeditions to this area are forbidden.  This ban affects the provinces of Asturias, Leon and Santander. Authorities are empowered to impose a fine on any parties not applying for permission.  All future parties should contact Senor Jose M. Suarez Diaz-Estebanez, Calle Minez 12-2a, Oviedo, Spain, giving full details of their expedition.

Assorted Reminders

The official opening date for the new Belfry is Saturday May 9th.

Wednesday evenings are working evenings now at the Belfry.

The editor could do with any articles, letters, etc.

Have you paid this year’s subscription yet?

Have you sold any time on ‘Stop the Clock’ yet?

Have you given any money back from your sales of the spelaeodes yet?

Have you got anything USEFUL to give to help furnish the Belfry?

Committee Meeting

The February meeting of the Committee agreed the sale of the barn, and the new Belfry insurance at £4,000 for the Belfry, £500 for effects and £500 for the club’s tackle.  Dick Wickens agreed to take over the arrangements for Cuthbert’s trips.  D.R. Jenkins, T.A.V. Brooks, T. Pardee, J. White, Miss G.A. Abell and Miss E. Wilkinson were all admitted to membership of the club.  The remainder of the meeting was taken up with arrangements concerning the fitting out of the new Belfry.

Palaeolithic Cave Art of Naiux

by John Ifold

The great cave of Naiux overlooks a deep valley in the French Pyrenees about three miles form the small town of Trascon-aur-Ariege.  The climb from the road to the cave entrance is about a thousand feet, and we were glad to have a rest at the gate.  One goes through the only entrance into a large passage.  At this end of this is a small gate, and passing through this, one is able to proceed through several chambers until the Salon Noir is reached nearly half a mile from the entrance.  The first thing that impressed me about the Salon Noir was the majesty of its proportions.  The paintings are four kinds of animal – Bison; deer; Horse and Ibex and there are about twenty of these paintings altogether.  The people who painted them took great care over their portrayal, for one bison has its eye drawn so that it appears to be watching all comers.

All of the animals are in black outline, and every drawing expressed movement do that in one, two large bison appear to be charging each other.  On some of the larger animals, spear-like objects are drawn sticking from their sides to convey the impression that the creatures have been wounded.  Some impression of their size of the paintings may be gained by saying that the horses are about four feet high, and bison vary from about three feet six inches to four feet. The paintings are amongst the finest examples of Upper Magdalenian art.

Some of the paintings are ten feet or so from the cave floor, and one can only speculate on how the artist managed to paint at this height.  In addition to the animals, ether are signs of various types – dotted lines etc. – painted in red or black, some of which are probably Mesolithic. Near the entrance, there is something which looks like black manganese seeping from the wall of the cave, and it is this which the artist or artists probably used for paint.

Just a Sec

Owing to the delay in producing this B.B., the regular monthly feature, ‘Just a Sec’ which is written by our Hon. Sec. every month has become very much out of date.  Since this is the fault of the editor, he feels that it is only fair that he should have to write something to keep the series going, and to provided the Hon. Sec. with a little well earned rest.  To start with – and indeed, come to think of it – to fill this month’s short version of ‘Just a Sec’.  Congratulations to our Hon. Sec. and Hilary on their forthcoming wedding, which is to be at Priddy next Saturday.  As most members know, they will be living in Townsend, Priddy and so they will both be very much in the centre of things here on Mendip.

Congratulations, too, to all who have played a part in getting the new Belfry to its present state. It is always risky to quote names, for fear of leaving somebody out who has equally earned the inclusion of his name but, at the risk of sticking our neck out, we should congratulate the B.E.C. Committee in general for all the hard work they have put in – hold weekly meetings at one stage to keep the work running smoothly.  More particularly, the efforts of Bob Bagshaw to keep us afloat financially; John Riley and Pat Ifold who carried out nearly all the liaison work with Fred Owen; Pete Franklin, who has procured useful equipment and run the ‘Stop the Clock’ scheme; Jock Orr who has kept the Belfry flag flying in the stone hut; Brian Prewer, who is organising the wiring and plumbing; Petty Precision Products who are doing their usual workmanlike job, and Alan who has had all the correspondence to deal with.  Let us hope that a lot more names will earn a mention before the building is complete!


We should like to welcome the following new members to the club.  Their addresses are: -

727       W. Cooper, 259 Wick Road, Bristol

728       Miss G.A. Abell, Cleveland Hotel, Pulteney Street, Bath, Somerset

729       T.S. Pardoe, 36 Alexandra Park, Redland, Bristol 6

730       Miss J.Barke, 10 Queens Parade, Bristol 1


Have YOU read all the notices and reminders in this B.B.?  Well, have you?

Penyghent Pot Again

by Martin Webster

During the end of last year, several people suggested that we might arrange a Penyghent Pot trip on our January Yorkshire meet.   Thinking back to our first trip, one year and one month earlier, when only four of us had to transport mountains of equipment along the arduous entrance crawls, we were rather dubious, but at last the end of January came, and a team if nine assembled at the entrance of the pot on a crisp, cold, but sunny Saturday morning.

This time, the loads per person were (to say the least) very much lighter than on our previous encounter, although still the long series of canals at the entrance proved quite interesting technically.  The cave has now become slightly easier as some of the crawls above the first pitch have got larger (due to floods) and a rather nasty canal below the sixth pitch has now become quite a spacious passage.

The bottom of the pot was soon reached and over about twenty minutes the rest of the party, which had got somewhat spread out, slowly trickled in.  Some swimming and splashing about was done in the sump, and a certain amount of interest was shown in the vast amounts of foam liberally distributed on the roof some way overhead!  As we were making our way out, we were met by a lone Yorkshire bod who, it seems, had heard of our trip and decided that would we not mind if he joined us.  (I shudder to think what would have happened if we had missed him and removed our tackle – it rained extremely hard that night!)

After allowing him to bottom the pot, we all made our way out.  He was carrying quite a large proportion of out tackle!  The trip took just over six hours, which was quite good going for a party of this size.  Everyone apparently enjoyed themselves – at least, we are already planning another Penyghent trip, so I supposed we must have!


Members may like to add the following to their last years address list: -

724       G.V. Phippen, Rock Cottage, Rock Road, Wick, Bristol

725       S.J.J. McManus, 10 Ebleton Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol

726       D.R. Jenkins, 26 Witcombe Close, Kingswood, Bristol

508       A.C. Selway, 15 St. Martins Road, Knowle, Bristol 4

Some Suggestions for Contributors

Appeals for more articles for the B.B. may well fall flat because many people who could contribute something useful may not be aware of the sort of thing we have in mind.  Here are a few suggestions.

We have just had an article on the care of Nife lamps.  Many club members have recently bought Oldhams lamps and might well like to know how to make sure that they get the best lifetime out of them.  An article on the construction and care of wet suits would also be of interest to many members.  An article on the use and care of ladders when caving might also be useful – after all, we do trust our live to them on occasion.  Any member who feels able to write anything on these or allied subject will be doing a useful job.

If you have been caving or climbing in another region, why not write the trip up so that other members may be able to decide what such a trip is likely to be like if they decided to visit the same caving/climbing area?

Letters do not take long to write, and we got very few.  Most people have something they would like to air from time to time, or some comment on what they have read in the B.B.  Why not write to the B.B. about it?

Contributions may be given to ‘Wig’ or ‘Alfie’ or sent directly to S.J. Collins, Homeleigh, Bishop Sutton, Bristol. Remember that a big B.B. every month cannot always be written by the other chap.  If every single club member wrote ONLY ONE article during his entire stay with the club, it would be enough to keep the B.B. running.  Why not do it now?

Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston s Mare, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Homeleigh, Bishop Sutton, Bristol


Councils and All That

Reading a bit in last month’s “Monthly Notes” about caving politics gave me a sort of sick feeling in the stomach far worse than any Mendip cave has done; even under the nastiest circumstances, and I wondered how many readers of the B.B. felt the same way.

It seems a pity that caving clubs cannot be allowed to get on with the activity for which they were formed, without a great proliferation of bodies of one sort or another telling them what they are to do (presumably) what they are not allowed to do.  I realise, of course, and I expect that most readers of the B.B. do as well, that some of the control we now have was bound to happen. The Waterworks, for example, were bound to have some minimal requirements for co-existence with the caving clubs and very few people would argue with the way in which the C.C.C. has managed to intrude as little as possible in their job of providing an interface between the clubs and the water board.  In a similar manner, it is probably a good thing to have a method whereby all the local caving clubs can combine on occasions when some sort of joint action is required.  The danger, however, would seem to lie in the possibility of this type of body attracting the type of individual whose hobby is not caving so much as organising other people – and this is a thing we would all do well to watch very carefully in the future.  In general, the club system has worked very well on Mendip.  It is true that we all have our setbacks from time to time – but that’s life!  If we get the wrong side of a local farmer (and it’s often our fault, as at times with digs arranged and then not worked on, for example) we have to wait a while for the storm to blow over.  If some other club opens a new cave and then makes it a bit difficult for us to get in whenever we want to, we can’t grumble all that much.  The place wouldn’t be there at all if they hadn’t dug it. These things all sort themselves out in time.

As in many fields of life today, we hear a lot about peoples rights and not so much about their obligations and responsibilities.  We would do well to watch the progress of the ‘organisation boys’ and to resist any state of affairs arising whereby every caver has unlimited access to caves that are no longer worth a visit.


An issue or two ago, we suggested some useful topics that budding authors might well provide us with articles about.  Luckily, due to some of our old established writers, we are not too badly off for the near future (i.e. next month’s B.B.).  One thing which would help the B.B. to be a two-way affair would be a number of lively letters from readers.  A letter does not take long to write, and we are sure that there must be a number of topics applicable for inclusion in the B.B. on which club members hold views. Looking back over old numbers, quite a bit of correspondence went on.  How about it?  Have you got a pet theory which wants airing?  Have a good think!


Mendip Mining

Large areas of gruffy ground containing old mineshafts are a feature of Mendip; and this article is intended to give a resume of the history and development of these landmarks, with which we are so familiar at the Belfry.

Lead mining on Mendip was almost certainly commenced by Early Iron Age people, perhaps two hundred years BC.  Evidence of this was the discovery of lead net sinlers at Mere and at the later lake village at Glastonbury. This early form of smelting probably consisted of roasting lumps of galena (lead sulphide) in an open fire, and then allowing the molten lead to run over the stone fire base into rough clay moulds.

It took the Roman brain to organise the Mendip mines into a large concern, and these were under imperial control within a few years of the Claudian invasion of 43AD.  Large pigs of lead have been found at Charterhouse; Wookey Hole; Bristol and other places, all bearing Roman inscriptions and clearly having been mined on Mendip.  A pig of lead found near Green Ore bore the inscriptions EX.ARG.VERB. which could be translated as either ‘from the silver mines’ or ‘desilverised lead’. Whether the practice of extracting silver was a common or widespread one in Roman times is not yet known; much of the smelting having been carried out in villas and other small sites where few remains exist on which to base tests for desilverisation.  In a field south west of Fair Lady Well, the plough has turned up many fragments of Samian ware, and several lumps of a heavy, pink, crystalline material, together with a few weathered pieces of lead and galena. X-ray diffraction has shown that this pink substance is crystalline litharge (lead monoxide).

Crystalline Litharge can only be found by the cooling of a litharge melt – its melting point is 879 degrees centigrade – and this temperature is considerably greater that is usually associated with galena.  Further examination showed that silver was conspicuous by its complete absence and that the material contained no sulphite or sulphide.  Thus, the material could have not been normal slag from the process of smelting galena.  In any case, it would have been a very inefficient process to leave a third of the slag behind as lead.  This, plus a comparison of the silver content with normal galena found near the Belfry site, proved that the desilverisation was actually carried on at the site of the Roman villa behind the Belfry.

The method the Romans used for extracting the sliver is known as cupellation.  It is mentioned by Pliny – a Roman historian.  After roman times, the process is lost, and was rediscovered by Patterson in 1833.

The early method of desilverisation lead was to allow the molten metal which contained all the silver from the ore, to cool slowly.  The first crystals to appear were pure lead and these were removed, usually with a perforated iron ladle.  This process was repeated until about seven-eighths of the lead had been removed. The remaining alloy, rich in silver, was then melted on a flat ‘cupel’ or hearth, usually made of limestone clay or a barites/clay mixture, in a blast of air.  As the temperature obtained was greater than 900 degrees centigrade, the litharge formed; flowed away, and took with it some of the calcium, manganese, aluminium and other metals present as impurities.  On cooling, it crystallised into the pink crystalline litharge which was found near the Belfry site.  The rest of the litharge was absorbed in the porous cupel, leaving a shining globule of metallic silver about 99.95% pure.

Just when this sophisticated process was introduced by the Romans on Mendip is not known.  Caesar, in De Bello Gallico’ makes no comment of silver when referring to the economic value of Britain Cicero, when writing to a friend, says, ‘it is well known that there is not a pennyweight of silver in the whole island’. Nevertheless, according to Strabo, silver was one of the main exports of Britain by the time of Augustus, and we can be reasonably certain that some of this came from Mendip lead – refined on the spot, one of those spots being behind the Belfry.

Excavation carried out by the Rev. Skinner and indirectly by the Mendip Mining Company in the last century revealed Charterhouse as the hub of Roman mining activity.  The Town Field and Raynes Batch Field contained a number of square and circular mounds around which were found pottery; coins; smelting refuse and the remains of furnaces.  A small amphitheatre was also found, the remains of which are still conspicuous today.

A fairly large Romano-British community must have lived, mined and smelted in the area from AD49 to the end of the Roman occupation in AD410.  Mines were probably open trenches following the ore veins.  The amphitheatre was used for sports like bear-baiting; cock-fighting and wrestling.  The provision of food for this community must have been a problem but the excavation of a Romano-British farm in the Chew Valley by Ratz and Greenfield has given rise to a theory that this valley may have supplied the miners with farm produce.

Several postulates have been made about the route used by the Romans for transporting Mendip lead. Certainly, there is a Roman road from Tyning’s Farm down to Cheddar which, unlike the usual Roman road, is not straight but was designed to drop off Mendip at an almost uniform gradient all the way.  This would have been a very convenient arrangement for a road used for the transport of heavy loads.  Hoare, who surveyed a Roman road from Old Sarum to Uphill, considered that the ingots travelled to the continent by boat from Uphill.  An alternative, and more likely route, was the overland route to the south coast, and then by sea to Gaul, possible from Axmouth.  Uphill may have been a point for shipments to South Wales and, since some pigs were found in Bristol, the port of Sea Mills (Portus Abone) may also have been used for lead cargoes.

No records exist of the Romans mining metals other than lead on Mendip, although iron furnaces were unearthed at Camerton and at Chew Park Farm.  The intense mining operations of the Middle Ages must have obliterated many of the earlier traces.

Towards the end of the Roman occupation, mining activity on Mendip declined, and during the seven hundred years immediately following, there is no evidence of British or Saxon mining.  Gough suggests that lead was still worked to some extent to provide roof for churches. However, very few remains of this period have been revealed.  Possibly the Derbyshire Peak was a more important centre for the lead. It would be interesting to hear from anybody who knows of any Saxon or early English finds in the Mendip district.

Collinson, in his ‘History of Somerset’, quotes some Domesday Book records of the sizes and wealth of MANORS, which later became important mining centres, but these Norman records give no hint of any lead mining industry.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, mining and mineral rights charters were granted to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and to the Prior of Witham to enable them to work lead on Mendip.  From this time onwards, numerous records of the lead industry are known.

The mining areas, during the period from 1300 to 1700, were governed by four ‘Lords Royal’.  These were the Lords of Chewton; the Bishop of Bath and Wells; the Lord of Harptree and a fourth Lord, who was always the current owner of ‘HYDON’ or Charterhouse-on-Mendip. These lords were guided in their rulings by a code of ten laws.  Two of the most interesting of these are quoted: -

When a workman hath landed oare he may carry it to cleansing and blowing to what mineries he do please for ye speedy making of same so that he do truly pay the tenth thereof to the Lord of the soyle.

If any man do pick and steal ye lead to ye value of 13½d, the Lord may arrest his lead with all his works and keepe them as a forfeit and shall take ye person and bring where his house, and his tools belonging to his occupation be and put him in his house and sett fire about him and banish him from that occupation for ever.

Lead mining reached maximum productivity during the period 1600 to 1670, but another branch of mining was established by then.  Brass was first introduced to Britain by the Germans during Elizabeth’s reign, and in 1560 zinc was being mined on Worle Hill.  The zinc mining industry soon became established in the dolomitic conglomerate of Western Mendip and in later years took precedence over lead mining.

Methods of raising and smelting ore are of interest.  Shafts or ‘gruffs’ were dug everywhere and, although not usually vertical, they could attain a depth of one hundred and eighty feet.  Single ropes and wooden ladders were used for descent and for the sides or bottom of the shafts, timbered ‘leers’ followed the ore veins. Ventilation was sometimes obtained by running a subsidiary shaft into the main shaft some ten feet below the surface. This caused a flow of air through the working.  People were often digging in such close proximity to each other that they broke into one another’s workings, causing complex legal arguments about ownerships.

On being raised, the ore was taken for one of the four mineries for cleaning (buddling) and smelting in a rotatable hearth furnace.  These were turned to catch the wind form any quarter and bellows were used to increase the draught from the wind.  After smelting, the miner had to give one tenth of his lead to the lord of the manor in which it was raised.  This toll was known as ‘lead lot’.

The seventeenth century produced a lot of the old slag in the Belfry area.  It was also the time during which most of the pits and hollows were made.  The present forestry land north of Stock Hill was extensively worked for lead about 1690.

At the onset of the eighteenth century, the production of the Mendip mines was decreasing.  The Lead Reeve’s book for Chewton Minery, during the period form 1700 to 1708 showed and average return of three tons of lead lot per year.  This compares unfavourable with production in the period 1660 to 1666 which averaged fourteen and a half ton per year.  Apart from this peak of prosperity and it became completely extinct in 1908.

The reasons for the start of this deterioration were mainly the competition from the superior quality peak lead of Derbyshire, and the exhaustion of ore veins near the surface on Mendip.  Working the deeper lodes required drainage and hauling equipment which were both expensive items and the miners were not prepared to finance this equipment because they feared that Derbyshire and foreign lead industries would eventually overwhelm that of Mendip.  The water drainage problem must have been serious, as some of the richest of the mines, at Rowpits to the north of Stock Hill, had to be abandoned because of flooding. This suggested that many of the eighteenth century pits must have been two or three hundred feet deep in spite of the poor equipment used.  Some shafts well over a hundred feet deep and still open, show no signs of extensive flooding.

As the lead mines declined, so the calamine industry at Shipham, Rowberrow and East Harptree prospered and, in 1778, an agreement was made to apply the mineral code for lead to all other minerals – zinc, iron and manganese – mined on the hill.

Large quantities of zinc were sold to a Bristol brass company and Collinson, writing in 1793, described Shipham as having ‘up to one hundred mines working in the streets, the yards and some in the very houses.’  However, soon after this, even the calamine industry was to die out.

Through the eighteenth century, some lead was still being mined, but another crippling blow was struck when the import duty on foreign lead was reduced in 1825.  The mining privileges and customs died with the enclosing of the land in the early nineteenth century, and the position of the Lead Reeves was abolished; first at Chewton and finally at Harptree in 1834. In connection with the enclosing of land at this time, it is of interest to correct a misconception which seems to be widespread, that the dry stone walls which are such a prominent feature of Mendip to-day are of great antiquity.  In fact, two hundred years ago, hardly any of them existed.

At this time also, a Dr. Somers made a few attempts to find lead and ochre and was responsible for digging Dolbury Adit (now sealed).  Also, a Mr. Webster attempted to drive a tunnel through Sandford Hill while somebody else put forward a plan to drive an adit from Compton Martin to Wookey in an attempt to drain the mines.  This project was not even started.  (What a pity! – Ed.  If it had been carried out, we could have a through trip right through Mendip!).

With the mining industry virtually dead, Dr. Somers turned his attention to smelting the Roman and Medieval slags at Charterhouse.  Some of these contained up to 25% lead, and from 1824 to 1848, Dr. Somers made the re-smelting pay.  In the 1840’s, he also worked the slag at Priddy.  After Dr. Somer’s death in 1848, a Cornishman, Nicholas Ennor, started smelting at Priddy.  Ennor introduced mechanical buddling and reverbatory furnaces and was responsible for building the horizontal flues – the remains of which can still be seen. The main flue for collecting lead is eight hundred yards long.  In 1863, Hodginsons of Wookey Hole Paper Mill brought a successful lawsuit against Ennor, restraining him from putting buddling water into the swallets ( Plantation and St. Cuthbert’s) and soon after this, the works were taken over and further mechanised by Horatio Hornblower. Hornblower used blast furnaces to smelt the slag, erected a number of buildings and built a railway from the old workings north of Stock Hill to St. Cuthbert’s.  By smelting the old slags, he produced up to one hundred and thirty tons of lead in six months.  Lead was then priced at about thirty shillings a ton.  (Sorry, thirty POUNDS a ton – Ed.)

At the same time, another Cornishman was operating a works at Charterhouse, where a Pattinson plant for silver recovery had been installed which often produced a thousand ounces of silver in a year.

In 1869, St. Cuthbert’s Lead works closed, through falls in the price of lead, but in 1879 work re-started and continued under various ownerships until 1902.  A new firm, the New Chaffers Extended Mining Company, was then formed to produce metal and sand dressed ore for smelting in Bristol.  Production of dressed ore increased to over nine hundred tons in 1906 but then declined, and the works finally closed in 1908.  This was the last smelting activity to finish on Mendip, the Charterhouse and East Harptree works having closed in the 1870’s.  The black slag now to be seen was re-smelted between 1980 and 1908 and now contains less than 1% of lead.

On three occasions since, lead smelting and mining almost came back to Mendip.  Bert Russell used to tell how a company was formed in 1923 or 4 to re-open the smelting and mining activities at Priddy.  It appears that they even got as far as holding a celebratory dinner in Wells to mark the re-birth of the industry.  Money was, however, not forthcoming, and the project never got started.

During the Second World War of 1939 to 1945, some interest was aroused in the subject of home produced lead from Mendip, and the subject was examined yet again.  It was decided that, even at wartime, the idea would not have been sound, and the project was dropped.

Aroused by the success of German chemists who successfully re-smelted the tin slag from Kitty Wheal in Cornwall in the 1950’s, a suggestion was put forward by a London chemist to re-smelt the slag for the recovery of a number of elements on a branch-top scale using electricity.  This might have paid on a one to one basis for a number of years.  The chemist concerned subsequently took a job in Africa, and the scheme remained a paperwork project.

Thus, the activity from which Mendip is generally thought to have got its very name (mine Deep) and which inspired Blake to write the well know poem ‘ Jerusalem’ is no more and is very unlikely indeed to ever be revived.  Mendip mining is now part of history, and likely to remain so.

Editor’s Note     This article is mainly that as written by Mervyn Hannam, with parts of G.A. Faulkner’s articles on Desilverisation added where appropriate.  Some further additions have been supplied by the editor.


Roger Stenner would like to thank all those who helped in the collection of water samples in Cuthbert’s and G.B.  Without this help, he would not have been able to have successfully completed his M.Sc. Degree.


Are you fed up by the continual appeals for money for the Hut Fund and for running the club? Before you answer, make sure you are in a position to grumble!  IF YOU HAVE NOT YET PAID YOUR SUB FOR 1970, NO WONDER WE ARE STILL SHORT OF MONEY! Take the hint now!


Just a Sec

By Alan Thomas

Don’t forget the Grand Opening of the Belfry on May the Ninth!  A landmark for future historians of the club.  Would anybody have imagined a few years ago that the little old B.E.C. could have raised the wherewithal to build itself a place like the Belfry which now stands on our site?  Money is still needed, but Bob is beginning to cheer up again.  As these notes invariably seem to begin with an appeal, let’s ask for what you have got – anything you can get your hands on that might be of use to the Belfry.  Offer it to John Riley, your Hut Engineer or to Pete Franklin, your Hut Warden.  Come and stay at the Belfry m- it just needs living in.

I had a letter from Clare Coase in Australia recently.  Damion is like Don in looks and already has bigger feet!

It is with regret that we learn from the executors of Gerard Platten of his death.  His work for caving generally and for the British Caver in particular is well known to all.  He will be remembered by the older members of the club.

On Monday, May 11th, Mr Albert Goede will be talking to the U.B.S.S. at 8.15 in the Geography Lecture Theatre on the subject of ‘Caving in Tasmania’.  Guests are welcome.

The Cambrian Cave Registry in its report to members of the Cambrian Caving Council asks for help and criticism.  It asks all who cave in Wales to keep it informed of discoveries, however minor. The person to contact is Noel Christopher, Oriel Lodge, Gentle Street, Frome, Som.

WHO HAS MY BELFRY KEY, PLEASE?  I lent it to someone in the Hunters and it has not been returned.  It has sentimental attachments, having been given to me by Mo. On this subject, I hope that everybody realises that the original Belfry key gives access to the new Belfry via the changing room.

The M.R.O. is seeking information about bad air in caves and would like reports form the caving fraternity. There is a proper report form that can be obtained from me.


Monthly Notes No. 33

by ‘Wig’

A new edition of ‘Caves of Mendip’ is to be published during July and August this year.  The price will be about 14/-.  This edition is being completely re-written by Nick Barrington and Willie Stanton and will contain over four hundred entries! Copies can be obtained from Dave Irwin as soon as they are available.  A small profit will be made for the hut fund.

Since re-writing the description of Cuthbert’s for the new edition of ‘Caves of Mendip’, your scribe (acknowledgements to O.C.L.) had to do some quick addition to determine the length of the cave.

For those who collect records of such things, here are a few facts and figures to be going on with: -

Cuthbert’s I                    Surveyed length………………………….16,000 feet

                                    Remaining passage estimate………………3,000 feet

Cuthbert’s II                   Length…………………………..............    …1,000 feet

TOTAL PASSAGE LENGTH………………………………….20,000 feet

Depth of Cuthbert’s I = 405 ft.      Cuthbert’s II = 60 ft.        Total depth 465 ft.

1. SWILDONS (23,000 ft.)

2. CUTHBERT’S (20,000 ft.)

3. G.B. (7,000 ft.)

4. AUGUST/LONGWOOD (5,000ft.)

5. WOOKEY HOLE (4,000 ft.)

Spaeleologist – R.I.P.

When the first Spaeleologist fits made its appearance, one thought that at long last, here was a magazine of all round interest to the caver.  Unfortunately, irregular publishing dates, lack of topical information and the thought that it might never appear again made it a doomed publication from its early days.  Changes of format and price increases did not help any, and cavers appeared to have had their backs to the publication – without whose help any such magazine must fade out.  After five years, it has finally happened.  The lack of caving editorial staff when faced with the more popular ‘Descent’ did little to help the cause of the Spaeleologist.  It would appear that Descent has an assured future with virtually no competition in the national field.  Another ‘National’ – The British Caver – is also in a doubtful position. Its founder and editor, Gerard Platten, whose death has been recorded in this B.B., makes one wonder if A.D.O. will carry on the good work.


At the Belfry

By ‘Verspertilium’

Yet Another Column 2

I can imagine the reader of the B.B. on seeing this title, thinking to himself ‘We don’t want the B.B. to consist of nothing but a series of columns’.  It’s quite enough with Monthly Notes and Just a Sec.  Why have yet another?

This column is being launched for a number of reasons.  Our club now has a brand new headquarters, and it will not be fully used unless members are made aware of what is going on there.  Not just the social side, but every event which will be scheduled to take place there.  It is by club members becoming involved with events at their headquarters that any club

prospers and stays a close knit group.  Our club magazine is called the Belfry Bulletin, so it should keep members everywhere in touch with the Belfry.  That will be the job of this column.

What’s in a name?

The use of pen names may have its drawbacks, but in my case, it is essential that I should have a name, as I am to be a composite character.  Some of my news will have been contributed by the Hut Warden and others on the committee and other times will be picked up by other parts of myself. It was decided that I should be a bat – perhaps a cross between a long-eared bat (for picking up information) and a natterer’s bat (for chucking it out again).  The traditional name of Bertie was ‘suggested’, but the editor thought that a bit of Latin would be more in keeping with an image not confined to the merely frivolous, so now to work…

Belfry Fitting Out.

The job of fitting out is proceeding, although more helpers could be used.  Norman’s kitchen unit is nearing completion and most of the painting of walls is now finished.  Plumbing is coming along and temporary wiring has been installed.  Most of the old bunk frames have been repaired and repainted, although not many yet have mattresses.  Has any member got a suitable mattress he or she no longer wants? A new slow combustion stove has been acquired and fitted.  There is still, however, a lot to be done.

Opening Day

It may be that this B.B. will not reach members before this event takes place.  I shall be listening hard to members views as to what we should be doing now that we have this new building, and will keep readers informed on current events, progress and thought – ‘AT THE BELFRY’.


Committee Meeting

The April meeting of the Committee was, again, largely concerned with arrangements for the Belfry. The sale of the barn to the Shepton is going forward.  This will help to some extent to balance the books.  Insurance for the new Belfry is a matter which is still being settled.  The Belfry is being covered for any major calamity, but there are a number of smaller points which have been gone into.

Progress on the ‘Stop the Clock’ was reported by Pete and it looks as this will bring in some useful funds. The proper wiring is being arranged by ‘Prew’, and this will be started very soon.  Material for the showers was another subject dealt with, and there are firm proposals of materials.  Pete and John Riley are arranging for some from of roof insulation; so that the Belfry will keep reasonably warm next winter.  The club has agreed to store M.R.O. tackle and a part of the stone hut will be used for this purpose.

Social News

It is not often than an Hon. Sec. of the B.E.C. gets married.  Any future Hon. Sec. who contemplates ‘taking the plunge’ has had a precedent set him which he will find hard to equal yet alone beat.  Priddy church was packed to capacity for Alan and Hillary’s wedding.  A feature of the actual service was the playing of the tune of ‘We are the exploration club’ on the organ.  After the bride and groom left the church under an archway of caving ladder (which was borrowed from the Shepton  and then found to consist partly of  B.E.C. ladder anyway!) they repaired, with the guests, to a sit down reception at the Wookey Hole Restaurant.  A fine meal was provided, and you can tell that the organisers had been properly briefed on the requirements of a caving club! At one stage of the proceedings, two characters sang a poor man’s version of the ‘Wedding Song’ – a traditional folk song.  One of the locals was heard to remark “I never heard Alfie sing a clean song before!” The couple left for Jersey after what must have been one of the best weddings to be seen on Mendip.


Stencils prepared 20th May, 1970.

Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston s Mare, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Homeleigh, Bishop Sutton, Bristol


Lessons from Leicester?

Occasions like the C.R.G. symposium on Cave Surveying at Leicester often provided interesting opportunities for speculation about the differences between the various caving regions of Britain.  Cavers with different points of views find themselves nattering over the odd cup of coffee between lecture sessions, and it does no harm to whether there is a grain of truth in some of the ideas which get thrown around.  What prompts this particular line of thought was the remark made by one of the delegates that Mendip had provided a much greater amount of speakers and exhibits per mile of cave in the region than had any other the other caving areas.  On mentioning this to a semi-retired caver who had been very active in nearly all the caving regions, he remarked that this was no surprise to him.  Since there was less caving to do on Mendip than in say Yorkshire of South Wales – no doubt Mendip cavers had more time to think about caving.

He went on to suggest that perhaps the future of Mendip caving could well be one by which we spend most of our time thinking up new ideas, techniques etc., which we tried out on Mendip caves – using the results to do our main discoveries on expeditions to foreign countries and, perhaps other caving regions.  It is certainly an interesting thought!

About the B.B.

Now it seems that I shall be editing the B.B. for a little while yet, a great effort is being made to catch up rapidly with publication dates, and it is hoped that the April B.B. will be at least sent out in April, while the May B.B. will actually be ready on time.  One small innovation designed to reassure those who suspect that their B.B. has been held up for ages by the postal department is that the bottom of the last page of every B.B. will carry the date on it.

Committee Meeting

The March Committee Meeting elected Miss J. Barker, Miss N. Brown, C. Abbel. R. Bridehaed, W. Cooper and P. Hamm to membership of the club.  The Hon. Treasurer reported that he had now received the draft conveyance for the sale of the barn.  The question of insurance of the new Belfry against the theft came up, but it seems that we should have to put in a great many security arrangements that would cost more than we could at present afford, so for the tine being at least, there will be no cover against theft.  You have been warned!  Alfie agreed to put temporary wiring into the new Belfry and ‘Prew’ agreed to look into the plumbing.  Pete Franklin produced a set of fittings for the showers at no cost., but the committee agreed to give the donating club £2 towards their funds.

On the subject of new buildings, several points were raised by the committee and all these will be looked into.  A number of other minor matters were also raised at the meeting.

Living in Style

by R.S. (Kangy) King

Lightweight mountaineering is the art of making sure that as much as possible is in the other man’s rucksack.

Alan Bonner and I must be experts, because during our last holiday, try as we might, our bags remained about the same weight.  I made sure that he carried his quarter tube of toothpaste – he made sure that I carried the matches.  The end result was of such rigorous weight control was that the necessities of life for a week would tot up to something like twenty seven pound a piece.

So Alan and I set off for the Pic d’Estats in the French Pyrenees.  We were camping a La Cortinada in Andorra and were separated from the eleven thousand (odd) foot of the peak by a range or so.  From an Andorran summit, the Pic d’Estats looks good.  We were rather a long way from it even as the chough flies, but with the eye of the faith we studied the combination of maps so essential at the borders of countries and discerning a route.  It seemed that the easiest way involved climbing to an eight thousand, five hundred foot pass and then trotting along a ridge to descend later by four thousand feet along a valley which linked the first realistic route up the Pic d’Esatas.

Mistakenly we allowed ourselves three days.

Second breakfast was taken by a pretty lake in the floor of the subsidiary valley we were following to gain the ridge and the col d’Aspinal.  My tum, which became pretty talkative during the next three days, demanded attention and got half pint of coffee.  Rumbling and grumbling, my tum, Alan and I gained the wrong end of the ridge. Very sad.  Not exactly bad map reading, we thought, so much as bad map. Anyway, we had no alternative but to commit ourselves to about a kilometre of grib Goch like ridge to regain the head of our valley.  Interesting, but frustrating as the hours went by on a slow ridge that should have spent in a fast valley.  We gained the col; corrected the map, and shot down the long, long valley as clouds gathered.

The approaching storm made us stop early to look for a bivouac site.  I was keen to convert a semi-detached cave, and Alan doubtfully agreed and started to peg the polysheet into a crack whilst tum and I got on with the din.  A tremendous crack of thunder announced the next part of the show and, huddled behind the sheet, we supped hot soup while the chicken curry simmered and the lightning flashed.  Quite a storm.  Lashing into the site, the rain poured down the rock and streamed over the sheet. After an hour or so of this, a network of cracks was penetrated and we philosophically used the resultant drips to wash up with.  At the first break in the storm, we hurried transferred to a dark, earth, smelly cabin built by local shepherds (who knew better than us) not far away.  We slept of the sheet and ignored the mice.

The next day, day two, was to be “climb mountain and come down again” day (the day after being “going home day”).  Hoping that our detour and early stop had not left us with too much to do, we hurried off as dawn broke.  Unfortunately, we had another hour and a half’s descent before we could start to climb. The valley floor broadened out into a flattish plain.  The stream we were following developed by way of rocky gorges into a widish river.  To the right was the valley wall, reaching up to a skyline ridge.  The left was buttressed and split by gorges.  We had to find the right gorge, the one that led up to a glaciated plateau and thence to the summit.  We were carrying as little as possible, with food and ice axes; having cached our sacks at the cabin.

Alan solved the first problem, that of crossing the river, by wading in shallows to a place where the river ran narrow and deep and was bridged by two saplings laid side by side. We bounced across.  The map showed a vague path high on the walls of the Riofret gorge.  The right side of the gorge looked as it might, in fact, have a path up it.  In any case, there was no other choice as the left hand wall was steep and rocky and the bed of the stream descended between high rock walls in substantial steps.  So we embarked on long, slippery grass slopes, wetly interspersed with little rocky walls and slabs and found no path.  We were forced higher and higher and after one particularly difficult and exposed vegetatious slab, we paused to reconsider, and this time reluctantly turned back.  There seemed to be an awful lot of mountain left to climb, the clouds were gathering, and we were a long way from home.

The descent, though long, was interesting because of the difficulty of route finding on a convex ground. The axes were a boon and added to our safety.  Wet steep grass is no joke.

At the bottom of the gorge, we turned and went hard for our previous evening’s bivouac.  Bachelor’s catering packs provided a slap-up dinner and then gathering up the essentials, off we went again to get as high as we could before darkness.

Mist rather than darkness called the next halt and, being unsure of the way to the Col de Rat, we built a wall across a gap between two boulders and, fortified by pints of soup, farmhouse stew and coffee we slid, one at a time, underneath the polysheet and lay snugly, waiting for sleep.  Through the clear plastic we watched the mist clear and lie low in the valley while the lowering sun tinted cotton wool clouds with pink.  Yum yum.

Red sky at night – mountaineer’s delight.  We breakfasted and packed in a clear, crisp dawn.  The way to the Col de Rat was now plain to see and we tacked upwards, following an ancient smuggler’s route easily to the gap between the ridges.  At 7.30, we crossed into Andorra and sat straddling the ridge and the border. As breakfast two was digested, it became more and more obvious that the way to complete an already memorable trip was to traverse the ridge to a point above the camp site rather than tamely follow our valley.  That decided, off we went.  It was good – all day ahead of us; sun filled in a blue sky and unknown ridge stretching for miles, with only us to share it.

Time and again, we thought we were going to be beaten but, fascinatingly at the last moment, weakness appeared – stiff rock walls transformed into staircases; towers into canyons and gendarnies into corridors.  Perhaps not quite as easily as that for, at least once, I left my bag behind and mad an exploratory sortie before safe progress could be made.  But progress continued, and the ridge flowed behind us at a very reasonable rate.  It is a very satisfyingly ridge, of an even, stiffish standard with no escape down the sides except at a very few places where gullies intersect.  And it goes on.  We thought about five kilometres of it, most of it mot more than a metre wised with occasional swellings into summits of quite substantial peaks.

Eventually, after a morning, a lunch and an afternoon of traversing the rocky ridge smoothed into the gentler slopes of the terminal peak of l’Ortell.

We glissaded on the fir cones of the forest surrounding the peak and lost about four thousand feet in height – and our way – amongst the dense trees.  Following the slope and the odd path, we eventually emerged in approximately the right place, and, just in time for tea, swung into our base camp at la Cortinada.

Equipment Note

Something to sleep on or under, something to sleep in were a large percentage of the weight.  Cooking and food come next, and the very few clothes which were not worn come last of all.  The selection of climbing equipment carried varied with the severity of the peak but the comfort of knowing that it is available usually justified its existence.

Most of the know-how for our lightweight experiment came from Alan’s experience on the Pennine Way, which he completed solo.  The ‘something to sleep under’ consisted of a ten foot by eight foot lightweight polythene sheet.  It would have been easier if this had been a little larger.  The sheet, trapped all round with stones, can be very secure, as Alan can testify.  One soon becomes an expert at the selection of a site.  It is necessary to forget all about pitching tents, and to carry in the mind a mental picture of the sheet, which one can place in positions likely and unlikely.  Water drainage should be borne in mind but should not to be regarded as the most important parameter because in the limit one can always float on the airbed. Water draining from above should be guarded against as far as possible and all this means that building a wall is probably the surest method.  Don’t be put off by this.  A wall can be built in the time it takes to pitch a tent.  Alternatively, peg the sheet into a crack in a rock face or cover the entrance of a small cave or hollow or, if the worst comes to the worst, wrap yourself in it and ignore the condensation.

Living in a sheet like this is a most agreeable sensation.  The open end means that condensation is avoided.  The lowness of the sheet keeps the rain out.  There is no feeling of claustrophobia, because the sheet is like a window, and waking in the morning is delightful – almost as good as going to sleep directly under the stars.  Certain formalities, however, have to be observed.  The space is constricted and, if two are to share it, a little organisation is necessary.  This becomes obvious the very first time one uses the bivouac and it simply boils down to moving one at a time when dressing; cooking or sometimes even breathing!

On the move, home constantly changes as the sheet is moved from one doubtful site to another.  The sheet is always changing, and therefore is no fear of becoming bored with its appearance or a persevering drip or a tiresome slope or a painfully placed stone.

Fortunately, somebody invented the airbed.  Since my early camping trips when I trained myself to sleep on my back and stoically ignored the insidious seeping of cold from below whilst keeping half awake, stupefied with the awfulness of it all, I have never been without one.  A fortnight with what seemed no sleep and a perpetually bruised hip drove me to buy one.  Not a large one, because I’m mean both about money and weight, but a three-quarter length one.  In fact, my last airbed suffered the ignominy of having its pillow cut off.   I suppose the best length would be the length from shoulder to mid-thigh.  I’ve never tried a foam bed on the hoof.  Sounds bulky.

The rest of the sleeping arrangements can be completed – to my satisfaction at least – with a sleeping bag. Don’t scrimp on this item.  At high altitude, lying in an inadequate bag as the cold soaks in during the long night, it is possible to regret the extra pound or two or so of down which one could have had for the outlay of a little more cash.

For cooking, everyone has their own pet heating method.  We used gaz, the two hundred gram size.  Alan now prefers it to paraffin, and so do I.  It’s quick and light and so there is every incentive to knock up a quick hot meal or drink.  It’s clean, so it can be stuffed straight back into the rucksack afterwards, perhaps even into a saucepan.  The saucepan – one off and large – should be bought from Woolworth’s for as near nothing as possible, so that it is very light.   It will have a handle.  Good. Make sure you hold onto it while cooking.  If you don’t know why, and don’t, then one day you are going to be absolutely furious, as you spill all your dehydrated soup.

The theory then is that comfort makes all things possible.  Nothing to carry; hot food at the drop of a hat; long luxurious nights of deep sleep and not a care in the world.  We don’t seem to have said much about dehydrated food we carried.  It was Bachelor’s mainly; the catering packs with the splendid instructions ‘Take seven pints of water, then add the contents of the packet to make fifty generous helpings.  We found them tasty, and we noshed like lords.


Change of Hut Warden

Owing to his taking up work in Leicester, ‘Jok’ Orr has had to resign at Hut Warden. The Committee have elected Peter Franklin as Hut warden and Tim Hodgson has been co-opted on to the committee to asct as his deputy.

Pete’s address is; 93 Devonshire Road, Henleaze, Bristol

Caving Meet at Easter

This is now to be held in Yorkshire, NOT Derbyshire as previously arranged. Contact Caving Secretary for further details.

Cuthbert’s Leaders

The committee have asked that Fred Davies should be thanked for his work of renovating some of the fixed ladders in Cuthbert’s.

Working Nights

Every Wednesday is working night at the Belfry.  Please turn up as often as you can.  There is plenty to be done and there will be always be somebody at the Belfry to show you what wants doing!

Monthly Notes Number 32

by ‘Wig’

Now that the hullabaloo has died down following the discovery of Wookey XX, work is quietly moving to obtain permission to sink a shaft into the new part of the cave. During January, divers transported an electromagnetic device into the large chamber lying in the lower reaches on the new cave.  A fix was made at this point.  A second fix was also made, though I understand not so clearly, near the point where the divers broke through.  With the information brought back by the divers, Jim Hanwell plotted the cave onto an OS map and showed that the end of the new cave was to the north, and in the region of a shallow valley with a small outcrop of limestone.  The estimated depth of cave at this point was fifty to eighty feet.  Whilst the transmitter was doing its stuff, the divers located another three hundred feet of passage at the upper end.  Before digging commences, either by cavers or contractors working for the cave management, another attempt is to be made in the very near future to locate the upper end of the cave with as much accuracy as possible.

Whilst all this was going on, the St. Cuthbert’s Dining Room Digging Team – though this name should change to the Sump Digging Team – pressed on with the final phase in the construction of the new dam in Sump Passage and the repair of the pipe joints in Sump I.  Sump II was dived in February by John Parker of the C.D.G. who found that the passage closed down after twenty feet but that the floor dropped rapidly for some thirty feet. The bottom was a no-goer as the way on was through a very small hole just large enough to get a boot through. Apparently below this point, the passage widened, but just by how much is anybody’s guess.

Readers will by now be aware that the political rumblings of four years ago have just reached the eruption stage.  In the mid 60’s, the Council of Northern Caving clubs issued a circular letter urging the formation of a National Council.  It hinted that, should the clubs in other regions not move with them, then the C.N.C.C. would go ahead on its own.  A brief summary of the events that led to the formation of both the C.N.C.C. and the C.S.C.C. – followed later by the Cambrian Caving Council appeared in the B.B. at that time.  The Council of Southern Caving Clubs was formed with a dual purpose in mind. Firstly, to protect its members from external influences, and secondly to be a toothless monster (the veto principle being adopted when any issue was to be voted upon) not affecting the autonomy of its members.  Circumstances prevailing locally set the channels of thought for each of the councils.  The Northern had problems of access where landowners would not negotiate with individual clubs.  On the other hand, the Southern clubs had the opposite situation, having good relations with the landowners or farmers, who were prepared to negotiate with the individual clubs, so that the C.S.C.C., was not prepared to enter into access arrangements in any form.  Negotiations between the councils commenced and, after many hours of discussion, a draft set of clauses was published (see the B.B. for October 1969). Unfortunately, the stumbling block that is not yet resolved is the question of voting.  The south wanted to maintain the unanimity principle, whereas the remainder of the regional councils were pressing for a seventy five percent majority system.  Deadlock was reached and the representatives of the various councils were then left to report back to their various councils.  In January, the C.S.C.C. met and discussed the problem, and found that they could not see any reason why they should change their minds.  The real worry of members of the southern clubs is that the arrangements that have been made by them with various landowners could well be ruined, as one of the main functions of the Northern Caving Association is the thorny question of access by a simple straight majority vote.  Thus, other regions could well leave the Southern clubs defenceless unless we could use the veto or unanimity principle.  The outcome of the meeting, after the unanimity principle had been vetoed by the Welsh representatives, was that a majority of 90% would be required for all changes to the constitution; new members and finance – whereas a 75% majority would be acceptable for all other matters. Whether the other councils will accept this compromise is not yet known, but it is hoped that reason will prevail and that the N.C.A. will be freed from any form of access control, particularly when so many widely differing arrangements are to be found in each region. It its far better that the local organisations deal with access problems in their own way, rather than to allow the Hon. Sec. of the N.C.A. hundreds of miles from the trouble spot, to deal with the matter.  Let us hope that our unfortunate politicians can win the day at the next confrontation.

Nearing the end…

A final burst of enthusiasm has come over several members of the B.E.C., the M.C.G. and N.H.A.S.A.(!) that by splitting into two teams, the Cuthbert’s I survey – except for about five hundred feet – will be completed during Easter week.  The remaining points will be passages requiring maypoles and very thin members such as the inlet passage known as the Drinking Fountain. By the end of April there will be a dyeline print of the plan available for the Belfry, and the full survey will be published at this years’ Annual Dinner together with Derek Ford’s geomorphology of the cave.  For members who are wondering what has happened to other parts of the Cuthbert’s Report.  Don’t worry – they are on the way.  A tremendous amount of cross-referencing is required between each part, and so delays are inevitable at the moment.  On the stocks, ready for printing, are the sections dealing with the Rabbit Warren; Maypole Series; Rabbit Warren Extension.  In addition, the following parts are waiting final bits and pieces: - Main Chambers; New and Old Routes; Rocky Boulder and Coral series and the Long Chamber series.

One or two members have not yet received their copies of the spelaeodes.  Will anyone NOT having received the copy ordered please contact Dave Irwin.  Will all who have made sales PLEASE send the money to Bob, so that part 2 can be got under way.

A simple Home – Made Cjharger for NiFe Cells

by B. Prewer

Following the article on the care and maintenance of Nife cells which appeared in last month’s B.B., we are able to present members with a practical circuit for building a charger for their cells.  This article is by the same author as the previous article – Brian Prewer.  It has a great advantage over more conventional forms of charger in that the current is set automatically by a transistor, which takes the place of the variable resistor normally found in chargers for regulation charging current.  Thus, with the circuit provided by ‘Prew’, any number of batteries – depending on the transformer supply voltage – may be charged in series without the need for adjustment. The charger will give any current from 0 to 2 amps. It may thus be used

To charge other types of battery.  For the NC 113 C cell, as stated in the previous article, the charging rate should be 1.75 amps.  Further details on this article, or the previous article, may be had by contacting Brian Prewer.  –Ed.

The circuit is shown on the next page.  Details of the components follow: -

Mains Transformer.  (T1)

Primary…..240 volts. (tapped if necessary)

Secondary...20 to 30 volts at 3 amps.  The higher the secondary voltage, the more NIFE batteries may be charged at once. However, care must be taken not to exceed the rating of the diodes and transistor.

Silicon Rectifiers.  (D1 to D5)

Type 1S420 or equivalent.  Forward current 10 amps.  Peak inverse voltage 100 volts.

Transistor (Tr 1)

Type ZN 3055.

Resistors.  (R1 and R2)

R1, 470 ohms, 2 watts.  R2, 2.5 ohms, 10 watts.

Variable resistor (Vr 1)

1,000 ohms.

Zener Diode (Z1)

Type Z2A56CF, but any 5.6 volt zener diode will do as long as it is rated at about 0.5 watt.

Meter (M1)

To read 0 to 2 amps full scale.  A 0 to 5 amp meter will do.

Electrolytic Capacitor (C1)

500 microfarad at 50 volts working

General Notes:

The transistor must be mounted on a heat sink, otherwise it will overheat and destroy itself.  The heat sink should be finned and have an effective area of at least 150 square inches.  It should be about an eighth of an inch thick.

All the components, including the finned heat sinks, but excluding the transformer; main switch and fuse, may be obtained from; A. Marshall and Sons Ltd., 28 Cricklewood Broadway, London NW2

A suitable transformer may be obtained from; Samson’s Electronics Ltd., 9/10 Chapel Street, London NW1


Readers will have noted the poor quality of the reproduction of the two photographs of inn signs which we printed in the January B.B.  The Stencil was one of the few which Mike Luckwill had produced ready for his term as editor of the B.B., and the idea was to print to show readers the improvements which he would have made to the B.B., if he had lived.

Alas!  We expect that Mike must have had access to a duplicator if much better quality than the one which is used at present for the B.B. duplication!  Our good idea thus failed to come off.  Even so, quite a number of readers recognised the signs, and had visited the pubs in question.  Maybe we should run a pub identification series?


The B.B. is VERY short of articles; letters, or any useful form of contribution from readers. Please, if you have done anything which you think others would be interested in (within reason!) WRITE IT UP AND SEND IT TO S.J. COLLINS, HOMELEIGH, BISHOP SUTTON, BRISTOL

Impressions of the Symposium on Cave Surveying held at Leicester by the C.R.G.

The first impression obtained by the writer on arriving at Vaughan College was that is was a remarkable achievement for the organisers to have packed out the hall which held two hundred people to the extent that many additional cavers had to stand at the back.  I estimated that about 230 were present at each of the lectures through the day.  When one considers that the subject of Cave Surveying is a specialist one not likely to prove very attractive to the average caver, it was a remarkable attendance.

I will not go through the papers in detail, except to note that Mendip speakers were well in evidence, although there were very few Mendip cavers in the actual audience.  Some interesting fact emerged from the papers as a whole.  The O.F.D. surveyors, for example, relied on the fact that errors tend to cancel on very long traverses, and thus developed a high speed method of surveying which, although not very accurate for a pair of given survey stations, nevertheless produces a good enough result over the very long traverses they encountered.  The accuracy of radio (or more correctly, magnetic field) location methods was another eye opener.  Accuracies of a foot or two are being claimed with some confidence, provided that the depth of the passage is not too great.  Depth measurements are less accurate.  The use of computers to translate elevations, bearings and distances into Eastings, Northings and depths was also impressive, although the writer had the feeling that some of the computer boys got a little carried away with the possibilities of the computer later in the afternoon.

The subject of survey presentation was represented by papers by Mendip authors – ‘Wig’ and ‘Alfie’, and it begins to look as if Mendip has the monopoly of work in this field at present.

Anyone interested in the subject of cave surveying will able to purchase the complete set of proceedings of this symposium later in the year when they are published.  The B.B. will keep members informed of arrangements to get hold of copies.


The Belfry Bulletin for March, 1970.  Printed (stencils completed) by Wednesday, March 25, 1970.

Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas, Westhaven School, Uphill, Weston s Mare, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Homeleigh, Bishop Sutton, Bristol



The ninth of May has come and gone, and our new Belfry has been officially opened in reasonable B.E.C. fashion, for which event thanks are particularly due to the organisers, Pete and Joyce Franklin.

On Monday, the 15th of September last, the club was faced with the destruction of the Belfry and the necessity of finding a sum in excess of £3,000 very rapidly.  The alternatives would have been to abandon a Mendip headquarters for some time, or to put up some new temporary building, and thus push the problem of getting the club properly established on Mendip back for a long while.

By the ninth of May, two hundred and thirty six days after the fire, the club formally took possession of its new hut, and the formidable sum of money has almost been raised.  We can now actually pay every penny for the new Belfry, although this still leaves us with some debts and very little money for running the club over the rest of this year.

It would not be fair to single out individuals for the part which they have played in making this near miracle take place.  At its first meeting, the Committee agreed that it must be collectively responsible for the success or failure of the putting up and financing of the new Belfry. An editorial vote of thanks for their success would surely not be out of place on this happy occasion.

Temporary Emigration

It is with regret that we must announce that an assignment to the U.S.A. –  the land of the wigwam and of places like Wisconsin – has taken our Committee Chairman, Dave Irwin – better known as the Wig  –  away from Mendip for

a while.  Even sadder is the fact that he will almost certainly not be able to attend the A.G.M. and dinner this year.  He has had to resign from the Committee, but hopes to be back with us as soon as his work permits – unless, of course, he is made president of the national Spelaeological Association of America!  Seriously, we wish him a good trip and a speedy return.


Committee Changes

Owing to Dave Irwin’s absence, Gordon Tilly has offered to take over the production of caving reports. Bryan Ellis has agreed to be responsible for their sale.  Alfie has been elected Chairman of the Committee.  Other committee posts will remain unchanged.  The committee is now, A. Thomas, Hon. Sec.; R. Bagshaw, Hon. Treas.; R. Wickens, Caving Sec.; P. Atwell, Climbing Sec.; P. Franklin, Hut Warden; J. Riley, Belfry Engineer; N. Petty, Tacklemaster; T. Hodgson, Assit. Hut Warden; A. Collins, Chairman & B.B. Editor.


Car Pot

By Martin Hauan

On Friday, 27th March, a party of seven, made up from B.E.C. and Shepton members, made a descent of the infamous Car Pot.  Those in the party were Bob Mehew, Brian Woodward, Bob Craig (Crange) John Riley, Martin Webster, Martin Mills (Milch) and myself.  The weather was fair as we tramped over the fells to the Allotment by way of Trow Gill.  Each of us was secretly making up excuses to opt out of doing this notoriously tight hole. John Riley looked a bit fatter than usual probably due to the dozen or so sweaters he’d put on in an attempt to add those extra inches which would decide his fate.

The party gathered around the entrance, each waiting for the other to make the first move.  Cowardice overcome, we laddered the first pitch of forty five feet.  It was an easy climb, made somewhat awkward withy the hands full of ladders and ropes. At the bottom, the way on was through a small crawl which opened out into the top of the second pitch.  This pitch of twenty five feet was an easy climb.  At the bottom, a sideways slide and a ten foot drop brought us to the start of the most famous part of this infamous hole – the notorious BAPTISTRY CRAWL.   Bob Mehew, our gallant leader, set off trailing a rope.  After many sweet words, Bob reached the far end. Tackle was then pulled through. Marin Webster followed the tackle through.  Crange then made his first attempt, but it failed.  Milch and myself then passed Crange and pushed on until we were at the head of the third pitch.  Meanwhile, John was finding trouble getting through the sideways slide, so, without any misgivings, John made his way to the surface with Brian who couldn’t even get into the slide!  Crange, the veteran of Black Shiver, eventually got the message that his efforts were in vain – the hole just wasn’t big enough.  So, with four bods through the crawl and three making their way to the surface, anxious not to miss a minute of their drinking time, we carried on the face all the difficulties that remained.

Bob and Martin had pushed on ahead, so Milch and myself eventually got round to following them. The third pitch of twenty five feet had an awkward take off.  At the bottom of the pitch, the way on was in a meandering rift that almost immediately opened out into the fourth pitch of fifty feet.  The landing on this fourth pitch was in a large rift.  At the head of the fifth pitch, an inlet came in from the side.  This fifth pitch of a hundred and thirty feet was made slightly damp by this.  The pitch is broken by a ledge about sixty feet down, so no individual climb in longer than sixty feet (surely 130 – 60 = 70 - Editor).  The bottom of this pitch was on a ledge some ten feet above the floor of the passage (sorry! That’s where the missing ten feet got to – Ed).  This is the ‘North Craven’ Passage.  Upstream, a mud bank with a ladder led to an extensive series of low passages, whilst downstream on the left of the passage was a small sump.  Continuing down the passage, a stream emerged from under a ruckle. Climbing the ruckle, one entered a large bedding plane.  The left side of this bedding plane is supposed to connect with the Far East Passage in Gaping Ghyll, through a four inch high passage.  Pushing on down the passage, you enter a largish chamber which, at the far side, has a stupendous stalactite, completely untouched.  The whole thing must be some ten feet in length and is a beautiful white.  Behind this, a muddy passage continues to a mud choke.  The formations in these lower passages vary from stalagmite bosses to delicate straws.  It is refreshing to find a place that still has its original atmosphere.  This atmosphere would almost certainly go if the Far East Passage was banged.  Without a doubt, the superb formations that make a fitting end to this equally superb hole would soon be smashed and the walls defaced.

Having seen all we wanted to, we started out.  The big pitch of one hundred and thirty feet was easy on the first part, but on the second part, the ladder cut across the shaft at an angle, and this tended to make one swing under the ladder for the last few feet.  This pitch was soon passed and the tackle coiled.  The fourth pitch was quickly passed and at the third pitch, tackle was hauled up the rift behind the ladder.  The actual climb was easy, but the take off was a problem. Baptistry Crawl was passed without too much difficulty.  With the most awkward parts of the pot passed, tackle hauling speeded up and the entrance pitch was soon reached.  With Bob at the top, and Martin half-way up, we hoped the tackle would not snag.  When Bob asked for some of the tackle to be tied on the rope, Milch just couldn’t resist tying everything on the rope just to see them suffer; and so up went the tackle with the ladder for the first pitch hooked on it.  That wasn’t planned!

Panic stricken, we watched the ladder rise.  Of course, we knew that they’d put the ladder down again – or rather, we hoped.  Many minutes later, the ladder appeared in the distance.  Relief. A quick climb and we were out. However, with no Crange, Brian of John in sight we had to carry all the tackle.  The walk over the fells was somewhat speeded up when it started to snow. A quick change, so that we didn’t miss any drinking time, and we were on our way.  The whole trip took only six hours, at the end of which you felt as if you had really achieved something.

The trip was very pleasing, the whole pot being very technical in the way of belays etc., which is a change from just bombing through large railway tunnels, mile after mile.

In order to catch up with the backlog of B.B.’s which have been held up for a variety of reasons, WE NEED ARTICLES, LETTERS ETC.  Have YOU done anything interesting lately?  Are YOU happy with the way that the B.B., the Belfry or the club is being run? Can YOU add any interesting comments to any of the articles which have appeared in the B.B. lately?  If you can, or aren’t or have (see above) why not write in to the Editor at Homeleigh, Bishop Sutton, Bristol and tell him about it?  A short article note is always welcome.  An article is even more welcome.  Help us to get the B.B. back on time again!


April Committee Meeting

The April meeting of the Committee noted that the money from the sale of the barn to the S.M.C.C. was now in the hands if its solicitor, and would be paid into club funds as soon as the signing of the deeds was complete.  The new Belfry is insured, and full cover for various aspects is being investigated.  A hold up in the printing of the B.B. was noted, due to the fact that work on the new Belfry was taking priority. It was agreed that this must be so, but that other arrangements for printing would be sorted out as soon as possible.  Details of the progress of fitting out the Belfry continued to take up most of the remainder of the meeting.  A donation of 25 Oldham lamps has been received from Alan Coase, the proceeds of the sale of these to be put into the hut fund.  The committee would like to thank Alan for this generous gift.

Just a Sec

The committee have received the resignation of Dave Irwin with resignation.  Dave is off to the States for six months.  He will continue to edit the caving reports, but their production has been taken over now by Bryan Ellis and Gordon Tilly on a temporary basis.

The Southern General meeting of the C.R.G. will be at ABERCRAVE Welfare centre, Swansea Valley, on the 27-28th of June.  I can let anyone who is interested have all the details.

The B.S.A. National Conference and Exhibition will be held at the University of Nottingham from the 11th to the 13th of September.  Again, I can provide all details including the photo salon, for which I have application forms.

Don’t forget the B.E.C.’s exhibition opening in the City museum in June.  Nike Palmer has undertaken all the arrangements.

Monthly Notes

With Dave Irwin away in the states, an arrangement has been made for his feature on caving matters – Monthly Notes – to be carried on in his absence under a different authorship. We hope to be able to include Monthly notes again in the next issue of the B.B. – Ed.


The Encharted Mountain

by R.S. (Kangy King)
(Our man in France)

For me, our trip to the Aigues Tortes, to climb the Enchanted Mountain is inextricably mixed with memories of vintage pass- storming in a Citroen 2CV.

The Augues Tortes is a Spanish national Park to the East of Viella.  It is a beautiful place, well wooded, with sharp peaks and a gem of a mountain called Los Encantos which, I suppose, is the Spanish for enchanted. Anyway, it ought to be, for Los Encantos is rather fairy tale like, rising in a sheer wall split by a giant cleft and crowned with pinnacles, the whole reflected in the surface of a green lake.

The ‘Deux Chevaux’ by contrast, is entirely practical and was obviously conceived by a man with a morbid fear of being copied.  It is a “CV, or 425cc of pure slog, with bodywork which takes to pieces at the drop of a hat.  It rattles and flaps and bites fingers if you should slam the door with the windows flapped up and the hand on the sill.  When the window is not nipping fingers, it is smashing elbows – but it is possible to learn. Take changing a wheel for example. No jack?  Easy!  One man lifts one side of the 2CV while the other swaps wheels.  Petrol is ordered by the pint.

Heroically, Alan Bonner and I navigated across Spain form east to west following the most northerly of the roads, driving round each pothole and boulder, making for the Aigues Tortes. Zigzagging slowly upwards, hugging the hairpins and following the bets and least broken parts of the dirt mountain roads suddenly evoked the early days of motoring.  Upwind, the route was clear; downwind we were obscured by our own dust.  Bouncing and bumping over the ruts with only just enough power to surmount the next step in the track and with the uncertainty of ever reaching the top, this was a page out of motoring history.  The desperate attempts to conserve both tyres and momentum; the sense of achievement at the pass; and the feeling of being on a long journey were experiences not to be missed.

We arrived at Espot, the village at the entrance to the park.  The Michelin map clearly shows a road leading into the park.  What it does not show is the state of that road.  It beat us.  At mid-day, the 2CV ground to a halt on a steep section where a stream had washed away the surface to leave a rocky step.  We collected stones and dirt and made a ramp and tried again – and failed again.

It would be better, we reasoned, in the cool of the evening when the denser air would give more power. So we ate and drank and sunbathed and walked a bit and eventually tried again – and failed once again.

Our walk had not revealed any possible camp sites until well up the road.  It had also shown us Los Encantos and had wetted our appetite.  We had no alternative but to try another road on the west side of the park, so once again we emptied the 2CV of seats and slept in it.  The next day, we stormed the passes in our historic machine and finally, fuming, clattering, bouncing and pushing, fought our way into the most perfect of camp sites. It is a green meadow dotted with trees, close by a still lake.  It was here that we rested and plotted how best to assail the enchanted mountain.

Interesting enough, Los Encantos was a far from us as it could be and still be in the park.  We would, at least, see a lot of the park. So the plan was made.  We would carry a bivouac to the peak, as high as was possible.  The next day we would sort out a route and climb it.  Bravely we would leave the rope behind – and would manage without it, or retreat.  Light and fast – that would be our way!

The walk through the Aigues Tortes was full of interest and beauty.  Elegant peaks, still clear lakes and sparkling streams – all in blazing sunshine.  The long day ended with the onset of dusk and the collapse of me diplomatically, Alan thought we had gone far enough and, saved from further exertion, I gratefully prepared supper.  From the clearing in the forest, Los Encantos looked impossible.  At this angle, the frontal wall rose sheer.  The bounding ridge rose steeply and jaggedly leftwards from a col that in turn topped another wall.  We had hoped that we could outflank the mountain to avoid excessive difficulty, but the wall below the col seemed to scotch that idea, while the right hand ridge leading from the col formed the boundary of the valley we were in. We cursed the lack of rope and then logic that had made us leave it behind.  We very much wanted to climb.

The night was spent with Alan on an altar like stone in the middle of the clearing and with me at its foot. The ambience and the association of the altar caused at least one of the sleeper’s vivid dreams of creatures sniffing at quaking feet.  After all, the sleep-benumbed brain reasoned, this is a WILD LIFE park and the Pyrenean bear EXISTS.

It was rather nice when dawn came.  Breakfast over, the sacs hidden, landmarks memorised (bear tracks not found) we asset off to the wall below the col.  We carried only a bottle of water and a lump of Christmas pudding wrapped up in our lightweight anoraks.  The day, as usual, was set to be hot and clear.

With very little choice we made directly for the col, or rather the screes at the foot of the wall. As we topped an intervening ridge we had our first clue.  A scree fan ran from what must be a hidden gully.  We went straight to it and found about a thousand feet of gully, narrow but sufficiently inclined to climb easily without a rope.  It emerged on the col.  Directly ahead dropped away to a valley, to the left were twin towers of the summits of Los Encantos, immediately to the left was the only route to the nearest summit from here.  It was steep, exposed and narrow.  We wondered what to do, and looked at the right hand ridge of the col. It looked much easier and, feeling a little more cheerful, we thought that at least we could climb that.

We went to look at the first part of the way to our greatly desired peak.  A quick pull up a fifteen feet step gave access to a small meadow hollowed in the back of the ridge.  Leaning back, one could see the ridge continue in what appeared to be a series of overhangs.  We climbed cautiously up the wall at the back of the meadow and then, picking a line of weakness, climbed between two gendarmes to get to the ridge.

Two tiny figures gazed down into giddy nothing until their glance made out minute trees dotted amongst the screes.  As the mind became adjusted to the tremendous exposure, it was realised that, to continue, the exposure must be faced and accepted.  The way on was, in fact, on the other greatly exposed side of the ridge.

The climbing proved to be fairly easy.  The route finding however, was more difficult and slowly, step by step, we sorted out an acceptable route up the ridge.

The bathos of our arrival on the summit released all the tensions.  A herd of goats had got there first!  The friendly creatures nuzzled up to us and posed photographically for us against splendid views.  The summit is, in fact, a fairly substantial flat area and so we had no objection to them sharing it with us while we marvelled at their agility to get there. We discovered too, a small box containing a book.  There were about a dozen ascents recorded for the year, most of them in Spanish.  We were interested to see that a few weeks earlier an English pair had left their names in the book.  We decided to add ours.  On such a lightweight trip, we of course carried no pencil.  However, the very resourceful Bonner with a sliver of wood and a drop of blood (his!) succeeded in recording that Bonner and King of the B.E.C. had been there!

With our objective achieved and our names in blood on the summit, the pleasantly relaxed feeling gave way to a consideration of the next problem that of getting down and back to base. Crabtree’s solution to this problem was to close his eyes and walk about a bit.  Well, that might have been all right for Crabtree, but we didn’t feel it would be of much use to us.  We would like to have continued the ridge and gone to the next summit, but this looked as it would involve a fair amount of rock climbing, and we weren’t brave enough without a rope.  There is also a frontal gully which looked as if it might go easily, but we could not be sure and lacked the rope to get us out of trouble.  That left the airy way by which we had come.  Bit by bit we retraced our path; some time after, from the col, we were able to look up at the clean bright rock.

The gully went easily, despite several chutes of stones, leaving us to pick our way through the complicated rocks and vegetation below the gully to retrieve our rucksack.  By way of celebration, we decided to start walking.  We still had a long way to go.  Lunch; however, was a leisurely affair taken by a sparkling stream in the bright sunshine. Christmas pudding and soup, sardines and coffee.

Our walk home continued, and tea was taken at a rough Spanish cabin where we bought litre of wine. Half of this was consumed by us and the other half poured into the nearest stream – justifiably.  Leglessly, we sank into camp and subsided into our respective heaps to reflect on what we had done and to plan what we would do.

Mountains like that get into the blood.


Books Held in the Club Library

Many club members know that a fairly large selection of books are held in the club library.  A few members have even been known to borrow such books from time to time.  This list shows all of the books which are available for members to borrow.    If a number of members wish for a book to be added to the library, they should let the Hon. Librarian (Dave Searle) know and, provided that enough members want the book and/or the book is not too expensive, it can usually be added to the list.  A suggestion that the thickness of each book should be published, so that members might know what books to borrow to prop up the legs of tables, etc, was felt to be not in the best interests of library users.  The list follows: -



Texas, the caves of

Nat. Speleo. Soc., U.S.A.


Jenolan Caves ( Australia)

B. Dunlop.


Homes of Primeval Man

Josef Kunsky.


Wookey Hole, It’s Caves & cave Dwellings

H.E. Balch.


Cave Men, Old and New

N. Casteret.


My Caves

N. Casteret.


Ten Years under the Earth

N. Casteret.


The Cave Book

Earth Sci. Inst. ( U.S.A.)


Derbyshire, The Caves of

T.D. Ford (1st Ed.)


Mendip – Its Swallets Caves & Rock Shelters

H.E. Balch.


Mendip – The Great Cave of Wookey

H.E. Balch.


Mendip – Cheddar, its Gorge and Caves

H.E. Balch.


Mendip Caves, the

H.E. Balch.


Au Fond Des Gouffres

N. Casteret.


Cave Hunting

W. Boyd Dawkins.


Caves and Caving, Number 2



Underground Adventure

Gemmel and Meyers.


Caves of Adventure

H. Taziefe.


Adventures Underground

V.S. Wigmore & A.M.W.


Rouffignac, the cave of

Nougier & Robert.


British Caving (First Edition)

Ed. Cullingford, C.R.G.


Darkness under the Earth

B.W. Franke.


Caves and Caverns of Peakland

Crichton Porteus.


Pennine Underground (First Edition)

N. Thornber.


Underground in Furness

E.G. Holland.


Copper mines of Alderney Edge

“Jug” Jones.


Cyprus, some caves of

“Jug” Jones.


Scotland, some caves and mines

“Jug” Jones.




High Heaven (Fr.Dauphine)

Jacques Boell.


South Col (Everest 1953)

Wilfred Noyce.


First over Everest

Houston Exped. 1953.


Nandi Davi, the ascent of

B.W. Tilman.


Nanga Parbat, the Siege of

Paul Bauer.


Sandstone climbs in S.E. England

E.C. Pyatt.


Romance on the Rocks

C.A. Hall.


Climbs in the Canadian Rockies

F.S. Smythe.


Mount Everest – the reconnaissance, 1921

C. Howard-Bury.


Kamet Conquered

F.S. Smythe.



Maurice Hertzog.


Mount Everest, Epic of

F. Younghusband.



M. Banks.


Conquering of the Celestial Mountains

Yevgeny Simonov.


Kanchenjunga – the Untrodden Peak

F.S. Smythe.


Mountains of the Moon

P.M. Synge.


Climbing, Where to climb in the British Isles

E.C. Pyatt.


Mountains of Memory

A. Dunn.


Mountains Prospect



Mountains of Snowdonia, the

Carr & Lister.


Of Men and Mountains



Everest, the ascent of

J. Hunt.


Rockclimbing and mountaineering

C. Brunning.


Mountaineering, Readers Guide to

Library Assoc.


Britain ,Climbing in

J.E.Q. Barford.


Mountaineering, a short manual of

Burns, Shuttleworth.


Mid Moor and Mountain

Balsillie & Westwood.


Mountaineering, the Technique of

J.E.B. Wright.




South West Scotland

Ward, Lock and Bowdens.


Falls and Caves of Ingleton, the

J. Hamer.


Outdoor Guide, the

R. McCarthy.


Unbeaten Tracks

P.E. Barnes.


Wye valley

Ward, Locke and Co.



L.R. Muithead.


The Dorset Coast

G.M. Davies.


Cambrian Journey

R. Taylor.



C.R.B. Barrett.


Welsh Three Thousands, The,

T. Firbank.


Eastern Alps

Baedeker (1981).


Road Book of Scotland

A.A. Handbook.


Archaeology and Geology


Fossils, Birds, Reptiles & Amphibians

Br. Museum.


Fossils and Plants

Br. Museum.


History of Palaeontology

Br. Museum.



Patrick Geddes.


A.B.C. of Geology

A. Harvey.


Archaeological Remains

J.R. Garrod.


Geology in the Service of Man

Fearnsides & Bulman.


Geology and scenery

A.E. Trueman.


The Hampshire Basin & adjoining areas



Bristol and Gloucester District



Wells & Springs of Hertfordshire



River Scenery, Vale of Neath

F.J. North.


History of Devonshire Scenery

A.W. Clayden.


Prehistoric Britain

C. & J. Hawkes.


Britain’s Structure & Scenery

L.D. Stamp.


What Happened in history

G. Childe.


Geology around Weymouth



Progress and Archaeology

V.G. Childe.


Digging up the Past

L. Woolley.


Romance of Excavations, the

D. Masters.


Early Britain

J. hawkes.


Guide to Anglo-Saxon Antiquities

Br. Museum.


On the Track of Prehistoric Man

Herbert Kunn.


Reappraisal of Peruvian Archaeology

W.C. Bennett.


Man’s Journey through Time



Aragonite Spelaeoyhems as indicators of Palaeotemperature

G.W. Moore.


Water Pollution Research, 1946



Irish Cave Excavations

J.C. Coleman.



Belfry Opening Song

Having literally nothing to fill the last page of this B.B. with, it is proposed to publish the words of the song which was ‘performed’ at the opening of the new Belfry.  Older members may possibly be reminded of the past episodes in Belfry life by this potted history of our belfries in rhyme….

We are the exploration club, from pub to pub we roam,
But although we wander far and wide, the Belfry is our home.
Long years ago, the B.E.C. lads had no fixed address
And kipping in the nearest ditch caused members great distress
So we built a Belfry on the slag heap – right by Les Gadd’s cess
For whatever is worth doing, we will do it to excess.

One day old Beecham said to us, “You are a drunken crowd.
Your singing may be clever, but it feels amount too loud!
I’m fed up with your shouting, swearing, honking drunkenness
So I’ll let you have some land of mine where I can hear it less.”
So we moved the whole place down there like some dirty great express
For whatever is worth doing, we will do it to excess.

At last the Belfry fell down, and the new one stood alone
And bods said, “Let’s rebuild it in something tough, like stone!
We’ll get our stone for nothing,” they cried with craftiness
“But if we build in stone then very slowly we’ll progress.”
So we built a stone hut just for caving bods to wash and dress
For whatever is worth doing, we will do it to excess.

One day some blokes returning from the Hunter’s Lodge one night
Said, “Here’s a flaming turn up – the Belfry’s caught alight!”
Astonished cavers read next day in the Western Daily Press,
‘The Belfry’s all burnt down, blokes; it’s a write-off we confess.’
For whatever is worth doing, we will do it to excess.

The Long Term Plan Committee said, “We’ve a crafty plan
To build a brand new Belfry, if you lot think we can.
We’ll never get a grant in time, so it’s all off unless
We raise three thousand quid – it’s quite beyond our means, we guess.
So shall we build this Belfry, blokes?” – the club all shouted, “YES!”
For whatever is worth doing, we will do it to excess.

So now we have a new Belfry in a new and splendid state,
And, according to our motto, we’re here to celebrate.
On other clubs and weegees, we’ll once again impress
That no one can approach us when it comes to booziness
For when we get lit up like this, we damn nigh fluoresce!
For whatever is worth doing, we will do it to excess.

(A verse about putting up the ‘new’ wooden Belfry has been omitted through lack of space).


Stencils completed 17.6.70.