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Speleology in North Wales by L.J. Thompson

One of the lesser known carboniferous limestone districts of the country is that extending from the Great Orme, North Wales, down to the vicinity of Oswestry. Lead mining has been carried on in this area from Roman times and at the present day the Halkyn Mine near Flint is one of the most productive mines in the country.

Derelict workings abound, but unfortunately for the caver access is usually by a shaft, and that, almost invariably, a very deep one. There are, however, some workings that it is possible to explore, and due to the violently contorted nature of the rock, features of more than usual interest are frequently present. One such feature I have in mind is in the Belgrave Line, near Mold - a small area of calcite undulating and striated, but nevertheless; polished like glass due to faulting.

An indication of the rate at which stalactites may be formed is to be seen in a four foot straw in the Holway Boat Level Holywell. This level would be called a Sough in Derbyshire – was driven for drainage purposes in 1774.  There are in the same mine red, green and blue flowstone deposits and a quite unique sub-aqueous growth of coralline calcite.

Mining records tell of large caves, known as ‘vughs’ being broken into during the course of driving this and many other similar levels. The Geological memoirs describe numerous springs and swallets also.

The foregoing may well lead one to expect something out of the ordinary in the way of caves, too, but, unfortunately, from bone-hunter’s, discoveries have been disappointing.  All the same, since the territory is almost virgin to the pot-holer (to coin a phrase) hope will keep springing, despite a strongly developed propensity for saying authoritatively and whilst still dry and un-clayed’ It won’t go’.

The only cave that has made anything of a name is the Ceriog Cave near Oswestry, described first by Baker, with a subsequent account by P. Wild and R. Wallis in the B.C.  The first reasonably accurate survey was made in 1960 by T. Capper and L. Davies and the total length fixed at just over 600 feet.  The other caves (passages, is a more accurate description of most) are the Maeshafn Cave, near Mold; 800 feet, dry. Old foundations, with a small stream, Roman trinkets & human bones at the end after a 100 foot 30 degree downhill wriggle.  Afou y Meirchion, near Denbigh; a cave of debauchment, accessible only in very dry weather – euphemistically sporting.  The Gop Cave, Prestatyn, about 250 feet, was described years ago in the B.C. – again a dry cave.  The are innumerable smaller caves of varying degrees of interest, many of them discovered and entered in the last ten years or so by a small group of speleological exiles supported by local aspirants to that masochistic art.

Blasting, digging and damming have been carried out with a zeal that can only be compared with that displayed by the mediaeval monks of Bangor-ys-Coed, who bred their celebrated hock-haired horses thereby to manufacturers their incomparable horse-hair shirts.  To date, only one pot-hole has been discovered near Holywell – a vertical of about 45 feet between narrow walls of crinoidal limestone to a clay choked sump at 60 feet below the surface.  This hole achieved notoriety by de-bagging, on the ascent, the first lady speleologist to explore the cave.

In order to correlate and organise activities and also for the purpose of keeping proper records, it has been decided to form the North Wales Caving Group with headquarters probably at Holywell or Prestatyn.  Any further information will be supplied gladly by the author or the N.W.C.G. Secretary: - Mr P. Wild, Tunstead, St. Asaph Road, Byserth, Flintshire.

M.J. Thompson.


The Belfry Bulletin is still, as always, in urgent need of material suitable for publication.  Don’t be discouraged if the article that you have slaved over doesn’t appear at once.  I have to try to aim at a ‘balance’ in each issue and have to try to build a reservoir of material to carry the B.B. over ‘lean years’.  Therefore a certain number of articles are selected as being suitable for future issues and are put to one side for that purpose.  Send in your articles to Hon. Editor, B.B., 74, Woodleigh Gardens, Whitchurch, Bristol. 4., or pass them on to Bob Bagshaw or Ken Dobbs who will see that I eventually receive them.



Although of a very different type to that which normally we expect from Merv, the following article, will, I am sure, appeal to quite a large percentage of our members.  If you like this type of article let me know and we will have more.

Belfry Birds

By Mervyn Hannam.

The following article has no relation to caving, but might interest those speleos who occasionally leave Orpheus in his lair and take a jaunt over the surface of Mendip.

Birds can be roughly divided into four grouped: -

  • Permanent Residents;
  • Summer Residents;
  • Winter Visitors;
  • Passage Migrants.

The Passage Migrants pass through the country in the spring and autumn, but do not stay for than a few weeks.

Some interesting resident birds can be found in the vicinity of the Belfry and the Mineries Pool.  Coots, which are black, duck-like birds with a white patch of the forehead, can often be seen swimming across the pool in company with the moorhens that live there. The harsh quacking call of both these birds is probably familiar to all visitors to the pool. Occasionally some wild duck may be flushed from the surrounding reed beds, but two well known water loving birds, the heron and kingfisher have not yet been seen by the writer in this area. Amongst the smaller birds to be seen in a walk around the hut or pool is the stonechat, a rather uncommon but strikingly marked bird that nests in the gorse bushes on North hill.

A larger and well-known bird is the kestrel, which can be seen very frequently hovering over any part of the Mendips which it searches for the mice and large insects on which it lives. Other predatory birds are the sparrow-hawk and the buzzard, The latter is not often seen, although during recent years it has spread its breeding ground to the wooded slopes of Mendips. When seen, the buzzard is usually circling with motionless wings spread out and the ragged ends looking like a hand with spread fingers. The owls also come under the predatory category and although dusk is the accepted time for them a large white barn owl could frequently be seen quartering the fields near the Belfry in broad daylight although it has not been seen recently. The tawny owl, with the well known “tu-whit-tu-whoo” call, and the little owl are both quite common. Many other birds could be included in the list of residents, but space will not permit it.

Summer visitors are the next largest group and they are well represented in North Somerset. The cuckoo, chiff-chaff, swift and swallow are well known but some of the more uncommon birds can be found near the Mineries. Firstly, the Grasshopper Warbler, a small drab brown bird, recognisable by its song which is similar to the winding of a fishing reel, A number of these warblers nest in the reed beds and may be hard singing in pitch darkness as well as during the day. Another summer migrant with a peculiar purring cull is the Nightjar, a large brown bird that can frequently be seen flitting low over the gorse and grass tussocks between the pool and Stock Hill. The nightjar nests on the ground where its plumage blends perfectly with the dead sticks and leaves. During the twilight of late summer evenings the birds can be seen at their most active period.

Most of the summer migrants depart for Africa and the continent during September although a few, the chiff-chaff and blackcap stay until October.

Winter visitors are mainly Fieldfares and Redwings, two thrushlike birds which come to this country in great flocks from Scandinavia. They can often be heard “whistling” as they fly over at night during November - February.

The Passage Migrants include some very rare birds, but the only one to be seen near the Belfry is the Wheatear. This grey-backed bird is rather bigger than a sparrow and can be recognised by its white rump and black tail feathers. The Wheatear is a summer resident also in some districts.

Besides the birds mentioned in this article, many other birds live on Mendip and the reservoirs of Cheddar and Blagdon are a paradise for numbers of ducks and wading birds.

M Hannam

Have You Got The Right Equipment ? asks Pongo Wallis

These notes are written with two objects in view; 1, Because the Editor is always shouting for articles for B,B, ( Pongo is one of the good souls that can be depended upon to help fill an empty page. Ed..). and 2, as a help(?) to the Very New Caver.

Assumptions 1, There is no point in going caving if you can’t see the cave when you are there. Therefore you need a light, (my discovery of the year). But you wouldn’t guess this from many Cavers lamps, as more Heath Robinson contraptions that many people cook up have never been seen.

You can use a candle (but Don’t). It gets in the way, it dazzles you, doesn’t give much light, it drips hot wax over you, and goes out at the slightest provocation and won’t relight. Carry one as reserve by all means, (I do), but DON’T use it as your main light.

Acetylene lamps are very good and deservedly popular. They are reliable and give a good light, while carrying a small reserve of carbide enables you to stay long underground, But don’t expect it to work well without attention. How many times have I seen someone empty out the old carbide immediately before starting on a new trip! Do it as soon as the lamp is finished with. People whose lamps give trouble are a pain in the neck, and the majority of them are those who don’ t clean their lamps. EVERY time you should empty out the carbide and thoroughly wash and dry the lamp in all its recesses—it is far easier to do this outside rather than fiddle round underground.

Electrics. Some people can make dry battery lamps work well—most can’t. If you must use them remember that electricity doesn’t like bad contacts—make sure yours are good. Floppy wires are a menace as they get caught and out goes the light. If the battery gets wet you must dry it thoroughly if it is to last a second trip. Remember that torch bulbs are flimsy and always carry a spare.

A miners electric lamp is rather heavy and tend to get in the way, but they are reliability itself (they have to be), They are expensive to buy in the first instance, but cost nothing to run thereafter.

My own choice—acetylene for general purposes and a miner’s “NiFe” lamp on other occasions.

Assumption 2. Bare feet and sharp rocks were made to be kept apart. If your main object in life is to break your neck, wear gym-shoes or gum boots in a cave. Otherwise well nailed boots. And “well-nailed” doesn’t mean bags of nails. The object is not to provide an iron sole, but projections to grip the rock. Hob nails are quite good enough for most caving; climbing nails are generally not worth the extra expense. Some people go to great trouble to make their boots waterproof; others cut holes in theirs, But water can get in round the top and constantly changing water is cold. So leave your boots as they are, but oil them well or the leather will go hard and crack.

Assumption 3. A cold caver is a bad caver. Your clothes have two functions; to keep you at the right temperature and not to prevent you getting through tight places. Waiting at the top of ladders is a cold pastime so you must have sufficiently warm clothes. Conversely, crawling through tight places can be very warm work. Your clothes must combine these functions. I confess I haven’t solved this problem to my own satisfaction yet.

The outer layer must be smooth. Those capacious pockets which are so useful for all the odds and ends (which probably ought to be left outside) are there for the purpose of getting you hung up on a sharp corner. Cut them off !! Two piece garments are all very well by the sea, but in a cave they also leave the midriff bare. This is uncomfortable and the exposed trouser waist-band acts as a wonderful hanger-up. It is not widely known but the original name of the boiler suit is a Caving Comb, ( at least that’s my story; and if you have ever been in a boiler you will know that it is like a very tight cave with lots and lots of sharp projections, so the said suit is designed for the job).

Lastly, Hats (no assumptions). Hats protect the head and carry lights. If yours does both and is comfortable at the same time it’s OK.

Good equipment cost very little more than bad – but it may save your life one day and every trip is more enjoyable because of it.

R.H. Wallis

Programme for March. April and May.1949,

Sat 5th March                     August Hole and Longwood

Sun 20th March                  Eastwater

Sat April 9th                                               Burrington

Sun April 24th                                          Swildons Hole

Note. There will be great activities over Easter. Details from Hon. Sec later

Sat May 14th                                            G.B.

Sun 29th May                     Stoke Lane.

Other trips will of course be run as usual most weekends, details will be fixed on Thursday evenings.

Another Menace Episode.            by J.V. Morris

This article is short and in the form of a letter and should really come under the heading “From the ----------“ but as it is in the Menace’s usual style we think it deserves a better fate. Ed..

I am still in the land of the living and have returned from my climbing trip in one piece. The sole damage, over the trip was a badly sprained ankle on George’s side, and one heel off my climbing boot. The weather couldn’t have been worse, and we climbed under appalling conditions. We climbed the Aretes and Chimneys on Gable and Scafell Pinnacle by Deep Ghyll which is a severe. Under the conditions we climbed I should think it would be classed as an Exceptionally severe, and we were nearly beaten by the big Cave Ditch, which was as wet as the Swildon’s 40ft pitch; with the difference of 400 feet to fall.

We also did all the gullies on Great End, and climbed a new route up the south east Buttress by a series of cracks, chimneys and slabs. It was about the most difficult climb I have done, as the rock was loose, covered with moss and streaming with water. Also included in this course were two Lay Backs and a hand traverse, and there was no break away either side, in fact it was the hardest climb I have done. Incidentally this climb was due to us mistaking the directions in the book of words, and when we enquired about it from the regulars, we found that it had never been climbed direct before, so we have a new climb to our credit, though I cannot imagine it becoming a popular course.

Some Interesting Theories on Stoke Lane Swallett by A.M. Innes

Stoke Lane swallet does not present a very imposing entrance, but there is no doubt that once the first sump is passed, the chambers and passages then revealed are some o f the best in the Mendip series of Caves. In my opinion Stoke Lane Swallet is really formed of two parts, one old and the other comparatively recent.

The old part is that reached after the first sump, but before the second, and consists of the large chambers. This is probably part of a system that a long time ago stretched from the Hunting Lodge Swallet to St Dunstan’s Well, 1½ miles away. However due to some occurrence on the hills, a valley was cut across this cave by the stream which now passes through Stoke Lane Village and into the cave entrance. The valley stretches northward from the village, past Stoke Lane Entrance and Browne’s Hole to Edford.

This naturally destroyed part of the cave and blocked the stream passage, the water which entered at Hunting Lodge Swallet now escaping by some other route. Water, probably an overflow from the Hunting Lodge stream has been known to flow from the entrance to Browne’s Hole, showing that an active system exists behind it. Exactly opposite Browne’s Hole on the west side of the valley is a similar arch now blocked, which is probably the old stream passage and continuation of Browne’s Hole, Pitted on the hillside above this arch are numerous depressions which may prove to be an entrance into the Bone Chamber.

The new system is the crawl stretching from the entrance to the first sump and was probably formed by the stream which formed the valley being diverted into a small passage. This was then enlarged to give us our route to the main cave. The stream entering here combines underground with those from Withy brook and other swallets to flow out at St Dunstan’s Well with a volume many time that at Stoke Lane.

After the valley was formed Stoke Lane II was open to the surface and had an accessible and probably large entrance, large enough in fact for it to have been used for habitation. This is proved by the following fact. Bordering on the Bone Chamber is the Throne Room. This contains two very large stalagmites which have been named the King and Queen. Exactly in front of the Queen and between it and the connecting passage to the Bone Chamber is a small stalagmite about 10 inches in height and 4 to 5 inches in diameter. When this was found in 1947 it consisted of an old stump with a new stalagmite growing on top. Lying nearby was the old top of the stalagmite which had been broken off. Surrounding the present formation and the old stump was a ring of charcoal. The soot marks on the new part shows that the fire had been lit after its formation.

Bearing this in mind it is apparent that persons entered the cave a very long time ago and broke this stalagmite off. Also that comparatively recently the cave had again been entered and that other persons had lit a fire around the stalagmite, and also on a large flat rock in the Bone Chamber.

This I substantiated by the fact that of the bones found on the slope of the Bone Chamber, they nearly all fall into two distinct ages.

The questions which now arise are:-

a.                   Why was the stalagmite originally off) and

b.                   Why was a fire lit around it a long time after ?

The latter of these two incidents may be concerned with some rite or sacrifice, but neither may be answered correctly until the entrance used by these people has been dug and examined to exactly determine its use.

Before the entrance may be dug, however, it has to be located. The recent survey that was made is only provisional and the site of the entrance will remain undiscovered until the detailed survey is complete, unless it is stumbled upon by chance. The detailed survey may not be done before the summer owing to wet weather and bad conditions.

There are only two possible places where the entrance can be,

a.                   in the shake hole adjacent to the stream entrance, or

b.                   on the side of the valley.

If the entrance is on the side of the valley there are two other possible alternatives.

1.                   The Bone Chamber stretches from the valley towards the shake hole, and

2.                   the Bone Chamber lies after the shake-hole having a string of chambers between it and the entrance in the valley side, the shake-hole being formed by one of these chambers collapsing.

If the latter is the case, then the Bone Chamber was the inner recess of the cave and the bones are accounted for by people being trapped in the Bone Chamber when the shake-hole collapse occurred.

Because of the following points I am inclined to think that the entrance is on the side of the valley, not in the shake-hole, and that the Bone Chamber lies between the valley and the shake-hole.

1.                   It is doubtful whether the shake-hole is as old as the new stalagmite in the Throne Room, showing that the entrance is elsewhere. This point may indicate that the Bone Chamber lies after the shake hole.

2.                   Shake hole collapse past the second sump would explain why severe flooding is occurring in the cave. (stream passage past sump partially blocked by fallen boulders.)

3.                   There is no sign in the shake hole of there ever being any entrance large enough to attract even a modern caver.

However, until another survey can be made, and the Bone Chamber pinpointed accurately, digging will be partially dormant, and the above remain as pure theory.

A.M. Innes.

This very interesting article explains, a number of points in connection with Stoke Lane that time alone will verify. There must be several schools of thought on the subject, however, would anyone else like to advance any alternative theories? Ed..


Yet again!  Another member has gone and got himself engaged!  We are pleased to announce that Pat Woodroffe recently became engaged to Miss Margaret Illingworth.

British Caver Vol 19.

Will be ready in March. To the old timers the “B.C," needs no introduction, to those unfamiliar with it, the “B.C.” is the B.E.C, official journal (together with some 16 other societies) and is crammed full with things of interest to cavers.

Copies are 6/6 each or a ream of 10 by 8 paper. Send your orders now to :- G. Platten, Rotherfield, Fernhill Lane, New Milton, Hants.

Cave Diving Group News.

Two members of the London Section, Bill Mack and D.A.Coase, ( wots this, Don, a transfer? Ed,) Working with the C.D.G. Derbyshire Section, after a 380 ft. dive, have come out above water into a large passage with the stream flowing along the bottom, nowhere more than waist deep. This was followed for several hundred feet until time compelled a retreat.

We await further particulars of this splendid piece of work,

The Belfry

The new Belfry stands!!!  The walls and roof are up.  The roof is watertight, and the glazing is done.  BUT there is still plenty to do, so come on you slackers forget the holes on the ground for a weekend or so and give a hand to finish what will be the best Caving H.Q. in .  Thanks are due to the small band who week after week have toiled and strained to get as far as they have.

Articles for the BB

Do you like reading the BB, or do you say what, again? when one comes.  If the latter you won’t read this anyway.  If the former remember the BB is kept alive by the contributions of the members without your efforts it will die.  Anything that interests you will interest us send it in to the Hon  Ed. BB c/o Hon. Sec,.


In the near future a selection of P.C. prints of Stoke Lane will be available price 6d each. We shall be pleased to send a set on approval to any member, who can select those he requires and return the rest with the cash for those selected. If larger prints are required, this can be arranged. Don Coase is doing the work for us and a percentage of each 6d goes into the club funds Please send requests for prints to the Hon. Sec.

Club Library

Since the note in the last BB requesting the return of books, only one member has had the courtesy to return any. If any members who have books do not return them pronto, further steps will be taken to speed up their return.

T.H. Stanbury Hon. Sec

Walking and Climbing Sections.

The response for names for the above sections has been good, and we are pleased to announce that Roy Wallace has consented to take charge of the walking section. Roy is one of our oldest members and is an enthusiastic walker. As many know a small group of BEC Members have been walking for some time now (Getting tired out by now, Ed) and have had some very enjoyable times together. Roy has submitted the following:-

I propose after talking it over with S. Herman and G. Fenn, to go ahead with a programme we are getting up for our own enjoyment this summer, consisting of one evening ramble per week, and a Sunday ramble occasionally. Anyone interested in walking would be welcome to come along and should the numbers warrant some better form of organisation or a fuller programme, I will endeavour to arrange one. I hope this will come about and be the beginnings of a good Walking Club that will give as much pleasure to others as walking gives to me.

Roy Wallace.

A programme will be fixed as soon as the evenings become lighter and will be printed in the BB. Membership of the Walking or climbing section is open automatically to all BEC members, but does not preclude a person joining specifically for climbing Etc.

The Climbing Section has seven names appended to date and we are looking for a suitable tutor. Several names have been suggested, and we hope to make an announcement soon.

Grand Shorts Auction

Remember chaps , the auction of Henry Shelton’s Natty Shorts closes at the end of the month. Bidding is now standing at 27/6. Come on you bods make a beast of yourselves, Who makes a bid of 30/-??

From the Hon. Sec’s Post Bag,

From J.H. Rapley, London.

In the middle ages and during the Roman Occupation of Britain, the Mendips were regarded as a rich source of lead, which occurred in large quantities in cavities in the limestone. These deposits were not discovered by investigating the outcrops of regular lodes or veins, but by their being seen either on the surface of the ground or more particularly in the caves. Where discovered these deposits were followed as far below water level as the primitive pumping apparatus would allow, after which they had to be abandoned. These deposits are distributed irregularly through the limestone and can only be discovered by being exposed (particularly underground) or by geophysical prospecting, which is a complicated and not entirely satisfactory method in the case of small deposits.

From Andre C. Anastasion now in Belfast

I am very impressed by the advancements made by the BEC. I was very pleased to see that my cartoons were received so very favourably by the public at the recent exhibition. Keep up the good work chaps!! Hope to see you all again soon. Andre.

From Terry Reed

We have received from Terry Reed, now on leave in ; two plans. They are of two caves discovered by him whilst on vacation near Coombe Martin. They will be reproduced when our cartographer has finished copying them.

Life Membership of BEC

At the Annual General Meeting the amount of a Life Subs was left for the Committee to decide. At the last Committee Meeting it was agreed that this subs be 5 gns.. Our first paid life member has been enrolled. Who will be the second??

Have YOU forgotten YOUR annual subs ?

A Caving Review of the Coastal Area around Bude, Cornwall

By T.H Stanbury

It is proposed in this brief survey, to give of a short account of places of interest to Cavers in the immediate vicinity of Bude.

It will be found that, although the area is not one of either limestone, or of the massive slate deposits around Trevena (Tintagel) there are a considerable number of places where caves can be found, although most of these are very small.

I propose to start at the North, and work my way down the coast. It must be remembered that throughout the entire area the cliffs are open to all, and that if for no other reason than the enjoyment of the scenery, a walk along the cliff paths is well repaid.

The first place of real caving interest is at Northcott Mouth, where there are situated two caves. The first, No 1 on the sketch plan, situated under Menachurch Point, has the remains of the wreck of a coaster as a sign-post. This wreck although about 1½ miles from Bude, can easily be identified from there on the ebb of the spring tides. The cave, situated in the point of the headland directly to the rear of the wreck is not extensive, but has a comparatively grand entrance. It runs straight for about 60 ft., and then terminates abruptly. There is a large pool just inside the entrance that is full of seaweed and looks shallow but woe betide the unwary explorer who ventures to step into it, as there is a considerable depth of water under the masking weed.

Making our way across the sandy cove of Northcott Mouth for about ½ mile we see in front of us another headland. In contrast to the cliffs around Menachurch which are crumbling and broken, Maer Cliff stands out as a sheer face of rock running out to sea.

Almost at the point where the headland joins the main cliff is “Smugglers’ Hole”, No.2 on the sketch. This cave has already been described by the writer in “British Caver” Vol.12. , and a survey was published in BB 4, A weekend trip was run to Bude in August last to excavate “Smugglers Hole”, and a further penetration of six feet was achieved The perfect weather and sea contributing in no small measure to the small amount of progress made and the excessive amount of swimming etc. indulged in.

Just south of Maer Cliff is “Earthquake”. Here the cliff is shattered and large crevasses extend parallel to the cliff face up the considerable slope up the beach to the cliff top. The impression is that the existed under Earthquake a very considerable cave, the roof of which has collapsed, causing the whole level cliff top to subside. That the subsidence is not recent is shown by the fact that there once existed on the hilltop a monastery or other religious foundation, all traces of which have long since vanished.

From this point the best way is to follow the cliff base. This is much more strenuous than either the cliff top or the sands, but the added interest makes up the extra energy expended.

Along the base of the cliff from Earthquake to Wrangle Point, a distance of about ½ a mile, there are a number of small caves, the entrance of which, at certain states of the shingle, are completely hidden. Most of these are insignificant, but a couple of them are worthy of the trouble needed to find them. As well as the caves, there are here some very interesting climbs, due to the protusion of vertical rock faces from the general line of cliff. If the route along the sands is taken instead of following the cliff face, there are one or two interesting rock arches to be seen, with deep pools beneath them.

From Earthquake to Bude the strata are vertical but beyond Wrangle Point it becomes almost horizontal until Efford Downs are reached.

From Wrangle Point to Bude Harbour there is nothing of interest to the caver except a small hole looking like a cave in embryo on Summerleaze Beach between the Bathing Pool and Mentone. This is purely artificial and I have no reliable information as to why it was made. I presume that it was for work in connection with the drainage system.

Crossing to the Breakwater, chapel Rock, so called from the Chapel that used to adorn it, used to boast of a smugglers’ cave according to the old guide books. No trace now remains of either the chapel or the cave, and I fail to see what good to a smuggler such an isolated hideout would have been, as before the Breakwater was built Chapel Rook stood. isolated on the sands of the Haven.

Under Compass Point are three caves. The first of these, No. 3., is small and is on the north side of the headland. The second and third, Nos. 4 & 5, are parallel to each other and. look west at the point of the headland. No. 4. is the larger, and has recently become partly unroofed by rock falls. A large pool on the floor at the entrance adds to the fun of penetrating to the end, about 90 feet in all. The entrance is about 5 feet wide and 30 - 40 feet high, with vertical or slightly overhanging sides. To enter, the explorer has to manoeuvre along a ledge about five inches wide and great fun is had in the return journey as this necessitates a climb up over a rock face overhanging the pool.

The second cave, No.5 is approached around the southern wall of No.4, and is a very different place. The actual cave is at the end of a long gully with vertical walls 100 feet or more in height, and only about 8 feet wide. The gully has a floor of large boulders and at one point a large mass weighing many tons has jammed across it at a high level, the person passing underneath wondering if it is going to choose that particular moment to finish its descent. Beyond this hanging mass, the boulder pile lessens and a climb down over slippery rock brings one to a sandy floor with a few boulders sticking out of it. The cave is about 50 feet further up the gully. It is only small, with an entrance about 6 feet square, and in about 40-50 feet it peters out. Where .the boulder pile ends there is a small hole in the north wall through which a caver can squeeze. If he has enough energy to do this he finds himself back in No, 4. Although the hole looks easy I have found that there are few that are not cavers that will attempt it.

These two caves are only accessible at low water, the neaps, not allowing any entry, and the sea being too boisterous to allow swimming.

Here again the strata are vertical, but after this the most amazing contortions of rock that I have ever seen take place. The rock has been twisted and crushed so that in some places there are zig-zags and invertions that seem incredible to those who see them for the first time.

An Interesting scramble over the rocks brings us to Efford Beacon. Here a finger of rock runs out for a considerable distance. On the far side of this is cave no.6. This cave has in the last few years been almost entirely eroded away, but enough remains to see that there was once a considerable arch. The back of the cave is discoloured red and violet from the dripping of mineral impregnated water.

From here a climb down over a 40 ft. vertical rock face brings us to Efford Ditch, where there is what appears to be a cave entrance across the cove. On approaching we find that this is merely a depression in the cliff face, but upon getting nearer still we see a cave mouth close by. This cave,no,7., is much visited and has had names and initials cut into its walls for many years. The entrance is triangular and at its apex is about 7 ft. high. Running up into the cliff for about 100 ft. It gets smaller and smaller until it is too small to penetrate further.

From Efford Ditch to Upton Cliff a number of rocky points jut out, and amongst these can be found other small caves of a similar nature to those between Earthquake and Wrangle Point. These too, are extremely well hidden, and great care has to be exercised in this area as the points of rock are further out to sea than the beaches and to be caught under the vertical cliffs in the region of the Wheelbarrow, during the spring tides necessitates a particularly bad climb to safety. Many years ago the writer was caught on this beach whilst looking for firewood, and both he and his companion never wish to repeat the experience. An almost vertical shale gully 100 ft. high being the only climbable spot from the beach and at the head of the gully, the only way on being over a pile of loose overhanging boulders for another 150 ft.

These notes although very brief, will, I hope, enable the caver who is staying in the area to indulge in his favourite sport during his sojourn there,


Thanks to G. Platten for two books for the library :-

Irish Cave Exploration by JC Coleman, and,

Gower Caves by  E. E. Allen & J. G. Rutter with photographs by A. G. Thompson, B.Sc and M. I. Strust.E..

Also to R.M. Wallis, “Pongo” to you, for “The Specialist” by Charles Sale. This should be read, marked, learned and inwardly digested by all detail constructors.


North Border Caving

by A.C. Johnson

Running north from Welshpool along the border to the west of the coalfield is a broken ridge of limestone between 2 and15 miles wide. Much of the land is low lying and so the prospects of large caves are confined to a few areas.

Travelling north from Welshpool, the first high ground is LLanymynech Hill. The east and south sides of the hill have been extensively quarried and in one place a quarry has been driven into the hill and covers a circular area of some 14 acres. The cliffs are anything up to 250 ft. high and provide climbs of all grades up to the impossible The quarry went out of business in 1920 and so the rock has weathered and become stable; some parts are the equivalent of natural cliffs. In all there are about 5 miles of cliffs. The strata are horizontal and in places there are some very natty ledges running along the face. The two caves are on the top of the hill which is used as a golf course. The first cave whose entrance is a fairly large chamber is in the south side of a huge amphitheatre, which might turn out to be an overgrown swallet depression.

The walls of the chamber are covered with a green transparent jelly which sticks to your clothes like glue and makes a hell of a mess. The place stinks of sheep, so they maybe the cause. There are several very small holes high up in the walls but there is an obvious way on through a rectangular hole about 3 ft. high at the far end of the chamber This leads to a second chamber with two or three tunnels leading off. I have explored up one of them but as I only had a baby torch I did not go very far, but to my surprise I found myself at the bottom of an aven about 3 x 2 leading up to the surface. Search on the surface revealed a wired off area containing a natural shaft which by its position should be the right one. This cave has a number of legend attached to it which are stlll current in the village. One is that the cave connects with a passage running from the River Vyrnwy under the pub and up to natural chambers under the hill where illicit drugs,etc. were stored before being distributed to the Midlands. This is not so impossible as it may seem because the cave is completely dry and as there is no high ground in the neighbourhood the cave, cannot very well be flooded. Also the line of the cave is towards the pub. So what about it blokes? There’s booze in them thar’ hills! perhaps. I might as well tell you the other legend, which originates from the people over the hill and that is that the cave is inhabited by badgers There are badgers on the hill but I don’t know if they are any In the cave. I didn’t meet any. Whilst on the subject of the cave, when the quarry was continued into the centre of the hill a large tunnel some 20 ft. square was knocked through the rock separating it from the track to the canal, to take the lines to carry the rock out. In the walls of this tunnel high up are two open ends of what appears to be natural caves, one large with a small one in the opposite wall. I think that these tunnels form part of the cave system as they are in the right line. The other cave on the hill is about 1/3 mile north of the first one under some hawthorn bushes and just inside the entrance is a stream which disappears down what looks to be a very promising tunnel. According to locals there is always water there but no one has explored it. At the base of the cliffs at the southern tip of the hill is a cave entrance which has been blocked; some 10 ft. in as the sheep use it as a shelter. In all these caves there is only a little formation that I have seen and is mostly white with slight brownish streaks.

Also on the same hill are 2 open lead mine shafts about 80 ft. deep. They are, circular about 4 ft. in diameter and the walls are built up with dry stonework. There are a lot of small depressions filled with loose stone which may be covered in mine shafts as they have the same appearance as the open ones.

At the other end of the limestone belt in Flintshire there is considerably more high ground. The lead mines there were once the chief local industry, and were operating until fairly recently. The shafts were quite as common as at any place on Mendip. Ordnance Survey maps of Halkyn Mountain show 90 shafts in an area of about 6 square miles. (There is a map in the club files which shows the Halkyn Mining area, the shafts and the veins of ore. Ed.) The method of mining in the district was to drive horizontal levels into the side of the hill and use the shafts for ventilation. An old book of the Halkyn district speaks of a level 1000 ft. long, which was flooded to a depth of 2 ft., so that punts could be used for transport, which went straight through the hill. Many entrances to these levels, could probably be found by systematic searching. There are a number of small ravines about that might have contained the entrances. Just to the north at Holywell there is a healing and petrifying well fed from the mountain. At least it used to be, but one day the supply was cut off when foundations were being dug, so the owners of the well, not to be beaten, tapped the town supply which also comes from the mountain, and the well functions to this day. Now who says Bristol water is hard? I don’t think this is generally known in the district, I found out very much by accident from some old records.

Attention all Forces Members ! ! i


If we do not hear from you BEFORE FEB 29th  We shall assume that you are no longer interested and discontinue your membership.

The Following Members (some since demobbed ) Have Already contacted us :-

A. Atkinson,                  R.A. Crocker.                J. Hull ,                         G.A.R.Tait

D, Bessell.                    P . Daymond .               D.W. Jones.                  J.C. Weekes .

R. Brain.                       F. A. Edwards               C.H. Kenney.                 T. White

R. Cantle,                      S. C. W.Herman..          J.V. Morris.                   P. Woodbridge.

Will the rest please note that they will receive no further information from us unless we hear from them ????

To All Members & Friends

There will be held at Valence, in the Rhone Valley, from 22nd to 26th ,August 1949 an international Speleological meeting, with, it is hoped, representatives from all the "Caving minded" countries in attendance.  There will be, to quote:-" Sessions of work, festivities, and excursions" and the week will no doubt similarly organised to that which I spent in Valence in 1948.

The B.E.C, is going to send as large a party as possible to this meeting and those who are interested are asked to send their names to Hon. Sec. By the end of the month (May) so that the preliminary details may be put in hand.

This trip will cost in the region of £20, this figure being based on the expenses incurred last year. This includes the journey from Victoria to Valence and back, but not from your home to London. The fare from London back to London being about £8/15/- (unless B.R. raise the fares). Subject to the party being at least 20 we can I believe obtain a reduction on the fares over the French Railways.

The party will leave Victoria by the morning boat train on Sat. 20th, Aug. and will probably leave Valence on the return journey on the evening of 27th. Aug.

The detailed programme will be circulated to those who have sent In their names as soon as it is received.

The Belfry

Work is going on apace at the new Belfry. Although there seems to have been little actual work done a considerable amount of planning and organising has been done with the result that, we hope to have made the hut really habitable in a few more weeks.

Fatal Accident at Wookey Hole

It is with the deepest regret that we have to report the death of Frogman Gordon Marriot during operations with the Cave Diving Group at Wookey Hole. Although not a member of the Bristol Exploration Club, he will be greatly missed by those members who comprise the Somerset section of the C.D.G., and also those others who met him at the Belfry and listened to his tales of adventure underwater.

It was Marriot’s second trip to Wookey Hole, and his underwater time of 500 hours put the C.D.G. members to shame.

He was returning from the recently discovered 9th Chamber when he was missed; Bob Davies who was following him to base immediately returned in search of him, although his own Oxygen was almost exhausted, and was immediately followed by Don Coase. Graham Balcombe followed shortly afterwards and Marriot was found lying on the bottom. He was taken to an emergency platform in the sixth Chamber and artificial respiration was applied for 1½ hours without avail.

Marriot lost his life because his supply of oxygen, due to a faulty flow meter became exhausted. The equipment that he used was his own property and not the property of the C.D.G.

At the inquest hold in Wells the jury returned a verdict that death was due to anoxaemia, accidentally sustained during diving operations when his oxygen became exhausted due to a fault in the test pressure gauge and added a rider that "all divers, including guest divers should be subjected to the same equipment tests as the members of the Diving Group”.

The party was complimented by the police at the time and at the inquest the way operations were conducted for the rescue of the lost diver. The Bristol Exploration Club extends its deepest sympathy to Marriot’s wife and family in their bereavement.

The Belfry

Work us going on apace at the new Belfry. Although there seems to have been little actual work done a considerable amount of planning and organising has been done with the result that, we hope to have made the hut really habitable in a few more weeks.

Some French Caving Techniques

By Pongo Wallis

I have recently been reading a French Caving Book - 'Underground Climbs" by Pierre Chavalier, being an account of the exploration of the worlds deepest cave (2150 ft) in the Dent de Crolles system near Grenoble. It occurs to me that although the majority of the techniques worked out by Chevalier and his friends are not of great use in this country, they may none the less be of interest.

Light-weight ladder, consisting of steel rope sidelines and light alloy rings were of course used. This is standard French practice, but it is essential under these circumstances in any case, as falrly small parties would not otherwise have been able to carry the considerable lengths of ladder needed. In general, ladders were tethered to pitons hammered into suitable cracks, or grouted into holes drilled in the rock. This of course saved carrying tethering ropes considerable distances through small passages.

A considerable part of the system had to be climbed from the bottom upwards.  As rock-climbing was impossible, a 50ft. long pole was constructed, originally using 3 ft, sections of iron piping, but later using light alloy.  This could be carried to the bottom of a pitch erected, a ladder tied to the top, and propped against the vertical.  As long as a series of suitably large ledges at not more than 50ft. intervals were available, a sort of staircase could be worked by a man climbing up the ladder and then drawing the pole up after him and repeating the operation.  This was naturally a slow and tedious business, but it did make otherwise impossible climbs possible.  Once a pitch had been climbed in this manner a piton and pulley were fixed at the top.  A rope, (generally steel) was then passed through the pulley and left double down the length of the pot.  On subsequent visits a ladder need only be fixed to one end of the rope; by hauling on the other end the pitch was laddered.

At one stage of the exploration, it was necessary to know exactly where the end of a passage (over half a mile long) was in respect to the surface topography, in order that it might be reached by digging from the surface. Under the difficult conditions prevailing in the passage (a small really fit party took 8 hrs. to get along it), a survey was insufficiently accurate. A radio direction-finding method was employed - a magneto and length of wire as aerial were taken down to the end of the passage, and at fixed times, a party on the surface listened for the crackle of the magneto on a radio with a loop aerial. Quite accurate directions could be established in this way, even through 120 feet of limestone.

Incidentally, Chevalier's formula for estimating the depth of a pot may come in useful sometime. If a medium sized stone is thrown down, and the sound of its fall is heard t secs. after letting go, the depth, d is given by:-

d = 115 plus 80(t - 3) feet.

I hope that a translation of Chevalier's exceptionally interesting book will eventually appear in the Club Library.


Caving in , Series 1.

by Roger W.C. Cantle,

Report of a visit to the limestone area around Wuppertal.

Iserlohn.  At the entrance to the town the “Decherhole lies. It is purely a show cave but shows some very interesting formations.  The cave was opened by railway workers in 1868; whilst cutting a new track through the limestone cliff on the eastern side of the town

The Cave consists of about sixteen grottos, and is about 400 meters long.  The temperature is 59.o F. summer and winter. Numerous skeletons of various animals have been found in the clay deposits in many places, in the cave.  Its name is derived from the surveyor Dechen frcn Bonn.

The caves contains some really excellent formations among which are many good curtains.  Some of the finest '''Organ Pipes" I have seen were found in the fourth chamber named "Organ Cave".

In the tenth grotto called “Palamangrotte”, can be found a very fine formation from which the Grotto gets its name.  Cave crystals can be found in the twelfth grotto in small pools. Although the cave is a show cave it has been laid out quite cleverly and the lighting is good,  I would like to add that although most cavers walk around a show cave with their noses in the air, I was quite thrilled to find that there are other "grottes” in the area and that further exploration is definitely warranted.

Editor's note.

Roger enclosed a number of photographs with this short article, they are available at H.Q., should anyone desire to see them.; Parts of this article were translated from the German Guide Book, and Roger apologised for the dis-continuity of it.. Anyone who can translate even one word of Gothic Type, in my estimation should be presented with a medal as big as a soup plate.

Rhodesian Caves

We have received the following from Brian Coase, now in Northern Rhodesia:-

Extracts from Exhibit Notices in the Livingstone-Rhodes Memorial Museum, Livingstone. Northern--

The Broken Hill Cave,

It was in this historic cave, situated on the Broken Hill mine, that in 1881 was found remains of a new, extremely interesting type of man, later as Homo Rhodesienis.

The mine was at that tine working the lead and systematically basting away a Kopjie known as No.2 Kopjie, in which was a cave long known to contain fossilised bones of animals and Stone Implements.

The deposits in this cave had become impregnated with zinc in its upper levels, and in its lower with lead.  It was the latter one that was required, the zinc impregnated material was placed on dumps for use at a later date.

It was while blasting was taking place in the lower levels that the skull together with a complete shin bone, two ends of a thigh bone and a fragment of pelvis were found 90 feet below the cave floor.

Owing to the difficulties in obtaining accurate geological evidence the age and status of the skull is still a subject of dispute. In it's general features, heavy eyebrow reiges, absence of forehead, the great size of the eye sockets, the mouth and, brain capacity, it closely resembles Neanderthal skulls of Europe but differs from them in being pivoted more centrally on the neck. The man must therefore have carried himself more upright than the Neanderthal man and, largely on this account, he is considered to be a distinct species, Homo Rhodesiensis.

The Mumbwa Caves

These caves are situated about three miles S.W. of the Government station at Mumbwa, N.W. of Lusaka, in two outcrops of limestone which stand out from the flat plain around. Cliffs at the base of which are the caves rise to a height of 70 to 80 feet vertically.

The caves are three in number besides several rock shelters showing evidence of having been lived in. Two of the .caves have been excavated and have yielded evidence of three distinct phases of human occupation. After a long period during which the caves were under water and a layer of red clay was deposited, they were occupied by a people who made thin leaf shaped arrow and spear heads showing them to be typical of the people responsible for what is called the Rhodesian Stillbay culture. These people appear to have inhabited the caves for a considerable length of time as the deposit of red earth containing their tools was as much as 4ft. 6 inches deep.

In the layer above this was found the remains of a second stone age culture, characterised by small microlithic tools, crescentic in form, which were used as barbs for arrows as well as blades with a blunted back which were used as knives.

The diet of these people consisted mainly of wart-hog, zebra and various species of buck including Eland, from which it is adduced that considerable skill in hunting had been attained. They also knew how to grind and polish stone. Four rather crudely polish axes have been found and broken fragments of digging stick weights were also probably of their manufacture.  It is interesting that actual remains of the men themselves have been found, showing them to have probably been an early type of bushman.

The third phase occurred when the caves were occupied by bushmen at a comparatively recent date.

From The Hon. See's Postbag.

From Brian Coase in Chingola, N. Rhodesia.

—— This area is well wooded, but I have noticed outcrops of limestone amongst the trees which will bear examination as the opportunity occurs. I am sure there would be plenty of scope for speleologists out here. Whilst passing through the Union and I noticed that the plains and desert were dotted peculiarly alike flat topped hills. It looked like sand stone and I also observed that the strata was exactly horizontal which together with rain and wind erosion would presumably account for the shape.

The geology of the Victoria Falls is very interesting, they having been formed where basalt and sandstone meet. ---------

Hon Sec has had a letter from John Adam and one from John Hull in which they each bemoan their fate. John Hull is on the shores of the Great Bitter Lake and John Adams is in the Navy. Both send their “love” to the club and its members,

From Mrs. F. Moriarty of Meer Cottage Bude.

------- I bought this house 30 years ago and I was told the exit to the passage was in the corner of the garden--------

(the Passage she referred to is the other end of the Smugglers' Cave the Club are excavating at Bude. Ed,)

Cave Research Group.

The CRG General Meeting will be held at Cardiff on 7th May in the National Museum of Wales.  Will all those requiring accommodation please write to J. Davies, 32 Heol-y-Deri, Rhiwbina,  Cardiff at once.  Further particulars of this Meeting can be obtained from Hon. Sec..

Important Notice for London Members

The Club has had a very generous offer from Dr, (Miss) CM, Rendell, of Poplar Hospital, East Dock Road, London E.14. (Telephone East 1876).  She will be travelling to Bristol and returning to London, about one weekend a month.  She will be delighted to fill her car with anyone who would like to come down for the weekend.  Please ring Miss Rendell for further information. Her brother, Oswald Rendell is already known to a large number of his fellow members.

London Section News

A meeting of the London Section was held on 6th March and was well attended. It was decided that the swallets at Water End be investigated further and that all local information about them be gathered.

It was too early to make any definite plans for field work but among the items discussed was Climbing on the sandstone outcrops at Tunbridge Wells and the Group Meet at the Belfry In July.  The first depends on the weather and arrangements will be made by telephone. The trip to Mendip will be from about 11th July until after the August Bank Holiday. Each coming as he or she is able.

There will be no organised program except that the Stoke Lane Survey will be proceeded with and that some digging will be done. John Shorthose says that any suggestions about digging will be welcomed. Also they will be chances to see any of the local types who may be enjoying a spot of leave around that time.

Club Badges

Older members will recall that from time to time the question of small lapel badges for the club have been discussed and turned down on the grounds of cost. We have however in the last few weeks obtained a very reasonable quotation for these badges. They would be in black and silver and would include Bertie Bat our emblem. The cost would be about 2/6. We should be glad if those who would like one would write to the Hon Sec and let him know, so that we see if the expenditure involved would be justified. Send no Money. Just a P.C. to say you would like one if we are able to proceed with the scheme.

List of Members 1949 no. 1

Each Year our list of members alters and extends. The lists printed last year are already out of date. The Hon. Sec is continually receiving letters asking for addresses and the following list and those that will appear in subsequent issues are to help those who require them.

T.H, Stanbury        Hon Sec. 74, Redcatch Road. Knowle, Bristol 4
W.J. Shorthose      Hon Sec. London Section,  7 Marius Mansions, Rowfant Road, Balham, London.S.W.17.
D.H. Hasell,           Hon. Editor Belfry Bulletin, 1 Stoke Hill Cottage, Chew Stoke, Somerset
R. Wallace            32. Springleaze, Knowle, Bristol.4
J.V. Morris             Ye Olde Jolly Sailor Inn, Teignmouth. Devon
J.Beer                   3 Westfield Place, Clifton, Bristol
S.C.W Herman      34 Jubilee Road, Knowle, Bristol,4
R.J. Bagsbaw        11 Hillcrest, Knowle, Bristol,4.  (Life Member).
G.H. Fenn             29 Kinsale Road, Knowle, Bristol 4
L.Peters                21, Melbury Road, Knowle, Bristol, 4
J.C. Weekes          376 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4
R. Woodbridge       384 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4
A.E. Baxter           92, Reditch Road, Knowle, Bristol.4
E. Knight               46. Grafton Street, St. Philips Marsh, Bristol
R. Brain                 10. Weston Ave., Cossham Road, St, George, Bristol 5
Mrs. I.M. Stanbury (Hon, Life Member) 74 Redcatch Road, Bristol4
C.H. Kenney          Vicars Close, Wells, Somerset
A.C. Johnson         43. The Crescent, Henleaze, Bristol
J.D. Pain               "Bibury", Old West Town Lane, Brislington, Bristol 4
D.A. Coase            13 Headington Road, Wandsworth, London.S.W.18.