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

Editor: Robin Gray

Here at last is No 2. Sorry it’s so late but I have been held up over a long article which as you will see is still not here.  I am assured it will be ready for number 3.

I hope you like the new look 1985 cover, as indeed I hope you will like the new look Belfry.  As this is being typed improvements are taking place and the work looks most impressive.

The Easter meet in South Wales suffered somewhat from the almost constant drizzle but some caving was done and much ale consumed.  Those who were there for Friday morning had a splendid trip in Craig a Ffynnon, while Saturday saw trips into OFD and a BEC doing it to excess trip into Agen Allwedd.   High water in the caves prevented long trips in Aggy and Dan-yr-Ogof but a large number of cavers got under ground by visiting Big Pit Mining Museum.

At present plans are being made to lay air pipes down to sump 2 in Cuthbert’s in order to have yet another go at getting the water low enough.  Fingers crossed for the big push.

Many thanks to those who have sent in articles for the BB.  However, we still need more!  Can I remind older members that articles which look back to days of the BEC gone by are most welcome in this our 50th year.

Last some articles to look forward to……..more from the pen of Bolt talking of his adventures in Alaska and a couple of dig reports…………new finds in Swildons and of course Eastwater.

Good Caving, Robin


Chris Castle Cartoon




Annie Wilton-Jones

Many of you know Annie Wilton-Jones wife of Ian and although feminine must congratulate her for being awarded the title: -


The following article by Alan Rusbridger was recently published in one of the upmarket newspapers: -

The Campaign for the Feminine Woman is a very strange outfit indeed.  The December issue of its newsletter awards its £20 first prize to the Feminine Woman of The Year - a Mrs Annie Wilton-Jones from near Abergavenny, who does not have a television because of its “perverted” indoctrination on Woman’s’ Lib and cannot bear for the same reason, to listen to Woman’s Hour. On occasions where she disagrees with her husband she gives way because that is her duty.

While talking of perverted indoctrination, the newsletter also carries a letter from a Mrs AL relating how having scraped the car, she suggested to her husband that he "deal with me later".  Mrs AL adds: ''The knowledge that the matter could be dealt with so as to assuage my guilt and relieve his annoyance by a short spanking allowed us both to relax.


Under The Ice

Ross White, at present on Winter deployment with the Royal Marines in Northern Norway, tells of an incident which will prove of interest to most of you I have no doubt.

In his letter Ross writes:-

One of my colleagues is Sgt. Graham Foster, a mountain Leader who recounted the following incident.

A couple of years ago he was instructing out here on the M.L. training course.  A part of the course involves individuals skiing on a frozen lake and into a hole in the ice to appreciate the problems involved in falling into cold water.  Yes, I know it sounds daft, and only the military would do such a thing and yes, lemmings do live in Norway, but it is a valuable exercise…….apparently!

Anyway Graham and three other instructors went out to cut a hole in the reservoir.  They used a chain saw to cut through two and a half feet of ice, only to find that there was nothing between them and another layer of ice thirty feet below them.

Intrigued as most people are when they find such a cavern - vast and measureless etc etc. they fetched a rope, belayed it to the ice with about twenty ice screws and abbed down to have a look.

A certain amount of light was filtering down through the ice and Graham said he could see the reservoir banks either side and that it was clear as the eye could see.  The reservoir was about 5km long and a few hundred metres wide.

They were to say the least, impressed with this strange phenomenon, and decided to venture forth into the unknown.  However, the ice started talking to them in the way of booming and cracking noises, so they hurriedly jumared back up the rope and decided to leave it alone, hoping that it would go away.

Graham was fairly certain that they were standing on another false floor.  Hearing a lake booming is fairly impressive, especially when you're standing on it!  The thing is, what happened to that lot in the Spring thaws?


Fund Raising

JUMBLE SALE……………..At last we have some keen jumble sale organisers.  This is an easy way to raise funds and all you have to do is dump unwanted goods at the Belfry (saleable goods that is!) clothes, books, bric a brac, in fact almost anything with a bit of life left in it.  The average jumble sale in Wells takes around £100 so come on, don't let us down, let us have your old jumble.  If you would like to help on the day as well, that would be very welcome; please let Sue Gray now………. Thanks.

If anyone has any ideas for fund raising please show yourself.   We need to raise quite a bit this year to help towards the year's special events, Belfry improvements etc.

Also we need people to come forward and help with fund raising.  So far response to this request has been very poor or maybe you didn't know we needed to raise extra funds.

If you would like to help, please let one of the committee know.  Also see advert on back page.



Where We Got

by J'rat

Recently a visiting South African caver upon spotting several "BEC Get Everywhere” stickers adorning tankard’s in The Hunters remarked with surprise that he had seen "one of those" before - stuck on an electricity box in Congo Caves, Cape Provence.  Ah yes says I, me and Colin Priddle put that there about four years ago.

For the benefit of future wandering Belfryites, herewith is a list Stickers of the more interesting places of rest for Bertie stickers.  Any additions should be sent to the Editor.  Tim Large has of lots more stickers for sale should this note inspire you to greater efforts.

ANTARCTICA & THE FALKLANDS.  Graham Philipen, Zot and Ross White have covered this area pretty comprehensively. An Argentinean prisoner of War Ship, a hotel in Montevideo and a small piece of Argentinean Helicopter (with bullet holes and kept at The Belfry) all bear the Bertie Sticker.  Zot swears that he stuck one on the part of the anatomy of a young lady in Rio, but sadly no photographs to prove it.

Dave Nicholls has recently returned from Australia, and stuck one somewhere in or on an Embassy in Moscow enroute.  In a similar vein the British High Commissioner of Lesotho has one under his desk courtesy of the writer.

John Dukes has managed to get them to all parts of the globe by the simple expediency of welding them behind ships plating when he worked at Southampton Docks.

John Manchip claimed a first by sticking one on the bog of the advanced passenger train as it reached it maximum speed on its maiden run out of Edinburgh.

Trev Hughes has stuck them in more odd places than most of us would dare to imagine - one I know is a cavers divers bar in Florida.

Australia, Mexico, Austria, France and Ireland are better off for a few of them - thou at O' Connors Bar being frequently replaced due to the souvenir hunters. Their popularity is also shown by feeble paper imitations by the Wessex and Grosvenor Clubs and by the splendid BBC sticker painted into the design on a Cerberus T-Shirt.

This year there will be some at the bottom of the Berger but the writer will personally buy a bottle of Whisky to the first BEC member to get one on the moon!

There will be a prize at the 50th Dinner for the most originally positioned sticker of the year. Photographic proof would be appreciated but in delicate or potentially hazardous situations will be waived.







A Veteran Rock Climbing Novice

by KANGY    Sept. 1984.

I gave up trying to read climbing magazines when I could no longer understand the pictures.  I just failed to relate to them any more.  I tried.  I lay on my back and peered up at them.  I squinted at them round the edge of the page, I moved in close and I tipped them sideways.  I honestly tried.  No way could I imagine being there.  So I gave up climbing magazines, though not what I called rock climbing.

Dave Radmore B.E.C. in nails I954.  Avalanche Route and Red Wall, Llewedd, Snowdonia.

Note: 3/4 weight cable laid nylon rope, Simpson’s mountaineering boots nailed with Brigham Plates (Ellis Brigham Ltd).  These had replaceable teeth.  The heels are nailed with soft iron clinkers.  It was vital not to move the boot once it had been placed on a foothold.

I detected too, a fundamental difference in concepts.  I said rock climbing, they said rock climbing, but that was the end of the conversation.

I had led V.S. climbs classically in nails or, later, vibrams, or when the going got rough, in well worn Woolworths cheapest black rubber gym shoes (the only brand).  With widening interests I enjoyed severes.  My equipment changed but not my attitudes. I was still happy to tie the climbing rope around my waist and lead out long (20m!) pitches in vibrams, placing one or two runners.  The runners had become inserted chocks and I enjoyed the feeling that I was using modern equipment though I forgot a helmet because---well I don't know really.

Hugh Banner U.B.M.C. on Desperation, Avon Gorge, 1953.  H.V.S.

Note: 3/4 weight cable laid nylon rope, nylon line and ex-W.D. karabiner used as a runner through a piton.  Tarbuck knot joining rope to karabiner clipped to multiple turns of nylon line as a waist belt, stylish carpenters hammer, and footwear - Woolworth’s black rubber plimsolls.   A technical modification used by Hugh were shoe laces or string through a hole pierced in the heel and tied around the ankle to stop the plimsoll rolling off!

The photograph comes from the first edition of 'Limestone Climbs in South West England published by the University of Bristol Mountaineering Club, 1954.

Photographer probably Mike Harvey, who put up ‘Suspension Bridge Arête’, and other classics, arrayed in similar fashion.

I have seen the light!

There is, I see, a fundamental difference between climbing philosophy then (1950’s) and now (1980’s).

I think what was happening to me when I tried to understand those photographs, was, that I would expect anyone falling from such a position to die.  We expected, when I started climbing in 1950, that a falling leader would do himself a right nasty and spoil the day for the rest of us.  It was generally agreed that leaders were expendable. My loneliest moments were spent on crux moves well above the second and a long way from a rope sling around a spike of rock.  With luck I just hoped that any fall would end right next to the second so that he would be in no doubt about what to do next.   The 'high', experienced after surviving, was usually enjoyed belayed on a large ledge.  We didn’t fall.  That is to say I once did and spent six summer months hobbling about on a badly sprained leg, grinning because I hadn't died.

The last couple of years have been a revelation to me.

Pete, down the road, became keen to climb.  He needed someone to hold his rope and as his friend I got elected.  I bought some rock boots.  Rock boots!  I was very doubtful about the expense but persuaded myself that even if was only a fashion then at least I could pose.  Reluctantly I admitted to myself that because of the amazing sticky boot adhesion, severes had become too easy.  Climbs which had stretched the limits of my finger strength became reasonable because I could take weight on my feet.  Gradually I lost the habit of mentally checking my footholds and forgot to worry about my feet.  It allowed Pete in his adventures and felt comfortable.  I developed an appreciation and respect for Pete's climbing because he got up things which as I followed I felt myself too near to being unable to reverse the move, and feared to fall.  I admired too his craft skill at selecting placements for protection.

The next insight to add to my understanding came during a really successful family cum climbing holiday in Pembroke.  Our supportive wives organized things so that Pete and I could explore a new climbing area.

Our first experience was that we were not going to be given anything.  T'Northern lads were forthright. "Well," they said about their climbing holiday, “H.V.S.'s on Cloggy, extremes at Tremadoc, and now a struggle on severes in Pembroke."  Leaders were phrenetically stuffing "pro" in every two feet, resting on tight ropes on their "pro", or abseiling from "pro".  In fact I admitted to myself that it looked as if a leader could take a fall on the most insubstantial looking "pro" and immediately try, try, try again!  (They do! Strategic falls, my life!)

The significance of this to me was profound.

Psychologically I have been unable to accept the risk of a fall.  I knew when I started climbing that to fall was the ultimate disaster, extending ones self, making ones mum unhappy and ones mates late for the pub. It was not on.  One simply did not do it and one ceased to push climbs to the point where one hit the deck.  That is not to say that progress was impossible.  Obviously the '50's climber improved with practice if he survived, and I miss those of my friends who did not survive.

Being able to fall off and expecting to live puts climbing in a different light.  In fact I see that the considerable gymnastic attraction to climbing has been enhanced now that the risk is similar to falling off parallel bars.  Learning progress is astonishing rapid with smart ass beginners starting when I finish. Falls are accepted as part of the learning process.


Pete and I encountered 'Sister Europe' (remember the name!)

We had adapted to the absence of flatness arid Pete's climbing had/become increasingly bolder. We had set our sights on a wall which fascinated us as we realised that there were routes.  It would have seemed totally impossible earlier, but the law which predicts that things fall jammy side down had allowed a minor queue to form at its foot when our moment came.  To while away the time until the crowds went home Pete suggested "Sister Europe". graded v.s., next to another climb we had enjoyed.

The first pitch, ambiguously, seemed to offer a choice but circumstances pushed Pete to pick his way to the left up an impending wall on tiny holds to a ledge belay in a corner. As I joined him I sensed nervousness. "Could you belay down there?" Well no, I couldn't.  "Come on up to me then.”  I nearly didn't because a large flake swayed away as I pulled and swayed back as I hastily reacted and glided over its swaying mass. Heads down, totally concentrating, two twittering climbers lobbed chocks into anything that didn't move and swathed in a web at protection felt their tension ease to the point that they felt able to speak. "Bloody Hell Pete.  It's a young scree slope!"

Pete with infinite care eased himself upright and into a position to start the next pitch. Straining to see, I had the impression of an overhanging crack set a hundred feet clear above the beach against which waves crashed.  Pete almost out of sight danced up and down for an hour or more.  I may exaggerate.  My nerves - were at full stretch and I had rather too much time to rationalise about our shaky belay.  I had designed several self rescue schemes should the corner drop away. I conscientiously admired the um, oh yes, the view.  Several times.

Judging by the grunt, and the disturbing lack of light conversation, Pete's last little effort was a supreme one as he lunged, placed a runner ("pro") and once again stepped down.

I gazed moodily at the receding tide and wondered why I'd come.  I examined each chock placement in turn and hastily rationalised some more. Nothing much to say really. Perhaps his jambing techniques needed taking to bits, polishing, and putting hack again.  Perhaps he'd become excessively keen on little up and down movements.  PERHAPS IT WASN'T THE ROUTE!  More grunting and rapid rope movement broke my reverie and seconds later he said "I'm up!"  Blessed words.  "Good old Pete" I thought as I got the hell out of it in well rehearsed order .. "Goodbye stance - whoopee!"

Ten feet higher I became totally engrossed in staying on.  Yes, there were the jamb holds in the crack overhead but to get there I needed to climb a too wide crack between smooth walls.  The crack was filled with subsoil.  I performed the Pete pantomime or trying everything else.  Like Pete I didn't find anything.  Unlike him I had a top rope and decisively dug into the back of the crack.  Heaving up, I felt a cannonball sized piece of Pembroke rolling gently onto my chest. It would not be stuffed back.  If dropped it would make a mess of one of my beautiful boots, the foot would mend.  Intuitively I went for the jamb, kneeling on the boulder in passing.  The hand jambing was delightful and so was the sight of a grinning Pete sitting on horizontal grass in the evening sun.

Gymnastics can't grip you like that.  Current climbing still involves risk, real or apparent, and I'm still allergic to falling and the fitness exercises necessary to do young men’s climbs.


Fund Raising



Promoted by: T. Large, Wells, Somerset.

Sponsored by: Phil Romford, Bat Products. Webs.


Petzl Suit or equivalent

Bottle of Malt Whisky Bottle of Whisky


Draw on 25th May, 1985 at 9.30 p.m.


1st Prize 2nd Prize 3rd Prize

Registered under the Games and Lotteries Act

Printed by Park Press (Nantwich)


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

Editor: Robin Gray

A smaller BB this time/but in time, I hope to let everyone know about the Barbecue.  I think that this year’s event will be one to remember for many years to come.  The chariot race looks like being a rip snorter with a boating section to cool things off half way round.  After the race there will be a great feast for the survivors and supporters alike.

The Belfry improvements are now complete and cavers can change, wash and dress in the lap of luxury. We also have a more suitable library and a more secluded cooking area.

Congratulations to Tony and Jane who linked their jug handles and got married a couple weeks ago. The J'Rat’s I'm told spent some time in Greece after the big day and I understand that Tony spent a night underground.

Sunday 20th May saw a big push on sump 2 in Cuthbert’s with air pump from the surface.  More news of this later.  Also I hope to have some news concerning the big new Mendip find made by MCG.  REG is at the moment working on a 1986 cavers calendar with 13 new cartoons. Beware!  You could be the subject of one.

Lastly is there anyone living near Wells who can lend a hand with typing the BB.  Please let me know if you can help as my typing is horrible and since I have just started a graphic design studio, time is very limited. Thanks.

Till No 4.good caving, Robin




THE BARBECUE. This is to be held on Saturday 22nd June 1985.  The theme will be Viking Fancy Dress.  Tickets costing £2.50 each are available from Brian Workman Tele. Oakhill 840815. Games will be played around The Mineries for The Wessex Challenge Trophy which we won last year.  Tickets will be on sale about 1 month before.  Volunteers are needed to help organise this event.

GOLDEN JUBILEE DINNER.  This will be held on Saturday 5th October 1985 at The Cheese Pavilion, Bath & West Show Ground, near Shepton Mallet.  The room will sit up to 300 people.  I hope members will spread the word to encourage as many past and present members as possible to celebrate our 50th year.

THE BELFRY IMPROVEMENTS.  These are now completed and the remaining work left to do is the fitting out of the kitchen, bunkrooms etc some of which will be left until extra money is available. As you are now aware these improvements have cost more than at first expected, in order to pay these debts off your financial support is needed.  If you are in doubt as to whether the modified Belfry is worth your support do come up to Mendip and see for yourself.  I am sure you will be well pleased with the result. We now have a club hut specifically designed to cater for caving activities which can easily be maintained and cleaned.

To look further ahead I can see the next project will be central heating.  This will provide a level of comfort and drying facilities which people these days have come to expect.  It will also ensure that the building is kept dry and also ensure that the frozen pipe problems experienced in recent winters is not

repeated.  This causes both inconvenience and extra expense in repairs.  Some items of furniture, kitchen equipment and shelving for the Library are also required. Any member who has anything which they could donate to the Belfry please consult with the Hut Warden - Chris Batstone. In the past well meaning members have bought along such items to the Belfry for use without consulting the Hut Warden thus resulting in us having more furniture than we had room for and giving us the problem of disposal.  At present as the bunk capacity is reduced we have plenty of mattresses for the time being. One item which too well is the fridge - if anyone has an old fridge in working order and preferably one which will fit under a work surface then it would be much appreciated.


Early Days


Dear Tim

Herewith article as promised on the “Pre-history of the club – please pass to Robin.

I hope that this will stir up others to recall the very early days.

It is such a pity that the other really early members are still untraceable – I’ve waded through the Bristol area phone books, but none of the similar names there “ring a bell”

All the best


Early Days

In this our Jubilee year I felt it opportune that there should be a definitive history of the B.E.C. These notes cover the years to 1949 when more erudite pens than mine can take up the story.

During the Blitz years, one of our members - John (Jock) Kinnear, offered to write a history of the B.E.C.  All the original records, logs, etc., were posted to him; they never reached him and as a mail train was blitzed the same night, it is reasonable to assume that they were destroyed with the train.  As a result of this loss, there is no early record of Club activities and as the only remaining founder-member it has fallen on me to try to put together a record of those early years.  After almost fifty years some incidents remain clear, whilst others are hazy, but I have put down the facts as  I remember them.

It can be said that the B.E.C. was conceived as the result of a love affair between myself and the cliffs and caves of North Cornwall.  As far back as I can remember I spent my early childhood climbing on the cliffs and exploring the sea caves that abound on that coast.

When just after my 9th Birthday I was suddenly transported to Bristol and found myself in a large city, I was, for a time, utterly at a loss in such a strange environment.  My memories of caves and climbs began to fade, to be spasmodically revived by visits "home" to Cornwall.  I found that the "huge" caves that had so excited me in the past had become, usually, quite small and uninteresting holes.  Then, at school during a class on the geology of Mendip, mention was made of Caves!!  All the earlier feelings came flooding back and after asking a lot of rather naive questions I was told of a huge" cave in Burrington Combe called "Goatchurch".

The next Saturday I set out on my pushbike to Burrington to find it.  After a lot of hunting around I found the entrance and was amazed - compared with my previous experience, this was gigantic - it actually had a gate and a handrail!  Having no lights I ventured no further than daylight allowed me and emerged elated by what I had seen.  Subsequently, taking candles and matches I made another trip and managed the through trip, exiting via the Tradesmen's Entrance.

Several years passed. I left school and joined a well-known firm of Electrical Contractors.  Early in 1935 a group of us were discussing hobbies and I mentioned my trips to Goatchurch.  Four of my colleagues

thought that they would like me to take them there and so on record go the names of Tommy Bartlett, Cecil Drummond, Ron Colbourn and Charlie Fauckes, who together with myself began a series of trips to Mendip and the formation of the B.E.C.

We had, at first, no intention of forming any organisation.  We were just a small group who wanted to go underground, but after our first couple of trips to Swi1dons, we realised that there was a lot more to caving than crawling around in semi-darkness.  We managed to find Swildons entrance and after Herculean struggles in the stream, reached the Lavatory Pan!

We didn't like the look of that so we retreated.  On our second Swildons trip we reached the top of the 40' again via the Wet Way as we then knew nothing of either the short or long Dry Ways.

As a result of these two trips we began to realise that we needed tackle to go further; that tackle cost money; that money was almost non-existent amongst Electrical apprentices (average wage 15/- [75p] per week) and that to explore caves regularly we had to get organised.

Getting to Mendip was no problem - we had our push-bikes and so no expense (except energy).  Tackle was another matter altogether - then we heard of another group of enthusiasts who had recently formed themselves into a "Caving Club".  Here was the apparent answer - we would join them!  After much enquiry, the secretary of this club was located and Charlie Fauckes, whose home was nearest, went to see him.  He came away a disappointed man after a point-blank refusal to even consider "your sort" as members.

We held a meeting and it was decided, in June 1935, to form our own organisation.  The feeling was that although our main activity was caving, we had other interests that should be catered for and so the Bristol Exploration Club was formed, with an annual subscription of 5/- (25p) and a charge of 1/- (5p) per trip to cover expenses! Our initial membership was about a dozen which included the five originals.  At this inaugural meeting we drew up a constitution which has virtually remained unaltered through the years.  As an aside to the above, the other interests at that time included climbing - still actively pursued - and a rather bizarre interest in the supernatural. I remember us spending a very wet night under an archway in Bath, armed with cameras and waiting for a phantom coach-and-four, driven by a headless coachman, to come down Widcombe Hill.  Needless to say, it did not 'materialise'.

For a time after our first meeting all went smoothly.  Our subscription enabled us to buy ropes and the materials to make ladders.  We launched into 'official' notepaper and a bat - 'Bertie' - was adopted as our emblem, although he didn't find his way on to our note-paper until much later.

We familiarised ourselves with most of the smaller caves and then we turned to the larger ones.  Here too, we were successful and at the end of the first year we were still in existence and if not exactly flourishing, were holding our own.

Membership did not increase greatly in the following years.  We were not keen, anyway, on having too many members at first as we felt we did not have sufficient know-how or facilities to hold them after they had joined. We preferred to move slowly, consolidating our position as we went, so that when the time came, as we were sure it would, when members started to roll in, we would be in a position to offer them something good.

The outbreak of war in 1939 found the club in a stronger position than ever before although our membership was still only fifteen.  We had suffered one bad loss.  Our treasurer, Dick Bellamy, who was also our 'official' photographer, had developed blindness and this necessitated his withdrawal from all club activities.  His last trip was to Lamb Leer where we went as guests of U.B.S.S.

As the war progressed, most of the older members were called up, so that except for one fortunate circumstance we would have had to close down, as did other Mendip clubs, for lack of active members.  We were fortunate to absorb the Emp1ex Cave Club.  The E.C.C. membership comprised members of the staff of Bristol Employment Exchange who had formed a club for similar reasons and on similar lines as our own.  The leading lights of Emp1ex were Roy Spickett and 'Jones'.  Older members who can recall 'Jones' will remember some of the hilarious escapades he led.  I recall a trip to the depths of Sidcot with a naked 'Jones' crawling over two of us and the sub- sequent boot marks and burns from our acetylene lamps along the length of his body!  I hasten to add that he didn't normally cave naked, especially in mixed company but had just shed his clothes to get back through a hole through which gravity had helped him on his downward journey.

1940/41 saw us jogging along as before, the number of new members usually equalling those called to the forces, but 1942 saw the most severe crisis in the club's history. There was a massive call-up, the result of which left us with only about half-a-dozen active members, all of whom were actively engaged in the war effort and so had very little time for caving. As all members in the forces had their subscriptions waived during the duration, we were badly hit financially.

For six months we struggled on and then came salvation.  A number of persons of fair caving experience applied for membership and from that moment our troubles vanished. It is mainly through the hard work and support of two of these men - Dan Hasell and Roy Wallace - the latter now long dead - that the club was put on the way towards the prominent position it holds in the caving world today.

The club was revitalised and it is from this time that the Membership numbering system began.  We little thought that by 1985 well over 1000 people would have been accepted for membership.

Mendip was still reached by push-bike, the severe petrol rationing precluding any other personal means of transport.  The emphasis was on "push" ropes, ladders and clothes had to be carried and in many cases made the journey more strenuous than the actual caving, especially on the return journey when everything was wet and muddy and consequently weighed more.  So, in 1943 we built what we claimed to be the first lightweight ladder to be used on Mendip - made from hollow duralumin tube and steel wire.  It was supposedly lighter than its French equivalent and was 40' long, to be followed shortly by a similar 20' length.  This ladder, now a museum piece, is held by Angus Innes.

Between 1943 and 1945 our membership again showed a marked increase and it was during this time that we became well known and respected on Mendip.  Prior to this, as one of the very few active clubs, anything untoward that occurred "on the hill" was laid at our door - "You're the only active Mendip Club; it must have been you who broke into Lamb Leer etc., etc."  In reality our conscience was clear, as to our knowledge, no B.E.C. member had been guilty of misconduct.  It was against our principles to antagonise others and although we knew that incidents had occurred, we also knew that we were not to blame.  This fact eventually was recognised and the ill-informed sniping ceased.

In 1946 we felt that it was time to consider having a headquarters on the Hill.  Our first temporary H.Q. was the stone hut across the valley from the present Belfry site.  I believe it had room for just six bunks and although it was completely inadequate for a club membership of 80, it was at least a toe-hold. Shortly after this an old cricket pavilion on Purdown became available and this was purchased, transported and quickly erected on the present site, in time for the terrible winter of 1947.  The journey to Mendip was notable for Angus sitting in the detailer on top of the load.

A hut on Mendip needed a name and what more appropriate than 'The Belfry'?- the home of Bertie and his clan.

The same year our dig at Cross Swallet brought us in contact with The Bridgwater Caving Club, the majority of whose members became members of B.E.C. - Sett, Alfie, Postle, Pongo, Don Coase, Shorty, Dizzie and Freda Hutchinson to mention a few by name.  We also absorbed the Mendip Speleological Group and became, individually, very active in the formation of the Cave Diving Group, in which Don Coase was an outstanding diver and Dan Hasell is now President.  The club also became a member of the - now defunct - Cave Association of Wales and also of the Cave Research Group.

In 1947 the Belfry Bulletin was first published and its success can be judged by the fact that after 38 years it still regularly (well, almost!) appears.

1947 also saw the discovery by the club of Stoke Lane II, Browne's Hole and Withybrook Swallet, and a week's caving in Derbyshire and several weekends in Wales and Cornwall were enjoyed by all who took part in them. During one of the latter, the club won first prize in the Bude Carnival:  Not as cavers, but as babies.  Angus, Jim Weeks and Dick Woodbridge were three of the four babes and their antics wrecked the efforts of the local band who followed them in the procession.

In 1948 membership stood at 98 and there was a considerable increase in caving tempo.  A survey of Stoke Lane I and II was completed, published, and was amongst a number of club items shown at a Caving Exhibition organized by the City of Bristol in conjunction with local caving societies. The exhibition was a great success; the photographs loaned by the B.E.C. which included a number of superb shots of Stoke Lane II by Don Coase, being a crowd puller.

During 1948 we absorbed the Clifton Caving Club and 'Shorty' formed a London section of the club.  Probably the outstanding achievement of the year was the purchase of another hut.  Belfry II (the Purdown pavilion) had become too small for our expanding active membership and was also more than a little decrepit.  A Naval hut sited at Rame Head in Cornwall was located, examined and priced.  It was almost new, even the bolts holding the sections together were un-rusted, and the size was about right.  We bought it and one weekend a party descended on it; dismantled it; loaded it on a lorry and transported it back to Mendip.  My memory of that weekend is - rain, sleeping on a concrete floor in a disused building ankle deep in sheep shit and a car (mine) whose front wheels always wanted to go in the opposite direction to the turn of the wheel.  If anyone is interested, buy Angus a pint and he'll relate more gory details.  This hut became Belfry III and lasted until it was burnt down many years later.

The outstanding event of 1949 was the attendance of a large party of members at the 2nd International conference of Speleology at Valence in the Rhone Valley.  Bob Bagshaw and party were featured in the local papers, complete with rather flamboyant prose and indistinct photographs.

I hope that some readers will have found this article of interest and that I have stirred the memories of some of the old-timers, perhaps leading to further notes and reminiscences of the dim and distant days of yore.


Mid Summer BBQ

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone: Wells (0749) 72126

Editor: G. Wilton-Jones

Belfry Bulletin Editor's Report, 1983.

The year did not begin well, and with the chaos resulting from my move to Somerset the first issue was a four month job published in November.  The Christmas bulletin was hot on its heels, and was more like the size we ought to expect - 34 pages.

The remaining issues have all been bi-monthly, averaging only a dozen or so pages - recently it has been easier (almost) to get blood out of stones.  My hopes, expressed in my report last year, of producing a monthly B.B. have been thwarted largely due to lack of articles, in spite of the fact that caving activities by club members are thriving, particularly in the area of new exploration.

With some issues up to 30% has been written by me.  This is not the way for a decent B.B., which should be the result of contributions by all members.  I hope that next year's editor will have much greater success in persuading other people to write for the magazine, so that he is able to perform his allotted task, that of editing, instead of spending his time and energies space-filling.

My thanks are due to all those who have written for the B.B., not only during the last year but also over the three years of my editorship, and also to those who have assisted with publication, especially Jeremy Henley, for organising the printing; Dave Turner for the computerised address list and labelling facility; Trev Hughes for organising collation and distribution of the May/June issue while I was in India, and the few who have regularly assisted with collation around the Belfry table.

I wish the next editor well in his difficult task.  Relieved of the burden of responsibility I shall be on hand at times to assist where necessary, and even write the odd article.  After a suitable break I may even stand for re-election to the committee.

Graham Wilton-Jones.


Eastwater - West End Series.  The Log Book Entries.

8.5.83 Eastwater.

Keith and Andy. 5½ hours

Dolphin Pot, up Harris's Passage? to Ifold.

Had a frig in the boulders, then down to bottom.  .

5.6.83 Eastwater ( West End Extension).

J-Rat, Phil Romford + Q. John. 5½ hours

Met main party coming out of extension - the reason why we found it.

Had a good look around and were duly impressed.

The passage leading down from the high aven was followed until a local constriction was met.  ½ hours work with a lump hammer will remove this. In the meanwhile Phil went up a side passage, which was followed to a squeeze, which he couldn't pass.  Jarrat went through and reached a second squeeze, and I followed.  We then followed an inclined passage to the head of a 20 foot free climbable pot with another 40 (foot) narrow rift pitch at the bottom.  A climb over and continuing down the passage, ' GREEK STREET', led to a 60 foot (estimated) pitch.  The top needs enlarging to enter.  A very large stream could be heard at the bottom.  A tiring exit was made.  The flow of the water had increased considerably.

Eastwater. West End Series.

Keith Gladman + 8         5 hours.

Having found this lot the previous week-end, I had the dubious task of leading a motley crew of hung over cavers down to do a prov.(isional?) survey.  ("Where's the tape").  Enlarged entrance dig to enable the larger members to pass through. Everyone pushing every little hole. Those Buggers on the previous page (entry above), found a “bit” that we didn't find.  Retrieved digging gear.  Tim took bearing – the main rift runs 210'.  Returned to Ifold Series to find the previous page trying to find their way in.  Out same route, bumping into Jim Smart & Co., who didn't find their way in .

P.S. I have started something here.

p.p.s. THIS COULD BE THE BIG 'UN ! ! !

11/6/83 Eastwater - West End Series.

Keith Gladman, J-Rat, Andy Lolly, Quiet John Watson, Tim Large, MacAnus, Glyn Bolt(W.C.C.).     7½ hours

9.30 start!!! Keith, J-Rat, Andy & Q. John descended the 30' tight, vertical rift after a bit of hammering at the top.  This led to a larger section of rift with the world's nastiest squeeze inclined below it. J-Rat and Keith passed this (just!) to emerge 25' above the floor of the 60' pot from the impassable eyehole.  In the meantime the larger persons had been attacking the bedding plane where flood water sinks in the second rift.  No go.  They then carried on into the new stuff, and Tim and Glyn had a bash at the eyehole, showering J-Rat and Keith with stones, etc.

The latter two were now very committed - thinking that the inclined squeeze was irreversible!  They decided to explore onwards and found that the rift in the floor and halfway up was too tight.  Above this a wider section was blocked by a 2' stal column, beyond which a larger passage could be seen.  The column was duly sacrificed (and bloody tough it was too!) and the intrepid duo squeezed into 200' of large rift passage ending at another tight section. They were too knackered to push this. It should go easily with bang or hammer and chisel.  A couple of holes in the roof were not pushed.  This area is much bigger than the rest of West End Series and now gives us a total of about 1,000 feet.  We estimate the bottom to be c.150' below Dolphin Pot - roughly the same level as the Terminal Lift and bottom of Primrose Pot.  It is still heading off the survey.

Over the page is a sketch plan of the main part of WEST END EXTENSION, EASTWATER CAVERN.

This is a compilation sketch, several members having added bits as they have been discovered.

It is by no means either complete or relatively accurate.

Sketch map of area near Eastwater entrance showing Wardour Street radio-location point.

(see account of trip on 9/7/83)

Depth = 54m, 9m from wall opposite stile.  This puts the end about 4m the other side of the wall, depth 50m. 


As the eyehole could not be hammered open (thoughts of using bang to extricate those below) - they were forced to return through the inclined squeeze.  Keith swore never to go through it again.  All then exited slowly and very tiredly after Tim and Glyn had fired 3 lb of bang at the eyehole.

The trip is now one of the hardest and most awkward under Mendip.  Highly recommended.  If it goes any further it'll be a right royal bastard.  No stream at all this week.  Where's the 360' Way water???


12.6.83 West End Series, Eastwater.

Q. John and Darren        ½ hrs

The aim of the trip was to inspect Tim's banging of the eyehole above the pitch.  The eyehole had been completely demolished so ½ hour was spent clearing the bang debris to make the area safe.  A ladder was lowered and a wary descent made down a small rift. At 25' a ledge was reached with two alternative drops, the next part of the pitch being 50'.  On the way down the alternative descent which J-Rat and Keith had descended was noted.  After 300 or so feet the end was reached, the way on being narrow to continue.  The passage seems to enlarge about 10' beyond where it turns sharp left and drops at a small pool.  We then made a systematic search but nothing was found except a superb collection of helictites in the roof just before the end. We then made our way out, retrieving J-Rat's ladder on the way.  At the top of the pitch we heard voices and met up with Bassett, Jane, Blitz, Chris and Buckett.  On the way out we decided to look for any continuation.  One was found but needed digging.  Being tired we gave up.  So the passage noted on previous trips was entered without damage to the false floor. The walking passage lowered to a hands and knees crawl.  After 30' or so a boulder blockage was met and made safe.  An 8' high by 3' wide passage was entered - REGENT STREET. This was followed until we were soon in an 8'+ wide x 30' high passage.  We could not believe our eyes or luck.  The passage was totally different from any known Eastwater passage - 100' or so of walking.  The first of the formations were met - white stal bosses and small cave pearls on the floor. A climb up a stal flow led to a small chamber with crystal formations and helictites.  A few feet further on an unbelievable little chamber - CHYSTAL PALACE - with a white curtain and flowstone and fantastic termite type plinths made of delicate crystal flakes.  Here we stopped and went back up the pasage to a parallel passage, totally different in character.   A 20' climb was left and we returned to the main cave? 'Joke' Ha! Ha!  Here we met Blitz and Buckett on their way out.  We told them of the news.  They, of course, thought we were exaggerating, so we showed them.  We soon reached the previous limit and I carefully crossed the delicate crystal flakes with as little damage as I could to the formations.  The passage continued on the other side, past more formations to a beautiful, emerald green lake across the entire width of the passage - 3 ' wide x 30' long.  This was crossed.  A small hole, through stal. led to a further drop with a pool.  The passage closed after a few feet more.  We then made our way back to Crystal Palace and soon met Bassett and Jane who, hearing our excited yells, had followed.  We then made our way back to the pitch. This was descended carefully to a small phreatic tube, to a bend after a desperate squeeze.  An exit was made.

15.6.83 Eastwater - West End

Tim Large, Phil Romford, Andy Lolly, Keith Gladman.        6 hours.

Photographic trip to Regent Street.   A most amazing piece of passage, totally out of character with the rest of the cave. Also explored side rifts following an elusive but strong draught.  Passage running at 210'.  Side passage which leads up to boulder choke running north.  Looked at hole in floor at start of Regent Street - leads to a junction with tight 15' rift in floor.  Needs removal of fallen block at top and very thin person to push it.  Lake looks to be over 20' deep and belling out underwater.  Much need for extreme care and restraint on visitors to area or else many vulnerable formations will be damaged.

8.6.83 Eastwater - West End Series

Tim Large, Jayrat, Glyn Bolt, Andy Sparrow + Q. John

Explored rifts back from the passage with the huge flake.  Followed for 70' - 80' up and down rifts past superb helictites.  Was joined by Tim 'morale support' and continued to a passage blocked by boulders and a tight squeeze.  This was left for another day - good draught.  Climbed in passage noted by Andy Lolly.  Heading back up Regent Street.  This was followed for 50' - 60' to a local constriction which needs enlarging to get through to 15' of bigger seen passage.

While the others were pushing the rifts I was discovering a small round trip nearby!  We met up again and descended a tight hole in the floor at the start of Regent Street - this connects with Greek Street through a too tight hole.  We then made our way down Greek St. to the 70' pitch and thence to the rift beyond.

Tony quickly got to work with a hammer and in a short time he passed the previous limit by squeezing 4' above floor level.  20' beyond was a superb 50' pitch - a real classic, perfectly oval 20’ x 0’, cut in black rock.

Excitement was high! 2 ladders were retrieved from the 70’ and Tony, John and myself descended.  Below was a keyhole passage opening out at a 6’ pot after 30'.  Following this was 36’ of roomy phreatic tube running down dip and then turning on the strike where it became too low to follow. The passage draughted furiously but was liberally coated with flood debris.  We returned finding the 6' pot difficult to ascend.  Tim put a charge on the squeeze, then we de-laddered and made a long slow exit, with much moaning and cursing.  A bloody fine trip!

22.6.83.  Eastwater - West End Series.

Trev Hughes, Rob Harper, Darren Granfield, Edric Hobbs   3½ hours

Survey trip.

Underground at 7 pm, to start a grade 5 survey of this extension.  We started from the far side of the lake and worked our way back to the junction of the way in and Greek St., where our last survey station - no.17 -was marked. All side passages were left- but the locations plotted - and no ends were pushed.  We made the pub with about 5 minutes to spare.

From a diving viewpoint the lake is really worth a dive.  The pretties were left a bit muddles, I apologise.  I must hand t to Keith and Andy – it was a hell of a dig!

25.6.83  Eastwater - West End Series. 

Jayrat, Mac, Tim, Phi1 R, Q. John, Brian Prewer.

Whilst the others surveyed, we took a look at the end rift - needs banging.  We then climbed up in the roof of previous week and continued a further 25' and up 15' to a small grotto; squeezed through formations to enter passage - 2' high and 4' to 5’ wide.  We followed this for a further 15’, we could see 50'+ but turned back due to the fact I was on my own.  Tim and J-Rat surveyed Greek St. and put 1lb 10oz of bang on a draughty hole above squeeze leading to Lolly Pot.

Eastwater - West End Series.  26.6.83

Q. John + M. Brown.      4¼ hours

Trip to the pretties climbed up into passage entered on Saturday 100’ of passage found – entrenched bedding with nice red stal formations.  The passage follows the line of the large bouldery passage of Regent Street; the end being a few boulders blocking the passage from where 50’+ of passage can be seen. A slow exit was made.

26.6.83. Eastwater West End Series.

Trev Hughes + Rob Harper.         4½ hours

Continued the grade 5 survey of Regent Street and the side passages: especially the large ascending passage called Wardour St. (Rob says it’s where the blue movies are made).  Also tidied up various other bits.  Will someone please stop Quiet John discovering passage quicker than we can survey it!

29.6.83 Eastwater - West End Series.

Dave Turner, Paul Hodgson, Tim Large.    5 hours

Down to bottom of Greek St. - inspected bang - removed rock buttress to expose a small passage turning to the right. Brought Pegasus ladders out.  Had a quick look at Regent St. where Paul took a few photos.  Also noticed draught blowing from a passage at dogleg squeeze in Greek St.  Below 75' pitch just after squeezes, climbed in roof on left side of passage to find a bedding plane in roof - small drip descending into a steeply descending passage which appears to be upstream end of tributary aven, which joins main passage about 50' lower down  Missed the pub.

29.6.83. Eastwater - West End.

Darren and friends.         4 hours

Trip to the pretties, then explored the other end of flake rift.  Nice small rift passage, found some nice helictites and stal.  Also a good draught coming from an upward direction, but very small.  Couldn't go any further as light went out, so had to leave it.

2.7.83  Eastwater West End.

Darren, Quiet John, Drew ,Wormhole.      5 hours.

Went to pretty area and up to passage in roof passage went straight above passage below - could see through on various occasions.  The passage then split into two parallel passages, just above where Wardour turns to a boulder ruckle.  Left hand passage carried on for 50' and ended in unstable bou1ders.  Right hand passage was a very thin rift about 30' high and 53' long, ending with small boulder filled tubes.  Whole area is very unstable. Good fun trip.

7.7.83. Eastwater - West End.

Barry Wharton (prospective member ) + Rob Harper.         5 hours

Evening trip to"Serpentine" in Eastwater- fully examined with single diving kit - definitely no way on, maximum depth 4m.  Many thanks to Barry.

9.7.83. Eastwater - West End.

Quiet John, Tim, J- Rat, Dave " Wyoming Skunk" Neuson, Glyn Bolt, Julie, Pete Hann (WCC)          5½ hours

Radio location in Wardour Street, successfully picked up by Brian Prewer giving us a point near the old WCC hut. Q. John found 30' of tight phreatic Rift off Regent Street.  Tim and J-Rat pushed a bedding plane passage at the top of Soho which later gave us a physical connection into Ifold Series above the Magic Fountain.  This means that the new series has always been open but never been pushed!!!  This route, with a bit of work, could make an easier way in and a possible rescue route.  Large ascending bedding plane above here (in Ifold's) could provide a connection with the entrance series.  Glyn and Pete went in to Regent St. and Crystal Palace to take some snaps.  Useful trip, Skunk was duly impressed!

13.7.83 West End Series

A.+ P. Glanvill + Tony Boycott attempted to find the pretties .......

relying on a verbal description by Bassett.  Total failure.  The cave inflicted considerable G.B.H. on A.P.G. and A.P.G., failed to inflict similar damage on the cave

Pete Glanvill

25/7/83 Eastwater West End

Martin Grass, Chris Castle, Debbie Armstrong.

To Regent Street to photograph pretties.  Debbie's Petzl light was clapped - what a profane girl!

Chris Castle

23/7/83 Eastwater West End

J-Rat, Tin Large, Steve Lane, Chris Birkhead (ICCC), Mark Bound (ICCC).    6 hours.

To bottom (well nearly) where Tim laid 4lb of bang on the squeeze leading to Lolly Pot.  Satisfying crump.  Long, slow drag out as usual.  Also looked at passages above Ifold Series (Magic Fountain area).  Some promising draughting boulder choked holes in the roof need a poke.


6.8.83 Eastwater Cavern

Quiet John, Matt Tuck, Graham (UG) Summers (NCC).     4hrs 40mins.

To the bitter end to dig.  Q.J. and M.T. failed miserably at the last squeeze, so A.J. and 'UG' carried on to dig out 8 sandbags of wet gravel and mud.  More bags needed.  Hell of a strong inward draught.


Thursday July 21st.      Eastwater

Jim Smart & Neil Scallon.  3 hours

Ferried all tackle required for West End.  Neil's lamp failed at Soho, so trip and tackle abandoned!

Friday July 22nd.         Eastwater

Jim & Neil return to West End.    5½ hours

The joys of Wardour St. & Regent St. consumed most of our attention.

Aug. 6th.          Eastwater

Mark Lumley, Jim & Neil.            3½ hours

Showed Mark the pretties. When we set off towards the pitches Mark & Neil's lamps started to give out; retreat.

27.8.83. Eastwater - West End

Tim, J-Rat, Pete Bolt; Debbie & Howard Limbert, Alan Box, Noddy (NCC)               7hrs 20mins

HORRIBLE dig at bottom eventually dug wide enough (in liquid mud) for J-Rat to squeeze through into 20' of ‘roomy’ phreatic passage with mudbanks.  THIS AREA COMPLETELY SUMPS!  There is a WAY ON but J-Rat was too knackered to push it.  It needs another trip.  1lb of bang laid on squeeze.  NCC 'impressed'.  Much light pox.


This is not a complete account of visits to West End Series, as some trips have yet to be written up into the Club log book, in particular the original breakthrough trip.

At least two articles have been promised for the B.B. but, as these are not forthcoming, I trust that a transcript of log entries will suffice as an interim measure.

Late News

Pierre's Pot – Burrington Coombe, very close to Goatchurch.

After banging the draughting entrance the WCC have entered 400' of walking sized phreatic passage. The present end is a boulder choke; further prospects will require extensive digging.


The Mint Imperials Go To France

by Debbie Armstrong & Steve Lane

Nine members of Imperial College Caving Club (including Steve Lane and Debbie Armstrong) visited the Vercor area of France for 3 weeks in July on a combined caving trip and end of year holiday.

We camped at the Municipal campsite in La Chapelle - en - Vercor for the first 2 weeks pad then moved on to a campsite near Autran for the last week.  It’s worth while noting that the cost of the first campsite was very reasonable and no one objected to us washing filthy ropes, S.R.T. gear and over suits in the campsite sinks and taking over the washing line for drying wet-suits, etc.!  Next door to the campsite we found a ‘Maison de Speleologie' who lent us guide books to the caves of the area and allowed us to photocopy the relevant surveys which was very helpful.

The first assault was on Fumant and Ramats.  Fumant proved to be a good practice S.R.T. trip with plenty of small pitches and lots of rebelays.  Ramats, however, was disappointing as the team spent 3 hours slogging through the forest (but if dropped off at the right place it is only 5 minutes from the road!) only to find the cave sumped after 200m due to heavy rainfall.

The second day saw the Ramats party going down Fumant and the others driving to the Grotte de la Luire to ask permission for a descent beyond the show cave entrance.  The guides at the cave were obviously French 'speleos' and were quite happy to let us go down.  After entering via the show cave a series of fixed iron ladders (-180m) lead to the master cave.  Time allowed only a limited exploration of this as we had to be out by 6pm when the show cave shut.

We decided to do the Grotte de Gournier next.  This involved getting across a deep entrance lake.  Unlike the French (who don't like getting their feet wet), we didn't have 'un bateau' and as a result Debbie ended up swimming across (several times due to the rope getting tangled) to get a boat moored on the other side for ferrying the rest across.  However, even with a boat crossing the lake wasn't easy as I.C.C.C. certainly doesn’t stand for Imperial College Canoe Club and it was pretty obvious by the way the boat went round in circles that our star team won't win the university boat race. Oh well, it did provide the French tourists with some amusement.  An interesting high level traverse lead from the lake into the lapin cave which contained some beautiful gour pools and stal formations near the entrance - lots of photos were taken.  The rest of the cave consisted of 2½km of collapsed passage with boulder slope after boulder slope - boring:

Next on the agenda was Tresou which proved to be a very sporting trip that combined lots of pitch work with some horizontal development, loads traverses and water (including a 50m waterfall pitch).

After all this caving we decided it was time to have a rest day (or two) and indulge in the locals favourite pass time - namely eating and drinking.  With the vino at 40p a bottle (including 10p deposit) who could refuse?

The next few days were spent doing Pot de Loupe (S.R.T.), Malaterre (S.R.T.) and St. Vincent (more S.R.T.) - all reasonable trips with St. Vincent going below the 400m mark.

It was now time for another rest day (or three) and we took this opportunity to change campsites. Once installed near Autran we drove up to the Berger area to do some of the nearby caves - Fromagere (also known as d’Engins) and Jean Noire.  Jean Noire is best described as shitty, horrible and not worth the effort especially as it took 6 hours and a French caver to find it.

Fromagere on the other hand proved to be well worth while.  The first team down met a group of French cavers coming up the first pitch and with their limited communications (none of us can speak French) ascertained that they were leaving the cave rigged for further exploration and that we could use their tackle (bloody good job as otherwise we wouldn't have got half as far as we did).  The first group made it to the sump by-pass via tight passage way and lots of pitches (including a 200m pitch broken by ledges).  Note the novel French rigging of pitches involving at least 5 bolts/10 metres (anything to keep their feet dry) plus a few deviations just to make it interesting.  The appetites having been wetted saw several other groups making the descent with one party succeeding in reaching the -535m mark (at which point an unrigged pitch was reached) on a 25 hour trip.  Fromagere is known to extend to -900 so a lot more is left to be done.

While pushing Fromagere other trips were made down Trou Qui Souffle which also proved to be a good cave.

With the three weeks drawing to an end we all went out for a slap-up meal and got drunk (again).  In conclusion Vercor is an area that is fairly easy to get to, with good facilities (i.e. relatively civilised) and is well worth a visit if you have some spare time in the summer.


Rachael Clarke spent part of this summer in the Vercours also, joining the Crewe Caving Club trip to the Gouffre Berger.  This expedition attracted cavers from a variety of cave clubs, so was quite a cosmopolitan affair.  Rachael went as far as the Salle de Treize (Hall of Thirteen).  She also visited the Bournillon, the Gournier and the Coufin-Chevaline system (Choranche show cave is a small part of the last mentioned cave).


Library Notes

The following are recent additions to the E.E.C. library:

Vols. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 & 15 of 'Mines and Miners of Cornwall', by A.K. Hamilton Jenkin.

1 - Around St. Ives;

2 - St. Agnes - Perranporth;

3 - Around Redruth

5 - Hayle, Gwinear & Gwithian

6 - Around Gwennapp

15 - Calstock, Callington & Launceston.

'Mongst Mines &' Miners (underground Cornish mining scenes - 1895).

The Great Western & Lewis Merthyr Collieries.  A 72 page photographic essay by John Cornwell (old B.E.C. member). - Anyone wanting their own copies see J-Rat or Roger Dors £5 each, signed!

Many thanks to Trevor Shaw for donations of six foreign club journals and some old Axbridge newsletters.



Five Go In Search Of The Burrington Master Cave

Mark Lumley


"I say chaps" said the Prof " I've done a few solution tests down at the old lab and it looks like there's a good chance of finding a big cavern down at Burrington", "WIZZO!" cried the lads, "where do we start digging?".

"The bottom of Reads looks like the best bet 'cos it takes the main stream down to the abandoned water table level, parallel with Avelines"  said Lummo, oversimplifying as usual. "Golly!" went the others.

So the famous five armed themselves with spades, crowbars, hammers and bottles of pop, and set off with their famous mascot Spunky the sleeping bog on the start of another adventure.

The bottom of the cave was a sinister place and apart from the occasional comic book and discarded Boy Scout’s toggle there were no signs that anyone had EVER been there before. The lads set about their task with square chinned determination, sinking shafts and pushing side passages away from the terminal chamber but results were not forthcoming.

"Dashed hard work this fellows" Uncle Jim said wryly out of the side of his mouth as he brewed up some tea on the team stove. "Lesgoforapint!!"

"WIZZO" cried the lads, pleased at hearing their secret codeword for the end of the days digging.  In the corner of their 'Hunters' H.Q. they planned the future of their dig over pints of foaming Batscum, keeping their voices low and looking out for enemy spies.

"If it's going to go we'll have to push the terminal choke at the bottom of that inclined passage" said Potto, his eyes glowing as he puffed on a strange looking cigarette and tried to stop himself floating up from his chair, "it takes all the stream man, and never backs up .....OH WOW!" he cried and passed out. The lads toiled on through the winter. Spring came and one Tuesday night upper lips stiffened resolutely, they pushed down on their twentieth trip. Halfway down the cave Lummo spotted a hole in the roof.  That’s not on the survey chaps" he shouted excitedly and putting a spare candle in his shorts he pushed on up through the hole into a very unstable ruckle amounting to about 150ft of horrendously unstable new find. "The Browne Stain Series, men!” Said Lummo” We’d better call Dr Glandspill in on this one to see if it reminds him of the Berger!"

"Glandspill!!" roared the others "forget him, he thinks Karst Hydrology is a German Poet" they hooted.  The main dig pushed on until, though an excavated fissure in a side wall the main stream could be heard disappearing into the distance.

"Gosh" said Scallywag, the slimmest of the famous five "it's too tight for me; we need Honest Pat Croney to sort this out for us!"  Honest Pat appeared, some days later, laden with pumps, hoses and intricate tackle far beyond the lads comprehension.  He surveyed the new find with a discerning eye.

"Ere lads" he remarked, hands on hips" what you need is a damn good bang!!  "The five shuffled around uncomfortably, miscomprehending the comment and hoping that Spunky wouldn't get jealous.  So Honest Pat had noticed their spotty complexions and put two and two together.  To hide their embarrassment they spent every night underground that week and were rewarded with a tight bypass to the constriction bringing them to a 40ft extension at one end of which lurked a deep sump pool.

"WIZZO" cried the lads “next stop Rickford".  The next night Lummo and the Prof slithered down the cave in some new fangled wet-suit things intent on free-diving the sump...  "Are you all right" yelled Lummo having watched his comrade disappear into the pool some half minute previously "Fgblumpffft" came the spluttered reply "Fukitlesgoforapint!"

Some time later the lads were still scratching their heads, bewildered about where to go next. "What we need is a Cave Diver" said Uncle Jim.  "That Liz Price is a pretty plucky diver for a girl" said the Prof "  Spiffing idea!" replied Scallywag" Let's give her a ring.. . . ."

That weekend, with excitement mounting the lads descended Reads on their thirty fourth trip, encumbered with bottles, goggles and all the rest of Liz's diving gear and eventually, worn out they reached the sump.  They were surprised to see that the water level had dropped about four feet.

"The water level's dropped about four feet chaps" said the Prof, stating the obvious. "WIZZO' said Liz.  The Lads exchanged glances. She spoke the banter - Fine girl.

Liz beckoned the Prof to the sump to help her tackle up. He followed sheepishly with cheeks flushed. The lads waited in the dark expectantly.

"Gosh Uncle Jim" said Lumo" I hope it goes: "The Comment was wasted; Jim had gone to the pub vowing to return in an hour.   "Here we go" said Liz and disappeared under the water.  The Prof looked on with fingers crossed, cursing the villain who maimed his hand that way in his last adventure.  Shortly, rising bubbles showed that Liz was coming to the surface....or was it the All Bran??

"It gets too tight further down chaps" she gasped, “BOTHER", "DRAT", "DAMNED SHAME" came the replies.  She valiantly tried again, there was a body sized passage down there but it proved to be impassable with bottles in the way.

"Fancy a pint" said Lummo who had messed his caving grots in the disappointment of the moment, 'come and meet our mascot''.  "Golly rather" Liz retorted.

And so the famous five, plus one set off for the surface and the sanctuary of the Plume of Feathers slightly dejected but resolved on finding another way down towards the Burrington Master Cave.  You know chaps" said the Prof swilling his Batscum "there's a phreatic tube about halfway down the Browne’s Stuart Series and its draughting heavily, heading right away from the known cave too.  If we start digging ...?”OH NAFF OFF" cried the lads in unison, but the spark of enthusiasm had been lit......

NEXT WEEK: Five push a draughting passage full of bat shit halfway down Reads.

Jim Smart writes that, only a week after Mark had written the above article, they found 300 feet of new passage in Reads.  A report and survey should be available for the next B.B.


Bassett's Notes

AUSTRIA 1983.  Rob, Rachel and Biffo returned from Austria full of tales of blizzard and storm, and the warmth and hospitality of the Wiesberghaus, Fritz and Greta.  In spite of the weather they managed to tackle up the first section of Zarengassewindschacht in preparation for the second group, comprising the 'Uglies' (Bob & Dany) and the N.C.C.

Bob & Dany report that Ben Dors Schacht was bottomed at nearly 600 feet.  After this a short passage with a few small drops quickly led to a 50 foot pitch to a ledge and then a 200 foot pitch.  Not far from the bottom this was a further pitch of about 250 feet, which was not descended due to lack of time and tackle.  A river could be heard at the bottom, which must be 1700 to 1800 feet below the surface.  Perhaps it could be the glacial river that feeds the Waldbach Ursprung.  Hopes are high and a return visit is already planned for next year.  A grade 5 survey was started and 'Lugger' (N.C.C.) is currently drawing this up. It seems to indicate that the cave has swung back underneath Barengasse, as we had originally supposed it would, Survey and article soon - I hope.

WOOKEY.  The 60' pot mentioned in the last issue proved to be blind, but another passage has been found leading back towards Wookey 20

AUSTRIA. P.S.  Members of the Club who have stayed at the Weisberghaus may be disappointed to learn that Pritz & Greta are moving out so that Fritz can take on his job as a butcher in Obertraun full time. Let us hope that the future manager of the hut will be as pro British cavers and drinkers as the last.

OGOF HESP ALYN.  Chris Milne (Wessx and C.D.G.) and Trev Hughes have passed two perched sumps near the bottom of Hesp Alyn, to enter large passage. The sumps are 5 feet long and 30 feet long, and Trev reckons they could both be baled.  The new passage is larger than the rest of Hesp Alyn and carries a stream.  So far the cave has been extended by over 2000 feet.  Down through boulders at one point a large river can be heard – almost certainly this is the Alyn River.

MANIFOLD VALLEY.  After the publication of a geological report, by someone who ought to know better, writing off the Manifold as a potential cave area, any other prospector might give up. However, digging there has paid off with the discovery of 1300 feet of passage.  Caves be where you find 'em.  Pete Glanvill should be writing us something about the find soon.

The following extract from 'The Vision of Glory', by J.S. Collis, and gleaned by Jane Thomas, must surely be referring to members of the B.E.C.

We were tempted to say, “There’s nothing left now for the iron-souled adventurers, the active visionaries, who; have sought to penetrate into uncharted places; with the possibility of irretrievable calamity facing them at every step.”  Yet…. There is spelaeology.  The spelaeologists.  They are not as other men: unexampled fortitude, steel-like patience, sublime audacity, the nerves of acrobats and the blood of fishes ....

BAT PRODUCTS.  Phil & Lil Romford have opened up their own caving/climbing/camping shop in Wells.  See next pages for ad. and map.  Phil often carries a number of items with him on his travels - look out for his red mini on Mendip.  I am sure we all wish Phil and Lil success in their venture.

EIRE.  During the dry summer Martyn Farr pushed beyond the own sumps in Fergus River Cave, Co. Clare, to discover yet another sump.  In Co. Kerry he found about half a mile of stream cave.

P.S.M.  Rumour has it that a new, higher entrance has been found to the Pierre making it, once gain, the deepest system in the world.  If the rumour is true, the cave must surely have passed the magic 1500 metre mark.

PICOS DE EUROPA.  The same little bird tells me that the deepest ever all British exploration has recently taken place in the Picos.  This record was previously by O.U.C.C. in Pozo del Xitu (1139m.), also in the Picos.



Members' Resolution For A Proposed Change To The Constitution.

Committees always have been, and probably always will be, targets for criticism from the very people who have elected them to office.  The B.E.C. committee seems to be no exception to rule.  However, committees in their turn are adept at both countering the criticisms and levelling some of their own at the club the membership.  No doubt one of the moans at this particular time of year is the lack of nominations for the new committee.  The obvious question is: "Why the lack of enthusiasm?"  Four of the retiring committee have held various offices for over 40 years between them.  Whilst this dedication is no doubt commendable, does it not make the club over-reliant up such people?  The following resolution is put forward in an attempt to rectify a situation of apparent apathy.

A member, having served on committee of the Club for any three consecutive years, at the end of their third term must resign their post.

They may not seek re-election, nor be co-opted, onto the committee for a period of two consecutive years from the time of resignation.

The numbers of years are arbitrary figures.   It is the principle of the proposal that is important.  If adopted, it would ensure a regular flow of new committee members, new ideas and different approaches to problems.  We are convinced that this would encourage more people to stand for the committee.

Under the present circumstances there can be nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Proposed by: Jane Clarke

Seconded by: Marin Grass

See you at the A.G.M. and Dinner.  By now you should have ordered your tickets from Trevor.  He is also arranging a coach: Hunters, & Belfry to Cheddar and return.  Contact Trev if you want seats.


That the following changes be made to section 5.  COMMITTEE.

Paragraph (a) line 1 to read; the number of members on the committee shall be five.

Delete whole of first sentence up to No non-member.

Paragraph (b)  line 6. word 1 to read "five" delete nine.

   line 9. word 8 to read "five" delete nine.

Paragraph (a) Delete lines 4 & 5 up to "No member shall” Substitute; Secretary, Treasurer, Hut Warden.

   line 5. word 11 to read "one" Delete two.

Proposed by Chris Batstone.

Seconded by Rachel Clarke.


Wedmore Mercury

issue no. 21, week-ending 3rd. September 1985.

"Big Find" expected.

Potholers hunting for a 'hidden cave' in Cheddar have started a railway system to remove the tons of sand and clay they are uncovering.  The railway, developed by a local firm and paid for by Lord Weymouth's Longleat Estate, started operating last week.

Potholers are working at night off one of the main Cheddar caves and are confident they will soon make a big find.  They believe they are heading towards an underground river and a huge cave could be their prize.  They have gone 80 yards and discovered several smaller passages in the six months they have been working.

Manager Harry Bennett said enthusiasts have been searching for new caves for years but the present lead was very promising.

Caving Secretary's Report 1983.

The club has been involved in many activities over the last year making it a very active one.  At Christmas three club members returned from the large Mexico Expedition where much new passage was found.  Easter saw approximately twenty members visit County Clare for a week and all went caving at least once.  Some were involved in exploring new passage in The Cave of Wild Horses and also helping with a climbing project in Clare's only show cave Ailwee.  Another notable event this year was the return to Austria this summer.  The first party did not have much success due to the appalling weather conditions, but a subsequent trip by a combined BEC/NCC party descended the large pitch in Barengasseivindschacht which defeated a party a couple of years ago and reached another large pot at the bottom of which a large river could be heard.

Nearer to home the major achievement on Mendip has been the extensions found in Eastwater off the old BEC discovery of The Ifold Series.  A series of strenuous crawls and two fine pitches along with some fine stal make this an excellent trip, with good prospects for further discovery.  Wookey Hole has also received a fair number of trips from club members and various dry extensions have been found.  Progress is also being made at the only new club dig site Halloween Rift which is situated above Wookey Hole.

Unfortunately the new Arête Ladder has not been installed in St. Cuthbert’s but it has been made and is awaiting transportation into the cave.  We currently have twenty eight Cuthbert’s Leaders (Twenty one, BEC and Seven Guests). This includes three new leaders Alison Moody, Pete Glanville and Tony Knibbs.

Most of Mendips systems have been visited including Tynings Barrow where the continual work at A Day is slow but steady.  Over the months numerous trips have been made to all other areas of the British Isles and the club appears to be very active on the caving front.

Martin Grass
3rd September 1993

B.E.C. Dinner 1983

The Annual Dinner of The Bristol Exploration Club is to be held at:  THE CLIFF HOTEL, CHEDDAR on SATURDAY 1st OCTOBER 1983 AT 7.30 FOR 8pm


TICKETS £6.50 each exclusive of wine.  ORDER TICKETS FROM: Trevor Hughes, 8 West Bank, Wookey Hole, N r Wells, Somerset.

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

Editor: Robin Gray

It was good to see so many at the Mid-summer festivities even it the weather was a little unkind. In fact it rained heavily all day but that failed to dampen the spirits of the hairy band of Vikings who turned up to enjoy nights delights.

The chariot race started with a big bang and the chariots thundered away in clouds of liquid mud. The winners were MNRC who fielded a very strong and practiced team and got round in an incredible time to the surprise of all.  Next year it’s their turn to put on the games.  Well done MNRC.

Even in the rain the Belfry grounds were filled with people enjoying the excellent bar and waiting their turn to get at what must rate as one of Mendips finest feeds.  The organisation of this spectacular nosh-up was superb and all those involved are to be congratulated.

At about 10.30 the rain stopped for enough time to enable the firing of a short but lively firework display with some notable shells.

After the fireworks some fine singing of all the best songs was enjoyed until late in the Belfry Lounge.

Further celebrations are to follow soon including the club trip to France and the Dinner, details of which can be found in this News Letter.

This is my last BB before the AGM so to those of you who have sent in articles many thanks.




by Tim Large

Annual General Meeting Notice: The Annual General Meeting of The Bristol Exploration Club will be held at The Belfry on Saturday 5th October 1985 beginning at 10.30am prompt. A quorum of 30 members is required. Please make an effort to attend and become involved with the club's organisation.  Only paid up members may attend and vote.

Member's Resolutions: These can be submitted by paid up members, each resolution needing a proposer and seconder.  The contents of these can be any proposals for a change in club policy, rules or requests for committee action on behalf of the membership for its greater benefit.  Resolutions should be handed to the AGM Chairman.

Constitutional Resolutions:  These are proposals which need a proposer and seconder to amend the club constitution in some way.  These must be submitted to the Secretary in writing as early as possible as they can only be heard at an Annual General Meeting if they have been published in the BB at least one month before hand.

Committee Elections: Nominations are requested for election to the 1985/6 Committee.  They must be seconded by a full paid up member of the club.  Only full members are entitled to stand for committee. Full members are those people who have completed their year's probationary membership and have been ratified by the committee.  Nomination should be sent to the Secretary not later than Saturday 7th September 1985. They must be in writing and signed by a seconder.

Annual Dinner: As previously stated this will be held at The Cheese Pavilion Restaurant on The Bath & West Show Ground, Near Shepton Mallet on Saturday 5th October 1985 7pm for 1.30pm

The Belfry. There is still much finishing off work to be done by way of painting, fixtures and fittings. Volunteers are needed from you the members.  We have no more money to pay outside contractors to do the work.  It would be a pity to ruin a good job for the sake of a lick of paint.  Please contact Dany Bradshaw, Chris Batstone or Tim Large if you can offer any help.

St Cuthbert’s: Pumping operations have been in progress at Sump 2 with the aid of a compressed air water pump.  This was fed by fire hose kindly lent by Somerset Fire Brigade from a surface based road works compressor.  Much progress has been made into the sump - the end now being 60 feet from normal sump level and 21 feet below it.  Conditions are somewhat muddy.  Unfortunately the passage is still descending.

Eastwater - West End Series.  Since earlier this year when The Blackwall Tunnel was pushed and 1,000 feet of passage found which was called The Jubilee Line, not much else of note has been found.  Attempts to climb the aven in the new extensions were hampered by rapid and extensive flooding of the tube at the beginning of The Blackwall Tunnel.  This appears to be caused by mud blocking a small passage down which the stream drains.  It took the party trapped on the other side a couple of hours to bail themselves out.

Definitely a site for dry weather and the drain hole blockage needs dealing with!!

Halloween Rift: Trev Hughes is still making good progress here and is always looking for volunteers.  At present he is trying to get into Wookey before the American divers arrive to attempt the deep Sump 25 again.

Blackmoor Flood Swallet:  Otherwise known as Upper Flood Swallet.  The many years digging here by the MCG has at last yielded them some reward.  They have broken into about 600 feet of stream passage with good formations.  Prospects look good for further discoveries heading towards Cheddar.

Hut Improvement Appeal

About 2 months ago this appeal started in earnest.  We are looking for £3,500 from paid-up and life members.   Well, the good news is that to date we have received donations of £525.   The bad news is (or it could be good depending on your view) that this sum has been donated by just 16 members and none has been from fund raising activities. Where are all of you out there in your pedalos?  Came in the other 160 of you and let us see your money!   Our thanks for the 16 generous donations so far!


Bristol Exploration Club  50th Year Dinner


The Cheese Pavilion, Royal Bath And West Show Ground Shepton Mallet.











Tickets from Brian Workman, Oakhill, Bath.

Please send money with order for tickets stating your, choice of main course, beet or duck.



Bristol Exploration Club Annual General Meeting Agenda

To be held at The Belfry on Saturday 5th October 1985 at 10.30am prompt

1.         Election of Chairman

2.         Collection of outstanding ballot papers

3.         Election of three tellers

4.         Apologies of absence

5.         Collection of members resolutions

6.         Minutes of 1984 Annual General Meeting

7.         Matters arising from 1984 Minutes

8.         Hon. Secretary's Report

9.         Hon. Treasurer's Report

10.        Hon. Auditor's Report

11.        Caving Secretary's Report

12.        Hut Warden's Report

13.        Tacklemaster's Report

14.        B.B. Editor's Report

15.        Hut Engineer's Report

16.        Librarian's Report

17.        Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report

18.        Result of ballot for Committee

19.        Election of Committee Posts

20.        Any Other Business

Minutes of the Bristol Exploration Club Annual General Meeting held at the Belfry on Saturday 6th October 1984 at 11.05am

Present: Tim Large, Alan Thomas, Graham Wilton-Jones, Chris Smart, Tony Jarratt, Brian Workman, Matt Tuck, Greg Villas, Chris Batstone, Bob Hill, Andy Lolley, Keith Gladman, Robin Gray, Alan Downton, Axel Knuston, John Watson, John Turner, Chris Castle, Bob Cork, Brian Prewer, Dany Bradshaw, Stuart McManus, Robin Hervin, Nick Holstead, Jeremy Henley, Phil Romford, Roger Sabido, Joan Bennett, Ian Caldwell, Dave Irwin, Glen Grass, Martin Grass, Nigel Taylor, Trevor Hughes, John Dukes, one other.

Apologies: Oliver Lloyd, Pete & Joyce Franklin, Fiona Lewis, Rich Stevenson, Jerry Crick, Gill Turner, John & Sue Riley, Lavinia Watson, Nicola Slann, Roy Bennett, John Chew, Dave Turner, Miles Barrington, John Theed, Dave Pike, Lisa Taylor.

The meeting was convened at 11.05am with 36 people present.  Nominations were requested for a Chairman two nominations were received Jeremy Henley and Phil Romford.  A vote was taken Jeremy Henley 10 and Phil Romford 15.   Phil was therefore elected to the chair.

Members Resolutions: None

Minutes of 1983 Annual General Meeting:  Proposed by John Turner and seconded by Jeremy Henley they be accepted and t'1ken as read. Carried.

Matters Arising From 1983 AGM:  The shower meters are ready for installation.  After investigation the telephone charges cannot be reduced.

Hon. Secretary's Report:  Read to the meeting.  GWJ queried the claim for lost tackle.  TEL explained the circumstances.  Proposed by S. McManus and Seconded by Dany Bradshaw the report be adopted.  Carried.

Hon. Treasurer's Report:  As circulated at the meeting by Jeremy Henley.

Hon. Auditor's Report:  As circulated at the meeting by Joan Bennett.  Neither had anything further to add.  Nigel Taylor asked what investigations had been made into the thefts from the Belfry.  Jeremy Henley explained that theta was no sign of the culprit or the money.  It was agreed to keep an eye on the situation. Proposed by Jeremy Henley and seconded by Stu McManus that a locked ammo can be bolted to the Library wall for depositing Hut Fees.  Motion carried.  Chris Smart asked about the Navy usage of the Belfry.  Tim Large explained they were just starting to return.  Proposed by Nigel Taylor seconded by Ian Caldwell that the Belfry Rates and Insurance be split 50/50 between subscriptions and Belfry income.  Carried. Brian Prewer proposed a vote of thanks to Jeremy and Joan for a fine set of accounts.  The meeting agreed.

Caving Secretary's Report:  Stuart McManus read this to the meeting.  Martin Grass expressed concern about a lack of Cuthbert’s leaders.  Mac said that we did have several but dates do tend to clash. Joan Bennett supported the caving secretary's want for more expenditure on caving projects and equipment.  Chris Batstone suggested that members may not be aware money is available for club digs and projects.  Nigel Taylor suggested a special fund for digs but Jeremy pointed out that it was impractical to have a separate fund or an upper limit. Proposed by Nigel Taylor seconded by Greg Villas that the report be accepted. Carried.

Hut Warden's Report: Jeremy Henley said that most of the points had been made in the Hon. Secretary's Report.  Only £3 was outstanding in Hut Fees at present.  The Duty Hut Warden system had worked but a full time warden was needed.  Chris Batstone said that in his opinion the system does not work as many wardens don't stay at The Belfry.  Nigel Taylor suggested that you will get less volunteers if you expect them to stay at the Belfry.  Chris Batstone volunteered to be Hut Warden the meeting accepted this.  Nigel Taylor said that a book should be kept at the Belfry with booking in it.  Proposed by Nigel Taylor seconded by Keith Gladman that the report be accepted. Carried.

Tacklemaster's Report:  Bob Cork read this to the meeting.  Stu McManus proposed a vote of thanks to Bob for sorting out the tackle problem. Martin Grass suggested the better marking of lifelines.  Keith Gladman said that he was pleased the new tackle system was working successfully. Chris Smart expressed concern over our liability on ladders acquired by ourselves over the years and not of our own manufacture.  Bob explained that it was the same as on our own ladders.  Tony Jarratt asked about supplying each lifeline in a tackle bag, Bob said that the club did have a need for more tackle bags.  The matter was left to the Committee.  Proposed by Chris Batstone seconded by Robin Gray that the report be adopted.  Carried.

Hut Engineer’s Report:   Dany Bradshaw read this to the meeting.  GWJ suggested paying more subs and having outside contractors do the work.  Bob Hill asked how many people would be prepared to pay extra for outside contractors to work on Belfry maintenance. Joan Bennett said the Hut Fund could be used for

Belfry maintenance once the improvements had been carried out.  Tony Jarratt said that to increase subscriptions drastically might put off new young members from joining.  Martin Grass said that there had been a change in people’s circumstances with members either living locally or off Mendip and not staying at the Belfry so regularly.  The Chairman took a vote on the use of outside contractors FOR 18 AGAINST 4. Proposed by Dany Bradshaw seconded by Tony Jarratt that outside contractors be bought in as necessary for Belfry maintenance.  FOR 25 AGAINST 3.  It was proposed by Stu McManus and seconded by Bob Hill that the report be adopted. Carried.

BB Editor's Report: As published in the BB.  Comments were made re lack of a BB.  Robin Gray said that this was due to lack of material. Tony Jarratt thought that we should keep the standard A4 format.  Chairman took a vote on continuing BB as it is.  Vote carried.  Proposed by Tony Jarratt seconded by Bob Hill that the report be adopted.  Carried.

Hon. Librarians Report:  Tony Jarratt read this to the meeting.  Stu Mc Manus proposed a vote of thanks for Tony's work.  Jeremy Henley proposed, seconded by Stu McManus that the report be adopted.  Carried.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund:  Stu McManus read this to the meeting.  There had been one application from Matt Tuck for an expedition to Norway.  Report is to appear in the BB soon.  Committee considered keeping fund as it always has been and perhaps adding to it in the future.  Proposed by Greg Villas and seconded by Chris Batsone that the report be adopted. Carried.

Election of Officers: Proposed by Dave Turner, seconded by Greg Villas that last years Committee be re-elected with the inclusion of Chris Batstone as Hut Warden.

Jubilee Celebrations: Tim Large outlined the proposals for the Summer Bar-be-cue, Special Dinner, Berger Expedition, Firework Party, Souvenirs, Winter Social, Publications.  John Turner suggested that a sub-committee organise these celebrations. The Chairman asked for volunteers - Tony Jarratt, Robin Gray, Nick Holstead.  Tony outlined plans for St Cuthbert’s Report.  The meeting agreed with the proposals.

Any Other Business:

It was proposed by Tony Jarratt and seconded by Dave Turner that a vote of thanks be given to Tim Large for all his efforts on behalf of the club.

Belfry Improvements: Phil Romford outlined the situation so far.  Plans & costings were circulated around the meeting.  Proposed by John Turner seconded by Alan Downton that the plans be accepted.  FOR 26 AGAINST 1 ABST 3.  The use of outside contractors was discussed but it was agreed to leave this to the discretion of the Committee.  Joan Bennett pointed out the need to keep an eye on the financial side of this project. Proposed by Jeremy Henley, seconded by Tony Jarratt that the improvements be complete by the end of May 1985.  Carried. Stu McManus proposed a vote of thanks to all those who had worked on the project. T he meeting agreed.

There being no other business the meeting was closed at 3.09pm.


Bluebell Quarry Climbs

Dear B.E.C., Happy Golden Jubilee!   Love, Kangy

My present is a collection of short climbs representing some exploration which Pete Johnson, Jonathan King and I completed this year.

The climbs are set in a beautiful beech wood with bluebells by a river.  Locally it is called the Bluebell Wood and it is on the River Frome at Bury Hill, Winterbourne Down, Bristol and by association Bluebell Quarry gets its name.  There are other quarries in the area but this is the best.

The climbs are all about thirty feet long and we have named them from the left and facing the cliff:-

Foxglove Traverse          4c

Foxglove Crack 4a

Bobby's Climb               5a

Drainpipe Corner            3a

Caroline's Slab               5b

Golden Bluebell             5c

Protection is scarce and the rock is still loose, though not as loose as it was.  The grading assumes a top rope, without one Golden Bluebell might be E2 for example.

The story started twenty years ago when I used to take Jonathan for little boy walks along the Frome and poked around the quarries there.  (Reference, "Some Sandstone Climbs in the Upper Frome Valley", B.E.C. 1966).  We are spoilt for climbing around Bristol and the nature of the rock failed to appeal to my friends though some of the climbs done then are challenging and well worth while exploiting in wet weather, winter or way home from work. And its only ten minutes from my home!

The unusual sharp edged incut corner overhang caught my eye and at the time I included it in some film I made.  I imagined how it might be climbed and never quite forgot so I was pleased when Pete in a weak moment was kind enough to come to see.

We cleaned out foxgloves to make Foxglove Crack and enjoyed it.  Later when we were showing Jonathan the quarry he invented Foxglove Traverse and I took a flier when the only proper handhold came away.  The foxgloves remain in place.  Pete and I dug our way up the Drainpipe one wet wintery day and it is probably much easier now.  It is surprising how steep and strenuous the cliff is and while Jonathan reckons the Drainpipe to be 3a, it is an arm wrecker.  Suitably encouraged by the potential of the climbing we devoted several visits to cleaning up some of the lines.  We abseiled to clear ivy until Pete was satisfied and did Bobby's Climb. This starts immediately below the overhang on the left hand wall, pulls over on a good hold which I had to work hard to reach and then follows a crack line steeply to the top.  More work concentrated on improving the finish on the right hand wall by shovelling topsoil, dangling in a harness, from the nice sharp edge of the top ledges.  We paid special attention to the blank bit above the distinguished overhang. It remained blank.  As a reward for our labours we had a go and retired tired.

The team reassembled for an all out attempt on the corner and in turn we inched higher and higher cleaning, trying combinations, dropping off through shear fatigue until the climb to the overhang had been worked out.  Pete had dug out a pebble filled crack which gave a vital finger hold and enabled us to lean back and by bracing the feet try for holds on the face above. The strenuous exercise shattered our arms and we had to leave it.  Two possible solutions, one involving an impossibly high handhold up to the left on the face and the other involving a too low crack around the corner were slept on.

Last Christmas holiday Jonathan felt like having another go and discovered a vital combination which enabled him to brace out on highish footholds to reach for a niche on the edge with his left hand - before shouting "aaaaarrrrgh" or whatever Tarzan said to Jane.  Before his arms went completely he tried another line to the left and completed Caroline's Slab in the middle of the wall.  Well, truth to tell it is not so much a slab as a bulging off balance wall and again it is fingery and strenuous.  His pitiable cries of "Have you got me" from the last few feet at the limit of his rapidly diminished strength nearly caused me to weaken but I remained composed and kept the rope slack so that he climbed it.

Really wound up about The Last Great Problem I went back for another go but you have to be built like a hairy gorilla to cope with the overhang.  It was completely unsuitable for my more refined techniques because I like to be pulled up things like that.

And there it rested for months.

Spontaneously, Jonathan now very match fit and home for the weekend said "Let's go and do it."

He got into shorts and chalk while I set up a top rope.  It started to rain.  He seemed to be obsessively fussy about keeping his far out sticky boots dry and he immediately laid back on tiny holds merely to avoid the straight forward muddy alternative.  Quickly up to the overhang, he adjusted his feet and reached over for the upper notch on the edge and in the same moment rejoined me back on the ground.  He got out his climbing helmet while I stuffed the erstwhile handhold into my pocket as a souvenir.  "Did you see that," he said indignantly, “It hit my head but didn't hurt because we were falling at the same rate!" Back into position, slightly more easily because the hold was now a little lower and cleaner, he could pause to consider the next move.  This was dynamically to move his right hand, from the vertical crack around the corner and pull up with his left, to the new edge hold.  The function of the right hand was to keep his feet braced against the back wall, releasing it to go for the next hold lead to a spectacular sequence of events.  The forces now acting became exclusively vertical and without horizontal equilibrium his feet came off and flailed in the air.  The load coming abruptly onto that key hold displaced it - and Jonathan and I were face to face once more.  He seemed agitated.  Said I'd given him the impression that we'd cleaned the climb.  I said, "Don't forget frost shattering."  He said, "Hold that bloody rope," and shot back up to the place where his legs flailed in the air once again.  It was obviously hard.  Both holds were improved but it needed strength to pull up enough

to get his now slightly damp sticky boots out of space and onto rock.  He pulled up, locked off his arms and twisted to place his right boot at waist level on the lowest of the edge notches.  Several heave-ho’s and an elated Jonathan was able to rest and shout down to me to tell me all about it.  Relatively easily from then on, though nicely positioned, the climb continues up a corner and it was cracked.

The final climb in the Golden Jubilee Collection was named Golden Bluebell.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone: Wells (0749) 72126

Editor: G. Wilton-Jones

Bassett’s Notes

B.B. EDITORSHIP: Robin Gray has now taken over the post of B.B. Editor, and this therefore the last Belfry Bulletin I shall be producing.  Thank you once again to all who have helped in this task, particularly those of you who have actually written for the magazine.

Articles should now be sent to:

Robin Gray, , Wells, Somerset.  Robin is on the telephone, on Wells (0749) xxxxx.

He has a couple of articles already, but he'll need lots more than that for the first B.B. of the new year, so get writing!!

BLACKMOOR FLOOD SWALLET: Rumour has it that 1300 feet of passage has been found there.

BOATCHURCH: This cave does not actually exist, and was just one of many typing errors. Sorry!

LIBRARY: There are two additions to our exchange list:

South African Spelaeological Association Bulletin;

Israel Cave Research Centre publications.

CUCKOO CLEEVES: The cave is now re-opened.  It will be permanently sealed if the landowner finds that the lock has gone missing again.  WE HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Personally, I am pessimistic about the cave's future.  Someone is bound to smash the lock off sooner or later, and Cuckoo will join places like Plantation Swallet, Hollowfield, Flowerpot and Tankards (to name but a few) in that great cave graveyard under tons of earth and rubbish.

ROCK AND FOUNTAIN: Not so long ago the gate was stolen, and even hung on the wall of the Craven Heifer for a time.  Very recently the new, reinforced gate was sawn off its hinges, again by cavers from the North of England.  O.K.  It was a joke and a laugh the first time, but it is now a police matter.  The landowner demands that the cave be gated or the (albeit slightly restricted) access will be denied to all cavers

A dig at the end of the North West inlet streamway, noted first by Martin Grass and lengthened somewhat during a B.E.C. trip, carries a howling Welsh draught and the potential is enormous.


The Severn Tunnel Great Spring

The Severn tunnel is four miles six hundred and twenty-four yards in length from portal to portal.  It runs between Pilning in Avon and Caldicot in Gwent.  The drawing below shows the course of the tunnel under the Severn estuary.


Work on the tunnel commenced in 1873.  A shaft was sunk on the west bank at Sudbrook (Old Shaft) around 200ft deep, and a heading driven east to test the ground under the river at a gradient of 1 in 500, to act as a drainage for the deepest part of the tunnel under the main  river channel.

By 1877, after four and a half years, very little more had been achieved.  The total came to 1,600yds of 7ft square drive, and a half completed second shaft which it was intended to use as a permanent pumping shaft.

The Great Western Railway Company put out two contracts; one was to sink a shaft on the east bank (Sea Wall Shaft) and to drive headings east and west from it.  The other was to sink two shafts (Marsh Shaft and Hill Shaft) and to drive the headings east and west from both these shafts.  The company continued to work the heading under the river, and later agreed to drive from Old Shaft westwards towards Marsh Shaft and east on the line of the tunnel.  The pump shaft was also completed and two 26" pumps installed.

By 1879, a considerable amount of work had been done.  The three new shafts had produced a good amount of heading under the land, and the headings under the river had approximately 130yds to go between them. None of the headings had given any large volume of water up to October 18th 1879.  In the heading being driven west from the old shaft along the tunnel formation a large amount of water broke into the workings.  Efforts to dam it back with timbers failed, and within 24 hours the works communicating with the heading were flooded to the level of the river water.  Fortunately no one was killed, as the men were warned as they changed shift.

The breaching of this spring seems to have had a dramatic effect on the hydrology of the area; T.A.Walker writing on the geography of the area, mentions the drying up of springs and wells at the time the spring was breached:-

"Where these tides flowed is now a rough piece of marshland, through which the little river Neddern passes to join the Severn.  The whole of the ground in the marsh is rotten, and before the tunnel was commenced there were enormous springs of bright clear water rising up in several places."


He goes on to describe briefly the formations of the sandstone and limestone hills around the site, and how:-

"all the water from the hills both from the mountain limestone and the old red sandstone, has found subterranean channels through this broken ground, and, before the tunnel was commenced, flowed out in the valley of the Neddern, and formed the great springs which have been before mentioned.

The Neddern, rising as a small brook in the hills above Llanvair Discoed, sometimes lost the whole of its water in the dry season near the foot of the hills, bursting out again near Caerwent, at a point called by the natives 'The Whirly Holes.'

When the tunnel was being made, and a fissure was unfortunately tapped in the rock between Sudbrook Camp and Portskewett village, all these underground channels poured their water into the tunnel itself, and almost every well and spring, and the little river itself for a distance of more than 5 miles from the tunnel, became dry."

After this event work more or less ground to a halt until in December 1879, a contract was awarded to Mr T.A. Walker to complete the project.  Work started on un-watering the workings shortly after the contract was signed.

New engines and pumps had been ordered, but these were not anticipated to be in operation until mid summer 1880.  It was therefore decided to try and seal the headings.  This involved using divers to fit and brace, two wooden "shields" over the entrances to the headings.  A number of diving operations followed.  One man, Alexander Lambert chief diver with Seibe Gorman, achieved much notoriety for his exploits.  On one occasion Lambert was inspecting the sump of a shaft, when he was drawn against the wind-bore of one of the pumps by the suction.  Three men were required to pull him free with a rope.  Most notable, was the attempt to close a water tight door in the long heading under the river.  The door was left open in the panic by the workmen, when the spring broke through.  The door was approx 1,000ft up the heading.  On reaching the door he would have to go through and close an 18" flap valve, then return through the door, remove two rails, close the door and then screw down a 12" sluice valve.  It was hoped this would close off a major section of flooded heading.

Lambert made the attempt with two other divers in attendance.  One diver would stop at the bottom of the shaft to feed the air hose down the level.  The other would accompany Lambert down the level to the half way point (500ft) to help ease the hose on down the level.  On the way up the level he would have to negotiate his way past the debris of upturned skips rubble and timbers, in total darkness.  Handicap enough without the added burden of wearing the old type "Brass Hat" or Standard diving dress.  Lambert managed to get to a distance of about 900ft but the exertion of dragging his floating air hose was too much.

A man named Fleuss had recently patented a diving dress that could be used without air hoses. Fleuss's equipment seems to have been a form of oxygen re-breather, from the description given by T.A. Walker in his account of the construction of the tunnel:-

"About this time I had heard of a diving-dress, patented by a Mr Fleuss, by the use of which the diver was able to dispense entirely with the use of the air hose, by carrying in a knapsack on his back a supply of compressed oxygen gas, which he was enabled to feed to his helmet as required."

Fleuss was sent for, and instructed what to do.  Lambert in standard dress descended with him.  After three attempts, it soon became Ccear that Fleuss was not sufficiently experienced as a working diver.  Lambert was then persuaded to try Fleuss's equipment, and after some experimentation was finally satisfied, that he could make another attempt at reaching the door.

Lambert succeeded in reaching the door, and managed to remove one of the rails.  Having been away for a considerable time, he returned without closing the door.  Two days later he went in again.  On reaching the door he passed through, closed the flap valve, pulled up the rail and closed the door.  Lambert had been instructed to screw round the sluice valve a specified number of turns. This he did, and returned in triumph.

Much disappointment, ensued when it was found that the water level was not dropping as quickly as anticipated.  The level would stand stationary at high water for some time.  Considerable trouble was given by the pumps, but this was overcome as the water level slowly dropped.  On December 7th 1880, the foreman of the pumps was able to walk up the heading to the door, which Lambert had closed.  He soon discovered the cause of the slow drop of water level.  The sluice valve had a left hand thread, and although Lambert had turned it the required number of turns, he had opened the valve, instead of closing it.


On December 13th 1880 the doors in the shield over the western heading were opened, and the heading inspected.  The next day the level was inspected by the contractors.  In the level they found a stream of water seven feet wide and a foot deep flowing in the level, along with a great quantity of debris brought in by the stream.  At around 600ft up the heading the debris reached a height of 3 to 4 feet.

Two head walls were constructed to keep out the water from the spring, these were completed and the spring was finally shut out on January 4th 1881.

In October 1883, the spring again broke through into the works during operations to complete the headings past the area of the spring.  Lamberts services were again used to close off the inflow of water.

The final stages of completion were under way during 1884.  It was known that most of the water in the spring came from the River Neddern.  A concrete invert was constructed for a distance of approx four miles, along the river bed.  With new pumps it was possible to reduce the head of water in the level, so that access could be gained to the point where the spring had broken in.  The water from the spring was diverted along a side heading to the pumps.

Having gained mastery of the water from the spring the full size tunnel was opened out, the fissure of the spring was described as following;

“A most erratic course.  In one place it passed directly across the tunnel from side to side, nearly at right angles to the centre line of the work.  At another place it passed from side to side in an oblique direction, running for some small distance directly under one of the side walls.  At another point where the tunnel had been perfectly dry, while the mining was done, the lifting of almost the last stone out of the invert set free an immense body of water which no pumps underground could cope with.  At another point the water boiled up from a hole l8ft in depth under the invert with such force that stones, the size of a mans fist, dropped into the water would descend about 10 feet, and then begin to flutter like a leaf in the wind, and be thrown out again by the water.”

The brickwork in the tunnel was finished in April 1885, and by August the spring had been sealed off except for a tapped supply to feed the pump engines etc.  A pressure gauge had been fixed to show the water pressure to keep a check on how it was rising.  By Sept 5th the water in the ground had risen to a height of approx 305 feet and was registering a pressure of 45ipsi.  This pressure of water was having an adverse effect on the brickwork, by finding its way through the mortar.  The pressure eventually reached 57% psi, at this pressure bricks were beginning to crack.

It was decided to sink a large diameter shaft and install enough pumps to pump away all the water from the great spring, so that the structure of the tunnel would not have to resist such high pressures.

The tunnel was finally opened to passenger traffic in December 1886.  Nearly 14 years after the G.W.R. had commenced the work.  The inspector for the Board of Trade quotes the following amounts of water pumped out of the Big Spring:-

Minimum - 23million gallons per day.

Maximum - 30million gallons per day.

Average - 24million gallons per day.


The Severn Tunnel - Its construction and difficulties.(1872 - 1887) T.A.Walker.

Wonders of Salvage - David Masters.


Ogof Hasp Alyn

by Trevor Hughes

Chris Milne (WCC) and fellow WCC/CDG divers have been doing well in this cave this summer. Following on from their success in passing the 10m long sump in Aug. '82, when 200m of new passage was discovered, this summer's diving has led to the passing of a second sump and more finds.

After the B.E.C. involvement in the discovery and surveying of this cave and the first dives at the terminal sump, all by our very own J-Rat, the WCC seem to have taken the initiative here.  I was therefore rather pleased when Chris suggested that I join him and others on a pushing trip on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Progress prior to the planned trip had been the passing of the 4m long second sump to an ascending passage leading to the base of a 12m free climb.  From the head of the climb a roomy horizontal passage ends after 30m in a large, 16m deep pot.  At the bottom of this a passage leads off to a 25m shaft which had not yet been bottomed.

A strong team gathered on the Saturday morning, heads slightly (or more so) awash from the previous evening's ale in the Loggerheads.  Mendip was represented by Chris Milne, Anne Lavender, Paul Whybro, Kev Clarke (both of Bath University C.C.) Rich Websall, Wormhole and myself, while the local talent included Phil the Miner (also B.E.C.) and three N.W.C.C. lads who provided valuable assistance carrying ladders down the cave.

Although in places very muddy the trip to the sump is quite sporting, involving a considerable amount of ladder work, not to mention numerous flat-out crawls, wallows and a chest deep canal interspaced with undulating, walking passage. Unfortunately the trip to the sump proved to be too much for Wormhole's diving kit (where have we heard that one before?) (in the pub, in the Belfry, in these pages - infamy is far flung. Ed.) and he retired from the trip and left with the N.W.C.C. back up team. This left me as the sole B.E.C. representative on the trip.

The first sump is a mostly spacious affair with crystal clear vis for the first diver (Anne had that privilege) and zero for the rest!  OHA II consists of a gently ascending walking passage with deep mud giving way to a harder clay or rock floor.  The second sump is perched and very shallow but the roof is festooned with large flakes that demand a cautious approach.  The underwater passage is adequately roomy.  The end of the known cave was reached with little or no incident, and it was rather pleasant to be free of the weight of diving gear.

The 23m shaft had some horribly loose rocks overhanging the drop and these were kicked down with a combination of Websall/Hughes/Whybro brawn.  Rob Harper would have hated this as in most cases the next rock to be loosened was the one sat on for the previous trundle!  Eventually the shaft was declared safe and rigged with a ladder and lifeline, but not before the initially chosen belay had fallen off the wall when tested.  Chris and Rich descended and disappointingly declared that our trundling, although essential, had blocked the way on from the bottom.  They commenced to dig away the offending debris.

Meanwhile, at the head of the pitch, Paul and Kev started to probe the roof.  Eventually, after an exposed and difficult 12m climb, they reached a low bedding passage.  I joined them and used their lifeline to haul up a spare ladder to enable Anne to follow. The low bedding went down dip to a sump and up dip after 15m to a large chamber, with the roof barely visible in one area.   Chris and Rich were called to leave their digging and, when we were all gathered in roughly the same area and a 7m drop from the chamber rigged, a free-for-all race along the large 'Aggie' sized passage beyond began.  The way on was obvious - just keep to the centre of the 10m wide passage and run (or climb) as fast as possible.  Several side passages were noticed but ignored.  The passage runs approximately due south (Rich carried a diving compass) and is a large, phreatic oval, modified in places by blockfall to give large, boulder-floored chambers.  A free climbable 12m pitch led to a sandy squeeze (which may have to be dug out after the winter floods) and a low, muddy area which is possible a perched sump in wetter weather.  The end of the main passage was a descending, boulder floored chamber, ending at its lowest point against a blank wall.  However, through the boulders and seemingly only a few metres away, came the sound of what can only be a large underground watercourse.  A very strong draught accompanied this noise.

Despite fatigue, failing lights and the protests of some (!?) a dig was started following the wall. The boulders here are generally of manageable size and a lot of smaller stones make up a large proportion of the fill. Initially, without tools, the digging progressed well and a 1m deep hole was soon formed.  A further 1m depth could be seen, but proper digging kit will be needed to progress further.

We retreated and made our rather weary way back to the surface.  The sumps on the way out are revolting affairs, with mud getting everywhere, but the original cave seems much shorter.

After a walk back along the dry river Bed and a wash in a pool we were all soon ready for the Loggerheads and some well earned beer.  It had been a fairly exciting ten hour trip.

The next day I had to return to Mendip, but Chris and Paul went back to back to the new find, pushed the side passages and discovered about another 1000m of new passage.  They still left open ends for another day, including a passage that may provide a bypass to the boulder choke and reach the unseen river beneath.

Both OHA sumps, although not free diveable, are perched and as the known system remains completely stream free in the summer months both could be removed by siphoning or baling. The second sump could be bailed very easily, probably taking only a couple of hours but, once completed, would last the complete summer season.  The first sump would present a more involved problem, being longer and deeper, but as a six metre vertical climb is required to reach the sump, which is only approximately 5m deep, the problem is only one of plumbing and is not at all insurmountable.  This sump is, again, totally static and would require only one major attack at the start of the season.

Regretfully the inter-club squabbling and petty personal politics that abound in North Wales caving circles have so far prevented such work being attempted and I can foresee no changes taking place in the near future.

OHA is, without doubt, the most demanding and demanding challenge in North Wales, for approximately 600m of passage has now been found past the first sump, with a potential for much more.  Due to the indifference of the local cavers their role has been merely in the background.

A good survey of OHA I exists but has never been published (for reasons as above) and this is now causing delays in the exploration of this system, for it is possible that a bypass to the first sump may be found from OHA II.  This would open the flood-gates to the potential of a major river cave – the underground River Alyn.  It is time that the North Wales cavers buried the hatchet, settled their differences and started working together so that the full potential of OHA might be realised.


P.S. Further to the B.B. article Pete Appleton (N.W.C.C.) & Co. have siphoned both the sumps in OHA. They failed, however, to enter the new stuff found by the WCC/BEC/CUC; simply because they did not find it.

This does not, however, alter the gist of the latter part of the article about N.W. politics - this action in OHA came from our rather excited babblings in the pub straight after our discovery + a 'Phone call to P. Appleton from Tony Jarratt and NOT as a result of their general settling of inter-club differences.

Chris Milne is in North Wales this weekend (no date on note, Ed.) probing the ends we left.  He should do well.  The underground river Alyn should (!) be found before the winter rains close the cave.

Trev & J-Rat

Alan Coase

It is with regret that we hear of the untimely death of Alan Coase who died of a heart attack recently.  He was a member of the club in the 1960s and many members from that time will have known him well.  Our condolences to his relatives and friends.


South West Africa And The Fish River Canyon

by Colin Priddle.

In August this year I had the opportunity to visit South West Africa or, as some name it, Namibia.  The main reason for the visit was to hike the Fish River Canyon, which has the reputation of being one of the best hikes in Southern Africa.  As we were travelling some 800 miles just to get to the canyon from Johannesburg we decided to take another week's leave to see more of the South West and we ended up travelling some 3500 miles, of which at least half was on dirt roads.

South West is a vast country, some three times the size of West Germany, and it has a population of about 1.1 million. This gives it a population density of a little more than 1 person per square kilometre, one of the lowest in the world; indeed, on occasions whilst travelling, one went for over a hundred miles without seeing another person, car or house.

All parts of South West are very arid, except for the far north east, in particular the Namib region, which is a band of almost uninhabitable, sandy desert stretching the entire coastline.  In this area rain is almost unknown and it is common for five or even ten years to pass with no rain at all.  This area gradually gives way to higher land and a less harsh climate before, as you go further east, the country borders on the Kalahari Desert.

On our visit we first went to the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, which borders onto the southern part of Botswana.  The park, famous for its gemsbok and Kalahari lion, holds a surprising amount of game, most of which congregate in the beds of the rivers that converge in the park. One would not recognise these rivers as such: only very seldom does water run, and then only as a flash flood due to a storm, which could be miles away.  When we were there the river had not flooded for four years and, in fact, we drove in and out of the river bed for at least two hundred miles.  The rainfall is confined to the first four months of the year and, in a good year, may be some four inches or so.  Although we did not see lion we were lucky enough to see a cheetah, which I had never seen in a game reserve before.

From the Kalahari Gemsbok we entered the South West and drove to Windhoek the capital: a beautiful, small, modern town set among hills, and with its distinct German influence hosts a brewery brewing excellent beers.  Naturally this was visited.  Leaving Windhoek we arrived at Spitskoppe (meaning 'Pointed Hills') in the dark and camped out after walking through the rocks illuminated by a very bright moon.  Just before daylight two of us started up one of the peaks to watch the sun rise over a vast, flat, treeless desert which was interrupted by occasional jagged hills reaching out of the sand.  The visibility; appeared endless.  Later that day we carried on to the coast across the Namib desert, which at that point was totally flat with no vegetation, only mirages.  A very enjoyable beer was; consumed whilst just sitting in the desert listening to total quietness, seeing nothing except flat sand, and feeling the heat of the sun on us.  It was an uncanny experience.

The desert ends at the coast; that is it, desert, then sea, and a cold sea at that.  The coldness of the sea means that often a blanket of fog covers the coastline and, consequently, the little town of Swakopmund is fairly cold, although a few miles inland it is very hot again.  Swakopmund is an old German town and was originally the main port of entry into the German colony.  This role was taken over by Walvis Bay, thus leaving Swakopmund to be a busy holiday resort in the summer months.  Besides tourism, salt production is the only industry, although Walvis Bay, some twenty wiles down the coast, is the major fish processing centre of the country.  Walvis Bay is actually a South African enclave in South West.

From Walvis Bay we went inland through sand dunes, flat desert, lunar landscapes and endless, changing vistas of barren but colourful hills.  We even saw a few springbok, gemsbok, ostrich and mountain zebra; somehow they must live but n thing edible was in sight. We camped at a place called Sesriem (the place was one house with a petrol pump) and early the following morning drove some thirty miles to the Sossusvlei Reserve to watch the sun rise over the world's highest sand dunes.  The dunes are over 1000 feet high and are incredibly beautiful, with their curving, knife like ridges and red sand.  They are very arduous to climb, but we got to the top of a high one.  The sides in the lee of the wind repose at their critical angle and to climb them means very hard work; it seems like a dozen steps to move up a foot or so.  If you stop you slide back down with your legs buried in the sand about half way to your knees.  Sossusvlei was truly one of the most outstandingly scenic areas of this world which I have visited.

From Sesriem we went to Luderitz, a dying, uninspiring town set amongst rocks.  Its claim to fame was the diamond industry, which has now moved to Orangemund, further down the coast, and its cray fishing industry, which is still in existence.  The whole town feels as if it is thirty years behind the times and it hardly surprising that very few are attracted to the place as strong winds continually blow sand everywhere.  Nearby are two ghost mining towns whose houses are covered in sand.  It is truly an inhospitable town but worth a visit, if only to eat a few crayfish.  The area, for about fifty miles inland from the coast, in the southern part of the South West, is the Sperrgebiet or prohibited Diamond Areas which, unfortunately, one is unable to visit.  Incidentally, water for Luderitz is pumped from a borehole some thirty miles away and still about sixty miles of the main road serving the town is not tarred. Finally we drove to Ai Ais, a mineral spring resort on the Fish River which was the meeting point for our walk.

The Fish River Canyon is about a hundred miles long and attains a width of sixteen miles in places.  The depth ranges from 450m to 550m.  The view of the canyon is quite breathtaking: the area is completely barren of all vegetation and the course of the river can be seen meandering from side to side along the canyon.  As with most rocky areas in the South West the different rock colours are considerable. The Fish River is the only river in South West that has open water outside the rainy season. At the time of our visit no water was flowing but there were many pools along the canyon which supplied our drinking water and also catered for our aquatic pastimes along the length of our fifty mile hike.

Only one party a day is allowed on the trail and consequently one must book well in advance to do the hike.  In common with all South African countries bureaucracy is rife and a permit must be obtained from the Nature Conservation which necessitates a medical certificate. For a reasonably fit caver-hiker type like myself it is a bloody cheek but I suppose it does inhibit totally unsuitable types from doing the hike, which is arduous, and in the event of an accident, it would probably be at least 24 hours before help could be summoned. The funny thing was, I lost my medical certificate, but I still went.  Hiking is only allowed in winter from May to August inclusive and for good reason too.  For one, flash floods are liable which, if you were in many places in the canyon, would be disastrous, and two, the temperatures are often extreme.  In 1981 in July (winter) a temperature of 480C (1180F) was recorded there and even on our walk the last two days were pretty hot, probably about 320C (900F) during the day, and even at that temperature a couple of people in our party found it too hot.

There were eight of us hiking and for once the women in our party had to carry their own fair share for our intended four to five day hike.  The first hour or so was the drop into the canyon from the rim down a steep path. As our party was notoriously slow at getting ready we only left about midday and we had lunch in the canyon. The hiking was generally either through soft sand or over boulders ranging from football size upwards.  Not many would describe it as easy walking. The first two days were in the narrower part of the canyon, sometimes about 100m wide, then gradually the canyon became much wider.  The narrower parts were certainly the most scenic with no vegetation at all among the many sheer cliffs.  The first two nights were fairly cold, necessitating long trousers and pullover to keep warm.  No tents were carried as the chances of rain were nil and it is much nicer to sleep out anyway.  We slept out all through South West.  We were fortunate that we had a full moon during our hike which rose as soon as the sun disappeared and put another perspective onto the canyon.  The only drawback about the full moon is that the full beauty of the stars of the southern hemisphere is hidden.  Usually we started hiking as soon as possible after first light and a cup of coffee in order to get the most from the cooler temperatures and shade.  After an hour or so our party of eight would be well strung out along the river but it was general to stop around 11 o'clock or noon for lunch and a rest from the hottest part of the day. We would then continue at 3 or 4 o' clock and continue until dusk.  One of the highlights of the hike is the hot springs which flow into the river after about one third of the journey.  A couple of palm trees grow near the spring which were said to be the result of date pips left by a couple of German prisoners who escaped and hid in the canyon during the first world war.  It is said that game during that time was far more prolific than it is now so what with meat, and fish from the river, one could have survived quite easily.  It was most pleasant to laze in a pool formed from the hot spring and walk about two metres to dive into the much colder water of the river.  The only game in the canyon is said to be kudu (a large antelope), mountain zebra, Klipspringer (a small antelope), rock-rabbits, baboons and leopards.  Of these we saw baboons, klipspringer and rock rabbits, but many leopard tracks were also seen.  The bird life was not prolific but several fish eagles were seen. Trees, although virtually absent from the upper part of the canyon, made appearances more often further down in the more open areas; thickets of reeds and rushes sometimes appeared. Altogether we spent four days on the hike with three nights sleeping out, and the main reason for finishing a little faster than intended was the lure of those lovely cold beers at Ai Ais.

Needless to say the next day was spent lazing in the thermal bath eating in the restaurant and consuming beer at Ai Ais.  A short geological expedition was also undertaken to a nearby hill of rose quartz. Although some of cur party had a few blisters on their feet we were all in agreement - the Fish River Canyon was a fine walk.


Mining, A Century Ago

by Jill Tuck

Old statistical reports are especially interesting when they are about well known areas.  Looking at one of the Annual Reports of Inspectors of Mines for just an ordinary year, 1881, I found many familiar names.

Amongst the haematite mines of the Forest of Dean appeared Old Bow, owned by G. Atkinson; Clearwell and others, owned by H. Crawshay (one of the great iron families of South Wales); New Dun, W. Watkins; and Lambsquay,  W.H. Fryer.  In Somerset were listed East Harptree, owned by J. Nichols; Waldergrave, in the possession of Waldergrave Company; and several others in East Mendip.  In this year 26,405 tons of iron ore were sold from the Somerset mines.

Under Oolite mines we find Box Hill, Box Quarry, and many at Farleigh and Corsham, while the only lead mines listed are East Harptree, Ubley and Waldegrave. Their production of lead, however, was too small to be recorded.

The standard form of the report includes details of the miners, showing that in Somerset, underground, there were no boys of 12 - 13 years, 8 males (note: counted as mature at 13!) of 13 - 16, and 181 males above 16.  No females were employed underground anywhere in the South West, but 7 girls of 10 - 13 years, and many females (note change of description again!) from 13 - 18 and older, were employed in Cornwall and Devon.  Reading between the lines, one wonders how many illegally employed were smuggled out of sight when the inspector arrived, and how hard he tried to ensure compliance with the regulations knowing that some families desperately needed even a child's money.

Each mine accident during the year is tabled, more detailed accounts being given of the serious or unusual ones, especially if they could lead to improvements in the safety procedure. One little boy of three, named Howells, was killed while playing: he "crept under the fence around an old, disused pit at Ruardean ( Forest of Dean) and fell down the shaft."  A miner, Henry Martin, also killed, "appears to have the habit of looking up in the shaft after the kibble (i.e. bucket), and, whilst doing so, a stone must have fallen from the kibble and struck him on the head.  He had been previously cautioned by the agent not to look up the shaft.  From one hundred years on, Henry Martin sounds the sort of thicky who would look down the end of a firehose to see if the water was coming.

There is a report of an accident on 26th April at Malago Vale Colliery, Bristol.  Three men were to fire a shot in a fault which was running along one side of the coal face.  One lit the charge and all three retired to safety ten feet down a side passage and behind a gob wall.  When the explosion occurred, James Durbin, who was sitting between the others, said he was shot.  He was able to walk out but died of a fractured skull shortly afterwards.  To reach the man, the impelled stone had to travel six feet along one passage, turn a right angle into the side passage, travel up along that and then turn another angle to reach behind the gob wall. It must have resounded at least twice. A real case of miching malago as Shakespeare might have punned

Many mine owners were insuring against accidents.  The rate was 5/- every £100 paid in wages, for accidents when the employer would not be liable under the Act, and 12/6 for all accidents.  Some employers did not work their mines as laid down under the Metalliferous Mines Act or take the precautions legally necessary, in spite of chivvying by the Inspector of mines, so the difference in payment was not for trivial reasons.  The Inspector commented, however, that generally the managers met him in a friendly spirit to improve the safety or efficiency of their mines.  He added that "all communications, anonymous or otherwise, have had my careful attention.” He kept the letters secret, and took remedial action where possible.  There are details of prosecutions and fines of owners for not complying with the Acts.  The Inspector remarked that mining workers would rather run the risk of working in a dangerous place than spend the short time required to put up a prop.

The first telephone had been introduced, at Dolcoath, in Cornwall, 390 fathoms from the surface.  Nobel's patent had run out by this year, resulting in the price of dynamite falling from 2/- per pound to 1/7½.  As boring machines were now common, the drop in price plus use of machines enabled much ground to be opened which would have been impracticable a few years previously.  The number of man engines (for carrying men up and down the shafts) remained at seven, but cages (called gigs) had been installed at the first eight mines.  None of these were in Gloucestershire or Somerset, so we may visualise the local miners, labourers and youngsters laboriously climbing up and down the mines at each end of their hard working day. 


Bassett's Notes      Continued

CHARTERHOUSE CAVE:  In yet another case of deliberate vandalism the lock was broken from this cave.  The gate has been welded up for the present.

There are certain caves which are locked up and it is impossible for most of us to enter them. However, in the cases of Charterhouse, Rock and Fountain and Cuckoo Cleeves, there is no difficulty in booking a trip by going through the appropriate channels, and there can be no socially acceptable justification for the vandalism of their gates.  True, in Utopia, no caves are gated.  This is not Utopia.

WORKING WEEKEND - JANUARY 6th, 7th, 8th. 1984.

Yes, the first weekend of next year, so make a note of it NOW!  Some of the jobs outstanding at the Belfry are:

Weather board to fire exit door fascia and soffit to be painted (weather permitting)

All windows to be painted;

Shed to be re-covered with roofing felt;

Belfry grounds to be tidied (using skip or J-Rat ' 6 trailer)

New Carbide Store to be built;

Tackle Store roof to be waterproofed.

These are just a few of the jobs that must be done before the winter sets in.  Dany has organised a working weekend for JANUARY 6th, 7th & 8th.

After what was said at the A.C.M. we know that a lot of you will be coming down because you know about this well in advance.  If you can, please give Dany a 'phone call so that he can organise the weekend better.

Dany's 'phone number is Wells (0749) xxxxx.

Working Weekend - JANUARY 6th. 7th.  8th. 1984

LOST  Someone, somewhere has Andy Lolley's RED HOLDALL, which contains - a one-piece, double-lined, velcro-fastening wetsuit, plus a velcro-fastening jacket, plus boots, plus a pile of grots.

It has been missing from the Belfry since July.

Hopefully, someone is looking after it for Andy.

Give him a nice Christmas surprise, and let him know you have it

EAST TWIN SWALLETT: South Bristol S.S. have now linked this cave to SPAR POT, whose entrance lies buried, after it was filled in twelve years ago.  Their decision to gate the cave seems rather extreme (it is unstable!!). I think I'll gate Swildons Sump I - someone could drown in it.

BELGIUM: A minibus load of B.E.C. reprobates are off to cave in the Ardennes at the beginning of December.  They'll be back by the time you read this, with tales of Trou Bernard and other superb Belgian caves.

That's it!

Good luck to Robin with his new task.  Keep sending the articles, and lots of them.  Let's have no more of this quarterly and bi-monthly nonsense.

Happy Christmas