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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys


Well, I seem to have messed it up again!  In the last B.B.  I put in the names and addresses of several new members.  I got their names right but got Richard Blake's and Nicholas Cornwell-Smith's addresses and telephone numbers wrong!  These will be in the next B.B. (in the complete address list!). The worst offence of all, however, was to leave Vincent Simmonds out altogether, sorry Vince!  Vince's membership number is 1128, his complete address etc. will be in the next B.B., due out in time for Christmas.

Unlike Alfie, who used to produce B.B.’s every month, I have only managed five this year.  This one, however, is only a month after the last one. I can thus give what I know of the recent news.

The latest from Daren is that digs are still draughting, Spade Runner, at the very end, looks promising but needs large amounts of BANG before significant progress is made. Other digs in the loop passage (near Spade Runner) also look promising with healthy draughts.  The crew are having a party at Milliway's on the 2nd. of December, I'd love to go but suspect that I'm not fit enough to make it!

Mendip has been fairly quiet recently though attacks are due in Cuthbert's and in Cheddar.

Alan Thomas had a dinner party recently for those who contributed to 'The Last Adventure'.  I happened to be at the Hunter's at the time (how strange I hear you say!) and have never met so many famous cavers in one go before.  My copy of the book is now personally signed by most of the authors (could this become a collector’s item?).

This seems to be a fairly sparse amount of news!  What I need is some club reporters.  How about it. all you out there!


Editor's Report

This is the end of my year as Editor of the Belfry Bulletin.  As usual, the major problem has been the shortage of material.  Now, however, for the first time, I find myself with one or two articles in hand.  Is this a ploy, I ask?

As I mentioned above, I have only produced five B.B.’s this year.  In the old days this would have been unacceptable.  If there are any volunteers to produce more, apply here!

If, however, the club accepts the situation, I am prepared to continue for another year.  You never know, I may get articles, anecdotes and news items by the dozen!

Ted Humphreys

University of Bristol Spelaeological Society Sessional Meetings 1989/90

I received the following letter ages ago, requesting that be published in the B.B., and produce it as it came:-

I would be grateful if you could publish the following illustrated talks in your newsletter or periodical with an invitation to members/readers to attend.  The meetings will be in the UBSS Spelio Rooms at the Students Union (2nd floor), Queen’s Road, Bristol between 8pm and about 9.30pm on Wednesday evenings.

1 November 1989.  “The History of Cave Photography" by Chris Howes.

6 December 1989.  "Caving in Australasia" by Dick Willis.

14 February 1990. "The Black Holes of Mexico" by Mark Lumley.

9 May 1990.   "Recent research into Calamine mining and some by-ways in Cave Archaeology in Western Mendip” by Chris Richards

Your co-operation is much appreciated.

Yours sincerely,  Bob Williams


The LADS in Ireland 1984-1986

This article by Steve Milner and Pat Cronin was submitted to the Editor of the BB way back in 1986, unfortunately it was lost for many years but here it is at long last!

The LADS were active in Ireland digging around poking their noses here there and everywhere.  They were Pat Cronin, Trebor McDonald, Mark Lumley and Steve Milner.  Their discoveries are as follows: -

Pool an Tobar
Grid ref: Clare 4 79.9E/42.9N
(Cave of the Holy Well)
Length: 96m
Altitude: 280m

Poll an Tobar was discovered on the 17th April 1984, close to the depression of E1.  The water from E1 joins the cave briefly at the most westerly point of the cave, not to be seen again until Pollapooka 1.

The cave, with evidence of much flooding has a few flowstone formations in low canyon passage.  From within the cave five holes to the surface were found, one of which was impassable.  At the most easterly part of the cave the bottom of the well Tobar an Athar Calbhach was discovered.  Many religious articles were found as well as many coins that date between 1913 and 1949. These relics should not be disturbed. There is no evidence of the well from the surface.  SJM.

Grid ref: Clare 4 50.7E/20.4N
(Hole of the LADS)
Length: Approx 80m
Altitude: 230m

Pollnagarsuin, found by Gonzo on the 13th April 1985 is a cave similar in nature to others in the Ballynahown Townland.  It is 405m north of the Townland boundary which crosses the road at the cattle pen. The initial exploration was halted by a formidable oxbow squeeze 70m into the cave.  This was passed in 1986 by Steve after digging the Yoga Bend.  A few meters further on another yoga bend prevents further access to the cave.  SJM.

Milner's Brown Holes
Grid ref: Clare 8a 2.3W/34.5N
Length: Approx 60m
Altitude: 0m

I didn't name them, honest. They are situated north of the Green Holes and west of Pollcraveen.  The caves were found during a rising tide and the original exploration was carried out as the caves were flooding with sea water, perhaps this is where the name came from.  The interconnecting phreatic tubes are extensive and are full of marine life. More passages can be seen past boulders and the careful use of a crowbar would extend the caves.  SJM.

Grid ref: Clare 4 20.5E/9.3N
Length: Approx 50m
Altitude: 3m

This cave is longer than described in Caves of County Clare.  The total length is approx 50m; there are two holes to the surface: one after 8m and the second after 36m.  The cave trends in a NNW direction.  SJM.

Poll an Phuca (Ai)

In April 1984 our attention was drawn to this shaft.   Situated on the north side of Slieve Elva, the cave consisted of an impressive 26m shaft to a floor of boulders.  With no apparent way on and no draught anywhere, what impressed the LADS at the time was the colossal amount of water being swallowed by the boulders.  In April 1986 we decided to allow two days work at this site.  We were rewarded within half an hour by exposing a tremendous draught between the boulders.  Work continued to a depth of 4m where a streamway could be seen.  At this point we had the risk of undermining the boulder pile. This subsequently collapsed.  We had run out of time so we prepared the site for future work and will come back next year.  Pat Cronin.

We never went back, so this exiting lead still remains for future explorers.  SJM.

Curtin's Cave

Curtin's cave is in a small depression at the end of a shallow dry valley.  This hole takes the overflow water from the upper stream. The sink is situated in the garden next to Mr Curtin's cottage.  Permission was granted to the LADS to dig the hole but no work has yet been done. Access is very sensitive hence the vague location.  Pat Cronin.

The Green Holes

Divers: Pat Cronin, Steve Milner, Mark Lumley, Mike McDonald.

With the discovery of the Milner's Brown Holes, one mile north along the coast we decided to investigate the similarities between the two sites.  Though short of air there was enough time to satisfy ourselves of the relevance of one to the other.  This was the first dive for MM and ML.  Pat Cronin.


Many of the above discoveries and efforts by the LADS have been written into the UBSS Cave Notes, County Clare 1986.  This is the second supplement to the book: Caves of County Clare (Self 1981).

Boycott, A. Soc., 1986, and Wilson, L.J., Proc. Univ. Bristol Spelaeol. 17(3), 343-354.

Steve Milner.
July 1989.


Royston Henry Bennett

Having taken early retirement last year he, with Joan, sold their house in Bristol and moved to Newtonmore, in Strathspey, to be close to the hills and ski resorts they both loved.  Tragedy struck when he met with a skiing accident on 22nd June this year.

Roy had such a rich and varied life that we decided to combine our memories of him.  The result is that this account is in three parts, recollections of early activities, hang gliding and his latest climbing and skiing interests.

Kangy starts

I can't remember when I first met Roy.  I think I knew him at school.  He was a few years ahead of me, one of the big boys at Cotham Grammer School, Bristol Roy was a contemporary of Archie Milton (who was our School Captain), Dave Allen and John Mortimer.  Remarkably all three played cricket for England and even more remarkably Archie Milton got an England cap at Soccer as well.  And I would rate Roy with them.  All were fine sportsmen.

We often climbed and caved together and he consented be godfather to one of my sons.

My first caving trip with Roy was by happy chance.  I was with another party, we intended to do a quick Eastwater, we went to the Hunters and met Roy and Don Coase having a drink and looking for help to put a permanent ladder on Arête pitch in Cuthbert’s.  The result was the epic described at a later date in the BB for August 1967.

Another unforgettable experience shared with Roy was in Eastwater.  We had bottomed Primrose Pot and Mo Marriott was stuck in the steep tight Primrose Path.  Roy's technical abilities were demonstrated. He flashed up and down the constriction as if it wasn't there.  He was calm, he invented, he placed knobbly dogs and foot loops, all the time keeping up a steady sensible stream of encouraging commentary.  (Mo made it in the end by stripping to his skin.)


Roy joined the Club in 1949.  He was not a committee man, nor indeed was he a man who wrote much.  But when he was persuaded to do a job he did it conscientiously.  Within the Club he held the positions of Caving Secretary, Climbing Secretary, was a member of the Ian Dear Memorial Fund Committee and was a Club Trustee.  He was also a MRO Warden for many years.  The only political controversy that he was ever involved with was the expansion of the Cuthbert's Leader system to members of other clubs at a Club AGM in 1967. Despite strong opposition the motion was eventually carried and has remained ever since.  Besides St. Cuthbert's, Roy knew Mendip intimately.  Having been a member of the Club for over 40 years he was one of the few who has remained consistently active during that period of time. He was caving before joining the BEC and I remember he told me that his first cave was Goatchurch, after cycling out from Bristol, and it took him three trips before finding the way to the bottom!


One of Roy's outstanding contributions to an early BEC Dinner was a sketch entitled 'Through the Stalagtite Barrier' - or something; the story varies in detail because those who were there had taken the precaution of topping up at The Hatchet under the impression that there would be no drinking licence whereas in fact there was.  Using his chemical experience (he was an Associate of the Royal Institute of Chemistry) he experimented to find a way of producing a civilised bang. One that could be used in the Whiteladies Restaurant with its Cinema in Bristol.  The intrepid explorers having mimed a tortuous way through a make believe cave reached the make believe stal which barred their path.  The climax of the show arrived as the explosive device was brought up to blast the barrier.  The resulting B-A-N-G was not make believe, dimmed the lights, halted the Dinner and emptied the adjoining Cinema.  "The management were not very keen on having us back!"

His career as a motor cyclist was legendary.  In the late forties he wore a sort of rubberised yellow overall and was known as the Yellow Peril.  Alfie remembers being given a lift back to Bristol by Roy after one weekend on Mendip.  The next Thursday at the Waggon and Horses Alfie was asked how he got on.  “Well” said Alfie, “We carne off twice in Burrington”.  “Ah”, said the inquirer, “That would be at the top two bends, he always comes off there!”  And in the days before the Wells road was tidied up and when the BEC would compete to reduce the Belfry to Bristol time, a notorious curve was known as "Bennett's Bend" because Roy went straight through the Whitchurch sign, taking it with him. He never seemed to hurt himself (He once broke his arm - Joan).


In 1964 a trip into Cuthbert's was arranged to sort out what was known of the Long Chamber area. Quite a lot of work had been carried out already.  Having reached Long Chamber to continue upwards to look at the newly discovered Chandelier Passage the party paused for a few moments.  Someone said "Where are we?"  "Annexe Chamber" said Wig.  "No, it's Long Chamber" said Roy.  Wig retorted, "John Cornwell assures me that this is Annexe Chamber". "Well he's wrong" said Roy, "It's Long Chamber.  I ought to know, I found it!"  Roy was one of the few who knew St. Cuthbert's intimately and was involved in all its important exploration phases since the opening of the cave.  He was the prime mover to restart the digging at the cliff face above the Old Entrance in 1952 and when Coase joined the diggers with his wealth of experience, success was eventually met.  Roy was the first to descend the Entrance Rift in 1953.  In conversation with him later Roy reminisced on the day that the exploration took them up into Boulder Chamber and Railway Tunnel where they first saw The Cascade.  "It was an incredible sight.  Nothing like this had ever been found on Mendip before." He initially opened up Long Chamber area; jointly organised the 1967 Sump I digging weekend; dug regularly at the Dining Room Dig; opened up Mud Ball Dig and discovered the Long Chamber Extension area with John Attwood in 1962.  He stirred up interest to dig Sump I in 1969 when it effectively dried up and was on the party that finally broke through into St. Cuthbert's II.  For many months through 1970 and 1971 he and the Tuesday Night Digging Team looked at every nook and cranny to find a way around Sump II.  No way-on was found and long trips were made attacking Sump II by building a series of dams and using the Bennett bailing device.  Progress was slow and interest eventually waned.


On one occasion, he was showing me the newly entered Cuthbert's Two.  There had been one or two incidents and we were very anxious not to be trapped.  The stream was dammed, we went rapidly through the drying sump and I peered earnestly at sump two and looked about while Roy kept a watch on the 'dry' sump one.  As I arrived back we dived into the narrow crawl. We both heard the rumble of water on the move and went like scalded cats racing up the passage and flinging ourselves over the Gour Passage dam.  Such was the tension that once safe we became hysterical with laughter as we realised that our panic stricken flight was caused by the echoing noise of our bodies scraping over wet gravel.


Digging was one of Roy's pastimes.  It was always taken very seriously.  Areas where few people had looked was always the sites he chose. The Mouton Brook near Chepstow was one particularly interesting series of small cave entrances that were thoroughly investigated and later the resurgence at the foot of Piercefield Cliffs north of Chepstow.  He dug here for several months mainly with Phil Kingston fully convinced of the existence of a tidal cave lying beyond the statagmite choke that he was blasting. Unknown to him the Royal Forest of Dean cavers had also spotted the site and dug in a lower passage and broke into what is now Otter Hole.  Grievances overcome Roy joined the RFD cavers and jointly explored the system with them.

During the mid-1960's and 1970's he caved in the Raucherkarhohle ( Austria) and in Co. Mayo and Co. Clare in the Republic of Ireland.  When visiting Ireland he read Coleman's Caves of Ireland and came to the conclusion that the Aille River sink near Westport. Co. Mayo had to be a good bet to look at. Though unknown to us (Roy, Joan and the writer) the Craven PC had looked at the site earlier that year but were stopped by flooding.  On the occasion of our visit over 2,000 ft. of very enjoyable and very wet passages were explored and surveyed.

The Yorkshire pots always held a great attraction to him and many of the classic trips were done including bottoming the GG main shaft by ladder in 1966.  South Wales too was regularly visited and on a trip from Top Entrance of OFD to OFDIII his sense of humour showed itself.  I was crossing the first section of the Traverses which requires edging oneself along one wall over an 80 ft. drop just before the long straddling rift.  Finger-tip holds were the order of the day.  There was silence as I traversed towards Bucket Tilbury, the first man across, when Roy shouted "Don't bite your fingernails now Wig, you'll fall off!"  After the Traverses, is the only squeeze in this area of the cave, and again his fruity comment was, "In a cave of this size this damn thing ought not to be here!"


The 1970 BEC Balague expedition was to a little caved area of the Ariege in France Roy's report covers the action but misses his determination and drive to do a good job.

The climax of the trip was laddering a 200-odd metre shaft.  French teams had used a powered winch, it was at the end of the ladder era and we did the pitch with only a pulley powered safety rope.  Roy and several others bottomed the shaft by ladder, explored, and later learnt that we had gone further than previous parties.

Roy loved rock climbing and instigated a Thursday evening meet in the Avon Gorge before we went to the Wagon and Horses to shout noisily to the caving crews about the weekend.  We climbed what we could there, went to North Wales as often as we could and went to places like the Dewerstone.  I have a cine film of Roy taken there which shows his rapid but sure technique well.  He would comment endlessly on the task.  It was just Roy thinking aloud and as difficulties increased the more active he got and the faster he chattered.

On one climbing holiday in the Austrian Alps, Roy was equipped with the latest technology, a pair of massively ferocious front pointed crampons.  He fitted them at the start of a coulour and led out and diagonally up.  He failed to find a good stance and so Joan followed him up, still no suitable stance so Ann moved on up after Joan.  I fed out the rope seeing Roy getting higher and almost across the slope and still no stance.  We had to do something.  Everyone got their axes in while I moved out onto the slope to make more rope available. Then I slipped slightly and tugged Ann off.  Ann tugged Joan off and Joan tugged Roy off.  I had enough time to get my axe in and whipped the rope round it as first Roy then Joan then Ann shot past me down the steepening snow.  Mercifully they were stopped.  The only damage was to Roy who gashed his calf with the front point of a crampon. He said nothing.  Later, one winter in Wales I noticed that Roy had sawn off the front points.

Roy did the British mountaineering classics in his own time.  He eventually did the Cuillin Ridge with Alan Bonner and while he rated it highly he reckoned that he had a harder time on the Fourteen Welsh Three Thousands.  Alan said about the traverse that they had attempted it in 1980 from the Slicachan end but had to abandon after Alan found he had left his boots behind!  All went well at Whitsun 1982.  They bivouacked in Coire na Banachdich and Ivy and Joan collected their gear later. At five thirty in the morning they joined a queue at the Tearlach Dubh Gap but enjoyed a "nice sunny day". The ridge is sharp and as they came to a wider flatter bit Alan remembers Roy bursting out with "Bloody Hell! That’s the first time today that I could have strolled along with my hands in my pockets and not fallen three thousand feet if I'd slipped!"

John Hunt gives this account of Roy's Hang Gliding days:-

During the BEC dinner of 1975 at the Blue School, Wells, Roy and myself started to talk to Pete Sutton and Derek Targett.  As my main interest was caving and Pete and Derek were climbers I had not met them before. However they were both now very interested in the very new sport of Hang Gliding.  So it was that on the Sunday, Roy, Joan and myself set off to see this sport in action.  Following a false start, in which we set off for Mere in Somerset instead of Mere, Wiltshire, we eventually arrived.

Pete and Derek were already there with a glider belonging to a syndicate of BEC members.  This machine had been built at the Belfry and in various members’ homes.  Jenny Sandicott and Graham Phippen were also present.  One or two people could actually soar back and forth along the ridge and I believe that there were even a few top landings.  Pete and Derek were not quite up to this standard yet but demonstrated firstly the art of chain smoking, followed by the take-off technique and landing.

Roy was keen to have a go and so an area was chosen for his initiation into the commitment of aviation.  No matter how hard he ran or how much he pushed the result was always a total inability to leave the ground.  After some 3 to 4 attempts, each of which ended in a dive headlong into the ground, Derek decided to try from the same spot.  His success was no greater.  Looking back on that day with hindsight it is obvious that it was a totally unsuitable area, being very shallow in slope and right behind tall trees. Roy and myself started to attend meetings of the Avon Hang Gliding Club and shortly after this Roy bought a 17 ft. Argus Hang Glider.  I remember many Saturdays and Sundays spent helping and teaching Roy to fly at such places as Hinton, Cam Long Down, Dundry and Mere.  I had previously bought into a syndicate of 12 and had semi taught myself to fly.

This would have been early 1976.

Although I don't remember all the dates there many fragmented memories of days spent flying with Roy.

A Friday afternoon on the Garth, near Cardiff, Roy was a little light for the Argus and flew twice as far as everyone else that afternoon.  That meant he had to walk twice as far to get back to the top of the hill.  He also ended up perilously close to a row of high trees on several occasions.  Many hours were spent discussing the weather conditions early on weekend mornings before deciding the best place to go.  There were many long days spent flying the Malverns and trips to Hatterall Hill in the Black Mountains.

Roy later sold the Argus and progressed to a McBroom Lynx.  He then proceeded to sit on top of everyone else at Bossington and North Hill.  On this he taught himself to fly prone and progressed to longer flights and thermal flying.

Roy always wanted to climb bigger hills and fly and enthusiasm this led him to climb Skiddaw.

Joan reckoned that one of the highlights of Roy's hang gliding days was when he launched himself off the top of Skiddaw.  Roy saw the possibilities of hang gliding as a means of extending his mountaineering passion.  He had the idea of carrying his machine to the top of a mountain and proceeding across country in a series of climbs and glides.  No one else was much interested in that much effort but he had the loyal support of his best friend Joan.  They got permissions from the local farmers and motored round the back of Skiddaw on a beautiful clear still day.  Roy carried seventy pounds of hang glider and Joan followed up with the 'bits and pieces'.  It might have been possible to ridge soar but Roy wasn't very experienced at that.  He assembled the machine, chattering more and more rapidly, then gulped, "It's a long way" and at four o'clock launched himself into the unknown.  Amazingly he flew down in about ten minutes and like a true pioneer was instantly surrounded by small boys who seemed to appear from nowhere.

Others were not so keen to join these types of adventures due to the enormous exertion required and I think this probably led to Roy drifting away from the becoming a little disenchanted and drifting away from the sport and back to climbing.

I believe that a second factor was the very nature of hang gliding is such that decisions on the correct site are left until the last minute.  Roy was very methodical and liked to have all details sorted out well in advance in his other interests.  In caving, trips were always planned carefully days before, equipment checked and ready.  Hang gliding also involves many hours of wasted time and this probably was also a deciding factor.

One of the last places that I flew with Roy was from the hill overlooking Shute Shelve.  Roy and myself were both Sites officers for the Avon Hang Gliding Club and as such spent a lot of time looking for new sites.  Roy thought that this would make an excellent new South West site and cleared permission from the landowner at the bottom for a landing field.  So we set out one weekday evening and climbed to the top of the hill along the Public Footpath which led to the take off area. Conditions were not good but we both flew down making several beats of the ridge as we went.

As we derigged we both agreed that the site had some limited potential and were quite pleased.  Then the "commoners chairman" arrived. He taught us language that even Roy hadn't heard before and insisted that we would adversely effect his Riding business.  We never did return there again, mainly because we discovered that this gent had stood trial for attempted manslaughter on a past trespasser.

I do remember well the last time that Roy flew. Strictly speaking it was not hang gliding but Microlight flying.  Roy had long since sold all his equipment and I rang him and asked if he would like to try my Trike.  We went to a small strip near Shepton Mallet and after a few initial problems taxiing the Trike, due to his short legs not reaching the steering properly, he took off.  Roy flew around for some 20 minutes and came in executing a hard landing which damaged one wheel.  I don't suppose he was that impressed because that was his one dalliance with the sport.

I suppose that hang gliding started with long climbs up hills for often short ground skimming flights down.  It was almost as much a sport of walking as flying.  When it lost the walking element something was lost for Roy.  The latest sport of Parapente flying has, for the moment, regained that walking element without the encumbrance of 75 lbs.  I suspect that this would have been another sport that would have appealed to Roy and believe that he even possibly tried it. I shall always remember Roy as a great sport who was always willing to try something new.  (Yes, Roy did a course - Joan).

Paul Newman (Avon M.C.) remembers Roy as one of the great characters of the Avon Mountaineering Club.  He first appeared in the club in September 1982. For several club members, their first memory of the famous van, of Joan, and of the two dogs, comes from Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye, in May 1982.  The van and its occupants clearly made a lasting impression on all concerned.  And it started to appear regularly at club meets, always parked for the night in some favoured spot a little way away, where the dogs could not upset the campsite; but always re-appearing next morning to take a larger-than-life part in the weekend's activities.

Roy was keen.  By the end of a year he had already been on several club trips to Wasdale, Tremadog, Cwm Cowarch, Snowdonia, Cornwall, and other climbing haunts.  One of his most regular climbing partners, Pete Hudd, recalls;

'It would appear that Roy and myself rapidly assumed the reputation of arriving back after dark, sometimes as a result of some minor epic.  One such incident was during the Lake District meet of August 1984, when we only just made it back to the campsite before midnight, after under-estimating the time required to complete a route on Pillar Rock.'

A very famous escapade occurred in the Avon Gorge on a drab autumn evening in October 1986.  Roy and myself had been so-called "pioneering" on the Giant's Cave Buttress area.  It had already got dark (that was not unusual for Roy and myself) and it was one of those cold, damp autumn evenings.  We eventually found ourselves abseiling off from the cave, but as luck would have it the ropes would not pull through.

We decided to drive up to the top of the Gorge and abseil over.  Darkness was well and truly upon us, but as we neared the Observatory lookout a plan evolved.  We would climb up the scaffolding that was temporarily erected around the Observatory, climb down the other side, and enter the tunnel that lead to the cave lookout.  Roy was in his element, groping his way along the dark and meandering passage (we had no torches).  All seemed to go well; the ropes were retrieved, and we made our way back up the tunnel towards the confines of the Observatory.

However, unbeknown to us, we had been spotted climbing over the scaffolding by the tollgate keeper on the bridge.  Fearing the worst, he immediately contacted the police.  Just as we were about to climb back up the scaffolding on the inside, the squad car arrived, his blue flashing light working overtime.  Roy and I crouched low on the scaffolding as they shone their torches all around, the beam just missing us on each occasion.

Not content with this, the two policemen started to make a closer inspection, and it would have been only a matter of time before we were seen.  Fearing this would raise undue suspicion, we gave ourselves up and climbed down the other side.

It would be an understatement to say that the two officers concerned were not amused.  We eventually convinced them of our story (it was too hideous not to be true) but this did not save us from a severe telling-off, of which I think Roy took the brunt, purely from the fact that he was the first to climb down and reach the waiting policemen.  Not too often was Roy lost for words, but on this occasion he reminded me of a naughty schoolboy being told to stand in the corner.  Apart from recording our names and addresses we were free to go.

 Another much-loved side of Roy's character was that he could talk.  But not, it seems, in a way that annoyed people Ross Barber put it like this;

One characteristic of Roy's was that he talked, particularly in the mountains.  I talked too; I've got my ideas and notice things here and there, but as a talker Roy left me way behind.  He talked about everything; the view, the weather, trends in skiing, climbing, politics, and most characteristically about the latest modification he had made to his equipment.  I could hold my own on most of these, but on equipment he was out on his own.  When he got launched into the latest strap adaptation my role was reduced to the occasional grunt of agreement. This often suited me well because I used to wonder where he found all the energy to walk, talk and think about all these things at the same time.  I was generally quite happy to be able to concentrate on keeping up.  I remember one occasion when we were nearly benighted on the top of the Cairngorm plateau at the end of a twelve-hour day and Roy still had the energy to think about the modifications he was going to make to his bindings next time.  I was getting really worried and didn't know if there was going to be a next time for either of us.

The list of places he visited around the British Isles with the club is considerable.  The Lake District and North Wales figure prominently. So do the "local" crags of the Wye valley, and he was frequently to be seen at sea-cliff venues such as Cornwall, Baggy Point, the Gower, and Anglesey.

Another passion of Roy's, equal if not greater than his climbing, was ski mountaineering.  Of course he loved the wilds, and cross-country skiing gave him access to wonderful places in marvellous winter conditions. In common with some of his closest friends he shared a distaste for the noisier elements in mountaineering. Ross said;

Only occasionally would we join the brightly dressed crowds on the chairlift and the piste; we preferred the secluded valleys beyond the (Cairngorm) plateau or above Glen Einich. We would spend hours plodding uphill, chatting away ( Roy particularly) for the possible reward of a short downhill run.  From the outside it is difficult to understand the attractions of these days. For each hour of uphill trudging we probably enjoyed a mere five minutes or so of downhill running, and sometimes in the most dismal conditions.  Yet I never felt discontent at the end of the day.

Snow forecasting was one of Roy's strengths. From an old copy of "Slessor", and from personal examination, he had acquired a very extensive knowledge of which Cairngorm slopes had snow in various weather conditions.  Over time I'd learnt to trust his judgement and we'd often set out across most unpromising acres of heather and bog, carrying skis, to find snow high up more or less where he had said it would be, and more or less in the condition he had anticipated.  I enjoyed many fine slopes on Braeriach, Carn Ban Mor, and Craig Mheagaidh which I would never have found without his knowledge.

Another feature of ski mountaineering with Roy was the dogs.  He was always keen to take one or both of them and, indeed, they are very handsome animals, Norwegian sheepdogs, and look well in the hills.  I wasn't always so keen though; there could be disadvantages. The main drawback was that one or the other of them would almost invariably disappear on the scent of deer, or hares, or practically anything on four legs.  So, in calculating time and distance, you could allow twenty minutes or half an hour's rest while Roy rushed about searching for them.  On occasions I must admit that I was grateful to the dogs for the enforced pause, for Roy, though small, was very energetic, and at the end of a long day I was quite happy to have stored up some remnant of energy to be able to keep up with him.

Finally, in this brief account of some of the characteristics for which Roy was known in the club, there is his interest in things technical.

I suspect that my indifference to the possibilities of the latest gadgetry must have irritated Roy.  To his more active imagination it was a niggling irritant to be using a strap or a binding which could be replaced by a more efficient one.  So, underlying our companionship lay a kind of subdued competition in which my objective was to display the practical usefulness of tried traditional equipment and techniques, in resistance to the pressure applied by Roy upon me to update.

Towards the end of 1988 Roy and Joan moved from Bristol to Newtonmore, among the Scottish Highlands that they both loved so much.  It was by no means the end of their association with the Avon Mountaineering Club. Several people have received a warm welcome at their new house, and in February 1989 a large party stayed close by at Alvie House for a week of walking, climbing and skiing.  By a lucky chance this week produced the first real snow of the winter and everyone had a fine old time.  Roy and Joan joined in the activities with their own inimitable enthusiasm.

Joan wrote;

June 22nd may seem an odd time to be involved in skiing in the Northern Hemisphere.  However, Roy had managed some ski-mountaineering each month since October, and it is a custom for Scottish skiers to try to find some snow to ski on at the solstice.  Although the- winter had not been good for the downhill skiing, it produced some good spring snow for late skiing (spring snow is snow which has melted, and refrozen into a granular construction.)

Roy had done most of his late skiing on wraithes of snow on convex slopes, on fairly narrow, not too steep gullies, like the Red Burn on Ben Nevis.  The snow on Braeriach was in the form of patches high up on the steep Coire slopes.  Roy was skiing down one of these patches, and his tracks showed he had negotiated most of the slope, when he lost control, and was not able to recover before he slid into the rocks at the bottom of the slope.

Roy was a man who knew where the limits were better than most and lived right up to them.  He was a joy to be with.  It was a privilege to have shared life with Roy and he will be greatly missed by many friends.  To Joan we offer our continued friendship and love.


This is a list of items that Roy had printed in the BB or elsewhere for the BEC.

In the BB (sole author)

1962 (Dec)        Weekend in North Wales 16(178)14-16
1963 (Nov)         Climbing 18(189)2-3
1964 (Apr)         Easter in Cornwall 18(194)5-6
1964 (Aug)        Climbing News 18(198)8-9
1965 (Oct)         On crossing the Gour Hall Fault 19(212)11
1966 (Nov)         Four to Gaping Gill 20(225)8-9
1968 (May)        Easter - caving in S. Wales 22(242)64
1968 (Dec)        Synthetic Ropes 22(249)184-187
1969 (Jun)         Cavers Bookshelf [Caves of NW Clare] 25(255)82-83
1969 (Dec)        Ireland 1969 23(261)211-213
1969 (Dec)        The discovery of St. Cuthbert's 2. 23(261)224-227
1970 (Jul)          Swinsto/Kingsdale 24(275)82
1974 (Dec)        Otter Hole - a note 28(326)253-254
1977 (Aug)        Some peaks in the north-west highlands 31(352)70-72
1981 (May)        Static in the Cairngorms 35(397)2

In the BB (joint Author)

1963 (Dec)        & J.A. Eatough. Report on a new discovery in Cuthbert's 16(178)11-13
1965 (Dec)        et al. Skiing on Blackdown 17(190)25-26
1967 (Jul)          & J. Bennett & D.J. Irwin. Austria, 1965 19(214)13-28
1962 (Dec)        & D.J. Irwin. Ireland - June 1967 [ Aille River Cave] 21(232)44-52

BEC Caving Reports

Nos. 2, 7, 13F and 13G et al.  All on St. Cuthbert's Swallet
No. 14 Balague '70


A.G.M. Minutes 1988

Those Present :-

P. Cronin,  M. McDonald,  Snablet,  Bob Cork, Steve Milner, M. Lumley, Mr Nigel, C. Smart, B. Hill, A. Jarratt,  B. Wilton, C. Dooley,  D. Turner,  B. Workman, Laurence,  Lavinia , J. Watson,  A. Knutsen, A. Thomas,  A. Sparrow,  S. Mendes,  N. Gymer,   J. Smart,   S. McManus,  N. Sprang,   T. Humphreys,   H. Bennett, Bassett, Sarah, D. Bradshaw, R. Stephens, B. Luipen, T. Hughes, Jingles, S. Lain, B. Williams, J. Dukes, J. Turner, M. Grass, G. Grass.

Election of Chairman

D. Turner was asked to take the chair.

Proposed Bob Cork
Seconded M. Lumley
Carried Unan.

Appointment of Tellers :-

Alan Thomas, Steve Buri and Jane Russel were appointed.

Apoloqies for Absence :-

C. Batstone, Brian Prewer, R. Bennett , Mongo, Wormhole, K. Smart, P. Romford, R. Brown, R. Clarke, A. Butcher, J. Bennett, B. Tilbury, A. Boycott, A. Tilbury,

Matters Arising from Minutes of 1987 A.G.M.

(i)                  It was agreed that a copy of the mining log should be made.

(ii)                Martin Grass has obtained a new lock for St. Cuthbert's and will fit it in the near future. The Caving Sec. was asked to publish a list of leaders in the B.B. and investigate the necessity for third party insurance for leaders.

(iii)               The new secretary was asked to write to Tim Gould, expressing to him the concerns of the meeting reference the monies owed to the club.

1. Secretary's Report

This was presented to the meeting and accepted.

Proposed N. Taylor
Seconded S. McManus
Carried Unan.

2. Treasurer's Report

Report published in B.B. and was taken as read.

2.1 A discussion arising from the treasurer's report brought the following motions : -

The new committee to investigate methods of rationalising electricity usage.

Proposed T. Hughes
Seconded Chris Smart
Carried Unan.

New committee to investigate losses on telephone.

Proposed S. McManus
Seconded N. Taylor
Carried Unan.

Acceptance of the report was proposed by D. Bradshaw, seconded by M. Grass and carried with a vote of thanks, unan.

3. Auditor's Report

Pre-published and taken as read.


Proposed D. Bradshaw
Seconded A. Jarratt
Carried Unan.

4. Caving Secretary's Report.

Read to meeting.

Acceptance with a vote of thanks was proposed by A. Jarratt, seconded by N. Taylor and carried unan.

4.1 A vote of thanks was also proposed to Mike McDonald for his work in cleaning up St. Cuthbert's

Carried Unan.

5. Hut Warden's Report ;-

Pre-published in B.B. and taken as read.


Proposed A. Jarratt
Seconded N. Taylor
Carried Unan.

6. Tacklemaster's Report ;-

Published and taken as read.

6.1 A vote of thanks was proposed to Tom Chapman for his efforts during the tacklemaster's absence.

6.2 A. Sparrow was asked to return the club’s battery charger.


Proposed D. Bradshaw
Seconded M. Lumley
Carried Unan.

7. Hon. Editor's Report :-

Published and taken as read. Acceptance with vote of thanks

Proposed T. Hughes
Seconded S. McManus
Carried Unan.

8. Hut Enqineer's Report :-

Dany pretended to read his report to the meeting, but was rudely interrupted by M. Grass who remarked on his Bristol accent.  This caused a chuckle coming from a man who does voice-overs for 'Eastenders'.  When Dany regained his composure he went on to explain the ever growing list of jobs to be done and his plans for the drying room and shower benches.  He also explained that these would be his last projects as he was not standing for re-election and he wished his successor 'The best of luck'.

Acceptance with a vote of thanks was proposed by B.Cork. seconded by S.McManus and carried unan.

9. Librarian's Report

The librarian gave a brief resume on the state of the library.  The following motion was tabled: -

The last signatory in the loan book shall be responsible for the said book until it is returned and signed in.

Proposed N. Taylor
Seconded C. Smart
Carried Unan.

Acceptance of report was proposed by D. Bradshaw, seconded by S. Milner and carried unan.

10. Membership Secretary's Report :-

The new secretary was asked to investigate 'Direct Debit' as a method of payment of subscriptions.

Proposed N. Taylor
Seconded S. Milner
Voting: For - 39. Against 2. Motion Carried

It was suggested that other clubs be advised of non-members so that such persons do not receive benefits afforded to club members.

11. I.D.M.F. Report ;-

The committee had nothing to report.

12. Results of Ballot for Committee ;-

The tellers returned the results as follows, in order of votes cast;-



A. Jarratt

T. Humphreys

M. Lumley

M. McDonald

S. Milner

S. McManus

Votes Cast










D. Turner

P. McNab

J. Watson

P. Romford

N. Sprang  

R. Stevens

Votes Cast








Therefore Messr's Jarratt, Humphreys, Lumley, McDonald, Milner, McManus, Turner, McNab and Watson were duly elected to the committee.

13. Election of Committee Posts ;-













Caving Sec.

Hut Warden

Hut Engineer

Membership Sec.

Hon. Editor


M. McDonald

S, Milner

M. Lumley

P. McNab

A. Jarratt

J. Watson

T. Humphreys

S. McManus

M. Lumley

A. Jarratt

A. Jarratt

P. Cronnin

M. Grass

L. Smith

A. Jarratt

L. Smith

P. Cronnin

P. Cronnin

P. Cronnin

A. Jarratt

D. Bradshaw

N. Sprang

S. McManus

T. Hughes









Committee Member – D. Turner

*    There were two nominations for the post of Membership Sec.









John Watson

Dave Turner

L. Smith

Rob Harper

N. Sprang

A. Turner



ABS. 3

Therefore John Watson was elected.

13.1 The meeting instructed the new committee to co-opt N. Sprang at their first meeting.

14. Appointment of Hon Auditor ;-

Mr. B. Wilton was proposed as Hon Auditor.

Proposed N. Taylor
Seconded D. Bradshaw
Carried Unan.

15. Club Trustees

Due to the resignation of Roy Bennett as a trustee of the club, Barry Wilton was asked to take up the position.

Proposed Bob Cork
Seconded N. Taylor
Carried Unan.

A vote of thanks was recorded to Roy Bennett for his dedication and work on behalf of the club over many years.

16. Life Membership

A long discussion took place on the subject, from which the following motion was put to the floor: -

The new committee be asked to formulate a constitutional amendment enabling absent members to gain 'overseas life membership’.

Proposed T.Hughes
Seconded Chris Smart
Voting  For - 11, Against - 4, ABS. – 10.  Motion Carried.

17. Members Resolutions.

Committee Resolution to the A.G.M.

That St. Cuthbert's Swallet may not be used by any body for the purpose of any activities from which there may be any direct or indirect financial or material gain, without the written permission of the committee; who will not normally grant such permissions except in exceptional circumstances where due consideration has been given to any legal implications associated with the granting of such permissions.

Proposed          Bob Cork (Hon. Sec. for the committee)
Seconded          T.Hughes
Voting   For - 20, Against - 2, Motion Carried

18. A.O.B.

18.1 St. Cuthbert's Report ;-

D. Turner read D. Irwin's report to the meeting.  D. Turner was asked to progress the report as quickly as possible.

18.2 Commercial Caving ;-

P. Cronin made his views on the subject clear to the meeting, pointing out the effects such activities may have on the club and caving in general.  A. Sparrow replied, explaining the difference between commercial caving and professional caving.  He also advised the meeting that the problems were particular to Goatchurch and Swildon's hole.

18.3 Appointment of Librarian: -

T. Jarratt was asked to continue in the position, he agreed.

Proposed S.McManus
Seconded B.Cork
Carried Unan.

18.4 Cave Keys ;-

M. Lumley brought to the notice of the meeting the fact that cave keys controlled by the club may be used for commercial purposes.  Further discussion on the matter suggested that such use would be frowned upon should it occur.

There being no other business the chairman closed the meeting at 14.30 hours.


Anecdote from Bassett

While staying at Awatiro, the Auckland Speleological Group hut at Waitomo, for a search and rescue seminar last weekend, I heard the following tale:

A member of the Cerberus was visiting New Zealand, and he spent a week down at Waitomo doing a spot of caving. He stayed with A.S.G. at Waitomo, which is an old farmhouse occupying a windswept spot right on the top of the Waitomo limestone block.  There are magnificent views from the hut, particularly to the south, where the volcanoes of Tongariro are visible on clear days, and to the east, where the village of Waitomo nestles in the valley far below.

Now Kiwi tramping huts often have a loo with a view, and Awatiro is no exception.  A large ceramic pipe is set in concrete above a deep-dug pit, and this is topped off with standard loo-seat and cover.  A brightly-painted, wooden sentry-box affair, open to a somewhat lesser view to the north, but thus sheltering the user from prevailing winds and frequent rain, completes this dunny.

The Cerberus bod arrived at the hut in the dark, wind howling bitterly across the open plateau, and rain driving horizontally.  Very soon he asked directions for the toilet:

"Just follow that little path there - you can't miss it."

A few minutes later he returned. soaked and dishevelled, and proclaimed: -

"I'd heard you Kiwi cavers were tough, but that bog some takes beating."

The locals were a little puzzled by the remark, but thought little of it except, perhaps, to take him for another whingeing porn - until the morning, that is.  In the calm after the storm, morning light revealed all. At the edge of the paddock a ceramic pipe emerged from a concrete plinth in the grass.  The strong winds had ripped the sentry-box from its mountings and had blown it, along with the seat and cover, away down the hill.  Hard Kiwi cavers indeed!


Caving Songs

I received the following plea from Nick (see Editorial)

Oldland Common

I am interested in hearing from any member who has details or copies of caving songs.  The aim is to collect together as many as possible from all over the country to form the basis of a national caving song collection. Eventually I hope to be able to arrange for them to be published with the profits going back into caving in some way, and not for personal gain.  To date I have approximately 170 songs and thanks must go to those who have helped me so far.  I am looking for any song that concerns caving, cavers, caves or clubs. If anyone has details, please contact me either at home, The Hunters or The Belfry. Thanks.

Nick Cornwell-Smith


BEC Accounts for the Year Ending 31-08-89.

This year has been fairly quiet from a financial point of view. All of the financial priorities for 1988/9 have been completed. The only major expenditure has been the installation of the dehumidifier and the purchase of a two more library units. The IDMF is growing steadily and the Cuthbert’s Report Pre-sales account is quite healthy.

Notes on Expenditure.

General Account.

1)       The Belfry Bulletin printing, postage and stationary costs have been much the same as last year, with five issues being produced in this financial year.

2)       The BCRA insurance was much the same as the previous year.  The Belfry insurance was twice as much; this was due to the payment of an outstanding bill for the 1987/8 year.

3)       Very little has been spent of caving equipment this year!

4)       The telephone charges are absolutely correct; it is very expensive to rent a payphone.  The returns are also correct, so no one is fiddling the machine.  In view of the high costs of renting this essential piece of equipment the committee are currently costing the purchase of a coin operated telephone.

Sales Account.

5)       The loss is due to the purchase of a load of stickers and metal badges.  They should last for a year or two, so we can recoup the costs over this period.

Belfry Account.

6)       The electricity has been overpaid this year, this has been going on since late 87 and it has at last been rectified.  We are now £229 in credit.

7)       The insurance was high this year, see note 2 above.

8)       The repairs and improvements this year include the fitting of the dehumidifier (£438) in the drying room and tidying of the changing room.  The Belfry has been painted and some work has been done to the car park.

9)       Two library units have been purchased; the library is now nearly complete.

10)   The Belfry account has broken even this year, any deficit can be accounted for in the credit with the Electricity Board.

Notes on Income.

General Account.

1)       The subscriptions have been paid a little more promptly this year.  The higher income is due to the late payment of the subs of 26 individuals (£312) from the 1987/8 year!  The total income due to subscriptions is £2251 compared with £1678 from the previous year.  Please pay your subs as soon as possible in October 1989.

2)       Donations are higher this year.  The greatest part of this sum is from anonymous individuals staying at the Belfry.

Belfry Account.

3)       The income from the bednights this year is £1890 from 48 hutsheets.  The 4 hutsheets from August 1989 had not been submitted in time for the close of accounts. Overall the income would be up on last years' and the account would be in credit.

4)       The income from the Cuthbert’s Fees was £9.25. Did only 31 people go down St Cuthbert’s this year?  Come on you leaders, get your money heads on!

General Savings Fund.

This fund now stands at £859.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund.

As there was no income from the 1987/8 year, £200 was added to the account in 1988/9 and the balance now stands at £538.  No requests for grants were received this year.

St Cuthbert’s Report Pre-Sales Account.

There has been a little injection into this account over the year and the balance is currently £828.  If the club is to fund the entire cost of the publication then a considerable input into this account has to be made before the book goes to print.  The club may need to borrow a sum of money to bring the project to fruition.


I feel that the financial priorities for the coming year are: -

The publication of the St Cuthbert’s Report.

The replacement of old worn-out caving tackle.

Further improvements to the BEC library.

Further improvements to the car park.

A long term project to be considered is the possible installation of central heating and instant showers, this will be expensive and a proper evaluation of this should be made.

The expenditure of the club has now exceeded the income for two years running and it may be time to consider either increasing the subs or the hut fees for 1990/1.  Certainly, if we are to continue with the hut improvements and maintain the quality and quantity of the BB we would need to increase the income.  This should be discussed at the AGM (7/10/89).

So long as there is no major expenditure in 1989/90 the BEC accounts should tick over nicely for the year. There will be extra income from the Wessex Challenge but this cannot be counted upon. The publication of the St Cuthbert’s Report is a special case and an alternative method of funding is required.

The BEC accounts are now whoever it may be.  I am live in Adelaide. So, to you are in my part of the ready to hand over to my successor, resigning my post as I am going to all you BEC who get everywhere, if world, pop in and say hello.

Steve Milner. 12-09-89.

BEC Accounts for the Year Ending 31-08-89.





General (Current) Account - INCOME












Gain from Dinner/AGM



Gain from Wessex Challenge






Building Society Interest









General (Current) Account - EXPENDITURE






BB Printing



BB Stationery and Postage



Public Liability Insurance



BCRA Insurance



Belfry Insurance (50%)



Rates – General & Water (50%)



Tackle, Cave Keys, Permits (CCC) Purchased



Less Tackle Fees & CCC Permits Sold



Other Subscriptions and Donations



IDMF Transfer



Carbide Licence



Library Purchases



Misc Postage and Stationery



Telephone Charges



Less receipts






Net Sales Loss/(Profit)



Transfer to Cuthbert’s Account



Net Belfry Account Loss/(Profit)


















General (Savings) Account – Nationwide Building Society.






Opening Balance



Interest                                                                                     (Approx.)



Closing Balance.









Sales Account
















Sweat & T-Shirts





Badges & Stickers








Net Profit/(Loss)















Belfry Account - INCOME






Bednights (not including August)



Other Receipts



Special Item (Insurance for Tackle Store)









Belfry Account - EXPENDITURE















Household Goods & Miscellaneous



Belfry Insurance (50%)



Rates – General & Water (50%)



Repairs and Improvements



Fixtures and Fittings



Purchases of Library Units









Net Profit/(Loss)









St. Cuthbert’s Report – Bristol & West Building Society






Opening Balance



Pre-Sales Income



BEC Contribution






Less Expenditure



Closing balance.












Ian Dear memorial Fund – Guardian Building Society






Opening balance



Transfer from General Fund









Closing Balance









The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

1989 - 1990 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris (Blitz) Smart
Caving Sec.             Peter (Snablet) McNab
Hut Warden             Chris (Zot) Harvey
Tackle Master          Stuart McManus
B.B.Editor                Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel (Mr.N) Taylor
Membership Sec      John (Q.J.) Watson
                               Ian (Wormhole) Caldwell

1989 - 1990 Non-Committee Posts

Librarian                           Mike (Trebor) McDonald
Archivist                           Alan Thomas


We have several new members again.  This time I've listed them in the complete, current membership list (Page 15).  If anyone finds any mistakes or knows of any changes please let me know as soon as possible.

Annual subscriptions to the B.E.C. are now due.  If you haven't already paid, please do so promptly.  The club needs the money.  The amounts are £14 for ordinary membership and £21 for joint membership.   Payments by cheque (made out to the B.E.C.) are preferred and should be sent to the membership secretary, John Watson.

We have lots of members in the Club but only a tiny minority ever contribute anything to the BB. Please write something for the BB. It is the club journal, after all, and should be the medium through which members can find out what other members are up to!


Tackle Master's Report

On taking over the job of tackle master my first task was to find the tackle!  There wasn't a ladder in the store! and as usual not one ladder had been booked out!  I had to borrow a ladder from the Wessex to go caving and on returning it they informed me they had two of ours!

Eventually over two or three weeks I managed to ear-bend, grumble and cajole people into returning the ladders and we have ended up with 10.  This has become the basic number held in the store throughout the year. The funny thing is they are not the same 10 ladders! that I inspect regularly.

Quite a few ladders have also come back from Hunter's Hole, Eastwater and Daren after quite a few months/years in the caves and have basically been scrapped.  I am in full agreement with the leaving of tackle in caves like West End and Daren due to the basic difficulties and the frequent visits.  However, I would recommend that we construct/buy 100' of ladder with S/S wire to enable them to stand up to the effects of being left underground for months at a time.

The basic 10 ladders appear to cover the needs of most people for caves locally though we have sufficient rungs etc. to construct another 6 when the need arises.  Thanks to Zot we now have a jig capable of setting up a ladder completely.

Thanks also to Nigel Taylor for obtaining and installing a key cabinet to hold the tackle store key - members should be aware that their Belfry key will open it.

The SRT equipment has been used on a few times for away trips and the system is working well.  It would be nice to see this equipment being used more frequently by members.

Finally, reflecting back over the year the tackle is being signed out and back by members at last but I am still puzzled by the way our ladders are cycled.  We have a 12" spacing ladder at the moment, could somebody exchange it for a good 10" spacing!

Mac 07-10-89


Hut Warden's Report (as received)

i   Bed night       Yes

loads of members have been staying.  Not many groups of guests

ii  Fabric of Hut

Showers are not working

The problem is not with the coin meters but the showers themselves.

Fire - This has been damaged and will need repairs.  Is this central heating by the back door?

Ceiling - need a fireproof ceiling & there is still work to do on the fire reg's.

Drying room.  Some work has been but there is still work to do - a coin meter?

Loads of work to do.

The list Dany did years ago is still endless and little progress has been made.


Finally my grateful thanks to anyone who has helped me over the last year.  I will be standing for the Committee but hopefully not as H/Warden.



Secretary's Report

It's been quite a quiet year, Secretary-wise.  I've had a lot of written enquiries from various people about the Club, asking what the joining arrangements are, but as soon as I tell them it’s primarily a caving club they can't be seen for dust.  Our title as an "Exploration" club is obviously quite enticing but nobody seems to like the caving element.  I had one young lady who came down from Oxford by train via Weston to try her hand and she took one look at the Swildon's entrance and legged it back over the fields.  I don't know what people expect?  However, quite a few new members - mostly perhaps from other Mendip Clubs.

We've had some sad deaths, one of which is documented in the recent B.B.  Enough has been said and I feel and there is no need to expound it further here.  Bennett will be sorely missed.

The Poll Tax rears its ugly head in 1990 and I fear we may be hit very badly.  The Rating Department are unable to provide any figures or indications of the likely damage as even they don't know what they're doing, but I think it will be considerable.  This leads onto another point, that of charity status as a means of obtaining exemption from the Tax.  I've done some preliminary enquiries and am having discussions with the MNRC and Shepton who are charities I believe.  This can be taken on by the next committee.

Morale in the Club I sense has been a little down of late, for whatever reason.  It seems a lot more fragmented with small groups going separate ways at weekends and hut occupation down quite a bit.  There doesn't seem to be that active, busy and rowdy crowd around the hut at weekends.  I know Clubs all have little gangs that go off to do their own thing; ours just seems more pronounced and isolated to me.  Perhaps it's just a phase, with Mendip seeming a little quieter over the summer.

The Cuthbert's Lease is now close to completion and should be signed and sealed soon.  This will give us a 10 year tenancy of a roughly triangular piece of land between the Snake Pit and the Mineries pond closest to us. It obviously includes Cuthbert's Swallet itself.  Basically we are responsible for the well-being of this area.

Politics has thankfully laid low this year and the few CSCC meetings that I've attended have been quite tame compared to a few years ago at the height of the Nature Conservancy arguments. Long may this continue.  Down with politics, up with caving I say.



Caving Secretary’s Report

All in all 1988/89 has been a healthy year for the club on the caving front.  A lot of commitment has been put into the various digging projects.

Bowery corner has been extended by the Wednesday nighters for another 100 soul destroying feet, following the shale/limestone boundary horizontally and showing every sign of putting up a good fight.


Graham Johnson's dig (Welsh's Green) has a 400ft extension in an exquisitely distasteful, mud filled bedding in the blue lias and carries one of the most enticing draughts on Mendip.

A fresh assault is being carried out on Wigmore and hopes are high for an extension here (sounds familiar!) as we soon expect to break out of the Red Marl.

Zot, Trebor, Mac and Mike Wilson have put a great deal of effort into the building of another dam in Cuthbert's and Mac has set the wheels in motion for another push on the sump in October.  (This was cancelled - ed.)

In Wookey, Stumpy, Trebor et al have been resurveying the system with a view to a dry route from twenty to twenty four.

In Daren Cilau, the Rock Steady Crew have extended the system for a few hundred metres and are just 60 metres from Aged Allwedd.  The main dig is now directed towards the unknown region beyond the Aggy sumps and hopefully off into the system under Llangynydr.

In Austria. Snablet and Mongo took part in the pushing trip down Orkanhohle, finally bottoming the cave at -? metres (let's hope we get an expedition report this year?)

A good time was had by all in Transylvania and Loopy would like to thank Rohan for the contraceptive properties of their zips!

Various BEC members have got everywhere this year - The States, France, Ireland and Australia to mention but a few, but the award for the most notably excessive member must surely go to Jim Smart for his 'high profile' capture by communist guerrillas in the Philippines.

I shan't be standing for the committee this year as I have other commitments.  I would like to wish the best of luck to my successor.

Mark Lumley


Meets List  (Provisional)

This is a brief list given to me by Snablet.  More details can be found at The Belfry or direct from Snablet.

Xmas/New Year

Jan 27th

Jan 28th

Feb 10th

Feb 11th

Feb 24th



Mar 10th

Mar 11th

Mar 24th


King Pot



Little Neath River Cave

Gower - caving, digging, learning to surf, climbing, drinking (and apparently there's a high viaduct en route!)


Nick Pot





South Wales







Easter Apr 13-16 International Speleo-fest?  Caving in Belgium and the Ardenne?

Bits. Pieces and Snippets.

The author of "Mendip Fauna", in the August B.B., was Jingles.  This was not revealed at the time in case he might have to do a Salman Rushdie.  No death threats were received, however.  Jingles has, nevertheless, skipped the country and is, I believe, spending six months in Germany.

Alan Thomas, the club archivist is desperately in need of a filing cabinet and asks whether any member can lay his or her hands on a second-hand one really cheap (or free).

Clare Coase is coming to England at the end of March accompanied by her son Damien and his wife Nan.  Damien will be going down St. Cuthbert's to see Don's plaque.

Overheard in the Hunters:

            Stranger            How do you get to drink out of a pewter tankard?
            Local    Buy one.
            Stranger            How much are they?
            Local    They're all different prices.
            Stranger            Oh. Well how much is that one?

contributed by Alan Thomas

Working and Social work day at the Belfry second Saturday in March 1990

One and all are urged by Mr.N - hut engineer to descend upon the Belfry for a "Working Day" on the second Saturday in March.  Working members stopping overnight will not be charged hut fees.  Non-workers double!  A "Belfry Binder" will be cooked on the Saturday night and hopefully a "Star" personality will entertain us with a lively slide show, prior to the evening session at The Hunters, followed possibly by a barrel. For further details contact Mr. N or Zot.


Jamaica - "Boonoonoonoos"

(or in the local patois, "Something Special") .


Yet another Trebor/Stumpy wrecky/reccy extravaganza to Jamaica.  If you're off anywhere nice, seek out Trebor and Stumpy who'll recce it for you.

How nice to get away from Butcombe, sharky caving gear vendors and piddly Mendip caves.  Why waft across flat grass fields to Swildons when you can sweat through ganja-riddled, mongoose-ridden, rum-soaked jungle in the Cockpit Country of Western Jamaica?  Oh the joys of shorts and T-shirt caving amongst mountains of bat guano.

That's the silly bit over with.  Now some proper stuff.

China is not the only place with pinnacle or cone karst.  The Cockpit country is a quite outstandingly dramatic, beautiful and remote circular area of Western Jamaica, some 20 miles in diameter and about 15 to 20 miles inland.  Access into its heartland is very pedestrian - "Is this thing really a path?" Cockpit is a term used to describe a closed depression, perhaps on average ¼ mile across, with sides lobed convexly inwards making them almost star-shaped.  Numerous gullies run into the centre, usually dry but carrying streams after heavy rain.  The residual cones or pinnacles are rounded and quite evenly spaced giving a 'basket of eggs' appearance.  All of course is cloaked with thick matted jungle with the occasional clearing for sugar cane, pineapple or ganja.

The Cockpit or depression obviously provides a neat receptacle for water catchment and bedrock shafts at the lowest point of the depression are a feature.  Cockpits with steeper sides and a fair amount of exposed limestone resemble dolines.  Cockpit karst is generally found on pure, massive limestone.  Often a depression is linked at one point of its circumference with another depression, thus forming chains of 'glades'.  Annual rainfall in the area can reach about 250cms. so in the wet season flash flooding is a serious consideration.

Climate and vegetation is a very significant factor in cockpit karst, as it no doubt is in all tropical karst forms.  The forest covering conceals the more pronounced relief and floor litter, humus, roots and talus can cover shafts, fissures and caves.  It also makes perambulating very difficult.  Exposed limestone can usually be seen         on overhangs, cliffs and cuttings and here there is usually a profusion of stal forming externally.  Bauxite is also found in depressions and in some places is mined commercially for aluminium production.

The theory of depression shafts went out the window when we had a gander around what is called Windsor Cave, on the northern edge of Cockpit Country in a remote spot taking some finding.  At the end of an endless track in mid-jungle next to a river, you shout at a hut for Rastaman Franklyn who stirs himself to show you where this place is.  A brief sweat into the undergrowth down an apology for a path you come across a small cliff face with a stooping entrance leading into a magnificent entrance hall dripping with speleotherms.  It's all very old fossil stuff but immense. Maximum passage width noted was 50yds and max height possibly 100 ft.  Bats and their heaped deposits are everywhere.  Our Rastaman had some novel illumination - a big bamboo pole filled with kerosene and a rag stuffed in the end.  When the light looked as though it might die he merely tips it up to rejuvenate the wick.  It looked like a mortar, probably potentially explosive and the spewing fumes and black smoke not only gave the bats something to think about but soon had us on the retreat.  But, as he said, it lasts for days and no bulbs to blow.  It also had the added advantage of incinerating the myriad guano eating flies that get in every orifice.  I'll stick to my clean, anti-polluting petzl zoom.  Apparently there's 14 miles of passage but we've not come across any surveyor detailed account of the place and we doubt that Rastaman has done all of it, so we took this measurement with a bag of salt. Very impressive nonetheless.  He told us of another large cave nearby, Bethany Cave, but our time in that area was up.

Snippet of useless info'

As a point of archaeological interest, on the way up to find this cave we passed through miles of cane plantation.  'Parked' on the side of the road was a wonderful old cane crusher a bit like an old washer woman’s clothes mangle.  Made in Glasgow of all places.  Elsewhere throughout our travels we found much evidence of old cane works, such as a very impressive wreck of an overshot water wheel between Montego Bay and Lucea and numerous stone cone buildings, the remnants of windmills, scattered about.

Local Waffle

The inhabitants of Cockpit Country are loosely called 'Maroons', who are supposed to be the interbred descendants of escaped sugar slaves used by the British.  They were slightly menacing at first and mesmerised by us whiteys, and Stumpy in particular, scooting around is a beat up car asking about holes in the ground.  They soon softened up with a huge however when confronted by Stumpy, hands on hips going" 'ere wang, where's t'caves, pal?” The locals exhibited a remarkable phenomenon though, a magical codeword in the local patois - 'jayratt', which when uttered raised the price of everything they were trying to sell you.

Ipswich Cave was a real day out crunching along unbelievable 'roads' literally miles from anywhere.  We winced at every bang, rattle and thump as it only needed a tyre to blow or an oil sump to rupture and we would really be in the bat guano.  We were heading for the metropolis of Ipswich, a village spread out through the jungle high up in the cockpit and one of the few places to have the luxury of a 'road'.  We suddenly broke out into a clearing with, would you believe it, a station in the middle.  Stand back in amazement.

Taken aback we sought a cold drink and asked a local where we were.  "Swich maan" he said, "no problem, want sum ganja?". The railway line is apparently the link between Kingston and Montego Bay and rumbles through the jungle at this point.  A great piece of engineering hacking it through this lot. The line had been 'broken' for 6 months or so and they hadn't seen a soul for some time.  Luckily a local lady wanted a lift home to the other end of the village 4 miles away so she agreed to show us the cave's whereabouts in return for a lift.  After more bumps and rattles, we stopped where the railway passes across the road and hoofed it up the railway track in a northerly direction for three-quarters of a mile or so.  At the base of a big cockpit depression was a small cliff face with the entrance in the side of it.  To get there, you walk along the line as far as a small platform just before a big tunnel and then follow the obvious path down to the right.  It's a 'show cave' of sorts meaning it’s got a gate on. Apparently you can take a train ride tour from Montego Bay, part of which passes this way.  You stop at the little platform, leap out and gander around the cave.  Since the railway is bust nobody comes anymore but you can get the key from the station master at Cadapuda nearby.  An impressive place.  Pat poked his nose into a shaft on the side of the path and a dropped stone indicated possibly 80 ft.  No tackle though?  There is also a cave entrance actually within the tunnel itself independent of the main Ipswich cave.  Our lady guide was Icella Thompson and she obviously knows the area well. She lives on the outskirts of the village right by the track where it leads onto the road junction with the village of Ginger Hill.  Ask and most people will know her.  A useful contact.

More Waffle

a)       Pat invented some new cocktails: 'Bovril Driller', 'Shirt Lifter' and 'Uphill Gardener'

b)       Take care not to succumb to the three G's  - ganga, grog and guano.

c)       The 'restaurant' at our hotel was called "The Seething Cauldron". All it seethed was Americans and cockroaches.

d)       Instant hair dryer - just stick your head out the car window.

e)       For a while we saw loads of ferrets leaping across the road in front of us.  Now Pat likes ferrets and was thus very disappointed when they turned out to be mongooses (or mongeese).  There are two types of snake; both very shy and you are very unlucky to come across them. So they say.  There's also an evil snake thing in the sea which bathers ran away from but in fact it's only a snake eel; blissfully happy, friendly, non-toxic and turns belly-up for a tickle when encountered.  Jamaica has no known sea snakes.

f)        We saw some limbo - a slip of a girl getting under 6".  A hell of a squeeze.  We'll recruit her for the next caving expedition.

g)       Bars had interesting names; one with a corrugated iron roof called 'Silver Thatch', another called 'The Hunters Bar' and another 'No Problem Cafe'.

h)       If you go to Negril on the west coast where we were, the best taxi chap is Leroy.  Ask anyone for him honest and reliable.  He has a brown car and is usually parked outside the Negril Beach Club.

Local Waffle

Whoever named many Jamaican villages was a real joker and obviously quite a lad.  What warped mind dreams up "Barbeque Bottom", "Good Design", "Maggotty", an area called "The district of Look Behind", "Sherwood Content", "Quick Step", "Big Bottom", "Gutters", "Alligator Pond" and "Wait a bit"?

Perhaps the most fascinating speleological/geological and hydrological bit we saw was the Roaring River area at Petersfield, not far from the largish town of Savanna-la-Mar on the south western coast.  To begin with, a stonking 8 ft. wide river, 2 ft. deep issues straight out of the side/base of a cockpit cone.  Too powerful a current to dive in against but a days digging could reap dividends.  The river then flows down a valley for ½ a mile until it widens into an area that can only be called an oasis - palms, trees, ferns etc.  Quite magnificent.  In the widened section, a hole in the river bed 10ft.       across literally churns with up-flowing water - obviously some sort of underground sump/passage.  Again too powerful to dive in against.  Immediately adjacent to this area, but apparently independent from, is a so-say 6 mile cave system which we had a quick shifty round.  Hydrologically and geologically we couldn't work the place out but then these subjects have never been our strong point.  Some local kids were messing around in the entrance chambers with illumination a bit like Franklyn's in Windsor Cave but these were milk bottles filled with kerosene, lit and held high to decimate the bats.  A Molotov cocktail if ever I saw one.  We again retreated.  An outstanding area though.

Little has been done in the cockpit except a good six week effort by Liverpool University speleos in 1977, based at Troy on the south eastern edge.  Their one main find was Still Waters Cave at 11,800 ft. mapped length. We feel the area is still wide open but would need 15 people minimum to cover the terrain.  Locals say lots of "scientists" have been over the years but not many speleos it seems.

Runaway Bay and Arawak caves, between Ocho Hios and Montego Bay on the northern coast were real collector’s pieces.  Not too far above sea level, they were of magnificent white limestone. Amazing passage configurations, possibly sea eroded at some time.  Runaway Bay Cave stretches inland for some distance, some say 14 miles but as usual we've learnt to take these distances with salt.  A feature is the profusion of tree roots which descend as far as 100 ft. underground like tentacles searching for moisture.  Quite bizarre.  Some as thick as your leg.

Arawak Cave was little more than a large single chamber, possibly sea eroded. The rastaman who lives in a hut outside and who is trying to make it into a show cave, has a party trick of leaping off a ledge 40 ft. up on some aerial roots which dingle-dangle to the floor. We found the large, resident white snowy owl more interesting.

The final gem we unearthed was, for want of a better word, a "blue hole" in the back garden of Hedonism II Hotel at Negril.  At first sight it's just a lily pond but on closer examination it has a limestone rim.  It's only 50-60 metres in from the shoreline.  We had minimal cave diving gear so Pat made a spectacle of himself by donning two 80 cu. ft bottles, borrowed hand torches and a water ski tow rope for a line.  He parted the lily's and descended into the crab-infested murk.  At 10 metres he returned when silt from the underside of the lily's blotted out visibility.  Worth another good look with proper gear.

There's a box file in the library containing all notes maps and other info we possessed.


a)       Karst Geomorphology by Jennings Jamaica Underground by Fincham

b)       LUSS expedition report by McFarlane

c)       Trebor July 1989


Daren Cilau - First Impressions

by Jingles

I first heard of "Daren" in February 1985, when, in Whitewallls, after having introduced me to Agen Allwed and listening to me moaning about having to crawl for what at the time had seemed ages.  Duncan Price told me that "If you think that was fun you should try a little hole further down the mountain called Daren Cilau!"  He then proceeded with a description of the entrance crawl that made me tired just hearing it.  I made up my mind there and then to avoid this at all costs, it did not sound like the sort of thing I saw myself doing at all.  Indeed, the more I heard about it from others over the next couple of years only served to ingrain my conviction even deeper.

It was only as I got to know the people "intimately involved" with the ongoing pushes in the further reaches of the cave that I came to realise the futility of my stance. Slowly but surely it became clear that sooner or later I would sample its delights first hand, although I continued to fight against it doggedly for some time.  Until a short while ago, when I realised that my time had come...... !

And so it was that one fine Saturday morning I found myself rising early (at 6.30 a.m. no less!) to set off for Crickhowell and my appointment with destiny.  (or is that Fear???)

It was fitting that I was accompanied by Stuart Lain, himself a recent addition to those "caving elite" the Rock Steady Crew, as he had done his first ever trip with me and for some strange reason I felt that today was my first trip!!

We arrived at Crickhowell just as the cafe opened and spent a convivial hour breakfasting, shopping and generally procrastinating before heading up to Whitewalls where we killed another hour chatting etc ... while waiting for Ted Humphreys who had said he may join us. (Hunter's talk - Ed.!)  At 11.00 we decided that Ted wasn't coming and so got changed and headed off for the cave, my head ringing with last minute excuses "not-to" and wondering if I'd ever see Mendip again.!

One has only to look at the entrance hole to Daren, to get a sense of what lies ahead, and indeed the amount of work that has gone into the place over the years.  "Christ Stu, they even had to dig out the bleedin' entrance!" I said incredulously.  "Yes mate" said Stuart with an evil grin!  Well he knew what we were in for didn't he.

Armed with a tackle bag and a couple of BDH's, just to make the trip a little more fun, we got down on our bellies and in the time honoured fashion, in we slithered!  Ten seconds, and less than three feet later, I was getting soaked - what a thoughtful place to put a puddle, right in the middle of the first crawl/squeeze. The first thing you notice is how much effort is involved in moving even the shortest distance, but you haven't got time to think about it 'cos your too busy with the bloody BDH's.

Two hundred feet and a whole lot of cursing later we arrived at "The Vice" and what fun it is too! Having been warned by Stu of the tackle eating hole half way through, I naturally saw to it that the BDH's found their way straight into the deepest part of it.  A happy few minutes were spent retrieving these and extricating myself from its calcite clutches.  I remember Hank telling me he'd had a whole bundle of fun with this as he's so thin he just slips right into the trench that runs along the bottom and gets stuck. I've never been so glad to have a bit of a beer gut as I was then I can tell you.

It was now that Stu decided to inform me that it’s at this point most people consider the true beginning of the crawl to be.  We'd taken nearly twenty minutes to get this far (200 ft or so) - I nearly cried!  A nifty bit of mental arithmetic revealed that at this rate it was gonna take nearly three hours to get through.  I quickly changed my line of thought.  On with the slog though as there really is little alternative than to keep plodding on.

It’s at about this point that you realise what people mean when they refer to Daren as "The Cave of a Thousand One Armed Press Ups!" Could this be why regular "Darenites" have bulging bicep muscles on one arm??? - and I always thought it was to do with the lack of female company on prolonged camps!!!  I must remember to go in on my other side next time, just to even things up a bit!

After what seemed like an eternity of endless twists and turns in the passage, which had by now "ballooned" to a majestic 18 inches or so across, Stu called back that we had reached the first Canal.  I didn't remember anyone saying anything about canals, I thought that was Dan Yr Ogof, but I was so hot that anything with water in it was fine by me.  Indeed my enthusiasm at this point was so great that I lost my balance and ended up face down in the water ..... still breathing in ... not too clever!  One coughing fit later, my breakfast decides that it wants a first hand look at what’s going on and hurtles up my oesophagus out of my mouth and into the canal.  (No bits of egg stuck in my nose this time though Stuart!!!)  You think that’s bad ... you should try lying in it when it’s still warm!!!!  The Henry Bennett school of caving ....

Once again the passage shrank and the roof dropped and it was over onto one side again for a few more press ups (in water).  I was nicely cooled by the other end of it.  Then, guess what, more crawling!

We'd been going about an hour when we reached the first inlet where we stopped for a rest and a gratefully received drink of Ribena.  Stu reckoned we were about a third of the way here, which was in keeping with my earlier estimate of three hours in total.  It’s not the sort of place you want to hang about in, so pretty soon we were off again.

There are three more canals in between the first and second inlets, each progressively more awkward than its predecessor.  The final one having a strategically placed "s" bend about half way through!! It’s quite low at this point which makes it difficult to manoeuvre but its not too bad, unless you happen to have long legs!  I'd heard some horror stories about this from taller cavers, one claiming to have been stuck there for half an hour before getting through, but was quite surprised at how easy it seemed to me.  Until I got stuck that is.  The trouble with lying flat out in freezing cold water in a confined space is that it makes you over eager to get out of it, a case of more haste less speed!  It took me a couple of minutes thrashing around and making sure that any part of me that was still dry wasn't for much longer, before I relaxed.  Then Hey Presto - I wasn't stuck any more.  (There's definitely a lesson in there somewhere I'm sure of it!!)

More crawling, more "s" - bends, though dry this time and bigger, even more crawling and then we were at the second inlet.  Apparently there is usually a small stream comes in here, from which we intended drinking, but alas zilcho!  This meant that the cave was quite dry - could've fooled me ¬there was enough water in those canals alright!!!  God, what's it like when it's been raining??? - Wet that's what!  So no drink available we once again set off on the last leg and me just about on my last legs (sic).

Something had changed - I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, then it dawned on me - I could almost stand up.  The passage had become almost human sized - quite uncanny.  What a pleasure it is to be able to move at more than ten feet a minute, actual progress no less.  But - alas - it was not to last, pretty soon and it’s back to the more familiar "rock in face" type stuff.  I was quite happy until we got to " Play School!"  There I was thrutching along (not so) merrily in passage so small I wondered that I could move at all, when on rounding a bend I was faced with a circular squeeze so small all I could do was laugh!  "The Round Window" - kiddies!

Fortunately there is a sort of trench thingy in the bottom for the old "Malham" generator to go in - (as well as a goodly portion of the old "Nuts!!") - without which I wouldn't've stood a hope of getting past it.  So with a wiggle and a kick and a few choice phrases, through you go only to be confronted by the square window!!!  Again I nearly cried, I'd thought the round one was tight - bloody hell!  I had much more fun with this one what with getting my arms caught up, my helmet jammed; light failure etc etc et bloody cetera!

Eventually after a small eternity I emerged on the other side (I swear I heard a popping sound too) feeling as if I’d just been born ..... actually that would've been far less traumatic.

Great, only 200 feet to go I thought famous last words again!  Those last 200 feet are the worst of the lot what with bloody great rocks in the middle of the "passage".  The passage being no larger than it was before!!!!  Twenty minutes later, five of which were spent trying to dislodge my helmet yet again, we emerged into a very small chamber from where I managed to lead us the last six feet out of the crawl into a passage that we could actually walk in.

It took me a minute to realise that we'd actually made it and for the third time in as many hours - I nearly cried!



I received the following letter from Dizzie Tompsett-Clark earlier this year, addressed to J'Rat, the librarian at the time.  I mentioned it to Alfie and discovered that he used to get lifts from London in Postle's magnificent machine at that time.

Also enclosed with the letter was a generous donation to the B.E.C. - Thanks Dizzie!

Sept.8th 1989

Dear Tony,

I was so surprised at seeing my name in print in the recent B.B. (re additions to the Libraryvia the intrepid  Angus) that I have been inspired to send a few more booklets to you.

My memories go back to Main's Barn time around 1945, and Postle's triumphant arrivals from the Admiralty Establishment in Surrey in his fabulous sporty Lea Francis.  On high days and holidays (mostly Saturday nights) kind friends used to remove the distributor before a booze up, as otherwise Poth had a penchant for roaring around Priddy Green as a finale to the evening - an occupation looked on with some disfavour by local hard-working early-rising country folk.

Anyway all Good Wishes to the B.E.C. - long may it live!

Yours sincerely



The Voyage of "The Calypso" The Dordogne. France

So set sail the good van "Calypso", a monstrous vessel packed with a full hold of cargo - 12 * 80 cu.ft. 10 litre bottles, buoyancy jackets, line, grotts, compressors, lights and other bits and pieces.  She was on course for the Dordogne with a motley crew of two, Trebor McDonald and Nick Geh (S.W.C.C.)  The other scallywags, Pat Cronin (B.E.C.) and John Adams (S.W.C.C.), wisely went by separate means.

THE AIM:  To confirm the obviously erroneous and previously held view that French sumps were long. deep, and crystal clear.  We all know British sumps are the best in the world, with their tight and murky countenance.  We just had to find out about these pretentious French things.

The secondary aim was to increase our knowledge of these sumps and the diving potential generally, following good work by John Cordingly, Russell Carter, et al.

THE AREA:  The limestone plateau centred around the Padirac system, roughly between the Dordogne River and the Cele and Lot rivers further south.  Many of the dive sites and prospects involve the very influential Padirac system and its numerous resurgences.  The local base was Gramat.

Full marks to John for obtaining some good and useful sponsorship from Remar Diving in South Wales, in the form of bottles, valves, lights, jackets, compressors and decompression computers.  Also batteries, courtesy of Ever Ready.  The length and depth of the diving precluded usual British diving equipment, requiring bottles than the ubiquitous 45's and buoyancy jackets to maintain any one position in the huge passages.  Decompression computers allowed instant and trouble free indications of the stop times and decompression information rather than having to work out the dive profiles laboriously beforehand.  The use of back-mounted gear also became most viable, again due to the size of passageway.  Plenty of air could thus be carried if required, a maximum of 30 litres of air.

LE MANS.  Well worth a visit on the race south.  We got the fully laden Calypso up to 60 mph on the Mulsanne Straight, slightly less than the 220 mph some other vehicles reach at certain times of the year.  The pits, grandstands and motor museum can all be visited.

Assorted members of the team rumbled into Gramat over a two day period, Pat having a trip fraught with stops, courtesy of "le filth".  He couldn't face erecting his tent that night so booked into a local hostelry.  A leisurely fettle of all the gear and we were ready for a splash.

The first dive was to FONTAINE SAINT GEORGE, a very impressive, sun-soaked Wookey-like resurgence pool in the side of a hill below Montvalent.  It's one of the Padirac resurgences and most scenic.  After initial buoyancy problems and mis-understandings as to which flashgun was to go where, all four set off on a photographic excursion into the deep first sump to some -23m.  Although initially clear, the place soon silted up with all the thrashing around and it became reminiscent of Wookey, something we had come here to avoid. At a mud bank at -29m., photography was getting silly so three exited while Nick Geh proceeded to look around and on to rise to -8m. and still going.  All retired gracefully after this initial dive with Trebor nipping back to lay line as a parting shot for a possible repeat on the morrow.

Next day, Nick Geh and Trebor returned to go a little further and to get into the bigger, clearer passage we knew was further in.  Some way in Nick had an attack of the "Why the hell am I here's?" and beetled out, leaving Trebor rather lonely to continue for a bit. Line left in the entrance 200ft. or so, to connect up with the French line encountered just beyond the first elbow.

FONTAINE SAINT GEORGE, MONTVALENT, DORDOGNE.  IGN Blue Series map, 2136 East.  Grid Ref. 3910-3288.  Follow N.140 from Gramat northwards towards Martel and the Dordogne River itself.  Pass through Montvalent and after about 1 km downhill a track cuts back on the left, signed "Fne. St.  George" (the sign later nicked by 3 scallywags).  About 200m. down this track there's a barn on the left and the sump pool is obviously located set back in on the left just past the barn at the head of a small stream.  No permission required of which we are aware.  A dive at mid-day allows the sun to penetrate deep into Sump 1.

Upon exit after the first days dive in St. George, we met a young lady who approached us at the dive site introducing herself as Veronique Le Guin.  She and husband Francis were diving Fontaine du Finou just down the track a ways.  After pumping the bottles we went along to say hello. A quite remarkable duo who have done some incredible diving over the years, most recently reaching vast distances in Cocklebiddy in Australia and also in Finou.  More of them later.

The following day it was to FONT DEL TRUFFE, down near Lacave.  Another resurgence system spewing out into the Ouysse with entry via a most unlikely conical depression in the woods usually full of water but after the drought only partly full of rancid stuff.  "Truffe" means truffle, which abound in the woods apparently. In French, a truffle hunter is a "caveur".  Quite poignant I thought.  Whilst we were kitting down, an old chappie in a battered van came along.  Expecting a rollicking for trespass, he went round and opened up his van doors and, instead of the double barrelled shotgun, produced dirt cheap figs, grapes, peaches, doughnuts and other goodies - a big bagful for a £1.  He turned out to be the owner of the area.  With a "bon grotte" from us, he departed smiling and happy.

The entrance wriggle into Truffe, over a boulder and under a gravel squeeze, was quite hilarious under-weighted, with thrashing fins in thin air trying to propel the body downwards. However, once through, it was the proverbial 'wallop' - mega crystal clear passage some 5m x 5m at least in places. Further in, in Sump II, we met white limestone which made us feel like flying through marble halls.  Quite magnificent.  A load of photos were taken for the sponsors, with Pat the Page 3 model, Trebor as assistant deputy flash wallah, John Adams as Lichfield and Nick Geh as forward deputy back-lighting flasher.

No problems encountered on the way of any significance, although the rancid entrance pool obviously affected Trebor's deco computer which failed to work in Sump 1 and one or two high pressure leaks to Nick Geh had to be DIY'd.  We had a good look at getting out at the end of Sump II to do III and beyond, but the low water conditions and the awkward spot made exiting fully kitted a nightmare.

Now back to the Le Guen's. A most pleasant couple we met while we were down St.George and they were pushing Fontaine du Finou, more specifically Sump 5 which they finally passed during our stay by a further 200m. dive to make Sump 5 about 600m., very deep diving for sustained lengths with some constrictions and cold conditions.  They were diving with vast amounts of gear and were usually unable to kit up out of water due to the weight.  Mostly two back mounted 20 litre bottles with one or two bottles of tri-mix and a few tackle sax.

Francis has developed his own techniques for eating underwater, pumping in the nourishment to keep out the cold, keep the muscles going and to raise morale.  He said he eats peanuts by letting them go beneath him so they float up and at the propitious moment he whips out his gag and inhales deeply!  We still don't know whether he was joking.

Sump 5 in Finou was passed to a dry passage with a huge mud cone in it which he climbed to descend to another sump not entered.  On the return he slipped down the cone, tore his dry suit, injured a leg and lost his watch. Veronique lost a fin.  They had a long, slow, cold swim out!  Just as well he didn't injure himself more seriously as at that depth and length not many people would have been capable of rescuing him.

Veronique has also just spent 4 months underground doing Siffre-inspired experiments on deprivation, bio-rhythms and other such silly things, mainly to try and counter jet-leg. Francis is a professional film-maker and photographer, so we got some good tips on the subject.

FONT DEL TRUFFE, LAC AVE , DORDOGNE.   Leave Gramat on the Montvalent, Martel and Dordogne River road and head for Rocamadour.  There, follow the signs to Lacave.  Descend into Lacave with an impressive chateau on a rock bluff opposite.  Turn left at the junction in the valley floor and travel away from the village for ½ a mile.  Just round a left hand bend, right opposite the chateau and before a bridge, take the only track on the left.  Go up 300m. to a right fork and ignore the 'no entry' sign which only says "no access to river bank".  Pass through an archway where a farm building straddles the road and continue for 3 km. along the left bank of the Ouysse until you get to an obvious conical depression, on the left by the track, full of water.  Beware the odd "road train" which takes punters to see the sump pool as part of the Lacave show cave tour.

The following day, Trebor and Nick took a quick gander down St. George again to try and get a little further without the encumbrance of camera gear.  Pat and John went along to see Padirac to swan about in the very impressive show cave opened by Martel - one hell of a dig.  You can almost imagine where he started digging at the base of the huge entrance doline.  Later, Nick and Trebor accompanied Peter Harvey (SWCC and co-founder of OFD, Cuckoo Cleeves and Hunters Hole) down a 'dry' cave - Gouffre du Saut de la Pucelle, right by the road between Gramat and Montvalent.  A most impressive flood entrance, dry thankfully most of the time, leading to some very pleasant active streamway with plunge pools, cascades and, so they say, "fine situations".  In very low water a bit tame but in remotely moderate conditions quite an undertaking we imagined.  We encountered the French equivalent of Andy Sparrow, trailing a load of character-building businessmen wearing life jackets though the place. We quickly ran in the opposite direction.

GOUFFRE DU SAUT DE LA PUCELLE.   Leave Gramat on the N.140 towards Montvalent, Rocomadour and Martel.  After about 3-4 kms. on a long stretch of road there are two lay-by's on the right.  Pick the second one, nip over the wall and descend into the large and very obvious tree-lined depression.  The entrance in fact is almost directly under the road.  Walk into the railway like tunnel for 100m., pass through some static pools and ducks and then turn an obvious left into big stuff.  Walk along for 50m. and then duck left before a big mud bank into stooping passage.  Then just follow your nose as there's nowhere else to go but down.

Depending on the water flow, you can get away with one or two ladders, handlines and tapes, plus a few hangers and crabs.  Certainly a wet-suit job.  Nice formations.  Plaque at bottom to Martel who found the place 100 years ago.

Back to diving, with Trebor and Nick having a shufti at the Source de Moulin de Cacrey (Creysse, Lot) a quite spectacular dive site and as beautiful a place as you can imagine.  A 13th C. mill backs onto a lovely scenic sun-drenched pool fed by the massive Cacrey resurgence.  You merely kit up on the sluice gate wall. keel over into the water and paddle across to the large overhanging cliff base and descend into the crystal entrance with the sunlight following you in for quite a way.  Decompression is wonderfully relaxed - just perched on a boulder 3m. under in lovely sunlight watching the frogs frolic about.  A magnificent dive with two pots to descend, one 6m. deep and the other 9m. deep.  Mega passage with fine situations and as always crystal clear water. Trebor reached -26m. some 280m. in and Nick got to about -31m. some 300m. in.  The place continues on for frightening distances at silly depths, and is still going.

The most bizarre trip of the lot came next, the Emergence du Ressel at Marchilac sur Cele on the Cele river, south of Gramat and about a 25 min. laden van drive.  The resurgence is actually in the bed of the river Cele and in normal water conditions the crystal clear uprising water gives the entrance away.  In drought, however, the sump water is probably static so the murky river water predominates.  Great fun was had trying to find the entrance via a tatty minimal line tied onto a submerged tree root on the river bank.  A few seconds grope through zero vis river water and you break out into the magnificent crystal entrance door and arch.  From then on, a very pleasant photographic dive passing two junctions, both being the two ends of the same large loop.  Due to gymnastications whilst photographing Nick. John and Pat met thirds at or about the second junction 270m. in at -22m, whilst Trebor continued on to 300m.+ at -25m., just short of a magnificent pot which takes you down to -45m.!?  The vis on the return was horrible, only 25m. instead of 30m.!  All decompressed at -9m. and -3m., the latter stop being courtesy of a tree trunk wedged across the pot which you clung onto.  It could take 4 divers before starting to lift off the bottom if everybody breathed in at once. Dive time 64 mins.

Beware.  Silly photographers who fail to remove lens caps whilst carrying out well rehearsed action shots in the entrance pot.

Jochen Hasenmayer has dived silly lengths and depths in Ressel, without concluding the place, so it's still going after 2.5 kms.

Later that week, whilst returning from a dive elsewhere, we passed Ressel and saw the Le Guen's pantechnicon parked on the roadside.  They were just off into the cave to finish off filming some documentary or promotional shots with the help of a Cocklebiddy battery powered scooter.  It was quite bizarre to see them motor up the river like a WW2 limpet mine team, trim the guiding blades downwards and submerge into the entrance.

Visit Padirac. A very impressive place but spoilt by the tourist or rather, spoilt for the tourists. A feature is the ride by canoe/gondola/ barge along the river, piloted by very adept gondoliers.  You are well chaperoned so there's little scope for taking illegal photos or scything off from the crowd for an illegal look round. All French show caves seem pretty good.

Following a quick nip down Pucelle to take some photos it was back to our last dive dow Le Trou Madame at Ceneviere, Lot.  Pat and John had left early for home and to do some sightseeing on the way so it was down to Nick Geh and Trebor and also Dig Hastilow to go and have a look-see. Dig is a CDG member working in Switzerland so he came up for a few days for a swim or two.  His fancy car had tyres which were slick on the outside and treaded on the inner side to get the best of both worlds.

A very attractive resurgence entrance, dry at this time of year, with a 50m, stooping walk to the start of a long, crystal canal.  It's an easy swim but so as to save air you really need a snorkel until you reach the sump proper 100m. along the canal.  Presumably in normal wet weather, the canal shortens and Sump 1 lengthens. There's a good 2.8 km. of diving to be done, at unusually shallow depths with the roof often being no more than -3 or -4m's.  There are several sumps, interspersed with various air spaces and passages but due to the drought conditions we didn't have a clue which air space was which and which sump we were in at anyone time.  We think we got 50m. into Sump 4 but we can't be sure!  After a number of dives in mega crystal clear sumps we confess we were getting a little bored with the size of the stuff, so the return was livened up with Trebor visiting every little air space he could find in the roof and also changing gags every 10m. for something to do.  You really need a waterproof book and automatic paddle legs, or preferably a scooter.  Dive time 70 mins.  This vicinity was mind boggling for lepidoptera, damsel flies, hornets, purple emperors and other wildlife, some of which were very brave and had a good go at Trebor's armpits.

So endeth the trip, with a brief look at Lasceax on the way back - I thought it was much bigger - and a gander at the impressive Bayeux tapestry.  Some very good experience under the belt, very clear, scenic sumps we only dream about here, loads of potential for anyone that can dive 2.5 kms. plus at -45m. and a good chance to tryout gear we don't normally use in the U.K.  Some very good dry caving too with few access problems.  Roll on 1990.



The Berger, 1954

Whilst surveying a monstrous edifice in Bristol, Trebor had cause to crawl about in the roof space.  There he found a News Chronicle dated September 28th, 1954. One small snippet therein ran as follows:


For the first time in history, man has penetrated over half a mile below the Earth's crust.

A team of eight French cave explorers claimed the record yesterday.  They said they descended 2,962 ft in the Berger cave, near Grenoble.

"It was easy", said M. Fernand Petzl, who led the team.  "We passed through magnificent natural rooms on the way".

West Brecon Cave Rescue Team – Vehicle Appeal Fund

Halifax, W. Yorks,

Dear Secretary,

I am writing to you as Hon. Secretary of the above Appeal Fund in the knowledge that members of your club cave in our area from time to time.

The West Brecon Cave Rescue Team was formed in 1975 and as part of the SWCRO deals with all cave rescues in the western part of the South Wales caving region.  This role has made us one of the busier teams in the UK since the ever popular Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, the flood prone Little Neath, and the easy access Porth yr Ogof all lie on our 'patch'.  Since our formation we have relied on an ancient Land-Rover made available to us by the South Wales Caving Club.  This vehicle can no longer be relied on and we have set about raising funds to replace it.

We have an immediate target of £10000 and the caving community in South Wales has already contributed nearly £3000 towards this. Whilst we hope to raise much of the remainder from local industry, student rags and charitable trusts we are also extending our appeal to cavers and caving clubs from other areas.  I am therefore asking if you would be willing to bring this appeal to the notice of your members and also if you would raise with your club committee the possibility of your club making a donation to the fund direct.

Yours sincerely,

R. A. Hall
Fund Secretary.


Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List 18/12/89

828 Nicolette Abell                    Faukland, Bath
987 Dave Aubrey                       Salisbury, Wiltshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Midsomer Norton, Bath, Avon
818 Chris Batsone                     Radstock, Avon
1079 Henry Bennett                   London.
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Newtownmore, Invernesshire
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire.
769 Sue Bishop                        Tynings, Radstock.
1125 Rich Blake                        Horfield, Bristol
731 Bob Bidmead                      Leigh Woods, Bristol
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                  London, SW2
1082 Robin Brown                     Cheddar, Somerset
1108 Denis Bumford                  Westcombe, Shepton Mallet
New Steve Bury                        Worcester
924 (J) Aileen Butcher               Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
849 (J) Alan Butcher                  Holt, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
956 (J) Ian Caldwell                   Clifton, Bristol
1036 (J) Nicola Slann                 Clifton, Bristol
1091 William Curruthers             Holcombe Bath
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1062 Andy Cave                        Lower Limpley Stoke, Nr. Bath
902 (L) Martin Cavender             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.
New Richard Chaddock              Butleigh, Wooton, Glastonbury
1048 Tom Chapman                  Cheddar, Somerset.
1030 Richard Clarke                  Axbridge, Somerset
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Litton, Somerset
377(L) Dick Cooke-Yarborough   Address unknown for some years
862 Bob Cork                            Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1121 Nicholas Cornwell-Smith    Oldham Common, Bristol
1042 Mick Corser                      Norwich, Norfolk
827 Mike Cowlishaw                  Winchester, Hants.
890 Jerry Crick                          Leighton Buzzard, Bucks
896 Pat Cronin                          Knowle, Bristol
680 Bob Cross                          Knowle, Bristol
1132 Robert Crowe                    London
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. VIT 6M3
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
815 Nigel Dibden                       Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Exeter, Devon
829 (J) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                        Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
New Stephen Ettienne               Hayes, Middlesex
232 Chris Falshaw                     Fulwood, Sheffield
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham.
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Stone, Staffs
469 (J) Pete Franklin                 Stone, Staffs
897 Andrew Garwood                 Pulborough, West Sussex
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1098 Brian Gilbert                     Chingford, London
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
1120 Alan Goodrich                   North Cray, Kent
1054 Tim Gould                         Newhaven, Edinburgh
860 (J) Glenys Grass                 Ridgewell, Essex
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Ridgewell, Essex
1009 Robin Gray                       East Horrington, Wells, Somerset
1123 Ian Gregory                       York, Yorkshire
1124 Martin Gregory                  Clapham, Bedfordshire
1113 Arthur Griffin                     Alperton, Wembley
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
432(L) Nigel Hallet                     Address unknown for some years
1119 Barry Hanks                     Has moved – address unknown yet.  c/o Belfry
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             St Annes, Lancashire
999 Rob Harper                         Wells, Somerset
581 Chris Harvey                       Paulton, Somerset
4 (L) Dan Hassell                      Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset
893 Dave Hatherley                   Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset
1078 Mike Hearn                       Bagworth, Axbridge, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnet Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
952 Bob Hill                              Assen, Netherlands
1105 Joanna Hills                      Billinshurst, W. Sussex
373 (J) Sid Hobbs                      Priddy, Wells Somerset
736 (J) Sylvia Hobbs                  Priddy, Wells Somerset
905 Paul Hodgson                     Burcott, Wells, Somerset
898 (J) Liz Hollis                       Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
899 (J) Tony Hollis                     Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
1094 Peter Hopkins                   Keynsham, Bristol.
971 Colin Houlden                     Briston, London, SW2
923 Trevor Hughes                     Bleadney, Wells, Somerset
855 Ted Humphreys                  Wells, Somerset
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
1026 Ian Jepson                        Beechen Cliff, Bath
51 (L) A Johnson                       Flax Bourton, Bristol
995 Brian Johnson                     Ottery St. Mary, Devon
1001 Graeme Johnson               Cosby, Leicester
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
1127 Bruce Jones                     Northville, Bristol
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
907 Karen Jones                       Marshfield, Chippenham, Wilts
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Henleaze, Brsitol
884 John King                           Wisborough Green, West Sussex
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
946 Alex Ragnar Knutson          Bedminster, Bristol
1116 Stuart Lain                        Yeovil, Somerset
667 (L) Tim Large                      Shepton Mallet
1129 Dave Lennard                    Wells, Somerset
1015 Andrew Lolley                   Kingsdowm, Bristol
1043 Andy Lovell                       Keynsham, Bristol
1072 Clive Lovell                        Keynsham, Bristol
1057 Mark Lumley                     Englishcombe, Bath
1100 Sarah McDonald               London
106 (L) E.J. Mason                    Henleaze, Bristol
651 Pete MacNab (Sr)               Cheddar, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jr)          Alexandra Park, Redland, Bristol
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Bristol, Avon
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
1106 Simon Mendes                  Droitwtich, Worcestershire
704 Dave Metcalf                       Whitwick, Leics.
1044 Andrw Middleton               Earlsfield, London.
1053 Steve Milner                      Felixtow,  Australia
936 Dave Nichols                      Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
852 John Noble                         Paulton, Bath
624 Jock Orr                             Sturton-by-Stowe, Lincoln
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                       Sidcup , Kent
22 (L) Les Peters                      Knowle Park, Bristol Avon
New Martin Peters                     Chew Stoke, Avon.
1107 Terry Phillips                     Denmead, Hants.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1037 Dave Pike                         Yarley, Wells, Somerset
337 Brian Prewer                       Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1085 Duncan Price                    Earl Shilton, Leicestershire
886 Jeff Price                            Inns Court, Bristol.
1101 Christopher Proctor           Radstock, Bath
1109 Philip Provis                      Paulton, Bristol
1109 Jim Rands                        Stonebridge Park, London NW10
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
1126 Steve Redwood                 Banwell, Nr. Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
343(L) Tony Rich                       Address unknown for some years
662 (J) John Riley                      Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs.
1033 (J) Sue Riley                     Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs
1070 Mary Robertson                Stonebridge Park, London, NW10
986(J) Lil Romford                     Alcantarilha, 8300 SILVES
985(J) Phil Romford                   Portugal
921 Pete Rose                          Crediton, Devon
832 Roger Sabido                      Lawrence Weston, Bristol
240 (L) Alan Sandall                  Nailsea, Avon
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
760 Jenny Sandercroft               c/o Barrie Wilton
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Winchester Hnts
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Harpendon, Herts
1046 Dave Shand                      Address unknown as yet c/o J’Rat
1128 Vince Simmonds               Eat Harptree, Avon
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          Has moved.  Address unknown yet.  c/o The Belfry
1041 Laurence Smith                 West Horrington, Wells, Somerset
823 Andy Sparrow                     Priddy, Somerset
1063 Nicholas Sprang                Leigh Sinton, Malvern, Worcestershire
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
38(L) Mrs I Stanbury                  Knowle, Bristol
New Johnothon Stanniland         Worlebury, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Westcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens              Address unknown.  c/o Trevor Hughes
867 Rich Stevenson                   Wookey, Wells, Somerset, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
1115 Rob Taviner                       East Harptree
1039 Lisa Taylor                        Weston, Bath
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford, Avon
1035 John Theed                       Farmborough, Bath
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
348 (L) D Thomas                      Bartlestree, Hereford
571 (L) N Thomas                      Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.
1067 Fiona Thompson               Fishponds, Bristol
699 (J) Buckett Tilbury               High Wycombe, Bucks
700 (J) Anne Tilbury                   High Wycombe, Bucks
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Bognor Regis, Sussex
382 Steve Tuck                         Coxley, Wells, Somerset
1023 Matt Tuck                         Coxley, Wells, Somerset
1136 Hugh Tucker                     Wedmore, Somerset
1066 Alan Turner                       Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
912 John Turner                        Tavistock, Devon.
635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury            Farnham, Surrey
1096 Maurice van Luipen            Hayes, Middlesex
887 Greg Villis                          Banwell, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon           Taunton, Somerset
1077 Brian Wafer                      St. Pauls Cray, Orpington, Kent
949 (J) John Watson                  Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Somerset
973 James Wells                      Has moved.  Address unknown yet.  c/o Oliver Wells
1055 Oliver Wells                      New York, USA
1032 Barry Wharton                  Yatton, Bristol
553 Bob White                          Bleadney, Nr. Wells, Somerset.
1118 Carol White                      Cheddar, Somerset
878 Ross White                        Address unknown as yet c/o J’Rat
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1068 John Whiteley                   Newton Abbot, S. Devon.
1031 Mike Wigglesworth            Wells, Somerset.
1087 John Williams                   Address unknown as yet c/o The Belfry
1146 Les Williams                     Shepton Mallet, Somerset
1075 (J) Tony Williams              Soon moving to Portugal
1076 (J) Roz Williams                Leigh on Mendip, Bath
1130 (J) Mike Wilson                 Keynsham, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
850 (J) Annie Wilton-Jones         Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
813 (J) Ian Wilton-Jones             Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
721 G Wilton-Jones                   Address unknown as yet c/o The Belfry
1112 Catherine Wood                Address unknown as yet c/o The Belfry.
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chilington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Hinkley, Leics.


Speleo Reconnaissance : Municipality of New Escalante, Negros Occidental, Philippines.

Jim Smart

Apart from all the usual hassles (the insurgency "problem", a new language to tangle with - there are over eighty distinct dialects in the Philippines and the difficulties of explaining the joys of caving to the local populace) my visit to New Escalante in the former province of Negros del Norte was hampered by unseasonally heavy rain.  I arrived on the day of a national holiday and, in the mayor's office, was able to meet many of the local barangay (village) Captains.  After some pretty standard cautionary advice the Mayor gave me a written letter of introduction granting me permission to travel at will within the Municipality.  By the time I had completed my work in this area I had made many good friends: it took me two days to recover from a beach party held in my honour on the day of my departure.

Baranqay Libertad

People spoke of "many caves" here including river caves.  A preliminary visit revealed limestone crags rising 200 ft. or more above the muddy cane fields.  But before I could reach them the rain started again and I took shelter under a banana leaf cut for me by a former guano miner, Dimitrio Dimitria.  Midday brought out the sun and a quick recce revealed vertical limestone cliffs, eroded pavements, small conical hills, enclosed depressions and a few small caves and pots.  Things looked promising and I arranged to lodge with Dimitrio's family at a later date.

My return trip was a disappointment.  I was shown only small fossil caves and many deep shafts that we could not descend de cause a promised rope did not materialize.  Dimitrio showed me the "best" caves first and as the day progressed and the quality declined I realized there were to be no tinkling river caves here.  So I curtailed my explorations and turned my attention across the Binaguiohan River to Bgy Binaguiohan.

The Caves of Bqy Libertad

All guano miners have to register their claim with the Philippine Bureau of Mines who then allocate a number to the site.  In the brief descriptions that follow I have listed the caves by these numbers except where a local name for the site was already in use.

JS ~ l.  A 35 ft. diameter shaft, 60 ft. deep, free climbable except for the last few feet.  Exploration incomplete.  Feb 27/89.

JS ~ 2.  A couple of 25 ft. vertical shafts located in a 200m. by 100m. polje.  Unexplored due to lack of equipment.  Feb 27/89.

BoM ~ 5.  Large rock shelter with two entrances & no dark zone. Mar 1/89.

BoM ~ 8.  Hidden in thick bush.  Spiralling entrance passage descends to main chamber 100 ft. long x 40 - 60 ft. wide and up to 60 ft. high.  Some short side passages and three alternative vertical entrances.

BoM ~ 12.  On summit of hill near old winding machinery used in guano extraction.  A deep vertical shaft reputed to lead to a chamber of two hectares area.  Feb 27/89 plus BoM ~ 8

BoM ~ 14.  A gaping hole in the side of a doline; unexplored. Mar 1/89

BoM ~ 30.  Shaft c. 75 ft. to unexplored cave.  Mar 1/89

Lapuz-lapuz Caves - A series of arches and short caves in an area of extreme limestone erosion and poison shrubs.   Feb 27/89.

Ome Cave A single chamber & alcove open to the elements.  The site of human habitation until just a few years ago.   Mar 1/89.

Pang pang Tuti - A 60 ft. long tunnel passage of spacious dimensions.  Almost entirely man-made (guano mine).  Mar 1/89

Siyawan Cave - Muddy cave about 220 ft. long; the home of cave swifts. Mar 1/89

Baranqay Binaquiohan

Disappointed with the Libertad caves and with four hours of daylight left I asked Dimitrio to show me the best cave in Bgy Binaguiohan.

Binaquiohan Cave ~2

Length c. 200 ft.  A muddy entrance chamber to walking-size passage with some small formations and alcoves.  While pretending to be impressed by one of these alcoves I heard the distant hammering of rock.  To my surprise guano miners miners were at work in the cave.  I'd always thought guano was mined with pick and shovel but it's not: it's hammer and chisel work and very hard work too.

Before I reached the working face I came upon a small boy about 10 years old - exiting the cave with two baskets of the stuff suspended from a pole over his shoulder.  Twelve men comprised the team working here, three of them sub-teenagers.  They each earn US $4 per ton delivered to the entrepreneur's truck a few km. away.  In the rainy season that truck can be a long, long way away.  On a good day the team will extract about half a ton.


"Langub" = "cave" in local dialect, so the place seemed worth a visit though I only expected a sea cave or two.  Langub is situated on the coastal plain near the sea 4 km. from the nearest "road".  My time was limited: the last jeepney home to Escalante passes Langub Crossing (= "junction") at 3 p.m. and my early start was delayed by torrential rain. It was gone noon when I arrived at the house of the Barrio Captain.  I had only two hours to locate and explore any caves, a pity cos I found a big-un.

Lanqub Cave

Situated about 2 km. from Langub, the enticing 15 ft. high x 30 ft. wide entrance opens onto a shallow valley.  Inside the large entrance chamber the cave was less enticing.  Despite the heavy rains of the previous few days the deep water that confronted me was stagnant and filthy and floating a asum of batshit. About twenty people had accompanied me to the cave whooping with delight at the fun of it all and never for a moment believing I'd venture inside.  Looking at that filthy water (and with one eye on the time) I was inclined to head back to Escalante but my audience were expecting a show so I changed into my swimming gear.  An old guy elbowed his way to the front of the crowd and volunteered himself as my guide.

The water turned out to be no more than waist deep; the slime and silt beneath the water was calf deep. I tried not to think of leeches and Weil's disease and followed my guide who was equipped with my only spare lamp. The entire cave was horizontally developed and ran very close to the surface.  After maybe 250m. we came to a collapse where we were able to climb out of the water and engage in some crouching and crawling until the passage regained its normal size.  A couple of man-made shafts here led to the surface about 20 ft. above.  I guess these shafts were constructed for guano miners. A little further on the passages became small, flat-out and very noisome.  We turned back, exploring several flooded side passages on out way out.

Back on the surface my audience was now filled with enthusiasm for cave exploration and miraculously remembered two more caves in the area.  Don't worry about the time, they said, we can arrange a boat to take you home.  So we went in search of these other caves, only one of which was located.

Buda de Franco Cave

When finally located this turned out to be a simple tunnel cave about 200 ft. long with a skylight entrance at the far end.  Lots of kids followed me into this cave, the tiny ones un-shyly holding on to my clothes and hands as we groped along with my one tiny lamp.  At the far end of the cave guano miners tallies are scratched onto the wall.

Cebu City.
March 1989

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys


I made a bad mistake in the last BB saying that I had some articles in hand.  Not one has come in since!  Please can I have some!

There's nothing much to report on the digging front, just lots of hard work with little to show for it. J'Rat has reopened the corner dig in Puck Suds and has found a mud filled tube going in the opposite direction to Skid Row.  Graham tells me that Spade Runner in Daren is being awkward and they are thinking of revisiting Twelve O’clock High which was banged just before the Micron was discovered but has not been looked at since.  Graham and Richard (Blake) have finished the survey of Welsh's Green so a report should soon appear.

Now to bridge jumping. I tried this for the first time the other Sunday!  The theory of bridge jumping is as follows.  If you tie a rope, securely, to one parapet of a bridge, pass it under the arch of the bridge and up to the opposite parapet, then anything tied onto the rope and dropped from the second parapet will swing under the bridge like a pendulum provided that the distance from parapet to parapet under the arch is shorter than the distance from the parapet to the ground (otherwise the dropped item hits the ground very hard and very fast, as proved by Newton!).

My first jump was at Windsor Hill viaduct on Mendip.  The distance from parapet to the ground looks to be 60 to 70 feet and from parapet to parapet under the arch about 50 feet so it’s quite safe to jump!  However, jumping into 70 feet of nothing is a bit daunting and although one rope would probably be quite sufficient to take the strain three were actually used  (We can't afford ten - Snablet).  The next nerve-racking thing is waiting for the ropes to be properly tensioned while standing on a tiny ledge hanging onto the parapet for dear life.  Of course, you know its perfectly safe as you've seen others doing it before you but actually pushing off when told that the ropes are ready is something else!  Hesitation makes things far worse as you start questioning your own sanity and wouldn't it be better to go home and have a nice cup of tea!

The most courageous jumper was J'Rat who hesitated for several minutes but still jumped.

When you've actually jumped your life doesn't flash before your eyes, after all, if it wasn't for the ropes you'd hit the ground at about 45 mph in about 2 seconds.  I can't remember the free-fall stage (about 15 feet) at all, the first memory being of the tug of the ropes under the bridge. Then it starts to get really exhilarating as you zoom up the other side, almost to the height at which you started, and then proceed to pendulum on a 50 foot arc.  My verdict was that it was tremendous fun but probably not for the faint-hearted!  We offered jumps to passing Sunday-afternoon walkers and although some showed lots of interest and stayed awhile to watch, there were no takers!  Zot wouldn't jump in spite of the fact that everyone who did was saying how great it was.  Jingles jumped twice (he's now an addict) and the rest of the first-time jumpers would have liked to as well except that the Hunter's was, about to open!

A word of caution! Bridge jumping is completely banned in many countries and at many sites in this one.  The reason is obvious!  In caving you can go without all the proper gear or use equipment incorrectly and nine times out of ten you would get away with it (for the tenth occasions - see the M.R.O. incident reports).  In bridge jumping these odds are reversed (and the reports would be obituaries!). It is essential to have all the proper equipment (which is expensive!) and to use it correctly.  Also the jump must be tested with, say, a tackle bag full of rocks, with observers posted, to ensure that neither the ropes or the bag come anywhere near any obstacle along their flight paths!

Back to club matters. Alfie has presented me with a large box-full of old B.B.'s in response to Trebor's plea.  Thanks Alfie!  With my collection as backup we should be able to produce all the missing ones from about number 80 onwards.

Chris Falshaw has sent us a generous donation and, in his words, would be very pleased if it could be applied to help any "Sump Passing Efforts" in Cuthbert’s during 1990.  Thanks Chris, we'll see what we can do!  The Aswan Dam, below the ten foot drop in two, is complete (with steps on both sides so that one just walks over it) and I believe fire hoses are being organised to go from the surface to sump 2.

Clare Coase, Damien and Nan duly arrived on Mendip (Damien and Nan were on their honeymoon - so they travelled 12,000 miles and then went down a hole in the ground, they must be prospective BEC members!) and a large party visited Cerberus Hall. Unfortunately I could not accompany them as I was down to take another party to Straw Chamber, Pearl Passage and Canyon Series on the same day.  I will put in the account of their trip and other extracts from the caving logs in the next BB.

As a very early warning, it looks as though the B.E.C. dinner this year will be at the "WEBBINGTON COUNTRY CLUB" and will be on Saturday 6th October.  This will be a bit plusher than recent venues and the cost of tickets will be a bit dearer.  However, our club dinner sub-committee, Mr. N and Wormhole, are recommending it.  (Most other possible venues were already booked anyway!)


A General Run Down on the Caves of Western Australia.

Mike Wilson

During a recent holiday in Western Australia I managed to do some walking and caving.  The best walking by far are the Kalbarri Gorges - north of Perth.  They are well mapped and documented.  The ideal base for these routes is the town of Kalbarri situated on the coast.  Plenty of good camp sites.

Most of the well-known caves, including the show caves, are situated in the in the Margaret River - Albany area south of Perth.  Obviously Mammoth, Jewel and Lake are the three most well known tourist caves and well worth a visit.

In fact many caves are open for caving but are quite difficult to find in the bush.  The five I visited were Devils Lair, Strongs, Moondyne including the snowflake extensions (very eerie and beautiful), Golgotha an old show cave and Giants Cave which is a nice 1½ hour through trip. There are three others worth a visit; - Block, Crystal and Dingo's. All about 45 minutes duration.  Fairly short by English standards.

There are longer caves in the area, Easter being one, but they are all locked and controlled by the W.A.S.S., limited numbers allowed on trips, and you have to sort out trips in advance (not possible on a short holiday).  Many other caves abound in this area, 170 have so far been mapped and logged by "one man".

Although there appears to be great potential I wonder if any new finds will exceed the standard depth and short length!!  The average depth appears to be about 60', usually in pothole form, and the caves are all well decorated.  The floors tend to be flat or level.

I had a lengthy discussion with a geologist (female) and was told that the limestone is a capping of approximately 60' to 70' and the rock is a sandstone-limestone mix.  This accounts for the odd flooring and ease of caving.

In the north and east of Perth there are the Nullabor Caves (east) and the Oscar, Cape, Windjana and Geike Ranges (north).  The Nullabor caves are the deepest and longest caves.  The longest being Mullan Ulang with 11 km. of passages. Wee Bubbie is 120 m. deep, and the other big cave is Cocklebiddy.  I have no information on the latter.  The W.A.S.S. have made several trips to the Nullabor and are, therefore, the best people to contact for information.

North of Perth is the most interesting area!!  No-one appears to have made much effort into exploring the various limestone regions. This is probably due to the vast distances involved.  I feel the best way would be to use a 4x4 vehicle and go with the intention of carrying everything one needs "including water".  The WA park rangers would be a great help I am sure (don't bother with the rangers at Yanchep, they were very unhelpful).

Anyone who wishes to follow up this article will find maps, guides and national park info. in the library at the Belfry.


Sandstone Mines, Broomers Hill Lane, Pulborough, W. Sussex


I don't know if anybody will find this of major interest.  Not exactly earth shattering news that will warrant a stampede of thousands of cavers clutching BA's, harnesses, miles of rope and Elsan's, but it is a hole or rather several holes in the ground and I suppose, as J'Rat suggested to me, it does warrant a mention.

I carried out a survey trip on these mines on Sunday the 18th November 1989, with the help of a friend, Rod Donaldson.  The only reason I asked him was because he is an architect and the proud possessor of an electronic digital measuring thingy, which he forgot to bring, along with the torch! So the survey was carried out with a 3M tape and a cigarette lighter.

Rod found that even with the lighter it was very difficult to see, until he realised that he was still wearing his dark glasses a half hour after we'd started!  Still it was at the crack of 10am on a Sunday morning.

However we did manage to measure up all the passages theand  result is the attached plan (see next page).

Research has brought very little information to light save for two mentions.  One in Sussex Industrial Architecture a field guide. "Sand mining in Pulborough. Deserted for many years, overgrown, a series of shafts driven horizontally 25m. into hillside".

The other, a mention in the history of Pulborough by J. Pedley.  "Mr. Perrier dug sand (moulding sand) in Adits in small ravine at Broomers Hill till 1890".

The mine is a series of 6 adits (one now partially blocked) driven into sandstone and the system covers a mined area of approx. 340 2/M, Pillar and Stall. (612 3/M).

Apart from the above information local legend abounds with tales of tunnels connecting to houses in the village, much used by smugglers.  Also a local farmer unearthed two Roman lead "pigs" (now in Chichester museum), at the entrance.  Certainly there is much evidence of Roman habitation very near to the site.  Pulborough is situated on " Stane Street", and nearby Hardham, on the River Arun, was an important Roman river garrison.  However, there is no evidence to suggest Roman working of the mines and it remains open to speculation.

If anyone is in Sussex at any time and fancies a visit, contact me on 07982 5257 and I'll be happy to conduct a guided tour.  Rod has also asked me to mention that he and his wife Kay do own the local hotel and offer very reasonable rates as well as serving excellent ales. Brakspears, King and Barns and Marstons. (This mention is his "Architects fee" for, as he puts it, "crawling around in the dark and muck by the light of a flickering Zippo".)

Andy Garrod



Dordogne 1989

By Vince Simmonds


Brian Murlis, Steve Redwood and I met at Steve's at about 5.30 pm and set off for Weymouth at about 6.00 pm.  We arrived at Weymouth nice and early for our 10.00 pm sailing only to discover it had been delayed for 6 hours.  So we had a wonderful meal of cod and chips and imbibed 'fizzy' ale in some local hostelries - Hunters was sorely missed already!  We returned to the ferry port and tried to catch some kip under the stars in the car park.  We eventually boarded the ferry at 6.00 am.


11.00 am saw us arriving in Cherbourg harbour and going straight through customs and immediately taking a wrong turn. When we sorted this small problem out we set off, a happy little bunch, not quite realising we had 12 hours solid driving ahead of us.  We discovered after several towns and several errors that the easiest way through a French town is to head straight for the 'Centre Ville' and then picking up the required road.  After nearly running out of fuel and tempers getting a touch frayed we eventually arrived in Gramat about midnight only to find the directions to the camp site vague to say the least.  Luckily there was someone in the station to give us directions.  Amazingly when we arrived at the site we managed to locate Nick Geh and his diving party and by about 1.00 am we were nicely tucked up in our tents after having hysterics watching Steve erect his one-man tent for the first time.


We arose to a marvellous morning so we proceeded to have a quick recce of the camp site.  This site proved to have quite excellent facilities, as with most French camp sites, hot showers, toilets, electricity points and running water.  The next task was to go to Gramat to buy the days supplies bread, cheese and Salame and the liquid refreshment necessary in this heat - good excuse that.  'Digger' Hastilow had also arrived the same evening as us so four of us set off to explore the River Dordogne planning to go swimming, however the low water levels (the area also experiencing a drought) put paid to this idea so we went back to Fontain St.Georges a very cold resurgence pool which proved excellent for swimming and diving though the water was extremely cold after having been underground for months.  A small cave above the resurgence was explored but was only about 40 feet in length if you're caving in swimming shorts and a zoom. We spent the evening, as most evenings would be spent eating bread, cheese and meats and drinking beer and talking with the divers who had reports of quite stupendous 'vis' and large swimming passage, so much that they were becoming quite blasé about it.


Today was to be the first day of serious caving since our arrival so we chose two relatively close caves, Reveillon and Roque du Cor.  We had located the entrance to Reveillon yesterday, to say it's impressive would be an understatement.  The huge entrance porch which measures approx. 150 feet by 150 feet leads down to a passage 30 x 30 feet with some fine gour pools.  There are a few pitches which we managed to negotiate with a 50' handline or free climbable using combined tactics.  Some side passages were explored, Steve leading us into one particularly interesting muddy one with a rope climb that proved a little awkward to get out of.  An interesting thing at the bottom was that the sump had dried out and some passage beyond was explored, this was to prove uninspiring being jammed with flood debris and mud.  On the way out we noticed a good few large toads in the muddy sections that were the sumps.

So then on to Roque du Cor, just a few kilometers away.  This cave also had an impressive entrance, a huge doline with a path leading to the bottom where the cave entrance was a low but fairly wide arch leading after about 75 feet to larger passage, perhaps about 1500 feet in total.  There were some quite nice decorations.

After the caving we stopped off in the 'Supermarche' for supplies and the evening was spent reflecting the days adventures before retiring to our respective pits.


Another lovely morning! Today's mission was to locate 3 caves, the first of them was Les Vitcirelles which proved to be just a stream sink with no known cave - (when we returned to England we discovered that Les Vitcirelles is an impressive river cave located in the centre of a nearby army camp and access is, as far as we know, virtually impossible).  Lots of caves seem to have the same name.  The next cave we visited was Pert du Themines which proved to be an excellent cave.  Situated in a blind gully the entrance is right under a pile of flood debris as was the whole cave, evidence of flooding was everywhere.  The cave needed just one 20' ladder near the entrance, we were later to regret not carrying the 50' handline.  The walls of this cave were superbly scalloped, leaving rocks like Thomas Moore sculptures, and coloured orange and browns.  From the pitch an obvious passage leads to the streamway, with a little wading this can be followed for about 100' until a sump is reached.  A tube just back from the sump can easily be climbed to a large fossil passage.  To the left, a slope down to a large chamber and the stream rejoined.  The chamber is about 50' high and flood debris can be seen jammed in the roof. The stream meanders to a second sump. A clamber up a muddy, gravel slope leads to another fossil passage.  To the right, an extremely muddy passage can be followed past some fine gours for 200'. To the left, the passage leads on to a decorated chamber and gour pools deep enough to swim through.  Returning to the first fossil passage and turning right we followed a small series of passages and by a process of elimination we eventually found ourselves in a clean washed passage full of gours which went on for several thousand feet through to a beautifully decorated chamber approx. 150' high.  Continuing along the passage, mainly by swimming, led to a 30'- 40' drop, which would have required the handline, to another section of streamway.  We believed this streamway to be a continuation beyond the sump. After these passages we made our way out.

The third cave we planned to visit was Theminette's in a village of the same name, as was Themines. The cave was very similar to the previous cave except that the entrance was completely blocked and exploration was impossible.


We had decided that today's cave was to be the Igue de St. Sol, part of the Lacave system.  On the way to the Igue we stopped and had a quick look at Lacave Show Cave natural entrance.

The Igue de St.Sol is located at the top of a track next to a cemetery just beyond Lacave.  The walk of about 1 km. is not difficult and the entrance is found in a fenced area just to the right of the main track.

The entrance shaft requires about 250' of rope. We started with a back-up to a fence post, down a slope and belayed from a tree for a drop of about 60’ to a muddy ledge with a rebelay just below the edge.  This gives a further 80' drop to another rebelay about 60' from the bottom.

The Igue intersects an old fossil passage about 40'x 40' and about 2000' long.  To the right are some old parachute cases left over from the war. Also to the right are the best of the formations, huge bosses, columns 30' to 40' high, flows and grottoes.  At the end of this passage is an old dig face in mud which has various sculptures littered around, these are made from mud. From the left of Igue the passage is muddier and has fewer formations and soon closes down.

On the way back down the hill we had a quick look at the Grotte de Combe-Culier, a small active dig that is well worth the look.


We deliberately left the Grottes de Saut de la Pucelle to be our last cave because of the reports we had of it being a good fun trip, this was proved to be the case.  We took 6 x 25' ladders, 50' handline and various tapes and slings.  The advice we had was to check which was a pitch and which was not, as some were easy to go over but not quite so easy to get back out again.  On the way down we met a couple of French caving parties who let us pass them, one party using S.R.T. in a cave with the biggest pitch being 30' and avoiding the water.  Although this active 3 km. streamway was relatively low whilst we were there it must really be impressive with a bit more water.  At the sump there is a plaque to the memory of Martel who was instrumental in the discovery of the cave 100 years ago (1889 - 1989).  Other points of interest were a rather smelly dead trout in one passage; a pool halfway into the cave had a resident white fish (trout like) and the first leech we had seen had taken up residency on one slippery climb.

All in all we had a fantastic week in an area well worth a visit.  It also has to be said that there is enormous potential in the area for new caves.  Also anyone with time on their hands might also like to visit one of the many show caves in the area - with time being so short we did not get around to seeing any.

We would also like to thank Rob Taviner (BEC & Wessex) who supplied us with much information on the area visited.


Daren Cilau.

12.8.89. Vince Simmonds, Rob Taviner, Steve Redwood and Pete Bolt.

The aim of this trip was for Pete to attempt a dive in Duke Sump just beyond St. David’s.  We left Pete disappearing into the sump then made our way back to Hard Rock Cafe to brew up and wait.  We had a look round for some food and managed to find some rice and a 'boi l-in-the-bag, - Pete had already claimed this as his.  We had only just started cooking when Pete arrived complaining of 'no vis', he was however still hungry so we continued cooking. 25 minutes later the rice was ready and so was the 'boil-in-a-bag.  The rice was dished out and the 'boil-in-a-bag' opened to reveal ...... a whistle, matches and two bars of chocolate - a very tasty Survival Kit.  The rice ended up very bland!



St Cuthbert and the Yorkies


By Mike Wilson

They were a greet bunch of lads were t'Yorkies
And theyd coom down t'Mendip for cave
We've heard of a saint called Cuthbert!!
And quite fancy a visit t'grave.
Having "tanked up" in Hunters till closing
They arrived at t'shed for the trip
Their outfits were many and varied
With overalls straight down from the tip.

We toddled on down to the entrance
And Yorkies jaws opened reet wide
"By heck" its locked and gated
Theer moost be t'crown jewels inside.
Having turned of tap at the entrance
And stopped village water at source
They all slid down rift by the ladder
And locked gate behind them of course.

Well the trip to Sump II in general
Was just like most tourist trips go
With cries of this reminds me of Knacker Cracker
And look out your lamp's a bit low.

At last stopped for a breather
And passed the Mars bars to hand
Wot no bloody mint cake
Theers nowt like it throughout the land.

We decided to return to the surface
By various devious ways
Make haste and dont miss Hunters opening
Faggots peas and Butcombe on trays.

That trip were cracking said Yorkies
As we shut the lid on the way
Saying crown jewels were left theer by queenie
She'll be back for t'divi one day.


Blitz's  Bitz

British Mountaineering Council Huts

In keeping with the idea of the club being an exploration club with interests other than caving (and drinking!) the committee have this year rejoined the British Mountaineering Council.  This allows us access to all huts maintained by BMC and the Mountaineering Club of Scotland. The BMC has sent us a 19 page list, covering over 80 huts throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  In some instances bookings need to be for a party only or need to be made by club secretary to club secretary but these are exceptions rather than the rule.  The full list will be housed in the library but there now follow a few examples to set you thinking.

Yorkshire Mountaineering Club Hut, 3 Irish Row, Coppermines, Coniston, Cumbria.  NGR 293985

18 male, 12 female, drying room, cutlery, crockery, hot water, showers, electric and gas cooking, coal fires, flush toilets, mattresses, access by car, £2.00 per night

George Starkey Hut, Patterdale, Cumbria.  NGR 396160

20 places for men and women, drying room, bedding, cutlery, crockery, fridge, hot water, showers, flush toilets, slot meters, access by car, electric light, cooking and heating by gas and electricity.  £2.75 per night.  Payment in advance.  Club or group bookings only. (min 8)

Climbers Club Hut, Bosigran Count House, Pendeen, Cornwall.  NGR 422365 .

18 places mixed, cutlery, crockery, £3.00 per night

University of London Graduate Mountaineering Club Hut, Fallcliffe Cottage, Grindleford, Derbyshire

NGR SK240771

15 places mixed, electric lighting and cooking, living room, 3 bedroom with alpine bunk beds, kitchen, washroom with shower and flush toilets.  Access from road, car park.  £2.50 per night.

Mynydd Climbing Club Hut, Blaen y Nant, Llanrwst. NGR 738603

30 places mixed, cutlery, crockery, hot water, electric shower, flush toilets, access by car, electric light, gas cooking. £2.00 per night.

Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland Hut, The Smithy at Little Loch Broom.  NGR 095877

10 places, cutlery, crockery, slot meter, access by car, no bedding, full cooking facilities.  50p required for electricity meter.  £1.50 per night.

Irish Mountaineering Club Hut, The Bloat House, Annalong.

NGR J 38 20  24 places mixed, bedding, cutlery, crockery, access by car, gas lighting and cooking, 4 weeks notice of booking required.



A news flash just in from the Netherlands ......

Born on Sunday 18th March 1990 a daughter and sister, Jennifer Carmen to Bob, Marijke and Angela Hill.


Some quotes from Lisa Taylor who is currently working in South Africa

"Managed to write off a company car the first week I was here!"   "Christmas Day, we all went water skiing and we also managed to pack in a little wind surfing, barbecuing and playing on a giant water slide"

"Did I tell you I went caving with Colin Priddle down a hole called The Knocking Shop.  What a hole.  Porcupine quills in the entrance that was a tight wriggle.  It then opened up into the most beautifully decorated cave I've ever seen."

The Working Saturday

The committee would like to record their very grateful thanks to the people who turned up and participated so fully in the recent working Saturday.  It was a small but very select bunch of friends who managed to transform the Belfry into something not resembling its usual slum appearance. It is wrong to single people out for special attention but would you have spent 3 hours cleaning, disinfecting and painting the small toilet as Babs did?  Would you have had the nerve to paint the large bunkroom that oh so subtle shade of blue that Lavina chose?  Would you have had the civil engineering expertise to build the speed bump, where the cattle grid used to be, quite so high.  Would you have slaved over a hot stove for days before, as Hilary did, to provide the working Belfryites with a never ending supply of cakes and biscuits? Similarly the food in the evening, with just the merest hint of 5 garlic bulbs, provided by Glenys was especially welcome as were the slide shows by Zot  (The Antarctic and Penguins I have loved), Blitz (Oh No, not more cone karst!) and Skippy, (Why are all my bridge jumping slides upside down?) with his show after the pub.

Indeed we liked it so much that we are going to do it all again this summer and combine as a barbecue and exterior painting session.  Lets hope we see a few more faces this time.  Grateful thanks to:

Mike and Hilary Wilson, Martin and Glenys Grass, Lavinia and Quiet John, Blitz, Nigel Taylor, Zot, Mac, AlanThomas, Stuart, Graham Johnson, Dick Fred, Nick Gymer, Kevin Gurmer, Carol White, Jeff and Babs, Slug and finally last but not least Arthur.


CSCC AGM May 12th, 1990

The CSCC AGM this year was a fairly quiet affair with little of note.  However the subject of training reared its (ugly?) head again and member clubs are being asked to consult their members as to their needs and requirements. Currently the NCA has in the region of £2000 to be spent on caver training and the CSCC is considering holding a weekend in the autumn covering topics such as cave photography, SRT, An aspect of practical First Aid awareness. etc .....  But I hasten to say these are only suggestions.  The CSCC needs to now as to the extent of demand, if any and for what.


The CSCC were informed the both Cow Hole and Ubley Hill Pot are no longer accessible as the entrance depressions have been filled in.  This has been going on for some months but has only just been noticed - an indication of the popularity of the two sites?

Wessex Challenge 1990

The Wessex challenge is to be at The Belfry this year and will be on Saturday, June 23rd at 7.30 pm.  The fancy dress theme is - Civil Wars.

Tickets are £4.00 and are available fromany committee member.  Zot says that the pig is organised!


M.R.O. Incident Reports. 1989

These are descriptions of the nine cave rescue call-outs that occurred during the year.  They (the descriptions) were abstracted from the annual report of the Mendip Rescue Organization for 1989 in which further details, statistics and letters from the grateful rescued may be found.

Sunday 29th January Swildon's Hole

Brian Prewer was alerted by Yeovil Police at 4.05 p.m.  They reported that a 16-year old caver, Lee Parker, had fallen down a 12 ft drop in the Wet Way and broken his leg.  The injured caver's brother had left to raise the alarm whilst another brother had stayed to help.  A Westminster Speleological Group party in the cave chanced across the incident and assisted.

A rescue party comprising of Tony Jarratt, Geoff Price, Pete McNab, Mark Lumley, Duncan Prew, Pete Hann, Mike Duck, A. Taylor, Pete Moody and Babs Williams entered the cave at about 4.20 p.m. with First Aid and hauling equipment.  The patient was given two Temgesic tablets and the broken leg immobilised in neoprene splints.  He was then hauled up the pitch in a "baby-bouncer" and brought out within the hour, including being carried across the muddy fields in the Paraguard stretcher.  The ambulance left for Bristol Royal Infirmary at 5.45 p.m.

The three Parker brothers had been caving before, but Lee wore trainers which probably explains why he slipped.  They also misinformed MRO that they were members of a club in the Hampshire area, which was officially refuted shortly afterwards.

Thursday 2nd February Swildon's Hole

Fred Davies was contacted at Bruton by Yeovil Police at 5.45 p.m.  An army party had been reported as missing.  He requested Stuart McManus, Dave Pike and Dave Turner to form a search party and obtain further details.  Barely 15 minutes later, HTV gave a news flash that a "major search" was under way on Mendip.  How they came by this and who confirmed the story is a mystery!

Nineteen Junior Leaders from RCT/RAOC, Azimghur Barracks, Colerne, Wiltshire, were led down the cave at about mid-day by corporals Ward and Bruce; the former being the most experienced caver.  A third staff member who would normally have been with such a large party was ill. They went as one group to Sump One without incident, but, on the return above the Twenty Foot Pot, Corporal Bruce and nine others strayed off ahead of the rest and became lost in the Dry Ways. Unaware of this, Corporal Ward's party surfaced at about 4.30 p.m. having come out via the Wet Way.  After waiting an hour, he raised the alarm.

When Stuart McManus and Fred Davies arrived at about 6.10 p.m. there was some uncertainty as to how many were still underground.  Meanwhile, the lost party was chanced upon in the Water Chamber by two other cavers from Dorset and escorted out safely.  "Major Search" McManus thus called a parade on the Green and carried out a complete count to find all present and correct!

Sunday 26th March Charterhouse-on-Mendip

Mrs Fry was exercising her Labrador dog over the mineries when it crawled under the grill protecting the entrance of Rakes Shaft No. 14 and fell about 20 feet.  She went to the Mendip Caving Group hut at Nordrach for assistance and Jonathan Roberts alerted Martin Bishop and Chris Batstone, who were already changed for a trip, at the Belfry.  Brian Prewer was also informed and all went to the site with ropes.  The large dog was neatly trussed up, hauled out and returned uninjured to its grateful owner.

Tuesday 28th March Swildon's Hole

Ruth McBride suffered a bad asthma attack at the Double Pots whilst caving with Ravenskaff Venture Scouts from Clevedon.  One of the scouts left the cave to raise the alarm and the police contacted MRO through the Hunters' Lodge Inn at 9.57 p.m.  A dinner party at Upper Pitts was informed and those not indisposed turned out to assist; namely, Fred Davies, Brian Prewer, Tony Jarratt, Steve Pickersgill, Mark Foyle, M. Heard, Graham Johnson, Ric and Pat Halliwell.  On arrival at Priddy Green, they found that the patient had surfaced safely with assistance from her own party.  A convenient stand down at 10.20 p.m. followed.

Saturday 8th April G.B. Cavern

Graham Heriot of the Victoria Caving Group fell about 25 feet from the top of the Ladder Dig pitch early in the afternoon and sustained a badly fractured jaw with lacerations and severe bruising to his head, legs and arms.  He was wearing slip-on type Rigger Boots and the single band chin strap of his helmet broke at some stage during the fall.  He was lucky to get away so lightly in the circumstances and to have the support of two nurses, Sue Grimstead and Nickie Trill, who happened to be in the cave.  Another party in the cave was also able to assist for they raised the alarm when the Victoria Caving Group member hurrying from the cave for help slipped and badly twisted his own leg.

Brian Prewer received the call from Yeovil Police at 3.10 p.m. and was told that the fallen caver had "multiple injuries".  A major call-out followed.  Rescuers were raised from Upper Pitts through Murray Knapp and Dave Pike, whilst Trevor Hughes and Dave Lennard were encountered en route for Swildons in full kit and diverted to G.B.  Dr. Tony Boycott was called from a meeting at the Hunters' Lodge Inn.  The first MRO party, Trevor Hughes and Dave Lennard, went underground at 3.28 p.m., just 18 minutes after receiving the call-out. Stuart McManus organised the underground teams and Tim Large established the surface control.

Murray Knapp and Alison Hutchings took down medical supplies at 3.36 p.m.  Others followed in succession with necessary kit: Nick Pollard, Rob Taviner and Dave Pike took down the Mager stretcher frame and hauling ropes at 3.39 p.m; Tony Boycott and Stuart McManus ferried in the carrying sheet at 3.45 p.m; Brian Prewer went in with a bag of splints at 4.03 p.m; Pat Cronin and Ken James took down further medical supplies, and Nigel Edwards and Tim Hall of the Border Caving Group set up radio contact at the entrance. Communications with those underground were made when Stuart Lain and Jim Rands took down the Grunterphone at 4.40 p.m. Alan Butcher, Jeff Smith, Keith Capper, Linda Wilson and Graham Mullen entered the cave to support at 4.41 p.m. Heat packs and the hot air breather were taken down by Nick Sprang and Richard Payne just before 5 p.m.

Good progress was made underground and Tony Jarratt, John Beecham, Barry Hanks, Mark Lumley with two others went down to give a hand on the final stretch of the haul out.  The patient was safely out of the cave by 6 p.m. and taken to Weston-s-Mare General Hospital.  This incident involved over 25 people underground with additional cavers standing by on the surface.

Saturday 6th May Drunkard's Hole

Yeovil Police called Brian Prewer at 7.15 p.m. with news that someone was stuck down the cave.  No further details were available.  It was subsequently found that Mr. G. Townsend from Bridgwater YMCA had been leading a group of novices comprising of one other adult and four 12-year olds when it was decided to turn back.  Being now in the rear, he experienced difficulty in keeping up with his retreating party and exhausted himself in a tight passage. The youngsters immediately ahead could not help.  A rescue team consisting of Tony Jarratt and Andy Sparrow went to assist with Brian Prewer, Pete Hann, Nigel Graham, Dave Pike, Jim Rands, Pete and Alison Moody in support.  Tony and Andy had the stuck caver out by 8 p.m. none the worse for his ordeal.

Thursday 18th May General Search

Brian Prewer was contacted direct by a Mrs Ferguson from Bath 30 minutes after midnight.  She said that her husband had gone caving straight from work the previous evening and had not returned.  He had been expected back at 11 p.m.  The informant had no further details of the cave or the other members of the party, except that they could be driving a green and white Citroen 2CV.

Yeovil Police were contacted to formalise the incident and they offered help with a patrol car to search likely sites.  Nigel Taylor was alerted to check the popular places in Burrington and John Beecham did likewise at Charterhouse. Brian himself did a tour of Priddy.  Twenty minutes later, Mrs Ferguson rang again to say that her husband Toby had returned.  He had been down Manor Farm Swallet and taken longer than expected because of another slow party in the cave.  On surfacing late, he had tried to contact his wife but the pay phones he found only took 999 calls.  Cavers relying upon remote telephones must beware of this situation.

Thursday 6th June Swildon's Hole

Roger Dors received a call from Yeovil Police at 9.20 p.m. with a report that a caver in another party had fallen somewhere beyond Sump One and sustained serious injuries.  No further details were known.  A major operation followed during which it became apparent that two experienced Bath University cavers had been on a trip to the bottom of the Black Hole but had belayed their ladder to an unsound boulder.  Douglas Gauld, aged 23, was the first to descend, but tried this unprotected and so fell about 35 feet with all the tackle when the boulder pulled out.  His distraught partner, Kevin Martin, was unable to go to his assistance and, whilst hearing moans from below and even seeing his friend crawling round, he clearly expected the worse.  There was nothing for it but to leave the scene and call for help.

Upstream of Sump One, he met a party with two army instructors from Colerne.  Arrangements were made to alert MRO and Kevin was accompanied back to the Black Hole.  To his relief, they discovered that the fallen caver appeared to be remarkably composed and able to assess his injuries coherently.  For some reason, the long rope available to the cavers on the spot remained in its tackle bag in the streamway.

The university students had gone down the cave at 7.15 p.m. and the fall occurred at about 8.30 p.m. So, the injured caver was stranded and unattended for about 90 minutes until Jonathan Swift, who headed the first MRO team, arrived at the Black Hole about 10.10 p.m.  The rope was put to good use at last when Jonathan belayed it and did a classic abseil to reach Douglas Gauld.  He was closely followed to the pitch by Graham Price, Mike Breakspeare, Keith Savory and Stuart McManus.  By now, Richard West had set up a control on Priddy Green and many other teams were called and stood by.  It promised to be an all night job at least.

Graham Johnson acted as an effective runner until full communications were established; Tony Jarratt carried in the neoprene splints and Dany Bradshaw the hot air kit.  Nick Pollard took down extra heat packs and Andy Sparrow hauling ropes and a harness.  At 10.26 p.m. Bob Cork and Dr. Tony Boycott went underground with the Mager stretcher.  Shortly afterwards, Jonathan Swift surfaced with first hand news that the patient had wrist and back injuries, but seemed to have had a remarkable escape from such a fall.  Dave Pike brought the Sump Rescue apparatus along and several cave divers were alerted. Although there was a possibility that Douglas Gauld might be willing and able to be pulled through whilst holding his breath, this could not be guaranteed, of course.  So, the bulky equipment was taken underground to Sump One by Martin Bishop, Chris Batstone, Pat Cronin, Ian Brown, Ashley Houlton, Aubrey Newport, Robin Brown, Pete McNab, Max Milden and Steve Redwood.

More hauling and medical equipment was taken into the cave by Nigel Graham, Rob Taviner and Dave Grieves whilst the Grunterphone and sump telephone went down at 11.30 p.m. with Nigel Taylor, Phil Romford and Trevor Hughes.  Ted Humphreys followed in support.  By midnight, a surface team comprising Brian Prewer, Brian Workman, Jim Hanwell and Nick Barrington were listening in above Sump One and Dave Pike maintained a radio link at the entrance.  Good three-way communications with control were established at 1.14 a.m. The hauling party was reported as approaching the downstream side of Sump One.  Hot air spares and a dry furry suit were requested and taken down by Fred Davies and Alan Mills.  The patient agreed to be towed through the sump without using breathing apparatus.

Throughout the night, the long haul continued: 1.22 a.m. through the Sump; 2.53 a.m. at Barnes' Loop; 4 a.m. at the Twenty Foot; 4.25 a.m. at the Eight Foot; 4.53 a.m. in the Water Chamber, and 5.23 a.m. at Jacob's Ladder. The patient was brought out of the cave to the awaiting ambulance and press at 6.03 a.m., over nine hours after falling so badly.  He was taken to the Royal United Hospital at Bath.

This was the longest distance that MRO has had to carry someone injured out of a Mendip cave.  It is a tribute to all concerned that it ran so smoothly and relatively quickly in the event.  The inevitable media reports were also reasonable and we are learning how to deal with this side of things too.  Thirty cavers were involved underground and ten more directly on the surface.  Many others stood by in case they were needed later in the day.

Saturday 2nd December General Alert

Brian Prewer was called by the Police at 50 minutes past midnight because someone from Bristol had been reported as overdue following a trip with a party of scouts to a Priddy cave the previous evening.  He stood by Dave Turner and Brian Workman, then went to check both the Green and Eastwater Lane.  On returning home, he was contacted again to say that the caver concerned had just turned up at 1.35 a.m.

Saturday 23rd December Goatchurch Cavern

The Police called at 6.50 p.m. to report that a 15-year old scout had slipped and dislocated his right knee.  Nigel Taylor was alerted and at the cave to help within ten minutes of the call-out. He found that a party of four adults and nine teenagers, all members of the 21st Swindon Scouts, had been coming out of the cave when Paul Bannister slipped on the polished rock below the cut steps in the main entrance passage.  His knee was badly dislocated and he was in great pain.  The fall occurred at about 6.30 p.m.  The scouts rigged a handline to the surface whilst waiting for MRO.

After assessing the injuries, Nigel called for a stretcher.  This was brought to the cave by Tim Large, Fred Davies, Tony Jarratt and Dany Bradshaw at 7.25 p.m.  The patient was soon evacuated and carried to the roadside to await the arrival of an ambulance.  This was delayed until 8.15 p.m. owing to industrial action.  A paramedic in the ambulance crew administered Entonox and relocated the injured knee.  The patient was then taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary for further treatment.

What's In A Name?

(Any errors or omissions in the following? See Alan - Ed.!)

Alan Thomas

When I was first asked to compile this list I thought it was because members would be interested to know how others came by their nicknames.  I have since found that many members are interested to know the real names of people they only know by their nicknames.

Ian Caldwell was given the name Wormhole by Trevor Hughes because he had a propensity for digging small holes and because he was a womaniser (which I suppose is another way of digging small holes).

S.J. Collins is called Alfie for a reason that I have already adequately explained in "The Story of Priddy".

Pat Cronin is called Stumpy for obvious reasons.

Chris Hall was known as Snogger Hall as a description of his behaviour.  On joining the police force he became known as "Evening all".

Chris Harvey became known as Zott because when he was first seen on Mendip he had a puke-coloured (and occasionally puke-covered) Consul with a mascot suspended from a spring which he was in the habit of pulling.  As it flew up to the roof he exclaimed: Zott.

Colin Houlden became known as Colin the Screw when he worked at Shepton Mallet Prison.  I last saw him last November when I was making my way to Guernsey on Channel Island Ferries, but Tony Jarratt (pronounced J'Rat) tells me that he is still about.

Trevor Hughes is called Biffo

Dave Irwin is called The Wig, which is (strangely enough) short for a corruption of Irwin.

When I was staying at the Hill Inn in February the Landlord (Pissy Riley by name) reminded me that in the late 1960's the definite article was put in front of names and nicknames. For instance, when he was in Australia he went call on Phil Kingston and was greeted with:  "Ah! It’s the Riley".  I have never had a nickname but in the 60's was sometimes called the Thomas.  John Riley, by the way, was called Pissy Riley because on one occasion he objected to someone passing his cigarettes round the Hunters.

Mike Jeanmaire is called Fish because he was declared by the D.H.S.S. to be temperamentally unsuitable for anything except diving.

Greame Johnson (as opposed to Graham) was given the name Bolt because he resembled Frankenstein's monster.

Ron King is known as Kangy which, when we were young, we meant to be a corruption of King.

Mark Lumley is called Gonzo after one of the Muppets, whom he resembles.

Stuart McManus is known as Mac usually but occasionally Mac Anus for obvious reasons.

Peter McNab is known as Snab. When he was in the R.A.F. there were so many Peters that every Peter had to have a nickname.  He called himself Snab to avoid being called Macscab.  It is obvious that his son would be called Snablet.

When we were staying at the Hill Inn in February he was heard to say wistfully:  "Peter used to be known as my son; now I am known as his father".

Mike Macdonald is called Trebor after an impersonation of a newsreader done by Lennie Henry.  The newsreader is called Trebor Macdoughnut.

Richard Neville-Dove is called Mongo because he resembles a character in "Blazing Saddles".

Dave Shand is known as Wobbly, for reasons that become obvious on Saturday night.

Chris Smart is known as Blitz because he was struck by lightning in Austria.

Nigel Taylor was given the name Mr. Nigel by Gordon Tilly because when he first became a member he called everybody Mr.  In fact he called me Alan long before he called my wife Hilary.

Brian Van Luipen is called Loopy for obvious reasons.

Graham Wilton-Jones is called Bassett because his surname is said to resemble Wootton Bassett.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys


The BB is late again. This time it's my fault; I have several articles in hand at the moment (a rarity) and apologize to the authors whose contributions are not included in the present BB.  I'll make sure they're in the next one.

If you have any comments about, or additions to, Oliver’s cave diving article you may certainly send them to me.  I can either print them in the BB, if suitable, or forward them to N.Y. with Oliver's BB.

Please could those who have not already paid their subs, do so at once.  Club finances are very tight this year and late payers cost the club money! Those who do not pay will not get any more BB’s.

I've been asked to point out that the BEC is a member of the British Mountaineering Club which means that members can stay at any of the hundreds of BMC huts at rates similar to the Belfry.

Another date for your diaries: - The Cheddar May Fair and Folk Festival is on Saturday 12th May. One of the events is the world championship of Manx football.  Teams of 10 to make 5.  1(2) goalkeeper.  3 out and 1 reserve in fancy dress can enter for £5 and must get sponsorship towards Telethon.

HTV are filming this and Snablets aerial Morris Jig on High Rock.  Cheddar Gorge (to the tune of Coronation Street) on that day.  Also the MRO have been asked to do a display).

The winning football team will be invited to the live Telethon event two weeks later.


Membership Changes

Three ex-members have rejoined the club.   They are: -

620       Phil Coles.        Totterdown. Bristol
582       Chris Hall          Redhill. Bristol
570       Joy Scovell (nee Steadman).       Transvaal. South Africa.

We also welcome two new members who are: -

Sharon BeattIe.              Horfleld. Bristol
Roberst Bragg.              Odd Down. Bath

Eastwater Clean Up

It may nave escaped the notice of a lot or people that the BEC has, as of the early eighties, decided to adopt Eastwater Cavern under the ‘Descent adopt a cave scheme’, whereby the cave adopted is visited on a regular basis (it is, by the way). No clearing trips have been undertaken for a couple of years, however, though small amounts of crap are being carried out on various tourist - digging trips.  The amount of spent carbide and general rubbish in the cave is really quite amazing; three tackle bags full between the crossroads and the entrance, including two odd boots from Dolphin Chimney and unbroken lemonade bottles, several months ago on a tourist trip:  So what?

Well, we're having a clean up trip on Saturday morning the 7th of April.  Tackle bags provided free of charge.  It is time to start these clean up trips on a regular basis before the cave starts smelling and looking like many caves in Burrington.  So please make an effort to be there.

Graham Johnson



by Caving Sec

The party at the end of the universe was totally wicked!!  Also down Daren Scientists have discovered a hole in the Yohzone, the Rock Steady Crew will look into it next camp.  A date for your personal organizers. Saturday 31st March PRACTICE RESCUE.  Compulsory for all regular Daren visitors.  Also in Wales a discovery in Day-yr-Ogof by Rich Blake and Rob Harper of approx. 600ft. of passage ending in a sump.  Rob will be diving the sump on their return visit.

The BEC in Matienzo lived up to the motto, and also found 100m. of new passage (see the write-up by Blitz).

Lodmore Hole? an EMI (an electronics company - ed.) dig with some BEC helpers was looking very interesting with sightings of new passage but then unfortunately collapsed.  Bowery Corner has a new passage heading down dip called Dipso.  Survey work has been going on in Wookey by Trebor, Ross, Stumpy and Phil Churches and also by the choke busters in Welsh’s Green which is now complete.

Forget S.R.T. now there's T.R.T.  A breed of lemmings in the BEC have started practicing the sport of bridge jumping using the T.R.T. triple rope technique (jumping either backwards or head first off bridges attached to ropes.  Head first is the more advanced and shed spreading method).  Jumps have taken place throughout the country.  There has also been a lightning raid by the EMC/Steigl boot boys on the classic Bridge in the French Alps at Pont de la Caille, just north of Annecy on the main road to Geneva, known as the "Big Ride.

There have been some first Jumps on virgin bridges by BEC/EMC members in the local area. Unfortunately one of the bridges has become a bit dodgy to jump due to a local resident almost having a heart attack when looking out of her window to see what she thought was people committing suicide en mass.  The reason for three ropes is because it feels a lot safer than one and we can't afford ten.

Even while you read this the E.M.C. (myself Included) are mellowing out on a beach in the south of Spain after completing another classic Jump!


Bob Lawder

Sadly, we have to announce the death of Bob Lawder of the Wessex Cave Club.  Bob was one of the long standing Hunters characters and most of us have witnessed his fine renditions of the ‘Boatswine’, the "American Bum' and "Mrs O'Flaherty" at various New Year's Eve sessions and barrel nights.  Our condolences to his wife Anne.  Within the next few weeks there will be a memorial service for Bob at Priddy Church possibly followed by a barrel or two and a memorial "sing song' at the pub.

Tony Jarratt


New Cuthbert's Leader Form.

A new form for applying to become a Cuthbert’s leader has been issued, available at the Belfry. The qualifications are necessary (recommended by the St. Cuthbert’s leaders meeting and ratified by the BEC committee: -

a)                  It is considered that the applicant is unlikely sufficient knowledge of the cave system in less than 15 trips.

b)                  It is advisable that the applicant is shown around the cave system by as many different routes as is possible, and must cover all known areas of the cave. Particular emphasis be placed upon the forbidden routes to prevent damage to formations.

c)                  The applicant is encouraged to ensure that he or she is shown around the cave system by as many current leaders as is practicable.  This application is likely to be unsuccessful if most of the qualifying trips are signed by one leader.

d)                  Some of the qualifying trips shall be carried out in conjunction with ‘tourist trip parties’ as booked by the Caving Secretary of the Bristol Exploration club or guest leaders of other clubs.

e)                  The applicant must satisfy a nominated leader for his final qualifying trip before his application will considered.  The nominated leader will be selected by the Sec or Caving Sec of the Bristol Exploration Club.

f)                    The applicant must show their current third party liability Insurance certificate to the current Hon. Sec of the Bristol Exploration Club before the application will be considered.

The Good Old Days

From the Yorkshire Rambler's Club Journal Vol VII No 21 .1934.

"The Craven Pot-hole Club camp in 1932 covered the week-ends 24th and 31st July.  Number of descents. 79.  On 27th Fell Beck was in flood.  18 inches up the wench and again on the 29th."




The library is coming along slowly generally tidying up, cataloguing and finding out exactly what we've got, so that if they go missing we know about it.  I'm fed up with the books going walk-about.

I’ve assimilated all the BB's and thanks to certain people such as Joan Bennett, Les Peters etc. we've got a load of old BB's for our collection. Out or 450 odd issues I’m missing only 30 or so, which is not bad but if you have any spare copies of the following perhaps you could donate them to complete the set.



























(very manky)



(very manky)

















(very manky, trod on)


(photo copy only)

(no cover, worn)


( no cover)























(no cover)

I Know we’ve got an almost complete set of bound BB's but we were so close to another complete set.  I thought we might as well continue - also to help out with Alan's set in the archives.



Trebor also included a list of outstanding un-booked in books.  This is virtually identical to the list published last year so I haven't included it except to note that Henry Bennett is now banned from the library - he seems to still have seven books out (all since 1988!).

On second thoughts, I've printed the list on Page 29.  If these Books/Documents have still not been returned you should really try to do something about it.


Safety in Cave Diving

by Oliver Wells

The arrival of the Belfry Bulletin is always an agreeable moment and perhaps the efforts of the editor and of the regular contributors are too often taken for granted.  The happy feeling that this is really not my problem was ended rather abruptly in my case when I found myself talking to this hard-working gentleman in the Hunter's Lodge.  He reminded me that as a member of the BEC,  I was expected to put pen to paper and then send the results to him. So I was wondering whether some notes on safety in cave diving might be of interest.  Nothing that I shall say here is new, but I have a special reason for writing this article that I shall describe in a moment.

It has always seemed to me that there are two main schools of thought about training cave divers, depending upon the degree of mental strain that is put upon the trainee.  If you join the army, as many or us had to do in the 50’s, then you will find that the training is a rather 'heroic" process in which the finer sensitivities of the trainee are ignored.  In the same sort of way, when I signed up for an underwater course about ten years ago to see if I could still do it, I was dismayed to find that the instructor seemed to be a frustrated marine sergeant who scattered tanks across the bottom of a really quite deep indoor pool and then expected us to swim from one tank to the next, taking only one breath from a mouthpiece attached to each of them.  I have never been so close to drowning in by life.  I seem to remember that when I was taught to use an oxygen respirator by Jack Thompson and John Buxton in 1954 and 1955, the training was equally no-nonsense but was carried out in a more humane way (apart from the physiological tests, that is.  The dive store that I do business with these days follows the more humane approach also.

Possibly you may have realised by now that I do not like the “heroic” method for training divers, especially from the receiving end.  I prefer a more tranquil approach based on extended periods of time spent underwater gradually becoming acclimatised to the life below.  "Exercises" such as mask removal, mouthpiece exchange and so on can then be accomplished without any worry whatsoever (or can even become agreeable if you are on really good form).

An important question is how often you should practice your basic diving skills.  There are, it is true, certain individuals who have the unfair advantage over the rest of us in being able to perform underwater to perfection without regular practice.  But if you wish to be REALLY on form then you should go below the surface at least once a week.  In the 1950's I met this requirement by swimming in a flooded gravel pit while a helpful colleague rowed a boat from which a nylon rope came down from the sky, as it were.  Before my recent visit to England, I spent well over an hour following a thin nylon line laid between weights at a depth of about 9 feet in a lake behind a friend’s house.  Such has been the progress with diving equipment that neither a boat nor a safety line tied to the diver were needed.  While doing this, I deliberately stirred up the mud and very carefully kept in contact with the line at all times.  A colleague who tried to do this expressed surprise that the line could suddenly vanish completely, obviously you must concentrate your mind endlessly on this point.  After five dives at intervals of about a week I once again felt ready for a cave.  At the very least you should practice underwater within two weeks of diving in a cave.

Another important point is what I call the "safety reflex' of the diver.  If you are an open-water diver, then your idea of safety is the surface.  As a cave diver, your reactions must be totally different.  You should have two simultaneous responses if a sudden problem should arise.  Your first automatic reaction should be to check your back up mouthpiece.  Your second should be to check your contact with the line.  Then you can sort out your problem.

A friend who read the above paragraph points out that the more general idea is of "penetration diving" rather than cave diving if the above ideas are to apply.  His interest is diving on wrecks.  At one dive site, there is a wreck directly below the channel used by large oil tankers that sail by at regular intervals with their propellers churning and so on.  The divers lay lines from the side and employ all of the precautions described above.  (Wreck divers generally carry an independent aqualung supplied from a small "pony bottle' that does not have the duration of the backup system carried by a cave diver.)

Constant practice can pay dividends in many ways.  For example, during my recent swim back from Wookey Nineteen with Bob Drake, it seems that I did not tighten the belt that holds the cylinders around my middle to the degree that is required.  (That steep, restricted. muddy rock slope in Nineteen is not the most comfortable place for putting on cave diving equipment that I have ever been in.)  I knew that I was on good form when I went underwater and the lines appeared to be more "friendly" than the surface. About 15-20 feet along the line and while I was in a fairly compact section of the passage, the tube from the regulator on my right cylinder suddenly pulled tight so that the mouthpiece set off at a brisk speed in the direction of my lower right wisdom tooth (possibly the tube was too short).  It is amazing how fast the jaw muscles can tighten at a time like that. Unexpectedly perhaps.  I did not feel alarmed even slightly, and stopped swimming, checked the backup regulator, checked my contact with the line,  and THEN pulled the cylinder back to where it should have been (for the first of many times that I did so on what was really a very agreeable dive).

Of course, the episode described above was fairly trivial.  This sort of problem occurs to cave divers all the time.  I only mentioned it here to emphasise the need for constant underwater practice if you do not wish to be alarmed by such a thing. The final five chapters in Alan Thomas’ book "The Last Adventure" contain examples of happenings that were more dangerous than the above.  In my opinion and if you want to go cave diving, then you should read these chapters, think about these episodes and then practice underwater until you are confident that you can meet such crises in a totally calm way.  (And even then please do not be in too much of a hurry to “push the limits” until you have been doing it for some time.)

Crises that occur underwater can be all the more terrifying for being unexpected.  Tony Jarratt told me about a diver who was exploring in a mine working underwater, stirring up the mud as he swam along.  When it was time to return, he found that his line reel was jammed, and that he had been pulling the belay block along behind him. There was no line through the muddy water back to the air surface.  Tony tells me that he got out successfully.  It is a terrifying story, but is useful perhaps in emphasising that you cannot be too careful.

By “redundancy” we mean that if the respirator should suddenly stop working (or worst of all release its air) then you can change over to a second mouthpiece on a backup system and reach safety using your own resources alone.  Perhaps it should be emphasised that this is a MINIMUM requirement since such failures can and do happen.  For example, I had a friend In Pittsburgh who lost the O-ring between his cylinder and the regulator at a depth of 70 feet in open water.  In Hawaii.  I was in the boat when a diver emerged with a stream of bubbles coming from his pressure gauge.  About two weeks later, a diver right in front of me suffered a blow-out of some kind from the cylinder valve behind his head and then surfaced in a cloud of bubbles that was larger than any such cloud that I have ever seen.  One day when practicing in an indoor pool with a borrowed regulator, I was surprised when the rubber mouthpiece came off and I was connected directly to the water.  Oddly enough, in the 1950's we dived regularly in caves without any backup system apart from a second oxygen cylinder that fed into the same breathing circuit, and it is not clear to me looking back on it, how we could have felt so self-assured.  A totally independent backup system now appears to be absolutely essential, in my opinion.

In response to a question from a non-caving friend, cave divers nowadays wear a cylinder on each side ("side-mounts" in the current Jargon) with a pressure gauge and a regulator on each of them.  The idea is never to get yourself into a situation where you cannot get out with the backup system.

Head protection was neglected in the 1950's.  Bob Davies wore a beret over the very thin rubber hood on his dry suit with this idea in mind, but the rest of us did not even do that.  Nowadays cave divers always wear a helmet and with reason. The only question is how soon the use of helmets spread to open-water divers also, because even there the diver can (and sometimes does) knock his/her head.

Another question is whether it is safer to dive solo or whether you should maintain close and continuous contact with a second diver at all times.  Obviously it is a good idea to have a second diver not too far away, but it is a delusion to expect that he/she can help you if anything really serious should go wrong.  In fact, the chance of an accident underwater in a cave is probably increased if there is a second diver too closely in contact to delay you and generally cause confusion.  Solo diving can be very agreeable if you are on form (and yet I WAS very grateful to Bob Drake when he appeared out of the murk and unwound the guide wire from around my left regulator on the first of my two trips back from Nineteen --- although to be truthful about it, we were operating separately for all practical purposes until I was delayed at that point).

Here, the reviewer wrote: "All dive certification agencies emphasise the need to dive with a partner.  Your statement will be criticised ..."  Diving with a partner makes very good sense in a very large number of cases, but I still think that in cave diving the problems caused by a companion in continuous close contact in causing delays, stirring up mud and so on can outweigh the advantages.  Having a second diver not too far away can be very comforting, however.

Concerning deep diving when breathing air in caves.  I am against it.  In the late 1950's I went with John Buxton to HMS Vernon in Portsmouth where we went to the equivalent of 200 feet in a pressure chamber in company with some Naval Officers.  We sat on benches along the two sides of a horizontal cylindrical chamber of diameter about 5 feet while a naval gentleman at one end communicated with the world outside by hitting the wall with a noisy blunt object.  We stared at the needle on a depth gauge as it slowly rotated clockwise between us. There was nothing to report down to 170 feet, when nitrogen narcosis came on with about as much subtlety as being hit on the back of the head with a hammer.  It was a ghastly experience.  I felt as if I was being whirled in a centrifuge about ten times faster than I wished to go.  But the plan was to go to 200 feet, so on we went.  By this time the air was so dense that it was a major athletic enterprise to breathe either in or out, in addition to the narcosis.  The Naval Officer told us later about the incredibly stupid things that even experienced divers had done at such depths.  Cave diving, anyone?

(Generally, people who dive deeply in caves either practice endlessly to survive narcosis or use a different gas mixture to avoid its effects.  Dive certification agencies generally prohibit dives below 120 feet. In response to a question from the reviewer, the above took place entirely air.  Presumably it would have been worse underwater.)

Perhaps the final point that I shall make concerns the EXPECTATION of the diver.  Of course, all of us would like to be at the cutting edge of cave diving, and yet nowadays I have been forced by a certain feeling of reality to regard myself as being in the position of a tourist to the Alps who is conducted on an easy rock-climb by one of the local guides.  Of course, this does not excuse from the need to practice my skills, mental attitude and equipment (you cannot escape from this).  But in fact I find it not at all bad to restrict my ambitions in this way, and I find trips such as Three to Nine and the like to be enormous fun.

Oh yes, why did I write this article?  About six month ago I agreed to write a chapter on the history of cave diving (which is more difficult than giving a lecture because you cannot fluff over the difficult bits).  So this article is a partial dry run in an effort to de-confuse my mind on this subject. The style of my chapter will be somewhat different from the conversational tone I have used here.  So if the reader would like to help me by sending me any comments on the above (especially with reference to ORIGINS of these ideas or to alternative points of view) then I shall be very happy to acknowledge any such help in the final version.  Or perhaps the Editor might wish to receive such items directly – I know I would be very interested to read such things in the Bulletin myself.

Cave diving has a great future and it will be interesting to see how it is made safer as it continues to advance in all aspects of underwater exploration by human divers, by remotely controlled vehicles and finally by autonomous computerised devices that will explore and record data at distances, depths, temperatures, etc. that are far beyond anything that can be done now.




Chewton Mendip

15th January 1990

Dear Friends at the BEC,

A belated thank you for the Acetylene cap lamp presented to me on my recent retirement from the Police service.

The BEC has over the years been very kind and helpful to me and the police service in general - in addition to being very hospitable to me, the valuable service rendered at cave rescues has been appreciated.

This working cap lamp will constantly remind of your club and its members.  With every good wish to you all.

Yours sincerely,

Gerry Brice


Spanish For Beginners

by   Chris Smart

'Come to Spain Blitz". Rob said.  "It will take your mind off things”.   How little did Blitz realise the truth in that seemingly innocuous remark made over a couple of pints as plans were made for the expedition of the century on the back of a beer mat.

Indeed had Blitz thought back, he, and some of you, might nave remembered the famous (infamous?) Harper and Blitz offensive on the Dachstein in the winter of 1980/81, and things might have been different.  However memories and the Wessex are both short and the BEC Matienzo winter Expedition was born.

Deciding that people might talk if just the pair of our intrepid heroes set forth, to explore caverns measureless to man and to do battle with litres of Rioja, Harper decided to look round for suitable heroes in waiting, men eager for a challenge, the would be conquerors of the Stygian darkness and cavers of the calibre of Casteret, de Jolly and Wormhole.  After a long and fruitless search we had to make do with some of the hardest armchair cavers that the Belfry could muster ­Snablet, Rich Blake, Steve Redwood and that all American, clean living, crew- cut boy Chip Chapman.  They were all easily enticed with carefully edited highlights of previous summer expeditions, kilometres of virgin cave passage and quickly swallowed the bait.  The expedition was launched.

So it was that having played all the usual pre expedition games of; lets hunt for the BEC rope (most of it left in Rumania); lets hunt for the BEC hangers (found some or them); lets hunt for the BEC tackle sacs (succeeded); lets hunt for the BEC surveying kit (still held by the 1988 Black Holes expedition) and lets hunt for Snablets brain (failed); that Boxing Day 2300 hrs saw Rob and Blitz on board the Portsmouth - Le Havre ferry and Boxing Day 2301 hrs saw Rob and Blitz happily ensconced on the after deck clutching a carry out or three and, like two expectant penguins eagerly awaiting the forthcoming adventures.  The other four stalwarts of the team having promised faithfully to follow on the next day.

Midnight saw us pooping on the bivy deck (or something similar) and like two giant comatose slugs we dreamed sweet dreams before emerging butterfly like from our cocoons at six o clock the next morning.  You may be interested to learn that Blitz has lodged a reward with the ferry company in an attempt to find the sadist who seemingly took great delight in standing over his bivy bag at some unearthly hour announcing in a very load voice, and with sufficient volume to wake the dead, that "These two have picked a good spot to sleep in".  On a more serious note a word of warning, if you go to sleep on the Portsmouth - Le Havre cross channel ferry or even blink your eyes for an Instant then somebody will sneak up on you and alter your watch by exactly one hour, and the really odd thing is that they do the same on the way back across the channel.

I understand that 0630 is not the recommended guidebook time to see the sights and experience the delights of Le Havre but our thoughts were not on such tourist attractions but on more alarming necessities such as why wasn’t Matienzo on the signposts and you did bring the loose change for the French motorways tolls didn't you Blitz?

However we were soon on the way and within a few kilometres Dawn’s rosy red fingers were seductively caressing the early morning sky.  Its times like this that a young mans thoughts turn to love, poetry and the answer to life, the universe and Bowery Corner but it only takes a few bars of Meatloaf with “Hits out of Hell” to put the world to rights.  It seemed as it nothing could stop us.  Little did we know!

The morning quickly turned to the afternoon and the thoughts of our two heroes turned to the impending business of lunch.  Pausing only long enough to snatch a hurried three hour gastronomic extravaganza we were soon back on the wrong side of the road and the Pyrenees were looming large on the horizon.  France was soon behind us and Spain lay open and inviting before us.  Within what seemed to be an instant, but was actually a couple of hours in the all encompassing dark of the Spanish night we saw our first road sign for Matienzo.  Not even pausing for a brief smug self congratulatory smile we headed over the pass and drove down into the enclosed Matienzo depression.  The time was 9 pm and the advance guard of the expedition had arrived.

In good BEC tradition we stopped at the first bar and in halting Spanish ordered two beers.  The locals, who all appeared to be extras from a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western, took it in turns to stare at us.  Blitz had one of those rare and fleeting moments of pure genius and suggested to Rob that a) that if the Brits had been coming to Matienzo for 20 years then one might expect a least a photo or a surveyor some indication to be visible and b) that there might just be another bar further down the road.

Consequently three minutes later we were in the next bar down the road and were confronted with Tony and Roz Williams who had driven up from Portugal to see Pete and Carmen Smith, who have a house in Matienzo, and in order to greet us.  Blitz then had another one of those rare and fleeting moments of pure genius when he announced that this was obviously the correct bar!

Introductions were soon made, food ordered and the wine began to flow liberally.  All too soon with tiredness catching up on everyone we decided to call it a night (i.e. the dark time between successive days) and the final introduction was made.  To those of you who are ignorant of the magical and therapeutic properties of a Matienzo Sol y Sombre then what little we will say is that they consist of approximately equal measures of brandy and anise (Similar to Pernod).  For the sake of common decency and in case anyone of a nervous disposition is still reading this then a veil is probably best drawn over the next few hours.  Suffice to say that by 2am, yes, only five hours after our arrival Rob had been arrested by the local police for having borrowed a car from the roadside, conveniently with the keys left in it, driven in it for half a mile down the road, attempted to borrow another car, had a shotgun fired over his head by two understandably irate locals and had managed to demolish ten yards of barbed wire and several bramble bushes with his bare chest.

The memories that Blitz has add little to these incidents, he will admit that Rob did seem a little merry when they left the bar to go and bivy in the field behind it, but as the night-time stars seemed to want to go round and round in circles, at a breakneck speed, even when he closed his eyes, his memory can be considered a little hazy. The only one event that Rob is adamant that he can remember from the evenings proceedings is apparently being brought to the bar by the two Civil Guardsmen, of them hunting out Blitz cocooned in his bivybag, of them waking him and asking in Spanish "Is this your friend?"  To say that Rob's heart stopped when Blitz replied "Never seen him before in my life" would perhaps be an exaggeration but only a little one. Those of you who know Blitz well must consider carefully whether such a story is fact or Rob's imagination working overtime and Blitz is adamant that it never happened.  What he does remember is of Tony Williams and Pete Smith waking him at 3am giving him Rob's car keys and telling him some cock and bull story that Rob was in prison and we would sort things out in the morning.

The morning soon dawned and Blitz awoke to find himself clutching Rob's car keys and a growing realisation that maybe it hadn't all been a bad dream.  The remainder of the morning was taken up at the local police station where the local inspector, who bore an uncanny resemblance to a short slim Batstone, established the facts of the case.  As Rob had managed to choose the day when the entire Spanish legal system was in the process of change he was unable to be put before a judge and was returned to Laredo jail for a second night’s incarceration.

Blitz and Pete Smith returned to Matienzo and were met by the other four stalwarts of the expedition who viewed the proceedings with some incredulity.  After all weren't Blitz and Rob the two quiet ones - how could they hope to compete against such over the top behaviour?  Snablet was not to be daunted and asked as to what Rob had been drinking the previous evening, and then asked a pint of it!  Four Sol y Sombres later he was not sure what planet he was on, let alone where he was or who he was, (or to put it another way just like a Saturday night at the Hunters).   He found his tent but obviously experienced a little difficulty as the morning found him with his head inside the tent but his body lying in a discarded heap on the grass outside the tent.  His comment that it was a little cold and damp met with some sympathy as fellow sufferers attempted to count brain cells and found several million to be missing.

Rob was finally released on the following morning and approached Matlenzo with some concern. However he was greeted like a prodigal son by the landlady and was subjected to a rib breaking bear hug, the offer of alcoholic refreshment and a voluble torrent of Spanish welcoming him home. Pablo, the landlord greeted him in a similar manor and immediately exhausted his complete vocabulary of English with the classic comment 'No problemo".  It seemed as thought the BEC had arrived.

The expedition having spent a little time on the above soon decided that we should gain some credibility with the locals and that it was about time we put our heads underground. Blitz and Harper opted for Cueva de Lleuva and spent a pleasant three or four hours srt-ing the 10 metre pitch, looking for the ways on and finally wandering about in enormous horizontal passages floored with sand and breakdown blocks.

The hard men chose to visit Cueva Uzueka.  This is a name that is meaningless in Spanish but if pronounced in a Mancunian accent gives some indication as to its charms.  They returned to the camp site about six hours later with tales of needing 4 hours to find their way through the entrance passages (something that does only take 15 minutes when you know where you are going) of a horrendous squeeze, of Darren sized passages (both very large and very small, and of having dug into 200 metres of new passage which reminded them of West End series in Eastwater. The expedition had obviously arrived.

All six of us returned to Cueva Uzueka the following day and while the new passage was surveyed Rob. Blitz and Rich pushed on down the Gorilla Walk.  This is a real collector's item and a previous expedition report describes it as " ... of roughly stooping size in knee deep water, which sets the scene for the next kilometre and is fairly described by its name.  Any gorillas contemplating the trip should wear wetsuits, for in various parts the water occupies more of the available space than the air does".  Needless to say we were in furry suits!  We pushed on deeper into the cave, through the "Near Stomps", 500 metres of wide stream passage floored with huge sand banks and Blitz found the way on at "Obvious Junction", which wasn't, into "Cross Over Passage" and onto the easy walking passage of "Las Playas" (the Beach). Unfortunately the others missed the strongly draughting connecting crawl and continued for an extra half kilometre along 'Far Stomps" before reaching the sump.  However by a stroke of genius we all exited together and returned to base.

It began raining that night at 3am and managed to rain through to 3pm.  Having spent most of the day drinking coffee in the bar we struggled out onto the hill side mid afternoon to search out Cueva de los Emboscados.  This took ages to find but Blitz and Rich Blake finally decided that having looked in all the not a chance places it must be that obvious large entrance.  The cave is only 180 metres long and consists of a single railway sized tunnel passage but contains some prehistoric engravings of the body and heads of deer and horses.

Pablo and family put on a special meal for us to celebrate New Years Eve and it goes with no real exaggeration to say that stomachs were severely bloated by the onslaught or several courses of wonderful food.  I shall gloss over the fact that one member of the expedition chose to await the arrival of the first course before announcing that he did not share our omnivorous eating habits.  On a word of warning to other vegetarians you should be aware that the Spanish do not appear to indulge in eating vegetables and that the word for vegetarian in Spanish is "homothexually".

A day or so later saw the four hard men gong for gold.  Pete Smith has casually told us that, near to end of Cueva Uzueka was a passage called "Shrimp Bone Inlet" which, although 700 metres long, and ending in walking sized passage had not been pushed.  The two old men Harper and Blitz elected to act as selfless sherpas and plodded on in behind the young tigers carrying spare food and kgs of carbide so as to establish a dump.  They made their way into the 'Astradome' which is a magnificent circular aven 30 metres in diameter and in excess of 100 metres high where a single voice sounds like a cathedral choir".  It was a magical place for the sardines and chocolate supper before exiting, with rampant indigestion, after a nine hour caving trip.

Meanwhile "Shrimp Bone Inlet" had been reached, the end survey station found and exploration and surveying conducted into the unknown.  Five hundred metres of relatively easy going passage later they emerged into a chamber with the way on visible as a passage 10 metres up on one of the walls.  The other possibility, a draughting boulder choke, was investigated but found not to go. The four of them exited after 16 hours underground and returned to the camp site where they arrived at 7am to be met by a relieved Blitz and Harper.  Survey calculations show this passage to be heading into a blank area of the map.

All too soon the next day dawned and it was time to pack up and go home.  The nearest town suffered an onslaught of six BEC members all intent on purchasing their own DIY Sol y Sombre kit and stocking up on those little delicacies such as tinned squid and octopus in their own ink, very cheap olive oil and rough vino tinto.  One little gem was attempting to buy some flowers as a gift, for our hosts but I’ll gloss over that one.

In conclusion, and to be serious for a moment.  We can say that Matienzo is well worth a visit and is about a days drive on the motorways from Le Havre or Cherbourg.  You could either go in with the 40 or 50 British cavers who regularly visit every summer (See Blitz for details) or as a small group at any other time.  (There is currently some talk about a return about next New Year).  Indeed the area is worth seeing and although it is not spectacular mountain scenery the locals have that easy going friendly and relaxed approach to life that is found throughout the world in small rural communities and what’s more they appear to enjoy the antics or cavers, even the BEC.

A few facts:

A Matienzo box file will shortly appear in the Library giving the real truth behind the expedition. Our main source of reference was BCRA Transactions Vol 8 No 2 June 1981 Matilenzo, but we now know that we should have consulted the “Report of the 1975 British Expedition to the Matienzo Polje” (Private publication).

The caves are not particularly easy to find but generally allow relatively easy caving.  Permission should be sought from the authorities in both Santander and Barcelona.  This is very important as access is delicate.  No English is spoken in the area so a phrase book and dictionary are essential.  Camping is easily arranged at the back of the bar from which food and drink is available throughout the day.

The weather at New Year varied from two afternoons we were in T-shirts to one morning where there was a centimetre of ice on the tents.


Grateful thanks must go to Pete and Carmen Smith of Santander, Juan Corrin, Tony and Roz Williams and the people or Matienzo.  In particular Pablo, Anna, Cuca and Granddad who made us feel not only like honoured guests but treated us as if we were their family.


Puck Suds


"In Somerset you must be an expert with "Jelly" and spend your week-ends at the bottom of a sink-hole hopefully endeavouring to blow a way in somewhere."


At ST 53135254. Opposite the lay--by in Plummer’s Lane, is a swallet in Lower Limestone Shales which takes a considerable amount or road drainage and run-off from the NW slopes of North Hill.  Recorded in Barrington and Stanton (1) as Bowery Corner Swallet this site has recently been the scene or much digging activity, most of which is here documented.

In 1988 Bob Williams (2) traced the original name of the swallet as mentioned in a manuscript of 1768 and before this in a Judgement of the Chewton Mendip Minery Court dated 1661 (see appendix 1).  It is proposed to reinstate the name Puck Suds for this cave - a suitable addition to such attractive old names as Lamb Leer and Cuckoo Cleeves.

Cavers became interested in this swallet in 1937 when Hywell Murrell and friends looked at the site, though it is believed little work was done.

1960 saw Mike Thompson and Jim Hanwell of the Wessex Cave Club at work here but after digging a deep muddy pit they failed to reach solid rock and gave up.  This was before the main road was re-aligned and there was some confusion as to whether the BEC dig was in the same place.  This was recently confirmed on a visit with Jim.  (The old road still exists as the lay-by opposite).

In 1976 Willie Stanton (WCC) dye tested the stream in reasonably high water conditions using Rhodamine.  This followed an earlier and only partly successful attempt at Fluoresceine testing. The water was proved to feed Cheddar risings with a flow through time of 50 hours under the prevailing conditions.

Tony Jarratt.

The "Group Of Friends" Dig 1982-1986.

This site was visited during 1982 immediately after research brought it to light in Willie Stanton's Complete Caves of Mendip, 1977.  As fortune would have it I was employed by a National company. Whilst working locally I experienced a very heavy downpour of rain.  Looking to the north, thinking of the sink which had been dry earlier that day, I resolved to drive the 16 ton vehicle in my possession to the site.  On reaching the site some water was present in the ditch close to the road and also in the field ditch.  There was a steady stream coming out of the concrete pipe that drained part of the field.  The flow remained the same for half an hour after which it began to increase.  Within another hour the bowl shaped base of the site was under four feet or water.  Marking the levels of the various streams showed they were still increasing though the level above the base stayed at four feet depth.  Not believing my luck that a sink such as this could remain untouched I first went to the farmer, Mr Wesley Voke, and obtained his permission to dig there.  The only rider in the agreement was that the fence be kept in good order to protect his livestock, namely lambs.

Wesley’s farm became our secure materials yard where we stored all our equipment.  It was the first time that I had found that a genuine interest in caves existed in the people that live above them.  Much tea and cake later we realised that the reason he didn’t mind us digging there was because he didn't own it!  Still, as a neighbour he provided us with encouragement.

Further research began into the history of Bowery Corner, though alas some leads were not available to me.  However, Mike Thompson furnished me with first hand information.  When he had dug there (1960 I believe) it had been down through clay with no apparent way on.  It was also noted that some of his contemporaries believed that the Bowery site was not the one that they had dug.  This confusion dates from when the road was under alteration and repairs. Seeking information from the county Engineers Office provided no definite clear plans of “Before and After".  I was happy with what details I had and persuaded Ken James and John Widley to help me. Digging took place on Wednesdays and good progress was made until one wet evening when alighting from my Land Rover we could hear an almighty noise.  Looking over the grass verge we saw that the top of the shaft had a white crown surrounded by bits of vegetation.  The 12 foot shaft had filled completely.  Before we had had a stream almost permanently present but this was something else.  Stopping only to change underwear we went to the bar.

I now checked Willie Stanton's water tracing results of the area (1974) and found that he had received a doubtful trace at the first Cheddar rising after 72 hours.  Estimated flow at the time was 10 gallons per minute. The experiment was repeated in January 1977, using 100cc of Rhodamine W.T. in an approximate flow of 20 GPM, the result was positive at Cheddar.  Wookey, Rodney Stoke (Spring Head) and Rowpits all proved negative.  A rhine draining an apparently unpolluted area of moor gave a consistently high reading in the Rhodamine range.

The effect of the flood that we witnessed was all too apparent on the next visit.  The shaft was previously 12 feet deep and approximately 4 to 5 feet in diameter.  It was now 8 feet deep and 8 feet in diameter.  Both the walls of the shaft opposite the two main streams had been carved away leaving an unstable area.  Over the next month the debris was removed and work recommenced.  The main problem was that there was no limestone to be seen or any hard rock for that matter!  Again and again the sides of the dig collapsed causing great disappointment. We were fearful of Mr Voke or the council complaining that either road or field was fast disappearing.  The digging team’s numbers had now shrunk to one. This meant that progress was painfully slow.  Still working in the area I regularly hijacked the lorry I drove and utilized the road drill and pump to make digging more enjoyable. You haven’t lived until you’ve used a road breaker in a confined space.  Sometime later the company realized that the mileage I was achieving to and from Bristol and Frome was excessive, and on one occasion followed me to the site.  As my foreman made himself comfortable in the back of the lorry for the duration we were interrupted by the nice Inspector man who looked down the hole and asked what I was doing.  Digging was continued through my suspension.  I now had problems with the moving of spoil so the decision was made to involve others of like mind.  The site was offered to both the Severn Valley Caving Club and the Wessex Cave Club. No takers so the L.A.D.S. were shown the site.  Shortly afterwards they joined the B.E.C., where old diggers retire.  With this new blood the enthusiasm infected many.  Once again digging became regular and with this came the installation of concrete pipes for the entrance shaft along with excellent prospects.

Pat Cronin

The BEC Dig  1986-Date.

On 10th October 1986 AJ cleared washed in debris from the six foot long entrance passage which was occupied by a muddy pool.  There was no airspace or draught and there were obvious signs of backing up by floodwater. Other projects then took priority for the next few months.

A major clearing operation took place on 24th May 1987 when the floor of the collapsed depression was lowered and the entrance enlarged and made more "cave-like".  A very low, scalloped bedding passage led off with the stream running away beyond.  It was decided that the site was interesting enough to warrant the installation of concrete piping to prevent total collapse of the adjacent field and roadside edges and to enable the swallet to be used as a spoil dump.  Further clearing took place and on 30th and 31st May PC and ML began construction of a concrete block wall at the cave entrance.  Between the 5th and 7th June the piping of the swallet was completed with help from a large team, the pipes being brought over from the "cave entrance factory" at Mells by DB using a hired trailer. Three lengths of 30” x 36”pipe were lowered into the hole by Land Rover, positioned and backfilled (see appendix 2).

Digging along the stream way now took priority.  The low bedding in shale was enlarged to hands and knees dimensions and spoil hauled to surface by hand.  This necessitated the ejection of the old Tyning's Barrows sheer legs over the entrance on 4th August.  The stream sank in a small hole on the RH side of the passage but it was decided to try straight ahead and this was enlarged for some 15 feet before being abandoned in favour of the sink.

By the end of August there were small lenses of limestone appearing in the shale and chiselling through this was difficult and time consuming.  This problem was solved with the aid of a Kango drill and generator followed up by “banging”.  Fumes were encouraged to leave the cave with the help of a Camping Gaz stove lowered down the entrance shaft to act as a “Fire Bucket”.

By early September, after a lot of hard work, the descending sink passage had been pushed for some 15 feet to a rock pillar blocking the way on.  This was banged on 6th September and when AJ and NS returned to clear the rubble they were amazed to find an open rift passage leading on.  This was some 25 feet long and in one place was large enough to stand up in.  A choked bedding passage led onwards.  The cave now totalled some 50 feet and qualified for the 1987 digging competition.

The next distinct session of digging lasted until November and involved the clearing of the next 30 feet of flat out bedding passage - Skid Row.  This involved hand pumping of the first flooded section and considerable enlargement of the whole length of passage by chiselling out the roof and floor with the occasional bang for good measure.  Periodic flooding curtailed activities as the crawl is not a good place to be in wet weather.  Wet suits were generally worn by those at the face.  An alternating draught was sometimes noted and the stream could be heard running on ahead.  On 29th November another rock pillar was reached and CS and MG surveyed the cave at 80 feet length, the end being just under the main road near the lay-by.

On 30th November the pillar was instantaneously removed and the following day a further 10 foot section of roomier passage entered with a small muddy inlet coming in on the LH side. Unfortunately a deep puddle almost filled the main passage and the onset of winter made conditions here particularly unpleasant.  The site was subsequently temporarily left to its own devices and a concentrated effort put in on the Halloween Rift dig in a vain attempt to win the digging barrel. On very wet days during the winter the amount of water entering the cave was phenomenal - a roaring stream with few signs of backing up.

Work restarted on 6th May 1988 when pumping was attempted at the terminal pool but failed dismally due to blocked pumps and split hoses.  Another attempt on 12th and 13th May was slightly more successful - the pump actually working but being too difficult to operate for any length of time as it was situated at the face where there was little room to manoeuvre. A water valve was inserted on the surface to control stream flow.

Lethargy was about to set in when Tony Blick (Craven P.C.) appeared on the scene with his dowsing rods and promptly predicted that not far beyond the end of the dig would be a small chamber followed by more narrow passage and then an enormous void - some 150 feet across and at a depth of over 200 feet with at least one inlet of about 60 feet width.  Passing motorists over the next few days probably assumed that a mass breakout from Wells Hospital had occurred as hordes of bearded zombies clutching bent welding rods marched across the road in front of them.

On the first available dry weekend (when the stream entering the cave was almost non-existent) the pump was brought into action again and thanks to various refinements by PC (The Digging Plumber) it worked to perfection, the puddle being emptied within an hour after 150 gallons had been hauled to the surface in 5 gallon drums. It was a pity that much of this rapidly returned to the end due to a leaking reservoir.  This was resolved by storing water in a variety of buckets and pouring it away in the field next to the cave.  A little progress was made at the end but it was felt that life would be easier if some of the ceiling was removed.  On the following day, 26th June, a charge was fired to commence this operation and the debris was cleared on the following Wednesday.  It was found that the ceiling could be easily brought down by using a crowbar.

The following five months were taken up with regular weekend and Wednesday night clearing and banging trips, the latter courtesy of NT and AB.  Well over 250 skip loads of debris was removed and some 7 lbs. of explosives used during fifty visits.  Exciting interludes included the flooding of the cave on 9th October when the stream overflowed the spoil heap: the near permanent retirement of ML on 22nd October after he'd breathed in too many bang fumes: the detonation of 4 ozs. directly below the Mendip Farmer's Hunt: several visits by Yorkshire and Belgian cavers; a surface survey by TH and the fitting of a hinged steel manhole cover to the entrance pipe on 12th and 13th November '88.  The fifty feet or so of passage gained during this exercise was typical of the cave, low, wet and developed in shale with the occasional limestone intrusion.  On 27th November the diggers were somewhat put out to reach a minute sump.  Not deterred it was decided to bang over the top of this and on 3rd December the first charge was fired here - upsetting a large frog who had evaded capture!

On January 4th - nine trips, sixty five skip loads and 3lbs. bang later, the sump was bypassed following some eight to ten feet of digging and blasting a mud filled tube at a slightly higher level.  The sump itself proved to be some six feet long and has been preserved as a "feature'.  Beyond, a typical and partly choked streamway led on for at least, ten feet to a low archway. Once again we lost the digging barrel.

The rest of January (eleven trips, fifty skip loads and 4lbs. bang) saw the team some fifteen feet forwards and the inevitable sump 2.  During this episode the indestructible frog was at last captured and liberated.  It had survived six bangs!

February continued in the same manner with several clearing and banging trips until the second sump was turned into a pool and a small chamber created to give the team some working space.  Despite atrocious weather conditions there were six trips.  15 skip loads removed and 14 lbs. of bang laid.

The wet weather kept up throughout March '89 but this did not deter the diggers and the regular Wednesday night sessions continued.  Some fifteen feet beyond "Sump 2" a third sump was reached which in dry conditions dropped enough for a 2" airspace to appear with the sound of the stream running downhill beyond and a good draught.  Much banging and clearing in very wet and uncomfortable conditions was done in an attempt to pass this obstacle and this was eventually accomplished on Easter Monday.  Beyond lay another low, flooded section where more banging was necessary.  During the month there were 11 trips, 60 loads to surface and 2½ lbs. of bang used.

April saw the team continuing as before and it was noticeable that during the first weeks, three new diggers on three separate trips suffered from bouts of claustrophobia. By the 24th "Sump 4" had been reached with a couple of minor side passages nearby.  The noise of falling water had been merely a foot high step in the passage.  It was decided to bang over the top of the sump in a small, mud filled tube.  Over 100 loads removed. 3½ lbs. bang used and 12 trips this month.

Due to the breakthrough at Welsh's Green Swallet, there were fewer diggers available during May.  Even so, some 50 loads were removed and another 2½ lbs. bang vaporised in the course of 10 trips.  A heavy duty bang wire was installed., being pegged to the wall to avoid the sledge run. “Sump 4'”was eventually blown away, being some 5 feet long and running directly below an almost body sized, mud filled tube.  The tiny stream passage beyond this draughted and echoed well.

In June work continued in this tube despite problems with bad air which gave one or two diggers a nasty shock.  A brief pumping and digging session was had at the corner where Skid Row began.  This totally silted tube was opened up for 6 feet or so before enthusiasm waned, even though drain rods could be pushed forwards for a further 15 feet, 6 trips, 76 loads out and ½ lb. bang used this month.

In August the Romanian trip kept several of the team occupied and progress was measured by 3 loads out and 1 lb. bang used on 3 trips.

September saw the commencement of a dig in the right hand passage some 20 feet back from the end of the cave.  The main dig also continued, taking advantage of the exceptionally dry weather conditions. Over 5 trips, 3/4 lb. of bang was used, and 46 loads came out to a rapidly increasing spoil heap.

During 6 trips in October, 52 more loads were added to the pile and another l½ lbs. bang dematerialised. The good weather began to change and the cave got decidedly wetter.  By this time the dig extended to a point beyond the roadside at the edge of the lay-by opposite.

November '89 saw 28 loads out and 3/4 lb. of bang used over 6 trips.  It was obvious that the cave had recently completely filled with floodwater indicating another sump ahead.  Most of the work this month was concentrated on the right hand dig which was opened up for about 15 feet to where a low airspace over the rubble filling was encountered.

Digging here continued in December and on the 10th the writer, clearing spoil at the face broke into an open but small stream passage with a tiny inlet sump to the left connecting back to Skid Row.  To the right this passage continued for some 10 feet and appeared to open up into a larger, body sized tube.  2 lbs. of bang was used during the month with 70 loads to surface and 12 trips undertaken.

During the last three years of work there have been well over 153 digging and clearing trips during which about 900 skip loads of rock, sand, gravel and mud have been dragged out and used to backfill the entrance crater around the pipes.  Over 30 lbs. of assorted explosive has been used at great expense (don't forget the bang fund box in the Belfry!).  Over 60 BEC members were involved as were over 20 from other clubs - notably the SMCC.  A list of diggers to date follows.  Work is continuing in the right hand dig, now christened "Dipso" - it goes down-dip and you have to be a maniac to work there!  A further report will follow as and when the writer deems it worthwhile.

Tony Jarratt   9/2/90

The Diggers


H. Murrell (WCC) et al.


M. Thompson (WCC). J. Hanwell (WCC).

1982 - 1986

P. Cronin. K. James. J. Widley. N. Burns. A. Porter. B. Court(TGOF)

1986 – date

P Cronin. A Jarratt. M Lumley. R Brown. G Jago. D Bradshaw. R Neville-Dove. P Hopkins. C Smart. J Smart. K Jones. T Chapman. S. Macmanus. M. Grass. N Sprang. P McNab (Jnr). P Eckford. R McNair. R Stevens. S Mendes. J Williams. E Humphreys. T. Gould. M. Tuck. G Wilton-Jones. N Gymer. K Gurner. B Williams. J Watson. L Smith. C Harvey. A Sparrow. H Bennett. M van Luipen. S Milner. N Taylor. S MacDonald. A Middleton. R Payne. A.Cave. G Johnson. R Clarke. A Boycott. R Taviner. T Hughes. T Large. I Caldwell. D.Shand. S Lain. J Clarke. R Cork. A Carruthers. R Beharrel. P & S. Rose and kids. G.Timson. C White. P He1lier. A Hollis. T Phillips. R White. A Griffin. J Stanniland. S.Loader. V.  Simmonds. R. Chdddock. H. TuckeL A. Williams. M. MacDonald. (all BEC) T.Edwards (CCG). S Prince (CSS). J Shaw (OS). A Millett (CSS). S Tooms (CSS). S Brown. Wendy. J Thorpe. R North (NCC). J. London. F. Easer (GSAB). E. Bentham (EPC). A. Ward (NWCC). G Newton. M Knapp. K Savory (WCC). N Sims. I Hollis & dog. J Lister, P.Collett. A Edwards. A.& G. Taylor. M. Bareau. G. Douglas (all SMCC). S. Tomalin(GSS). Dave ?( MEG)


(1) Stanton - "Mendip - The Complete Caves ... ' 1977 p44

(2) Williams - "Axbridge Archaeological Society Newsletter 107 March/April 1988


Appendix 1


1. -- 'PUCK(S) SUDS'

In this and ensuing notes the writer enquires into a few of the many Mendip place-names which have faded from local memory. 'PUCK SUDS' was mentioned in a judgement of the Minery Court which sat at Chewton Mendip on the 10th February 1661, (SRO.DD/WG); published by Gough (1931,p.45).  In these proceedings the Grand Jury heard the complaint of a William Rudman ‘of great wrongs and abuses done unto him by several disorderly persons as touching a Washing Pond or Pool and another watering place for Cattell both lying and being adjoyning to a place commonly called by the Name of Puck Suds’.  The offenders were local lead miners who used the water for buddling.  The Grand Jury decided that such usage should henceforth only be allowed with the 'Special Licence and Consent of the said William Rudman' and harsh penalties were decreed for any abuses.  Although the place was obviously within the Chewton Mining Liberty, which is clearly defined, no clue was left as to the exact spot.  However, this can be determined by studying the unpublished 'Perambulation of the Royalty and Liberty of the Manor of East Harptree and Richmond, 10th June 1768'. (SRO.DD/WG, Box 14). In this "Froom Barrow" is mentioned and this is the prominent round barrow at the side of the road to the west of the Miners Arms (it is called Castle Barrow on a map of the Chewton Minery which abuts in this area).  The East Harptree Liberty bounds continue westwards ;- "to Toad Mead, the waste of the said ground near to the Swallet Hole called PUCKS SUDS--". This is clearly Bowery Corner Swallet recorded by Barrington and Stanton (1977, p.44) as being an intermittent stream which sinks close to the wall at ST 53135254. (see sketch plan below).

The Mendip miners were very suspicious so could well have believed in the mischievous sprite 'Puck' of English folklore and the word 'suds' was originally used for dregs or muddy water which would certainly suit this area of marshy ground.

Bob Williams.


Barrington, N. & Stanton, W.L 1977 Mendip the complete caves ---.3rd edn.

Gough, J.W. 1931. Mendip Mining Laws and Forest Bounds. Som. Rec. Soc, ‘45.


Appendix 2



Library - Books Overdue

Here is a list of outstanding un-booked-in books in the booking out book (if you get my drift). If you've still got them bring them back.  If you’ve returned them, you should have booked them in.


Booked Out



Tony Boycott







Howard Price


Tim Large



Alan Thomas



Tim Gould



Andy Sparrow








Henry Bennett








Dave Glover




Alan Griffin













































1975 P3M Report


Hants Basin Geology


Cerberus. Latest Bulletins

CRG Dio-supplement


Pegasus Club Berger Report


Cerberus Newsletter 55/56

UBSS Proceedings Vol. 17(2)


All Wessex Journals for binding

BB Vol (4)


Caves of Bristol region

Cave Explorers


Caves of Derbyshire



BB Vol 39 (6 )

Karst Geomorphology


West Virginian Caver


The Longest Cave

American Caves & Caving

Space Below My Feet


The Caves of Rouffiqnac

The Descent of PSM

Underground Adventure


The Caves Beyond


Descent '85


Surveying Caves


Darkness Beckons


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

Cover Picture: The Balcony Formations, St. Cuthbert's Swallet

(Part of a photograph taken by Phil Romford )



Caving - not a lot. It’s been very quiet on the hill recently.  Digs are still being dug and caves are still being visited but nothing unusual has occurred. The imminent arrival of the Cuthbert's report must mean that the Cuthbert's West or East End Series is about to be discovered.  (I think I know where to look!)

The above is a bit out of date since the big push in Cuthbert's is now on, volunteers welcome! The power cable and telephone from the Belfry to Sump 2 are in place and the electric pump was taken down on the 24th of August.  Pumping proceeded over the bank holiday weekend.

New discoveries have been made in Daren, some hundreds of feet between Spaderunner and Aggie. Someone might even write it up for me!

Please could I have more contributions for the BB.  I’ve only received four since February!

Membership Changes

Three ex-members have rejoined the club.  They are:-

647       Dave Glover, Basingstoke, Hants.
1061     Kerry Wiggins, c/o Dave Glover (Please can you send me your address!)
683       Dave Yeandle, Bristol

We also welcome two new members, who are:-

Richard Alan Broomhead,           Cheddar, Somerset
Fiona Maria Teague,                   Leeds


High Flying Caver Drops A Bollock

At the solstice, amidst scenes of intense hilarity, a Hero slid to glory.

The Wee-sex challenge, the as-ever popular inter-club obstacle race, took place again at the Belfry. Old Time Served competitors were there in scores, the event being such that once is enough.  Your reporter had some difficulty as the BEC made communication impossible with constant explosions from their excessively disruptive cannon.  The theme "Civil War" had inspired the host club to concentrate its efforts into perfecting A Cannon.  Fevered creativity had evolved this remarkable device from something simple to an alarmingly effective weapon capable of delivering a smack in the ear'ole from a six inch inflated ball over a range of 150 metres.  Unreasonably excessive some were heard to say between blasts. Rumour has it that the teams were from the Axbridge, BEC, Shepton and UBSS.

The course was the usual circumnavigation of the St. Cuthbert’s depression.  This time, down the road with the gun carriages then past the Shepton.  Plunge into the Mineries, back towards the Belfry - BUT - not directly.  Zot's innovation was the Star Attraction! Imagine (if you can) the horror that gripped the competitors and the glee that seized the Old Time Servers as they saw yet more manifestations of the fevered mind.  A Death Slide!  Zot's innovation was stretched high from a tree and plunged steeply swooping into the depression towards the Shepton Hut.  It finished by unsubtly smashing heroes into a bank.  Not intentional perhaps but nevertheless full of potential pain.  Those that had tested the Aerial Way were of the opinion that it might be better to hit the bank with the back rather than risk broken ankles.  The Gun Carriages had of course to be transported the same way.  The pulley was returned by pulling it back up the slide with a long trailing rope.  (LONG TRAILING ROPE!).

Amazing.  Don't you wish you'd been there!

The teams leapt into action. Fighting their way through drunken spectators, eager to trip opposing teams, they raced to the Mineries.  The Baton was collected from the float by swimming and beating off tackles from rivals.  I have to report a wonderful fight which erupted here and wondered nostalgically if anyone could join in.  Still, I needed to report Zot's innovation.

This is where the game was won and lost.  Axbridge who had been heard to mutter "Don't win" were the first to cross and won.  The BEC set up their cannon and with smoke pouring from the muzzle bombarded those who chose glory.  The Ball was stuffed down the muzzle, the Breech was held shut with the foot, the Charge was dropped into the firing hole and the Ball was projected with gratifying velocity where it would.  It was retrieved by a wonderful young man who raced after it and brought it back time and time again to keep the cannon firing, giving us the joyful spectacle of Heroes Sliding to Glory Wreathed in Smoke with the Ball howling past their ear'oles. And Then!

A superhero, naked to the waist, dripping from his efforts in the Mineries, arrived.  He climbed the wire ladder to the pulley which was held back with the trail rope to allow him to place a strop over the hook of the pulley block.  He posed. He kicked his feet clear of the ladder and shot off into the void.  At full tilt - he stopped - abruptly - and he hung.  He hung, the trail rope between his legs tied off to a sapling by some over enthusiastic pleasure seeker.  He hung with the rope slicing his oh-be-joyfuls in twain.  He hung, transfixed, not able to move.  And then, once more, the cannon boomed . It missed.  He was not happy - But we were ecstatic!

Sitting in the Belfry afterwards, tenderly testing his tender bits whilst delicately dabbing Dettol onto his damaged dick, Jingles remarked wistfully, "If only I could catch the Bastard."

You know, this game is not about wining it’s about surviving.

Kangy, June 1990



Digs are proceeding at Morton's Pot and at the bottom end of the boulder chamber (dodgy!).  There may soon be new round trips in Eastwater as the digs are likely to connect straight to the Ifold series or to the West End.  I'll try to get an update for the next BB.

Highland Fling

For some time I had hankered after a trip to Sutherland, not only to visit some of the most remote caves in Britain but also take advantage of the excellent diving in this part of the world.  Late last year Brian Johnson (BEC and CDG) and I fixed a week in May 1990 for our proposed expedition.  At the last minute we were fortuitously joined by Tony Jarratt, a Grampian SG member and original explorer in the region.

The 650 mile drive was fairly painless and after leaving Chard at 9 am we reached the GSG hut around 10 pm at the tail end of a magnificent sunset in a cloudless sky. After dumping kit we nipped down the local equivalent of the Hunter's - the Inchanadamph Hotel.  "Nipped" is probably a misnomer in that the drive is about ten miles - but the "Inch" is virtually the only pub in the area!  The locals all greeted Tony as an old friend, which he was, and the pub's caver status was justified by the pictures on the walls and the fact that the landlord's son has seen some underground action.  A couple of pints of 80/- later and we were off back to the GSG hut for a decent night’s kip.

The next morning began like the next four - blue skies and not a cloud to be seen.  The boast by J-rat that the hut had the best caving hut view in Britain was no idle one; on our left was CuI Mor whilst in the middle distance Suilven reared dramatically above an otherwise level landscape.  The hut was surprisingly civilised apart from the notable absence of running water or toilet facilities.  The latter deficiency resulted in early morning treks up the hillside behind the hut to find suitable rabbit holes.

Day one was spent on an ambling drive up to Durness, frequent pauses being made to photograph the stunning scenery.  At Durness we drove over to Smoo cave.  This famous sea cave in limestone lies at the end of a long inlet.  Examination of the sea cliffs to the east with regard to possible "tartan" holes revealed a coastline very similar to Brixham with a long gear carry in prospect so we decided to abseil into Smoo. Putting on wet suits in the sweltering heat seemed decidedly unScottish!  The landward side of Smoo has several roof holes into which, normally, a substantial stream flows.  A bridge over one of the holes made a convenient belay point for a 20 metre free hang into a dark and gloomy pool.  An unspectacular trickle descended the shaft with us.  A short traverse around the pool led to a nice piece of stream passage which abruptly ended in an uninviting sump which has been dived to a semichoked area nine metres down.

Our walk out was enlivened by a meeting with Colin Coventry, his white dog and an inflatable dinghy. Colin ferries tourists across the pool to the stream passage.  After this diversion Brian and Tony sunned themselves whilst I tried to look for some submarine caves Steve Milner had reported seeing in Smoo inlet some years ago. I managed to get the car up a track to within a hundred metres of the entrance of the inlet and entered the water here.

The steep kelp clad limestone walls drop to a sandy bottom.  I swam over to the east side and inspected a hundred metre section to seaward at a depth of about 10 metres zilch!  I then swam slowly back up the inlet finding only one area of interest which was in fact a network of flooded sea caves.  The only other features of interest were some tiny resurgences in wading depth water on the west wall.  So, no evidence of tartan holes at present.

A short distance inland from Durness on the road back to Elphin we visited a small patch of limestone around a river.  Brian dived the river near some tiny resurgences but found nothing of interest. Tony and I visited a site he had made some finds at some years ago - two dry valleys parallel to each other with a resurgence at their base.  One short cave above the resurgence belted out a cold draught and presumably more passage lies behind the present end.  Ascending the left hand valley we passed two unpushed cave entrances one of which yielded the sound of running water.  The caves were fed by nearby sinks above the limestone.  Before you all rush up to Durness I should add that it was only five minutes scramble from rising to sink so the caves are going to be rather small!

Another boringly hot day saw us parked outside the fish farm at the bottom of the Allt nan Uamh (stream of the cave) valley.  Shouldering our packs we started the hour long trek to the caves.  "That's all the cave water" Tony remarked as we passed a particularly thunderous cascade near the start.  Ahead lay a huge dry stream bed, the river emerging from Fuaran Allt nan Uamh the resurgence for all the cave systems on the hillside ahead. Brian and I were rapidly becoming gob-smacked by the potential size of the cave system that must lie beneath our feet. Golden eagles soared above the crag to our south as we took a breather.  A hundred metres above us at the base of the crag were the dark circles of the bone caves while half way down the slope were two obvious fossil resurgences both of which, Tony informed us, issued powerful draughts but ended in hairy chokes.  After half a mile or so the valley bifurcated and we trudged right up a sort of stairway of peat hags before abruptly coming across the entrance to Uamh an Claonite. A rocky depression ends downvalley in a low cliff with a boulder pile at its base.  The boulder pile still has to be treated with respect and the squeeze into the streamway below proved to be more technical on the return than it appeared on the way in!

Claonite is a dramatic introduction to Scottish caving.  Now Scotland's longest system there is no doubt that its potential has scarcely been realised particularly since the discovery of an extensive fossil upper series a few years ago. 

We dropped into a roomy streamway, the stream issuing from a low choked bedding.  Despite the external air temperature we soon discovered that Scottish cave water is cold and plentiful.  Downstream the first cascade is an easy scramble before the first couple of chambers are reached, one of which was quite well decorated.  The roof lowers towards the first sump which we bypassed in a chilly wallow which can also sump in wet conditions; beyond this a traverse led round the edge of the deep Bottomless Pillar Pool before we entered Cavity Wall passage with its heavily fretted yellow and black limestone textures.  Two short attractive cascades followed before we reached the first Waterslide. Waterslides are a distinctive feature of Scottish caves, a consequence of the limestones faulting.  They resembled the Fault chamber passage in Longwood Swallet.  The first waterslide leads via a duck to the second and sump 2. However a climb above the sump leads to a bypass into much larger older boulder-strewn passage ending in sump 3.

The 30 metre stretch of passage between the two sumps had only been entered by J-rat on one memorable occasion.  The way in, the Hole in the Floor, turned out to have all the attributes of a lobster pot and combined tactics were needed to retrieve Tony.  He planned to get his revenge by blowing up the hole in the floor which layoff a rather grotty side passage from the above mentioned bouldery tunnel.  Brian and I discovered access was easier from the sump three side, which meant we ran out the bang wire from here.  We then discovered the route to the upper series lay in a direct line with our original route to the hole in the floor i.e. we ran out of bang wire rather close to the bang.

Scrambling up the ascending bedding plane leading to the upper series we fired the charge and left the fumes to clear.  At the head of the bedding plane is a squeeze, the Brandenburg Gate, into an uphill crawl ending in a standing height chamber.  Sandy crawls led through phreatic domes into large sand filled passage.  Tony pushed one side passage for another six metres through more domes.  The next bit was really spectacular being more Welsh in size - big bouldery tunnels 3 or 4 metres square ending in chokes.  This area has to be a diggers paradise but the question is where do you dig?

Having finished photography and sightseeing we made our way back to the streamway.  The ominous stench of bang fumes at the Brandenburg gate caused some bad moments but fortunately never got worse.  Once out of the cave we peeled off our gear, munched Angie Glanvill's apple cake, and returned to the car via the bone caves confidently leaving our caving kit in the Claonite shakehole.

Brian and I rounded the day off with a dive off the south ferry slip at Kylescu.  Tony reminisced about his surveying days while sinking pints from the convenient bar by the slip.  Two clam divers had just packed up for the day and several sacks full of scallops lay enticingly at the water's edge; unfortunately the tidal race precluded any forays into the deeper water where they existed so Brian and I spent a happy half hour rummaging around the car wrecks and other detritus under the slip.

The following morning saw us sweatily plodding up the Allt nan Uamh valley trying to find some shade. We soon cooled off in Claonite particularly as we were humping Brian's diving kit.  Tony had a return engagement with the hole in the floor whilst Brian dived upstream sump 3. In good visibility he negotiated the boulders at the start and 10 metres later became the second man into the area between the two sumps.  Leaving the line in situ but with the belay directly under the line of fire from Tony's bang, he then did 3 to 4 as an encore.

The bang successfully completed, we slowly set off out.  The relaxed atmosphere meant I was able to get several rather nice pictures of the streamway; photographs of Claonite being in rather short supply.

After Claonite we decided to visit Heidbanger Hole the new GSG find.  However on walking up the dry stream bed we found a possible hole which took up thirty minutes effort before being abandoned for future reference. Eventually it was time for Heidbanger. A loose sided shakehole dropped through a mucky little squeeze into a low scalloped streamway.  The cave is notable primarily for the peat it contains which varies in states of liquefaction from firm through mushy and thixotropic to liquid.  After inserting ourselves in all the visible orifices we oozed out and made straight for the nearest wee lochan.  Don't let them con you that all Scottish caves are clean!

In a slightly cleaner state we set off for a look at ANUS cave the next valley over.  Brian, who'd left his kneepads in Devon, opted out early on here.  The entrance is in the bank of a dry stream bed and has been ringed by a boulder dam to keep out debris.  The main cave consists of big roomy chambers and passages which criss cross in bewildering fashion.  Tony and I eventually found a route to the static sump extension dug out by Julian Walford and his slaves.  The amount of engineering here would have done credit to a Mendip dig and to see it here, miles from the nearest road, was incredible.  There were syphon systems, railways and pipework everywhere. As this may be the key to downstream ANUS (the main streamway seems to end in a choke) the means are justified by the potential end.  When we visited it the sump was dry ideal digging conditions if it hadn't been the third cave of the day.

Having virtually exhausted the caving potential of the Allt nan Uamh valley we set off into the sunset, the prospect of a few pints of 80/- beckoning.  After a morning's dive opposite a salmon farm on the road to Drumbeg, notable for the multicoloured feathers tars and a small docile angler fish we decided to do the Traligill valley.  The sky had become a little overcast as we drove up to Glenbain Cottage. We headed uphill to Knockers which can be seen from a fair distance away as a black triangle on the hillside.  The Cnoc nan Uamh system, as it is more properly known, has three entrances within a hundred metres of each other, and, in dry weather a through trip is possible.  The topmost entrance leads to a streamway and an upper series of passages and grottos.  All routes appear to unite at the impressively large Landslip Chamber dominated by a deep black pool.  On the far side a series of crawls led to a peat floored tube ending in the Boycott extensions.  There seems to be a permanent mass worm orgy in the mud by the belay bolt.

We went downstream through some nice cold ducks to a cascade.  Tony had descended and crossed the pool below when I came to look over.  Below me I seemed to see a projecting rock flake so I half stepped/half jumped on to it.  Two metres below the surface I realised I was wrong.  Brian felt my advice on emerging "Don't jump!" was superfluous.  All I can remember thinking as I was on dive mode was "Bugger, there go my specs again".  Just beyond the plunge pool the stream passes under a surface pot which Tony insisted I photograph because he said you didn't get many caves with banks of primroses in them - true.  The next bit is very photogenic if you have the right speed film; the stream rushes down through an arch and out into daylight again before plunging down the Waterslide.  This was really spectacular being a twenty foot wide ramp descending at 45 degrees carrying the whole stream, superb!  It ends in what we later learnt is not the sump which is up the slide and off the left. Many pictures were taken here although none capture the dramatic angle of the feature.

We left the waterslide under a grey drizzly sky and made our way downstream for a guided tour of the Traligill valley.  The first feature is the stream sink at Lower Traligill cave which consists of a low sloping decorated bedding passage leading to a sump of which more anon.  Downstream of this cave was a dry stream bed, all in limestone, bordered by the odd bedding cave and flanked in places by dramatically tilted limestone pavement. An abrupt step in the stream bed at a miniature gorge represents the main stream rising although further downstream by a waterfall there seemed to be another vigorous resurgence - again more anon.

Our final port of call was Firehose Cave - one of the more unlikely British entrances. At one side of a deep plunge pool a short traverse and stoop under reveals a streamway plunging down at over 45 degrees. Nowhere larger than a crawl it leads ever upwards through several purgatorial ducks and canals to suddenly break out into walking sized passage. Unfortunately this ends within 6 metres in a deep sump.  This bit of passage bears no resemblance to the streamway one struggles up, and suggests there may be more to be found.  In fact on the way out and only a couple of metres from the big stuff is a low choked horizontal tube which may repay a digging effort.  The end is quite pretty by the way!

The GSG in the shape of Pete Dowswell and others appeared that night and to welcome them the weather really began to deteriorate.  A damp night was followed by a wet day and everything seemed to go wrong. Brian and Pete tried to dive Lower Traligill sump (previously passed two years ago to open and going passage).  Pete kept up the Scottish hard man image by diving with a single bottle and sleeveless arms to his wet suit.  Bad vis and line problems led to the dive being aborted.  We left the kit in the cave for the next day - oops!

The rest of the afternoon was spent digging in the Waterfall Rising into which Brian was inserted.  He reports negotiable tunnel if half a day's underwater digging was undertaken.  This site takes water from Knockers so must be worth some effort particularly as it is so close to the track.

That night the weather reverted to normal i.e. it rained hard and constantly.  On returning to Lower Traligill we found it was acting as a rising i.e. our kit was 20 feet under.  We took a miner from Bannockburn into Knockers on his first caving trip and the waterslide was un-negotiable.  Brian tried diving the sump in Landslip Chamber and found blackout conditions.  The kit from Lower Traligill, at the time of writing, is still making its way south.

All in all it was an excellent week's caving.  I have left out the tales of Murdo Mcleod's hospitality, the delicatessen at Lochinver and the sound of the Battlefield Band at full tilt. You have to go there to experience these.

Peter Glanvill  June 90.


The Cuthbert's Report

The Cuthbert's Report is progressing slowly and proof copies have been seen.  The format is agreed upon and quotes have now been obtained from printers.  The total cost will be in the region of £5,000 - £6,000.  The committee has discussed this at length and has decided to throw itself on the generosity of the membership - five members have already pledged a loan to the club ranging between £100 and £250.  It would be nice to think that we could attract somewhere in the region of 20 - 30 members to pledge similar amounts.  Wig is promising the final production for this years dinner so you need to contact Blitz immediately with your pledges.  The alternative is a bank loan at frightening interest rates which will cripple the club.  We are obliged morally to produce this report and in some respects the club is becoming a laughing stock in some caving circles.


Obituary - Bob Drake

On Friday 1st of June Bob Drake suffered heart failure whilst diving at Brixham when on holiday with his family.

Although not a BEC member Bob was well known to most Mendip regulars especially the cave-divers in the club.

Bob did a wide range of things for Mendip caving.  He was secretary for the Cave Diving Group Somerest section, a warden for the Mendip Rescue Organisation and until recently Secretary of the Wessex Cave Club.

Bob was also senior caving instructor for Avonquay Outdoor Pursuit Centre run by Avon County Council in Bristol. He was also a midweek digger working at Hillgrove Swallet most Wednesday evenings.  He will be sadly missed by a great many people.

To his wife and two children we send our sympathies.

Jeff Price.


A.G.M and Dinner. 1990.

The Annual General Meeting of the BEC will be held at The Belfry on Saturday, 6th October at 10.30 a.m. prompt.

You are reminded that nominations for the 1990-91 committee must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 8th September 1990.  However, this BB is going to be late in the case of those members who have it posted to them so I am sure that in such a case another week will be allowed. All nominations must have a proposer and seconder.  Present members of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for re-election.

The Annual Dinner of the BEC will also be on Saturday the 6th of October.

The venue this year is the "Webbington Hotel", Loxton.

The tickets are £13 per person and are available from Nigel Taylor.  With this BB you should get inserts detailing the arrangements that have been made for the evening, sample menus and an order form.  Please order as soon as possible, otherwise the 'dinner sub-committee' will be tearing their hair out, or something like that, anyway!

60's and 70's Disco

This is being held at Priddy Village Hall on Saturday 8th September, 1990 at 8 p.m.  Tickets are £3 and are available at The Belfry or can be obtained at thedoor for  £4.

On the tickets it says:-

"Bar, Burger and Boogie" and "Come dressed for the times"

It should be a good evening!


Cave Excursions on Cebu Island, Philippines.

Jim Smart

Of all foreign cavers who have visited the Philippines, only the Japanese appear to have looked at Cebu, the archipelago's ninth largest island centrally situated in the heart of the Visayas.  In 1982 Obi Shigeru from Tokyo recorded a few small caves here many of which he didn't even bother to enter.  My geological map indicated limestone at both the northern and southern thirds of the island, and when I arrived I was encouraged by the sight of high limestone mountains in the centre of the island too.

I fixed myself some lodging in Cebu City and took a day trip to Argao, a tourist beach resort a few miles to the south.  An informant in Manila had spent Christmas here and remembered his hosts, the Boltiador family, talking of caves in the hills nearby.  I found Carlito Boltiador servicing his fishing equipment on the beach. He confirmed the existence of a couple of large caves about two hours on foot inland at Lantoy.  He said it was too late to visit them today but if I wished to arrange a return trip he'd get the N.P.A. to act as my guides.

"The NPA!" I exclaimed

"Nice People of Argao" Carlito chuckled.

Like lots of the speleologically interesting parts of the Philippines, Cebu is a lively box of fireworks where New People's Army (NPA) insurgents and Philippine Army troops carry out a desultory shooting war with each other, and with bandits, mining companies, "lost commands", religious groups, illegal loggers and free-talking beer drinkers. I made arrangements to return to Argao the following week but, as things turned out, I never had the opportunity. Back in my lodgings I found a note waiting for me.  Some Filipino cavers, who'd been exploring the Lantoy Caves that very day, had heard I was in town and they wanted to meet me.

Yes. Filipino Cavers! The Cebu branch of the National Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines contains a small group of active cavers. A couple of weeks later at the NMFP Congress on Mt. Apo I was to discover that several groups include caving amongst their activities.  Unfortunately their findings go largely unrecorded.  I telephoned these Cebu cavers and invited them to meet me in the bar.  Over the next couple of hours more than half a dozen of these people drifted in with maps and photos and tales of exploration, and as the beer flowed so we made grandiose plans for a couple of excursions.  It was dawn when we finished drinking and, as might have been expected, our activities did not exactly match our plans.  Nevertheless I was provided with a good introduction to the potential on Cebu Island, and the two reports which follow are taken virtually direct from my log.

(Only the first appears in this BB, otherwise I’ll have nothing at all in hand for the next one! Ed.)

Wed March 22 & Thurs March 23, 1989


Cebu Mountaineering Partnership (Camp): Randy Su, Dindo Sugatan, Junks Muanto, Alex Gonzalve, Ahmed Lebumfacil, Edwin Mendoza, Bernard Pefta.

B.E.C. Jim Smart.

In the Philippines it is considered good manners to turn up late for an appointment.  Thus if someone invites you to dinner for 7 p.m. "Filipino time" this means you're expected to show up about 8.30.

We'd arranged to meet at 10 a.m.  I was the first to arrive, at 10.40 - and for a stupid moment I wondered whether they'd left without me - and it was not until 3 p.m. that the entire group had assembled and we climbed into Bernard's jeepney for the 44 km. drive to Cantobaco. As soon as we cleared the city limits and turned onto the steep dusty road that climbs inland we hit cave country. The road followed a frighteningly deep gorge for a while then plunged into the forest.  At forestry station Camp 8 we passed several large cave entrances in the high limestone cliffs.

The small village of Cantobaco is dominated by high white cliffs that rise up to 150 ft. or more in places on the far side of a river.  We obtained permission to camp down by the washing pool and set off immediately for the caves that we'd seen in these cliffs.  It was now getting on for dusk and we met families of guano miners, including little girls, making their way home after their day's work.

A bamboo bridge, constructed by the miners, gave us access to Cave 4.  Ahead the passage formed a simple loop back to daylight, but a squeeze up over a wooden guano shoot to the left led to about 250 ft. of walking passage often more than 30 ft. high and very well decorated.

Our poorly equipped team took a disproportionate amount of time exploring this cave, and once we regained the surface most were ready to return to camp.  But Ahmed and I went in search of a "sink hole" Ahmed told me he'd noticed on his last visit here.  We descended the cliffs to the river terrace and then climbed a steep and narrow dry valley.  The sink hole - a vertical pot - was located in bushes on the west side.

On his previous visit Ahmed had been fearful of entering this pot but it looked free climbable to me so I scrambled down. After about 30 ft. I ran out of holds but I was able to see the bottom and a second horizontal entrance. What a find!

Cave 5.  The walking-sized entrance passage had been substantially modified by guano miners - they had even had a tramway here at one time so the floor was nice and level.  Just inside the entrance a large maze-like series on the left only received a cursory glance before we returned to the main passage.  Here, after 200ft., a bamboo pole led to an upper series, again unexplored.  Formations along the main passage were profuse but rather dull.  After another 500 ft. we encountered a fork and, though the larger branch was to the right, we followed the left which was generally comfortably sized rift passage though occasionally we had to stoop.  At one point we passed an artificial square-sided well and shortly after we heard the distant sound of running water.  An area of intimidating quick sand had to be negotiated before we found the stream - an enchanting sight; clean passages, white flowstone, little cascades.

Time was against us. We had to leave.  The following day I retraced our footsteps in this cave and by pacing guessed that that we had explored about 300 m. of passage.

Back at camp we divided ourselves into two groups each taking a turn to guard the camp while the other went to the village for supper.  Then under a full moon we talked and joked and drank rum late into the night.

Day 2.

By 7 a.m. Edwin, Ahmed, Alex and I were at the entrance to Cave 3 which is located about 35 ft. up the rockface 300ft east of the washing pool.  A couple of rickety bamboo ladders facilitate the climb to the entrance which in turn leads to an awkward tight rift and a crawl over a bamboo bridge to a high daylight chamber (Cave 2).  A large passage to the right just before this chamber had previously been explored to conclusion by Ahmed.  A climb up the far side of Cave 2's daylight chamber leads to a high rift passage to an old bamboo ladder which can be ascended for 25 ft. to a large rift chamber 60 ft. high.  From here a passage can be followed north via a couple of difficult traverses around pots to some easy walking passage with fine formations.  Finally a crawl between stal brings one to a small terminal chamber blocked with mud and stal.

Back at the foot of the old bamboo ladder we explored a low passage to the head of a pitch overlooking a chamber.  A difficult climb down into this chamber brought us to a choice of two ways on. The northern passage terminated in a 60 ft. pitch (tackle required) while the eastern one returned us to the large passage explored by Ahmed on his previous visit.  From here we returned to the surface since we had still not breakfasted and it was already nine o'clock.

It was hard work ridding ourselves of the stench of guano in the washing pool before we could go to the village to eat, so it was midday before I was ready to go caving again. Since everyone had to be back in Cebu City that night in readiness for the Easter Weekend I only had a couple of hours so I decided to return to Cave 5 to explore the right branch and make a compass and pace survey.  The passage trended north-east, and the going was generally easy with just the occasional crawl or wriggle through smashed stal which - like the profuse graffiti - testified to earlier visitors.  Most of the formations were dull and the occasional picturesque ones damaged or graffiti'd.

Shortly after a 60 ft. aven, a gentle 20 ft. climb led to a chamber 70 ft. high by 40-50 ft. wide.  A low passage on the right here was left unexplored.  The main route continues in a north-westerly direction now and finally in an uncomfortable crawling section - the stream is heard again though it is necessary to continue into a silent zone for a while before the passage regains its walking size and the stream can again be heard and ultimately reached by scrambling 20 ft. down a trench in the floor.  Both upstream and down the stream passage continues large and inviting but I had no time left to continue my exploration.

Graffiti on the wall announces:   "27 Aug 76 F.G.M.C. Exploration"

Eight names are appended. None of my Filipino friends has any idea who these people are, though I later heard stories that the upstream section of this cave leads to waterfalls that no-one has ascended.  It would be interesting to return here and also to explore the plateau above.  There must surely be active swallets there.

Back at camp armed, but un-uniformed, military men were expressing rather too much interest in our camping and climbing equipment (while I had been caving most of the group had been indulging in some serious artificial climbing on the cliffs). Knowing that we were in a Red Alert area we broke camp quickly, thanked the landowner and hit the road home.

Definitely an area to return to!

 (to be continued - Ed.)