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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone Wells  72126.

Editor: Robin Gray

From the Editor

Firstly many thanks for cave pamphlets someone sent me.  They were for Virginia's Shenandoah Caverns and Luray Caverns.  J,Rat hag put them in the library.

Response to my caption Comp was not forth coming or even fifth coming.  Only Jeremy H. sent in a caption.,.......... 'the Flat Earth Society were right after all'

I hear that Unit 2 have asked to take over our old dig at Toothache Pot, Longwood Valley.  This is still a possible goer so good luck to them

The next BB has a couple articles already but I could do with a few more!!  Next issue.......The Truth about the Sludge Pit Dig and the Discovery of the Dave’s Cave, What else?

The new lock is now on the Belfry Door so if you haven't got yours yet send £2 and Membership Number Now........

Please take note of Dany's Letter below.  That’s it, keep the articles coming in,

Good caving


Working Weekend


This is your last chance to turn up for a working weekend.  There are a lot of jobs to be done inside and out.  We cannot afford to let the hut get any worse, so if we don't get a good turn out this time we will have to get subcontractors in to do the work. This will cost money so subs will have to go up.  The choice is yours.  Hopefully we'll see you on 12th May.  That gives you plenty of time to plan to be there!!

The following jobs need doing: - We must build a new carbide store to comply with new fire regulations. The windows, men's bunkroom door, fascia and soffit, window boards, all walls and the ceiling in the main room need cleaning and painting.  Also repairs to guttering and the main room ceiling need to be done, plus many more jobs.


Dany Bradshaw.


The Pre-Austrian Expedition

This is just a short account of the trials and tribulations of the small party (to wit three of us) who went out early in the Summer (?) to put tackle into the Barengassewindschact in preparation for the main party.

Originally we were going to use the tackle coming back from the Mexico expedition but this did not materialise. So we thought, no problem, we belong to a caving club, the expedition is a club expedition, the club has tackle, we'll borrow that.  However the tackle ober gruppenfuhrer had other ideas and removed the tackle before it could be signed out.  Incidentally for the younger members of the club I can remember John Dukes when he was a caver, so don't believe all the rumours that you hear.  Thanks to the generosity of a number of individuals we managed to scrape up enough tackle to make it worthwhile setting out.

That ends the historical introductory session.

Trip Log:-

(There was a suggestion that as it was so small we call it a Trip Twig)

Thursday 9/6/83:-

The party, Trev Huges, Rachael Clarke and myself, assembled at the Biffoery in Wookey Hole and proceeded to pack kit into the car until it was sick and refused to take any more. By disguising several rucksacks as passengers and lying through our teeth by telling the car that we were going to leave Biffo at his parents' house.  We managed to persuade Eithne (the car) to take to the high road.  We should have been on the low road!  It was our first taste of Hughes' navigation, but more of this later.  A brief stop was made at the Kent Biffoery when our perfidy was made plain to Eithne then on to Dover and the midnight ferry.

Friday 10/6/83:-

After driving through the night and the day and a bit of the night again we reached Hallstatt.  Over a refreshing few litres of foaming Stiegal, those who've been there know all about Stiegal, those who haven't go on next year's trip, we met one of the local cave divers who seemed on his own admittance to be able to do most things short of walking on water.  He had also just become a father and forced us, well not exactly forced us, to drink champagne with him.  Overnight bivvi in the underground car park.

Saturday 11/6/83:-

Trevor's diary assures me that we staggered out of bed and fettled ten, possibly some Morris Dancing manoeuvre that I missed.  My recollection is of crawling out of sleeping bags and making tea.  Then around to the cable car when it was found that the top section did not open for a fortnight.  Nothing daunted I set off and found out that the man at the bottom had not been fibbing.  Then I was daunted.  However things were not that bad and an hour and a quarter’s walking saw me at the Wiesberghaus (hereinafter known as the WBH) having dumped a load of tackle at the entrance to Barengassewindschact (hereinafter known as BWS).  Biffo and Rach dumped the remainder of the kit at the goods cable car.  Several phone calls later and after much farting about two loads got up the mountain.  The remainder were left at the bottom to be hauled up next day and Trev and Rachael walked up.

Sunday 12/6/83:-

Underground at last. Biffo set off first and laddered the first two pitches and was in the process of tackling Aalenschact when Rach and I caught him up.  The cave and available tackle was then rigged down as far as the bottom of the Stairway Series, i.e. the start of the Vesta Run.  No great incidents.

Monday 13/6/83:-

I got up early to walk down the mountain and get supplies, chat to Eithne and check on the kit.  Kit was safely loaded on to the cable car and I pushed off into the teeming metropolis of Hallstatt.  Had a very pleasant day and walked back up in the afternoon, noting with satisfaction that the kit had indeed disappeared up the mountain. Upon arrival at the WBH, I found Trev and Rachael looking suspiciously as though they had not been caving. Apparently the kit had been taken off by a group of Austrian policemen and had only arrived late in the afternoon. The weather was threatening (quote from the Biffo memoirs) but the others had taken two loads of kit to the entrance of BWS.  Only one load had actually got there as Rach got lost on the way and had managed a round trip ending up back at WBH.

Shortly after I arrived back the rain started.

Tuesday 14/6/83:-

Fester day watching the rain.  Later, just as we were getting bored with simple transparent water drops, the weather got colder and it started to sleet/snow.

Rachael went off at 4p.m. so we decided not to cook her as neither Trev or myself are very partial to 'gamey' meat.

Seriously, Rachael set out on a solo trip to tidy up the rigging at the top of Aalenschact but failed to find the bolt placement so contented herself with transporting down some ladders.

Wednesday 15/6/83:-

A late start.  The snow had become real snow.  Trev and I went underground at 1.15 p.m. re-rigged the top of Aalenschact, Bolt Fracture Pitch and the Snack Pots and then pushed on and rigged Batchelorschect which was quite wet and needed a new bolt. Trev went down BS and I sent the tackle down to him.  Then suddenly my light went out completed.  Straddled over a 50m pitch is hardly the greatest of places to have that happen.  Never mind, I thought, Trev will be up in a minute and I can use his light to get back to my spares on the other side of the head of the pitch.  Well to cut a long story short (thank God!) Trev had his own major epic on the way up when the rope slipped and he found himself prusikking up a rope, in a stream, both of which were emerging from a 3” wide rift. Much shouting later we were reunited and made our way out.

Outside several inches of snow had fallen since we left the WBH.

The snowfall continued throughout the night.  Even the Hut guardian Fritz had left!!

Thursday 16/6/83:-

After a cold night a lazy day in the WBH looking out at the snow, mist etc.  Trev did his Capt Gates bit and announced that he was going to get some exercise by walking up to the Simony Hutte only to be defeated by the weather.

Friday 17/6/83:-

After much discussion it was decided to pack up and head for home.  Trev gallantly volunteered to take himself over to the BWS, to collect SRT kit from the head of Aalenschact entrance.

Then off the mountain.

The trip home was relatively uneventful apart from Trev's navigation.

I can see why they kept him down in the Engine Room in the Navy.  We played a form of motorised hopscotch with several European borders and the highlight was when finally asked where we were (since we were so obviously not on the autobahn as they do not normally have grass growing up the centre nor for that matter herds of cattle) he was heard to reply "Page 46".  As page 46 covered an area of country stretching from Poland to the Balearic Islands we were less than reassured.


And now: - Dear Diary.

by Bolt.

(not to be read by anyone with a serious BENT )

The planned early start had worked well and nearly everyone was ready by 12.30.  Soon we were strung out along the Cumbria Way, the fresh North Westerly scooting up our nostrils, forcing out last nights booze fumes, in some cases from the rear.  What a team!  Staunch, Resolute and Steady-eyed.  This was the BIG ONE.  In the lead was Tim L., the only one who seemed to have any idea where we were going (but he wanna gonna tell no one see!) followed by our Chris Bonnington clone---John T.  Then came Dave (what is your second name anyway) hereafter known as W.I.Y.S.N.A. and Bob (mine cost £85 (quid-)).  Protecting our rear were, or they would be when they caught up, Karen and Blitz, one of whom had trouble putting on his boots, his socks, his willie warmer, starting the car, and locking the car.

Time passed.

Tim was eventually forced to stop his aimless zig-zagging and head towards the target.  Once we saw the white peaks and gullies of Bow Fell, excitement ran high and the lead frequently changed.  Bob H, being lucky enough to find an area completely exposed to the icy wind, announced the place as our lunch break spot and then huddled down behind the one protective boulder.  Within 10 minutes the rest of us were eyeing that boulder with lust in our eyes and eventually could stand it no more.  Blitz and one who shall remain anonymous (O.W.S.R.A.) leapt on the offending item and with superhuman strength, hurled it down the mountain into the abyss.

Bob then said it was time to go.

We continued on our way with those carrying the 10ft. B.E.C. ice-axes looking like dodgem cars and in some cases acting like them as well.  I found myself casting surreptitious glances at the heavens for signs of thunderstorms, for surely if lightning was to strike, there would be among us a great smite!

The snow slopes were reached and crampons were fitted, re-fitted, and re-re-fitted.  The snow was very hard and well consolidated; good crampon material.  We stopped at the base of the main gully to await the arrival of our rear-guard. Karen was new to crampons and Blitz was messing around and making clucking noises.  Whilst excavating seats in the snow, it was noted that all loose objects (snow, ice, equipment) travelling down-slope, invariably ended up hitting or just missing these two - Good Game.  It was also noted that up to a certain size of object, Blitz would skilfully deflect, but above that (50 lbs say) he'd selflessly skip aside to let Karen have some fun.

We could put it off no longer.  Four of the magnificent 7 headed up the main gully, while Bob (may his beer taste of camel dung) H. said that he wanted to go up the steep, tight gully to the right. Tim and OWSRA followed as Bob was the only one with a rope and we didn't want to loose it.

Shortly afterwards we came to a vertical obstruction in the gully…………

Much discussion – the only gear we had was an ice-axe apiece and crampons, a piece of rope (30ft) and suddenly I noticed one set of footprints going up the right hand wall of the gully and followed.  At the top of the steep slope they turned and went back down.  The reason was obvious - the next move was vertica1, on rock and definitely not reversible. 

However, above this was a long ledge leading back to the gully, above the obstruction.  Tim and Bob were still deep in talk so, inserting my front points in a horizontal slit, I stepped up ignoring the small voice in my head that said 'sucker'.  The move was harder than expected and it took time before I could stand up and inspect the 1edge.  It was 1ft wide, ice -covered and the rock- face was leaning outwards – no chance of anyone making it along there.  The only way on was a rising traverse going away from the gully with no snow slopes below, just vertical drops.  I set off. The moves over the steep small snow pockets weren't so bad but the semi-iced rock gave me the shivers and I'd soon lost feeling in my left hand because I was using it to wedge between the rock face and the snow.  Eventually a reverse traverse was possible and shortly after that Bob hove into view, having left the security of the gully to make sure that in the event of the expected plummet he'd be able to reach the choci bar in my pocket before Tim. He patted me on my sweaty bald patch and said 'there there' as I told him what a terrible day I ' d had.  Back to the gully and a half frozen Tim who refrained from saying 'you stupid +J$?h!@$G;!  He even cracked a smile.

It had taken me an hour to regain the gully!

Roped up now, we set off and almost immediately my left crampon came off.  The thought of the possible outcome if that had happened a few minutes earlier sent a cold shiver down my back.  Tim and Bob were going like express trains and and I, feeling a bit shattered, had trouble keeping up.  Almost there now and we hit a wind funnel, with the upward wind so powerful that it felt as though we were being lifted up the slope. At last the top and the other four in various stages of boredom.  John was in the process of building a loo, while Blitz hadn’t been able to wait and excitedly told us how he'd snapped the lengths off as they came out.  On to Bow Fell with a quick eye-popping, at the steepness of the main gully that the other four had just climbed.  Well done Karen.  Off crampons just in time for Blitz to do a somersault on a nice sheet of ice.  Karen followed suit later.  We headed at speed for the Old Dungeon Ghyll.

Tues 21st Feb. Liquid sunshine pouring down.  My Koflachs had half eaten my feet so it seemed a good day not to go anywhere.  Drove to a survival aids centre near Penrith - they're making me a sleeping bag big enough to share with a Grizzly!  Spent a fascinating afternoon being shown things like how to catch a rabbit with a Bazooka. Tbe problem seemed to be finding it afterwards.

Arrived back at the cottage to find people giving the impression of drowned rats.  Apparently they'd spent the day swimming around the mountains, looking for a 756 metre monolith called Harrison Stickle that, dominates the skyline in Langdale.  And guess what dear readers, there it was, gone!!  Breathlessly they reported the sad news.

Wed 22nd Feb.  My Koflachs had been remoulded by a hot fire and now looked vaguely like Chris B’s face - yes - he of the speeky speeky through the air and permanent flat tyre.   Time to test them.  Went looking for Harrison’s Stickle and guess what dear reader, it had returned!

Breathlessly I reported the good news.

Arrived back at the cottage to find people giving me their impressions of drowned rats.

That evening at the Britania, Rachael, Jane, and Basset arrived from different directions. Replacement engines will be installed as soon as possible.  By the way, Bassett’s details are now a load of digits, sparks flashes and burps on the all-seeing police computer.  1984 strikes! Didn't recognise Rachael for the first hour.  She had a Bad cold and wasn't talking.

Thurs 23rd Feb. Chris Bonnington alias John T. was going to take us on a 20 mile walk across every damn peak he could find and we were actually ready by 0330 - still can't believe it.  After Blitz had sorted out his normal pre-start problems - you know - willie warmer, keys; etc, we set off up Wrynose Fell missing out Wrynose Bridge, Wrynose Pass, Wrynose Breast and Wrynose Bottom, - who is this guy? Then on to Pike of Blisco where we found a couple with no axe or crampons having trouble getting up a snow slope.  We then went up a short very steep slope and they came round and followed in our foot steps!!  Good cover of snow everywhere and the sun was shining unfortunately never on us.  Down to Red Tarn with John and Blitz walking straight across it and Karen and myself praying for their safety.  Then to Cold Pike where Blitz talked us into going up a collapsing and unstable snow slope and then came up last!!  Across to Crinkle Crags where we met W.I.Y.S.N.A. end the top and rapidly disappearing part of Bob H.  They were building an igloo with Bob inside, so we stopped to help or hinder as was our wont.  Eventually Bob was completely incarcerated and tempting though it was, we couldn't stand the thought of him having something real to gripe about, so we dug through the floor to retrieve him.

Everyone agreed that if we'd had our sleeping bags with us we'd have been quite happy to spend a night in the Old Dungeon Ghyll.  We then glissaded down a one in one right into the said pub.

Fri 24th Feb  People shot off in all directions.  However, compliments of Blitz, I was ill.  So was Rachael, so snuffling gently into our respective handkerchiefs, we went for a walk around Grassmere.  Between snuffles Rachael pointed out dippers swimming, diving mallards, sleeping mallards, poison fungus and the odd dead sheep or two. Al1 while the joys of creation shone out of her eyes beneath the soggy tea-cosy she was wearing.

That evening saw a determined assault on the cold I had to the tune of 9 whiskeys and a couple of pints.

To finish on a good note, the next day I went by myself - Grisedale, Dollywaggon Pike, Helvellyn and back via Striding Edge.  The snow was fabulous, the sun was shining and the trip included an 800ft grade I gully. It must class amongst the best of the day trips I've ever done.  Finally, the owner of the cottage allowed me to stay overnight free of charge!!!


Mendip Rescue Organization

Report by the Hon. Secretary and Treasurer for the Year ending 3lst December 1983

It is sad to start this report by recording the death of Dr. Bob Everton early in the year.   He was mainly interested in cave archaeology and, although we did not see him much on Mendip in recent years, he willingly and immediately responded to any cave rescue when we needed him.  His last two rescues were among the more noteworthy, being when Dudley Soffe was firmly stuck in Swildon's Hole in 1971 and when Richard Bainbridge was badly injured in Lamb Leer nearly ten years ago now.

Apart from the log of incidents that follows, there have been other events which seem to be a growing part of essential liaison work.  Wardens have attended British Cave Rescue Council and South West of England Rescue Association meetings as far a field as Ripley, Derbyshire, and Exeter.  More practically helpful was the successful BCRC weekend conference in Settle to which several wardens and our doctors went.  On our own account, we ran a day conference of lectures, films and demonstrations for the Central Electricity Board at Exeter.  Their emergency work on electricity supplies in open country during bad weather and in effluent pipes from power stations pose some common problems of interest.

Back on Mendip, we have given many illustrated lectures and demonstrations to groups such as the Mendip CB Club in Wells, the St. John's Ambulance members at Glutton and the District Fire Brigades at Glastonbury.  These local links produce much good will and a modest revenue through donations.  We were especially pleased to be invited to join the Police for their Weston-Super-Mare Division Open Essays in the summer.  Hundreds of visitors and tourists saw our exhibition of photographs prepared by Rich West and Phil Romford and, so, were able to gain some insight into the self-help nature of cave rescue work.  Further links with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary at their Bristol headquarters resulted in a visit to their Force Control and I am grateful for the active support of Chief Superintendent Wilson and Inspector H. Young there.  Support services keeps all divisions throughout both counties up to date with MRO callout details and this has proved to be very effective.  All our rescue work these days relies upon such co-operation through understanding what each can do to help.

The audited annual accounts show a close balance of income against expenditure during a year in which we have deliberately kept equipment purchases to a minimum.   The handsome surplus on hiring Nife cells through Brian Prewer deserves a special mention.  It has become one way for newer and more distant groups to make contact with MRO and so to fund cave rescue work through their own caving activities. There has been a much better response from rescued parties this year too.

Established local clubs are the backbone of the Organisation, as ever.  It is vital to have their support through rescue practices and pleasant fund raising occasions.  Here I must pay particular thanks to the Bristol Exploration Club for waiving the former share of the Belfry telephone bill paid by MRO since its installation.  Most of all, of course, we value the help of all experienced cavers on actual rescues. This report is written with them in mind.

J.D. Hanwell
Hon Secretary & Treasurer
Wookey Hole,


Mendip Rescue Organization

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the year ending 31st December 1983

There were 11 official call-outs through the Police during the year.  Five cavers required assistance owing to falls, being stuck or just exhausted.  A large proportion of the calls involved parties being simply overdue and so it is necessary to repeat previous pleas for all to leave clear instructions about their trips with responsible cavers on the surface.  Experience shows that it makes sense to allow a reasonable time to elapse before raising the alarm for overdue parties.  Messages left with people back at home well away from Mendip are often misunderstood.

The following list brings the total number of incidents since 1951 to 230 with about 384 cavers being helped underground, excluding those involved in alerts.  The figures in brackets to the right show the numbers of people going underground on rescues but does not include any more who willingly stand-by and help out on the surface.  The extent of such help is evident in the accounts of each incident below.

9th January

21st February

28th May

22nd June

9th October

17th October

23rd October

23rd October

3lst October

12th November

13th November

Lamb Leer Cavern

Thrupe Lane Swallet

Rhino Rift

Swildon's Hole


Swildon's Hole

Frome Storm Drain

Sludge Pit

Abandoned Car

St. Dunstan's Cave

Swildon's Hole












Fall, bruises, rope burns

Overdue party

Overdue party

Exhaustion, unable to climb

Overdue party

Overdue party

Reported lost

Fall, bruises, broken toe

Search for missing person

Trapped, stuck

Overdue party













Sunday 9th January                   Lamb Leer Cavern

Fred Davies was contacted by Yeovil Police at 3.30pm.  They reported that a caver had fallen from the Main Pitch and was injured.  On reaching the informant at Beaconsfield Farm, it was found that Phillip Sutton and Malcolm Jackson of the Stroud Cave Rambling Club had entered the cave at about 11.30 a.m. but had been held up by a large party coming out.  Their own descent of the Main Pitch was delayed until about 1.30 p.m.  On returning, Phillip Sutton climbed first as the older and more experienced of the pair.  He was lifelining Malcolm Jackson when the climber fell from the bulge about 20 feet from the top.  In trying to lower him, Sutton sustained rope burns to his hands and was forced to leave his shaken colleague at the bobtom of the Main Chamber whilst summoning help.

The Belfry was informed of the situation.  Alan Butcher reached the cave by 3.45 p.m. followed five minutes later by Tim Large, Martin Grass, Edric Hobbs, Robin Gray and Howard Price with hauling gear and First Aid.  They entered the cave at 4.00 p.m. with Pete Hann in support.  In just 36 minutes they brought Jackson out unharmed.  Meanwhile, an ambulance called by the Police took Phillip Sutton to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, for treatment.

Monday 21st February                            Thrupe Swallet

Yeovil Police informed Brian Prewer in the early hours at 1.30 a.m. about an overdue party.  A wife from Salisbury had reported that her husband should have been home by 11. 00 p.m. on the Sunday following a trip with six other experienced cavers from Salisbury organised by Mr. and Mrs. Goodhead.  Brian went to the cave but could not find the car of the overdue cavers at the farm.  As there was a chance that they might have gone to Stoke Lane Slocker instead, Bob Cork checked for vehicles in Bector Lane.  His search also proved to be fruitless and so the Police were requested for more details from the informant.

At 2.50 a.m., news came that the party had returned home safely having stopped for coffee on the way back to Wiltshire.  Despite leaving late from Thrupe Farm well after midnight, they had thought it sufficient to "toot" their horn in the hope that Mrs. Butt would be aware of their departure.  No one thought it necessary to contact anyone in Salisbury to prevent the call-out.

Saturday 28th May                                 Rhino Rift

A party of four from Abson failed to report home at 2.00 p.m. after a trip down the cave during the morning.  One of the mothers alerted Yeovil Police at 5.50 p.m. and Brian Prewer was informed straightaway.  Chris Batstone stood by with a possible rescue party at the Belfry.  Shortly afterwards at 6.00 p.m. the party arrived home. They had not bothered to report having surfaced safely.

Wednesday 22nd June                           Swildon's Hole

Richard West was contacted by Yeovil Police at 9.50 p.m. with news that Gordon Lynch had phoned them from Priddy Green to say that someone could not climb the Twenty Foot pitch. The informant then left the call box and could not be reached there for further details.  So, Jeff Price was alerted at the Hunters' Lodge and asked to assess the situation at the cave.  Meanwhile, Glyn Bolt had chanced across Lynch at Priddy and organised a small hauling pasty from the Wessex Cave Club to help.

It was found that Karen Lynch, the sister of the informant had becomes tired and intimidated by the waterfall on returning from a trip to Sump 1.  There were three in the party led by her husband, all were well-equipped and the stream was low.  Inexplicably, a stronger party of five non-club cavers from Bath had passed by the incident at the Twenty but had merely put Karen in a poly bag to await other rescuers.  The four Wessex cavers went down and simply hauled Karen Lynch up the short climb.  She was then able to help herself and was out of the cave before 11.00 p.m.

Sunday 9th October                               Alert

A Mr. Drinkwater rang the Police at Yeovil as he was worried that his son had not returned home.  The son was on a caving trip with Long Levens Scout Group but the only other information was that the party was using a marked minibus.  After the Police had informed Brian Prewer at 8.33 p.m., John Turner went to look for the minibus around Priddy whilst Martin Bishop stood by to form a rescue team if required.  Shortly afterwards at 8.46 p.m., Mr. Drinkwater phoned again to say that he had been called by his son with news that the minibus had broken down on the motorway after leaving Mendip.

Monday 17th October                             Swildon's Hole

A party of eight girls with two teachers from Hayesfield School, Bath, was reported overdue by a Mr. Hughes at 9.20 p.m. After being contacted by Yeovil Police, Brian Frewer rang Mr. Hughes who told him that he had been called by the teachers concerned before they entered the cave at 6.20 p.m. and asked to raise the alarm if not contacted again by 9.00 p.m. when the party hoped to surface. He had done as he was told!  Brian suggested that the cavers had not given themselves enough time for their trip.

Jane Thorns at Priddy was asked to check whether the schoo1's minibus was still on Priddy Green. At 9.28 p.m., Mr. Pritchard, one of the teachers in the party, rang in to say that they had jus t surfaced having underestimated the length of time their trip would take and that the call box had been occupied earlier.  He was advised to allow longer for such contingencies in future.

Sunday 23rd October                             Storm Drain in Frome

Someone in Frome raised the alarm with Yeovil Police after seeing two young boys remove a drain cover and crawl into a three feet high culvert.  The informant was sure that they were still inside and said that voices could be heard.  After being contacted by the Police for assistance, Brian Prewer alerted the Wessex Cave Club and a search party left the investigate comprising Glyn Bolt, Julie Wootton, Pete Ham, Al Keen and Rich Worman.  Since there was a lot of water reported to be flowing into the culvert, Trevor Hughes was asked to stand by as a diver.  Glyn Bolt's party searched the drain but found no one.  It was concluded that the informant had failed to spot the boys leaving the site and no children had been reported as missing.

Sunday 23rd October                             Sludge Pit

A party of four cavers from Radstock went down the cave in the afternoon using their own tackle for the Twenty Foot pitch near the entrance.  After lifelining the first three down the ladder, Frank Norton, who was leading the trip, started his descent without a line.  Whilst still some way above the floor, his homemade wire tether broke so he fell and it was first thought that he had fractured a leg. The alarm was raised through the Police from Upper Pitts at 4.00 p.m.

Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork, Al Keen, Pete Hanu, Mike Duck and Graham Bolt went down the cave with medical and hauling gear at 4.30 p.m.  They found the patient able to sit up and move his legs despite complaints of pains in the back and chest.  He was made comfortable and then hauled out within 45 minutes.  A Range Rover ambulance took the patient to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, at 6.25 p.m. where it was reported later that, apart from bruises, he had only broken a toe.

The wire tether belonging to Norton had single U-clamps fastening both C-links.  These had become loose but the danger had not spotted because had been covered by electrical tape.  Mr Norton was the heaviest member of his party!

Monday 31st October                             Abandoned Car

Mr. Mercan Jefferies at Manor Farm, Charterhouse, reported to Wells Police that a mini car belonging to a caver had been parked in nearby Velvet Bottom since the weekend.  He was concerned that the occupants might still be underground.  Brian Prewer and Jim Hanwell set out to make a check of the car and possible caves around 4.00p.m.  They were stood down after the Police contacted the car's owner in Wells. Apparently the mini had broken down and was left to be picked up later.

Saturday 12th November             St. Dunstan’s Cave

Yeovil Police alerted Brian Prewer at 8.06 p.m. because a caver had been reported as stuck in the squeeze before the sump.  He had been jammed for two hours by that time.  Four well equipped and wet-suited cavers associated with Aberystwyth University went down the cave at about 5.45 p.m.  In following the rest to the sump, 25-year old Howard Davies inadvertently strayed off the main route and became firmly stuck by his hips in a bypass.  He had attempted to descend a steeply inclined side rift head first.  Fortunately, he could be approached from either end but there was little room to help.  Myr Roberts left the cave to raise the alarm.

Tim Large and Fiona Lewis were alerted and reached the Cerberus Cottage within ten minutes of the call out.  Fred Davies arrived shortly afterwards.  Other rescuers stood by at Priddy whilst Brian Prewer and Chris Batstone set out to establish a telephone line down the cave and a radio relay via Beacon Hill.  Julie Wootton took messages near the entrance and Mike York was stationed on the road with a handset.  Tim Large, Pete and Alison Moody, Tony Jarrett, Pete Hann, Dean Fenton, Catherine Howard and Bill Haynes carried in comforts and hauling gear.  They were unable to free Davies after assisting for over an hour.  At 9.45 p.m. they requested hammers and chisels to open up the passage.  As the patient was now delirious and complaining of going numb, it was decided to call in Dr. Peter Glanvill who knew the cave well.  Dr Don Thompson was also informed and stood by on the surface. Additional kit was taken underground by Glyn Bolt with Bob Lewis, Al Keen and Sarah Bishop.  Fred Davies and others already underground set about clearing the gravel to enlarge the Domestos Bend squeeze.

At 11.00 p.m. after the patient had been firmly stuck for five hours and was distressed, a message came out that was interpreted as a warning that a carbon dioxide build-up could be a danger; also, that a rock drill would probably be necessary to open up the rift.  Jim Hanwell and Rich West took along heavy hauling gear and further medical supplies and it was decided to request a compressor from the Fire Service to clear the air and provide drilling power.  An appliance set out from Yeovil whilst Brian Workman and Dave Tuner collected high pressure hose from NHASA.  The rescuers underground continued chiselling and reached a point where the patient's belt could be cut away.

Dr. Peter Glanvill entered the cave at 11 30 p.m. followed by Kevin Clarke and Edric Hobbs with more medical supplies.  The persistence of those underground eventually paid off and Howard Davies was freed at 11.45 p.m.  He was able to help himself even though being stuck fast for nearly six hours and despite getting into quite a state.  All were out of the cave by 12.40 a.m.  Apart from rather ugly "instant bedsores" around his hips, Howard Davies was in surprisingly good spirits and much appreciated the help he had received.

Sunday 13th November                           Swildon's Hole

A party of Birmingham University Caving Club cavers used the Emergency Call-out procedure to stop their friends staying at the MCG Hut from calling out MRO because they were overdue and had run cut of petrol.  In fact, it was 6.10 p.m. and they were supposed to be back by 7.00 p.m.  All Brian Prewer had to do was to pass the message by telephoning the Stirrup Cup Café next door to the hut!

Other information

On Tuesday 9th August, Brian Prewer was alerted by the Police at 5.11 p.m. because the Cheddar Cliff Rescue Team was wanted to help a lad stuck on a ledge.  Apparently a tourist had slipped whilst scrambling.  In the event, two climbers in the vicinity at the time were able to solve the problem and the Cliff Rescue Team was stood down shortly afterwards.  The MRO Call-out is also used for cliff rescue calls to avoid confusion on such emergencies.  This incident, therefore, is not an official MRO cave rescue incident.

The following account summarises a report sent in by Ealing College Adventure Unit (St. Marys Underground Team) after an incident in Longwood Swallet on Sunday 13th March. This was a self-rescue and shows what can be done in contrast to some of the call outs on record.

A party of six people entered the cave at approximately 12 noon.  Party members were; D. Higginson, A. Melton. P. Dyment, P. Jochan, Miss D. Jackson and A. Barker.  The first three had considerable knowledge of the cave and had led parties in the cave on previous occasions.  Miss Jackson had also visited the cave previously.  Another party was in the cave at the time consisting of Mr. Chester and Mr. (Mike) Wigglesworth.

The incident occurred at about 1.00 p.m. at the bottom of the second pitch.  Shortly after Andrew Barker descended the pitch, a boulder fell and injured his right foot.  It was clear that the injuries were serious and assistance was offered by Mike Wigglesworth and his friend.  After weighing up the options, it was decided to move the patient out of the cave with those present and, if the situation deteriorated, to request cave rescuers. This self-rescue was accomplished in 2½ hours and the party surfaced at about 3.30 p.m.

Andrew Barker was taken immediately to Bristol Royal Infirmary.  Initial diagnosis indicated three broken bones, two crushed toes and a severe wound.  He was detained in hospital overnight for treatment.

Discussions following several of the bigger rescues in recent years have highlighted the need to have an obvious control point to which all cavers who are helping should report for information and instructions.  Circumstances at the time will dictate where this is best set up and it is likely that the cave entrance itself will not be suitable for certain communication needs and general crowd control.  In such cases, the Warden in charge of the Surface Control will carry a flashing yellow beacon and will probably be in close liaison with any Police vehicle in attendance.  Please remember that MRO is only officially in action when called by the Police.  All such calls require precise records of who is doing what and why.  On long rescues this can become a formidable task, especially when other services and the media turn up as well.  However well-intentioned, those who bypass the control will not get the full story and are unlikely to be helpful as a result.

Radio communications and the proximity of most Mendip caves to roads generally indicate that it is much better for those who are standing by to wait in comfort back at Priddy. With any luck, they might not be bothered further; however, it seems better to leave the celebrations until the rescue is well and truly over!

J.D. Hanwell,
Hon Secretary & Treasurer,
Mendip Rescue Organization,
Wookey Hole,

January 1984


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone Wells  72126.

Editor: Robin Gray

Note: Held over till the next BB.  The Dave’s Cave.  Further Radio Location.

From the Editor.

Congratulations to Quiet John and Lavinia who got married short while ago.

It seems that the long distance plug for the working weekend was a good idea.  A good number of workers turned up and a lot of work was done. The Belfry is now a beautiful shade of green and the bunk room looks a lot better.  However, Dany has put up a long list of jobs that still need to be done as soon as possible.  The outside window frames are scraped and will need painting before they start to rot. We have planned another Working Weekend. Please turn to the back page for details.  Many thanks to those of you who turned up and worked so hard.  Lets have even more next time!

People have been seen taking vast quantities of plastic bottles and inflatables down Cuthbert’s. It would be nice to have an article on the theory behind this strange game, or at least taste some of the results of this secret brewing activity.  It has been suggested that vast quantities of soup are being prepared in sump 2!

I have been asked to write a few lines about my recent trip to West End but I don't think that I need to.  I'll just show you my hands and my new gloves and say that this is a really superb extension made even more exciting if you are a little on the round side.

Many thanks for articles received for the BB but I still need more!  Keep them coming and good caving.




New Find In Scotland

Situated in Bridge of Allan, this new cave was covered one Saturday night after a quiet evening in the pub.  Whilst several complicated Scottish dances were being performed, the matter blocking the cave entrance (otherwise known as the sitting room floor) was found to have a propensity to cave-in. Inspired by the thought of discovering caverns measureless to man, hostile environments etc, the digging team feverishly removed the surface dirt (otherwise known as the carpet).  We proceeded to explore the new system, which was found to be quite extensive, stretching the length and breadth of the sitting room.  The exploration continued well with little discord among the diggers until it was discovered that two members we spending a suspiciously long time underground and had in fact secreted the last dregs of whisky in a side rift.  Retribution was swift--on attempting to exit the cave, the culprits were nonplussed to discover a sofa-ruckle had blocked the entrance. The cave was fully surveyed, but unfortunately future trips will not be possible due to access problems, the Land-owner has filled in the entrance.

Rachael Clarke



by Tim Large

Self- Improvement Plans

Following the A.G.M. the Committee continued to take up Andy Lolly's kind offer of producing a final plan in consultation with the Structural Engineer.  After a detailed on site examination of the Belfry it has been found that more structural reinforcement is necessary in order that the loft space can be used as living accommodation, and also comply with building regulations.  At present Andy is drawing up a revised costing incorporating the necessary additions. The Committee will then decide whether the scheme can be accommodated within the financial limitations as directed by the last A.G.M.  Otherwise a further modification will be necessary.

New Belfry Door Lock

This is now fitted and in the region of 40 keys have been applied for and issued.  Remember if you still require one there is a £2 deposit. This key also opens the small tackle store key box located under the hut fees box in the main room of the Belfry. Inside this is the tackle store key. As directed by the A.G.M. this enables members to have free access to the tackle.  It is important to complete the tackle book noting, ladder, tether code numbers and approximate length and number of life-lines taken.  Please do not hang on to tackle any longer than is necessary.  The quantity is still small and unnecessary delays may prevent other members from going on caving trips.

St Cuthbert’s

The new steel ladder for Arête Pitch has now been installed thanks to the efforts of Glyn Bolt of the Wessex Cave Club.  A valve been cemented into the dam at the cave entrance.  This makes it very easy to cut off the water.  The 'wheel' to operate the valve will be padlocked to the bolt in the changing room where the entrance rift ladder is also stored.  The padlock is the same one as the entrance one. I suggest that leaders take the wheel to the bottom of the entrance pipe once they have either opened or closed the valve in order to prevent it being tampered with while they are down the cave.

Dinner 1984

This has been booked at Croscombe Village Hall with good quality outside catering.  Hopefully we can get the Hunters to provide the bar. The price will be in the region of £7-8.


At present we have the following sale items held by myself:-

BEC enamel pin Badges - £1.50.

‘BEC Get Everywhere’ Stickers - 50 for £1

BE C Sweatshirts - £6 each

A Selection of Mendip, Yorkshire and South Wales Cave Surveys.

Cave Key List

Below are listed the keys held by the Club which hang on the back of the right-hand Library Book cupboard. They are available from the duty-hut warden or any Committee member.

G.B. Cave

Longwood/August          2 of each (1 Member/1 Guest)  CCC permits required.

Rhino Rift

Lamb Leer, Pinetree Pot, Cuckoo Cleeves, Brownes Folly Mine, Singing River Mine, Tynings Barrow Swallet

All members are entitled to receive a free five year Charterhouse Caving Committee Permit. This is best done by a personal visit to the Belfry as a signature is required.

Eastwater – Western Series

This area is still being explored and surveyed.  The bottom of the series is now the deepest point in the cave at 483'.  Several radio location checks  have been carried out to verify the survey and establish where it is in relation to Mortons Pot.  During the dry summer months more digging will take place at various sites near the bottom where prospects look good for further discoveries.  Below the 70’ pitch a strong cold draught is encountered blowing into the unknown through a small rift.  This will be enlarged soon.  Trips into the series are frequent so anyone interested is welcome to contact either Tim Large or Tony Jarratt.

Change of Address

575. Dermott Statham, Westcombe, Shepton Mallet.
890. Jerry Crick, Reaseheath, Nantwich, Cheshire.
815. Nigel Dibben, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

New Members

We welcome the following as probationary Members:-

1023. Matthew Tuck, Coxley, Nr. Wellsr
1024. Miles Barrington, Cheddar.
1025. Steve Griffiths, Temple Cloud, Nr. Bristol,
1026. Ian Jepson, Beecham Cliff, Bath.
1027. David 'Wigmore' Lightfoot, Furnace Green, Crawley, Sussex.
1028. Debbie Armstrong, Hitchen, Herts.
1029. Steve Lane, Beladon Hill, Weston-Super-Mare.
1030. Richard Clarke, Cotham, Bristol.
1031. Mike Wigglesworth, Keynsham, Bristol.
1032. Barry Wharton, Yatton, Bristol.
1033. Sue Riley, Chilcote, Nr. Wells.
1034. John Theed, Staple Hill, Bristol.
1035. Howard Price, Mount Pleasant, Exeter, Devon.
1036. Nicola Slann, Flax Bourton, Bristol.
1037. Dave Pike, Chippenham, Wilts
1038. Alan Downton, Luton, Bedfordshire.

Lapsed member re-joined

We welcome back to the fold: -

710/829 Colin & Angie Yooley, Harborne, Birmingham


Hut Warden Roster

From Jeremy Henley,Shepton Mallet
31st May 1984

Please find attached a second hut wardens' roster.  It is hoped that a permanent hut warden will come forward at the A.G.M. so the roster runs only until the end of October to allow for a short settling in period after the A.G.M. 

On behalf of the Committee I would like to thank all those who have already acted as hut warden and all those who have still to do so on the first roster.  Your help has enabled the Belfry to be open and kept in reasonable order.  This time I will assume that you can do the weekend allotted to you unless I hear from you to the contrary.

Thanks again.

Jeremy Henley



23/24                Dany Bradshaw
30                     Stu MacManus


1                      Bob Cork
7/ 8                   Robin Gray
14/15                Brian Prewer
21/22                Trevor Hughes
28/29                Edric Hobbs


4/5                    Mark Brown
11/12                John Watson
18/19                Tony Jarratt
25/26                Greg Villis


1/2                    Keith Gladman
8/9                    Graham Wilton Jones
15/16                Bucket Tilbury
22/23                Chris Castle
29/30                Nigel Taylor


6/7                    Andy Lolly
13/14                Barry Wharton
20/21                Chris Smart
27/28    Nick Holstead


Radio Location in Eastwater Cavern

by Brian E. Prewer

Recently two sites in Eastwater have been checked by radio location with regard to their positions relative to the surface.  The first site to be located was in Wardour Street in the newly discovered West End Series. This site was chosen partly as a survey check but more importantly as this large passage appears to be leading back to the surface to form a possible old inlet to the cave system.


The diagram shows the position of the radio location point (point A) relative to the surface.  It is of interest to note that projecting the known passage beyond the location point puts the passage very close to the valley side and probably below one of the surface quarried? depressions.  The depth of the coil below the surface was 54m (177') which taking into account the slope of the known passage above the transmitter coil means that the end of the passage may only be 24m (78') below the surface.

The second site to be radio located was 'Goats Skull Aven' above Bakers Chimney bypass.  This aven was chosen as a possible bypass to the Upper Traverse thus gaining access directly to the Canyon from the surface. The located point is shown as 'B'. This point is only 13m (43') below the receiver coil.  Taking l m as the height of the receiver coil above the ground and 5m as being the height of the aven above the transmitter coil we are left with 7m (23') for the depth of rock to the top of the aven.

It cannot be far as hammering on the surface could easily be heard in the aven!  This site is very close to the edge of the main depression, less than 9m (30’).  The edge of the depression at this point appears to be mainly dumped stone waste and it may therefore be possible to clear a trench into the side of the depression to gain access to the top of the aven.

Bearings for Point A

130 degrees - Penn Hill TV Mast

270 degrees - Chimney on East Somerset CC HQ.

327 degrees - Right Chimney on Eastwater Farm

Bearings for Point B

016 degrees - Nine Barrows Reservoir

146 degrees - White Cottage on main road

290 degrees - Chimney on East Somerset CC H.Q.

Note:  These bearing are taken using a simple Silva compass and therefore must only be regarded as approximate.



Friday Night Caving Trips for 1984

22/06/1984           Goatchurch Cavern Summer Barbeque.

29/06/1984           Manor Farm.

14/07/1984           Saturday trip. Otter Hole. Details later.

27/07/1984           Stoke Lane.

10/08/1984           Rhino Rift (S.R.T.)

24/08/1984           Sludge Pit and Nine Barrows.  (August Bank)

07/09/1984           Charterhouse Cave. Limited places.

21/09/1984           Swildons Hole, Blue Pencil Passage - round trip.

05/10/1984           Cuckoo Cleeves.

21/10/1984           Saturday trip.  Dan-yr-Ogof or O.F.D. depending on leaders.

02/11/1984           Thrupe Lane. SRT to Atlas pot.

16/11/1984           Eastwater exchange trip.  Twin Verticals – Dolphin Pot .

03/12/1984           Reservoir Hole, Limited places – names to Brian Prewer – Wells 73757

14/12/1984           Swildons, Old Grotto Christmas party.

28/12/1984           Cold turkey buffet.  Goatchurch Cavern.

All trips will start at the cave entrance at 7 p.m. mess otherwise stated.

South Wales trips will involve an early morning start which will be decided on nearer the date concerned.

For further information regarding any of the above trips, please contact Ashley Hardwell ( Bristol 422655 or Shepton Mallet 4789).

Where limited numbers have been indicated, places will be reserved on a "first come first served" basis.

Together I hope we can revitalise the longest established organised cave meet on Mendip.

Happy Caving.                                                   Ashley Hardwell.


Caving Notes

Penyghent Pot.

Don't forget the Club has booked this fine Yorkshire Pot for Saturday 14th July.  Anybody wishing to go should contact me on Wells 74061.

Gouffre Berger.

As part of next years Club jubilee celebrations, it has been decided to arrange a trip to the Berger in July 1985.  Anybody wishing to come, help in organizing (food, equipment, etc etc) should contact me or Tim Large.  Further details will be printed in the next BB.

Ian Deer Memorial Fund.

A reminder to Club members (particularly the younger ones) that there is money available to assist in your Caving Expeditions.  If you think you qualify then drop me a line now.

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders.

Anybody wishing to become a leader should contact me for details, and an application form.  Since it is now hoped that the digging at Sump 2 will recommence during the (we hope!) dry summer your qualifying trips could be sorted quite quickly.  Remember, we can't just rely on our present set of leaders to do all the tourist trips which we are obliged to do.

Austria 1984.

Bob Cork, Dany Bradshaw and members of the NCC are off to the Barengassewindschact in July and if you're interested in helping or going, give Bob or Dany a ring.

Good Caving,



Sludge Pit Sump – Where Now?

Many years go, before NHSA, two local cavers were wandering on the slopes of North Hill in the company of their learned adviser on geological matters.  Presently they stumbled across a deep swallet close to a site known as Nine Barrows.  A name was carefully chosen for the swallet - Sludge Pit!  "This looks a likely spot for a cave dig" they said. "No no" scoffed their adviser. For God's sake don't dig here, its too high up – go lower down, try the swallet near Eastwater Farm.”

Thus it was that the site at North Hill was started and the North Hill Association for Spelaeological Advancement was born.  And what of Sludge Pit Swallet?  That went after 7 days digging, North Hill Swallet took a little longer ....... 7 years. The moral of course is summed up in the well known adage 'Caves is where you find em’.

The NHASA digging team returned to North Hill after my year’s away digging at Manor Farm and Windsor Hill.  Sludge Pit Sump was thought an obvious site for the team following their abandonment of the Windsor Hill Dig. Initially before describing NHASA’s involvement it would be worthwhile reflecting on the efforts that have gone into this particular dig site in the past.

In 1967, Clive North, John Cornwell and the Bridgwater Technical College C.C. concentrated their various activities on the Nine Barrows area.  After success at Nine Barrows, the adjacent swallet, Sludge Pit, received their attention and was rapidly dug open.  After descending a 20’ pitch, a maze and a small streamway were entered. The streamway was explored for 500’, terminating in the inevitable sump.  No obvious way on, through or past this sump could be found.

That was in 1967. Since then, several groups of diggers have tried to extend the streamway by attacking what appeared to be an inoffensive looking sump.  The first serious attempt at digging out the sump pool was carried out by the Axbridge C.G., starting in March 1968.  Their efforts mainly involved the clearing out of large volumes of glutinous mud. This work continued spasmodically until about 1971 when the Wessex decided that a few weeks was all that was required to get though this sump.  Their efforts included building a large concrete dam and retaining wall as well as pushing many pounds of explosives on the end of long sticks into the sump pool.  All these attempts were to no avail, the sump remained inviolated.

A second Wessex attack started in 1976 when a new high retaining wall was built on top of the old dam.  It was intended for spoil storage, but in fact was later used for water storage by various groups baling and pumping at the sump.

By mid-1977, the BEC had taken over the site and an attempt was made to dig out the high level roof passage which was filled with mud.  Further efforts included the hand drilling of shot holes over the roof of the sump. All these efforts brought only frustration, lots of mud and an un-passed sump.

About 1972, the sump was chosen by MRO as an obvious site to test out compressed air drilling techniques using standard fire hose to convey air to the drill at distances in excess of 300’.  Luke Devenish supplied the equipment and, under the direction of the late Howard Kenny many cavers were press-ganged into heaving heavy hoses and drills down the cave. The exercise was a great success and showed clearly that compressed air drilling was possible at distances over 500' from the compressor.  Two shot holes were drilled some 2' deep in a matter of a few minutes.  The fumes, dust and noise although unpleasant, were tolerable and at the end of the day the cave was cleared and the shot holes left to the bang gang.  They succeeded in blowing 6" of rock off the roof into the sump!

In 1982, with the knowledge that drilling shot holes at the sump was possible and their recently gained drilling exercise, the NHASA digging team turned its attention to the Sludge Pit Sump.  With the landowners blessing, the freshly overhauled NSASA compressor was towed into the depression.  Tests showed that drilling at the end of 500' of standard compressor hose in place of the fire hose was feasible and that the pressure drop along the hose was not too great.

During the course of several weeks many lengths of standard compressor hose were placed in situ down the cave.  500' of hose was used to be exact and in parallel with this a telephone cable cum bang wire was installed providing a necessary link between compressor operator and drillers mate.  The hose was laid were possible to ensure that it was kept out of the way of the scores of other cavers visiting Sludge Pit.  The next few weeks saw the drill, the steels and various other bits and pieces carried down to the drilling area.  The first site chosen was at the sump pool itself.  The water level appeared to be nearly constant even with fairly large variations in the amount of water flowing into the pool.  But where to drill first?  The obvious place to anyone who knows about sumps is over the top of them, thus creating an air space above the water level.  But which way does the sump go?  No one seems to know.  Well firstly try to bail your sump, during a period of drought - Sludge Pit stream has never heard of a drought.  Perhaps try bailing it quickly into polybags so that it does not get a chance to refill.  This results in the sump pool being lowered by ½” in one hour and in many wet diggers……abandon bailing efforts.

Next try drilling two or three shot holes into the nearest obvious lump of solid rock, after all that’s what we took the drill down for.  Fill the holes with many sticks of gelly.  Conclusions.......holes drilled into massive limestone rock faces make good cannons when suitably charged with explosives, mud and stones.  Forward progress…Nil.  Repeat experiment with new shot holes 4' deep.  This confirms previous experiment.  Next try non-parallel shot holes.  This idea gives better results as far as rock removal was concerned, but still provided a fairly effective cannon.

After about 3' of rock had been removed somebody suggested draining the sump might be a good idea! Why hadn’t we thought of this before? A suitable hand pump was brought into use at this stage, resulting in the sump pool being lowered by ½” and more wet diggers!  How about a water pump that operates on compressed air.  Too expensive, even for NHASA, however a wave of a magic wand and lo and behold a pump, which after suitable reconditioning was.....never used! And why?  Somebody thought they could see the way on, "down to the left - follow the strike.”  Now the hole drillers could have a ‘field day’.  Shot holes to the left, shot holes to the right, some in the roof, some in the floor, dust and oil fumes everywhere.........The result of this activity was 3' of passage and a large puddle of water in the floor of the new passage.  We had found another small inlet to the main sump pool.

Where shall we go next? Back to the sump pool after all everyone else had had a dig at it.  No, its time to look at the small hole on the left above the sump pool.  This small rift had already received plenty of attention and had been abandoned as being too tight to dig any further.  With the new found technology, shot holes were strategically placed on the left hand wall, quite an interesting task bearing in mind the height of the drill and the height of this hole above the sump pool. A few small sticks of ‘roll your own’ gelly, just enough to knock the corner off, produced a scene of total destruction in the terminal chamber.  Over night the sump pool became a boulder ruckle and the roof looked like a multi-bladed sword of Damocles  However, after a bit of tidying up, digging started in the big rift.  After two digging sessions the passage showed great promise, being mud filled and about 3' square.  The following session brought a complete contrast... ..solid rock!  At this point a NHASA board meeting came to a unanimous decision to abandon the site and retire to the Hunters for another board meeting..............

After many diggers had tried and failed to pass the sump in Sludge Pit, NHASA had also tried and failed despite using high technology equipment and techniques.

What of the future for the apparently ‘impenetrable’ sump?  Probably the answer lies in the pool itself.  It needs to be pumped out and excavated, but first remove your boulder ruckle!  The two side passages following the strike are almost certainly not the way on, both close down.  Perhaps we should really have stuck to the sump pool and tried to pump it out after all. Remember the water does go down Swildons!  Anyone want to borrow a good pump and compressor?

The final act was the complete clearing of all the removable rubbish at the sump.  Cave diggers are generally a rather untidy lot leaving a lot of rubbish behind when they abandon their scaffolding, pipes, polybags, stirrup pump, tools etc.  We have attempted to clear this mess and return the cave to near its original state with theexception of course of the new boulder ruckle in the sump.

Brian Prewer
March 1984


B.E.C. Publications I947 - 1984

The following list of published material was compiled by Jonathan Roberts of the M.C.G. during cataloguing for the M.C.G. 1ibrary.  With one or two additions it is here published with his-kind permission as a guide for members who are trying to build up their own sets of club material. It is quite possible that items have been missed out and any additions or corrections will be appreciated.  All publications listed can be found in the Library.

NB  B.B. Nos  48, 102, 341, 263-269 do not exist in published form. (Angus take note)

Tony Jarratt.

Belfry Bulletin: (BEC)






































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































* 48, 102 and 341 are unpublished.

376 is also numbered 377.

Caving Reports:

1.         'Surveying in Redcliffe Caves, Bristol, SJ Collins, January 1956.  Republished June 1963.

2.         A Preliminary Report on St Cuthbert's Swallet. R Bennett/D A Coase/C P Falshaw, J J Waddon, August 1956.

3.         The Manufacture of Lightweight Caving Ladders, B M Ellis, by 1958.

 3A. The Manufacture of Lightweight Caving Ladders, B M Ellis, October 1962.

 3A. The Manufacture of Lightweight Caving Ladders (SMCC method) B M Ellis,       reprinted January 1973.

 3A. The Manufacture of Lightweight Caving Equipment, BM Ellis, October 1962. P

4.         The Shoring of Swallet Cave Entrances, S J Collins, August 1958.

5.         A Survey of Headwear and Lighting available for Caving, BM Ellis, October 1958.

6.         Some Smaller Mendip Caves - Volume l, R D Stenner & Others, October 1961.

7.         A Second Report on St Cuthbert's Swallet, anon, February 1962.

8.         A Preliminary Survey of St Cuthbert’s Swallet, anon, February 1962.

9.         Some Smaller Mendip Caves - Volume 2, J H Tucker, August 1962.

10.        The BEC Method of Caving Ladder Construction, D A Coase & N Petty, December 1962.

11.        The Long Chamber/Coral Area of St Cuthbert's Swallet, D J Irwin, October-1965.

12.        The Presentation of Cave Survey Data, S J Collins, September 1966.

13.        St. Cuthbert's Swallet Report's:-

            Part A Discovery & Exploration, D J Irwin/R D Stenner, G D Tilly, October 1968.

            (Parts B, C, D not published yet).

            Part E Rabbit Warren, DJ Irwin, June 1970.

            Part F Gour Hall Area, R Bennett/D J Irwin, April 1969.

            Part G Cerberus and Maypole Series, R Bennett/D J Irwin, October 1982.

            Part H Rabbit Warren Extension, D J Irwin/D P Turner, August 1970.

            Part I  September Series, R D Craig/D Irwin/R D Stenner, October 1982.

            (Parts J,K,L,M,N not published yet)

            Part O Miscellaneous Information', B M Ellis/D J Irwin/P A Kingston,          September 1966.

14.        Balague 1970, DJ Irwin (editor) 1973.

15.        Roman Mine, near Newport (Mon)', J & N Tuck, July 1971.

16.        Mendip's Vanishing Grottoes, JA Eatough/A E Mc R Pearce,?1971.

17.        A Burrington Cave Atlas, D J Irwin (editor) October 1974.

18.        Cave Notes '74, DJ Irwin (editor), October 1974.

19.        ‘1975 Expedition to the Pierre Saint-Martin, anon, ?1976.

      (20 has not been published yet)

21. Cave Notes (1975-77)' *, anon, May 1977.

* erroneously numbered 19 on the back.

Climbing Reports:

Some Sandstone Climbs in the Frome Valley at Bristol, R S King, April 1966.

Other Publications:

Belfry Bulletin Digest No.1, June 1959.

A List of reference to Work on Mendip by the B.E.C., abstracted from the Belfry Bulletin Nos 1-160, undated.

A Variation in Temperature and Hardness of Streams in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet (A Progress Report) R D Stenner, September 1966.

A New Approach to Cave Surveys, S J Collins, 1967.

The Spelaeodes, Alfie (S J Collins), 1969. (2 different editions).

Bristol Exploration Club Library List, D J Irwin, September 1972



The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone Wells  72126.

Editor: Robin Gray

Quote of the month?

There were many claims for quote of the month this time, including several about good ol' Daren Cilau and where he's gone but this is the one..............

This month's quote yet again from the Belfry Boar of the year (see Lifeline)

'Doesn't Alan make a lot of fuss when he comes back from a caving trip’

Change of address: -

R. White, Wells Somerset.

Bone Caves Of Mendip

A lecture at the Wells Museum on the Bone Caves of Mendip will be given by Andy Currant BMH, at 7.30 on 23rd Nov.  This lecture will be of interest to all but of special interest to diggers who may well come across bones and artefacts while digging.

Cuthbert’s Report

A reminder to Cuthbert’s Report Committee.  Meeting at Wigs House on Sunday 18th Nov. 3pm.

Armchair Caving

Syd Perou's Realms of Darkness....Channel 4 Nov 4th, 11th & 18th, Mexico with BEC, Otter Hole and Borneo.  If anyone videos them perhaps we can show them at the Shed.



by Hon. Secretary Tim Large


This was convened at about 11am only after a phone call had been made in order to persuade sufficient people to attend to meet the minimum quorum requirement of 30.  Besides the 8 Committee Members who could be relied upon to be present that meant we struggled to find another 22 interested members to attend the meeting.  A sad reflection on a club with a membership at present standing at 163.  All the club officers gave reports which were adopted by the meeting.

The meeting considered as a special topic he subject of the proposed Jubilee celebrations am 1985. The Committee outlined its proposals which the meeting supported wholeheartedly.  These are: -

1.                  A Summer Barbecue to be held in late June/Early July.

2.                  Gouffre Berge Expedition in Early August.

3.                  A Special Dinner in October with as many past and present members in attendance as we can locate.

4.                  A Fireworks Party on November 5th or nearest Saturday.

5.                  Winter Social at the Belfry.

6.                  Production of souvenirs – Ties, Sweatshirts, Badges, Jubilee Beer, etc.

7.                  St. Cuthbert’s Publication & Jubilee Cover for BB.

All this will take much organisation extending far beyond the reasonable workload of your committee. Volunteers are urgently needed.  Please contact me or any other committee member if you can offer some help.

We now have a full time Hut Warden in Chris Batstone  who as many of you are aware has been a long standing Hut Warden in the past.  He volunteered for the post and was co-opted onto the committee.  I feel that his inclusion in this year’s committee can only strengthen what was a very good committee anyway.  I hope that you will give Chris your support and assistance during the coming year.

Plans for the Belfry improvements were approved by a large majority.  These propose to modify the existing Belfry without going into the loft space.  This will provide us with a larger Library, better changing and showering facilities and a cloakroom.  Also at long last a much needed drying room.  Bunk space will be reduced from 30 to in the region of 21-24.  The meeting considered it better to have outside contractors to do a major part of the work a deadline of 31st May 1985 was also set for the completion of this work in time for our Jubilee Celebrations.

A worrying attitude at the AGM was the willingness of many members present to have any necessary work on the Belfry even simple painting work done by outside contractors.  It appears that many members are either too busy or too uninterested to work on the club headquarters.  Some comments were made that it would to increase the subs drastically to cater for professional contractors, a sure sign of affluent times for some members.  I hope they do not forget when they were poor students or just beginning work after leaving school and could hardly afford £5 for their subs.


The Annual Dinner was held at Croscombe Village Hall in the evening and attended by about 120 members, guests and friends.  The food and the bar were better than we haw had for several years.  Gerry Brice and his wife Val were our guests of honour along with Phil & Lyn Hendy ( Wessex) Butch & Aileen (Shepton) end Tony Knibbs & Denise from the MCG.  Alan Thomas toasted Absent Friends along with the traditional toasts from Zot and Phil Hendy. Martin Grass presented the Boar of The Year Award to Chris Castle on behalf of last year’s winner Dave Turner who declined to do so in case he bored everyone again!  Chris received the award primarily for his not partaking of the dinner and getting lost in St. Cuthbert’s and falling down Stal Pitch sustaining severe bruising.  Trevor Hughes auctioned a Bahamas Electricity Company Sticker to Bob Hill for £10 (proceeds to club funds) and during the course of his auctioneering activities the ladies removed his nether garments - was it worth it??!  All in all an excellent evening rounded off by a barrel of beer at the Belfry provided by Dizzie.  Those present toasted Dizzie and fondly remembered Postle.


The clubs two leaders to this cave which is controlled by The Charterhouse Caving Committee are Phil Romford and Alan Downton.  One key is held by the two leaders.  Parties are limited to 3 persons plus the leader.  Those members interested should contact the two leaders.


Congratulations to Pete & Angie Glanville on the arrival of a new baby girl - Philippa – 8lbs 15oz. Also to Bob & Pat Cork also a daughter - Amy.  The BEC doing it to excess again.


The Sandford Gulf

A new look at an old problem

by Dave Irwin

For many years cavers have pondered the existence of the Sandford Gulf and its location on Sandford Hill.  Of all the ‘lost’ caves of Mendip the 'Gulf' is the best known.  Lost caves have been searched for, particularly those located by miners on Western Mendip. Many still remain lost but diligent work by a few have solved the problem and subsequently re-discovered the caves.  Richards et al re-discovered Bleadon Cavern (1) and the lost caves of Burrington was not to be found in Burrington but at Butcombe.  John Rutter misleadingly called the site a cave but in fact it was an excavated long barrow.

The lost cave of Loxton, often confused with the present cave discovered in 1867 by mining activities, is said to have three entrances and several beautifully decorated chambers.  The search for this cave is currently being carried out by Richards.

Perhaps the most perplexing is that of the lost cave of Cheddar. The earliest report by Henry of Huntingdon records the existence of a large cave with an active river.  17th and 18th century travellers record caves at Cheddar that are now well known (Coopers, Gough’s Old cave, Pride Evans etc) but none mention any site relating to a river cave.  It may well have been that Gough's Cave was active at the time of Henry's visit and since became choked, or as some have suggested it may well have been the gorge itself.  Shaw has suggested that it may have been Wookey Hole, though some four miles away it could well have been regarded as being as part of Cheddar.

Sandford Hill has been the site of more or less continuous speleological interest and many shafts have been opened including Triple Hole (1973) and Mangle Hole (1970).  Part of the reason for digging in this area is to locate the illusive 'Gulf’, though little documentary evidence exists and may have been, in part, legend.

The basis of the reports of the Sandford Gulf is John Rutter's book, The Delineations of North West Somerset (2), Published in 1829.  The extract is given in full: -


Like those at Hutton and Banwell, lie in the northern escarpment of the Mendip Range, immediately south of Churchill.  The mouth of the largest, which the miners call "the Gulf", lies, they say, 80 fathoms, or 480 feet below the plane of Sandford Hill; they also affirm, that they have let down a man, with a line 240 feet deep, without his being able to discover top, sides or bottom.  Miners like other men, are very superstitious and wonder working, when they meet with anything extra ordinary, which they cannot fathom.  Some may consider it one of the Hutchinsonian swallet holes, made to carry off the waters of the deluge, to supply their internal ocean, and put out the central fire of the Huttonians.  There is another extensive cave further to the westward, in this hill, near which, the skeleton of an elephant was found in 1770, four fathoms deep amongst loose rubble.  The success attending the examination of the caves at Banwell, Hutton etc will, probably, induce some active and public spirited individual to make further researches into these caverns, of which, at present, so little appears to be known.

In the April/May issue of the Belfry Bulletin, 1979 (3) a copy of a previously unrecorded letter was published from the Reverend David Williams to John Rutter at Shaftsbury.

Bleadon January 4th 1829


As our progress on Sutton Hill daily increases in interest, from the abundant and variety of the organic remains we discover, I shall be happy to forward to you a paper on these figures and the one at Uphill if you think it will be of any service to the topographical work you are about to publish.  I have been required to do it by some very influential men in the neighbourhood but I wish to know from you first whether it will suit your, wishes - if it should I shall defer publishing any account of them ‘til you come out.  Be kind enough to let me know when you require the Paper(s).  We have specimens of all sizes and varieties from the elephant to the mouse, I hope you will give the "quantum merit" of the discovery of Banwell Caves where it is due – I regret to say, tho’ he assumes the merit.

Professor Beard had nothing to do with it.  Dr. Randolph, wishing to ascertain the truth of a rumour that such a cave existed, offered two men a pound to clear out the shaft that led to it. The men worked a week or ten days without success - it was abandoned - subsequently Coleman (who works on Hutton Hill) and another, thinking the minerals might repay them, continued clearing out the chimney and ultimately came to the large Cavern or the “ Deep Cave as it is called.  This is the simple truth - I am sure our Professor has too much respect to wish to sully it by purloining what belongs to another.  I have lately other evidence from Uphill Cave authenticating its history.  I hope before you publish I shall be able to give you soma account of an immense Cave on Sandford Hill, which has never been explored, near which an Elephant was found in 1770.  The mouth of it is said by the miners to be 80 fathoms below the plane of the hill and they have let a man down upwards of 300 feet from its verge without coming to the floor, nor could he see any sides or termination to it - they call it the Gulph.  They deal in the marvellous I know, and I am determined to find out this mare's egg. When you see Mr. Patterson I will thank you to give him and his my best assurances.

I am Sir

Dr. Williams.

A second letter this time from Williams to Patterson, Rector of Shaftsbury is dated February 16th 1829. This was subsequently published by John Rutter under the title "Some Account of the Fissures and Caverns hitherto discovered in the Western District of The Mendip Range of Hill" in 1829 but before the publication of the book. The relevant extract is to be found on pages 15 and 16.

Sandford Caves, like Hutton and Banwell, lie in the northern escarpment of the Mendip Range, but of these I can only speak by report.  The mouth of the largest which the miners call the ‘Gulph’ lies, they say 80 fathoms, or 480 feet below the plane of the hill.  They also affirm that they have let down a man, with a line, 240 feet deep, but that he could see neither top, sides or bottom.  Miners, like other men in their station of life, are very superstitious and wonder-working, when they meet with anything like this fissure, which they cannot fathom.  It may, however, be one of the Hutchinsonian swallet holes, made to carry off the waters of the deluge; to supply their internal ocean, and put out the central fire of the Huttonians.  If truth lies at the bottom of a well, why not at the bottom of a cave? and from the Sandford Cave, I have no doubt, I shall elicit her before the ensuing summer.  There is another extensive cavern further to the westward in this hill, near which the skeleton of a full sized elephant was found in 1770.”

From the three versions above, the Rutter account can be ignored as it is merely a rewrite of the Williams letters.  If one accepts Williams to be a reliable authority the information regarding the Gulf can be extracted and reduced to the following: -

1. The distance that the can entered the cave is:

(A) 300ft (January 1829 letter) and

(B) 240ft (February 1829 letter).

2. The man could not see: -

(A) “any sides or termination to it”

(B) “top, sides or bottom”

3. That the cave entrance lies 80 fathoms or 480ft below the plane of Sandford Hill.

Williams appears to have corrected the length of the rope used from 300ft to 240ft. Williams 'phrase' “they have let a man down” does not imply a vertical descent but that a men penetrated the cave to a distance of 240ft.  To have descended to a depth of 240ft would have meant that the cave entrance was 60ft and the bottom of the cave at 300ft below sea level as the plane of Sandford Hill is only 420ft above sea level!

In the January letter Williams wrote that the man could not see "any sides or termination to it".   Let us suppose that the man was being let down a rift, probably holding a candle in his hand or attached to his cap, then it is most probable that he would not see the sides or the bottom but he would have seen the wall in front and the wall behind him.  Any daylight penetrating the shaft would have still been seen quite some way down.  The February letter changes the general description to read "that the man could not see “top, side or bottom!”  If the man, with his dim light had entered a void further in he could possibly not see sides, top or bottom particularly if he was hanging on the end of the rope or standing at the top of a sloping floor.

The last piece of information in the puzzle is that of the 480ft below the plane of Sandford Hill. The hill in section is that of a truncated triangle, which at its highest is 420ft O.D.  Below this point are the three known sights, Sandford Levy, Triple Hole and Mangle Hole.  Their respective altitudes are 184ft, 405ft and 220ft.  Clearly Triple Hole is too high and if we take Williams’s figures of 480ft, so too is the Levy and Mangle Hole.  Various Mendip Cavers have suggested that Sandford Levy could well be the site of the "Gulf".  Stanton suggests that it could be the crossroads some way inside the Levy but this seems unlikely from the dimensions of this interpenetrating shaft.  However, as the Levy was being worked in the 1820's it could well be the site as the Williams letters imply that the Gulf had recently been found.

Considering this information in total there seems to be considerable discrepancies until one realises the significance of the 18th and 19th century surveying methods of measuring the height of the hill.  Today the height of a hill is its vertical range but about at the time, the height was the slope distance or the walking distance up the hill.  For example Catcott on one of his several visits to Mendip in the mid 18th Century described Blackdown as being one mile high whereas today we know it to be just over 1000ft above sea level.  This being the case the location of the Sandford Gulf as described by Williams is quite plausible.

With this in mind Marie Clarke and the author surveyed the location of both the Levy and Mangle Hole, back in mid 1981.  The result was that the Levy was about 530ft below the plane of the hill and Mangle Hole was 470ft.  Could Mangle be the Sandford Gulf?  The slope distance down the side of the hill fits the Williams figure.  So too do the very generalised description of the cave. Mangle Hole has a steeply sloping rift at the bottom of which lies the large chamber with several pits in the floor. Though the cave has a vertical range of only 19ft it is possible that this 19th century miner could easily have penetrated to the chamber and used up all of his 240ft of line.  A later visit to the hill by the author found no sign of depressions at the 480ft level in the immediate vicinity.

The evidence is not conclusive, nor is it ever likely to be unless further contemporary information still survives.  It is the author’s opinion that there is a very strong case that Mangle Hole could well be the lost Sandford Gulf.  If it is not, the possibility of finding another shaft at the same level is extremely good.  A further search to the west may well reveal another lost cave near where the elephants remains were uncovered.  Good Hunting.

References: -












Richards C.


Rutter J.



Williams U.



Clarke U.


Shaw T.

Hutton Cavern, a reconstruction in the light of recent discoveries Wessex Journal 12 (142)110-118(1972).

Delineations of the North Western Division of the County of Somerset and of the Mendip Caverns.  Longman, Rees & Co etc, London (1829).

Some Account of the Fissures and Caverns hitherto discovered in the western district of the Mendip Range of Hill.  Comprised in a letter from the Rev. J. Williams to the Rev. D. Patterson.  John Rutter Shaftsbury (1829).

West Mendip Worthies.   Bristol Exploration Club Belfry Bulletin 33 (4&5)8-13 ( 1979).

Early Visitors to the Mendip Caves.  B.S.A.


Letter to the Editor

Allens House
8, October 1984

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

Dear Robin.

As the organiser years ago of some of the worst B.E.C. dinners, I would like to congratulate all who were responsible for organising the best dinner I can remember.  At the same time I would like to say that the present B.B. is the best it has been since Alfie finished as Editor.

Yours sincerely

Alan Thomas


Dear Alan

Any thanks for your kind words.  Let’s hope that the 1985 dinner is the biggest and best of all time!


The Mine Workings at Dan - Y - Graig Quarry, Risca. Gwent. South. Wales,

Having seen the report on Roman Mine, Drathen, The Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd. approached the Club, asking if we were interested in having a look at some workings that had been recently uncovered at the Dan -y- Graig Quarry near Risca, S.Wales.

The archaeologists were hoping that these workings may have had some origin in Roman times.  Local evidence although sparse, points to some form of Roman mining activity in the Risca area.

Tile stamps from the Second Legion have been found near the church at Risca.  The Second Legion were involved in various prospecting and mining activities, kind of Roman version of the Royal Engineers.  They were also active in the Charterhouse lead mining area of Mendip.  Two place names in the area are direct corruptions of the Roman/Latin; Pontymister (Pone Magistri - Bridge of the Masters.) and, it follows also that as the Roman Mine site at Drathen, just a few miles away was discovered by Roman prospectors any mineral deposits at, Risca would most likely be found.  The Roman skill in finding minerals is well known.

A letter written in 1983 to the Archaeological Survey Officer, from a Mr Tony Edwards, gives an account of these workings when first uncovered in 1977.  The text of which is given below:-

"The workings were re-discovered when we were clearing stone and rubble away from a rockface.  I was given to understand that shafts existed in the field near the edge of the quarry, also close by was the wonderful remains of Craig -y- Neuadd.

We used to stay behind after work and using lamps, etc, would explore the extent of the workings.  They appeared to be at various levels, with two entrances near the top of the face. One was of little interest and the other, a tunnel approx, 4ft high ran for about 25 - 30yds.  The end was blocked with rubble but did not look like a roof fall.  Along this tunnel was an entrance off to the right, this then opened into a small chamber with a hole? in the floor, we climbed down into the hole/shaft which appeared to be workings, with signs of black flame burn marks here and there. Eventually this hole was blocked so we did not bother to uncover any more.

Now to what I thought was the best tunnel.  This entrance was lower than the other two, probably part of a chamber, upon entering; there were large slabs of rock running down from left to right. We slid down some of the small ones (the large ones formed the roof) and came to a ledge, using a ladder and some rope we were able to climb down to a floor level.

It was a lovely sight, a huge cavern; in the middle was a clear blue pond.  There were workings all round, with a number blocked with small boulders, again we did not try to unblock them.

In the middle of the cavern was the remains of a wooden tramway? running from an area not far from where we came in and up to the edge of the pool. The pool did not look very deep and we thought perhaps a small bridge (wooden) may have carried the tramway to the other side.

On the other side was a tunnel 6 – 7 feet tall and about 4 feet wide.  I think this one was linked.to another that ran for a number of yards and into a dead end chamber.  The other ran for quite a distance and ended in a chamber with a hole in the floor, flooded but with big timbers around the sides.  (The hole was not guarded we could see the timbers by shining the light down the shaft.)

Back to the side of the pond, another tunnel, quite long, with the sound of heavy water, we found it blocked.  Where was that water going?

Hoping this is some help to you.

Yours Tony Edwards.

We had hoped to meet Mr Edwards on our visit to the quarry, but unfortunately he was not present. Our visit took place on October 13th and the party consisting of Tim Large, Tony Jarratt, Dany Bradshaw, Jill and Norman Tuck, and myself, plus representatives from Islywn Borough Council, and the Glamorgan/ Gwent Arch’ Trust, assembled at the quarry.

A dark hole could be seen in the quarry wall this in fact turned out to be the only piece of mine passage accessible.  A mined tunnel approx 1m high and 10m wide led for some 10m to a crawl up through some fallen rock and mud into a small chamber some small traces of galena were found here.  The passage continued past a fallen boulder for some further 10m to a blockage of mud and boulders.  Just at the end a pit in the passage leads off to the right, through a descending squeeze into a small chamber, the end was blocked with fallen rock.  The initials 'T.E.' were seen here written in chalk.  A small low passage led off at floor leve1, but this proved to be too loose to push more than a few metres.

The chamber contained the marks where small veins of ore had been picked out, but quarry blasting had shaken the walls and ceiling about so that the exact extent of the ore could not be determined.  At the entrance to this chamber some shot holes were found, approx 20-25mm in diameter. Also a short piece of steel bar approx 150mm long and 20mm dia, was found.  This appears to be a broken borer or chisel, having the burred end consistent with being struck repeatedly.  Smoke marks were also seen in the same place on the roof, but no indication as to their age could be seen.

The tunnel described in para 2 of Mr Edwards letter does seem to be very similar to the one we explored. The quarry blasting has shattered the rock and the whole working is in a state of collapse.  We withdrew to the surface and made a search of the quarry for further accessible workings.  The lower level workings mentioned by Mr Edwards seem to have been obliterated by the work in the quarry.

Work in the quarry is soon to cease, it is hoped that the Council may uncover more workings during the tidying operations.  If this happens we hope to be able to conclude our explorations.

In conclusion.  The workings so far seen, although small, together with the description from Mr Edwards, point to a small mining venture around the 18th Century.  Any Roman workings are likely to have been obliterated during the development of these workings if indeed the Romans managed to find and exploit the mineral.

Our thanks to: -

Islwyn Borough Council, A. Monk & Co Plc for permission to carry out explorations.

Glamorgan/Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.


Sketch Survey – Dany Y – Graig Quarry Mineworking

Next issue

Going Caving solo

Mendip Hills Local; Plan


And soon…Matt Tuck’s article on Norway

More about Eastwater.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone Wells  72126.

Editor: Robin Gray

Members will be sad to learn of the death of Postle (J.M. Thompsettt).  Providing a link with the immediate post war pars when the ‘Barn’ was club headquarters on Mendip, he will be missed by many members.  Our sympathy goes out to Dizzie and her family.

Odds & Ends

The Club has for sale a quantity of car stickers in blue vinyl with white lettering.  They bear the standard plebs motif with the novelty being that, as usual, the BEC thought of it first (over 20 years ago in fact) so with this superior thought in mind you may decorate your car with the excellent caption "The BEC do it to EXCESS'.  60p each from Tim Large or the the Belfry.  Proceeds towards the new St Cuthbert’s Sump Pump.

Hordes of old members have been spotted on the hill recently.  They include Don and Stella Hassell, Angus, Barry Lane, Chris Hall, Dizzie Tompsett, Tom Gage, Graham Phippen, Graham Wilton-Jones, 'Foulmouth' McKee, Sett, Alfie, John Cornwall etc.  Lets hope we see them all in October and, along with many more, at the 50th anniversary feast.

Alan Thomas is preparing for the winter.  He has started to raise a fresh crop of duvet filling that lays eggs as well (except, as Alan says, when there's a Duck strike on!)


The Dinner

Please make sure you order your meal by Sept 30th.  Tickets £8! ....Only 150 and they are going fast!!  Nigel Taylor is laying on a coach to and from the dinner.  Write your name on the list on the Belfry notice board or let Brian Workman know when you order your tickets so that he can do it for you.

Please make sure you include your money when ordering your tickets.... PO or cheque for £8 made payable to Brian Workman.  he's opened a special account for the dinner.


LIEBFRAUMILCH 1983                           £1.80

MUSCADET 1983                                  £3.00

FULL RED FRENCH WINE                     £2.20

COTES de RHONE 1983                        £2.25

COTES de ROUSSILLION 1983              £2.75

You can order when you get there or take your own.

Coq au Vin with Button Mushrooms & Red Wine Sauce

NOTE The caterer can now provide Jacket Potatoes so these will be substituted for rice.


Editors Report

Although the articles printed in recent BB’s have been of good quality, both on the scientific and the humorous side, there has by no means been a glut of printable material. As a result of this lack, BB’s have been produced only when enough material has been assembled.

My thanks to those of you who have sent in articles for publication and I hope to receive something from the rest of you in the next year.

As the 50th year of the BEC draws near may I take this opportunity to suggest articles of an historical nature from some of our older members.  I hope to use a special BB cover for 1985 perhaps incorporating all the different Bertie Bats.

My thanks to all who have helped with typing, printing, articles, and drawings over the last few months.

Robin Gray, Hon Editor to the BEC.

The Hon. Librarians Report

The libary has ticked over gently throughout the year.  Several new publications have been obtained with an emphasis on Cornish Mining.  Many thanks to those who have donated material and thanks in advance to those who will donate during the coming year.

A major exchange has been arranged with Steve Craven of the South African Speleological Association. All our available material has been posted to S.A. and we expect a return parcel soon.

Until the new library room is built, little can be achieved in the way of improvements to the present system.

Please will all those who have books out return them to the library as soon as possible for stock checking.

Tony Jarratt.


St. Cuthbert’s Report

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the BEC it is intended to produce a complete publication on Cuthbert’s, including the survey on 28 sheets.

The overall survey and description are almost complete and much of the information already published as Reports will be included.  A selection of good black and white photographs of both a historical and a geomorphological nature are needed to illustrate the work.  Should any member wish to loan material of this sort or indeed go down and take some new ones, please contact Tony Jarratt at the Hunters or write to West Cott, Pelting Drove, Priddy, Wells.  We hope to have all the material for editing by the end of the year.


New additions include the latest Devon, Cerberous, Shepton, Red Rose, Wessex and South African Speleo. Association publications.

Anyone still holding library material PLEASE RETURN A.S.A.P.  If you can't afford the postage bring it to the A.G.M.

All donations of books, newsletters and press cuttings for the club scrapbook gratefully received. The Hon. Librarian will be present at the A.G.M.

Collectors of old BB’s who are lacking any back issues please send a list of their needs to J’Rat who will attempt to find what they need.


The Dave’s Cave in Cowden, Kent

From BCRA grade 5 survey by Robin Gray and David Watts and drawn by Robin Gray.

The cave is situated on the wooded crest of a hill above Sandilands Farm, Cowden, Nat. grid ref 491416 sheet TQ44.  10p goodwill fee at the farm.  The farmer will give details of how to find the cave which is in a slight depression in wooded ground.  The entrance is to be found at the base of a small tree, falling straight down in the form of a vertical 25ft pitch.  Belay ladder to tree.  The hole is covered with a tree stump.

Tales of endless caverns and bottomless pits abound in this out of the way back water of Kent and most of the Queens Arms can tell of either a relation friend who had been in vast caves, with streams and stal, many never to return.

It is probable that many of the stories are based on childhood visits to the many mines in the area as this like Godstone and Reigate is a greensand area.

David Watts, Dave Davidson, and Robin Gray, all then living in the area, spent many an afternoon poking around in search of the caves recalled in the public bar.

In September 1976 the two Daves were told of a hole in the wood at Sandilands and after a short search they found a pitch covered with a rooty old tree stump.  This had been placed over the hole by the motor cross club who had no wish to take up caving.

The cave was explored the next day by Gray, Watts, Davidson, and Sue Jenkins who also did a fair amount of digging at the end of the cave.

The entrance shaft was found to be almost round and to be surfaced from top to bottom with white stal. The pitch lands on a small pile of sticks and leaves which is in a narrow rift in the sandstone.  On this pile of detritus we found a rusting Victorian candle with the remains of a length of light rope.

The rift leads down to a cross rift with a slot on the left leading up to a little boulder chamber. The whole cave is decorated with stalactites and several inches of flowstone.  Some of the stal is bright red while the other of the purest white. There were bat droppings in the boulder chamber and the cave give refuge to many insects and some very large and fierce looking spiders.

A draught was detected at the lower cross rift but digging revealed a narrowing of the rift and no way on. At the other end of the main rift fallen blocks and a narrowing of the rift also made further progress impossible. However, lovers of spiders will find this place of great interest.

Although small, the cave is of great interest and provides a natural break from the many hearthstone mines the area.  It is of course, little visited.

Robin Gray.


Caving Notes

Gouffre Berger.

As part of next years club jubilee celebrations, it has been decided to arrange a trip to the Berger in July.  Anybody wishing to come, help in organising food, equipment etc should contact me or Tim Large.  Further details later but don't be slow in coming forward.

Ian Deer Memorial Fund.

A reminder to club members, particularly the younger ones, that there is money available to assist in your caving expeditions.  If you think you qualify, drop me a line now!

St. Cuthbert’s Leaders.

Anybody wishing to become a leader should contact me for details, and an application form.  We can't rely on our present set of leaders to do all the tourist trips we are obliged to do.




Quote of the Month

Young lady (with boyfriend) overheard in the Hunters: -

‘Lets leave, this place is like a lunatic asylum’

Change Of Adddress, New Members

Richard clarke, Chudleigh, Newton abbot Devon
Pete & Joyce Franklin, Stone, Staffs
Dany Bradshaw, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Paul Hodgson, Burcott nr. Wells, Somerset

We welcome the following as new members of the BEC

John Chew, Rodney Stoke, Nr .Wells, Somerset.
Lisa Taylor, Bath,
Dave Pike, Luckington, Chippenham, Wilts


The Journal Of The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Editor: Robin Gray

A bumper Belfry Bulletin for the start of I985, our 50th year.  I'd like to wish all our members and all our readers a happy new year.  It looks a very promising year from here. The club has many exciting projects underway as a means of making the 50th a very special year.  Many miles of cave will, I am sure, be discovered, and many gallons downed in the process.

We intend to make the publication of the St Cuthbert’s Report the most complete report ever on a single cave so make sure you get your copy!  We have the great classic caving trip well under way and much enthusiasm has been generated by the organisers.

Social events should be even better than usual with the games, Dinner, and firework night already well in hand and membership in a very healthy state.  In addition the Belfry improvements get under way in March so things are looking good for the B.C.

May I take, this opportunity to thank all those who have helped with articles and typing in 1984 and hope that you keep finding caves and writing articles in 1985.   




University Of Bristol Paul Esser Memorial Lecture, 1985

Our Lecturer for 1985 will be the underwater cave-explorer, Julian Walker.  He will be describing the Blue Holes of the Bahamas.  For long the origin of these was a mystery and their penetration considered impossible, because of tidal currents.  He will describe their origin and evolution and the technique which has been developed for their exploration.  His lecture will be illustrated by slides and a film.

Julian Walker, aged 23, is a third year student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Mancbester Institute of Science and Technology.

He bas been caving since 1976, mainly in South Wales and on Mendip, but he has also accompanied some of our people on a joint Bristol and Cambridge Universities expedition to the Totesgebirge in Austria in 1981.  In Spain in 1983 he joined the Leeds and Manchester Universities Treviso expeditions, with penetration to a depth of 1169 metres, the deepest ever for a British team.

He started cave diving in 1981 with the Welsh Section of the Cave Diving Group under Martyn Farr, and did much of his pool training with us in Bristol.

He has taken part in the Bahamas Blue Holes expeditions in 1982, 1983 and 1984, all of which were led by Rob Palmer, and he assisted in the discovery of several thousands of metres of new underwater passages.  The biological study of these has been valuable.

The lecture will be given at 8.15 pm. on Wednesday, 13th February, 1985 in the large physics lecture theatre, Tyndall Avenue, University of Bristol.

The Acting Vice-Chancellor, Peter Haggett, Professor of Geography, will be in the chair.

If parties coming from a distance will let me know beforehand, I can have seat reserved for them. Admission is free.  Write to Dr. Oliver C. Lloyd, Withey House, Withey Close West, Bristol, BS9 3SX.

12th November, 1984



by Tim Large

I have noticed that several members mainly go caving with friends who are not BEC members.  I wonder why these people bother to join the club in the first place.  Perhaps it is to have access to tackle and cave keys for their own group.  The club is not in existence to subsidise such groups. It also ties up tackle and keys when members may wish to go caving with other members.  Members engaging in this practice will please remember that tackle fees and cave key hire fees are due from non-members in their party.  These are:

Tackle fee - 50p per person

Cave Key Hire Fee - 30p per person

If using the Belfry for changing and showers then an additional fee is due:

Showers & Changing – 50p per person.

Tackle: Members are still not booking tackle out in the Tackle Book - PLEASE DO SO.

Ladders are not being washed after trips.  It’s your money that pays for them so look after them properly.  Make sure you use spreaders with ladders.  Wire belays are excellent for thread belays around rock spurs, stal bosses etc of a fairly large diameter.  They do not take too kindly to be wrapped several times around scaffold bars and the like.  Once subjected to load they kink irreversibly.

DO NOT MISTREAT WIRE BELAYS IN THIS MANNER.  Tape slings are the belay to use for small diameter belay points.

Ropes need washing after muddy trips as well. From the state of the ropes returned to the tackle store not many people know how to plait a rope.  The usual mountaineering coils for rope are not suitable.  So in future plait your lifelines.  If you don't know how then ask someone to show you.

As agreed at the AGM tackle bags are to be provided by the club for transporting lifelines underground. Make sure you use them for the purpose. They are not to be taken away for personnel use.


Committee Notes



Hon. Secretary                         Tim Large

Hon. Treasurer                           Jeremy Henley

Hut Warden                               Chris Batstone

Tackle Master                            Bob Cork

Hut Engineer                             Dany Bradshaw

Caving Secretary                        Stuart McManus

BB Editor                                  Robin Gray

Membership Secretary & BB Distribution             Brian Workman

Floating Member                        Phil Romford

From now on membership administration is being handled by Brian Workman.  In the future please send your subscriptions to either him or Jeremy Henley. SUBS ARE NOW DUE FOR THE YEAR 1984/5.  LAST DATE FOR PAYMENT IS 31st DECEMBER 1984.  IF NOT PAID THEN THIS WILL BE YOUR LAST BELFRY BULLETIN. Re-application will then be necessary and no guarantee of receiving back numbers of the BB will be given.

Jubilee Barbecue: The organisation of this event is being overseen by Brian Workman.  He need’s your help to make it an unforgettable success.  Viking fancy dress will be the order of the day.  The scale of this event will be on a par with last summers Wessex Barbecue. Richard Stevenson has kindly volunteered to organise the games for which The Wessex Challenge Trophy will be played for.   This was won at the Wessex Buffet in February 1984.  He too will be needing help to invent and build the various games. 60 volunteers are needed urgently contact Brian or any Committee Member if you are willing to help.

Jubilee Dinner: This will be held on the usual date - the first Saturday of October 1985.  The venue has been booked at The Cheese Pavilion on The Bath & West Showground at Shepton Mallet.  Catering will be by Southern Group Caterers who now operate The Caveman Restaurant at Cheddar.  The room will cater for 500 people and the licence will be until 1am.  We look forward to a dinner with as many past and present members there as possible.

It is interesting to note that many past members are rejoining now - many admit to wishing to ensure membership during our jubilee year.  So come on all you older members dig yourselves out of the woodwork and those whom you knew when you joined the club and have since lapsed their membership. We would like to see them all at the dinner at least.

As you should be aware the Committee is only 9 in number at present.  With many extra jobs this year more help is required.  We are looking for volunteers to be co-opted onto the committee to share the workload.  There is room for 3 more.  So how about it.

THE SECRETARY: hereby Gives notice that he has decided to have a rest from Committee and intends to resign as of October 1985.

Tim Large


Mendip Hills Local Draft Plan

Recently the club was sent a copy of the proposed plans for the future conservation of the Mendip Hills and asked to forward our comments on them to Somerset County Council which Tim Large has done.  Below is a copy of his letter and the reply which we have since received from Somerset County Council.  The Draft Plan for The Mendip Hills is kept in the Library and available for all members interested to study.

29th October 1984

Dear Sir,

Mendip Hills Local Plan

I represent the above club which has been established at headquarters at Priddy since 1935.  The members are very interested in the Mendip Hills in particular these interests include caving, climbing, archaeology, natural history and conservation of the landscape both above and below ground.

The hills area small and very vulnerable area of outstanding natural beauty providing habitats for many rare flora and fauna.  These are enjoyed by those persons who have taken the trouble to learn about such things and treat the countryside with the care and respect it always requires.

As a policy we are against any so called conservation measures that include projects to encourage more people onto the hills over and above, as I have stated previously, those suitably enlightened people who visit the hill anyway.  I will now itemise points in the plan which we specifically deplore.

Page 5. Policy L1. This policy is not in the best interests of Mendip Conservation.  As an example of the kind of conservation policy you propose I refer you to EBBOR GORGE. A classic example of how to ruin the last remnants of a primeval forest and limestone gorge because of the need to pander to the requirements of the tourist.  This is made worse by the publicity the area receives thus increasing its usage.  As a result the once natural pathways have been gravelled over, wide enough in places for vehicles to drive along, fences have been placed at the cliff faces, and signposts abound to prevent the tourist from getting lost.  So it is now not a pleasant place to visit as many of our members remember, except perhaps in the depths of winter with snow on the ground.

Page 7. Proposals L5 & L6.  No more advertising displays should be allowed at all.  These distract from the landscape – the remote and rugged aspect of Mendip.

Page 16. 4'6  (iii) Mendip Features Under Threat.  Being primarily a club interested in caves we would welcome the opportunity to examine and excavate any possible cave site before it is filled or destroyed in some way.  We have much expertise in this field in co-operation with other caving clubs on Mendip.  The combined equipment is available to carry out major excavations at very short notice.

Page 30. 6.13. Cavers in my club and in the other major clubs are well aware of the scientific importance of caves.  We also have a greater insight and understanding of Bats than many people and take the utmost care to keep away from roosting sites. We do pass details to the relevant Bat Experts to further their studies on the subject.  Proposal WR6 appears to be reiterating that which major Mendip clubs have been doing for many years.  There are several private agreements with landowners for the control and general upkeep of the caves.  In particular our club looks after St Cuthbert’s Swallet and Tynings Barrow Cave.  We are also members of The Charterhouse Caving Committee which controls access to caves on land owned by

Bristol Waterworks.  This covers the following caves.

G.B. Cavern       Longwood Valley Sink

Charterhouse Cave        Toothache Dig

Longwood Swallet          Timber Hole

Rhino Rift

Any other caves subsequently found on their land would also come under the same agreement.  Strict access procedures are in force with a constant eye towards conservation.  Future excavations are strictly controlled and indiscriminate digging both above and below ground is banned.  Approval for any dig has to be sought by the Committee from Bristol Waterworks with whom we work closely on all aspects of conservation, safety and possible pollution problems.

We are also members of The Council of Southern Caving Clubs which has a membership of around 50 clubs; regular meetings are held to discuss every aspect associated with caves.  In particular the Council has access agreements with the landowners of Singing River Mine at Shipham and Lamb Leer at East Harptree.  The latter is an access agreement with Somerset County Council.  It is one of the oldest known caves being discovered by miners and is listed in the 'Guinness Book of Records' as the deepest cave in 1680.  For your information we have to pay a rather large sum of money for this agreement when after all we are looking after its conservation and access.  Perhaps your influence could waive these unreasonable charges when after all we are looking after an S.S.S.I.

So to sum up there are many responsible caving groups and individual cavers who constantly look after caves with conservation up most in their minds.  Tread carefully “Do not teach your grandmother to suck eggs”. Cavers are a very strong-minded independent bunch of people who will resist any unjustified interference.

Page 33.  Sporting Interests.  Your estimates of cavers on an average weekend is low.  Last weekend at our caving club we had over 50 cavers staying over the whole weekend caving on both Saturday and Sunday. There are 6 other clubs with weekend accommodation: -

Wessex Cave Club - Priddy

Shepton Mallet Cave Club - Priddy

University of Bristol Speleological Society - Burrington Coombe

Mendip Nature Research Committee - Green Ore

Cerberus Speleological Society - Stoke Lane

Mendip Caving Group - Nordrach

All these are capable of accommodating in the region of 30 people each.  Then there are the day visitors to Mendip Caves arriving by minibuses or even coaches.  Also those staying bed & breakfast or at the various camp sites.

At present the 30 miles of cave passage is reasonably accurate for those caves of sporting interest. It does not include the various small caves and speleologically important sites within the area of the plan. It does not include many other caves on Mendip but outside of the plan area which help attract cavers to Mendip as a whole.

Increases in the number of cavers does increase the demand for cave access.  But the only area which greatly suffers is Burrington Coombe. This is because the area is traditionally regarded as ideal for novices and beginners.  Hence they are used mainly by Schools, Universities, Youth Groups, Outdoor Centres and the Armed Forces.

We have accepted that Burrington Combe is the 'Honeypot' Area of Mendip Caving and as such is sacrificed to prevent damage to other caves.  This is the only area where graffiti abounds, I believe this is a reflection on the type of group which uses this area led by inexperienced leaders not in touch with Mendip Clubs who traditionally set the standard of Mendip Caving.  We agree that some cavers need to pay more attention to the 'Country Code 'particularly at Burrington.  The piles of spent carbide near Goatchurch are appalling, there is no need for it as it could easily be disposed of in a dustbin.

7:11. Stockcar Racing Near Tynings:  This sport is totally out of character with the Mendip Countryside.  It causes noise pollution on the Mendip Plateau which I have recently heard from the top of Nine Barrows Hill, Priddy.  The narrow roads which give access to the track are congested enough in summer and the presence of cars and. lorries towing stock cars only aggravate the situation.  In our opinion it should be stopped forthwith.

7:12. Motorcycles riding over the Mendip Plateau are totally out of character and cause noise pollution.  If people wish to visit the Mendip Hills they should walk and quietly enjoy the countryside as thousands do.

With both the above activities consideration should be given to the flora and fauna.  Recent research by the Somerset Trust for Nature Conservation on their reserve at The Minories, Priddy illustrates the damage done to plants and the slow recovery period, if the recovery is ever the same as before the influx of motorcycles.  Our opinion is that motorcycle trials or organised trials should not take place within the area of the Plan.

Page 39. 7.22. Proposal HT6.  We do not see any reason to promote Mendip at all.  By doing so it would increase pressure on the area and so escalate the conservation problems.  Nothing should be done to encourage more people into the area.  This will also apply to Proposals: RT8. RT10. RT11 and RT12.

Page 58. Quarrying. We are always concerned that quarrying can destroy important cave sites - sites which could be part of underground watercourses, rare cave formations and archaeological remains.  Where ever possible we apply to obtain access to survey and study these sites before they are destroyed.   Any help from the County Council on these matters would be appreciated.

Page 85. 12.6.7. Proposal SS3.  Particularly with regard to improved car parking areas with information boards at Deer Leap Ebbor Gorge.  As stated previously this area has already been vandalised by establishment groups - please do not make it any worse.

Page 90. Burrington Coombe.  As previously stated this is already a 'Honeypot' area not only for cavers but for tourists.  It would be better to keep the emphasis on this type of area but without radically changing the character of the landscape affecting plants, wildlife etc.

Page 92. 12.9.100 Cavers.  This subject has been dealt with before.  The car park at the bottom of the West Twin Brook Valley has recently been enlarged.  But we would not like to see it tarmaced over as this would distract from the rugged area.

Page 98. 12.10.12. Proposal GC4.  This proposal is directly against the interests of conservation on the Mendip Plateau.  A car park will only escalate the problem.  Cars already park on the verge by the ice cream sellers who congregate there on a sunny day.  Even a small car park will soon be filled and cars will park on the verge as before. The best plan is to make parking impossible along the verges by the use of large limestone blocks.  This method has already been used to great effect by The National Trust in Cheddar Gorge.  Encourage tourists to stay in the existing 'Honeypots' already in existence. Do not spoil the Mendip Plateau.

Page 97. 12.10.13. Proposal CG5.  The damage caused by climbers is minimal.  More damage is caused by ivy growth.  This plant used to be much less abundant as old photographs will show. This can be attributed to a reduction in the grazing of sheep, goats etc in the gorge area, and a reduction in rabbits through myxomatosis.  I suggest that the climbers who remove ivy are doing the environment a favour.

Root growth within crevices and fractures in the rock cause weakness which are subject to high temperatures in summer then zero temperatures in winter.  This will eventually weaken the limestone blocks which from time to time will fall, sometimes several hundred feet.  Many ledges in the Gorge disappear each year, ledges which provide habitats for plants - the Cheddar Pink and wildlife.

Page 99. Charterhouse represents the last remote and rugged area right in the heart of Mendip.  Many people who bother to educate themselves, already enjoy this beautiful unspoilt spot.  It is against all conservation interests and will distract from its natural character to encourage more people to this area.  We therefore consider any management schemes to encourage more visitors against the best interests of the area and those people who enjoy it as it is. This includes any development to rights of way by means of ugly signposts.

Page 101.  Priddy. 12.12.9. Swildons Hole is a very popular cave exciting a 'classic' active streamway.  It caters for all grades of cavers from novice to experienced.  At weekends the cave is crowded necessitating queues at pitches.  Also on occasions as many as 40 cars, minibuses, vans and the odd coach park on Priddy Green adjacent to Manor Farm.  Some of the local cavers park by the village hall to avoid adding to the situation.  We are aware that Mr Maine is concerned about the congestion on the green and underground. We attempt to assist him where ever possible but with cavers coming from afar communication is often difficult. We agree something needs to be done to preserve the village green environment.

Eastwater Cavern is not such a major problem being less popular due to its lack of stalactite formations within easy reach of the entrance.  At this time our club in conjunction with the Wessex Cave Club is exploring a new series in this cave which will answer many hydrological problems of the Wookey Hole Catchment.  This would obviously extend the S.S.S.I. for the cave.  We also maintain close contact with Mr and Mrs Gibbons of Eastwater Farm who own the cave and work together towards minimising any problems which may arise.

Page 104.  Ebbor & Wookey.  I have already made reference to Ebbor at the beginning of this letter.  12.13.8 Ebbor Gorge as I have already said is not the unspoilt carboniferous limestone gorge………The National Trust have vandalised it.

Page 109.  Westbury Quarry. Proposal WQ.2.  What will the development of the site for educational purposes mean?  Mendip already suffers from too many cavers due to its proximity to large centres of population.  Add to this climbing, horse riding, sailing, gliding, field study groups, scout camps etc, Army Training at Yoxter, Youth Hostels at Cheddar and Velvet Bottom plus your own outdoor centre at Charterhouse.  Then you hopefully realise the Mendips are already heavily used. Any more outdoor centres must be seriously considered before inflicting more pressure on the area.

Page 110. Battscombe Quarry.  Any further expansion of this quarry beyond its present "Permission Boundary" would be detrimental to the character of this area.  Also Tynings Barrow Cave whose entrance is near to Tynings Farm, has been water traced to Cheddar Risings.  The projected line of this cave goes very close to the quarry.  If the quarry is expanded it could intercept this underground watercourse causing pollution to the Cheddar Risings which are used as a water source by Bristol Waterworks.

Page 114. Callow Rock Quarry.  The permission boundary extends a long way beyond its present extent.  I understand that this area of the hillside could contain caves.  Whilst protection can be given to cave sites within quarrying areas we do hear from time to time of caves being discovered and quarried away before anyone can have a look at them and something done to protect the site.

I hope these comments enlighten you and that you appreciate the strong views cavers in this club have on conservation.  I would be only to glad to meet anyone to discuss problem areas or to give advice and assistance on cave problems in particular.

Yours Faithfully

Tim Large    Hon. Secretary


Below is the reply since received from Somerset County Council:

Dear Mr. Large.

Thank you for your helpful and informative letter dated 29th October.

Your comments regarding cave management are particularly valuable and roughly correspond to those of other caving groups.  The general tenor of your comments on recreation suggest that you feel even the existing provision for visitors is jeopardising the wild character of Mendip and to promote new areas will make the matters worse.  I only wish to say that there is no intention to promote Mendip as a whole to attract extra visitors, though it is intended to cater in the best way possible for those who already come and who will continue to come.  Paragraph 7.4 of the plans refers.  Nevertheless your view that better facilities will automatically attract more people is noted and will be taken into account in the amendment of the plan by the Steering Panel, as will your other comments.

Thank you for your interest and you will be kept informed as the Plan is refined.

Yours sincerely

Mr Watson
for County Planning Officer



BEC At It Again

Congratulations to John and Sue Dukes on the arrival of Elizabeth weighing in at seven and a half pounds, and to Robin and Sue Gray on the arrival of Holly weighing in at seven pounds and one ounce. Both doing well and their daddies!

Overheard in the Hunters:

How do you get a drink out of a pewter tankard?

Buy one.

How much are they?

They are all different prices.

How much is that one?


Nogbad Comes Back

by Matthew Tuck

Noggin is king of the land of the Nog.  He is a kind king and he is married to a kind queen called Nooka.  But not everyone in the land of Nog is so kind.  For instance Nogbad the bad is always unkind, and this saga tells how he once caused Noggin a great deal of troub1e………….OR


The plan was that Glyn Bolt and Julie Wotten in their green Daihatsu would drive up to Newcastle, followed by Graham Johnson, Nick Hawkes and Matt Tuck in Graham’s Ford Transit to catch the ship to Bergen leaving on the 14th July 1984.  After one and a half weeks in Norway, another group of Wessex members including Al Keen, Pete Hann and Pete Watts would join us at an area 20km N.W. of Fauske, about 1km North of the Arctic Circle.

The object of visiting this area was to walk over a stretch of exposed Calcite Marble Limestone, searching for caves.  Some of these being used by the Norwegian resistance to hide from the Germans in 1939. After three weeks in Norway Glyn and Julie would return to England leaving a party of six to continue searching

for caves or to push any found.  After four weeks of the expeditions arrival Pete and Al would return leaving three of us to go down any new discoveries we were to find!  We would return on 24th August having spent six weeks walking, caving and surveying - This is what did happen………….

After spending the day suffering from Mendip Hangovers we arrived at Newcastle with enough time for a quick swim in the docks, before battling through picket lines to board the Good Ship Venus.  The 24 hour sea crossing proved uneventful apart from being tipped out of our pits at 5.30am by one of the crew swabbing the decks with a high pressure hose.  We arrived in Bergen at 5pm the sun beating down exposing fine views of the Norwegian coastline as we sailed in.  Was this a sign of things to come - No.

Driving on the right seemed relatively simple until we came to a stretch of very long, steep narrow and wet unlit tunnels which blast right through the mountains.  The Nogs seemed to drive faster in the tunnels than on normal roads.  After about an hours driving from Bergen we stopped for a brew and saw Julie and Glyn off on the way to sort out some papers what ever that meant.  We then carried on driving north towards the E6 which would take us even further north to the Land of the Midnight Rain.

The next few hours driving were classic. The tunnels became longer and more frequent, the roads narrower and the gradient steeper.  At one stage we were forced to decide whether to write off the bumper of an oncoming car or to drive off a 300 foot cliff into a lake.  The bumper lost, the Nog didn’t seem to mind - he said it was always happening.

Soon we embarked on an incredible section of the route which took us high into the mountains by way of a very steep and narrow road.  This would have been brilliant if it hadn’t have been for the Wally of the year trying to drive his English coach full of Liverpudlians up the side of the mountains on a road built for reindeer.  The three of us stopped overnight just before the Sogn Fjord and that night we appreciated snow, mosquitoes and Fray Bentos.

The next day we caught the ferry across the Sogn Fjord in excellent weather.  After a few more hours driving we were on the Jo’Otpenneimner Pass; a high mountain pass where the road reaches 1400m and the surrounding mountains almost twice that.  Red algae stained the snow fields and the glaciers lay within view. A few more hours driving and we were on the E6 north.  The countryside was less spectacular but still impressive, each of us shared the driving taking shifts of four hours each.  We drove on through the night in order to make time and meet Glyn at the Mo-i-Rana Tourist Office.  After about 20 hours we reached Mo to find no sign of Glyn.  Knackered and annoyed we ate 90 boiled eggs for breakfast according to Julies calculations and left a note at the tourist office for Glyn.  Only then did we realise that the Norwegians spoke better English than we did!

We continued North past the Arctic Circle where the Laps drive Mercedes and sell antlers to the Germans, past the railway with wooden tunnels over it, and past our bed times.  That evening we camped just outside Fauske at a place known as the Dead Lake.  At 8pm we were joined by Glyn and Julie who seemed to have finished sorting out the papers. As we were now well above the Arctic Circle we were experiencing 24 hour daylight which was great until you wanted to sleep!


After sleeping off the 30 hour drive we went into Fauske and then carried on about 40km North where we turned off the 26 and up a side road which took us closer to the limestone. The original plan was to walk to the limestone from the small village at the end of the side road, ferrying food and equipment into the area as it was required.  However we were surprised to find a hydro-electric scheme under construction in the mountains and a track had been constructed which took us 10km nearer to our target.  Without this track it would have taken us a week to walk to the limestone.

On the 20th August we all set off into the hills with enough food for four nights.  The day before we had made the same hike but without packs in order to locate a decent route.  During that walk we saw herds of reindeer, two moose and came within ten yards of a rare mountain eagle with a wing span of about eight feet.  About seven hours and a few route finding problems later we reached the limestone.  The next few days were spent wandering around the limestone in freezing rain looking for possible entrances.  The limestone band turned out to be very twisted and distorted.  We found many entrances but they all proved to be either subsoil drainage systems for the area or heavily choked up.

On the fifth day we decided enough was enough and struck camp.  It was then I discovered that I had been sleeping in a three inch deep lake. This camp site, chosen by Glyn on the grounds that it was a reindeer track turned, out to be a feeder for Lake Linnejavre.  After a very hot fester day and the arrival of Al and the Petes we all set off at various times heading for an area of limestone slightly north of the first one lying on the Swedish border.

In order to reach the limestone it was necessary to walk about 12km around a steep sided lake and then another 5km into the area. Glyn and Julie took the left hand side, Al, Graham and the Petes took the right side whilst Nick and I used a rowing boat, which must have been left by the construction company.  As it was it proved useful for ferrying Al, Graham and the Petes with their Gear from one side the lake to the other, having been stopped in their tracks by a 70 snow field sloping into the lake.

By the end of the day the party was split into three groups camping between the vans and limestone. The next day Graham, Nick and I walked on and met Glyn on the limestone with a knife in one hand ready to fight off the reindeer that had attacked him the night before as he was trying to negotiate a river the size of the Thames.  He quickly pointed out some cave entrances which he and Julie had found and then disappeared with excuses such as "I've got to get married in Oslo on Friday".  What is he talking about we thought?

Slightly confused by Julie and Glyn’s mysterious ways we tried to carry on as normal.   We concluded that there were no caves to be found in this limestone; all the entrances were heavily choked or re-emerged after 100m.  If this limestone were on Mendip many caves would have been found however this was not the place to start a full scale dig!  During the walk back along the huge scree slopes we noticed a great Norwegian type raven circling overhead.  Scattered on the shore line beneath the ravens roost were five dead reindeer all mutilated by their necks.  We were told later that those birds were supposed to live for 300 years!!

After another fester day in the hot sun Al, Nick, Graham and I set off again.  This time we were heading towards the end of the limestone band which we had missed on the first walk.  We walked past Lake Linejavre for the zillionth time and reached limestone on the second day.  As we expected most of it was dipping in the wrong direction and was too thinly bedded to hold caves.  The rest was covered by glaciers.

This walk proved to be the most scenic of the expedition.  We were treated to fine panoramic views of the fjord as we walked down from the mountain through the tree line; down to sea-level in hot clear weather.  A swim in the fjord, and two gallons of Kulter Melk (a kind of yoghurt that grows in the stomach).  Later we left for Mo-i-Rana.  All the limestone which we had looked at in the last two and a half weeks proved to be disappointing.  We covered about 70% so it did not seem worth returning however the walking scenery was excellent.

The area we were heading for was a place called Glomdal in the Bana district, about 40km from Mo-i-Rana. This is a well established caving area with many well known but fairly small Mendip type caves formed in marble limestone on mica schist.  The general dip of the limestone in this area was 15%.  Caves were formed during Pleistocene glaciations.

During our first few days in the area, we met the Norwich University Caving Expedition, they had been there for several days and had found a fairly respectable but not very exciting cave located just off a track used by the Norwegians when walking to known caves higher up the mountain.  When the Norwich group left we discovered two new entrances to their cave plus an extra kilometre of cave, and two new connections to their find linking the two caves.  We also met the St Pierre family from England who knew this area well, and also Stain-Eric Lauritz, Norway’s caving executive.  We told them of our plans to look at two bands of marble limes- tone high up in the mountains and they confirmed that there were no known caves in that area, but it was worth looking at the depressions and stream sinks we had noticed on the map.  Before heading for the Devil Holes, as the locals called them, we visited and walked on the Svartisen Glacier for a day.

We also went on a trip down Norway’s only show cave called Grongligrotten.  As show caves go it was the pits however the tourists were treated to a certain sporting element being made to walk along streams and climb up unfixed rusty ladders. After a few minutes in the cave we left the main party and wetsuit clad went don the main streamway, this turned out to be very reminiscent of a Swildons Sump 1 trip.

We said goodbye to Al and the Petes leaving Nick Graham and I for a four day stay in Walter Glom’s fishing hut up in the mountains.  Walter Glom is the King of Glomdal.  He lives about two hours walking time up the valley from the end of the track.  His house is under a mountain called Glom and next to a huge trout filled lake called Glomvatnet.  Walters fishing hut was situated high up in the mountains about six hours from his house.  On the route we passed many caves which we later visited.  These included Storbekkengrotten a very pretty but short cave ending in a sump.  It is about 900m and 250m deep.  The marble was smooth and pure white with blue streaks - like caving in cheese, marble pendants were abundant.

Another cave which Stein-Eric advised us to visit was Trudihullet.  At the end of this cave was a very unstable mica-schist boulder ruckle. If this was passed it could lead to about 900m of new cave and a connection with a cave called Fosshullet with its entrance about 2km up the valley.   The floor of the cave was covered in huge loose garnets.  Nick got through the massive boulder ruckle to no avail. The last cave we visited in the vicinity was Pikhaugrotten No.2 a big phreatic tube with scalloped marble walls. We were forced to sleep in this cave on fertilizer bags as Walter Gloms-fishing hut turned out to be crammed full of

Norwegian fogies out on a ramble.

The next morning we were woken by four of the very same Norwegians crawling over our bodies on a short tourist trip before returning home.  They didn't even seem to notice we were there, just casually crawling over the sodden sleeping bags full of rotting Englishmen.  The next day we had a ten hour breakfast in the hut followed by a quick caving trip.  That night we managed to raise the temperature inside the hut to 45oC smashing the Norwegians record of 22°C on the iron wood burning stove.  This however resulted in the whole hut coming close to flash point.

On the way back we stopped off to see Walter and trade some corned beef for a couple of fags.  He invited us in and made us coffee that was thick enough to spread on bread.  We ran the two hour walk back in thirty minutes with mentally heavy rucksacks, speeding on the coffee.  The next day we festered in the heat.  The mosey were worse than ever here, as we were a lot further down in the forest. The other problem came from the kamikaze flies that attack you in waves every ten minutes and chew at your flesh until you kill them.

Once again we set off on another quest to find, this time the Devils Hullet.  Walking most of the day up, up, up we arrived at the lower band of limestone.  The next lay was spent finding huge entrances only to discover that they were choked or closed up after about 20 metres.  During the afternoon we walked up to the higher band of limestone at about 1,000m, more to see the excellent view of Swartisen Glacier in the good weather than anything.  We also walked to a depression that was marked on the map.

The depression turned out to be a small lake surrounded by almost vertical cliffs.  The lake was fed by melt water and lay on a bed of limestone, we walked around the lake and discovered that it was draining through a boulder choked hole, under the lake and into the mountainside.  We moved tons of boulders over the next few hours but still couldn't get in.  We returned the next day and dug for a few more hours. 

Cave fatigue set in as we were making no progress.  A JCB was needed to clear the route for a huge cave could be discovered judging by the amount of water taken by this entrance at certain times of the year.

Well and truly +?!! off we walked back to our tents on the way we were shocked to discover no less than eight cave entrances, including three with impressive waterfalls falling through pitches, and one huge rift 50ft high and 20ft across.  This was it!  We walked off down the mountain for a days fester returning with caving equipment and enough food for four or five days.

Dumping our gear in one of the entrances we had found we returned to where we had left our tents in the forest on the previous walk to save weight.  On the way we all had minor heart attacks when we discovered a well concealed hut built about 50m from the lowest cave entrance by hunters from a village 15km away.  It had a grass roof with trees growing in it, inside four bunks, a table and wood burning stove.  Our luck was in  a gyte not ten minutes from kilometres of undiscovered cave.  The next day we returned to our gyte with all the gear, had a brew and then set off towards the rift entrance.  The cave proved to be massive about 3 or 4 km long, the biggest in the Rana area.  The huge passages with their magnificent formations linked up with all the wet entrances we had found previously.  The only problem was there were two sets of foot prints going right through to the end of the cave!  We were not the first.  Completely +'?*ed off we returned to the gyte and ate crates of army rations whilst it rained continuously for one and a half days.

Like rats coming out of hibernation we pulled ourselves together and headed towards another entrance we had found.  After descending a wet and very loose 50ft pitch which was definitely un-descended we entered 300m of new passage and then well, what do you know!  It connected with the system visited the day before. The other entrances proved to hold the secrets to nothing, so we made a huge curry out of two days food in a tin bucket, and prepared to walk off the mountain the following day.  The walk back proved to be fairly eventful, with rucksacks like builders skips, our route taking us over miles of bogs and thickly wooded swamps.

On Monday 20th August we began the drive back to Goteburg to catch the ferry to Scum-upon-Tyne.  This time we had chosen to drive across Norway to Umla in Sweden and back down the Baltic coast, because of the better road conditions.  Petrol and food also proved cheaper this way and as we were broke it seemed the best plan! Events on the way back included a classic early morning swimming the Baltic Sea and three midnight moose sign nicking sessions.  We also nearly started a major international incident at a municipal campsite outside of Goteburg after refusing to pay £8 to camp in the city's rubbish tip.  The Governor threatened to phone the British Ambassador and the Police.  We offered to do the washing up but he wouldn’t have it! ''More than me job's worth son". After an hours debate in the hut we left.

We soon realised the joys of civilisation we had missed for six weeks and oh how glad we were to be going HOME!


Tales Of The Talking Trees

by Graham 'BOLT' Johnson

“Set foot on that side of the river, boy and they'll eat you alive".  The words drifted into silence amongst the towering spruce trees around us and the speaker puffed placidly on the well worn pipe that emerged from the bushy beard dominating his creased face.  His pale blue eyes seemed to be looking far away into another world and I stirred uneasily at the thought of being eaten alive, and felt tempted to use the magic pipe.  'Yukon Buds' smouldered in the bowl, home grown cannabis weaving thoughts of the unreal. We stood on the shores of Kalka Island, known as Calice in the days of the gold rush, while around us swirled the torrid waters of Alaska's mighty Yukon River on its 2,000 mile voyage to the Bering Sea.  Surrounding us was the awe inspiring Boreal Forest of such immense size that England would be lost below its green canopy.  Steep sided spurs and ridges, valleys and creeks worked their way upwards until at nearly 2,500 ft they burst clear out of the forest and were then only covered by moss and lichen or the stunted Arctic Spruce.  That was my target, the nearest peaks of the Ray Mountains, unseen from where I was standing.  The warmth of the evening sun eased the tension in my mind and sent my thoughts back to the start of this adventure.

British Airways flight 006 left Heathrow at 1.10pm Monday 9th July and travelling west arrived at Anchorage, Alaska at 1.00pm the same day.  Confusing!   This is the largest city in Alaska with the sea to the south and the tremendous snow capped mountains of the Alaskan Range to the north and west.  The population is 250,000 which is over half the population of the entire state of Alaska. As with all American cities it is well spread out and crossing to the Palace Hotel with all my equipment proved a minor epic.  The large unshaven man at reception wiped his greasy hands over his greasy vest before leading me up the greasy stairs.  I declined his offer to help with the luggage.  The door to my room opened half way under his gentle touch and then juddered to a halt, but a well aimed size 12 soon cured the problem and it swung violently open to the sound of splintering wood.  He turned and walked away and I stepped into the shabby little room, my rucksack tangling on the six inch nail protruding from the door that turned out to be as troubling as the latch.  I crossed the room slid the window up and poked my head out for some fresh air.  "Hi!" a loud voice spoke from behind me.  The window rose a few inches I turned holding one hand on the rapidly expanding lump on top of my head.  A young woman sat on the bed only just wearing clothes.  She had a contagious face and against my better judgement I felt my normal look of 'Smash, Kill, Destroy' being replaced by one of simpering stupidity.  Her name was Kate she said.  No she wasn’t a maid.  Did I want company?  Well what did I think she meant?  Were all Australians like me?  Frequently Kate’s face would disappear behind a large chewing gum bubble only to reappear intact a few seconds later.  Eventually Kate left in a huff when I explained that my strict BEC vows forbade me to play strip scrabble prior to opening time.

The night was spend listening to the sounds of screeching women, yelling men, breaking glass, revving car engines, loud music etc.  At 8.30am the next morning I gratefully sank into the deep seat on the north bound train that was to carry me nearly 400 miles to the interior city of Fairbanks.  The young woman occupying the same seat returned my bright friendly smile with a scowl. Oh well!  The scenery was fabulous and guides were in each compartment to point out items of interest and give us historical talks about them.  After great effort and much smooth talking I managed to lift my neighbour out of her black mood and she was now talking to me ten to the dozen about what was wrong with men, the trouble she'd had with men and the best thing to do with men.  I sat there scowling infrequently interspersing with an intelligent 'Um' to show that I wasn’t a tailor’s dummy.  We reached Fairbanks in the early evening and I set off for my pre-booked hotel.  First sight was a shock as it looked like a gigantic dusky pink shoe box, however it was run by five girls (one English), and turned out to be spotlessly clean and neat inside.  I showered, dived into bed and slept for a long, long time.

The sound of a tank battle outside my window woke me and I peered bleary-eyed from behind the curtains. Two 'dead' Indians lay on the pavement opposite while a convoy of pick-up trucks roared and fretted by the traffic lights.  In Alaska vehicles don't require yearly tests and it showed with the ear splitting uproar from the traffic.  The bars stay open until 4.00am which accounted for the two dead Indians for shortly afterwards they rose unsteadily and weaved off down the street.  It was to be a common sight over the next seven days.  Apart from the Athapaskam Indians who inhabit the Alaskan interior Fairbanks also has its share of Eskimos down from the far north.  Most of the white people here are from the 'lower 48' i.e. the rest of America and there are a small group of weirdoes (like me) with stars in their eyes - most of them never leave he bars.  Fairbanks can be summed up as 'Banks, Bars, Restaurants and Pawnshops'. The big food store stayed open until 10.00pm even on Sundays and their shopping trolleys are twice the size of ours over here.  You can get four screaming kids in them instead of one!  In July and early August there is no night and temperatures can rise to 96 F whilst in winter -50 F is not uncommon.  The wilderness starts close to the city and Bears and Moose have been known in peoples back yards.  A few gold mines are still operating on the outskirts, but the days of the gold rush are long past.  The next seven days were full of problems, the first being that part of my equipment continued travelling between Anchorage and Fairbanks for a further 2,000 miles before being intercepted by me.  Getting one month’s supply of dehydrated food for the journey required a four day advertising stint in the local paper.  Finally like me, you ever write to the American Embassy in London and receive a bright reply from them to the effect that "Yes!  There is absolutely no problem in hiring a high powered rifle in Alaska."  DO NOT BELIEVE THEM!!

Thursday 19th July!  I stood by the side of the Haul Road that was to lead 150 miles north to the only bridge crossing the Yukon River.  A fine drizzle misted the forest covered hills around me as I watched the Taxi that had deposited me here head south in a cloud of spray.  The final words of the elderly driver added to the general depression I felt. "Take my word for it boy" he said glancing at the Remington 30-06 semi-automatic rifle resting on the seat between us, "Change that pea-shooter for something bigger, else there’s a good chance you won't be coming back."  One hour later the road was still empty of traffic.  A large white dog walked out of the surrounding bush, crossed the road, wagged its tail once and sat down along side me.  Shortly afterwards came-the sound of an approaching lorry and anticipation replaced the apathy within me.  A massive freightliner truck appeared and raced towards me and I raised my thumb and ordered the driver to stop with my full mental powers. A sudden blur of white and my bedraggled canine friend was hurtling down the road to do battle with the approaching juggernaut.  At the last second he skipped nimbly aside, spun lightly in his tracks and barked madly at the lorry approaching fast.  As it passed at high speed the scowling driver shouted something that didn’t sound like a friendly greeting.  Silence again descended.  My new friend arriving back, panting, but with a self satisfied smirk on his face and resumed his station beside me.  Telling him to leave produced no reaction and eventually I was forced to chase him away. The next wagon stopped.  The driver was going 90 miles north to his father’s gold mine and he spent the full distance telling me horror stories about bears. Eventually he turned off the Haul Road and I climbed out and started lifting the bags down.  Whilst doing this another pick-up driver stopped and shouted across.

 “Don't go down that road man.  Indians down there don't like whites; they've just killed seven including a trooper.  Sorry can't give you a lift.  Ain't allowed”.  With that he drove off to the north.  I looked around, nothing but forest and hills like it had been for the last 90 miles. The rain was quite heavy now and a cold south westerly wind was beginning to blow.  The notion occurred that now was the right time to check over the rifle.  After much fumbling I worked out how to load the magazine and was in the process of looking for the safety catch when I heard the sound of a motor.  Hastily propping the gun against my rucksack, I ran across the road to be in the best position for thumbing a lift.  A large van came up the side road and stopped opposite me.  It was full of Indians, the side door opened and one alighted and started walking across the road towards me.  Thoughts of Custer’s last stand crossed my mind and I wondered if anyone would write a song about me.  Halfway between the van and myself he stopped, turned and faced the others and commenced giving the thumbs up sign as they checked the lights, indicators then got back in and they proceeded off south.  As they passed I waved and they all broke into smiles, the biggest and meanest looking back.  All of a sudden I began to feel quite cheerful, even the forest didn’t seem so hostile.

My next lift had such a badly shattered windscreen that I could see three roads ahead of me.  This is not uncommon as the Haul Road is 400 miles of compressed gravel and dirt and has only been open a few years.  It was built by a consortium of oil companies who laid the incredible Alaskan oil pipe from Prudhoe Bay in the far north 800 miles south across some of the most hostile country in the world to the southern ice free part of Valdez. The pipeline carries 1½ million barrels (48 gallons each) per day of crude oil and. has to cross 600 rivers, 3 mountain ranges and resist a temperature range of +100oF to -80oF. Early evening and we crossed the Yukon River and glory be! on the far side was a transport cafe and garage for the truckers.  For two days I marked time trying to get a lift down river and then on the third day as I mooched around by the water a big cigar and bushy beard came into view.  This was Professor Ray Baily of Fairbanks University and as it transpired he was heading for a fishing camp 16 miles down river. Yes I could have a lift and also stay overnight thus allowing an early start next day.  This seemed a good idea so we sat and waited for his partners who were travelling upriver to meet him.  Ray's little red-haired daughter, Cara led me back to the café to show me where if I wanted I could buy her an ice cream!  Later the rest of the party arrived in a flat bottomed dory powered by an 70 HP outboard and shortly after we were heading downriver at speed.  Tom and Bill came from Hillbilly Country - Georgia and South Carolina, really nice people but a wild sense of humour.  Once they knew I was an ex-navy man, they gave me charge of the boat, so I bombed on westward completely oblivious to the fact that people had just died on that stretch of river when hitting rocks just below the surface.  Nobody tells me anything !

As we approached the fish camp on the one mile long Kalka Island, we stopped to inspect the nets set out in the eddies by the river bank.  Not so many fish but a lot of driftwood and this produced great hilarity which got out of hand when they started throwing the wood into the boat and the fish into the river.  Madman! We also stopped to inspect a fish wheel, an ingenious contraption like a huge double ended scoop on a floating platform tethered to the bank.  The current turns the scoop which picks up fish and drops them into a box on the platform. Later I was to help an Indian fisherman empty his wheel - tear your hair out you English fishermen - he had over 200 fish the smallest being about 2½ ft long.  There were King Salmon, Chun and Sheefish.  The magnificent King Salmon were running now, working their way easily up the Yukon, conserving their energy for the incredible fight against the ragging mountain torrents.  Those that escaped mans inventions now had the bears contend with.  Both Black and Grizzly would be lining the banks of the known Salmon rivers watching for the flashing silver bodies that hurled themselves up waterfalls or fought through running water sometimes only inches deep.

Arriving at tree covered Kalka, we were greeted by Robin, her one year old son Dillon and Rachel. The camp consisted of large tents plus a roughly made smoke house and covered area for cooking etc.  A fish wheel was in the process of being built. The smoke house was full of long strips of salmon hanging on racks, which were smoked until the flesh was hard and dull looking.  The taste was fabulous.  The evening meal was eaten in the open under the trees and consisted of Sourdough bread, rather like a pancake and thick Halibut steaks covered with Robin's special sauce known as 'Bitsa'.  Bitsa this and bitsa that.  They were breaking camp the next day and returning to Fairbanks with a full load of fish.  It fetches £9 per lb and they sell all they catch.  I decided to stay with them to help can the fish and clear the camp.  It turned out to be a bright and sunny day which made it a pleasure to sit by the Yukon with the mountains and forests around us as we canned the fish and fought off Alaska's flying big game - the mosquito!  Ray told me the problems I could expect to have with these creatures when I travelled deeper into the forest.  How right he was!  As the day passed he began to voice worries about my chances of survival up in the mountains - people disappear yearly into the wilderness and are never seen again. The last one he knew about froze to death when he failed to light his fire due to damp matches.  Ray and Bill set off up river and the rest of us continued with the packing.  By 9.00pm I was fretting at my late start, but when the two returned they triumphantly handed me a cigarette lighter.  They had just travelled 30 miles along the Yukon River to swop their cans of beer for this to give me a better chance in the mountains.  I felt quite overcome and decided there and then that I would be seeing these marvellous people again on my return.

With everything packed into the heavily over laden boat, we set off upriver at 10.30pm.  I stepped ashore at Canyon Creek by the ice cold mountain stream that rushed into the Yukon.  My rucksack weighed 100lb and carrying that and the heavy pussers holdall just was not possible.  The holdall I stashed high up a tree

hanging from a rope (bears can climb), the intention being to return later.  Farewells having been said, I pushed the boat away from the bank and stood and watched as it got smaller with distance.  Occasionally a speak of white would show as someone turned to look back and then as they disappeared round the far bend in the river, all sound was abruptly out off as though at the flick of a switch.  Silence pressed down on me and with it came the feeling of extreme loneliness and vulnerability.  I checked my rifle and inspected the mouth of Canyon Creek. Within a few yards the river was obscured by dense undergrowth, while the trees on both sides rose steeply upwards towards the higher mountain ridges that could be glimpsed in the distance. The steepness of the ground gave the impression of a malenvironment being crouched over me a tendril of fear wormed its insidious way into my mind.  Anger at my own weakness pushed me into action and with frantic scrambling I climbed the near vertical river bank.  A few more paces and the shining waters disappeared as the dark and silent forest closed around me.


Completely Bergered!

The following brief account is a personal view of a trip I made to the Gouffre Berger in 1978 when the Cerberus booked the cave.  We camped at the edge of a long rough track about a mile below the cave.  The camp site, on the edge of a large meadow, was extremely pleasant apart from the water carries!

The Berger entrance doline lies at the edge of an area of lapiaz dotted with trees: not far from the entrance is a plaque in memory of two French youths who lost their lives in the cave several years ago.  A scramble down one end of the doline gives onto a short pitch facilitated or not by a makeshift wooden ladder which gives onto the first pitch proper.  This again has some wooden artefacts at the top, namely a sort of take off platform.  This pitch gives the flavour of the first part of the cave namely a series of pitches! After thirty metres or so one drops onto a snow plug and a slither off down a series of short climbs ( Holiday slides) debouches into the top of Cairn Hall. This is a large high chamber which one enters at the top on a rather loose ledge.  The take off for the 25 metre climb is sloping and loose and we used quite a bit of rope protection here.  It was here that the original explores rigged a teleferique to transport tackle easily.  After Cairn Hall come the infamous meanders which although deep are pretty tame after those in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu.  The meanders debouch onto the top of Garby's shaft.  The take-off here can be foul if you rig it the way we did i.e. through a sloping rifty bit which makes getting off the rope difficult especially when you are tired.  The French rig the pitch higher up which makes it a lot easier.  The actual pitch, of the order of 40 metres, drops down the side of a very ancient stale flow, and ends in a continuation of the Meanders. These end at another approximately 30 metre pitch to the bottom of the rift the Meanders are located in.  A further series of three rather dribbly 9 metre pitches winds up at an enlargement of the passage at the head of the second biggest pitch in the system - Aldo's Shaft.  This is about 45 metres deep and provides a spectacular free hang into a black void.  Rigging here should be accomplished with care as in our case we quite unnecessarily larded the rope with protectors just below the take off point when a bit more thought would have made the pitch entirely free hanging.  We realised our mistake when a French party who pirated the cave (I think) rigged their ropes in entirely different positions!

At the bottom of Aldo's shaft the cave abruptly changes character and from a silly little rifty squeeze one emerges into the vastness of Petzl's Gallery with the 'Riviere sans Etoile' babbling past ones feet.  It is one hell of a big passage by anyone's standards.  In dry weather the stream is pretty small and the next obstacle - Lake Cadoux is usually absent.  Its location is marked by an area of mud floor and at the far side a boulder dam which is the cause of the lake.  Beyond Lake Cadoux is the start of the big stal. in Bourgin Hall and just beyond the short Little General Cascades drops a few metres before the Tyrolean Traverse is reached.  This is pretty tame in dry weather and is more easily passed going in as a slither and wade.  Suddenly the stream disappears through boulders and the big passage becomes gigantic. The presence of Belfry sized boulders indicates the start of the Big Rubble Heap through which (thankfully) there is a well defined path.  The overall trend is downwards and as the slope increases one can see in the distance a glimmer of white.  A pile of rubbish and junk marks the presence of Camp One which was a mess in 1978 (one would gather from a recent letter to Caves & Caving that the rubbish was a recent British phenomenon which is terribly unfair) and beyond it the cave levels out as a vast chamber the floor of which is covered with big gour pools. The glimmer of white is seen to be an array of 9 metre high stalagmites - one of the most distinctive sights in the world of caves.  This is of course the Hall of Thirteen which is not as some people imagine named after the number of stals but after the number in the original exploring party. Beyond here the cave drops steeply through Germaine Hall and a series of gours which positively dwarf the great gour in St. Cuthbert’s.  A series of relatively small chambers containing the famous enormous cascade lead to tile Vestibule and a short pitch back into the streamway.

This section of cave begins with the famous canal, again pretty tame by today's standards, although immersion if one is wearing dry gear is not to be recommended unless one is travelling very fast!  Most canal sections can be traversed with the help of fixed aids (yes, even the Berger has them).  I found the streamway a delight and rather like a souped up Swildon's One streamway believe it or not.  There are one or two small climbs but the only main pitch on this section is extremely obvious  - Claudine's Cascade.  This is an 18 metre waterfall which the original explorers had trouble passing. They eventually succeeded using a sort of boom which put the ladder away from the water.  A boom still remains there (not the original I hope) and makes the descent fairly dry apart the bottom 4 metres or so where the water strikes a ledge and drenches the explorer in wet conditions.  The stream continues a bit further down another short pitch until the cave changes character yet again to become frankly Tolkienesque at the Grand Canyon.  The passage is almost as big as the Great Hubble Heap but the stream has cut down a deep (and I mean deep) canyon on one side of the passage.  One descends-a very steep rubble and silt slope which runs alongside the precipitous sides of the canyon from the black depths of which can be heard the roar of the stream.  Beyond the Canyon in Camp II is another pile of rubbish including (in 1978) a complete frame tent!  Just behind some boulders is the 18 metre Gache's pitch which is normally dry.  At the base of this the stream is rejoined as a series of two steeply sloping cascades and an acute bend.  The stream hurtles over the brim of the Grand Cascade an awesome sight in wet weather (which is when I saw it).  Only three members of the Cerberus trip got beyond here to the head of Little Monkey before the weather beat us.

From what I have adduced some of the most technical caving in the system lies in the final hundred metres of descent including the biggest pitch in the cave the wet Hurricane shaft. Let's hope the weather and ourselves are up to it!

It is worth noting that the most exhausting part of the trip for myself was the seemingly endless series of entrance shafts.  All those awkward little take offs become a pain to prusik over and any rope protectors were similarly regarded with tired un-enthusiasm.  The final straw was the entrance shaft where we had a particularly stretchy piece of SRT rope which meant one felt as though one was prusiking it twice!


On the 1978 trip the most significant medical problem turned out to be blisters on the feet. The two doctors on the trip (Tim Lyons and myself) found ourselves bereft of remedies whilst Ken Gregory (remember the name) did a roaring trade in blister remedies. Apart from blistered feet and exhaustion those people who wore wet suits had trouble with skin burns.  I had a most unpleasant time after my first trip down to the Hall of Thirteen when I developed perineal (crutch) burns.  These were treated with great dollops of Nivea cream and I managed to get down to Grarid Cascade 4 hours later without suffering unduly although I did wear a thin pullover under my wet suit.  Body temperature maintenance is a matter of personal preference.  In dry conditions and with a little care I am sure one can manage with dry gear in the shape of a water proof oversuit furry suit and thermal underwear (optional) plus a balaclava (remember a third of heat loss is from the head) for hanging about in at pitches.  I would also strongly recommend gloves for all the rope handling and immersion (have you heard of Berger Hands).

Feeding underground is a problem.  During a seventeen hour trip I managed on pilchards and biscuits but morale is improved by warm food.

On the surface there should not be too many problems provided dietary and alcoholic discretions are kept to a minimum.  For acute diarrhoea the simple and most effective treatment is using electrolyte replacement.

As regards trauma from accidents the situation is just the same as in this country with regard to cave rescue.  The carry out will just take longer that's all!

As regards medical treatment abroad remember there is now a reciprocal arrangement with EEC countries. However you require a form obtainable from your local DHSS office.  Don't rely on the fact that there seem to be lots of doctors going!

Peter Glanvill



Thanks to Unit 2 for the donation of all Newsletters from Jan. 1971 to date.  They contain much useful info. on caves and mines in the Surrey, Sussex and Kent areas, with particular emphasis on the stone workings of the Merstham area of Surrey.

The latest Cerberus, Westminster, Plymouth, Wessex, Cambridge and BORA publications have also arrived.

Many thanks to Roy and Joan Bennett for their donation of old BBs and other publications - early Descent sand Speleologist Mag.  These have completed the Library sets.  Several duplicates have been given to Mike York who, in return, has promised to bind our volumes of BBs once the new library is completed.



Going Solo

by Lisa Taylor

After reading an interesting article in Descent, about solo caving the old grey matter started thinking. I'd never considered going down on my own, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.  A solo trip down Swildons was organised, with the kind help of the Editor (otherwise known as Sir!)  He gave myself and two friends a lift to the Belfry and agreed to come down the cave with my two friends an hour or so later to rescue me when I got stuck or lost.

Walking across the fields to the hole I felt I was setting off on a great adventure (OK some people have great imaginations).  There was a fair amount of water going down the hole and there was not the silence that 1 had expected, but instead only the continuous swirling and crashing sound of water.

I travelled along taking extra care to note the way back and being especially careful I reached the pitch where I had great trouble undoing the C-links.  All the way to the sump I had a great time feeling in complete control, except when the occasional rock shifted due to the water, making a disconcerting bang, or when I heard the voices!

I reached the sump which was quiet and eerie.  On the journey back, I had the feeling that I wanted to get back and out quickly and I hurried along in the hope that I might meet someone, especially my 'rescuers’  I reached Barnes’s Loop which gave me a little trouble but after a lot of bum wiggling finally managed it.  I took quite a while de-tackling the twenty, and rolling up the ladder (lack of practice).  When I reached the 'old 40' water was shooting straight out at head height. 5 minutes of swallowing water and I was up. '

Altogether the cave seemed much longer and harder than remembered.  When I did finally emerge, I felt absolutely whacked, probably because I had been tense and therefore everything was that much harder.

I walked back across the fields where I met Sir, Robin and Ria my mates.

Then we all went yes you've guessed it, down to sump I and back all over again…..and it was a hell of a lot easier in a group!



For the last few years I have spasmodically been taking photographs of St. Cuthbert’s, both nooks and crannies and the main routes in the cave.  The idea was to put together an audiovisual presentation on the cave, its history and main features.  I have now amassed a large collection of colour slides and feel it's about time I put the thing together, particularly as this year is the 50th anniversary of the club.

Any members who have anecdotes, photographs (preferably, slides) of early exploration, the original entrance, leading explorers or any other features relating to the cave, please let me know.  I will take great care of any material lent to me - I have facilities for duplicating slides.

Also if anybody has facilities for producing graphic images on slides, do let me know.  With any luck I should have something worth showing by the end of the summer.

Many Thanks,

Peter Glanvill, Chard. Somerset

Wig is in urgent need of sporting pictures of the August streamway for his forthcoming publication.

Cuthbert’s Report requires photographs of passages showing shape size and formation.  Do you have any that might be of use.