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Harry ‘ NO: 1’ Stanbury 1906 – 2006

Committee Members

Hon. Secretary: Nigel Taylor (772)
Hon. Treasurer: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary: Henry Bennett (1079)
Caving Secretary: Toby Maddocks (1310)
Hut Warden: Jane Clarke (983)
Tackle Officer: Chris Jewell (1302)

Non-Committee Posts
Bulletin Editor: Nick Harding (1289)
BEC Web Page Editor: Henry Bennett (1079)
Librarian: Nick Richards (1290)

Club Trustees:
Martin Grass (790), Dave Irwin (540), Nigel Taylor (772) and Barrie Wilton (559)

Ave Cavers!

As they don’t say in France, ‘Happy New Year’.

Ah a new year full of cave shaped possibilities.

But I must start on a sad note by mentioning the death of Harry Stanbury. With his passing the BEC has lost its founding father. I never met ‘No 1’, a regret I will have for the rest of my days but his influence will live on, not least in the form of the Belfry Bulletin, which he also helped to create. At times like this, it is a signal honour to be holding the post of Editor. 


Just to show that the fame of the BEC spreads ever further I included a mention of our esteemed club in the final paragraph of an article I penned for the Daily Express (Egad! I know – I won’t make a habit of it, I promise but they pay well) in December last year as a bit of publicity for my latest tome – in which, I should say, the BEC gets a mention or two as well. 


Daily Express, December 18th 2006

I’ve been led to believe that the paper is ‘read’ by 900,000 a day – so that’s nearly a million more people have heard of us now. The editor of that rag even went to look up who we were on the Web.  If there were a yearly barrel for fame then we’d win hands down!


Vale - Harry Stanbury, 1916 – 2006.


Harry Stanbury, c.1946

The BEC has lost not only a great friend but also the personality who created the Bristol Exploration Club all those years ago in 1935.  Harry died on the 16th December, 2006 at his home in Bude, Cornwall. He was 90 years old.

Harry Stanbury is a legend in the caving world, none less so than on the Mendip Hills. It was here that Harry learnt his caving skills.  Born in Bude, in the same house in which he lived until his death, he moved to Bristol in his 'teens and it was then that he undertook his earliest caving trips on Mendip albeit he had already whetted his appetite by exploring the numerous sea caves that are found on the north Cornish coastline in his formative years.

Following a number of trips to Burrington and other small caves on Mendip Harry and his mates decided to form themselves into a club, which was to be known as the Bristol Exploration Club.  However, there was a problem. How could they get into the larger and deeper Mendip caves, which were controlled by the larger clubs? They decided that they would disband their group, and join the newly formed Wessex Cave Club comprising mainly members from the professional and middle classes.  Harry, having approached a Bristol member of the Wessex, was told that he and his friends were not suitable for membership of that club, as Harry was later to write ' … because we were just working class lads.'

Harry, amazed and annoyed, went away and together with his mates continued to develop the Bristol Exploration Club, with a bat as its logo.  This small group, with a membership of never more than 15 remained active right up to the outbreak of the 2nd World War.  These pioneering members gradually gained their practical experience and joined other caving club members for trips into the larger caves.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 all young men under the age of 30 were called for military service unless they were working on essential war effort at the home front.  This reduced the club to a skeleton membership.

Harry, never one to give up, with the existing members and a few new friends, including Dan Hasell and Roy 'Pongo' Wallace, reformed the then dormant BEC in 1943 and slowly managed to get a few caving trips in during their spare time. By the end of the war the club membership began to expand dramatically and within a short space of time reached about 100.

During the first 21 years of the Club's existence Harry, steered the club as Hon Secretary and helped create the Club Journal, the Belfry Bulletin, with Dan Hasell and Don Coase. With others he located and built the early Club headquarters which contained sleeping and cooking accommodation.

On the caving scene he was involved in the exploration of Stoke Lane II and was an early member of CDG working in Wookey Hole during 1947-1948 either involved with the Operation Muckment series of dives or acting as surface controller.  In the late 1950s he was involved with the re-opening of Pen Park Hole.

Harry let go of the reins in the middle 1950s but kept a watchful eye on the activities of the Club and was always interested to know of the latest discoveries made by members.

One of the reforms brought about in 1943 included a membership numbering system.  Harry was member No. 1, a fact that is well-known to members today. Many of the younger members, though having not met him, are well aware that Harry Stanbury was the founding father of the BEC.  We have lost a great friend.

The Club sends their very sincere condolences to Glenys and the family.



Diver Harry Stanbury being dressed by Don Coase
and Stan Herman at the Mineries Pool, 1946.


From the Belfry Table

There can be only one item this time.

As you should all know by now, “Number 1” as Harry Stanbury was affectionately known by me and many other members has passed away after an illness.

I was fortunate to have spoken to Harry on the morning of our Oct 2006 AGM, in my customary call to him on such club occasion, and though unwell- as he had recently suffered from a bad fall, - he came to the telephone with all his usual good grace and cheerfulness. He gave me his best wishes for the forthcoming Dinner and year which he wished me to pass on to all members at that evenings festivities, and we joked that I should be dragging him away from his beloved home in Bude in three years time for the Seventy Fifth Club years Dinner celebrations.

Sadly, this was not to be. In a Christmas card from his wife Glenys just days prior to Christmas, she told me that Harry certainly was not very well, and she was worried about his health. Just days later she telephoned me, sadly “Number 1” was no more.

I emailed or telephoned as many members as I could with the sad news, and again later with the funeral arrangements.

On Wednesday 3rd. January, Mike Wilson (Hon.Treasurer), Chris Hervey (Zot- a long standing, but sadly now an ex-member) Tony Setterington (Sett) and myself, ventured down to a cloudy, grey and windswept Cornwall.

In the Little parish Church, just yards from Harry’s home, we joined a small congregation of some twenty-two persons, this included us four and six Lifeboat men who came to add their respects.

“Sett” read out a Eulogy- prepared by Dave Irwin (Wig), which should hopefully appear in this BB.

I had luckily managed to arrange over the Christmas new year break one florist, who made up a superb board or white carnations and black sprayed “Bertie” Bat emblem with a “No.1” logo. At the internment, Mike and I placed this upon Harrys’ grave.

I hope the attached photo shows the Club tribute to our founding father.

After the ceremony and wake, Mike, Zot and I, had been invited back to Harry and Glenys home at 7 Falcon Terrace. There, His bereaved wife handed us Harry’s presention Club Badge, a Car Badge, and the 60th.Anniversary Tankard with which he had been presented at the Bath & West Showground Dinner all those years ago. She instructed us to deal with these items as we thought best.

I have conferred with both Roger Dors, who kindly has agreed in principal to my thoughts, and the BEC committee, and all are in agreement that I shall place this on a long term loan, into the display cabinet at the Hunters Lodge bar, so all can see the Tankard, which will in effect be a further testimony to Harry’s legacy, that being the Bristol Exploration Club.         



Founder of the Bristol Exploration Club,

St.Michaels Parish Church, Bude, Cornwall, Wednesday 3rd.January 2007


Rest in Peace Harry old friend.


The club also extends sympathies to Alfie Collins, on his tragic loss of Sally. Several members attended Litton Church and on behalf of the BEC we placed a bouquet of White Orchids in the Cemetery. Sally was a warm and vibrant Lady, and her passing leaves all of us poorer.

The MCG have had a tremendous breakthrough at Upper Flood Swallet this September. Several Hundred metres of cave have been found, and all signs indicate that this could well be the “ Master Cave”,…though on a note of caution, I and the rest of the NASA team thought that when we broke into Manor Farm Swallet all those years ago.  To the MCG and the relatives of Malcolm Cotter, WELL DONE!

Mike Wilson and I, visited Bobby Bagshaw at his home in Bristol, and presented him with a “Certificate of Honorary Life Membership” On behalf of the BEC. Bobby Bagshaw has given much help and advice and service over many years to the Club. Bob was most touched, and asked that his warmest greetings be passed to all those who know

The last Dinner was poorly supported by the General Membership; at Close of Bookings date (Hotels not mine) we only had 61 bookings.

Harris & Harris our Solicitors have completed the “Deed of Trustees” and this has now been placed with the Club’s Deeds.

The Belfry Extension has been felted and should be tiled by the AGM!!! (Presumably the last one – Ed.)

Time to get down from the Table, regards to all,

Nigel Taylor, Hon.Secretary BEC.

Report of the Hon. Secretary, 2005/2006

A strong and healthy Club isn’t just conjured out of thin air. It is embodied by the activity of its members both new and old, by forward thinking of its officers, by a willingness to commit oneself to club projects, be they Cave exploration and discovery, club activities, fund raising, working on the club structure etc, etc.

To this end, YOU the membership have been well rewarded by those whom you elected to serve on the Committee last year and by the dedicated actions of several members both young and old. Some say it is invidious to name names…to hell with that…I will name names: Your Hon. Treasurer Mike Wilson has again done Stirling work and in talks with Mendip District Council regarding rates payable, has succeeded in negotiating a “zero” charge. Mike together with Tyrone Bevan (Hut Engineer) Dany Bradshaw and others have toiled well upon the new Extension, all being generous in their time. Chris Jewell, a new member-who incidentally also is standing for the first time for committee- Ivan Sandford, and Henry Bennett plus others, also set up and ran a brilliant “Mid-Summer” Barbeque and disco at the Belfry, complete with Mega aerial-wired giant Bertie, clutching a Wee Wessex Dragon in its claws. Henry has also spent much time in up-marketing and establishing an Up-to-date BEC Website, which you should all visit on a regular occasions to keep yourself abreast of club news. Roger Haskett has kept the Belfry Accounts and Hut Warden duties firmly in control. Brenda Wilton valiantly took on the onerous role of Membership Secretary, which sadly had been relinquished after many years hard work and care by Fiona Sandford to whom this Club should be very grateful. “Bobble” aka Rob Lavington worked hard to sort out the St.Cuthberts Leaders system and set up a Meeting which hadn’t occurred for several years, he also spent much time re-keying various cave systems, sadly due to pressure of work, though remaining on the Committee, he has passed over his Caving Secretaries duties to an ultra keen new member Toby Maddox. Other Committee members Phil Rowsell (Tackle-master) and Fiona Crozier (Floating Member and Understudy Hut Warden!), Barry Wilton (Floating) Have all worked hard despite heavy private and personal commitments both at home, and in Phil’s case on the World caving scene. Rony Wyncoll is owed a big vote of thanks for continuing to maintain the Belfry Fire Extinguishers, and for producing the “Belfry Maintenance Folder” Which it is intended will keep records of Fire Equipment, Electrical and Pat Testing records, subject to our legal requirements.

The retiring 2005 /2006 Hon. Secretary Vince Simmonds did good work negotiating with the Club Solicitors to ensure the newly appointed Trustees positions were fully legalised. I have completed this task, and a finalised “Deed of Appointment” has this year been concluded.

As suggested at last years AGM, The Four Club Trustees held a meeting at the Belfry, and their report should be available at the AGM. It is envisaged that such meetings will be at least twice a year in future.

Enough of the Laurels….On to The Belfry…well much work remains to be done upon the extension. I have heard some members complain that the hut looks like a building site….all I can add is “Yes, aren’t you proud of that. It is a Building Site, and it will be tided up when all is finished”.  

One Major looming problem is to replace the Window Frames at the back of the Belfry, these are so rotten that they may soon fall out, and at worst allow damp into the fabric of the building, but fear not, all of this is in the minds of the Committee and it will be effected shortly.

May I thank again, on behalf of the BEC, all of those mentioned above, and also to those as yet unnamed workers and members who have also committed themselves both above and below ground to the running of Your Club.

I intend to stand again for Committee for 2006/ 2007 and am willing to serve in whatever post I am elected to, though I naturally should like if allowed, to continue to serve as your Hon. Secretary.

Nigel Taylor,
Hon. Secretary B.E.C 2005 / 2006.

Report Of The BEC Trustees.

The Trustees, Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Nigel Taylor and Barrie Wilton, met at the Belfry on Friday 1st September in order to inspect the site and prepare a report to be submitted to the Club’s Annual General Meeting on the 6th October 2006.  It is hoped that the meeting of the Trustees to inspect the site and prepare a report for the AGM should be an annual event.

It was felt that the site as a whole was in a reasonably tidy state but the Belfry itself is in need of a number of urgent repairs. These are listed below:

The exterior:

  1. The window sills on the west side of the Men’s bunkroom are badly rotted and are in urgent need of replacement.  The end (south) window in the bunkroom is cracked and should be replaced.
  2. The bricks below the damp course at the base of the south-facing wall are crumbling and will require replacing.
  3. Though repairs have been made to the entrance porch roof there is a need to replace the gutters.

The interior:

  1. The living room is dark and requires a new coat of light coloured paint.  The ceiling has been damaged and should be repaired as soon as possible.  Ideally it requires a new window set into the west wall by the bar.
  2. The dormitory ceiling has been badly damaged, seemingly by water and should be given some priority.
  3. There are a number of faulty electric switches.
  4. The fire alarms should be repaired / replaced.
  5. In the drying room there is a strong smell of fuel oil. The committee should ensure that this is inspected by a qualified engineer.

Some of the repairs are of such a nature that in the event of an insurance claim the insurance company could prove difficult.

Dave Irwin
On behalf of the BEC Trustees,
16th September 2006

Hut Engineers Report

The belfry is in general good order. The main project this year has been the extension, but the roof on the entrance porch has been re-felted with a new access light fitted during the early working weekend.

With the main focus of activity being the extension various weekends have been spent working on this. I would like to thank the regular helpers in this, always the same faces I sorry to report.

The block work and roof are now finished. With the next stage being rendering of the walls and erecting the door early in the New Year. Anybody who can give assistance with this would be appreciated, hopefully some new faces will appear.

I would like to end this short report by informing members that Mike the builder who built the walls and was always willing to listen to members opinions and advice while he was working on the project (Giving his time for free) was recently seriously injured while working on the Salt ford road closure resulting in a stay in intensive care at the RUH. He is home now and making good progress.

And finally I am willing to stand for committee in any designated roll the floor proposes for the coming year.

Tyrone Bevan

BEC Hut Wardens Report 2005-06

The takings are down this year by £98.00, which I suppose is not too bad considering there appears to be a lack of activity on Mendip.

The major expense this year was £120.00 for a skip for one of the working weekends. Also Gas costs were around £48.00.

I have not been around as much this year, due to the fact that I am no longer living on Mendip and so unfortunately the general state and cleanliness of the hut seems to have suffered as a result. I am hoping that someone will volunteer to take on the job for the next year and so I will be able to retire.

Roger Haskett
Hut Warden

Are you getting the BEC email Newsletter?

Most of you will know that we are sending out a monthly email newsletter to keep you up to speed with what’s happening and about to happen on the hill. However, I understand that some of you have not seen it, which is no doubt due to your spam filters. To get around this add the bec-cave.org.uk domain to you safe senders list.


Caving in the Abode of the Clouds – Meghalaya 2006


Krem Labbit Pitch

Caving Team

Austria: Peter Ludwig (PL),

UK: Annie Audsley (AA), Simon Brooks (SJB), Mark Brown (MWB),Tony Boycott (ATB), Imogen Furlong (IF), Roger Galloway (RG), Dave Hodgson (DH), Kate Janossy (KJ), Tony “J.Rat” Jarratt (AJR) Neil Pacey NP, Hugh Penney (HP), Derek Pettiglio (DP), Henry Rockcliff (HR), Fraser Simpson (FS), Jayne Stead (JS), Fiona Ware (FW), Terence Whitaker (TMW)

Ireland: Des McNally (DMc)

Switzerland: Thomas Arbenz (TA),

Denmark: Louise Korsgaard (LK), Torben Redder (TR)

India: Brian Kharpran Daly (BKD), Shelley Diengdoh (SD), Lindsay Diengdoh (LD), Dale Mawlong (DM), Raplang Shangpliang (RS).

Support Team

David Kimberly Patkyntein, (Driver/Organiser), Alam (Munna) Khan (Cook),

S.D. Diengdoh (bus driver), Jonathon Wanniang (drivers mate), Shemborlang Lyndoh (drivers mate). Myrkassim Swer (cook), Vinod Sunor, Adison Thabah, Bung Diengdoh, Zobeda Khatoon, Roma Sutradhar, Sansun Lyngdoh, Raju Sunar, Teiborlang Khongwir.


Evermore Sukhlain, Moonlight Patlong, Carlyn Phyrngap, Shor “Pa Heh” Pajuh, Menda Syih, Kores, Gripbymon Dkhar (Semassi), Ekna Sukhlain (Moolasgni).


David Laitphlang, Andrew Kharpor, Deimaia L. Siangshai, Markin Marbaniang, Marlon Blein.



Sunday 5th February

Mark, Annie, J.Rat, Peter, Thomas, Des, Imogen, Jayne and Henry arrived in Shillong via Gauhati. Some of the group stayed at Brian and Maureens’, others at the Centrepoint hotel.

Monday 6th February

Neil arrived at 10am from Gauhati.

Gear was organized at Brian and Maureens’ house, shopping carried out and preparations made in Shillong. The Centrepoint bar provided an acclimatisation venue until the early hours.

Tuesday 7th February

Terry arrived at 1.30am from Gauhati.

After a prompt start (bus departed at 11am!) the team travelled from Shillong to the ridge camp in the school bus. A briefing was carried out and the team settled in around the fire.

Wednesday 8th February

Thomas carried out a survey workshop in the morning.

J.Rat, Des, Neil and Henry went to Lum Manar hill fort, then dropped five shafts nearby; (Krem Kya 1, 2 and 3, Krem Siat Kriah 1 and 2) each ending in tight rifts after ca. 15m depth. A sixth shaft, Krem Shnong Moo was left ongoing.

Thomas, Jayne, Brian, Terry and Raplang went to the crest of the ridge and walked along towards the SW, past Lelad and Tagnub, to the watershed at the end of the ridge. Sixty one GPS readings were taken for the map, including the road from beyond Leilad. Two potential areas for recce were spotted. 5.6km were walked.

Mark, Annie and Peter successfully relocated Krem Shyein Khlieh (formerly Shynrong Labbit 2001) from the registry details. They failed to find the main underground pitch, but in the process dropped and surveyed a series of undescended pitches ending at a too tight crawl.

Imogen was ill and remained in camp.

Thursday 9th February

Mark and Annie returned to Krem Shyein Khlieh rigged a high level traverse and found that it had been surveyed. They then found and rigged the pitch to the main streamway. They investigated J.Rat’s duck, near the base of the pitch. It was left ongoing with low airspace and light draught (towards the main stream passage). They also looked at couple of potential side passage leads. Cave left rigged.

Henry and Terry went back to Krem Shnong Moo, where the boulder was removed and the cave was explored through three short pitches to a boulder choke. All leads ended too tight.

Imogen, Des and Peter remained on the surface (through illness) and constructed a sauna.

Thomas, Brian and Jayne returned to the crest of the ridge, to continue surface surveying. They walked along towards the NE, past Nongthymme then Moolasngi then Lumthari, to the Litein teashop at the end of the ridge. 62 GPS readings were taken for the map. No new potential areas for recce were spotted. 6km were walked.

J.Rat and Neil followed Evermore around Lum Manar hill fort. Located 10 cave entrances and one possible blocked entrance. One shaft was guessed to be 50m. GPS and digital photos taken for all locations. They then went to Krem Shnong Moo to survey 35.5m.

Friday 10th February

Imogen, Henry, Neil, Des, Annie, J.Rat, Terry, Jayne and Peter returned to the Lum Manar hill fort area to drop the cave entrances located the day before.

Imogen, Annie and Peter dropped Krem Kya 4 to an approximate depth of 40m. Shaft ends in mud floor. Krem Um Manong 2 was dropped to a depth of 35m, where Imogen explored a low tight and wet passage at the bottom until it became too tight. The water was full of cave shrimp, both white and coloured and there was a light draught out.

Neil, Des and Henry went to Krem Tyrtong Warim, which dropped to depth of 23m completed. Then they went to Krem Pastor 6, a 6m climb down to blind alcoves at the bottom. Next they went to Krem Pastor 5, which was 10m deep completed. Krem Pastor was dropped 35m, bones were observed at the bottom of a side shaft, no way on was found.

J.Rat, Terry and Jayne went with Evermore to Krem Poh Um Manong 1,2,3; all completed after short pitches. They then went to a new cave entrance Krem Um Manong 1. This is an ongoing perennial stream cave in boulder pitches.

Mark went to Lelad village and approximately traversed the upper limestone boundary on the west side of the ridge. He relocated Krem Paulus, Lelad cave, Krem Umsohtung, and Krem Niakrong and identified seven other sites of speleological interest. Krem Umsohtung was found to have a strong outward moist warm draught, as did Moonrise cave (Krem Mihbnai).

Thomas and Brian walked down from Tagnub to the valley floor. They GPS surveyed the  road from Krem Umsngad to Tagnub and the southwest end of the Litein valley and walked back to camp. They were also informed of Krem Lyngtah in the area.

Saturday 11th February

Mark, Peter and Imogen went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong), which Imogen rigged until she ran out of drill battery power and rope.

Jayne, Henry, Annie, Des remained in camp with illness, Annie processed some data during the day.

J.Rat, Terry and Neil returned to Krem Um Manong 1, continued rigging down short boulder pitches and reached a ten-metre pitch onto a boulder bridge with large drops continuing. 26m was surveyed.

Thomas, Brian and Raplang made an early start, drove down to the Litein river, beyond the tea shop. Then they walked along the base of the ridge slope, GPSing and noted a number of new resurgences. They followed the Shaktiman track coming down from Shnongrim and walked back to camp (7 hours). Another cave was pointed out by Raplang, one third of the way up from the valley, called Krem Sohsylle (previously explored).

Sunday 12th February

Imogen and Henry completed rigging Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and dropped into a chamber at the bottom. They surveyed along the main stream passage at the bottom. Stream passage ongoing. 253m surveyed.

Mark, Des and Annie surveyed Krem Labbit (Kaidong) from the entrance to the chamber at the bottom. Des found a large fossil passage leading out of the chamber. Passage ongoing. 279m surveyed.

J.Rat, Terry and Neil returned to Krem Um Manong 1 and completed rigging down to a canyon passage, via a broken 30m pitch. High level passages were observed which need bolting up to. The cave currently ends with choked rifts in floor, needs digging, which is possible. Draughting out. Cave derigged. 81m surveyed.

Torben and Louise arrived in camp.

Jayne and Peter stayed in camp through illness. Jayne mended some team member’s clothing.

Thomas stayed in camp and worked on the area map.

Monday 13th February

Mark and Annie went to Krem Mihbnai, near Lelad village. They rigged an entrance pitch and then a 70m pitch and found the bottom choked with boulders. No way on could be found despite a strong draft. The cave was derigged. 87m surveyed.

Terry, J.Rat and Jayne went back to Krem Um Manong 1 and retrieved tackle. They then went to Krem Bir 2.The rift entrance could not be fully descended by ladders. A drill battery was lost down the pitch. They then went to Krem Warkhla 2 where J.Rat squeezed through a short laddered rift into a boulder chamber with a massive shaft in the floor. Ongoing lead. They then went to Krem Warkhla 3. Jayne descended a tight rift of 12m, which led to a small pretty chamber with no way on.

Thomas and Peter drove from Shnongrim to the Litein Valley and followed the ridge for 20km. They looked at a valley resurgence Krem Lyngtah, which started as a small 1.5m high passage and progressed to a passage with waist deep water. Probably going.

Imogen, Torben and Henry returned to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and continued surveying downstream in a NE direction. Many bats were observed. There were also lots of fish of various sizes, including white fish (up to 20 cm). The lead was ongoing. 648m surveyed.

Louise, Neil and Des remained in camp ill.

The rest of the team arrived at 7pm from Shillong and another briefing was held.

Tuesday 14th February

Thomas held another surveying workshop in the morning.

Mark, Fraser and Derek went to Krem Umsohtung at Lelad and rigged a series of short pitches down to a narrow winding rift. Two more short drops led to the head of a canyon where they ran out of rope. 228m were surveyed back to the entrance.

Imogen, Simon, Roger, Torben, Dave, Annie and Lyndsay went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Imogen, Simon, Roger and Lyndsay continued to push and survey downstream to a boulder choke. They found two ongoing leads; a fossil passage leading off at the top of the choke and the stream passage at the bottom going small but strongly draughting. The team also took photographs going in and out. 105m surveyed.

Torben, Dave and Annie went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong)  and surveyed the fossil series from the bottom of “Down with the Thloo”. This was a good size passage continuing with one side passage lead. The main passage intersected a streamway via a steep mud bank. There were three main ways on. A large colony of bats was observed.890m surveyed.

Peter, Kate and Matt went to Krem Lyngtah and surveyed 193m in a resurgence cave involving chest deep wading. Still ongoing.

Hugh, Jayne and Tony B. went to Krem Khuiang and surveyed 256m in a through trip.

J.Rat, Neil, Terry and Henry went to Krem Bir 2, where Henry rigged 35m to a mud filled rift. Neil and Terry were shown Krem Um Manong 3, which choked after a 15m drop and short passage. They then failed to find J.Rat and Henry so returned to camp.

J.Rat and Henry went on to Krem Warkhla 2 where they dug an easier entrance and examined the top of a large shaft. Suspect boulders drove them to the adjacent Krem Warkhla 1 where Henry dropped a 19m pitch into a calcited chamber with no leads.

Thomas, Brian and Shelley walked approx 20km around the North West side of the ridge base. They observed many new coalmines and quarrying operations in the area. Krem Bam Khnai (a protected site) was seen to be in the process of being destroyed by five new coal shafts.

Des, Fiona and Louise remained in camp recovering from illness.

Wednesday 15th February

Mark, Shelley and Hugh went to Krem Umsohtung where Mark continued rigging down several pitches and Hugh and Shelley surveyed behind. They finally intersected what appears to be a horizontal small streamway with upstream and downstream leads and a good draught. 152m surveyed

Neil and J.Rat went back to Krem Warkhla 2 and descended 14m to a 30m blind pot. They then went to Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo where Neil descended down through a tight rift 50m. The cave is ongoing with a good draught.

Three teams returned to Krem Labbit (Khaidong). Annie, Derek and Lyndsay went back to the new streamway and surveyed up and downstream to constrictions in both directions. 335m surveyed.

Imogen, Roger and Dave continued surveying downstream to a sump pool and then up an inlet, which ended in a rift climb requiring bolting. 292m surveyed.

Terry, Torben and Louise continued in the fossil passage to a large boulder choke, which appeared promising and could be pushed. They then pushed an active inlet off the fossil passage, which is ongoing. 790m surveyed.

Fraser, Raplan, Peter and Des went to the Krang area down from the camp and identified pots that had already been dropped. They then finished off the sauna.

Henry and Simon went to Krem Pol Lumthymme and descended the pot to a depth of around 14m where a too-tight constriction was met. 18m of passage surveyed. They then went spot-holing and took GPS readings on two nearby sites, Pol Lumthymme Doline and Lyntan Thiew both of which offered limited prospects.

Tony B and Jayne went to Lost World doline and confirmed that there is no passable underground connection between Um Im 5 and Um Im 6 and also that the Um Im 6 entrance is the lowest point in the doline.

Thomas stayed in camp and worked on the surface map. Brian stayed in camp to work on his report.

Kate, Matt and Fiona returned to Krem Lyngtah and surveyed to a boulder collapse/aven(?), there is a possible way on but they considered it too dangerous. 186m surveyed.

Thursday 16th February

After a night of extremely heavy rain (4 or 5”) during which the camp roof proved to be not totally watertight (!) everyone and everything was wet; the day was spent huddling in the dining area and adding tarpaulins to the roof. The sauna tarps also had to be redeployed.  The rain continued throughout the day but spirits remained high, while beer stocks fell dramatically.

Friday 17th February

There was more rain, lightning and even hail on Thursday night but the reinforced camp fared much better and Friday dawned dry and reasonably bright.  Gear was laid out to dry and teams left on the following trips:

Brian and Fraser started from Litein teashop and walked round to the base of the ridge documenting the destruction of Shnongrim Karst areas by indiscriminate illegal mining. At the request of Brian, Fraser took film and still photos of the devastation.

Kate, Derek and Hugh went partway down Krem Umsohtung on a photo trip.

J.Rat and Neil went to Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo, over the ridge from Krem Bir.  They GPS’d the entrance and marked it on the map.  They continued rigging past the previous limit and down two more pitches to a wet boulder choke and a squeeze through boulders to the head of a 30m pitch.

Terry, Torben and Louise went on a surface recce around Krem Pohjingtep and located a small subsidiary sink. They searched various closed depressions and found Field Pot, an open shaft. They followed a stream downhill and noted some minor karst features. A fissure cave was noted halfway up the escarpment on their return.

Annie, Mark and Henry went down Shyien Khlieh and Henry bolted up an aven at the end of Use Dipper at Night; he reached a big ledge about 10m up but the aven carried on up at least 40m.  They took some photos in the main passage, and then rigged the connection to the parallel streamway; once there they investigated the downstream sump/boulder choke, but found no way on.

Roger, Tom and Peter went round from the cement factory on a surface survey covering about 5km, continuing Tom’s survey of the ridge.

Imogen remained in camp with tiredness.

Semassi - Simon, Dave, Fiona, Matt, Tony B, Jayne and Lyndsay set off Semasi to stay in the IB for a few days and continue the exploration of Krem Tyngheng.  Late afternoon all went into Nummalite Boulevard where passage details were drawn in and photos taken. In the evening the group were accommodated at IB with food arranged in the village.

Saturday 18th February

Mark, Annie, Peter and Henry went down Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and investigated the mother and father of all boulder chokes. No way through could be found, although they pushed approximately 30m into it. They then returned to the entrance, taking photos along the way.

Roger, Imogen and Derek went to Kneewrecker 2, some small passages that broke into a canyon and series of short pitches. They dropped into the lovin’ it, labbit passage and surveyed out. 163m surveyed.

Torben, Louise, Hugh and Kate went to the upstream passage in Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and continued surveying the upstream inlet. They were stopped by a muddy climb and calcite blockage. 352m surveyed.

Des, J.Rat and Neil went into Liat Prah to the end of video passage. They bolted and climbed about 5m into a 60m draughting sandy crawl, ending at a solid boulder choke. Dye was put in the stream.

Terry remained in camp drawing surveys. Fraser remained in camp ill. 

Semassi; Simon Lyndsay and Matt went into downstream wet series where they drew passage detail along old survey and surveyed 68m of new passage.

Tony B, Dave and Fiona went to chocolate passage to explore un-pushed leads and surveyed 228m.

Raplang remained in Semassi securing beer supplies, transport opportunities and locations of previously unknown caves.

Jayne returned to camp not feeling well.

Sunday 19th February


Peter, Annie, and Hugh went looking for a reported sinkhole in the Wah Sapoh area and ended up bashing through thick jungle lapiaz eventually finding a 20m deep pot with a stream crossing the bottom: Krem Gerald Hubmayr. They also found a sink once out of the jungle, Parrot Sink.

Mark and Des spent the day in camp entering a spectacular amount of data and drawing up surveys.

Tom and Brian completed their survey of the base of the ridge with the section around Umthe.

Henry, Roger, Imogen, Torben, Louise and Derek went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Henry and Roger pushed the back of the choke below the big pitch, looking for upstream passage, but the choke was impassable. Henry then went to downstream, where he bolted into two high level passages.  One didn’t go and the other went into a bat-filled boulder choke (Labbit choke), which remains unpushed.  He then met up with Roger and Imogen. 101m surveyed.

Torben, Louise and Derek went to the fossil passage in and looked at two side passages on the left (as you go in), pushing one near the big stal column 350m from the pitch; this yielded 265m which was surveyed, and is still going.  The other is about 200m further on and still needs pushing (a wet crawl!)

Terry, Kate and Shelley went to Krem Umsohtung and pushed upstream as far as a wet 5m climb. then they went from a small chamber in the streamway up a boulder slope through a mud crawl to a chamber with a draughting aven just round the corner; another possible lead goes off here but is not brilliant.  401m surveyed.

J.Rat, Neil and Fraser continued rigging and surveying Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo to intersect a huge active stream passage at about 100m depth. They surveyed a couple of hundred metres upstream and were delighted not to have to kiss any more frogs!

Semassi; Simon, Lyndsay and Matt returned to the leads in the downstream wet section of Krem Tyngeng where they surveyed 430m with many leads remaining.

Tony B, Dave, Jayne and Fiona returned to chocolate passage where they finished remaining leads before going to dry section to continue surveying 184m.

Lyndsay, Dave and Simon videoed the main streamway.

Monday 20th February

Torben, Louise and Peter went to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and pushed the crawl near the big stal in the fossil passage, surveyed c250m, still going.

Roger, Henry and Imogen went back to Kneewrecker 2 to bolt into the daylight shaft, where locals accidentally started dropping trees down on them. The shaft had a flat gravel bottom with no leads (c40m deep). They continued to the downstream boulder choke and found no way on.

Tom remained in camp and continued work on the area map and surveys.

Kate, Hugh and Des spent the day organizing all the first aid kits for underground and camps.

J.Rat, Neil and Shelley went to Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and surveyed upstream for 223m. On the way out Shelley suffered back problems, which delayed their exit.

Terry, Brian and Derek and Fraser were dropped off at the Letein teashop and walked to Sumer. They were given information on the location of several caves. They recce’d the area and Derek spotted one resurgence.

Mark and Annie went to Krem Shyein Khlieh and explored the limit of the parallel upstream passage (Yvo’s boring passage). The end was found to be a too tight rift. A nearby side passage was pushed through a duck into ca. 200m of interesting inlet, ending at an impressive aven with Cappadoccian style mud pillars. They derigged the cave.

Semassi; Tony B, Matt, Jayne and Fiona remained on the surface and failed to relocated entrance to Krem Kdong Semassi

Simon, Lyndsay and Dave collected a bamboo maypole from the cave entrance and went to the high level passage nearby, where access was gained to 240m of fine passage. This led to a new entrance. The maypole was carried to another high level passage where 40m was surveyed.

That afternoon all returned to the Shnongrim camp.

Krem Shyein Khlieh

Tuesday 21st February

Mark, Thomas, Peter and Torben went to Wah Shikar area. They looked for a cave nearby reported by Raplang, without finding anything other than a rising stream. A local man showing them to another flooded rift in the Iawe direction. They then went up the climb in Wah Shikar to the 2005 extensions but found the short wet section sumped. Mark dug through boulders above to get through but they were stopped by extra mud fill at the former flat out mud crawl. They therefore excited, helping Torben with video en route.

Hugh, Des, and Fiona went to Wah Sapoh area. Whilst looking around for a sink entrance, they followed a dry streambed upstream and some locals showed them to an entrance – Krem Wah Um Bloh. They then hitched back from Lelad in a “pimped up” Maruti.

Jrat, Neil, Fraser and Imogen went down Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and surveyed downstream. A boulder choke in a large boulder filled chamber was passed into a swimming phreatic passage continuing.

Simon, Dave, Louise, Terry, Matt and Derek went to Krem Umsohtung. Simon, Dave, and Louise investigated the climb at the upstream end of the cave.  This was free climbed to reach a larger and very muddy passage (named the ‘Village Shitter Passage’) where 79m of passage were surveyed to reach a calcite impasse. They then went to the aven at the end of the Boulder Chamber side passage, which was climbed using bolts by Dave to reach a short inlet passage ending in a high aven. 26m of passage surveyed. Terry, Matt and Derek pushed downstream and after lots of crawling reached main stream ( Master Cave!) passage/main drain. 206m surveyed.

Kate, Annie and Henry went to the crawl in Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and after c30m they found survey stations and connected with Krem Umim 6, via the previously explored Shnongrim Subway (dug open from above in 2004).

Tony B and Jayne remained in camp kit fettling.

Wednesday 22nd February

Tony B and Jayne went to re-GPS Krem Ticha, the resurgence for Umthloo, and we now have an accurate GPS position.  It took them three hours to get there through the jungle but only an hour and a quarter to get back on the Shaktiman track.

Des, Fiona and Hugh went back to Krem Wah Um Bloh, rigging down the wet ‘Pimp my Maruti’ pitch and gained a dry parallel shaft. The water in the already very wet entrance rose during the trip and they came out before getting to the bottom of the pitch. Today’s hitchhike back was on two Shaktimans.

Imogen, Annie and Louise had a girly trip in the entrance series of Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and found another pitch which probably drops into the main chamber. They also surveyed an inlet, which led to another entrance, approximately 20m from the original one; 156m were surveyed in all. On emerging, Annie was surprised to find herself being filmed for TV by the press who had come up from Shillong with Brian for the night; but she has settled into stardom quite well.

Terry drew up surveys in camp and then took the film crew and newspaper reporters to Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Simon, Dave and Torben descended Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and, working from the base of the main pitch, explored and surveyed several unpushed leads along the fossil passage.  513m were surveyed, including a new streamway

Mark, Roger and Matt went to Krem Umsohtung and surveyed upstream in the main passage, to a choke where a calcite climb may yield a way on. They then surveyed a side passage loop, took some photos and exited the cave 660m surveyed.  They were invited into a house in Lelad for tea and betelnut before returning to camp.

Peter and Kate went down Snowman’s Pot into Krem Liat Prah; Peter bolted up a climb next to some beautiful red flowstone into a small tube decorated with calcite but only 11m long.

Jrat, Neil and Henry went down Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo and surveyed the downstream continuation for 250m into a very large boulder choke; this was pushed for 50m or so.  Another trip is needed to complete the survey and investigate the choke further.

A bottle of whisky was given to Thomas for his hard work on the data and a party went on late into to the night with the whole team and press.

Thursday 23rd February 2006

The Semassi team departed. Tony B, Simon, Dave and Kate went to Krem Tngheng and using the bamboo maypole left in the cave, they explored the remaining high level side passages in the main river passage. These all proved very short. They then went to the fossil river series where Tony B, Dave and Kate surveyed 69m in the high rift passage and Simon added passage detail to the previous years survey skeleton.

Imogen, Annie, Louise, Torben, Derek and Lyndsay went back to Krem Labbit (Khaidong). A voice connection was made from the pitchhead found the previous day (above the main pitch) and the main chamber. A new rift passage was also discovered but not explored. The team then went to the far end of the cave. Imogen Annie and Louise spent 45mins digging a muddy crawl that was heading towards Krem Shreih. The crawl, however, was too difficult to dig and less than 1m progress was made, before being abandoned. Imogen, Annie and Derek then went to push downstream in the new streamway. This was pushed 74m through two collapses and a duck to a third collapse which was unstable and could not be pushed.

Louise, Torban and Lyndsay hammered the far end of QuickMud passage into a passage, which choked again in calcite. This was draughting strongly and would require chiseling. The passage was heading towards the undescended shaft of Krem Chuni.

Mark, Roger and Terry went downstream in Krem Umsohtung, which choked after 200m. They then climbed the calcite above the upstream main passage choke, but found no way on. They then completed some side passage loops. 380m surveyed.

Jrat and Neil remained in camp, drawing up and resting.

Matt, Jayne and Des remained in camp recovering from various ailments.

Hugh, Fiona and Peter went to Krem Gerald Hubmayr, which descended 17m to around 30m of well-decorated passage, ending at a choke. 65m surveyed. 

Fraser accompanied the Shillong film crew to Shnongrim, where they met the headman and went to the Durba. They then collected Henry and Brian from the camp and went to Krem Labbit for some filming. The filmcrew then returned to Shillong in the late afternoon with Thomas.

Friday 24th February

Jrat, Neil, Roger and Mark pushed and surveyed downstream in Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo into a small chamber with four ways on. The first followed the streamway to a choke. The second led to a large chamber ending in breakdown. Both the third and fourth choked. They surveyed 450m.

Hugh, Des, Peter and Terry went down Krem Wah Um Bloh and finished rigging the parallel shaft, now wet (named Shaktiman surfing). At the bottom the stream sinks through a boulder choke which was followed for 30m until no way on could be found. The cave was then derigged. 64m surveyed.

Henry and Annie went to Kneewrecker2 and derigged. Annie then spent the afternoon drawing up survey, while Henry washed ropes.

Fraser, Fiona Brian and Jayne went first to Ladrymbai to drop off Torban and Louise, who were leaving. They then went to Lumshnong to document the Limestone Quarrying and the caves Krem Kharasniang, Krem Um Lawan and Krem Um Kseh at risk from this activity. They then returned to Ladrymbai to collect David and the food.

Imogen and Derek returned to Krem Labbit (Khaidong). They surveyed Henry’s high level bat chamber phreatic tube to a boulder collapse with no way on; they then derigged the bolt climb. They then went and pushed a crawl off Disto Inferno, which went for 60m to breakdown. After this, they pushed an upstream inlet, which ended in a 10m duck, which Imogen went through into a boulder choke which draughts. This was not pushed further and is potentially ongoing. 120m surveyed in total.

Semassi, (Krem Tngheng): Simon, Tony B, Dave, Dale and Kate surveyed 522m in the complex wet series named the TipeeToe Canals. Two major swimming leads were left open. Matt walked down from the ridge, left his gear at the I.B. and joined the teams in the cave. He then spent the afternoon bug collecting.

Saturday 25th February

Mark, Terry, Henry, Roger and Fraser did some photography in Krem Labbit (Khaidong). They investigated the last remaining side passage in the upstream, which went to a very small duck after less than 40m.

Peter, Annie and Derek rigged Krem Chuni near Khaidong and after an interesting 50m calcite lined pitch, enlarged a calcite squeeze to connect with Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Brian, Des, Fiona and Hugh went to the Letein teashop and were shown two new sites to the north. They arranged a guide from Moulasgni for the following day.

Jrat, Imogen and Neil went into Umthloo and pushed a low crawl to gain some walking passage. 79m surveyed.

Jayne remained in camp resting her back injury.

Semassi, (Krem Tngheng): Simon, Kate and Dale surveyed some drier leads off the TipeeToe Canals after which they moved to the fossil river series, where passage detail was added to the old skeletons. They then surveyed some of the leads in the fossil river series before running out of time. 379m surveyed with over 30 unpushed leads remaining.

Tony B, Dave and Matt pushed the swimming leads in the TipeeToe Canals until coldness forced a retreat. 276m surveyed.

Sunday 26th February

Mark, Fraser, Roger and Henry went upstream in Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo where they pushed the boulder choke without finding any way through. Henry enlarged some calcite squeezes with a similar lack of success. The team then took some photos on the way out.

Jrat and Imogen descended Krem Chuni and went through the connection to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) where they collected some biological samples and derigged the main pitch in Labbit on the way out.

Peter, Annie and Derek descended Krem Chuni and surveyed from the Krem Labbit (Khaidong) connection up a blind calcite climb. They left a crawling passage ongoing and surveyed the pitch. 131m surveyed.

Brian, Hugh, Des and Terry went to Moolasgni on the eastern flank of the ridge, north of the tea shop. With their guide, Ekna, they went past a circle of monoliths/fort to a valley to the north, where they located ten sites, including another Krem Labbit. The third shaft to Labbit was c50m deep with mist blowing out. They then took some photos at Krem Labbit (Shnongrim) for Brian’s report.

Jayne and Fiona remained in camp.

Semassi: The team managed to borrow a Shaktiman from the 2004 headman, Bgind Paslein, and accompanied by the Semassi guide Gripbymon Dkhar drove to the villages of Pala and Kseh on reconnaissance. The impressive entrance of Krem Labbit (for a change) was visited along with Krem Bliat, both look to have excellent prospects. They returned to Semassi and then walked back up to the ridge to the waiting jeep.

Monday 27th February

Mark and Neil took some photos in the entrance series of Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo then derigged the cave.

Matt, Henry, Terry, Simon, Hugh, Peter, Kate and Fiona went down Krem Umsohtung.

Matt, Henry and Terry surveyed the cross rift in the crab passage, upstream led beyond a wet section to ongoing inlet, downstream was also left ongoing. 230m surveyed.

Simon, Hugh and Peter took photographs in the crab passage and downstream main passage.

Kate and Fiona pushed an upstream side passage left ongoing in walking size. 191m surveyed.

The cave was derigged.

Jrat, Fraser, Brian, Imogen and Dave went to Krem Ksar and Krem Khangbru, where they played with the boat, did some video and surveyed 172m.

Annie, Derek and Roger went down Krem Chuni and finished the crawl. They surveyed 66m and derigged the cave.

Tony, Des and Jayne remained in camp.

Tuesday 28th February

Mark, Simon, Annie, Roger, Imogen, Peter, Fiona, Tony B, Jayne, Brian and Dale returned to Shillong in two sumos. Despite some traffic jams they were back in time for Shelley and Maxwell’s engagement ceremony and the following party.

Jrat, Terry and Henry went to Krem Labbit 3 (Moolasgni) and dropped a 90m open shaft into a large streamway. They surveyed 650m leaving ten open leads. They also identified the green dye thought to be coming from video passage in Liat Prah. The cave is thought to head for Krem Rubong.

Terry returned to camp to delay the pickup, giving the surveyors extra time.

Des and Dave derigged Krem Labbit (Khaidong).

Hugh and Raplang went to a new shaft near the camp and GPS’d it.

Matt, Neil, Kate, Derek remained in camp washing ropes and packing up.

Wednesday 1st March

Peter, Annie, Roger and Fiona went on a sightseeing tour to Cherrapunjee and Laitkynsew whilst the other people in Shillong sorted gear and data.

The remaining team on the ridge broke camp and travelled back to Shillong, via the Nartiang monuments.

Thursday 2nd March

The team sorted and catalogued equipment, and bought souvenirs in Shillong. There followed a party hosted by the Tourist board at the Pinewood Hotel, with beer sponsored by Mohan Meakins. An afterparty at Robin Laloo’s house continued until the early hours.

Friday 3rd March

Terry left for Cherrapunjee with Dennis.

The main team travelled to Gauhati by Sumo, where Imogen, Neil and Henry left for further traveling and the main group flew to Calcutta.

Fermanagh 2006

Chris Jewell

Rich Bayfield, Andy Kuzyk, Charlotte Harris, Rich Beer and myself (some of the BEC youth) went to Fermanagh in Northern Ireland for a long weekend of caving.

A couple of years earlier I’d been to Mallorca on a caving and canyoning trip with a large contingent of Irish cavers and when I met one of them in the Hunters in September I thought it was about time I went and did some caving over there.

So I emailed the group (the yahoo mailing list was still working) and Stephen McCullagh got straight back to me with an invite to come caving in Fermanagh. He also told us about staying in Agnahoo if we felt brave. As it was going to be a BEC trip I thought an old stone cottage in the middle of the countryside with no electricity and no running water was perfect!!

The others got flights from Bristol whilst I flew from Luton on Thursday night and we all met in Belfast Airport at about 10.30pm. After a quick food pit stop we headed for the countryside of Fermanagh. Finding the way turning to Agnahoo in the rain in the middle of the night was a bit tricky but finally we were sat in front of warm fire drinking baileys (from duty free) and eating flap jacks (provided by Rich Bayfield’s girlfriend). We all then bedded down in the front room after deciding that at 0 degrees it was too cold to sleep upstairs.

Friday morning dawned bright but cold and we headed off to Enniskillen to do our shopping for the week. After stocking up on wood coal, Tea lights, plenty of food and booze we had a late breakfast and packed up for Prods Pot. Charlotte was trying to find creative ways of avoiding caving and suggested various ‘warmer’ alternatives but I was having no dissention in the ranks and we headed off to get underground at about 3pm.

Whilst we kitted up Charlotte made lots of jokey remarks about forgetting kit and not having to go underground as she got changed. But when we were finally ready she was actually looking forward to the trip which made it somewhat ironic when at the entrance to the cave she assembled her SRT kit to discover she’d left her Croll at Agnahoo! We did actually feel sorry for her but I also hope she’s learnt not to tempt fate!

Prods, with its narrow pitches was an excellent introduction to Irish caving and the final pitch complete with boulder squeeze is a good bit of fun. At the bottom the four of us ditched our kits and headed off down stream, checking out several very muddy side passages on the way. We finally turned around above a narrow foam filled canal before heading quickly out.

Back at Agnahoo team slick got into action – whilst I improvised kit storage and ‘drying’ facilities, Andy and Rich Beer started on dinner, Charlotte lit a fire and Rich Bayfield de-knotted ropes. Soon we were all sat in front of the fire sipping beer, shovelling down a delicious curry and feeling pretty good about ourselves. Not long after one of our hosts – Steve Macnamara arrived and the six of us had a cosy night around the fire swapping caving stories. Poor Steve has to be commended for his patience with Charlotte, who was so fascinated by his Irish accent she imitated it badly several times – with the rest of us glaring at her and me poking her in the ribs.

The next day Steve had arranged to take us caving and we packed for Noon’s Hole. However knowing how wet it was we were prepared for an alternative which Steve knew about. The water pouring down Noon’s was orange with mud so we made the smart decision to go to Pollaraftara instead. Steve chatted to the Farmer to get permission whilst we kept back and stayed quiet (he doesn’t like English people) then we trekked through a boggy field over the entrance. This was an excellent river cave and we enjoyed ourselves for over an hour or so before we reached a deep canal. Rich Bayfield volunteered to see how far he could get but after 30m or so he was out of his depth and had to struggle against the flow back to us. This cut our trip short but what we did see was excellent and I’d love to go back and do some more of the cave.

Steve left us that night but back in Enniskillen we met the other Steve - Stephen McCullagh in the pub for our first Guinness of the trip. Back in Agnahoo after dinner more booze was consumed and the conversation became seriously weird with a discussion of favourite S.I. units led by Rich Beer and Andy (who wasn’t drinking!!).

The following day a trip was arranged for Rich Bayfield, Andy and myself (the others went walking) to Shannon cave - which has an interesting history: In 1980 the Reyfad Group opened up the Shannon entrance and explored downstream, passing George’s Choke in 1990. Beyond the choke they discovered several hundred metres of cave terminating in an un-dived sump. Only half a dozen groups have ever seen this section of cave as George’s Choke was extremely unstable (frequently falling in) and the entrance to Shannon finally collapsed in the mid 90’s. In 2005 both Steve’s, Les Brown and a team of diggers finally broke into Shannon from a previously unconnected cave – Polltullyard.

More recently they have been working on getting back through George’s choke and have carried a great deal of scaffold bar to stabilise the route through. We went down with Steve to have a look at the work done and have a look at some of his other leads.

A fine pitch in Polltullyard leads to some low crawling and then the connection tube/squeeze. Beyond here the cave opens up, firstly to some traversing, then to a pleasant stroll past fine formations before reaching the streamway. The cave continues in fine style and proportions – occasionally being interrupted by small squeezes or boulder chokes. We reached George’s choke without incident and had a look at the team’s work – which is very impressive – before going to do a bit of exploring of our own. Steve showed us to Agnahoo chamber where they have started to set up a campsite. We were very impressed with all of this, it seemed that not many people had been here and there were lots of possibilities. After a bit of poking around Andy K and Rich Bayfield went up a climb and through a squeeze, which the more recent explorers hadn’t seen. This led to a short crawl and a chamber, which doesn’t appear on the survey so Steve was pretty pleased. Whilst we were having a bit of a dig in one of the leads Rich and Andy went to get some tools from Georges choke. They hadn’t been gone long when they came quickly back with the news that the water (which was ankle deep when we went in) was now waist deep!

We quickly shot out of the dig and back up the stream way. There are several places where you need to stoop down in the streamway to pass by boulders and these all played on our minds as we headed our – the last thing we wanted was to spend the night underground! Fortunately we got out with just a couple of ducks to pass and were soon on the surface in the cold evening air. Shannon really hit a note with all of us – it felt like Daren Cilau must of when they started to camp – full of potential! And we all talked excitedly about doing long weekend trips to Ireland to help with exploration.

On our last night we sat round a roaring hot fire in t-shirts feeling great about our four days in Ireland and planning a return. I thoroughly recommend going caving in this excellent region.    

Bloody Students !!!!, or  THE C.H.E.C.C. SEMINAR and PARTY 2006.

Part 1 the build up

The day after the A.G.M., I saw a poster on the Belfry notice board announcing the C.H.E.C.C. annual Seminar and Party, the latter of which was to be a Barbie held at the Belfry, organised by Our newly appointed Tackle Master, Chris Jewell. I decided to let Him know that,” I have a contact at a catering supply company”, and, if required, I would be able to supply the majority of the food needed for the Barbie at trade price. After all, one way or another, it would be of benefit to the B.E.C.  He, on behalf of the C.H.E.C.C., accepted……………Thus; the Can of Worms was opened.

A few weeks passed, e-mails whizzed between Chris and myself, (and, I presume between Chris and the C.H.E.C.C. Committee), a shopping list was agreed on, and the preliminary figure of 200 odd Students was revised down to around 150. (Hmmmm, I’d been told “At least 200”, that Can of worms just may be turning into a Bucket!!).

“ Was there anything else you want me to sort out”, I foolishly asked. “Well”, came the reply, “There’s the Bread rolls and Baps, and the Charcoal”, (Charcoal!!!!, where the bloody hell am I going to get charcoal from at this time of the year, Yep, definitely a Bucket!),

As it turned out, the charcoal was easy to get, Halloween and Nov.5th having just passed, and, having asked Henry Bennett about the amount used at the summer party, I decided to buy a lot.

Next, the bread. I ordered those through My Brother in Law, a Manager at the local Sainsbury’s…….(Cool, back to a can again!).

Then the Barbeque Stuff. The order was duly phoned through to My suppliers, but, the new secretary, God bless Her Cotton Brain, could not process the order, because, She Said, (a)“ Cash Customer” wasn’t recognised by the Computer, and, (b) She couldn’t give me a total price for the order anyway, because….See point (a).

Therefore, I could not have anything,  “Sorry”.

(The can then bypassed the bucket stage, and went directly to “45 Gallon Drum, brim full of the wriggling little Buggers).

Just then, the owner of the company (My Contact) joined into the conversation, and, realising who it was that was just about to get the shaft, sorted the whole thing out. (back to a can, again, and a small one at that). 

On the Thursday, 23rd picked up the rolls, on Friday 24th, left work, went to my suppliers, picked up the food, drove down to Mendip. Left the Can in Northampton

Part 2. The Party.

The weekend kicked off on a miserable, wet, Friday night, with a Fancy dress Party at The Hunters, that saw hoards of students in the back room, looking like refugees from The Rocky Horror Show. After that everyone adjourned to the Belfry for a few more beers………….well, the best part of two barrels actually.

On arrival at the Belfry, a grinning J-Rat, agog at the scenes of drunken revelry proclaimed, “Ahhhhh, this is what the Belfry used to be like on a Friday Night.

No argument from me there.

Saturday saw the much-threatened rain and high winds happily fail to materialise, The Caving God’s it seemed were smiling on Us. Preparations went along smoothly. The Marquee’s went up, Ivan’s giant Barbeque arrived, along with His giant Speakers, the sound and lighting systems were set up without a hitch, and, that food that needed any preparation was duly prepared (note: the best way to peel and chop a net full of Onions is to arm 3 students with knives, and point them at said onions and tell them to get too it…Oh, its good to be the king!), Dany “Chef” Bradshaw also started to cook up the B.B.Q. Beans, and then, with a little “encouragement” from Mad Phil. the fire was lit.

About 9 p.m. the food was served. Over the next hour or so, the cooks did sterling work. Hannah Bell, Henry Bennett, Dany Bradshaw, and Ian Gregory, cooked and served nearly 200 portions, in conditions that varied between freezing cold to scorching heat. With the masses all fed, the catering staff adjourned to the party tent.

The sounds were great, the light show too, the beer flowed freely and everyone had a great time in the tent, until 12:30, when, due to noise restrictions, the throng migrated inside.

Inside the Belfry was a sight to behold. There was drinking, singing, dancing, on the floor and on “The” Table. There was a great mass of happy, half naked, yes that’s right, half naked people who’s only concern was to have a damn good time, They all seemed to have succeeded…….and all TO EXCESS. 

Part 3, some “Excessive statistics”.

For the Anoraks amongst You, here are some statistics.

Over the course of the weekend the following was consumed.

 56 Kg. of Lumpwood Charcoal. (& 5 pints of “Encouragement”)
 192 ¼ lb. Burgers.
 50 Veggie Burgers.
 160 12” Jumbo Sausages.
 1.4 kg. of  Cheese Burger slices. (not nearly enough)
 5.4 kg. of Bakes Beans.
 4 kg. of Coleslaw.
 4 kg. of Potato Salad.
 1.5 litres of Barbeque Sauce.
 4.5 litres of Tomato Ketchup.
 ½ litre of Chilli Sauce.
 ¼ litre Garlic Sauce
 320 Bread Rolls. (160 each Burger Baps & Jumbo Hot Dog Rolls.)
 10 kg. of  Onions.
 10 kg. of Mixed Green Salad.
 7 Barrels of Butcombe (504 pints !!!!)
 an Unknown amount of Spirits.

 And, last, but not least…….….. 36 Toilet Rolls.

The opinion of all those present that night was that everything went well. Great even.

Both the students and, those Belfry-ites that were there all had a good time.

Thanks go out to all those who pulled together to produce a great party.

Mad Phil Roswell, Hannah Bell, Dany Bradshaw, Chris Jewell, Henry Bennett, Jane Clarke our Illustrious Hut warden, The Trustees of the B.E.C. for allowing it all to take place, The Butcombe Brewery, and the C.H.E.C.C. for choosing the Belfry as their venue this year

Yes, in the best traditions of the B.E.C.


Ian “Slug” Gregory.

Rose Cottage Cave - Three Months Hard Labour

Tony Jarratt

“Digging in caves needs considerable dedication, an utter disregard for discomfort, and nerves of steel.”

Bruce L. Bedford, Challenge Underground, 1975.

Continued from B.B.s 522-526. (These articles are penned in order to provide a historical record of the work put into the exploration of Rose Cottage Cave and to illustrate the repetitive and generally unexciting effort expended by the team - not as considered literary efforts!).

Further Digging 12/9/06 - 13/12/06

At the Surface Shaft Dig T.J. filled ten bags with gravelly clay on the 12th September and hauled 1 to surface. Digging continued next day when T.J, S.H. and W.U. removed 50 loads. Meanwhile, somewhere below them, P.H, J.B, H.D, P.C. and A.V. worked frantically in the Halfway Dig to open up a series of tiny but promising voids and even further towards the Earth’s centre laboured H.B. and B.S. as they smashed up a rock pillar and drilled three shot-holes at Plan B Dig. A view into the ongoing rift and the presence of a strong outward draught provided encouragement tonight. A solo trip in the Surface Shaft on the 15th saw another thirteen bags filled with 1 hauled out. The calcite false floor in the ceiling was removed to reveal more mud and the conglomerate-like calcited gravel at the face was found to be akin to rock in its consistency and a sod to dig out. Next day N.U, T.J. and T.H. (the manly hunks) cleared 50 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig, briefly assisted by J.C, A.V. and F.C. (the girlies) on their return from Halfway Dig where they had filled fifteen bags. On the 17th our token Australian digger was ex-BEC member Steve Milner – now a C.E.G.S.A. man. He joined T.J, A.V. and H.B. to liberate another 36 bags of spoil from the Surface Shaft Dig. In the afternoon the team admired R.W. and T.A.’s efforts on the continuing ginging operations. Work at both sites continued on the 20th when S.H, B.O, T.J, H.B. and A.V. dug and hauled out 60 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig – now very roomy and phenomenally easy to excavate - while J.B, J.N, P.C. and T.M. dug and dumped 10 loads from Halfway Dig before becoming uninspired by its potential and frustrated by the lack of stacking space.

Inspired by the comfort of the Surface Shaft Dig T.J. returned on the 21st September to fill twenty bags in an hour and the following evening he was joined by H.B, A.V. and N.U. who continued digging and eventually hauled another 60 loads to the surface. The nature of the passage had now changed from a narrow, steeply dipping rift to a phreatic bedding plane with the in-filled rift above but still descending at the same angle. An apparent floor of calcited cobbles and slabs on top of bedrock provided an attractive feature, which will be washed off at some future point. H.B. and N.U, now firmly hooked, were back the following morning to dig and haul out 32 loads and report that they had unearthed several large rock slabs that needed breaking up. Next day, the 24th September, T.J. did an early morning trip to fill eleven bags and haul 1 out, returning in the afternoon with T.H, P.B. and J.N. to shift another 34 while J.B. and P.C. dug 8 loads from the Halfway Dig, which again looked promising. A one shot-hole charge was fired in a slab in the Surface Shaft Dig and the resulting debris, 11 skip loads, came out next day when the morning shift was A.V, T.J. and T.A. The latter also took photos and measured the underground rift climb at 5 metres. Another one shot-hole charge was fired in a second boulder. After lunch the walling team continued with their project and put up with the post-Hunters’ audience on this fine, warm day.

N.U, on a solo visit to Surface Shaft dig on the 26th September, filled five bags and found that there was considerable bedding-plane development to the NW below the rift climb. This was enlarged next day when he returned with T.J. and S.H. to remove 36 loads. The latter took lots of record images of the dig. At Halfway Dig J.B, P.C, A.V, J.C. and T.M. dug and (miraculously) dumped another 21 loads, finding the going easy in loose, clean rocks and the way on apparently downwards. H.B. and H.D, fresh from their explosives users’ course, laid a four shot-hole 12gm cord charge at Plan B Dig, which was later fired by the Halfway team as they left the cave. J.B. was back at Halfway Dig on the 28th when he filled a dozen bags and he did more work the following day in company with P.C. and J.C. while T.J. and A.V. removed 12 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig and installed improved vacuum piping. Hammering in this dig could be, unsurprisingly, distinctly heard in Mt. Hindrance Lane – the entrance passage of Rose Cottage Cave proper.

October 1st saw T.H. and T.J. removing 17 loads of mainly broken rock and a one shot-hole 12gm cord charge fired in the Surface Shaft Dig while J.C, J.B. and P.C. continued burrowing away at Halfway Dig. Next day the bang was found to have been ineffectual so J.C. and T.J. spent some time hammering at rocks and calcited gravel in an attempt to establish the way on in the Surface Shaft Dig. The more easily dig-able “Inlet Tube” on the right seemed to be the best bet, though a trifle cosy. Halfway Dig was visited by J.B. on the 7th when six bags were filled and lots of cobbles removed until light pox stopped play. Next day B.E.C. dinner survivors T.H. and Nick Gymer removed 5 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig and walling here was continued by the latter, T.A. and R.W. on the 9th.

H.B, H.D. and J.C. cleared and drilled eight shot-holes at Plan B Dig on the 11th and were pleased to report that stones thrown forwards into the rift dropped for an estimated 3 metres. Their colleagues, P.H, J.N, J.B. and P.C. meanwhile worked at Halfway Dig until bad air surprisingly drove them to the Pub. (Five other regulars had been dragged northwards for an intensive week’s holiday digging in Rana Hole, Assynt, Scotland). Two of these, T.J. and P.B. were back on site with J.C. and T.H. on the 16th when five of the Plan B Dig shot-holes were charged and fired, Halfway Dig inspected and another, three hole charge fired in the Surface Shaft Dig. 6 loads were hauled out from here by J.W. using his good arm and glad to be back in the swing of things after smashing his collar bone up in a cycling accident. The spoil from this bang was cleared next day by T.J. and J.N. when about fifteen loads were filled and stacked. In the afternoon R.W. and T.A. brought the wall up to surface level and debated on how to finish it off; concrete pipe or stonework?

The 18th October saw another three teams at work. 10 loads came out from the Surface Shaft Dig where F.C, N.U. and T.J. dug in the Inlet Tube and laid a three shot-hole charge at the face. At Halfway Dig P.B. and P.C. dug onwards in a sandier infill until poor air drove them out. H.B, H.D. and P.H. descended to Plan B Dig to drill and fire a seven shot-hole charge after finding that three of the last holes had been ineffective, having blown out. P.B. and T.J. continued with both digs in the Surface Shaft on the 22nd when 17 loads reached the surface and much more was left bagged below. A monstrous rock kept P.B. occupied for a while but he triumphed eventually. Pete Eckford assisted with hauling. J.N, P.C. and J.B. meanwhile struggled on in the airless conditions of Halfway Dig. More work took place in the Surface Shaft Dig next day when J.N. opened up an encouraging small airspace in the floor dig and T. J. fired a two shot-hole charge to gain easier access to this. The Inlet Tube was found to be issuing a trickle of water, hinting at its possible origin in Bored of the Rings. Many more bags were filled. In the afternoon the dedicated wallers pressed on before the weather broke. The bang debris in Surface Shaft Dig was cleared by T.J. on the 25th while H.B. and P.H. cleared much of that from Plan B Dig in poor air conditions. Two days later the air was better and H.B. and Ernie White continued clearing before drilling a four shot-hole charge, which they fired on the way out. At the same time J.B. dug at Halfway and also reported better air conditions after opening up an area of airspaces and large boulders in the floor. Up in the Surface Shaft Dig T.J. and Andy Norman moved lots of full bags up to the top ledge, broke up rocks and drilled one shot-hole. A second shot-hole was drilled by T.J. on the 29th while J.C. and F.C. filled all available empty bags with spoil from the Inlet Tube. Another 12gm cord charge was fired. The broken rock was partly cleared next day by D.I. while T.J. took top cave photographer John Forder and his wife Miranda to Aglarond 3  (their trip report and pictures can be found in a recent M.N.R.C. journal) Some clearing was done at Plan B Dig in fumey conditions and Halfway Dig inspected. A single shot-hole charge was then laid and fired in the Surface Shaft Dig. In the afternoon he joined R.W. and T.A. on the walling epic.

November 1st saw the onset of winter at last with much colder weather and a lack of desire for surface hauling. The spoil from the last Surface Shaft Dig bang was cleared by T.J. and lots of bags filled from the Inlet Tube Dig. S.H. arrived later to haul 15 loads to surface where they were emptied behind the new ginging. Previous to this he had assisted J.B, J.N. and P.C. at Halfway Dig where large boulders embedded in the floor presented removal difficulties. H.B. and H.D. cleared most of the remaining spoil from the Plan B Dig bang and drilled eight shot-holes. Despite the dramatic weather change bad air conditions were still prevalent throughout the cave. J.C. and T.J. hauled out 15 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig on the 3rd November and shifted and filled many others. J.B. dug alone at Halfway next day and was encouraged enough to return on the 5th with P.C. and open up various draughting voids between boulders. Meanwhile T.J. and D.B, assisted by H.D. on the surface, removed 27 loads of spoil from the Surface Shaft Dig and another 15 loads were dragged out later that day by T.J, T.H. and P.B. who also filled many more bags from both dig sites. T.J. was back here next day with a hungover H.D. and Robin Sheen of the Burren Crawlers. After hauling out 36 loads they were joined by explosives technician Charlie Adcock, his assistant Ambrose Buchanan and a couple of his northern mining enthusiast mates, Karl Fearn (Cumbria Ore Mines Rescue Unit) and Paul Cheetham. T.J drilled three shot-holes in the roof and floor of the lower dig and A.B. charged them with malleable plastic explosive (actually a commercial bomb filler!) and three detonators wired in series. C.A. used his state-of-the-art exploder to fire this impressive charge and the team retired to the Hunters’ for well-deserved libations. C.A, K.F. and A.B. returned in the afternoon to clear 16 skips of shattered bang debris, which T.J. hauled out while P.Ch. cleaned the drill and R.W. re-arranged the adjacent spoil heaps as part of the walling project.

P.B, H.D, J.C. and Martin Smith were back down the Surface Shaft Dig on the 8th when the rest of the bang spoil was cleared – 25 loads being hauled out by A.V, T.J. and C.A. Two shot-holes were then drilled and another charge of “Charlie’s Special” prepared for future use. H.B, K.F. and A.B. drilled one more shot-hole in Plan B Dig then charged the total of nine holes with more of this powerful explosive connected to “non-el” detonators, firing on the way out after P.C, P.H. and J.N. had completed their shift in Halfway Dig - having revealed a too narrow, descending open rift which itself was begging for the next application of “chemical hammer”. Much of that evening’s pub conversation revolved around the latest choice of “guest ales” which inspired C.A. to propose a regular “guest explosive” at the dig. Those who had seen him in action on TV’s Inside Out documentary two days previously were well aware that this was not merely pub talk! The Halfway Dig rift had not long to wait as next day H.B. and H.D. descended upon it to drill a couple of shot-holes and fire a 40gm cord charge. T.J. also fired that laid the previous day in the Surface Shaft Dig. 

Henry B. returned to Plan B Dig on Armistice Day in company with Martin Beal (Chelsea S.S.). The last bang had turned the rift walls to a heap of dust but the pair had no time to clear it as the apparent lack of fumes had deceived them and in making a hasty retreat M.B. actually blacked out for about twenty seconds giving H.B. great cause for concern as his addled brain despaired on the thoughts of trying to pull his 6ft+ mate up Prancer’s Pot alone and without flaking out himself. Luckily they made it out and yet again a valuable lesson had been learnt – a process common to all trainee bang enthusiasts! Discussions with doctors Boycott and Glanvill suggested that CO2 was the problem - possibly heightened by the fact that non-smoking, ultra-fit, high altitude mountaineer M.B. was more susceptible to this than his somewhat less healthy life-styled colleague! Later that day J.B. and P.C. cleared some of the spoil from the fume-free Halfway Dig and reported that more widening was required. This was done on the 12th by H.B. and M.B. who only got in a single shot-hole charge due to an excess of un-cleared spoil while T.J. and P.B. cleared the spoil from the last Surface Shaft Dig bang and laid another two hole, 40gm cord charge. 4 skip-loads and a frog were hauled out. 1 more load came out on the 13th when T.J. bagged up the resultant bang debris and fired another two shot-hole charge. In the afternoon he assisted R.W. and T.A. with their entrance walling.

November 15th saw two teams hard at work in the Surface Shaft and Halfway Digs. In the former T.J, P.B, P.H. and A.L. cleared the debris from the last bang at the bottom, dug in the Inlet Tube and raised 50 loads to surface. In the latter J.B, P.C. and J.C. also cleared bang spoil and had a general tidy-up. Two draughting ways on could be seen, both requiring chemical persuasion. This was provided on the 17th when T.J. fired a one shot-hole, 12gm cord-wrapped charge on two large boulders located between these holes. A huge and suspect slab in the ceiling was noted so an old miners’ trick was used to check its stability. The narrow bedding-plane crack above it was filled with smoothed off clay so that any movement would be made evident by its disturbance – a “tell tale”.  J.B, J.C. and Ian Matthews cleared and stacked more spoil in the meantime. J.B. and P.C, desperate for glory, went down next day to explore the miles of passage beyond but the Law of Sod came into play when they noticed that the “tell tale” had indeed opened up to prove the instability of the hanging death above. Wisely they called it a day. Over a dozen bags of spoil were filled by T.J. from the Inlet Tube Dig in the Surface Shaft on the morning of the 20th and in the afternoon R.W, T.A. and T.J. continued with the walling project. A section of plastic drainpipe was emplaced at ground level. To keep the grafters happy J.C. made the tea.

The next burst of enthusiasm was on the 22nd November when digging and hauling in the Surface Shaft Dig resulted in 43 loads out. A.L, P.C, B.O, J.C, J.N, P.H. and T.J. were to blame. J.N. and P.H. also attempted a joss-stick scent connection between A1 and Halfway Digs, alas in vain. In the surprisingly bad-air free depths H.B. and H.D. cleared much of the spoil from the last Plan B Dig bang and reported a slight draught. On their way out they drilled and banged the hanging death at Halfway Dig. Some of the spoil from this bang was cleared by J.B. and P.C. on the 25th and R.W. re-arranged the Surface Shaft spoil heap next day. On the 27th he was joined by T.A. and T.J. for more walling in between heavy showers – these deterring F.C. and J.C. from a proposed Morton’s Pot trip and encouraging them to clear more bang spoil in Plan B Dig.  This was followed up on the 29th when H.B. and H.D. drilled and fired a four shot-hole charge while J.B. tidied up at Halfway and T.J. filled six skips with slop at the flooded Inlet Tube Dig in the Surface Shaft. A look at Paul’s Personal Project in the main cave convinced him of the imminent connection with this. He filled another seven bags here on 3rd December when purple drain dye was put into the pool in the lower dig. More work was undertaken at this site on the 4th when T.J. continued digging in the Inlet Tube while H.B, Carole White and Martin “Billy Whizz” Smith (B.P.C.) hauled out 31 loads. Martin rightly pointed out that skips made with the handle at the bottom are a lot easier to empty – a good point. Another 32 loads came out on the 6th when P.B. and T.J. bailed and dug the Tube while J.N, P.C. and I.M. got the thankless hauling jobs. T.J. bailed and dug here again on the 8th while H.B. and A.V. dug in the same bedding plane but straight ahead and above the lower dig. A hammering and voice contact was established between these digs and P.P.P. in the main cave.

To establish the distance left to dig both the Bored of the Rings loop in the main cave and all of the Surface Shaft were surveyed on the 10th by H.B, Chris Smith and Doug Harris (M.C.G.) and a gap of some 4-5m computed by H.B. – thus ensuring that he could claim a pint from T.J. who was insistent that it was less than 3m! Meanwhile T.H, J.C. and T.J. dug, hauled and stacked bags in the Surface Shaft, 6 loads reaching daylight. The following morning the site was tidied up before A.V. and T.J. went to Paul’s Personal Project in the main cave where they attempted to dig towards the Inlet Tube but were somewhat stymied by the lack of decent sized passage. Nevertheless several skips were filled and parked ready for removal. In the afternoon R.W. continued drystone walling the spoil heap.

Plan B Dig at last got a revisit on the 13th December when H.B. and H.D. cleared the spoil from the last bang enabling them to get a clear view down an open but too narrow rift estimated at some 5m deep. They were much enthused. Not quite so enthused were P.C, P.B. and T.J. – immersed in squalor many metres above in the Inlet Tube after having used the submersible pump and best Belfry saucepan to drain it. Lots of muddy gravel was dug out, bagged and stacked and 9 loads reached the surface.

With the Digging Barrel deservedly going to the Mendip Caving Group the team were able to relax and save the huge breakthroughs for 2007!       

Continued in B.B. 528.

New (and resurrected) Diggers

Steve Milner (C.E.G.S.A.), Tim Large, Nick Gymer, Pete Eckford, Andy Norman, Ernie White, John and Miranda Forder (M.N.R.C. – photography), Charles Adcock, Ambrose Buchanan, Karl Fearn (C.O.M.R.U.), Paul Cheetham, Robin Sheen (Burren Crawlers), Martin Smith (O.S.C.C.), Martin Beal (C.S.S.), Ian Matthews (Frome C.C.), Chris Smith, Dog Harris (M.C.G.)   

The Old Brigade

Tony Jarratt, Sean Howe, Walery “Wally” Ufimzew, Pete Hellier, Jake Baynes, Henry Dawson, Phil Coles, Anne Vanderplank, Henry Bennett, Ben Selway, Neil Usher, Jane Clarke, Fiona Crozier, Rich Witcombe, Tony Audsley, John Noble, Trevor Hughes, Paul Brock, Toby Maddocks, John “Tangent” Williams, Darrel Instrell, Duncan Butler, Alex Livingston, Carole White, Martin Smith (B.P.C.)

Grateful acknowledgements to all those who have contributed to the bang fund and thereby kept this important project going and to Nigel Taylor, Aubrey Newport and Charlie Adcock and his Event Horizon team for their pyrotechnic input.

Cave Trivia


I couldn’t resist this. The following are the episodes in which caves appeared – sometimes ever so briefly…And by caves I mean bad Styrofoam and plaster sets.

The Cage
What Are Little Girls Made Off?
The Menagerie parts I and II
The Devil in the Dark
Return to Tomorrow
Bread and Circuses
Spock’s Brain
And The Children Shall Lead
The Cloud Minders
All our Yesterdays

The Dig at Rana Hole, Assynt, Sutherland

Tony Jarratt

“All visitors to Assynt who are hungry for caves will find their appetite honed by a keen wind blowing down glens possessed of an atmosphere hardened by mist and storms. Nowhere else in Britain, not even in the most obscure corners of the Yorkshire Dales, can such wild and unspoilt karst scenery be found. So fresh is the landscape that it might have been but a generation ago that the ice sheets retreated from the area. Cavers, at least, will experience no difficulty in finding an affinity with Assynt.”

Alan “Goon“ Jeffreys  –  Caves of Assynt

For those members curious as to why a small proportion of the club diggers travel 625 miles north at every available opportunity I decided to write a brief history and description of this ongoing Grampian Speleological Group dig which has had a great deal of input from B.E.C. and Sheffield U.S.S. members. It has, in fact, become a joint project but the G.S.G.’s very good relationships with George Vestey - the landowner, Scottish Natural Heritage - who run the adjacent S.S.S.I. reserve and their efficiency in publishing information on Scottish caving in general make them the natural body responsible for the dig.

Situated on the NE flank of Beinn an Fhuarain, in Durness Limestone, at an altitude of 352 metres the dig almost overlies the 2465+-metre long cave system of Uamh an Claonaite. A possibly 40m high aven, Belh Aven (named after a fine Scottish ale!) soars up from between sumps 6 and 7 in this cave. It has not been climbed due to apparent “hanging death” at the top and the remoteness of the site. Many possible digging sites in the far reaches of this superb system have not been properly investigated by the few cave divers who have been there and the brown bear skeletal remains found in Legless Highway have not been scientifically examined. The Great Northern Time Machine, one of the largest cave passages in Scotland would be made accessible if a connection were made so a dry way in would be a major benefit and a cracking vertical trip in its own right. It is also located directly behind the archaeologically important Creag nan Uamh Bone Caves where human and animal remains have been excavated and which, though not physically connected to the main system, may represent a fossil phreatic level of development which the dig may intersect. It is reached by a pleasant 40 minute walk (depending on how much heavy digging gear one is carrying) up the Allt nan Uamh valley, via the Fuaran Allt nan Uamh (the main rising for the caves of this area at 190m) and the Bone Caves. The interestingly varied weather and, in the summer the desperately annoying midges can turn this stroll into purgatory.

The 5m diameter, 4m deep shakehole had almost certainly been noted before the 4th April 1976 when the writer (GSG, BEC), Bob Mehew (GSG, SMCC) and Jim Smart (BEC) “pushed through a vile peaty squeeze into some 5m of 2m high passage, the floor of which is totally peat choked (at least 2m deep). Probably a fully choked pitch.” If we only knew then what we know now! On the 5th June 1978 GSG members Ivan Young and Pete Dowswell  “Find 6m cave – Rana Hole – in shake above Bone caves on way to Claonaite”. Nothing of interest happened here for another seventeen years until the discovery of Belh Aven indicated a possible route into the Uamh an Claonaite diving extensions from the surface.

GSG Bulletin 3rd Series Vol.5 No.3 records 51 visits to this site and the now filled Mole Hole dig nearby between 28th October 1995 and 18th March 2000. Of the first digging trip it was stated that,  “…there is much hope for a possible breakthrough here tomorrow.” During these five years much sweat and explosives were expended by many Scottish and Mendip digging enthusiasts and vast amounts of scaffolding, Acro props and steel shoring grids were painfully carried up to the dig. Hundreds of bag and bucket loads of mud, peat, gravel and broken rock were man-hauled out of the gradually deepening shaft but digging was frequently interrupted by water ponding at the bottom. By 2000 the entrance shaft had reached a depth of some 12-13m.


Work continued sporadically, mainly by the GSG Edinburgh, Inverness and Thurso contingents with Roger Galloway, Martin Hayes and Julian Walford keeping up the enthusiasm and in October 2002 even managing to persuade the pilot of the Stornoway Coastguard rescue helicopter to drop half a ton of sand and gravel at the site! In April 2003 a major slump of the bottom section of shoring resulted in a vertical advance of 6m and a rubble slope heading away from the shaft. Luckily this coincided with a “Mendip Invasion” when a massive amount of digging and blasting was done followed by the excavation of many hundreds of skip-loads of spoil by the Scots and consolidation of the remaining 12m of shoring. The slope had by now become a pitch (where Madphil and the writer once hung in mid-air on a luckily emplaced lifeline after the floor collapsed!) and this was equipped with an aluminium stepladder abandoned by the BBC in the Bone Caves following filming of a documentary – hence the title “BBC Pitch”. On a GSG session Colin Coventry, being videod digging by Fraser Simpson, was struck up the backside by a boulder fallen from above. Alas the camera was not on him at the time but his choice vocal outpourings were recorded for posterity! In mid December “14 members (!) assembled at a very wet Rana to remove a record 245 skips. …Another 35 skips were hauled out the next day.”

In 2004 ponding of water continued to plague the dig. In June the Scottish CRO practiced a rescue of an injured digger from the hole using full bags of spoil to replace the victim, Bob Jones, on the vertical sections. Removal of the debris from the now some 20m deep dig using man-hauling methods was now becoming, like the results of Colin’s accident, a pain in the arse.

On 26th February 2005 a record number of bags in one day, 280 were hauled out. It was now very obvious that the complete glacial infilling of the shaft would have to be done and that this would be a very long-term mission. A new record of 281 bags was achieved in five hours on the 30th July. On 31st December yet another fixed alloy ladder was installed – this one purchased from B&Q.

The cycle winch in operation

To speed up digging Roger Galloway invented and installed the Mk.1 Bag Filler on 21st January 2006. This was designed to make the filling of a standard sandbag easier. A human counterweight system was set up on BBC Pitch to haul the full bags up to the ledge at the foot of the entrance pitch. Norman Flux (SUSS, now also GSG) and Mark Brown (GSG, SUSS) then appeared on the scene to revolutionise the dig by installing a purposely-built tandem bicycle winch on the surface and erecting a magnificent staged headgear from scaffolding and emptying platform. This coincided with another Mendip Invasion so manpower was no problem. Filled sandbags weighing 18 kilos were now replaced by specially constructed “kibbles” that would take up to 50 kilos and presented no problems for the cycle winch. The average weight was 36 kilos and it took about one minute to bring a full kibble up from the ledge. The writer built a dry-stone “howff” nearby to act as a shelter and kit store. The new system resulted in a weekend record on 5th/6th August when 359 of these heavy loads came out – about 11.5 tons!

View of site on 2nd January 2007

Taking advantage of these improvements, and also of the new cheap flights from Bristol to Inverness, a BEC team of Paul Brock, Fiona Crozier, Neil Usher, Anne Vanderplank (WCC) and the writer - joined by Tony Boycott (GSG, BEC) and Jayne Stead (GSG) who travelled up by car with the bang – arrived on site in early October. From Sheffield came Mark in a big van full of more digging technology including a kibble-unloading and tipping system. Norman arrived by motorcycle to perfect it and GSG members not involved with a SCRO exercise also turned up. With the dig face partly flooded work concentrated on clearing all the spoil and shoring from the main ledge. Once done a “flume” or chute was installed here to guide the kibbles from the dig face all the way to the surface and a fixed steel ladder installed on the entrance pitch. A strong local team made full use of the “Rana Outdoor Gym” and an even stronger Jamie “Bob” Yuill became famous by single-handedly carrying TWO 7m scaffold poles up to the dig in one hit. Unfortunately he didn’t know exactly where it was and covered an extra half-mile over moorland and peat bog. 505 loads (about 16.5 tons) came out during the week – a tribute to Norman’s magnificent engineering. The usual selection of “ranas” (toads) also came out – without a word of thanks.

Norman Flux installing fixed ladder on entrance pitch
Photo: Roger Galloway

Only a couple of visits were made by the locals before Christmas when the third Mendip Invasion of the year took place with Paul and the writer and Ben Selway and Carley Payne driving north in two white vans and meeting Mark, Hugh Penney, Seb Ryder, Ivan Young, Alan “Goon” Jeffreys, Norman, Martin Hayes, Bob Yuill, Derek Pettiglio and others. Another week’s engineering and digging resulted in a second section of flume being fitted together with an ingenious roller constructed from two galvanized buckets fitted with children’s bicycle spokes and a total of 456 loads out (about 14.5 tons). Some banging and Hilti-capping was also done and a good time had by all. Although the dig face ponded up at one point it suddenly drained and the water rushed off down a narrow rift. The eleven years of effort expended on this remote dig has resulted in hundreds of tons of spoil being hauled out and some very dedicated work being put in by the team. The current depth is about 33m and this is the level of the postulated top of Belh Aven as depicted on the GSG survey produced for Scottish Natural Heritage. It is also the same level as the Bone Caves and halfway to the Claonaite stream-way so even if we have to dig all the way it will only take another 11 years!

We are planning to return in late April on another Mendip Invasion so book now to avoid disappointment. There are several quality caving trips in this spectacularly scenic area and fringe benefits are the hill walking, coastal scenery, best chip shop in the world, best pie shop in the universe, the Inchnadamph Hotel and the An Teallach ales therein, the luxurious GSG bothy and world class sea diving. The whisky isn’t bad either. See you there.

Mindblown in Upper Flood Swallet

Tony Jarratt

“…That cave is one of the wonders of the universe… A monstrous fine cave indeed!”

Patrick O’Brian, Treason’s Harbour

Most B.E.C. members, especially those attending the Annual Dinner, will by now know of the magnificent extensions to this cave, which were discovered initially on 10th September by members of the Mendip Caving Group (see Descent 193, pp 20-22). On this date Tim Francis pushed the final of many desperate squeezes amongst horrendously loose boulders to enter a huge boulder chamber, The Departure Lounge, with a finely decorated and walking-sized stream passage leading off into the distance. Julie Hesketh joined him and they explored some 500m of passage, initially 12m square and with magnificent flowstones, stalactites, curtains, straws and mud formations in abundance. At around 400m the draughting Charnel Inlet may provide a future easier entrance. Unbelievably it took 25 minutes of mainly walking in occasionally 10m high streamway to reach their terminal point and they were very understandably “gobsmacked”. On 30th September a second major breakthrough occurred when a loose section in the roof above the terminal stream sink was passed upwards into large fossil passage and the beautiful Royal Icing Junction. Here the undecorated but extensive phreatic East Passage was followed for several hundred metres to an airless tube and further on an ascent and descent of calcited boulders led past a superbly decorated and immediately taped-off side passage (see later) and down to a low arch with a muddy crawl leading to the Gothic-arched phreatic tunnel of West Passage. After around 150m of heading due west in practically a straight line they reached a dangerously loose but strongly draughting boulder choke. Partway along this tunnel a couple of calcited boulders in a side passage concealed a possible way into a stream passage below, from which emanated the roar of water – Chuckle Choke. The team of Tim, Julie, Mike Richardson, Bill Chadwick, Doug Harris, Mark Ward, Peat Bennett, Ben Cooper, Brian Snell and Korean caver Dangwoo Park had explored, by the end of October, about 1.4km of stunning new cave system which, added to the old cave, gave a total length of some 2km. This was a tremendous result and a suitable reward for their tenacious digging efforts over the last two years – and that of their fellow club members, particularly the late Malcolm Cotter, over the last thirty-eight years! The “ Blackmoor Master Cave” – as predicted by Malcolm – was now a reality and well on its way towards linking up with the Cheddar River Cave, picking up the great swallet caves of the Charterhouse and Tynings areas en route.

The team had had a couple of close calls in both the breakthrough choke and that in the terminal West End Chamber and decided that they needed advice from an expendable old git as to the best way of making them safe and on how best to get through the latter choke. Your scribe was delighted to be invited along in this capacity and had the special job requirements of being skinny as a rake and armed to the teeth with drill and bang. Thus, on 1st December he joined Julie, Bill and Mike for an 8½ hour trip. Having last visited this cave as photographic assistant to Paul Deakin on 7th May 1988 all memories of the nastier bits had been erased. Following recent heavy rain the Canal in the old cave and the streamway in the extension were higher than usual necessitating the wearing of thermals and Neofleece. Most of the regular diggers prefer to wear two fleece suits due to the cold and draughty conditions.

Once past Golden Chamber the series of tight, awkward and loose squeezes amongst boulders was negotiated with occasional pauses to shore up the more dodgy ones with convenient rocks. The tongue-in-cheek “Easysqueeze” was struggled down through and the magnificent stream passage beyond entered after about 1½ hours of generally grim caving. From then on we shouldered our by now detested tackle bags and basically strolled along the ample and highly scenic main drain admiring massive bridges of calcited stream debris and flowstone overhead. The odd boulder climb or low, wet bit merely emphasised the ease of the rest of the passage. At Charnel Inlet we paused for the writer to undertake a scientific draught test (fag break) resulting in the airflow being noted as heading towards the surface – possibly via the old M.C.G. discovery of the mined natural rift at Charnel Shaft. If permission is granted this will be dug in the hope of providing an easier entrance and essential rescue route as at present any fairly serious injury would, in the writer’s opinion, prove fatal without the use of a drilling rig to drop a shaft directly into the extension. An exit via the breakthrough choke is simply not an option. With the amount of loose rock in this practically virgin cave, both underfoot and on ledges or overhead, the chances of broken bones are high and the team have already got away lightly.

At the point 550m from the breakthrough squeeze, where the main stream is lost in an impassable tube, we climbed up into the higher levels and followed more superb passage to the beautifully decorated Royal Icing Junction where the plan was for Julie and Bill to survey East Passage while Mike and your scribe went West. Julie then remembered the taped-off, formation encrusted crawl, Neverland, to the left of the slope down to West Passage and decided to have a quick look after doffing her oversuit, wellies and gloves. We left them to it and pressed on to West End Chamber where the large fallen slab that had failed to squash the diggers received two long shot-holes and a dose of 40gm cord with a no.4 detonator attached. This was fired from back down West Passage, which acted like a giant gun barrel. Mike was most impressed with the ear-shattering detonation and distinct shock wave. Highly satisfied we dragged the bang wire back to the diminutive Chuckle Choke where we were surprised to meet the others – twitching with excitement and impatient to drag us off to inspect the 150m or so of mind-boggling passage discovered by Julie. We were not going to complain so a hasty charge of 12 and 40gm cord was wrapped around and between the two offending boulders (the drill battery having run out of power) and fired by Julie from the base of the calcited slope. She, also, was impressed when the earth moved for her but desperate to discover more wonders so minutes later we were all minus wellies and oversuits and creeping carefully between pure white pristine formations into a low, crystal-lined canal. Julie had already cut her unprotected hands on the floor crystals so this time we all wore gloves after swilling them in a nearby pool. Much of the next 100m had once been a much deeper pool with the result that inverted, crystalline “bullrush” formations proliferated and the walls below the ancient water level were a veritable jewel box. Straws, stalactites and helictites in profusion decorated the ceiling throughout and necessitated extreme care. I truly believe that Julie has discovered one of the most beautiful continuously decorated sections of cave passage in Britain – if not THE best. Passing through this lot was a slow-motion nightmare and bloody (literally) sharp on the hands, knees and un-booted feet.

Eventually we emerged into a magnificently adorned and very high junction chamber with the way on down to the left and a superb flowstone slope pouring down from a major inlet up to the right. While the others poked about below I gingerly climbed this in my wetsocks and with a clear conscience as the fantastic triangular crystals in the floor had a curious black, speckled staining in places on which one could walk with care. They are similar to those in Happy Hour Highway, Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink (but here in their thousands) and in the Grotte du Grand Roc and Gouffre de Proumeyssac, Perigord. After some 30-40m of steeply ascending phreatic tunnel I reached an awesome pool with dinner plate diameter, pure white calcite bosses in its centre. This was later named Pork Pie Pool for the shape of the bosses and in thanks for Bill’s tasty caving snacks. The others joined me here but the magnificent pool was not crossed as the passage beyond seemed to be solidly blocked with flowstone. There may be high level leads in this area as it was obviously once a main route in from the surface.

We all then continued “downstream”, Mike exploring a muddy phreatic tube on the left which soon ended in a static sump. Just beyond this I scrambled down into a lower canal passage ending in a calcite choke. The main passage continued overhead and this was where Julie had stopped due to a large hole in the floor, which she considered needed protection to surmount. Finding myself in the lead, and blessed with longer legs, I got the job of traversing over the c.6m pit down to the lower passage. This got me to another c.6m drop beyond where an almost vertical flowstone cascade was free-climbed down into a high canal passage with the usual masses of pretties. Further along the continuing bore tube a couple of descending tubes on the left intersected sections of a lower, muddy and relatively small stream passage with a trickle of water. This probably originates in Mike’s static sump and was left unexplored in all directions. My recollection of how far I followed the main phreatic tunnel are blurred by the adrenalin rush of the moment but I realised I was alone and in someone else’s cave so I left a marker and returned to the others. About 3-400m was found in this series today and it was left wide open and 3-4m in diameter for Julie and a different team to return next day.

Feeling highly pleased with ourselves we began the long slog out. I had a struggle pushing my heavily laden tackle bag up through the breakthrough choke squeezes and was glad to see the entrance. My arm and leg muscles ached for days afterwards. Too many soft-option digging trips in Rose Cottage Cave! As usual the best bit was the smug gobbing-off in the Hunters’ afterwards. My overall impression of the system was of being in a Welsh cave misplaced beneath Mendip and at times the trip felt exactly like being on a push in Meghalaya. I’m sure that Julie would agree with this having sampled the delights of Indian cave exploration.

On the following day Julie, Tim, Doug, Brian and Dongwoo carried on from my last point to reach a free-climbable c.6m pitch to reach further sections of the muddy streamway and a climb up to some huge boulder chambers. Another 200m or so was added to this magnificent system to give a total current length (5/12/06) of around 2.6km and making Upper Flood the fifth longest cave on Mendip. I am convinced that this is only the beginning but trips to the various ends of the cave will inevitably become longer and more arduous. To sum it up in Julie’s own words I include a quote from Grampian S.G. newsletter No.129, December 2006: - “I went down Flood on Friday (having taken a day off work to push the place)… We went down “Neverland” – so called because it was soooo pretty we were never going to push it… Erm, ach well. It WENT!!!! For 500m!!!! To the most unbelievably fantastic formations I have ever seen. And we only dug for about 10 minutes with our bare hands moving rocks aside… Wake me up someone; I think I am dreaming…”

Access for non-M.C.G. members will gradually improve as the explorers very rightly mop up the open passages. Several of the club’s Upper Flood leaders have yet to see the extensions but sub-normal body size, experience and stamina are a must for this exacting cave. Alternatively get stuck into a dig in Manor Farm Swallet or join the “Klondikers” anywhere between Charterhouse and Cheddar. There’s plenty more to be found and the lower it gets the bigger it must be.

My grateful thanks to my M.C.G. colleagues for the invitation and for one of the “best trips ever” and my congratulations to them on their discovery of this magnificent Mendip cave system. Keep on diggin’!  

A question for vintage members. In Velvet Bottom, between Upper Flood and Manor Farm and near the old buddle pits on the south side, west of the bend, I have marked on a map a potential cave – Trat’s Site. I suspect that this was a flood sink noticed just after the Great Flood of 1968 but I have forgotten from where I got the information. The grid ref. is ST 5020 5535. Does anyone have any information on this site?

An Adventure with Pat Ifold

When John Stafford suggested that we join the BEC to climb Pat Ifold took us under his wing.

One of his typical outings with us was to load Dave Radmore and me into his old banger and head for the Brecon Beacons. Pat was an ingenious fellow and kept bangers alive although on one occasion a floorboard collapsed under his seat, which left him with little vision, trailing sparks from the metal bits of the seat down Park Street Bristol.

It was 1953. We had bought ex-WD ice axes from Thomas Bests of Bath and we were itching to use them. I couldn't think what we did about crampons and then I remembered that were no vibrams available, we climbed in nails. Pat almost certainly had clinker nailed boots whereas Radmore and I had a species of tricounis which were sharper and could be used on ice. They played hell with the local limestone so there, conscious of conservation, we used plimsoles. We met at the 'Waggon and Horses' St Mary Redcliff Bristol on Thursday evening to plan the weekend and because we worked Saturday mornings and we couldn't go far decided to head for the nearest high hills in South Wales.

We got to a snowy Brecon and sang in a pub until closing time being very careful not to offend the feisty young soldiers from the local barracks, then went of to find somewhere to bivouac. Dave and I found a road-mender's hut built like a gypsy caravan. Pat took one look and slept in his car with a seat removed. We slept well but when we woke we were covered in fleabites. Pat was amused in kindly way!

Breakfast was taken making porridge with melting snow over a primus stove because that's what explorers did. Then we went for the steepest way to the summit of Pen y Fan that we could find. Our nail boots were fine. Our ice axe technique benefited from Pat's teaching so that he ensured we could carry them without transfixing each other; stop or brake if we slipped on a steep slope and fashion steps in ice using pick and blade. And he showed us the several ways of using the axe as a walking stick, ice axe belay or hand hold to help balance on steep snow climbing up - or down. He was keen on being able to descend safely. I suppose he'd been there. Even today I catch myself on the hills remembering Pat's instruction with the long axe, all given in high humour with the Ifold grin.


The route we took was straight up from the base of the east face to a line of cliffs below the summit. You have to imagine the snow. The last part, up a wide vertical crack for about twenty feet, was a memorable way to finish a great experience.

Kangy, October 2006

The Adventures of Zot .1

Over many years we have all been touched by Zot in one way or another [perhaps certain young ladies would like to comment on this!!]also this could be an ongoing corner of the BB where people can recall anecdotes on club members [hopefully discreet ones]!!!!!

Just to clear up a question that many young people ask, Zot got his nickname due to a toy mounted on the inside of the windscreen of his car [I think it was a dice or a devil] he used to pull the elastic down and then let go, making a noise that sounded like ZOT!!!!!!!! So there you all have it.

My first encounter with Zot was a Swildons trip in the 60s when the forty foot pot was still an obstacle to be overcome before exploring the rest of the Cave.[bearing in mind that most people performed in Grots in those days!!] Barry Wilton, Myself, Graham and Zot decided to go to sump 1 and possibly onto Sump 2. I was a relative stranger to the cave at the time having only gone as far as the 2nd water chamber. So off we set with our trusty stinkies and any old kit we could lay our hands on .Zot had an old 2-piece wet suit tied together with baler twine of course. Footwear tended to be government surplus army boots or any old boots that came to hand.[my preference were the ex German Army paratrooper boots part worn of course ,very cheap and tough!!] Having said that these boots would rot away at an alarming rate stitching wise in the dreaded Mendip Water and Mud!!!

We proceeded to the 40 and then onto the 20 ft pitch where Zot directed the flow of water with his foot onto the ladder much to the annoyance of Barry and myself, he then disappeared off into the murky distance with us bumbling on behind.

We then found ourselves being urinated on from a great height accompanied by peals of manic laughter, apparently it was commonplace for him to hide in the upper route and urinate on anyone who passed.

Needless to say when we reached the double pots he knelt in them and gave the impression that they were twice as deep, and then encouraging me to jump!! Come on Mr. Wilson he cried, I did so and nearly dislocated both Hips.

Just before sump 1, he said listen team, has anyone got a spare boot?  [As if we would carry a boot in our helmets!!] mine is broke, holding up his foot showing us the sole, which has become detached from the upper as far as the heel.

The solution was to use half a bootlace and tie the sole up from underneath through the lace holes and hope for the best. We decide that it was time to turn round and make our way back .The 40 ft pitch was interesting, as Zot climbed it with one boot [the sole kept getting tangled in the rungs] I struggled having become completely waterlogged [I was wearing 2 pullovers and 2 pairs of old trousers ] one pullover was a mohair one that really holds the water !!, plus the fact that my stinky had gone out of course !!Thanks to Graham on the lifeline I finally made it. I think he did more pulling than I did climbing.

Graham was also prone to bouts of manic laughter and shouts of Kia Ora, which was a popular orange drink in those days. Why it wasn’t Tizer Corona or Lucozade I will never know. I think that there were a string of crazy animals walking in a line in various positions!! Perhaps someone in the club has a better memory than me and can clarify what the Kia Ora ad was!

Ah well back to the Hunters for beer and boast with a bit of singing flung in [this hasn’t changed!!] looking back I think that myself and Barry were the only sane people on the trip [relatively speaking!!]

Little did we know that these idiosyncrasies would get worse as Zot got older.

PS the cave was really beautiful in those days as the 40 ft pot was a real obstacle to be overcome, not a place for novices or leader groups. So from the 40 onward there was little or no vandalism, its sad to see the extent of the damage today.


Seventy Years of the BEC in Pictures – Part One – 1935 – 1950

Complied and written by Dave Irwin


The final selection of photographs reflecting upon the activities of the BEC over the seven decades since the Club was formed has been made extremely difficult as a result of the tremendous response by members who have submitted a large number of prints, slides, scans and a miscellany of other images. The archives of several older members have been raided to form the basis of the first fifteen years of the Club's activities in pictures forming Part One of this series.  They include an important photographic album left by a great friend of the BEC, the late Sybil Bowden-Lyle.  For the series as a whole contributors include Andrew 'Mo' Marriott, Chris Batstone, Chris 'Blitz' Smart, Tony 'Sett' Setterington, Nigel Taylor, Peter Glanvill, Mike Baker, Brian Britton, Roger Stenner, Angus Innes, Andy Mac-Gregor, Graham Wilton-Jones, Tim Large, Tony 'J-Rat' Jarratt and John Buxton. A few photos have come from the Balcombe Collection in the CDG Library, a further group of photographs are from the Wells Museum collection and for these I thank the Museum Trustees for permission to reproduce them.  And, finally, a few photos have come from my own collection.

In many collections there are pictures that were not taken by the owner and in a few cases the photographer is not known. These images have been listed under the current owner's name. The source/photographer is given as initials at the end of the caption inside square brackets [ ]; e.g. [JR] = Tony Jarratt's collection. Please, if you have any photos that you think important to the activities of the club then send them to me for scanning or send me your scans on CD/DVD at a minimum of 300 dpi. Eventually the photos will be put on CD/DVD and lodged in the Club library.

I am further indebted to Angus Innes and 'Sett' for the help given me by answering my seemingly endless stream of questions. There will be others to be grilled in a similar manner for the later parts of the series.

The notes that follow to introduce this overview of seventy years of the BEC have been largely drawn from Harry Stanbury's early histories of the Club in particular his 'Early Days' published in BB No. 429 and scribbles that I made when visiting Harry at Bude on a number of occasions during the past ten years. The Caving Logbook for this period and the Annual General Meeting Minute Book, which has recently been returned to the Club library, after an absence of many years, has revealed many interesting facets relating to the running of the Club, the people involved and its links to other caving clubs and organisations.

1935 – 1950

The Club was formed in June 1935 by T. Harry Stanbury [member no. 1] together with group of work colleagues. Knowing that Harry had been on a number of caving trips a few of his work mates asked him to take them caving. Although not entirely enthusiastic to the idea he finally agreed. Cycling from Bristol to Burrington Combe, Goatchurch Cavern was their first port of call, which turned out to be a great success. The group formed itself into a small club by the name of the Bristol Exploration Club. Not long after the next problem was how to gain access to the 'deep' caves and obtain the necessary items of equipment.  The solution was simple, or so it seemed – contact an existing caving club in the area and sink the identity of the BEC into it. Contact was made with a member of the newly formed Wessex Cave Club who lived nearby in a slightly more salubrious part of Bristol. The story that follows has reached legendary status, which was that the WCC after a lengthy discussion declined Harry's and the other members' applications to join. In our Jubilee year, 1985, Harry wrote that as the WCC were not interested for the ' … fact that we were a group of working class men and that there were a number of points in the existing societies we did not care about, that we should not associate ourselves with any existing body.'

So having been rejected by the Wessex, as Harry and his friends were not of their kind, they set off and did the obvious. They concentrated their energies into the organisation of the BEC. (note 1) A formal meeting was held in June 1935 and a simple set of rules drawn up, which is basically the same as those used today. Subscriptions paid for the necessary tackle such as rope, ladders and shortly after the 'official' launch' the Club had its official headed notepaper. Our founder members were Harry Stanbury, Tommy Bartlett, Cecil Drummond, Ron Colbourn and Charlie Fauckes. By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the membership had reached about 15 with Dick Bellamy being the Hon. Treasurer who had to withdraw from club activities resulting from a serious problem with his eyes. His last caving trip with the Club was to Lamb Leer Cavern in the company of Harry Stanbury, Bert Allan and Chris Fauckes, under the UBSS leaders Alan Rogers and Francis Goddard of G.B. Cave fame.  Although still small it had been considered by the members that as they were, at first, '… regarded with suspicion and justifiable wariness, which persisted for several years, but once this obstacle had been surmounted we progressed in leaps and bounds and have been doing so ever since.'

Having survived various problems, not least a large fall in the membership due to those who had been called into the armed forces, leaving a skeleton group of two, Harry and Cecil Drummond.  The Club may have disappeared into eternity had it not been for the fortuitous absorption of the Emplex Caving Club whose members worked at the local labour exchange or Manpower in modern terminology. In 1942 things changed for the worse again when membership again plummeted to about six and for a time club activity continued at a very low level although they managed a series of digging sessions at Timber Hole at Charterhouse. However, two men already with a fair amount of caving experience joined the BEC both of whom were to have a positive impact upon the fortunes of the Club not only at that time but for many years to follow. They were Roy 'Pongo' Wallace and Dan Hasell.

No records exist of this important period in the story of the BEC.  A member living at Keynsham was intent on writing a history of the Club obtained all the known records from Harry. When he had finished he bundled the archive and posted them back to Harry. They never arrived. Harry was convinced that they were destroyed along with all the other local mail for at that time 'Jerry' had bombed the mail train between Keynsham and Bristol.


Club trip to Lamb Leer Cavern, c.1940, with [l-r] Harry Stanbury, Alan Rogers [UBSS],
Bert Allan, Francis Goddard [UBSS] and Chris Fauckes. Note the 'lightweight' tackle.
Photo. By Richard G. Bellamy the then BEC Hon. Treasurer.

Club reformed and its organisation

In 1943 the small but dedicated group of members got together and reformed the Club with officers and an outline constitution.  Caving was extremely limited due to the wartime restrictions and demands upon everyone at their work places.  As a result of this a formal record of annual and committee meetings commenced fully reflecting the intent to fully record the activities of the Club.  The allocation of a Membership Number commenced at this time, Harry Stanbury being member number 1.  Cycle and the occasional bus ride to Burrington and to other areas was the normal way of getting to Mendip from Bristol. The trip to Coral Cave on the 26th May 1945 is a typical trip report of the day.  On this occasion 5 members met at Bedminster Down and made a cycle ride to Compton Bishop in just under two hours. Only one incident occurred on the outward ride. This was when ' … a road hog … ' who objected to their monopoly of the road shouted abuse which questioned their  ' … parentage. …'.  The location of the entrance was found after asking the local inhabitants for help – it was to be a few years yet before guidebooks became available.

By late 1944 the Allies victory over the Nazi regime seemed assured and so individual movement became easier and cycling trips to Mendip became more frequent. Various digs were undertaken including a site close to the Charterhouse Rakes and Cross Swallet.

It was at Cross Swallet that an act of piracy took place that was to have a profound change within the BEC. The Club had been digging at the site and when they returned intent on another session they came upon a group from Bridgewater also digging there. The Club was a little put-out but, although a letter of complaint was written to the Bridgewater CC, they all being gentlemen agreed that the dig became a joint effort between the two clubs. (note 2)

Resulting from the closure of the armourments factory at Bridgwater, into which several members of UBSS had joined or were in the process of joining, a number of their group including Sett, S.J. 'Alfie' Collins, John 'Postle' Thomsett, Don Coase, John 'Shorty' Shorthose, Margerie 'Dizzie' Thomsett and Freda Hutchinson among others decided to join forces with the BEC. One of the new intake who was to have a profound influence within the BEC until his tragically early death in 1958 was Don Coase.  His interest in digging, photographic and general exploratory work here on Mendip and in South Wales expanded when his interest extended into the realms of cave diving.  Coase, as a founder member of the Cave Diving Group at Penycae at Easter 1946 brought the BEC and CDG into a close association. It was from the BEC membership that many of the Mendip divers and supporters came, particularly helping organise the various diving operations at Wookey Hole. In addition to Don Coase other BEC divers were Dan Hasell, Harry Stanbury and George Lucy.

The original ink drawing of 'Bertie the Bat', now in the Club library.

Club membership grew by leaps and bounds and in 1946 had reached 80 and by 1948 it was just under 100. With a club of this size it was obvious that sleeping out in the rough or in the straw of Main's barn was now to be a thing of the past and that some form of permanent premises was needed. Not only would it make life more comfortable for members staying on Mendip but it would also act as a focal point for the Club. The committee had come to the conclusion that the ideal site for the Club headquarters would be in the Charterhouse area. (note 3) However, the first was built at Priddy by the side of the track that today leads past the old Shepton Mallet Caving Club hut and on to its present headquarters, The Mineries. (note 4)

The bat has been the club symbol since its formation in 1935 though no headed note paper of this period is known to have survived.  In 1946 'Pongo' Wallace designed the current club insignia, Bertie the Bat, and this has been used in a variety of forms ever since and is now instantly recognisable as the logo of the BEC.

The increased size of the Club enabled the committee to create facilities undreamt of a few years previously. A reference library in 1946, and in 1947 a monthly newsletter was launched, the indispensable Belfry Bulletin, or 'BB' as it is now affectionally known, under the editorship of Dan Hasell ably assisted by the Hon. Secretary Harry Stanbury.  An Annual Dinner was suggested in 1946 but this did not commence until 1950. Until that time members participated in an Annual Dance.  Occasional lectures were arranged and in October 1945 Stan Herman was asked by the Committee to '' approach the 'bone bloke" to determine whether he would give the BEC a talk on his work.  The 'bone bloke' was none other then Professor Edgar K Tratman!

Between 1946 and 1948 two more clubs merged with the Club – the Mendip Cave Club and in 1948 the Clifton Caving Club 1948. (note 5) About this time Don Coase moved to London and it was not long before a London Section of the Club was set up. The idea had been approved by the AGM held on 4th December 1948.  Weekly meetings were held at Harry Stanbury's home in Redcatch Road in south Bristol, but the venue became much too small to accommodate the large weekly attendance as a result of the growing membership. It was thus decided to use the Redcliff Church Hall. (note 6) This was to become the focal point of the weekly Club get-together for quite some time as did the little pub 'The Waggon and Horses' in later years. The story of the Club's fluctuating membership has been well documented in Andy Mac-Gregor's article 'The Rise and Fall of the B.E.C. Membership (1943-2004).' (note 7)

As soon as MRO was reformed at the end of the war, late in 1945, BEC commenced assembling teams or squads led by a leader and a deputy.  Harry Stanbury was the leader and S.J. 'Bozzy' Bosworth was his deputy. The remainder of the team was Dan Hasell, Tony Johnson, John Pain, Tom Bartlett, R.A. Crocker and Gordon Fenn. However, members leaving the area saw some new faces added to the list. The whole were divided into three squads. Party 1: Harry Stanbury [leader], Dan Hasell [deputy], John Pain, Tony Johnson and Les Peters.  In Party 2 the leader was Don Coase, 'Bozzy' Bosworth [deputy], George Lucy and Gordon Fenn. Lastly Team 3 was under the leadership of Pete Stewart and R. Cater [deputy]; the others being T. Pidwell, H. Arnold and J. Chapman.  Teams 1 and 2 contained cave divers – the only club to have such a luxury.

Lightweight Ladders

Photos of the ladder and a sectional view of the rung assembly

Equipment was needed to tackle cave features such as The Forty in Swildon’s Hole, Twin Verticals and, the, then, recently discovered Dolphin Pot in Eastwater Cavern and the two 20m pitches in Lamb Leer Cavern. Harry and Dan produced their own design having become familiar with the French design. Having scrounged all of the required material they set about building a ladder long enough for the Swildon's Forty. Its advantage was that it was lighter than the French concept.

New designs were introduced later but then the taper pin method of locking the rung to the cable eventually became the standard, remaining so until the resin and pin construction became the norm during the mid-1970s. The ladder completed it now had to be tested and what a better place to do it than on the Swildon's Forty Foot Pot. Harry noted the following in the caving logbook; in fact it is the second entry in Logbook No. 1

April 3rd 1943.  A Trip by cycle to Swildons Hole.  The club made its first test of wire & duralumin ladder on 40ft pot & found that the ladder exceeded all expectations. On return journey met party of 7 men & 2 girls in upper grotto & took them out as they were lost. Members Present :- 3. T.H. Stanbury, C.D. Drummond, D. Hasell

Soon after a 20ft ladder was built and that still exists in the club library at the Belfry together with a very frail early Knobbly Dog with wooden finger grips.

Belfry Mk. 1

Belfry Mk.1 in 1946. It is thought that Belfry Mk. 0 is the stone building at the left of the photo.

The 4th January 1946 Committee Meeting discussed the urgent need for a permanent Club headquarters and it was thought that the ideal location of the building should be somewhere in the Charterhouse region. This seems to make sense as nearly all the digging activity was centred on the Burrington area.  However, for reasons I cannot find out, the Belfry was eventually located by The Beeches, to the left of the track and almost opposite the old Shepton Mallet CC HQ.  The land was owned by Mr. Beacham who charged a small rent, payable in six-monthly instalments.  The building itself was located by Harry's first wife, Iris Stanbury and it came from Purdown in Bristol. It was an old derelict tennis pavilion although some believe it to be a cricket pavilion.  This was dismantled and each section taken to Mendip, erected on the site and after several months of hard word it was opened for use.  Land rental was 2/- [10p] per week and payable six months in advance. By March bunks had been installed although, as is commonly shown in later years, there's never enough labour to undertake the workload.  'Pongo' presented the club with a portable electrical generator, which was sent via train and had to be transported to Mendip from the Wells railway station. However, the Belfry went into full use when Don Coase slept in it on the 1st February 1947. Belfry Mk. 1 remained at the site until 1948 when after a few noisy events the landowner requested that the club moved lock stock and barrel to another site, the current site, which was bought by the Club in the mid-1950s.

In the July 1948 issue of the BB a map was published showing members the location of the new Belfry site and that helping hands were needed to complete the building after the move. A hint of further work was given by the fact that it was hoped in the near future that a '… really 'spiv' hut will be reared on the new site.' (note 8)

Moving home: Pam Richards driving the tractor.

Map, first published in BB No. 13, showing the new location of the Belfry

From l-r: Pongo, Pat Woodruff, Betty Shorthouse, Tim Kendrick,?, Jack Waddon
Sybil Bowden- Lylr, Dan Hasell and John Shorthouse c.1949 [Sett]

Tim Kendrick, ?, and Betty Shorthouse inside Belfry Mk 1

The Building of Belfry Mk. II

Belfry Mk. I had its limitations. As the membership grew it became totally inadequate for their needs. A new, larger building was required. During the post war years military surplus goods were coming onto the market as the Government tried to clear its shelves of unwanted material ranging from clothes to tanks. Included in this sell-off were ex-military wooden huts from military camps scattered about the country, which were coming onto the market and it was one of these that was bought through donations from members to become Belfry Mk. II.  The building came from Rame Head in Cornwall and was transported piecemeal and eventually built close to the wall forming the boundary between the Belfry site and Walt Foxwell's farmyard, then a disused quarry. To ensure that work ran smoothly the Club Committee setup a sub-committee to, hopefully, keep the plans running smoothly. An onerous job but the following were elected to undertake the task: John Ifold, George Lucy, Tony Johnson, and 'Dizzy' Thomsett. 'Sett' was elected Chairman.  Tony Johnson was so enthusiastic that he became Hon. Foreman and contributed a series of articles to the BB on his experiences during this exercise.

The foundations for Belfry Mk. II were laid during early January 1949 and on the 22nd January it was ' … Hut Building.  Big Day.' (note 9) Work continued into February 1949 (note 10) when the walls and roof had been finally erected. Lining the inside of the building commenced and felting of the roof was worked on during the last half of May. Later a porch was added.

Building Belfry Mk. II, the last being the triumphant shout “Finished” by Tony Johnson [photos: Al] 





Caving, Digging and Discoveries

The period during which the Club was consolidating its structure and establishing itself as a major Mendip club was also one of its most successful years in which new cave was opened up by members.  By the end of the war members were well aware of many of the existing caves and had undertaken a thorough search of the central Mendip region for potential digging sites.

The trips were quite different arrangements to those of the present.  During the period 1943 to the end of the war members generally went caving after an energetic bicycle ride from various parts of Bristol and in a variety of weather; all of their problems are clearly written up in the relevant logbooks of the day. It was several years yet before members arrived at the Belfry in the comfort of a motorcar or on motorcycles. (note 11)

[Trip] No. 37.  Sept 30th 1944.  Half Day trip to "Swildons Hole". A party of six set off at 14.10 a fine day & a slow trip out [from Bristol] by cycle, against a head wind.  A quart of milk between us at Mains when we changed to go underground.  H Beedle a visitor introduced to the afternoons sport by R. Wallace & making his 1st trip had to make do with the abandoned clothes in the barn as he was let down on the transport of his "Duds" by D. Hasell. A very strong threat of a storm to windward as we went below.  A jolly good look round on the trip down to the Grotto (via the long dry way) we all sat down and burst into song in the chamber & Stan brought out a tin with 6 Mars bars in (one each a peice [sic], all round,)  On to look over the 40 ft a mere trickle going over & then back by the wet way : the lavatory pan had an inch of water in & was a great disappointment but Jimmy Weeks french at the squeeze nearer the surface amused the whole party.  When we emerged in the gathering dusk it was well & truly raining, some more milk, a call at the "Castle" & a dark, wet ride home (some members in their caving clothes) reaching Bristol 22-45.  Members present : Leader R. Wallace, J. Bosworth, S. Herman, J. Weeks, K. Durham. visitor H. Beedle.

The winters of 1947 and 1949 were among the most severe of the 20th century. Snow blanketed the entire country and temperatures plummeted so much that the Thames and the sea froze close to the shoreline.  On Mendip caving continued and with the Belfry now in full use it offered a warm prospect after a good trip.  One of the popular Mendip trips was a visit to Lamb Leer Cavern. A BEC party visited the cave on Sunday 9th March 1947.  Harry Stanbury was the proud owner of a Ford 10 and so he was able to reach the Belfry in relative comfort considering that cars did not have any heating systems on board so that windscreens froze on the inside.  Car heating was a luxury some 15 years hence! Harry entered the following into the caving log:

Deep snow on Mendip did its best to cancel the trip for us but despite the fact the road from the Belfry via Miners Arms was feet deep & impassable we eventually reach LL in safety via Chewton Mendip.  Changing in the snow was a chilly process.

At the entrance the snow had filled the gully & great fun was had digging down to the Trap. - Underground a very enjoyable trip was had, although the ladder being about 8 ft  - - short ... at the bottom, where those already down enjoyed the spectacle of those whose feet seemed glued to the bottom rung. - Returning to the surface hot soup provided by PAES' dad was very acceptable.  S.C.W. Herman was thrown into a deep drift, in his scanties, & party started to break up very happily. - Stanbury, however, stripped his gearbox on the way home & and much fun & games was had pushing one Ford 10 up Horsley Hill & otherwise avoiding every gradient possible. His passengers (Dunncliff (WCC), Stewart & Herman) arriving home exhausted whilst he who was in control of said Ford was still bright & breezy.  THS

After a Lamb Leer Cavern Trip 9th March 1947 – [l-r] Angus Innes, George Lucy,
Stan Herman, Peter Stewart and Harry Stanbury

During the last years of the war several trips were spent visiting many sites at Burrington and Charterhouse and Club members kept themselves abreast of the new discoveries. They noted the 'recently' found swallets near Read's Cavern - Drunkard's Hole and Rod's Pot and the extension in East Twin Swallet where the UBSS opened up the second chamber. Rod's Pot was bottomed and on a later trip a sketch survey of the cave was drawn up by Angus Innes. The knowledge of Burrington Combe and the surrounding area bordering Mendip Lodge Wood gave members clues where to dig.

An investigation was undertaken through Velvet Bottom for potential sites.  Two features identified as 'Sites 1 and 2' were, from caving log write-up, somewhere in or close to the Charterhouse Rakes as well as some work that is said to have taken place at Timber Hole in 1942. (note 12) Site No. 3 was the well-known Cross Swallet, where an excavation had taken place in the late 1930s by the Wessex Cave Club. Brimble Pit was also inspected but not dug by Club members until the 1950s.  Plantation Swallet was worked again in 1949 and limited digs near the modern entrance to St. Cuthbert’s Swallet were undertaken in 1947 and 1949 when Collins and Rice which reached a depth of 5m. (note 13)

At Stoke Lane, the quarries at the northern end of the valley, Gilson's Quarries, were frequently showing signs of cave development and often visited by Angus Innes and others.  John Ifold was fully occupied with a dig in the Lamb Bottom area.

Sybil Bowden-Lyle, Don Coase, Dan Hasell and George Lucy at a diving meet at Wookey Hole, 1948 [LWD]

George Lucy in diving Kit

Don Coase was fully involved with CDG activities on Mendip, South Wales and in the Peak District.  CDG, formed in 1946 at Penycae, was closely associated with BEC during this period. In addition to Don Coase several members were fully involved and trained as divers including George Lucy, Dan Hasell and Harry Stanbury, helped by Sybil Bowden-Lyle and ‘Sett’.  Coase was the first to enter Llethrid Swallet and BEC members visited this on the 24th September 1949

The Forty Foot Pot in Swildon’s Hole usually sorted the ‘men from the boys’. The ‘men’ undertook a trip into the lower streamway and visited the famous Forbidden Grotto on the far side of Tratman's Temple which when passed led to what is now Blasted Boss.  The feature was visited on the 20th August 1944 on a joint trip of MNRC and BEC members.  The MNRC contingent Howard Kenney and Vincent Stimpson were joined by five members of the BEC comprising Stan Herman, 'Bossy' Bosworth, Bob Bagshaw, Len Finlay, Harry Stanbury and Dick Woodbridge.  When the grotto beyond Tratman's Temple had been reached.

... C.H. Kenney & J. Bosworth ... reported a passage at the end [of Forbidden Grotto] blocked by a stalagmited boulder around which a strong draught blew. ... Kenney removed a sample of the strange snow like formation on the floor.  The Stalactites in this grotto are absolutely transparent...

Motorcycles became the popular form of transport during the 1945-1955 period; few owned a motorcar. Caving though wasn't limited to the Mendip sites but regular trips were made to other regions notably South Wales and Yorkshire.  Don Coase also was a regular diver in Peak Cavern at Castleton.

As the membership soared after the end of the war, particularly that with Japan in 1946, digging was fairly widespread. In fact the first 10 - 15 years after the reformation in 1943 was to prove to be one of the Club's most fruitful periods for the discovery of new cave passage.

½ Pint, Ted Mason, Graham Balcombe, ‘Sett’ during the recovery of the
human remains at Wookey Hole [LWD]

Cross Swallet [aka Site No. 3]

Cross Swallet, c.1947 [AI]

On the digging front one of the earliest sites chosen was Cross Swallet with Brimble Pit kept in mind as another possible site. It had been previously dug without success by the WCC during 1937-38.   'Pongo' Wallis proposed restarting Cross Swallet as an official Club dig at the May committee meeting.  After permission was obtained from Mr Main work commenced on the 29th July.  The site was worked by the Club throughout 1944 -1946 and continued on a sporadic basis until 1949.

Swancombe Hollow Hole

Dan Hasell and others had a short-lived dig in the hill south of Blagdon - Swancombe Hollow Hole. Ralph Stride of the UBSS was contacted for permission to work the site and eventually he replied with a number of conditions on behalf of the landowners in July 1946.  However, in the event it seems that little work was ever carried out at the site although a surveying trip was undertaken.

Burrington Combe digs

After a concerted exploration of the Burrington caves a few sites were noted as potential digs. In 1946 Club members began work at two adjacent sites, Snogging Hole and Burrington Hole. They were dug for a short period but because of the close proximity of the road and the fear of boulders falling onto it they were not long after abandoned.  Today the sites are known as Goon's Hole and Lionel's Hole, named after Alan Jeffreys [SMCC & GSS] and Lionel Haines [MNRC] respectively. It has been suggested that Snogging Hole was named after Keith Hawkins, a BEC member who organised the archaeological section for a number of years.  According to Harry Stanbury Keith was also known as 'Snogger' Hawkins because he was the Club's misogynist!  A map of caving sites in Burrington Combe compiled by John 'Postle' Thomsett enabled the writer to identify the sites that were only mentioned by their contemporary names in the 1946-caving logbook in his 'The Lost Caves of Mendip' published in BB 505. (note 14)

Bog Hole

The site was located in a disused quarry but is now filled in and covered by the concrete forming part of Walt Foxwell's old farmyard. A pit was dug and a rift feature was broken into by the UBSS during the August Bank Holiday of 1944.  They also attacked Plantation Swallet, the first working session since that undertaken by MNRC during 1919-1924.  BEC inspected the site in the winter of 1947 and work commenced after it was confirmed that the UBSS [2nd April 1947] no longer had any interest in it.

Tankard Hole [Stewart's Hole]

About the same time that Bog Hole was being worked, Peter Stewart reported to the Club committee [7th May 1947] that permission has been given by Ben Dors [Roger's father] to work a site some 200m east of the Hunters' Lodge Inn, on land owned by ' ... Mr. Masters.'  Work got underway and the committee allocated Club funds cover the cost of timber to line the shaft.  However, work ceased by the new year of 1949 and the site was left ' ... to rest.'

Pat Browne [AI]

Pat Browne and Stoke Lane Slocker

A man with a nose for caves was Pat Browne from Frome. Initially he was a member of MNRC but then joined BEC. Most of his exploratory work took place on eastern Mendip and he was responsible for the opening up of Browne's Hole and Withybrook Slocker. He explored Crystal Pot with Don Coase, a site found by quarrymen in 'Sam Treasure's' Quarry at Stoke Lane.

In 1949 he was at the centre of a colossal Mendip storm involving the digging personnel of the MNRC and WCC who were in the process of pushing Primrose Path in Eastwater Cavern. Pat wrote to Balch at Wells Museum informing him that he had stepped upon a number of toes with great force.

... The true facts are that Jock Broadley and I went down to have a look at the W.C.C. dig that we thought practically finished; we had no intention of going through.  When we arrived at the site Jock had a look at the hole and decided to try it.  The unexpected happened and he happened to get through to the top of pot number one [Primrose Pot - upper section].

Our problem was what to do now, so we kept it dark until we had the chance to see if anything lay beyond; it did, and Mendip leapt into the air and landed on its head, with me underneath. For some time hence I shall be keeping to the East.  My age must be against me : - people don’t like us discovering all the caves for them. I refer to the riot over Stoke Lane and others. It is for this reason that I hope to be able to let you know of some more finds in the very near future. I shall from now on always keep you posted of my activities in this part of Mendip.

For all his caving exploits and upsets his greatest achievement will be the discovery of Browne's Passage in June 1947, which was the breakthrough that was to hurl the fame of the Club to the forefront of Mendip caving. In a letter to Balch he outlined what had been found during May 1946 in the company of a school friend, A.J. Crawford.  Pat had found a way through and opened up the floor of Corkscrew Chamber entering Pebble Crawl.  Though not revisited until the 31st May 1947, the exploration did not end for it was then that Browne's Passage was found.  Pat with two school friends, D. Sage and a J.H.H. Mead, all from Bruton School, cleared a boulder pile and the way on led past the Nutmeg Grater and ended at Cairn Chamber.

Contact was made with Tony [Sett] Setterington and Don Coase.  They both agreed that a follow-up trip would take place on the 7th June 1947 and on this occasion the passage beyond Cairn Chamber was found to lead to a sump pool.  On the 22nd June a strong party was gathered to descend the cave to locate the submerged passage off the sump pool and assess the problems of getting bulky diving gear to the site. Pat Browne was unable to attend but the party comprised Harry Stanbury, Don Coase, Freda Hutchinson, R. Woodbridge and Graham Balcombe [CDG]. 

A human skull found in Bone Chamber [TK]

The submerged passage was located and inspected by Coase who having reached into the sump, said he could feel airspace and without warning disappeared with a ‘... gurgle and a splash ...’ A few seconds later he returned reporting that he had regained the stream that sank at the start of Browne’s Passage.  With that Coase disappeared again followed by Balcombe and Stanbury and together they explored the streamway to reach the boulder ruckle adjacent to Sump II. (note 15)

Two further trips took place during the weekend of 28th & 29th July when the climb up led into Bone Chamber where human and animal bones were discovered by Coase, Fenn and Browne.  Better was to come with the discovery of the Throne Room and its beautiful formations. The entry in the caving log for this date states that they

... pushed into the new series & discovered 9 large chamber, "Willie" and son, parts of two human skeletons, piles of animal bones, smoke-blackened Stalactite & charcoal.  A truely [sic] great day...

Bones of a child brought out of Bone Chamber,
Stoke Lane Slocker [DI]

The discovery of Stoke Lane Two was an important event for Mendip caving and it also received wide coverage in the press. William Hucker of the Bristol Evening Post was to later write a major article on the discovery after a visit with Coase, Browne, Innes and Gommo on the 6th July. Hucker's report appeared in the 9th July edition titled 'Most Beautiful of all Mendip Caves // With Skeleton of Primitive Caveman.'

Don Coase and Geoff Ridyard commenced a survey soon after the discovery of Stoke Two and by June 1947 he was able to report to the committee that the task was going forward as planned.  To assist the surveyors the Club purchased a drawing board and protractors so that the presentational work could continue at the Belfry.  It was decided that the provisional plan of Stoke Lane would be available by the time that the Club submitted its exhibits for a caving exhibition to be held at Bristol Museum during the late Autumn. (note 16) 

Don Coase & Geoff Ridyard working on the Stoke Lane Slocker survey, 1948 [Photo unknown]

The Queen Victoria stalagmite in the Throne Room [DAC]

The Stoke Lane Slocker team [l-r] : ??, Don Coase, Johnny Paine, Pat Browne and Angus Innes, c.1947  [AI]

The Bones and their removal.

Soon after the discovery Balch contacted Tratman requesting him to pay a visit to the cave and assess the importance of the remains.  Tratman undertook a trip to the bone deposits and afterwards wrote to Balch that this was the most disgusting cave that he had visited and vowed never to return! (note 17)

Plans were drawn up to leave the deposit until such time that another way could be found into Bone Chamber. It was generally believed that the bones were too fragile to be moved but equally it was realised that if the bones were left in place they would eventually become damaged if not destroyed.

For whatever reason nothing was done for two years but the preparation of the survey and other activities probably added to the delay.  However in the spring of 1949, Max Unwin, the Honorary Curator of Shepton Mallet Museum and a founder member of SMCC, became aware of their existence. An exploratory meeting was held on the 8th June 1949 between Unwin and Club representatives, Harry Stanbury and Angus Innes, to discuss the possibility of removing the bones. Another meeting was held between the clubs with Hal Perry and Les Peters joining the BEC team.

This preparatory work was a build-up for a meeting with the local archaeologist and BEC member, Ted Mason. The BEC team comprised Stanbury, Innes, Mary Osborne, Dan Hasell and Max Unwin. It was arranged that the main human bones should be removed during the second week of July although Mason subsequently requested that the removal be delayed until the 16-17th July.  Unwin reported that he had talked with Mr. Perkins, owner of the land over the cave who had agreed that the bones could be removed and that a dig could take place in one of the deep depressions over Bone Chamber in order to devise a dry way into the cave.

The joint BEC-SMCC [then known as the Mendip Research Group] trip went to plan until on a climb up over boulders a 24 cwt boulder was dislodged injuring Sybil Bowden-Lyle in the back. Although extremely painful she was able to move through the cave to the entrance. Another trip was planned and this time a joint MCR and WCC trip managed to remove many of the bones packed in lever-lid tins filled with sawdust. (note 17)

Pat Browne, Johnny Paine and Don Coase somewhere in east Mendip, possibly Brownes' Hole

Photographer abbrev: AI = Angus Innes; DAC = Don Coase; DI = Dave Irwin; LWD: Luke Devenish;  'Sett' = Tony [Sett] Setterington; TK = Tim Kenderick


  1. BB 10(104)1
  2. Committee Meeting, 2nd November 1945
  3. Attendance at Committee meetings was taken very seriously and a member would have to have a cast iron excuse for not being present. On one occasion, the August 1945 Committee meeting the minutes state that '… D.H. Hasell being ill, was excused. Mr. Bosworth was absent without explanation. … ' Is there a lesson to be learnt by members of the current 2007 Committee?
  4. However, in BB No. 429, Harry remembered that the first Belfry was a rented old stone shed just large enough for six bunks in 1945-46 very close to where the Shepton Mallet CC had their first HQ.  If anyone has any further details or photos of this do please get in contact.
  5. Belfry Bulletin 2(15)4
  6. Belfry Bulletin 26(293)56-64
  7. Belfry Bulletin 54(522)36-38
  8. BB 2(13)5
  9. Angus Innes diary.
  10. BB 3(20)3
  11. Anyone interested in the Club's past should make a point of perusing these records.  Though the early logbooks and committee meeting minutes are locked away in the library for safe keeping all may be seen using the CD's of the scans undertaken by Dave Turner and the writer.
  12. The source of this fact is in Barrington & Stanton's Complete Caves of Mendip, 1977. Nothing has been found in the BEC archives - yet!
  13. Irwin, David J. et al, 1991, St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Priddy, Somerset, Bristol Exploration Club. ii + 82pp.map.illus.surveys.(October)
  14. Irwin, David J., 1999, The Lost Caves of Mendip.  BEC Bel Bul 50(12) 31-46 (Dec), fig, survey
  15. Coase, Donald A., 1947, Stoke Lane II     Brit Cav 17, 43-45
  16. Exhibition in Bristol City Museum, 24 Nov. to 11 Dec., 1948 - Harry Stanbury's report in British Caver 19,40-42
  17. Tratman, Edgar K., [letter to Balch dated 28th July, 1947] [in] H.E. Balch, Badger Hole Diaries [q.v.], mss 2p.
  18. SMCC Jnl Series 10, No. 5, p.9

To be continued…


Some Dates of Interest:

MRO Warden's meetings (open to all interested parties). All at the Hunters @ 8:00 pm:

Friday 9th February
Sun 13th May
Fri 10th August
Sun 11th November
Sat 10th March - Annual Meeting

MRO Talks - Date to be reviewed.

The History of the MRO, An illustrated talk by Jim Hanwell

Saturday March 24, First aid and improvisation for cavers! A talk by Pete Glanvil

Also a reminder that MRO training takes place on the second Thursday evening and the third Saturday morning of every month.

If you are interested in participating let me know.

Regards Mark (Gonzo) Lumley
MRO Training Officer

Hollow Hills

Drink on!

If anyone, heaven forbid, comments on the amount of beer you consume (See earlier article by Ian Gregory entitled Bloody Students) consider the following sent to me by a Canadian chum.

‘If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year it would now be worth $49.00. With Enron, you would have had $16.50 left of the original $1,000.00. With WorldCom, you would have had less than $5.00 left. With Lucent, you would have $3.50 left of the original $1000.00 but if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, and then turned in the cans for the aluminium recycling REFUND you would have had $214.00.’

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.

Agreed - My only question would be, who the hell drinks beer out of cans? 


Just a reminder about submitting articles: Text files are fine, preferably as a word document. Photos: BLACK and WHITE JPEGS – and make sure the image sizes are reasonable – no 1000cms x1000cms please! I think most, if not all photo packages will convert colour snaps into B and W. Photoshop will get good images down to and below 100kb or so. 







Committee Members

Hon. Secretary: Nigel Taylor (772)
Hon. Treasurer: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary: Brenda Wilton (568)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden / Hut Bookings: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts
Bulletin Editor: Nick Harding (1289)
BEC Web Page Editor: Henry Bennett (1079)
Librarian: Graham Johnson (aka- Jake) (1111)

Club Trustees:
Martin Grass (790), Dave Irwin (540), Nigel Taylor (772) and Barrie Wilton (559)

Ave Cavers!

Fellow associates of the Ancient and Loyal Order of the Bat.

Due to the fact that trawling together an archive of images has proved to be a somewhat greater task to achieve all round than was at first assumed and with the AGM rolling swiftly into view, I have, after consultation with certain esteemed colleagues decided to rattle this out and then publish a photographic history of the BEC over forthcoming Bulletins.

Moving on:

There have been rumours floating about that yours truly was going to pack in the BB editor’s role. (Where do these rumours begin?) At present and for the foreseeable future this isn’t going to happen. Certain work related projects are destined to take me abroad (at an as yet unspecified date) but with the application of broadband and other modern brass- bound contrivances I can still go about my editorial duties undaunted. 

I must bend over and take six of the best trousers down for leaving Bertie off the cover of 525. Not intentional of course. As Jrat was quick to point out he was lurking in one of the caves on the cover. A fine display of legerdemain on that man’s behalf!

It is with great regret that I must inform fellow members that the digging barrel is under serious threat this year as 500 metres plus has been pushed at Upper Flood Swallet by certain members of a certain club.

The cover shows a Stalagmite of ice in the Beilstein Ice Cave in 1881.


BEC Website Report

The BEC website was overhauled a year or so ago. The objectives of the new design were to:

  • - Project a more updated image to the public,
  • - Increase communication to our members,
  • - Provide access to the BEC’s wealth of legacy information.



If volume speaks for itself then we have roughly increased our reach by 1000% compared to 2004. At the time of writing we are getting over a million hits a year, by over 50,000 visitors. The site is hosted on my own hosting package at no cost to the BEC, using a number of open source (read free) software solutions which are frameworked around Joomla, a powerful content management system.

To entice visitors to a website you need to combine a number of factors, which are often listed as breadth, volume and dynamic content. The main source of content that the BEC owns is the entire back issue of the Belfry Bulletin. Sales of back issues of the BB have been zero for many years so we had nothing to loose by publishing them. But how do you get virtually 50 years of printed material into HTML? In a Herculean effort, which was to take 4 years, Andy MacGregor (BEC no 550) converted every single issue into Microsoft Word. All I had to do was convert this into HTML and sort out all the images which contrary to my initial thought proved to be non-trivial. By March every single issue was available on line.

We now also include the ability for current members to download a PDF or HTML version of the latest BB when it is first published. While this isn’t extensively used to date, a number of members have download copies and in the long term this could be used to substantially reduce our printing and distribution costs. I don’t see this as replacing the BB as there will always be members who want to feel the paper in their hands.

The front page of the site has been constantly updated to include news of events and items of interest to our membership. With a static content site when you’ve seen it you’ve seen it. A full -featured photo gallery is online which empowers members to create their own albums and upload their own pictures. We now have a large collection of historical and current images of the club, it’s members and activities.

The only constant these days is change. Back in the days the BB was published every month and our members all knew what was going on. In recent years the BB editor struggles to deliver enough content to warrant publishing more than 3 copies a year. I saw a need to improve communication to our club members and the obvious way forward was to do a monthly email newsletter. The mechanism for achieving this was available early in the year but there was little impetus to use it. Over the summer I had many conversations along the lines of “I’d have been there if I’d know it was going on”. Now that there is a database of users email addresses and a software tool it is a trivial exercise to send a regular email out by email. The first of these was sent out to publicise the highly successful Belfry BBQ and it is hoped that this is adopted as the communication method of choice to compliment the BB.

While most of the content is available to non-members only fully paid up members of the BEC can register and see protected content. To date we have just under 40 members registered online which I believe is a reasonable start. There is considerable scope to enhance the usability and features if demand warrants it. Other current features include a forum, Google maps of selected cave locations, an online address book, a strippable model of what cavers wear and more! Security is one of the key elements of the site and members’ personal details are protected from the general public. The BCA also have plans to develop tools for the caving community including an online membership database system.

As an example of how the BEC is not just a caving club but also a community. Earlier this year I received emails from a Ray Gladman in the States and also his brother Ken in Australia who were trying to track down their other brother Keith who they’d last heard from in 1961. I could see that he was a BEC member from 1960 to 1986 but nobody knew of him anymore. By pure coincidence in July he emailed me about the website and all three were overwhelmed to be reunited.

It’s your club, use it!


Henry Bennett

BB Editor’s Report

Having kept this post now for 3 issues there is not much to add that has not already been mentioned in the editorial intro’s and Hollow Hills.

I have no plans to throw in the towel. I would like to thank Henry B and the Wig for their advice and support.


Agenda For The 2006 Annual General Meeting

To be held at 10.30 am, Saturday 7th.October 2006,at  "The Belfry".

1.       Collection of outstanding Ballot forms (IF AN ELECTION HAS BEEN CALLED).

2.       Election of the AGM Chairman.

3.       Election of Three Tellers. (IF AN ELECTION HAS BEEN CALLED)

4.       Apologies for Absence.

5.       Minutes of the 2005Annual General Meeting.

6.       Matters arising from the 2005 AGM.

7.       Hon. Secretary's Report.

8.       Hon. Treasurers Report.

9.       Hon. Auditors Report.

10.     Caving Secretary's Report.

11.     Membership Secretary's Report.

12.     Hut Wardens Report.

13.     Hut Engineers Report.

14.     Tackle-masters Report.

15.     B.B Editors Report.

16.     Librarians Report.

17.     Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report.

18.     Report of the BEC Trustees 2006.

19.     Result of the Committee Ballot, (If an Election has been held).

20.     Election of Officer's for the 2006 / 2007 Committee.

21.     Destruction of Ballot forms, (If an election has been held).

22.     Members’ Resolutions.

23.     Details regarding the Annual Dinner Tonight.

24.     Any other Business.

25.     Date of the 2007 AGM: Saturday 6th. October 2007

Nigel Taylor,
Hon. Secretary 2005 / 2006.


BEC Membership Secretary’s Report for the Club Year 2005-006

I took over the position as membership secretary after the start of the current year due to the resignation of the previous post holder.

The club currently has 160 members; this includes 27 who have life membership, 14 new members and 5 members who have rejoined.

A decision has recently been made by the committee that in future, members who have not paid their subscription by the 31st December for the current year, will cease to be members of the club and consequently will no longer be covered by the club insurance and will not be eligible to receive the BB. 

We are currently carrying out an exercise to collect club members e-mail addresses that can be used in the future for circulating publications/information to club members. I would ask that all members ensure we have their current e-mail address as we hope in the not too distant future to be contacting as many members as possible by this method. 

Brenda Wilton


Minutes of the 2005 Bristol Exploration Club Annual General Meeting

Annual General Meeting, held on Saturday 1st October at The Belfry, Priddy.

The meeting was opened at 10:35 am.

Item 1: Vince Simmonds (VS) as Hon. Secretary addressed the meeting. Nominations for election to the committee for the club year 2005 – 2006 had been posted earlier in the year and no nominations in the prescribed manner had been received.  There was then handed to the Secretary a nomination from the floor for Nigel Taylor (NT) proposed by Mike Wilson (MW) and seconded Dave Irwin (DI). From the 2004 - 2005 committee – Mike Wilson, Fiona Sandford (FS), Tyrone Bevan (TB), Roger Haskett (RH) and Rob Lavington (RL) – were willing to stand again.

Item 2: Nominations for Chairman were asked for and Trevor Hughes was proposed but refused to stand.  A second proposal by Barrie Wilton (BW) for Bob Cork (BC) and seconded byTB was accepted by BC, the vote was carried unanimously.

The AGM at this time was not quorate and a vote was made to carry on with the meeting.

Item 3: Apologies for absence: Emma Porter, Fiona Sandford, Rob Harper, Tony Jarratt, Mike Baker, Dave Irwin, Ruth Baxter and Tony Audsley.

The following members signed the BEC AGM attendance sheet: Vince Simmonds (VS), Sean Howe (SH), Mike Wilson, Tyrone Bevan, Greg Brock (GB), Crispin Lloyd (CL), Nick Gymer (NG), Nigel Taylor, Dave Glover (DG), Dave Ball (DB), Bob Cork (BC), Vern Freeman (VF), Rich Long (RL), Graham Johnson (GJ), Pete Hellier (PH), Trevor Hughes (TH), Ron Wyncoll (RW), Kevin Gurner (KG), Martin Grass (MG), Rob Lavington, Ian Gregory (IG), Dany Bradshaw (DBr), Roger Haskett (RH), Carole White (CW), Bill Cooper (BCo), Gwillym Evans (GE), Stuart Sale (SS), Helen Scarratt (HS), Chris Smart (CS), Helen Slatter (HSr), Roz Bateman (RB), Barrie Wilton, Colin Dooley (CD) and one illegible signature.

Item 4: Minutes of the 2004 AGM: These had been posted to all paid-up members of the BEC and taken as read.

Acceptance of the minutes was proposed by NT and seconded GJ and carried unam.

Item 5: Matters arising from the 2004 minutes: No matters arising.

Item 6: The Hon. Secretary’s report had been posted with the minutes prior to the AGM.

The report was taken as read and acceptance was proposed by GJ and seconded by TH and carried unam.

Item 7: The Hon. Treasurer’s report was read from the floor and account sheets were circulated at the meeting.  RW asked a question about interest on the Ian Dear Fund and MW replied that he had been unable to follow this up yet but the issue was in hand.  TH asked about sales, MW replied that TB had a separate record for sales.  A remark was made by the Chairman regarding the club assets being unreported to AGM; this should be addressed by the trustee’s.  Expenditure on the BB was questioned by CS i.e. they were high but there had been a lack of bulletins.  This was being dealt with in a separate report by DI/MW.

(The Treasurer’s report was not made available for these records and will need to be published separately)

Acceptance of the report was proposed by RW and seconded by DBr. 

2 abstentions – carried.

Note: Late arrivals made the meeting quorate.

Some discussion followed regarding new KAST proposal (Sports Council initiative?) – to volunteer to council for reduced rates but this may allow other groups open access to the Belfry facilities – which, in turn would mean conforming to certain rules concerning for instance, disabled access.

Proposal: (DBr) directing the new committee to look into this issue and report their findings to the 2006 AGM, this was seconded NT and carried unam.

Item 8: Hon. Auditors Report: The accounts for 2003 – 2004 are fine and have been professionally audited. 

Acceptance of report proposed by GJ seconded by GE.  2 abstentions – carried.

Item 9: The Caving Secretary read his report from the floor.  Some discussion followed regarding the change of title from St. Cuthbert’s ‘leader’ to ‘conservation warden’ and it was suggested it is time for a meeting for those with an interest in St. Cuthbert’s.  TH remarked on the condition of the leat and that some work may be required.  MG stated that the OFD Top permits need to be renewed.

Acceptance of the report was proposed by Sean Howe (SH) and seconded by MW. 

1 abstention - carried.

Item 10: The Membership Secretary’s report and Hut Bookings report were read from the floor by the Secretary.

“It has been a very quiet year with regard to bookings which have come through The Hut Booking System.  The vast majority of people staying at The Belfry are either university clubs of which a good number are also already club members or are groups which just turn up on spec. I did receive one complaint from a group who said that we were difficult to get hold of, this seems a little far fetched when we are accessible by phone, with an answer machine if we are unavailable, fax, email and there is also ‘snail mail’.  We do get back to people as soon as we receive a booking request. We do seem to have a growing trend by “some” university groups in particular of sending emails to a selection of clubs in the area requesting a booking in case they cannot get their booking of choice!  On the whole though, as Roger Haskett will no doubt agree in his “Hut Wardens Report”, The Belfry continues to be relatively well used by a regular group of members and guest clubs.

For the statistically minded amongst you who are fascinated by charts and graphs sadly you are to be disappointed this year – I don’t do them! This being our 70th year has seen a number of old but very familiar faces rejoining the club.  We have also had the passing of Sybil Bowden-Lyle a Life Member for many years who in her younger days was well known for her motorbike antics as well as her caving exploits. Most recently we have lost Joan Bennett a Life Member and former Trustee who was known and admired by many of us as well as being a regular at club social events and also Steve Tuck. Mendip has also been “rocked” by the sudden deaths of Martin Bishop and Mike “Quackers” Duck, both former BEC members. 

The Club Membership as of 1st July 2005 stands at 150 of which we have 24 Life Members (4 Honorary) and 20 joint members (10 couples).  Of the remaining 106, we have 9 who are former members rejoined along with 4 probationary members. 

Overall this has been a quiet year for new members with no previous connections to the club. The membership base of the club remains strong and we have a very active nucleus of members both old and young who either stay at The Belfry and/or are actively caving or digging. 

Should the Club Membership desire then I am prepared to carry on as Membership Secretary for the next club year.  Unfortunately I/We will not be at the AGM normally this is due to work commitments, but this year we have to attend a wedding”

Some discussion followed concerning the term ‘non–caving’ member issued on insurance cards.  A suggestion came forward that a better term may be ‘club member’.

Proposal: (RB) that the committee ask Nick Williams whether the term ‘club member’ could be adopted, seconded by CW and carried unam.

Acceptance of the report was proposed by NT and seconded by TB and carried unam.

Item 11: The Hut Warden’s report was read from the floor.

“Takings are slightly up this year by some £400.  Visitor bed-nights are well up by 112 although member bed-nights are down somewhat by 56.

The main expense was gas at £45.  Some beer came and went as at the 70th BBQ and at last years AGM.  But in general the Belfry covered its expenses.

Thanks due to lots of people for doing work around especially Paul Brock, ‘Bobble’ Mad Phil, Bob Smith and Hannah.  A special thanks to Tyrone and his friend Mick, who have kick started the building of the extension again.”

Acceptance of the report was proposed by TB and seconded by CL. Voting was 28 for and 2 abstentions - carried.

Item 12: The Hut Engineer’s report was read from the floor by Tyrone Bevan.

“The year started by replacing the old water heater in the kitchen with a second hand heater supplied and fitted by Gwilym Evans.  Then due to numerous problems and failures of the main boiler the committee decided time for a new one.  Again Gwilym came to the rescue getting a new Combi Boiler at a good discount.

So with the boiler decided a number of members spent the weekend removing the old system and fitting the new combi system.  Ivan took this opportunity to inspect the wiring in the loft space and duly started cutting and removing old cables and rewiring.  This is the start of an ongoing programme with Ivan planning on inspecting and updating the electrics at the Belfry.  The new heating system has received a good response from members with positive feedback.  The intention is to convert the showers to instant hot water and reintroduce the old stand, alone shower back.

We have also succeeded in getting the footings laid and the slab down special thanks to Dany Bradshaw for time spent laying bricks and all the other members who gave up their time to shovel mud, mix cement and generally move blocks and bricks. In September we have proceeded with the building getting the inner and outer walls up to roof level. The next stage is to put the roof trusses in place so we can build on. I am endeavouring to have the roof on before the bad weather sets in. So we are looking for any members with timber and carpenter experience however small who can volunteer their time to assist in this. An experienced carpenter/ roofer willing to act as foreman and take control of this would also be helpful. We have a replacement door also to fit. We have met our planning regulations but the committee is keen not to loose the momentum.

Although a large amount of materials have been supplied by Trevor Hughes and other members, we still had to authorise the purchase of materials. With cost in mind any donations of timber for the roof or plasterboard would also be gratefully received.

The porch was repaired during the September working weekend this was a joint operation with Vince undertaking to replace the underside and Mike the top felt with Mrs. H on the paint roller. Nigel Taylor brought up his scaffold and with the assistance of Bob Smith and Mr. Haskett (without to much complaining will supply lads with ear protectors next time,” sorry Roger”) erected Scaffold around extension so the builder could carry on to roof level.

The committee also authorised the purchase of three new mattresses this year under the ongoing mattress replacement started two years ago. We have also been kindly donated thirty new mattresses so all the old bedding in the bunkroom has been replaced.

Although I only took on the role as a temporary measure after Paul had to drop out of the position hopefully the Belfry is in good order for the AGM, and end this report on a hopeful note.  I would like to say that with work and busy lives it is not always possible to offer help and assistance with repairs and upkeep of the Belfry but it would be nice to see a new face now and again.”

There was some discussion about the type of roof for the extension – ‘trusses’ or ‘cut’ DBr offered his experience and advice for free when the time comes.  TB will order a skip for a clear up of the Belfry grounds during October.  Regarding the new fire regulations RW seems to think that the club is probably ok.

Proposal: (RW) that the committee look into building a document/file on all aspects of hut safety administration, seconded by TH and carried unam. 

Acceptance of the report was proposed by TH and seconded by DBr. Voting was 28 for – carried.

Acceptance of the Hut Engineer’s report was proposed by GJ and seconded by NT.   

1 abstention – carried.

Item 13: The Tacklemasters report was also read from the floor by TB.

“This year in line with directions from the floor at the last AGM we have purchased two commercial ladders.  Both ladders had new spreaders and karabiners attached to them

The club has condemned a number of old ladders and they have currently been destroyed. The plan is to replace all the ladders removed from service with self made ladders when the extension is finished.  During the last two years we have replaced three ladders and three, life line ropes and the committee has had lengthy discussions in how we can make the equipment more assessable to members. The main consensus is that the equipment should be made easily available, but a need for control (one of the new krabs for the ladders has gone missing already). Any ideas would be appreciated.  With regard to equipment the two club survey kits are pass their sell by date. The club is known for exploration and survey work and this kit is well used both home and abroad. The approximate cost of replacement is £250 per kit and I ask for a proposal from the floor to replace both kits in this coming year.

With this year being the 70th anniversary of the club T shirts have been purchased and anybody still not purchased one I have a number left they can see me after the AGM cost a mere £8.

With regards to the equipment remember the kit is for to use of members and if they require the kit or think of any new kit we need just contact myself or any other committee member.”

Proposal: (TB) to purchase 2 new survey kits up to a cost of £500, seconded by CS and carried unam.

Acceptance of the Tacklemasters report was proposed by GJ and seconded by VF.

1 abstention – carried.

Item14: The Editors report was read from the floor.

“I’m very grateful to everyone who has sent me articles/photos for inclusion within the past BB’s.  Please remember it is a club journal and we need everyone’s input to give a wide range of views and opinions of the BEC.

Due to other commitments and especially my part-time degree course I am very grateful to Dave Irwin who published the last BB.  Due to these commitments I will be unable to stand for BB editor next year.  Although I would still like to encourage everyone to send your articles to the forthcoming BB editor”

A report by DI showed that printing costs were high at Expedite circa £520 while 220 copies printed at St. Andrews Press would cost £180 an annual saving of £1500.

Slug asked the question whether selling advertising space had been considered. The meeting felt that the income raised might be limited.

Acceptance of the Editors report was proposed by GJ and seconded by TB and carried unam.

Item 15: The Librarians report was read from the floor by GJ.

“Not a lot to report, purchased a couple of books.  Received donations from members past and present (see the list circulating) nothing missing/lost this year.  Grande Travesias the Spanish guide book thought to be lost was found by R. Dors on the top shelf in the bar.  Thanks to Dave Irwin for his help throughout the year.  If no one else wants the job I don’t mind doing it for another year”

Acceptance of the Librarians report was proposed by PH and seconded by SH and carried unam.

Item 16: Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report: There was no report and no applications for funding.

Proposal: (CS) that no money be put into the fund, seconded by MW and carried unam.

Acceptance of the report was proposed by NT and seconded by RW and carried unam.

Item 17: Election of Officers for the 2005 – 2006 Committee:

Nominees: Nigel Taylor (proposed MW, seconded DI – 3 abstentions; carried), Mike Wilson, Roger Haskett, Fiona Sandford,Tyrone Bevan, Rob Lavington.

This fell short of the minimum requirement of eight officers.

Voting for committee posts then followed:

Hon. Sec: Nigel Taylor; proposed CS, seconded MG – 2 abstentions; carried.

Treasurer: Mike Wilson.

Caving Sec: Rob Lavington.

Tacklemaster: Unfilled.

Hut Warden: Roger Haskett.

Hut Engineer: Tyrone Bevan; proposed RH, seconded GE – 1 abstention; carried.

Editor: Unfilled.

Membership Secretary: Fiona Sandford

Two posts are unfilled and the remaining committee were elected en bloc proposed DB, seconded DBr and carried unam.

The 2005 – 2006 Committee is as follows:

Hon Secretary………….. Nigel Taylor

Treasurer…………………Mike Wilson

Caving Secretary………. Rob Lavington

Tacklemaster…………… None

Hut Warden………………Roger Haskett

Hut Engineer…………….Tyrone Bevan

Editor…………………….. None

Membership Secretary…Fiona Sandford

If possible the new committee will co-opt members to fill empty posts.

Item 18: There were no Members Resolutions.

Item 19: Nigel Taylor gave details of the Dinner and transport to and from the venue.

Item 20: There was no ballot so no destruction of papers was necessary.

Item 21: Any other business:

Proposal: (DI) that Bobby Bagshaw be made Honorary Life Member for his years of service to the Club, seconded by the 2004 - 2005 committee and carried unam.

NT proposed a vote of thanks for the outgoing secretary seconded by MG and carried unam.

MW announced there was no need to raise subscriptions for the coming year.

CS commented on a lack of communication; it was suggested that he try looking at the web site.

GJ pointed out that we had overlooked voting in the non-committee posts.  A vote then took place.

Non-committee posts:

Librarian: Graham Johnson; proposed GJ, seconded MG – unam.

Hon. Auditor: Chris Smart; proposed MG, seconded DBr – 2 abstentions.

Item 22: The date of the 2006 AGM will be Saturday 7th, 10:30 at the Belfry.

The meeting was then closed at 12:49.

The minutes were recorded and later typed by V J Simmonds

Outgoing Hon. Secretary 2004 – 2005.

(Reports have seen formatted and a spellchecker used consequently they may differ slightly from those presented to the AGM)


BEC Hut Wardens Report 2005-06

The takings are down this year by £98.00, which I suppose is not too bad considering there appears to be a lack of activity on Mendip.

The major expense this year was £120.00 for a skip for one of the working weekends.

Also Gas costs were around £48.00.

I have not been around as much this year, due to the fact that I am no longer living on Mendip and so unfortunately the general state and cleanliness of the hut seems to have suffered as a result. I am hoping that someone will volunteer to take on the job for the next year and so I will be able to retire.

Roger Haskett
Hut Warden

For Your Diary

November 18TH 2006: Slideshow At The Belfry.

Mad Phil will be hosting a slideshow entitled The Last Five Years of Dachstein Exploration.

Venue: The Belfry. Food available (a ha’peth of chips and some Tizer probably).

Be there or have a bloody good excuse! 


Patently Obvious

Apologies for the very bad pun! Once in a while we have to be reminded of how bad some puns really are. Anyway the following is just a small selection of patents that have been submitted in connection with activities underground.  I asked a chum who works in the patent office in Newport if he had anything connected to said activity and he produced a good number, a select few of which I have chosen for this article. So if you have any ideas of your own that can earn the club or yourself a fortune you know where to take your idea.

The patent office, as you can imagine, is swamped with a vast array of silly, foolish and downright bizarre submissions for patents – including, and I kid you not, plastic twigs for dogs, a method of printing using a baby’s bottom and my favourite, a machine for detecting mythical entities such as Father Christmas.   One fellow even tried to patent ‘walking’ so that any living creature that stood upright owed him money.

I have included the last patent as an example of how silly things can get in the heady world of inventing. It is only loosely connected to underground activities. No copyright has been breached in the reprinting of the these articles (before anyone asks!)



I am quite interested to see how a conversation would be carried out between the deceased and their family.  Ed.


The Invisible Sheath Urinal



Hilary and I have discovered the most amazing piece of caving kit that must rate highly on all cavers list of must haves!! We are sure everyone has experienced that dreadful stirring in the pit of the stomach after having consumed 6 pints of Butcombe and then decided to go underground.

There is nothing worse than trying to cave with a full bladder [whether you are male or female] knowing full well that a decision will have to be made eventually.

Some club members openly admit to urinating in their wetsuits stating that it prevents the onset of hypothermia, and by pressing the suit in certain ways can warm up virtually the entire body area [depending on the volume of urine]. But it is not the done thing to urinate in a borrowed suit even if you are desperate!!!!!!!!

The more fastidious cavers I am sure would much rather use a more discreet and definitely less smelly method when it comes to urinating underground.

We are hoping that the BEC will be allowed to conduct some field tests on the MK1 version and I believe that Zot will be only too pleased to volunteer [the intention is to fill him up to eye level with Butcombe first].

The advert only shows the Male version of this device, but the manufacturers assure us that a Female version is being tested at this very moment!!! [The mind boggles] can we assume there will be a Female volunteer also??????? bearing in mind that Butcombe will be supplier free.

I have approached Bat Products and asked Tony to make up an advanced order list. If you wish to remain anonymous he will post it to you in a plain brown parcel to a post box number of your choosing.

Please order quickly as we are anticipating a rush amongst the senior active members of the club.

The Wessex Caving Club has asked if the device can be modified to include a shorter pipe and a 10-oz collector bag. They have not specified any modifications for their female members!!!!!! We have decided to offer a discreet free fitting service to all club members to ensure a snug fit.

Mr. Wilson.

Editors note. Obviously the drawback (a whiff of a pun intended) to this system is that the whole device becomes potentially disastrous on engaging with a squeeze.  Perhaps Mad Phil will have a go with one in Eastwater to test its suitability! 


Rose Cottage Cave – Working on Three Fronts

Tony Jarratt

“Excavation is hard work, and to make a place for oneself underground is no trivial enterprise. Most children are bewitched by the mystery of caves and want a small one of their own to be a private place away from the house, which is not truly their own territory. A natural cave to hand is unlikely, so many start to dig. Few persevere.”

Barbara Jones, Subterranean Britain, 1979

Continued from BBs 522-525.

 Further Digging 30/5/06 - 11/9/06

(To reduce tedium the diggers are represented by their initials and a list of those present during this period is appended. New diggers are introduced in the text. Refer to previous articles for the full team).

Walling of the prospective new entrance shaft continued on the 30th and next day a four-man team installed 110v cables as far as the “Halfway Dig” in the main cave and continued excavating this passage (shown on the sketch survey in BB 524 at the most southerly point and labelled as “possible dig site”). T.J, assisted by T.W. and D.G, dug and broke up rocks in the “Surface Shaft Dig” (alias Rose Cottage II) on June 2nd while P.C. and J.B. returned to Halfway Dig, reporting it to be developing into a rift. Next day the floor of the Surface Shaft Dig was found to drop as an inlet passage came in from the left. The water having drained away this became a pleasant and easy site requiring only the clearing out of clay, gravel and cobbles in a body-sized passage. Monday 5th June saw about 80 loads of spoil and rocks out during an all day session by H.B, T.A. and T.J. with R.W. continuing walling in the evening. A solo trip on the 6th saw 2 loads to surface and another dozen being stacked underground. The passage was now narrow but of standing height.

On the 7th a seven-person team dragged the trusty but heavy submersible pump to the bottom of Prancer’s Pot and after the usual slow start drained the pool to confirm that the way on is not encouraging. Some more work was done at Halfway Dig. Another solo trip to the Surface Shaft Dig next day saw nine bags filled and 3 to surface and on the 9th H.B. and T.J. dug downwards in the floor, removed a couple of large water-worn slabs and, aided by B.S, hauled 33 loads to surface. T.A. and R.W. continued walling on the 12th and two days later T.J. and I.G. shifted another 13 loads while H.D. and H.B, accompanied by B.S. and Hannah Bell, once again pumped out the Prancer’s Pot pool and dug frenziedly to confirm the site as a heavily crystal-coated blind rift with few prospects. It was abandoned and plans made to bang the drain hole instead – “Plan B Dig”.

T.J. was back down the Surface Shaft Dig on the 16th June when a three shot-hole charge was fired to give more working space in the water-worn rift and two days later 22 loads of bang debris were removed when J.N, P.B. and P.C. joined him. Bad air stopped play. Air conditions were still foul next day when he returned with H.B. but 8 loads came out and another three shot-hole charge was fired. On the 21st the air problems were sorted out with the aid of a vacuum cleaner and a strong team of F.C, B.O, S.H, A.L. and T.J. got 23 skip-loads and a huge boulder to the surface. Meanwhile P.B, J.N, P.C. and P.H. retrieved the pump from Prancer’s Pot while J.B, H.D. and Charlotte Harris cleared 13 loads of spoil from Halfway Dig. This was a busy night all round with another five onlookers on the surface making the best of the longest day of the year.

J.C. and T.J. cleared 8 loads and a toad from the Surface Shaft Dig on the 25th. The former removed 4 more, and another toad, next day and the latter unearthed lots more rock two days later from the rapidly deepening floor. R.W. and T.A. continued walling on the 27th and 28th but bent the sheer-legs in their enthusiasm! H.B. also briefly worked at the face and joined P.H, P.C. and J.B. at Halfway Dig. 6 loads came out of the Surface Shaft Dig on the 29th and another 4, one toad and one lizard on 3rd July. Some work was also done at Halfway Dig and walling continued, as it did next day – despite voracious horseflies and a heavy thunderstorm.

Halfway Dig was worked briefly on the 4th by J.B. and new girl Rachel Payne and was the target for the 5th when P.H, T.J. and new boy Matt Blount dug, filled bags and emptied 12 loads in the spoil rift. The passage was now a distinct, roomy phreatic tube and gradually rising. With the limited amount of dumping space available the possibility of heading up into an airspace was welcoming and so on the 7th J.B, P.C, J.C. and T.J. removed 30 loads from the dig leaving the working face sounding decidedly hollow. A solo trip next day saw T.J. bag filling and digging up-dip to a point where the tube ceiling became a gravel and cobble choke. The draught emanating from Prancer’s Pride was today strong and chilling. Sunday 9th July saw P.C, F.C, J.N, T.H, P.B. and T.J. back at the face. 30 full bags went up to the spoil rift and 15 went down for dumping in the now blocked connection passage to Aglarond 2. The dig now presented four options – left, right, up or down! Surface shaft walling operations continued on the 11th when more solo bag filling was also done at Halfway Dig. Here a small airspace was opened up to the right to prove this to be an inlet phreatic tube with a vocal connection to a small hole behind the hauling stance in the rift above. The most promising route was to the left. Next day, Wednesday 12th July 42 more loads reached the dump including probably the largest sandstone cobble yet found in the cave. The six regular diggers tonight were almost joined by Ben Barnett but lamp pox and the Corkscrew put a stop to this. 20 more loads were dumped on the 16th and another 20 on the 19th – all by the usual crowd. The 18th saw the “ATLAS Two” putting in another three hours work on the surface shaft wall in sweltering conditions. J.C. and T.J. dug, filled a few bags and lost lots of cobbles downstream of Halfway Dig on the 21st. P.B. and P.C. filled bags two days later and walling continued on the 25th.

The 27th saw J.B. and A.V. filling twenty bags at the Halfway Dig while H.B. played with his new, metre long drill bit at the Plan B Dig. More walling of the surface shaft was done on the 31st July when the shoring on the south side was at last removed. This work continued on the 8th August.

On 4th August J.C, P.B. and T.J. hauled 31 loads from Halfway Dig and decanted them into permanent spoil bags in the spoil dump above. Next day J.C, on a solo trip, filled nine bags - which were emptied by F.C. and T.J. on the 7th, completely filling the dump below the dig. Five more bags were filled and a large amount of rocks and sandstone cobbles were thrown forwards and downwards for dumping in the last available space before Prancer’s Pot. 20 loads reached the upper dump on the 9th (fifteen more being dug by P.C, H.B. and J.N.) and were painstakingly packed in by H.D. T.J. commenced a concreted wall below the dump using slabs brought up from the dig while P.B, hauling them up, provided a huge and unexpected bonus of building material when the large boulder at the edge of the climb came adrift and had to be dropped down the hole, sealing off access to Prancer’s Pride. It was deemed lucky that no one had been killed or injured previously as all had used this rock as a hand or foothold for several months! A couple of other large slabs were retrieved from the same area and hauled out to make access to the climb much easier.

Our man from Oz, Ray Deasy, hauled the stray rock back into Halfway Dig during a solo trip on the 11th and later that day J.C. and T.J fired off a five shot-hole charge at Plan B Dig.  The evenings of the 12th and 13th saw three shot-holes drilled in the Surface Shaft Dig and a 12gm cord charge fired giving R.W. and T.A. something to inhale when they removed the remaining shoring and continued walling on the 14th. The spoil from the bang was removed two days later (10 loads) and another four shot-hole charge fired by T.J. while, in the main cave P.C, J.C. and J.N. filled sixteen bags at Halfway Dig (12 dumped) and in the depths of Prancer’s Pot H.B. and B.O. cleared bang debris from Plan B Dig, drilled five long shot-holes and nearly croaked from an excess of bad air on this draught-free evening.

The Surface Shaft Dig was re-worked on the 20th August by F.C, Carol McNamara, Barry Lawton, Wally Ufimzew and T.J. when some 20 loads of bang spoil and in-fallen clay came out. A three shot-hole charge was fired and the latter four returned next morning to clear another 17 skip-loads. Lina Ufimzew provided tea and charm. This being the weekend of the excellent Belfry barbecue many visitors arrived on site and a few toured the cave. A return was made to this site on the 23rd when another three shot-hole charge was fired. On the same evening a five shot-hole charge was fired at Plan B Dig and another dozen loads were bagged in Halfway Dig by H.D. and P.H.

The bang fumes were vacuumed out of the Surface Shaft Dig on the 24th and some clearing was done next day when T.J. decided that the best way on had been missed. This was located on the 27th when 27 skips of mainly clay were dug out of the floor below the 2m climb by P.C, J.N, W.U, Neil Usher and T.J. and another three shot-hole charge fired to enlarge the rift. The fumes were sucked out next day but no clearing was done and the shaft was left to the attentions of T.A. and R.W. Clearing took place on the 30th when W.U, N.U. and T.J. got 26 loads out and H.B. drilled two holes. On the same evening T.M. and F.C. cleared most of the debris from Plan B Dig before bad air stopped play and H.D, P.C, B.O, J.N, A.V. and P.H. removed 16 loads from Halfway Dig to the almost full spoil rift. They reported the infill to have changed to wet, loose rocks. Two more holes were drilled in the Surface Shaft Dig on the 31st and another 12gm charge was fired – the spoil being cleared on 1st September by N.U. and T.J. who removed 16 skip-loads of mainly broken rock.

The same duo repeated the exercise next day with another 16 loads removed. On the 3rd 10 more came out, most of these following a mid-day bang and vacuum session. F.C, T.J, P.C. and J.N. were the team. H.B, R.D. and T.J. arrived next day to drag out another 13 and the latter spent time on the 5th prising out and stacking broken rock slabs. Wednesday 6th saw work at Surface Shaft (20 loads out), Halfway Dig (20 loads out) and Plan B Dig where the remaining bang debris was cleared and a view gained into a narrow descending rift. Ten of the regulars were involved and Ben Sellway got to visit the bottom of the family cave – and bash some rocks. T.J. removed 3 loads from the Surface Shaft Dig next day and filled and stacked more bags and skips. In company with N.U. he returned on the 8th when another 20 loads, mainly bags of fine clay, were dug and hauled out. A permanent ring-bolt was installed at the head of the underground climb and this came into use on the 10th when H.D. dug at the bottom while T.H and T.J. hauled out 30 loads, briefly assisted at surface by G.M. and M.W. The way on was now revealed as a passable, clay-filled rift, which had obviously once carried a fair sized stream. Next day T.J. dug, hauled another 2 loads to the surface and stacked twenty more underground. In the afternoon he assisted R.W. with the shaft-walling project with much of the spoil being used as back-fill. News of the magnificent 500m+ breakthrough by the Mendip Caving Group in Upper Flood Swallet boded ill for winning the Digging Barrel but inspired the team to press on with the three digs in an attempt to catch up!

(To be continued in B.B. 527).

New (and resurrected) Diggers      

Charlotte Harris, Rachel Payne (Cheddar C.C.), Matt Blount (C.C.C.), Ben Barnett, Hannah Bell, Ray Deasy, Carol McNamara (Southampton U.C.C.), Barry Lawton (Aberystwyth U.C.C.), Waley “Wally” and Lina Ufimzew, Neil Usher, Ben Sellway, Guy Munnings, Mike Willet.

The Old Brigade

Tom Wilson, Dan Griffin, Phil Coles, Jake Baynes, Tony Jarratt, Henry Bennett, Tony Audsley, Rich Witcombe, Bob Smith, Ian “Slug” Gregory, Henry Dawson, John Noble, Paul Brock, Fiona Crozier, Ben Ogbourne, Sean Howe, Alex Livingston, Pete Hellier, Jane Clarke, Trevor Hughes, Anne Vanderplank, Toby Maddocks.


Hutton Discoveries

Nick Harding and Nick Richards

Gallery Pit Cave

NGR  36035816

During perhaps the hottest week on record the seaside representatives of the BEC made a breakthrough into a small cave, Gallery Pit Cave. Back in the early 70’s Chris Richards and his dig team opened a number of pits in the area on their quest for the lost Hutton Cavern. One of the pits they named but did not open was titled Gallery Pit as the assumption was made that it connected below ground with a gallery they had discovered. The aim was to re-open one of the most likely pits and begin where the previous digs had stopped. On checking this all out with Chris Richards Esq.’ it turned out that this cave was new to everyone.

As it was over the course of numerous sessions of digging we opened up what we thought was a previous dig location but it turned out to be nothing of the sort. We came down on a small bedding chamber with a dip of 55 degrees but round a corner we opened up a steep shaft blocked with boulders from which a strong cool draught was issuing. Realising this was not what we were after we left that location, blocked the entrance (we’re going back there to empty the shaft at some point in the future) and moved on.


Entrance to Gallery Pit Cave

In the passing of the long years memories had faded a bit and opening what we though was the original shaft into the most comprehensive of the systems that C. Richards esq. had discovered and re-directed us to proved once more not to be what we were after. But the cave gods smiled upon us. Several digging sessions later we found ourselves looking into a void. Slipping down a steep slope beneath a perilous slab of creaking rock we found ourselves in a cave complete with walls of deads. We had assumed that this was the ‘gallery’ that the previous diggers had named and that we had re-entered the system described by Richards senior. As it happened it proved to be a new hole with bedding dipping to the west.

On recently re-opening what we thought to be another one of Chris Richards’ digs from the early 70’s some ten yards from Gallery Pit Cave i.e. Blind Pit, we have discovered that the bedding is now dipping more to the south – some interesting geology. Blind Pit has been shut down and the actual location of May Tree Pit – the entrance we were actually looking for has been verified by the landowner who was orbiting the original digs back in the 70’s. We are now in the process of opening that one which will take a while as a large amount of building waste has been dumped in the pit mouth.  The aim being to get back into the system and push a choke.   On September the 24th we re-opened the May Tree Pit Cave – a report in the next BB.

Nick R looking a little possessed in the entrance to Gallery Pit.

Richards in the easy squeeze in the floor.

For safety the cave entrance has been closed up. We may very well return at a later date to examine this cave a little more as the draught issuing from somewhere was cool and fairly strong. Piles of deads and miner’s walls may block a passage or two.

Survey of Gallery Pit Cave. The entrance is upper left.

A plan of the general area – For Hutton Ochre Cave read   Hutton Wood Mine.

Above is a general plan of the pits themselves.



Hatley Rocks - update

Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Below is a survey of what we have so far in Hatley Rock Holes.  When we return to the dig at some unspecified time in the future we will remove the choke between passage 1 and 2 following that with the unblocking of tunnel 3.



Some Mines Of Broadfield Down

Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Cleeve Hill Iron Mines

Cleeve Hill Road, Cleeve, near Backwell NGR 4628 6524

These mines are located in woods just north of the road as it ascends Cleeve Hill. See figure.

Two main open rifts trending roughly east west are intersected by shorter north south cross rifts. There are short underground extensions. They have suffered from considerable tipping and the rifts are now less than 2m deep. The underground passages are probably more extensive.

The mines lie in limestone in an area of fairly intensive 19c iron workings, indeed on the hillside to the south are several groups of deep excavations (Kings Wood Iron Mines). The ore consisted of massive metallic heamatite and its weathered product, red ochre.

Rift 1.  L 58m VR 2m includes 8m underground. A pit 17m to the south and 2.5m deep lies along the same trend as a north south cross rift of rift 1

Rift 2.  L 15m VR 2.5m with 6.5m underground. A completely infilled section some 15m long lies immediately to the east.

To the east the nature of the local ore deposits can be examined at a small vein exposed in the excavations for a new barn. NGR 4643 6520

An east west vein in the limestone <30cm wide contains 4 cm of columnar calcite on either side of the fissure with a central core of massive hard black heamatite. This is streaked with veins and larger cavities lined with quartz. This siliceous content of the ore made it more difficult to smelt into iron.

Littler Plantation Iron Mines

North west side of Littler plantation, Wrington Hill. NGR 4738 6370

Numerous shallow linear trenches trending c west north west mark the sites of infilled iron mines in limestone. One shallow pit contains a festering pile of foxes. Another pit is partly open and is about L 7m

VR 3m, 1m wide. There is much rubbish and this is the home of, by far, the largest rat in the world.

Ball Wood Iron Mine

Ball Wood, Congresbury. NGR 45926410

Shallow north south trench L 9m and 1m deep leads to very short underground section 1.5m long. The small spoil heaps suggests very limited underground work was done.

Corporation Woods Iron Mine

Corporation woods, Congresbury. NGR 4605 6426

In area of extensive iron mining rifts and pits-all filled in.

Head sized hole in bed of track (dangerous for horses). Passage 3m long (?) and 1.5m deep heading north to old infilled mining trench.



Urban Tunnels

By Nick Harding.


The Catacombs of Rome.


When the Nazis were ballistically spanking the crap out of London instead of running away to some mountain retreat a defiant Churchill, the War Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff headed underground. In 1938, on Churchill’s insistence, 3 acres of underground complex with the ability to house over 500 people had been created between King Charles Street and Parliament Square. Though someone, in a display of bureaucratic brilliance forgot to install a decent thunder box, which created its own stink within the hallowed halls of Westminster. From 65A, his war room, Churchill made several wartime speeches and numerous complaints about the facilities. “Give me the tools and I will finish the job.”   

The precedent was set and from that complex numerous tunnels now provide easy access to an unknown number of other Government buildings in a honeycomb of passages beneath the capital. Only a privileged few know exactly their full extent.

The Post Office (Pre Maureen Lipman BT etc) constructed an extensive tunnel system, 16 feet in diameter to provide a bombproof telephone link during the Cold War.  Out of a building near Waterloo Station one tunnel heads to Trafalgar Square and another to Faraday House in the City with a connection from Shoreditch to Shepherds Bush and another to the Kingsway telephone exchange a 100 feet below High Holborn. The Post Office also built tunnels to transport and lose letters in. 

Rumours persist of tunnels under 10 Downing Street enabling the PM and the cabinet to repair to the nearest pub or political fall out shelter. Buckingham Palace is also rumoured to have a tunnel so that the Royal Family in a state of emergency (aren’t they always) can get to Charing Cross for a train instead of thumbing for a lift on the Mall.

The Paris Catacombs

Where do Parisian revolutionaries and members of the French Resistance hide? Under the streets in the famous Catacombs of course. The entrance to these grim subterranean passages, can be found on the eastern side of the Avenue du Géneral Leclerc with a sign that declares ‘Here begins the empire of the dead’. They are approximately two kilometres in length although tales are told of them going further and deeper, as the actress said to l’archdeacon, alors!

What makes these tunnels more bowel squeezing is that a vast number of the City’s previous inhabitants are buried there, or rather unceremoniously stacked up in the walls. In 1785(Dix-sept-quatre-vingt-cinq, Je pense) the dead were literally piling up in the cemeteries so the authorities with their usual universal aplomb decided to dig up the dearly departed and rack ‘em up in the tunnels. The job took a year and a half. Contrary to popular belief the Catacombs are not the dead centre of Paris (bad joke but left in for reference purposes) 

The Count of Artois, later Charles X, thought it would be a blistering wheeze to have lavish parties for his brandy soaked aristo chums in the tunnels.  

The Catacombs have even inspired Blair Witch style videos but with less snot along with urban legends that tell of a society of underclass who live down there in illegal garlic sniffing dens.

Quick fact: Catacomb from the Greek kata, blended with the Latin word accubitorium both meaning tomb remixed with another Greek word kumbe, a hollow.


Our old conspiracy theorists and Dan Brown favourites the Knights Templar spent years digging under this city. What were they after? Apparently the treasure (a few rusty spoons and pyramid souvenirs from Cairo) from the Temple of Solomon. When the Romans were in their ‘not weleasing Woderick’ period – many residents could escape in times of siege or get up to ‘underground’ activities in a network of passages and tunnels. In recent years archaeological expeditions have spent numerous hours trying to get lost in them but have ended up narrowly avoiding international incidents by stumbling into the Muslim quarter and only being alerted to their mistake by the swearing and the banging of broom handles on the ground above them.

A lot of work was done by the Palestine Exploration Fund in the 19th century where numerous explorers spent time trying to work out where everything went. Jerusalem, built on limestone, is in fact honeycombed with natural caves, cisterns called ‘Beers’, (but sadly not full of the stuff) - some dating to 1500 years BC, subterranean passages, pools, aqueducts and quarries.

One of the best examples is the Siloam or Hezekiah’s Tunnel, mentioned in the Bible, which is a tight passage that connects the ‘Spring of Gihon’ to the ‘Pool of Siloam’. It was re-found and explored in 1838 by two Americans on their hands and knees dressed only in wide pairs of Arab drawers, that’s the clothing not an item of furniture. They measured the tunnel to 1750 ft in length. 


Putting aside the possibility that Washington DC was designed by Freemasons (it was in fact a Frenchman named L’Enfant. Ironic n’est ce pas? Freedom baguettes anyone?) around an enormous celestial calendar there are rumours that tunnels permeate the city particularly in the light of recent events like September the 11th and certain overblown salute ridden movies like Independence Day.

Tunnels exist beneath the Whitehouse to allow the Prez (That’s Bush not Elvis) to leave the building the moment anything remotely dodgy hoves into view (national disasters mostly) so he can head off to some remote mountain underground retreat to choke himself on pretzels. There are also fall out shelters and bunkers beneath the Pentagon along with a myriad of tunnels and underground passages that connect, it is said, to all the major government buildings in the city.

Recently the FBI and the National Security Agency were thoroughly embarrassed when it was revealed that there was a tunnel, used for espionage, beneath the city’s Russian embassy. A multi million-dollar secret had been blown open by the FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen.       

Not far from Washington is the ‘secret’ underground base called Mount Weather where the major arms of the government can plot the takeover of the world without interference from conspiracy nuts.   


Scotland’s capital, Auld Reekie has a series of secret tunnels that lead down from the castle to the Royal Mile and on to Holyrood. These tunnels had been lost – (“ ‘What again dear?’ ‘Aye, I must’ve left ‘em on the bus’…”) until they were rediscovered a few hundred years ago whereupon a fellow who troubled the bagpipes was sent down to find out where they went. As those on the surface listened, the sounds of his skirling suddenly stopped and in the best clichéd tradition he was never seen again.    

In a dank and forgotten realm, thousands of people once lived in the grim warren of forgotten subterranean vaults under the city’s Old Town and South Bridge area. Here they spent their entire lives eating rats and drinking piss (now the average Saturday night out all over Britain). It was also the hangout (in a manner of speaking) of ladies of the night, illegal distillers, body snatchers Burke and Hare, who got bored digging things up so started snatching the living, as well as the forgotten citizens who never once saw the sunlight. A whole way of life went on beneath the oblivious feet of the ‘heather-mixtured-ladies-who-lunched’ way above.

Dolphin huggers who haunt ‘Psychic Fairs’ sporting tons of make up and super-Bling claim the vaults are haunted. Well they would wouldn’t they? 


Desperate to get some cash for bootlegged liquor Al Capone, when he wasn’t bashing heads in with baseball bats and dodging the Taxman headed over the border into Canada and up into the prairies of Saskatchewan to avoid prohibition. His destination? The rough sounding shoot-em –up-yeehaw-style town of Moosejaw or as it as it was soon to be known, Little Chicago, which gives you a hint as to the kind of characters that used to waltz around up there.

Old Scarface made use of the tunnels under the streets as the ideal location to hide his home brew. Chinese immigrants who lived and worked out of sight of the long but cold arm of law i.e. the Mounties, beneath the streets of the town had dug out these secret passages in the late 1800’s. Constructed under the business district the tunnels allowed free movement between the shops and stores, kitchens and sweatshops. They ran from the railway station – there was a direct rail link to the Windy City – to downtown Moosejaw. Around the station numerous breweries sprung up and the place was soon a thriving hot spot of gamblers, gangsters, bootleggers and other gentlemen of equally low moral fibre.

Most of the tunnels are now blocked or lost but like a lot of places there’s a thriving tourist trade and where once one could purchase a smashing bourbon nouveau from a foul mouthed cut-throat brandishing a rusty blade one can now buy souvenirs like Al Capone key rings or a refreshing cup of tea. 


Rome like Paris has its Catacombs, in this case those of St Agnes, patron saint of virgins as well as the underground cemetery of St Sebastian near the Via Appia where old St Pete and St Paul are buried. When the early Christians were being thumped about in the late 3rd century they hid underground in their own burial places. The church later turned them into a lucrative way of making a bit of cash on the side, as they became places of pilgrimage.

There are also a great number of underground passages; tunnels and rooms left over from ancient Rome. Not far from the Colosseum, there is the basilica of San Clemente with its underground levels. There are also Nero's famous Domus Aurea (Golden House) with its huge underground rooms still covered with ornate paintings (nothing saucy apparently) and the two-levelled Mamertine prison. 

There are also the numerous passageways beneath the Vatican one of which leads to the Castel Sant Angelo and one under St Peter’s Basilica and many others that go to who knows where. These have recently resurfaced (as it were) in Dan Brown’s magnificently daft yarn Angels and Demons. 

In 2002 American security experts found a suspicious hole in a service tunnel beneath their embassy (sounds familiar) and blamed it on Islamic extremists engaged in some plot to blow the place up. On a raid on the suspects flat the Italian and US Intel bods found a map of tunnels beneath the city.   

Quick fact: It is claimed that there are hundreds of miles of passages, tunnels and catacombs beneath Rome. Some say three hundred and fifty while others claim nearly eight hundred!


120ft beneath the mad-for-it streets a tunnel called ‘Telephone Exchange’ runs 300 yards up St Peter's Square to the Manchester City centre’s Piccadilly Plaza Hotel along with nuclear bunkers and a network of tunnels that spread out under the city. The tunnels have been off the Official Secrets Act since the 70s but most people don’t know about them. Polish immigrants, unable to speak English (but probably Russian) and therefore unable to blab about what they were doing in the pub after a day’s tunnelling, were used to build them in the 1950s during the big ‘Reds under the beds’ paranoia of the Cold War.

In the event of the city being reduced to a crisp by the pesky Rooskies, the tunnels would have be used to maintain links with other cities across the UK. BT owns them now and wants to rent them out. There is talk that they should be opened to the public who can spend an hour or two taking in the heady atmosphere of a bit of cold war asbestos rich ‘archaeology’.

This article (an edited version) originally appeared in ICE magazine, a lad’s mag of dubious repute. Earlier this year it folded still owing me money so I have no qualms about re-printing it here. Ed.



The Hirlatz Hohle edges towards the magic 100km mark

By Madphil Rowsell

This article is about a recent 6 day trip (Feb 06) into the far east of Hirlatz Hohle to continue exploration of leads found during the previous winter trip. The trip comprising a 2 day journey to the pushing front (a distance of some 11 km), two days of pushing, followed by a nightmare 2 day return with all the team falling ill! Approximately 1.5 km of passage was discovered pushing the total known passage in the Hirlatz to 95 km, edging closer to the magical 100km mark.


The Hirlatz Hohle is a large fossil phreatic cave system situated underneath the Hohle Dachstein plateau. Its has been explored since 1927 and is currently some 93.5 km long (prior to this trip), and has a height range of 1077m. During this time, many fixed aids have been carried into the cave to aid exploration, comprising from simple things such as foot rungs, to fixed aluminium ladders, to the audacious Pendler (a hanging bridge and ladder arrangement suspended over a 60m deep canyon). As a result, the “tourist” part of the cave tends to resemble a film set out of an Indiana Jones movie!  It is also well known to British cavers who have for many years tried to find (unsuccessfully) a higher vertical entrance from the plateau into the system, making it one of the deepest caves in the world (upwards of 1800m deep). Figure. 1 shows the complete Map of the Hirlatz Hohle.

During recent years a combined group of Austrian and German cavers have focused their attention to the far eastern part of the Hirlatz. In this time, they have found over 2.5 km passage and last year one of them (Ulrich Meyer) dived a sump more than 11 km from the entrance and found some 400m of passage, surfacing in air space but unable to climb out of the water.  A side passage was also found during this expedition, just before this sump, which was followed for some distance to a potential bolt traverse with possible passage heading off.  This side passage was to be the main focus of this expedition; to complete this bolt traverse and hopefully find a by pass to the sump.  The team comprised of Gottfried Buchegger, Ulrich Meyer, Marcas Preissner, Johann Westhauser and myself (Madphil Rowsell). A reschedule of the trip due to bad weather meant that Joel Corrigan was sadly unable to participate.

Figure 1. Map of the Hirlatz Hohle.

The Trip

Day 1: The trip started with a two-hour slog through snow up to the entrance. From here the trip to the first camp (Säulenhallenbiwak) was reasonably arduous, made more difficult with the 16-20 kg Hirlatz bag on your back. Thankfully the fixed aids in the cave made progress reasonably straightforward. Once we left the “tourist” part of the cave however, the Indiana Jones props started to disappear and things began to take a somewhat more interesting nature. All to often you would be traversing over 30m drops on muddy climbs with no aids or protection. To start with this felt pretty hairy but the deeper in the cave you progressed, the more blasé you became. Finally after 8.5 hours, a 70m pitch down yielded the Säulenhallenbiwak. I have to say I was glad to reach the camp being pretty stuffed with the days trip and the heavy bag.

Day 2: Ulrich and Marcus stayed behind to look at potential shortcut which could greatly reducing the journey time heading out of the cave on the last day. Gottfried Johann and myself continued to head onto the final sump and set up a camp there (Sinterfahnen Biwak). The lads would catch us up the following day. The nature of the cave changed significantly from the 1st camp, having initially to cross numerous lakes on wire traverse lines, then into a series of large vertical bolder ruckles on various levels requiring SRT work, making progress more slow. Finally we broke out into pleasant stream passage which we followed upstream for some distance to the final sump. I was so glad to get here as I wouldn’t have to carry my heavy pack for the next two days!

The 2nd camp (Sinterfahnen Biwak) was in a nice sandy Oxbow just back from the sump – a fantastic spot but one of the first times I have had a real sense of remoteness in a cave. I kept thinking that Ulrich had dived here in 4 degree water and in a wet suit too, truly mad!!! It didn’t take long to set up camp, and then our minds focused on preparation for the following days exploration.

The lead we had come to look at was a small low wet side passage on the far side of a 20m lake, just prior to the sump. An inflatable boat would help to ferry people and gear across the lake to an island just at the start of the side passage. From here the gear would have to be man handled down the side passage (water waist deep) as the boat wouldn’t fit! By evening time, we had a game plan for getting across the lake, the boat inflated, the necessary climbing gear and ropes packed and sorted.

Day 3: The three of us got up early eager with anticipation. Ulrich and Marcus would join us later, haven obviously chosen to camp at one of the earlier camps rather than make it all the way up to our camp yesterday. For the boat crossing, a variety of gear was worn. Gottfried had pontonieres, Johann had a long john wet suit, I had kacks and a cagoule - great! What’s more I ended up being the ferryman transporting all the kit across the lake to the island. In the end it turned out to be great fun once the fears of puncturing the boat and wallowing in 4 degree water had abated. From the lake, down the side passage was pretty grim waste deep in cold water.

With all the gear the other side of the water, a change back into caving gear and we were off down immature stream way, more reminiscent of the Dachstein. Finally we got to the climb and the bolt traverse, an easy 10m climb up and a short traverse over to a big ledge where it looked like passage leading off.  I was really surprised when Gottfried asked if I wanted to do the technical work. Not a problem!! The  climb up and traverse itself pretty straight forward only requiring about 6 bolts to make the ledge, the best thing was that there was indeed passage heading off. While I stripped the traverse and rigged the pitch properly, Gottfried and Johann went off exploring. They still hadn’t returned by the time I had re-jigged things, so it must have been looking good. I caught the guys up to much jubilation as from an initially small grovelly passage, it had broken out into more Hirlatz sized passage. We progressed along surveying as we went. What a find!!

We continued along this passage to a climb down intercepting another large bore passage. A quick initial recce showed that to the left of the climb down it headed down to water with passage heading off, and to the right of the climb down, the passage headed down to a small active stream, but with a climb up leading to more big bore tube. We halted for lunch, and finally Marcus and Ulrich appeared. The climb that they had been looking at the previous day had crapped out and provided no short cut for the way out, but they were obviously excited by this new find. We tackled the left had section first, quite a complicated section of passage which kept dropping down to or having windows looking out to lakes terminating in sumps. In one of these windows, we looked down onto Ulrich’s dive line from last year! A great shame for Ulrich as if he had dived one more short sump he would have been able to have walked out of the sump into the passage we had just found!! For the rest of us however,  I think we were glad that a by pass had been found!!

With the left hand section finished, we turned out attention to the right and the climb up into the big bore passage. After a short while the main bore passage headed down to a large sump pool and disappointedly terminated. Being reasonably late in the day, Ulrich and Marcus decided to head back as their campsite was some two hours the other side of the sump!! I was really glad I didn’t have to make this journey back with them as they would have to do it all again tomorrow!! Gottfried was keen to do some more surveying, so we did another hour or so of tidying up small leads etc, leaving a few more exciting leads for tomorrow, prior to returning to camp. A great day but again pretty tiring.

Day 4: We were all excited and keen to continue exploring, but we waited for Ulrich and Marcus to appear before setting off across the lake and off to the sharp end. The main lead we had was a small passage that took you down into a phreatic zone, close to sump level.  This area obviously flooded regular and stayed that way for sometime as most of the passage had a thick layering/banks of black sump mud. It also turned out to be a maze of passages (most of which disappointingly ended up at sump pools) which was very complicated to understand until the final survey was drawn up. In this zone however, some passage was found heading up out of this sump zone into a series of large chambers above, but no obvious continuation was found. As the day drew to a close so did the obvious leads. Ulrich had been looking at a couple of bolt climbs and while none were drawn to a complete conclusion due to running out of bolts and battery power, none looked really exciting.

Again Ulrich and Marcus headed off early to get back to camp while we remained to do some tidy up surveying, before finally heading back to camp. It was a mix of feelings returning to camp, one of jubilation at the passage we had found, but also sadness that the remaining leads for next year were not wide open passage; some bolt climbs and a very tight, but strongly drafting passage that really needed blasting. Once the survey was drawn up, it might give us some indication where to head back to for a more detailed look to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.

During this night, one of your worst fears when camping underground started – we became ill. It started when I threw up during the night. Great, guess I should have cleaned my pans a bit more rigorously, but when Gottfried and Johann started puking and shitting in the morning, we came to the conclusion it must have been our water supply. The other really bad thing about it was that not only had it given us the shits, it was a bit like flu with no cold symptoms as it completely zapped all of your energy! This was really not what you wanted when you had a 2 day trip to get out of the cave! Still there was only one way to get out of the cave - mind over matter, so we slowly packed up camp and headed out.

When we arrived at Marcus and Ulrich’s camp they were still in bed, also with the lurgy!! The verdict was that we must have all drank some pretty stagnant water from the far end somewhere. We battled on back to Säulenhallenbiwak (the 1st camp), all glad we had made it this far. Thankfully for me, I think I was beginning to turn the corner, but rest still seemed to be pretty stuffed with the lurgy.

Day 6: People had stopped shitting in the morning, but we were all still pretty weak. Each step forward was one more closer to the entrance. Finally after about 10 hours we arrived back at the entrance.

It had snowed quite a bit while we had been in the cave, leaving 3” covering of powdered snow on top of hard packed ice. Not the best for walking down. I had arrived with Gottfried ahead of the others. He headed on first snow ploughing the soft snow out of the way using it as a breaking mechanism. When it came to my turn, I was left basically with a ice floored Cresta Bob run. I tried using my walking poles to slow my descent but they were practically useless and soon found myself flying down the steep slope out of control. All I could do was roll on my front spread-eagled and pray that I came out of this alive!! Thankfully I hit a snow bank before the drops halfway down. I had just finished negotiating these when off I went again screaming my way down again crashing into snow at the bottom off the slope. I was so glad I was still breathing and not off to hospital. Ice axe and crampons next time!! How the others following me got down safely is bamboozling! That brought the trip to a pretty exhilarating end.

The Team: Marcus,Johann,Gottfried,Madphil, Ulrich Photo by: Gottfried Buchegger

One of the fixed aids – a 60ft aluminium ladder climb

Another fixed aid – The Pendler. Photo by: Jogi

Battling the snow up to the Hirlatz entrance Photo by: Flo Blider

The climb up to the Hirlatz entrance. Photo by: Gottfried Buchegger

Gottfried and Johann at Säulenhallenbiwak. Photo by: Gottfried Buchegger

Ice formations at the start of the Hirlatz Hohle. Photo by: Gottfried Buchegger

Madphil cooking at Sinterfahnen Biwak (the 2nd camp) Photo by: Madphil

Heading down the 70m Pitch to Säulenhallenbiwak

The ferryman! Photo by: Johann Westhauser

Exiting from the by pass tunnel to more dry passage. Photo by: Johann  Westhauser

Gottfried doing book. Photo by: Madphil

Madphil bolting across to the window. Photo by: Gottfried Buchegger

Gottfried near the entrance still feeling distinctly un-well: Photo by: Madphil

Ulrich reunited with his dive line. Photo by: Gottfried Buchegger



In summary, the trip in to the far East of the Hirlatz is one of the best trips I have done, pretty hard especially when you are not used to caving with a 16 – 20kg sack on your back. One has only admiration to the team for the passage they have pushed over the recent years in the far East, and even more so for Ulrich’s dive last year – truly amazing. I was exceedingly lucky to have gone on this expedition where we found nearly 1.5km of new passage, finding Ulrich’s dive line, and have several leads to go back this winter (2006/2007). They may not be the wide open passage that one would always hope for, but it is certainly worth a trip back to this pretty awesome remote spot.  Many thanks to the guy’s for letting me have the opportunity to join the expedition.


Hollow Hills

In the last edition I made mention of the point about having just 3 BB’s a year this was a suggestion only and I must emphasise was not meant to be taken as the new Editor’s policy. I threw it out there for feedback. There has also been some debate about club news and its appearance in the BB and that news is only forthcoming when the BB appears.  It has been suggested that club news is delivered as an email-shot or as pages on the website only accessible by club members. To those without email a copy can be sent through the post keeping postage costs down. Personally I am in favour of this method but I must emphasise that it is up to the club as a whole to make this decision.  But this is certainly a quicker way of keeping up with what’s happening!

Finally: Many thanks to the tutors on the EUG Bang weekend who put some of us through our first exam paper in a hundred years! 


The Editor and publishers join in wishing all of our readers a very happy Xmas and a good year’s caving in 1954


Redcliffe Caves Survey 1953

By Alfie

Towards the end of 1952 it was decided to approach the Bristol Corporation to see if the Club could obtain permission to survey the caves under Redcliffe Hill.  These caves were cut into the sandstone of Redcliffe Hill several centuries ago and have been used at one time or another for storing almost anything from slaves to old Corporation wheelbarrows.

There were two reasons for undertaking this survey.  One being that a complete survey no longer exists (although the Corporation posses one of the caves lying under their land) and the other to give members of the club an opportunity to uses cave surveying equipment and methods under something approaching caving conditions.

Permission having been granted, various bods presented themselves at the caves on Wednesday 7th January and we all spent about an hour going around in circles and getting lost generally.  Don Coase then organised a competition for reading an astrocompass with a pint of beer as the prize.  Soon after this we adjourned to the pub.

The next four weeks were spent in getting a line survey of the Corporation’s part of the cave.  We hoped to get two teams working, but owing to Coase’s accident, which put him out of action for quite a time this was rarely possible, and during the two months after this, a team started detailing by means of a plane table constructed for the occasion.

By the beginning of May about half of the cave belonging to the Corporation had been plane-tabled and it was decided to stop work during the summer months.  Since then a large new fall in the part not belonging to the Corporation has caused this part to be closed and it will no longer be possible to survey it.  In addition to this, the members who undertook most of the work are now at a stage where actual surveying down a cave amongst more difficult conditions could be undertaken and so it looks as if further work in Redcliffe has lost most of its point.

However, useful results have been obtained.  As a result of the work in Redcliffe, a plane table has been used on a cave survey (Browne’s Hole) and proved surprisingly useful, adaptable and accurate. And plans are under way for the construction of an automatic plane table, which, if it works, will permit one-man surveying to be carried out.

The most useful result of this surveying exercise will be apparent, however, if it leads to members coming forward to assist in any new caves which might require surveying in the near future.  There is a distressing lack of decent cave surveys on Mendip at the moment, and our own Club’s Stoke Lane survey is still unfinished owing to a shortage of bods willing to take part.  Surveying needs lots of patience and is deuced uncomfortable, but a good survey of any new major cave system the club might discover will help to put the B.E.C. literally ‘on the map’.



Book Review

A Pongo Book Review

Caves of Adventure

By Haroun Tazieff

(Hamish Hamilton, 18/6)

I think everyone will remember the accounts in the papers last summer of the accident in the Grotte Pierre St. Martin in which Marcel Loubers was killed.  This book is written by one of the members of the party who was in the cave when the accident happened.

The cave is the deepest in the world, and may well be imagined from the fact that the entrance shaft is just 1,000 feet, in which there is one small sloping shelf about 250 feet down.  That is quite a start for a cave, but it then proceeds to blossom out into a series of three vast caverns.  The end of these has not been reached, but when the party had to start back they were about a mile from the bottom of the shaft and still going strong.

The accident was due to the failure of the bottom clamps on the winch cable, and Loubens fell about 30 feet.  With a great deal of effort they managed to get the doctor down the shaft but the winch then packed up and 24 hours were needed for repairs.  Lobens died just as they were ready to start hauling him up and he is buried in the cave.  While the winch was being repaired the shaft was laddered to a depth of 800 feet – which was no mean achievement in itself.

As a final episode the winch broke down again with Tazieff about 250 up from the bottom and he hung there for 4½ hours under a young waterfall.

Tazieff was the photographer of the expedition, so there are a number of good pictures illustrating the book.

Please don’t get killed in the rush when Ifold announces that he’s bought it.


Britain Underground

(Dalesman Pub. Co. 7/6)

The successor to Pennine Underground, the scope has been widened to include Somerset, Devon, South and North Wales, Derbyshire and Scotland.  Some of the smaller Yorkshire caves have had to be left out to make room but none of these are important.

The inclusion of a National Grid Reference is very good as the descriptions of how to find the caves were sometimes rather lacking and the stiff cover of the new version should make for durability.



I am looking forward to Pongo’s review of ‘British Caving’ by ‘members of the Cave Research Group’ at 35/- which has been seen recently in a local shop.  The dust-cover carries a picture of Queen Victoria in Stoke Lane.



Photographic Competition

Owing to the lack of interest shown in the Photographic Competition, the closing date has been altered to Jan. 15th. 1954.  Judging by the number of entries to date, it would seem that members with cameras keep them in a glass case and are afraid to take them out in case it is found that they can’t take a good picture with them, despite all that is heard to the contrary.



One Rope Ladder on the edge of Dolphin Pot, Eastwater.  Said ladder standard type, wooden rungs rope sides two lowest rungs close together. The owner can have same by descending Eastwater and bring it up.  My party was much too involved with their own gear to manage it.  Incidentally, ladders left on the edge of drops tend to tempt inexperienced parties to do foolish things, the average ‘amateur’ party having sufficient rope to use as tether.  That crowds of bods can be visualised on rotten ladders without lifelines. A ladder left as this one was is very likely to cause a call out of the M.R.O.



The editor would like to thank all those members whose hard work has made this double number of the BB possible.


Overheard in the Hunters on cold, wet, November evening: -

Hidden enquired, “Where are Tom Fletcher and Fay?”

Dennis Kemp, “Cooking their supper in their tent”.

Chorus of raucous laughter.

Sybil B-L, “Aren’t they awful?”

Dennis Kemp. “I know, but it’s fun when you’re young”.



A report, is a loud noise, e.g. a rifle shot!!

A report is ALSO what we don’t get from cavers.  I am told that a climbing report of 15 words, or thereabouts has been recently received. Good show, lets have plenty more.



The Fish Of Fynnon Ddu

By Tony J.

Being an account of a fishing trip to the ninth chamber of O.F.D.

Owing to the surrounding waters, the inveterate anglers involved were perforce waterborne in a vessel that continually reproduced the motions associated with the average Channel crossing.  Their quarry was the British Standard Fish, Mark 4 (ace cunning drawing by the Fishmongers Guild).

B.B. Fish Mark 4 (subterranean fish)

As a compromise ‘twixt caver and fisher the party were nattily attired in sea boots and jerseys topped off with a

Being B.E.C. types, the idea of chucking their bomb, lure or what have you was too much fatiguing………………so the whole shower rested in ‘quiet meditation’ to await the fish’s pleasure.

Presently they surprisingly found some fish more dim-witted than themselves, and after dragging….

 ….the lure smartly away a number of times  

…. To antagonise the brutes….

….a smart jerk ensured the certain and correct ensnaring of ditto.

Note: A jerk that is too smart will only pull its head off.

As the captive was hardly large or powerful enough to upset the boat, it was left to its own devices while a Belfrian argument on the relative merits of lending net and gaff (see further most expensive drgs.) continued for its normal futile span after which the fish by now thoroughly bored with the proceedings, was hauled in by hand. 


To celebrate this epic feat in true B.E.C. style the party adjourned at once if not sooner for refreshment and good cheer.  This took the form of either many noggins at the bar ……

                                                                           …..or a crafty Guinness in the kitchen depending on day and/or temperament.

Important Footnote:

    Irate water-bailiffs are almost non-existent in the average cave.



The B.E.C. Thrutching Song.

with apologies to The Eton Boating Song.

Submitted by Tony Johnson.

Ed’s. Note.        Tony has been collecting ‘Club’ songs for some time, and in response to my suggestion of several months back, sent in a number for publication.

Squeezed in like sardines together,
Motoring up to North Wales
We’re sure to have horrible weather,
With cloudbursts and blizzards and gales.

Chorus: -
So we’ll all thrutch together
With never a pause or a stop,
So we’ll all thrutch together
And hope we get to the top.

Early next morn we awaken,
At the crack of a watery dawn;
We all feel consistently shaken
We scratch in our fug-bags and yawn.


We crawl out of bed feeling groggy
With mouths like a lavatory drain.
The breakfast is sordid and soggy,
We stagger out into the rain.


Squelching though bogs and the marshes
Pounding up thrutch-worthy scree.
Suffering from fallen arches,
Footrot and housemaids’ knee.


Then up to the climbing we go thrutching,
Over the tottering blocks,
Scrabbling and frantically clutching,
Bombarded by falling rocks.


The rock is slimy and dripping,
We garden in grassy grooves.
Skating and sliding and slipping
Dicing on dangerous moves.


Hanging out over the scree slopes,
Dangling on rotten rock,
Screaming out for top-ropes
Sweating with fear and with shock.


And that’s how we thrutch up together,
With never a pause or a stop.
We thrutch up regardless of weather
And eventually get to the top.



Why go to Iceland

By Thomas E Fletcher.

I am delighted to print the following article and would welcome more of a similar nature.  Ed.

I was invited to join a party of there Cambridge undergraduates going to Iceland this summer.  The aim of the expedition was primarily scientific – studying aquatic insects and making a botanical collection in the northern part of the island bordering on the central desert, for which we gratefully received a grant from the University.  However each member was keen to explore and learn about the country as much as possible and a great deal of time was devoted to this end.  We spent some four and a half weeks there and really got to know the limited area around Lake Myvatn and around Askja, Europe’s largest volcano, some fifty miles to the south.

Everyone knows Iceland is a volcanic island, but did you know it still has active volcanoes – Hekla last erupting in 1947-48?  Volcanic country has to be seen to be believed.  It is a land off great contrast – a land of barren lava deserts and lush green valleys, a land of majestic snow and ice capped mountains and gushing hot springs, a land of magnificent waterfalls and of shimmering calm lakes, and to crown it all, a land of 24 hours daylight in midsummer.  We spent three of our weeks around Myvatn with our base camp in the crater of a small ash volcano.  Myvatnssveit, as the area is called, contains practically every sample of volcanic action, cinder cones 50 feet high and no larger that half an acre in extent to great volcanoes long since eroded into mountains 3,000 ft. high.  Spouts of steam some 50 feet high with boiling and mud pools nearby were not far away over the ridge of a red burnt-out looking mountain with great patches of sulphur occurring on its slopes.  Great lava fields extend to the south west, sometimes with smooth expanse like boiler plates called stratified lava, and sometimes with block lava the other extreme, where it is twisted into all sorts of weird shapes like rock seracs, and impedes progress so that 2 miles an hour is extremely good going.  Often great rock crevasses occur anything up to 30 yards across and 100 feet deep though generally not so spectacular.  Lake Myvatn is quite shallow and has many attractive islets and abounds in trout and ducks.  It is the breeding ground of tens of thousands of wild duck of probably some 20 or more species of which some are North American, and attracts such people as Ludwig Koch and Peter Scott, and is in fact an ornithologist’s paradise.

We took all our food with us and lived on Arctic regions pemmican, porridge oats, margarine, sugar, biscuits, chocolate, etc., to the extent of 1½ lbs. each per day.  This was essential when we went to Askja 50 miles away across uninhabited and often waterless desert.  We were interested in the fauna of the crater lake to see if life had started again since the last eruption in 1922.  We found the water still sulphurous and without insect life. The crater lake is 9sq. miles in extent surrounded in part by 150 foot basalt cliffs and is in places over 1,500 feet deep.  The crater itself is 25sq. miles in extent and is surrounded by mountains and is extremely seldom visited.

In a country practically devoid of sedimentary rocks there are of course no caves of the limestone variety.  However, I spent some few hours caving in the lava.  When there has been a vast outpouring of lava it slowly cools and crusts over and then sometimes the reservoir is broken and the lava starts to flow out leaving an air space up to 3 feet beneath the crust.  Solidification of the newly formed surface starts anew and the process sometimes repeats.  Where the crust is too thin it collapses and then one finds the entry to a magnificent system with several floors.  Around Myvatn there are several acres of such formations and partly filled with water – an ideal place for a speleaologist searching for aquatic insects.

However there are other good reasons for going to Iceland. A delightful 2½ day sea voyage of over 1,000 miles each way for £17 return accompanied by some of the finest food I have ever eaten.  What an advantage it is to have a rest period on board after all the mad rush of finishing off work, organising and packing before the vigorous weeks ahead. Similarly on the return, a rest before the everyday routine starts again is ideal.  The mountains are good from the snow mountaineering aspect, but being made up of layers of basaltic lava, they are very rotten and are not suitable for rock climbing.  I shall go back again sometime taking a vehicle like a Land Rover for the extremely rough roads, and spend some time in the mountains around Akureyil, crossing one of the smaller ice-caps such as Myradalsjokull in the south or Hofsjokull in the centre, and climbing their most beautiful mountain Herdubreid as well as looking at the magnificent fjords of the east coast.

So instead ‘Why go to Iceland?’  I say, ‘Why not go to Iceland yourselves and experience the contrasts of scenery, enjoy weather as hot as Northern Italy with magnificent sunsets and surprises rolled into one and meet some of the most kind and hospitable people in the world?’

Thomas Fletcher.


Song: The Mountaineer’s Duet

Submitted by Tony Johnson.

We’re mountaineers most Disingenuous,
And of ourselves we take great care;
We never climb up mountains strenuous,
When danger looms we’re never there.

But if we see some moderate mountain,
Not too severe, nor yet too far,
We’ll do it in, We’ll do it in,
To show that mountaineers we are.
We’ll do it in, We’ll do it in,
To show that mountaineers we are

We often boast of peaks ascended,
We never mention when we fall,
Our invitation is extended
To all who follow in our trail.

But if some very clever person
Should ever try to call our bluff
We’ll do him in, We’ll do him in,
To show that mountaineers are tough.
We’ll do him in, We’ll do him in,
To show that mountaineers are tough.

We place great emphasis on nutriment,
Our feeble frames we need to feed.
The guide to carry our accoutrement
Must hence proceed at moderate speed.

But when to Ogwen we’re returning
And there are ham and eggs for tea
We’ll do them in, We’ll do them in,
To show that mountaineers are we.
We’ll do them in, We’ll do them in,
To show that mountaineers are we.



The following X-word puzzle has been ‘compiled’ by a bod who hides his glory under the descriptive nom-de-plume ‘Coprolie’.  No prizes are offered and the solution will be published next month.




1. Agen Silaceous Communist (3,3,9)

7. Pops off and on the stage (5,4,6)

10. A short Welshman (2)

11. If you take this you may get a sentence but you won’t get the cake. (7)

14. Superlative of 5, down (7)

15. A pea was a Darwinian subject (3)

16. Jumps to get a cake in a ship (6)

17. Pipes are made from this (5)

19. Traditionally slippery (2)

20. There is one at Glastonbury & several on Dartmoor (3)

22. Logical outcome of getting older (5)

23. 20 across and swim backwards cause one to become inactive (6)

25. This organisation runs Monmouth Hall (3)

26. The ‘Hunters’ engine does this (7)

28. The supply of this was largely frozen during the war, but has recently become more plentiful (7)

29. Pronoun (2)

31. This is not a replacement for a pit-prop, but it does hold up the arch (7,8)

32. A particularly potent liqueur distilled near the ‘Dent de Crolles’ (5,10)


1. Nota missionary work in India.  It’s more like mining (8,7)

2. This cave is not in the Timor Sea; it’s really quite near the Belfry (9,6)

3. Where to find the Hut Warden when tea is served in the morning (4)

4. Lifers are usually this (4,2,9)

5. Caving is virtually banned to these people (5)

6. Say edit shore ore, Sago’s quest after he cracked his elbow (4,2,4,5)

8. Put you 11 across not here (7)

9. Reputedly give a reliable light for caving (4)

12. A vaulted access (4)

13. If there had not been a badly written this would have been the (2)

18. Egoistical boast of the Devil?  No, just his mark (7)

21. Toot a German (4)

24. The Thames (4)

25. In France this may be a squatty or a potty (2)

27. This gets you nowhere caving (5)

30. Calcium carbonate re-deposited in an unsaturated atmosphere (4)


Speleological Research Laboratories Reports

It is intended that reports shall be written from time to time by any club members to publicise any technical information concerned with caving, climbing, etc., for the benefit of all. Each report will deal with a single specific subject, item of equipment or technique and should included details of the evolution and development of the project, together with snags and pitfalls to be avoided; it should also include any lines of approach which have led to no successful conclusion. A report may also take the form of a critical survey of present items, with suggestions for their improvement.

Naturally some of these reports will be of a highly technical nature backed by scientific tests, whist others will more of a service of recommendations and suggestions; this will largely depend on the experimental and testing facilities available to the person involved.  All technical arguments involved should be presented in full, but in a manner that it can be understood by any intelligent person.  To this end it is suggested that authors should get a second person unconnected with their particular interest to read the proof.  (This applies especially to the Boffin types).

A permanent record of these reports will be kept, and the reports of abstracts from then will appear at intervals in the Belfry Bulletin.  It is also hoped that reports of a general interest will be offered for outside publication in the Cave Research Group’s Proceedings or even in publication of our own if the responses is sufficient.  Before any step towards external publication is made, the author’s permission will be sought in every case.

The permanent record will be kept by the undersigned and all contributions should be forwarded to the address given below, where copies of the reports will be passed to the Hon. Editor as required.  It is hoped that in the future all equipment used by the club will be backed by reports on its design, use and serviceability for reference.

Any members requiring information are cordially invited to write in as very probably the information they require is available in some quarter.

A,C, Johnson
46, The Crescent

The following reports are in preparation: -

‘C’ ladder shackles; Fixing of Ladder Rungs; Assembly of Wire Ladders; Tethering; Speleobathometers; Flashbombs; Nife Batteries; Etc.;  What can you add to these.



Focus on  - - -  The New Club Stretchers

By Ken Dobbs

It was decided at a committee meeting held a couple of years back that a stretcher should be included in the club tackle.  This stretcher would have to be suitable for cave rescue of Mendip.  Many existing types were discussed at length, but none of the known types seem to fill our requirements, if it was strong enough, it was too rigid, and rigid stretchers don’t go round corners easily; and so on & so forth; committee meeting followed committee meeting, and the question was discussed, chewed over, deferred till the next meeting, as only a B.E.C. Committee can, until it became obvious we should have to produce something ourselves if we were to incorporate something of all our ideas.

Firstly we approached Joseph Bryant & Co. with the idea that we could get our plans transferred to something practical, but although they were most helpful the initial cost was much higher than we had expected so there’re was nothing else for it – if we wanted a stretcher we should have to produce it ourselves.  There followed further months of discussion regarding materials etc.  Finally a length of canvas was produced and the sewing started; altogether there was about 50 hours of it – on the face of it perhaps it doesn’t sound much, buy anyone who has tried sewing canvas to rope and leather by hand will know that there’s more to it than that.

Then yet another hold up occurred.  It became obvious as the stretcher neared completion that lifting up drop of perhaps 70 feet would not altogether be safe if the lift was to be taken on the side handling ropes.  The only way round this snag was to take a direct lift from the occupant of the stretcher, and undoubtedly this would be best accomplished with a parachute harness. As the main users of such harnesses, the R.A.F. were contacted, and were helpful in putting us in contact with a firm dealing in such contrivances.  After more delay the long awaited harness arrived and was duly fitted.

Half way through August the first tests were carried out at Redcliffe Community Centre.  These were for handling only and went quite well. The following Sunday further tests were carried out on Mendip and handling tests were successfully on rough ground near the Belfry.  As the earlier test had been o.k. it was decided to press straight on with underground tests in Bog Hole.  Bog was chosen because of its convenience and also because it supplies the worst possible rescue condition i.e. a tight cave with and extremely low roof.  The only person to be mentioned in connection with these tests is Pat Ifold who volunteered to be the guinea-pig for our first underground tests, a most unpleasant job.  To move the stretcher and its ‘tenant’ 36 feet took 45 minutes and a team of 4 were just the flakers in that time.  Unfortunately during these tests the canvas showed signs of giving around the handholds, and would certainly not stand prolonged use.  Apart from the weakness of the canvas the design had been a success and a good deal has been learned about the underground handling already.  The damage to the canvas was such that the stretcher would require complete rebuilding and this was more than anyone was prepared to take on, Joseph Bryant’s were again contacted and thee experimental work being already done a lower figure than the original one was quoted and accepted.

The stretcher is now complete and it is to be kept at the Belfry.  It is hoped that it will never have to be used.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Nick Harding

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Hon. Treasurers: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary: Brenda Wilton (568)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden / Hut Bookings: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts

Bulletin Editor: Nick Harding (1289)
BEC Web Page Editor: Henry Bennett (1079)
Librarian : Graham Johnson (aka- Jake) (1111)

Club Trustees: Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Nigel Taylor and Barrie Wilton



Ave Cavers!

Well that wasn’t too bad. Yours truly’s first effort occupying the esteemed chair of editorship seemed to pass without major incident. But I hear cries of ‘just you wait’ somewhere off stage left…


Before I’m collared in the Hunter’s by a rugose soak: In BB 524, at the head of the Hutton article, there was the ‘Caves are where you find them’ quote attributed to Wig. Now it was a true quote from the fellow but as he was quick to inform me it was not a Wig original. In fact, and in the interests of honesty, truth and justice the cavers’ way, this expression was first used by Fred Davies.

Just a brief word on submitting articles via email. Wherever possible can the image files – i.e. photographs etc., be of a small size. In short any file more than a Meg is going to take yours truly hours to download, as he’s still operating a coal-fired computer from the age of steam. I promise to enter the 21st C as soon as the weather permits.

In this issue we have the welcome return, and indeed back by popular demand, some ‘funnies’. Having landed the editor’s position (prone and soaked with beer) through reckless pamphleteering I thought it fitting that the humour that landed yours truly with the job should be continued.


There is still some quiet debate about how many times the BB should come out a year. I, personally, am in favour of three fun packed ones a year, each a good fifty pages or so. This is not due to slackness on anyone’s behalf, most of all your Ed, but I think it’s better not to scrape around for articles for a BB every second month. But I am the servant of this esteemed organ and not its master so what do I know?

One last note. It’s looking increasingly likely that the next (anniversary) edition of the BB (526) will be a photographic history of the BEC so space may very well be limited for articles – in all likelihood these will be saved for the ‘527’. 

Meghalaya  2006

Further Exploration and a New Indian Length Record

Tony Jarratt
Photos by Mark Brown

“They wound this way and that, far down into the secret depths of the cave, made another mark, and branched off in search of novelties to tell the upper world about.”
Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Caving Team

Austria: Peter Ludwig (LVHOO)

Denmark: Louise Korsgaard, Torben Redder (DSS}

Meghalaya: Brian Kharpran Daly (MAA / GSG), Shelley and Lindsay Diengdoh, Babhar Kupar “Dale” Mawlong (MAA), Raplang Shangpliang (Shnongrim)

Switzerland: Thomas Arbenz (SNT)

Ireland: Des McNally (UCDCPC)

U.K:      Annie Audsley (BEC / GSG), Simon Brooks (OCC / GSG), Mark Brown (SUSS / GSG), Tony Boycott (UBSS / BEC / GSG), Imogen Furlong (SUSS), Roger Galloway (GSG), Matt Hutson (GSG), Tony Jarratt (BEC / GSG), Kate Janossy (GSG), Neil Pacey (RRCPC), Dave Hodgson (GSG), Hugh Penney (GUPA / GSG / RRCPC), Derek Pettiglio (GSG), Henry Rockliff (SUSS), Fraser Simpson (GSG), Jayne Stead (GSG), Fiona Ware (GSG), Terry Whitaker (NCC)

The Support Team

Adison “Adi” Thaba, Bung Diengdoh (organizers), Myrkassim Swer (chef), Vinod Sunor, Alam “Munna” Khan, Zobeda Khatoon, Roma Sutradhar, Sansun Lyngdoh, Raju Sunar (cooking team and “swally wallahs”), David Kimberly Patkyntein (driver / organizer), Sharkes Kharsyntiew, Teiborlang Khongwir (Sumo and jeep drivers), S.D.Diengdoh (bus driver), Jonathon Wanniang, Shemborlang Lyngdoh (bus driver’s assistants)

The Local Guides Team

Gripbyman Dkhar (Semmasi), Evermore Sukhlain, Moonlight Patlong, Menda Syih, Carlyn Phyrngap, Shor “Pa Heh” Pajuh, Kores (all Shnongrim), Ekna Sukhlain (Moolasngi) and many other helpful locals all along the Ridge and beyond.

The Media Team

David Laitphlang (PCN presenter and party animal), Andrew Kharpor, Deimaia L. Siangshai, Markin Marbaniang, Marlon Blein (Meghalaya), Pradeep Gogoi (Assam)

The Shillong Party Team

Bill Richmond, Col. Fairweather Mylliemngap, Maureen, Dabbie, Rose and the other Ladies of Shillong, Phong Kupar “Teddy” and Ksan Kupar “Ronnie” Mawlong, Gregory Diengdoh, Gareth, Patrick, Alan, Dennis, etc.    

The Expedition

Abstracted from the official expedition diary with additions from the writer’s personal log and assorted nonsense thrown in for good luck. Apologies for the tedium but the BB and GSG Bulletin are about the only places where these trips get recorded. Earlier reports which give a background to work on the Ridge can be found in BB 516, 519 and 522 and GSG Bulletins Fourth Series Vol 1 Nos 4 and 5 and Vol 2 Nos 2 and 4. Also the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association soft bound history and overview of Meghalayan caving – available from both BEC and GSG libraries. A separate article on the exploration of Krem Labbit (Khaidong) will hopefully be written by Annie Audsley on her return from Pakistan. 

This year’s expedition to the magnificent caving regions of the NE Indian state of Meghalaya concentrated on several systems within the Nongkhlieh Elaka (district) including some old favourites like Krem Liat Prah and Krem Umthloo and the four major new finds of Krem Umsohtung, Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo, Krem Labbit (Khaidong) and Krem Labbit (Moolasngi). Many smaller sites were explored and documented and many more remain for future visits. The main team were again based in bamboo accommodation and tents on the Shnongrim Ridge with a satellite team spending a few days at the inspection bungalow in the nearby village of Semmasi. 15.5 km of passage was explored and surveyed resulting in the creation of a new record for India’s longest cave. This honour now goes to Krem Liat Prah, at present 22km in length and just beating the 21km Krem Umlawan / Kotsati system in nearby Lumshnong. Next year this cave should easily be extended to 30-35 kms and if luck and some very necky theories are on our side a length of 100 kms may be possible. Due to increasing conservation issues a press team were already luckily on hand to record the event and it is hoped that this distinction will assist in the protection of the Ridge and its vulnerable world-class cave systems, unique underground fauna and important subterranean watercourses.

February 5th saw the first batch of expeditionaries reach the capital, Shillong, where preparations for the fieldwork got underway and on the 7th the faithful school bus delivered them to the Ridge.

Next day Des, Neil, Henry and the writer commenced a long and frustrating session of “pot bashing” in the Lum Manar area where Krem Kya 1, 2 & 3 and Krem Siat Kriah 1 & 2 all became too tight at around  –15m and the nearby Krem Shnong Moo required digging to reach open passage.

Thomas continued with his surface mapping and recce project aided by Jayne, Brian, Terry and Raplang. This was to keep him fully occupied for the next three weeks and he only managed one caving trip but his dedicated devotion to this cartographic masterpiece earned him the team’s grateful thanks and a bottle of the finest Glenlivet.

Mark, Annie and Peter surveyed previously undescended pitches in the old favourite Krem Shyien Khlieh (nee Shynrong Labbit) and did further work in this system the following day.

On the 9th the boulder dig in Shnong Moo was passed and 35.5m of cave surveyed, via a tight vertical squeeze – the Nasty Little Twat - to too tight passages and a boulder choke. This was combined with more recce in the area guided by Shnongrim cow boy, Evermore, who pointed out 11 new sites!


Evermore and the writer ponder over the day’s prospecting with the aid of a freshly cut banana (tree)


Many of these were dropped on the 10th – Krem Kya 4 to a mud floor at  -40m, Krem Um Manong 2, where Imo pushed a tight, wet passage to an impasse at -35m, Krem Tyrtong Warim to -23m, Krem Pastor 6 to  -6m, Krem Pastor 5 to  -10m and Krem Pastor 1 – the most promising – which finished at  -35m. Locals reported bottoming this vertical shaft using bamboo rope and a man-riding basket to butcher an aberrant cow, which had taken the long drop.

Krem Poh Um Manong 1, 2 and 3 all ended after short pitches but Krem Um Manong 1 was found to be ongoing.

Mark returned to the long ignored village of Lelad where he relocated several sites and found other promising areas – notably Krem Umsohtung (later to become affectionately referred to as “ Toilet Cave” due to its location in the middle of the village and the noisome effluvia therein!).

Mark, Peter and Imo were looking for a project on the 11th so your scribe gave them a “hot tip” which he had been meaning to investigate for the last three years. Krem Labbit (Khaidong) had been briefly looked at by Martin “Lump” Groves in 2002 but not pushed. A local woodcutter had once told the writer that it was a big cave but no one knew just how big it was to become. Our three heroes (well, two heroes and a heroine) were about to find out in the next few days. Today Imo rigged until she ran out of rope and battery power

Over on the other side of the Ridge the “pot bashers” carried on down a series of short pitches in Um Manong 1 until they ran out of gear at a deep pot.

Krem Labbit: Annie in the main pitch

On the12th Imo returned to Labbit (Khaidong) with Henry and the pair dropped the pitch into a large chamber from where they surveyed 253m of ongoing streamway. They were followed by the surveying team of Mark, Des and Annie who followed a large fossil tunnel from the chamber and surveyed 279m in all.

The pot in Um Manong 1 was dropped for 30m to reach a large and inspiring canyon passage but Neil, Terry and the writer were disappointed when it soon ended in choked rifts (a promising dig) and inaccessible high levels. This is one for the future.

They continued their fruitless quest for an easy way down into the fabled Krem Synrang Ngap extensions somewhere below next day, finding a couple of promising pots and sending Jayne down Krem Warkhla 3 which became too tight at  –12m.

Tom and Peter continued mapping and investigated Krem Lyngtah, a small resurgence cave.

Labbit (Khaidong) had by now become the place to be seen. Imo, Henry and newly landed Viking, Torben continued the downstream survey, being somewhat intimidated by great multitudes of surprised labbits (bats). Another 648m was added to the length of this rapidly expanding cave and on the following day another 995m was mapped in enormous, mud-floored, fossil phreatic tunnels which became even bigger as the teams progressed – stunned by what was being revealed.

Krem Labbit – The Big Choke

Krem Labbit ‘Agoraphobia’

The “Toilet Team” of Mark, Fraser and Derek surveyed 228m of Yorkshire style pitches in Umsohtung while down at flood plain level 193m was clocked up in Krem Lyngtah. Also at this altitude a through cave of 256m, Krem Khuiang, was surveyed by Hugh, Tony and Jane – mainly because it was near the only tea shop for miles!

The stolid, but rapidly becoming pissed off, “pot bashers” bottomed Krem Bir 2 at  -35m, Um Manong 3 at  -15m and Krem Warkhla 1 at  -19m but Krem Warkhla 2 still had hopes. Your scribe had squeezed down into a loose chamber with a boulder and mud floor hanging over a deep pot and today an easier entrance was dug to reach this point but the big pot was not rigged due to fear of major collapse of the floor, walls and ceiling. A Neil was called for…

Krem Umsohtung continued dropping steeply on the 15th when Mark and his team eventually intersected a small streamway.

Back at Warkhla 2 the prescribed Neil was dispatched through the horror story to rig  the big pitch. This shat out at  -30m. Thoroughly discouraged the team decided to abandon their fruitless search and rig Krem Synrang Ngap in preparation for long, sporting and possibly overnight pushing trips to the two downstream chokes. Asking directions from Moonlight Patlong, a local wood cutter, they were shown a deep, banana tree-covered pot just off the main track which your scribe knew was definitely not Ngap. It turned out to be previously unseen despite our having passed it many times over the last few years. With a heartfelt “Sod it!” Neil commenced rigging while his Mendip colleague slept in the sun, thankful not to be a hard Northerner. At  -50m he passed a very tight squeeze to another strongly draughting pot and had some entertainment reversing it. This pot was later found to be Krem Tyrtong Ryngkoo. (Tyrtong – an ancient Pnar word for “summit” and Ryngkoo – a local bird that keeps silent on the approach of people.). Needless to say Ngap never got visited this year as at last the “pot bashers” had got lucky!

Tyrtong Ryngkoo – looking up the entrance pitch

Meanwhile the “Labbiters” clocked up another 627m of streamways and 790m of fossil tunnels – an incredible amount but made easier by the fortuitous possession by Torben of a Disto laser measurer.

Krem Poh Lumthymmai, NE of Labbit, was bottomed at  -14m and Krem Lyngtah pushed to a probably passable but highly dangerous choke.

With plenty of going cave in three separate major systems the frantic explorers were in for a shock that evening and for the next 48 hours as a mini-monsoon hit the camp. Bamboo huts and tents leaked copiously and streams flowed through the dining area while awesome thunderstorms and massive hailstones added to the fun. As all were soaked on the outside equilibrium was gained by getting soaked on the inside as sorrows were drowned along with sleeping bags. The kitchen tent also suffered badly but the cooks worked wonders in the atrocious conditions. The highlight of the day was when top chef Swer apologised profusely for the lack of “desert”. The rain also encouraged the abhorrent Tiger leeches, which this year had staked a claim on the campsite. Several of the team got “leeched” and the nasty little bastards were regularly evicted from tents and sleeping bags.

Luckily the morning of the 17th proved fine and the dishevelled ones dried out themselves and their kit and set off underground or on surface recces.

Neil Pacey in the squeeze

Tyrtong Ryngkoo, being too difficult to remember or pronounce, was soon bastardised to “Turtle Wrinkle”, or, as exploration progressed downwards in tight and horribly loose pitches, “Krem Grim”. Neil did a superb job of rigging this collector’s item especially as the pitches were now as wet as those of the Dales due to the storm run-off. Your scribe used his digging prowess to enlarge the squeeze while Neil dropped several pitches to run out of rope at a c.30m pot.

A photography and bolting trip to Shyien Khlieh was also done today and a team of seven set off for continuing surveying in the incredible horizontal maze of Krem Tyngheng at Semmasi. The waterproof roof of the snug I.B. had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Saturday 18th February saw four “Labbiters” pushing some 30m into the Mother and Father of all Boulder Chokes and taking photographs while another three dropped Kneewrecker Pot 2 in an attempt at a connection. Hugh, Kate and the Danes bagged another 352m of upstream inlet.

Desperate for an “easy day” Des, Neil and the writer opted for a working tourist trip in Krem Liat Prah where Neil bolted a traverse in the far SE corner of this 15km+ system in an attempt to reach a possible sump bypass. The climb was a success but the 69m long, flat out crawl (in a cave where a light aeroplane could be flown!) ended at an impassable choke. This at least partially proved your scribe’s theory of cave development to the SE and on the remote chance of confirming it some fluorescein was dumped into the surprisingly fast flowing stream below the climb.

The Krem Tyngheng team surveyed 296m and, more importantly, secured a supply of beer in Semmasi – previously thought to be a dry village. They were also informed that the locals believe the cave to extend to the Kopili River, many kilometres to the NE, on the Assam border.

Krem Labbit Fossil Passage

Next day much surface recce, mapping and data input was undertaken with the persistent Labbit enthusiasts adding 101m of fossil passage and 265m of crawling side passage to the score. The latter was to prove both very important and also to prove that it is essential to push Meghalayan crawls and squeezes, even in huge cave systems.

At Lelad, Umsohtung yielded another 401m and the “Wrinkled Turtles” at last got their just rewards as they abseiled through the ceiling of a huge, active trunk passage at 100m depth. They surveyed 200m upstream and were relieved not to have to kiss any more frogs as they had found a princess at last! (It soon dawned on them what an ugly princess they were landed with but, as was pointed out, the baby of Neil and your scribe was hardly likely to be a stunner. Cheeky bastards). At the base of the pitch the huge Moonlight Chamber was found and named in honour of our friendly wood cutter.

The Semmasi team added 614m to their exceptionally complicated survey of Tyngheng where only frustratingly short legs could be measured due to the frequency of intersections. Over their stay they lost valuable exploration time by having to re-draw over 3km of cave due to the laxity of a previous expedition member. Another problem with this system was that every lead they tried to finish off resulted in more junctions and many more ways on! The end of this system has still not been reached and it may be extremely extensive.

Torben, Louise (practicing her newly acquired English obscenities) and Peter were back in the Labbit crawl on the 20th, surveying another 250m. Nearby Roger, Henry and Imo were dodging falling trees in a daylight shaft connected to Kneewrecker Pot 2. On the surface above, and blissfully unaware of those below, the locals continued with their deforestation! This cave ended in an impassable downstream boulder choke before a connection with Labbit could be made.

Shelley, being young, slim and fit, was conned by Neil and the writer to join the “Turtle Wrinklies” as they surveyed upstream in the huge, muddy and boulder-floored Evermore Passage, named after their keen young guide. After 223m of hard going a waist deep pool was reached and a retreat made. Shelley’s little legs made it, for her, harder going still and a badly strained back acquired on the way out resulted in 100m of vertical agony as she manfully struggled up the grim pitches to freedom and a late meal. Both Shelley and Neil were actually very lucky to be getting out at all as earlier in the trip a large rock flake had peeled off the wall when your scribe used it as a handhold. Too heavy to grasp it had just begun the 20m drop to the two unsuspecting cavers directly below when it miraculously wedged itself between two tiny outcrops which halted its probably fatal trajectory. A mere pebble rattled on down to accompany the hoarse, strangled cry of “BELOW”. This was not the only close call in this very dicey pitch series as large rocks had plummeted down on earlier trips. One of the lower pitches sports a protruding rock buttress – the Mercy Seat – over which one climbs and on which one sits before the abseil. Miraculously it was still in place when we finally deserted the cave!

Neil Pacey at the Mercy Seat

In Krem Shyien Khlieh Mark and Annie passed a duck (they were told not to eat it… groan) to discover some 200m of interesting inlet ending at an aven with “Cappadocian” style mud pillars.

280m was added to the Tyngheng labyrinth where a bamboo maypole was used to gain access to two high level passages and another entrance.

On the 21st various surface recces were undertaken and some downstream surveying in Tyrtong Ryngkoo led to a large boulder choke where an inlet stream may be that from Krem Synrang Ngap 1st downstream choke. A way through the other side of this was found to reach the ongoing main stream at a deep water section in a large phreatic gallery.

Next day Des, Fiona and Hugh revisited a cave found earlier in the week, Krem Wah Um Bloh, where rising water curtailed exploration. The discoverers developed a tradition of entertaining hitch-hikes back to camp, once with local “likely lads” in a pimped up Maruti jeep where translations were made by mobile phone to the driver’s English speaking mate miles away and twice in bone-shaking Shaktiman trucks.

Another 156m was added to Labbit by Imo, Annie and Louise on a “girly” trip where they were gobsmacked on reaching the remote entrance to find themselves reluctant TV stars! Another 513m were added by Simon, Dave and Torben, including a new streamway.

“Toileteers” Mark, Roger and Matt added 660m to Umsohtung and took photographs. They were rewarded with tea and betel nut at a house in Lelad village.

In Liat Prah a new 11m bit was surveyed after a bolt climb by Peter into a well decorated but choked roof tube.

The huge decorated passage before the upstream choke.

Upstream in Tyrtong Ryngkoo things initially looked great but after 250m of immense and superbly decorated trunk passage the inevitable Meghalayan boulder choke was reached. This was pushed for some 50m but thoughts of getting lost forever and having to eat Henry prompted a retreat. If this active streamway is actually the continuation of the Synrang Labbit / Synrang Ngap combined streams then pushing a connection would be easier from the far side, though there may, in fact, be two chokes with open streamway between. Later, during a hilarious discussion on naming the cave features, a superb faceted stalagmite in the extensions was landed forever with the title of The Glitteris. On a later trip Mark was unable to find this – enough said.

The 23rd February saw the bamboo maypole in use again in Tyngheng but to little avail.

Further work in Labbit, including digging, failed to yield a link with the adjacent Krem Shrieh but 74m was found elsewhere and a strongly draughting crawl found heading towards Krem Chuni.

“Team Toilet” were back in the bowels of Krem Umsohtung where a free-climb led to the large and muddy, and 79m long, Village Shitter Passage. A bolt climb gained 26m to a high aven and 206m was surveyed downstream where Terry, Matt and Derek crawled into a larger main streamway.

Kate, Annie and Henry got what they thought to be the short straw by continuing the survey of the long crawl in Labbit, the Khaidong Metro. After 30m they were suddenly amazed to find “23” Tippexed on a rock lip. Soon after they were romping down an immense breakdown tunnel (The Grand Trunk Road) but didn’t have a clue which cave they had connected with. Back at camp the jubilant trio were informed by your scribe that it was he who had written “23” above a hole dug out from above in 2004 in the Shnongrim Subway of Krem Um Im 6, itself being one of the most westerly arms of the Krem Liat Prah system. This passage had been another “hot tip” but getting people to push a grotty, loose crawl in a remote corner of a 15km cave was not easy. If it had been pursued when found the 6km of enormous fossil galleries of Labbit would have been discovered from the inside but survey trips would have been a nightmare – and no easy climb out to surface. The dug hole would have been suicidal to excavate from below so this was a great stroke of fortune for today’s connectors who had now extended Liat Prah just enough to claim the record of India’s longest cave from Krem Umlawan / Kotsati. Celebrations continued (as usual) into the wee small hours.

Another 380m was added to Umsohtung but the main downstream passage ended in a choke.

Krem Gerald Hubmayr, named after a late friend of Peter, also ended at a choke after 65m.

Throughout all the excitement Fraser had been plugging away with his video footage and today he assisted the TV crew to film Henry and Brian in the entrance series of Krem Labbit (Lum Dait Khung) – this being the nearest accessible cave passage (and with the potential to one day become part of the Shnongrim Meghasystem!). He also spent much time documenting the destructive quarrying and mining operations at both Lumshnong and to the NW of the Ridge. This was a soul-destroying experience.

More of the huge decorated passage before the upstream choke

24th February and the “Turtled Wrinklets” were back downstream in Tyrtong Ryngkoo. After a fine but sadly short section of chest deep canal a boulder slope led to a four way chamber. The streamway was followed to the prophesied massive boulder choke and two of the other leads closed down. The fourth led up a steep mud and rock slope into a huge, flat ceilinged chamber with an awkward climb at the end to a smaller, choked chamber. 450m surveyed.

Hugh, Des, Peter and Terry surveyed 64m in Krem Wah Um Bloh to a choke and wrote the place off.

Imo and Derek got another 120m in Labbit, mainly in small stuff leading off the immense mud-floored gallery of Disto Inferno.

The Semmasi team surveyed 522m in the complex wet series of Tyngheng named Tipee Toe Canals, leaving two swimming leads.

Saturday 25th saw an important photographic team in Labbit where yet another team materialised after dropping the 50m deep Krem Chuni and pushing the calcite-lined squeeze looked at earlier from the Labbit side.

Your scribe led Imo and Neil on a working tourist trip to his “baby” – Krem Umthloo. With oncoming senility as an excuse he just got away with it when this became a major and lengthy epic involving cold swims (with one lifejacket between three!) and failure to find their goal in the most northerly corner of the system. As a consolation prize Imo did a magnificent push through a squalid, tight duck (marked as a sump on the survey) into 79m of walking passage. On reflection this was a belter of a trip and, if nothing else, inspired Imo and Neil to return to this truly fantastic system in the future where well over 100 leads remain to be explored and where the possibility with a link to the potentially huge Krem Synrang Labbit system to the north is definitely on the cards.

Over at Semmasi Simon, Kate and Dale surveyed damp leads off Tipee Toe Canals and dry leads off Fossil River Series in Krem Tyngheng. Tony, Dave and Matt got the swimming stuff until they got cold. 655m surveyed in total.

Next day a photo / choke-busting trip was undertaken in Tyrtong Ryngkoo but the choke won.

Imo and your scribe snook off to Krem Chuni where they amazingly survived Peter’s acrobatic mid-air deviation 50m above the deck and set to work chiselling the tight connection passage to enable mere mortals to pass. Imo then took the writer on a delightful four hour stroll through the roofed underground desert comprising much of this stupendous cave. He was deeply impressed. Samples of cave fauna were taken and on leaving via the entrance pitches of Krem Labbit some derigging was done. Also in Chuni were Peter, Annie and Derek who surveyed 131m.

Over in the Moolasngi village area, on the other side of the Ridge, Brian, Hugh, Des and Terry were guided by local man Ekna to ten new pots located below a large collection of ancient standing stones and burial chambers. One of these Krem Labbit (Moolasngi) 3 (confused yet?) was estimated at 50 m deep and had rising condensation wafting out.

Fed up with Tyngheng the Semmasi team borrowed a Shaktiman and went for a jolly to the remote villages of Pala and Kseh. Strangely enough they found the impressive entrance of… you guessed…Krem Labbit. Another promising cave here was Krem Bliat. They all then returned to the Ridge camp in preparation for the end of the expedition. Carlyn provided a good supply of the excellent local rice beer to spice up the celebrations.

The final, longed for trip in Tyrtong Ryngkoo took place next day when Mark and Neil took photos and derigged the cave. No tears were shed when Neil abandoned his baby.

A large team of “Toileteers” did a last trip in Umsohtung, took photos, surveyed 214m and left the place with at least three ongoing leads.

Krem Umsohtung, Upstream.

The writer, Fraser, Imo, Brian, Dave, Raplang and Sharkes (Jeep) accompanied by Menda (motorbike) travelled to Daistong village with the MAA dinghy – or to be strictly correct half of it (a long story). This was carted down to the flood plain and inserted in the flooded passage of Krem Khangbru. Thence ensued a couple of hours of atrocious seamanship and ribald hilarity as lifejacketed would-be explorers attempted to navigate the good ship Titanic under the rapidly lowering ceiling. Eventually a sump was discerned 38m in and the whole circus wandered round to the nearby sink cave, Krem Ksar 1. Here a foul, stagnant pool was jam-packed with rotten bamboo and logs and no place for the fragile vessel so Dave was inserted, as he was the only mug with a wetsuit.

More hilarity followed as he fought his way to a sump some 50m in. He was also volunteered to check out the two adjacent grotty caves of Krem Ksar 2 & 3. A total of 172m was surveyed including some unroofed cave passage.

In Krem Chuni Annie, Derek and Roger surveyed 66m of crawl and derigged the cave.

On the 28th February eleven of the team left to attend Shelley’s engagement ceremony in Shillong leaving the stragglers to derig Krem Labbit (Khaidong), wash ropes and pack up. Henry, Terry and the writer took this last chance for glory and went to drop Krem Labbit (Moolasngi) 3, the supposed 50m shaft. To make the survey easy the 50m tape was taken along. Henry set off down this impressive pot rigging as he went and communicating by walkie-talkie. At 50m down he still couldn’t see the bottom and needed more rope so asked Terry to join him. Not being a technical SRT aficionado Terry attempted the first re-belay, decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and came out. A rope was lowered and Henry soon reported that he had dropped into a major trunk passage. The writer decided to join him and Terry kindly walked back to camp to change the pick up time from 6pm to 8pm. The huge shaft turned out to be 92m deep and the passage below bored off to the NW, towards Krem Liat Prah! This superb 6m diameter phreatic tunnel, The Sound of Silence, was a surveyor’s dream, especially with the fortuitous 50m tape. The jubilant ones soon clocked up around 500m when the noise of a stream was heard ahead. Henry made a facetious comment about finding green-dyed water and clambered down a scree slope for a look. Your scribe was overjoyed to hear his spluttered and apologetic mumblings as the bright green stream lapped around his wellies! Eureka! They had proven that the Video Passage stream in Liat Prah flowed beneath the Ridge to emerge almost certainly at the beautiful resurgence cave of Krem Rubong and your scribe was well chuffed that his hitherto scorned theory was correct. With several open leads they stopped the survey and rushed back to the pitch to investigate the “downstream” borehole. This soon reached a short pitch, which was traversed over to a maze of phreatic canyons and the reappearance of the emerald stream. The presence of bats and an echo indicating huge but inaccessible passage above convinced them that they had another princess, and this one was a real beauty. Having run out of time they surveyed back up the mighty entrance shaft with Henry derigging as he went. With 650m in the bag and enough open leads to warrant three survey teams next year they were the smuggest buggers on the Ridge and only ten minutes late for their lift back to the celebratory beer supplies and congratulations of the remaining expeditionaries.

The camp was dismantled next day and all headed back to Shnongrim via the Nartiang standing stones.

On the 2nd March equipment sorting and shopping filled the day before the traditional party, this year at the Pinewood Hotel with beer sponsored by Mohan Meakin brewery, courtesy of the press. A post-party party at Robin Laloo’s house continued until the early hours and three of the “Turtle Wrinklies” ended up swigging illicitly bought whisky in the back streets of Shillong with an unknown headcase at 3.30am! A memorable occasion (if only they could remember it).

Next day it was all over and the team scattered across the world in search of more adventures or back to earn enough to return to Cave Explorers’ Valhalla in eleven months time. Once again the visitors’ grateful thanks go to Brian, Maureen and family and the redoubtable Meghalayan Adventurers for their fantastic input to this truly satisfying expedition. Kublai.

High level passage, Krem Um Im 6, Meghalaya. Part of the central section of the Krem Liat Prah system – India’s longest cave. Drawn by Jrat from a photograph by Simon Brooks.

Glanvill with an ‘E’?

From BB524

In the great tradition of finger pointing at someone else to blame for an error I must admit that it was your humble Ed who passed on the mistake in adding an erroneous ‘e’ to the name Glanvill but twas not I who originated it.

Well it happens to best of us. Errors slip through. But then it’s nothing new. In defence I offer for your consideration: In 1632, the London printers Barker and Lucas produced the famous ‘Wicked Bible’. In this edition the seventh commandment read as “Thou shalt commit adultery…”

Or how about in 1653, in which a bible was printed in Cambridge with the line, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God…”


And my favourite:

From the reign of Charles I, a Bible was printed with the text of Psalm xliv, “The fool hath said in his heart there is a god.”

The ‘Real’ Aglarond

‘There would be an endless pilgrimage of Dwarves, merely to gaze at them…None of Durin’s race would mine those caves for stones or ore, not if diamonds and gold could be got there…We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them.”

Gimli the Dwarf.

Aglarond. The Glittering Caves.

Here is a plan of the ‘real’ Aglarond made famous in the Lord of the Rings and the Rose Cottage dig.

During the battle of Helm’s Deep in the book The Two Towers, the Glittering Caves became a place of sanctuary for Theoden’s people as the forces of Saruman attacked the fortification built below the Hornburg.

The caverns were, ‘…vast and beautiful…[with] chamber after chamber…and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains’ heart’.

Gimli the Dwarf later set about trying to colonise the Glittering Caves.

The above map is taken from The Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad published by Harper Collins ISBN 026110277X.  In the book there are a number of cave and tunnel ‘surveys’ illustrating the various caverns and underground dwellings mentioned in the Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings including Nargothrond and Menegroth - ‘The Thousand Caves’, Thangorodrim and Thranduil’s Caverns.

I contacted Harper Collins to find out if it would be okay to quote this book in the BB telling them about Aglarond in Rose Cottage. They obviously mis-read my query and told me that permission to name parts of the cave after Lord of the Rings etc had to be sought from the Tolkien estate…Umm, law suits anyone?

Dent de Crolles

Report by Chris Jewell

Four of the youngest members of the BEC, including two of the most recently joined members went to the Dent de Crolles for the long Easter weekend and completed the Trou Glaz to Guiers Mort traverse. (Chris Jewell, Rich Bayfield, Rich Beer and Charlotte Harris)

Having recently become a full tax-paying member of society (i.e. not a student) I have had to face the realities of 22 days leave a year! Due to this the idea of doing long weekend pull-through trips in some of the classic European caves appealed.


I knew Easter would be a bit early for high Alpine caving because of the snow. However some people recommended the Dent de Crolles as the Trou Glaz is a ‘big yogi bear entrance near the path and won’t be snow plugged’ I did a bit of my own research and was led to believe that the snow would probably have gone so we booked our flights and crossed our fingers.

Due to the time of year none of the usual campsites were open but I managed to find a site a bit further away which also had Chalets. The “Balcon Chartreuse” is in Mirabel les Eschelles, about 40min drive away from the caving area.

We flew in to Lyon airport on Good Friday morning and picked up shopping for our stay on route to the campsite. By 1.30pm we were sat on the veranda of our chalet enjoying a proper French lunch in the beautiful sunshine. The accommodation was perfect for us, basically a large garden shed with a small upper floor for three mattresses, a small bathroom with shower and another separate bedroom. The rest of the space was for living, cooking and eating, with a dining table and all the cooking facilities we needed.

We had decided early on that we wanted indoor self-catering accommodation. It saves weight on the plane, as you don’t need tents, sleeping bags, stoves, pans etc. Also at this time of year when the weather is unpredictable coming back to a nice warm dry hut is great and finally when doing a long weekend like this it is very easy to keep unsociable hours – i.e. back too late to go to the restaurant. So coming back to a tent at midnight in the rain to start cooking didn’t appeal.

The Chalet was also pretty cheap, costing only 60E a night for everyone – so roughly £10 a head per night. Plus when you have somewhere decent to eat and drink there is less temptation to head for the nearest restaurant/bar so saving more money overall.   

On Friday afternoon we packed up our kit and headed for St. Pierre de Chartreuse, the village closest to the bottom entrance of Guiers Mort. We parked in a car park at the end of the road by the foot of the mountain and got changed in the sunshine. Although there was a lot of snow on the path the sun was hot and we all worked up a sweat on the walk. After one wrong turn we realised we had to follow the track with the large yellow cross and were soon climbing towards the entrance.

(Park in the car park, follow path until big corner/clearing) where bridge crosses river and where waterfall comes over cliff far above (you will know when you are here). Continue on the main path past here until you see a right hand turn which climbs steeply. Very obvious path and clear junction with a yellow X on a tree stump. Follow this until you reach a small stone building out of which a stream emerges. Stepping over the stream the path becomes a tiny track zigzagging up the hill. After a short distance it rejoins another larger path and 50m ahead is a sign post for the source of Guiers Mort, with a path which goes off to the left. Follow this zig zagging path up to the entrance.) 

The entrance is a massive resurgence with traverse lines coming out on both sides to reach the cliff. There was plenty of snow about but none of it prevented us getting to the cave and we were soon heading off down the entrance passage.

The stream emerges mostly from a hole on the right but the way on is down the larger dryer tunnel, which soon reaches a large chamber with the obvious way on the right. However at the back of the chamber a small draughting hole can be entered which takes you towards the bottom of Puits Pierre. Follow the small passage ahead, traversing over a pit and then afterwards climbing up to the left. If in doubt follow the worn, obvious draughting way. When the crawl emerges turn left and then take the next left to find the bottom of Puits Pierre.  

Fortunately for us the pitch was rigged and judging by the quality of rope and the fact there are several re-belays it probably always is. Up the rope the passage is large at first then turns into an uphill, slippery crawl at the end of which the way on is right (left is marked with a line of stones).

Then we followed the large obvious passages, over the impressive pitch Elizabeth, and past numerous side passages until eventually reaching the bottom of Puits Banane. Banane was also rigged and similarly to Pierre, I suspect it normally is. The navigation through this section is fairly easy once you’ve done it once but there are many passages to confuse and tempt you and we were happy to have a survey from Mad Phil and descriptions from the internet – both of which I’d laminated beforehand.

Banane leads to a high level passage, interrupted half way by a short traverse. Not long after this we reached the head of the cascade Rocheuse where we checked the pitch was rigged. Happy to see the rope the others opened our snack supply whilst I dropped part way down the pitch to check it looked ok. Satisfied with the pitch we turned around and headed out with the knowledge that everything was in place for the through trip. Most of all we were surprised at how quickly we’d reached this point in the cave. We’d crossed two and a half of the four survey sheets and it only took about and hour and a half to get out from this point. 

We were back at the hut at about 11.45 for a quick dinner and then straight into bed for a good night sleep before the big trip.

When we woke up on Saturday the rain was pouring down. We knew this wouldn’t affect the trip – which is pretty much dry the whole way but it would make the hike up to Trou Glaz miserable. Hopeful that that weather would be better closer to the caves we set off anyway and fortunately by the time we reached the car park the rain had stopped.

There are several routes to the Trou Glaz entrance. The shortest route is to drive to the Col du Coq. However as didn’t have a second car, our only option was to park by the bottom entrance and walk up. Apparently there is a short but scary route from the Guiers Mort entrance across and up the cliffs. The descriptions we read were of people doing this in the summer so given the weather conditions and the snow at this height we opted for the long way round. This means walking first to the Col des Ayes (about an hour and a half walk to the area just above the Col du Coq) then across the slopes to the entrance. This was all on a proper, heavily marked foot path so we were confident of having no problems despite expecting to be traipsing through snow most of the way.

The lower part of the path was fairly steep and over snow it was hard work. However the path was large and well protected and we were happy to trudge upwards. When we reached the Col des Ayes though things took a different turn. The path turned into a narrow and exposed ledge, which is probably quite fun in the summer. However with snow covering the mountainside this became pretty treacherous. It soon got even worse as the path completely disappeared under the snow and we had to cut steps across 45 degree snow slopes with nothing but a long drop below. It took us over two hours and forty minutes instead of about forty minutes to cover the distance to the Trou Glaz entrance and we were all relieved to reach the cave. Standing in the entrance we all knew the hardest bit of the day was finished – just a quick caving trip to do now.

The entrance splits in two after about a hundred meters. We went to the left and followed the passage until we found a 45 degree bedding plane which led to a squeeze up into a chamber. Ducking under the left-hand wall the passage rose and we walked about twenty metres until up on the right we spotted the ledge leading to the lantern pitches. This is easy to miss as there are plenty of signs pointing straight on and it looks like the obvious route. Straight ahead is actually a long bypass to the lantern pitches so perhaps gets just as much traffic as them.  

The pitches were covered in ice, which gave me a little concern. Namely that we would find an iced up squeeze! We dropped down the first two pitches quickly and at the bottom of the second I wandered off to find the next pitch head. The entire belay was covered with ice but fortunately there was another anchor on the left hand wall. I knew that at the bottom of this pitch we would find the pitch bypass passage back up to the entrance so as long as we could get down and reach the passage it would be ok. To be safe I told the others to keep the top two pitches rigged whilst I dropped the third and checked for a way through. Fortunately there were no iced up squeezes and we pulled down and headed for the fourth lantern pitch, five minutes ahead.

The fourth pitch is an impressive drop in the floor of a train tunnel sized passage – for some reason the passage has just decided to continue 12m lower down in exactly the same vein.

Shortly after this we traversed half way over a pit and climbed round to the right to find the big 36m pitch. This sounded wet but all the water was out of the way at the bottom and we dropped down easily. From here there are two short pitches to reach the meandering stream way and another slightly longer one before the puits de l’Arche where you abseil all of about 4m to a traverse line leading straight over. This takes you immediately to the head of the 11m puits des Maichanceux, followed by another of the same (P. du Biouvac). Marching up the passage here you soon enter Les Champs Elysees, which leads to the galerie des Champignons. Full of ‘pop corn’ type formations (or mushroom like as the name suggests) this is where the end of the Rocheuse rope is found. Like Puits Pierre and Banane it appears this is always rigged – at least it is not possible to rig it as a pull through! To find the bottom of the rope climb straight up where the worn section is and a muddy rope can be found against the rock. 

Once at the top of Rocheuse it was just a matter of repeating our exit of the previous day. The only difference was the amount of water now emerging from the cave due to the rain and snow melt. We were back at car at 11.40 and soon in the chalet stuffing our faces and drinking beer, feeling suitably happy with ourselves.

To see more photos of the above trip please take a look at photos taken by both Rich’s http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbeer/sets/72057594109895832/

Rose Cottage Cave - Prancer’s Pot, the Surface Shaft and Grotto Choke Dig

Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga from BBs 522-524.

“I now stood ready to observe the full
Extent of the new chasm thus laid bare,
Drenched as it was in tears most miserable.”

Dante. The Descent into Hell.

Further Digging 29/1/06 – 24/3/06

The 29th January saw the writer and Jane C. checking the spoil rift and confirming that another bang was needed. In Prancer’s Pride they drilled three shotholes and fired a 40gm cord charge which was cleared next day by your scribe and Anne Vanderplank who set off another three hole charge. They also cleared much of the spoil from the base of the surface dig and the rest of this was taken out by Henry B. on the 31st.

On 1st February bang spoil was cleared from the Prancer’s Pride dig and yet another three shothole charge fired to open up a tiny, calcite-floored hole with a good echo from beyond. A new dig was started some 2.5m down the climb between Prancer’s Pride and Fi’s ‘Ole and over 30 bags of spoil were hauled up from here and dumped in the diminishing void above. The spoil rift dig was attacked by Pete H. but thought to become too small and choked. Henrys B. and D. cleared and drilled in the surface dig and this was later also banged. Henry B. cleared the resulting debris next day.

Nothing then happened until the 27th when Tony A. and Rich W. tidied up on the surface after evicting a mouse from Tony’s rarely used oversuit!

On 4th March Henry B. drilled seven shotholes at the terminal Prancer’s Pride dig in anticipation of the bang-wallah’s return from Meghalaya and on the 12th six of these were utilised by your scribe, accompanied by Duncan B. and new boy Andy Kuszyk. The writer cleared the spoil next day and charged five out of six newly drilled holes - fully expecting the bang to open up the huge, echoing chamber assumed to lie below. An enthusiastic return was made in the evening with Henry B. and after more clearing a 2m long section of muddy stream passage was entered ending too tight but with a calcited hole on the left which drained the water and required more bang. This was not what we had expected! A flat battery precluded drilling but by using up all available unused or partly blown shotholes another 40gm charge was laid and fired.

The debris was removed on the 15th and another three hole charge fired at the drain hole. Clearing took place a week later, on the 22nd, and a four hole charge fired in the hope of gaining access to what was assumed to be a c.5m drop down which Henry had cast a few stones. He was convinced that a couple of these had gone even further. Phil C. and Tangent provided useful back-up on this trip.

Tangent and the writer were back on the 24th to clear some of the shattered rock until enough space was created for the latter to get a view down an almost vertical 2m flowstone slope to a calcited ledge with a black void to the left. By going in feet first he was able to free-climb to the ledge and stand, gawping in disbelief at the 10 m deep, heavily calcited rift pitch below. A further free-climb of 2m was made but it was thought a bad idea to go deeper without tackle and with the imminence of closing time. The overjoyed duo were changed ready for the Pub exactly half an hour later!

Prancer’s Pot and other digs – 25/3/06-22/5/06

On the evening of the 25th the pair returned to enlarge the approach to the pot in order that their larger colleagues could view its wonders. They were assisted by Andy C. and Chris J. The best part of an hour was spent enlarging the squeeze then the writer belayed a short rope to convenient formations and climbed down to the ledge to rig a 10m ladder on the main pot – belayed to even more convenient formations. He reached the flat floor below and with Tangent’s inebriated aid (he had celebrated in advance) measured the pitch at 12m in total. Below this a 5m deep free-climb led to a further free-climb of 4m and extensive mud deposits on the walls. This did not bode good and soon after a dried out pool with a magnificent brown crystal lining was reached. Immediately beyond this lay the inevitable, squalid and extremely unwelcome sump – too small to dive and an unprepossessing dig site. The only saving grace was that it was a superb little trip and on a par with visiting the Slops in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink. Andy and Chris were summoned from their squeeze enlarging duties and were suitably impressed. With a total depth of over 21m Prancer’s Pot had, with the addition of Prancer’s Pride above, almost doubled the depth of the cave, which was later confirmed at 58m. Both disappointed and enthused the weary diggers gathered up all available drilling and banging equipment and humped it out to the surface leaving the pot rigged. A re-think was now required and a major effort at tracing the source of the strong draught urgently needed.

Paul B. visited the pot on the 26th and next day Henry B. and your scribe took down digging bags and thoroughly examined the place. On the way out Henry removed a couple of rock slabs from the passage heading into the main boulder choke opposite the end of Bored of the Rings and these were skipped to the surface as the diggers thought “Here we go again…”

The plan was to blast and dig a route horizontally through the choke to the so far unseen opposite wall and try to establish the source of the strong draught – seemingly lost in the rest of the cave. This has been named Grotto Choke Dig. Further digging took place here on the 29th when Henry B. banged three obstructive boulders and 2 skiploads of rock reached the surface. Meanwhile a team of six regulars visited Prancer’s Pot, which was photographed to death by Sean H. before frenzied digging commenced at the mud sump, Henry D. almost missing the Pub in his excessive enthusiasm.   

Henry B, Ian “Slug” Gregory and your scribe cleared bang debris from Grotto Choke Dig on the 31st but were soon confronted with lots of small and unstable boulders where further digging was considered too dangerous without much forethought. One skipload reached the surface.    

April Fool’s Day saw two of the finest, Henry B. and Duncan B, attempting to dig below Prancer’s Pot but they were defeated by high water levels and had to be content with re-arranging the spoil heap. A small team on the following day also accomplished little but on the surface the alternative entrance shaft was partly cleared of inwashed mud.      A large Prancer’s Pot team on the 5th filled five sacks and broke up some large rocks but were also stymied by the high water. The surface dig was finally cleared and two days later a four hole charge was very noisily fired in the floor and served the double purpose of shaking up the committee who were sitting in state in the Belfry! Clearing continued on the 9th when the diggers were provided with high octane coffee and biscuits by Ivan. Bursts of sunshine and hailstones enlivened the proceedings. The writer spent the 10th in much improved weather conditions clearing the dig and firing two separate charges to enlarge the miniscule bedding and rift at the bottom, work continuing here two days later when yet another charge was fired. Meanwhile Henry B. and Richie Blake confirmed that the Prancer’s Pot dig was still too wet but were convinced that it could be bailed into a nearby possible drain hole in the opposite wall. Work continued in the surface shaft on the 14th when the writer and Jane C. shifted lots of spoil and fired a two-hole charge. Pete Glanvill photographed the upper series next day but being alone was disinclined to descend Prancer’s Pot.

The writer continued digging and blasting in the surface shaft on the 16th and 17th and was ably assisted by Tangent, Tom Wilson and Dan Griffin. On the 18th Madphil and Ben O. continued the cave survey to establish the depth of the “mud sump” dig below Prancer’s Pot at –58m and next day Henry B, Fiona C, Tangent and Rich B. took down a length of 2” hose and a cut down skip to successfully empty the water into Henry’s drain hole. Pete H, John N, Phil C. and Alex L. arrived later to assist with digging but the choked passage was thought to be closing in. More spoil came out of the surface shaft on the 21st and another charge was fired to enlarge the working space. Clearing and banging took place again on the 24th and 26th (when Prancer’s Pot dig was visited and found to be too wet to logistically dig on an evening trip).

May Day saw Tony A. and Rich W. commencing to build a cemented stone lining in the new shaft. They continued next day. Jake B, soloing down the Corkscrew in the main cave on the 3rd, was somewhat distressed when a large boulder rolled onto his back. He was able to get back out but the rock now blocked the way into Aglarond 1. Four other diggers joined him but were unable to shift it so on the 8th Henry B, Darryl I. and the writer solved the problem with some 12gm cord before bailing and clearing in the new shaft. In the afternoon the walling team continued work here. With water levels still high on the 10th a five-man team concentrated on the phreatic tube dig partway down the climb down to Prancer’s Pride. Digging and walling continued in the surface shaft on the 15th.  

Henry B, Henry D. and new girl Helen Stalker took a hand pump and lots of hose to Prancer’s Pot on the 18th but accomplished little due to equipment failure. Three shotholes were drilled near the drain hole for a future banging project.

About 20 loads of spoil came out of the surface shaft on the 22nd when more work was done on the shoring by the A.T.L.A.S. sub-contractors.

To be continued in BB526.

“Cave diggers are the best people in the world.”

Alan Gray, Secret Underground, 2006.

Additional Diggers

Anne Vanderplank (WCC), Andy Kuszyk (Reading UCC), Chris Jewell, Andy Manners (SMCC), Richie Blake, Tom Wilson, Dan Griffin, Helen Stalker.

Spanish Adventures

Chris Jewell

At the beginning of April I went to Spain to do a scuba diving internship, this meant working in exchange for doing the my PADI instructors course. Although I enjoy diving I knew that just doing this wouldn't satisfy me for seven months. This was why I picked the Costa del Sol, because of its proximity to some caving and canyoning areas. However once there I realised the number of obstacles in my way. Firstly I didn't speak Spanish so meeting up with Spanish cavers would be difficult. I didn't have transport; I hardly knew the area and my days off were few and far between.

I began by emailing some caving groups (in English and getting no reply), ordering some maps of the surrounding area from the internet and arranging to buy a car with one of the instructors at the diving centre. Several months later we had our first car (Ford Sierra 1989) and on my first day off with the car I headed to Malaga to get some canyoning rope. I planned to have a go at a short canyon close to the diving centre on my return. However on the way back from Malaga the car developed a terminal problem and one week later we were car-less again.

After this I persuaded one of the other interns to come canyoning twice and we were able to use his car until finally we found another car and I managed to be independent again. Over this period my Spanish also improved and finally in September I met up with some Spanish cavers.

Left: “Garganta del Guadiaro” or “de Las Buitreras”

I was determined to do some decent canyoning during my time in Spain. Garganta de las Buitreras is supposed to be the cathedral of Andalucian ravines and you can do it with just one vehicle so it was the perfect objective for me. I wanted to do it together with a diving colleague of mine but at the last minute he let me down. As I didn't know if I would get the opportunity again I decided to go a head anyway. The only problem with this particular canyon is that the descriptions of it found on the internet told me I had to park my car at the bottom and walk up the train track to the top. This means walking through four tunnels, the longest of which is supposed to be about 800m. To make matters worse this is (quite sensibly) forbidden and carries a minimum fine of 600E if you are caught!

The closest village is El Colemar, not far from Gaucin. After crossing the river and driving into Colemar I took a right hand turn signed for CH Buitreras (which is actually an electricity transformer or junction station) and drove along the road towards the end of the canyon. This road runs by the side of the railway track and I figured I could get onto the track easily. At the end of the road was a set of gates with the electricity company’s logo and private property marked on them. So I parked the car a little way back down the road and had a walk around. I could see it was easy to get onto the track but unfortunately some men had just started working on the telephone lines by the track and so the issue was how to sneak up on to the track without being noticed. I walked back to the village to see if there was another route and using my bad Spanish I asked if it was possible to walk to the canyon. I was told yes, just go through the gates and up where the large pipe come down (obviously it was in Spanish and not a clear as that but this is what I understood it to mean). So I got changed by the car and headed off towards the gates and the pipe. The gates were locked for cars but a pedestrian gate on the side was open and so in I went in - confident that the guy in the village has told me this was ok. I quickly found the said tube and headed up a small but well warn path. After a short distance this intersected the railway track by means of a small gate. However as I approached the foreman of the men working on the telephone lines appeared. He had obviously been watching me walk around and knew what I was up to. I explained in bad Spanish that I wanted to walk up to the canyon and that a man in the village had told me it was ok. This didn't go down too well and a short discussion followed. This consisted of me repeatedly saying I wanted to go up and him repeatedly saying it was forbidden because of the tunnels. Just as I was about to give up he appeared to change his mind and opened the gate for me. However once I was through again he started telling me it was forbidden because of the tunnels and pointing at the tunnel to show what he meant. After another minute or two of this he finally gave up and put his hand over his eyes to say "I didn't see it" and waved me off. With just one more shout of "muchos peligrosos" from him I headed into the first tunnel.

There are three short tunnels, which didn't worry me, though it is useful to have a light. I also put my ear to the train track before going into each of them, as I seem to remember you hear trains coming this way very early. Next is a long tunnel, it is reportedly 800m and this felt about right. The first half isn't a worry as there are large arched windows in the side, which look to the canyon. This means that if a train came you could easily step through one of the arches and be out of harms way. The second half however is a proper tunnel. Although the tunnel is quite wide (wide enough to stand or lie by the side) being in the tunnel with a train rushing right past me was something I was anxious to avoid. Fortunately I didn't have to find out what this was like and made it through without any trains coming. Just before the fifth tunnel it is possible to follow a path off to the side. To reach this, continue on the track until past a small stream which the track crosses and the go behind the small concrete wall next to the track when it starts. Two meters past the start of the wall a path heads up and to the side of the tunnel. It then drops down until you are level with the track. There are more arched windows here and it would also be possible to reach this point by going inside the tunnel and out of the windows. From here you can get down into the canyon just before the track disappears back into the hillside in the tunnel.

The first section of the canyon was very dry with lots of boulder hopping, climbing and sliding. Though it wasn't long until I found the first pool which was a deep 30m long lake of green water, after that more hopping, some wading and another long pool, this time full of algae and weeds. It was after this that the canyon 'proper' started with plenty of water and the occasional pitch. It is worth noting that it might be possible to skip this less appealing beginning section by getting down into the canyon at an earlier stage just after the fourth tunnel.

Overall I counted five 'pitches' although I only rigged three of them. One had some slings to help you step over a hole so a rope wasn’t necessary and the other I should have rigged. It only looked like a short pitch but in actual fact it went round the corner so after free climbing and sliding my way down the first part I realised my mistake and that I couldn't get back up to the top and the anchors. A bit of precision jumping brought me safely down though and I continued down the canyon. There are lots of lakes and few distinct features to describe through at one point there is a smaller boulder is wedged in the canyon just above the water, leaving about a foot's air space.

Later you reach a small beach on the left and where a large boulder hangs down in the middle of the canyon. On the left, up from the beach is a small cliff you can climb up to, to get a nice jump. After this the canyon dries out for quite a while any you would be forgiven for thinking that it's over, I even stripped off my wetsuit top. However there are several more pools and the final obstacle a 300m swim. After this the canyon opens right and there is a small 'beach'. Near here you can climb up some rocks and make a final jump into the water before the end. To get back to El Colemar I just followed the course of the river, wading in the river itself, swimming very occasionally or walking on the bank where possible. Eventually I reached a point where the river twists back on itself several times and becomes a bit steeper. Here I left the river up a very obvious track next to a fence and headed towards some buildings. These turned out to belong to the electricity junction station and so I was soon back at the car.

Overall it was a excellent canyoning trip though I would have preferred it to be steeper and so have more pitches. The water level in the pools doesn't seem to drop much even in the height of summer. When I was there it had been really dry for several months and yet there were no noticeable water marks on the walls. In wet weather it does rise a lot though apparently so the general advice is don't do it in these conditions. I think the walk up took about 3/4 of an hour and the whole canyon maybe two and a half to three followed by another half-hour walk/wade along the river back to El Colemar.

After this trip I decided to see if it was possible to avoid walking through the tunnel by looking for a place to park a second car at the top. I followed the road over the hills towards Cortes de la Frontera, which is a narrow windy road, and after a short distance it is possible to turn off this down a small track. This track is marked on the map and is the turning before the last hairpin, just before the road runs straight for a while. I turned down here and drove as far as I felt comfortable in my VW Jetta from 1988. In a better car (hire car) you could certainly drive quite a long way along this road though in truth the road isn't that long really. After about 15min of walking some farms appear and it is possible to get down to canyon between them. I even checked with one of the locals who, disgusted with my bad Spanish enquired which language I spoke and answered me in perfect English. He told me that it's a very popular canyon and all weekend lots of activity groups go there and park at the top. So if you have access to two vehicles I definitely recommend this.

Excentrica and Fuentosa

By July we had another car (VW Jetta from 1988) and so on my next day off with the car I wanted to go caving. So I selected two short caves close together from my guidebook. I didn't have anyone to accompany me but this didn't bother me as both were very small caves.

I parked in the village of Igualeja and headed up the hill. There are even signs pointing to the path and everyone seems to know both the caves. I thought this would make them easy to find however I was armed only with my guidebook in Spanish and 1:50,000 map. The guidebook recommended using a GPS but unfortunately the one I’d borrowed from the dive centre turned out not to work. Without worrying about this too much I set off up the hill to find my caves. My first mistake was to go far too high and completely miss the first cave (Excentrica) which is only 10m from the path. After an hour of searching I retraced my steps down the hill and found the entrance. It was an easy, pleasant little cave, with some interest being added by the spiders in the entrance and the loud frog inside. The cave immediately splits in two and has two main passages. One is dry and one is effectively a long lake. Not having my wetsuit with me I thoroughly explored the dry section before heading out.

After finding Excentrica I mistakenly thought it would be easy to find Fuentosa but although I searched for another hour and a half I was forced to admit defeat. So my advice is take a GPS if you want to see these caves. Otherwise you risk spending a lot of time looking for the entrances. The only eventful thing was meeting a local policeman on my return to the village who seemed rather anxious that I had been caving on my own. I explained in bad Spanish that they were very small and easy caves and this seemed to keep him happy.

Spanish Cavers

In September I decided to try again to contact some Spanish cavers. This time though I tried writing my email in Spanish and was delighted when I immediately received a reply. I initially asked if I could join in their campaign to clean the Hundidero Gato system, thinking this would be a good way meet some cavers. However Juan, the president, invited me to come on some other trips before the clean up and before I knew it I was heading off to the mountains on a Sunday morning. Although my Spanish had improved over my time in Spain I had never had to communicate solely in Spanish for a whole day and so I was slightly nervous about this.

We met in Jimera de Librar at 9.00 in the morning in the village square (plaza). Whilst I waited I wondered if I would recognise this caver I was meeting. Though I need not have worried, as cavers are the same all over the world and his hiking boots and 'outdoor' trousers marked him out. After going to his house in the village and meeting the other cavers we headed off to Montejaque where there is a Centro de Interpretación de la Espeleología (a small tourist building/information centre/caving office) and a centro de exploracion (a hut for cavers to sleep in and store kit). The club were using the latter to store their equipment overnight. Two of the cavers, Maki and Nerea (a tough looking lady in army boots) went off to do the Hundidero Gato through trip whilst the rest of us went in Juan's car to do another shorter cave. This unfortunately was Cueva de las Excentricas, the only other cave I had done in this part of Spain!! Juan apologised but obviously I couldn't complain and so I just became determined to get a useful contact for the future. The reason we were doing this short easy cave turned out to be that two of our party were complete novices and the other had only been caving for four months. Plus unbelievably they were all fairly attractive females!! I commented on this remarkable fact to Juan who assured me that he had many 'chicas' in his club whilst I explained that caving women like this in were sadly rarer in the UK.

Although it was a cave I had been in before last time I didn't explore the lake section, as I didn't have my wetsuit. So this time with my wetsuit we were able to see something different and with very pretty formations. After caving we ate an excellent lunch in Igualeja and had a few beers. Juan and I were quick to agree that "cerveza es moy importante por espeleologia" so it is nice to know that Spanish cavers aren't much different from us!

After picking up the two cavers who had done the Hundidero - Gato trip we headed back to Montejaque to pick up SRT kits and rope for an afternoon of SRT practice on a rocky outcrop not far away. This gave me the opportunity to see any differences in SRT kit and technique as well as see how rusty I was after six months with no SRT. We stayed out in the dying sun around the rocks until about 7.00 when we finally parted. I gave Juan several 'BEC get everywhere' stickers and he proudly put one on his car before we said our farewells and I promised to meet them all again when I next had a free weekend.

Hundidero – Gato through trip

Two weekends later I was back in the mountains to take part in the Hundidero – Gato clean up. The plan was for five of us to make the 4.5km through trip armed with rubbish bags ad gloves to clean the interior of the cave. However when one participant dropped out our team was reduced to just four, myself, Nerae, Maki and an eccentric bloke called Pierre.

The Hundidero - Gato system is comprised of two entrances (Hundidero and Gato) which are joined by a large fossil passage through which the river Guadiaro runs. The upper entrance, Hundidero is close to the village of Montejaque in an unmissably large shake hole whilst the bottom entrance is a huge opening in the side of the hill opposite the main road and the railway track. Although the main route through the system is only 4.5km, in total almost 8km of passages are known. Over the length of the trip more than 160m m of height is lost though there are only half a dozen pitches, mostly at beginning of the trip. These are normally left pre rigged.

As an obvious feature in the countryside this cave has always attracted attention although not necessarily for the right reasons. In 1920 the electrical company of Seville attempted to dam the Guadiaro River above the Hundidero entrance. Not surprisingly the water seeped through the limestone into the cave beneath and continued to flow. Undeterred the company launched a misguided campaign to seal the interior walls of the cave. In order to do this they constructed massive hanging walkways throughout the interior of the cave, the remnants of which can still be seen today. 

We parked above Hundidero and got changed into our wetsuits in the early morning Spanish sun before walking down the steep track to the cave entrance.

The entrance is a large dry fossil passage but we soon encountered the water, which characterises the trip. The first section of the trip comprises of lots of abseils into water, this soon gives way to fewer pitches and more swimming until about a third of the way through the cave dries up and there is lots of walking and climbing. Some of the interesting features include the Plaza de Toros a large round chamber where a little bit further the Grande Estalagmita can be found. Just after this is the longest section of swimming before your feet are dry for a while. Towards the end of the cave you encounter the large dry Sala de las Dunas and finally you emerge into the bright sunshine of the mouth of Cueva del Gato. Here the rock is especially slippery due to the large quantities of guano.

Although the Spanish cavers do regard cave conservation as important the cave is used my lots of activity groups who obviously aren’t as consciences. On the route we managed to collect a considerable amount of rubbish and filled four bags. On the out side of the cave other people had been busy cleaning rubbish out of the river and in total we had quite a large pile. All of this was sorted as well so it could be recycled.

The cleaning session is an annual event, which is fairly well known in the area. However the event which takes place the weekend before is better known. If you are of an extremely strong opinion when it comes to cave conservation I suggest you stop reading now because every year they actually organise a race through the cave!

This race is held in memory of a well-known caver called Federico Ruiz Ortiz who died tragically in the system after getting caught in high water. In defence of this activity the cave has already suffered heavily thanks to the Seville electrical company so I doubt the race has a huge impact on the cave. Teams of two complete the 4.5km course as fast as possible and the winning time (and new record) this year was 57minutes.

If anyone is thinking of visiting the area it is worth noting that there is a closed season for the cave. From my memory it is closed from Nov until about the 15th of March, then open for one month until being closed until June.

Hutton Update

Nick Harding & Nick Richards.

In Britain’s land beyond the waves
are stony hills and stony caves;
the wind blows ever over hills
and hollow caves with wailing fills.

The Lay of Autrou and Itroun


Rough map of the dig sites

With something like slow progress at Hutton Dig 2, well not so much slow progress as stalled, we decided to investigate the next pit i.e. Dig 3. But this proved shallow and somewhat uninspiring, (which will mean it will be the one that goes somewhere!). Dig 2 had come to a stop while we waited on several opinions – fresh sets of eyes and all that – on our 10-metre tube, now called ‘Shatner’s Bassoon’. (It is well decorated with botryoidal stal on north wall, has an ochrous rubble floor and is on a bearing of 280 degrees. It is 4m of 0.6m high to constriction and is too tight beyond). Chris Richards and Keith ‘Action Jackson’ Jackson both agreed it was a good tube but also agreed with us that the dig would be horribly difficult, even after banging the constriction to make the far end more accessible.


Shatner’s Bassoon entrance – looking west.

As we needed to investigate the rest of the pit, the tube was closed down. We needed to back fill and as the tube is at a depth of 5 metres or so and we would be digging above that, it would have to be covered (at east we all know it’s there). After a visit by Chris Richards to inspect Shatner’s Bassoon, (the fellow even helped to haul a few buckets out of Dig 3!) it was subsequently closed up.

Returning to the dig a short time later, we struck east following the upper walls and bedrock of Dig 2 but it was not long before we realised that surface was not far away. Much to our disappointment, nothing therein lay beyond and was in essence perhaps the old entrance to the pit appearing as it were to be a trench allowing barrows to be brought close to the source of ochre.

We then turned our attentions to another group of pits some ‘80 yards’ to the south, i.e. further up the hill. A change is indeed as good as a rest! Besides, it’s all a process of elimination. With 3 being a damp squib it was time to move on.

Dig 4

About 80 yards south of the earlier digs there is clustered together, a ‘number’ of large pits – including two long trench-like structures. One pit has bedrock exposed at the surface creating a large sweeping arch. What drew our attention was the size of the spoil heap that spilled into several of the depressions as well as down slope indicating later work on at least one of the trench like pits. This one we chose to dig in.

For much of the dig it was simply a case of removing boulders and within an hour or so had made a great dent in the fill. A second session found us with walls and a bedrock floor – much to our growing disappointment. Towards the end of the dig we found a trench in the southern part of the pit that was starting to deepen. Encouraged by this we collapsed a little more of the infill wall that had built up and discovered a tiny void beyond.


The very ochrous material and walls had given way to naked rock. The low flat arch (technically inaccurate but you know what we mean!) proved to be of no consequence. It was not long after that we discovered that the pit bottomed out so it was refilled.

With all four digs closed down we moved our attentions to a new pit or Dig 5 – after about half an hour we realised that this was nothing more than a ‘scrape’, although famous last words we might very well return there. There was no spoil heap, which was similar in many respects to Dig 3. This was closed down and we turned our attentions to Dig 6 in a large depression a few yards south of 5. As soon as we broke the soil we were greeted with boulder infill allowing us to make ‘ooo’ noises every time we espied a gap. The west wall has been discovered and several examples of stal, a major hint of cave development.  

Having become thoroughly cheesed off with this line of inquiry we decided to head back 80 yards south to the major pit area but not before Dig 7 which was a minor feature next door to dig 6. Despite finding a few lumps of stal, the pit was only a metre deep at best. This was swiftly shut down vowing that we should only dig in the pits surrounded by large quantities of spoil. 

Hutton Wood Mine

Dig 8. In a double line of pits trending 280 N

We decided to open up the pit with bedrock exposed and not long after this proved to be something of a cracker. Removing the boulder fill we found two walls on a 90-degree angle made by the Old Men – a fine display of the arts of dry stonewalling.

Left: Richards in the original opening

What this proved was that the pit we had opened was not something trivial but worthwhile. Digging down the bedrock, now nicely exposed, and after removing large quantities of back fill we found ourselves in a small chamber with a draught issuing from the floor. On the way the first clay pipe was found.

With more material heading surface-wards we found just to the left a man made wall. Clearing more fill out of this chamber we discovered another wall directly opposite – both constructed by the Old Men. This was hinting at something serious. We realised that we were in fact at the base of a short shaft.

Hauling then became a big awkward and despite prestigious use of the tin sheets a la Loxton we decided to back fill the entrance and punch a hole from surface. This was duly done. Nick R then found a second clay pipe in the surface spoil then when the surface had been broached another clay pipe in a recess in one of the constructed walls. The clay pipes have an IW stamp on the side and it appears (although not confirmed) that these date to around middle of the 18th C.

After smashing up a boulder the size of Crete that had come down from the surface we emptied the shaft of infill. Earlier we had discovered a natural hollow that at this stage had turned into a sizeable and draughting recess. Yet more material was emptied until a breakthrough was made into a small boulder filled chamber beyond. Excitement was high. To our left in this chamber (approximately eastwards) was an opening through which small boulders had spilled. This was an underground entrance to the next pit. Creating a low wall of deads we sniffed around this new chamber looking for the way on. The draught was still in evidence but as the system was opened to the elements we decided it was not wise to believe it. An Ochreous stain halfway up the wall marks where original ochre deposit was-removed by miners.

Moving the boulder infill around we discovered the way on, westwards; beneath a perilous looking friable ceiling. Levering that off to make it safe Nick R discovered yet another clay pipe – as before only the tip missing from the end. Clearing our path Nick R then slipped through into a smallish passage that after about five metres came to a disappointing dead end.  The floor of this passage had boulders in great profusion with a wall of deads stacked on the south wall. There are small grottoes in the walls but nothing that could be classed as impressive.

Sadly we realised that that was that for this direction. We shifted boulders from the eastern choke and discovered that it’s another chamber stacked with boulders – one or two on an impressive size. At surface this corresponds with a major pit feature.

We attacked the major pit that lies adjacent but found it to be a vast dumping space for boulders and this was refilled and abandoned.

In need of a change we headed east and opened up another pit (Dig 9) on the other side of the footpath but this proved several sessions ill spent. It was nothing more than a trench filled with boulders. Initially it had looking interesting due to an exposed outcrop of rock.


It seems our walled entrance shaft was probably a main way into the system. We’re using, as a general rule of thumb, the idea the bigger the spoil heap the more interesting the hole. Much time was wasted in scrapes and feeble holes – we’ve learnt our lessons!  It is clear that the cave development in these various pits is relatively small scale and not as well developed as it is back towards Bleadon Cavern. Hence…

And on…

As of mid / late June we shifted emphasis to a location where Chris Richards opened up several shafts in the early 70’s. Already a promising draughting opening has revealed itself down bedding dipping at 55 degrees (WNW). Updates in a future BB. This area shows greater cave development.

 (Very)Rough map of the dig area. New dig is concentrating back in the vicinity of Chris Richards adventures in the early 70’s

The Caves Of Sand Bay

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

A line of limestone sea cliffs forms the north side of Worlebury Hill. These are mainly developed in the Goblin Combe Oolites which dip 30 – 35 degrees S. There are a number of vertical rifts formed in neptunean dykes (and in one instance a calcite-galena vein) where the softer material has been washed out by the action of the sea. Most of these are of no importance and only two are worth mentioning. Several small phreatic caves however, do occur.

From east to west these caves are…

1.         Ochre Rift.  NGR 3177 6287 L 10m VR 1m

Unroofed phreatic rift forming a 1m deep trench over 10m long and 1m wide located above the shore on a prominent ledge. The cave has been filled with a colourful, banded ochre deposit (well seen at its eastern end). Good solution hollows can be seen on its walls.

2.         Candle Stub Cave.  NGR 3170 6283 L 9m VR 3m

Alcove 5m wide, 2m high and 3m long. Inside, on the left and 1.5m up the wall a circular horizontal tube <1m wide rapidly closes down after 6m.A candle stub in a recess is the reminder of one of the co-authors (Richards) last visit in 1978!  There is a little flowstone.

3.         Black Rock Cave.  NGR 3150 6268 L 21m  VR 6m

By far the largest phreatic cave in Sand Bay. After a 2m step up from the beach a 4.5m unroofed section of passage leads to an entrance 1.9m wide and 1.4m high. This opens into a roomy L-shaped chamber some 16m long and up to 4m high and wide to a large second entrance (5m by 3m), which is reached by a 4m climb.


Black Rock Cave

4.         Ochre Pit.  NGR 3138 6273 L 6m  VR 2m

At the top of the metal steps which lead down to the beach. The footpath passes through a pit (6m by 2m) over 2m deep. There is a prominent ochre deposit and small solution hollows can be seen in the walls.

5.         Sighing Cave. NGR 3103 6258  L 3m VR 2m

A small blowhole sea cave 3m long pinches in to a too tight second entrance in the roof.

6.         The Blowhole.  NGR 3102 6258 L 8m  VR 3m

Crawl over pebbles leads to small chamber 2.3m long, 1.3m wide and 0.9m high. On the left is a chimney 3m high to a second entrance on the prominent sloping bedding plane just west of the tea-rooms. Halfway up the chimney a frightening squeeze (now choked with pebbles) twists about 2m to a third entrance.

7.         Dripping Well.

In Spring Cove. Small sloping bedding plane displays two hand-cut basins, which fill with fresh water derived from seepages along the limestone/basalt interface.

8.         Anchor Head Cave. NGR 3083 6233  L 15m  VR 4m

A sea cave. Roomy passage 1.6m wide and 4m high (at entrance) diminishes in size to a crawl and dead end at 15m. Now choked at 10m by park bench.


A Weston-S-Mare urban legend states that this cave leads for about 2 miles to its other entrance in a quarry in Manor road (behind the locked doors of an electricity sub station). We first heard of this in school in the 1970s and has been perpetuated ever since. More recently one drunken acquaintance even described the trip through!

West Horrington Shaft

Tony Jarratt

“…underneath the surface great stretches of the hills must have been honeycombed with old workings, now lost to sight.”  J.W.Gough, The Mines of Mendip, 1930

News of a recently revealed mine shaft at West Horrington (NGR ST 5737.2  4780.3, alt. 215m) was conveyed to the writer by Adrian Coward of the Somerset Wildlife Trust and on 10th May an early evening visit was made when your scribe descended on ladder for 15m to find that an equal amount of space lay below. Unfortunately he was not the first down as an errant field vole which animal lover Adrian was attempting to shepherd away from the shaft decided to take up base jumping, much to Adrian’s embarrassment! Returning later with more ladders, a lifeline and Henry Dawson the shaft was rigged using Nigel Taylor’s Land Rover, “ Stanley”, as a belay and a depth of 28m was reached to a blockage of rocks and earth with no side passages. The battered and grubby (but surprisingly alive) vole was rescued and Henry went down for a look. The entrance is a 0.8m square hole with half of the original limestone capping slab in situ, the other half lying at the bottom of the shaft, having apparently been snapped by a somewhat surprised tractor driver! A couple of metres down the shaft widens to, on average, 1.6m x 1m and has well preserved ginging for much of its depth. There are few obvious shotholes for the first 15m but below that they are plentiful indicating a working date of possibly the mid 1700s. The shaft was sunk on a narrow vein and is slightly off vertical with the dip towards the NE and there is a tiny natural bedding passage about a third of the way down. The minerals sought were most likely lead and ochre. Its dryness suggested either more workings or a natural soakaway below. Infilling this attractive and historical vein working would have been a pity and, if nothing else, it makes a great ladder/SRT pitch with a superb view over Wells, Glastonbury Tor and the Somerset Levels – particularly on this evening with massive thunderstorms booming all around and illuminating the heavens with sheet and forked lightning. It is situated 56m SW of the wall/fence junction and 15m into the field at right angles to the wall in a SSE direction.

Few written references to mining in this immediate area have been found though the adjacent Biddlecombe workings are well documented. On page 163 of the 1965 edition of Geology of the Country around Wells and Cheddar (Mem. Geol. Surv.) is the statement “To the south of the main orefield, the Carboniferous Limestone between West Horrington and the Haydon Farms is pitted by many shallow shafts with spoil heaps containing calcite, baryte and some galena”.  The explored workings of Prew’s Pot (ST 5704  4763), a similar hole at (ST 5737 4761)  and Horrington Hill Ochre Mine alias Tim’s Retreat (ST 5763.8  4779.1) are nearby. The latter reached a depth of 29m via shafts of 17m and 12m with a total length of 76m but had very dangerous ginging just below the surface. Adrian knows of village folk tales relating to extensive underground passages in the area but these may be merely legendary though it is interesting to note that the shaft lies on the line of the supposed tunnel leading from Simond’s Mine (ST 5700  4784) towards Khyber Rift (ST 5833  4802) and is almost that depth. Nigel Taylor once heard a local tale that a shaft in this area, infilled after the Second World War, was used as a dump for phosphorous grenades, machine guns and other defunct military hardware. He was unable to locate the site but named it Durban’s Shaft after the landowner of the time (1973). It will hopefully remain lost! Tony Durston (the friendly farmer who allowed us access to Hazlenut Swallet over his ground) is the current landowner and gave permission for a child and tractor proof lid to be fitted to the shaft. It was deemed an interesting project to dig at the bottom, partly to investigate possible connections with other hidden shafts nearby.

Capping of the shaft commenced on May 28th when the writer, John “Tangent” Williams and Ron Wyncoll cleared soil from the top of the ginging and prepared a steel frame to take the manhole cover. They were refreshed in their task with tea, coffee and biscuits kindly carried up from his house in the village by Adrian. Next day the first two returned with Bob Smith, Hannah Bell, Tony Audsley, Henry Bennett and Rich Witcombe to add a concrete surround to the cover and GPS locate Horrington Hill Ochre Mine, West Horrington Shaft, a blocked shaft with an obvious spoil heap to the south of the latter (ST 5740.0 4775.2) and another potential blocked shaft nearby (ST 5739.6 4773.5). Everything went remarkably to plan on this pleasant bank holiday Monday and the team even managed to squeeze in a few pints of Bath Ales “Gem” to replace lost body fluids. The manhole cover was emplaced on the 30th and some tidying up done that evening and on the following one by Anne Vanderplank (WCC), Tangent and the writer.

Digging commenced on Sunday 4th June when the portable alloy tripod was rigged up and a steel plate lowered down the shaft to provide limited protection for the face worker. Tangent and your scribe abseiled down to assess the job before the latter selflessly returned to the sun-baked surface to act as bag hauler while the former excavated an alcove to one side of the shaft in which to hide. The providential arrival of John Noble, clutching a bag of ice lollies, was welcomed and Tangent, flagging in the depths, was revitalised by one of these unexpected treats! Man-hauling then began and twelve bags of spoil came out after great exertion despite the use of jammers to grip the slimy rope. Meanwhile, below, our hero had opened up a hole in the floor down which a rock was sent and this created a minor avalanche down an apparent slope into an open cavity. Fearing that he was perched on jammed debris Tangent hastily tied on to the SRT rope before excavating further. He disinterred a metre long stemple standing vertically in the spoil and in remarkably good condition and it is speculated that this may once have been a climbing stemple wedged across the shaft into “egg and slot” niches. Several more bags were filled and stacked before a retreat was made to discuss the project over a few jars of, appropriately enough, “Mine” beer. The shaft was now over 30 metres deep.

A return was made on the 7th June when Tangent again descended the shaft while the writer and Tony A. removed another 14 bags of spoil – this time using Stanley the Land Rover for hauling. This was a distinct improvement on man-hauling as three or four loads came up at once but detaching them from the rope ideally needed two people (plus the driver).

On 10th June the writer and Tangent, later assisted by Bob, dug at the blocked hole until Tangent was able to squeeze down into some 3m of mined, descending passage with a floor of unstable rocks, mud and large animal bones – almost certainly the original shaft spoil heap utilised as infill and explaining its absence on the surface. Some digging was done at the end but abandoned due to the imminent collapse of the shaft blockage, a great deal of which will have to be removed before further progress can be made. This will be a long term project requiring a decent winch and much patience but the B.E.C. Mining History Section are convinced of its worth.

To be continued in BB 526. (Probably 527 depending on space Ed.)

1. Wilton-Jones G.   Tim’s Retreat – an ochre mine at West Horrington. Belfry Bulletin 372/373, April/May 1979. (West Horrington Ochre Mine).    

2. Barrington N. & Stanton W.   Mendip – The Complete Caves and a View of the Hills. 3rd revised edn. 1977. ( Biddlecombe Rift Cave and Simond’s Mine, Khyber Rift, Prew’s Pot and similar hole).

3. Tucker J.H.   Some Smaller Mendip Caves  Vol. Two. B.E.C. Caving Report No.9, August 1962, pp22-24. ( Biddlecombe Rift Cave and Biddlecombe <Simond’s> Mine).

4. Taylor N. Log Books & BBs 1-99, B.E.C. CD-ROM 1999.  (Brief reference to Durban’s Shaft, 1973 Log).

5. Green G.W. & Welch F.B.A.  Geology of the Country around Wells and Cheddar.  Mem. Geol. Surv. 1965 edn. (Biddlecombe and West Horrington workings).

6. Jarratt A.R.  MSS Log Book Vol. IV, 1988-1992, p.175.  (Simond’s Mine).

7. Anon. Simond’s Mine, Biddlecombe – a Re-discovery Feb 1991. Belfry Bulletin 459, May 1991, p4. 

New Providence Mine

Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Iron Plantation, Long Ashton NGR 53707070

L 25M VR 4.5 M

There are a number of ancient caves in Iron Plantation, which provided the loci for an intense mineralization by iron oxides, both in the form of metallic heamatite and the earthy variety- red ochre. These minerals were removed by mining in the second half of the 19C. The enormous main rift NGR 53507093 bears testament to this industry.


Plan of New Providence Mine

In late 2004 we discovered a small hole in a pit located in an area of depressions behind the houses on Providence Lane. It was not until Jan 2006 that we decided to explore it.

A rather tight entrance leads to a descending gallery with ‘deads’ stacked on the right hand side. To the left is a small blind passage to a choke at the base of a shaft to surface. The main passage bends to the right where an old pit prop can be seen. Here, the cave has a heavy drip and a fine slope of micro-gours extends downslope for over 2m. In some of the small pools are cave pearls and, more unusually, large amounts of calcited twigs-looking very much like broken straws. A few small ribbon formations can be seen in the roof. These formations bear an attractive red colouration due to iron oxides.

A careful stoop over the gours leads to a squeeze into the 8m long and 4.5m high ‘red rift’, on the right at shoulder level is a small bedding chamber. This whole area is, as the name suggests, strongly red coloured. A small clear pool adds interest.

New Providence mine is a natural karstic cavity, which had become filled with red ochre. This was removed by miners about 1860-1880 as part of the Providence mine sett. There is no record of this cave in any literature and we assume that, due to its obscure location, has been completely missed by later explorers.

Iron Plantation Hole NGR 5353 7087

L 3M VR 1M

During our exploration of the above, a reconnaissance around the areas of mining in the plantation revealed a recent collapse on the mountain biking track. Removal of a few large boulders gave access to a blind 3m passage just under the surface. There is no sign of any iron ore. Bats reside at the end.

Ian Dear and The Ian Dear Memorial Fund.

Mike Wilson Hon Treasurer

Ian Dear was a BEC Member who caved with the club in the 1950s along with his friend Geoff Edbrooke, his nickname was “Woomph!!!” Apparently when a ship is going alongside it has to give 3 loud whoomphs on its klaxon, and that’s how he used to announce his arrival on his motorcycle. Great fun!!

According to Brian Prewer he was an active digger in the true BEC tradition spending a great deal of time in Hunters Hole digging [Dears Ideal and Rover pot]. In October 1956 he did a Derbyshire trip to Middleton Dale along with several other BEC Members, during this trip Jack Whaddon managed to drop a 20lb piece of Galena on his foot much to his annoyance I expect!! He also served on the committee as tacklemaster and greatly helped the club financially during his membership.

Geoff’s Wife Valerie remembers him well, as they were all great friends who had many good times together she describes him as being a very shy, clever, quirky oddball [nothing has changed in the BEC membership for the past 50 years or so it seems!!!!!!!!.] He lived in an Admiralty Hostel, The Priory on Bathwick hill with his friend Geoff, where they stored their caving kit in the loft. Eventually he managed to get a small Flat in 1951 and invited the then married Edbrokes to supper.

Quote, ‘the supper consisted of sitting on a settee while he fed his friends his favourite pickles by spoon from jam jars’. Times were hard in those days but you could have hilarious fun!!!!!!!! I am sure that some of our older members have a few stories to tell.

At the moment I am not sure what triggered Ian Dear’s decision to set up the IDMF but it may have been the BEC trip to Switzerland in 1948, or perhaps his trip with Brian Prewer to France in 1950.

Brian was a young lad then and must have found it hard to finance the trip!! [I can remember Trebor telling me how he hitched all the way to the Vercors one year because finances were tight!!] We used to walk from Knowle along the railway track to Chelwood Bridge and then by road to the Mendips on a Friday night to go caving in Burrington in the early 60s,sometimes we were lucky and got a lift partway but usually we had to walk. The Burrington Café was just a shack in those days with condensation running down the windows!!

The fund is basically a trust fund set up to help young cavers to go to the Continent, there are no restrictions, as long as you are a full member of the club, still at College or not in permanent employment and under 21 years old, you are entitled to apply for financial assistance to top up your travel expenses. This would normally be part of a BEC party organised by older members. This used to be kept down to a single Grant per year  as the fund does not accumulate a great deal of Bank interest per annum.

The Club does not ask for any repayment but does ask that you write a good report of the trip for the belfry bulletin!! It goes without saying that when the recipient is filthy rich it would be nice if they add to the fund financially to help others. Originally the maximum donation was £10.00. Obviously times have changed since then, but bear in mind £10.00 was a sizeable sum in those days.

Lately the fund has benefited greatly by elder members of the club .The late Joan Bennet recently left a donation to the IDMF and strangely another donation arrived [anonymously] within the last few weeks. These will be of huge benefit to the fund and will ensure that it will carry on for many years yet.

The original concept was to only use the interest that the fund generated, therefore keeping the capital in perpetuity. This is not possible in this modern age, where Building Societies only give a nominal interest rate for Club Accounts. If anyone has a suggestion how we can get around this problem I will be happy to listen to them!!!

At this moment in time the club committee takes a vote on the fund, re topping it up whenever necessary, this has been the case for many years now.

I hope this information is useful to the newer members, and of interest to the elders of the club, also that the fund will carry on in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie that has carried it so far. Sadly Ian Dear died in June/July 1964 his obituary is published in the BB 1967 July 64.

The IDMF accounts are open to inspection at any time and are published at the AGM. We [the committee] would welcome any comments on the IDMF from the membership including any notes on how the IDMF helped them!! 

I would like to thank all the BEC members who have helped me with various snippets from the past history of the Club.

Vale - John Cornwell 30 April 1934  - 28 January 2006

John Cornwell, Bristolian, Caver, Photographer, Industrial Archaeologist and Enthusiast died of a heart attack on 28th January 2006, he was 71. 

John was born in Hanham and grew up in the Kingswood area of Bristol.  As a child, he played on the 'Diddly Dumps' and the remains of Speedwell Colliery, early experiences, which were to have a profound influence later. John's father was a keen amateur photographer and encouraged his son when John showed an interest in photography.  This also was a significant influence on his later life.

John started work at the Co-op when he left school but soon left to join the army as a regular soldier. While in the army, he lost an argument with a 30ft cliff and smashed a femur and his pelvis.  He was fitted with an artificial hip-joint, and invalided out of the army, classed as unfit for active service!  It is a tribute to the makers and fitters of this hip-joint that it never failed or gave any trouble despite all the punishment that John managed to inflict on it.  After the army, John returned to the Co-op, ending up a manager of the Whitchurch branch before leaving to take up full time mining photography.  

John joined the Club in 1959 and was a member for just under ten years.  He moved on down to the Wessex but then to the East Somerset Caving Club.  During his time as a member of the BEC, John dug extensively in Cuthbert's, at the sump (now duck) and together with Nick Hart, opened up Chandelier Passage. Along with his digging, John also maintained and developed his interest in photography, concentrating in particular on using relatively large format cameras, 120 rollfilm and giant (PF60) flashbulbs.  He produced some spectacular photographs, particularly of Cuthbert's and GB.

After leaving the Club, John dug at Hillgrove and Nine Barrows and helped the Bridgwater College diggers with Sludge Pit.  His major digging success, however, was at Rhino Rift.  He started digging there in the summer of 1968, just after the great storm and flood.  The final breakthrough at Rhino in 1970 was nearly fatal for John; when he entered the little chamber at the head of the pitch, visibility was poor, as the air was thick with bang fumes.  As he moved forward into the chamber, it was only because he kicked a rock forward then heard the crash and reverberation as it landed 100 ft below that stopped him from walking off the edge of the pitch.

After Rhino, John dug at Charterhouse Warren Farm.   He was allowed a short time off from this dig in order to marry Jenny Murrell, a fellow digger from the days at Rhino. As the dig at Charterhouse Warren got deeper, John began to lose interest.  I suspect that he was never very happy about verticals, perhaps as a consequence of his experience in the army. 

Whatever the reason, John abandoned cave digging for many years in favour of industrial archaeology.  He spent nine years excavating the site of Fussell's Ironworks at Mells and then eight years digging and reconstructing the site of the Golden Valley coal pits at Bitton.  The high point of this latter dig was after the restoration of the colliery ventilation furnace chimney, when the bottom was filled with bales of straw and old tyres and fired to produce an awesome roaring column of flame and a most satisfying plume of dense black smoke.   

John's diet deserves a mention.  He did breakfast (although not habitually) off 35 fish fingers at a sitting and he did for a long time live off a diet which appeared to consist almost entirely of tuna "curry", sponge cakes and crisps.  John, who hated gravies and sauces, prepared his own variety of "curry" using dry ingredients heated together in a frying pan. The result looked like over-roasted sawdust.

This tuna diet was to have an odd side effect.  In the early 1970s, John became ill with rather vague but worrying neurological symptoms and it was thought that he was suffering from mercury poisoning, the tuna fish being a possible source.  Although the poisoning was never confirmed, John retired from the Co-op and cut his tuna intake to more reasonable levels.  His health improved, and needing employment, he turned his hobby of mining photography into a full time occupation.  Because of the restrictions necessary in the explosive atmospheres of gassy mines, John developed a technique of painting with light, initially using a cap lamp, later with more powerful locomotive lamps.  Using this technique, he could photograph along 100 yards of coalface and achieve an even level of illumination.  More importantly, with his minimal equipment, he was able to photograph at a coal face without stopping production, whereas the National Coal Board's official photographers had to stop the face working while they installed the necessary flame proof floodlighting.  John's photographs may be seen in his books on the Somerset, Bristol and South Wales coalfields.

John had many talents, but I believe that he deserves to be remembered for his enthusiasm, his showmanship and for his outstanding ability to gather a team and motivate it.  Ideas from John always sounded attractive and plausible, even if they were neither.  Many of us heard his "Tell you what..." and got led into doing something we would really rather not, (like digging to nearly closing time).

John's funeral at Haycombe Crematorium was notable for the singing of "Cwm Rhondda" by a contingent of his Welsh mining friends and by the playing of the 1812 Overture, complete with cannon fire in recognition of his love of loud bangs.

Our condolences go to his widow, Jenny, his daughters, Joanna and Josephine and an ever-increasing number of grandchildren (6 as of 6 May 2006).

Tony Audsley

On the Exploration of ‘Reluctant Crevice’ Hole of the Mendip Hills in the County of Somersetshire.

BEING A TRANSCRIPTION OF A RECENTLY UNEARTHED SECTION OF CATCOTT’S RARE MANUSCRIPT  “I LOVE HOLES”, The sequel to “I Like Holes” (The two are often confused. Alan Lowland-Gorilla does this in his 1974 book Catcott – The Hole Story)


Probably not a picture of Catcott at all.

 (Some words being hard to decipher have been left blank.)

“I took myself of my own personal avail to return onto the hills of Mendip where in recent years I had stumbled innumerable times in a discordant manner out over the threshold of the Derbyshire Gibbon, a fine Inn somewhere within in a ten mile radius of Frampton Camcorder, to explore the subterraneous vestibules of those fine embonpointed upwellings of moundalur limestonic strata. This village had taken upon itself to move on various occasions from said county of Somersetshire and I last heard that it had settled lately in fine resplendent visage outside the hamlet of Two Horns near Farleyford Wind. So on this occasion I facilitated myself of an easy egress from the promptostical salutations of the heavily wainscoted lavatories of the Deliberate Monster, my new Inn of choice on that particular day from which to begin my rustic peregrinations. 

Being of stout amplitude and of vigorous verisimilitudinal countenance and indeed having polished my whethers, I reasoned that in light of my recent wholesome cessation of suspended and rudimentary opines that I disencumber myself with previously held fragulations of a colestomical nature.  In that such sensibilities held, within the confines of a needless rousing, enable one to forego certain frumptotic stalations of the mind and regale the thoughts with tremulous mental aberrational singularities.      

In conversational ejaculation with certain dyspeptic and frightfully ruddy gentlemen of whom one may say that in their stature they were seldom of an upright nature due in part to the consumation of lurid quantities of heavily brewed drinkables and also in part due to their inability to remove themselves, unless to engage in the rough sport of face-aching, from the damp boudoirs of the underground, I was sorely regaled with intrigues and machinational impromptitudes as to warrant my near evacuation. Such men, I warranted were of disproportionately ignoble infamy and were known to frighten certain vaporous ladies of the parish of Wells, disporting and derobing themselves in a frockular nature beyond that which was deemed wholesome and necessarily emblematic of the county.   

Therein, within the gambrelled nook of a sturdy port of call named The Mistimed Thrutch in which I sought some solace, a certain squalidinous gentlemen (of whom, in passing I had failed to repel with such vivid fistular manipulations), awash I might say in clouds of tobacconistic cumulus, disembogued himself of certain populastic inoctitudes. I took him to be nothing more than a mountebank and rustic pettifogger, perhaps a Shipham lightweight such were his glossetings. His accidental disportments had left him with crude manifestations of his previous wayward indignities but his frasmotic emollients were nevertheless forthcoming and I purchased for him, in serried ranks a great multitude of aleous beverages of which was comprised, in the most part, of a salacious inoculent called Colonic Bedevilment.       

Soon my conversational rectitudes were not dissimilar to that of a man of lesser standing, due in part to the festitudes of the drink, and I demanded of him news of the cave in question upon which our longitudinal meanderings had happened upon and of which my return to Mendip activities had brought me. With immodest peripatetic disectitudes he uttered a deleterious barrage of dispompic gloatings but vowed thereon to disport me to the opening of this wondrous series of cavernational squintings.

Bedecking myself with certain kittage, including a Pentland Thunderer, a wig new to my horizons, he and I left the Inn, myself adopting the Gentleman’s mince and he a kind of malodorous limp, and crossed numerous yardages in a frondocular manner through certain fields belonging to volatile man of the earth. A bellicose individual who saw to it that my companion and I had to run in vigorous rombosity when he espied our perambulations.   At one point I had to point my ---- at his ---- whereupon he retorted by thrusting his ---- at my ----. Never was such a sight to be seen upon the werries of Somerset in this time or since.”

[Catcott then goes on for the following 20 pages describing a prolonged encounter with the farmer in which there appears to have been something much akin to numerous bouts of a ‘vigorous engagement of ferocious ineptitude’ and a few hours playing nude deck quoits in a vicarage in Wells. Catcott also quotes, in a seemingly random fashion, from the works of Thermos of Tee, the Greek philosopher who gave his lectures swinging from a trapeze in the gardens of his house just outside Thermopylae. Quite why Catcott does this is beyond current understanding as Thermos was a vigorous and frequent layabout. Retiring from his teaching role at the age of 26 he spent the next sixty years doing absolutely nothing to the extent that when he died, rigor-vigorous set in.]

The Geological Reverend and his guide then proceeded onto an area not far from Wookey Hole but his ‘glandulous skerrige’, assumed to be some nervous complaint, forced Catcott to rest overnight at the house of a friend. Who that friend was is lost to history.  The following morning Catcott and his guide set off to the opening of Reluctant Crevice Hole.]  

“We, that is my resplendently rugose bombostulous guide and myself, arrived full hard upon the desperately early hour not much passed nine of the morning clock and lashing my chin (ed: a kind of caver’s blinky) with its populastic amendments, to the nearest tree we descended in discanframjular fashion.”

[At this point the text becomes somewhat difficult to read as the MS was left in a gutter behind Park Street, not far from the Colston Hall, after a dire and filthy encounter with a - person or persons of low moral fibre who extracted from the caving Rev, ‘a certain number of worried dentes’.]

It seems for a while at least that Catcott was in dire trouble for the first fifty odd feet of this cave. Indeed descending into an unknown swallet would be enough trouble for the most hardened and stouthearted members of the clergy yet he braved the path before him (See Simeon Fak’s The Clergy in Difficulty, The History of Religious Men in Perilous Situations, book 15.). With a thick rope lashed around his midriff he became wedged in ‘a tremolent narrowing’ upon which, ‘Much varied cursing was levelled at Beelzebub and all his grubby minions who disported themselves like intoxicated peasants near my stockings.’  Fortunately for Catcott his companion had had the foresight to bring along a hogshead of gooselard and used the substance in great liberal hosings all over the subterraneous swot.

Catcott then descended into the void where for several hours he swung in lazy arcs above the floor of a large chamber. From this vantage point he was able to comment on what he saw while busy quilling into his notebook. ]

“The very surface of the rock was a kind of monopostic and babalacious mammalate of the kind I had observed during a pole-vaulting weekend near Rome and twas here where I had happened upon a orificular opening in an asunderous hillside, around which swarthy rude mechanicals, lacking any curtitudes, ate innoculous and emjamulated meats of an speciferous and indelicate nature.”  

At this point the MS runs out and much of what followed is lost to history as indeed is Reluctant Crevice Hole.   The last readable word in the report of Reluctant Crevice is ‘…git…’

Probably just as well…Ed.              

Mendip Underground – Appendix 1  - (Part 1)

The Hunters Inn             EP (Easy Pub)


HUNTERS INN (East Series)

Priddy. NGR: 549501.    Map 5

LENGTH - variable.     DEPTH - 3 inches

The entrance is located on the crossroads of the main Priddy road and the one heading south to Wells. There is ample parking space nearby and cavers are reminded that nudity is to be avoided, unless absolutely necessary. There are sufficient trees that can offer suitable cover for loitering. The Hunters Inn affords the caver a sporting trip with a few unsuspecting but pleasant surprises into the bargain. It is also a useful endurance builder for the nearby Hunters Inn Sink and Hunters Hole.   

Novices will need a lifeline (40ft doubled for return trip) to gain access to the first great chamber. The first great chamber on the left from the entrance is a roomy place. It’s decorations were once fine but have now suffered a bit at the hands of numerous heavy footed cavers making their way through. Just to the right a bold step affords the visitor their first look at the chamber, mostly out of bounds, called The Bar that runs parallel with this first chamber.

To the left there is a small table like feature called, naturally enough First Table, which can be traversed either by travelling over it, thrutching over a smaller structure called The Chair in the process or by the more sporting and regularly taken journey under it. The lower one is best situated to observe the stone floor of the chamber now worn smooth by the passing of numerous boots and evacuated liquids. Occasionally a surprise puddle makes the crawl a shade more interesting.

Coming up the other side one is presented by a low bench structure now somewhat worn, as it is a good place to rest. Thoughtful cavers often leave a mug here from which one can take a refreshing drink. Remember to replace what you take. A belay point over the alcove known as The Fireplace, (for obvious reasons) can be rigged, particularly for novice cavers, to afford easy traverse to the second half of the main chamber. To the left a small recess can be observed but as yet has not been pushed.  A deft one-handed swinging manoeuvre allows ingress to the second feature predominant in this chamber, Table Two, again named for obvious and indeed oblivious reasons. There is also a second recess here and that too as yet to be fully explored.

From this vantage point the second parallel chamber, The Bar can be seen with greater clarity although on particularly busy days the view is somewhat spoiled. Sadly, a heavy fall of bar room snacks has made this place inaccessible to all but the most brave or indeed foolhardy. 

Leaving Table Two is difficult as it requires a great shift in momentum to head towards The Bar. There is great danger of the caver getting lost at this point so it’s best to have one hand on the west wall for guidance, avoiding the stal curtain. This helps the disorientated caver find his or her bearings, as these are often lost at this point. It has been known for certain explorers to bypass The Bar altogether and in their confusion head towards the entrance. Tethering to Table Two also has its benefits but should be left to the discretion of the individual or team leader. Tethering works well for first timers and those of a reluctant nature. 

(Part two of this appendix may appear at a later unspecified date, Ed.)


Sandford Hill.

On the invite of the landowners of much of Sandford Hill (soon to be an adventure park), Tony J and the Two Nicks investigated two new shafts that had opened up – one by the vigorous use of a Landrover - and one from subsidence, (a third was also discovered but not investigated) on once heavily mined land now being considered as a 4x4 driving track. The shafts all possessed fine examples of ginged walls with large capping stones; the one that had opened up through subsidence had a fine and hefty example.

The various representatives of the landowners were also shown Saville Row shafts as well as the other holes up there whereupon colour swiftly drained from faces. To open this area to the public a great deal of work must be done to fence off these shafts for all the obvious reasons. It has been suggested that the various cave clubs in the area pool their knowledge as to the full extent of the shafts.

In terms of the Mendip Cave registry it should be ascertained as to whether the new shafts that opened up are genuinely new or are simply rediscoveries from earlier explorations by, for example the pupils of Sidcot School.

From the Belfry Table


Greetings from a roasting summer on the Hill!!.

I will start with some advance warnings to you all this month about upcoming events, which hopefully this will reach you through the BB in plenty of time!

MIDSUMMER BARBEQUE: Chris Jewell and other younger members have plans well advanced for a BEC Barbecue on SATURDAY 19th .AUGUST 2006, Please support this event!!!!!!!!!

The AGM will be held at 10.30 am Saturday 7th .October 2006 at the Belfry.

NOMINATIONS FOR THE BEC COMMITTEE are hereby called for, you can nominate yourself but must be seconded by a ratified i.e. Full member, you should send this to the Hon.. Secretary by the 31st August in order that the Hon. Secretary can arrange for an election in due time.

THE B.E.C DINNER 2006, will be held again at the BATH ARMS Cheddar at 7.30 pm Saturday 7th .October, sadly places due to the venue size will be on a restricted number due to their fire regulations, so book early, the tickets will sell out early.

THE BELFRY EXTENSION is moving on slowly, though recent attempts to finish the roof are slightly hampered by the availability of volunteers’ free time.

COUNCIL TAX,  Excellent news here, and down to the good works of our Hon. Treasurer, Mendip District Council have awarded us 100% relief until the year 2010.

SPIN DRYER, younger members have been pressing for this item, it has now been obtained and is the Changing room, but PLEASE try to be economical, with the present warm weather,-users,  try not to waste expensive electricity!

THE BELFRY site will be appearing on a TV program on SKY entitled “Future Weapons” Scheduled for release next July (2007). A small film crew spent a couple of hours in the BEC “Garden” Where a demonstration of cutting Wooden Blocks with Explosives cords and water was filmed, and Dr. Sidney Alford interviewed on the method. Several amused BEC members in residence during the week took their own footage, and also later in a Farm in Priddy witnessed a Hostage rescue scenario being filmed. The Hon. Secretary did obtain a small financial donation to the Club for services rendered.

ROSE COTTAGE Dig continues apace, though nothing of great significance has occurred this week,…but soon???

I am sorry that this is a short article this month, but I am off to Oban in the next hour, and in order to meet deadlines…………

Regards to all…

Nigel Taylor Hon. Secretary.
Sunday 16th. July 2006

Letter(s) to the Editor…

There aren’t any…


Hollow Hills

As mentioned in BB 524 the 500th edition of this esteemed journal is due later this year. In discussion with Wig the executive decision has been made that the best way to celebrate the occasion is to produce a photographic history of the BEC. 

Earlier in March of this year The Two Nicks and Jrat went to inspect a pit that had opened up on Sandford Hill after the heavy use of a land rover by a group of off-roaders. Their presence was requested by the owners of the Lyncombe Hotel and its environs who needed to know exactly what was happening in terms of the caves and mines situated therein. Their plan by the way, is to turn the area of Sandford Hill into an outdoor pursuits centre. When shown the openings of the pits known as Saville Row many faces turned a distinct shade of pale. Despite that there has been some suggestions that the pits and Sandford Levvy become part of the leisure activities introducing newcomers to the sport.   It will be interesting to see how all this pans out in the future in terms of access. It will also be interesting to see if this encourages new initiates to the sport of caving – actually for ‘sport’ read ‘passion’.  


‘ The underground world, the ‘eighth continent’ is one of the last great pieces of unfinished exploration…’

    The National Geographic, May 2005



The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Nick  Harding

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Joint Treasurers: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary: Brenda Wilton (568)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden / Hut Bookings: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts

Acting Editor: Nick Harding (1289)
BEC Web Page Editor: Henry Bennett (1079)
Librarian : Graham Johnson (aka- Jake) (1111)

Club Trustees: Martin Grass, Dave Irwin, Nigel Taylor and Barrie Wilton

Cover image: The cover shows a cross section and a description (as published in Rutter and Phelps) of various points of interest in the Lost Cave of Hutton. In Catcott’s Treatise on the Deluge, he states that he, with a few friends, descended into a cavern 90 feet deep. Due to the profusion of bones he described the place as being like a charnel house. 



A Hearty Hello From Your New Editor.

Sitting quietly in the Hunters one afternoon, near the groat-sliding* board (or is it slide-groat? I was told but swiftly forgot), observing a game being played by a group of freshly spelunked Belgians, I lifted my near empty pot to see, through its smeary glass bottom the press-gang, a swarthy looking bunch at the best of times, lurking in the corner of the tavern. It was clear there was only one thing on their collective minds – they were after an editor. I had been earlier warned (or is that warned earlier? – and they wanted me to do this job!), along with the speculative use of crude emotional blackmail, by a certain individual (Rowsell! for it was he) that members of her majesty’s Belfry militia had already singled me out for the role, due in part to my reckless historical pamphleteering. While trying to flee I was unable to avoid their rough manner and was hit rudely about the skull and shackled to the duty. The following morning I awoke with a thick head and a freshly sharpened quill crudely stapled to my right hand. One day the law may change and writers will be able to go about their business freely and in good spirits but until then I take it as a signal honour to become the new master of words at the BEC…or so it says here.

The Belfry Militia in action.

If you have articles or anything that might be remotely of interest to the caving world for inclusion in this esteemed organ please send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Your Editor.

* Goat-sliding would be more fun, surely…



By James Cobbett, Helen Harper, Rob Harper and Stuart McManus


In late February and early March of 2005 a group of three cavers from Britain and one British caver based in Panama spent approximately two weeks exploring the caves on the Bocas del Toro islands on the Caribbean coast in the north west of the Republic of Panama.

Although there is a lot of limestone in Panama much of which is cave-bearing there is very little recorded cave exploration.





James Cobbett

Panama City, Panama

Wessex Cave Club

Stuart McManus

Priddy, Somerset, UK


Helen Harper

Wells, Somerset, UK

Bristol Exploration Club

Rob Harper

Wells, Somerset, UK

Bristol Exploration Club


As none of the party would admit to either geological or geographical training a subjective description only is given.

On both Bastimentos and Colόn the centres of the islands rise to about 50-70m of elevation and are surrounded by wide areas of level ground only a few metres above sea level. The central portions are mainly covered with rainforest and much of the low-lying area is marsh and mangrove swamp. Around areas of habitation the land is cleared for farming and there is considerable evidence of increasing development for the tourist industry.

All of the caves explored were developed in horizontally bedded bands of “caliza” a coralline limestone that is present over large areas and used by the locals to make cement and possibly as aggregate. This is a very friable stone and seems to be interspersed with layers of petrified mud/clay which is extremely slippery: both of these rocks are very fragile.

There is a high annual rainfall in the area and cave development is very common; most of the cave passages are only a few metres below ground level. At higher elevations there is evidence of massive older collapsed systems with short lengths of very large dry passages often choked with mud or stalagmite formations. The caves at a lower level are usually horizontal active streamways with frequent collapses from the surface. The presence of numerous cenotes and large inactive, at least at the time of our visit in the dry season, resurgence pools would suggest the presence of extensive sub-water table development.


Isla Colόn

A.         La Gruta and associated caves

1.  La Gruta  – this is a well-known “show” cave on the island and the upstream, and probably downstream sections are well known to local cavers.

Access – A short taxi ride from Bocas to a sign for “La Gruta” and then a 300m walk along a paved trail to a stream marked by religious icons, a lectern and a series of banked pews. Upstream from here the water resurges from a large cave entrance and following the stream downriver over a small dam leads to a further large entrance after approximately 100m.


Upstream – This has been adequately described previously by Keith Christenson to wit…“The cave consists of a horizontal active stream passage, divided up into four separate parts.  The main entrance is large and of walking height, and opens into the largest known passage in Bocas.  However, this passage is only 94m long, coming out into a karst window.  The next cave section is just 7m long, and then the final section is 204m of mostly walking height stream cave with occasional pools.”

Downstream – the cave consists of walking and wading in the streamway through three cave sections to emerge in a small valley. The stream from the cave is a tributary to the stream flowing down this valley, (see below). The first of the downstream sections was surveyed by Maurice Thomas and Jorge Pino in 2002.

2.  Cenotes, “Mac & Cobbett’s” Cave, “Rob & Helen’s” Cave

Once out of downstream La Gruta the valley can be followed upwards to multiple sites - as the locals seemed unaware of these egos were given full rein when naming the entrances.

Access – the valley can be accessed by following the road beyond the sign to La Gruta for approximately 500m to a series of culverts carrying a stream under the road and then river-walking upstream for about 500m but by far the easiest access is to go through downstream La Gruta.

a.       Cenotes – Just upstream of the lower entrance of La Gruta the valley divides and several cenotes, (open water-filled pits), up to 5m diameter and short low sections of crawling cave, (up to 15m in active streamways with upstream and downstream sumps), can be found. These are almost certainly part of the same system and there may be a large sub-water table cave.

b.       “Mac & Cobbett’s” Cave – In the right fork of the valley 60m from the downstream entrance of La Gruta on a bearing of 022.5 deg, (UTM: 17P 0360148 1038857). 80m of straight passage just under the surface with several skylights ending in rising passage with a “rabbit –sized” exit hole to the surface.

c.       “Rob & Helen’s” Cave – The resurgence for the stream in the right fork of the valley. Located by following the stream to a large patch of dense undergrowth, (UTM: 17P 0360215 1039057). From the entrance above the active resurgence a short section of muddy walking rift passage leads to 100m of alternating flood overflow and active streamway with an area of roof collapse at about the halfway point. The passage varies from hands-and-knees crawling to walking passage and ends at a junction. To the left 20m of crawling in water in the active streamway leads to a lowish, (1m high 2m wide) passage not pushed to a conclusion and to the right leads to a similar sized flood overflow passage ending at a stal blockage beyond which the passage could be seen to continue.

d.       Tree Cave – 50m from the lower entrance of La Gruta on a bearing of approximately 028.0deg is an obvious large tree on the slope just below the crest of the ridge. A small entrance between the roots leads into a muddy chamber with a steep mud slope below. This was not pushed to a conclusion but probably links with the top end of “Mac & Cobbett’s Cave”

e.       Purgatory Cave – Downstream from the bottom end of La Gruta the valley can be followed to the main road. Approximately 500m downstream of the road the stream sinks and just beyond this a small cave, (position not fixed), on the left bank was pushed as a flat out crawl in water, sharp rocks and flood debris for at least 15m by an heroic individual egged on by the cries of his companion at the entrance. The passage continued beyond in a similar fashion.

3. Other sites : -

a.       Cenotes - By following the road beyond the La Gruta turn-off for about 1km another dry valley enters on the right hand side. In the floor of this are a number of cenotes 1-2m in diameter. (UTM:  17P 0357966 1039752).

b.       Un-named Cave – On the opposite side of road from the track to the other cenotes is a small cave. (UTM: 17P 0357857 1039698).

B.         Wysiwyg and associated caves

A series of caves which were probably once part of a very large system.

Access – From the roadside sign for La Gruta a poorly defined track, the old military road, can be followed almost due north through cleared fields with occasional patches of deep mud for approximately 3km of hard walking to the edge of the jungle. A local guide and/or a GPS locator would be advisable.

1.  Wysiwyg, (“What you see is what you get”), Cave

An impressive entrance chamber in the wall of a small doline is sand and mud-floored with a deep blind pit in the floor. Contouring around the edge of the pit allows access to a low slot to leading to a ledge on the wall of a second large and well-decorated steeply sloping chamber with no ways on.

2.    Doline Caves

a.       Doline 1- approximately 80m due west of Wysiwyg Cave is a large doline with four cave entrances

(i)                  East Wall – small rift leads after a few metres to a short narrow canal sumped at both ends.

(ii)                 North West wall – low entrance leads to a muddy slope down to a static sump.

(iii)               West Wall – low crawl leads to a junction after approximately 2m. To the left low passages soon become too tight and to the right the passage enlarges to a large deep pool. Swimming across the pool and under an arch allows access to a chamber completely floored with deep water at the far side of which the passage continues underwater and almost certainly connects with the sump in the North West wall cave.

(iv)               South West Wall – about 60m of large mud-floored walking passage with two avens to daylight leads to Doline 2

b.       Doline 2- approximately 60m south west of Doline 1 is a second doline with 2 entrances.

(v)                 East Wall – other end of the South West Wall cave in Doline 1.

(vi)               West Wall – From the large entrance, approximately 5x3m, a large muddy passage slopes steeply down to the left to end at after about 15m. 5m before the end of the chamber on the left side a 4m crawl in thick mud leads to another large chamber with several blind pits in floor which contain bad air. Straight ahead at the entrance a steep climb for 3 to 4m over a large boulder leads to a third doline.

3.   Cayman Caves

a.      Upper Cayman Cave

From the west side of the third doline a large entrance leads to a boulder floored steep slope down to a large, (30 x 8 x 6m), flat sand and mud-floored chamber with archaeological artifacts. Along the north wall of the chamber is a narrow trench containing an active stream. Upstream leads via walking and stooping passage to two sumps after approximately 60m. At the west end of the entrance chamber is a steep slope up to an entrance in a fourth doline and downstream from here a high rift passage with a clean rock and gravel floor leads to a lower entrance after about 150m. A small passage in the left wall at a widening of the passage quickly becomes too tight. A small cayman, (2m long), was seen in one of the pools in this cave.

b.      Lower Cayman Cave

From the lower entrance of Upper Cayman Cave the stream follows a ravine for about 100m and then enters a short section of large clean washed rift passage. After 20m another entrance is reached and the stream joins the Rio Mimitimbi which is the main river draining the interior of Isla Colόn and runs due North from its resurgence,(see below), to the sea.

D.         Rio Mimitimbi Caves + Resurgence and Flood Overflow

Access – although the river could be accessed via the Cayman Caves it is easier to follow the main road beyond the La Gruta turnoff towards Drago for about 5km to where a track is seen on the right opposite a small farm. From here 45 minutes of walking reaches the river at a small ford, (UTM: 17P 0359497 1042534). A local guide is advisable.

Upstream an hour of walking, wading and swimming is needed to reach the bottom entrance of Lower Cayman Cave.

1. Mimitimbi Beach Caves

A short walk downstream from the ford leads to the beach where two short caves were noted.

2. River Caves

Downstream of the ford and at several points on the upstream walk the river passes through short sections of very large, 10x10m, cave passage up to 30m in length.

3. Resurgence pool

At about the halfway point between the ford and the entrance to Lower Cayman Cave there is a large tributary entering on the true right hand side of the stream. At the time of this trip this was a dry streambed leading after 10m to a large, 8x8m, static sump pool from which a large passage could be seen continuing underwater.

4. Flood Inlet Cave

Approximately 90m upstream of the entrance to Lower Cayman Cave is an 80m section of cave passage leading to a classic karst pavement floored valley which obviously takes a lot of water in times of flood.

5. Main Resurgence

A further 110m above the Flood Inlet Cave the Rio Mimitimbi resurges through boulders at one point via a 5m diameter pool. A brief reconnaissance failed to reveal any negotiable cave passage.

Isla Bastimentos

A.         Nibidá and associated caves.

Previous exploration of the area around the head of a small creek at the top of the Bahía Honda by Keith Christenson and Matt Lachniet aided by local cavers in 2002 had revealed three reasonably sizeable active cave systems – Nibidá, Cueva Domingo and Ol’ Bank Underworld of which Nibidá and OBU had not been pushed to a conclusion.

Access: The caves are located in a National Park and it is possible that a permit may be required to visit although nothing seemed to be required during this visit. From Bastimentos town a boat trip of about half-an-hour across the Bahía Honda and then up a narrow tidal creek through the mangrove swamps reaches a very small jetty. Because of the confusing nature and, to an untrained eye, the identical nature of all the small creeks a local guide is advisable. Once at the jetty 150m of walking along an obvious track leads to a clearing with the house of the “warden” one Domingo Villagra, (pronounced Viagra and therefore the source of much amusement!). Leaving the clearing, 100 to 150m of easy walking along a muddy track gains a footbridge over a small stream, the stream from Nibidá, following this upstream for 40m leads to the large resurgence entrance of Nibidá at the base of a small cliff.

1. Nibidá

UTM 17P 374660 1028661- Datum NAD87 – Christenson 2002

The cave was originally explored in 2002 was well described by Keith Christenson…

“The cave consists of a horizontal active stream passage.  The upstream ends at a divable sump which should provide a way on to connect with Ol' Bank Underworld.  The downstream end is a resurgence, and the main entrance. The only major side lead is an infeeder, which enters the cave after coming down a series of waterfalls and pools (swimming required).  The cave continues upstream unexplored beyond an unclimbable waterfall a mere 2m high (but you must start the climb while swimming in a 4m deep pool).”

The 2005 trip was able to extend the cave…

a.       Upstream end – the diveable sump mentioned above was found to be a low airspace section approximately 2m in length into a high rift carrying the stream passage varying between 2 and 6m in width and up to 8m in height, which could be followed for about 750m passing at least one skylight en route. At the upstream end the cave emerged into daylight at a section of collapsed passage/doline at the far side of which it could be followed through several other sections of collapse as a slightly smaller passage to end at a large doline with multiple cave entrances none of which were pushed to a conclusion.

b.       “Wham Bamboo Inlet” – the terminal waterfall of the infeeder passage mentioned above was climbed using artificial aids, a bamboo pole and ladder across the pool after attempts to climb it had it had failed miserably and aqueously, to gain 130m of small rifts and short climbs to an upper entrance. Another short through cave was found by following the water upstream.

Subsequent calculations have shown that this is currently the longest surveyed cave in Panama.

2. Cueva Domingo

UTM 17P 374635 1028643 - Datum NAD87 – Christenson 2002

Named after Domingo Villagra this cave is situated the base of the cliff approximately 50m to the South West of Nibidá. The 2002 part examined the bulk of this system …

“The cave consists of a horizontal active stream passage.  The upstream ends at a divable sump, which should provide a way on to considerable passage.  The downstream end is a resurgence, and the main entrance.”

The 2005 trip passed an intimidating duck at the upstream end only to be stopped by a true sump just beyond.

3. Ol’ Bank Underworld

UTM 17P 375098 1028335 - Datum NAD87 – Christenson 2002

By climbing the cliff above Nibidá and walking approximately 500-600m to the south-east a rift entrance is found in the jungle – a local guide is strongly advised.

The 2002 description of the cave is…

“The cave consists of a winding, active stream passage with mostly solid, scoured limestone walls, ceiling and floor.  Downstream ends at a divable sump, which should connect to the upstream sump in Nibidá after some 200m of expected walking passage between the sumps.  The upstream end of the cave exploration ends with streams coming in from several directions, none of which were followed to an end, and all are open and going.  The general character in the upstream area is lower and muddier. From the main passage, two large side passages take off. Both are roughly 3m higher than the floor of the main passage.  The passage further upstream is an infeeder during high-water events, and goes several hundred meters to a sinkhole entrance.  This sinkhole can be passed and the cave continues as a muddy belly crawl which was not explored to an end.  The further downstream passage pirates water during high-water events, and goes a couple hundred meters to a groundwater sump/pool.  This pool is divable, and could possibly provide a way to connect to Domingo's Cave.  The water appears to have no flow, and zero visibility could be a problem for diving here.”

During a brief visit the 2005 party found no further extensions but it is obvious from the finds in Nibidá that the downstream sump in OBU does not connect with this cave and but may instead may connect to the upstream sump in Domingo’s.

Note: “Ol’ Bank” is the name given by the locals to Isla Bastimentos

4. Un-named shaft

A short shaft entrance was noted by two members of the party, SM & JC, near Cueva Domingo with passage leading off from the bottom but was not entered owing to lack of time and tackle.

B.         Cedar Creek etc

Some time was spent investigating the area around Cedar Creek, (UTM 17P 0377311 1027000), on the southern coast of Isla Bastimentos but only very short sections of passage between collapses were found.

Isla Popa

Intriguingly the marine charts for this island and the local inhabitants mention a coal mine, which would suggest the possibility of limestone as well, but no caves appear to be known to the locals and nothing was found on a short reconnaissance trip by James Cobbett.

Peninsula Valiente

Two members of the party, JC and SM, spent about half a day exploring this area on the south east border of the Bocas area. However no limestone could be found and none of the locals knew of any caves in the area.


1.       Grade 3 sections: all measurements were taken using a 30m fibron tape read to the nearest centimetre, a Suunto Compass read to approximately one degree and a Suunto clinometer read to the nearest percent. The resulting data was recorded immediately.

2.       Grade 1 sections: distances and angles were estimated whilst in the cave and sketches recorded immediately after exiting the cave.

The raw data was processed on a computer using “COMPASS” software to produce a centre-line and a computer generated passage outline. This was then imported into CorelDraw and the final survey drawn.

3.       GPS readings were taken with a handheld Garmin E-trex Vista GPS receiver and, unless otherwise stated, the local datum NAD27 ( Canal Zone) was used. Unfortunately neither the exact time of the readings or the degree of confidence were recorded in every case.



All of the members of the party had considerable experience of tropical caving and the problems involved and made their individual choices accordingly. Clothing consisted of either T-shirt and light tracksuit trousers, (Ron Hill Tracksters), or underwear covered with a light oversuit. Owing to the nature of the rock and the vicissitudes of jungle-walking heavy gloves were deemed essential.

Petzl helmets of varying vintages were worn underground and illumination provided by a variety of Petzl LED/halogen combinations of which the “Duo” seemed to prove the most reliable.


Group equipment consisted of a 10m electron ladder, two sets of SRT equipment and a 30m static rope and some slings.

The ladder and slings were used in conjunction with an ad-hoc bamboo maypole to scale a 2m cascade and the rope was used once for security on a longish swim and to descend a steep-sided doline.


UK to Panama

The UK based members of the team flew to Panama on Delta Airlines via a short stopover in Atlanta. The total journey time was about 16 hours and the cost approximately £565:00 pp.

Panama City to Bocas

After an overnight stay in JC’s house in Panama City the party traveled onto Bocas del Toro.

Although the roads in Panama are relatively good by the standards of the region they are also few in number. Furthermore driving to Bocas del Toro, which takes about 10 hours of driving, involves a ferry crossing the logistics of which might have entailed an overnight stop. Therefore the party flew from Panama City to Bocas del Toro. The flights go approximately three times daily and take about an hour. The flight cost was US$ 61.00pp but carrying caving gear incurred an excess baggage charge of US$ 0.50/lb, (note the baggage allowance on these flights is only 20 pounds NOT kilos).

Bocas to Caves

Accommodation in Bocas was on a yacht moored in the marina; there are many cheap water taxis for travel to the individual islands and then standard four-wheel drive taxis were hired to get around on land.

For journeys to the caves on Bastimentos and reconnaissance trips around the island a fast boat and driver were hired for the day. The cost varying between US$30.00 and US$90.00 depending on the distance, the number of drivers/guides and the amount of beer carried/consumed.


Medical Kit

A small medical kit was taken to cope with minor incidents. Since none of the caves were remote and Panama has a reasonable health service it was not felt necessary to take extensive medical supplies.

Those members of the party already on medication were expected to provide for themselves.


  • Small wounds – the sharp and slippery nature of the rock in the caves meant that several members of the party had abrasions and cuts from minor falls which were treated with local hygiene and on one occasion topical antibacterial ointment, (Fucidin).
  • Strains/sprains – muscular and joint pains were managed with oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, (diclofenac and ibuprofen).
  • Diffenbachia – the Diffenbachia plant grows extensively in the forest and direct contact with naked skin causes a marked irritation. A peculiar hazard for cavers is mud that contains high levels of remnants of these plants at a microscopic or near-microscopic level and impregnation of clothing with this mud can lead to a severe burning sensation. Fortunately this is not a long-term phenomenon and can be alleviated by stripping off and washing both clothing and body in clean water.
  • Insect bites/stings – all of the party suffered from these although none necessitated specific treatment.
  • Seasickness – one member of the party, (HH), suffered from seasickness, which was quickly ameliorated with oral Dramamine









Malarial Prophylaxis

Most of Panama is considered to be free of malaria however there is a risk in the Bocas del Toro and those members of the party from UK elected to use doxycline, (100mg. / person / day), as a prophylactic measure.


James & Marilyn Cobbett – for their hospitality and Marilyn in particular for her tremendous forbearance and good humour when we turned her home and the beautiful yacht into makeshift caving huts.

Keith Christenson – for his unselfish generosity in sharing his data with us.

Oscar and Alvaro Powell – for help with guiding and arranging transport on Isla Bastimentos

Gordon and Loreen MacMillan – on Isla Colόn for help with guiding plus permission to tramp all over their land.


This trip explored and surveyed over a mile of cave with little difficulty. The cave passages themselves were spectacular being large, aquatic and well-decorated if, unfortunately, not of any great length. Although it is unlikely that a “world ranking” cave will be found in the area there is potential for more similar systems to be found either by river-walking or jungle-bashing ideally with local guidance.

The horizontal nature of all these caves allied to their proximity to the water-table and termination in large sumps might suggest the existence of extensive flooded systems and there are anecdotal reports of “blue holes” off the coast of Isla Colόn and a further expedition involving cave-divers is planned in early 2006

Appendix 1 – Cave Lengths





La Gruta




“Mac & Cobbett’s” Cave


80m (est)


“Rob & Helen’s” Cave


120m (est)


Wysiwyg Cave


25m (est)


Doline 1 (i)


6m (est)


Doline 1 (ii)


20m (est)


Doline 1 (iii)


35m (est)


Doline 1 (iv)


60m (est)


Doline 2 (ii)


70m (est)


Cayman caves




Flood Inlet Cave


80m (est)






Cueva Domingo


10m (est)


Ol’ Bank Underworld




Appendix 2 – Surveys



Rose Cottage Cave - Discoveries in Fi’s ‘Ole and A1 Digs
and the Exploration of Prancer’s Pride

By Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga from BBs 522 and 523.

“First you must conceive that the Earth … is everywhere full of windy caves, and bears in its bosom a multitude of fissures and gulfs and beetling, precipitous crags. You must also picture that under the Earth’s back, many buried rivers with torrential force roll their waters mingled with sunken rocks.”

Lucretius; The Nature of the Universe.    

Further Digging 9/10/05 – 26/1/06

Six digging trips between the 9th and 16th October resulted in many bags of clay, gravel and sandstone cobbles being removed from the Fi’s ‘Ole dig – resulting in a gently descending phreatic passage running above the decorated chamber of Aglarond 2. The writer, fearing mutiny in the team, was much relieved that his theory of ongoing passage beyond the “blank wall” in this dig had been verified. The 10th was noted as the 1st Anniversary of digging at Rose Cottage but the lure of the laid down bottle of Champagne in Aglarond 1 was resisted.

Unseasonal warm weather on the 17th gave an excuse for Rich W. and the writer to lay a floodwater pipe below the spoil heap and generally tidy up on the surface. 31 loads came out to the heap between the 19th and 26th when three sessions of dig enlargement took place. This continued on the 30th and 31st October and 2nd November. Anne Pugh (ITV West) and caving cameraman Gavin Newman visited to assess the site for a projected “Secret Underground” TV documentary.

A major bag-hauling session occurred on 6th November with a solo digging trip next day when the writer broke into a low airspace some five metres into the dig as predicted. Squalor was now the order of the day following heavy autumn rains causing annoying drips and trickles throughout the cave and once again proving that the BEC curse of the “Reverse Midas Touch” is still operative! The 9th also saw a good attendance with seven good men and true removing almost all of the full bags from the depths and stacking them in Mt. Hindrance Lane. 30 heavy skiploads even reached the surface! The Obscene Publications Act forbids the writer to record in print Jake B.’s comments on his hauling stance in the Corkscrew. Work continued on the 13th with many bags filled and much more spoil backfilled into the original Fi’s ‘Ole. A four shothole charge was fired at the end and the resulting large amount of broken rock cleared next day – the nearby dump being completely filled. Much of the annoying puddle was bailed into plastic drums but enough was left to make the wet-suited Fi and John N. thankful for their choice of apparel! The writer, in dry grots, opted to pull skips before venturing to the chamber at the end of the A1 Dig above (first entered by John on 27th July) where visual contact was made with John who was immersed in the slime below and who later pioneered yet another “round trip” in this sporting little cave. While tidying up the A1 terminal chamber the writer noticed a void in the boulders ahead and after much awkward digging and rearrangement of unwieldy rocks was able to squeeze through into some 5m of unstable “passage” continuing the line of the dig and above the presumed route of Fi’s ‘Ole Dig. A dodgy looking hole at the end will almost certainly give access to the lower passage (Prancer’s Pride – see later) at a future date. All of the cave beyond Mt. Hindrance Lane would appear to be one great, sloping fault plane with the upper part composed of an enormous and lengthy boulder choke on the SW side. The lowest levels are washed free of infill and well decorated and the middle level still choked by ancient stream debris but the safest and least damaging option for extending the cave. Ben O. braved the now much deeper puddle on the 16th and filled a dozen skips with wet spoil which Pete H, Sean H. and Henry B. bagged up and hauled out to Aglarond 1. In drier but freezing conditions above Phil C. and the writer hauled 23 loads to surface.

Assisted by three able Sheffield Uni. cavers, Henry Rockliff and Rob Eavis being in the current forefront of Derbyshire digging, the writer fired a three shothole charge in obstructing slabs on 19th November. Two days later he celebrated his 56th birthday by clearing the vast amount of bang debris and gaining a view into open, descending passage ahead – once again as prophesied to be running below and to one side of the A1 Dig extension. One loose rock prevented access. This was easily removed with the aid of a sling on the 23rd but access to the passage beyond was denied due to previously unseen rock slabs beyond. Gwilym, Jake B, Phil C. and Toby later shifted some of these but the passage remained inviolate.

This was also the day when Gavin Newman, assisted by Tom Chapman and Sarah Payne, filmed Aglarond 2 (aided by Sean): Fi’s ‘Ole digging operations (starring Henry and Alex): the puddle (yours truly-damn it) and skip hauling in Mt. Hindrance Lane. A surface film team simultaneously recorded the writer being interviewed by Chris Serle as the latter effortlessly winched up about a dozen loads – 44 reaching the surface in all and giving a total of 2566 recorded since the start of the dig! Chris was grateful that his presence underground was not insisted upon as, being 6ft 9ins tall he is not over fond of the average Mendip cave. The ITV team seemed pleased with the results of their efforts and Ivan’s flood lighting combined with the swirling Mendip mist to give some good atmospheric effects. Food and pints at the Hunters’ were gratefully received by the thespian diggers on this bitterly cold night.   

More clearing was done on the 26th by Carole White and Martin Smith (BPC), the latter also taking photos, and the following day they returned with the writer, John N. and Jane Clarke for further work at the face when lots more rock slabs were dragged out and some two metres of progress made into the new passage before previously hidden slabs stopped play. A flat drill battery amused the Bradford diggers but meant that Henry B. and the writer had to return on the 28th to bang the breakthrough squeeze and clear more spoil. Trenching of the floor commenced in order to drain the puddle forwards and this was continued on the 30th when partial success transformed the “lake” into a mere “slough of despond”. Lots more clearing was done throughout the cave and more slabs banged at the end where the only encouraging feature was the strong draught.

Monday 5th December saw Henry B, John N. and your scribe clearing a goodly amount of spoil from the end. An uninspired Henry was bemoaning the lack of a way on when, on moving a rock on the left, he suddenly gained a view into open passage. Much encouraged the diggers worked hard to gain access but were defeated by more large slabs and were forced to retire to H.Q. for liquid refreshment before returning in the afternoon armed with the drill and a bunch of detonators, the bang having run out. Three sessions of “micro-blasting” using a total of seven dets was just enough to break up the slabs and allow the writer to enter the new stuff feet first and kicking a large boulder forwards. Alas the way on was a calcite and boulder choked hole in the floor but in recompense a standing-sized inlet passage with a couple of rift avens and some fine formations, including a partly dried out crystal pool, yielded about 8m of cave. On later draining the “slough of despond” into the extension some entertaining gurgling noises resulted as the water sank in the hole in the floor. The totally knackered diggers then gratefully headed out, once again leaving the Champagne unopened. At least we now had plenty of stacking space and bag-hauling to the surface will thankfully be a thing of the past.

The film epic continued on the 7th when B.C.R.A. Chairman and physicist John Wilcock rushed around the paddock with his battered dowsing rods accompanied by the writer and both being interviewed by Chris. John is convinced that the cave extends SE to the junction of the Wells Road and Belfry track and from here swings round to the south to connect to St. Cuthbert’s. He predicts that a passage nearer the surface than the known St. Cuthbert’s system passes over the main passage NW-SE then joins the cave to the south, as stated earlier – time will tell if he is correct. His results appeared to delineate the general boundaries of the known Rose Cottage passages and were later partially repeated by Tony Audsley who also recorded the whole circus on camera for his web site. That evening more of the team visited the new stuff and dragged most of the remaining full bags up to the top of the Corkscrew. They also hauled rocks from Fi’s ‘Ole and commenced the dig in the floor at the end. Henry Dawson made his first appearance and became the third digger of that apparently rare caving forename to join the team. This makes the use of  “a passage full of loose Henries” no longer useable in the cave description.

The 11th December saw Fi and the writer attacking the calcite blockage and the former becoming joyously enthused on discovering the quagmire of porridge-like mud below it. Stitch drilling and a misfired two detonator charge left the stubborn calcite still in place. 1 load reached the surface and next day another 16 joined it when the two returned with Jake B. While more rock was hauled back to Aglarond 1 the dets were rewired and fired but with little effect. Excavation continued in the squalid floor dig and the nearby crystal pool was bailed to reveal no passable way on but a couple of fine, crystal covered stalactites. A drystone wall was constructed above the pool to provide a spoil dump in the rift behind it and any shortage of rock was soon solved after Jake pointed out the dangerous state of the adjacent ceiling. To prove his fears groundless your scribe poked it with his finger resulting in a mass movement, an abject apology and some deft crowbar work resulting in about half a ton of good building stone. Some digging was done in the rift above the new spoil dump but banging was needed here to reach a wider section ahead.

Excavation of the hole in the floor continued on the 14th when it was reported to be widening out below the calcite. The very last full spoil bags (touch wood!) were removed to the surface in 69 skiploads to give a total of 2,652 recorded as being dragged out over the last 14 months. At a minimum weight of 8 kilos each this totals 21,216 kilos (19.09 tons). This does not include the initial spoil removed with the mini-digger. Bloody good effort, team!


The next session at the end, on 19th December, saw a considerable amount of digging and dumping and the opening of a tiny, decorated airspace in the floor dig. A faulty drill prevented banging of the rift above. Work continued two days later when a vast amount of spoil was bagged and stored in and above the crystal pool – the only available space.

Another dangerous roof slab was brought down before it decimated the digging team (seximated actually as there were but six tonight and only the digger at the face was in mortal peril). Reports from the end indicated little promise but as Pub time loomed Paul B. opened up a clean washed, arm-sized hole in the floor and enthusiasm was once again restored. So much restored that on the following evening Paul, John N. and your scribe were back at the face frantically digging, hauling and stacking like three automatons. Worn out and gritty-eyed Paul came up for a spell allowing John to inspect the dig. On pulling out a few stones he was rewarded with an open and apparently deep hole from which emanated the strong draught. With closing time drawing ever closer the writer took a turn at the front and opened the hole to almost passable size – but not quite. A steeply sloping calcite floor dropped away into a black void with many fine formations visible but un-enterable without bang or another hours work. Well past 10pm the ecstatic diggers broke all records to reach the Hunters’ where festive pints of “Prancer’s Pride” provided both sustenance and a suitable name for the forthcoming and barrel-winning extension! The diggers were certain that the prophesied continuation of Aglarond 2 had finally been reached after five and a half months hard labour excavating their way along the A1 and Fi’s ‘Ole Digs (see later for proof of this). To ensure easy access the window into Prancer’s Pride was banged by Madphil on the following evening while Henry B. and the writer tidied up the spoil heap. It was very noticeable that the bang sounded particularly loud all the way back in Aglarond 1.

The Christmas Day team of assorted hangover sufferers Jake B, Paul B, Jeff Price and the writer took down a 5m ladder as an aid on the stalagmite slope and your scribe was just able to squeeze in and enlarge the breakthrough point for his larger colleagues. As is normal on these occasions the huge passage had shrunk somewhat and only c.4m of progress was made to a choke in the floor of the steeply descending bedding plane below. An inlet above this was briefly examined but was thought too pretty to push. Not despondent we headed for the Pub and festivities leaving the Champagne still unmolested but Paul’s brandy miniature sipped as a gesture. Next day the writer cleared rocks and banged the boulders.

He returned on the 27th with Fiona and a strangely uncoordinated Henry B. for a very intensive clearing session. The inlet grotto was sacrificed as a spoil dump and this passage pushed for some 5m to the base of a strongly draughting rift which needed committed squeezing to gain access. This beautifully decorated feature was suspected to connect with the more easily reached spoil dump rift in the chamber some 10m above. More rocks in the floor of the bedding plane were banged as an enlargement could be seen beyond. The writer, Bobble and a slightly less uncoordinated Henry cleared the result on the morning of the 28th and fired another charge to allow access into an elliptical and well decorated passage with a howling outward draught. On this trip your scribe pushed the inlet into a stunningly beautiful chamber where exploration would have been almost sacrilegious but was suddenly found to be unnecessary when some 8m away through the formations he espied the orange conservation tape in Aglarond 2! This explained why the bang was so noisy when fired from Aglarond 1, not that far above. At least the diggers now knew where they were and were convinced that the phreatic passage some 7-8m below was the way on. A return was made in the evening by five of the team who removed a large amount of rock from the morning’s bang enabling access to be gained to the elliptical passage which John N. pushed to a constriction with a view into a possible way on to the right. While Pete H, Jake B, Phil C. and John continued with enlarging the breakthrough point the writer, armed with a lump hammer, removed the obstacle and smashed his way through assorted formations to reach a climb down over flowstone in an exceptionally attractive junction of phreatic passages. Superb curtains, straws, flowstone and small helictites adorned this area but many had to go before it could be fully explored. This was thought to be justified after all the effort made to avoid desecrating Aglarond 2 but the noise of tinkling calcite was heart rending. Seeing large passage below the explorer shouted back the traditional and immortal “We’re in!” and clambered down the climb to reach a muddy streamway which immediately closed down below the flowstone slope. A gap over a calcited boulder above this was briefly examined but needed banging to enlarge. John came in for a look then the pair retreated to allow Jake and Pete their well deserved turn – the latter luckily having an instant camera to record the occasion. It was estimated that we had explored some 10m of quite stunning cave but the lack of a feasible way on was a great disappointment. The gods of the cave, angry at the despoliation, saw to it that the desecrator’s fingers suffered a painful squashing as he climbed out to at last open the long-standing bottle of Champagne. This was enjoyed by all – including Phil who was suffering from a Christmas headache – then the long grind out to the surface got underway and celebrations and theorising continued in the bar.

On the 30th December the writer, in Aglarond 2, established clear vocal contact with Trev Hughes and Jane C. who were in Prancer’s Pride. This indicated that the muddy streamway in the latter possibly flowed to Aglarond 3. Evaluation of the digging prospects here showed that the only feasible site was the partially calcite-filled rift above the impassable streamway and a careful banging project was thought to be acceptable. Some justification for this was gleaned from the fact that about three digging sessions in the beautiful Aglarond 2 would have gained us access to Prancer’s Pride in a lot less than five and a half months but conservation had overruled this!

Work on the calcited rift commenced next day when Tangent and the writer put three long shotholes in the flowstone coated rock on the right hand side, loaded them with 40gm cord and loudly fired the charge from Aglarond 1 above. Being a wet day the pair were treated to an amazing drumming noise emanating from beyond the dig site and put this down to water dripping onto a calcite false floor. Returning on the 2nd January with Jeff P. your scribe carefully cleared the debris and laid a two shothole charge, again fired from 1. Jeff drilled a hole in the floor of the entrance squeeze to 2 for possible future enlargement. The drumming noise was absent today, as was any sense of co-ordination in the diggers following the excesses of New Year!

Wednesday 4th January saw two separate teams working in the cave. Paul B. and the writer cleared the bang spoil in Aglarond 3 and tidied the place up. The calcite blockage was removed enough to give a view into, not the huge gallery expected, but a dried out, flowstone-lined pool decorated with scores of fine helictites which has effectively closed down this site. A rethink is needed here. A painful “housemaid’s elbow” (your scribe) and several triple hammered fingers (Paul) enlivened the trip. Pete, Fi, Henry B, John, Alex and later Paul returned to Prancer’s Pride to commence digging the RH side of the crawl. They removed a large amount of spoil in unpleasantly damp conditions.  

The 7th and 8th January saw bouts of surface work with Henry B, Chris B, Ivan, and the writer clearing out the Priddy Pot Water leat from the Belfry to the “pond” and diverting much of the stream down the cave entrance. On the 9th green drain dye (fluorescein) was put in this stream and later observed to flow along Bored of the Rings to sink in the Connection Dig. A trickle flowing down Mt. Hindrance Lane joined it. It then reappeared about a third of the way down the Corkscrew and flowed down the flowstone slope in Aglarond 1, through the impassable slot and into Aglarond 3 from where it disappeared into the distance. The surface stream was also diverted into the slumped sink adjacent to the entrance and the site of the initial dig. Purple dye (Rhodamine derived?) was introduced but this water was not observed anywhere in the known cave! Two other tiny inlet streams in A1 Dig and above Prancer’s Pride were flowing clear and may derive from water sinking in the “pond” (one of these doesn’t – see later). Some digging was done in the unpleasantly damp RH passage in Prancer’s Pride and the squeeze between Aglarond 2 and 3 was enlarged with explosives. Today’s cold and damp operatives were Henry B, Jeff P. and your scribe. The significance of the slumped sink had now increased dramatically.

The bang spoil was cleared on the 11th and the squeeze found to be easier but still a challenge. Paul B. and the writer then used plugs and feathers to widen the banged calcite flow in Aglarond 3 to gain a better view of the stunning helictites and beautiful aven above. There is no way that any further work can be done here and the aven was seen to close down anyway. Some tidying up was done and several pieces of broken calcite were removed for scientific examination by Lisa Thomas. Meanwhile Ben O, Sean H, Pete H, Henry D, Phil C, Toby M. and John N. cleared much clag from the downstream crawl in Prancer’s Pride in order to make the RH dig more user friendly. All the spoil reached the higher dump thanks to the number of diggers. Pete’s draught-testing joss sticks made the whole cave stink like a Siamese brothel on cheap night! Green dye introduced into the “pond” was not seen in this area as expected but may not have had time to filter through. There was still no trace of the purple dye.

On the 16th January Henry B, Tony A. and the writer commenced work on re-excavating the slumped sink (the original “Belfry Dig”) and after hauling out many bucket loads of mud and inwashed sediment regained the shattered limestone floor at some 2m depth. Lots of rock slabs were prised out and used to wall yet another spoil dump. The lightweight A-frame used to support the floodlight was moved over to the new dig and braced with scaffold poles following a couple of minor hauling disasters and a wooden ladder was acquired to gain access to the rapidly deepening working face. At the end of the day the Priddy Pot Water stream was directed into the hole and backed up to around a metre deep. The following morning it was found to have dropped to about half a metre with surprisingly no slumping occurring overnight. Rich W. spent some time walling the spoil dump while Tony A. continued his dowsing project and detected both the fault line and a much stronger reaction running from the cave, under the tackle / M.R.O. store and across the Belfry car park. Jane C. did a fine job of checking out the cave twice with the stream entering the dig and once with it diverted. Much to our chagrin this revealed that part or all of the water re-appeared from a tiny inlet at the bottom of Paul’s Personal Project before flowing on down Bored of the Rings. On the earlier dye test this passage was not visited and if any purple dye had got through the mud infill and into the cave it would have been overpowered by the much brighter green dye poured in from the entrance above.

Despite this setback work continued with the surface dig on the 18th when many buckets of slumped clay and several rock slabs were removed and temporary shoring installed. Sean H. photographed operations for the record. Meanwhile, below, a large team cleared another dozen skips of spoil from the RH dig in Prancer’s Pride.

With the stream diverted into the “pond” a wet trip resulted on the 20th when the spoil rift at the end of Fi’s ‘Ole and the calcited boulder blocking the streamway in Prancer’s Pride were banged resulting in Henry B. and the writer being chased out by the fumes.

Scaffold shoring of the resurrected surface dig took place next day with Duncan Butler and Henry B. spending most of the day on site with assistance from Henry D. Henry B. and Rich W. continued with this on the 22nd when more digging revealed a pretty solid limestone floor with the stream soaking away through small fissures.

Meanwhile Fi, Duncan and the writer introduced yet another Henry (Patton – Reading U.C.C.) to the delights of spoil hauling 7 ½ skips from Prancer’s Pride to the rift above. The two banged sites were also cleared. Probably due to the results of Madphil’s birthday barrels the supposedly charged drill battery was decidedly flat so next day a solo trip was made to drill and bang the terminal streamway. All went well until a presumed broken bang wire resulted in a misfire, which needed another visit to rectify. Today green water from the surface dig definitely entered the cave via a tiny choked bedding in the “skip store” alcove in P.P.P. to then partly flood Connection Dig before reappearing at the bottom of the Corkscrew and also in Pete’s Baby. The inlet at the start of A1 Dig also flowed green and it seems likely that the Pete’s Baby water reaches it via a boulder choked route above Aglarond 1. This water was diverted into the decorated virgin floor rift in Aglarond 2 and found to enter Prancer’s Pride down the main flowstone slope on the NW side. The other inlet entering this area flowed clear. The misfire was sorted out on the 24th when the spoil rift was also drilled and banged. With the stream diverted into the St. Cuthbert’s depression the cave was pleasantly dry. The debris from the two bangs was cleared next day by a five-man team and on the 26th a charge was fired in the floor of the surface dig. 

“…leave the dark cave of sin, come into the light…”


Additional Diggers and Enthusiasts

Ben Noble, Emma Heron (W.C.C.), Steve Sparham, Chris Falshaw (donation to digging fund), Anne Pugh, Chris Serle, Mary ?, John ? and colleague (director, presenter, sound woman, surface cameraman and sound man – ITV West), John Wilcock (B.C.R.A.), Gavin Newman, Tom Chapman, Sarah Payne (underground film team), Henry Rockliff, Rob Eavis, Eszter Horvath (Sheffield U.S.S.), Martin “Billy Whizz” Smith (B.P.C.), Jane Clarke, Andy Chamberlain, Henry Dawson (Reading U.C.C.), Trevor Hughes, Lisa Thomas (calcite studies), Henry Patton (Reading U.C.C.).

To be continued in your next exciting Belfry Bulletin.


The Search For Hutton Cavern

Nick Richards and Nick Harding

“Caves are where you find them…”


It seems somewhat odd and disturbing that it was November 2003 that Loxton Cavern was discovered. Where did the time go? Well, actually a large percentage of that time has been spent looking for another famous lost cave and one visited and described by our old chum Alexander Catcott. The following is just a summation of the activities of the West Mendip chapter of the BEC as they set about attempting to rediscover Hutton Cavern.  

Hutton Cavern cross section from the Rutter family copy. (1829)

Chronological history of the cavern.


1.       Cavern opened by William Glisson and his ochre miners.

2.       1756 Catcott became aware of the bone cavern. (A letter published in Gentleman’s magazine).(Gentleman’s Magazine 1757 vol. xxvii)

3.       1757 Diaries of tours mentions visit to the cavern.(Diaries of tours made in England and Wales. MSS Bris Ref Lib)

4.       1757 Catcott and two others visit the cavern. (In letter to friend) at William Glisson’s ochre pits. (Letter-Description of Loxton Cavern MSS 1761. Transcribed by CJ Harford. MS Bris Ref Lib)

5.       1768 Catcott publishes further description in ‘Supplement to a book entitled Treatise on the Deluge.’ 1828 Cavern rediscovered by David Williams and William Beard (with two labourers).

6.       7. Visited by prominent local dignitaries. (Williams’ diaries). Wrote letter to William Patterson (published in Delineation’s of North West Somerset  (Rutter 1829). Section/map in book.

7.       Mid 19c location mentioned by Gideon Mantell (in Diary).(C Richards-pers comm)

8.       Cavern lost.

9.       1970s Attempts at rediscovery by various caving clubs.

10.    2005 Attempt at rediscovery by Harding/Richards of the BEC.

The references:

Ochre miners (employed by William Glisson) discovered the cave in 1756 and a number of bones sent to Catcott  (by a Mr Turner of Loxton). Catcott wrote a letter to Peter Collinson in Oct 1756, which was subsequently published in the Gentleman’s magazine….

“….A gentleman who was digging, upon a high hill near Mendip, for ochre and ore, found at a depth of 52 fathom, or 315 and a half feet (as he measured himself by a direct line) four teeth, not tusks, of a large elephant (which I think is the whole number the creature has) and two thigh bones, with part of the head; all extremely well preserved; for they lay in a bed of ochre, which I could easily wash off. When they brought to me, every crevice was filled with the ochre, and as I washed it off from the outside, a most beautiful white appeared; and they make a fine shew in my cabinet. I propose going down into the pit myself soon; for the men have left several small pieces behind, which they did not think worth bringing up, and I make no doubt, if that be the case, but I shall procure the whole, or great part of the animal….”

On May 20th 1757. Catcott was in the area looking for signs of the Deluge, he writes in his Diaries of Tours…

“Beneath N. end of Bleyden lye Hutton hill, wherein the oaker pitts are from whence the bones and teeth were dug; lesser and lower Hill than Bleadon Hill adjoining to it: first opened by Glisson 20 years ago, no pit before on the hill: the bones lay about 7 fathom deep, in a bed of yellowish ochre: first occurred regular bed of limestone 2 fathom; next bed of ochre, a fathom, then limestone 2 fathom, then a leer or opening a fathom that in which lay bones and ochre”

In June 10 1757 Catcott explores the cavern and gives description in his Diaries of Tours…

“Went with Mr Gore to see the pit, whence the elephants teeth and bones were dug which were sent me by Mr Turner. We entered it with a man who dug out the first teeth and boned etc; and found several others very large, and especially two great teeth; one uncommonly curved; & 2 or 3 pieces of large horn & the tip of a lesser; several pieces of bones, seemingly of horses; many small rib bones and vertebrae & teeth etc etc. They lay in a brownish rubbly sludge or ochreous matter mixed with many loose stones of - fragments that had been worn by agitation: & to one of the vertebrae I found 2 fragments of stone with entrochi, plainly worn by water, affixed. They lay at the mouth of a swallet: See letter to Mr Price for the rest & Gent Mag for May1757.

The first pit on the hill opened by one Glisson about 18 years ago. The whole hill is full of swallet holes. The following acct of this pit where the bones were found given to me by Glisson. Veg. Mould about 18inc: rubbly ochre about 4 feet: then the rock opened in fissure about 18 inc: broad, & 4 feet long: this fissure filled with good yellow ochre (but no bones) to a depth of 8 yds: then the rocks opened to a cavern about 20 ft square & 4 feet high: the bottom of which cavern consisted of ochre, on the surface of which and also in the inside were multitudes of white bone. In the centre of the roof of this cavern was a large Stalactite, about 2 feet long & as thick as a mans leg & directly under it was a stalagmitical protuberance about 18 inches high, so nearly touching the stalactite. In the side of this cavern was a hole, about 3 feet square, leading down? through a passage of 18 yds to another cavern, 20 yds long and 5 broad, both passage and cavern filled with bones and ochre (all the passage and chamber upon a deep descent). In this cavern another passage about 4 yds downwards, & about 6 feet square, filled with rubble, ochre large bones, calk stones and lead-ore, confusedly mixed together, pointing towards the Village of Hutton, nearly on a level, for 18 yds. Hence I dug the larger teeth & bones of the Elephant: the pit was opened from the surface to fall on this cavern or side hole & all the way appeared nothing but rubble, ochre, bones, & loose stones: so that these last bones lay in more rubble. Before you entered this last described side hole there opened just before you a large deep opening, tending perpendicularly downwards, which before had been filled with rubble, bad ochre & bones; but was certainly at the mouth of a large swallet: they followed it about 6 yds deep but finding no good ochre they left the pursuit. From the surface of the earth to the bottom of this last hole about 30 yds & all the leading passage on a deep descent almost perpendicular: the side of the Rock worn, as in Swallets.”

“About 40 yds West from the last hole was opened another, of a similar nature with ochre, bones etc, & about as deep.” From this was dug a large long head of an animal; about 3 or 4 feet long: 14 inches broad at the top or hind part & 3 inches at the snout shaped like a crocodile! (Sea horse). He had also the teeth perfect & 4 tusks, the larger tusks about 4 inches long out of the head & the teeth about 3 inches long.

In 1757 the cavern is mentioned again in a letter to friend transcribed by Harford.

“Having satisfied myself concerning the origin and nature of Loxton Cavern I next went to examine the pit from which the bones and teeth of the elephant were dug out of which I have given a so imperfect an account some little time since; but now propose to be more particular and satisfactory. The pit whence these bones yet were dug was opened on the north side of Loxton Hill or that part of it which is above the Parish of Hutton and therefore called Hutton Hill but as it is the same in nature I shall not observe the Parochial distinction. As William Glisson (who discovered Loxton Cavern) was digging for ochre; about three hundred paces south of the gate of a field called Down Acres in the parish of Hutton. at a depth of eight yards he broke into a small cave about 20 feet square and four high the bottom of this consisted of a yellowish brown ochre on the surface of which intermixed with the whole mass were a multitude of small white bones. In the centre of the roof of this cave was a large stalactite of spar with its stalagmite under it. On one side of this cave was a hole three feet square leading obliquely downwards for eighteen yards which opened into another cave about ten yards long and five broad the passage leading into this and the cave itself containing more of less of ochre and bones. On the side of this cave was also a small hole leading obliquely down for about four yards which opened into the cavity whence the larger bones and teeth (of which I give you a brief account) were dug. This cavity extended sideways or horizontally for about eighteen yards, it was six feet high had been dug out and was then digging for more ochre. Having descended in company with two or three friends through the several passages just described, we came to the last or horizontal cavity And here I must own I was struck with some awe and concern for myself and fellow travellers. What I considered the depth we were at from the surface; the weight of the superincumbent earth and that nothing appeared around us but loose ochre and dead bones projecting from the top, sides and bottom of this horizontal cavity; so that the whole exhibited an appearance not much like the inside of a charnel house. We staid in this place two hours and being well supplied with supplements dug out a vast number and a great variety of bones and teeth of different species of Land animals, but finding the roof began to yield and the sides much weakened we thought it not advisable to continue any longer but proceeded to return by the way we came in returning I observed at the mouth of the horizontal cavity a small hole descending perpendicularly, enquiring of Glisson whither it led he told me he had pursued it four or five yards deep, that he had dug from thence ochre and bones but that the natural hollow still continued and went probably to a great depth in the Earth. But that nothing material was now observable therein. On this we ascended: but with full intent to revisit the place as soon as it could be secured and propped up with woodwork. Before this was effected the whole fell in and the cavity rendered inaccessible however Glisson still continued to work on this hill for ochre and having opened several lesser pits near this large one he came into several similar cavities and hollows like the forgoing partly filled with ochre and bones (of?) as the first of these bones and teeth he brought he many curious specimens: and having now all I have hopes of receiving (?) I shall give you a particular account of the most remarkable according to the drawing I have herewith sent you.”

At the bottom of the manuscript is a note written by the transcriber.

Here Mr Catcott’s MS ends it is not written by himself but appears to have been written out for the purpose of publishing it but this he probably relinquished on writing. His History of the Deluge fastened to the last page 71 is the following paper written by himself. For the names of the bones, teeth etc see the catalogue of my fossils from page 86 begin either with the great tooth found in the jaw or else the whole skeleton of the Lemur Maccauso (?) page 75. Conclusions. North side of Loxton hill full of swallets as well as these bones sunk in here by the Deluge Waters as they lay in loose fragments of rock. In a rubbly matter worn and torn by these waters (all the animals might have been natives of elsewhere) see Treatise on the Deluge page 361 note see Mr. Jeffries account of an elephant found at Sandford Hill in his letter Jan 8th 1770. And also my catalogue of Col. P 78. See journal for June 10th 1757 (and end of journal for May 20th 1757. For elephant dug up in England: see also de skeleto Elephantino terrae effosso and all with.

A further note is a letter to Catcott by Mr John Price, he explains that Peter Collinson approached him for an account of the cave. Collinson publishes the letter as if it was sent to him. (Gentleman’s Magazine Oct 1756 see above) John Price also mentions another letter sent to him by Catcott. (June 27th 1757)…

“I have since visited the place and dug out (by the assistance of a gentleman and a man who entered the cave with me) two other teeth almost as large as the largest I had before but most surprisingly curved or crooked and of a different animal (if the common observation that Elephant’s teeth have only twelve parallel lines or indentures be true) I found one of them sticking in the jaw but it parted from the jaw (in which the Indentures of the fangs were most beautifully impressed) on lifting it from the ground and this part of the jaw was so very tender I could not preserve it whole: afterwards with great labour and care we dug out the Os Femeris of an animal quite perfect and as big as the two bones I had before and soon after we found the Tibia and many other bones, I found the several large fragments and the tip of a horn of some animal very large and porous or rather canaliculous and the tip of another horn that had plainly been worn or whetted against a stone or tree and I believe belonged to a Rhinocerous. I found also part of a branched horn or Deer very flat and two or three long thin rib bones of some animal. One of the longest and tender and high, for safety reasons I brought away fastened to my hat…”

In 1768 Catcott mentions the cave again in his ‘A supplement to a book, entitled a Treatise on the Deluge’.      (PP 44-46)

“…A few years since I have received, as a present, from a gentleman in Somersetshire, four teeth (dentes morales) two thigh-bones, and part of the head of an elephant, that were dug out of Hutton-Hill (which is a branch or a lateral continuation of the high ridge of Mendip-Hills) in Somersetshire. Upon the reception of this present, and the information that there were still some other bones left behind, I went down to the place, and in company with three or four other persons, entered the pit from whence they were dug; and found two other dentes morales, or grinders, one of them lying in the jaw, three rib bones, two thigh bones, part of a tusk, with a multitude of lesser bones belonging, in all probability, to the same animal. Besides these we picked up part of a large Deer’s horn, very flat, and the slough of a horn (or the spongy porous substance that occupies the inside of the horns of oxen, etc) of an extraordinary size, together with a great variety of teeth and small bones, belonging to different species of land animals. One of the men, that had been at work in these pits, brought me a collection of small bones that he had found in a pit adjoining, lying by themselves, and no extraneous body near them. Upon putting these bones together at my leisure, I found they composed almost the entire skeleton of an animal, about the size of a fox; but the teeth, jaw, and several of the bones did not answer to any European animal I was acquainted with. The same person assured me, that before I came down, he had found in digging the same place the head of a strange animal, that he believed was near three feet in length, a foot broad in the hinder part, and three or four inches at the extremity, from whence issued four tusks, two from each jaw. The teeth were large, and all well preserved in the jaw. From this description it seems to have been the head of the hippopotamus, or sea, or river horse. (The nearest river to us in which this animal is bred, is the Nile.) He had concealed this head in a wood adjoining, but so carefully, that neither he nor myself could ever after find it. All these bones lay in a dark yellowish ochreous kind of matter, from fifty to a hundred feet deep. The largest and greatest number lay about seventy feet deep in a horizontal cavity (that had been dug for the ochre) eighteen yards long, and six feet square. The bones and teeth were extremely well preserved, all retaining their native whiteness, as they projected from the sides and top of this cavity, exhibited an appearance not much unlike the inside of a charnel house. We staid in this place two hours, digging out all the bodies we could find, until the roof in two or three places began to fall in, and we thought it too dangerous to continue any longer. Upon my second intention of visiting it, I was informed; the whole had fallen in. There were no marks nor the least sign of any pit having been opened on this hill besides those dug for ochre, and the person who opened the first pit assured me, he believed the hill had never been dug into before. Which consideration, together with the number of strange bones and teeth, belonging to different animals, of countries far distant from England, and the depth in which they were found (without mentioning other circumstances, that cannot be enlarged upon in such a note as this) may serve as a sufficient proof that they were left there by the Deluge.”

The cave remained lost until 1828 when the Rector of Bleadon, David Williams, and William Beard of Banwell, (both local geologists) decided to reopen the cave. In 1829 David Williams wrote to William Patteson, (Vicar of Shaftsbury) describing this endeavour. This letter was published in J Rutter’s ‘Delineation’s of North West Somerset’ 1829. A William Barnes also prepared a woodcut section of the cavern, which appeared in the same book.

“THE CAVERN is situated on the Mendip Range, south of the village of Hutton, where the hill rises to an elevation of three to four hundred feet above the sea. In the city library of Bristol, are preserved a collection of bones, which were presented by the Rev. Dr Catcott, who was instrumental to their discovery in this cavern, about seventy years since. The miners having opened an ochre pit, came to a fissure in the limestone rock, filled with good ochre, which being continued to a depth of eight yards, opened into a cavern, the floor of which consisted also of ochre; and strewed on its surface, were large quantities of white bones, which were found dispersed through the ochreous mass. In the centre of the chamber, a large stalactite depended from the roof; beneath which, a corresponding pillar of stalagmite rose from the floor. In Dr Catcott’s learned and ingenious ‘Treatise on the Deluge,’ he mentions this circumstance, and states, that in the company with two or three friends, he descended into a cavern about ninety feet deep, around whose sides, and from the roof, the bones projected, so as to represent the inside of a charnel house; that they extracted a great many bones of different land animals, until the roof and sides beginning to yield, they ascended, purposing to return when it should be properly secured by woodwork. That on his expressing his intention, a few weeks after, of visiting it again, he was informed the whole had fallen in, and was inaccessible.

These remarks first directed the attention of the Rev David Williams of Bleadon to the discovery of elephants’ and other animal bones on Hutton Hill; but, as the occurrence happened 70 years since, he despaired of recovering the fissure, especially as the number of ochre pits on the hill, all nearly in the same state, made the chances great against opening the right one. Mr Williams was at length encouraged to make the attempt, from having discovered fragments of ancient bone, amongst the rubbish near one of the old pits; and from the information of an old miner, who told him that his father had pointed out this as the spot. At this crisis of hope and uncertainty, Mr Williams received from his friend, the Rev. Mr. Richardson of Farley, a copy of an unpublished manuscript by Dr Catcott, which further assisted him in identifying the place. Mr Good, the Lord of the Manor, having readily granted permission, Mr Williams began the work, in conjunction with Mr Beard, whose zeal and ardour in such pursuits every one knows and respects, who has visited Banwell Cave, where he is the ‘genius loci.’”

Mr Williams states, that the men opened into what may be termed three chambers in the fissure, the floor of the one above, forming the roof of the one below, and consisting of huge fragments of rock, which have sunk away and jammed themselves between the strata; their intersections being filled with ochreous rubble and bones. The strata on each side, dip about north, with a variation of about ten degrees in their inclination; the south cliff dipping at an angle of about 75 degrees, and the northern about 65 degrees. Though in the shaft first drawn, which is not more than 10 yards distant, and in other places near, still more irregularly. The whole of this part of the hill, appears more like the tremendous ecroulement of an adjacent mountain, than the conformable super-position of stratified rocks. It is difficult to imagine a scene evincing greater disturbances; the whole region appears to have been displaced and shattered by the convulsing efforts of some mighty agent, elevating some strata, and depressing others, thereby creating chasms and fissures through the whole.

These rocks are mainly filled with ochre and ochreous rubble, throughout which, the bones are generally disposed; the principal of these are, elephant, tiger, hyaena, boar, wolf, horse, hare, fox, rat, mouse, and bird. There has been found no more trace of the ox tribe here, than there is of the horse in Banwell; although the ox is as abundant there, as the horse is here.

Among the many curious and interesting specimens, which have been discovered, the following deserve particular notice; viz. The milk teeth and bones of a calf elephant; the molares and bones of another young one, about a size larger; of a full grown animal are two humeri, two femora, two tusks,* and five molares; so that independent of the young ones, we have the principal remains of at least one animal of this class. Dr Catcott obtained from this hill, six molares, four femora, one head, three ribs, and a tusk; making altogether, found here, eleven molares, six femora, two humeri, one head, three ribs, and three tusks. Thus, the number of molares and femora, prove that three large animals were deposited here.

There are also specimens of two hyaenas of the extinct species, with the jaw and bones of a young tiger, which was just shedding his teeth, when fate arrested him. The young tusks may now be seen in the act of replacing the milk teeth. There is no appearance of gnawed bone, and only two specimens have been discovered of album graecum.

There are the remains of several wolves, and of the horse of different ages and sizes, from the little Shetland, up to the great London dray-horse. Also of the fox, hare, rabbit, rat and mouse. Besides these there are also the furculae of two birds of a large species, probably of the pelican tribe; judging from the knobs on each side, to which some very strong tendons had been attached, it appears to have been provided with great powers of running, or of sustaining itself on the wing.”

* Dr Catcott says, he found a great many bones in the ochre; hitherto none have been found in the recent research, though it has, as yet, been but imperfectly examined. The bones hitherto procured have been extracted at different depths, varying from 15 to 50 feet; the elephant and tiger lay about 18 feet deep. There are some good specimens of bony brecchia, but no pebbles have yet been discovered.”

These tusks are much curved, and have suffered a very extensive fracture, probably from the collision of two rocks. Of the fragments which are preserved, one is two feet four inches long, and sixteen inches in circumference; the other is four feet and a half long. One of the molar teeth is three inches across, and five inches deep, from the grinding surface to the fang. It is broken and several of the laminae are gone, but its proportions are altogether much larger than a full sized molar tooth, in possession of Mr. Beard, taken from a recent animal. - D.W.

In one of the (Vol. 5, Mar-Aug 1834) David Williams diaries is a small section of Hutton Hill with a plan of the bone pits superimposed.

From notebook Vol. 5 Mar-Aug 1834

Rev. David Williams MS.

About 1830 Gideon Mantell (Surgeon and naturalist) in his diaries writes that Bleadon cavern lay 2 miles from Banwell Caves and that Hutton Cavern was a quarter of a mile further on.

Sketch of dig sites along line of pits

Subsequent excavation by various caving clubs have revealed Bleadon Cavern and two other caves which (after some confusion) have not proven to be the lost cave of Hutton including the cave mentioned as being 40 yds west.

Certain clues to the caverns location can be extracted from the manuscripts above…

Maps show Hutton Cavern as lying in the trees near the top of Canada Combe in an area of old ochre pits. However this is wrong as this has proved to be Bleadon Cavern, a cave unrelated to the real Hutton Cavern. Many writers including Knight (1902 Seaboard of Mendip) and Bucknell (1925) have assumed the same.

1.         “About 40 yds west of the last hole”.

Catcott mentions another bone cave here where the ‘; head’ was found. (see 3) This could be any of the pits in the east-west line here. It is possible that excavation may reveal this cave first, therefore giving a clue to the entrance of Hutton Cavern itself.

2.         The cave lay, “about three hundred paces south of the gate into Down Acres.”

The large field, which lies on the North side of the track which leads up from Upper Canada, is marked on old maps (Tithe map 1837) as ‘Downacre’. At the bottom of the field is a gate with an old path that ascends from Hutton village. We have walked the 300 paces approximately south several times with different strides and we came to the area of an east-west line of old ochre pits.

3.         “He had concealed this head in a wood adjoining”.

On old maps most of Hutton Hill is shown as rough pasture. The boundary of the ancient Hutton wood passes roughly north-south up the side of ‘downacres’ before following its sinuous path to the south-west before straightening again along an east-west line. The boundary is marked by a bank and ditch. This boundary passes very close to the line of east-west pits, therefore we can summise that the ‘head’ which was secreted in the wood-must have been nearby.

4.         “Scraps of bone found in the rubbish of one of the old pits.”

It would be relatively easy to dig test pits in all the dumps to see if there were any bones. We have not done this (yet).

5.         “the strata on each side, dip about north, with a variation of about ten degrees in their inclination; the south cliff dipping at an angle of about 75 degrees, and the northern about 65 degrees. Though in the shaft first drawn, which is not more than 10 yards distant, still more irregularly”.

This would imply that the cave (which is essentially an east-west fissure) lies on a fault plane. The 6” geological map shows an outlier of rhaetic strata at Upper Canada bounded by a fault. Extrapolating west, the fault is marked by a prominent scarp. This attenuates in the area of pits (see above). The inference is that the line of pits are actually situated on the fault and digging may reveal the fault plane itself.

6.         The William Barnes woodcut.

The section illustrated in ‘The Delineations of NW Somerset’ is viewed from the south and shows a well-developed hillock or promontary with three pits. The first pit (the most easterly) is denoted as being ten yards from the next pits, which must be close together. In the target area are two north-south promontaries bounded by shallow valleys. The line of pits passes over both of these. Although the section does not quite fit the pit configuration it must be realised that The Barnes section may only give a sense of the topography, rather than an exact reflection of the land surface.  

7.         The David Williams map

This is in fact a section of Bleadon Hill, with a plan of the pits superimposed upon it.  The caption itself suggests that Hutton cavern lies to the west of Bleadon Cavern, unfortunately there is no scale.

8.         A quarter of a mile further on

The location of Bleadon Cavern is of course, known. The above statement suggests that Hutton Cavern lies roughly a quarter of a mile further to the West. This could mean any of the groups of pits here-but taken with the other clues the group of pits mentioned above seems to be the most likely.

The clues above point to an area of pits as mentioned (6 above).

Map of the general area of the Dig.

Dig summary: March 05 – March 06

Dig 1.

Commenced in March 2005 in what appeared to be one of the largest pits in the area not far from the main path with a large down slope spoil heap. Over the year the whole pit was excavated in three shafts to reveal an east-west phreatic hollow on the fault plane (marked by fault breccia), emptied of its ochre and back filled with rubble. Some galena also found. In the western end of the pit, the point at which the greatest depth was reached a clay pipe was discovered dated to the period 1820 – 1840, evidence of the previous expedition to relocate Hutton Cavern.

Dig 1

The pit totally lacked any potential ways on and was subsequently refilled.

Dig 2

Moving 40 yards west a second pit was opened in an obvious ground feature and emptied. Immediately cave was discovered from which a large amount of ochre had once been removed. Stal was also found and two shot holes where a narrowing in the floor had been widened by the Old Men. Material was emptied to a depth of 5 ms with ample evidence of phreatic development all around. Numerous stal fragments were found within the spoil.  At 5ms depth a horizontal phreatic tube some 10ms long was discovered heading west in the direction of the next pit along.   The tube, some .60ms high and .05ms wide, appears to be a dead end (at this stage). Near the entrance the floor has been trenched out and the stal, much in evidence, is coated with ochre perhaps from the clothes of the Old Men.

Rough cross section of Dig 2.

Dig 3

A brief trial dig in the next pit west has revealed a natural rock wall on the north side of the depression.


Drawing on the evidence from the various sources, whether anecdotal or geological, it is safe to say that the general location for Hutton Cavern is not in doubt. At the very least a thorough survey of the pits and hence the discovery of new caves will add to a greater understanding of the geological and historical nature of the environs.  If the lost Hutton Cavern is not found then at least recent work will narrow the focus for its re-discovery.


Pete Glanville’s 55th Birthday!

Venue: G.B. Cave. Champers in the Gorge.




The Prehistoric Elephant Tooth from St. Cuthbert's Swallet

By Tony Jarratt

On July 4th 1954 the late Jack Waddon and friends discovered a handsome prehistoric herbivore tooth lying amongst Old Red Sandstone pebbles at the top of Rocky Boulder Passage (known to them as Extension, Mud Hall). It was thought to be from Elephas primigenius and a "derived fossil" transported to the site from a washed-out gravel deposit. Recently, thanks to Tim Large, Sett, Margaret Chapman and particularly Mrs. Dorothy Waddon it has been re-examined by Drs. Roger Jacobi and Andy Currant of the Natural History Dept, British Museum. They have identified it as a fragment of the unerrupted part of an upper molar of the straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus. Mrs. Waddon has very generously donated it to the growing collection of important Mendip cave finds at Wells Museum.

Bennett R.H., Coase D.A., Falshaw C., & Waddon J.  1956 A preliminary report on St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  BEC Cav Rep (2) 23pp

Irwin D.J. et al.  1991  St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  BEC 82pp p69

Hatley Rock Holes

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

After an initial dig and survey back in 2000/1 the Two Nicks returned to this site on the north side of Worlebury Hill beneath the golf course. Excavation began then abandoned for the Loxton Site but a revisit late 2005 produced some interesting developments. They continued to empty a tunnel 10 metres long – an old mine working with a good number of shot holes at various intervals along the passage until earlier this year they broke upwards, via a squeeze into a chamber with what looked like further delights ahead. They are returning, with Mad Phil to attempt a banging session to see if anything of merit does indeed exist ahead. Hatley Rock Holes consists of three tunnels – one above the other and one to the side running into the hill on a bearing of 227 degrees. The nature of the geology there, i.e. a fault line and a basalt bed up against the limestone should produce some interesting results! Interestingly enough, a Sexton Blake story from the 60’s entitled Such Men Are Dangerous, describes subterranean systems beneath Worlebury Hill. Should the Two Nicks wild imaginings prove correct then parts of the Hatley Rocks system will be named after the tale. A fuller report will appear in the next edition of this esteemed organ. (STOP PRESS: Banging in the tunnel proved inconclusive at this stage).

New Providence Mine

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

The Two Nicks have also made a discovery in Long Ashton a few hundred yards south east of Providence Mine. The cave called New Providence Mine has an overall length of 30ms. After consultation with Chris Richards at Weston Museum he was happy to confirm that there is no record of it in any documentation.   The entrance is not a great distance from Providence Lane in Long Ashton and is almost at the boundary where the woods end and the gardens of the adjoining houses begin. The narrow entrance, partially blocked leads into a small chamber with a low roof. There is a small stack of deads on the right through which a chamber can be seen. Heading east, crawling under a lower section of ceiling the chamber heads down at a very gentle angle. There are stal formations on the walls and floor, including a red stained flowstone floor and numerous micro-gours, stal-ed up sticks and serrated ceiling ribbons. There is even an old pit prop beneath a large block of perilous looking ceiling. This chamber dog legs to the south and after several metres comes to a squeeze. Through this the now 3metre high rift chamber, ‘The Red Rift’ heads down to a pool choked by small red stained boulders – (a sump perhaps?) There is a bedding chamber on the right that leads back up to the stack of deads in entrance chamber and beneath that a tighter bedding chamber. Everything is stained bright red except for higher parts of the cave, which keep their natural limestone grey.

There will be a fuller report in the next BB.

Can anyone get scaffold clips?

By Henry Bennett

 The Belfry shoring store looks pretty well stocked with scaffold tubes and clips but it is not a true reflection. The large blue plastic drums next to the tackle shed contain an assortment of “speciality” clips, which are, no doubt, great for fixing planks to towers but not much use for shoring. There are two types of clips that are useful. Rightangle clips and swivels.

  • Swivel Clips are useful for cross bracing and in areas where you just can’t get the shoring to be square.
  • Right Angles are great for locking together rigid boxes without cross bracing.



We’ve actually got quite a few right angle clamps but they are all pretty stuffed. All the serviceable ones have been used and most of what is left is just a pile of rust. If anyone has “access” to either large or small numbers then please could you leave them round the Belfry. Don’t wait for someone else…act now…before Mr. Nigel’s scaff on the extension gets it!


Letter(s) to the Editor…

Just one letter to deal with in this issue. This from a fairly (obviously) intoxicated Sir Joseph Bazooka who has something to say about the cheese formation process. Perhaps straight to bed from The Hunters in future for Mr Bazooka instead of lurching inexpertly through tumbled furniture to the word processor…


I have just received My latest B.B., and have just read the article "Digging For Cheese". I must register My disgust at this riddiculous and ill informed piece of lierary drivvel. You Sir have failed in Your duty as Editor (albeit tempoary), by not properly reading the article through, and spotting the obvious mistake. The author too, has failed in His duty to properly acertain the true nature of the subject. Anyone, with even half a brain will know that, by the very nature or its own existance, Cheese is quite obviously, a METAMORPHIC substance, and NOT as stated in this article Sedimentary. Please take the required steps to rectify this glaring mistake.


Sir Joseph Bazooka, (A.C / D.C., VD & Scar)

New Editor responds.

As this was addressed to the previous editor I have nevertheless taken upon myself to respond to this outburst. The very drunk Sir Joseph Bazooka is indeed correct. Cheese is indeed a metamorphic rock but must be laid down as a ‘sedimentary’ in warm, open, often briny pools, in which the particulates settle. There is often, after deposition and hardening have occurred, a period of metamorphoses as seen in the rind aureoles found around ‘truckles’ of cheese that have been mined out of the Cheddar limestone matrix.   In the best tradition of British fair play I suggest that both geological positions are correct.  

Both the author of the cheese article (BB 523) and Sir Joseph Bazooka would be wise to read Pierre Piatto del Formaggioa’s Fromage in Situ, A Study of the Geological Processes found in the Formation of Cheese, or Laplace’s Cheese In The Service Of Man.  Both men argued vociferously about this very issue and it was only after, oddly enough, a visit to Cheddar that both men were able to conclude that cheese is a metamorphically altered sedimentary, albeit after a rough game of Tiddley Winks and several gallons of rude ale.

For everyone’s benefit I have included the following diagram of the major period of cheese formation was taken from the Brooke Bond Tea Card series, Cheeses of the Cosmos, 1966.

The Major Cheese Epochs.

I will consider the formation of cheese debate now closed. Ed.

Please feel free to submit any correspondence concerning any article published in the BB, where it will be dutifully read then used to light the fire in the Belfry.


From The Belfry Table

March 2006

Welcome to a New Year from the Belfry Table! A little snow fell on Mendip but like money, it didn’t hang around for very long. The Hunters was comfortable on New Years Eve, and a warm evening was rounded off by Roger and Jackie’s kind and generous hospitality yet again.

CAVE LEADERS: The Committee is seeking YOUR HELP on updating just who is a Cave Leader, and to which caves so PLEASE can you email me as soon as possible so we can issue a clear and concise list of contacts for access and leaders to not only Mendip Caves, but other regions as well.

BELFRY LOCKERS: Do you use a Belfry Locker?  Again the Committee must know just who owns which locker, we do not want to find something unpleasant residing in these lockers, and it is apparent that no-one knows just who uses what. If you do not identify your locker to the Hut Warden by the March Committee meeting, any unclaimed lockers will be opened, and the locker emptied and re-allocated to any member with a just requirement for one.

PERSONAL & OFFICIAL MAIL: Must not be addressed to the Belfry. The reason is simple, the Club cannot risk being exposed to the possibility of being placed on any Bad Debt list, or Inland Revenue problem address or similar should any member incur such a problem.

St. CUTHBERTS LEADERS MEETING, This will now be held on the 25th. March at the Hunters Lodge Inn, by Kind permission of Roger and Jackie Dors, time to be finalised through details from the Caving Sec or myself by phone.

The Hon.Treasurer has advised the Committee that members have been overpriced this year for their Insurance, however before you attempt to obtain a refund…the Club actually covered you at a cost of £3 for each of the last two years without you being charged…so all is now even!!!

The Committee is seeking to improve communication with members, to this end we will attempt to issue a brief activity list and news within a week of each Committee meeting, and we are hoping with Henry Bennett’s’ assistance to make this available via the Web on a members-only access and also by an email mailing list.

A Questionnaire is soon going to be issued to all members seeking their views on various subjects, for example: on what they would like from their membership, The style and location of the Annual Dinner, their willingness to provide their contact details for use by MRO in the event of serious call-outs etc, etc PLEASE If you have any burning issues contact me ASAP to include your Question in this venture.

The BELFRY extension is at Roof Timber state!  Come and visit, better still, come and help the team!!!

Best Wishes, time to get down from the Table!   Nig.T


From The Web:


Sub-continent's longest cave system discovered


The longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent has been discovered in Meghalaya's Jaintia Hills district by an international team of speleologists.

The team found a cave system over 22.20 km long, which surpasses the previous known record of 21.55 km of another system existing in the same district.

''The linking of the Krem um im-Liat Prah cave system to Krem labbit (Khaidong) to create a single cave system of 22,202.65 m in length is the longest cave known to date in the Indian sub-continent,'' the team members told a press conference today.

The team comprising 17 members from the UK, two each from Switzerland and Denmark, one each from Austria and Ireland and five from India spent three and half weeks in the district focussing on the cave areas of Shnongrim Ridge near Nongkhlieh area.

This finding surpassed the previous record of the longest cave system in the sub-continent - the Kotsati Umlawam measuring 21.55 km, said B D Kharpran Dally, a reputed speleologist in Meghalaya, Between February 7 to March 1 the team explored 39 caves, mapped and photographed to discover 15,498 metres of new cave passage. Of the 39 caves mapped 36 were entirely new with only three being cave systems that were partially explored in previous years, he said.

Terence M Whitaker, a research biologist from the UK and a team member, said Jaintia Hills district has the highest concentration of caves in the sub-continent. Exploration of these would reveal new species of aqua animals.


BEC Website and Newsletter

Henry Bennett

Some of you may have noticed that over the past few months the BEC website has been revamped. There is now a wealth of information on the site including every single BB since the first one was published back in January 1947. You can now research anything the club has published without all that mucking about with bits of paper. We’ve also now got a forum where you can post message and comments.

Registration is only available to fully subscribed BEC members. This means that we can now do a number of things that can only be viewed by ourselves:

  • Latest BBs online. By default we will not publish BBs to the public for one year however members can get access to all of them including the very latest copy.
  • Online address book and the ability to send emails securely to other members without exposing your email address. Clearly some of you may have concerns about an online address book but by making the site only open to registered members it has a layer of security.
  • A regular Newsletter.




Since the excellent Belfry Bulletin has not been a monthly publication for many years there have been comments from some members that they haven’t been aware of some things that are happening with the Club or on the hill. The committee has been concerned about this for a while and now plan to send out a regular newsletter to anyone BEC member who wants to subscribe to it. This is not intended to replace the Belfry Bulletin, which is the official journal of the club but to complement it.

So a call to action! If you want to be kept in touch with the BEC’s activities register on the website and check the box to sign up for the newsletter.



How Your Belfry Bulletin Is Put Together

The editor (seated) looks on woefully annoyed as his ‘Printer’s imp’
deals with the late arrival of yet another caving article.

Well for those of you not in the know the new editor reveals the many secrets of how a BB is put together.

Usually, and not long before the BB reaches your hands there is a flurry of panicked activity to the accompaniment of waves of frenetic bashing of numerous heads on walls and boisterous swearing. Sometimes documents appear not long before the deadline, as illustrated above, and these are swiftly added into the publication with the use of several nine inch nails, bouts of vigorous and liberal banging (of the nails that is) and yards of thirty year old sticky-tape.

With gallons of paste, badly framed photographs, and other sundry supporting material, such as tiny feint surveys, grim illustrations and humorous anecdotes, are glued into position in a slapdash manner.

The whole is then thrown into the bin where, if luck shines on a following wind the whole casual ensemble magically appears at the printers.  

The BB in history: Jacob Jordaens’ Four Early Cavers reading the BB


Hollow Hills

Last word

While in conversation with Andy MacGregor using Alexander Graham Bell’s marvellous device, he was swift to remind me that the BB issue after the next is in fact the 500 edition – and here was I thinking it was going to be 526…It’s a good job someone’s keeping tabs!   (Do I detect a hint of the subtle blend of alcohol and previous editors here?)

Anyhoo, with that in mind I think perhaps something special should be done. If you have any ideas suitable for such a milestone or would like to see a relevant article or indeed articles then email me with your suggestions. Yes I know it’s some way off but a big fat reminder never hurts. I don’t want to get out the infamous editor’s sharp stick (yes, I now have the keys to the cupboard that holds that), and start brandishing it at anyone who chirps ‘I didn’t know’… Ed.

A Medieval woodcut showing the inhabitants of the Hollow Hills.