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Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas. Allens House, Townsend, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Bristol

Editorial

Mail Box Matters

The B.B. mail box in the Belfry has at last yielded some letters.  Unfortunately almost all its contents to date have not been suitable for publication and the writers (and others) may well want to know why.

There were two complaints by visitors about the state of the Belfry.  Now, anonymous letters traditionally belong in the dustbin, which has been thoughtfully placed just underneath the mail box – and that’s where they went.  By all means complain, and by all means use a pen name if you wish to remain anonymous if published.  Call yourself ‘Stirrer’ or some thing like that, but LET US ALSO HAVE YOUR PROPER NAME. Apart from the general principle that any bloke ought to have the courage of his convictions, there is the more practical point that the club committee may well want to investigate a complaint and wish to know who made it in the first place.

In any case, complaints about the state of the Belfry, however justified – and unfortunately they usually are – get us no further unless they are accompanied by some suggestion as to how the state of affairs might be improved.  Ever since the first Belfry was built, people have been complaining about it, and almost any constructive suggestion will be examined by the Hut Warden and the Committee – but vague general complaints are no use.

Other letters ‘knocked’ members of the club.  Again, by all means do this if you feel it is justified, helpful or useful – but don’t expect the B.B. to publish a letter calling another member something derogatory. It may well be fair comment to say “we would be more impressed by X’s argument if we saw him down a cave more often” for example, but it is NOT fair comment to call X a useless loud mouthed twit. State the fact, and leave any judgement to the readers.

One last letter was short and to the point.  The writer complained that the siting of the mail box just above the dustbin caused him to bang his head on the sharp corners of the mail; box whenever he put things into the dustbin or emptied it.  Although he did not give his name, at least he deserves a pat on the back for using and emptying the dustbin.  Let us hope that the bangs on the head which he gets may act as a constant reminder for him to write to the B.B.

“Alfie”

Barbecue 19th June

Get in touch with Pete Franklin for details.  TICKETS will be issued and possession of one will ensure GRUB and BOOZE.  Don’t forget the date and don’t forget your ticket.

Letter To the Editor, Belfry Bulletin

14461 D Redhill Ave.
Tustin,
California, 92680
U.S.A.

7th March 1971

Dear Alfie,

When I made my short visit to England last Christmas, the current topic of conversation seemed to be the removal of fixed tackle from St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.  This subject is an annual event, and perhaps rightly so. Times have changed somewhat since its installation in the cave – better techniques and equipment may have put some of the arguments for its installation out of date, and an annual discussion of the requirements is essential.  Not being able to attend the proposed Leader’s Meeting, I would like to put some suggestions forward.  There is certainly a lot of tackle in the cave – should it come out?  I have personally felt for some time that certain items could well be removed from the cave without any problems.  In fact, the Leader’s Meeting of 1967 decided that the maypole tackle should come out.  This involves only the Maypole Pitch ladder which is to be replaced with a system similar to that used on Pulley Pitch.  This was ratified by the club committee at the time and, to my knowledge, this still stands.  As the bug hunting up there revealed nothing to date, the tackle could be removed. That really ends the problem of Maypole. If, however, the leaders want to get rid of the chains and Pulley Pitch attachments, then this is another issue – and one with which I could not agree.  For the remainder of the cave, there are many items which could be removed which will not cause any undue problems except to make the trips a little longer.  I have always felt that the only reason that St. Cuthbert’s has been relatively free of accidents has been because of the fixed items in the Old Route – mainly the ladders on the Arête and Ledge Pitches and the ladder and chain at the bottom of the Wire Rift over Waterfall Pitch.  The reminder of the tackle on the Old Route serves no purpose at all – that is, the Mud Hall Pitch and the three-runged ladder near Pillar Chamber.  The upper parts of the Old Route – Wire Rift to Arête – really want the tackle kept in as this is where most of the weaker tourist parties meet trouble. It is mainly a mental attitude on their part, I’ve no doubt, but the struggle up the Wire Rift with the thought of climbing back up the entrance rift on a first trip can be very considerable. Many leaders are quite aware of this problem I’ve no doubt.

The other items of tackle in the cave are quite easily dealt with.  Those which serve no useful purpose are the chain in Rabbit Warren Extension; the chain on Water Shute (take a rope if necessary) and Stal Pitch chain (which has already been removed about 1966).  On the other hand, the chains on the Great Gour and Pyrolusite really ought to stay as these climbs are fairly difficult.  For me, the Pyrolusite climb would be impossible, as it would for most people if they are honest with themselves.

Whilst on the subject of tackle and general ‘upkeep’ of the cave, what about removing the steel ladder from the entrance shaft itself?  What about the repair and cleaning of the flood pipes by the entrance?  The pipes have worked well over the last five years, and only on a handful occasions has the cave been closed due to flooding in the depression.  Before the laying down of the pipes, the closing of the cave was a regular winter feature.

See you at the end of April, I hope.

                        “Wig”

Editor’s Note:    Apart from it being most welcome to receive a letter from ‘Wig’; this is the sort of subject which could well be aired more in the B.B.  By putting points of view on controversial subjects such as this one, members can not only make sure that their views become known to the club in general, but those who have the decisions to take obtain a much better view of member’s feelings.  Has anyone a different set of ideas about the Cuthbert’s tackle?  Is the subject of gating and restriction of entry to caves still one which arouses strong feelings?  How about the Belfry?  The committee?  The Annual Dinner?  The A.G.M.? The B.B.?  These are a number of subjects on which your views could be of interest.  Drop us a line.  S.J. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Nr. Bristol, is the address.

Measuring thre Aggressiveness of Water to Calcium Carbonate

A Background Article….

by Roger Stenner

The Cave Research Group of Great Britain has recently published two papers which I wrote on the measurement of the aggressiveness of water to calcium carbonate.  The term ‘aggressiveness’ refers to the quantity of calcium carbonate which water will either dissolve or deposit.

Many B.E.C. members helped in the collection of samples, and some have asked if I could explain what I was doing without going intro a lot of chemistry.  This is what I will try to do in this article, at the same time explaining how the project started.

Back in 1965, I started measuring calcium and magnesium concentrations to find out more about the streams flowing through St Cuthbert’s Swallet; in particular trying to find out if variations in hardness coincided with the temperature variations, that had been discovered.  As is the unfortunate way in which science work, the work uncovered more problems than it solved.  I wanted to add the measurement of aggressiveness to the properties being measured.  By the end on 1966, I was able to start measuring aggressiveness by there different methods.  One was by measuring the dissolved carbon dioxide and calculating the aggressive carbon dioxide.  The second was by calculation form the acidity of the water (pH value) as it changed when the water was shaken with calcium carbonate.  The third was to measure the increase in hardness when the water is shaken in calcium carbonate – the direct measurement.  Calcium carbonate is the major component of limestone. When it dissolves in water, caves form. When it is deposited by water, cave formations grow – so the measurement should be useful in many kinds of studies in caves.

The three methods measure the same thing, so the results should have agreed with each other.  By the summer of 1967, it became clear that they didn’t.  They worked very well in laboratories, but laboratories and caves like Cuthbert’s are not exactly mutually compatible.  I had an idea of trying to get a method which would be reliable in places like Cuthbert’s, described as ‘in the field’ since this phase is normally used to describe work done outside the laboratory – and in any case Cuthbert’s is in a field.

To establish a reliable method for measuring aggressiveness in the field, the reasons for the errors in the three methods already used would have to be found, and one of them would have to be adapted to avoid the errors.  I would then have to prove that the adapted method worked.  The previous two years experience gave me a pretty good idea where the errors were coming from, and how to side-step them – but a load of statistics would be needed for the proof.  This could be done by studying the streams in G.B. cave for a year, sampling weekly.  Temperature and discharge (stream size) measurements taken at the time of sampling could be expected to give a great deal of information about hydrology of the system at the same time as the necessary data for evaluating the aggressiveness measurement procedure was being collected.

Why take measurements in G.B. rather that in St. Cuthbert’s where so much of the early work done? G.B. has a fairly straight forward steam system, easily covered comprehensively in a short time, and a feasibility study of St. Cuthbert’s ruled out this cave on each of the three fundamental criteria.  To explain this in more detail is beyond the scope of an article such as this, and interested readers will be able to find out more about this in an the appropriate Cuthbert’s Report.

The fate of the project now depended on being able to obtain £200 for apparatus and chemicals.  An application to the Scientific Research in Schools Committee of the Royal Society was successful, and, in addition to the money, I now had two enthusiastic chemists from the University of Bristol to supervise the work – Professor Everett, Dean of the faculty of Science, and Dr. Nickless, who teaches advanced chemistry.  I was completely astounded to find that I had free use to tens of thousands of pounds worth of the latest equipment.  I took advantage of this to extend the original scope of the work to include an investigation into changes in trace element concentrations when pure calcium carbonate is added.  These results might be useful outside the limited scope of the aggressiveness measurement.  The results form the basis of another paper to the C.R.G. which is not yet published.

The U.B.S.S. very kindly gave permission for the work to be carried out in G.B. cave, and 1968 became an endless sequence of sampling and analysis, with the odd surveying trips in Cuthbert’s to prove that a change is good as a rest.  A prep room in school was littered with polythene bottles, automatic burettes, ion exchange columns and all sorts of reagents and apparatus, including an extremely pretty crucible and lid made of platinum.  Any free periods and dinner breaks were spent making sure that one set of samples were finished before the next load were collected. Thirty hours a week were added to the normal teaching load, and holidays spent in the university labs.  After the July floods there were less samples to analyse, but more time was spent on the trace element analysis, so the work load stayed the same.  After the flood it was not possible to stick to regular weekly sampling, and after eleven months, a bout of flu gave me an excuse to call a halt.  1969 was spent tabulating, computing and evaluating results, writing up the work and using X-ray fluorescent spectrometry for the trace element work.

The results established a procedure based on the direct measurement, with the welcome advantage of very great simplicity.  The method and its limitations are explained in a C.R.G. paper.  From G.B., several facts about limestone solution have been discovered by the use of this method.  It is also being used by several other people, who are finding it worth while to measure aggressiveness.

My own work is continuing in two directions.  First, I am measuring aggressiveness using natural limestones of known composition, finding the effects of minor components in the rock and water – particularly magnesium.  Secondly, I am using the new computer at the university to complete the analysis of the results from G.B.

What is the use of all this work to cavers?  Indirectly, it will lead to a better understanding of the process which create and decorate caves which will surely help cavers in the future, particularly as the more obvious sites to dig get fewer.  Also, the results so far obtained may encourage the Bristol Waterworks Company to fight quarrying concerns when they want to expand into caving areas. The major risings have particular characteristics which make them particularly vulnerable to the Bristol Waterworks.  They posses for instance, a marked attenuation of discharge response to rainfall. These characteristics depend largely on the slowly evolved limestone surfaces which are therefore very much in the interests of the waterworks to preserve.

Now to the direct usefulness to cavers.  It would be useful in the exploration of sumps from the downstream end, especially at complicated junctions.  Again, it could in certain cases give an indication of whether or not an inlet stream comes from a major undiscovered cave system.  As an example, the final drip in the downstream passage in G.B. could only have come from a stal decorated passage or chamber, well ventilated, draining into a muddy boulder ruckle.  Obviously, this is fitted by the ladder dig extension, but the drip was known long before the ladder dig discoveries were made, and, had the method been available then, this could have been deduced from the drip.  Although these uses are limited they deserve to be applied a good deal more than they have been at present.

For anyone interested in this, I will be happy to do the analysis if they are prepared to collect the samples – 60cc bottles don’t take up much room in a pocket.  I can also supply sample bottles, so please get in touch with me if you have place where you think the method could be used.  My address is, R.D. Stenner, 38 Paultow Road, Bristol BS3 4PS.

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Scientific articles are always welcome, and go to show that there are members of the B.E.C. who are engaged in furthering the scientific study of caves.  Members will be glad to hear that Roger has just been awarded his M.Sc. for this work.

Christmas Puzzle

Prizes of pints of beer go to ‘Sett’ for being the first to produce the right answer, which was BOB BAGSHAW and to Alan Kennet for the best mathematical solution.

Torridon 70

by Steve Grime

After the summer courses with sixty students in each, we were looking forward to a quiet time in September with just sixteen boys to cater for.  The course started with a bang.  A big one – for Tony Cardwell and myself when we tried to motor through a weegee bus with the land rover.  We were not quite successful.  Tony’s head went through the windscreen, and he got cut up a bit.  I banged a two inch deep hole in the glove compartment.  He ended up in hospital for a week and I was put to bed with orders not to move for three days.

I was fit for the first expedition – a thirty mile walk taking three days, and the weather was fine for the first two days.  The main six day expedition was to be in the Torridon Hills which neither Tony or myself had been before, except for some low level climbing on wet days.

A fine drizzle accompanied us over our hill and all the way to Torridon.  We pitched camp down by the river and, as we were doing so, the cloud cleared slightly and a watery sun dribbled down on us.  So, after a brew, it was ‘on P.A.’s’ and away to the crag where we pranced around in manner supposed to show the boys how to do it.

Sunday didn’t dawn – it just came in with the tide.  Typical west coast weather.  It was bolted down on us with no sign of a break.  We told the lads to stay in their sleeping bags for the day, and settled ourselves down to a day of tea and cards and seeing who could hold on longest before having to brave the weather for a leak.

The weather did clear for a while in the late afternoon and Tony and I went for a stroll down to the beach. We saw that the tourist information office was open and so we strolled in.  We took a few leaflets and paid our bob to boggle at the stuffed wild life in the natural history section and then waded back to the camp.

It was from these pamphlets that we read about Coire Mhui Fhearcher, and the germ of an idea born. It must be obvious that not everyone fancies climbing, and with this particular bunch of lads, only half of them were really interested, and as we see no point in pushing people, we decided to concentrate on those that were keen.  The plan was to take tents and food up into the coire (two thousand feet) and climb from there.

On the Monday, we set off. Three instructors and four boys. One of the instructors had only just joined us, and he was for the sailing side and had never seen a hill in his life.  We arrived at the coire at 1 pm and pitched camp.  Tony said he wanted to have a closer look at the huge buttresses which rose above us into a cloudless sky.  These buttresses are a thousand feet high and are composed of quartzite resting on a sandstone base.  It was along the junction that Tony wished to traverse, a five to six hundred yards.

I took the boys over to see some small problem stuff – about ninety feet of vicious climbing, and we enjoyed ourselves for a couple of hours in the sunshine.  Occasionally we looked for Tony, but the scale is so vast that a human sized object is lost.

Eventually, we heard shouts coming from the cliff, and there was our sailing instructor on his first climb doing his first tension traverse and seemingly suitably impressed.  As dusk closed in, our two ‘hard men’ arrived at the tents, one radiant – the other ashen.  Living conditions were cramped and soon humour had the upper hand as sweaty feet vied with pipes for the most persuasive odour, each one gaining points for its strength and the owner of the top scorer being threatened with eviction.

As the moon came up, we stepped out of the tent to look at the cliff above us.  The setting was superb, the triple buttress soaring into the velvet darkness of the night sky – utter quiet but for the distant sigh of the wind on the ridge eleven hundred feet above us.  The site of the camp itself nestled in a hollow by the side of the loch with the moon reflected in its mirror-like surface.

The following morning we were up bright and early.  The sun was not yet over the ridge and the air smelt crisp and clean.  The sky was pale blue with a wisp of frontal cloud drifting across it with promise of a good day.  As we were but prospecting the area, we decided to split up into two parties and climb up gullies of five hundred feet or so to get a better look and the arêtes.  To the east there was a beautiful wall about four hundred and fifty feet high that was as smooth as the proverbial bum.  It even had the cheeky bulge halfway up and the rest was quite vertical.

Leaving the tents, my lads and I climbed our gully at a reasonable speed but were thankful for our helmets as the rock is not all that sound and the odd boulder jumped out at us. On reaching the top of the Ben Eighe ridge, we struck off east to look for the others.  We stood at the top of their gully and shouted.  Their answer was lost in the echoes.  Looking down, I could see that a descent for two hundred feet or so was quite practicable do taking two ropes; I set off down the thing. It was fortunate that I did as the rock was even worse than in our gully and Tony could hardly move without bombarding his rope with young boulders.  However, a fixed top rope sorted that problem out and soon we were all at the top.  We then decided to do the ridge and a wonderful day.  Of course, we met at the usual bumbly in shoes who told us that one of the pinnacles was ‘quite severe’.  Rubbish!  From the final cairn, we struck of down beautiful scree to the northeast and the road, where we were picked up by the bods who had stayed behind.

We spent the night in our base camp and the next morning set off for the coire again with another bunch of lads.  The agenda was much the same but that day we did some further pushing of the arêtes. The guide book is out of print at the moment, so for us it was real exploration work and all the more enjoyable for that.

The coire itself is fantastic and well worth camping in for a week.  There are good sites for tents at the southwest edge of the loch and the scenery is pure joy on its own, the climbing adding that final touch that makes it Utopia.

One bad note.  It takes two hours to reach the road, and the nearest boozer is nine miles away.

Those Spelaeodes

Having become rather tired of announcing that copies of the Spelaeodes ‘will shortly be available’, we have kept quiet until there is absolutely no doubt about it.  You can now buy them in a 91 page printed booklet with a glossy colour cover, printed by the Cheddar Valley Press and published by Barton Productions at a discount price of 55p (11/-) which is 5p (1/-) less that that charged by bookshops etc.  Get in touch with Alfie (S.J. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton. Bristol.)

The drawings – by ‘Jok’ Orr – are really fist class and are alone worth the price of the book.

The Western Dailey Press says:

‘If you know all about bedding planes, rifts and boulder piles and what it is like to be life lined on a pitch, these vigorous and highly grotesque tales of underworld characters will undoubtedly amuse.’

The Wessex Journal writes:

‘Should be in every caver’s pocket for the moments when life gets tedious.’

Profits after all printing and publishing expenses have been paid ARE GOING TO THE B.E.C.

Occasional Writings of the Climbing Section

by Roy Marshall

The rapidly expanding climbing section frequently holds meets in ‘foreign’ parts.  These are usually North Wales or Cornwall.  The Lakes and Scotland are occasionally graced by our presence.  I use the term ‘Climbing Section’ to include all those whose main interest is climbing rather than caving.  Just as we cave, there are many of the caving section who climb.

As we are a relatively small group, we carry out most of our activities as a group.  One such meeting took place in December in North Wales.  On the Friday night we pitched out tents under a cloudy sky.  It does not seem right to dismiss pitching tents in one sentence.  Anyone who has camped in the Llanberis Pass knows of the strong winds that blow up the pass at night, and the Welsh trick of placing rocks just where you want to place your tent peg.  To compensate for this, one places boulders on the guy ropes to stop the pegs pulling out.  This results in a primitive walled encampment on the lee side of any hill.

That is, it always used to be the lee side.  After we had all gone to sleep, the wind, contrary to its usual custom, blew DOWN the pass.  One was awakened by curses and the wild flapping of canvas.  One fly sheet almost took off, nearly taking the tent with it. The fly sheet was ruined, thus allowing the tent to leak.

In the morning, we surveyed the damage and made what repairs we could.  The damaged tent was collapsed and weighted down with rocks. This was the Saturday morning.  Due to alarming foresight, someone had booked our breakfasts at the Pen-y-Pas.  We arrived to finds our tables marked ‘Reserved for the bat-men.’  I suppose some acknowledgement of this characterisation was indicated, but at nine thirty in the morning, enthusiasm was rather lacking.

The weather was what the weather men call ‘changeable’ – raining most of the time and drizzling the rest.  We drove out of the rain to Ogwen, walking from there to Idwal Slabs.  I was immediately reminded of an article in a previous B.B. – Sell’s Baptism.  This was more of a confirmation.  We were all at various stages of routes on the slabs when it began raining.  The skies emptied.  Rivers ran down the face only to be blown back up to repeat their misery by the high winds.  An experience of this sort either confirms or breaks any mountaineering spirit.  In a small way, I think we all felt this was real mountaineering.  Many will disagree that it was, but what is the difference between rock climbing and mountaineering?

A slight misunderstanding between certain members and a barman ended a quiet crib game and Saturday evening.

A peaceful night gave way to a fine Sunday.  After breakfast, we moved off together toward Cern Las.  The whole party finally reached the bottom of Cern Las, it was decided to climb up to Snowdon.  Skirting Cern Las, we climbed up the marshy ground towards the Snowdon Ridge.  As we climbed up into the clouds, our visibility decreased, the gully got steeper and steeper.  Eventually we were bridging up a narrow gully on friable rock.  It was in this gully that we found our only snow – a four foot cube.

We at last emerged exhausted into the freezing wind at the top of the ridge.  With hands deep in pockets we moved across the frosty ridge towards zig-zags to go down to the Pyg Track.  As we all knew the way along the Pyg track, we were again straggled out under Snowdon.  One by one we staggered into Pen-y-Pas.  Pints of hot ribena rounded off our meet before we started to make our way back to Bristol.

Monthly Crossword – Number 10.

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Across:

1. Pulls on rope to two directions. (4)
4. Rude and Crude song. (1,1,1,1)
8. Swildons way. (3)
9. This ground for caving. (5)
10. You could be wedged in this like the last part! (7)
14. Cuthbert’s boulders. (5)
16. Comes but once a year (1,1,1)
17. Caver’s route. (4)
14. Part of 7 down (4)

Down:

1. 1 across ends in opposite direction. (4)
2. Wet R.A. underground. (5)
5. A Swildons sump (3)
6. Change race and take this underground. (4)
7. 18 across is a part of these. (7)
11. Stony in Stoke. (5)
12. Pitch in stranded rope? (4)
13. Traditional last word? (2)
15. Needing gut? (2)

Solution To Last Month’s Crossword

 

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Stencils 28.4.71

Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas. Allens House, Townsend, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Bristol

Editorial

Artificial Aids

The recent Cuthbert’s Leader’s meeting came forward with the suggestion that many of the aids in Cuthbert’s – some of which may have come to be regarded as almost a part of the cave – should be removed for a trial period.  This has been ratified by the Committee.  As well as the write up on the Leader’s Meeting, we are pleased to publish a special article on the removal of fixed tackle and the philosophy behind it. We think you will all agree that our present Caving Secretary has put forward a reasoned case.  He has some very definite ideas on the subject which he states in an articulate manner, and this can do nothing but good.  The removal is for a trial period, and the situation will be closely observed.  Meanwhile, if any member has anything to say, either in support or against this policy, the B.B. will be pleased to give any sensible views an airing.

May and June

Once again, a single B.B. covering two months.  Of late, articles have been coming in rapidly, but unfortunately too late to prevent this state of affairs.  Please keep up the flow, so that we can have a MONTHLY B.B. and make it bigger!

Steel Yourself

The mail box is working well, but we still get the odd anonymous letter.  We were amused at the latest one, which accuses the B.E.C. of all sorts of bad behaviour including ‘steeling my most precious possessions’ – we well may be a rough lot, but at lest we can spell!  We suggest that this bloke buys a dictionary.  We prefer to be insulted grammatically.

“Alfie”

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The Committee would like to record their thanks to Bill Cooper for his gift of ropes and ladders to the club.  Dare we hint that instead of leaving his tackle for ever, Bill could acquire a whole lot more by applying for a certain vacant position???

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Within the latest Wessex Journal
Is written down, on page internal
A list of blokes – Aye!  Here’s the rub!
Who haven’t paid their annual sub.

The B.E.C. for many year,
Appeal to member’s cloth-bound ears
By shouting, so they can’t forget
“HAVE YOU PAID BOB BAGSHAW YET?”

Fixed Tackle in Cuthberts

by Tim Large

As Caving Secretary, I am responsible for the access arrangements for St. Cuthbert’s, and I feel very strongly about the way that the system of access and leaders should be organised.

Cuthbert’s is very much underrated by many people, particularly tourist parties.  An average trip in the cave can be compared to a trip in Swildons to Sump IV and back – which is the longest straightforward trip on Mendip for non-diving cavers.  As it says in the Mendip Bible ‘Caves is where you find them’.  I should like to add my own extension to that saying;  ‘Cave is like nature makes them’. 

So why festoon them with unnecessary iron monsters?  There are some items that are necessary – such as rawlbolts for secure belay points; but fixed iron ladders and chains are just too much!  I’ve heard all the arguments for keeping tackle in Cuthbert’s, and I shall list them below, with my answers to them.

  1. To help in the exploration; digging; surveying and scientific work being carried out in the cave.

ANSWER:  Since the tackle was put in, caving standards have improved tremendously, and could have improved even more if cavers had not become lazy through relying on fixed tackle. Why should it be made too easy for us? Fixed tackle removes the sport, the challenge.  Why bother to go caving at all?  There are plenty of fire escapes to go up and down.  If something is worth attaining, then it is worth working very hard for – whether it is digging or taking part in scientific work.  All these tasks have been accomplished in other areas where there is no fixed tackle, so why can’t we do it?  Is the B.E.C. going soft?

  1. We have to consider tourist parties that enter the cave.

ANSWER:  Since I have become Caving Secretary, I have tightened up on access to the cave. Cuthbert’s is hard work; especially on the way out from Everest Passage upwards and so requires a good standard of caving technique and fitness.  This takes time to gain and until a person is capable of doing Cuthbert’s they should not go into the cave.  Never mind whether they want to see the pretties – they can see them when they deserve to by attaining the experience and fitness necessary.  I shall endeavour to restrict the tourist parties by questioning any group whom I have not heard of before.  (I have done this in the past and works well).  Also, I shall ask the leaders for reports on the tourist parties they have taken.  In Yorkshire, every bod who has done Calf Holes – Browgill does not expect to bottom Penyghent, and neither does anyone consider putting fixed tackle into Penyghent Pot to make it easier.  You do the cave for the natural challenge it offers. Cuthbert’s is exactly the same case on Mendip – so stop underrating it, or you will become unstuck down below.

  1. We would have to carry too much tackle down the cave.

ANSWER:  As I have said previously, if something is worth having, it is worth working for – and that includes the carrying of tackle into the cave.  The items that are to be removed do not mean the need for vast amounts of ladder.  Let us consider the places where tackle is to be removed in more detail: -

Ledge Pitches

There is a bypass to the pitches which comes down at the bottom of the second ladder at the end of the pitches.

Wire Rift Chain

It is common practice to traverse over Wet Pitch which means bypassing the chain. If someone does need to go across the ladder, the leader can take a hand line.  (All rawlbolts in all pitches will be left in).  The practice of using the ladder should be discouraged.  The ladder is there as a safeguard – not as fixed tackle.

4 Rung Ladder

This item is so ridiculous that I consider it does not need a reply.  If you are not prepared to thrutch up this very short section, you don’t deserve to be in the cave.

Water Shute

The chain on this is unnecessary, since the Water Shute is climbable without any fixed tackle.  It is by no means the only route down the cave, so why should be made easy?  If bods are capable of climbing it, then they have earned the right to use that route.  For parties that need help, a hand line can always be taken.  On rescues, the Water Shute is not used for taking a victim up – the dry pitch to the right is used instead.

Rabbit Warren

The chain in the Rabbit Warren Extension can be removed, since this spot can be negotiated without tackle.  And for the helictites in the roof – well, if there was any in the past, there are not there any more.

Great Gour

This is again free climbable either at the corner where the chain comes down or on the opposite side. There is also an alternative route underneath the gours which is passable in all but the worst weather conditions – when parties should not be in the cave anyway.  Again, a hand line can always be used for parties which need one.

Maypole Series

The leaders are still considering the fixed tackle problem in this part of the cave.  I have been to the series recently on a few occasions, and consider the position to be as follows: -

Lower Chain Pitch

The chain is completely unnecessary here.  The pitch can be climbed with ease.

Maypole Ladder Pitch

I would like to see replaced with a system like that on Pulley Pitch.  This would give a very sporting wet pitch which would provide a challenge to everyone.  Now that the bug studies have been discontinued, it is not essential to have easy routes into this series – nor was it ever really necessary before.

Upper Chain Pitch

Believe it or not, this pitch is free climbable under normal water conditions, so that the chain could be dispensed with.  If bods want to visit this section of the cave, then they should climb it.

Pulley Pitch

This is alright except that the belay chain at the top needs replacing and the nylon rope could be replaced with a wire belay loop.  One method for the pulley system which could be used is to have an eye ring at the end of each loop – one for the ladder belay and one for the bottom to belay the ladder once it is position – either to a natural belay if one is available or to a rawlbolt in the wall of the passage.  This system could be adopted for all pitches and avens which need this treatment.

I agree that the removal of all this tackle will mean that trips will take longer – but so what? Caving is a leisure pastime of your choice so the chance to spend and extra hour underground should be welcomed!

It should be noted that abseiling is becoming more popular on Mendip as cavers improve their standards and are able to climb up pitches where they would have needed ladders and maypoles in the past.  A good example of this is Cowsh Aven in Swildons.  About five years ago, there were only a handful of people capable of climbing Cowsh. Today there must be at least 25 who have done the round trip of the series.

Prussiking too is being experimented with by various bods and I am certain that this will replace ladders before 1980, especially if we get any more mammoth pots like Rhino Rift. Climbing will also become more necessary as the easier sites for further exploration of existing caves become exhausted and one is only left with obscure holes high up in the sides of passages. This has already been done in the search for high level passages.  There was probably as much climbing as there was use of ladder and maypole.

Cuthbert’s is not the only cave on Mendip which suffers from an excess of iron oxide.  G.B. is another cave where there is an unnecessary amount of fixed tackle littering the scene.  Perhaps we ought to approach the U.B.S.S. with a view of returning the cave to its virgin state.

Having dealt with the question of fixed tackle in Cuthbert’s, perhaps is might be in order to conclude this article with a look as the Leader System.  As I see it, this system needs reviewing.  At present, bods wishing to become leaders only have to know five routes down the cave and, providing they can show a reasonable standard of caving, they are accepted as Cuthbert’s Leaders.  This is not enough.  I consider that the system should be modelled on the requirements demanded by mountaineering leader’s courses.  Below, I have set out some of the requirements I consider necessary for Cuthbert’s Leaders.

1.                  A knowledge of first aid, sufficient to be capable of dealing with an emergency until a doctor can be reached.

2.                  A knowledge of the climbing techniques necessary in caving.  Abseiling, prussiking etc.  The leader should be able to climb to a reasonable good standard, and should be able to free climb such pitches as maypole, Great Gour, Water Shute, etc.

3.                  A knowledge of rescue methods and procedures.

4.                  Maintenance of a high standard of fitness and familiarity with Cuthbert’s  This would entail the leader caving regularly besides doing his one or two tourist trips.  I consider this essential, as when it comes tom the crunch, the leader may be the only person who has knowledge of Cuthbert’s and therefore must act quickly to safeguard his party.  The party may, after all, be all experienced cavers who are in Cuthbert’s for the first time.

*****************************************

As Tim says, caving techniques continually alter and improve.  As always, the B.B. tries to keep up to date and, below you will find advance notice of the first of a number of sessions on caving techniques which promise to provide an interesting forum for the ideas.  For those who are unable to attend, the B.B. will be there and the main points will be brought to member’s notice.

*****************************************

Although, as we have just read, prussiking may well render caving ladder obsolete by 1980, we are still at the moment in 1971 and need caving ladder.  Norman (Pretty Polly Perkins) Petty has just retired after many years of supplying the club with all its ladder AND WE NEED A NEW TACKLEMASTER. IF YOU think you could help in any way, get in touch with any member of the Committee or phone Alan Thomas.  Just think, you too could be presented with an engraved tankard from a grateful club in about 1985 or so!

Symposium on Prussiking

by John Letheren.

By the time I discovered that a number of individuals and clubs on Mendip were working on research projects and new techniques which, for one reason or another, were not reaching the eyes and ears of other cavers, some of whom were engaged on similar activities.  Even with the widespread exchange of club publications, few cavers have the time or opportunity to browse through all the publications of all the other clubs, and the generally available literature, like ‘Descent’ must needs be very sketchy if it is not to grow into many volumes of expensive print.

The answer may well be a series of reasonably serious inter-club meetings, organised along the lines of symposia but occupying one evening somewhere on licensed premises. The Wookey Hole Inn seems a good starting point. It has limited seating (for about fifty persons) but it will do for a start.

The programme will consist of a series of SHORT talks on one subject.  The first will be on prussiking, with slides, diagrams etc. Different approaches will be presented with plenty of time for discussion (and drinking) afterwards.

The Council of Southern Caving Clubs has very kindly offered to include details with outgoing post to seventy clubs for inclusion in their own publications.  Due to the fact that the hall and speakers must be arranged, details run off and sent out, and then published by individual clubs (some of whom only publish quarterly) the date has not yet been fixed, but will probably be SOME TIME IN SEPTEMBER.

Final arrangements will appear in due course in this publication.  In the meantime, if you have anything to say about prussiking, or a suggestion for the next topic, please write to: -

John Letheren,
25 Southstoke Road,
Combe Down,
BATH
BA2 5SN

I look forward to seeing you at the first session.

Letters

Just in case readers may have thought that this B.B. was not going to contain anything from Steve Grime,  who is now well on the way to becoming our Writer of the Year, here is a letter from his new address and an invitation to club members….

To the Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

After one and half years or dragging unwilling youths around in the hills, and eating the stock school lunch of two cheese sandwiches for the same period. I got pretty puked off with it, and in February headed for Aberdeenshire to do a bit of game keeping. However, as there was no time to spare to go climbing or canoeing, I got puked off with that too.

On Thursday, the 3rd of June this year, I arrived in Letterewe.  It’s yer actual Utopia.  My house, at N.G.R. 958708 is ideally situated in a three acre park fronting the loch.  A burn runs down the east side of the house and provides me with a roofless cave and a swimming pool.  I have a hundred and fifty foot high practice crag five minutes from the house and within an hour and a half’s walk there are a mile and a half of cliffs with about two dozen routes on them.

My job is merely to drive people across the loch and maintain the boats.  One of the gillies is a keen climber, and already we have had one day on the hill.  Letterewe forest is really fantastic.  There are literally dozens of unclimbed crags in the area, so the possibility of new routes is reasonably high.

Club members will be welcome all the year round, but I must stipulate that those wishing to climb will be out of luck from the 12th of August to the 20th of October inclusive, as this is the stalking season and I have no spare time then, but any other time will be O.K.  Access to Letterewe is gained by driving down Loch Maree side to a private jetty and then operating the signal, whereupon yours truly will ghug across in a forty foot launch and take ‘ee across.       

Yours,   Steve Grime.

Climbers, please note! Meanwhile, on the caving front, and about that removal of tackle business, Oliver Lloyd has something to say.

*****************************************

To the Editor, Belfry Bulletin,

May I take this opportunity of airing my views on the subject of fixed tackle?  I don’t know what the recent meeting of St. Cuthbert’s Leaders decided about this, as I had to send my apologised for absence.  What I think is that the less you do; the better. Cavers like to find caves as they are used to finding them.  They don’t like change and they mostly don’t like innovations.  I think that most cavers, for example, still prefer ladders to abseiling down and prussiking up.  So, bearing in mind the outcry when Willie Stanton put fixed aids into the Twenty in Swildons, I would suggest that we put no more fixed aids into Cuthbert’s and take none out.

I would be particularly sorry if the three rung ladder just beyond Pillar Chamber were removed.  At present, my cave-guide spiel goes something like this…’Ladies and Gentlemen.  We are now approaching the most desperate pitch on Mendip.  I think that perhaps that I had better go first. Then as I descend, my voice tails off into a distant echo, while I whisper form the bottom ‘Next man down.’

Yours,

                                    Oliver.

Well, there we are. No less a thing than Oliver’s reputation as an amusing cave guide is at stake!  Perhaps we could hide the three rung ladder somewhere convenient, so that Oliver could nip down first and put it into position for his party, then come back last on the way back and go and hide it again!

Carlsbad Caverns

…A flying visit.

by Dave Irwin

During Thanksgiving weekend last November, having four days to kick about, I decided now or never, to visit the famous show cave in New Mexico – Carlsbad Caverns.  A distance of eleven hundred miles from Los Angeles meant that there would be many hours of driving involved to get there and back.  The route lay along the interstate highway 10 through Palm Springs and Indio; across the desert to the town of Blythe and into Arizona; through phoenix and Tucson; across the hills and plains of New Mexico and finally to the small town of Carlsbad.

From the road, the entrance to Carlsbad National Monument, which lies along the top of a thousand foot plateau overlooking the Delaware Plain is approached though one of the many valleys which have cut into the plateau.  Near the cave entrance is the park headquarters where, apart from the usual souvenir shops, arte to be found the ranger offices and an exhibition hall illustrating the development of the cave.  Exhibition halls and lecture rooms are to be found at most of the national monuments and parks.  The admission charge to enter the cavern is three dollars, but to those fortunate to have foreign passport, admission is free, as it is to all the parks.  A short trail leads to the well known Bat Entrance – a high natural arch, some hundred feet wide by eighty feet high.  A steep path leads down under the entrance and along a wide shelf on the left.  The present entrance has interpenetrated a large passage below that drops rapidly for the greater part of the cave.  At the end of the shelf, the concrete pathway veers to the right and then follows a zig-zag route down into the cave whose upper reaches near the entrance have been subjected to considerable cavern breakdown.  The roof here is horizontal and some hundred feet above the floor. Following the down section of the pathway and under the Main Entrance, the passage takes on a distinctly phreatic form, although even here, great blocks of limestone have peeled away from the walls – due mainly to past earthquakes.  As the path descends, so the number of formations increases, the most notable being the Veiled Pillar, a beautiful fluted column some forty feet high.

After a descent of about five hundred feet, a branch leads to two really magnificent chambers, so lavishly decorated that little of the rocks walls and roof can be seen.  These are the Queen and King Chambers – the two being separated by the Papoose Room, a low (fifteen feet) but wide room of a very light limestone which gives a wonderful sense of spaciousness.  From the centre of the roof, hangs a well known group of curtains.

The King and Queen Rooms could never be described to convey to the reader the wonders to be seen there. Initially decorated with straws, curtains, stalactites and stalagmites, both chambers were flooded and the whole covered with nodular pool deposits.  The floors are covered with great clusters of crystals.  A climb back out of these three chambers regains the main passage and to a convergence of three huge passages creating a chamber of enormous dimensions.  A branch passage covered with pool deposits lead to the restaurant capable of handling several hundred people in a few minutes.  To get to this point has taken nearly two hours.  After a half an hour’s break, the party – normally of three to four hundred people – makes the move to the Big Room.  This chamber is claimed to be the largest in the world and is twelve by eighteen hundred feet.  Actually, it is a huge phreatic tube intersecting with another to form a huge ‘T’. The entrance to the big room is at the foot of this ‘T’ and the path follows the walls, past many magnificent columns and stalagmites.  The best known of these are the three huge stalagmites, up to sixty feet high and ten feet in diameter but scattered here and there are many other formations, the best of these being Totem Pole – a forty five feet high slender column and to me the finest example in the whole show cave.  At the top right hand limb of the ‘T’ an eighty foot pitch through the boulder floor of the chamber leads to further extensions that were discovered in the 1925 National Geographical Society’s explorations.  The left hand top limb ends abruptly, but a thirty foot diameter shaft (Bottomless Pit – a hundred and twenty feet deep) can be seen and its counterpart in the roof continues upwards to unknown heights.

Since the cave is largely inactive, its few pools form a novelty and so all the gimmicks of lighting and reflection are used.  The only one active formation is covered with algae due to the lighting system and so rather spoils the whole effect.  The floor of the Big Room is covered with a four foot layer of bat guano, and in the late nineteenth century, great amounts were excavated and taken from the cave.

The Indians of the area used only the entrance of the cave and there is no evidence that they penetrated any further than the twilight zone.  A few pictoglyphs can be seen on one of the shelves of the entrance.  They, the Indians, lived mainly as did Stone Age man in England – in rock shelters and shallow caves along the river beds. Various plants were the staple diet of these people, and with animal life in the area, life was reasonably tolerable.

From the Big Room, the return was the easiest of the lot!  In the Restaurant Chamber, elevators returned the parties to the surface, the ascent taking about a minute.  The total length of the trip is round about four and a half hours, and the rangers stop parties at various points in the system to explain how caves form and why formations should not be damaged.  The content, from a weegee point of view, is of a high standard and not the tripe so often heard in other show caves of the area and this country too. None of them can compare in any way with Carslbad, however much they think of their arrangements.  If you are ever lucky enough to be plunged into the states, do not miss a visit to Carlsbad – and remember – its buckshee!

Monthly Notes

by ‘Ben’

St. Cuthbert’s

The Tuesday evening digging team have at last re-opened Sump I by bailing it to a low duck and then lowering the stream bed on the other side to give a permanent airspace through it. In three later trips, the stream way has been extensively widened and further deepened, so that there is now eight or nine inches of airspace when the stream is flowing, and Cuthbert’s II should now be accessible under all conditions except perhaps extreme flood.

Work is now about to start on Sump II and anyone interested in joining this promising project is invited to come along any Tuesday evening, meeting at the Belfry at about 6.45 – 7.00 pm.

Wookey Hole

Another long dive by John Barker last month resulted in the discovery of a further chamber which is quite sizeable and has an ascending passage leading off.  On a later dive with Tim Reynolds and Brian Woodward, about four hundred feet of passage was followed.  The trip includes about a quarter of a mile of underwater passage descending to between sixty and ninety feet and is near the limit of what divers can do without a direct entrance to Wookey XX.  A further attempt to locate XX by radio methods has failed to work.

Swildons Hole

Some chemical persuasion in Sump XII has revealed a possible by-pass.

Rhino Rift

Work continues at the bottom, which now has about fifty feet of passage.

Hunters Hole

This dig also required more support from members, so that the PROMISING DRAUGHT recently lost by collapse may be rediscovered and followed.

Monthly Crossword – Number 11.

 

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across:

5. Blood characteristic I understood with lute characteristics (5,4)
6. Seaman plus possible course with myself and fish descending. (9)
7. Do this when 6 ac. (5,4)
8. They see caves! (5,4)

Down:

1. Home on the hill. (3,6)
2. Cerberus members? (9)
3. This, if not happy with 6 across. (5,4)
4. Limited succession of good caving days. (1,4,4)

Solution to Last Month’s Crossword

T

O

W

S

 

S

M

O

G

O

 

A

 

S

 

U

 

A

W

 

T

 

U

N

D

E

R

N

 

E

 

R

 

 

 

E

 

C

R

E

V

I

C

E

 

D

 

 

 

E

 

R

 

A

R

O

C

K

Y

 

A

 

M

O

 

A

 

S

 

W

 

E

P

A

T

H

 

P

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Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas. Allens House, Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Bristol

Editorial

Fixed Tackle and All That

Apart from its occasional exploits at Hunters and Belfry singsongs, the B.E.C. is not usually a very vocal body.  However, now and again, some subject seems to stir up the deepest feelings of club members, and we have the unusual spectacle of one and all rushing to put pen to paper.

What has sparked the latest of these sporadic bursts of writing is the recent Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting decision to remove some of the fixed tackle in Cuthbert’s and to tighten up on the leader system generally.  The B.B. tries, as far as is possible, to reflect what is going on in the club, so we make no apology for devoting a complete issue of the B.B. to this one subject.

A few people have said that the B.B. and the club committee are ‘behind’ these present moves and are bent on changing the way of life as practised in Cuthbert’s.  It must therefore be made very clear that the B.B. tries always to remain impartial – giving both sides of any discussion as far as it is able.  Obviously, if more people write for support of a project than write against it, it becomes less easy to balance the subject and one can only assume that the proportion or letters and articles received reflects the majority view. Nevertheless, it must be emphasised that the editor does not necessarily agree with the views expressed by correspondents in the B.B.

As far as the committee is concerned, it, too is impartial.  It was decided some years ago, on good democratic principles, that the Cuthbert’s leaders should have the major say in the running of the cave, and the committee felt that their ideas were worth a trial.  There are no sinister motives anywhere.

Nominations

Once again, it is time to think about nominations for next year’s committee.  Under the club constitution, all present members of the committee (including members which have been co-opted) are automatically nominated unless they wish to retire.  As far as is known, none of the present members of the committee wish to retire.  If YOU have anyone in mind who you think would make a good committee member, then get them to agree to stand if elected, and WRITE to Alan Thomas saying that you nominate whoever it is and that he has agreed to stand if elected.  You don’t need a seconder, but you MUST sign your own name.  If you wish to stand yourself, get someone else to nominate you.  There is always a shortage of people who are prepared to work for the club – why not have a bash at being on the committee?

Cuthberts Leadres’ Meeting

Now we open the subject of fixed tackle with a description of the Cuthbert’s Leaders Meeting by the caving secretary, Tim Large….

The Meeting was held at the Belfry on May 23rd, 1971.  There were 12 leaders present and apologies for absence were received from 3 others.

The main topic under discussion was the fixed tackle.  After a long and interesting debate, a vote was taken on a resolution to remove the tackle. Each item was voted on separately, and the results are given in full below: -

Lower Chain on Great Gour

For removal

7

against

4

abstained

1

Upper Chain out of Beehive Chamber

For removal

5

against

6

abstained

1

Pyrolusite Chain

For removal

3

against

7

abstained

2

Rabbit Warren Extension Chain

For removal

11

against

1

abstained

0

Water Shute Chain

For removal

8

against

3

abstained

1

Wire Rift Chain

For removal

10

against

2

abstained

0

4 rung ladder out Pillar Chamber

For removal

11

against

1

abstained

0

Mud Hall Ladder

For removal

3

against

7

abstained

2

Ledge Pitches Ladders

For removal

5

against

4

abstained

3

Arête Pitch

For removal

0

against

12

abstained

0

Entrance Pitch

For removal

0

against

11

abstained

1

The position is to be reviewed at the next meeting in six month’s time.  In view of the closeness of the decision in the case of the Ledge Pitch Ladders, these have not been removed completely from the cave, but taken down and stacked at the bottom of the pitches in case they are required to be replaced.

Maypole Series is still under review as far as the fixed tackle is concerned, and the position should be sorted out at the next meeting.  The series is still open.

Several leaders reported that the boulder ruckle at the top of Arête Pitch was in a dangerous condition, and it has been advised that a system involving one person at a time passing this spot should be adopted by all leaders.

Great care must be exercised in areas where there are formations.  Several leaders have noticed places where muddy handprints and footprints have left their trail over what used to be white stal flows and curtains. In other places, formations have been broken.  Better methods of marking off the formations are to be used.

It was considered by the meeting that leaders must maintain a reasonable standard of caving to remain a Cuthbert’s Leader.  If a leader has not caved regularly for a year, he must go down with an active leader before he can lead tourist parties again.

A list of Cuthbert’s Leaders is to be published so that prospective leaders and anyone else for that matter can arrange trips more easily.

Water Tracing Note: Drinking Fountain and Disappointment Pot inlets have been traced to Maypole Sink.  R. Stenner is doing several other tests in Cuthbert’s as well.

Since the meeting, all the items which were voted out have been removed.  These are: -

  • Lower Gour Hall Chain
  • Rabbit Warren Extension Chain
  • Water Shute Chain
  • Wire Rift Chain
  • 4 Rung Ladder
  • Ledge Pitches Ladders

 

 

 

Fixed Tackle Forum

We now throw the debate open.  The first contribution is from Buckett Tilbury and Graham Wilton-Jones, who describe themselves as ‘two average cavers’…

With reverence, we would like to pass a few comments on the article by Tim Large re the use of fixed tackle.  In general, we agree that the removal of fixed tackle in Cuthbert’s and other caves is desirable.  Firstly may we clarify the position regarding this?

Items of removable tackle (e.g. electron ladder) can be classed as fixed tackle if they are left in place for several trips.  What items of fixed tackle are necessary in any case, as a minimum?  A rawlbolt hole for a belay, where no other safe belay is available, and lines through sumps which are to be free-dived.  However, additional fixed tackle is useful where the prime objective in other than the sporting aspect – e.g. scientific research; exploration; surveying etc.  Artificial aids have, or are being, used in other areas, contrary to Tim’s suggestion. For example, O.F.D. ( Wales) Oxlow Cavern (Derbyshire) and Gaping Ghyll ( Yorkshire).  We disagree with the statement that caves are invariably done for the natural challenge offered.

On the subject of tourist trips into Cuthbert’s, we would agree with Tim.  However, especially as far as B.E.C. members are concerned, their training should include trips into Cuthbert’s of limited duration and scope until a reasonable standard has been obtained.  Otherwise, where can they cave in order to reach the required standard or proficiency?  In Swildons or Eastwater?

Have caving standards really improved?  We believe that the standard of the average caver has not improved within the last decade. The equipment has vastly improved – leading to safer, more comfortable caving.  The good, experienced caver must have improved his standards along with the general improvement in equipment and techniques.  Although Tim maintains that Upper Chain Pitch is free-climbable, is this necessarily true for the average caver?

Although free-climbing is becoming more popular, in order to reach less accessible high level routes, we must not ignore the safety measures which should be taken when attempting these climbs.  Climbing underground to any substantial height without safety aids such a ropes and pitons is infinitely more hazardous than the equivalent on the surface.

On the subject of prussiking, experiments in this technique have been in progress for the past five years, with few tangible results valuable to practical caving.  In view of the laziness of the average caver, the relatively high wear and tear on ropes, and the difficulty of leaning the technique, we cannot foresee the redundancy of the electron ladder.

P.S.  What about a Harvey Sky-Hook on Pulley Pitch.

*****************************************

The next writer is - you’ve guessed it! – Steve Grime.  Steve feels very strongly on the subject, and we must apologise to him for doing a little judicious ‘pruning’ of his contribution. We hasten to assure Steve that Tim is, in fact, a nice guy and we hope that Steve will have an opportunity to meet and get to know Tim when he comes to Mendip next.

On reading Mr. Large’s controversial article in this month’s B.B., I found myself becoming more and more and incensed the further I read.

As older members will know, I have never had dealings with the political side of the sport, as essentially I think it to be the antithesis of all the sport stands for.  Now the time has come to put pen to paper and speak out directly against it – and put a spoke in Mr. Large’s somewhat oversized wheel. Not having met the man, I can only judge him by his tone of writing, which I find egoistic, officious and downright meddlesome.

However, enough of this, and the bones of contention.  I will answer Mr. Large’s questions in the order in which he set them.

CAVERS HAVE BECOME LAZY BY RELYING ON FIXED TACKLE

If there had been no fixed tackle in the cave, some of our more inactive members – who have helped substantially with surveys, digging, etc. – would have not gone down, thus I sing many valuable man-hours of work to the club.  In all my years of staying at the Belfry (top of the bed-night figures for 1966) I have never known any caver to emerge from Cuthbert’s and declare that he would only go down caves containing fixed tackle in the future as he had been made lazy on his three to six hour trip down the cave.  What about those sterling chaps who work down there weekend after weekend and then push off to Yorkshire or Wales on bank holidays and do really strenuous systems?  One could hardly call them lazy!

FIXED TACKLE REMOVES THE SPORT; THE CHALLENGE

Rubbish.  One is not obliged to use it!  Furthermore, to say that one should have to work very hard to see the pretties or to GET to a dig verging on the ridiculous.  These are fine ideals, but hardly practicable and very inefficient.  What happens in other areas is totally irrelevant.  Cuthbert’s with its multiplicity of small pitches happens to lend itself to fixed ladders whereas one would be pretty stupid to try to put B.R. signal ladders up the main pitch of G.G. for example.

IS THE B.E.C. GOING SOFT

The B.E.C. was never soft, and I hope, never will be.  It is an easy going club, which should not be confused with softness.  Occasionally a group of members will get together and work hard on a project to its completion or the disintegration of the group. Again, the whole club may fester for a year or two.  If Mr. Large had been a member of the club for any length of time, he would have noticed these periodic fluctuations in activity.

CUTHBERT’S IS HARD WORK

Nonsense!  Some trips in Cuthbert’s CAN be hard work.  Mr. Large wants to make them harder.

FITNESS OF PARTIES TO DO THE NEW SUPER HARD CUTHBERT’S

How is he going to ascertain a person’s standard of fitness?  Give all visitors half an hours P.T. in the car park?  Or send out questionnaires to all visiting parties? Scrutiny has been carried out before, and so have bods who swore that they had done all sorts of tough trips in Derbyshire when, in fact it was their second trip underground.  Please don’t over rate Cuthbert’s.  It is not yet in the Pen-y-Ghent class and nor will it ever if our intrepid (really) divers have to carry all their gear down conventional tackle, ‘working very hard’ to reach Sump I.  It might just put the screws on the whole trip.

Abseiling and prussiking are fine on long FREE pitches, but on 40’ at an 800 incline, the prussic is awkward.  I personally would prefer to carry forty feet of ladder than a hundred feet of rope.

Now we come to Mr. Large’s Piece de Resistance.  Caving Leadership Certificates.  As one well known member said to a chap with the mountaineering equivalent, “Can you abseil from it?”

Don’t do it, Mr. Large! That sort of thing will be the death of the sport as we know it.  The people who started the M.I.C. business only did it for financial reasons – to put them on the Burnham Scale when instructing.  Plus, of course, a few pretty little boys who like saving badges.

One thing that has always impressed me when in Cuthbert’s is its safety factor due to the fixed aids installed.  Surely, as Caving Sec., Mr. Large’s first duty to the cave is to maintain it’s almost accident free record?  This, he is obviously trying to do, but his arguments are schizophrenic in that, by taking away the fixed tackle, he is increasing the danger.  If we have too many prangs in the cave, it will be closed and lost to all – so take care!

To sum up, I think that Mr. Large’s article was completely unnecessary, as he cancels out his own arguments by having all these super cavers to mollycoddle people round the cave.

Lo!  I turn to the next page in the B.B. and here is some other bod symposing on prussiking.  Why? It’s quite easy and any climbing manual will show you the basic movements and then its up to you. Listening to all those bods talking about it and watching pretty pictures on the wall isn’t going to get you up that horrible wet pitch you had the pleasure of abseiling down some hours previously – and it’s a damn sight more strenuous than climbing  ladder!

To misquote a well known negro spiritual ‘Everybody talking ‘bout; very few are goin’ there – Cavin’’ – so lets stop beating out gums and typewriters and get out and do it – without badges.

As we seem to be going berserk with committees etc., why not recall the Belfry Stove Committee?  At least they were a humorous bunch!

*****************************************

After that, we hasten to add for Tim’s benefit, that Steve is also a nice guy.

It appears that the Editor, and ‘Senex’, owe an apology, as the following letter from Oliver Lloyd points out……

In an otherwise kind and thoughtful letter to the B.B., on the fixed aids controversy, ‘Senex’ makes one comment that I cannot pass.  “If nature,” says he, “has made a caver seven feet tall, or twelve inches thick, or even sixty years old; then nature has played the bloke a dirty trick and there isn’t much we can do about it.”

Sir – the inference that sexagenarians cannot do without the fixed aids that have been removed from Cuthbert’s is unfounded.  This afternoon, Tim Large and myself went over the whole course and was able to do all the climbs without undue difficulty.  I think I even heard Tim say that if I could do it, then any of the St. Cuthbert’s leaders ought to be able to do.

                        Yours ever

                                    Oliver

Profuse apologies to Oliver for any implied detraction of his caving abilities.  The point which I thought that ‘Senex’ was making was that, whereas we ought to cater for average physical limitations, we cannot be expected to cater for extremes, he had forgotten Oliver, who, after all, is a very exceptional sexagenarian and whose fitness is almost certainly way in excess of the average for his age group.  We hesitate to alter the age quoted by ‘Senex’ to ninety years old, for fear of landing our successor with a similar letter in thirty years time!  We also hope fervently that a certain character at B.A.C. – who really is seven feet tall – does not turn out to be a keen and active caver.  If any active type is twelve inches thick – we assure that ‘Senex’ did not have you in mind!

The next contribution is from Brian Prewer, who has some interesting points to make…..

I should like to record my agreement with the sentiments expressed by ‘Senex’ in the July B.B.

If we are to have slogans, then I think that one of his remarks deserves somewhat wider publicity – ‘Caving is about liking caves.’  There is certainly a lot more to caving than the sporty climbing aspect.

You don’t have to be a mountain goat to enjoy caving.  To some of us, the climb bit is just a ruddy nuisance.  If you want climbs, go and climb a few mountains!

In general, some of it is unnecessary.  The four rung ladder is an example, but I have already experienced the Ledge Pitches without fixed tackle, and far from being – and I quote our caving Secretary – ‘ a challenge’ – it is nothing more than a nuisance and time waster.  A lot of time underground is spent waiting at the top or bottom of pitches, and fixed tackle certainly helps to keep a party moving. As for free-climbing pitches, let those Fred Davies’s of the caving world do it by all means, but don’t inflict it on the ordinary caver!  I do not intend to risk life and limb climbing such pitches as Upper Chain in Maypole Series for example.  Why should I be debarred from the rest of Maypole Series because I may be a little more cautious than most?

On the subject of restricting parts of the cave to some people by removing fixed tackle, let us remember – as ‘Senex’ points out in his letter – that many club members were involved in the exploration of Cuthbert’s and that some of these are not so fit as they used to be.  Should such people be restricted in their caving in Cuthbert’s?  I am not suggesting a Cuthbert’s trip for wheel chaired B.E.C. members – but let’s not be selfish about it.  I am sure that there is ample scope in Cuthbert’s for the anti-fixed-tackle bods to do the more adventurous routes, or for fixed tackle to be sited so that it becomes possible to use it or not, according to personal inclination!

I feel that, as the B.E.C. control access to Cuthbert’s, it should be the club’s responsibility to make Cuthbert’s reasonably safe for its members.  After all, it is the members that make up the club – NOT the Cuthbert’s Leaders.  I think a very selfish attitude is being shown by some leaders who seem to think that they are the only ones who should go down Cuthbert’s at all.  The matter of fixed tackle is a club matter and therefore should be referred to the club at an A.G.M.

As for Tim’s requirements for Cuthbert’s Leaders, I think that they are already too complex.  After all, you don’t need a leader for Swildons. What IS needed is a far stricter instruction in Cuthbert’s PRESERVATION.  By all means, retain the leader system for the sake of preservation of the cave but let’s not try to make out that, apart from its passage complexity and large number of pitches, Cuthbert’s is any more difficult technically than say, Swildons or Eastwater.  The day I need a certificate of competence to lead a cave is the day I finish caving. Caving has always been a sport with a few rules and regulations, and those few have usually been made for the sake for the sake of landowners etc.  Let’s not add them to ourselves.

Finally, I do not think that it the B.E.C. Caving Secretary’s job to vet other clubs applying for the trips down Cuthbert’s.  Would we like it if we were vetted by a Yorkshire club before they took us down on their caves?  It must be the leader’s job to decide on the competence of his party, once it is underground.

I hope that after the 6 month’s trial period without fixed tackle is over, club members will inform the B.E.C. Committee of their feelings, so that the final outcome on this question becomes a truly club decision and not the whim of a few Cuthbert’s Leaders.

*****************************************

The next contribution to this discussion is by Dave Irwin.  ‘The Wig’ has not only played a large part in the work down in Cuthbert’s, but has also been Editor of the B.B. and Chairman of the Committee, so his views should be backed by experience and knowledge of the club…

Tim Large has certainly caused a stir in B.E.C. circles – but what does he expect of leaders that we haven’t got at the moment?

The current situation is perfectly simple – perfect, in Fact!

1.                  A Cuthbert’s Leader is one who knows the five basic routes around the cave, and so is technically equipped to get himself around.

2.                  Assessment of any leaders’ ability to handle a tourist party is made by independent leaders during the two ‘test trips’ he has to take.

3.                  It is the leaders meetings that assess the ability of the prospective leader, following reports of leaders who accompanied him in the cave, and they, not the Caving secretary, say ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’ as to whether the bloke becomes a leader.

4.                  In doing this, they bear in mind the most important factor of all – that the new leader is one who respects the cave for what it is – one of the finest systems on Mendip and one that is well preserved for cavers to visit.

5.                  Lastly, there is an unwritten law – which has always existed and which might as well be worth mentioning at this point.  If pushing a new passage might cause considerable damage to formations, then a full inspection of the area involved and adjoining areas of the cave is made to ascertain whether or not pushing will only re-connect with other known parts of the system.  A full discussion then usually takes place with other leaders, who are fully conversant with those parts of the cave to establish the final situation and to determine whether the chance of an extension to the cave is worth the destruction of formations.

This last point raises a question.  In the course of the last year the finest clusters of helictites in the St. Cuthbert’s system have been destroyed – according to the caving log, only two leaders have been pushing in this area of the cave, which must point the suspicion in their direction.  These helictites barred the way to a very small chamber from one passage.  The way on, in the floor of this chamber, leads, after two feet, back into another major passage in the cave.  To gain ‘new’ passage this vandal (the situation could not be called accidental under any pretext) pushed by the helicites to ‘discover’ six feet of passage.  I suggest that Tim Large could well watch this sort of activity.  I agree that we want technically qualified leaders, but we don’t want to breed a load of ‘hard men’ – or tigers, as they were known ten years ago – who don’t give a damn about the system and who consider the older leaders as ‘deadwood’ and are prepared to smash everything in sight for the sake of a few extra feet of passage.  I might add that, if it wasn’t for the ‘deadwood’ (see Cuthbert’s News sheet) the cave would not be in the condition it is today.  Can we guarantee that it will be the same in twenty year’s time? The leader system doesn’t need a revision, but I suggest that the ‘modern’ well equipped leader does.

Another point raised by Tim is the pre-selection of tourist parties prior to descent of the system. Nobody can make this judgement except the leader who takes the party down the cave.  If he finds they are not ‘up to it’, then he brings them back out. Let’s not become an organisation who requires grade IV certificates in order to descend the cave.

One last point. Cuthbert’s has a good safety record. Let’s keep it.  Most tourist parties run into trouble on their way to the surface in the Wire Rift.  The fixed tackle on the Ledge Pitches could well be re-instated.

*****************************************

And that must be all on this subject for this issue.  Meanwhile, Tim can at least congratulate himself on having thoroughly woken up the club. Dare we hope that all this literary activity will be followed by an equal upsurge of activity UNDERGROUND? Any more on this subject can only be accepted providing that it makes new points or refutes points already made – Editor.

Caving Meets

September 19th……….LAMB LEER

October 17th……….…LONGWOOD/AUGUST

November 7th………...CUTHBERT’S

All these dates are SUNDAYS and the Cuthbert’s is a PHOTOGRAPHIC TRIP – Not a general tourist trip. Please give your names to Tim for this trip, as it is limited to SIX plus the leader.

A trip to the CHEDDAR CAVES is hoped for in December – more details when permission is granted.

Monthly Crossword – Number 13.

Finally, the monthly crossword this month has a flavour reflecting the fixed tackle discussion…

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Across:

1 Permanently a source of Controversy? (6)
6. Cuthbert’s leaders should not run it. (4)
7. Old leader often spelt differently. (4)
8. Hearken!  Leaders are on it. (4)
9. Express strong feelings (4)
11. Measurement which, if longer and begun softly would be too tight. (4)
13. Often the result of a violent eruption. (4)
14. A feature of Cuthbert’s? (6)

Down:

2. Rostrum otherwise fixed causes arguments. (4)
3. Can it be called a fixed aid if installed in a cave? (4)
4. Cave Series in Wales, or first half of a fixed aid. (4)
5. Survey without aids. (6)
7. Some say you can do the cave without this. (6)
10. Last to be protected? (4)
11. Useful in argument. (4)
12. ‘As nature made it’. (4)

Solution To Last Month’s Crossword

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Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas. Allens House, Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Bristol

Editorial

Is Cave Photography Dead?

Elsewhere in this B.B. you will find an appeal by Nick Barrington – of ‘Caves of Mendip’ fame – for photographs.  Some years ago, the B.E.C. was noted for its high standard of cave philosophy.  We held photographic competitions – we wrote articles on the subject – and many of our better (and in modern terms, hairiest cavers) were also expert photographers.

This tradition dated from the quite early days from the quite early days of the club – with members like Don Coase, ‘Pongo’ Wallis and ‘Shorty’.  Even in later years, the discovery of Balch Hole resulted in B.E.C. photographers descending on the cave in droves – all banging away with flashbulbs and discussing things like the merits and disadvantages of synchroflash versus open shutters with some heat.

It will be a pity if Nick’s latest project fails to get off the ground through lack of suitable material. It will be sad from our club’s point of view if there are no B.E.C. photographers included.  It would seem a good time for some of our younger cavers to rediscover the delight and snags of cave photography.

A.D.P.U.

For the uninitiated, it stands for ‘Abseil down – prussik up’ – a technique which is getting rather more talked about of late.  A short symposium on the subject of prussiking is to be held in the autumn, but the organiser is short of speakers.  Does anyone feel he is an expert on prussiking.  Contact Alfie.

“Alfie”

Appeal For Pics

Nicholas Barrington hopes, if a sufficient number of really good photographs can be obtained, to produce an art book (A4 size) depicting scenes under Mendip.

It would probably include several sections – Early Caving – Cave Diving – Formations – Pitches, and so on. If any B.E.C. members have any top class photographs which would be capable of being included on their own merits (they would just have captions rather than any accompanying editorial matter) would they please contact Nick at the Oak House, Axbridge, Somerset as soon as possible.  It is envisaged that a reproduction fee will be paid per print used.

There is one category of print where prints less than top quality will be accepted, and that is of any photos showing ‘news type’ shot – e.g. the first trip down Cuthbert’s.

Also, if any member has good prints of any formations on Mendip which have since been destroyed or damaged (e.g. the ‘streaky bacon’ curtain in Rod’s Pot) could they please contact Nick so that the print may be included in a further edition of a revised ‘COMPLETE CAVES OF MENDIP’ to punch home even further (Nick, note clever avoidance of split infinitive compared to original! – Ed.) the high rate of despoliation of our limited number of caves.

The final prints will be reduced to 4 inches across with a maximum height of 6 inches, but larger sized prints for reduction would be appreciated.  Postage and cost will be refunded, and the greatest care taken of all originals.

PLEASE ACT NOW AND CONTACT NICK STRAIGHT AWAY.  SEND YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS TO N. BARRINGTON, THE OAK HOUSE, AXBRIDGE, SOMERSET.

The Fixed Tackle Question: Yes, But

Let me say at once that I thought Tim Large’s article from Cuthbert’s was very good, and I think that the Committee did the right thing by endorsing the Cuthbert’s Leaders decision. If it comes to a straight “Yes” or “No” on taking out the tackle, then, from what I’ve heard, it’s “Yes.”

On the other hand, I find myself not quite in agreement with some of the thinking behind Tim’s article, and wonder if my point of view is shared by anyone else.  At ant rate, I hope that Tim and his colleagues will find my arguments understandable, if not acceptable.

‘Caves is like nature makes ‘em.’  Well this is certainly true – up to a point, but not by itself a very valid reason for the removal of fixed tackle.  The trouble with most slogans is that they are black and white statements, whereas the real Cuthbert’s, as nature made it, had an entrance rift so narrow that only Viv Brown and Roy Bennett were able to descend it at the time, just to quote one example.  Leaning the odd bit of ‘iron oxide’ up against the odd rock means that at any time, the removal of the iron oxide will at once restore the cave to its virginal or pristine state – whereas the breaking off of stal, through clumsiness, vandalism, or some good reason like the opening up of more cave, or putting in the odd rawlbolt is an irreversible process.

In our day (as ‘Butch’ or ‘Milch’ would say) we were very keen to keep caves as near as possible to ‘like nature made ‘em.’  Tim’s expression deserves to go alongside Fred Davies’s famous dictum – but with certain mental reservations.  There are due to the fact that cavers are also as nature made ‘em.

These two facts must be taken together.  If Tim’s saying be taken too literally, then no caver who cannot negotiate the entrance pitch in its original state has any real right down Cuthbert’s.  This would have ruled out people like Don Coase and the Wig to start with.  On the other hand, we would be daft to try to make all cavers fit all caves.  If nature has made a caver seven feet tall, or twelve inches thick, or even sixty year old; then nature has played the bloke a dirty trick and there isn’t much we can do about it.

In this context, Tim’s assertion that cavers have changed must mean that caves should change to fit them – or at least the fixed aids in the caves should change.  This is natural and quite as it should be – you can’t expect anything to stand still for ever.  Many years ago, there was a very great difference in outlook between cavers and climbers (or at nay rate between Mendip cavers and climbers).  Climbers would argue for hours about artificial aids. Most climbers of those days were all for pitting their wits against a climb with the absolute minimum of aids of any kind.  They maintained that the use of pitons was only permissible on the odd occasion when a perfectly good climb contained one small section not possible without one.  They talked with scorn about the ‘dangle and whack’ boys who bashed up impossible climbs by sheer weight of ironmongery and maintained that you might just as well run scaffolding up a rock face and call it a climb.  Cavers, on the other hand never argued about artificial aids at all.  The more the better was the accepted idea.  They maintained that the object was to get down the cave and do things – like photography, surveying or just plain sightseeing – not to perform fancy tricks on the way.  These tricks were better left to climbers who, after all, had nothing better to do – because you don’t climb up a rock face just to see it.  You can do this much better from the bottom with a good pair of binoculars.  On the other hand, you can’t see a cave except by going down it and thus, so the argument ran, the important thing was to get down there rather than to argue about how you should do it.

Since those days, both caving and climbing have changed.  Climbers, wanting new routes to do (after all, you can’t discover a whole new mountain in Britain today) tended to accept aids rather more than they once did as cavers, adopting many climbing techniques, needed the fixed aids put in by an earlier generation less and less.

Good.  So let’s take out most of the fixed tackle and let modern cavers really get to grips with the cave!  Let us not forget, though, that caving does not entirely consist of purely sporting caving.  There are other things to be found underground besides the ‘port and challenge’ mentioned by Tim.  Cave photography is one, and there are many more – and they cannot be done satisfactorily by climbing up and down fire escapes!

In fact, the ‘sport and challenge’ argument is not a very good one.  I once went down Goatchurch with Noel MacSharry, who took me over a route which he had sorted out which made parts of the cave surprisingly hairy and just shows what can be done in an easy cave by using imagination.  If sport and challenge was the only criterion, one could find them equally well by climbing the Martyr’s Memorial in Oxford without bothering to go underground for them at all.

Caving is liking caves, no matter why.  I would sooner see our caves full of people who really liked being in them – for whatever reason, as long as it was not anti-social, than to see too tigerish a spirit dominate our pass time.  One of the beauties of caving is that it can offer such a diversity of activity to such a wide range of people.  In this context, I take issue with Tim on his assertion that nobody should ‘see the pretties’ until they had earned this right by their physical fitness alone.  I am not advocating the carting down of loads of semi-invalids into Cuthbert’s to see the Curtain, Cascade etc., but I do assert that the ability to get there without tackle should not be the sole criterion by which their right to see them should be judged.  By all means, let us make those who need it take tackle with them – after all, modern tackle is not all that heavy or bulky – but let discrimination stop there unless the man is obviously unfit to be underground at all. As an example, we all owe the caves we enjoy to those people who dug them out, often with none of the subsequent limelight.  Nobody, for example, would question John Cornwell’s decision to put a railway into Rhino while it was a dig.  If he had sine wanted to put in a few fixed ladders – or a winch or something, he would have more right, for my money, than most.  If a famous artist wanted to paint a scene in Cuthbert’s which stood a good chance of becoming an internationally famous picture, and one of great value to caving and to posterity, I can’t really see us refusing to lend him a helping hand on the way there and back.

In conclusion, by all means let us make the cave tougher and more natural for those who can gain from this move – but don’t let us refuse, or even look down our noses, at the is idea of reasonable trips with tackle for experienced cavers who are fully aware of the limitations imposed by age, temperament or physique and who are fully prepared to cave responsibly within those limits.

“Senex.”

*****************************************

PLEASE NOT:  Tim Large – our Caving secretary – now lives at: -

39 Seymour Avenue
Bishopston
Bristol

Notice

Oliver Lloyd will be holding his 60th Birthday Party in the Old Grotto, Swildons on Wednesday, August 4th 1971 at 7 pm.  There will be sherry and cake.  Any members are invited to attend.

Letter

Editor’s Note:    It is always nice to welcome a new writer.  Chris has taken up the challenge about cavers not being literate as climbers.  He explains this in the letter below before showing us what he can do in the way of caving in the article that follows his letter.

Dear Alfie

When Tim Large and oi were at Belfry t’other noight we wur aving a nosh when oi did zee a vurry thin book loing on the table loike.  Oi did ztart to read thik book (cos even an old B.B. wur better than watching thik large feller feed is foice) when oi did come across thicky harticle by some cxloimer feller.  Oi seed thy note as ow thewe do not think them cloimers be more literate loike than us coivers and oi think that these should know that oi thinks thee do talk a load of cobblers, so please do ‘ee vind with thicky-yer note, a harticle on coiving.

oi opes thee don’t moind as ow it wur written by a non-member.  This is coz oi aint hasked anyone to second my happlification yet an oi aint done that fer as ow oi aint got money fer me subscerition.  oi did think as ow thee be thee always be zaying as ow thee be short of harticles and thee moight find it worthwhile fer to vill some zpace.

Oi do rekon thik reason as why coivers doesn’t writ is coz un do hunderhestimate the hinterest of what un do do.  –Moind ‘ee, not as ow oi can zee hayun being worried as ow us did get ter zump one an back. Alzo, oi done zee as ow thur be hanything much about muddy zumps wot can be maid ter zound all poetical loike – after all, us don’t zee un zticking up out of layers of cloud loike, do un?  (If thee knows of un that do, make sure thee tell oi mind, coz oi’d loike to see un?).

ztill, loike oi do say, oi suspose thur must be fellers what aint bin zome places other volks ave, so maybe as ow us can hinterest they volks after all with summat loike thick-yur harticle what do feller.

Porth yr Ogof

By Chris Howell

Although it is one of the smaller Welsh caves, Porth-yr-Ogof can provide an entertaining couple of hours caving of a type which cannot be found on Mendip.  I do not propose to try to provide a complete description of the cave, since this has already been undertaken by Standing and Lloyd (U.B.S.S. Proceedings, Vol 12, No.2 1970).  Their account, together with a grade 4C survey, can be obtained for a few pence as an off print of the main work.  The numbers and letters in brackets in my account which follows refer to the U.B.S.S. survey.

Whilst it is possible to explore a large part of the cave with only normal caving gear (as the expense of wet feet) the most worthwhile trip, from the main entrance to the resurgence really requires a wet suit and confident swimming, or else a rubber dinghy.

The usual approach to the cave is from the car park situated at SN.928124 (1” O.S. Sheet 141) by crossing the style and following the steep footpath down to the grassy bank beside the river Mellte.  “River” might almost seem to be a misnomer for, at this point, except in very wet conditions, the river bed is normally dry – the bulk of the water having already sunk in its bed at Church Sink, half a mile upstream.  To the left can be seen the rocky gorge leading into the tremendous arch of the Main Entrance (E) and, immediately in front one stands at the bottom of the path, are several small resurgences which unite among the boulders and flow into a deep pool alongside the rock ledge which leads to the cave.

Turning back to the right, a few steps over a grassy bank towards the cliff leads to a low entrance just inside of which the underground course of the river can be seen and heard as it emerges from a sump (3) on the left.  The underground watercourse at this point is substantially accessible only to divers on the upstream side, and for a description, the reader should refer to the Standing/Lloyd publication.

Inside the entrance, the stream can be followed along a well developed passage with prominent scalloping, which is one of the most noticeable features of the entire system. After about a hundred and seventy feet, the stream can be seen to disappear down a roomy tube on the left of the main passage, and a stooping crawl along this leads to a small chamber where the passage sumps (4).  Except in very dry conditions there is a considerable volume of water and consequently strong current through this sump and the writer considers that there is a strong possibility of making an unintentional trip through the submerged section, which is about four feet long, unless some care is exercised.  The water deepens in the last few feet before the sump, and a body lowered into the sump is forcibly drawn through.  There is NO guide wire, but a light directed into the pool on the far side of the sump can be seen through the submerged arch, which appears to be quite roomy.

Returning to the main passage, one can turn left and quickly reach the downstream side of the sump, where the water wells up in a small chamber separated from the main passage by a rock flake.  Under the conditions in which I have seen this sump, it would not be possible to pass it in an upstream direction on account of the current.

Having passed several small passages on the right, all of which connect with the cave just inside the Main Entrance, one finds deep water and a gradually descending roof which heralds the arrival of another sump (5).  Under dry conditions, Standing and Lloyd state that it is an awkward duck with a small airspace, although I have always found this section to be submerged. The stream steam flows through the sump into a section of deep water passage before falling a few inches into the lake just inside the Main Entrance.  The sumped section is about nine feet long, but a much longer dive should be allowed for because of the restricted airspaces on both sides. Again there is NO guide wire.

A return tom the Main Entrance can be made either via the sump or by using one of the side passages already referred to.

‘Imposing’ is not too strong a word to use in describing the Main Entrance of Poth-yr-Ogof.  When the stream is in flood, the sink is unable to take the full flow of the river, which then continues along the normally abandoned river bed before entering the cave, where it may fill the full width of the entrance chamber to the depth of a foot or more.  It need hardly be said that unless one has experience of the cave under these conditions, it should be left well alone, with the possible exception of the right hand (dry) series.  Fortunately, if one is in doubt about the advisability of making the trip through trip, two collapsed entrances and the resurgence itself can be visited to obtain an idea of the conditions within the cave, before embarking on any ‘one way’ voyage of discovery!

The Main Entrance is reached along a wide ledge beneath the cliffs with a deep pool on the right hand side. Below the entrance arch, a boulder floor fills the full width of the cave with a small stream flowing along the right hand wall.  Straight ahead, large tree trunks serve to remind one of the power of the river in flood. (A more odorous reminder can be provided form time to time in the form of farm animal carcasses).  The writer has a particularly unpleasant memories of the remains of a small cow which lingered for some months in the stream way several years ago.

Proceeding into the cave, deep water is reached near the edge of the dark zone.  Across the lake (known variously as Llyn-y-baban – the baby’s lake, or White Horse Pool) can be seen the calcite pattern which has been responsible for one of the alternate names of the cave – White Horse Cave.  It is possible to identify a rather lean looking horse, facing left, with peculiarly long front legs.

A scramble round the left hand ledge of the lake gives access to the passage along which the river flows from the sump (5) and the Upper Stream Passage.  It was in deep water in this passage that we recently spent some chilly moments watching some quite sizeable, pale fish.  From their size and shape they must have been trout and they seemed quite unconcerned by our lights, even when we submerged headsets in an attempt to avoid reflection off the surface while watching them.

The main stream passage beyond the lake contains deep water for a hundred and fifty feet – it cannot be bottom walked in its entirety as far as I know, although I have never made the trip with anyone over six feet in height!  If one is a strong swimmer, it is possible to swim for this section, although it would be difficult to maintain ones bearings, as the passage is wide in places and rather featureless.  Only the right hand wall provides the occasional good holds and underwater ledges on which to rest, and only at one place it is possible to climb out of the stream completely.  This is more trouble than its worth, even if one can identify the small passage several feet up on the right hand wall.

By far the best method (probably because the opportunity to use this particular technique in caving is rare) is to embark upon an inflatable rubber dinghy and paddle off into the darkness, leaving the hordes of sightseers with which the entrance chamber abounds in summer, agape with admiration or something.  It is a pleasantly lazy way to do ones caving – the more so if one does not bother to take a paddle, although this method of progress is very slow indeed, and one is likely to end up revolving slowly in the middle of the passage, with no obvious progress being made – the dinghy hissing ominously – and the walls receding rapidly on each side whilst frantically threshing the water with very ineffective hands.

Probably the best compromise is to have a couple of people in the dinghy, and a couple outside who can hang onto the wall.  This permits those outside to pull the dinghy along, and also to obtain support where there are no holds.  It also permits a form of alternating one-upmanship as the dinghy occupants can jeer at the swimmers (or, better still, non-swimmers) as they drift out of reach of the wall, to be followed by abuse of the swimmers as the latter do their best to capsize the boat in their efforts to regain a hold on the wall.

It should be possible in normal water conditions, given a strong head, to make one’s way along this section with the aid of holds – swimming or floating across the odd few feet where holds are scarce or non-existent.  A watch should be kept for sudden changes of level of the ledges beneath the surface.  Unless one is a strong swimmer, some additional form of support is probably a big psychological advantage.

The deepwater section is soon passed, and the river flows over a boulder strewn floor with a large sandy bank on the right hand side.  At the back of this bank, passages link with the dry series, so providing by-pass to the river section.  One of these passages – The Canyon – is particularly worthy of note on account of its regularly developed form and scalloping along the bed of the shallow tributary stream, which flows along its length.

The main cave at this point has been given the name ‘The Great Bedding Cave’ and the full width of the almost flat and totally unsupported roof span is very impressive. Here, and at two further points downstream, abrupt changes in the roof level indicate the collapse of successive beds in the limestone.  The bedding planes are clearly seen, as is the amount of debris adhering to the roof. The cave probably sumps completely more frequently than one would imagine.

In springtime, the sand bank provided a seed bed for numerous seeds washed in by the river and these sprout to a few inches in height in the total darkness, before being washed out by successive flooding.

Following the river along its course, one reaches the first (I) of two collapsed entrances to the cave, situated alongside two avens.  As mentioned previously, theses entrances provide a ready means of ascertaining the depth and force of the water in the main stream passage.  The stream here flows over areas of exposed bedrock before rounding a lengthy left hand curve with the entrance to an oxbow in its outer wall, and reaching the second collapse entrance (J).

Beyond this point, the stream drops slightly; to flow into a pool across which daylight from the resurgence can be seen.  A large, usually just submerged, boulder marks the beginning of deep water and at this point on the right can be seen the other end of the oxbow.

The resurgence (N) can only be passed by swimming, or using a dinghy as the water is over fifteen feet deep for most of the distance.  The main difficulty is the lack of headroom just upstream of the exit.  Only once has the writer gone through on a dinghy, and then only after partially deflating it.  Attempts to float through – one on either side of the boat can be complicated by the restricted width of the available headroom and one or other of the party are liable to find themselves being forced below the water surface. The best method seems to be to go through with someone at the head and stern of the boat, and with only one person at the side.  Control is usually rather awkward but with a bit of co-ordinated thrashing and poking at the roof and walls on the odd occasions when they drift into reach, some results are usually obtained before the swimmers leave hold through exhaustion.

If the water level is high, care must be taken to avoid being swept of a small fall following the resurgence pool and out into the river – although the hard men are likely to undertake a trip under those conditions and hardly likely to need the advice of the likes of the writer!

The return to the entrance is best made by climbing up the left hand bank and walking back along the old abandoned streamway to cross the road to the car park.  On the way, note the collapsed entrances and small entrances (F, G, H etc.) on either side of the path.

The only substantial part of the cave left to describe is the dry series, entered by a passage on the right of the entrance chamber.  The passage leads to a complex three dimensional series, inevitably called ‘The Maze’.  Two climbable shafts lead to the surface (D1, D2) as do two ladderable avens (G, H). Further passages connect with the Great Bedding cave, and with the Canyon, via a muddy pool called the Creek.

Contrary to what has been printed elsewhere, Hywel’s Grotto, with its formations, is easily found by taking the last passage on the left before the Creek when approaching from the canyon side.  A flat out sandy crawl leads to the Grotto which is quite extensive and contains some remarkably unspoilt formations, including attractive pools.  The Grotto offers some scope for photography, as indeed does the whole cave.

A visit to Porth-yr-Ogof would not be complete without a walk to view the scenery downstream.  The left bank of the Mellte brings one to the Upper, Middle and Lower Clun-gwyn falls.  The former two are most impressive in flood with falls of 40 – 50 ft.  A track over the shoulder of the ridge to the left of the Lower Falls leads to the right bank of the river Hepste, and on to Sewd-yr-Eira falls and on to farm Caerhowel, near Penderyn. The return to Ystradfellte can be made by following a signposted minor road.

Then caving and walk together provide a pleasant day out, being only a couple of hours drive from Bristol.  Ystradfellte is easily reached from Hirwaun on the ‘Heads of the valleys’ road, by taking the A4059 (Brecon) road from the roundabout, and then following the signposted road beyond Penderyn Village.  Liquid refreshment is available, by courtesy of Rhymney Ales in the village itself and is very welcome after the long haul back on a warm evening.  Campers may like to note that the landlord has a campsite not 50 yards from the bar, but food is not available in the village in great variety or quantity.

Monthly Crossword – Number 12.

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

5

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

8

 

9

 

10

 

 

 

11

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

13

14

 

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

 

 

16

 

17

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across:

4. Rung, long ago. (3)
6. 8 out of 12 for this cave. (6)
7. Found in places galore on Mendip. (3)
9. See 12. (3)
11. N perhaps? (4)
12. 10across it, apparently (Horizontally of course). (4)
13. Unusual meet (1,1,1)
15. Has its reverse nearby as a rule. (3)
18. 1 down is its usual result (6)
19. Tome previously in Sago’s Pot. (3)

Down:

1. See 19 across. (3)
2. Might be felt at end of underground route (3)
3. Tackle is, in caves. (4)
5. Taken by lines. (6)
8. Gin sir? No water. (6)
9. Water?  Not likely! (3)
10. Holds its liquor? (3)
14. Proceed to ancient city for cave formation. (4)
16. Something that clings to a wall. (3)
17. Cave navigation aid in Wookey eight. (3)

Solution To Last Month’s Crossword

 

T

 

U

 

T

 

A

 

R

H

I

N

O

R

I

F

T

 

E

 

D

 

Y

 

I

 

A

B

S

E

I

L

I

N

G

 

E

 

R

 

A

 

E

 

S

L

I

D

E

D

O

W

N

 

F

 

O

 

D

 

E

 

T

R

O

G

S

E

Y

E

S

 

Y

 

S

 

R

 

K

 

 

Hon. Sec: A.R. Thomas. Allens House, Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Hon. Editor: - S.J. Collins, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Bristol

Editorial

Annual General Meeting

As members – apart from those who have just joined the club – should know, our A.G.M. is held each year on the first Saturday in October, and is followed by the club dinner on the same day.  This year, the first Saturday falls on the 2nd and the A.G.M. will be held in Oliver’s Bar, Victoria Street, Bristol.

It should go without saying that everybody who possibly can ought to turn up for the A.G.M.  It is the occasion when every member’s views and votes count as much as every other member’s.  It is YOUR annual chance to instruct the committee how YOU want them to run the club.  It is your chance to question the club officers about the way they have been running things during the year.  Unless you are prohibited by circumstances from turning up, you have very little argument left if things do not go as you would want them to go.  Please turn up and keep our club democratic – besides, the meeting is on licensed premises!

The B.B. in 1972

In our opinion, the question as to whether the B.B. ought to cease monthly publication is not one that should be decided by the A.G.M.  It might well be discussed, but the people who would be most affected by a change to a quarterly are those very people who are not able to get to the meeting.  We have not so far heard a single word from any reader who is in this position.  We will soon have to take a decision.  Doesn’t anybody care?

“Alfie”

*****************************************

DON’T FORGET THE A.G.M. IS AT OLIVER’S BAR – VICTORIA STREET, BRISTOL AT 2.30 PM ON SATURDAY OCTOBER THE SECOND 1971.

OLIVER’S BAR.  OCTOBER THE SECOND 2.30 PM.  SATURDAY.., VICTORIA STREET  2.30 PM. BRISTOL. SATURDAY.  OLIVER’S BAR. 2.30 PM. OCTOBER THE SECOND.  VICTORIA STREET. BRISTOL.  2.30 PM. OLIVER’S BAR. SATURDAY.

Tie a knot in something! Don’t forget the A.G.M. and dinner are on Saturday, 2nd of October.  The A.G.M. is at OLIVER’S BAR VICTORIA STREET (almost opposite the Robinson Building).  At 2.30 pm. The Dinner is at Wookey Hole Restaurant. Please try to get to BOTH if you can!

An open meeting of the M.R.O. will be held at Priddy Village Hall at 2.15 pm on Sunday the 7th of November. All club members are invited. Speakers will include Howard Kenny, Brian Prewer and Oliver Lloyd.  There will also be a speaker to present the police angle on cave rescues.

Minutes of 1970 A.G.M.

It has recently been the custom to publish the minutes of the last A.G.M. in the B.B., to save time in reading them at the next meeting.  Ed.

The 1970 Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club opened at 2.40 pm at the seven Stars, with 35 members present.

Election of Chairman.  It was proposed by Alfie and seconded by Tim Hodgson that ‘Sett’ be elected Chairman. There were no other nominations. The chairman asked for members resolutions.  There were none.  The minutes of the last A.G.M. had been published, and Bob Bagshaw proposed that they be taken as read.  This was seconded by Mike Palmer and carried.

Hon. Secretary’s Report.  This had previously been published in the B.B.  The Chairman asked for comments, but there were none.  John Riley proposed the adoption of the report. This was seconded by Tim Hodgson and carried by the meeting.

Hon. Treasurer’s Report.  In addition to his previously published report, the Hon. Treasurer announced that the accounts had been audited.  The Chairman asked whether the Hon. Treasurer could go through the accounts for the benefit of members present.  The makeup of the accounts was then explained.  The Chairman asked where the I.D.M.F capital appeared in the financial statement.  The Hon. Treasurer said this was an asset and hence not shown.  The Chairman asked how much we had in the kitty after all debts had been paid.  The Treasurer said this amounted to about £340.  Alan Thomas asked whether we were satisfied with the new Belfry, and reminded the meeting that there was an outstanding amount of £160 which did not get paid unless the Belfry Engineer said that all was well.  The Hon. Treasurer said that the amount quoted included this sum and that we would have £500 in the kitty if this sum were not paid. Jok Orr asked about the cattle grid, but the Hon. Treasurer said this did not apply.  Mike Palmer suggested an inspection by Pat Ifold before the remaining £160 was paid.  The Hon. Treasurer said that Pat had, in fact, carried out the inspection, and Jok said that in that case he was satisfied.  The Chairman then asked whether we could put forward a proposal to pay the remaining sum.  This was proposed by Jok and seconded by Alfie, and carried nem. con.  Bob said that, since the published account, he had paid the insurance and also money to Brian Prewer.  The Chairman asked if we could expect to have £200 in hand after all contingencies have been met, as a working amount for the year to come.  The Treasurer replied that there would be adequate funds, and that he was satisfied with the club’s liquid position.  This statement was cheered by the entire meeting. Alfie suggested that the meeting should formally congratulate the Treasurer.  Mike Palmer moved a formal vote of thanks, and this was seconded by Alan Thomas and carried unanimously.

Alan Thomas proposed that Doug Parfitt be given a Life Membership for services rendered.  This was seconded by Tim Hodgson and carried nem.con.  Alan also proposed that the Treasurer pay back the outstanding loan so that the Belfry account would be cleared.  This was seconded by Mike Palmer and carried nem. con.  Tim Hodgson asked whether the club funds would now be enough to cope with any reasonable demand on them.  Alan asked Tim what he thought a reasonable demand might be, and said that the only reasonable demand he could foresee would the buying the entrance to Cuthbert’s, which was being negotiated.  It was proposed by Alfie That the Treasurer’s report be adopted.  This was seconded by Andy MacGregor and carried unanimously.

Caving Secretary’s Report.  Further to the published report, Mike Palmer asked whether the Caving Secretary was of the opinion that all club meets had been poorly attended. Dick Wickens replied that it was a caving meet – not all of them.  The adoption of the report was proposed y Andy MacGregor and seconded by Mike Palmer, and carried nem.con. by the meeting.

Climbing Secretary’s Report.  The Chairman noted that no report had been published, and that the Climbing Secretary was not present at the meeting.  Alan said that he understood that the Climbing Secretary would not be standing again.  The Chairman asked whether the meeting felt he had been a good Climbing Secretary. Kangy said that the meeting might care to express its disappointment at not having any climbing report.  Tony Meadon said that perhaps something would yet appear in the B.B. and, on the Chairman’s suggestion, made a formal proposal that the Climbing Secretary be asked to produce a report for the B.B.  This was seconded by Roy Bennett and passed by a vote of 23-1, Phil Coles voting against.

Tacklemaster’s Report.  Arising from this, Mike Palmer asked if we were still losing tackle and reminded the meeting that tackle should always be booked in and out.  He asked whether this was still being done and whether any offenders were being actively chased up to return tackle.  The Tacklemaster replied that the book was still in existence and was being taken seriously as far as he could tell.  Mike Palmer proposed that the new committee look into the subject of tackle losses and the mislaying of tackle.  Pope proposed that some lightweight tackle be kept in the Belfry. Alfie said that there was a danger of lightweight tackle being damaged in the hands of inexperienced cavers. This was agreed by Roy Bennett. Alan Thomas said that he also agreed with the last two speakers and pointed out that lightweight tackle deteriorates much more rapidly that normal weight.  Brian Prewer said he accepted all these arguments, but thought that some of this tackle should be available to members.  He wondered whether Dave Searle would be prepared to store some at Dolphin Cottage.  Kangy asked how we would stand for liability.  He suggested that we might be increasing our chances of a claim.  Tim Hodgson proposed a formal resolution, which was seconded by Pope that about sixty feet of lightweight be kept on Mendip in charge of a suitable person.  The proposal was defeated by a vote of 7-14.  It was proposed by Tony Meadon that the Cuthbert’s entrance ladder be kept in the Belfry rather than the tackle store.  This was seconded by Brian Prewer.  Dave Turner suggested that the ladder be locked with the same key as that for Cuthbert’s.  A discussion followed and the Chairman finally accepted a proposal that ‘The Cuthbert’s entrance ladder be kept in the Belfry and made available to Cuthbert’s leaders only by the most suitable method to be devised by the committee’. Voting in favour of this proposal was unanimous.  It was then proposed by Tim Hodgson and seconded by Kangy that the Tacklemaster’s report be adopted.  This was carried. nem. con.  John Riley proposed a vote of thanks to the Hon. Tacklemaster for keeping the tackle in such good order.  This was duly seconded by Kangy and carried with one vote against.  The Chairman, winding up this discussion on tackle, suggested that the new committee might well chase up the tackle position at regular intervals throughout the coming year.

Hut Warden’s Report.  It was proposed that the published report be accepted by Bob Bagshaw.  This was seconded by Jok and carried nem. con.

Belfry Engineer’s Report.  The Belfry Engineer was asked to read his report amid general acclaim. Brian Prewer suggested that the matter of the cattle grid and Walt’s continuing use of it should be left to next year’s committee to deal with.  This was seconded by Andy and carried nem. con.  The Chairman proposed a vote of thanks to the Engineer.

Hon. Librarian’s Report.  In the unavoidable absence of the librarian, his report was read to the meeting by Alfie.  Alan Thomas said that the plan was to move the library to the new Belfry as soon as possible.  The Chairman directed the committee to look into this matter.  The adoption of the report was proposed by Dave Turner and seconded by Mike Palmer.  It was carried nem. con.

B.B. Editor’s Report.  Alan asked the Hon. Editor what was being done about the postal department.  Alfie replied that John and Val Ransom had volunteered to take it on.  The report was adopted by the meeting, the proposal being by Mike Palmer and seconded by Tim Hodgson.  It was carried unanimously.

Caving Publications.  Bob Bagshaw read the report.  It was proposed by Alan Thomas that the report be adopted and this was seconded by Bob. The proposal was carried nem. con.

Other Business.  Brian Prewer proposed that since the cost of electricity had risen so much, the committee be instructed to look into the provision of a tariff meter.  This proposal was seconded by Mike Palmer and carried nem. con.

There being no further business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed.

Lewis Railton

It is with regret that we record the passing of Lewis Railton.  A founder member of the cave research Group of Great Britain, he did much in the early days of caving to transform it into a respectable scientific field of study, and is probably best known amongst B.E.C. members for his work on surveying in collaboration with Butcher.  He was associated with caving in South Wales right from the beginning and was one largely responsible for fostering interest in the region.  We extend our sympathy to his friends and relatives.

Hon Sec’s Report

Again this year I have carried out the usual amount of routine work of administration – enquiries from new members, liaison with other clubs and so on.  The committee has met 12 times since the last A.G.M. and there has been no difficulty in obtaining the required quorum.  We were handicapped by the resignations during the year of Norman Petty and Pete Ham.  Norman had, for many years, been the mainstay of the club, and Pete had done much useful work during his short time in office. As a result, there were more that the usual number of co-options during the year – with Attwell, Cooper, Irwin and Stobart being involved.  Finally, as the club year drew to an end, we were extremely sorry to receive the resignation of Pete Franklin from the post of Hut Warden, which he has discharged very well under difficult circumstances.

The B.E.C.’s social highlights during the year were probably the presentation of a solid silver tankard to Norma Petty and the binge which accompanied it; and the first ever indoor barbecue – we have never had a Belfry big enough to hold it in before and have always been dependant on the weather.

On the political side, the most important event was the formation of the Council of Southern Clubs Limited, of which I am a director.  Policy precludes publishing details, but anyone who wants to know what is going on can ask in person.

The acquisition of more land from the paper mill is proceeding, but is of necessity a slow process as their head office naturally does not give it a high priority.  We have had more trouble over Mr. Foxwell’s right of way, but I do not think it is beyond the capacity of the new committee to sort it out.

After protracted negotiations, the M.R.O. has established its store at the Belfry.  Part of the old stone building has been fitted out as the rescue store.  The door is secured by a combination lock the number which is known by all M.R.O. Wardens and myself, from whom it can be obtained in an emergency.  The M.R.O. has also paid for the installation of the telephone in the Belfry and they pay two thirds of the rent.  The store, phone and notice board may be visited by the duty wardens each month, and they should always be made to feel welcome at the Belfry, which is now effectively the rescue centre for Mendip.  On the event of a call-out, ring WELLS 3481 as before – NOT the Belfry.

Hon Treasurer’s Report

The most disturbing feature of the financial statement is the very low figure of £137-52 for subscriptions.  Although last year’s figure of £236/17/6 was inflated by 3 life memberships and one joint life membership, THERE ARE ABOUT SEVENTY “MEMBERS” WHO HAVE NOT PAID AS AT 11.9.71.  There are only 164 members of which 54 are life members.

The deficit of £333-16 for the year was, of course, caused by non-recurring expenditure of £400 on the Belfry.

Since the accounts were prepared, I have applied for and received the sum of £21-70 recoverable from the M.R.O. towards the telephone.

There is a further six month’s interest due to the Ian Dear memorial Fund but this has not yet been entered in the pass book by the National Savings Bank.  I am at present trying to convince the inspector of taxes that the club is not liable for income tax.,  When this has been resolved I shall be able to re-consider investment of the fund.

In conclusion, I should mention that I have plenty of club ties in stock and I have ordered twenty car badges.  Do you want one?

B. B.  Editor’s Report

The B.B. has, unfortunately, had a typical year in 1971.  Post Office strike; shortages of material, printing and postal department troubles have all contributed to the familiar sorry pattern.  Two issues had to be telescoped.  We stagger, as usual, from one crisis to the next.

Next Year, in spite of all this, the B.B. celebrates its quarter century of publication.  I would like to see a real effort made to rise to this occasion.  Firstly, we must get rid of the crisis.  I am prepared to continue the editorship and preparation of the stencils, which has not been a holding factor.  It would be a good thing to go over to the use of offset lithography.  We have the machine but we want THREE volunteers, each of which would be prepared to print the B.B. if the other two were sick or away. I sincerely hope that Kay Mansfield will continue to distribute the B.B., and there are plans for making her job less of a burden.  These moves will only leave one source of trouble – that of a lack of material. This can be best overcome by publishing quarterly – and a lot of behind the scenes discussion has been going on about this move.  However, it is recognised that a quarterly would largely remove the up to date aspect of a club served by a monthly publication, so a compromise has been hammered out in true British fashion.  Another point which must be faced is that of rising costs.  We must remember that one of the prices we have had to pay for the new Belfry is the large proportions of life members now in our club.  These all get B.B.’s but no longer contribute.  Yet another thing to bear in mind is the need to go eventually to A4 size paper.  We need a solution to all these factors, and we need it NOW – to start the second quarter century properly – rather than to have them forced piecemeal upon us.

How I propose to get round all these points in an acceptable manner is as follows.  In each year, starting next January, the January and February B.B.’s will be simplified newsletters, with notices, dates of meets etc., and some brief matter as to what is going on.  They will be sent to all members on a list of people not normally in touch (i.e. members who cannot reasonably be expected to pick up a copy at club or at the Belfry).  Other members will be able to obtain these at club or Belfry, and there will be a copy posted up on a special board at the Belfry each month.

Each third month, starting in March, a large B.B. will be produced and sent to all members.  This will be AT LEAST SIXTY PAGES IN SIZE and will contain reprints of such notices that are still of interest from the January and February B.B.’s plus the short newsletters.  The January and February B.B. issues will not be numbered, but the March one will be (in volume order as at present).  Thus, collectors will only have to bother with the four large issues for permanent retention.  The March issue will be available some two weeks BEFORE publication date, and members on the ‘Locals list’ will be asked to try to pick up their copy from the Belfry or club to save postage.  If they cannot do this, then their copy will be sent to them automatically on publication day.

This scheme will enable members who live away to stay in touch and the club to publish news items while they are still news; it will also enable a sensible sized magazine to be enjoyed by members.  It will also enable the newsletter issues to be considered as ‘throw away’ matter while keeping the large issues.  Members who pick up their large issue will get it slightly earlier.  A specimen copy of both types will be on display at the A.G.M.

Finally, the Editor would like to draw the attention of the club to the fine work done behind the scenes by Barry Wilton – our printer, by Kay Mansfield – our Postal Department, by Steve Grime – our ‘writer of the year’ and by all those who help with articles, advice etc.  The post-box scheme has, after the first outburst of anonymous filth, been a success. Please support the B.B. even more next year and help us to set the pace in the field of caving journals.

Financial Statement for the Year to the thirty first of July 1971

Subscriptions

 

 

£137.52

Seven Stars Levy

 

 

£3.64

Sales:

Carbide

£3.70

 

 

Car Badges

£0.00

 

 

Ties

£0.87

£4.57

Post Office Savings Bank Interest

 

 

£5.81

Annual Dinner:

Receipts

£182.50

 

 

Less Costs

£181.25

£1.25

Spaeleodes:

Sales

£12.95

 

 

Cost

£8.00

£4.95

Bankers Orders

 

 

£38.00

Interest on Deposit account

 

 

£12.31

Sundries

 

 

£6.73

 

 

 

£214.78

DEFICIT FOR THE YEAR

 

 

£333.16

 

 

 

£574.94

 

Belfry

Final payment on building

£160.00

 


Final loan repayment

£100.00


Plumbing, electrics, gas etc

£101.41


Cattle Grid

£45.50


Expenses

£225.47


 

 

£632.38

 


 

Less Receipts

£300.96

£331.42


Postages and Stationery etc.

 

£56.53

 


B.B. Postage

£35.36


 

 

£91.89

 


Less sales

£18.43

£73.46


Tackle:

Expenditure

£42.80

 


Less fees

£8.50

£34.50


Public liability insurance

 

 

£28.00


Income Tax

 

£17.70


Exhibition Photographs

 

£8.00


Cambrian Caving Congress

(2 years)

£1.00


Cave Research Group

(2 years)

£6.00


Charterhouse Caving Committee

 

£3.00


Telephone (£21 – 70 recoverable)

 

£32.55


 

 

 

£547.94



GENERAL ACCUMULATED

FUNDS @  31.7.70

 

£565.41


Less deficit for the year

£333.16


GENERAL ACCUMULATED

FUNDS @  31.7.71

 

£232.25


I.D.M.F. accumulated income to

31.7.71

£39.40


 

 

 

£271.65



National Savings Bank Account

 

 

£70.23


Lloyds Bank Ltd Deposit Account

£157.73


Cash in hand

£43.69


 

 

 

£271.69


IAN DEAR MEMORIAL FUND

Accumulated income to 31.7.70

 

 

£30.88

Interest on £310 5½% National

Development Bonds 15.1.71

£8.52

Accumulated Income @ 15.1.71

 

 

£39.40

Caving Publications Report

Little movement in the direction of new reports was made until my return to this country during June this year – although the Roman Mine manuscript was edited whilst I was in the U.S.A.

During the last few months, preparation of the Cuthbert’s report is under way again.  Rabbit  Warren has been published and three other parts are almost ready for the printers (September, Cerberus and Maypole & Rabbit Warren extension.)

Roma Mine is to be published at the A.G.M., 1971 and should prove to be an important addition to the B.E.C. Caving Report Series.  Future publications include the remaining sections of the Cuthbert’s Report which will all be out within the next year.

Two more reports are in the state of preparation – the Burrington Atlas and John Etough’s magnificent collection of photographs of Balch Cave.  Although the cave has been destroyed, it remains a valuable pictorial record.  The cost will be about 50p and if anyone is interested in a copy, please contact me.

Printing standards have been improved and will continue to do so.  It is hoped that shortly the caving reports will be produced commercially and this will result in improvements to the type face and general appearance.  A change of format and front cover is being studied and in all probability, it will result in the series having photographic covers and becoming A4 in size.

I would like to thank Gordon Tilly, Barry Wilton and the many others who are involved with the production of the caving reports.

Don’t Pay Bob

…..at the dinner.  He would rather enjoy the dinner like you will – without having to run around getting money out of YOU.  PLEASE pay him your sub (if outstanding) or next years (if you want to give him a real fright) AND your dinner money at £1.30 (or 26/- in old money) per head.  Send it to Bob at 699 Wells Road, BRISTOL  BS14 9HU

Letter

Finally a new slant on the fixed tackle controversy from our Hon. Sec. Alan Thomas…..

The Editor, Belfry Bulletin.

Dear Sir

Why should a distinction be made between fixed and other tackle?

I am not brilliant at climbing on the rock, but if I need a ladder it makes little difference to me if it is suspended from above or resting on the ground.  But it makes a big difference to the Tacklemaster!!  A fixed iron ladder cost virtually nothing and lasts for years.  An electron ladder costs a great deal; takes hours to make; needs constant care and is short lived.  Why not, if we are visiting the same places frequently, leave the iron ladders in position.

                        Alan Thomas

Monthly Crossword – Number 14.

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Across:

3. The way back. (1,4)
6. Cave pearls, for example. (4)
7. First and last in me down Goatchurch. (4)
8. Upper end of last part reversed. (3,3)
12. Artificial aid for red lad. (6)
14. Backwards detailers adorn caves. (4)
15. Lound and low stal deposit. (4)
16. This dry? (5)

Down:

1. A tree in Cuthbert’s. (5)
2. Inexpensive type of climb. (4)
4. Gone to II? (6)
5. Backward eastern animal collection in G.B.. (4)
9. One of the annual trio in the B.E.C. (6)
10. Getting louder boring device makes slow progress in a cave (5)
11. Cider can this metal. (4)
12. Taken to, well soused, in song. (4)

Solution to Last Month’s Crossword

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