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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor (722)
Joint Treasurers: Mike Wilson (1130)
Membership Secretary / Hut Bookings : Fiona Sandford (958)
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (1306)
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett (1234)
Tackle Officer: Tyrone Bevan (1276)

Non-Committee Posts

Acting Editor: Dave Irwin (aka – Wig)
BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian : Graham Johnson (aka- Jake)

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

Cover photo: Picture postcard of Fingal’s Cave, from the Marvels of Nature series published by Lombard Chocolate, Paris c.1900. (From Dave Irwin’s collection)


The Club urgently needs a BB Editor. Dave Irwin is currently Acting Editor. The BB not only informs members of the fine work currently being undertaken by the members it is also the medium through which the Committee can inform the membership of its actions asnd other club news.  So, where’s that budding editor?  Pay is low but the work is extremely rewarding!



Ten years ago this week I penned a “From the Belfry Table” article, gleefully explaining that we had just celebrated our Sixtieth Dinner and had been only 2 persons short of the magical 200 number. Well, ten years on and I can only comment that we were only 2 short of 150 dining members at our Seventieth Dinner.  Sadly many faces are no longer with us, however, many old friends were ‘arm twisted’ into coming, and, with little exception, a good night was enjoyed by those who did attend. 

Member Number 1, Harry Stanbury sent a personal message wishing the Club well, and stated that being only 92 years of age, he still hoped to make it to the 75th!

Members will also be concerned to hear that Roger Dors was rushed into Bath Hospital a week after he and Jackie attended the Dinner. I will not make ill informed comment on his ailment, but I am sure that everyone will wish him a speedy return to good health, and extend any support to Jackie and the family that may be needed.

Jayrat and team continue well at Rose Cottage Cave, once again he has written some excellent accounts of his endeavours in the BB for all to see.

A “Burns Night Supper” will be run at the Belfry towards the end of January 2006 to raise funds for the Extension and all are welcome, details from the Committee.

Dave Irwin has done it again, The massive “Mendip Cave Bibliography 2nd Edition” has been produced. This two volume work was a mammoth undertaking, over 520 pages, 25,000 references and 1.1 million words, is a worthy addition to all caving club libraries and any caver’s bookshelf.

Starting in the spring, we intend to run a series of “Little known Mendip Cave” visits. These will be for the benefit of enthusiasts and novices alike. The actual locations are still to be decided, more details will appear later.

Due to the absence of a regular BB, I believe that members have been kept generally in the dark about what has been happening, or was about to happen on the Hill. It is my intention therefore to work closely with the BB Editor, committee, and the general membership to produce a “From the Belfry Table” newsletter in times of BB sparsity. If this is to succeed, I shall need regular and up-to-date snippets of caving and Club info to bring before the membership, PLEASE HELP.

Those who attended the Annual Dinner will recall that Roger and Jackie Dors, together with Les Davies MBE (Senior Warden, Mendip Hills A.O.N.B),were our joint Guests of Honour. Roger and Jackie were presented with a Welsh ‘Davy’ lamp as a measure of thanks and the esteem in which the BEC hold the Dors family for present and past generations. Roger in reply, warmly thanked the Club for the gift, which they both accepted also on behalf of their family.

Les Davies has written a letter of thanks, from which I quote; “....Would you be so good as to thank everyone from the BEC for a splendid evening...it was a great pleasure to spend the evening with you all and to be able to share in your 70th. Anniversary....” He continued; “Caving and Mendip are inseparable...I do consider you all to be pioneers, whom each year make more discoveries and unlock more secrets of the Mendip Hills. Long may you all continue ”.

The Secretary has suggested  to the Committee that we pursue a pro-active approach to raising the interest in Caving locally. He put forward a plan to write not only to local papers, but to contact Young Farmers Clubs and other Youth groups to ascertain local interest. Whilst a minimum age restriction of 16 exists within the BEC, these persons will obviously be the 16 to 25 year age group worth targeting to offer an insight into caving, and what the BEC has to offer in particular.

WORKING WEEKENDS: Just so that you can plan to be away from Mendip if you want to miss the Working Weekends, the dates are: 8th/9th January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th July, and 24th/25th September, 2006. On the other hand we need you and your skills, if you haven’t got any, well maybe you could turn up and learn some from others for free!!.

Well, for the time being, its time to get down from the table, regards to all,

Nigel T
Hon Secretary.


Vale – Steve Tuck

Some Memories of Steve Tuck:

Matthew Tuck had a father! He was Steve Tuck who joined the BEC in the late 50’s and caved and climbed and rode motor bikes and drank beer (and rough) and sang songs and was a generally all round good bloke.

Steve has just died at Plymouth leaving two lovely daughters, Beth and Jessica, his son Matthew and his second wife Lorraine.

Steve was one of the crowd who joined the BEC from the National Smelting Company. He shared a flat in Bristol with a couple of other BEC members. A feature of their flat was a large astronomical telescope set up to view - horizontally? All was revealed when it was explained that if you turned your head upside down to make sense of the inverted image you could see the nurses living opposite! 

He was an enthusiastic person and very good fun to be with on the long trips in the early exploration of Cuthberts. He came on climbing meets but became more careful after falling off a VS in the Avon Gorge. Many years later I visited him in Devon and we did a climb on The Dewerstone where he chatted happily all the way up.

I have an excellent photograph somewhere of him hurtling past the Belfry on an underpowered OEC; an antique motor bike. Steve maintained that this stood for Old English Contraption. And not just motor bikes he liked bicycles as well. Three of us, Lin. Steve and me, had a really good week bike touring along the coast of Brittany camping in tiny tents with Steve as a first class bike mechanic when things fell off. He could mend anything.

Latterly we shared long walks and interesting conversations when we could and I shall miss that.



Vale - Joan Bennett

Joan Bennett is no longer with us. She passed away on the 1st September in Axbridge after a long illness. The club has lost a member who was staunchly protective of the BEC and who undertook many tasks requested of her with total commitment.

In her ‘teens she was involved with YHA and that is how she made her connection with the BEC.  She met and married Roy Bennett, and because of their common interest in skiing, climbing and caving they slotted into the BEC’s wide ranging interests in these sports during the 1950s and 1960s.

She not only caved and climbed regularly in the UK. She climbed in The Alps and was an active member on the two Austrian caving expeditions in 1965 when she descended the Hirlatz and in 1966 joined an international expedition to the Raucherkarhohle where, with a party of BEC members, she camped underground for over two days. On the way out Roy and ‘Wig’ wanted to get photographs of the huge chamber, ‘Gigantedom’ and so they began setting up the cameras when Joan caught up with them. After two days at near freezing conditions she threw a wobbly and threatened Roy with a divorce if he didn’t make a move towards the cave entrance. So ended a great photographic trip! She and Roy were strong members of a BEC expedition to the deep potholes near Balague in the Pyrenees liaising with Kangy and Georges Jauzion in 1970.

In 1967 she was caving in Ireland and helped survey the Aille River Cave first explored by Roy and ‘Wig.’ It was a gloomy  place and one could frequently feel ‘nasties’ swimming against the wet-suited leg in the 250m Long Canal. Roy commented that he hadn’t known her to be so quiet, for so long, before! Joan was the first woman to enter St. Cuthbert’s II in1969 and she helped Wig on a number of surveying trips in the cave.

She and Roy were inseparable. They were immensely loyal and supportive of each other so much so that they were referred to as “the Bennetts”. When Roy took up pioneering hang gliding she often helped and on one occasion they carried a 70lb machine to the top of Skiddaw. Roy flew down in a few minutes while Joan trudged down resignedly hours later!

After Roy’s death in a mid-summer skiing accident near their retirement home at Newtonmore Scotland, Joan returned to Mendip inconsolable after her loss. However she built a new life in her new home at Draycott where she had a fine collection of books and, interestingly, caving paintings. Latterly she had several trips to the Antarctic which she spoke about with great enthusiasm.

 Joan had a fine mind, was a vigorous debater and held a number of posts in the club. For many years she was librarian, then auditor and lately a trustee.  Whatever the task required of her she always gave it her full attention and commitment. She leaves a large sized hole in our lives.

‘Kangy’ and ‘Wig’


Vale - Albert Francis

Another loyal friend and Life member of the BEC has passed away.  Albert joined the BEC on the 3rd. July 1958. His introduction to caving was through Mike Palmer’s dad enabling him to meet Herbert Balch at his Badger Hole excavations. He then met up with the ‘3 Mikes’, Mike Baker, Mike Palmer and Mike Wheadon at the Wells YMCA

In the early days he helped on several building projects at the Belfry site on the ‘Stone Belfry’ and the Carbide store.  For this he was elected an Honorary Life Member.  Following the destruction of the Belfry in 1969 Albert spent much time with others on the fabric of the new Belfry, notably installing the electrics.

Albert was involved with several discoveries in Fairy Cave Quarry but his main claim to fame occurred in St. Cuthbert’s Swallet and Manor Farm Swallet.  Albert was on the trip that entered the September Series in St. Cuthbert’s along with Mikes Palmer and Wheadon, Brian Prewer and Tom Neill.  He and Kangy were later to be the first team to make the connection with Rabbit Warren Extension and High Chamber, via Catgut Series and the notorious Cross-Leg Squeeze.  Wig remembers being the first non-UBSS members allowed into Bat Passage and Great Chamber with Albert and Prew to view these fine passages..

For many years Albert was one of the mainstays of the NHASA digging team, working at North Hill Swallet, Double Back, Twin T’s, Lodmore and Chancellor’s Farm Dig but he declined working at Templeton as he said ‘it wasn’t his scene!’

Nigel T remembers that in Manor Farm many happy hours were spent digging with him.  The work culminated with the hoped for breakthrough leading to NHASA Gallery. A feature in the cave was christened in his honour “Albert's Eye” for it gave him grief on the first time he tried to pass it. . Once retired from active digging he could be seen enjoying a half in the diggers company on a Wednesday night at the Hunters. Albert was a gentleman with a twinkle in his eye to the last!

Kangy, Mr. ‘N’, ‘Prew ‘and Wig


On Surveying the World’s Most Famous Cave

by Tony Jarratt

"Wait till you see Fingal's Cave properly. That's the entrance to it there," said Alistair, breathless with pulling.

Jane drew in her breath sharply. "It's magnificent! ..."

"To-morrow I'll show it you from the inside. You'll understand then why people say its like a great cathedral. That other great opening in the cliff is the Boat Cave. Just round the little headland here, is MacKinnon's Cave. ... There are more caves further up the coast."

"Gosh!" exclaimed Jane. "What fun to explore them all."

 "Do you happen to have brought provisions for a week?" Alistair teased her. " Staffa's just riddled with caves.     

Fingal's Ghost  1947

When, at the Grampian Speleological Group's annual dinner, Bob Mehew mentioned that he had a cunning plan to survey the sea caves of the isle of Staffa I was immediately captured. My last (and only) visit was on July 5th 1976 in a 12 seater RIB  which took 45 minutes to cross from Ulva Ferry on the island of Mull. Since then I had accumulated a great deal of books, postcards and pre-1900 engravings of Staffa and its caves and was itching for a return visit.

"Off the west coast of Scotland lies a lonely little island which has probably won more world-wide renown than any other natural feature of Britain. This famed islet is Staffa. Foam-girt by stormy Hebridean seas, it rises serene, presenting colonnaded cliffs and caves, amazing not only in size but in form and symmetry. Since the island was "discovered", in 1772, its most imposing rock structure, Fingal's Cave, has ranked among the foremost of the natural wonders of the world."           Staffa 1975

Once privately owned Staffa is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the hands of the National Trust for Scotland and is looked after by Scottish Natural Heritage. Bob's well thought out proposals to them, his professional risk assessment (he is a safety inspector for Sellafield) and his general persistence persuaded them to allow a group of six of us to camp on the island for several days in order to survey the major caves and undertake scientific work on the columnar basalt pillars and marine flora and fauna.

The only published survey of Fingal's Cave found is that in the first edition of MacCulloch but this is not drawn to scale though it has many detailed measurements. All the main sites have been frequently measured over the last two hundred years but the dimensions differ as much as the enthusiasts themselves. Ours would be the first surveys done by cavers as opposed to travellers or naturalists. Our "bible" for this mini-expedition was to be " Staffa" by Donald B. MacCulloch (MacCulloch, 1975).  Earlier editions of this erudite and encyclopaedic volume were titled "The Isle of Staffa" and "The Wondrous Isle of Staffa". MacCulloch mentions the following caves of note:- Clamshell (Scallop) Cave, Fingal's (An Uamh Binn, An Uamh Bhin - Musical Cave, An Uamh Mhor - the Great Cave), Boat Cave, MacKinnon's Cave, Cormorants' (Scarts') Cave, Goat Cave, Gunna Mor (Big Gun, Gun, Thunder Cave, The Cannon) and a cave on the western coast which "hardly deserves this term". He dismisses other possible caves as of little interest. The 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey map shows five named caves (MacKinnon's being incorrectly located), seven unnamed caves and a natural arch - totalling thirteen sites. Due to lack of time not all of these sites were visited but they are almost certainly all caves from a speleological point of view and two others, Gunna Mor and Horses' Cave are not indicated on the map at all. At least one more cave in the north west of the island can be added to give a total of sixteen sites of interest to a caver. Also, Goat Cave is in fact two separate and parallel caves - but let's not push the point.

This project created surprisingly little interest in the Scottish section of the Grampian though two prospective expeditionaries unfortunately couldn't make it due to work commitments - poor Dan Harries having to earn a crust diving off the Galapagos islands - bless. Only Edinburgh based John Crae (GSG) was a true native and the rest of the team were trawled from south of the border. Bob Mehew (GSG / SMCC), Tony Boycott (GSG / BEC), Vern Freeman (GSG / BEC), Duncan Butler (BEC / RUCC) and myself (GSG / BEC). Also, a brief guest appearance by Canadian professor Stephen Morris gave us a bit more scientific credibility. Our esteemed photographic team of Descent's own Chris Howes and Judith Calford were also, alas, unable to attend but generously provided photographic equipment and advice.

For the Mendip contingent the expedition commenced, as is traditional, in the Hunters' bar on Tuesday August 16th. Next day the four Sassunaichs drove north to meet Bob and John in Auley's Bar in Oban from where the car ferry was taken to Craignure on Mull. In atrocious weather we drove across the south of the island to Fionnphort and set up camp in driving rain at Fidden Farm. To dry out we were forced to sit in the Keel Row Inn where plans were made for the next few days.

Luckily next day was dry, bright and sunny and, as arranged, we boarded the good MB "Iolaire of Iona" - deeply impressing its skipper, Chris Kirkpatrick, with the mountain of equipment piled up on the harbour side! Chris had a load of tourists on board but was very laid-back and we were soon on the high seas admiring seals, guillemots, kittiwakes and cormorants on the one hour voyage to the "wondrous isle".

Landing at the concrete jetty near Clamshell Cave was the start of the first epic as the pile of kit was unloaded and painfully dragged up the stairway to the island plateau out of the reach of the rising tide and sea spray. The caving kit was dumped and the rest ferried to the centre of this mile and a half circumference grass-covered rock where we set up camp. Outstanding views of Mull, Iona, the Treshnish Isles, Gometra and Ulva surrounded us and once the tourists departed our only companions were the birds and insects. As to the latter we initially thought that we had got away with it until the breeze stopped and the fearsome Scottish MIDGIES rose from the greensward to devour our lifeblood!

Once set up we immediately set off cave-hunting and Dr.B. quickly found the obscure entrance to Gunna Mor situated in the basalt pillars a few metres above sea level on the north side of Port an Fhasgaidh inlet. This peculiar cave, later surveyed to a solid end at a mere 5.07 metres, is somewhat of an anomaly on this basalt island. Inclined upwards at 35 degrees it resembles a 1 metre diameter phreatic tube and theories on its formation abound. A small "rockmill" pool at the entrance apparently once held a large round stone weighing 5 lbs which was violently agitated in storms to give the cave its name. A legend states that the stone was pinched before 1800 by Irish tourists.

With the island now devoid of visitors we followed the cliff top around to Fingal's Cave where the tide was rapidly rising. My Russian rubber dinghy - the Battleship Potempkin - was inflated ready for next day and Bob, John and Duncan commenced their separate tasks of measuring the basalt pillars around the entrance of this stunning cavern. After a meal at camp most then recced. the cliffs on the north and west sides of the island.

Friday 19th turned out to be another fine day with a few showers. The surveyors continued with their projects while Tony, Vern and I concentrated on crossing the sea inlet to Fingal's Cave. Tony swam across and I followed in the Potempkin with Vern hanging on behind.

"Leaping into the boat, he seized the oars and skillfully pushed out into the eddying sea; then, waiting an instant for the reflux of an enormous wave, he was carried right in front of the cave. Here the boat was nearly upset, but with a dexterous movement of the oars, Oliver succeeded in keeping her straight. Had she been caught amidships , she would inevitably have been capsized."..."A cry of horror came from the spectators, for it seemed that the boat must inevitably be dashed against the rocks to the left of the entrance."         The Green Ray  1885

120 years later and nothing has changed! All exciting stuff due to the swell and a certain inability on my part to swim. A rope was rigged across the inlet and later used as a tyrolean (even more exciting!). The NW wall of the cave was pegged and a length of handline installed for future use by photographers and surveyors.

Now feeling cocky we carried on round the base of the cliff to see if we could gain access to the permanently flooded Boat Cave before which was a very rough sea inlet with a small and horrifically floodable cave at the end - later to become labelled Horses' Cave. In crossing this we all had epics; getting smashed onto barnacle-covered rocks and almost being swept out to sea to eventually become malodorous seawrack on the shores of Newfoundland. Considerably wiser we eventually relaxed in the much calmer water of the Boat Cave inlet then took the Potempkin into the attractive and smoothly sculpted tunnel ending in a slope of huge cobbles after some 50 metres. Compass and clinometer readings were taken but the lack of a tape or laser measurer precluded the survey from being completed. Photos were taken before a hasty retreat was made to Fingal's. It was noted that Boat Cave is formed in the yellow tufaceous ash layer with the lower columnar basalt layer forming the ceiling. This was also later found to be the case with Horses', Cormorants', MacKinnon's Caves and the sea-filled lower section of Fingal's Cave.

At Fingal's we met Professor Steve who has done much work on the cooling processes of lava to form hexagonal pillars and was luckily holidaying in Scotland from his temporary base at Cambridge University. He had arranged with Bob to meet up and exchange ideas. Back at the camp he was impressed enough with our Wilkins' Cider to ask for a second mug! (Our thanks to Roger Dors for the supply of this elixir which certainly prevented scurvy amongst the team). Unfortunately the midgies were also attracted by the nectar so Vern, Tony, John and I scuttled off down the eastern cliffs to Goat Cave - actually two parallel, short sea caves - and the adjacent Natural Arch, a c.8m tunnel which Vern swam through. Rushing into Goat Cave to avoid the midgies we disturbed thousands of sand fleas which were almost as bad. Several wrens were flying around in the cave apparently feasting on these unpleasant bugs. The cave was surveyed and photographed and a short, blind cave nearby examined. These caves are located in the slaggy lava bed above the columnar zones.

The evening working trip to Fingal's was almost an overnight one as the causeway to the cave was partially flooded by the tide on the surveyors' return and the handlines inside the cave were underwater - as were Vern's only trousers!

Saturday 20th was yet another day of superb weather and having previously worked on the Hebrides I was thoroughly amazed. The noise of breakers hitting the cliffs or surging into the caverns seemed particularly noticeable today, as was the screeching of the sea-birds. At Fingal's we found a great deal of carved graffiti whilst searching for the inscription "J.B. 1772". This had been noted by a Miss Barker of Cumberland in 1928 and it was suggested that the initials were those of Sir Joseph Banks, the island's "discoverer" and populariser. Eventually I unearthed "J.B." but could not confirm the date. Many other dates, including 1776 and 1801, were found but most of the inscriptions are difficult to decipher due to sea erosion and a thin algal film. A separate visit to record many of these using brass rubbing techniques would be an interesting historical project before they completely disappear. Not being allowed to chisel proof of our visit I emplaced the ubiquitous "Bertie" sticker but suspect that it was quickly removed by the Shepton element (good job he missed the second one).

Dr.B. donned his diving gear and swam the length of the cave to report that there was no possible way on at the end - another legend de-bunked. The shingle beach noted by MacCulloch had gone and been replaced by large cobbles. Apart from a few small fish and crabs the only items of interest in the depths were sections of the old iron handrail. The depth of the cave floor was noted at several points as he swam back and out to sea. Here he swam into a shoal of mackerel but missed the nearby seal and basking shark which we had been admiring from the shore.

Bob captained the Potempkin, assisted by Vern, in order to make a photographic record from the NW wall while John and Duncan persevered with their measurements despite the growing crowd of tourists milling about. Being redundant I went off on a solo trip to Cormorants' Cave, shedding my trousers to pass the knee deep pool in the strongly draughting connecting passage to MacKinnon's Cave. Here I was amazed to see Tony and Vern silhouetted in the entrance. Tony joined me to complete a through trip whilst high on the cliff top above a couple of tourists admired my shapely legs. (They were lucky - I had intended to go for a dump!). This fine cave is almost as impressive as Fingal's and far more colourful, being decorated with pink algae, light green and orange sponges, purple sea-anemones and white dog whelks in abundance. There is an inaccessible high level passage which almost certainly connects back to Cormorants' but would need bolting equipment to reach. The cormorants in residence may not take kindly to this.

Meanwhile Vern pushed the, at that time, unnamed cave between Boat and Fingal's for some 35 metres, taking advantage of the low tide to avoid being pulverised by breakers. He reported it as still passable for another 5 metres or so but discretion proved the better part of valour and he retreated. The son of the boat owner David Kirkpatrick later told us that he knows this as Horses' Cave due to the "white horses" formed by the tidal surges. Chris Kirkpatrick knows it simply as "The Blowhole" but agreed with us that the former name is more suitable and has indeed now added it to his tourist spiel.

In the evening Bob photographed along the SE wall of Fingal's, including some of the graffiti and Duncan and Tony swam to the end of the cave, the former getting a good wave-bashing for his pains - and indeed, causing them.

Before settling down for the evening cider, wine and whisky a team planted stakes at the top of the west cliffs ready for an attempt on the unnamed cave below next day.

Sunday 21st saw normal Hebridean weather at last as a forecast front arrived with damp, overcast and breezy conditions soon turning to continuous rain but at least keeping the midgies down. 15 metres of ladder hung over the cliff gained access to a sloping, grassy ledge leading directly into the SW end of this crescent-shaped cave and Dr.B. drew the short straw. Duncan and I joined him and this pleasant but short cave was surveyed by taking 14 separate legs from a base station. Two side passages were relatively well decorated with calcite "cave coral". Huge amounts of driftwood and fishing floats lined the back wall and gave us the field name of " Float Cave" - the finding of part of a plastic doll almost resulted in "Baby's Leg Cave" but this was sadly rejected. A Meta merianae or Meta menardi (?) orb web and a large marine "woodlouse" were observed in one of the decorated passages and at the other end of the cave, just outside the drip line, three fat and fluffy gull chicks screeched at us from their nests.

While Tony and I surveyed Duncan traversed the base of the cliffs to the north to reach a triangular cave entrance which Chris later told us he knew as " Gunshot Cave" due to the noise of breakers entering when the swell is from the west. This could not be entered due to high water but an adjacent cave was partially explored by Duncan for some 40m before a bold, wet step curtailed his progress. On the O.S, map only one cave is marked at this point. Another visit using ladders from the cliff top is needed. We now had to take advantage of the tide so all set off in dribs and drabs to Cormorants' Cave where Tony and I surveyed through the strongly draughting connection passage into MacKinnon's Cave. Bob, assisted by Vern, completed a photographic record of the system.

With plenty of time left a one leg survey of Gunna Mor (five minutes) was accomplished followed by an identical operation in Clamshell Cave. Being thoroughly soaked we gave up the idea of lunch and Tony, Duncan and I pressed on to survey Fingal's starting at Duncan's EDM position and using a laser distance meter for the final leg to avoid a watery grave in the maelstrom below.

"Before them opened a spacious lofty cave, filled with a dim, mysterious light. The space between the two sides of the cave, at the level of the sea, measures about thirty-four feet; to the right and left the basaltic columns, wedged one against the other, like those in certain cathedrals of the latest Gothic period, hide the main supporting walls. From the top of these columns spring the sides of an enormous pointed arch, which at its key-stone rises fifty feet above the average water-mark."     The Green Ray, 1885

A few extremely bedraggled tourists heralded the arrival of Iolaire of Iona so the opportunity was taken for a weather check with Chris who informed us of force 9 winds forecast in two days time and suggested that we leave Staffa the following day  to avoid an extended and doubtless miserable extension of our holiday. We were happy to agree and sloshed our way back to camp to dry out and fester for the rest of the day.

We awoke on Monday 22nd to a glorious day, possibly the best yet, but were not going to be conned by the vagaries of Highland weather. Everything was dried out, the camp packed up and all our kit portered back to the jetty. Tony and I returned to Fingal's for one last trip in order to check for magnetic anomalies by taking compass back bearings. None were found. The others continued with their separate projects and Vern assisted Bob with his short photographic survey of Gunna Mor before racing back to the jetty to join Tony and I who were taking the first boat back with most of the kit. A pleasant journey o'er the sea to Mull and the joys of unloading all the equipment and packing it in various cars only added to our salt-spray induced dehydration and before long we were installed in the Keel Row and on the outside of some welcome McEwans 80/-. The others arrived at 5pm to join us in the pub for some real food and a few more swallies. The weather had now deteriorated and once again we set up our tents at Fidden Farm in the pouring rain.

We returned to Oban on the 23rd and the Mendip contingent  were back in the Hunters' that evening sampling the first decent ale in six days.

This expedition was very successful in the amount of work, some unexpected, that was achieved in such a short space of time. Unfortunately the loss of a day prevented some of the planned work being finished and coupled with the realisation that the island is more cavernous than expected will almost certainly result in a second visit next year. Bob is planning to write up various scientific reports, including one for Cave and Karst Science. The G.S.G. Bulletin and Descent will also have write-ups. I would like to express our thanks to Bob for the inordinate amount of work he put in on this project and for the privilege of becoming temporary inhabitants of the, truly, Wondrous Isle.

"To those who have set foot on Staffa on fine summer days, the friendliness of this tiny island remains with them for ever, and keeps a place in their hearts, even if they may never return."      Fingal's Cave   1961



Anon,  April/May 2005, Fatalities at Fingal's,  Descent (183), p.28.

Fidler, Kathleen, 1947, Fingal's Ghost,  John Crowther Ltd.

Jones, Rosalind, 1997, Mull in the Making,  R. Jones.

Oldham, J.E.A, July 1974, Fingal's Cave, Staffa - by Air,  British Caver,  vol. 62, pp.75-78.  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony,  January 2004,  The Caves of Scotland a Bibliography,  A. Oldham.

Oldham, Tony, 2004, The New Caves of Scotland,  A. Oldham.

Scott, Thea, 1961, Fingal's Cave,  Pandora Press.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1927 (1st edn.),  The Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1934, 1957 (2nd and 3rd edns.),  The Wondrous Isle of Staffa.

MacCulloch, Donald B, 1975 (4th edn.),  Staffa,  David & Charles.

Verne, Jules, 1885 (reprinted 2003),  The Green Ray,  Wildside Press.

de Watteville, Alastair, 1993,  The Island of Staffa - Home of the World Renowned Fingal's Cave, Romsey Fine Art.


Bob Mehew for the initial idea, thorough organization and a great deal of hard work.

BCA and DCA for the loan of the Disto laser measurer.

BCRA for a grant to assist with the hire of the Total Station.



I thought as my 70th celebrations and the BEC’s and fifty plus years in The Club nearly coincided I’d send a climbing article to cause some editorial consternation.    


My birthday was actually last year and on the 5th May last year Janet and I stayed at her Club Hut the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club “Black Rock Cottage” in Glencoe. We had the intention of climbing Buachaille Etive Mor by way of the North Buttress. We woke up to the dreary sight of clag down to roof level and the bottom of the Buttress covered on snow. So we went to the ‘Ice Factor’ the big climbing wall at Kinlochleven instead. It was warm indoors but hardly a celebration. We asked for and got an OAP discount.

This year, suddenly, we had free time and a spell of good weather and at the beginning of August had lovely sunny day climbing the 1000 ft North Buttress from the bottom to the summit.

Taking the Lagangarbh path from the road we got to the buttress easily in a half an hour. The route, my old guidebook says, was first climbed in 1895 following the line shown in the photograph.

”Start at the centre of the buttress and climb to the foot of the steep section Traverse right to the Great Gully and take the easiest line above.”

After the initial scramble through heather and rocky bits we romped up nice easy angled slabs until the buttress wall loomed.

The ledge we were on was in sunshine, it was 12.30 and so we munched lunch.    

Janet can be seen on the lower slabs silluetted against the steep section of the climb. The route tends to the right hand edge and then jags back to climb steep cracks in the centre.

Rucksacs were repacked, crumbs wiped from sticky fac

es and the intriging move to the base of the next section started. We peered into the void of the Great Gully. Lovely We moved rightwards along a narrow gangway which was beautifully exposed. Rounding a corner we found a perfect belay below the next section; the vertical chimneys. Three of them as it turned out.      

Happily it was my turn to lead and I enjoyed the good holds, the interesting position and the feeling of being on a real mountaineering route, Janet did the next slab pitch to another chimney. This one was partially blocked by a large boulder. I heave-hoed over it. Janet was subtler and found a better and more graceful way of climbing it. After that we happily wandered diagonally left until the ground became less steep and we could see the Crowberry Tower which is near the top of Stob Dearg.

Ten minutes later we had arrived on the only summit in the area free from cloud. So we decided that it was our 70th Birthday Climb and we dedicated it to my favourite Club.


Happy Birthday BEC.

From Kangy

Membership Fees are now due for RENEWAL

If you pay before 30th November 2005 the discounted rates are:

Single membership - £30;  Joint membership - £44

For those requiring caving insurance there is an additional charge of £15 per head

After 1st December 2005 the rates are:

Single membership - £35; Joint membership - £49

Caving insurance as above

All Membership Fees should be given or sent to:

The Membership Secretary :  Fiona Sandford, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.

Do not put in with the hut fees or leave in The Belfry – there is no guarantee it will get to me!


Digging for Cheese

By Prof.  Will Shrabbit, Dept of Comestibles, University of Bath [arranged via J’Rat]

I remember as a small boy, the excitement of the first lunar landings. NASA had managed to propel a tin can full of people to the moon and back using less computer power than an average modern mobile phone.  This “small step for a man” was not only a “giant leap for mankind”, but analysis of the rock samples collected enabled scientists to dispel an age-old myth. The moon, it turned out, was not made of cheese!  This of course came as no surprise to geologists.  Cheese, being of sedimentary origin, could not possibly have formed in the water-free lifeless lunar environment.

Here on earth, cheese is normally found in association with limestone rocks, Wensleydale and Gloucester are among the best known examples. The West of England is particularly well blessed with cheese, with two of the largest outcrops occurring in the Mendip hills, these being at Cheddar and in the area immediately west of Frome.  Cheese has been extensively quarried in Cheddar since the iron-age leaving the huge excavation now known as Cheddar Gorge as an impressive monument to the cheese quarrying industry.  Now silent apart from the wind and the birds, it is difficult to imagine that this was once the workplace of hundreds of “cheesemen” and the source of around sixty million tons of Cheddar cheese.

The other, less well known source of Mendip cheese was the area west of Frome around Whatley, Mells and Leigh-on-Mendip.  The large workforce who worked the quarries included a number of French immigrants whose experience of Brie borehole drilling was invaluable.  It was from this French connection that Frome received its name. “Frome”  being derived from “fromage”, (French for cheese).  All known deposits have now been worked out and the parent carboniferous limestones are now worked on a large scale.  The only permanent reminder of the cheese quarrying industry in this area is the Frome cheese show, which is now in its 128th year.

Early cheesemen were aware that the Cheddar deposit was a finite resource and would eventually become exhausted.  A great deal of effort was devoted to finding a sustainable substitute and it was eventually discovered that cheese could be produced from grass. The process makes use of cows, which eat the grass, producing milk.  The milk is then allowed to rot in controlled conditions, producing a slurry.  The aqueous component of the slurry is separated, and the retentate is stored at ground-rock temperature (often in caves to mimic natural geological conditions). The resultant material becomes cheese after a period of hardening and maturation.  Cheese produced in this manner is virtually indistinguishable from quarried cheese. Most modern cheeses are produced by this process.

Cheese quarrying probably peaked around the seventeenth century, and slowly declined until around 1840, after which, few (if any) quarries remained working.  As the quarries became exhausted, many were abandoned and the cheese barons switched to the production of cheese from grass. Other cheese barons were quick to respond to the growing demand for road-metal and limestone aggregates which occurred around the same time as the demise of cheese quarrying. They converted their quarries to limestone production and many of these quarries are still working today.

Although there is undoubtedly plenty of cheese left in the Mendip hills, there are now no working quarries.  Cheese can still occasionally be found in stalagmitic forms in Mendip caves, sometimes in the form of straw stalactites, (probably the original “cheese straws”).  Formations are now protected by law and must not be removed or defaced.   Cave-cheese would have been a magnet for hungry prehistoric animals. Banwell stalactite cave for example still contains fine examples of stalagmitic cheese, whereas the nearby Banwell bone cave was almost completely stripped of cheese by hyenas and brown bears. Many animals became lost or suffered falls underground in their quest for cheese, and the bones of these unfortunate creatures can still be found throughout the cave.  Shallow surface-deposits of cheese are occasionally found by farmers who have right of ownership by ancient charter, to any cheese found on their land.  These deposits are usually quickly quarried away for home consumption, and the news only reaches the cheese geologists long after the event!

While most of the evidence of cheese quarrying has now been obliterated, one may still occasionally find artefacts and snippets of cheese quarrying history.  Pubs in the Somerset levels often adorn their walls with what they claim to be “peat cutting” tools.  These are more often than not, the very tools that the cheesemen of Cheddar would have used all those years ago.  A few phrases in our spoken language also reflect this bygone industry:  To be “cheesed off” for example, now refers to being unhappy. This derives from the days when a cheese quarryman would be laid off for the day because of bad weather, and would therefore earn no pay. Another phrase worthy of note is “hard cheese”, meaning “bad luck”. This derived from the time when a quarryman would hit a harder patch of cheese in the quarry, and would have to work longer hours to extract it.

The phrase “as different as chalk and cheese” probably derives from one of the first skills that a cheeseman would have had to learn.  It was essential (although not difficult) to tell the two apart in a cheese and limestone quarry. (Limestone is often referred to as “chalk” by quarrymen; chalk is a variety of limestone).  While both are high in calcium, nobody likes too much limestone in their sandwiches!

The geological origin of cheese is thought to be similar to that of coal, coal being the fossilised derivative of carboniferous forests.  Cheese is of a far more recent geological origin, and would have been formed from the fossilisation of the Cretaceous grasslands.  The grass would have decayed to a viscous fluid (as in the modern cheese making process) and flowed into hollows and fissures in the country rock, where it would have hardened and matured at the ideal storage temperature.

What of the future of the cheese quarrying industry now that all the known larger outcrops have been worked out?  Extraction of the remaining deeper deposits would require large-scale overburden removal or shaft mining techniques.  Extensive pumping operations would be necessary to extract sub-aquifer cheese, which would be prohibitively expensive and environmentally unacceptable. Now that cheese making from grass is so cost effective, it is unlikely that cheese quarrying could ever again become economically competitive.  Small scale cheese prospecting has resulted in periodic attempts to open small cheese workings, but planning applications are generally refused on environmental grounds or simply not taken seriously by the planning authorities.

‘Cheddar in a Cheese’ - From an old postcard in Wig’s collection

Gaping Gill Meet - A Way Of Life.

Mike and Tobias Wilson.[VSB]This year I decided to attend the Craven meet in August.  Originally the plan was to spend a week on the Gill camping and caving on my own. To make up for spending the last 3 years struggling with knee problems and a gallstone op. this all changed when my Grandson, Hilary, and Kath said they would like to visit the cottage and do some walking as well .

Eventually Tobias decided he would like to attend the Meet for a few days to see if he liked it!! Pete Gray kindly offered me the use of his tent [to save my knees] and this made it possible for me to arrange a carry within my capabilities. Many thanks to Pete who made the trip possible; I hope you enjoyed the rental!!

Vsb and I decided to walk up to the Gill on Friday morning.  Tobias became Vsb because it has many differing interpretations, e.g. very small boy, very smart boy, very stupid boy, ad infinitum. His father had packed his rucksack and it seemed quite heavy to me, but before we got away there occurred a small mishap. I locked the car in the Craven PC car park, went to clip the keys onto my belt for safety and missed dropping them to the floor and lo and behold straight down the only drain in the area!! [as Sean would say ‘what a to do’!!]

First we used a broom handle to find the depth of the drain whilst dodging cars and motorbikes. It was very deep. Then we tried to lift the drain cover but it was glued in with tarmac. So we borrowed a crowbar from the dig store and prised the cover up. Luckily, by stripping off to the waist and diving full length into the drain, [Cath held my feet] I managed to grope in the foul sludge and find the keys.!!  Vsb was volunteered to be lowered in by his feet but he refused to co operate!!

And so onward to Clapham and upwards. Vsb struggled with his heavy pack but with a modicum of assistance from the rest of us he did very well to make it the Gill. We settled into Pete’s tent which turned out to be a trick one. If you open the wrong end you can’t get in!! A brew ensued of course and Vsb reported the following conversation across the Beck. “Neville we have got your burgers.” Neville replies “How much do I owe you?”  The answer was holding up the empty packet “Nothing, we have eaten them all!!” 

I introduced Tobias to the intricacies of meet life and signed him and myself up for disc duties that afternoon. He had great fun selling postcards to the tourists and the odd poster after we found them cunningly concealed in a tub. Just to add to the fun we had a superbly indecisive grockle who wanted to take his family of 6 down, but wasn’t sure how much time they had!! Having held the queue up for some time with ponderings over the 2 hour wait, plus the 25 min guided tour and a guesstimate wait for the return, he bought 6 tickets and was given his discs. A large queue and 1 hour or so later he came back and asked if he could possibly have a refund. We complied and breathed a sigh of relief. I used to be indecisive but I think I am ok now!!

Later that evening Vsb and I decide to go to the Trenchfoot Arms, and try the toxic daddy longlegs plus the excellent Marilyn beer. There is so much to do on the hill!  Tom asked me to spell him at the bar for an hour so Vsb learned very quickly how to pull pints, to the tune of “that’s a short pint lad.” and other kindly comments. He passed the test fairly well !!

Neville very kindly aimed his telescope at the Moon which was full and extremely bright [a fantastic sight] and then apologised for the fact that we could not see the American Flag that night. We think Osama Bin Laden has hidden it!!

All weekend the weather was very bright and sunny, with bright moonlit evenings. A wonderful sight when urinating at 3 o’clock in the morning!

Saturday dawned with the arrival of the tractor. A certain member, Nellie, was given the Bell Award - to be worn around the neck all day - for having a large cool box break on him spilling all the tins everywhere. Vsb and I had a lazy midday looking for crinoids in the Beck and then did a spell guiding in the Gill. Vsb’s first time. At the end of our shift we had to search for 2 missing tourists who had strayed from the main chamber. We checked Sand Chamber and back to Bar Pot.  That was far enough for VSB. Luckily the other group found them in the region of  Mud Hall.

That night it was back to the Trenchfoot Arms for copious amounts of beer. There was the usual sneaky filching of food served by the beer fairies; onion bargees very tasty! Brian the role model dog, the complete opposite of Eddie autobark, followed me back to my tent, whereupon he snuggled up to Vsb and fell asleep much to Vsb’s surprise the next morning when he woke up with a hairy muzzle in his face!

Just a comic note from Cath : by order of the 3rd Reich when using the toilet tent [for a big jobbie] you can only use 2 sheets of paper per person you can use both sides of the paper YUK although with permission of the leader 3 sheets can be used if you have a particular problem .[ I guess that this means the leader has to inspect your glutimus maximus before issuing you with a personal 3rd sheet .This definitely caused a fit of the Gaping Gill Giggles.!!

Having come off the hill we retired to the Crown that night. Has this pub become a repository for foreign labour? Cath went up to the bar to order a round and asked for a packet of pork scratchings. The barman said “Pork scratchings, vass ist thees?  He then looked along the shelves and asked “Is it a viskey?” much to the amusement of the few drinkers there. We spent the rest of the evening making up pork scratching jokes. In spite of only limited time underground due to my knees we had a great time with a lovely crowd of people; many thanks to them all. The pub incident was a great end to our Yorkshire trip .

This article is not intended to be a hairy blow by blow account of tough Yorkshire caving ,more an insight into the spirit of caving meets .

PS Eddie autobark is a real dog who has been adopted from a rescue centre .He is a lovely well behaved mutt but cannot resist barking at everything .Brian is a stuffed full size toy Labrador who has been adopted by Neville Lucas and most other people ,he is so lifelike that when he is sat by the tent with his drinking bowl people have been seen patting him !!


Dates for your diary, 2005-6


Club Committee Meetings : [First Friday of each month commencing at 8 pm.]

CSCC Meeting at the Hunters’ Lodge Inn – 3rd December, 10.30am

Caving Events Week. Charterhouse Field Centre, 12th – 16th December, all at 7 pm. 

Costs shown in []

12th : History of Swildon’s Hole – Dave Irwin  [£4];

13th : Film : A Rock and a Hard Place [£2] ;

14th : Mendip Rescue Organization [£4, donated to MRO] ;

15th : Cave Diving – John Volanthen [£4] and

16th : Try Caving ! [5.30 – 8.30 pm [£13.50]]


Working Weekends : 8th/9th January, 9th/10th April, 9th/10th July, and 24th/25th September, 2006


The Caves on Brean Down

By Nick Richards and Nick Harding

Brean Down is a limestone promontory jutting out into the Bristol Channel just south of Weston-S-Mare. It is some 3.5km long and no more than 0.5 km wide. The limestones dip at c 40 degrees to the north.  Apart from Reindeer Rift (Barrington and Stanton, 1977) no other caves have been described.

There are numerous sea caves – rifts and bedding planes formed in washed out Neptunean dykes and mudstone bands - averaging between 20 – 30 feet in length. They are so numerous that only two sites are of special interest. There is only one phreatic cave.

All the caves are located in the sea cliffs on the north side of the down.

1. Half Tide Rock Cave.

Length 31m, VR >6m

At the east end of the down near Half Tide Rock (NGR 30215892) Inclined bedding cave with an entrance 5m wide and 0.8m high. A fine traverse across the bedding for 31m leads to a second entrance in a cove to the west. The second part is rather restricted but some flowstone and a crab infested rock pool adds interest.

2. Battery Cave.

Length 54m, VR >15m

Located in a major embayment in the cliffs directly below the WWII gun emplacements (NGR 29655895) 

At the back of the cove is a double entrance to an extensive bedding cave, bisected by fallen blocks. (Dipping 40degrees N). The left hand section (to the east) is 19.5m long, 0.6m high and at least 6m wide before the bedding pinches in upslope. The traverse passes some extensive red flowstone slopes with ribbon formations on the roof in places. Near the end an easy squeeze over jammed footballs reaches the ‘terminal’ grotto where there is a group of small but attractive stalactites.

The right hand section is more extensive. A similar traverse westwards in a passage 10m wide and 0.6m high reaches a dead end after 25m. There is more flowstone, ribbon formations and a few small stalactites (<0.4m).

Part way along the traverse daylight enters through an 8m rift forming a third entrance. These formations came as a complete surprise to us – one does not expect to find stal grottoes in a sea cave.

3. Fiddler’s Bay Cave.

A proper phreatic cave! 15.9m long over a vertical range of 6m. (NGR 28755915)

A superb inclined circular entrance 4.5m wide leads after 8m into a 5m high chamber displaying a profusion of phreatic solution hollows. At the back of the cave and in the roof of the chamber is a rift choked with ochre and Pleistocene? gravel. The deposit must have once filled the rest of the cave and been washed out by the tides as some gravel remains welded to the back of some of the solution hollows. Note the limpet scouring marks on the entrance ‘kerb’. This cave is almost certainly more extensive and has the appearance of a fossil resurgence.

Note: Brean Down Resurgence

50m or so to the west (along the cliffs) is an interesting feature. A small patch of red brickwork blocks up a hole about a metre up the cliff face. This has been done to divert a flow of fresh water through an adjacent crack into a natural rock basin below - from which small stream flows down the beach. It fails in dry weather. This brickwork probably dates from the time when there was a short-lived attempt to build a harbour on the north side of Brean Down.

Acknowledgement : Thanks to Mark Helmore for his snaps, much appreciated!


Further Work in Rose Cottage Cave

Tony Jarratt

Continuing the saga from BB522.

Further Digging 22/6/05 – 5/10/05

       On the hot and insect-infested evening of the 22nd June Phil Coles and Ben Ogbourne did a magnificent job of hauling out 48 skiploads dug from all three phreatic tubes in Paul’s Personal Project. Pete Hellier also brought out one newt. Several gallons of brackish water poured into Bored of the Rings reappeared (at least partly) halfway down the corkscrew wriggle to Aglarond. On the morning of the 24th the writer took advantage of imminent heavy thunderstorms to insert the leat pipe into the entrance then rushed to work to flog wellies to Pilton Festival goers! Returning on the 26th with Fiona Crozier it was found that surprisingly little floodwater had entered the cave (it being realised later that the leat was blocked). A dozen or so bags were filled and stacked but further work was prevented by a large boulder in the floor. This was banged by the writer next day and Tony Audsley hauled out 23 loads which Rich Witcombe emptied. The debris was cleared by a seven man team on the 29th when about another 40 loads came out.

     July digging commenced on the 4th with Fiona excavating down through boulders while three old gits hauled back the spoil. Even more old gits hauled 51 loads of it to the surface two days later, including a few bags from Pete’s Baby and yet another grateful newt. 20 more loads emerged on the 10th and another 8 next day. It was now apparent that the dig below the connection point – henceforth known as Connection Dig – was potentially unstable and would require shoring before further work could be done. On this trip some 5m of new passage was explored by the writer, assisted by Estelle Sandford, above the most southerly point in Aglarond 1 and is probably where water sinking in the original dig site enters the cave. An interesting choked bedding plane was earmarked for future investigation. Tony A. and John Noble assessed the hanging death in Connection Dig, Rich W. constructed a new spoil heap wall and surface workers Bob Smith and Ian “Slug” Gregory cleared out the leat and washing pond to enable the stream to flow freely.

     Shoring of the Connection Dig commenced on the 13th with Tony commuting to the surface to cut timber then repeating the operation when it didn’t fit! He was assisted by Ben. On the same evening the writer, John and Gwilym Evans started work in the Aglarond 1 high level dig (A1 Dig) which seems to be at an horizon of ancient phreatic tubes and has a steady draught. A couple of hours of awkward digging gained some 2m of descending passage which desperately needed enlarging and making safe. Our impression was that it lies on the line of the main fault and heads SE, above and parallel with Aglarond 2. Two days later a charge was fired to break up three large, loose boulders in the dig and the resulting debris was cleared on the following evening when access was gained to a steeply descending tube on the north side of the dig. A vocal connection with Aglarond 2, some distance below, was established. Sunday 17th July saw three diggers hauling a large slab and many bucket loads of spoil from the dig until the cold draught drove them out to the heat-wave above. Even more came out next day when the bucket was replaced by a skip and the crawl to the dig face enlarged. Eventually Fiona was able to squeeze down into some 2m of pleasant, flat roofed bedding passage running back under the crawl and having a floor of calcited boulders. This became “Fi’s ‘Ole” after the following enthusiastic invitation was issued:- “In a minute you can all ‘ave the joy of lookin’ at my  ‘ole”! Meanwhile, somewhere above, Tony and Mike Wilson emplaced a second pit-prop in the Connection Dig. An attempt to trace the draught from A1 Dig to Connection Dig using a joss stick failed. Digging continued in A1 Dig on the 20th and on the 22nd four long shotholes were drilled in obstructing boulders and a 40gm cord charge fired, the debris from which was cleared next day when another four hole charge was fired to remove more large slabs blocking the route towards a tantalising void just visible ahead.

     This void was entered on the 25th after much clearing of rock, clay and cobbles by the Monday morning team; today Vern, Tony A, Rich W, Estelle and the writer. It proved to be another section of “passage” with a solid left wall but boulder ceiling and right wall. The novelty was that it had taken a sharp left turn. After a couple of hours enough spoil was cleared to give us some 3 metres of progress – not much but as Richard would say, “Not without interest!”. Another c.3m was gained on the 27th when John N. pushed forwards under the hanging death to enter a small boulder chamber with a relatively solid left wall and a potential dig in the floor. At least we could now turn round at the end. Many bags of spoil were hauled out by Pete H. and stacked in Aglarond 1 and these were taken to the foot of the Corkscrew climb by Andy Norman and Ernie White on the 29th. The writer and Chris Batstone cleared more spoil from the entry to the terminal chamber on the 31st and after some tentative digging at the end it was decided that the place was too unstable to push further. Indications were that drainage was back towards Fi’s ‘Ole and that this should be cleared out in an attempt to find a bedding passage below A1 Dig and above Aglarond 2.

     August 1st saw work recommence at the Connection Dig where John N. revealed the start of a low passage descending back under the floor of Bored of the Rings. Estelle and Rich W. hauled out 15 loads from here and the writer returned in the afternoon to bang the lip of this passage. He cleared the spoil next day and on the 3rd further work was done here and another charge fired to enlarge the passage entrance. Also all the spoil from the foot of the corkscrew was hauled to surface – 24 loads in total – plus the obligatory newt. Following further sessions on the 5th and 7th August it became obvious that the way on in the Connection Dig was not over large. Directly above the drop down to this dig an initially promising site was cleared of the usual clay, gravel and cobbles with 22 loads out on the 7th  and another 29 out on the 8th  when it was established that this was merely an alcove with several tiny phreatic inlets. Tony A. did some token digging in the P.P.P. upper phreatic tube but decided that the rock-breaker was needed to make life easier. In desperation a three shothole charge was fired in the floor of the Connection Dig. The resulting 12 loads of spoil came out on the 10th (along with a frog) and another three holes were drilled and fired. Digging, hauling and stacking also took place in the A1 Dig. Two days later the spoil from the last bang was bagged and stacked. Fi's 'Ole saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then regularly throughout September and into October with lots of tedious bag hauling, particularly up the Corkscrew. 98 more loads had reached the surface by the 5th October. Hannah Sarjent of Sussex University undertook CO2 testing in the cave as part of her dissertation - with negligible results. Work has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this now has little promise.

Additional diggers

Andy Watson (MNRC), Ian “Slug” Gregory, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson, Amy Cork, Andy Norman, Ernie White, Toby Maddocks, Sam Batstone, Henry Bennett, Hannah Sarjent (Sussex University), Carole White, Nick Gymer, Kev Gurner; John Wilson, Alan Richards, Jim Lee, Rob Norcross (MOLES).


“Slopperations” :  a note on recent digging activity below Pewter Pot, Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink

By John ‘Tangent’ Williams

Since the initial major discoveries made in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink during 2003,  potential dig sites located in the deepest parts of the cave have remained flooded. This resulted in the diggers attention turning firstly elsewhere within the cave, and ultimately  elsewhere on the Hill. The long period of dry weather experienced this year has enabled digging to be recently resumed in Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink.

Digging efforts are being focussed upon the formerly flooded Slop 3 site, located at the base of the Pewter Pot Pitch. Slop 3 was first examined in late 2003, by  Trevor Hughes who had viewed the site in low water conditions and reported a passage described as a canal continuing beneath a roof of uncertain quality. It was not pushed at the time , as the rest of the regular diggers were away in Scotland. Since that time the site has remained flooded, the only other notable visit being by Fiona who undertook a practise dive, in approximately 5-6m of water.

Recent digging trips have concentrated on bailing the site dry(ish), which takes approximately 30 minutes. The water is disposed of down Slop 1, and does not return to refill Slop 3 (at least during the duration of digging sessions). Spoil is being removed in buckets, then stored  in large bags at the base of the pitch. The occasional large rocks which are found within the slop are being used to build a wall to hold back the spoil, and also help stabilise the slope running down to the dig site.

It is intended to install a small bilge pump to make the removal of the standing water more efficient, and with the progress during recent digging sessions it should be possible to continue digging into the winter months.

Hair of the Dog Sump (now completely dry), located beyond Slop 1 enroute to Brown Ale Boulevard, has also  been investigated. Digging has been  undertaken amongst mud, gravel  and large boulders which will need banging if further progress is to be made there.

Digging sessions are taking place on Wednesdays / Sundays.

All welcome, although visitors beware that the insitu ladders are both old and a little too short!

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Mad Phil for banging a large boulder blocking  the route through Slop 1. Thanks to all the ‘bailiffs’ & ‘sloperatives’ who have worked at this site to date.


William Eggy-Belch

The man and his orifices. Being a brief history of one of the lesser-known gentlemen of Somerset caving history of the 18th century.

(A result of half a dozen requests)

By  Nick “ Hawkins *” Harding

Ed. Note : Nick presents the last in the series.

Author’s note: William Eggy-Belch has often been mistaken for one John Aubrey of Chippenham due to their almost simultaneous altering of their nomenclatures. William Eggy-Belch was born Jonathan Aubrey while John Aubrey was born Aaron Henkels Electrometer.

Contemporary image of William Eggy-Belch complete with familiar egg mess on his left breast.

In his liberating and little known book The Sounds My Feet Make, William Eggy-Belch the one time sand yachting Epicurean vicar of Bridgwater often made it clear to his erstwhile flock that humour, particularly that of a flatulent nature, was the key to a long and richly fulfilling life. His oft quoted mantra ‘Tis a pour arse that canst nay rejoice’, has now entered into Somerset ignominy. Indeed no gentlemen’s excursion that he attended was complete without his gaseous exuberance. He could often be heard ‘letting one loose’ in Wookey Hole where his ‘boisterous reports echoed full long and hard’ sounding, as highlighted in one contemporary diary entry by his colleague and fellow caver Isiah Komputer-World, like the ‘blasted, concussive and thunderous eructions of some sulphurous goblin.’ 

Peter St John Being, his roommate at Cambridge, who remained a lifelong friend, often regaled the fellows of the high table with stories of the ‘industrious colonic machinations’ of his Somerset friend, manufacturing a reasonably faithful facsimile of his rumbustious privy noises, as punctuation, during after dinner speeches made by the Dean, who history recalls, ‘as the most persistently tedious dullard in all of Christendom’.    

After studying theology Eggy-Belch returned to his beloved Wells, via a brief detour as a man of the cloth in Bridgwater (little is known about his activities there except that he mastered the fine art of sand yachting), where he took on the task of restoring the biblical compliance of the local heathenish miscreants of that parish. Realising that a fire and brimstone attitude would push them further away from a life of pious worship Eggy-Belch introduced a humorous element in his sermons through the use of bodily gas. It was reported, although one is led to think that it is nothing more than a mythic nonsense, at least apocryphal guff (no pun intended) that he could quote Psalm 23 in one rude out-blast of air. What is not clear is which orifice he was using.

Eggy-Belch would often address his congregation sporting a varied selection of in-season fruits, stitched to his vestments while regaling his rapt audience with tales of his derring-do in the privies of the county in which he would often wait for an unsuspecting party to utilise the adjoining convenience then let slip the fogs of warmth, usually on the back of a thunderous outpouring of noise. 

While travelling in the area to administer his priestly duties he could often be seen furiously bouncing down the lanes of Somerset on his ‘font-astic’ a pogo-stick, of his own creation, fashioned from a stout ash pole with a small ewer of holy water with which he blessed anyone who happened to be passing. He always sported a smear of egg on his coat from his ‘excessive haste consuming his morning comestibles in the form of breaking his fast with the fruits of the chicken.’ (Isiah Titty, Memoirs of A Somerset Git 1848)

Sadly his clerical existence was brought up short after badly bruising the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Jeremiah Alternating-Whippet, with a desperately mistimed biff to the hooter, the result of which was a dramatic bout of public defrocking not ten feet from the walls of Wells cathedral. Despite Eggy-Belch’s skill with a mitre, soundly thrashing his opponent in under three rounds, it was not long before the Bishop saw to it that the man was swiftly frightened out of the county by a gang of hired Shipham ruffians. Half an hour later Eggy-Belch crept back into the Wells area, having spent ten minutes hiding in a cave in Burrington (which one is not known), deciding that what he really wanted to do was explore the inner world and subterranean levels of the Mendips and not tour as a member of the ecclesiastical comedy outfit the Crazy Croziers. They had been touring the area with their production of “More Tea Vicar?” (Described by the Gentleman’s Magazine as – “Two beastly hours of noxious vapours, bookended by four of ghastly anal ineptitude.”)

Fortuitously for E-B his spinster aunt Regina Stiffbits Belch passed noisily away one afternoon leaving the young man a country estate near Shepton Mallet and a handsome inheritance. For a short time he administered to the running of a large country house and the estate with its numerous staff, servants and general layabouts. But the young William was restless and in need of ‘orificular stimulation.’ He was not a businessman but was a peripatetic individual who often took to exploring the hills to escape the ‘yawning and bowel squeezing dullness of bookkeeping’. After that almost mistimed visit to Snapcock’s Wig Emporium (See The Wig in Caving, Belfry Bulletin Summer 2005, Vol.54, No. 2 Number 522), E-B came into possession of the famous Devon Loafa and never looked back. 

With no experience of such subterraneous activity E-B sought immediate council with a local old soak who had great experience digging numerous mines in the area. This fellow, whose name has slipped from history (although evidence has lately surfaced in Wells Museum that the individual might have be none other than Jedediah Fridge, inventor of the cave swing) told E-B to find the muttering waters of Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole (now lost), which sounded like ‘the drunk ramblings and frenetic utterances of a Glaswegian ne’r do well’. Why this particular hole was chosen against the easier Wookey for instance is beyond the ken of cavers to this day. Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole is, as we know, but only according to legend of course, a ‘super severe’ especially in the long pitch and all too tight muddy crawl that was its fabled entrance. Whatever the reason E-B took to it with firm enthusiasm. Knowing that this cave’s furthest reaches were as yet unplumbed and its overall length unknown he decided that his mission would be to discover all that he could about it. 

I didst find myself as if a turd in a privee outflow yet reversing said journey back into the bowels of the Earth. I was ever surrounded on all sides by malodorous and foetid doings the cause of which I dared not consider.   After an hour up to his lobes in filth E-B popped out, rather unceremoniously into the First Great Chamber, which Catcott described in I Like Holes as a ‘numinous cavern of certain cyclopean magnificence, except for the little bit at the end shaped like a job.’   Here E-B was met with his first proper view of the subterranean world. Or he would have done had he brought something to light his way. It was a rather embarrassed E-B that surfaced several hours later none the wiser for his vigorous activities underground.

Keen to put that obvious mistake behind him E-B sought further council from the Old Men who promptly pointed him the direction of Voluminous Titty, ex of the Somerset cheese police and grandfather of the famous biographer of some of Somerset’s greatest explorers Isiah Titty. (Isiah Titty would become famous for his Memoirs of A Somerset Git 1848, in which he describes various conversations with himself).  Voluminous Titty was no stranger to underground exploration but preferred the armchair variety to actual descent into the caves of the Mendips. 

In his own book Voluminous Titty describes his first meeting with E-B while experimenting with his ‘Titty’s Patent Gentleman’s Field Stilts’, ‘a brace of poles two and half fathoms in height for the execution of continuous and swift perambulations across ye levels of Somersetshire.’ A means of travel that he swiftly dispensed with after trying to walk home to his residence in Oakhill from an excess of libational behaviour at the notorious Pump and Glottis, a well known Inn on the Shepton Mallet to Wells road. Titty spent nearly two weeks hopelessly lost in a field. This hilarious incident is recorded in Underground Adventures with Dr Pleems, a children’s book from the 1930’s and also makes an appearance in the Ladybird book, What To Look For In Stupid People, 1966.   

Titty had had many conversations with Catcott about subterranean activities and was thus able to introduce E-B to a variety of illumination devices – a number of different length candles, a bag of gas and some odd device of Titty’s with which Catcott had been experimenting.  What that odd device was no two modern scholars of caving can agree on except that E-B was suitably unimpressed by it. ‘Inserting the hose is deemed unworthy of a gentleman and one is sore dashed if it is decent for one’s favoured servant to do likewise.’ But it had nonetheless planted a seed E-B’s mind. 

After vigorously thumping Titty for being a prize arse and chastising Catcott for continuing with the man’s ‘device of rude magnitude’, E-B decided that the best way was further experimentation. Keen to return to Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole E-B opted for a device of his own.

On June 14th  1761 visitors to the Wells area would have been witness to a bizarre sight. Lined up in Augustus Dildee’s top field were numerous prize heifers ‘a few short of a herd’, more than a handful of E-B’s servants and ‘several rugose gentlemen of the vicinity’.  E-B’s servants were unwinding a thick hose down the entrance of TCMH in slow deliberate movements. With ‘a system of winches, pulleys, weights and brass constructs’ the hose had been connected to three cows at a time. From these ‘bovine reservoirs much illuminatory gas was drawn to the satisfaction of all’.  E-B spent many hours exploring the system until around three in the afternoon there was a ‘loud report that issued from the depths thus causing the ground to oscillate in undulations of a rude nature.’ Shortly afterwards it is said, two cows both ‘sporting demeanours of incredulous and mistimed surprise eructed in violent detonations as if struck by several broadsides of artillery.’ E-B was never seen again and it was not long after, a week or so, that the entrance to Trumpeter’s Chocolate Muck Hole was sealed due to the collapse of the very dangerous pitch near the opening now highly unstable as a direct of the subterranean explosion.

A week later EB’s singed and muddy Devon Loafa popped out into daylight in the river Axe having obviously found a route from TCMH into Wookey.   

*Due to an inability by Richard Whitcombe Esq. to get my name right.


2005 Annual Dinner. Were you there?

- a selection of piccies from Pete Glanvill’s Memory Lane.



The Last Word

Compiled by J’Rat and Wig

ERRATUM; BB 522.   Meghalaya 2005.   Computer problems caused the deletion of the following. From the bottom of page 43 it should continue:-

“… us through the tight bit after an hour of hammer and chisel work – fair play to ‘em. For one of the gentlemen (who shall remain nameless but he said “feck” a lot) disrobing to his shreddies was necessary and had the secondary benefit of reducing the girlies to hysterical laughter as he cursed his way through. They were suitably impressed with the extensions so we left them brewing up and admiring the place while we headed out to our beer supplies stashed in the cave entrance where we intended to bivouac until morning. With tongues hanging out we sweated up the 100m of rope only to find that the local kids had snaffled most of the ale – bastards. Luckily Greg had extra supplies and a couple of rum-filled Coke bottles were unearthed from the depths of tackle bags to quench our alcoholic thirsts. A fire was lit outside and Greg cooked soup as the others gradually emerged from the depths to the night sounds of the jungle. Honorary thin man Brian M, relieved to have escaped from the jaws of the squeeze, produced a bottle of Courvoisier and the mini-party got into full swing before we retired for a few hours draughty kip.”    

Reprint of Rutter. [DJI]  Bibliophiles in the Club will be interested to know that John Rutter’s famous 1829 book, The Delineations of … N.W. Somerset, has been reprinted under the title ‘Somerset. ’  The new edition has been produced as a softback and was brought out by Nonsuch Publishing in April, 2005.  The price is £16 and is available at any bookshop; ISBN 1 84588 070 6.   For those wanting a bargain can get the book from Amazon for £6 + £2.85 p&p – this price has to be a mistake but the company accepted my money!  The original, depending upon which version, small cut, large page, various bindings, etc., can vary from £100 - £350.

Ben Barnett has been in contact with Fiona Sandford and he has told her that he is travelling around Indonesia and is currently in Bali.

70th BBQ photos. [DJI]  Several people have asked who took the photos on the back cover of the last BB. Guilty I’m afraid.

Gibbets  Brow Shaft. [ARJ]  In the summer of 2004 Alan "Butch" Butcher of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club was shown a stone-capped, 8 metre deep lead mine shaft in the field across the road from Lamb Leer entrance and located strategically between the Great Chamber and the Pond Rift aven in this currently "out of bounds" cave. Work commenced to clear the shaft and by June of this year the Shepton diggers had unfortunately bottomed out at 20m depth but with a tiny, draughting side passage at 16m. Madphil Rowsell was sub-contracted to blast this to "Butch-size" and had made some 7m of progress before leaving for Austria and handing the contract to your scribe. One further bang allowed the Shepton to explore some 17m of snug phreatic tube forming an L in plan and with potential digs at both ends. Matthew Butcher also found a too tight but open rift in the floor with larger passage visible below. Six banging sessions were necessary to allow Matt to drop into 10m of 2m diameter phreatic tunnel choked at both ends with clay. This very fine section of passage is still some 20m above the highest points in Great Chamber and Pond Rift but each end is heading towards one of these voids and digging is easy. Not so removal of spoil which is a chore. Poor air can also be a problem. We wish the Shepton team the best of luck with this important project and hope that free access will soon be regained to the fascinating underworld of Lamb Leer.

Ogof  Cwmwl Ddu   ( Black  Cloud  Cave). [ARJ]  Situated on the eastern slope of Blorenge mountain, south west of Abergavenny, this extremely promising dig was located by Henry Bennett, Pete Bolt and Rich Blake and many other B.E.C. members and friends have been dragged across the Channel to assist. It is being dug in collaboration with Charles Bailey, Chris Brady and others from the Brynmawr C.C. Chris and the writer have banged it a few times resulting in some 50m of steeply descending and well decorated passage well endowed with sticky clay. On the night of 29th September the top of a c.3m pot was opened up but not descended due to bang fumes. This cave may connect with the remote regions of Ogof Draenen but there is some 1.5km of virgin limestone between the two. It is also dead handy for the Lamb and Fox! Watch this space...

Fiona's 'Ole saw teams on the 17th, 21st and 31st and then regularly throughout September and into October with lots of tedious bag hauling, particularly up the corkscrew. 98.more loads had reached the surface by the 5th October. Hannah Sarjent of Sussex University undertook CO2 testing in the cave as part of her dissertation - with negligible results. Work has also continued sporadically at the Connection Dig but this now has little promise.


Many thanks to Tyrone and his mate Mick who have continued to work on the Belfry extension. This is the situation on 25th September. Not only have made great strides when one compares the photo in BB 522 but still manage the occasional smile when well meaning observers offer advice !

Photos Wig


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Greg Brock

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Fiona Sandford
Editor: Greg Brock
Caving Secretary: Rob Lavington (aka – Bobble)
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineer: Paul Brock
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Non-Committee Posts

BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

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

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Because of other commitments, Greg Brock has not been able to produce this BB.  Wig has stepped in and assembled this edition and will also be producing the next issue, A Celebration of the BEC, containing a photographic record of the Club during the last 70 years. The material has come from a number of sources.


A brief round-up of some committee decisions and general club doings

from Vince Simmonds. Hon Secretary

In this year of our 70th celebration the club is very fortunate to have been donated items of memorabilia from a well known Mendip and, in particular, records of club business during the late 40’s - early 50’s.. The documents include minutes of early Committee and AGM meetings and some original cartoons. This material is being scanned before binding and placement in the library takes place.  At this time the family have requested privacy.

The resignation of Joan Bennett and the passing away of Alan Thomas meant that two new Trustees of the club were needed.  Dave Irwin and Nigel Taylor have ably filled these positions, the other club Trustees are Barry Wilton and Martin Grass.  The Secretary is in the process of sorting out the Deeds of Appointment with the club solicitors, Harris & Harris in Wells.

The work on the extension has been slowed down this year mainly due to the purchase and installation of a new boiler.  Tyrone has a builder/brickie who owes him a favour and he is going to do some of the building work.  Some materials need to be purchased before work can be continued.

Nigel Taylor has been busy organizing the Annual Dinner for this year.   It is to be a celebration of the Club’s 70th year.

One interesting item the committee had to deal with was an electricity bill in excess of £39,000 (this is not a typing error). Thankfully the bill was revised to a more realistic £267 - both Mike Wilson and Fiona Sandford had prolonged conversations with the electricity company.

I will take this opportunity to remind people that consideration towards next years committee is essential for the smooth running of the Bristol Exploration Club both now and for the future.  As has been said on many occasions it is the membership that make a club.  Members input into the club and its running is paramount to its survival.

The base of the Belfry Extension - Photo: Wig

The reappearance of the original Bertie Bat

Recently Vince has received a batch of archival material from well known Mendip caver. Among the items is the Club’s first committee minute book dating from 1943-1946, a 1950-1952 expedition card and a booklet of cartoons by JAD which it is hoped to reproduce in a later BB.

Of immediate interest during the Club’s 70th Anniversary is the original drawing of Bettie Bat, the club insignia which has mutated somewhat during the 60 years since it was first conceived.

The reappearance of this ink drawing could not have come at a better time for I’ve adapted the 70th anniversary logo incorporating this version of ‘Bettie’. It has been  used throughout this issue as well as being on the front cover. Perhaps the Club will consider adopting this version again as its official logo.  We wait to know the answer …  [Wig]


Morton’s Pot – The Final Solution

By ‘MadPhil’ Rowsell

March 04 saw Jake and myself return to the end of Pointless Pots to evaluate the prospects of continuing the dig. On our last trip down there the previous winter, we had been chased out by rising water just after breaking into the 2nd Pointless Pot (Ref:- Belfry Bulletin 519 – “The Trials and Tribulations of Eastwater”). From memory the way on didn’t look too inspiring. The memory wasn’t wrong.  It did look pretty grim but we decided to blast along the rift a little way in hope that the passage would open out a bit. After a relatively short distance of awkward blasting the rift broke into very immature canyon passage 1.5m deep, and too narrow to pass. Only by selective blasting could progress be made.

Progress was painfully slow, Jake had started work so it was pretty much a solo project with the odd guest appearance by Tony Jarratt to boost morale and observe the progress. Humping up and down the club’s aged drill and Clansman batteries proved particularly awkward and frustrating. To make matters worse the batteries started randomly playing up, whereby one would often get down to the dig site with one not working or only allowing several seconds of drilling before cutting out for a period of time. Nightmare.

Salvation suddenly came on two fronts, one from Charlie Adcock who came up with a supply of free bang (saving me personally a huge expense on bang) and the other from Jeff Price who supplied a 36V Hilti drill. What sanctuary!! Compact, effective and a delight to use. Couple these together with a newly attained Hilti bar (courtesy of Gadget - Nick Williams) and good progress was made. By using a combination of first Hilti-ing to gain some sort of access, followed by retro-blasting to make the passage workable, more passage could be yielded per blast. 

With new enthusiasm I continued the painful task. Just when morale was waning again, a small chamber was intercepted. Just beyond this chamber a low “round window” gave access to a very narrow immature passage. Things didn’t look too good again. Why wouldn’t the place roll over and give up!!. There was somewhat astonishment when the following trip revealed that the blast had broken into negotiable passage and some 22 metres were jubilantly pushed to a too tight corner, with open passage the other side.  The subsequent trip gained another 15m or so to a 4m pot. Exploration was halted here to give Kev Hilton and Emma Heron some reward for their efforts surveying down in Southbank. The following trip, we managed to push through a very awkward and entertaining rift passage for another 15m to an impassable squeeze, again open passage beyond. The survey showed the passage was 60m distance from Lambeth walk.  A nice reward before the dig was shut down for Austria.

On my return,  I was desperate to push this passage through to Lambeth walk  before going away again to Peru in two weeks time. Initially progress was good, rapid progress with Hilti-ing, but after a series of short pots, the passage degenerated to immature and it was back to blasting once again. It was quite demoralising returning to the slow progress through a particularly nasty section, the trips being even more gruelling having to take the drill through what was now called the “Technical Masterpiece”! Weekends were always good as Kev and Emma would be around to help, greatly boosting morale. Despite a relentless effort involving many trips no break through was made. The last trip however did give some hope as after passing a very awkward and tight squeeze “Hells Gate”,  the rift height increased again giving  more hope of passable passage.

After the joys of Peru it was back to reality once again and painful drill and blast. The surveys showed the distance to be around 25-30m to Lambeth Walk. As each trip yielded more tight rift, I began to wonder how much survey error there would be. You would head down each time with high hopes of recognising the Lambeth Walk window, only to be totally demoralised with another tight rift. A subsequent survey indicated the passage to be only 10m or so from Lambeth. With the passage seemingly heading off into the distance, we even took a trip down the old route and up Lambeth Walk to see if this would shed any light.  Sadly this gave no clues away either. Morale was at an all time low!

It was with some relief when after another 4 blasts I surprisingly recognised the window into Lambeth walk. It would need one more blast to get in, but the ordeal was over. The following night I sat alone in the top of Lambeth Walk for almost half an hour, partly elated but partly dumb struck with wondering what was I going to do now? The obsession was finally over!!

The break through had been on a Friday night. Kev and Emsy weren’t around until Saturday and then Tony refused to close his shop on Sunday, so I had to wait the whole weekend until Sunday afternoon (17/10/04) before the inaugural round trip could be completed. A great trip.  (Ref - Journal of the Wessex Cave Club, Vol 28 No  294 April 2005 “Eastwater – Backwards and Feet First” by Kev Hilton)

Figure 1 shows the general layout of Eastwater and the position of the new passage and its connection into Lambeth Walk. The survey is a compilation of both some old survey drawings supplied by Trevor Hughes (grey dotted lines) and recent re-surveying work by the team.

Credits Due

A big thanks has to go to both Kev Hilton and Emma Heron, who towards the end came on trips to help whenever possible, greatly boosting morale. Furthermore, they were often subjected to my frustration paddies when Hilti’s were failing or drilling conditions very awkward and cramped. I am glad I have some good friends. A big thanks also has to go to Tony Jarratt, who also came to the call for help when needed, sacrificed his need for bang at his dig when times were short and helped with much of the surveying.  Both Charlie Adcock and Jeff Price provided services without which this passage would have never been completed. Graham Johnson who helped push much of “A Drain Hole” and the upper end in Pointless Pots. I hope one day he will find the enthusiasm to see what he has helped create.

Finally while being thanked in previous articles, all those who have helped in the digging of Morton’s Pot & “A Drain Hole”, both during  both the two attempts I was involved in and those in previous attempts, as without these people’s help in the relentless hauling out of sacks, the Drain Hole would have never been cracked. It’s the end of a 100 year plus saga, including the Jepson/Morton’s dig. Long may it rest in peace!

Warning: While being a classic bit of cave passage, most of the passage is a very immature stream canyon, being both tight and awkward. It is only really suited to slim experienced cavers. Once in the Technical Masterpiece, rescue is not an option. The passage also takes the whole of the Eastwater stream.  While the majority of the passage is unlikely to flood to the roof, certain sections (particularly some of the squeezes e.g. Hell’s Gate) would not be the place to be caught in a flood pulse. It does happen, I have been caught twice now.

The Aftermath and  The Dawning of a New Era

The hope of the dig was that some fossil passage may be intercepted, but alas this was not the case. The passage was a direct but awkward connection to Lambeth Walk and Southbank. It did however give a slightly shorter, but dry access to Southbank meaning digging here will be less of a chore.

With the addition of “the Apprentice” (Andy Smith) to the team (a superb con job by J-rat) led to the formation of the Eastwater syndicate (alias The Eastwater Appreciation Society), who’s goal was to push the depths of Eastwater further. A short break from the continual body battering gave renewed enthusiasm and it was decided that the Pea Gravel dig would be  first priority as it was thought it could  possibly yield a by pass to the Terminal Sump. Several trips were made down to dig this, however water tended to plague the dig. Interestingly in wet weather water flows into the dig from a hole on the left further along Tooting Broadway but the dig however stays at the same level i.e. flows off somewhere. 

Previous work we had conducted at the terminal sump (Ref - Journal of the Wessex Cave Club, Vol 28 No 293 Feb 2005 “Eastwater – Southbank Work on the terminal sump by Emma Heron) had shown the Terminal Sump level could be dropped 1.5m or so by bailing. In hope that this might also cause the Pea Gravel dig to drain, (the two being only 4m or less away) , the Terminal Sump was bailed. Despite being able to hear digging activity and tapping at the Terminal Sump from the Pea Gravel Dig, surprisingly no change in the water level was seen. The Pea Gravel Dig was eventually pushed under a lip to a small chamber, but with no further obvious digging prospects. The dig was abandoned. No obvious drain off point was found.


Attention was turned once again to the terminal sump.  Several attempts were made here in late Nov 2004, but were plagued by a leaking dam and stream volumes too high for the dam capacity. The dig was abandoned for the winter and a foray to warmer climates - Tasmania. With my return in April, the dig has been resumed with a more serious nature. Since water volume was a problem in the last attempts, a plan was devised to wall off  ¾ of the sump and back fill it to reduce the amount of water in the sump. It would require a lot of material etc to be brought down through the Technical Masterpiece, but the reduction in water volume required to bail would have great benefits. After a number of carry trips, the wall and back filling construction proved surprisingly easy and was completed in one session. The following weekend the sump was bailed virtually dry  to approximately 1.6m  vertically. It revealed a small, well washed 10cm dia tube heading off parallel to the sump. 2m further along this tube it seemed to constrict further. With the dam at full capacity any further evaluation had to be curtailed.

While the 10cm dia tube is not the most encouraging find, the bailing of the sump dry does indicate that it must be relatively short, with possible open passage (air space at least!) the other side. As shown by Figure 2, the relationship between the Terminal Sump and Pea Gravel dig is even more confusing, being so close and similar height but are not hydrologically connected. Plans are afoot to return to the Terminal Sump and dig along the wall to ensure this tube is the only exit point (current or fossil). This will only be achievable in very dry conditions with the stream virtually dry, so that once bailed a reasonable time period is available for work.


Credits Due

A big thanks has to be extended to both Emma Heron and Andy Smith (the Apprentice) both who have spent many long sessions, both carrying down kit and spending hours doing engineering work and bailing. Kev Hilton also needs a special mention, who has sadly been missed recently due to injury – hopefully he will be back to full strength soon. A thanks also to Duncan Butler and Tim Ball who have also rallied at times to the call for help.


Early broadcasts from Mendip Caves

By Dave Irwin

Activities of Mendip cavers are sometimes thought important, or sensational, enough to warrant time on the airwaves. During the past half century broadcasting of caving events has mostly concentrated on cave rescue reports and the special interest programmes including those made by leading BBC reporters including Hugh Scully and Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. In more recent times broadcasting has widened to include reporting of relatively minor discoveries.  General programmes relating to the pastime have also attracted producers to make films of individual caves.  During the autumn of 2004 a series of six programmes relating to caves in the Bristol region were broadcast by HTV; some the caves featured include Otter Hole, Swildon's Hole and the Banwell caves.

Earliest recorded broadcasts

Almost from its inception in 1922 the BBC (note 1) divided the country into zones for local interest broadcasting and for the innovative outdoor broadcasts from the Mendip caves were usually limited to one or two regions. The writer is indebted to Dr. Steven Craven for information relating to broadcasts from caves in the north of England. The records shows that a broadcast related to Gaping Ghyll was relayed on the 13th October 1927. Jack Puttrell, the Peak District pioneer, was interviewed in the studio.  Another studio broadcast occurred on the 15th June 1929, again with Puttrell supplying the information. The Craven Pothole Club, Gritstone Club and the Leeds Cave Club were also involved with regional broadcasts during the 1930s.  See the appendix for Steve's list.

Wookey Hole

The earliest known broadcast from a Mendip cave took place as a 20 minute live transmission from the Third Chamber [or Witches’ Parlour]  in Wookey Hole on the 9th September 1930.  The event may be the first live broadcast from within any cave in the British Isles. Before the planned date a trial broadcast was carried out a month before on Wednesday, 5th of August.. A short report of this appeared in the Wells Journal which was published on the following Friday and was entitled ‘Radio from the depths’ and detailed the elaborate arrangements necessary for such a venture. 

... Elaborate test were carried out  ... in Wookey Hole Caves, near Wells, in preparation for the broadcast which is proposed to take place there early next month, when it will be relayed to all stations.

The Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir, which is to give a varied selection over the microphone, sang for thirty minutes, and the effect was both astonishing and tuneful.

B.B.C. Engineers present expressed great wonder at the acoustic properties of the Caves, the voices being lent a charming mellowness.

Mr. H.E. Balch, F.S.A., M.A., of Wells, and Capt. Hodgkinson, the owner of the Caves rowed to the extreme end of the river which flows through the caves and then slowly proceeded back.

The object was to record the splashing of the oars against the water while the choir sang, growing gradually in volume.

It is hoped to broadcast this novelty.  Mr. H.E. Balch then spoke into the microphone the speech he intends to broadcast.  Altogether the broadcast will occupy twenty minutes.  ...  (note 2)

Unlike today's broadcasting where much of it is 'canned' until a suitable slot can be found for its transmission, programmes were broadcast live to the growing numbers of listeners to the 'wireless.'  The only medium for ‘canning’ material was to cut a 78 rpm gramophone record on a 24” dia. disc giving some 8 minutes of recorded sound.  Clearly to take the bulky electrical paraphernalia into a cave was hardly a practical solution.  These fragile shellac discs were used in the cinemas as the sound source for the early ‘talkies.’   Later an optical sound track was added one side of the 35 mm film adjacent to the photographic images.  As with the cinema, broadcasting soon became an relatively cheap influential information-entertainment source.

The first Mendip cave broadcast took place on Tuesday, 9th September 1930, the choir, conducted by Conrad Eden and Balch’s oration went well.  ' Wookey Hole speaks to the World ... ' was the headline to the report that appeared in the Wells Journal on the 12th September 1930.  A joint coupling with the studio in Cardiff and live effects from the cave itself illustrates the complexity of external broadcasting at this time. (note 3)

... My first impression on entering the Witch's Chamber was of a voice, in cultured tones, calling on Cardiff on the telephone. Then a confused jargon of technicalities in connection with broadcasting - "How is No. 1 mike doing ?" "Fade in and out when I tell you."  "Better alter that earth, I think " - and so on.

Then a sound as of monks chanting in the distance - silence - and a well known voice - Mr. Balch unfolding the story of the Great Cave of Wookey Hole - but this was a rehearsal.

Finally the zero hour came and a dead silence.  One of the B.B.C. Men took up a conductor's position and controlled his forces with a wave of the hand.  I am told that the "Green Hills of Somerset" was played from Cardiff; then the splashing of oars from a boat in the Cave.

Mr. Balch, M.A.., F.S.A., the greatest living authority on Mendip and its caves, commenced to speak into the microphone.  He told of the construction of the Cave, of the mass of rock with the river breaking out at its base.  Then the conductor with another wave of his hand introduced the sound of the water rushing out of the Cave, picked up by a microphone near the water's edge.  Mr. Balch was "faded in" again and referred to the miles of unknown caves which the eye of man had never seen.

At this point in the proceedings the choir sang a musical arrangement of Metcalfe's poem 'The Song of Wookey Hole.'  The 'enchanting melody' was composed by the choir's conductor, Conrad Eden of Wells Cathedral. The reporter continued his romantic description of the event and was obviously overwhelmed by the magic of broadcasting.

...  [The] story resumed with the history of the finds in the Cave and the industry of the ancient Britons, in silver, iron, bronze, and in agriculture. ... The choir took up the theme by rendering an old Somerset Folk song, "A Farmer's Son so sweet." which was most tuneful, but in a lighter vein.

Mr. Balch spoke of the known existence of cannibals; of the Witch of Wookey; and the Hyaena Den, one of the earliest homes of primitive man of some thirty thousand years ago.

In conclusion he referred to the growth of man and the struggles and triumphs of our ancesters [sic].  The Choir brought the story to a fitting close by the singing of that all-inspiring "How sleep the brave," by Bantock.  That was the end, as far as Wookey Hole was concerned.

I had what was, perhaps, a unique experience in hearing the actual broadcast for half of the programme in the Cave, and then hurrying down to the village of Wookey Hole and hearing the remainder from a loud-speaker. I am afraid I dashed into a home with very little ceremony to hear how the broadcast "came over." I found the members of the family and friends grouped around the loud-speaker to hear the voices of their friends from the Cave.

It is several years since I last heard the Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir, and I want to hear it again. Will they come to Wells and give a concert ?  Mr. Eden has undoubtedly taken great pains to bring the choir up to such a pitch of perfection, and I can definitely say that it has lost none of its old skill and gunning-cunning, I should have written ! There were twenty-six members singing in the Cave, and it was a pity that the official programme led listeners to believe that a Welsh Choir would render the songs.

The whole broadcast was a great success, and the British Broadcasting Company are to be congratulated on their efforts.  Capt. G. Hodgkinson, who was present, and Mr. P. King, his manager, are to be commended on the very excellent arrangements made for the broadcast in the Cave.

We cannot say too much about Mr. Balch, whose life has been given up to the development of Wookey Hole and other Caves on Mendip, and his inspiring address through the microphone deserves the highest praise.

Abundant congratulations have been received from all quarters by letter, telegraph and telephone.

So successful was the event that the BBC planned another on the May 15th 1931.  The Wells Journal announced that (note 4)  

... west Regional listeners who heard the singing relayed from Wookey Hole Calves [sic] last September will look forward to another broadcast from the caves on Friday, May 22nd, when several songs will be contributed by the Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir during a West Country Variety programme at 9.35 p.m.

The BBC technicians and producers setup their paraphernalia in the Third Chamber and a reminder and outline of the broadcast was published in the Wells Journal on the day of the broadcast itself. (note 5) As before the choir was conducted by Conrad Eden. (note 6)

In 1933 the choir made their third broadcast programme from the same chamber. The event was considered of sufficient interest that editors of local newspapers considered it to be front page news. The prominent headline announced of the Wells Journal for the 16th June read:

Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves
Male Voice Choir's programme to be relayed.

The report stated that the broadcast would take place on the 7th July commencing at 8.30 p.m., that the choir and its conductor would be located in Wookey Hole Cave some 500 ft below '... the earth's surface. ' Conrad Eden would again conduct the choir and (note 7)

... visitors to Wookey Hole will be reminded of the grandeur of these Caves when they listen to the singing of the Choir in extraordinary surroundings. This is the third occasion on which a programme of part songs etc., by the choir has been relayed in the cave.

On the day of the broadcast the Wells Journal, then published on Friday of each week,  reminded their readers of the transmission that evening - now given at 8 p.m. - a time change from the original announcement. (note 8)

Local News. Cave Broadcast.

Many no doubt will tune into the West Regional Station this [Friday] evening at 8 p.m. when the Wookey Hole Male Voice Choir will give a broadcast from the Wookey Hole Cave. The choir will be conducted by Mr. Conrad Eden, and a boy soloist, Leslie Stear, of Clifton, will sing with male voice choir accompaniment. ...

The thirty minute transmission went out as planned on the West Regional Station of the BBC. The Wells Journal gave a lengthy report on the broadcast for the benefit of its readers who did not yet own a wireless set. (note 9) To open and close the programme Captain (later Wing Commander) Gerald Hodgkinson opened and closed the programme by playing on the hunting horn. At the start of the programme Hodgkinson played 'Gone Away' and closed it with 'Going Home.'

In addition to the choral works, two accompanied solos were sung by the 12 year old boy treble, Leslie Stear of Clifton, Bristol.  One of the solos was his father’s own arrangement of  'Ye Banks and Braes' where the choir sang a humming accompaniment. This seemed to have pleased the reviewer who commented that it ' ... sounded well over the wireless.'

Herbert Balch broadcasts, 1933 and 1939

Early in 1933 the BBC West Regional Station broadcast a series of programmes entitled 'Unexplored England'. The third of this series, broadcast on the 8th February 1933, was entitled 'The Caves of Mendip' during which Herbert Balch gave a twenty minute lecture. The Wells Journal reported that Balch had  (note 10)

... many vivid stories of adventures to tell of the exploration of Mendip.  He has been digging in the Caves for 45 years and knows more about Mendip than any other living man.  He spoke for twenty minutes and referred to the baffling difficulties at Swildon's Hole and at Wookey Hole.

In January 1939 a regular BBC feature programme 'Western Magazine' invited Balch to take part, a report of which was featured in the Wells Journal shortly after. It seems that ' ... Mr. Balch told many stories of his explorations in the Mendip underworld. ... '   (note 11)  

Wookey Hole, 1935

Perhaps the most famous of the radio broadcasts from within British caves was that from Wookey Hole on the 17th August, 1935.  The Wells Journal announced that there will be a   (note 12)


Once again the B.B.C. has chosen Wookey Hole Cave for a novelty broadcast, and this time their relay will be one of the most thrilling and daring ever attempted.

On the night of August 17th a man in diving suit and helmet, will walk along the hidden bed of the underground river Axe for the first time in history, in an attempt to find the great subterranean cave believed to exist many feet below the level of the river. ... The search is due to commence at 10.30 p.m. and will be broadcast over the National wavelengths. ...

Following the failed attempt by Graham Balcombe to pass Sump I in Swildon’s Hole it became Jack Sheppard’s turn to think up a method of getting through this obstacle that had prevented further exploration of the cave since 1935. 

It had become apparent that the snorkeling design devised by Balcombe was never going to work and was potentially lethal so it was agreed that Sheppard should have a go at devising some sort of breathing apparatus that would enable the obstacle to be passed.

At that time Sheppard was living in London, studying for his engineering degree, where he became aware of the internationally famed manufacturer of diving and rescue apparatus, Siebe, Gorman and Co. Ltd. It was to them that he made an approach for information relating to underwater breathing.  Sir Robert Davis, the managing director of the company took an immediate interest in the young man’s ideas - not least because it might just lead to ideas that could be adopted by the company!  Having been made aware of the challenge Sir Robert promised that he would consider the plans that Sheppard had submitted which was a pump operated one piece submersible suit.  In the event Sir Robert considered the matter but he did not fully understanding the nature of the passageways through which the gear would have to be transported.  However, he offered Sheppard the use of their standard hard hat bottom walking gear used in mine and tunnel rescue. The deal included tuition by Charles Burwood, the company’s chief instructor.

It was immediately obvious to Balcombe and Sheppard that though it was not practical for use in Swildon’s Hole, the equipment would be well suited for work in the large flooded passages beyond the Third Chamber of Wookey Hole.  Balch and Frank Brown [Wookey Hole caves company secretary] were approached and they negotiated a programme of events with Gerald Hodgkinson, owner of the Wookey Hole show cave. However, though he gave his permission to allow diving activity in the cave it was conditional that their activities should not interfere with the running of the showcave business. It was agreed that the operations should take place during the closed hours. For several reasons, not least the complaints from the villagers that their domestic water supply was always cloudy on successive Sunday mornings, the series of operations was brought to a close by the 5th September.

The way was now clear for a breakthrough in caving exploration techniques.  As Balcombe noted that the idea of exploring Wookey Hole was agreed upon but (note 13)

... work elsewhere, and a certain diffidence about working in a commercially operated cavern, have all combined to defer until 1934, the decision to start an expedition. ...

The programme of dives, extending over an eight week period, located and reached the surface of Wookey Seven. 

The day of the broadcast had arrived and the Third Chamber was full of technicians setting up the equipment for the transmission which was due to be relayed at 10.30 p.m. but this was left fluid so that the broadcast would be made when Balcombe, the man of the moment, was actually progressing with the dive.  Penelope [Mossy] Powell described the scene in the chamber in the Log of the Wookey Hole Divers. (note 14)

... We arrived about 9 o’clock at our destination , the Third Chamber of the Home of the Witch; where the B.B.C. Was in attendance with coils and coils and coils of wire everywhere, myriads of microphones, wreaths of cigar smoke, a wealth of gents’ natty suitings, fortunes in cuff-links, in fact the only thing missing was adhesive tape, which Mossy provided off an Oxo tin, and a sock to put into a loudspeaker.

A public address system was installed for the

... benefit of the general mob.

Through the smoke, one caught occasional glimpses of the ample stern-piece of the B.B.C., more coils of wire pipe and rope, sometimes even a diver, and on rare occasions, the River Axe itself.

Teething troubles overcome it was time for Balcombe to enter the water.  Progress was monitored by telephone communication with the intention of relaying it through the public address system.  This failed miserably even though it had been claimed that the acoustics of the Third Chamber were perfect.

A single event that was to happen later that evening is virtually all that is remembered today by most cavers eclipsing the real achievement of the whole series of diving operations.  The back-up diver accompanying Balcombe was 'Mossy' Powell and both progressed into Chamber Six. Communication with base control was via the telephone linkup. The broadcast began at 10.30 p.m. when Balcombe and Powell entered the water at which time a background commentary was being given by the BBC announcer, Francis Worsley, sited in his own box at the side of the chamber.  A Wells Journal reporter noted that Worsley [editorial notes are given in square brackets] (note 15)

... started to speak to the many thousands who were listening to what must have been the most thrilling outside broadcast ever arranged.

To describe what took place next can best be done by using his words.

He said, " Here we are, 600 feet underground in the famous Wookey Hole caves.  The sounds you hear going on mean that the exploration party is getting ready to try out this daring feat of exploration. Where we are standing now is the third chamber. You enter the caves at the foot of a big cliff, pass along an up-and-down passage in the rocks which widens out in high chambers full of pools and stalactites and on the right is the River Axe, which is of great importance as this is the river the divers are going to follow.

"This is as far as the public can go, but the caves and river go on for a long way beyond. In one corner is a very low arch, which is either just above or below the water level according to the state of the river. When the water has been low people have been through on a raft to a fourth chamber and then on through another arch to a fifth. Beyond that on [sic] one has never been and only divers can get there.  That is the object of this exploration.

"I am not going to try to give you any details of this as I hope to get Mr. Balcombe to talk to you before he descends." continued Mr. Worsley.

"Diving is not a simple matter and a very large number of assistants are required to work the air pumps which I expect you can hear already, and to let out the lines the divers use for air, safety, telephone, etc.

"The two divers are going down and an interesting thing is that the second one is a woman, Mrs. Powell.

"In the second part of the broadcast we hope that Mr. Balcombe will speak direct to us from under the water when he reaches territory where no one has ever been before.  He has a special microphone in his helmet and will communicate with a telephonist on the shore, telling of his needs.  The telephonist can reply to him and I expect we shall hear some of the conversation.

"It is rather a strange sight, all these people working busily in the glare of the arc-lamps in this ancient cave," he said.

"One doesn't expect to see diving gear right under the earth ! A contrast is the domestic touch in one corner where a lady of the party is making coffee on a spirit stove.  Yes, it is very cold here, the temperature of the water being 52 degrees all the year round, and the mud is cold to the feet. I'll get into touch with Balcombe before he enters the water."

"Hullo, Balcombe," he calls.

"Yes," came back the voice of the leading diver.

"Tell everyone about your 'gang.'  They have been working very hard."

There was a little difficulty in hearing Mr. Balcombe, at first, but when he did come through he told of what his assistants would be doing and of the difficulty of making his way through the underwater passages.

Mr. Worsley asked why he need two divers and Mr. Balcombe replied that there might be some difficulty in getting his air pipe and lines round the corners so the second diver would come down after him and assist him through.


The fifth chamber, he told us, is floored  by a great sandbank, and seemed to be a great expanse of green water.

"We want to get to the surface through the green water. Having done that we get as far as we possibly can."

"Well good luck to you, Balcombe.  I hope you won't meet any brontosauri."

"That is hardly possible as no man has ever been here before and no animal could possibly get here."

This ended the first part of the broadcast and the second part was transmitted when Balcombe and Powell reached the sixth chamber. This was at 23.09 hrs.  Worsley commented that the two divers were still safe and that Balcombe had reached a point 168 feet [50 m. Approx] from base. The commentary continued thus:

"...Balcombe has got to the entrance to the sixth chamber and hopes to find that it is a real chamber, that is one that has air space above the water, but we shall not know anything until we hear from him. We are going to try to get through to him now and get him to tell us from the actual site what he has found. You will probably find there is a bit of bubble owing to the air pump. He can only stop the pumps for about 20 seconds. You will hear people getting instructions to change over the pumps.

Balcombe described the scene from the sixth chamber and then after a short interval put out a running commentary with the telephonist. Balcombe continued

"... We have passed through the sixth, which has a large water space but only a small water surface.  Ahead of me I can see a further air surface which looks promising. We had arranged a form of trapeze to get to the surface in the sixth chamber but we have been unable to get it tried so far. Perhaps we can make better use of it here.  Heave hard on the pumps !"

A second or two later came an S.O.S.  "Heave faster on the pumps, " we heard.  And then "May I speak to the officer in charge, please ?"

"Well you can see what sort of thing is going on, " breaks in the commentator, and the broadcast was brought to a conclusion.

This has to be the polite form of what Balcombe actually said. Legend has it, together with Mossy Powell's poem related to the Waldegrave Swallet excavation, (note 16) that Balcombe yelled 'Pump you buggers, pump !'  This was strong language for the BBC standards of the day and so the plug was pulled on the broadcast.

An hour later the two divers returned to base where Balcombe commented that they were on the borders of great things but could not add to what he had described from the limit of the dive. He then thanked the pump operators.  Herbert Balch was present during the dive and was full of praise for the operation with a particular note regarding 'Mossy' Powell.

... "Mrs. Powell's willingness to make the journey was the pluckiest adventure I have ever seen undertaken by a woman," he said to me as we watched them rise from the water. ...

Gough's Cave, 1936

The first broadcast from Gough’s Cave was made on the 2nd March 1936 and was entitled “ A Cave Tour” in which Lord Weymouth, owner of the caves, Thomas B. Gill, the cave manager and Mr. W. R. Pavey all contributed to the general broadcast.  Lord Weymouth outlined the history of the cave whilst the others described the more outstanding features. Gill made special mention of the plans to reconstruct the ‘Cheddar Man’ skeleton, a task undertaken by Professor M. Rix of Oxford University under the watchful eye of Sir Arthur Keith.

Between 1927 and 1935 the development of the amenities at Wookey Hole and a series of radio broadcasts from the cave brought the owner considerable publicity. At Gough’s Cave following the transfer of control of the cave from Arthur

G.H. Gough to the owner, Lord Weymouth, in 1933 a considerable investment was made at the cave entrance building an office, museum and restaurant complex that was opened to the public on the 23rd June 1934. 

C.H. Hayes had completed a new survey of the showcave during April 1935. On it Hayes had suggested that there appeared to be a connection between Pixie Forest and St. Paul’s Chamber. This would not have been too difficult to confirm for the passage from the St. Paul’s end would have been open and ready for a simply exploratory trip. With this knowledge, Thomas B. Gill, manager of the cave from 1935-c.1950, employed workmen to clear the sandy deposit at the foot of Pixie Forest. By the autumn, having cleared some 6,000 tons of spoil, the workmen located the lower entrance to the passage. Lord Weymouth, Gill and the head guide, Victor Painter, crawled 216 feet from the new entrance to visit the chamber at the upper end that contains a group of formations, Aladdin’s Grotto, adjacent to St. Paul’s Chamber. Gill announced that other formations in this chamber were so beautiful as to eclipse anything else to be seen in the cave.  It was the intention of the management to open this chamber to the public by Easter 1936 connecting it with St. Paul’s Chamber.

To combat the ‘free’ publicity generated by the Wookey Hole management, the authority at Gough’s Cave continued their widespread publicity campaign well into the early months of 1936. All this peaked with a radio broadcast from Gough’s Cave on the 2nd March 1936. During the run-up to the event regular news items appeared in the national daily, regional and local newspapers creating the widest publicity possible.

As the broadcast drew near a number of reports announcing when and how it was taking place were published in various newspapers. On the 22nd February, 1936, the News Chronicle, headlined its report :

Skeleton in Cave Broadcast
He lived 10,000 year ago
Cheddar Carols to be sung underground

Beside a skeleton over 10,000 years old, by an underground river in caves occupied by man from the Palaeolithic age, a broadcast is to be made here during the West Regional programme on Monday evening, March 2.

It will be a tour of Gough’s Caves, Cheddar, during which guides will talk through eight microphones installed at regular points in the cave.

The programme will be introduced by Lord Weymouth, owner of the caves, and atmosphere will be provided by a party of local singers.

From the immense chamber known as “ St. Paul’s,” where the sides are coated with beautifully coloured stalagmite, they will broadcast Cheddar carols.

Listeners will hear the history of the caves and of recent explorations from Mr. T. Gill, the manager. They will hear how the skeleton known as “The Cheddar Man,” more than 10,000 years old, was discovered in a fissure leading to the underground river.

The Western Daily Press announced  (note 17)

“Cheddar Man” may get lost on the ether

Secrets of the Earthly Home of a Ghost

The Bristol Evening World reported on the 28th February, 1936 that 

Cave Explorers Rewarded

Two new Wonder Chambers at Cheddar

... Which surpasses any of the caves the public can see at Cheddar today. ... Telling the story of the discovery of the new caverns to an “Evening World! Reporter, Mr. Thomas B. Gill, manager of Gough’s caves [sic], said : “The party consisted of Lord Weymouth, the head guide, and myself. We set out to crawl through a passage that was only two feet six inches or three feet wide.


“Instead of crawling, however, we could only wriggle, and it was with relief that we found ourselves at the end of the passage.

“Here our lamps revealed a cavern which is superior to anything the public can see at the moment.

“The most striking feature was a wonderful curtain 12 feet long .  This is one of nature’s masterpieces. It was gleaming in wonderful colours, a sight of incredible beauty.”

To open the way to these wonderful caverns 6,000 tons of silt have had to be removed. ... The subterranean river holds secrets which may never be revealed, so deep are the dark waters. Soundings have been taken, but every time the line has been dropped to 70 feet the swift underground currents have snapped it off, to disappear into the unknown. ...

The opening of the ‘two chambers,’ of course, never happened.  But the discovery of the passage and chamber was only one part of the publicity notes issued by the cave management. Late in 1935 plans were announced that the skeleton of ‘Cheddar Man’ was to be rebuilt by Professor M. Rix of Oxford University under the general direction of Sir Arthur Keith. (note 18)  It was claimed that the skeleton was now complete following a further excavation in the Skeleton Pit. The mystery of the underground stream route too was highlighted by Gill.  He stated that it was impossible to determine the depth of the water flowing under the cave in the Skeleton Pit.  It had been found that the force of the water was so great that it snapped the string and so losing the plumb-bob ! 

So, on at 7.30 p.m. On Monday, 2nd March 1936 the first broadcast from this cave took place. The News Chronicle’s report of the event commented that one of the (note 19)

... wonders of modern science was being used amid stalactites and stalagmites which had been accumulating for centuries. ... The listening public heard for the first time of the recent extensions.

The caves now extend for a distance of two miles.

The commentary was broadcast on the West and Scottish Regional wavelengths.

The Western Daily Press account was minimal but included two large photographs as did both the Bristol evening papers. (note 20,21,22)


Swildon's Hole, 1937

The issue of Radio Times, for 23rd April 1937, announced that a live twenty minute broadcast was to be made from Swildon’s Hole at 9.00 p.m. on Saturday the 1st May. (note 23)  The programme was entitled ‘Mendip Cave Crawl‘ which also served as the title of an introductory article in the same issue of the weekly paper by Herbert Balch. (note 24) The transmission was to be relayed on the airwaves to the BBC southern and western regions. The Wells Journal deemed this information to be worthy of front page headlines for their 30th April issue.  (note 25) As the weekly paper was then published on Friday it was to act as a reminder to the Wells citizens to tune in to the Wireless or news to the many nonreaders of Radio Times. Such magazines were luxuries that many people were unable to afford.

The programme was subcontracted to a local company to setup the broadcast and on Monday, 26th April, their engineers descended the cave to install electric cables, microphones and illumination to and from the Old Grotto. It would seem that the technicians were led through the cave by Jack Duck and his caving associate, Austin Wadsworth; the pair operating under the auspices of MNRC and Herbert Balch. The fact that Balch had written a preface to the broadcast clearly shows he was involved in some way with the programme. From the Gerard Platten letter reproduced in Hendy’s notes from Bill Weaver’s Logbook in WCC Journal No. 288 it would seem that he, Platten, was also associated with the broadcast in association with Duck and Wadsworth. Fortunately two photographs taken by Wadsworth of the technicians in the Old Grotto have survived and are in the author’s photographic collection.  Jack Duck is certainly in one of these pictures.  Two other photographs of the event are to be found among the Luke Devenish collection of glass lantern slides now housed in the WCC Library.  Both glass mounts have been badly damaged but the images, though out of focus, have been restored by the writer using computer enhancement techniques.

The identity of the company who arranged and produced the broadcast is unknown and no record exists except for details of various payments made by BBC. (note 26) The commentary was by one H. Gordon Bird for which he was paid the handsome sum of £15 - 15 - 0. (note 27) It is possible that this was the same man, who as a member of UBSS, assisted Balch during the exploration of Swildon’s One in 1921.

No follow-up article has been found in the local newspapers of the broadcast itself but from photographic evidence, the Radio Times and the content of Platten’s letter there is no doubt that the event went ahead.  There is a very good reason why the relay was not reported in any of the local papers that I have checked. An important national event took place during the following week and because of this the various editors of local papers took the view that  ‘there’s too much of this event to publish rather than wasting valuable space reporting the cave broadcast.’

The event, of course, was the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth [the late Queen mum] on the 6th May 1937. Coronation fever swept the country; special events and concerts, street parties and beacons were lit giving both the national and local newspapers plenty to write about.  The Wells Journal and the Weston-super-Mare Gazette and Mercury were full of reports of all the events taking place in this region.

The WCC Committee responded to the announcement of the broadcast in a short statement in the April, 1937 Circular. (note 28)

'B.B.C. Broadcast May 1st. The Committee wish it to be made quite clear that this Club has nothing whatever to do with this event.

Publicity was considered undesirable and release of information to the Press about caving activities was frowned upon for   (note 29)

...it is an understood thing amongst all decent cave men that reports of cave activities are not given to the press nor is the Club's name to be mentioned except with the Committee's approval.  Members who desire to give publicity to their activities are advised to consult the Hon. Secretary.'

This introverted view was in vogue well into the 1960s and one held by most of the major Mendip clubs. Publicity regarding caving was considered extremely poor taste. Further it was likely to increase the numbers of cavers and introduce the 'undesirable' element. It was also argued that caving required a certain quality - initiative. Thus if a person wanted to go caving it was assumed that he would find the necessary contacts himself. How things have changed!  Finally, Platten refers to the possibility of a further broadcast beyond the Forty Foot Pot, possibly recording someone [‘Bill’ Weaver] free diving the sump.  It is thought that this never took place for no evidence has been found in the local newspapers published during 1938 and 1939. The Radio Times has not been checked - any volunteers?

Overcrowding of the popular caves has resulted in major destruction of the finer details and in some cases the rock has been worn so smooth that at times the conditions are quite dangerous. At the time of writing there has to be a strenuous effort made to preserve much of what remains - and in places not much - before the desecration is total.

G.B. Cave, 1941

During the early days of exploration in G.B. Cave the cave received considerable publicity. Rodney Pearce [of Rod’s Pot fame] and Francis Goddard [the ‘G’ of G.B. Cave] spent some time preparing a manuscript accompanied by a sketch survey for publication in Illustrated London News (note 30) and, later that year, in Nature. (note 31) During this work a couple of broadcasts (note 32) were made for the BBC relating to the cave, one of which was a recording made on site.  Goddard detailed this trip in the UBSS Logbook entry for the 9th July 1941. (note 33)

... Met Jean Bussell of B.B.C. With 1 recording car at 2.45 (only 15 mins late). ... [obtained] Farmer Young’s permission to  go into field with car  I then started down cave. Made a recording at the entrance, in first grotto, in double passage and just before the entrance - where the cable ran out. Bussell was thrilled with the cave.

The 'canning' technique was the cutting of a 78 rpm shellac disc up to 24 inches in diameter though during the latter stages of the Second World War, wire tape recorders were being developed.

Trevor Shaw’s complete, but unpublished history of UBSS gives very brief details of these events which were later edited out of the published version. (note 34) BBC recorded sound effects in the cave on the 20th February 1968 - BBC copy tape in UBSS Library, included sounds of typical caving activity - laddering a pitch, stream - close, medium and far distance, water drips, group of cavers walking, climbing, tired cavers, tired caver, whistle blasts, hauling up ladder etc. 23 bands of varying sounds were made.

Wookey Hole, 1946

Not long after the formation of CDG plans were laid to broadcast part of their activity from Wookey Hole. The producer, Desmond Hawkins intending to produce a feature programme on the cave gave a provisional date of the broadcast as being 29th May 1946. CDG's contribution was to be the 'Climax' of the Programme. (note 35) However, this appears not to have been broadcast for it was announced in Radio Times that the programme was postponed because of the producers' other commitments in the Channel Islands. (note 36)

The broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves by "frogmen" some 600 feet below the ground, which should have taken place last week, had to be postponed. Mr. Desmond Hawkins, the B.B.C. producer had to go to the Channel Isles. Further technical research will be carried out before the actual broadcast

The author has not found any reference to an actual broadcast.

Axbridge Caving Group

During 1952, the group’s secretary, Major D.C. McKearn was contacted by the BBC with an idea of producing a short item on caving. This was to have been included in the popular Saturday evening radio show "In Town Tonight" that was hosted by Brian Johnston and transmitted on the Home Service [now Radio 4]. However, the programme never went further than the outline planning stage. (note 37)

Later in 1954 and 1955 ACG were again involved with the BBC for their "Under Twenties" programme. On Easter Monday, 19th April, 1954 the technicians recorded the sounds of    (note 38)

 ... blasting in the [Banwell] Stalactite Cave ... Pat Knights and Gordon Griffiths (with Bob Price giving technical advice) were 'on the air'.

The ACG crew must have impressed the BBC producers for a year later, in 1955 and again during the Easter weekend, and for the same programme, they were 'on the air'. This was a twelve minute edited version of a recording made in Axbridge Ochre Cavern some eight months before. (note 39)

Swildon's Hole - 1949-1952

Another broadcast from Swildon's Hole took place during 1949 but the date has yet to be investigated. A report is said to have appeared in the Wells Journal at the time.

An 'internal broadcast' was made by the BBC in 1952 in which BEC members were involved. A full report was given in BB No. 58.  The programme was made for the Light Programme [now Radio 2] in a slot called 'Summer Parade' and it was first announced in the Radio Times published on the 20th June 1952. The commentary was to be given by Hugh Falkus. (note 40)

The BEC Belfry Bulletin under its then editor, Harry Stanbury, received a full report from three members who had assisted in the underground activity on the 15th June. Mike Jones, Merv. Hannam and Dave England

 ... were inveigled into making a broadcast in Swildon's Hole, in company with some members of Woking Youth Club. The story of this epic event started when one Hugh [Fatso] Falkus arrived in a dilapidated Ford V8, followed by Jack [Slim] Singleton in a three ton truck with an army of Teenagers, all with a pronounced (and disturbing) London accent. (note 41)

A short note of the broadcast was published by the Wells Journal in its Local News Section. (note 42)

A further broadcast was recorded by Trevor Shaw in his unpublished history of UBSS that took place on 1st June 1955.  It is stated to have been live broadcast, programmed as 'A Hole in the Hill’ and the commentary given by Raymond Baxter. (note 43,44)

1954 - Stoke Lane Slocker

In 1954 James Kirkup joined members of UBSS on two caving trips on Mendip on the 29th and 30th May. Kirkup, a literary man, composed a lengthy poem of his experiences underground titled : The Descent into the Cave being an account of an underground journey in the Mendip Hills of Somerset. (note 45) The work was dedicated to the members of the UBSS. Trevor Shaw noted that the work, a free verse narrative poem, was based upon a visit to Stoke Lane Slocker where the author’s experience of diving a sump is given some prominence.

At that time John Morris [not the entertainer, Johnny Morris] was Controller of the BBC Third Programme [now Radio 3] and it was he that compiled an anthology which included the first publication of Kirkup’s poem. The poem was broadcast on the Third Programme on the 26th September 1954, animated with vocal contributions by well-known broadcasters, Robert Reitty, Felix Felton, Peter Cloughton and John Stockbridge. The broadcast was repeated twice more on the same channel in 1955 and 1956.

Kirkup's own anthology was published by OUP in 1957 (note 46) when the title of the caving poem was reduced to The descent into the Cave but still with the dedication to the members of UBSS.

Though not relating to Mendip caves in 1963 the Third Programme planners requested a play from Louis MacNeice.  MacNeice had considerable experience in writing radio plays and produced a script entitled Persons from Porlock in which the hero, a failed artist, ends his life in a pothole. To gain the atmosphere of the underground MacNeice joined the BBC engineer who was recording various sound-effects in a Yorkshire pothole. He caught a chill that developed into pneumonia from which he died on the 3rd September 1963 a few days after the play had been broadcast. (note 47) The Victorian melodrama still lives ! 

Another curio was the announcement by Harry Ashworth of the MNRC in the 1957 newsletter of a field event relating to dowsing being organised by Peter Stewart and at which the BBC were going to make a programme which was to be broadcast sometime during August of that year. (note 48)

Since that time innumerable broadcasts and reports of caving activities have been transmitted. The latest being the discovery of bones in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink and a new series of six programmes that was televised during the 2004 Autumn; one being devoted to Swildon's Hole with footage taken by Gavin Newman.


The writer would like to acknowledge the assistance of the archivist at the BBC Archives, Reading ; to Dr. Steven Craven (CPC) for details of early broadcasts from the Yorkshire Dales and High Peak caves ; to Phil Hendy, WCC librarian, for use of photographs from the Devenish collection, Alan Gray (ACG), Ray Mansfield, for drawing my attention to the MacNeice play, and Tony Jarratt for proof reading the paper.

Dave Irwin, Priddy.  20 February 2005


Compiled by S. A. Craven

DATE:                        13 Oct. 1927; 1900 hours

SUBJECT:                  Gaping Gill

BROADCASTER:        James W. Puttrell

CLUB:                        Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club et al.

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 07 Oct. 1927.

                                 Sheffield Daily Telegraph 14 Oct. 1927.


DATE:                        15 June 1929

SUBJECT:                  Caves of Yorkshire; recent discoveries at Ingleton (i.e. probably White Scar)

BROADCASTER:        James W. Puttrell

CLUB:                        Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club et al.

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 31 May 1929.


DATE:                        29 March 1934

SUBJECT:                  Potholing

BROADCASTER:        Ernest Edward Roberts

CLUB:                        Yorkshire Ramblers’ Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Craven Herald 30 Mar. 1934 p. 6.


DATE:                        30 March 1935

SUBJECT:                  Potholing

BROADCASTER:        Arnold C. Waterfall

CLUB:                        Craven Pothole Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              West Yorkshire Pioneer 05 Apr. 1935 p. 4.

                                 Craven Herald 05 Apr. 1935 p. 8.               


DATE:                        18 June 1936

SUBJECT:                  Weathercote Cave and Gaping Gill

BROADCASTER:        Reg Hainsworth

CLUB:                        Gritstone Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              West Yorkshire Pioneer 19 June 1936 p. 2.


DATE:                        25 June 1936

SUBJECT:                  Caves and Waterfalls of Ingleton

BROADCASTER:        Reg Hainsworth, H. Wilson Midgley

CLUB:                        Gritstone Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Field – at Weathercote Cave

AUTHORITY:              Leeds Mercury 12 June 1936 p. 8.

                                 Lancaster Guardian 26 June 1936 p. 10.


DATE:                        02 July 1936; 0910 – 0924 hours

SUBJECT:                  Potholing – a descriptive tour of Lost John’s Cave in Yorkshire

BROADCASTER:        Robert M. Brench

CLUB:                        Leeds Cave Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Leeds Mercury 12 June 1936 p. 8.

                                 Radio Times 26 June 1936 p. 55.

                                 Manchester Guardian 02 July 1936.

                                 Yorkshire Post 04 July 1936 p. 7.

                                 The Listener 15 July 1936 pp. 112 – 113, 182.

                                 The Listener 12 Aug. 1936 pp. 317 - 318.

                                 The Listener 19 Aug. 1936 p. 361.


DATE:                        02 April 1938; 1905 hours

SUBJECT:                  Alum Pot

BROADCASTER:        Robert M. Brench

CLUB:                        Leeds Cave Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 20 – 26 Mar. 1938 pp. 14, 86.

                                 Hull Mail (date not stated).


DATE:                        08 April 1938; 1400 hours (repeat of 02 April 1938)

SUBJECT:                  Alum Pot

BROADCASTER:        Robert M. Brench

CLUB:                        Leeds Cave Club

STUDIO / FIELD:        Studio

AUTHORITY:              Radio Times 01 Apr. 1938 p. 63.

                                 Daily Express 08 Apr. 1938.


ADDITIONAL NOTE : (Scott H.J.) (1940) Yorkshire Dalesman 2(1)4 tells us that:  "Mr. (Norman) Thornber is secretary of the Cave Rescue Organisation and has broadcast several times on potholing in Yorkshire."


1.                  As the privately owned British Broadcasting Company.  It received its Charter in 1927 when it became the British Broadcasting Corporation

2.                  Wells Journal, 8th August 1930, p5, c5 : Radio from the depths.

3.                  Wells Journal, 12th September 1930,  p4, c.6 : Wookey Hole Speaks to the World. 

4.                  Wells Journal, 15th May 1931, p.5, c.1, Local News. Another Wookey Hole Broadcast.

5.                  Anon, 1931, Wookey Hole Cave [broadcast reminder] Wells Journal 22nd May, p3,c3

6.                  Anon, 1931, Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves.  Wells Journal 29th May, p4,c6

7.                  Wells Journal, 16th June 1933, p.1 : Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves.

8.                  Wells Journal, 7th July 1933, p.5, c.5 : Local News. Cave Broadcast.

9.                  Wells Journal, 14th July 1933, p.1, c.1 :  Broadcast from Wookey Hole Cave. Clifton Boy’s Solos. 

10.              Wells Journal, 10th February 1933, p.1 c.3 :  The Caves of Mendip. Broadcast  by Mr. H.E. Balch. 

11.              Wells Journal, 20th January 1939, p.5, c.1, [Broadcast]

12.              Wells Journal, 2nd August 1935, p.1, c.1-2 :  Thrilling Broadcast from Wookey Hole Caves.

13.              Balcombe, F. Graham and Powell, Penelope M, 1935, The log of the Wookey Hole exploration expedition 1935.   Ascot : F.G. Balcombe   [p.3]

14.              Balcombe, F. Graham and Powell, Penelope M, 1935, [as above], p.76

15.              Wells Journal, 23rd August 1935, p.3 c.2-3 : Thrilling Adventure in Wookey Hole Caves.  Divers Brave The Depths of Hidden Waters.  New Caverns Discovered. Successful Broadcast by B.B.C. 

16.              Irwin, David J., 2000, Waldegrave Swallet ... a brief history.    BEC Bel Bul 51(509)25-39(Dec), illus, surveys, figs OR BCRA SHG Jnl (6)9-22(Aut), illus, surveys, figs

17.              Western Daily Press,  25th February 1936, “Cheddar Man” may get lost in the Ether.

18.              The skeleton rebuild was completed early in 1937.

19.              News Chronicle, 3rd March 1936, Broadcast from Underground Cave. [illus]

20.              Western Daily Press, 3rd March 1936, p.9, c.1-5 : Last night's broadcast from Cheddar's famous caves. [illus]

21.              Bristol Evening World, 3rd March 1936, Microphone "Tour"  [illus]

22.              Bristol Evening Post,  3rd March 1936, Wonders of the Cheddar Caves explained to visitors during the radio tour.  [illus]

23.              Radio Times, 23rd April 1937, Regional Programme. [p.75]

24.              Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip Cave Crawl.  Radio Times, 23rd April, p.8, illus

25.              Wells Journal, 30th April 1937, p.1 c.5 : A Broadcast from Swildon's Hole

26.              Anon, 1937, Programme as Broadcast from the West of England Region. Saturday, 1st May, 1937. Sheet 1. [from BBC Archive, 1996]

27.              For those not familiar with the old LSD [pound, shillings and pence] system this sum equals £15.75.

28.              Anon, 1937, B.B.C. Broadcast May 1st.   WCC Circ. (23)1

29.              Anon, 1937, Publicity.  WCC Circ (27)1

30.              Goddard, F.J. and Pearce, R.A.J., 1941, Romantic Discovery ...    The Illustrated London News, 9 Aug., p.185-188, illus, survey

31.              Goddard, F.J. and Pearce, R.A.J., 1941, G.B. Cave, Charterhouse on Mendip.  Nature, 4 Oct.,  148(3753)394-396, illus

32.              Pearce, R.A.J., 1968, The Wartime Years. Some Reminiscences   MSS, typed, 4f [held in UBSS Library]

33.              UBSS Camp Log Nov. 1939 to June 1943.   MS 91 pp , surveys.  UBSS Library, Bristol University, Bristol [p.41]

34.              Shaw, T.R., 1968, History of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society.    Bristol : UBSS, Typed MS  61 + vpp [p.40]

35.               Bristol  Evening Post, 1946, 19th March, Divers' plan in Broadcast from caves. [Wookey Hole]

36.              Radio Times, 1946, (7 Jun) p.5, c.1 : Local News Caves Broadcast.

37.              Sec [pseudo : D.C.  McKeand], 1952, Group News. B.B.C.   ACG Jnl 1(2)8-9

38.              Anon, 1954, Report on Excavations in the Banwell Bone Cave   ACG Jnl 2(2)7-8(Sep)

39.               McKeand, D.C., 1955,  Group News. Caves.      ACG Jnl 2(4)3-5(Sep)

40.              Radio Times, 1952 (20th Jun);  Going Down [no other details recorded]

41.              Jones-, M., Hannam, M., and England, D., 1952, Actually Caving.  BEC Bel Bul 6(58)5-6(Jun)

42.              Wells Journal, 1952 (27 Jun), p.5, c.3 : Local News

43.              Shaw, T.R., 1968, [as above] [p.40]

44.              Wells Journal, 1955 (10 Jun), p.2, c.4-5 : BBC broadcast from Mendip - A Hole in a Hill.

45.              Morris, John [ed], From the Third Programme a ten years' anthology imagination argument   London: Nonesuch Press, x + 339pp

46.              Kirkup, James, 1957, The Descent into the Cave and other poems.  London: Oxford University Press, viii + 109pp 

47.              47 Carpenter, Humphrey, 1996, The Envy of the World.  London: Pheonix Giant, 431pp, illus [p.213]

48.              Ashworth, H.W.W., 1957, MNRC. Field Programme.  MNRC Ntr [2](May)


The Wig in Caving

By N. Harding Esq.
With certain reminders by N. Richards, both residents of the Parish of Weston

During a conversation at Townsend Cottage on Sunday May 15th 2005, Messrs Irwin, Richards and Harding in attendance, the subject of the history of caving wigs was brought up due to the reference in Ye Somerset Life Magazine of Catcott removing his wig while entering the fabled Loxton Cavern. What follows is a brief history of said apparatus in respect to that reference. 

 “Fleas are not lobsters, Dash my wig!”   Butler, Hudibras

Wig:     A shortened form of periwig, from Fr. Perruque. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

In the early days of cave exploration the development of special forms of wig became a staple of any subterranean investigator’s equipment. Limited as that burgeoning kit was; a few candles, muslin bags of boiled sweets, and a sturdy pair of pantaloons, the cave wig became essential dress for the gentleman explorer. 

The Bath wig makers Messrs Absolom and Loftus Racketts of Protozoan Road became the cavers’ emporium of choice. Within its wainscoted boudoirs a voluminous collection of assorted caving paraphernalia could be found, albeit mostly of the false hair variety.

It is known that local cave aficionado Dr Catcott often frequented the shop on his way to swap tales of derring-do with other local men of an exploratory nature in the region’s coffeehouses. Catcott himself preferred the Dorset Fancy for walks but opted for the heavier, indeed sturdier Pentland Thunderer (not to be confused with the whistle of the same name) for subterranean activities. With its thicker inner weave it afforded a certain higher level of protection than the Frobisher Light, a wig often used for inspecting holes in the Mendip region. For at least two generations the Frobisher had been de rigueur in Somerset for men out inspecting cavities, natural or suspiciously man made alike. Its blend of horsehair, weasel and Haart’s Wildebeest allowed the wearer to keep his head warm and reasonably waterproof in a brisk squall. But, as the user’s manual suggested in the most adamant of terms, the wearer should seek shelter at the first opportunity. A side effect of a sudden downpour was to shrink the wig to embarrassing dimensions, forcing the owner, unless he himself was lacking in the hair department into offering the headgear to friends and fellows with less atop. In many respects and at that stage it mirrored the ‘scratch wig’; one whose sole purpose was to cover bald spots.  

A similar side effect could be seen with the ‘Dorset Fancy’, a light summer wig mostly used for those seeking Marsh Fritillaries, and indeed other members of the Lepidoptera family, for their gentlemen’s collections. The wig itself was even issued with its own collecting jar while the hair piece itself, due to its gossamer construction, was delicate enough to be used for catching all kinds of ephemeral insects. But because of its lightness it could easily be forgotten that the wearer was sporting such apparel. As the Hon. Sir Hugh Bending-Slow wrote in his ‘The Wig, It’s Uses, Non Uses and General Abuse of Said Hairpiece Usually in the Manner of Whipping Servants, Book Four’: 

“It beist unseemly for a man to wear his Dorset Fancy for anything other than the most convivial of summer excursions. It beist a moral outrage and devilish invidious behavior if said headular investment be espied on evening occasions.”

It was not uncommon for ladies to swoon and or duels to be fought over such insidious social faux pas, the results of which were that many a cobbled street beyond the doors of inns, taverns and lodges were littered with trampled and crumpled insubstantial head adornments, the fall out, in a manner of speaking, of bellicose activities. The Dorset Fancy thus assisted (some say the sole contributor, see Albert Lamellibranch’s The Revolutionary Wigs of Britain) to the illegal wig trade that was common throughout the period, producing such fabled characters as Dave the Wigger, Headpiece Jack, or Wigboy John, gentlemen of the shadows who would lurk in side alleys until enough battered wigs had collected on the streets. They would then spend the following hours collecting as many of the fallen items as darkness would allow. It was also around this time that Burke and Hair became famous for digging up the corpses of unsuspecting members of the aristocracy and relieving them of their head wear. The recently freed hairpieces were hastily smuggled to the backrooms of numerous rival wig-making facilities so that their intricate weaves could be studied and analysed.  

But it was not until the introduction of the ‘Devon Loafa’ that certain characters interested in underground activities, other than those of a revolutionary nature, realised they could push further into the recesses of dark vaults as a direct result of the sturdy weave of the new kid on the head block. The Loafa had a thicker, more voluminous appearance and had been created by Abraham Snapcock whose shop was situated near the Inns of Court in London. From his premises he had observed that judges and their kind had taken to a peculiar sport, one that ‘took the form of fancy and elaborate gesticulations and head butting’ (Chap 874 of Snapcock’s Diary). He had initially mistaken these peculiar activities as the recognition rituals of a new secret society but having seen heavy wagers laid down on the cobbles he cottoned on to the fact that it was more a series of sporting events and had nothing to do, at least superficially, with the clandestine machinations of some back room anti-Catholic movement.

With an almost limitless number of wigs on sale none were sturdy enough to support such ‘uncivil behaviour’ so Snapcock decided to remedy the situation. After several minutes study he produced the test version of the wig that would eventually evolve into the ‘Thunderer’. At this stage it was simply called ‘Old heavy’ until it was christened the Devon Loafa by an itinerant Vicar from Barnstaple who narrowly escaped death when a weather vane, ‘struck me rudely about the head as if a vagabond were attempting to rummage in my vestments’, and missed braining the man of the cloth by a whisker.  

With caving not a pursuit to be seen in and around the streets of the capital the heavier wigs were adopted by those pursuing criminals. Footpads, cutpurses and those with equally low moral fibre often fell victim to a well-aimed wig launched from the hand of a practiced member of the King’s militia. During the Riot of Idioblastic Street many a miscreant Londoner was brought to book with the use of a ‘fair volley of head pieces thusly followed by explosive detonations of wig powder that besmirched the walls of the parish.’ (Quoted in Lamellibranch’s The Revolutionary Wigs of Britain, chapter 2).

William Eggy-Belch, a gentleman from Wells was a frequent visitor to London and on one such journey fell unceremoniously into Snapcock’s wig merchants after one too many libations in the Gasometer Arms a few doors down from the purveyor of flamboyant head gear. This in itself was a fortuitous happenstance because Eggy-Belch had earlier that day suffered at the hands of some jobbing actors who had ruffled his ‘Boston Hose Pipe’ in a badly executed rendition of Samuel Johnson’s The Metamorphic Aureole.   In need of a new wig Eggy-Belch had somehow found himself in the right place at roughly the right time.  Snapcock ushered his wig boy out into the storeroom to retrieve the latest fashions, one of which being of course, the Devon Loafa. Eggy-Belch took to the item with ‘ unreserved and unashamed gusto!’ He promptly bought eight on the spot.

Returning to Somerset Eggy-Belch handed out five of the wigs to his estate labourers who often complained of thick headaches after long sessions repairing the roof beams of sheds and barns. Headaches due in part to the ‘lack of a well sought ability in these rude mechanicals to avoid falling timbers thus loosed from the rafters of the buildings I had sent them to repair’. (Isaiah Titty, Memoirs of A Somerset Git, 1848).

It was in the Bulbous Whim, a now demolished Inn in Tucker Street, Wells, the site of which is interestingly enough now occupied by a purveyor of caving and camping equipment, that Eggy-Belch fell into derisory conversation with one Dr Catcott who was hobbling around the city after an unceremonious accident caused by a vigorous bout of country dancing in the parlour of his lodgings.  Catcott was abroad in the area investigating various orifices, cavities and caverns in the Mendip Hills for a book he was writing called ‘I Like Holes’. The Bristol Reverend was also having unending trouble with his own wig which as he said ‘ afforded me no comfort in any shape or form, being troublesome and nefarious to the point that I assumed it to be possessed by one of Satan’s noisome imps.’ The Dorset Fancy was soon to be cast aside by the wandering scholar in favour of the Devon Loafa, a welcome gift from Eggy-Belch.

Back in Bristol Catcott had the Loafa further enhanced by his favourite Wig merchants, Jonah Deleterious and Sons, (a site now occupied by a waste bin in Broadmead), who set about tightening up the weave and adding additional layers to the hair to give it extra protection. There was also a retractable thick wire pin on which a candle could be mounted allowing the explorer hands free illumination while the whole hair-piece itself was coated in a velveteen lacquer to keep it from ‘becoming bedecked with ferrous soils and fudgy particulates’. The ochreous wig was now a thing of the past.  The Loafa had become the Thunderer and it would be this overdeveloped wig that would take Catcott into the heart of the Mendips. 

During his descent of Loxton Cavern Catcott had further redesigned the Thunderer to accommodate a team of rescue marmosets, something he had read about in an Austrian Tabloid called ‘Der Richtig Flugel Knauf’ In the article rescuers in the Dachstein had used small primates, sporting a bag of boiled sweets around their necks, to search for lost explorers.  Catcott, ever at the cutting edge of exploring technology opted to utilise this system.  In ‘I Love Holes’ he describes having to remove his enormous wig due to heat and the constant chatter of tiny primates, ‘an irritant beyond the strength and fortitude of mortal ears’.

Other caving wigs of the period: The Utter Bastard, Overblown, The Nonsense, Fatty’s Nuisance, Rowsell’s Scaffold, The Priddy Monster, Dandruff Talus, The Doline, The Beer Soaked Flatulent, The Sump, Johnny Absorbent and the Nasty. 

Ref: Further popular wig names of the period (non caving, all genuine): The Artichoke, bag, barrister’s, bishop’s, brush, buckle, busby, bush (buzz), woodsman’s favourite, chain, chancellor’s, corded, Count Saxe’s mode, the crutch, the cut bob, the Dalmahoy (a bob wig worn by tradesmen), the detached buckle, the drop, the Dutch, the full, the half natural, the Jansenist bob, the Judge’s, the ladder, the long bob, the Louis, the pigeon’s wing, the rhinoceros, the rose, the scratch, the she-dragon, the small back, the spinach seed, the staircase, the Welsh, the wild boar’s back, the wolf’s paw.   

Annual Dinner

Arrangements by Nigel Taylor

1st October 2005

Venue to be announced

200 tickets available at about £22

Two coaches will leave the Belfry at 19.00 hrs

Further details later by circular to all members


Digging Behind the Belfry – the Discovery of Rose Cottage Cave

by Tony Jarratt

"The estimated time of breakthrough is constant at six months for the first year up to the abandonment of the dig"   -  Alfie's Digging Law

Preliminary survey of Rose Cottage Cave


     Many years ago Geoff Selway of Rose Cottage - our neighbour at the end of the Belfry drive - excavated a large, doughnut-shaped pit in the field behind the Shed, and on the line of the Priddy Pot Water leat, with the intention of creating a scenic pond complete with central island. The water for this was derived from the leat, having come from Fair Lady Well via the Belfry washing pond. For about three years the pond was a success and contained about 1.5m of water and a selection of ducks until, following a night of heavy rain, the lot disappeared down a hole in the NW corner - ducks excluded. It then remained generally dry until the rescue of November 13th 2002 after Vern Freeman peeled off in Maypole Series, St. Cuthbert's Swallet. In atrociously wet conditions the Wells unit of Somerset Fire Brigade, using two Coventry "Godiva" pumps, raised 2,500 litres of water per minute from Cuthbert's depression into the pond - now briefly resurrected! The pumping continued for over four hours  so at least 600,000 litres (132,000 gallons) were shifted and your scribe was very worried about possible flooding in the village. This didn't happen as all the water sank away, not to be seen again until its presumed reappearance at Wookey Hole.


The St. Cuthbert's Swallet report (Irwin 1991) states on p65 that the Coral Chamber stream is likely to be derived from the marshy ground to the west of the Belfry. A recent visit to Coral Chamber by Vern failed to find any evidence of the pumping operation so it is possible that there is some stream divergence in this area which only direct exploration will prove. Could the sinking water be the supply for the enigmatic Lake Chamber, either as the Coral stream or in a discrete conduit? If this cave is an ancient inlet to Cuthbert's it is likely to intercept the NW-SE Gour Lake fault, which forms the SW boundary of the cave, at around 60-70m depth and over 30m upstream from known passage. Vern, Pete Hellier, Paul Brock and Sean Howe are checking leads in Cuthbert's which head in this direction. A connection with Cuthbert's would add at least 300m to give the system a length of around 7,100m and an extra 8m or so depth making it some 153m deep. It would also provide a problem-free entrance for adventure centres, management training operatives, mineral collectors and frustrated Sump 2 diggers!

A further point of interest is the existence of a Roman lead mining settlement immediately to the north of the site (Williams 1998). It appears that some waste water from this operation would have sunk in this area.

Finally, the recent Unlucky Strike extensions in Eastwater Cavern (Rowsell 2004, Long 2005 and Rowsell 2005) reveal that this part of the system is trending towards the series of shallow depressions located between that cave and the dig. Could we have a potential Eastwater-Cuthbert's link or is it a separate, parallel system?

Digging Operations  10/10/04 - 10/1/05

With three of the Club digging projects finished or in abeyance it was time to look for a new project and thanks to Ivan Sandford permission was gained from Geoff to excavate this site.

Work commenced on the 10th October with some three tonnes of earth, clay and stones excavated by hand and bagged up. Two "rabbit holes" were followed down to bedrock at c. 2m depth. A further c. 3 tonnes were removed next day and a waterworn rift was followed down the dip of the pavement-like limestone floor. Tea was provided on site at this very civilized dig and has since been delivered from both the Belfry by Rob "Bobble" Lavington and from Glenview by Fiona Sandford. The 13th saw a Wednesday night team digging beneath powerful overhead lighting provided by Ivan and yet another c. 3 tonnes out. Two days later work continued and on the 18th a more interesting section of the floor rift was reached by tunnelling beneath the clay overburden. Unfortunately, a couple of days later, a major collapse was found to have occurred and it was realised how potentially dangerous the dig was. After much of this collapse was cleared a "board meeting" was held and a decision taken to backfill the hole and try again some 4m to the SW. Being fed up with manual labour we requested Nigel Taylor to have a go with his mini-digger, "Sampsone".

Nigel, and a large crowd of onlookers, turned up on the 7th November and with great finesse he excavated a 2m x 2m x 3m deep hole through the clay overburden to the bedrock. The following day he finished the job and tidied up. Our grateful thanks for this excellent piece of work. The clay sides were desperately in need of shoring and this was partly accomplished on the 10th by Gwilym Evans, Ben Ogbourne and helpers who used three old wooden doors and some wriggly tin to construct what appeared to be a sunken outside bog. Despite its rickety appearance it did the job and hand digging continued to reveal the top of a possible rift in the bedrock.

This rift began to take shape on the 17th when lumps of laminated calcite and large sandstone cobbles came out with the spoil. This gave cause for some enthusiasm as it was obvious that a large stream had once transported these cobbles to the site. Two days later this pleasant site was cursed, as usual, with the "Reverse Midas Touch" and digging became somewhat squalid. The Sunday afternoon of the 21st was spent by a team of four digging ankle deep in "baby shite" but very excited by the development of the rift into an obvious, steeply descending cave passage. The next week saw diggers on site every day and several metres of passage cleared of infill. A small airspace with a stalagmite coated

wall was revealed at one point but work became difficult due to the narrowness of the passage. This problem was resolved on the 29th when a five shothole charge was fired to enlarge the working space . It also resulted in a text message from an irate Fiona Sandford who was convinced that her kitchen would collapse! This could be a good indication of the direction of the potential passage. Rich Witcombe and Jake Baynes commenced work on the drystone base in readiness for concrete pipes being organized and delivered by Dave Speed.

December 1st; Fiona's kitchen was still in one piece but not so the rift walls. A large amount of broken rock was cleared and some surface tidying was done with more next day and a brief but energetic burst of work on the evening of the 3rd in preparation for the arrival of the pipes on the morrow.

Dave arrived promptly on the 4th with the three pipes on his tractor trailer and together with Rich, Jake B. and Phil Coles worked extremely hard on clearing the entrance and building up the drystone base upon which the pipes were emplaced by Alan Quantrill with the aid of a massive JCB. This was a magnificent, professional job which only took about three hours and was much admired by the onlookers (for the record it cost the Club £255 - a bargain).  Phil recorded the event on camera and some digging was later done underground.  (The great contribution of the A.T.L.A.S. digging team must be acknowledged at this point or we will never make Descent again...).

More photos were taken on the following day by Pete Glanvill. Some twenty loads of spoil came out including a large boulder hefted by MNRC caving sec. Darryl Instrum who was on his first dig. A two shothole charge was fired.

A strong Monday team on the 6th hauled out over thirty loads of broken rock and clay and yet more snaps were taken by Tony Audsley. The project instigator, Vern, arrived to assist and most of the surface spoil heaps were tidied up.

It was by now pretty obvious that we had an ongoing cave so the provisional name "Belfry Dig" was dropped and the site named after the adjacent cottage. Some considered this name to be a bit "twee" but the Two Nicks pointed out that "Rose Cottage" is apparently Weston General Hospital speak for mortuary and Chris Batstone assured us that it is also naval slang for pox clinic so we all felt better about it.

Banging and clearing trips continued daily from the 7th - 13th December, the last of these being a five shothole sequence charge laid by Charlie Adcock, the staggered acoustic effects of which much impressed the onlookers. Ambrose Buchanan operated a seismometer to measure the amount of noise - effectively zero. Thirty one skiploads of the resulting spoil were hauled out on the 15th and another charge fired in the LH wall/floor.

The clay and cobble filled sloping rift became more horizontal but was a bugger to dig due to the compacted nature of the fill. Banging and clearing trips continued on the 17th, 18th, 20th, 22nd and 23rd in a range of interesting weather conditions including very heavy rain (when the pond partially re-filled) and thick snow with frozen ground. On the last visit the writer and Charlie laid and fired an eight shothole charge which rippled the bathwater that Ivan was lying in at the time!

Work continued daily over the festive season with much spoil hauled out and one more bang until, on the 28th, the writer and Darryl opened up a small hole which draughted so strongly that it sounded like the wind on the surface above - indeed it may well be affected by the weather as was the draught in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink. On looking into the hole a low but superbly decorated grotto was revealed and we now definitely had a new Mendip cave. Excavation of possible by-passes to this grotto continued daily over the holiday. Having won the 2004 Digging Barrel competition we were in no rush to break in but, just to rub it in, a discovery on New Year's Day was hoped for. The surface was also tidied up and a drystone wall built SW of the entrance. Some of the leat water was diverted undergound in an effort to clean the place up. The final bang of the year took place on the 30th but, alas, January 1st came and went without the hoped for discovery.

A vast amount of work had been done though by many Club members and friends. Jake Baynes had opened up a mud and rock filled rift to the right of the grotto - now very dangerous due to poised boulders and to be strictly avoided. Duncan Butler learnt this having nearly received a broken neck from a fallen lump of heavy clay. There is a good chance that this collapse will "crown " through to the surface to reveal that this may be the original main entrance.

John "Tangent" Williams and others favoured engineering a route below the grotto while Paul Brock commenced a rival dig just below the entrance shaft. Bob Smith and Duncan did much useful surface work in clearing out the leat, damming the stream and constructing a breeze block bridge and stile. Several hundreds of skiploads of rock and mud were hauled out, John Noble, Nick Richards and Nick Harding working particularly hard at this onerous task. Ivan and Graham "Jake" Johnson made life easier by collecting the Barrow Rake Swallet dig tripod and winch and replacing the man-hauling system.

The 2nd and 3rd January saw charges fired at the end of Mt. Hindrance Lane (the entrance passage - named from a liberated Chard road sign left at the Belfry by a well-wisher) in an attempt to get under the grotto. The well-wisher was later revealed as 80 year old but eternally youthful Tony "Sett" Setterington. Paul's Personal Project also got a dose of 40 gramme cord.

The Club interest over the holiday period was so great that even Nigel Taylor and Pete Rose were seen underground and both Stuart McManus and Dave Irwin threatened to don their caving gear!!! Duncan, though, managed a drunken, pre-dawn trip without gear and got thoroughly soaked in the process as the introduced stream had flooded the cave to within 2m of the entrance shaft. He returned some twenty minutes later to find it had drained away. Delayed tsunami effects? This did indicate that the main way on was at a high level.  The convenience of the cave's location was emphasised when mugs of tea were again delivered to the diggers - this time by Jeff Price and underground!

It was noted that if the stream was piped into the NE end of the original dig it didn't appear in the known cave. If piped into the SW end it rapidly entered below the concrete pipes. Water sinking in the current shallow pond to the S of the entrance was also not met with but almost certainly will be (it was - see later). The general direction of the cave so far is 250 degrees - towards Fairlady Well Cottage.

Normality soon returned and on Wednesday 5th the bang spoil was cleared to reveal two narrow open rifts ahead. Another 100 or so skiploads were hauled out. Next day the rock barrier between these rifts was banged and Paul continued with his Project. The 7th, 8th and 9th were also clearing and banging days with Fiona Crozier starring as lead groveller and using up some of her boundless enthusiasm and limitless supply of "Wicked"s. During this weekend a view had been gained into open, man-sized passage some 2m below the grotto and hurling a powerful wind into the diggers' faces.

The First Breakthrough 10/1/05 - 18/1/05

The "Monday Club" team - today comprising Fiona, Jake B, Phil, Vern, Rich W, Ivan and the writer, with observers John Noble and Tony Audsley - assembled for the guaranteed breakthrough on the morning of the 10th January.

While 15 loads of spoil headed for the surface Fiona and your scribe cleared the bang debris and crept through into a small chamber formed in a heavily calcited boulder choke situated behind the grotto. In one place what at first appeared to be a curiously regular line of helictites is actually the remains of an eroded stal. curtain. To the south a less calcited section of the choke was entered to reach a boulder blocked rift in the floor. The stream was diverted into the cave and observed to sink in gravel below the grotto but could then be heard flowing away in the depths of the rift. After everyone had visited the 10m or so of new passage a three shothole charge was fired on the largest boulder blocking this rift. The explorers retired to the Hunters' to both celebrate and drown their disappointment at the meagreness of today's find but being Mendip diggers should have known better anyway! Later that day Paul and Bobble found the banged boulder in pieces but now blocking the rift further down. A brief visit next day by Ivan and the writer confirmed their findings and provided an opportunity to plan the next operation.

An eleven strong Wednesday night team removed some 70 loads on 12th January and cleared out much of the entrance passage. Two rocks in the choked terminal "rift" were drilled and banged in order to gain access to a draughting and calcited hole in the floor visible beyond. One of the slabs of rock brought out from this area was observed by Tangent to

be scored by slickensides and this may indicate that we have reached the north-westerly extension of the Gour Lake Fault. The heavily waterworn and overhanging NE side of the ongoing passage is opposed by equally waterworn massive boulders with much evidence of plentiful ancient stream deposits in the form of rounded sandstone cobbles and pea gravel. An original swallet entrance to the NW is postulated - perhaps taking the forerunner of the Eastwater stream long before the present Eastwater Cavern was developed.

The 14th saw Jake B. and Paul competing to make the entrance passage into an Eastwater Traverse lookalike by excavating the floor of the rift while your scribe blew up more boulders at the end. The floor of Paul's dig was also modified to give more working space.

Lots of spoil was shifted from the end on the 15th and a short length of open passage entered - unfortunately completely choked and not large enough to turn round in. A head-sized sandstone cobble was recovered from this area for display in the Belfry. Fluorescein, put into the stream sinking at the original dig, was not seen in Lake Chamber, St. Cuthbert's by either Vince Simmonds (three hours later) or Graham Johnson (one day later).

The 16th saw a strong team getting about 80 loads to surface and clearing out most of the cave and this work continued the following day when a great deal of rock was removed from the boulder choke. 27 loads were hauled out by Tony A. and Ray Deasy got his annual "nip over from Queensland" digging trip in!. Both Jake B. and the writer opened up side passages on the RH side which gave views into the same open passage - both being blocked by immoveable slabs. A tiny stream entered from a passage on the LH side and the noise of a larger stream below indicated that we were about to regain the water from the original dig on its way to regions unknown. A higher level route through the choke could also be seen but again was boulder-blocked. A return was made in the afternoon to drill and bang a total of six obstructive "Henrys".

The Second Breakthrough  18/1/05 - 30/1/05

Desperate to see the results of this bang your scribe returned after work on the 18th and after an hour spent clearing broken rock from the two RH digs was able to wriggle between boulders in the furthest one and enter a roomy section of passage. His impression was of being at the head of a large and steeply dipping, seriously waterworn canyon but well choked with precarious and very spiky boulders. The similarity to Eastwater is marked but the stability seems far worse! Some rearranging of the ruckle was done before a tactical retreat was made for a celebratory pint, clutching a sandstone cobble with a very fine fossil imprint. This extension was only some 5m but the potential of the cave had now increased enormously - as had the problems of exploring it... Several of the team visited the extension on the following evening but despite a good poking about were unable to get much further. Digging continued in P.P.P. and another 47 loads were hauled out.  The fossil-bearing cobble caused much bemusement in the Pub as it seems it should not exist! Luckily Jim Hanwell thought otherwise and tentatively identified the cobble as being a fine grained sandstone from the upper end of the Old Red Sandstone (near the contact with the Carboniferous limestone) and the fossil as a possible strophomenid (Brachiopod).  This is a rare and relatively important find. Dr. Willy Stanton thought otherwise and suggested it was weathered chert from the Jurassic Harptree beds with a variety of "cockle". Geologists from the Shepton Mallet C.C. favour the sandstone theory.

Ivan and the writer were back at the choke on the 21st and after a couple of hours of very selective boulder bashing were able to gain a view into ongoing passage. The relatively stable LH wall was banged the next day and the spoil cleared on the 23rd when the way on was entered but found to rapidly choke and will need more bang. A rare underground sighting of Chris Batstone was the highlight of the day!

Interest was then transferred to the stream sink below the grotto with 40 loads coming out on the 24th and various draughting holes appearing in the floor. Digging was curtailed when a very large rock slab, unknowingly undermined by the writer, slid onto him (like they do) necessitating removal by Jake B. and Tony Boycott. He was miraculously unharmed and got his own back by blowing the rock to bits and returning in the afternoon with the late Martin Bishop and Phil Romford to clear it. The latter also studied the cave geomorphology and removed cobble samples for identification. Work continued here and at Paul's Personal Project on the 26th when 53 loads came out and more boulders were banged with another 14 loads out two days later. The crawl below the grotto became awkward for skip hauling so was blasted on the 30th when another 56 loads came out.

Further  Digging  1/2/05 - 4/3/05

Throughout February the team worked hard on both Paul's Personal Project and the Grotto dig. Well over 212 loads of spoil were hauled out as, apparently, was Phil Coles - though in the Belfry Log Book he fervently denies this! Paul almost  had to be regularly hauled out as his steeply dipping dig went vertical. He has started a "J.Rat's Pump Fan Club". Sean recorded all this with his digital camera and the excellent results can be seen on his web page. A slump of the infill around the concrete pipes caused a few problems but was later made good.

March 1st saw Paul and his Makita breaking up stubborn rock at the bottom of his dig. 42 loads were hauled out and next day Jake B. started a new dig at the junction near the terminal choke dig. He was to hit the jackpot.....

The  Third  Breakthrough 5/3/05  - 15/3/05

On the 5th he returned with Tom Clayton (Birmingham U.S.S.) and Phil C. to continue work at what became known as Dig 2b. Some lengthy and dedicated digging brought them to open voids between dodgy boulders, one of which actually pivoted when touched (a great feature but now dropped for safety). Tom got the short stick and pushed on down into standing sized passage with superb formations in abundance. Jake joined him and they explored some 20m to a too

tight calcited slot. A large column-topped stal. boss, a very long straw and many helictites were only some of the stunning "pretties" in Aglarond (a Tolkienesque Elvish word meaning "glittering caves"). To quote Jake: "The best caving trip for me so far. Tom and I were first in ever in human history - or any history. FANTASTIC". Pete, John N. and Phil C. visited this wondrous extension next day in an attempt to pass the squeeze - knowing full well that your skinny scribe was returning from Meghalaya that day. Alas, they failed and the writer duly took up the challenge on the 7th when, honed to pushing perfection by three weeks of constant hard caving and a rice diet, he easily slid through into another 10m of even more well decorated passage (Aglarond II) ending in another impassable slot but with a bigger open void ahead from whence issued the sound of the stream. Ivan photographed Aglarond I and most of the formations were taped off.

The following evening a steel mesh was bolted in place near the squeeze to protect adjacent vulnerable formations. Unfortunately in the process the longest straw got broken but may be repairable. The squeeze was enlarged with Paul's 110 volt Makita hammer drill and the next calcite barrier attacked with same to get a good view into roomy and well decorated passage beyond. Ivan photographed Aglarond II.

On the 9th much of the cave was cleared of spoil - over 120 loads reaching the surface where Ivan built a dam to divert the sinking stream into the pond. A drystone retaining wall was built by Jake and team above  the latest breakthrough point and the writer continued chiselling at the end until the chisel bit snapped in two (sorry Paul). A return was made on the 11th March when almost three hours of "micro-blasting" - using single detonators and 3mm and 5mm detonating cord failed to fully open up the slot. Clearing took place on the 12th when several diggers visited the cave throughout the day. Red drain dye poured into the surface collapse sink at 8.15am was not seen in Coral Stream, St. Cuthberts three hours later and Vern also reported that at 1pm Lake Chamber was also uncoloured.

Water problems in the cave were hopefully solved on the 13th when Ivan and Bobble constructed a valved dam on the course of the Fair Lady Well stream and diverted it into the St. Cuthbert's depression. Alex Livingston and John N. widened the breakthrough squeeze to enable the more portly diggers  to reach the end.

Much micro-blasting experimentation was done at the end next morning and at the entrance Rich W. started walling up the rift below the concrete pipes. In the afternoon Ivan and the writer returned for another excruciating four hours of rock-breaking ending in frustration and the laying of a 40gm charge. The diggers vowed to look up the Elvish for "Bastard". Totally convinced that the squeeze was now wide open they returned the following evening for yet another two hours of cramped misery followed by a "final" bang. At least, the lower half of your scribe had been into Aglarond III but the upper half decided not to push his luck. Rich, meanwhile, continued with his walling project before a visit to the working face where he compared the formations with those in Charterhouse Warren Farm Swallet.

The Fourth Breakthrough  16/3/05 - 2/4/05.

Wednesday 16th March at last saw the squeeze passed after more chiselling. Once through the writer was able to assist from the far side with further enlargement enabling Ivan to join him an hour later. Aglarond III consists of a sloping "bedding chamber" some 5m wide, 1m high and 10m deep with a flowstone floor, hundreds of straws, helictites, curtains and many other formations. A tiny streamway at the bottom becomes too small and is blocked with straws while above it a tall, rift-like feature may be the best way on but is almost completely blocked by pure white columns and other formations. The extension was photographed and taped. The bruised and battered explorers returned to Ben "fatarse" Ogbourne in Aglarond II for celebratory, or in this case commiseratory, Champagne before heading out with the redundant drill and assorted rubbish. Meanwhile Pete, Phil and Jake hauled out 70 loads of spoil and one newt from the Grotto Dig area thereby tidying the place up ready for a renewed assault in an attempt to bypass the Aglarond chokes. The draught at this point is noticeably much stronger than at the current end.

Work recommenced here on the 19th March when a boulder in the floor was banged and cleared on the morrow allowing entry into some 4m of clean-washed boulder choke with a voice connection through to the head of the climb down to Aglarond. Further work in this part of the choke would be pointless and dangerous. Also on this trip Sean photographed Aglarond I and II using Alys and John N. as models.

The morning of Monday the 21st saw Rich W. completing one side of his cemented entrance wall and much tidying up on the surface. The return of "Madphil" Rowsell from Tasmania prompted the long delayed survey of the cave on the 23rd when the first task was to traverse from the St. Cuthbert's entrance pipe to that of Rose Cottage with the intention of continuing on to Eastwater in future. The cave itself was surveyed from Aglarond III to the entrance and a Lexica DISCO laser distance meter was used instead of a tape to take side legs in the areas of vulnerable formations. A total of 61m length and 29m depth was recorded - not as long as estimated but a good start for the next Digging Barrel! Meanwhile Paul's Personal Project kept the vociferous diggers amused and 41 loads were dug out and dumped. Two days later Paul returned to dig alone in peace and quiet while the surveyors continued the surface traverse to Eastwater Cavern. 65 loads came out during the next few days and other work included the completion of the entrance walling and digging and blasting in the Terminal Choke Dig where a couple of metres progress was made at high level. Further work here is following the dip of the waterworn limestone into the floor. Paul's dig was also enlarged with explosives to create more working space.

Further Digging 2/4/05 - 20/6/05.    

April commenced with 49 loads of spoil out over two days and lots of digging at both Paul's Personal Project and the Terminal Choke Dig. On the 4th Rich drystone walled the NE face of the Grotto Dig and most of the redundant steel shoring was removed. Further work was carried out in P.P.P. and a wire ladder installed to aid exit. The 5th and 6th saw more work here and another 53 loads out with a spate of showery weather making conditions below a trifle damp. Another 39 loads came out on the 10th and 11th, a good percentage of this being bang debris from blasted out roof pendants whose removal was necessary to create working space in the rapidly dwindling phreatic bedding plane. During the following week 55 loads came out and several blasting trips took place to remove a stubborn bed of hard limestone which bisected two of the three diggable phreatic tubes in P.P.P. Much tidying of the surface was also done. Another bang in the central phreatic tube on the 16th was later cleared of 33 loads of spoil by the able-bodied diggers while your scribe was reduced to the role of dig historian following an unfortunate incident involving tap-dancing officianado Mike Willet, several libations, a pair of steel-shod Lancashire clogs and a flagstone kitchen floor. This mix resulted in a fractured fibula and much frustration.

Thirteen more loads came out of P.P.P. on the 27th when Paul reported the phreatic tubes to be looking more promising after the limestone bridge had partially gone. A spell of wet weather and the necessity of flushing out the squalor in this dig caused some ponding problems and so, on the 4th May, Pete commenced a new dig in the small boulder chamber at the lowest accessible part of the main choke before Aglarond 1. To avoid the confusion of a numbering system "Pete's Baby" is proposed as the name for this site ("I don't know what it's called - it's Pete's baby" - Sean ). 16 loads of spoil went all the way from here to the surface due to the presence of eight keen and efficient diggers.

Thanks to the much appreciated assistance of Stu Sale the writer was able to abseil down to P.P.P. on the 9th of May to drill two long shotholes in the LH wall of the upper phreatic tube and lay a 40gm cord charge. This was later noisily fired from the surface following a delicate prusik out. SRT digging comes to Mendip. Two days later 20 loads and two newts were hauled out from this site, mainly from the two lower tubes. Paul filled ten skips on the 13th providing space for Tony Boycott to drill and bang the limestone bridge in the middle tube a couple of days later. On this trip the writer started clearing the upper tube and continued this next day while Tony Audsley bagged the middle tube bang debris. Another charge was then fired in the latter. A strong Wednesday night team cleared 64 loads from this area on the 18th May and did a modicum of work in Pete's Baby.

A week later 18 more loads were hauled out with another 40 removed on the 29th when superb bank holiday weather lured a large team of diggers and onlookers to the site. June 1st saw 19 loads (and a newt) reaching the surface following much spoil breaking by Paul and Ben in the middle tube during which they opened up a tiny airspace with some mini-formations. Pete then drilled two holes in a floor slab and the writer charged these with 40gm cord. A resounding bang heralded the removal of the slab (and the mini-formations!). Sean, alas, was the next regular digger to suffer enforced retirement having been bitten by a possibly rabid Spanish mugger while enjoying a dirty weekend in Barcelona. This resulted in a plastered arm and an even better excuse to avoid winching than the writer's! The bang spoil was removed on the 5th June when another 12 skiploads came out from the rapidly enlarging middle tube - sometimes affectionately referred to as "Bored of the Rings". The diggers were eventually driven out by headaches attributable to both bang and booze.

On June 6th the upper tube was dug separately by both the writer and Alex and more work here was done by Paul next day when he pumped out the middle tube with a smaller submersible electric pump. This allowed 40 loads of spoil to come out on the 8th when reports from the working face indicated easy digging and loading conditions. Paul dug solo again on the 11th resulting in 43 loads coming out next day when, towards the end of the session, John opened up a draughting hole with open passage visible beyond. Exultation soon turned to disappointment when it was realised that this passage had already been entered from Mt. Hindrance Lane above - Bored of the Rings having popped out in the floor below the first grotto to create a short but entertaining round trip! Fortunately there was also ongoing, diggable passage to the right of the connection where water apparently sinks. More work was done here on the 13th by Alex and the writer on separate solo trips.

The opening up of the connection continued on Wednesday 15th June with digging in B.o.t.R. and digging/rock breaking below the grotto. 40 skiploads of spoil eventually reached the surface despite a poor turnout of regulars. An obstructive rock slab on the grotto side of the link was banged next day and several skips filled. The bang debris was cleared by Paul two days later when many skips and bags were filled at both ends of the loop and the "round trip" was eventually completed by Fiona and the writer. The latter two continued digging and stacking full bags on the 19th. A healthy 80 loads were removed on the 20th June and work continues following the now vertical floor of B.o.t.R. down the side of the main choke.

The Digging Team and Acknowledgements

Just about everyone who visits the Belfry has been involved at some point. In addition to those mentioned above other stalwarts are Andy Smith, Ben Selway, Jack Lambert, Lee Stackett, Graham, Chrissie and Sam Price (CerSS), Luke Baynes, Greg Brock, Justine Emery (CSS), Martin Smith (OSCG), Rich Gulvin, Dave Sutherland, Ian Barker and Mark Craske (all MNRC), Ros White, Alys Mendus (SUSS), Mike Willet, Martin Grass, Alan Gray (ACG), Martin Peters, Steve Chitty, Jason Wilkes, John Walsh, Mark "Shaggy" Howden, Martin Ellis (SMCC), John Christie.

Our grateful thanks to Geoff and Carol Selway, Ivan and Fiona Sandford, Nigel Taylor and Dave Speed for services beyond the call of duty. Alan Quantrill for expert JCB manipulation, the BEC committee, John Sheppey (Somerset Fire Brigade), the Wig - for thought-provoking theories, Sett, Alfie Collins for his quote, Jim Hanwell, Willy Stanton and assorted geologists for cobble identification, Chris Binding (CheddarCC / CSCC) for conservation tape and the loan of a laser distancemeter.


IRWIN D.J. et al 1991 St. Cuthbert's Swallet.  Bristol Exploration Club

WILLIAMS R.J.G. 1998  The St. Cuthbert's Roman Mining Settlement, Priddy, Somerset: Aerial Photographic Recognition. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Spelaeological Society. 21(2). p.123-132.

ROWSELL P. (Madphil) 2004 The trials and tribulations of Eastwater. Belfry Bulletin No.519, Bristol Exploration Club. 53(5). p.9-20.

LONG R.  2005  Mel-low digs and Russian Woman Hands. Belfry Bulletin No.521, Bristol Exploration Club, 54. (1).pp18-21.        

ROWSELL P. (Madphil) 2005 Morton’s Pot – the final solution. Belfry Bulletin No.522, Bristol Exploration Club, 54(2).pp18-21





The Rise and Fall of the B.E.C. Membership (1943-2004)

By Andy MacGregor

EXPANSION – 1943 to 1951

The members who existed in September 1943 numbered 14 as one might well expect in the middle of the war. In contrast, their staying power was better than average which, again, one might expect from those people who effectively started the club going again.  Much the same remained true of the 1944 (18 members) and the 1945 (17 members) batches.

Thus, by the end of the war, the total number of club members was 47 as 5 had left, but their staying power meant that losses from these groups would be low in future years, and would thus help to keep numbers up.  Members who are still seen from time to time from these batches include Harry Stanbury (Number 1) and Bob Bagshaw (Number 20).

In 1946, with the war now over, new members started to arrive in large numbers. Some were friends of B.E.C. members who had been in the forces with them and who were now demobbed. Others had been students during the war. 'Sett' (Number 78) is an example of the latter group.  Although the staying power of the 1946 batch was only average, its large number of new members, plus the low loss batches, pushed the total up.  By the end of 1946 we had 69 members, only 15 had left from the list started in 1943.

From 1947 to 1950, an even greater expansion occurred.  Very large numbers of new members joined in each of these years.  The membership by the end of 1950 was 129.  Among this ‘intake’ of new members were a number of well known personalities including Pat Ifold (number 150); Jill Tuck (number 157); Norman Petty (number 160) and Roy Bennett (number 214).  Derek Targett's father - Fred Targett - was also a member at about this time.

BAD PATCH……(1951 to 1957)

In contrast with the expansion shown above, the club actually - and steadily - DECREASED in size from 1951 to 1957.  At the start of this bad patch, the club had 129 members, while at the end of the bad patch, it had sunk to 116.  The decrease in membership was simply due to the fact that greater than average losses occurred in nearly every year.  In other words, members suddenly began to leave the club earlier than one might expect, and this did not depend on how long they had been members.  For some reason, the club had stopped keeping its members happy - old and young alike.

In 1953, the club discovered a major Mendip cave right on its own doorstep AND negotiated an access agreement which, in those days, virtually meant that any caver who wanted to explore Cuthbert’s regularly had to be a member of B.E.C.  One might reasonably expect that this would have given membership a boost, but IT HAD NOT THE SLIGHTEST EFFECT.  Indeed, the year following the discovery of Cuthbert’s was the worst of the whole period.


In the five years from 1957 to 1962, the club quite suddenly and dramatically expanded again at a rate nearly equal to its post-war growth.  From a situation in which the club seemed to have saturated at just over a hundred members it suddenly leaped into a position where it had nearly twice that number of members.  All this happened without any external factors like the ending of the war to account for the large growth.  It is thus a very remarkable occurrence.  At the end of 1962 we had 189 members.  After 1962, the increase levelled off.

What happened in 1951 which suddenly caused members to be less satisfied with the club, and what else happened (or what stopped happening) in 1957 which so dramatically reversed this trend?

In 1951, Harry Stanbury - the founder of the B.E.C. and the then current Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer, resigned from the club committee and all his offices.  Dan Hassell also resigned at B.B. Editor. Reading the B.B. before this date will show that it contained a great deal of news of club members and of social and other events on Mendip as well as caving news.  In other words, the B.B. formed a strong link between the club on Mendip and in Bristol and those members who could only appear at infrequent intervals.  Members thus tended to hang on to their membership so that they could find out what their friends were doing and what was going on 'on the hill'.

After Harry's resignation, his posts as Hon. Sec. and Hon. Treasurer were ably filled by the (then) young Bob Bagshaw.  The B.B. proved more difficult to get anyone to take on and for a year or so it was actually run from London by Don Coase and John Shorthose.  Even when Harry was persuaded to come back and edit it again, it was not the same. As Secretary, he had previously run features like 'From the Hon. Sec's Postbag' - which he could no longer write. Even members addresses were not published over most of the period 1951 to 1957.

In 1957, the B.B. was handed over by the A.G.M. to a group of active club members who produced most of the 'chat' which members said they missed and also gave the B.B. a facelift.


The period of time covered by this part is that stretching from 1962 to 1985.  This is the longest stretch covered in our review.

If you look at the graph which should have appeared in the preceding BB and can be seen below, it appears to reveal a very slowly growing club until this period, when the membership numbers hovered around the 200 mark, which when all said and done, should have remained around that figure.

The sudden boost in 1989 is due to a sudden increase of 30 new members with an average decrease. Most years previously we had an increase/decrease of approximately 17 members annually.  In 1990 the annual new members dripped back to the average of 17 with hardly any members leaving.  In 1992 we see the opposite and by 1993, the membership is back to around the 200 mark.

From 1993 to the present day we see a decline to 130 members for 2004.

The drop in 2003 can be explained by the fact that all life members were contacted to see if any of them were still around, and a few were either not interested in keeping up with the club, or had vanished.

Could the drop from 2001 to the present day be the same as for the drop from 1951 to 1957, which was attributed to the lack of a regular appearance of the BB or when it did appear, there was not much news about people and any new discoveries?

The drop from the peak of 1991 to 2001 can be attributed to the steady decline in this country of people wanting to go caving, coupled with the fact that the finding of new caves has become increasingly scarce/difficult.

2001 did not help with the Foot and mouth epidemic, in which many country side sports suffered and never recovered to the previous membership numbers.

If the BEC wishes to keep at least on a steady level of membership, the BB needs to be at least issued bi-monthly in order to keep the non-Bristol area members interested. [Any comments ? – Ed]



A note from Mike Wilson,      Hon. Treasurer

As you all should know by now we [the club] have been trying to set up an insurance scheme with the BCRA and all other clubs to remedy the fact that the old insurance company just ran away from us .

Last year was a bit messy but now the system has settled down and we all anticipate that it will run for many years to come .

As far as the BEC is concerned there are no problems. The extra cost is not excessive and the coverage remains the same as before [I keep a copy of the policy if anyone wishes to check it out].

With regard to payment it is vital that everyone pays their dues before the end of January so that we can submit a list of insured members to the BCA. Anyone paying late will make it very difficult for us, as the list has to be submitted at the latest by the date above. This system is far superior to the earlier one as each member is listed  and logged to be either insured for caving activities, or insured with another club, the people who have not requested insurance are not covered  for any caves requiring permits in the UK or abroad, digging activities on private land, or operating as guides or cave leaders. THIS MEANS ALL CUTHBERT’S LEADERS MUST HAVE  THE BCA INSURANCE !!!!.

Anyone who is a probationary member or has joined in the middle of the Club year can, if they wish, pay a proportionate sum to be insured i.e. 6 months into the club year 50% of the premium.

The BCA Policy is available on the net at www.british-caving.org.uk , for anyone who wishes to keep a copy for landowners etc.

We would like next years subs payment, [due next Oct /Jan 2006]  to include the insurance payment if required, at this moment in time the BCA state that the cost should be the same  i.e. £15.00 on top of the normal subs .This would assist Fiona and myself as we have to sort out the membership forms and pay the premium by the end of January.

Please note that you are covered for worldwide caving activities but not USA and CANADA. Also this is not a travel policy IT DOES NOT COVER MEDICAL EXPENSES OR RESCUE!!!!!!!! The indemnity limit is £2,000,000 and there is an excess for any claim. At the time of writing it is £2.500 .for normal caving incidents. I hope that this helps everyone understand fully the extent of cover which has been a bit vague in the past. 


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Digging Update

By Tony Jarratt

Continued from BB 519

July 4th saw a tidying up trip to Slop 3 where recent heavy showers had raised the water level over a metre. A steep slope was created from the spoil dump at the bottom of Pewter Pot to the current pool surface.

Next day a 15 shothole charge - using 12/100gm detonating cord - was fired at Stillage Sump. It was noted that the recent rains had caused water to flow into Hangover Hall via the squeeze located some 2m above stream level - possibly due to an inwashed 25 litre plastic drum blocking the lower passage. Our next clearing trip here was on the 12th when an eight shothole charge was fired. An identical charge was fired on the 14th and cleared on the 18th when Duncan Butler and the writer came out from the sump by "braille", both of their lamps having failed at the same time. Next day a thirteen shothole charge was fired and this was partially cleared on the 21st when nine holes were drilled and the four diggers got a dose of "bang head" from residual fumes. Five of these holes were charged with 100gm cord on the 26th and noisily fired.

The previous day more clearing work was done at Slop 3 where much higher water levels prevented forward progress - by August 1st there was only a slight drop here so no digging was done. A possible high level passage above some fine formations halfway along Barmaids' Bedrooms was investigated but was found to be calcite choked.

The 28th July saw another banging/clearing session at Stillage Sump when the remaining four holes were utilised and the spoil was cleared on the 2nd August when visiting Hungarian caver and au pair Andi Vajdics worked hard in the doubtful air conditions. As a reward she was taken to see the bone deposit where a calcite coated bison molar was recovered for future scientific investigation - H.L.I.S.47. More clearing of the sump floor was done on the 4th. The water level at Slop 3 was still too high on the 9th so the writer probed the two dry dig sites beyond the bone deposit. Both were found to require banging to gain access to possible open passages beyond. This was accomplished on Wednesday the 11th August when a large team, diverted from other dig sites by heavy rain, assembled at the spot. The debris from both bangs was cleared on the 13th and the higher site found to soon close down in a massive boulder choke. The lower passage looked more promising and so another charge was fired here to knock off a corner. Escaping the horrors of Priddy Fair a small team returned on the 18th to push this to a boulder blockage where a large bison(?) vertebra was found. It was decided that due to lack of space and the size of the choke more thorough investigation of the area should be done before further banging.

August 15th saw a nine hole bang at Stillage Sump and some preliminary geomorphological investigation by Toby Maddocks (U.B.S.S.). Clearing, spoil stacking, drilling and banging continued on August 23rd with a surprisingly large Monday morning team who all got damp on the way out due to heavy rain. Three more trips this month resulted in over forty bags of spoil being dug from the sump floor and the survey of Old Peculier Aven completed. Another dozen loads were excavated on September 1st and ten more on the 6th when the sump walls were widened by blasting and the calcited ceiling choke banged on the suggestion of Vince Simmonds. The cave booze theme has transformed this into Simond's Choke after the famous, defunct brewery.

A spell of fine, dry weather caused the water level in Slop 3 to drop several feet and further work was done here on September 8th along with tidying up digs at both ends of B.B. and the discovery of a superbly preserved reindeer (?) tooth. It was noted on this trip that the long stalactite in Happy Hour Highway, painstakingly mended by Messrs Glanvill & Rose, had been once again partly smashed off by an unthinking and incompetent visitor. In this case it is known to have been broken on a Wessex tourist trip - as was its even longer companion destroyed some months ago. There are no plans to mend these formations but there are definite changes in access procedure being considered.

A large turnout on the 15th saw lots of spoil from S.S. dumped in the rapidly filling Hangover Hall and some small progress at the end. Four days later the dam was reinforced with concrete and a new wall of "deads" commenced above it. More digging was done in the choke which was left to "dig itself". This continued next day with the aid of a 2m steel rod until discretion proved the better part of valour and a retreat was made. A little more work was done here on the 22nd but it was judged to be too dangerous to continue without banging a boulder acting like a plug in a giant egg-timer. This was done two days later when a dozen tiny toads were rescued and added to the rapidly expanding community in Andy and Pams' pond. Sixteen more came out on the 27th - the day the choke was passed after some decidedly adrenalin producing digging. Unfortunately, after a couple of metres, this promising site turned into a massive choke of calcited boulders with no feasible way on. The last dig of September, on the 29th, removed all the fallen spoil from the choke and a few more loads from the sump floor. There was now not only a lack of air but also of enthusiasm. After many months of hard and exasperating work this area may now be abandoned, at least for the winter.

A tourist/conservation trip on October 1st saw yellow plastic tent pegs emplaced to emphasise the formation tape.

On the day after the club dinner an enthusiastic Fiona Crozier dived in both Hair of the Dog Sump and Slop 3 as a training exercise. Although, in the latter, she was unable to get under the "downstream" lip she was inspired to return next day with the writer as surface controller. She spent over fifteen minutes digging underwater and intends to continue this project as there is now no way that this sump will drain this year. On this trip a stream was actually flowing down Pewter Pot. Her co-diver from Leeds, Debbie Feeney, unfortunately lost a contact lens on the way down Pub Crawl and aborted her trip.

A tourist trip to Pewter Pot on October 6th found Slop 1 to be sumped and thus Hair of the Dog and Broon Ale Boulevard inaccessible and others on the 11th and 25th proved this to still be the case. On this latter trip Guy Munnings and the writer were almost caught out at RRR by the very sudden appearance of a "Swildon's-size" stream. Many of the team now turned their attentions to the new surface dig behind the Belfry with a brief session for some at Rana Hole in Sutherland. On November 3rd all the 110v cables, the bang wire and the pump were laboriously removed from the cave and the twenty-odd 25 litre drums transported from RRR to HHH as the lower levels were abandoned for the winter.

A Wessex tourist party informed the writer that BBB had become inaccessible due to a large slab having slid into the Slop 1 crawl from the RH wall. This problem will be resolved this summer.


Dr. Tom Higham of the Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit reported that the Bison priscus bone sent to Oxford for radiocarbon dating had been proven to be over 55,000 years old. Dr. Roger Jacobi identified and returned HLIS 47 (Bison priscus - right M2) and HLIS 48 (Rangifer tarandus - right M1/M2). Tangent gave a short lecture on the cave at the "Mendip Hills AONB Strategy for the Historic Environment Seminar" held at Ubley on 23rd October.

More diggers and acknowledgements.

Duncan Butler (Newbury & District C.C./B.E.C.), Frome Caving Club (donation to the Bang Fund), Dr. Tom Higham (Oxford University Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit), Lee Stackett, Bob "Bobble" Lavington, Andrea "Andi" Vajdics (Papp Ferenc Barlangkutato Csoport - Hungary), Toby Maddocks (U.B.S.S.), John Noble, George Cheshire (Bradford P.C.), Vanessa and Sean Hedley, Emily Davis (Helderberg Hudson Grotto, N.S.S., U.S.A.), Nick Gymer, Kev Gurner, Debbie Feeney, Mike and Ruth Merrett (SMCC).


Meghalaya 2005 - Discoveries in the Jaintia and West Khasi Hills

By : Tony Jarratt


BB 516 and 519. G.S.G. bulletins, fourth series, vol 1 nos. 4 and 5, vol 2 no. 2. Meghalaya Adventurers' Association (soft bound history of MAA and overview of Meghalayan caving available from BEC and GSG libraries)

Personnel :

UK - Simon Brooks (OCC/GSG), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Mark Brown (SUSS), Tony Boycott (BEC/GSG/UBSS), Jayne Stead (GSG), Fraser Simpson (GSG), Graham Marshall (GSG), Dan Harries (GSG), Joanne Whistler (OUCC), Lesley Yuen (OCC). Eire - Brian MacCoitir, Robin Sheen, Quentin Cooper (all BC). Austria - Peter Ludwig (LVHOO). Germany - Georg Baumler (HHVL), Christian Fischer (AHKG), Rainer Hoss (HFGN), Christine and Herbert Jantschke (HFGOK), Thilo Muller (AHKG). Switzerland - Thomas Arbenz (SNT), Julien Oppliger (SCI), India - Brian Kharpran Daly (MA/GSG), Gregory Diengdoh, Shelley Diengdoh, Dale Mawlong, Teddy Mawlong. Ronnie Mawlong, Sheppard Najier and others (all MA), Raplang Shangpliang (Shnongrim guide turned caver!), Pradeep Gogoi and his film team ( Assam).

     Adison "Adi" Thaba (camp manager/driver), Bung Diengdoh (driver/organizer), David Kimberly Marak (driver/organizer), Shamphang Lyngdoh (driver/cook/betel addict), Vinod Sunar, Alam "Munna" Khan (cook), Myrkassim Swer (head cook), Bhaikon Hazarika, Pulin Bara, Kamal Pradhan (cooking assistants), Mr. Sukhlain (Doloi or "king" of Nongkhlieh Elaka), Carlyn Phyrngap (were-tiger), Pa Heh Pajuh, Menda Syih, Shartis Dkhar, Heipormi Pajuh, Evermore Sukhlain, Moses A. Marak, Ramhouplien Tuolor, Boren G. Momin, Roilian Nampui, (village headmen, guides and local characters), Grewin R. Marak, Blaster Jana, Tobias Syiem, Mr. Roy (Meghalaya Police), Pambina A. Marak, Josbina N. Marak (cooking assistants).

     The BEC/GSG contingent - Dr.B., your scribe, Fraser and Graham - flew from Heathrow to Kolkata (nee Calcutta) on the 3rd February to meet the holiday-making Jayne at the ever popular Fairlawn Hotel where our first Indian beers were gratefully quaffed. On the following day's internal flight to Guwahati the soft southerners were upgraded to Club Class and the heathen Scots left in the back with the plebs. Obviously offended by this they mutinied in Assam and buggered off to the heavy snow and street gunfighting of Darjeeling for a relaxing few days. The Mendippers continued by taxi to Shillong to meet Brian K.D. and family and the first wave of our cosmopolitan colleagues. Beer once again featured strongly in the evening's programme.

Jaintia Hills

After a day in the city sorting equipment and shopping we all left for the Jaintia Hills on the 7th arriving at our superb bamboo camp in the late afternoon. Here we were welcomed by the locals and camp staff and settled in for a few more beers - around the campfire for a change.

With local guide-turned-caver Raplang some of us investigated several new sites on Khloo Rasong, the NW side of the Shnongrim ridge a couple of kilometres from camp, the primary aim being to gain access to the Krem Um Im 5 section of Krem Liat Prah. Of these Krem Urle 1 (cave in the mudslide area) was later to provide some painful caving in an essentially flat-out, boulder and cobble floored stream passage entered via 100m of well rigged and attractive pitches and becoming too narrow after 0.8kms. Only a considerable amount of squeezing and digging enabled us to get this far. Shelley's fondest memory of the place was her unintentionally using a large freshwater crab as a handhold! Two sections of large, dry fossil tunnel failed to yield any easier overhead routes. The general direction of the cave was towards the ever growing Krem Liat Prah system but a dye trace was not detected due to the time scales involved and the logistics of getting observers to the predicted connection points at the right time. This was to prove a problem with several other attempted traces and future work should involve detectors which could be collected and checked when convenient. Also, even in the wettest place on Earth, there are times of low water flow and February is one of them. Several other caves in this area looked promising but soon became choked or too small.

Having failed to find an easy way into the extremely promising Ratbat River in the Krem Um Im 5 section of the Liat Prah system we bit the bullet and returned to the horrors of the crawls, boulder chokes and crab-infested streamway (Shnongrim Sewer) of this cave. The long duck at the end of the Sewer had luckily dropped by a metre and Tony, Jayne and I were soon in the unexplored Ratbat River itself. Downstream was surveyed for 40m to a deep canal, later surveyed for another 137m of swimming to a probable sump. Other members of the expedition were to make some hard won advances in the stunning resurgence cave of Krem Wah Shikar and they were also stopped by a sump. The computer generated surface map, the "Big Picture", shows this to be heading towards Ratbat River and divers may be needed next year to attempt the connection and hopefully add Wah Shikar to Liat Prah to give a length of over 20kms.

Upstream Ratbat River produced some fine phreatic tunnels but after 300m and an awkward dig through boulders we were stopped by a classic Shnongrim Ridge boulder choke - huge and impassable. What we assume is the Krem Urle stream emerges from beneath but for us "cave finish".

This year there was an almost complete absence of bats as opposed to the hundreds seen in 2004. Also absent were the "Lilliputian monkey-coloured people" who Carlyn assured us frequent the cave entrances in the Um Im area (or has there been a secret Wessex expedition?).

Other work in the Um Im area involved digging, pot-bashing, re-surveying and recce. The re-survey of Krem Um Im 7 added 226m to Liat Prah but other promising sites closed down. There is still a great deal to explore in this heavily forested area but each year gets easier as the jungle is cleared for cultivation.

With our first two big caves concluded work concentrated on the amazing Krem Synrang Ngap, left fallow last year due to the pressure of other discoveries. The traditional 100m of entrance pitches were again superbly rigged by Mark and team and parties then set off through the downstream crawls and ducks and a couple of kms of scrambling over huge calcite bosses to reach a major junction. Downstream a huge boulder choke soon loomed up and a possible way through was left for a thin men team next year. This may be beneath the oppressive Krem Bir. Just back upstream from this a massive inlet tunnel became the focus of attention for those not minding a cold 5m swim. With a rope and life jacket installed we were soon harvesting the metres beyond. Brian M, Gregory and I were continuing the survey on the 19th February when the impressive draught dropped as we entered a smaller section of passage ending in too tight rifts. On heading back Brian noticed a side passage with a severe looking squeeze through hefty formations from whence the gale emerged. Being the skinniest I got the job and was soon sprinting up 100m or so of very attractive potholed galleries with cave pearl-like sandstone pebbles in the floor that were identical to the local kids' catapult pellets. This became "Thin Man's Inlet" and another, larger passage back downstream "Fat Man's Inlet".

On the 23rd, after three days of "easy" surface recce, a return was made to enlarge the squeeze and survey on upstream. Quentin, Greg and I were the most anorexically designed for this operation and were soon clocking up the metres again until a chest deep pool, twin 30m avens and a complicated series of crawling passages temporarily held us up. Greg finally hit the jackpot after crawling down the "Gravel Grovel" into a magnificent stream passage stretching into the distance - the "Great Straight". We were ecstatic but confused as we were now obviously heading downstream after having travelled upstream for several hundred metres!

Scooping 30m tape legs we marched enthusiastically onwards to intersect a fine phreatic bore tube containing impressive columns and curtains. This, in turn, broke into the side of an even larger passage which immediately sumped to the right but continued to the left as a large canyon with its higher level in the form of a wide fossil tunnel. We climbed up into this for ease of surveying and Greg, leading with the tape, scrambled up a steep mud slope into a black void above. Cries of astonishment from this normally quiet Meghalayan caver spurred us on to ditch the survey and join him in the huge, mud and sand dune floored chamber that continued to the left and ahead as 8m wide phreatic tunnels. The sound of a large stream emanated from the distance so, with time running out, we rushed off for a look at the large phreatic river passage crossing under the chamber from right to left and heading for regions unknown. We assumed that we had reached the stream from Krem Synrang Labbit and had actually left Krem Synrang Ngap to enter a completely different drainage system. In recognition of Greg's discovery the huge void was named Meghalayan Adventurers' Chamber. With a total of 455m surveyed we were more than happy to stagger back to the surface which we reached after a 9 1/2 hr trip - knackered but elated.

A couple of fruitless days were then spent trying to reach the new extensions via undescended potholes in the jungle-covered pinnacle karst above. This very difficult terrain was thoroughly scoured by Quentin and Greg and three short but sweet vertical caves discovered, unfortunately all closing down before breaking through into the "master cave" below. Peter and I spent one day on this project then diverted to Krem Synrang Labbit to put flourescein into the downstream river in the hope of proving the connection.

A large "shit or bust" team" entered Krem Synrang Ngap on the 27th February with Quentin, Greg and I being the thin men. Mark, Brian M, (less anorexically challenged), Shelley, Lesley and Jo headed for Fat Man's Inlet in an attempt to bypass the squeeze. We followed the huge M.A.Chamber to a conclusion at a mud choke above a steep, slippery and hazardous mud "mountain" with large boulder chokes below from which issued both the main stream and a healthy inlet stream with clearer water. This was particularly noticeable as we were all convinced that the larger flow had a distinct green tinge to it from the dye inserted in Krem Synrang Labbit the previous day. A couple of ways on here need to be checked next year in the hope of passing the upstream chokes. Downstream yet another huge boulder choke curtailed our progress but again there are possible routes through it. Time had run out for further pushing as it was now past 10pm. The sound of voices heralded the arrival of the more rotund team whom we assumed had bypassed the squeeze. We were suitably chastised when it was revealed that their inlet had soon fizzled out and they had followed us through the tight bit after an hour of hammer and chisel work - fair play to 'em. For one of the gentlemen (who shall remain nameless but said "feck" a lot) disrobing to his shreddies was necessary and had the secondary benefit of reducing the girlies to hysterical laughter as he cursed his way through. They were suitably impressed with the extensions so we left them brewing up and admiring the place while we headed out to our beer supplies stashed in the cave entrance where we intended to bivouac until morning. With tongues hanging out we sweated up the 100m of rope only to find that the local kids had snaffled most of the ale - bastards. Luckily Greg had extra supplies and a couple of rum filled Coke bottles were unearthed from the depths of tackle bags to quench our alcoholic thirsts. A fire was lit outside and Greg cooked soup as the others gradually emerged from the depths to the night sounds of the jungle. Honorary thin man Brian M, relieved to have escaped from the jaws of the squeeze, produced a bottle of Courvoisier and the mini-party got into full swing  before we retired for a few hours draughty kip.

Fraser, Brian K.D. and Graham woke us at 10am and helped sherpa the kit up to the road. We had been underground for 20 hours but had another 800m in the bag after a classic Meghalayan caving trip. A resurvey trip in another part of the cave later brought the total length of this sporting system up to 4.17kms with plenty more to be found. A physical connection upstream to Krem Synrang Labbit may not be easy but downstream is more promising with the sound of the river emanating from beyond the choke. The probable resurgence for both this and the original main stream is Krem Iawe, situated several kms to the WNW. Pushing trips will require underground camping to be viable unless other ways in from the jungle covered slopes of Khloo Krang south of the cave can be found. If Krem Krang Maw and/or Krem Krang Wah are the feeders to Krem Synrang Labbit then the whole system, if connections could be established, would be over 20km long. Time will tell.

My last trip of the expedition was to the awesome system of Krem Umthloo  - my "baby" - in an attempt to smash up a hanging boulder preventing access to a 10m high inlet which could be seen beyond. This lay at the end of International Schweinehund Passage and not too far from the boulder choke entrance to the cave. Unfortunately my colleagues, Quentin and Raplang, were not in the right frame of mind which made for a frustrating outing. This was probably Raplang's first proper caving trip and he had to be restrained from carving OUT, with accompanying arrows, every few metres. Quentin was pretty burnt out from three weeks of extreme caving and decided to sit it out just before the dig site was reached. Not having been able to scrounge any explosives I was armed with a hefty hammer and set to on the rock which was calcited into the ceiling of a low crawl. Suddenly the whole boulder dropped out with an earth shaking thud which roused Quentin from his lethargy. I was just able to shift it enough to squeeze past into the big stuff beyond and the others eventually followed. Sod's Law then decreed that this fine passage soon ended at a calcited aven with an unpleasant crawl to one side which became too tight. It also became too toxic after Quentin inadvertently set fire to the tape with his lamp! Raplang was by now totally mind blown by the curious antics of the Ferengis and we, in turn, were equally mind blown by the noise of what could only be described as loud snoring emanating from a low duck at the base of the aven. The source of this weird and somewhat disturbing phenomenon will have to wait another year to be discovered but is doubtless related to siphoning water or an intermittent draught. It just begged the name of Snoring Duck Aven.

Lots of other trips and projects took place during the three weeks of field work. Mark pushed his own "hot tip", Krem Wah Ser, to discover one of the finest caves on the Ridge with 3.26kms of superbly decorated passages entered via c.40m of pitches and with a resurgence exit. New girls Jo and Lesley were very impressed with the cave but took some time to get used to the monster spiders that seem to be even larger than normal in this area. An upstream sump in this cave possibly connects with the 1.8km long Krem Muid, itself being adjacent to the 13.5km+ of the Krem Umthloo system.

Robin's dedicated recce. and exploration of totally obscure sites led to the discovery of Krem Brisang and it's connection with Krem Wah Shikar, itself being greatly extended by Mark, Peter, Jo and Thomas after some inventive and entertaining aid climbing to pass dodgy boulder chokes. Tom, despite suffering bouts of illness, was keen to see his particular "baby" develop to its current length of 2.56km and also sorted out lots of survey and computer problems with typically calm Swiss efficiency. He also tidied up question marks in Krem Liat Prah and aided by Peter, taught Rainer to understand British caving eccentrics! This worked so well that Rainer became an honorary one. On Tom's return to Switzerland he slaved away over his computer to produce two superb "Big Picture" area maps of the Ridge - one with added landscape detail. The map appended is updated from these.

Georg, Rainer, Thilo, Christian, Herbert and Christine spent a few days continuing with the long standing survey of one of India's most stunning cave systems, Pielkhlieng - Sielkan Pouk, to bring it up to 10.3km with many more km left to explore in the future. This one is the "baby" of Georg who is convinced that it will be India's (if not the Earth's) longest and is already the best in the Multiverse. Photographs of this cracking system would seem to prove him correct! They also surveyed 580m in Saisi Dungkhur near Moolian village and reported the cave to be ongoing.

In the temperance zone of Semmasi Krem Tyngheng was extended from 3.75km to 5.32km by Simon, Greg, Tom, Julien, Tony B. and Jayne and many leads remain for next year in this labyrinthine system.

Mainly assisted by Graham, Fraser once again spent lots of time videoing the caves, coal mining operations and local colour. He also sub-contracted to Pradeep and his Assamese team who were making a documentary on Meghalayan caves and cave life. Dan, Christian and Julien also became briefly involved in this as they were engaged in intensive speleobiological research throughout their stay. Dan and Simon were also able to arrange a future collaboration with several eminent professors from the Dept. of Zoology at the North East Hill University, Shillong.

Brian K.D. spent much time being interviewed by the press and we were all captured on film or caught by the papperazzi (nasty) at some point. The reason for all the press interest was the growing confrontation between environmentalists, cavers and locals and the recently much more mechanised cement industry which has begun to encroach on India's current longest cave, Krem Kot Sati / Umlawan, and other important karst / hydrological areas including the Shnongrim Ridge.

West Khasi Hills

On Sunday 20th February the West Khasi Hills team eventually left Shillong after a series of delays due to bureaucracy and arrived at the riverside village of Ranikor at 6pm. Next day, with a bodyguard of three armed policemen, they drove on to Maheshkola, encountering more delays at the Border Security Force post. A third day of delays due to tyre punctures and having to repair road bridges before using them finally saw them reach their destination - the Rong Dangi village school - where the local kids were perfectly happy to get a surprise holiday in return for accommodating the Ferengis. The caves of Panigundur and Mondil Kol were connected by Simon, Georg and Julien after a survey of 242m and another 339m added in the latter cave by Dr.B, Christian, Thilo, Herbert and Christine. The 23rd saw the team adding another 1.16km to the system. Videoing and biological studies were also undertaken here.

Rong Dangi Rongkol was extended by 680m next day and Morasora Kol by 431m. On the 25th the fine river sink of Gurmal Janggal Rongkol was descended via a series of short, free-climbable pitches and connected to the growing Mondil Kol master system.

Things took a turn for the worse the following day when a failed rock belay followed both Jayne and the rope and sling she was using to the floor 5m below, leaving the expedition doctor and a paucity of ladders at the top of the pitch! More tackle was fetched and the injured one recovered and carried piggy-back to the accommodation by the good doctor (who I gather was glad she was a featherweight). After her last broken leg epic all were relieved when a badly sprained ankle was diagnosed - though it unfortunately curtailed her caving for the rest of the expedition. Despite this accident another 470m was in the bag and more biological work was done by the scientists.

Morasora Kol was added to the system on the 27th and over 400m surveyed. Next day Morasora Bridge Pot joined in the fun with 248m of passage, an excuse to do a photographic through trip by Christine, Herbert and Thilo and a good reason to re-name the whole 5.8km system the Morasora River Cave.


To sum up: yet another enjoyable and successful expedition with great company, food, beer and superb sporting caving. Despite initially poor weather - gales, fog, wind, heavy rain and low temperatures - and a couple of earthquakes - everyone enjoyed themselves and contributed towards piecing together the fascinating undergound jigsaw puzzles of various bits of Meghalaya. Our thanks to Brian K.D. and the Meghalayan Adventurers, the Ladies of Shillong and all the helpers and locals who helped make it work so well. The overall surveyed length in all the areas visited this year was just over 19km. Not bad considering the nature of the new stuff under the Ridge and the travel logistics to reach other areas. We were unable this year to visit the "vulture cave halfway up a 1000m cliff" or the "cave with clouds in" due to insurgency problems but there's always next year. Probably more important this year was the interaction with the locals, press, scientists and environmentalists - hopefully just in time to preserve some of the planet's finest caving areas from destruction. Apart from the above major caves many smaller sites were explored and surveyed and scores of new entrances visited in both areas so there is no fear of these marvellous expeditions winding up in the foreseeable future!

As an aside, and an example of the Indian sense of humour, Dr. B. informs me that the painted advice "Use Dipper at Night", often seen on the back of lorries, has been collared by the National Aids Control Organisation for their new condom - the "Dipper". Likewise another popular slogan - "Horn Please". They should sell like hot cakes!



The Last Word

Compiled by J’Rat and Wig

The Mendip Cave Bibliography and Newspaper Catalogue. [DJI] Publication of the 2nd edition, by the Mendip Cave Registry, of this compilation by your temporary Editor [Dave Irwin] will be at Hidden Earth to be held this year at Churchill. The whole work is in two volumes, 517pp and 1.1 million words and includes all articles, books, papers, manuscripts known to me from 883 AD to 2005 – which approaches some 25,000 references to caves in the Mendip region.  It is divided into three main sections. The first covers Cave Sites; the second Cave Topics [archaeology, hydrology etc.] and the third being the writers’ catalogue of newspaper reports since 1797.  Available at about £25 in hard copy only.

Anyone wanting details of published information relating any particular cave site are advised look in this work first. For example there are nearly 1,300 references to Swildon’s Hole; 232 items for Goatchurch Cavern, 429 for Eastwater Cavern and 540 for St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.

It is eventually hoped to publish the bibliography together with the cave registers on a web page and in CD format.

10 Years in the Making ! [DJI] Another Hollywood spectacle ?  ‘fraid not.  It’s the latest edition of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs Handbook and Access Guide, February 2005. The first for ten years.  Still, it serves a very useful purpose for it not only details the multitude of access arrangements in the area but it contains notes on the organisations and accommodation on Mendip as well as a host of other useful snippets. The 36pp booklet, edited by Dave Cooke, is widely available for £2.  Those not regularly in the Mendip area can obtain a copy through ‘Cookie’, 3 Starrs Close, Axbridge, Somerset. BS26 2BZ or Bat Products for £2 + 50p p&p.

Wookey Hole. [DJI]  CDG divers have recently dived the terminal Sump 25.  A serious undertaking at any time but the extension found a little above the bottom of the flooded passage at -70m has been pushed and Rick Stanton and John Volanthen have reached a phenomenal depth of -90m.  Work at this level makes the dive a really serious undertaking.  Best of luck to them and their ‘sherpas’ on their next trip which is planned in the near future.

Two old stalwarts [DJI] have returned to the fold and are enthusiastically resurveying Ludwell Cave with Fiona Crozier.  They claim boulder movement in the submerged chamber has occurred during the past thirty years.  Pete Eckford and Ken James have found a ‘second wind’ as well as other names from the past, John Noble and Phil Coles.  Welcome to all.

Hunters’ Lodge Inn Sink. [ARJ]  Alex Livingston, on a solo visit, noted that all water levels are still too high for work to recommence and that the boulder blocking Slop 1 definitely needs banging.

Gibbet’s Brow Shaft. [ARJ]  ‘Butch’ and his Shepton team are still digging this mineshaft in the hope of entering Lamb Leer Cavern.  The main shaft has reached a solid bottom at around -17m but they are following a natural side passage with the chemical assistance of MadPhil.

White Pit.  [DJI] Tony Jarratt reports that the air in the cave has a dangerously high level of CO2.

Templeton Pot. [ARJ]  The latest from Tuska’s team is that they are now down about 35m and still going in the hope of beating the divers to the glory which must await below!


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh, Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general


Welcome to the Autumn BB - a bit like waiting for a bus, you waited ages and then ...... etc. First, the news- shockingly Tony and team have only found a few metres more in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink in recent weeks - slackers!  The sump proved to be blocked and digging is now largely focused back on the Drip Tray Sump area (see Rich Dolby's dive report on page 18).  The St. Cuthbert's 50th Anniversary saw a good turn out (see page 25) and now thoughts turn to the AGM and Dinner - this issue should reach you a day or two before.  BEC members: Rich Dolby, MadPhil, Jrat and Carole White - along with other Mendip and Northern digging enthusiasts - recently passed their Explosive Users Group exam. Mendip digs beware!  In addition, Estelle Sandford has taken over the BEC website and is currently developing it - including a mail box marked Editor in which you can put articles for the BB if you feel so inclined.  Please note that it has a new address: www.bec.cave.org.uk

Note, that by mistake the volume No. of recent BB’s is wrong - last issue (BB516) was Vol. 53 No.2., the previous BB (515) was assigned Vol. 52 No.3, thus making Vol. 53 No.1 either something of a collector's item or simply a figment of my fevered imagination. Mea culpa.  My only mitigation is one of incompetence.

Finally, it was mentioned by some at the St. Cuthbert's do that no obituary for Jock Orr has appeared in the BB.  This is sad but true, but I haven't received one!  If someone would like to put one together and send it to me it will go straight into the next issue - which will be out just before Christmas


Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell, Graham 'Jake' Johnson and team continue the Morton's Pot dig, which is currently dry enough and hopefully will remain so if we are blessed with an Indian Summer.  Somewhere below Phil is also engaged in resurveying Southbank in an effort to accurately tie it in with the rest of the system - a vital and noble task but one which very few wish to assist with.

Hunters' Hole.

John Walsh's team are working in Dear's Ideal spurred on by the size of the parallel system being uncovered in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink and only a short distance to the east. Indeed, hopefully the word parallel will soon be replaced by the word converging, or even inlet.

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

Digging continues at Drip Tray Sump, most of the new stuff having been explored and surveyed - with the exception of the avens in BAB.  The "old cow bones" have been identified by Dr. Roger Jacobi ( British Museum (Natural History)) as bison and reindeer.  They are between 28,000 and 80,000 years old! (see article on p 10).

St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

Saturday the 6th September saw a large (and largely ageing) crowd gather for the 50th anniversary celebrations.  A champagne reception underground was followed by an afternoon of beer drinking, a BBQ (courtesy of Mr. Haskett) and then slide shows at the Hunters', including some of Don Coase's original exploration photographs. (See page 25).

Swildon's Hole.

Work has continued in Sump Twelve - more detailed news should appear in the next BB.

Thrupe Swallet.

There has apparently been another breakthrough at this site - approximately 120' of tight stuff. Once again, more detailed news of this should appear in the next BE. (For Part II of the account ofthe previous major breakthrough see p 4).


Letter From Kangy King

I enjoyed Chris's write up about John Stafford.

John Stafford is one of the best people you could wish to meet.  I've been glad to know him for a very long time.  I still owe him about 12 (10) pints as a result of our "Roof of Wales" walk over 41 of Wales' finest peaks.  In spite of the beer the route we fashioned follows a more or less straight line from north to south.  Get Staff to tell you about it one day.

He didn't say when he first started caving; he and Chris Falshaw weren't fully grown and were obliged to swim across the Twin Pots in Swildon's.  He also omitted to explain how he came to "crash my motorbike the night before".  The Velocette motorcyle had been given to the impecunious Staff by an officer gentleman in the RAF.  How Staff knew a gentleman is unknown.  The Velocette (a KSS 350 ohc pre-WWII machine) was called "The Black Widow".  Work that out for yourself or get Pat Ifold to tell you about his earlier KSS, also called "The Black Widow".  Fortunately Staff hadn't yet married so it didn't do a proper job on him.  The ex-WD dispatch riders helmet was steel and where it had hit the curb it had a flattened side.  It was described as "D" shaped.  I suppose that's what knocked his hair off.

As soon as I heard that Staff was conscious after his prang I went to the BRI with a bottle of Guinness, anxious to know if the bike was OK.  I have always been impressed with Staff but never more so than when he reached under the bed with the bottle without looking and prised off the cap using the wire mattress.  We didn't know that alcohol was not good for concussion and I often worry if I was responsible for the state of his brain.

Another of his accidents was in Cuthbert's.  He was supposed to link up with my party.  I think we were surveying somewhere.  He didn't arrive at our rendezvous and back on the surface he wasn't there either.  When we got to him in the cave he was sitting holding his bloody head.  A hold had broken on him and typical of Staff s luck he banged the side of his head as he fell.  A rescue was organised and he more or less got himself out with a little help from a top rope.  It would have been difficult to have managed otherwise.  Still, all the practice rescues paid off in that one day.  Later, in hospital it emerged that he had shattered his hearing mechanism in one side.  It’s almost impossible to tell which side because he can detect "What'll you have Staff?" from any side you choose.  Get anybody to tell you about it.

We did a lot of climbing together.  And that is another, treasured story.


Digging at Thrupe Swallet or The Agony and the Ecstasy.  Part II: More Agony.

by Tony Audsley

Part I of this article (1) described the history of the present dig from the start, in December 1999, up to the discovery of Rubicon Chamber at the end of December 2001. Now, in part II, the agony continues...

On Wednesday 2nd January 2002 the new section was entered.  In recognition of passing (just) the magic 100ft depth the chamber was christened the Rubicon.  This was another low sloping bedding chamber, about 15 ft long by 5 ft wide with a flowstone bank on the southern end.  Just short of this bank there was a pit among the boulders in the floor.  The pit took the form of a narrow slot at least ten feet deep but, in its raw state, impassably narrow.

A small stream, which emerged from the boulder floor of Maglite Grotto, flowed down the Rubicon and disappeared into this pit.  As was the case with Maglite Grotto the water destabilised the fill and the whole floor area tended to sludge its way down to the bottom of the chamber.  The eventual solution was to construct a series of slab steps to break the fall of the water and this has been largely successful.

Once we had stabilised the floor of the chamber we were able to start work on the pit.  This was an unpleasant place to dig and soon a dam and elephant's trunk pipe were installed in an attempt to divert the stream away from the back of the diggers' necks.  This was moderately unsuccessful.  Work continued on the pit until 13th February when the Resident Deity came out to play. This time she had an assistant, a novice digger who was unversed in ruckle etiquette and her playful ways. Climbing out of the Rubicon back into Maglite Grotto her assistant precipitated a massive collapse.  A three hundredweight block from the south side of the Hammerhead crashed down into the Rubicon, followed by all the stone walling it had been supporting.  Rich Witcombe and Rob Taviner had a really rather good view of all this from more or less directly below.  Luckily for them the block stopped before it reached their jibbering forms and being small and nimble they were able to dodge most of the other stuff.  After a decent pause Rich and Tav crawled up to inspect the damage and found that the Hammerhead Boulder seemed to be hanging unsupported. Gingerly they levitated back into Maglite at which point the floor of the grotto on the north side of the Hammerhead collapsed into the Rubicon.  The three diggers retreated thoughtfully from the scene, two needed to make urgent visits to a launderette.

After this things got rather silly.  We wanted all the boulders in Maglite Grotto to stay where they were but the boulders didn't like that idea; they wanted to get on down into the Rubicon and play there. So, what to do?  Plan A was quickly followed by plans B, C, D, etc. Each plan in the sequence involved undoing all the work of the previous one and moving the spoil heap again. This was all good fun and true to the time-honoured traditions of digging on Mendip but it was time consuming. The final solution, possibly Plan J, which took the form of a short but perfectly crafted angle iron mini-shaft*, was not completed until 29th May.  The first digging session in the Rubicon since February's collapse was on Sunday 2nd June.

Perhaps it was the 3 months enforced break from digging which had weakened the intellect. Perhaps we had just got used to playing musical spoil heaps but at this point someone, I am afraid it was probably me, had the bright idea of abandoning the pit and starting a high level dig at the back of the Rubicon.  This idea did not meet with universal approval but, in the first instance, the "upper-routers" won the debate and July was spent digging out a lot of rock and fill and dumping it into the pit.  All to no avail.  Eventually, by the beginning of August, common sense returned and we started back in the pit, and dumped the spoil from the pit...

During August and September the pit was gradually deepened.  The rather dismal working conditions were improved dramatically by the installation of "shower curtains" made of horticultural black fabric. These were draped down the north (wet) wall of the pit.  The curtains were much more effective in practice than the old elephant's trunk. They contained the falling water and trapped all the spray.  They are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for use by all who toil below falling water.

At a depth of about 12 feet, a stream was encountered which flowed away to the west over the mud and gravel floor.  A foot-high way on could be seen for about 8 ft.  This was followed through the boulders, heading for what appeared to be a sloping rock wall with an apparent drop just in front.

By the end of November a small choked chamber had been entered.  This had the distinct advantage of being in solid rock, a new experience. Unfortunately, it was just a little too solid.  There were a few small leads here but none was very promising.  There was a slot in the floor which took all the water but it was proving very difficult to enlarge.  Digging conditions were also moderately unpleasant or leastways fairly damp.

By the end of 2002 the dig was 117 feet deep and had a total passage length of 300 feet, although some of this had been backfilled.  During the year there had been 81 digging trips with a total expenditure of 690 digger-hours of labour.

Spirits were low at the beginning of 2003 and on Wednesday 8th Jan we decided to give up the east end of the passage as hopeless and start digging at the base of the Rubicon Pit again. However, as luck, or the Deity would have it, the following Sunday's team decided to have one last look at the east end.  After digging out about a dozen bags worth a hole appeared in the back wall going apparently back up dip.  Three holes were drilled in the base of the wall just as a last shot at this area. After digging the walk back across the field was enhanced by Simon Meade-King taking a sudden header onto the ground after a brief encounter with a frozen cow-pat - this caused general mirth and was taken to be a good omen.

The following Wednesday night we were joined by Allen Sinclair, a trainee BBC photo-journalist. The poor bloke had been told to go out and film something under difficult conditions and he ended up down Thrupe.  The Deity must have taken a fancy to him for it was a good evening.  After doing some clearing of the debris, we could see about 10 feet into a low (3"-18") continuation which emitted a distinct draught. There was much excitement and not just for the benefit of the camera.


The approach to Inside Out.   Clive North has just been kicked in the crotch by Rich Witcombe.

Sunday 19th January saw us into the low bedding chamber continuation, about a foot high at the entrance, rising to a massive 3 feet high inside.  A good way on could be seen off to the right.  After enlarging the threshold we were able to see into a small draughting tube and hear the faint sound of falling water in the distance. In its raw state the tube was impassable but some gentle cooking by master chef Clive North tenderised the walls and the tube was slowly enlarged.

This process of gentle cooking and enlargement was complicated by the need to bail, to install pumps that refused to work and, in the later stages of the excavation, to chain the spoil all the way back to the top of Advent Chamber, the last remaining stacking space.  The water problem was solved eventually by driving a hole in the floor.  This took all the seepage and made the dig more or less self-draining.  This improved working conditions in the passage (now referred to as "Inside Out") almost to the point of luxury.

The team settled down for what everyone knew was going to be a long siege on the tube.  We were encouraged by the promise of better times ahead, but we had heard that before.  Perhaps the Deity was just playing games with us.  Nevertheless, we worked slowly along the tube, spurred on by the ever-increasing sound of falling water ahead.  Finally, on 19th March, we got to the point where we could flick stones forward along the tube and they would fall into a void.  We had reached the lip of a shaft. Tav's words from the log:-

" ... now the good news - the tube terminates at the head of a pitch. Can't quite get near enough to look down.  However rolling rocks (everybody had a go) suggests the pitch is 50-60ft deep, split by ledges, with the stream entering halfway down ... the actual pitch sounds relatively roomy ... "

We were still more than 6 feet away from the actual drop and it was not until Sunday 30th March that Simon (Nik-Nak) Richards was able to force the squeeze (later cooked out of existence) at the head of the pitch (Persistence Pot) and make the first descent.

Rich Witcombe descending Persistence Pot.

Once again though the Deity had the last laugh.  We had got into a fine 45 ft pitch which contained some well decorated grottos. Unfortunately the only way on at the bottom of the pitch was under a low arch in the western wall of the shaft. This was massively choked.  To add insult to injury, the Deity had arranged a water-spout to emerge from the wall of the shaft about 15 ft directly above the dig site.

We took some time to absorb the change in the dig's circumstances and most of April was taken up with necessary post-breakthrough housekeeping tasks.  Access to the pitch was improved, Tav surveyed the extension and Rich and Clive worked on various aerial water management schemes, the latest of which managed to convey (most of) the water from the spout across the rift and away from the dig site.

The first digging attempts in Upside Down (Gonzo Lumley's name for the passage) revealed a floor of grey clays lying above compacted red clays and rocks.  As this was excavated, the in flowing water ponded into the resulting hole and the unfortunate digger found that he was excavating his own swimming pool.  This was tedious and rather unpleasant and we came to the conclusion that the best approach would be to raise the roof of the passage rather than dig out the floor. This had the advantage that the spoil would be clean rock which would be easier to stack in the available sloping dumping space.

There were some leads to explore in the shaft itself.  On 12 May Nik-Nak probed the alcove on the north side of Persistence Pot, about 12 ft below the lip of the shaft.  Much to our surprise he entered a roomy (at maximum about 20 ft high by 6 ft wide) ascending rift.  The upper reaches of this rift (Nik-Nak's Nook) are close to the bottom of Advent Chamber and would have provided much easier access to the pitch had we pushed the leads on the east side of the dig in the early stages.  Ho Hum!

Bob Cottle in the entrance to Upside Down.  Photograph by Rob Taviner.

The major digging effort in Upside Down started in June with serious attempts to raise the roof of the passage.  The digging in Upside Down became a rerun of the Inside Out saga as it settled down to the familiar if somewhat monotonous cycle of drilling, banging and mucking-out.

On 20 August Dave King (MNRC) managed to pass the remnants of a stal barrier that had been causing problems for a while.  A few feet further on he forced a very committing downward squeeze to enter a small muddy chamber.  From here he followed a low passage which became too tight after about 15 ft. About 10ft ahead of his sticking point he could see a low arch, beyond which was a pile of stream debris with a heavy drip falling onto it, possibly from a high rift or aven.

This is the situation at the end of August.  Tav's survey shows that the dig has over 500 ft of passage and is 169 ft deep (over 300 ft to go to the rising).  Once again it looks promising.  Perhaps THIS time the Deity will give in gracefully and let us into the cave.  Or perhaps ...

Whatever, it looks like there will have to be another article sometime.

* Because of the author's incompetence the photograph of the shaft appears in part one of this article - sorry!

Diggers and visitors (January 2002 - date)

Allen Sinclair (BBC), Alison Moody, Annie Audsley, Bob Cottle, Carmen Haslett, Clive North, Colin Rogers, Dave Everett, Dave Grosvenor, Dave King, Dave Morrison, Dave Speed, Elaine Johnson, Gary Sandys, Hugh Tucker, John Hill, James Witcombe, Jonathan Williams, Mark Lumley, Pat Cronin, Pete Hellier, Pete Mulholland, Rob Taviner, Roz Fielder, Rich Witcombe, Simon Meade-King, Simon Richards, Steve Shipston, Tony Audsley, Tony Littler.


(1) Tony Audsley - Digging at Thrupe Swallet, or the Agony and the Ecstasy.  Belfry Bulletin 516 Vol 53 No 2 pp 19-26.

An alternative view of the dig

Richard Witcombe - Fourth time lucky? - Digging at Thrupe Swallet.  Wessex Cave Club J. Vol 27 (285) pp68-71.

Richard Witcombe - Fourth time lucky? - Digging at Thrupe Swallet.  Wessex Cave Club J. Vol 27 (286) pp84-88.

In the short term

Up to date information, photographs, sounds, a song and some foolishness may be found on the web at:-



Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - of Dives "Climbs" Brown Trousers and Old Bones.

by Tony Jarratt
with photographs by Sean Howe

Continuing the saga from BB 516.

On 14th August Tangent took local vet Alex Barlow to look at the bones.  This would have been a more fulfilling experience for him if Tangent had taken working lights!  Tony Audsley compared our five samples with bones from Charterhouse Warren Farm Swallet and agreed with Alex that they were probably large cow and a small ruminant, possibly sheep.  Tony thought that they could be very old - at least 500 years - and that one appeared to have been chewed by a carnivore.  Margaret Chapman also borrowed the bones and brought them to the attention of Dr. Roger M. Jacobi of the British Museum (Natural History) and U.B.S.S.  The writer was surprised to receive a phone call from an excited Dr. Jacobi stating that the remains are of bison and reindeer and from the later half of the Upper Pleistocene period - between 28,000 and 80,000 years old! Tony, Alex and butcher Roger Haskett can be excused for their cow identifications as they don't get many bison to play with.  The gnawing marks on the bison's jaw are either from wolf or hyena, probably the former. If these animals were still around I wouldn't give much hope for Andy and Pam's cabbage patch ... Dr. Jacobi suggested that we remove more bones for examination and that he is interested in getting a date for the stalagmite coatings.  He is also able to get the bone dated at a cost of around 380 pounds. A.B.C.R.A. research grant has been applied for to pay for this.  Tony suggests that the bones may have been washed into the depths of the cave from a carnivore lair or pit-fall entrance during the alternating warm and cold periods of the Devensian glaciation.  This would also account for the banded sediment deposits in the Drip Tray area. (Mendip at this point was part of the cold and immense "mammoth-steppe" stretching unbroken across the whole of northern Europe as far as Siberia.  Accompanying our bison, reindeer and wolf on their forays over the vast grasslands and tundra were woolly mammoth and rhinoceros, bear, cave lion and primitive horse.  Though it is possible that the Hunters' Lodge was yet to be built the hunters were certainly there, namely the last of the Neanderthals and, latterly, the recently arrived ancestors of ourselves - Homo Sapiens).

Rich Dolby dived "Hair of the Dog Sump" on the 17th but failed to make any progress (see following article).  He intends to have another look with a single bottle.  On this trip Tangent, Vince Simmonds and Pete Bolt gained another 5m of phreatic crawl at the end of The Barmaids' Bedrooms and there is still further scope here.

Work continued on clearing the Inn-let crawl in preparation for stone-walling the climb up and emptying the Drip Tray water through the floor.  Photography, tourism and clearing trips also continued and John Wilson (Moles) commenced a detailed palaentological survey of the bone deposit which was also visited by trainee archaeologist Hannah Bell (Soton U.C.C.) who was elated by the antiquities and beauty of the Bedrooms.  Ed Hodge (U.B.S.S.) made some relevant observations on the stalagmite deposition.

The 25th August saw your scribe, Jeff Price and Tangent emplacing bolts at the end of the Boulevard in an attempt to bypass the suicidal terminal choke via a high level inlet. After a climb of over 5m this potential ceiling passage was reached and found to close down after 1m.  At least we had ticked it off and could put our minds to surmounting the choke.

The Boulevard survey was completed by Trev Hughes on the 31st amidst much enthusiastic admiration, this being his first visit to the lower section of the cave.  On the 1st September the writer checked out all the south end of Pewter Pot to find nothing of promise and some very loose boulders at the top.  Beware if you visit this area!  Jake Baynes worked hard on Slop 3 dig but after reaching deep water under the floor of the Pot this was again temporarily abandoned. It is not a promising site. With little else to do and plenty of time to spare your scribe bit the bullet and, leaving Jake wedged high in the Boulevard, tiptoed up through the terminal choke for a distance of some 20m and a height gain of around 10m - all amongst horrendous huge boulders.  There are several possible ways on but are all too frightening to contemplate pushing at present.  From first hand descriptions of the nearby Tankard Hole this place sounds very similar but with the unfortunate difference that it is approached from underneath!  It is estimated that the Boulevard has crossed under the road and is heading out under Roger Dor's field but there are no plans to seek for another entrance here.

Traversing over Hair of the Dog Sump

The lower end of Broon Ale boulevard

Broon Ale Boulevard – climbing up the phreatic ramp towards the choke

The Inn-let

Broon Ale Boulevard

On 3rd September eight more bone samples, including a bison horn cone, were recovered and a further, stalagmite coated bone came out the next day.  On this trip MadPhil and the writer completed a few outstanding survey legs and dug into 15m of well decorated parallel rift passage on the NW side of the Boulevard.  A superb pure white flowstone boss inspired the name Guinness Head Rift.  It ends in a 7m high aven which appears to close down but is probably geomorphologically connected to the Bedrooms' above.  It was later re-discovered by John Walsh!

During the next couple of weeks a variety of consolidating jobs took place.  Bev and Gwilym commenced wet stone walling the Inn-let climb; the writer, Jeff Price, Ray Deasy, Dan the Dane and co. cleared bags from Drip Tray sump/dig and filled up the Spile Heap; Ed Waters, Sean Howe and a Shepton team took some stunning photographs of Broon Ale Boulevard; Tangent and Trev investigated the choke beyond the bone deposit and prepared more samples for Dr. Jacobi, and John Wilson completed his bone survey.  More surface surveying and computing was done by MadPhil and in the depths of the British Museum our mentors studied the pieces of bison and reindeer provided and became enthusiastic over the discovery.

Wednesday 17th September saw a team bailing water from Drip Tray Sump into a hole on the floor of the Inn-let.  A party visiting BAB heard it pouring down the south side of Pewter Pot.  This has solved our winter digging problems as bailing or pumping is now a feasible option.

More diggers and acknowledgements

Greg Brock, Pete Bolt, Hannah Bell (Soton Uc.c.), Ed Hodge (UB.S.S.), Dr. Roger M. Jacobi (British Museum (Natural History), U.B.S.S.), Dr. Andy Currant (British Museum (Natural History), UB.S.S.), Mabs Gilmore (Open Univ.), Dr. Rainer Grun (Australian Nat. Univ., Canberra), B.C.R.A. and Bill Tolfree (B.C.R.A., S.M.C.C.), Daniel Listh (Denmark), Ed Waters and Hilary Clarke (S.M.C.C.).

1.                  Bone identification

2.                  Right mandible of bison (Bison cf priscus) with three permanent, crenellated molars.  Gnawed by hyena or, more likely, wolf (Canus lupus).

3.                  Distal humerus of bison, broken.

4.                  Mandible of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).

5.                  Vertebra of bison.

6.                  Part of reindeer antler.

7.                  Stalagmite coated bone.

8.                  "Curly" bone.

9.                  "Straight" bone. 9. Rib.

10.              Bison horn cone.

11.              Pelvic bone.

12.              Small vertebra.

13.              Y -shaped antler part.

14.              H-shaped antler part.

Useful references

In Search of Cheddar Man, Larry Barham et al. (1999)

On the Track of Ice Aze Mammals, Anthony J. Sutcliffe (1985)

Owls, Caves and Fossils, Peter Andrews (1990)

Westburv Cave - The Natural Historv Museum Excavations 1976-1984, Peter Andrews, Jill Cook, Andrew Currant and Christopher Stringer

Note:    Due to the irresponsible actions of a Club member the longest and finest stalactite in the cave has been smashed to pieces necessitating a ban on tourist and photographic trips for the foreseeable future. This is a very fragile, beautiful and palaentologically important cave system and we WILL conserve it as well as we are able.

The Digging Team.


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Hair of the Dog Sump Dive Report.

by Rich Dolby

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink, Priddy, Somerset.  (ST 5494 5012).  17-08-03


The purpose of this trip was to dive Hair of the Dog Sump, the most recent find in the on-going development of the H.L.I.S. system.  A previous porterage trip made on the 12-08-03 had shown that the new sump had some potential - a crude measurement of the entry pool indicated a depth in excess of 3 metres.

The exploration commenced from the 'northern' end of the sump - the diver entering the water at 11.55 a.m. having belayed his primary reel line to a large boulder above water. The steeply sloping bottom quickly dropped to in excess of 2.5 metres along the western wall.  The diver continued probing along this western wall, and found the depth quickly decreased again to around 1 metre, at this point attention switched to the east side of the sump.  Here the bottom dropped away again to around 3.5 metres in depth.  The diver returned to the shallower central area of the sump and retrieved the primary line.  A traverse line had previously been installed and it was to this that the diver belayed his line to commence exploration of the southern end of the sump.  This area also proved unproductive with no way on evident.  Despite much probing along both walls and the central 'floor' of the sump no way on could be found.  Operations ceased with the diver leaving the water at 12.25.

The general nature of the sump toward the northern end was of steeply inclined phreatic walls with an uneven 'floor' of large boulders, covered with a thick mud/silt deposit. This gave way to a generally even mud floor toward the southern area.  Visibility in the sump was generally poor to non-existent.

Dry cracked mud banks can be seen immediately adjacent to the pool, indicating that the water levels do fluctuate.  This suggests a similarity with the previously explored Drip Tray Sump (Belfry Bulletin Vol. 52, No.3) - which was found to drain completely under certain conditions.  Similarly, there are indications that the water backs up considerably in times of heavy weather.

NB. A month later the water level had dropped another 1.5m - ARJ

Many thanks for assistance from M. Barker, P. Bolt, A. Hole, A. Jarratt, V. Simmonds and J. Williams - "their physical energy and their indomitable will were their tools".


Ores Close - its Caves and Mines.

by Dave Irwin

Ores Close area is best known for Dallimore's Cave, named after the farmer at the time of its opening and initial exploration in 1948.  However, surrounding the farmhouse, now a private dwelling, lie a number of mineshafts, some exhibiting mined and natural passage upwards of 500m in length.  All have been capped and, except one, their individual location lost.  Nonetheless interest in these sites covered a period of over 50 years from 1938 - 1991 and of the 10 sites recorded only Dallimore's Cave is currently accessible to cavers.

Fig.1: Ores Close. The area where the miners worked is the diamond shaped fields both to the north and south of the farm buildings.

Of direct interest to cavers is the line of swallets extending north-east from Hillgrove to Green Ore - the Hillgrove Swallets; they are Easter Hole, Lobster Pot, Whitsun Hole, Rock Swallet, Zoo (or Double Back), the lost Gypsy Pot and Hillgrove Swallet, the collective name for a number of adjacent digs.  Though this site has been dug intermittently since 1903, and at the deepest, is currently over 30m deep; it holds on to its secret well.  It is also Mendip's longest running dig site. In addition to this group of mainly dry swallets lie a number of sinks extending down towards Biddlecombe including Haydon Drove Swallet.  To the north-west, at Green Ore is Island Plantation Swallet and to the north lies the now buried Nedge Hill Swallet.  A group of mineshafts is also known at Miles Lot Plantation, Green Ore.

Immediately before and after the Second World War, interest in the Hillgrove - Green Ore - Miner's Arms and Hunters' Lodge rectangle intrigued a number of cavers in the WCC.  A numbered list of sites was prepared by Peter Harvey, c.l946, each prefixed by the letter' A'.  The alternative name for Alfie's Hole is A101.

Fig.2: Aerial photograph taken in 1946 of Ores Close.

Ores Close

Ores Close, adjacent to the 'T' junction of the Priddy road with the A37 Wells - Bristol road is an area that has been subjected to considerable mining activity.  Nothing relating to the activity here has been found in the standard books of reference including Gough's Mines of Mendip.  Most of the work appears to have been the sinking of shafts and development of vertical features in the search for calamine (zinc blend) and possibly haematite which has also been found there.  An aerial photograph taken by the RAF in 1946 for the Ministry of Housing and Works clearly shows the intensive effort that was made in search of minerals in a relatively small area.  Over 200 sites can be identified in the two fields to the north and south of the old farmhouse.  All appear to have been capped long ago and only an occasional accidental opening leads to the exploration of an individual shaft.  Today part of the area to the north of the house is now a mature conifer plantation.

Ores Close Cave, 1938

In 1938, Charles P. Weaver, his wife May, and George Bowen, having explored the tiny series in Eastwater Cavern for which they are still remembered, began exploring the mine shafts in the area north of Pen Hill; an activity they knew as "mineshafting". Most of the open shafts in the area were explored and found to be up to 50m deep. On the 22nd May 1938 having descended a 37m unidentified shaft (note 1) they had a chance meeting with the farmer, Mr. Dallimore, (note 2) who told them of other shafts.  Weaver noted that  (note 3)

" ... not only did he know of several open ones, but also of one, covered in with an entrance about 6' round with a stone on top - he thought it was a rabbit's burrow!  On poking a stick in it he dislodged a stone & imagine his surprise when it fell down & out of his hearing.  He led us to the spot & not long after we had uncovered a shaft about 4 ft diameter, built up like a well, about 15 ft down it entered a natural rift.  We rigged our ladders & and after a descent of 50 ft we landed in a natural cavern.  Passages going out up the main rift in either direction. .. .I have yet to survey the system, this will follow when we have logged all the many passage. Ochre is much in evidence, stalactite confined to fine straws about 4 in. long - pure white curtain & much drip deposit .... I will wire you & send a sketch later, but thought it would be best to log our find right away.  I think an apt name for it is Hillwove Cavern discovered or re-discovered May 22nd 1938 by CP. Weaver, Mrs CP. Weaver & G.B. Bowen - my wife has held materially & has been in as far as we have .... "


Fig.3: A detail of the field north of the farm buildings (bottom right) showing the density of mining in the area.

Weaver's summary in the MNRC Report for 1938 is more detailed. (note 4)

"Removing the stone, revealed a roofed-in mine shaft.  This proved to be 55 feet deep, and led into what proved to be the largest lead mine workings known on Mendip.

Passages, mostly mined in a Rift, led into Natural Cavities - extending some 200 feet to each side of shaft terminating to N in a huge boulder choke, at junction of two major faults.  A passage was forced through to a depth of 186 feet.

The mine workings, on three levels gave perfect specimens of lead and calamine ores.

Photos have been taken of old props, decayed with age. In several boulders, marks plainly showed the passage of ropes for hauling skips loaded with ore.

Stalactite formation and drip deposit were much in evidence.  Perfect specimens of cave pearls were found, also fine evidence of "blasting" by heating with fire.

This discovery was made by CP. Weaver and G.B. Bowen, photowaphs being taken by G. Harvey.

There still remains much to be examined and a survey is to be made - a typical Mendip Lead Mine, not to be confused with either a shaft, pure and simple, or a "wuff' working".

Fig. 4: Weaver’s survey of Ores Close Cave 9original in BSA Records, BCRA Library.  (38 by 16cms)

The last paragraph emphasises a conflict of opinion as to the material being searched for by the miners. In his letter to Simpson he reasons that it was excavated for calamine as there is " ... much ochre in evidence ... " but later seems to have changed his view and that it was " ... a typical Mendip Lead Mine ... ".

Harvey's photographs have not yet been located though the search continues and reports seen by the author indicate that Gerard Platten took a number of images clearly indicating the entrance location but again, these have not been found. (note 5)  Weaver suggested that the cave be known as Hillgrove Cavern but was obviously dissuaded for the name given it on the survey is Orr's Close Mine.

Following this discovery, WCC arranged at least two trips to visit the "Disused Lead Mines".  (note 6)

The 1940s

So matters rested until the post-war period.  A crowd of BEC cavers, including 'Sett', 'Postle' and 'Pongo' et al visited and descended what was know to them as Ores Close Mineshaft on the 4th May 1947.  Its location was not stated and would appear to be one that was well-known to the then BEC members.  However, a later document from a very different source positively points to its location.

The 1950s

In 1952, Luke Devenish, was contracted to level the ground at Rodney Pits Plantation and at Ores Close hopefully returning it to agricultural use - though the Ores Close north field is a now mature conifer plantation. (note 7)  During the course of this work a number of shafts were opened, some of which were later explored by UBSS cavers. (note 8)

About the time of this work Devenish prepared a map, based upon the 25" as survey showing the location of the seven open shafts he was aware of including two that were open prior to the levelling work. (note 9)  Each site was annotated with a letter which cross-referred to a set of very short notes outlining details of each shaft (Fig. 5)

Fig.5: Detail of Devenish's c.1952 map showing the field to the north of the farmhouse. (The original is very faint and the dark areas resulting from the computer scan have been removed for clarity).

Later, c.1955, Devenish wrote a two page document with another version of the Ores Close map showing an additional shaft just south of the farmhouse.  His manuscript notes are more general than the earlier map without directly cross-relating to the indicated shafts on the accompanying map (Fig. 6). (note 10)

Fig. 6: Devenish’s c.1955 map of the area, amended by the author by the addition of alpha indents as entered on the c.1952 map.  On this Original the “dots” were colour coded according to the legend.

However, by scaling the maps it has been possible to obtain good NGR’s for the eight sites.  As each site is referenced by letter on the earlier (c.1952) map the various notes on this and the c. 1955 manuscript can be grouped together resulting in a fairly good summary of each site.

Shaft A       5680.4960 This is the shaft descended by BEC in 1947, but by 1955 the general condition of the top of the shaft was considered too dangerous to make a descent.  Devenish states that the BEC reported the depth as being 73m on the c.1952 map but amends this to 64m in the c.1955 manuscript.

Shaft B        5676.4957 Opened by levelling. 10m deep, no side workings

Shaft C        5682.4958 Opened by levelling. No depth has been stated but it is not deeper than 25m. (note 11)  This site was explored by William Stanton and Oliver Wells.  No details of the trip can be found in the WCC Logbooks.  A miner's clay tally was found in this shaft, and is now on display in Wells Museum (see photograph page 29).

Shaft D        5675.4954 The shaft was open before levelling began.  Again no information is available except that the shaft was explored by William Stanton who sent a report to the local representative of the Geological Survey at Keyworth, Nottingham.  Devenish adds that “... there was no trace of the mythical 10' band of galena". (note 12)

Shaft E        5674.4945 Opened by levelling. No other details.

Shaft F        5683.4945 Opened by levelling but stated to be choked.  No other details.

Shaft G       5680.4939 Opened by levelling but found to be too tight at -12m, though stones fell at least that distance below.

Shaft H        5685.4934 Shown only on the c.1955 map and was not explored though Devenish noted that " ... unskilled sources suggested by the dropping of stones that it was 120 feet deep & ended in water (v. likely as the noise (?) indicated that it received considerable quantities of sewage.) .... "

Whether any of the sites for which no detail exists is the Weaver-Bowen cave of 1938 - Ores Close Cave - is unknown.  All of the sites have since been capped and buried.

The 1967 Shaft

The first detailed account of a descent of any of these shafts came in 1967.  Mr. Stevens, the farmer at Ores Close Farm, driving his tractor through the farm yard accidentally opened up the top of a shaft. The first attempt to ascertain the depth of the shaft was by plumbing the depths - it was found to be 20m deep. However, MNRC gathered their able bodied members together and assembled at the mouth of the shaft and rigged ladders for the descent on Sunday 20th November 1966.  They included Brian (Bucket) Tilbury, Howard Roberts, Geoff and Pete Stokes, and Roy Pearce paid a visit. Biggs wrote (note 13)

" ... we removed part of a large stone, which covered the entrance, and while those who had not "had a gander down" were doing so, the rest of us set about rigging the ladders ".

Pearce went first and descended 27m but the shaft continued on downward.  Back to the surface and another 10m of ladder was added.  Tilbury went next and found that the bottom was choked with small boulders and reported that (note 14)

" ... there was a likelihood of a side passage so both he and the writer entered and tried their luck with a machette, which was all the digging implements (sic) that we had with us, after a while this was found to be only a hollow in the rock that was bricked up with "deads" and earth, as the bottom was solid rock ... we decided to call it a day ... "

Samples were taken to attempt to find out the purpose of the shaft, these included hematite and iron pan. Pearce suggested that it was a 19th century trial shaft and a response from the British Museum suggested that

the miners were probably looking for zinc blend (calamine).  The shaft was later caped by concrete and fitted with a manhole cover by Tilbury. (note 15) Pearce summed up the (note 16)

" ... hole is probably an exploratory shaft dug along a rift line by miners [in the) early nineteenth century [and) is 120 ft deep, no room for a wooden runged ladder, (so must have been climbed up and down by rope, this would not have been difficult as [the) hole is tight enough to chimney in all places) there were haulage marks to be seen in places ... "

The 1991 Shaft

In May 1991 Oxford University Cave Club (OUCC) members, who had been working in the recently discovered Oxford Extensions in Dallimore's Cave, were shown the open top of a shaft close to the house by the kitchen window of the old farmhouse.  The then residents, Rhonda and Mark Cottle, showing the OUCC cavers the entrance stated that it had already been descended to a depth of 15m a short while before.  The shaft, Ores Close Folly, (note 17) was again descended and this time the bottom was reached at a depth of about 30m ending " ... .in downward muddy grovels to a boulder-strewn crawl".

A small system of horizontal passageways were explored but (note 18)

"…the way on proved to be up the first incline past a hideously precarious wall of infill on the right".

OUCC explored some 500m of passage but because of the very muddy conditions they are reluctant to return to complete their survey - a pity.

Finally ...

So, a number of sites have been explored by cavers between 1938 and 1991 in this little known area of Mendip.  It is fortunate that the Devenish documents have survived for there appears to be little other hard evidence elsewhere on Mendip.  Before it too is lost OUCC should grace their description of Ores Close Folly with a NOR!


The writer wishes to acknowledge the useful comments and further information from the following: Phil Hendy (WCC Librarian), Tony Jarratt, Ray Mansfield (UBSS), Roy Paulson (BCRA Librarian) and thanks to the Trustees of Wells Museum for enabling the photograph of the Tally to be taken.

The Miner's Tally (120mm x 70mm) found at Ores Close, c.1952, donated to Wells Museum by Luke Devenish. Photograph by Dave Irwin.


1.                  Weaver, C.P., 1938-1939, Personal Diary MSS, 56p, surveys (photocopies located in BEC and WCC Libraries)

2.                  Weaver, C.P., 1939, Ores Close, Hillgrove. MNRC Rep 31,50-51

3.                  Weaver, C.P., 1938, Report on Ore's Close Mine (letter dated 23rd May 1938 to Eli Simpson, BSA) MSS, 4p BCRA Library

4.                  Weaver, C.P.; 1939, (as above, i.e. footnote No .4).

5.                   Mendip Cave Registry, 1967, The Mendip Cave Register. MSS, typed, (322)p, maps, biblio.

6.                  Anon, 1939, Forthcoming Events. WCC Circular, (46 OS) 1 (Jun) (15th July 1939) and Anon, 1940, Forthcoming Events, WCC Circular (5 lOS)1 (Dec/Jan)

7.                  In the descriptive notes on Ores Close Cave in Complete Caves of Mendip Stanton states that the levelling was carried out in 1938 but this could not be the case as the aerial photographs of 1946 clearly show the spoil heaps.

8.                  Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?, Ores Close and Rodney Pits Plantation. MS 3p, map; in D. J. Irwin collection (Trevor R. Shaw believes that MSS was written about 1957).

9.                  Devenish, Luke E.W., c.1952, Personal caving dairy. 2 vols, 1947 - 1952. Housed in the WCC Library.

10.              Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?,  (as above, i.e. footnote No.9).

11.              Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?, (as above).

12.              Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?, (as above).

13.              Biggs, Ray, 1967, Ores Close Farm Shaft. MNRC Cay Bul1(l)11(Jan/Feb)

14.              Pearce, A.E. Me. R., 1967, Shaft at Ores Close Farm - Ref. 569494.  MNRC Cay Bul1(2)6(Mar/Apr)

15.              Hodgson, Tim H. led], 1967, Ores Close Shaft. MNRC Cay Bu11(4)13

16.              Pearce, A.E. Me. R., 1967, as above

17.              This site is not accessible to cavers.

18.               Guilford, T., 1992, Ore's Close Folly.  OUCC Proceedings (13)9-10.


Memories of Mendip in the Forties.

by Dizzie Tompsett-Clark

I happily slept on the hay in the barn,
with Postle and Don and the rest.
We drank and we swore, and the clothes that we wore
were far from our cleanest and best.

For we went down the caves that ran under our feet
and many a squeeze came my way;
with old carbide lamps and thick ladders of rope,
whilst the darkness chased panic away.

There were chimneys we climbed; there were boulders we scaled;
and the streams that ran swift after rain.
There were times we were lost, when I felt rather scared
'til we'd sussed out our trail once again.

We'd a car boasting sidescreens, and running boards too,
with a windscreen that folded down flat.
And a neat dickey seat, tucked away in the rear;
there were many who envied us that.

While the others had motorbikes, battered and old,
and lovingly tended with care,
for petrol was scarce, and money was short,
but somehow we always got there.

In the evenings we'd roar down the road to the pub,
where Alfie played tunes that we knew.
And there we heard tell of one "Eskimo Nell"
as we drank our host's excellent brew.

All too soon, time to go; and we'd climb on our bikes
or crowd in our Lea Francis car.
Then once more we'd roar to the Belfry and bed
and be grateful it wasn't too far.

For a Club had been formed, with a bat as its badge,
and a hut was soon bought for a song.
To start with we slept on the old wooden floor
but I'm glad to say, not for too long.

Now we've benches and bunkhouses, showers and loos,
and places to dry out wet clothes.
I haven't been caving for twenty-odd years
and I won't go again, I suppose.

But Alfie plays host to us "oldies" each year
at a Dinner, both happy and sad,
while we think of those missing, who ought to be there,
and talk of the Good Times we had.

Dizzie Tompsett-Clark February 2001

Ed. In the accompanying note Dizzie makes it clear that she would like to dedicate this poem to Alfie and thank him for all his work over the years organising his annual "Alfie's Dinners".


St. Cuthbert's Swallet 50th Anniversary and Letters from Clare and Damian Coase.

Saturday 6th September saw a great turn out for the St.Cuthbert's Swallet 50th Anniversary. Fine weather blessed an alcoholic afternoon with a champagne reception below ground and beer and barbeque above. Later at the Hunters' the highlight of the slide shows was the photographs taken by Don Coase in 1954-5 during the early exploration of the system.  These were sent from Australia by Clare and presented by Roger Stenner - who noted that they clearly show the benefits of the leader system in terms of conservation.  Below are some photographs of the event and extracts of letters from Clare Coase and her son Damian.

To the BEC,

Congratulations on your anniversary .... this September .... 50 years since the discovery of St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

For me, it has been a long time and much water has flowed under many bridges. Don and I had been married barely 18 months and were to have only a few more years.  Caving was his great love and St. Cuthbert's his passion (there was some for me as well!).  It was sad when he had to limit his caving and forego his cave diving altogether. Not everyone has the joy of a great love as he had of caves, and I know how much he was appreciated and loved by the club members, that is why I married him.  Anyone so much appreciated must be great value, and he was.

He would be delighted to know that St. Cuthbert's is held in such high esteem, has been so well protected and that his co-work of discovery is still remembered.  Thank you on his behalf as well as on Damian's and mine,


Clare Coase.

Left to right: Graham Wilton-Jones. Brian Woodward (S.M.C.C.) and Stuart McManus.

To the BEC,

Congratulations on your 50th anniversary of the discovery of St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

I heard of my father Don and his exploits from my mother Clare and had looked through those amazing glass-mounted slides.  The British Caving book gave some clues but it wasn't until my wife Nanine and I visited the UK on our honeymoon in 1990, that I realised what a maniac he and his friends were to explore those caverns.  Often alone for hours, perhaps days with the primitive equipment they had, is beyond belief.

The BEC (through Dan I believe) arranged for us to visit St. Cuthbert's. The descent was horrifying, exhilarating and exhausting.  But standing next to the plaque dedicated to my father is one of the fondest memories of my life.

The fellows, who led us through the cave, were fantastic guides, incredibly patient and well prepared.  A couple of special memories stay in my mind, watching the amazing way the cavers moved so fluidly through the smallest of passages and their apparent age1essness - I couldn't tell if some of them were 35 or 65 years old, must be all that exercise or staying out of the sun.  Another was the climb out of the cave.  We were nearly to the top but my wife couldn't go on - she was exhausted, her arms like rubber.  No problem to the guys underneath her - "Just stand on my back and you can use your legs and give your arms a rest".  The next one says "Stand on my head".  This went on until we reached the top.  Dedicated, patient and understanding, an amazing bunch of people.

The experience gave me a little understanding of the type of man Don was, and I'm sure made my wife question marrying into the family.  I remember that she was so sore the next day she couldn't get out of bed.  It also showed me another side to my amazing mother Clare.

I have to apologise most strongly for not writing to those good people long before this.  I can only offer the not-sufficient excuse of newly married state, new job and distance. If not too late, thank you.

I am now part of the Outdoor Education programme at my school, involved in the Duke of Edinburgh training in bushwalking, abseiling, surfing, canoeing and even caving.  Maybe St. Cuthbert's ignited a spark or maybe it's in the genes.

Again, congratulations on the anniversary and well done for fostering the spirit of exploration,


Damian Coase.

Ed. A handwritten note from Clare at the end of Damian's letter says: "I seem to remember something about Damian getting stuck.  He must have forgotten!!"


Potentially Lethally Deadly.

(or - Four Men and a Minor Breakthrough in DYO).

by James Cochrane

The lakes in Dan-yr-Ogof were high, not drastic but deep enough to suck the warmth from the body with the chilling speed of an industrial freezer, only damper.  This was my fourth trip into this magnificent cave, and for the first time I was certain of where I was going, more or less. There were four to our team, Joel Corrigan, Tim Lamberton, Ross Dyter and myself.  With us also were Mike Alderton and Rich Bayfield, who intended to get to the 'High and Mighty' series, a trip that depended upon two things.  Mike would be putting up with an arm almost broken the previous evening in a Cardiff wall jumping session; and Rich would have to manage to stay on all of the climbs, something he periodically has trouble doing.  After passing the lakes, Mike and Rich carried on shivering into the distance.

Our team objective was to investigate the Lower Series extension of 'Toad Hall', an aven with a loose boulder crawl in the ceiling.  Poking at loose and dangerous boulder chokes seemed to us an ideal way to pass a Saturday afternoon and Joel had it on good authority from Liam Kealy that the aven was an area of potential. Ross and I were still learning the major routes of the cave, but had no difficulty in reaching the Washing Machine, the Long Crawl having restored warmth.  At this point we found one of Joel's diving tackle sacs on a ledge, retrieved from almost certain drowning by a saintly visitor after recent high water levels.  Full of renewed faith in the human spirit Joel led us on to Toad Hall.  The muddy rope climb up to the extension proved exciting for Joel, who decided to tie in foot loops to help the rest of us who were nonetheless humorously acrobatic.

The aven's base was a few square metres, a mound of breakdown warning of the loose ceiling above. Tim and Joel bridged up the chimney and would garden any immediate loose blocks whilst Ross and I sheltered in safe passage.

'Oh dear,' muttered Tim 'I've lost the skills! Joel, how do you do this, oh I see, I'll tie off here, hold this'.  For about half an hour Tim and Joel released volley after volley of brick sized rocks. Ross bemoaned his cordura suit as heat leaked out of him through inactivity.  'I'd have a nice new TSA if Dudley had one in my size'.  The rest of us were wearing plastic suits of one form or another.  'Let's have one more chap up here to help Tim' called Joel. Ross would soon be working up a sweat extending the boulder crawl up top.  'Jim, stand clear whilst we clear this bit'.  I did so, and rocks whistled down the aven, embedding themselves with dull thuds into the mud and boulder mound, small impact shards ricocheting off the walls. Ross and Tim were making fast progress in the initial crawl.  Given a break in the rockfall, and having cleared the base of many pointed rocks of the potential 'intruder' variety, I bridged up and found shelter in a small alcove. From here I could chat to Joel as he bolted to another potential lead on the right hand side of the aven.  As he hammered, large blocks continued to scream down the left-hand side, as the top passage was emptied into the base of the aven.

Joel's lead was too small, a short and narrow continuation, but his bolt placement allowed a more useful hand-line rig to the top.  As we pulled ourselves into the top passage, Ross and Tim could be heard just ahead at a tight section.  'Nooo, don't move that one!  Have you seen what it's holding up!'  Negotiations with the choke were tentative at first as two ways were worked on.  Ross wriggled back to allow Joel a look, 'I want some action, I want some fun, me me me ....'.  Ross had been enjoying his work, the engineer in him relishing the problem, but if he'd mentioned scaffolding, I'd have left him to it! Tim and Joel's tentative tapping produced one tight way through.  From struggling to the other side Joel was in a position to widen the gap.  Meanwhile, Ross was fashioning a decorative pair of mud breasts.

Tim retreated as Joel prepared to move some boulders that might or might not help the situation. Two thunderous booms were followed by an eerie silence.  'Joel! You ok.... ?'  'Yeah, yeah, just rocks and stuff landing on me' came the reply.  An almighty slab had been toppled into a perfect slot on the left, leaving a hole at that side only big enough for rats with hard hats, whilst the second route was much improved, though still disturbingly loose and unstable. Tim now followed after Joel, dislodging lots of loose choss, then called us further in.  'You've bloody filled up that passage again' complained Ross ‘I’ve just spent ages clearing that!'  'Well you've got to clear it again now,' retorted Tim from the other side, 'because it's our only way out'.  Having forgotten our gloves, Ross and I shredded our hands clearing sharp blocks from the squeeze, filling gaps in the floor and releasing more down the aven, which we'd probably have to dig on the return.

Ross now struggled through the tight 90° upward squeeze, cursing his girth, the rock and his lack of recent caving; a spot christened Uncle Dyter's Stickle brick Cleft.  'Jim, I'd recommend shifting some more of those rocks at the base of the squeeze, you might have trouble with your legs!'  I shovelled out more small rocks, enlarging the bend cautiously, in order to get all 6ft 3 of me through.  Then, mid-way through, Joel asked me to fetch his compass from the head of the aven!  On the second attempt, I found myself sat upright twixt rock and hard place, groping with my right hand for loose handholds above me.  Delicately heaving up, I twisted my legs to get my knees through and out I popped to be faced with an immediate horizontal manoeuvre.  'Just be careful there mate,' encouraged Joel 'it's loose as hell so try not to touch anything.'  Dutifully I obeyed, sliding out onto a rightwards-inclined boulder slope at the base of a bedding chamber.  Now I was excited.

After that narrow passage, the chamber was positively spacious.  The four of us sat at the top of the loose slope taking in the surroundings, all delighted to have broken through into virgin passage with such relative ease.  Several potential ways on could be seen.  At the base of the bedding plane, another small hole opened up in the jumble of boulders. Up-slope on the left a wet crawl of speculative stability vied with the boulders straight above the slope for the title of most delicate engineering project.  Most promising was a lead at the right of the slope where moving a few blocks entered a low mud passage against the ceiling.  Beyond, a parallel, slightly more stable chamber presented itself. Joel was pretty certain this was entering a blank area on the survey, were we about to discover a high level fossil series?  Whilst Ross and Tim carried on along the base of this chamber, I crawled up-slope where a short mud bank led to a small calcite pool with formative cave pearls. Breaking right, a low crawl over a mud-covered choke (in which Tim was nosing about) continued to a small drop at the back of the chamber of about one-and-a-half metres.  With no room to turn, I lowered myself headfirst, finally swinging my legs down.  The small chamber closed down on the right immediately with silt and mud, whilst the walls and roof were very loose to the touch.  Only at the upper left was there a small gap which appeared to enter the base of another aven.

Joel came through and tapped away at the gap with the hammer, a slight touch releasing shards over his head and shoulders.  Delicately he lifted himself through the gap, and then heaved an obstructive boulder to one side.  Tim joined me in the small chamber, and we were then huddled at the centre as both Ross and Joel decided to garden loose blocks from either side.  Once these were clear we all pulled ourselves up into the aven base.  A calcite boulder ceiling abruptly blocked our way only a few metres up with a small shower at the centre.  We congregated here and made sure there was no possible way through.  'At least it’s finished in a nice chamber, with water and a few formations,' offered Ross, 'better than in some squalid little hole!' A return trip would be needed to survey, photograph and investigate the more technical leads.  A compass bearing gave us a trend of NW, and we had gained enough height to take us out of the lower series.  The next digging would be much more arduous.  We estimated a total find of 30-35m with various leads, albeit uninviting ones.

The return through the sticklebrick cleft proved easy, and we slid down the aven rope to find a significantly enlarged mound of rocks.  Back on familiar ground a speedy exit saw us from one dark to another, emerging at 9pm after 7hrs, by which time Rich and Mike had reached the 'Windy Way' and back. At Donald's hut, a quick wash saw us ready to push on to the Copper Beach.

The Team

James Cochrane (BEC), Joel Corrigan (unaffiliated), Ross Dyter (BEe) and Tim Lamberton (BEC). 09/03/02

The return trip a few weeks later by Joel, Tim and friend Gavin produced a survey but alas no photos due to a lack of the necessary equipment!  The leads were investigated, with some boulders moved and the leads determined to be pushable, but extremely arduous and delicate undertakings.  A return trip is planned.


Straws Two Metres Long.

by R.A. Setterington "Sett".

The Old Codgers are an informal group of a dozen or so of ex climbers, cavers and walkers who, now all OAPs, get together twice a year for exercise and, in the evenings, put the world to rights.  We try to be economical by meeting in the south in the spring and the north in the autumn, self catering in a caving or climbing hut.  Since we are restricted, by club rules, to 12 beds we usually book the four midweek nights, Monday to Thursday, giving us 3 days walking plus two days driving.

In September 2002 we gathered at the Yorkshire Ramblers hut near Clapham, West Yorkshire, dividing into smaller groups depending on walking range. The four mile group, who have a common interest in archaeology in general, especially industrial archaeology, opted for starting at Ribblehead and walking the track northwards past the Ribblehead viaduct towards the Bleamore tunnel.  About two miles on there is a bridge over the railway which incorporates an aqueduct, as near as makes no difference the mid point from Euston to Glasgow, from which the entrance to the tunnel is visible and a good point to turn round.  A quick couple of pints in the pub followed by a visit to the small museum/exhibition in the former station waiting room was interesting and informative. We drove home via Dent getting semi lost on the way.

On Wednesday we opted to visit the Bancroft Mill engine at Barnoldswick and the Yorkshire Dales Lead Mining Museum at Earby only to find, quite reasonably, that the engine is only in steam a very limited number of weekends in the year and the mining museum was closed pending a major renovation when enough funds have been raised.  It appears as if the reopening will be a year or two away because they are planning to put in a second floor.  Enquire before making a fruitless visit.  We had noticed a sign to the Canal Inn at Salterford so we returned there for a liquid lunch.  The inn is well established having been built on an ancient salters route before the

Leeds & Liverpool Canal was built, nearby, around 1774.  The canal was higher than the inn and needed a road bridge over it.  Seepage from the canal has flooded the original cellar and the higher approach to the bridge has made the entrance unusable so the bar is now the former first floor.  The interesting fact is that, in 230 years or so there are now straw stalactites 2m long hanging from the ceiling of the old entrance.  There is such a profusion of straws that it would not be sensible or tactful to attempt to enter the room to measure the longest straws but the length and rate of growth make these stalactites unique.  If you are in the area do visit the pub where you will be well looked after.  Beware that it is also a stopping place for travellers on the canal so get there early for lunch.

On Thursday we regrouped, the four mile group went pass storming in the Lake District while others opted for a walk from the Clapham car park up to Gaping Gill.  We had only got part way when threatening rain turned into actual rain rapidly increasing in intensity.  This caused a return to the New Inn in Clapham which has an all day bar.


Gaping Ghyll 1946.

by R.A. Setterington "Sett".

After I had chatted to Pete Stewart at the Vintage Dinner I was reminded that I had intended to dispute Pete's claim of being the first BEC member down GG after the war.  Since I am writing about events 55 years ago I wrote to Ray (Pongo) Wallis to check on my belief that four of us had been at a GG meet in 1946.  Ray confirmed my dates so I refute Pete Stewart's claim by asserting that Don Coase, Mervyn (Postle) Tompsett, Ray Wallis and myself joined a BSA meet in the summer of 1946.  We did three trips down GG including an upward one via Hensler's  "It's a Bugger" passage and one down Rift Pot.

There have been two recent articles in "The Journal" concentrating on "How I Got There" rather than the actual caving.  Before I go any further I had better warn readers that each sentence should be prefaced by "If I remember rightly" so, to avoid boring repetition, please take this as read.

Don was working in Bristol and living in digs at the bottom of Gloucester Road.  I agreed to pick him up at 10 a.m. so I left Taunton at 9 a.m.  I have to remind you that this is well before motorways so all main roads went through the middle of towns, above all we hadn't the foggiest idea of the timing of long distance journeys.  On the A38 north of Gloucester we found a convenient pub, so stopped for a pint, or maybe two.  It was lunchtime when we got to Bridgenorth so we stopped for a meal in a cafe in the old town.  By mid afternoon, at Hodnet, disaster stuck with a puncture in the rear tyre.  Using an adjustable spanner and a screwdriver we removed the rear wheel and Don volunteered to roll it to the nearest garage for repair; we didn't know where!  I must have dozed off because a couple of hours later Don reappeared with a repaired wheel.  The bike was reassembled and we continued to the outskirts of Whitchurch where we kipped in a hay barn, after strict instructions that we were not to smoke. The next morning, after a superficial wash under a cold farm tap, we continued into Whitchurch where the local dairy was just opening, as it was Sunday we didn't expect any shops to be open but it was worth enquiring from the milkman.  This was followed by a shout into the open door "Mother, there's two hungry looking lads out here looking for breakfast".  We were invited in and served a full English breakfast for 1/6d; those were the days.  It took us the best part of the day to get to GG where Postle and Pongo had already set up camp.

Apart from the actual caving, I do remember the arrival of a BBC portable? Recording Studio, on a farm flat towed by a tractor, this consisted of a pair of turntables each with a large black disc (remember those things), amplifiers and a large bank of lead-acid accumulators.  A reporter, with a microphone on 400ft. of cable, was sent down the hole leaving the recording engineer on top.  The microphone could also work as a small loudspeaker, so when the reporter, prior to recording proper, pointed the microphone at the waterfall and asked what it sounded like, he was told "We could do it much better in the studio".

I assume we had learned the art of long distance travel as I don't remember any special events on the return journey.


Midcot Fissure" Tisbury" Wiltshire (ST 945296).

by Vince Simmonds and Ros Bateman

Following a phone call asking if we would like to investigate an interesting feature exposed while excavating for a house extension we headed for Tisbury on Saturday 25th May 2002. On arrival Vince started to clear away some of the debris that had fallen into the fissure.  The area under the house was full of loose rocks and after removing a number of these a way down could be seen although it quickly narrowed down.  It was felt that further excavation in this area might have undermined the property. To the south-east removal of more infill and rocks gained access to a narrow rift in the floor of which a narrow fissure could be seen but not followed.


The local bedrock (lithology) exposed at Midcot is a pale to light brown fine grained calcareous sandstone with some fossils (bivalves) and isolated non-cemented sand units.  The high percentage of calcitic cement present within the sandstone causes the rock to have many 'karstic' features.  The sandstone shows clear graded bedding structures with pronounced bedding planes and jointing.  Evidence of subsurface weathering has resulted in iron staining and dissolution of the calcareous cement causing the sandstone to be weak to moderate in strength.

The fissure lies in a NW-SE direction extending beneath the existing house and proposed new extension. The fissure feature studied was 3 metres in length with evidence of dissolution development along a natural joint or fracture plane.  The true lateral extent and depth of the fissure is not known.  However a pronounced 'draught' present from the fissure could infer that either the feature is laterally extensive or a parallel local interconnecting fissure exists enabling a circulation draught to be present.

A grade 3 survey of the fissure feature shows that the fissure exposed forms a 2.5 metre deep narrow (0.75m) rift. The sides of the main rift are comprised of well bedded sandstone bed units.  The rift at each end is in-filled by loose fractured sandstone blocks and fine-grained unconsolidated sand.  Although small open cavities between the rock in-fill extend approximately I metre beyond the main rift no attempt was made to remove the natural in-filled material at the NW end of the rift which extends beneath the foundations of the existing house.


Lyncombe Mine.

by Nick Harding

SANDFORD, SOMERSET.  NGR 4352 5920. Beside a track in wood east of Lyncombe Lodge First discovered 1995

Surveyed to Grade 2 on 27th July 2003 by Nick Richards and Nick Harding (RE.C.).

There appear to be no records anywhere pertaining to this mine.  We are of course willing to be proved wrong but just in case we'll nail our grubby flag to the mast on this one and stake a claim.

As we're the new boys we thought we'd come bearing gifts.  Okay, so we can all think of better things to give than a dark hole in the ground, but hey, we're all cavers here.  (There's a better one to come, I promise you, wrapped in brightly coloured paper with a big shiny bow).

This particular hole was initially discovered by Master Richards back in 1995 but its taken him the best part of eight years to get this far so, with a hiatus in our current dig, due to the machinations of a local parish council, we decided to measure the old fellow up before repairing to the Crown to comprehensively refresh ourselves.

The mine is an east-west working on two levels.  Entrance is just above a trackway.  The metre wide opening leads onto a balcony in the first chamber known as the "Blue Rabbit Chamber" (due to the discovery of a small blue plastic rabbit! We know how to name things I tell yah!). A ladder, secured to a tree near the entrance allows access via a 4 m. descent, or so, to the chamber floor.

Standing at the bottom and tucking underneath the entrance balcony, a bit of a crawl leads to the "Shark's Mouth" - of dogtooth calcite - really quite scary when you're not expecting it - not that anyone would expect a shark in a cave of course.

To continue ascend the "Bridge" into the main thrust of the system.

The lower level continues until terminating in the Crystal Chamber some 40 metres in.  This is part of a calcite vein. The passage to this point narrows down to a low crawl.  There are piles of "deads" in evidence as well as ochre in a number of places in the system.

An old, rotted stemple (which we thought about naming Anoushka) can be seen in the roof of the upper series.  Clambering up to this point one can head back towards the entrance and overlook Blue Rabbit Chamber from "Dirty Pair of Nicks Balcony" - at the same level as the entrance one.

The Basement in the main gallery is reached via a squeeze into a low bedding chamber, which drops into a small rounded room beyond - as yet to be further plumbed - possibly in a future investigation, but we'll probably be in our late dotage by that time.


Adolf Schmidl (1802-1863)

by Mike Wilson

Adolf was regarded as the father of speleology.  He was born 18 May 1802 in Konigswart, Bohemia, and lived in Vienna where he studied philosophy and law from 1819 until 1825.  He then spent a period teaching in Vienna. His writing included twenty-seven books and numerous cave journals, it is recorded that he spent six years caving from 1850 to 1856.  From 1857 to 1863 he was professor of geography at Budapest Polytechnic where he lived until his death in 1863.  His book Die Gratten und Hahlen van Adelsberg, Lueg, Planina, und Laas, published in 1854, was considered to be the beginning of speleology as we know it today. It was full of lithographic prints done by himself and was much admired by Martel!

He had a colleague (Ivan Rudolf) who appeared to be with him on the majority of his expeditions. Rudolf was an engineer in the mercury mines at Idrija (the town near where he was born in 1821).  His task with Schmidl was to act as surveyor, a task which he managed extremely well.  Between them they managed to publish a table of eleven caves surveyed in their region! Ivan Rudolf's main job was both difficult and dangerous, the miners basically dug by the opencast method, or spiral adits, a product called Cinnabar, chemical symbol HGS - deep red translucent and highly toxic crystals. Mercury is obtained by heating Cinnabar in a current of air using a wood or coal furnace and by condensing the vapour through corrugated clay pipes by throwing water on the pipes (sounds primitive to me).  Cinnabar is so toxic that the miners only worked one shift per week. This is because of the poisonous MG vapour invisible except in ultraviolet light.  I have been told that the crystals are absolutely beautiful to see! Cinnabar is used commercially as vermillion colouring and as rouge for expensive cosmetics.  The total production of mercury is so small even today that the flasks are still filled manually and to put the process in perspective 1 pallet load of 52 flasks weighs 2 tons!  At the moment the richest ores are in Almaden in Spain.

Back to caving, Schmidl made accurate notes and measurements and then Rudolf produced the surveys. These two men probably were the first people to survey caves properly thereby initiating the principle of accurate cave surveying! Schmidl's exploits include the Postojnska System and Predjamska Jama.  Probably his main achievement was discovering 500 m of the underground river Pivka.  He achieved this with his son Ferdinand on the 30 August 1850 travelling all night and taking no small risk that storms would block the sumps and endanger their way out.  He was lucky and added 570 m to the underground river system.

He surveyed and explored Postojnska Jama in 1854 showing 5850 metres.  In 1855 he started caving in Austria and explored Geldloch, and surveying the same, but did not reach the major shafts, to quote "the passage leading in that direction was inaccessible", even on all fours! We have to assume from this statement that caving in those days generally consisted of exploring walking or stooping passages with very little attempt to push into tight or low sections. Rudolf and Schmidl spent 6 weeks in 1851 investigating the hydrology of the Timavo underground water system passing Svetina's far point in Skolj Anska Jama.  Sadly stopping only 400m from the entrance!  The Timavo river rises in the Sneznic mts 50km east of Trieste, goes underground at Skocjanske Jama, and rises after 40km of underground travel at or near Duino.

In 1852 Schmidl and Rudolf checked out the resurgence of Planina cave using a special wooden canoe which had to be dragged through low water or stripped down into component parts so that it could be passed through tight points of the cave (a very revolutionary piece of equipment for its day) bearing in mind that it is recorded that it was unloaded and dragged at least 12 times and dismantled twice!  In total 6km of river cave was explored.  Interestingly this method was subsequently used by Martel on several occasions.  August 1856 saw Schmidl in Hungary making a huge trip in the Aggtelek cave system. It was surveyed at 8.667 km long. This figure meant that it was the longest cave in Europe until 1893 when Postojna reached 10 km. Bearing in mind that Schmidl's career only lasted for seven years he achieved a huge amount in terms of caves surveyed and new passages explored at not inconsiderable risk to himself and his trusty companion Rudolf.  Sadly he only managed to publish three books and several dozen papers and this meant that many people with an interest in early caving history find it difficult to relate to his huge achievements.  I believe that a large collection of his written work resides in the library of the University of Vienna and would be very interested to have a browse through the collection.

Schmidl's publications

Beitrag Zurhohlenko noe des Karst (1850)

Uber den Unterirdischen Lauf der Recca (1851)

Die Grotten und Hohlen von Adelsberg, Lueg, Planina und Laas (1854)

Diebaradla Hohle bei Aggtelek und dei Lednica Eishohle bei Szlitzein Ingomorer (1856)

Die Hohlen Des Otscher Sber, Akad, Wiss-Wein-Math (1857)


To Jeff Price for the use of his library and all the other people who have encouraged me to persevere with these articles.


Club News.

Dave Irwin has sent the following note about BBs:

In 1999 I scanned BBs numbers 1-100, but the result, though readable, was not brilliant as the originals were produced by the old and very variable Gestetner stencil process. Unless the machine and inking process was in tip top condition the printed result could be very uneven.  To overcome this Andy MacGregor has screen captured the scanned images on the BEC CD ROM and converted each page (over 500 images - one at a time!) into a word processor document.  The end result is a clean printout of these early Club newsletters complete with all illustrations.  Andy has told me that he is prepared to produce a CD ROM for any member for a small charge to cover costs and postage.  If you are interested contact him at: Tadley, Hampshire. Email: andy.mac-gregor@[removed]

On a similar theme all the recent BBs have been recorded on CD ROM by Sean Howe.

Treasurer's Report (2002-20031)

This report is only a rough resume of this financial year.  I am pleased to report that we have yet again experienced a quiet but rewarding year.  A modest sum has been placed in the IDMF fund to keep the balance sound (it also helps our continued dealings with Mendip Council regarding our zero rating).  I try to assure them annually that some of our rates go towards assisting our younger members.

We as a Club are well placed financially to finance the new extension to foundation level and beyond, to this end I am holding cash in the current account at a higher level than normal, rather than transferring it to the savings account.  The St. Cuthbert's account is healthy and thanks to Roger Haskett I receive the fees on a regular basis thereby making my task easier.

To conclude, the BEC is moving forwards financially each year but I have to say that some of this is due to the low number of BB publications!  Our future financial status looks sound and I hope we can keep it that way.

P.S.  I would like to recommend that there is no rise in subs this year, basically because the BCRA seem to be acting on the general dissent over insurance AT LAST.

Mike Wilson.


Hon. Secretary’s Report (2002-20031)

Here follows a brief summary of some items dealt with by the Committee during the past club year.

The monies (over 650 pounds) raised from last year's auction held at the Dinner have been used to furnish a new cabinet in the Library.  This is to hold the collection of books left to the BEC by Dave Yeandle; any money left over will be used by the Librarian to purchase new books that will be added to the "Pooh Collection".

There is new design and issue of T-shirts and ties, these are available from Tyrone Bevan, he also has some items of old stock - polos etc.

The work on the extension has progressed throughout the year thanks to the persistence of the Hut Warden, who I am sure will thank all those involved in his report.  It's amazing to see that the Belfry supply chain is running as well as ever - a special thanks to those particular individuals, Trevor and Tyrone.  We will have met the requirement on the planning permission with some time to spare. The Belfry has had a new lick of paint; thanks go to those who turned up at the various working weekends through the year.

There has been a sharp increase in the cost of insurance and this thorny issue is still the main topic of debate by clubs nationally.  At this late stage there has been a move by the national body to put forward some proposals.  This will be an item of discussion for next year's committee.

English Nature has requested that SSSI's are monitored and findings are reported back to them by 2010. St. Cuthbert's has around 20 sites that need to be looked at and this again is a task for the next committee to look into.

As directed by the last AGM the Committee looked into the new rules regarding charitable status and concluded that there would be absolutely no benefit to the BEC in going down this particular avenue.

2003 was the celebration of 50 years since the discovery of St. Cuthbert's Swallet and on 6th September a day of celebrations was held at the Belfry and in the evening at the Hunters'. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who made it such a success: Joan Bennett, Dave Irwin, Martin Grass, Roger Haskett, Nigel Taylor, Pete Glanville, Roger Stenner, John Eattough and to everyone else who turned up and participated.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those people that make up the Committee and non-Committee posts for volunteering their time and effort to the administration of this Club: Mike Wilson, Fiona Sandford, John Walsh, Greg Brock, Roger Haskett, Tyrone Bevan, Sean Howe, Adrian Hole and Graham Johnson.

The Annual Dinner is at the Bath Arms, Cheddar on the 4th October.  There will be a coach from the Belfry/Hunters' around 19:00 returning from Cheddar at 1:00.  Thanks to Roz who has again taken on the task of organising the Annual Dinner.

On a sadder note, this year on 31/1/03 saw the passing of a stalwart of the Club, Jock Orr, his name will be forever linked to the early history of this Club.

Vince Simmonds


Dates For Your Diary.

4th October, a.m.: AGM

4th October, p.m.: Dinner, Bath Arms, Cheddar

5th October, a.m: General nausea, headaches, vomiting etc.

7th November: Committee Meeting

5th December: Committee Meeting

Hut Warden's Report (2002-2003)

Bed nights: Members: 338
Non-members: 232
Univ. Lets Offs: 216.

About the same as last year - fifty-five pounds up.  As usual, people don't book in or they put money in envelopes with no name.  Ejits.

Quite a pleasant, relaxing year for me due to good support from the Hut Engineer, OU Johnny, and BBQ Jake. Plus my two willing painters Crispin and Chummy, and of course, the Secretary and his good lady. Massive thanks to Nigel T. for time, effort, help, advice, and equipment with putting in the foundations for the extension.

I am sure the same thanks will also be extended to Mr. Dany (the bricklayer) Bradshaw on completion of the outer shell up to DCL (not quite finished at the time of going to press), cheers Dany.

To finish, I would just like to say that I would like to see the Hut much more tidy and clean while people are actually staying there, I am fed up of walking in and seeing it a total tip - clear up, wash up and wipe down after each meal.  Thanks again to anyone who helped.



Notes From The Logbook.

13/08/03: Welsh's Green Swallet: Graham J., Tangent, Sean Howe

A break from Morton's Pot. Brought out the drain rods after 10 years for use in Morton's.  The colouring of the lias is noticeable with LED lighting and Tangent is a fat bloke.

20/08/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Graham, Lincoln Mick

1.5 metres of water, lots of silt, moved a lot of rocks up from Jepson's to top Seilbahn.

27/08/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Graham, Mick

Wall building and clearing flood debris from Jepson's.

05/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: MadPhil and Graham

Good session sorting out the Ramp.  One more session and should be sorted out permanently.  2½ hours.

06/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Southbank: MadPhil, Ollie Gates and Tim Lamberton

Good trip down to start surveying the West End.  Surveyed from Tooting Broadway to base of Trafalgar. Several more to be done, but needs doing.  6¼hours.

07/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: MadPhil

Bagged up spoil at base of Morton's and cleared debris from Little Chamber.  General tidy of dig site, dry. Ready to kick arse again.  1¾ hours.

14/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Graham, Phil, Jrat, Mark Ireland

Cleared all bags up to Jepson's.  80+ good effort. 3½ hours.

17/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: MadPhil, Graham, Sean Howe, Ben Hewley and Pete

Took drill and scaffold down.  Cleared dig site of all bags.  Drilled holes and set scaffold in place, while others cleared bags to base of Morton's and then cleared bags (50+) to base of380 Foot Way.  Good session, just need to shutter behind scaffold and job's a good one!  3½hours.

19/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Phil, Mick and Graham

Digging, scaffolding, bag emptying and concreting.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Greg Brock

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Greg Brock
Caving Secretary: John Williams
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general


Welcome to a somewhat brief and extremely delayed Bulletin.  Due to hectic work and personal commitments which were unforeseen at the Autumn AGM I am unable to produce regular BBs and thus have decided to hand over the post of Editor to Greg Brock - whom I am certain will do a much better job and to whom I wish the best of luck.  Please note that his address has changed since the Membership Handbook was sent out - his new address is: Cardiff [removed]

In addition, Sean Howe (the current Membership Secretary) has also let it be known that he will be leaving the post in October and thus a replacement for this important and demanding post will be required - any takers?

On the caving side of things, breakthroughs have occurred at a number of sites.  Most notably Morton’s Pot and the Rift Chambers in Eastwater, the no longer Lost Loxton Cavern, Hollybush Shaft and Helictite Well (both in Shipham) and once again in Hunters Lodge Inn Sink (see digging news page and articles).  Further afield Tony Jarratt reports another fine time in Meghalaya with over 17km surveyed. Krem Liat Prah extended from 8.9km to 15km, becoming India’s second longest and on-going, lots of beer drunk .


Hut Engineer’s Report 2003.

Many thanks to everyone who turned up for the Working Weekends this year.

I am pleased to report that it has proved a very productive year.  Apart from all of the small jobs around the Hut that are too numerous to mention, most of the interior of the Hut has had a new coat of paint.  Special thanks go to Crispin Lloyd and Jim Cochrane who were a great help earlier on in the year with the painting.  There are new tiles in the shower room and the BBQ has been completed thanks to Jake.

I would also like to thank all those people who have worked so hard and contributed so much in time and materials towards the new extension.  It could not be done without you.

I look forward to spending another year contributing in my own small way as Hut Engineer.

John Walsh

Librarian’s Report 2003.

No problems since the last AGM, only ten people have borrowed and returned books this year (if the borrowing book is to be believed).  As instructed at the last AGM the missing book list was published in BB No.516, and represents the publications that I know about.  Now that the cataloguing is completed identifying lost stuff will be easier, but getting it back will remain a headache.

A number of new books were either bought or donated this year, a full list will follow in a future BB. Journal exchanges with other clubs continue, but a few of them will be dropped from the list soon if nothing is heard from them.  Other acquisitions this year include an AO plotter and a printer from Pete Moody and a scanner from Dave Irwin.

The three new cabinets bought with the money raised from the auction of the late Dave Yeandle’s caving/climbing kit are now fitted and home to Pooh s book collection.  The only outstanding job here is the making and fitting of some suitably worded plaques for the cabinets.  Whatever money remains after this could go to part finance the binding of the Club’s BB collection, something that is long overdue.

Finally, thanks to Dave Irwin and Phil Rowsell for their help and Bob Smith for running the BEC sales stall at the BCRA regional meet where they managed to reduce the number of St. Cuthbert’s Reports by two.

Graham Johnson


Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

A breakthrough has finally taken place in Morton s Pot, where years of effort has seen the current team led by MadPhil Rowsell and Graham Jake Johnson past the sediment filled shaft and into a flood prone system of small passages which unfortunately need intensive chemical persuasion.  Phil has continued with his reinvestigation and resurveying of the lower West End Series and Lambeth Walk and has confirmed that the lowest point of the cave is Chamber of Horrors and thus worth reinvestigation.  Further above in the old cave he, Jake and Mike Barker have broken through into the 3rd Rift Chamber now named Unlucky Strike  Articles on all three events will follow in future BBs.

Helictite Well.

See Mark Ireland s article on his re-excavation of this well system in Shipham.

Holly Bush Shaft.

Mark Ireland, with a small amount of assistance from other club members, has put an inordinate amount of work into excavating the infill of this old calamine working to a depth of 20m. His efforts have been rewarded by the rediscovery of at least 200 metres of passage which is not yet fully explored (see article).  The mine is reported to be on the same mineralised belt as Singing River Mine. Being adjacent to a housing estate the shaft is lidded and locked.  Contact Mark for a visit.  He will appreciate any assistance with this project.

Hunters Lodge Inn Sink.

The current focus of interest is yet another sump.  This one lies at the end of Rocking Rudolph Rift which leads off from the Cellar Dig in Happy Hour Highway.  At the time of going to press Rich Dolby is preparing a second dive in the streamway sump which potentially could unlock the route through to the major breakthrough that surely lies ahead in this complex and ever growing system.

Loxton Cavern.

Nick Harding and Nick Richards have hit the jackpot with the rediscovery of over 250 metres of extremely attractive ancient phreatic passage containing much evidence of the Old Men - in this case Cornish copper miners.  A full report will follow once the delicate access situation has been resolved.


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink Part 1 - Pushing the Streamway and a Sign of the Times.

by Tony Jarratt

The history of this dig has involved all sorts of surprises and coincidences and not a small amount of amusement.  One of the best of these was the apparently unrelated project of Roger and Jacquie to reinstate the hanging inn sign at the Priddy Road end of the building.  Originally painted by John Lovelace in the early 70s it soon flaked and was taken down.  It had an owl on one side and a badger on the other.  Several months ago, before the latest discoveries, the plan to make a new one was put into motion and eventually a professional firm took over the task.  It was finished on 30th September and gleefully shown to the writer who was amazed and delighted to see that the new Hunters Lodge Inn sign bore a series of cave painting replicas of bison, reindeer, mammoth and prehistoric hunters copied from the old Pub wallpaper!  It is now installed and is probably the only one in the world with this motif.  It could not be more appropriate.  On the same day the writer received a call from Maggie Matthews of the BBC s Inside Out documentary series.  She was hoping to film a short human interest programme on the discoveries and no doubt the inn sign would have featured strongly in this.  This project later developed into a potential pilot documentary in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit and the Open University to be produced by Bethan Waite and introduced by Alan Titchmarsh!  The sign also featured in an article on the Pub and cave in the Fosse Way Magazine (No.4 72, 28/11/03).  The discovery was reported in Descent (No. 174, October/November 2003) with some excellent accompanying photos by Estelle Sandford.

I also received an Email from Bill Tolfree stating that the BCRA had approved a research grant of 390 pounds towards carbon dating a bone sample at the Oxford Laboratory.  A nomination for the Bryan Ellis Award (for innovation or enterprise in one of Bryan’s fields of interest) was proposed by Bill Tolfree (who preferred to think of it as for sheer stubborn bastardness).  I was gratified to win this at the BCRA Conference but was unable to attend to state that it was really won by the whole team who have grafted on this project over the last 2½ years.  One hundred pounds goes into the digging fund and I know that Bryan would have been delighted to have contributed to the exploration of a system so closely linked with his favourite watering hole and a cave he himself surveyed - Hunters Hole.

Work at John Walsh’s dig in Dear’s Ideal, Hunters Hole has recommenced in the hope of intersecting the master cave beyond Drip Tray Sump.  At this latter site the submersible pump has been installed and a lot of energy has been expended on emptying the pool and digging at the end. Conditions here are particularly unpleasant with poor air and deep, clinging mud.  The drained water is next seen in Pewter Pot where it is swallowed by the Slop 3 dig.  The adjacent Hair of the Dog Sump drained away naturally during the dry weather to reveal no open ways on and to save Rich Dolby from a second miserable dive! On a solo visit on 22nd October Alex did some token digging at the lowest point after hearing running water below the floor.  Slop 3 also dried up and became reinstated as a promising site. Trev, Vern, John Walsh and others have done some good work here and on 26th October Trev mutilated an obstructing boulder to gain a view into some 3m of squalid canal passage with a solid, calcited ceiling.  A visit by John on 3rd November revealed this dig to have flooded and become inaccessible, probably until next summer.

Walling up operations have continued at the Inn-let climb with Bev, Gwilym, Jeff Price and the writer in the multiple roles of architects, foremen and most of the labour force.  This job is now completed and the climb is hopefully safe.

Dr. Pete Smart and Dr. David Richards (UBSS) have commenced stal dating experiments as part of the current Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project which ties in with the palaeontological remains.  A very tentative result from this indicates that the bones may be considerably older than previously thought but more sampling will need to be done to confirm this. Lots more bones have been removed for identification by Dr. Jacobi and a trial dig will be conducted at the site. Tangent has opened up a passage near the terminal choke which is heading SE towards B.A.B. and Tony Boycott has attacked this with drill and assorted rock buggering devices.  November 6th saw Tangent and the writer enter 2m of open passage with a view down into a low, calcited mud floored phreatic crawl. Above this two bison (1) molars and a bone calcited to the limestone wall provide evidence of previously higher sediment levels now washed away and eminently justify this dig.  A bison right scapula and associated sediment, lots of assorted large animal bones, mainly reindeer, and the broken jawbone of a northern vole have been dispatched to the British Museum.

Nick Mitchell and Tangent have not yet continued with their climbing project in Broon Ale Boulevard but the first aven was free-climbed by the writer for 18m to where it closed down. This muddy, decorated phreatic rift was left rigged until a survey leg can be done.

On October 11th Dr. Peter Glanvill and acting nurse Ken Passant attempted surgery on the broken stalactite in H.H.H. but the operation was not a success and the patient remained detached, fractured and prone.  On the benefit side some photos were taken in B.A.B. Pete returned on the 19th with matronly pharmacist Pete Rose to restore the invalid to a vertical, though heavily splinted, position.

Next day sprightly 69 year old Malcolm Cotter (MCG) videoed most of the cave during a tourist trip to the end of B.A.B. Having a reputation as one of Mendip s most dedicated diggers it was a privilege to show him around.

Blasting operations have recommenced at the Cellar Dig in H.H.H. in the hope of discovering the stream passage below.  On 15th November, following separate digging sessions by Trev and the writer, a draughting hole was opened up heading out under the boulder floor of H.H.H. Obstructing boulders were banged next day and on 17th Jeff Price, Tim Large, John Walsh, Alex Livingston and the writer removed many bags of mud and lots of rocks to reveal a solid, calcited vertical rift over 2m deep but boulder choked.  Halfway through the digging session a heavy downpour sent a large flood pulse into the cave and the roaring of the stream could be heard below as it passed under the dig.  Much encouraged we banged a couple of boulders and retired to the bar.  Further work during the week saw the rift chemically enlarged and several boulders reduced to scree.  On 25th November a hole was opened up into another rift at right angles above the virgin stream passage where, due to heavy rain, rushing water could be heard not far away but could not be seen due to the traditional obstinate boulder blocking access.  This was banged the next day and on the 27th your scribe cleared the rubble to gain a view down a narrow slot into the streamway proper.  Once again access was denied by loose boulders so these were banged and this wet and filthy dig gratefully evacuated.  The lure of open passage was too much and so 24 hours later a return was made to clear the debris for a better view of the scalloped and clean washed vadose streamway below, alas still inaccessible due to razor sharp rock ledges protruding from the walls of the rift. Not having the drill today it was left for the 29th for the next bang and on 30th the stream was at last reached in a c. 6m section of caveable passage but still not passable due to fallen slabs. Trev and John hauled huge amounts of rock up to H.H.H. and were impressed by the progress and potential of this dig.  The story of further exploration here will be continued in the next article.

Our opening up of this cave has appropriately provided an opportunity for at least one bat to either take up residence or use the entrance shaft as an insect hunting ground. This is not the first time that Mendip diggers have actually provided a bat habitat - bat enthusiasts take note.

Bone identification - updated

1.Bison priscus.

Right dentary with MI-M3 with gnawing marks, possibly wolf (Canus lupus).

2. Bison priscus.

Distal right humerus.

3. Rangifer tarandus.

(Reindeer). Fragment of left dentary with M2 and M3.

4. Bison priscus.

Thoracic vertebra.

5. Rangifer tarandus.

Part of antler from young animal.

6. Bison priscus.

Right metacarpal.

7. Rangifer tarandus.

Left humerus.

8. Bison priscus.

Sub-adult.  Left metatarsal lacking unfused distal epiphysis.

9. Bison priscus.

Rib fragment.

10. Bison priscus.

Fragment of horn cone from large animal.

11. Bison priscus.


12. Rangifer tarandus.

Lumbar vertebra.

13. Rangifer tarandus.

Part of antler from young animal.

14. Rangifer tarandus.

Part of antler from young animal.

15. Rangifer tarandus.

Distal right tibia?  Gnawed at distal articulation.

16. Bison priscus.

Juvenile distal right humerus lacking proximal epiphysis.

17. Bison priscus.

(The much photographed, partly stalagmite encrusted long bone).  Left radius lacking distal extremity.

18. Rangifer tarandus.

Nine pieces of female or juvenile antler including two bases.

cf. Rangifer tarandus.

Rib fragment.

     Rangifer tarandus.

Shaft of juvenile left humerus.


Juvenile distal right radius lacking epiphysis.


Mid-shaft fragment of juvenile radius.


Anterior mid-shaft fragment of left metacarpal.


Right metacarpal lacking distal extremity.


Much damaged proximal right meatacarpal.


Partial right innominate.


Mid-shaft fragment of juvenile left femur.


Distal left femur (epiphysis incompletely fused).


Mid-shaft fragment of right femur.


Proximal right tibia.


Juvenile distal right tibia lacking epiphysis. L


Left astragalus.


Mid-shaft fragments of left metatarsal.


Mid-shaft fragment of left metatarsal.


Mid-shaft fragment of metapodial.


Two 1st phalanges Guvenile).

cf. Rangifer tarandus.

Eight rib fragments.


Part of spine of left scapula.

     Bison priscus.

Left calcanium.


Partial left calcanium (small).


Distal right astragalus.


Right naviculo-cuboid.


Proximal phalange.


Proximal phalange.


Proximal phalange.

19. Rangifer tarandus.

5 pieces of female and juvenile male antler including unshed base with small portion of frontal bone.


Neural spine of thoracic vertebra.


Rib fragment.


Portion of juvenile right scapula.


Proximal right humerus.


Distal right humerus.


Juvenile proximal right radius lacking epiphysis.


Proximal left ulna.


Fragment of proximal left ulna.


Fragment of right ulna.


Right ilium.


Mid-shaft portion of right metatarsal.


Distal left metatarsal.

      cf Bison priscus.

Rib fragments x 2.

20. Rangifer tarandus.

Distal right metatarsal.

21. Rangifer tarandus.

Juvenile thoracic vertebra.

      Rangifer tarandus.

Juvenile proximal right tibia lacking epiphysis.

22. Rangifer tarandus.

Antler tine.

      cf Bison priscus.

Two rib fragments.


Unidentified fragments.

23. Rangifer tarandus

Proximal left humerus.  Chemically weathered, not gnawed.

24. Rangifertarandus

Unshed base of juvenile antler with brow tine and portion of frontal.


Fragment of juvenile antler.


Fragment from (?juvenile) cranium retaining part of base of pedicel.


Sacrum; incompletely fused.

     cf Bison priscus.

Rib fragment.

25. Bison priscus.

Proximal left femur (?) gnawed.

26. Bison priscus

Juvenile proximal left radius lacking distal epiphysis.


Damaged at proximal end.

The above have been returned from the British Museum and have been given to Chris Hawkes for the Wells Museum collection - with the exception of HLIS 17 which, being a significant feature of the cave, has been returned to its calcite cradle in the Barmaids Bedrooms.  The following have yet to be officially identified.

27.        Bison priscus.             Right scapula and surrounding sediment (muddy gravel)
28.        Asstd. Bones.
29.        Northern vole (?).
30.        Rangifer tarandus (?).
31.        Rangifer tarandus x 2(?).
32.        Bison priscus (?) Molar.
33.        Rangifer tarandus (?) Tooth.

Roger Jacobi was pleased to inform us that probably most of the reindeer bones so far recovered are from young adult females that died around Marchi April during calving.  It is likely that they were using a sheltered snow patch where there would have been less troublesome insect life.  The males were presumably living it up elsewhere - a stag party perhaps?  Pregnant reindeer near a water supply would have been a welcome sight to a ravenous wolf pack.

The palaeontological deposits in this cave may prove to be extremely important and there is a possibility that they may be instrumental in changing the perceived sequences of the Ice Age.  The scientists involved in this project are hoping to publish their findings, once confirmed, in the relevant important publications so details of their results will be initially omitted from BB reports to avoid any academic embarrassment! It’s very satisfying, though to not only have discovered this fine system in such a perfect position but to know that this dig has actually changed the history of the world!!! Everything to Excess.

Yet more diggers and acknowledgements.

Professor Graham Bowden (Soton.UCC/WCC), Dr. Pete Smart (UBSS), Maggie Matthews and Bethan Waite (BBC), Steve Windsor, Ben Shaw (Birmingham USS), Simon Nik-Nak Richards (WCC), Malcolm Cotter (MCG - video), Dr. David Richards (UBSS), Tim Large, Peter (Snablet) MacNab.


A formal mammalian biostratigraphy for the Late Pleistocene of Britain, Andrew Currant, Roger Jacobi. Quaternary Science Reviews 20 (2001) ppI707-1716.

Secrets of the Ice Age, Evan Hadingham (1979).


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink Part II - Pushing the Bar Steward and the Filming of an Epic!

by Tony Jarratt

The saga continues from the previous article.  Refer also to BB515 Following the streams in H.L.I.S.

Work on following the streamway at the bottom of Cellar Dig, below the boulder floor of Happy Hour Highway, continued throughout December with many bangs being necessary to remove obstructing rocks and ledges - both at floor level and in the ceiling.  By the 11th we had progressed some 9 metres with another 5 metres in view giving a total dug length of some 18 metres.  An estimated gap of around 4 metres exists between the upstream end of the new stuff and the downstream end of the previously explored Bar Steward Passage and so this name has been extended to cover all of the streamway - and very appropriate it is too!  A vocal connection has been established but there is little enthusiasm for a physical one due to the horrendous nature of the intervening boulder choke.  This may be a job for the future.  With the onset of wet weather a visit to Bar Steward can be a refreshing and cleansing experience on a rainy day and the base of the entrance shaft makes a handy, free laundrette for one’s spare oversuit.  On a dry day the ample Mendip mud found in the first part of the dig makes the use of this facility very necessary.

On December 14th, following a rubble clearing session, the writer demolished a calcite false floor and was able to descend a 4m deep sloping rift in the floor to see the streamway continuing in a similar fashion.  Large slabs of rock vaguely attached to the walls prevented access. More clearing the next day made the climb easier and also gave a view of a possible decorated void beyond a partially flowstone coated boulder choke above the streamway.  The 17th, 18th, 21st and 22nd saw further blasting and clearing trips as we progressed along the rift. Spoil disposal became no problem as broken rock could be dropped into the narrow floor of the rift or stacked in gaps in the choke.  Stones thrown ahead rattled on downwards and the occasional one went a long way.  Trev Hughes estimated the depth of this forthcoming pitch as possibly 15 metres.  Our optimism and enthusiasm increased immeasurably!

Tim Large installed a thermometer at the entrance to Cellar Dig, initially to check the temperature of the adjacent bottle of Champagne but now regularly inspected to record the temperature of the cave itself.  Between the 8th and 11th of December this varied from 10.6-12.8 degrees Celsius.

The next Wednesday night session fell on Christmas Eve but we just couldn’t miss it.  The writer descended early to clear the bang debris and after an hour of rock hauling and manipulation opened a squeeze into a muddy alcove above a large, superbly water worn and steeply descending rift with a further drop visible beyond.  Mark Ireland then arrived to assist with gardening a couple of huge slabs forming the floor of the breakthrough squeeze and these were shifted just as Jeff Price and Tim turned up for their unexpected extra Christmas present.

A careful free-climb, with more gardening en route, was made down the Eastwater-style potholed rift for 10m to reach a 5m vertical section where a ladder was used to reach the roomy area below.  Here the cave once more went horizontal and, unfortunately, small.  A low phreatic tube was pushed for 8m to where it became too tight.  A steeply ascending phreatic tube on the west side could not quite be entered and this area needed chemical persuasion.  This 25m long extension is 50m below the surface and 20m below the entrance to Cellar Dig at its deepest point.  The length to this point from Cellar Dig is around 43 metres.  It is heading on a bearing of 172 degrees and may well pass beneath Drip Tray Sump.  There are many spectacular fossils and chert ledges throughout and the place has a totally different character to the rest of the system which it complements nicely. It is in itself a taxing little trip and indeed will be a Bar Steward in flood conditions.  With our usual appropriateness we named it Rocking Rudolph Rift after Roger’s latest festive brew - alliteration and reindeer being also relevant to this cave.  The whole 15m depth is free-climable with care but a rope or ladder would certainly be necessary for the vertical section on a wet day and, until all the friable ledges are booted off, it needs some caution.  Amongst the many superb fossils in the walls of the rift is a probable Orthoceras (Nautiloid); white, smooth, slightly conical and a little larger than a king-sized cigarette.


On the way out the 12.5 degree Champagne was quaffed and suitable celebrations continued in the bar.  Merry Christmas!

Work resumed on the morning of the 27th with the firing cable and tools being moved forwards, more gardening of the pitch being done and three long shotholes drilled at the face. In the afternoon Trev and Tangent surveyed the extension while the writer prepared the charges.  Detonation took place from Cellar Dig.  The results were examined by the writer and Tangent next day.  The rock rib and phreatic ceiling at the face had been enlarged enough for access to be gained for 1.5 metres into the base of the steeply ascending phreatic tube. This closed down as did the continuation of the fault line at all levels.  The stream pooled up in a very narrow rift which would need intensive banging. As the passage has obviously sumped up to a high level the site was abandoned until drier weather and all equipment cleared for use elsewhere.  This was a bitter end to our Christmas expectations.  On the way out the wedged boulders at the top of the pitch were banged and their remains cleared by Alex Livingston the following evening.  He also noted four leeches near the base of the pitch.

On 14th January, having studied Trev’s survey and resigned ourselves to the squalor, we were back. Three holes were drilled and another charge fired at the base of the steep tube to give us some working space.  Rock and fossil samples, Caninia and Zaphrentis, were collected.  The spoil was partly cleared on the 18th with assistance from a Shepton team and next day another bang was fired in the rift some 3m above the terminal sump.  Yet another bang on the 21st brings this phase of the project up to date. There seems to be open passage not far ahead and the rift draughts well.  Watch this space (or read the following article!)

Some 2.5m down from Cellar Dig entrance a low, up-dip bedding passage can be seen to extend for at least 5m.  Shotholes were drilled here in preparation for a future bang.

Roger Jacobi phoned from the British Museum to report that one of the last batch of bones may possibly be the radius from a Brown Bear - Ursus arctos.  A bison scapula has been taken to Oxford for carbon 14 dating.  In B.B. Dr David Richards of Bristol University took stalagmite samples for dating purposes.

The BBC decided that the difficult access to the cave precluded it from starring in the pilot programme of their forthcoming archaeological series but that it would feature on the local Inside Out documentary on 2nd February.  A date was arranged to introduce the lady director, Maggie Matthews, and lady researcher, Bethan Waite, to the delights of caving. Their cameraman, Steve Holland, already had experience.  They turned up on 5th January, as did several gentlemen diggers, keen to offer the ladies a helping hand.  Maggie unfortunately had a cold so decided to undertake research in the Pub while Bethan took over for underground action.  After an initial attack of worry and doubt in Pub Crawl she overcame this and very competently completed a trip to the bone deposit and back, though there was some doubt if she enjoyed it!  Steve used a small video camera to do some preliminary filming in H.H.H. and B.B. but being 6’ 4’’ tall and having an old shoulder injury was unable to pass the squeeze above Pewter Pot.  He did enjoy the cave though and seemed happy enough to allow Bethan to film the rest on her next visit - if her bruises had healed by then!  It later transpired that a thin caving cameraman, Graham MacFarlane, had been rooted out for the next attempt and that hands on presenter Tessa Dunlop was keen to go underground.  Palaentologists Andy Currant and Roger Jacobi offered to turn up on the surface to explain the importance of the bones.  Maggie decided that a good human interest sequence could be filmed at the Belfry so it was pointed out to her that suitable amounts of traditional refreshment would inspire the would-be film stars to greater thespian achievements.

On Monday 12th January the epic production commenced after almost being cancelled due to this being the wettest day for months.  With the entrance waterfall contained behind polythene sheeting and most of the stream diverted down the rift in the floor conditions were not too bad.  Both H.H.H. and B.B. were filmed, a long sequence was recorded with Estelle and Tangent at the bone deposit and Jake Baynes starred in a digging role at the Inn-let.  Trev’s hand drawn survey and MadPhil’s computerised version made the silver screen and some excellent footage was recorded in the bar where our palaeontologists made some very favourable comments on the finds and examined 16 bones, antler fragments and another bison horn cone brought out for the occasion (HLIS 24-39).  This was a long day with six hours underground and as many in the Pub (courtesy of the Beeb).  The girls were superb - dedicated and professional and very capable cavers. Graham, assisted with the lighting by Alex, did a magnificent job and is keen to cave with us again.  Thanks to all those who turned up to help and especially to Roger and Jacquie for their patience and hospitality.  Surface sequences were later filmed by Steve Wagstaff at Bat Products (where unsuspecting customer Clive North - who the Beeb could not afford to film this programme, ironically became an unpaid extra!) Estelle’s house and Tangent’s place of work.  A booze-up at the Belfry was also recorded.  Fuelled by a BBC donated barrel of Butcombe a selection of Mendip’s finest topers entertained the viewers at home with atrociously sung ditties accompanied by Snab’s folk ensemble – Hen’s Teeth.  The maestro also gave a rendering of his rapidly composed song about the cave entitled Beneath the Boozer.

Digging in the floor of the Inn-let has commenced in the faint hope of entering the continuation of Bar Steward passage from above.

The extensions (as of 16/1/04).

Work has recommenced in Dear’s Ideal, Hunters Hole in an attempt to enter the master cave further along but, due to the wet weather, conditions here are fairly squalid and this may end up as another summer dig.  Water from the entrance shaft and Main Pitch, after sinking in the boulder floor of the Railway Tunnel, is seen again sinking behind the current spoil heap in Dear’s Ideal.  It does not reappear in the known cave and may well flow beneath the choked fossil passages in like manner to the Bar Steward stream flowing beneath H.H.H. in the Sink.  This is an area of dangerous poised boulders and a route directly downwards from the base of the Main Pitch may need to be engineered.

With our knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the underground drainage and potential of this area plans are being laid for the next surface dig.  If permission can be obtained we hope to reopen Tankard Hole (ST 5563/4994) - essentially a 60m deep and horrifically dangerous boulder choke with open, unexplored passages at the bottom.  With modern digging technology this should be a feasible objective.

Song: Beneath the Boozer

words: Snab. Tune: Brighton Camp (The Girl I Left Behind Me).

If it hadn’t been for the Foot and Mouth perhaps they never would have found it,
for the government said the land must close and the cavers all were grounded.
So they all sat in the Hunters Lodge with the tears running into their tankards
and Roger said Get out of here or you’ll turn into a load of drunkards .


What shall we do? Shall we have a pint? Shall we have a pint with you sir?
Or shall we go outside and dig, find a cave right under the boozer?

Oh where can we go? young Tony said, There’s nowhere to go caving .
Roger said When I tried to build a shed it fell in and it’s covered in paving.
Lift it up and you’ll find a hole, it’s the one just round the corner.
You can dig there to your heart s content. Stop looking like bloody mourners.

So they started to dig at the end of the Pub, it was a joyful occasion
and they sometimes made a right hubbub when the passage needed persuasion.
As they cleared each flake the bar did shake and the drunkards were astounded.
Then they all rushed in, you could tell by their grins that they’d dug for a cave and found it!

Oh when they’d passed the hanging death young Tangent went off looking.
He shouted back I’ve found some bones they must be from Jacquie’s cooking .
But, no, the bones were Ice Age ones, some covered o’er in calcite,
there was reindeer, bison and a vole so the Butcombe flowed past midnight.

Now those Belfry lads dig all the time, those diggers brave and bolder
and the bones that they found from the past have turned out so much older
than ever they had dreamed about though the cave it was a bruiser
and who’d have thought they’d have found this lot right underneath their boozer?

A new verse to Boys of the Hill by J. Rat.

In the car park, underground Ice Age mammals can be found;
bison and reindeer as time stands there still.
Sumps and squeezes, pots and crawls; leeches, mud and waterfalls
This cave has it all! say the Boys of the Hill.

The Hunters car park about 80,000 years ago by John Wilson (MOLES).

Additions to the digging team and other contributors to the saga.

Mark Gonzo Lumley, Lee Hawkswell (MCG), Jacquie Gibbons (MCG), Steve Holland (BBC), Tessa Dunlop (BBC), Graham MacFarlane (BBC), Steve Wagstaff (BBC), Ben Ogboume, Steve Windsor, Clive North (ATLAS), Pete Snab McNab, Anita McNab and Hen s Teeth, assorted drunks led by Alan Butcher (SMCC), Terry Fitch (SMCC), Kev Barlow (SMCC).


Hunters Lodge Inn Sink Part III - Hangover Hall and Stillage Sump.

by Tony Jarratt

It may safely be said that all this great series of inlets send their water to the subterranean Axe, forming a labyrinth of cave passage, which may trend to concentrate into a larger stream-way, along the line of the southerly dip of the faulted-down limestone north of Pen Hill.

HE. Balch - Mendip, Its Swallet Caves and Rock Shelters, 2nd edn. (1948) p.136.

On the 23rd January 2004 some of the debris from the last bang below RRR was cleared by Doug Harris and Simon Moth (A.C.G.)  Jake Baynes and a Birmingham D.S.S. party tidied up the bone inlet dig the next day and the following morning saw more clearing in the streamway.  On this trip a view was gained into roomy, flowstone covered passage.  On the 26th the rest of the spoil was removed and another charge fired.  Tim Large recovered a fine Michelinia fossil.  The 28th saw Tim, Jeff Price and the writer desperately shifting the spoil and gazing longingly into the tantalising streamway ahead.  Having run out of cord a desperate attempt was made to enter this by using a hired Kango hammer powered from the mains and to this effect Jake B. and the writer spent three murderous hours laying cables, steel-driving and lugging the bloody heavy hammer back out again in disgust having only succeeded in chipping off a tiny amount of rock!  In the evening some cord was scrounged from Clive North and we got our own back, incidentally being totally unaware of the Somerset earth tremor which happened at the same time.

The last day of January saw the debris cleared but still no access so a large team blithely descended on the 1st of February, after a lunchtime session, with intentions of banging again.  Chiselling was in progress when a sudden roar from above heralded the arrival of a considerable flood pulse forcing those at the bottom of R.R.R to cram themselves into various nooks and crannies to avoid a soaking.  The pitch soon became a maelstrom of cascading water - very impressive and quite frightening at the time.  Taking a chance on the final crawl not sumping the writer managed to drill seven shotholes before fleeing to the surface with the others - Jeff having his spectacles washed off on the climb and being pelted by in washed rocks.  By the time we got out it had stopped raining and Pub Crawl was almost dry but we had gained an insight into how potentially dangerous the cave could be.

Next morning, following a brief interview on BBC Radio Bristol, the writer and Tony Boycott laid the charge, returning after lunch with Jake, Tim and Jeff to pass the terminal rift, foggy with bang fumes, and enter some 4 metres of passage ending in a sump on the left.  Bugger. A flowstone coated rift/aven above was climbed for 10 metres but closed down.  After poking about the stream was found to sink below the RH wall and this was destined to be dug in drier weather.  Disappointed we headed out after imbibing yet another bottle of Champagne.  Hangover Hall seemed a suitable name for the extension.

In the evening the BBC Inside Out documentary was screened and it was pleasing to see what an excellent and professional job has been done.  It was informative, amusing, risque in parts and not too embarrassing - except for Tim whose well packed underpants are now famous throughout the nation!  Favourable comments were heard from cavers and non-cavers alike and hopefully this programme redressed the balance a little for the utter crap shown on the recent Casualty series.

On February 4th digging commenced in Hangover Hall where several large sacks were filled with mud and clay and left in situ.  The sump on the left was found to be an inlet with more water flowing from it than was in the main stream   The combined streams sank on the right hand side of the fault and this, as previously stated, was to become the focus of our next campaign.

Work here continued throughout February and March and was not without the odd trauma.  On one occasion Jake B. was almost squashed by a boulder but the quick thinking of his observant companion, Justine, saved his bacon. With no access to bang the team resorted to plugs and feathers in an attempt to break up a large boulder - a slow job.  On 10th March the writer returned to reality and the offending boulder was reduced instantaneously to gravel.  It was noted that the strong inward draught whistled up into the rift above H.H. and that the bang fumes did not reappear in H.H.H. or the Inn-let Dig; where did they go?  The spoil was cleared on the 14th and another charge fired the next day.  This was cleared on the 17th when Gwilym Evans did the squalid bit at the face and was rewarded for his efforts by a sudden breakthrough into a continuation of Hangover Hall some 2.5m high, 2m wide and 4m long.  An unattractive sump at the end may drain in drier weather and was named Stillage Sump in honour of the assorted flotsam and jetsam therein.  Another choke had been vanquished and we were a little bit closer to the crux of this cave.  Coincidentally, on the same night the BBC repeated their documentary nationwide and with a few alterations from the original.  This caught the eye of Simon de Bruxelles of The Times who wrote a short article which was published on the 19th.  A similar article was published next day in the Western Daily Press.  It also, unfortunately, caught the eyes of at least two nutters who saw fit to write to the Hunters with their lunatic theories. One of these concerned totally jumbled archaeological nonsense and the other; several pages of A4 paper covered in numerals, references to the bible and newspaper cuttings - apparently compiled by a schizophrenic psychopath from Newport, Monmouthshire!  The paper is sadly just too stiff and shiny for use elsewhere!

On 21st and 22nd more spoil was cleared from the approach to Stillage Sump to make access easier. Snablet had been in this up to his neck but it was decided that a diver was required for a safer and more hygienic push.  The entrance to the unexplored inlet passage a couple of metres below the drop into Cellar Dig was also banged and partly cleared by Tim and Justine on the 24th. Work continued on these two sites throughout March and both tourist and tidying up trips took place in conjunction.

On April 2nd (a lost opportunity by one day!) cave divers Rich Dolby and Jon Beal, supported by John Walsh and Tangent, made their weary way to Stillage Sump.  Unfortunately this became totally mud and rock-choked some 2m in at a depth of around 1m - just body-sized!  It will now be left to drain naturally or at worst pumped out to enable digging to proceed.  On April 5th the sump chamber and approach were enlarged and the ceiling blasted to give direct access to the airbell.  Two days later the now roomy sump pool received another bang on the end wall and both Jake B. and Eddy Hill were convinced that the sump shelved deeply away on the RH side and was probably diveable.

With blasting discontinued at Stillage Sump the Cellar Dig inlet captured our attention and another charge was fired on the 14th April.

To be continued.

Additions to the team and acknowledgements.

The Mendip Caving Group for a donation of 130 pounds to the bang fund following an auction at their 50th Anniversary bash, Andy Thorpe (OSCG), Doug Harris (ACG), Gavin Davidge and Nigel Gray (BUSS), Justine Emery (CSS), Eddy Hill (UBSS), Jon Beal (FCC), Kevin Welch and Amy Finnie (CSCA).

(Ed. Photographs of these new extensions should appear in the next BB).


New Discovery.  Loxton Cavern Found!

by Nick Harding and Nick Richards

Chalk another one up for the BEC - but not just yet

As many, if not all of you are aware the Two Nicks have made a very important cave discovery, or rather rediscovery in the Loxton area (turn to page 111 of Mendip the Complete Caves and a View of the Hills and cross out the word Lost before Cave of Loxton).  At present the situation is this: Loxton Parish Council have decided that until their insurance situation is sorted out the cave must remain out of bounds.  This is frustrating as there is much to share with noble fellow cavers.  As soon as the situation has been resolved to everyone’s benefit you will be able to read all about it.  But be warned this may take a long time.

This of course does not stop us from thanking Masters Tony J, Tangent, MadPhil and Mark Ireland for their sterling work and Martin Grass for the pictures.  Blessings be upon ye.


Holly Bush Shaft Shipham - Recent Explorations.

by Mark Ireland (Shipham born, depraved Cheddar resident)

Amongst the most depraved and wretched were Shipham and Rowberrow, two mining villages at the top of Mendip: the people savage and depraved even almost beyond Cheddar, brutal in their natures, and ferocious in their manners.

Martha Manners, Mendip Annals (1859)


The author’s family have lived in Shipham for many generations and were familiar with many of the mine workings.  Recent exploration and surveying has been undertaken by mainly Axbridge Caving Group, Wessex Cave Club and B.E.C.

The majority of mines were worked by individual miners, partnerships or small groups.  The work was often difficult and dangerous and the ores extracted in the simplest and quickest way possible.  More organised mining companies then began to take an interest in the area and Cornish miners worked what are currently known as Winterhead Shaft, Star Mine and the Stinking Gulf in Singing River Mine.  Following their departure from the latter site the shaft was blocked until the mid 1910’s when Messrs F.G. Clements & Co. from Easton, near Wells were contracted on behalf of Axbrige Rural District Council (ARDC) to investigate the possibility of making an underground reservoir down this shaft.  It was dug out to a platform previously installed by the Cornishmen.  Frank Clements was standing on this with George and Frank Brooks when it collapsed and Clements was left hanging by his fingertips!  He was pulled to safety by the others, who had escaped the calamity, and hoisted to the surface.  He never went down the shaft again.

Below this platform an opening led to the shaft bottom and old workings.  Clements & Co. enlarged these to form the Great Hall but not long after the project was abandoned with the arrival in Shipham of mains water.  This mine was visited in the 1940s by Sidcot School Spelaeological Society and then forgotten until revisited by ACG&AS in 1971.  Due to the efforts of Clements & Co. we cannot be sure how the workings originally looked or what artefacts were removed.  Only small pockets of the mine were left untouched and some artefacts were found.

Old miners reported that the majority of workings were 20-30 fathoms deep (120-180 feet or 36.5-55 metres). In some mines seasonal high water levels gave some problems.

The only area left unexplored by mine enthusiasts in Shipham, and probably the most important in understanding the undisturbed workings, is to the east of Singing River Mine in Jimmy Glover’s Field - also called Gruffies after the old workings or grooves.  Here there are at least three intact, infilled shafts, one of which forms the subject of this article and whose underground galleries may connect with the eastern workings of Singing River Mine.

Holly Bush Shaft.

On the 8th July 2003 my brother Shane and I investigated this 6m deep, rubbish choked shaft located at ST 4458857815 and originally reported and named by Chris Richards (ACC&AS) in 1971.  The entrance being completely overgrown with brambles, some gardening work was done to reveal a broken flagstone capping dangerously partly sunken into the shaft. Beneath this was a piece of corrugated sheeting which itself was resting on two large, loose rocks.

The flagstone - 1.2m x 0.79m x 0.1m thick - may have been originally placed by the miners.  Three drill holes on one side may have served to lift it. The other half of the broken capstone was later found in the shaft.

We lifted the flagstone, partly removed the supporting corrugated sheeting and peered down the gap into a typical 0.76m (2ft 6) Shipham shaft, at least 6m deep. Everything was put back as before and our findings were reported to the landowners who, after some discussion, agreed that the entrance should be rebuilt and that permission to dig out the shaft would be given.  We returned the next evening with a 1.5m x 0.9m steel plate, cleared the capping - replacing it with the plate - and planned a permanent, safe and secure access.

Mick Norton (ACC/B&DCC) and I descended the shaft to check its safety and need of repairs to the ginging.  Only the top section needed cementing, the depth was measured at 8m to a choke of soil and animal bones - cattle, sheep etc.  Later, over a couple of trips, Dave Holmes (ACG), stating that he wanted to provide a service to the community, helped rebuild the entrance with concrete. A new manhole cover was emplaced and the flagstone put aside.

15th September saw the writer commence removal of bones, soil and more bones!  At a depth of 8.7m a cast iron wheelbarrow wheel was discovered. On the 18th Tony Jarratt and I removed 100 skiploads of spoil.  Bones, earth and stones made this easy going.  Amongst the spoil was found an old cast iron shoemaker s last, a spade a builder s trowel and a small engine cogwheel.

The next couple of trips cleared out more spoil consisting of larger stones than previously.  A long, thick stone - first thought to be a lintel - was later revealed to be the other half of the capstone.  The surrounding spoil proved to be builder’s rubble.  On the 20th, after clearing the capstone, an old car front bumper was revealed.  On lifting this out another front spoiler was found.  I must here confess to having previously stacked the ladder and hauling rope on a ledge above in order that they did not interfere with digging.  The spoiler was half buried across the shaft and under the capstone and moving it dislodged a rock which hit the side of the shaft somewhere beneath my feet.  On hearing the noise my immediate reaction was to lunge across and wedge myself in the shaft.  At that moment, as I looked down at the floor, it collapsed, giving me a great shock - not only the sight of it going but the noise and speed of debris falling 4m further down!  I counted my lucky stars that I was not amongst it, then looked up the shaft with relief to see that none of the ginging had been dislodged.  This would have presented a serious problem.  The ladder was pulled down from the ledge but failed to reach the new floor so an exit was made and a return made later with a second 10m ladder.  A lesson had been learned - always be connected to a safety line!!

Returning with the necessary gear and a back up who waited at the entrance the writer descended to the new floor.  This was at a depth of 12m and the shaft appeared to be still going down.  More Shipham shotholes were to be seen drilled downwards into the shaft walls.  The capstone now lay on old iron car parts and building materials and the digging skips were tangled amongst this.  Whilst connected to the safety line and holding the ladder I stepped onto the capstone and rocked it to see if the choke would collapse again but for the moment it had stabilised.

On the 9th October Tony, Nick Richards, Nick Harding and I arrived at the site in the Bat Products Land Rover with the intention of using it to pull out the capstone but the plan changed when Tony produced a rope puller ratchet winch which was used instead. The capstone was successfully removed from the shaft along with two other large rocks to leave the place much enlarged at the bottom and looking more encouraging.

Nine days later the entrance was found to have been broken into and the skips and ropes thrown down the shaft.  The trusty steel plate was replaced over the hole.  A return next evening saw the plate removed and dumped nearby. Underground everything was fortunately okay so the skips etc. were recovered, the plate yet again replaced and, with great difficulty, the original capstone laid on top.

The next few trips were to make the entrance more secure.  This was achieved thanks to Ivan Sandford who gave up his time to fabricate a strong security bar.  It was so successful that now even I have difficulty gaining access!

Digging recommenced on 28th October with the angle of the shaft gradually changing from vertical to around 45 degrees, heading to the north and with the obstructing boulders becoming noticeably larger.  As I broke rocks to fit into the skips in the same way that my mining ancestors did I felt good and much encouraged. On the wall where the shaft changes angle rope rub markings were noted.  There were also many more bones appearing, some of which looked suspiciously human. After consulting Tony I reported this to the police, explaining all about the dig and the uncertainty of the identification of the bones.  (No constable would venture to arrest a Shipham man, lest he should be concealed in one of their pits and never heard of more; no uncommon case Martha Moore, Mendip Annals (1859)).  An officer arrived, looked at the bones and then down the shaft; he was most surprised at the 12m depth and after focusing his powerful torch became worried and called me over to ask what the two shining, human eye-like objects reflecting up at him were?  Was it a body down there?  I looked again and started giggling as I realised it was two small pieces of wet broken glass giving a realistic impression of eyes!  He decided to seal off the area and field footpaths while the investigation was going on, explaining that because bones were present this was a strict procedure.  The bones were removed for analysis and a later telephone call revealed them to be animal.  He gave permission for the dig to continue and thanks for reporting the find.

As the shaft deepened it became harder for me to dig on my own.  Climbing out, hauling skips, tipping spoil onto the heap then returning to the bottom to repeat the procedure became a chore.  Then Ernie White and Andy Norman, the Barnsley Boys, came down for a weekend and kindly helped out while I dug.  For four hours non-stop they hauled out 60 skips of rock, scrap iron and household rubbish and levelled it all out - all credit to them both. The shaft continued dropping at 45 degrees with more Shipham shotholes around the sides.  At 15m depth more evidence of rope marks was found on the hanging wall.

My brother later came along to stay at the entrance while I removed two large boulders.  Beneath one of these a gap appeared.  A light shone down revealed a horribly dangerous choke of clean rocks at an estimated depth of 4.5m.  By using a long bar to dislodge this choke I managed to collapse it for 1.2m until it wedged again but this time I knew what was below.  A single Cornish shotholelarger than the Shipham variety - was found driven downwards in the shaft wall.  Its diameter is 45mm and the length is 710mm as opposed to the smaller holes of 21-26mm diameter and averaging 2-300mm in length.  The presence of this much larger and probably more modem shothole may mean that an unknown prospector was investigating the older workings or could be evidence of visitation by F.G. Clements & Co.

Over the next few trips I removed the top layer of TV -sized rocks and broke them down to knuckle size. This also compacted the spoil and revealed a void below.  The larger rocks were stacked nearby and the smaller stuff was pushed into the void. On the next trip I found that half of the infill had collapsed into a horizontal gallery below.  The remainder of the choke was dislodged to leave a shaft of 20m leading into the open workings last visited over 150 years ago. The spoil from the shaft blocked off the route to the west but that to the east was wide open.

The eastern passage, which I named Branch Line (all passage names deriving from the surnames of past Shipham miners) continued over a false floor for an estimated distance of 24 m. The passage had been stoped out by the Old Men at a 70 degree angle and had many ingoing shotholes.  Marks of hand picks and a possible shovel blade in the soft wall were ample evidence of their efforts, as were black smoke marks resulting from the use of tallow candles and a sooty deposit around the shotholes resulting from the use of black powder.  A possible brand (burnt wooden torch) was also found.  On returning to Branch Line at a later date, during a wet spell, an active stream was found to be flowing from the terminal choke and running along the passage floor for some 15m to sink below the deads.

Back at the base of the entrance shaft I began to clear the infill to reveal the western gallery.  On entering the passage it enlarged with a divergence ahead.  At eye level on the left hand wall a rock was noticed purposely placed in front of an unfired shothole.  Inside this was discovered a broken flat iron scraper.  It seemed evident that the obscuring rock had been placed by a fellow miner to warn his colleagues not to load the shothole with powder lest a premature explosion occur due to sparking.

At the divergence the right hand working, Day Passage, was followed for approximately 30m over a floor of deads.  Ancient, rusted Cadbury’s Bournville Cocoa tins are evident throughout its length. Dating from the end of the nineteenth century, these have probably been dumped in the shaft and moved to their present location by flood water - possibly during the infamous deluge of 1968. More pieces of burnt wood litter the floor.  At the lowest part of the passage, on the left hand side, a mined out, curving bench is an attractive feature inspiring the name Pew Comer.  The floor is covered with large boulders.

At the end of Day Passage is another choke with a probable shaft to the surface above.  Just before the choke there is a backfilled passage having a gap of 15cm and running back to the east for c.4m to re-enter Day Passage. Halfway along Day Passage I removed a couple of rocks in the floor to reveal a drop of 1.8m with a passage beneath - actually the lower section of Day Passage but separated by a false floor of deads to make work in the higher level easier.  On a tourist trip Dave, a mining engineer, noticed two stones acting as a roof support pillar in this gallery.  Shotholes indicate that Day Passage was driven towards the east.

The passage to the left at the fork drops to a lower level with a possible choked winze on the left side at its entrance.  This passage, Wilson Way, has the appearance of being the main route but must have been worked at a later date than Day Passage as it is larger and neater.  This soon leads to a mined rift in the floor, Wilson Pit, choked in an easterly direction.  Ahead is a T-junction.  To the right a climb over a pile of deads, probably derived from mined cavities above, leads to a continuation of the level.  A possible false floor may indicate another level below.  The continuation is at present flooded but there is a high level, excavated, blind cavity above.  Shothole direction is to the west.

Back at the T-junction the 21m Lewis Level heads south-east on the left hand side.  It has an uneven floor and two mined roof cavities.  Just before the end the floor drops to a pit partly filled with deads.  A climb over this leads to the end where a small natural cavity can be seen on the left. To the right is a 20cm long window into a possible parallel passage.  Could this be an unopened connection with another company s mine?  Shothole direction in the Lewis Level is to the south-east.

As more spoil was cleared from the base of the entrance shaft another level, Tripp Gallery, appeared on the north side, running in an easterly direction.  With a similar appearance to the Wilson Way it may be a continuation of the same. The floor of deads may conceal workings below.  A slope leads to a wall of stacked deads with a short, backfilled passage above.  This was dug out to reveal the small Athay Chamber. Below the stacked wall Tripp Gallery may continue at a lower level but is flooded at present. Shotholes point to the east.

On 20th December the lower levels of the mine were flooded following heavy rain during the previous week. This is an indication of the problems that the original miners faced during wet weather.

Nick Richards examined the minerals in the workings to find cadmium-rich calamine, galena and Turkey Fat Ore or Greenockite (cadmium sulphide) amongst others.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Shane Ireland, Tony Coles and Nigel Fowler for their generosity and assistance.

Selected references.

Jack McQueen-Foord, Mining in Shipham (in) Shipham, Rowberrow & Star Down the Ages. Pp14-25

Christopher J. Schmitz, An Account of Mendip Calamine Mining in the Early I870s, Somerset Arch. And Nat. Hist. Soc. (1976). Pp81-83

J.W. Gough, The Mines of Mendip, Oxford (1930) (reprinted David and Charles 1967). Pp 206-232

Chris Richards, Singing River Mine: a Calamine Working at Shipham, Bristol Ind. Arch. Soc. In!. IV (1971). Pp7-9

Somerset Mine Research Group publications (1980-1983).

(Ed. A further report on the workings will appear in the next BB).


Helictite Well, Shipham. (N.G.R. 440557332).

by Mark Ireland

Chris Richards and Marie Clarke explored the wells and mines in Shipham in the 1970’s.  It was recorded in the ACG Journal, No.7, 1972. The writer advises the reader to read this article in conjunction with the Journal mentioned above.

The writer discussed with Chris Richards about the open mines and wells in Shipham and why the choked shafts were not recorded.  The discussion came to Helictite Well, which was a very unusual well system.  It was agreed to find out what was below the rubbish choke in the well shaft, concerning where the pipe leads to. Chris thought it might be connected to one of the houses in the village.

After consulting the landowners and getting permission from them to explore Helictite Well, on 5th May 2003 I located the shaft, which had an old-fashioned man hole cover, which was seized up.  The writer spent some time removing it and exploring the well system and it was amazing to see the work that was put into it.

It was dry stoned all the way down the shaft (known as ginging - a Derbyshire mining term or steining - a well sinker s term) for 10.6 metres and still continuing, with an Upper Gallery and Lower Gallery built just off the bottom in a southerly direction and also built dry stone with flagstones acting as lintels.  It was a well thought out construction that must have taken some time to construct and also have been a costly project.

The Upper Gallery is 0.45m wide and 0.9m high and roughly 5.4m long, with the first part stone walled and linteled with flagstones.  This leads into the Lower Gallery through a flagstone that has been moved to the side, the flagstone was a ceiling of the Lower Gallery 1.2m high and 0.6m wide, and runs back north towards the shaft.

The water level is 5cm high. On further inspection it is a reservoir, as all along the passage, which is again stonewalled, the bottom half is mortared, possibly old lime (lime based concrete?) and the top half is dry stoned.  There is a dam at the shaft end and situated at the base of the dam is a lead pipe 5cm in diameter, which has slotted holes on top of the pipe, which acts as drainage. Around the base of the dam surrounding the lead pipe is clay which was brought into the well as a sealing compound.

Over the next few trips, especially after the rain, I observed that the water level rises up to halfway up the Lower Gallery and it works well as a reservoir.  There is a slot on the dam wall halfway up which looks into the shaft, and it once worked as an overflow.  When the heavy rain overfills the reservoir (Lower Gallery) the water rises too high.

It is amazing that the system is still operating after all these years even though the shaft has been partially filled.  I did a smoke test into the shaft to see whether there was any draught - none!

The rubbish choke was dug out of the shaft on the 18th May 2003 and over a period of 8 trips.  There was 0.6m deep of earth spoil and rubbish before reaching the rocks, which could be seen from the slot in the Lower Gallery. 

The rubbish consisted of:

  • broken Nescafe coffee jar and Nescafe lid label
  • metal strip bent over itself
  • black china top lid
  • earthenware bowl
  • flat red marl rock with iron corroded on to it




It appears that the infilling was done in the 1950s as there are no signs of previous or later infilling.

As the rocks were removed, the Lower Gallery came into view with the slot in the back of the dam 0.7m away from the shaft.  There was water in the shaft and after a period of dry weather the water level dropped enabling the removal of rocks as I went deeper.

With the rocks removed, the opening of the shaft into the Lower Gallery is 0.55m wide and narrows to the slot, which is 0.4m wide.  The flagstone lintel ceiling partially collapsed above the dam and an opening appeared which is between the Upper and Lower Galleries.  Beware when entering the Upper Gallery.  The opening is 1.2m cubed and is in old red sandstone.

The floor of the shaft is now silted with gravel and old red sandstone from the collapse; it was there that a rusted, corroded chain link was found.  After all of this was cleared there were flagstones 22cm wide across the length of the shaft from the dam.  The removal of the flagstones showed the old stone culvert 15cm wide and deep, squared.  In the centre of the stone culvert is the lead pipe, which is the same one that was seen from the Lower Gallery, and the pipe continues through the shaft.  There is a joint connection of the pipes.

Mr George Thiery told me that, as a young boy, he remembered seeing a lead tap at the back of the Court House - which he was told was connected to the well.  But on further inspection one wonders whether the stone culvert, which now is 1104 metres down from the top of the shaft, was constructed possibly all the way to the Court House.  Was it built to protect the lead pipe or was the lead pipe put into a previously constructed stone culvert?

On the 1841 tithe map the field in which the Helictite Well is situated and the field below were respectively an orchard and ruins.  The ruins may have been a cottage of an older generation and may also have had a well. The present Court House was rebuilt in the 1890’s and this could be when the lead pipe was put in.

Trips: 8 Buckets: 46

Helpers: Shane Ireland

Alison Cromwell (ACG)


VALE: Jock Orr

by Stuart Tuttlebury

I am not surprised that we had trouble with an obituary for Jock.  He was the sort of person you knew and admired but really knew very little about. There was always so much going on, and he never said much about himself.

He will always be remembered for his sense of humour, his cave photography in the late 1960s, and the wonderful drawings he produced which complemented the magnificent word craft of Alfie Collins for the book Reflections, which was also produced in the late 60s.  Jock was Hut Engineer for a spell and although I was not around then, I am sure that he put all his skills and effort into the job.

We all have our memories, but one of mine is the impish smile on his face when he showed me the slides of his fire eating episode taken one Christmas at the Belfry.  Those that were there will remember the charred remains of the decorations hanging from the ceiling, and the flames issuing forth from the mouths of Jock and his disciples.

The little that I have learned and witnessed about Jock’s life over the years has made a big impression on me.  He served in the Second World War in Italy, sustaining a severe leg wound firing field guns from a distance at the Germans as he put it, and in Yugoslavia supporting the resistance fighters.  He had a son and a daughter by his first wife, and four younger sisters, and married Judith in 1974.  I met him at work in 1966 where he was inspecting mechanical components for armaments (bomb and missile fuses).  His skills included tool making and technical drawing, and I am sure others that I knew nothing about.  The meticulous car maintenance that he carried out, included taking everything from under the car, cleaning and painting with bitumen paint before reassembling, plus much use of glass fibre for body work.  The jobs around the home that were carried out, from constructing a soak away in the drive, faultlessly tiling the bathroom (he did admit a mistake - but I could not find it) to all the wiring, plumbing, redesigning and building etc.  The 10ft became his office, just like the drawing in the back of the book Reflections - and his artistic skills were set on one side as being a complete waste of time compared to home making!

For at least the last fifteen years of his life, Jock and Judith were working on turning a plot of land on the west coast of Scotland into a home, inspired by a holiday in a croft west of Mellon Udrigle in 1985.  Jock did all the design work and drawings, they negotiated their way through all of the planning legalities, and got to levelling the site and installing electricity and water, which Jock thoroughly enjoyed helping the contractors with.  They then had to take stock and decided to sell and return to their bungalow near Lincoln for the winter.

Those of us who knew Jock I am sure will never forget him, he will live on in our memories.


Cox's Cave Cheddar -  Souvenir China.

by Dave Irwin

As a bit of a change from J Rat’s reports on his various digs and discoveries, interesting though they are, I thought, it might be appropriate to show the more unusual side of collecting cave stuff.  Most cavers collect something, if only a few guide books.  Others accumulate masses of books, surveys and general booklets published by the show caves.  Little known to most are the pieces of china and pottery that have been sold by the show cave souvenir shops over the years.  Items from the late 19th and early 20th century are now very scarce, if not rare.  From the Somerset show caves several items have been found but the most common are the decorative items sold by Cox’s Cave management before the lease with the Longleat Estate ended in March 1939.  Similar items are known made for Gough’s Cave.

The Transfer (45mm x 30mm).

The items are similar to the Crested China products manufactured by the Goss and Arcadian companies and are now fast becoming collector’s items.  The Longton, Staffordshire, based company, Grafton, also produced this type of ware some of which is of interest to a caver.  These are souvenir pieces produced specifically for Cox s Cave at Cheddar.  The company produced an enormous selection of china boxes, trays, animals, militaria and other designs including a china Cheddar cheese!  To all of these items, and there are many hundreds of designs, a crest of a city or town was placed on the side of the object and sold widely throughout the country.  For Cox s Cave Grafton produced a transfer of the Transformation Scene which was attached to the object.  Exact dates are not known but it is thought that most were produced in the 1920s. 

Fig. 1



The illustrations are all that have been recorded many of which are in the collections of J Rat, Pete Rose and the writer.

Figure details:

Fig. 1: Ivy Leaf pin box (45mm diameter)

Fig. 2: Cheddar Cheese (55mm diameter)

Fig. 3: Pouring vessel (7Smm long)

Fig. 4: Cheese Dish (60mm x 50mm)

Fig. 5: Circular pin box (45mm diameter)

Fig. 6: Fluted vase (55mm high)

Fig. 7: Oval pin box (50mm x 30mm)

Fig. 8: Fluted box (60mm x 50mm)

Fig. 9: Rectangular pin box (40mm x 30mm)

Fig. 10: Scent bottle (60mm x 80mm high)

Fig. 11: Small plate (170mm diameter)

Fig. 12: Calf (100mm x 75mm)

Fig. 13: Frog (dimensions not known)

Fig. 14: Fish (100mm x 75mm)

Fig. 15: Valentine pin box (60mm x 50mm)

Fig. 16: Basket (100mm x 75mm high)

Fig. 17: Pin tray (60mm diameter)


Notes From The Logbook.

5/11/03: Attborough Swallet.  Graham Johnson, Paul Brock and Bob Smith.

Moved loose stones in Twist & Shout area.  GJ drilled and banged at dig face, PB drilled holes in preparation to take scaffold shoring. 2 hours.

14/11/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton’s Pot. MadPhil, Graham and Paul Brock.

Cleared bang debris, finally squeezed into small rift system (small 13 Pots). Got 3m or so, then 4 rift to chamber, good echo.  Jake drilled & banged.  Paul & I cleared dig site of bags to little chamber.

23/11/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton’s Pot. MadPhil and Graham.

No breakthrough. Drill & banged again.  Came out for cup of tea then headed back down. Very wet now due to rain.  Drain Hole thundering down, duck back.  Good bang, descended 8 ft. pot & see very narrow rift heading off.  Not good! Major bang job.  Nightmare!  Headed out, water even higher, water pouring over lip of squeeze.  Made duck very exciting!  With water much higher you could be in trouble.  Beware!

20/12/03: Eastwater Cavern.  MadPhil, Graham and Mick Barker.

Went and dug Becky’s dig. Made some progress but hit low rock curtain & sides pinch in.  Need to blast!  Very awkward digging.  Had a wander around 2nd Rift Chamber. Climbed up near side and pushed away boulders and found 3rd Rift Chamber - 70 ft. long & nice stals.  Water drains in floor, but calcited boulders.  Pushed horrible duck, small passage but closed down. Very awkward on return, had to be pulled out by legs.  Be warned! Good find just before Digger’s Dinner. Named Unlucky Strike as taken small chunk out of huge curtain.

1/1/04: Daren Cilau.  Pete H, Dave S and Paul B.

A nice way to start the new year!  Nice and enjoyable crawl then into some nice walking passage.  A steady stroll & climb up into the Time Machine.  A quick bite to eat, then all the excitement all over again in reverse.  The entrance crawl really is a bitch being honest!!!

7/2/04: Ogof Draenen.  Vince, MadPhil, Rich Blake and Pete Bolt.

Pete & Rich dug choke at the end of Blorenge ill and made fairly good progress.  Vince and Phil started dig in Manganese Mud Inlet (Blorenge II) - looks O.K.! 9¼ hours.

11/4/04: Hunters Lodge Inn Sink. Tony J, Ian Coldwell (CPC) and Sean H.

Trip to photograph sump at bottom of Rocking Rudolph.  Very challenging to take any pictures, very cramped, muddy.  Pictures also taken of Tony up pitch and also some of the crustations protruding from the rock (and I don t mean Tony!)  With a bit of luck some may come out reasonably - and will soon be seen in a future BB and possibly Descent.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh, Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general


Welcome.  The big news of the summer (a touch of deja vu here) is that Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink (currently Mendip's most extendable cave) has gone once again (from late July into the first week of August it has been extended on some five different occasions!)  Well decorated passage leads to archaeological remains and a sizeable pitch that not only accompanies the sump found last winter but lies somewhere beneath it.  From the base of this another dig leads to a deep sump pool and another 250ft. of large ascending rift passage.  With the new pitch in Thrupe Swallet (see article) and the continuing work in Sump Twelve in Swildon's looking extremely promising this could be one of the best years for Mendip caving for quite some time.  This is amply demonstrated by the fact that Tony Jarratt has provided two continuations to his first article in this BB and that Tony Audsley has so much to recount that he has divided his article into two parts.

Photography seems to be all the rage currently.  If H.L.I.S. is not (yet) the deepest cave on Mendip it is rapidly becoming one of the most photographed.  Given the limited space and the lack of colour in the BB some of the pictures in this edition (and many others for which there is no room) can now be viewed in colour on the websites below.  Estelle's (the former) includes photographs of the extensions in the Sink, whilst Sean's (the latter) includes the Sink, Eastwater and his trips to Thailand and Iceland with the Shepton: www.cavesncorals.34SP.com/HuntersLodgeSink 


Finally, due to recent discoveries, a number of articles have been held over to make room.  Thanks to those who have sent them - they will appear in the Autumn BB, which should be out in September.


Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Paul Brock and others have returned once again to Morton's Pot this spring and early summer.  Hauling systems have been improved, scaffolding installed, retaining walls built and blasting initiated in an attempt to drain the bottom of the dig. However, following the wet weather in late July the dig was still sumped in the first week of August. Considerable amounts of water had washed bags and conveyor belt matting down the now clean crawl below Morton's and with water still trickling in to A Drain Hole the whole shaft was flooded to within three or four foot of the hauling pulley. Even with further dry weather this will still take some time to clear.  (See brief article on page 31). 'MadPhil' and Alison Moody have also returned to their breakthrough beyond Tooting Broadway in the West End Series and Phil Short has dived the sumps in this vicinity - unfortunately without any great breakthrough. 'MadPhil' and Alison have also looked at the old dig at the bottom of Primrose Pot.

Hunters' Hole.

With exploration in H.L.I.S. revealing three large phreatic inlet tunnels joining together at the Drip Tray/Pewter Pot area it is obvious that Hunters' Hole is almost certainly part of this potentially enormous system.  Dear's Ideal has thus been restarted by John Walsh and team and will hopefully be the focus of attention over the winter months.  It will be rigged for SRT so is also an ideal place to get some practice in.

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

With diving, climbing and digging going on in a number of areas (see numerous articles) thoughts have also turned to the possibility of siphoning or pumping the water from the flooded Drip Tray Sump down Pewter Pot and into the much lower new sump - hopefully this will also help to wash the filth from the Slops. Although of course it could make them even worse.

Swildon's Hole.

Sump 12 - following the application of a "bomb" to the unstable underwater slope beyond the now enlarged squeeze the ongoing flooded passage is wide open and safe.  A push is planned by Phil Short and his cronies soon.

Templeton Pot.

N.H.A.S.A., Axbridge and others are continuing work at this, the only cave dig visible from space! Don't fail to take stroll to this magnificent Mendip folly and gaze in awe at the machinery and the Himalaya-sized spoil heap!

Thrupe Swallet.

Work continues at the base of the new pitch (see article on page 15 and the continuation in the next BB).




Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Beyond Drip Tray Sump (Part I)

by Tony Jarratt

"There was something incredibly satisfying in digging a very deep hole.  It was uncomplicated.  You knew where you were with a hole in the ground.

 “Maskerade - Terry Pratchett

This year started well when on the 12th January Mark Ireland found that Drip Tray Sump had disappeared! Over 50 bags of clay, sand and rocks were hauled out but a week later the water was back so digging concentrated on the Cellar Dig, located just down dip of the breakthrough point into Happy Hour Highway.  A lot of rock has been removed from here with the help of bang and the route on downwards will need some more of the same.  In the meantime work is continuing at the "Sump" - weather permitting - which has once again dried up and is a less stressful site!  While your scribe was away gallivanting in Meghalaya, the enthusiastic team removed over 100 loads of spoil until on the ih March the pool returned - to dry out again on the 19th.  Another 80 or so bags carne out then and on the 24th.  Air conditions were good and the digging was easy, if a bit sticky.  An exploratory dig in the ceiling of the mud tube near the last breakthrough point has also been commenced (see below).  Paul Brock and Pete Hellier investigated the depths of Hunters' Hole in search of a connection dig but were put off by the potentially very long term prospects. John Walsh returned to his dig in Dear's Ideal and intends to pursue it further when he can get a three or four man Wednesday night team.

Drip Tray Sump on 22nd January 2003.  Photograph by Sean Howe.

60 bags were filled on the 26th of March when the rock tube being followed hit a solid rock wall sloping back towards the way in.  This gave us a good rock boundary to work from and we continued downwards through layers of sand and clay.  During the next ten days another 140 or so bags came out.  The up dip "inlet" coming into the end of the cave has also been partly excavated.  The two huge boulders in the middle of the dumping area have been relocated and the place is rapidly filling with spoil.  Another 120+ loads came out from the end during April when rumours of running water being heard below the floor were not confirmed.

It is thought that the water feeding Drip Tray Sump comes from the trickle in the Cellar Dig and from wet weather streams sinking near Southfield Farm.  This water may rise through the floor.  The submersible pump was taken down but has since been removed as the dig has become too deep to pump.

Another job done was the mending of the long, broken stalactite using Milliput epoxy putty. This seems to have generally worked well and even looks like calcite, though the angled tip needs straightening out!

An article by Dr. Andy Farrant in the D.B.S.S. newsletter, autumn 2002, pp 17-18 refers to H.L.I.S.:- “... a large relict phreatic passage about 2-3m high extending up and down dip. It is very reminiscent of N.H.A.S.A. Gallery in Manor Farm Swallet. ..”  The cave is developed within the Black Rock Limestone, replete with nice fossils including the coral Caninia just inside the entrance.  It trends south-south-east, downdip, parallel with the neighbouring Hunters' Hole.  It is currently heading towards Alfie's Hole, close to the Hunters' - Rookham road, but as yet there is no connection with either cave.  Quite why the passage is there is a mystery.  It clearly is very old, formed at a time when the local water table was above 250m O.D., and may be genetically associated with Hunters' Hole. The large phreatic scallops are rather vague and ambiguous but the water appears to have flowed down-dip.  It probably once functioned as a stream sink draining a once more extensive cover of Jurassic and Triassic strata, remnants of which can be seen a few hundred metres to the north-east in Chewton Warren. Similar other high level, phreatic cave remnants can be seen at Whitepit, Sandpit and Twin Titties Swallet, perhaps focusing on a palaeo-resurgence at Westbury-sub-Mendip. Here a large, sediment filled, phreatic cave exists at approximately the right elevation which is at least 780, 000 years old.  Only digging will prove this hypothesis!  The entrance streamway is genetically unconnected with the relict passage and following this may also prove fruitful."

The Inn-let Dig

Trevor and the writer have concentrated at this strongly and intermittently draughting site which intersects the "up-dip inlet dig" at a higher level, enabling this latter excavation be used as a spoil dump if necessary.  Digging and blasting through some 6 metres of calcited mud and boulders has revealed a boulder choked and well decorated passage heading back towards Happy Hour Highway.  Work here has finished and this dig, now surveyed, will probably be used as a temporary spoil dump for the Drip Tray Dig - our last hope at this end of the cave. (But read on!).

Drip Tray Sump

Now drained, hopefully (but doubtfully) permanently.  Digging has reached some 4-5 metres below the original sump level where an almost complete phreatic tube has been entered.  It is a metre wide with a solid, smooth rock floor and RH wall.  At least a half a metre of the left hand wall is also solid but there may be a sediment filled bedding plane above this. The passage is totally filled with superbly banded and multicoloured sediments (similar to those at the mud tube breakthrough above) and is running back almost under the main drag.  The sediments illustrate that the ancient cave waters once flowed this way.  The cave geomorphology here is difficult to understand but hopefully the concerted effort which is now underway to push this tube will soon yield a breakthrough and more information.  All assistance is welcome as we HAVE to clear this passage before the wet weather returns, pumping or bailing being out of the question.

Matthew Butcher (S.M C. C.) dizging in the dried out 'Sumo' on the 28t Photograph bv Sean Howe.

Additions to the digging team

Nick Hawkes, Estelle Sandford, Natalie Domini ( Southampton D.C.C.), Matthew Sibley, Adam Young, Chris Densham (Oxford.D.C.C.), Barry Weaver (Chelsea.S.S.), John Cooper (Chelsea.S.S.), Simon Brooks (Orpheus C.C./Grampian S.G.) and John Hanwell (W.C.C.).


Katie and Ian Livingston and Joanna Kelleher ( Canada).


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - of Drip Tray and Inn-let Digs - and Wondrous Discoveries! (Part II)

by Tony Jarratt

"Taking Swildon's as a feeder and St. Cuthbert's as a drip."

Tankard Hole Song

This article follows on from the one above.

With excavation of the Inn-let dig at a standstill work continued apace below the late but unlamented Drip Tray Sump where, to date, some 10m of roomy passage has been cleared of its sediment infill.  Several hundred bags of silt, fine gravel and clay have been laboriously hauled back to the dumping chamber at the end of Happy Hour Highway - now almost completely filled.  The excavated passage is of distinct phreatic origin with a solid rock floor and RH wall. The LH wall is solid rock in parts but much of its outline is obscured by laminated sediments which have been left in situ for future scientific study.  Several digging trips have been enlivened by the use of short wave radio or portable CD player to provide background music to take our minds off the brain numbing horrors of bag hauling.  At the time of writing this dig is flooded and, following a major breakthrough in the Inn-let dig (see below) will probably be temporarily abandoned. Surface work has seen redoubtable dig engineer Quackers installing a small access grid inside the large, now fixed grid and the application of black Hammerite to all the exposed metalwork and, unfortunately, a good part of the inside of the Bat Products Land Rover!

A study of MadPhil's survey revealed the Inn-let Dig to be heading NE from the SE trending main drag indicating that the issuing strong draught was coming from unexplored passage - possibly by-passing the Drip Tray Dig which runs parallel 5m below and down dip. A banging project was commenced to break up a massive choke of large calcited boulders in the ceiling - good for the adrenalin when it came to laying a charge!  Several tons of rocks were brought down with the aid of both detonating cord and gelignite charges - the final one being two sticks of gel tied to the end of a 1.5m long bamboo cane and delicately wedged between the "hanging deaths".  On Sunday 27th July Trev Hughes, fuelled by Butcombe, attacked the resulting rock pile with gusto while Mark Ireland, the writer and visiting Barnsley cavers Andy and Ernie shifted the spoil back and broke up the larger lumps.  A yell from the perilous working face summoned your scribe to gaze awestruck at the gaping hole where the ceiling choke used to be and at the stalactite studded and newly revealed ceiling some 3m further up!  Literally gambling with his life Trev then made a magnificent ascent of the 5m of tottering clay and boulders to gain access to this fine passage and was soon joined by the writer and Mark, leaving our guests temporarily below to safeguard our exit.  Upon emerging from the Inn-let climb we were greeted by a 5m wide, 3m high and 14m long phreatic passage ascending up-dip to a stunning, pink flowstone blockage with a beautifully decorated and sacrosanct tube above.  Down-dip this well decorated gallery ended immediately in a mud choke. Massive broken formations lying amongst the boulders on the floor testified to the extreme age of this passage, named The Barmaid's Bedroom by Trev to keep with our boozer theme. Phreatic roof pockets in a conspicuously different limestone bed to the passage walls, match those at the end of Happy Hour Highway and indicate that both passages are formed on the same horizon. After a quick look around we exchanged places with the stunned Barnsley boys (Ernie being on his first digging trip!) who were soon informed as to what lucky bastards they were.  Now both physically and mentally drained we retired slowly to the surface for celebratory refreshment and to inform Roger and Jacquie of developments.  Despite the grandeur of our discovery there was a certain amount of disappointment that the prophesied down-dip Drip Tray bypass was not there and great puzzlement as to the source of the howling draught.  All was to be astonishingly explained the following morning when the "Monday Club" diggers got their turn for glory ...

With intentions to tape off the stal. and tidy up the spoil Jeff Price, John Walsh, Vern Freeman (on his first visit - another lucky bastard) and the writer braved the hazardous climb up and had a good look around.  I doffed my oversuit and wellies to make a "hairy socks technique" climb up the terminal flowstone to check out a possible high level passage. This was merely an alcove. Meanwhile the others were taking photos and bashing stal. covered rocks blocking an opening below the flowstone and with visible passage beyond.  Eventually this was pushed into some 2530m of well decorated ascending bore passage to a stalactite grille with an open continuation beyond which was left for another team.  A 4m high stalagmite boss and cracked mud flooring added to the attractiveness of this superb gallery, now bearing the extended appellation of The Barmaids' Bedrooms.

The author climbing "sans wellies" in the new extension. Photograph Vern Freeman.

While your scribe was exploring up-dip John was ferreting in the boulder floor below the new breakthrough point.  He opened up a hole and casually tossed in a rock.  Several seconds later the bouncing stone hit the floor an estimated 30m below with an impressive thud and echo!  His feelings can well be imagined as can his sudden desire to step back off the boulder pile covering the top of the unbelievable Pewter Pot.  Many of these rocks were then shifted while work continued to enlarge the entrance squeeze to fatty Jeff size.  Not having remotely dreamt of this possibility the awestruck explorers were unable to descend the pitch due to a severe lack of tackle.

The climb down to the Inn-let was a worrying experience.  Jeff, first man down, was confronted by two large boulders blocking the way out.  We had heard these peel off earlier.  Luckily he managed to push them aside and escape to the safety of the bar where more well earned celebrations took place.

The following evening a keen team turned up for a selfless Tuesday night session of spoil clearing and shoring - Mark doing an excellent job with the limited amount of scaffolding scavenged from all comers of the cave.  Tangent found the Drip Tray dig to be sumped so was unable to rescue the tools but dismantled the scaffold here and sent out most of the bagged spoil.  A stream in Pub Crawl livened up the proceedings.

Wednesday 30th July saw the predicted mass turn out of thirteen expectant diggers who were given various tasks to keep them happy!  Mark continued struggling with his erection (no change there then) while Estelle, Tangent, Lincoln Mick and Phil Coles undertook the project of digital photography and formation taping in The Barmaids' Bedrooms.  After being recorded for posterity the stal. grille was demolished and another 30m or so of superbly decorated up-dip phreatic passage was explored to a partial talus blockage obviously derived from the surface. This was self evident by the large amount of undoubtedly very ancient animal bones littering the passage! Another magnificent find in this rapidly developing cave diggers' dream.  In slow pursuit, the survey team of Trev, the writer and (first timers and more lucky bastards) the two Nicks, ended their task at the first large leg bone to avoid any disturbance of this possibly important archaeological site. Access to this area must now be strictly limited and a dig out to the surface is out of the question at present. The length of this extension from the start of the Inn-let is 84m (not including the pitch).  It could break surface near a low tumulus in the field SE of Andy and Pam Watsons' cottage (opposite the Pub) or hopefully just across the road from there and back in Roger's ground.  This would give him a handy underpass in inclement weather! Chris Hawkes of Wells Museum has been informed of the find.  Incidentally it appears that John Wilcock correctly dowsed the direction of this unexpected passage if not its exact position (see BB 514).  If the rest of his results prove correct we will be more than happy.  The location of this entrance may be related to a shallow half-doline adjacent to the roadside wall in Andy's paddock.  It is directly opposite a similar feature in Roger's field, across the road.  Roger made the interesting observation that many years ago the road dipped into, and out of, this depression - so much so that laden horses frequently slipped when leaving it.  It was subsequently levelled by the council.  A further point of interest is the distinct V-shape of the passages surveyed so far, as of two fingers raised in scorn.  Could this be a cosmic sign from the cave deities to those who scoffed at the inception of this dig?

At work in the first chamber – the squeeze and Pewter Pot lie down to the right.  Photograph by Vern Freeman.

Meanwhile, back at the head of Pewter Pot, Gwilym, Mark, Ian Matthews and Rich Dolby continued to clear rocks from the site but were eventually defeated by large wedged boulders which required blasting to remove.  Bev was defeated by the size of the breakthrough squeeze so this may well get the same treatment.  Two days later Mark, Matt Butcher and Sean Howe, on a photo/tourist trip, had another go at the boulders and made a bit more progress.  Clearing work continued on the 2nd of August when two large boulders above the NE end of the pot were banged, the scaffolding was improved and further conservation work was done in the extension.

Next day it was found that the wedged boulders were partly destroyed and much shattered so Trev spent a couple of hours perched over the pot wielding a sledge hammer to excess. Eventually one wedged, fridge sized Henry remained to deny access to the widest part of the rift.  Another detonating cord charge put paid to this as was confirmed by the thunderous noise of its remains hurtling downwards and distinctly heard through the floor of the Inn-let from where the bang was fired! On this trip Trev also installed two monstrous ring bolts and Tony Boycott photographed the bone deposits.  A short length of rigid iron ladder was delivered to the Inn-let climb and tidying up operations continued.

The big push came on Monday 4th August when several lengths of wire ladder were taken in for the benefit of the team Luddites.  This was a lucky move as the pot turned out to be entirely unsuitable for SRT rigging as John Walsh, grinning for the camera, found out on the first descent. It is fault controlled and less than 1m wide at the point of entry making access by ladder easier.  Some 6m down the rift slopes to the east giving an easy descent down flows tone ledges to the floor and a whole series of horrifically abrasive rub points on the sloping ceiling.  The bottom is 20m from the breakthrough squeeze above - a great surprise after the expectations of a 30m drop!  A boulder choked hole in the floor may just reveal a further drop to save us much embarrassment but meanwhile the incorrect guesstimated depth may be explained due to the many ledges delaying the passage of dropped stones and the echoing nature of the chamber.  So there.

Cascades in the Barmaid’s bedroom.  Photograph by Vern Freeman.

The rift chamber itself is over 10m long and 2.5m wide at the bottom with flowstone slopes at each end where tiny streams enter.  These sink in strongly draughting digs, both very promising. John, Jeff and the writer cleared rocks from the open bedding plane dig at the north end while Adrian and Matt started burrowing into the floor near the south end.  Water flow is to the north east. Matt also traversed to the south at high level to reach a passage choked with calcited boulders. This may connect with the large chamber above to give a free-climb down and bypass to the squeeze.  Now cold, damp and filthy the jubilant explorers retired to the Pub, only slightly dispirited that a taxi ride back from Wookey Hole had not been required.

Work continued at the three diggable sites at the bottom of the pot next day.  Their position, and thoroughly disgusting nature, prompted Tangent and the writer to give them the appropriate name of "The Slops". The most northerly, Slop 1, is the most promising and will probably join with the squalid and adjacent Slop 2. Slop 3, at the other end of the chamber, has a pool of water in it and may be abandoned.

So far this extension totals some 105m making the current cave length around 215m and depth c.60m - about the same as Hunters' Hole.  The next exciting instalment of this gripping tale of simple country folk will be in your next BB.  I bet you can hardly wait...

More diggers, visitors and acknowledgements

Pete Martin (IS SA), Wolf Anning (IS SA, Hereford CC), Andy Davey, Dave Owen, Rich Webber, Matt Castleden (all SMCC), Jeff Price, Phil Coles, Mick Barker (Lincoln Scouts CC), Andy Pringle (Red Rose CPC), Dave Mortin (Rolls Royce CC), Tony Harris, Simon Tebbut, Judy Pike, (all Ordnance Survey CG), Ian Tooth, Jim Newman, Pete Stacey, Shaun Hennessy, Nick Gyrner, Vern Freeman, Ben Cooper (MCG), Andy Norman and Ernie White (the Barnsley Boys), Nick Richards, Nick Harding, John Cornwell and Mike Thompson (aerial photography), Ivan Sandford (camera loan) , Alan Allsop (Craven PC) and not forgetting Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club band from Cuba (alas, bodily absent but musically present).

The extensions (as of the 6th August 2003)

Formations in the Barmaids' Bedrooms. First Chamber. Photograph by Vern Freeman.


Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Broon Ale Boulevard [Part III).

by Tony Jarratt

"Goodness, I'm sure I shall never go to sleep tonight!
My mind keeps thinking of secret caves! "

Enid Blyton - The Secret of Spiggy Holes

The ongoing saga, written almost as it happens...

Serious operations at the Slops commenced on August 6th when two floor slabs in Slop 1 and the loose roof slab in Slop 2 were drilled and banged, to great acoustical effect. Also, draining work continued at the Inn-let crawl.

Three visiting Newcastle University cavers joined the writer next evening on a clearing trip and thus became the next set of "lucky bastards" in the exploration history of this amazing cave.  The bang had done a good job and both Slops were enthusiastically excavated. Ewan Maxwell found the filthy conditions equal to those of his last digging trip with the BEe in Stock's House Shaft.

Being fully prepared to drill and bang these digs your scribe was somewhat flummoxed when, upon removing a floor slab in Slop 1, a view was gained into a roomy phreatic passage with a deep green pool across its width!  Attempts to boot the final rock forwards failed so Sam Wood was inserted head first and, after a struggle, trundled it into the pool to the sound of frenzied cheering from the assembled.  He then politely asked if he could enter the water for a look - maybe there is hope for modem youth.  Permission was instantly granted by your non-swimming scribe who, needless to say, followed hot on his heels, closely pursued by Ewan and Graham Tebbutt.  This possible sump pool has a mud cracked floor and may drain in drier weather.  It is some 5m long and is passed by using underwater footholds making it chest deep. A mud slope from Slop 2 enters on the RH side.  The fun then begins as a dry and steeply ascending canyon passage is entered, up to 4m wide and with ceiling heights of over 10m in places.  A trickle of water was followed to avoid mud drip pockets as the mind-blown explorers started to climb and traverse up-dip for an estimated 70m to a decidedly dodgy looking, massive boulder choke.  Sam was on cloud nine as this was his first virgin cave passage. He was particularly pleased by finding a patch of tiny mud pillars located on a ledge on the LH side - many more of these were noticed later and they form the principal decoration in this part of the cave.  This major inlet has a different character to the rest of the cave, being less well decorated with calcite and seemingly more recently active.  There is at least another open 5m through the choke but extreme care will be needed here and a radio location exercise should be done first. This would establish if a surface dig would be the safest option.  The passage was named Broon Ale Boulevard in recognition of the Newcastle lads' efforts.  It is heading towards Roger's field and runs parallel to, and lower than, The Barmaids' Bedrooms.  Apart from the terminal choke there are possible avens to be climbed and the source of the draught to be located.  A more detailed examination on a formation taping trip the following evening revealed the pool to be almost certainly a deep and roomy "downstream" static sump whose level varies with local rainfall.  The potential beyond it is enormous considering the monstrous size of Broon Ale Boulevard, of which it is the continuation.  It is likely to go below Pewter Pot and then intercept the combined phreatic tunnels of HHH and BB before picking up Hunters' Hole and various other minor caves along the Priddy road!  On this trip the Boulevard was toasted properly with a bottle of the famous blue-starred elixir carefully carried in by the Newcastle team. "Haway the lads".

The extensions (as of the 11th August 2003).

Upon reaching the surface an excited Tangent was informed of the discovery and he, in turn had some amazing news to impart. John Wilson, an archaeological illustrator, Moles caver and part of the digging team, had been looking at Dr.B's photos of the bones. "Nice bones but the engraving on that adjacent rock saying PR 1810 is interesting."  Superb observation or a vivid imagination?  It appears under a magnifying glass to be a natural series of features and Graham Mullan (UBSS), studying it on a computer scan, agrees with this.  An on-site inspection later confirmed it.  This is a shame as it would have added an interesting historical dimension to the cave.

A fortuitous meeting with UBSS archaeologist Dr. Jodie Lewis gave us the impetus and sanction for a bone collecting trip on the 10th August when two jawbones, an antler tine, a broken leg bone and a large vertebra were carefully removed along with a 22cm long Caninia fossil from Broon Ale Boulevard.  Phil Hendy took photos and the stunning reflective stalagmites and flowstone in the Barmaids' Bedrooms were examined to reveal their surface to be a thin coating of translucent calcite.  A light moved around the formations will cause the apparent "frosted" coating to change position.  It is believed that there are similar formations in the Fairy Quarry caves. Beyond the bone deposit Tangent pushed a fine, mud floored and draughting phreatic tube for 10m to a stal. and boulder blockage which will be dug at a future date.

A visit to Broon Ale Boulevard confirmed its direction as 35 degrees and so impressed the gibbering Tangent that he started ranting about "caverns and gulfs profound," bless him.  A traverse rope was installed above the sump pool and proved useful during the gonad chilling exit.  The bone and fossil collection attracted much interest in the bar that evening.

Section of jaw in the Barmaids' Bedrooms.  Photograph by Tony Boycott.

Brian Prewer, accompanied by grandson Curtis, Roger Dors and Pam and Andy Watson, spent the hot afternoon of the 11th August traipsing round Andy's paddock with the Grunterphone receiver and aerial while John Walsh and the writer shivered in the depths below. The end of BB was located 19.2m (62ft) below Pam and Andys' cabbage patch and the BAB choke at 28m (92ft) below a point 10m from his garage in the comer of the paddock (a miraculous result considering that the ammo box containing the transmitter had fallen the full length of Pewter Pot!)  This would indicate that the buried entrance(s) are in Roger's field.  This field slopes fairly steeply up to Stockhill so there could be quite a length of passage to be found.  An ancient phreatic swallet cave has already been found here by the BEC - Stock Hill Mine Cave - but it is doubtful if this is related to HLIS.  On a historical note Tim Payne remembers when the depression under the road once collapsed and was filled in, probably in the early 1960s.  This exercise makes John Wilcocks' dowsing results even more accurate. Our thanks to Prew for his efforts and for cleaning the kit afterwards.

In the evening an archaeological team visited the bones and Nick Mitchell commenced his climbing project in BAB, soon temporarily terminated when a hefty chocks tone parted company with the walls and headed for the floor- via Nick's neck.  This close call was a warning to be very wary in virgin, untravelled passages.

With archaeology and climbing projects in operation it was time for the lunatic diving fringe to have a bash so next evening Rich Dolby's kit was carted to the sump below Pewter Pot ready for a push next day.  With time to spare the writer "hairy socks" climbed the grey flowstone slope at the NE end of the Pot to find no way on.  Broon Ale Boulevard was then surveyed from the terminal suicidal choke to the head of the Pot - a distance of 93.90m.  The elevation from the sump pool to the choke is about 35m making the visible end some 23m below the road from the Hunters' to Hillgrove.

Margaret Chapman (Axbridge Arch. Soc.) suggests that the recovered broken limb bone may be the distal end of the humerus of a bovid and that the possible bovid jaw has distinct peculiarities.  She is excited by the find and has kindly offered to do some comparative further studies. She also pointed out how appropriate it was to find lots of dead cows in a cave discovered purely because of a Foot & Mouth epidemic!

Ed. In an effort to finally go to press without Tony phoning up to say that yet more has been found, we will stop at lunchtime on the 13th August, with Rich about to dive, Nick about to climb again and more people about to stand around in the pub and say:  "Oh, that's a bit of a big cow with a patina of black shite". (With apologies to esteemed archaeologists).

Even more diggers and acknowledgements

Ewan Maxwell, Sam Wood, Graham Tebbutt (all Univ. of Newcastle CC), Pete Rose (photography), Andy and Pam Watson and Tim Payne (genial, interested landowners), Dr Jodie Lewis (UBSS - archaeological advice), Phil Hendy (WCC), Chris Hawke (Wells Museum,WCC), John & Margaret Chapman (Axbridge Arch. Soc.), Jim Hanwell (WCC) - for archaeological and geomorphological interpretation, and Alex Barlow (bone identification).

The much discussed limb section. Photograph bv Tonv Bovcott - beer mat included for scale and in a desperate attempt to attract brewery sponsorship.


Digging at Thrupe Swallet, or The Agony and the Ecstasy.
Part I: The Agony.

by Tony Audsley

Only the Agony is available at the moment, so we will start with that and just hope that the Ecstasy will come later.

Thrupe Swallet (NGR 60574583) lies on the Thrupe Fault and is a pleasantly wooded depression wherein a modest spring fed stream sinks near the base of a 17 foot high cliff.  The site is about three hundred yards east-north-east of Thrupe Lane Swallet and is being dug by an odd collection of bods (BEC, MNRC, WCC) with a soft core of ageing ATLAS members.

The nature of the dig

Thrupe Swallet is governed by the Thrupe Fault.  Underground, this appears as an inclined rockface, dipping at about sixty degrees to the horizontal.  Under this slab is a jumble of boulders and gravels with a mass of clays underneath. This mess has tended to slide downhill, but has jammed every so often against the rock roof.  This has given rise to a series of voids or 'chambers' as shown in the diagram, with blockages between.

The voids are not chambers in the conventional sense of the word, but merely open spaces within the boulders. The first three digs on the site remained entirely within this zone of boulders and voids and did not enter solid rock at any stage.


Thrupe Swallet has been dug on three previous occasions.  Firstly by Gerard Platten and the Mendip Exploration Society from October 1936 until December of the same year.  An early reference to the digging can be found in Gerard Platten's Scrapbook:-

"We have now enlarged the entrance until it is fully 5 ft. across; it drops steeply for 6 ft. under a solid limestone slab into a chamber about 6 ft. across in which you can in one spot stand upright.  The roof is a pile of boulders but very safe ..... The floor is loose cave earth and stones, amongst which I found the tusk of either a wild boar or cave lion about 3 inches long". (See fig 1). (1)

Gerard Platten's sketch of the first dig at Thrupe Swallet.

Unfortunately, the cave lion turned out to be pig and the "very safe" roof turned out to be a mass of rubble.  By November, the diggers were concerned about the stability and safety of the dig. Despite this, they managed to penetrate through the boulders to a depth of 30 feet.  Their efforts were brought to an end by a near fatal incident:-

"As the last member of the digging team was crawling out through the small entrance chamber, the ceiling - which consisted of a large rock - subsided and would have completely settled down; had not the head of the pick axe which the member was carrying prevented it.  He was held firmly between the floor and the ceiling in the space separated by the points of the pickaxe." (2)

Fortunately the digger was extracted without serious injury, but the rescue left the entrance in a chaotic state and the incident had unnerved the team, who decided to abandon the site.  After all, at that time, there were many prime sites still to be dug.  Thrupe could wait.

The second attempt on the cave occurred 22 years later.  Norman Tuck started digging there in May 1958 and he was joined by Dave Berry and George Pointing in 1959.  They found a boulder chamber and a promising hole leading down from this.  They had the usual difficulties with Thrupe boulders and found it difficult to maintain a team of diggers willing to have rocks fall on them at regular intervals.  The dig was reluctantly abandoned in the summer of 1960, having reached a depth of something like 30 feet.

In 1963, the Wessex, having finished working at Cow Hole, adopted Thrupe Swallet as their next official club dig and started work there during the August Bank Holiday of that year.  They sank a shaft at the base of the cliff, set up an ingenious system of winches and traverse lines to remove the spoil and built dams in an attempt to reduce the water flow underground.  This was surface digging in the grand style and deserved to succeed.  However, the diggers followed the stream, or perhaps the stream followed the diggers.  Either way, the dig was plagued with water.  This turned the underground fill into a mobile slurry which required extensive timber shoring to hold it in place.  Every so often, the dig's Deity in Residence, a playful being, dropped a rock on the diggers, for example:-

" ... whilst in the lower tunnel Denis Warburton had a large slab detach itself from the left hand wall and this tended to push him further down and, of course prevented his retreat.  Quick work by Richard West with a crow bar prevented the slab from completely blocking the tunnel and allowed Denis to scramble clear." (2)

By the summer of 1965, the diggers were becoming disheartened by the difficult conditions and in particular, by the lack of an obvious way on:-

"With only one solid rock surface and that at some 40 degrees dip, it gave the impression that the route being excavated had no particular significance, but that it was a large boulder and mud filled cavity with many possible routes by which the water could descend until it reached the limestone proper". (2)

So, they abandoned the dig and the site lay neglected.  Moss and ivy covered the spoil heaps and the traverse cable rusted amongst the brambles. The Deity slept on undisturbed for another 34 years.

The present dig

Sometime in the summer of 1999, none of the present diggers can remember the exact date, Dave Speed noticed that a collapse had occurred at the base of the cliff a few yards away from the site of the last Wessex shaft.  This looked distinctly promising, so ancient ATLAS members were brought out of cold storage, dusted down and set to work.  Over the next few weeks we sank a short but superbly unstable shaft down through the boulders.  It became apparent even to us that if we wanted to get any deeper, or for that matter any older, then something substantial in the way of shoring was required. On 5th December 1999, Jim Young and Dave Speed, aided by Dave Morrison and Simon Meade-King constructed a welded steel framework for the shaft.  This was our first serious work at the site and, because of the lack of any earlier known date, it is taken to be the official start of the dig. By the end of the year, the shaft was 12 feet deep, running down against the wall of the cliff.

Work continued on deepening the shaft and extending the steel shoring during the early part of 2000, with a couple of months break during April and May to avoid the lambing season.  After this break, when digging restarted on 14th June, the first task was to install the winch that had been brought over from Little Crapnell.

The winch increased the rate of digging very satisfyingly and within the next couple of sessions, we had reached the boulder chamber described by previous diggers.  This lay somewhat to the east of our shaft.  The stream entered this chamber through remains of the 1960s shoring jammed in the roof and disappeared in the floor down the blocked remains of their lower shaft.  We earmarked the chamber as possible dumping space, but otherwise we ignored it.

Returning to our shaft, at about 25 feet down, we encountered a small rift (initially about a foot wide, but narrowing to a few inches) running into the cliff face. There was a certain amount of discussion about this between the "go-into-the-wallers" and the "continue-on-downers".  However, the "continue-on-downers" won the day; at least their way was man-sized. So down through the boulders we went for another eight to ten feet and eventually uncovered a black hole in the floor. Rocks dropped down this could be heard rumbling away for fifteen feet or so, all very satisfying.

The author at the bottom of the entrance shaft.

At this point, fate, or possibly the Deity in Residence took a hand.  It was now September and the weather was VERY wet.  The marl fill at the base of the shaft softened, then flowed into the shaft like thin porridge.  The boulders above tumbled down to fill the void, putting some interesting twists in the steelwork in the process.  The Deity was obviously on the side of the "go-through-the-wallers".  It was time for another look at the little rift.

Poking about at the far end of the little rift with a long iron bar dislodged a small cobble.  This fell a short distance, perhaps four or five feet and then landed with a distinct resonant thud.  There was a void ahead.  This finished the argument with the "continue-on-downers", so we backfilled part of the very bottom of the shaft, to support the steelwork, then concentrated on enlarging the little rift.  This came to be known as Salami Passage, because of the red and white mottled nature of the rock.

By the beginning of October, Salami Passage had been enlarged sufficiently to allow access to the glory thought to lie beyond.  This turned out to be a miserable, solidly choked "chamber".

Here it should be pointed out that anything in this dig which isn't actually a flat out crawl may be referred to as a chamber.  This gives an impression of spaciousness and magnificence, which is otherwise sadly lacking.

So, lowering the floor of this chamber revealed a small hole trending approximately south east.  This hole emitted A DISTINCT DRAUGHT. The log for the 22nd October reads:-

"A few feet of awkward progress along this tube was made, following a distinct draught and the sound of falling water".

It is at this point that, with hindsight, I now realise that the Deity is female and that then she was playing games with us.  Lying in that wretched tube we could feel a cold strong draught and hear the wonderful resonant sound of water ahead.  A few feet more and we would be in.  The dig was about to go.

Promises, promises

On 3rd December 2000, we broke through into a boulder chamber, Advent Chamber.  This contained an assortment of boulders, some large, some unstable, some both, but no way on, no big breakthrough.  On the east side of the chamber, accessible via a low stoop was a small rift chamber about eight feet long by three feet wide, which looked like it might be useful as a dumping space (it was).  As for the way on, well, the lower end of Advent Chamber was a solid choke of boulders but it did at least look diggable.

One thing is interesting about the chamber.  Through a peep-hole in the west side can be seen a blackened portion of shoring timber, remains of the 1960s dig.  To get to Advent, we had dug our way into the cliff, then tunnelled through solid, and without realising it, gone over the top of the old dig to end up on the east side of it. In doing so we had found an open chamber just by the side of their dig. More importantly, we had now started on a route that avoided most of the stream so troublesome to the earlier diggers. Apart from a brief appearance of part of the water at the top of Advent chamber, it is largely dry - most of the water can be heard flowing away behind the west wall of the chamber, along the route of the old dig.  The Deity is fickle; sometimes she can be helpful.

This was the situation at the end of 2000.  72 digging trips in the year had increased the depth of the dig from twelve feet to fifty-five feet and given a passage length of 110 feet.

Wednesday 3rd January 2001 saw nine (yes nine!) people crammed into Advent Chamber, two of whom were able to do useful work.  The two workers secured a wobbly boulder and started on the drive down through the jumble of rock at the back of the chamber.  By the middle of January, this shaft was about 15 feet deep and we had entered the next chamber in the series (3 feet high about 4 feet wide, descending for about 10 feet at the usual 60ish degrees to the usual choke).  It was roofed as always by the hanging wall of the fault and floored with the usual mix of boulders, cobbles and stream debris. Work on the loose choke at the lower end of this chamber was going well, when in February the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease brought caving and (nearly) all digging to a complete halt.

Bob Cottle in the shaft at the bottom of Advent Chamber.

By late July, we thought the foot and mouth outbreak appeared to be over, but were reluctant to start back just in case we were wrong.  However, a quite bizarre series of events led to the resumption of digging. It all started when, on the morning of Wednesday 25th July, a calf broke through the covering on the shaft and then fell down the shaft.

Before continuing, I should explain that at this stage of the dig, Salami Passage entered the cliff face about 6 feet above shaft bottom.  Furthermore, the bottom of Salami Passage projected into the shaft as a sort of funnel shaped balcony.

Luckily, for all our sakes, the calf did not fall onto the rock pile at the bottom of the shaft, but landed on the "balcony" and was scooped into Salami Passage.  It then slid about 8 feet along the passage and took a sharp right-hand bend followed by a 4 foot drop into the chamber beyond. By then, it had really got the exploration bug, for it then headed off towards Advent.  Fortunately, it couldn't make it through the squeeze and there it stuck.

At this stage in the proceedings no-one, with the possible exception of the calf itself, knew where it was.  It was just missing and its mother was raising the alarm by bellowing frantically. The diggers were called out just in case the calf had indeed fallen down the cave and a sharp-eyed digger went down the shaft to check.  As there was no sign of the calf at shaft bottom nor in Salami Passage, he reported, not unreasonably, that the calf was not in the cave.  He then went off.  Later however, the calf was heard calling from the cave and Bob Cowlin and his two sons started on the rescue.  They were joined sometime later by some of the diggers and the animal was hauled up the shaft.  Once on the surface, it succeeded in standing and then immediately staggered off to its mother and started to suckle.  Miraculously, its only injuries were two small cuts.  Now do you believe in the Deity in Residence?

The Cowlins were surprised and pleased by the outcome and were also justifiably proud of their own efforts, as none of them had ever been underground before.  On the condition that the top of the shaft was made secure, they kindly granted us permission to restart digging.

By the end of September, the shaft had a cattle-proof lid and by late October, Maglite Grotto, a low, sloping chamber some 15 feet long, 8 feet wide and up to a massive 4 feet high (in places) was entered.  This had a finely decorated but blind inlet passage, the Priests' Hole, coming in from the roof.  The rubble floor of Maglite Grotto funnelled down to a black pit where stones could be heard to rattle down for perhaps 10 feet more.

Maglite Grotto was a difficult place to dig.  The boulder floor rested on a foundation of stream debris and clays, lubricated into a mobile slurry by the water which now ran below the surface.  It was here that we began to experience the same sort of problems that must have bedevilled the 1960s diggers.  The whole area showed an alarming tendency to slurp downwards, despite repeated attempts to stabilise it by walling and shoring.  The digging was complicated by the presence of a large boulder, the "Hammerhead".  This boulder was critical to the stability of the whole area, but it effectively blocked the way on!  The digging became rather delicate and slow but, by 30th December, the pit was more or less stable and sufficiently enlarged to allow a view into the void beyond.  Yet another rubble slope ending in yet another choke could be seen.  Entry was left until the New Year.

By the end of 2002, there had been 37 digging trips (a low number because of the foot and mouth closures). The bottom of Maglite Chamber was at a depth of 90 feet and the dig had a total passage length of 233 feet.

Rob Taviner in the Maglite Grotto shaft.

Diggers and visitors (December 1999 - December 2001)

Annie Audsley, Adrian Bowen, Anthony Marsh, Bob Cottle, Clive North, Colin Rogers, Dave Everett, Dave Grosvenor, Dave Morrison, Dave Speed, Gary Sandys, James Marsh, James Witcombe, Jim Young, Kate Lawrence, Paul Stillman, Roger Marsh, Rob Taviner, Rich Witcombe, Simon Meade-King, Tony Audsley, Tony Littler.

References quoted

(1): W. J. Lawry, Report on Thrupe Pot. Gerard Platten Scrapbook. Vol XVII p4747 (Unpublished Mss., Wells Museum Library)

(2): Edmund J Mason. Thrupe Swallet, An Account of early work by the M.E.S. Belfry Bulletin No 199, September 1964 p3-4

(3): Alan J Surrall. Thrupe Diary. J Wessex Cave Club, No 107 Vol. 9 (July 1966)

Additional sources

The Hillgrove logbooks 1954-1963, WCC Journal, supplement to Volume VIII

The Mendip Caver 1(1), 1(4),2(3)

In the short term, more information can be found at:

Thrupe Lite http://freespace.virgin.net/t.audsley (now http://www.arcula.co.uk/thrupelite/ )

This website contains up to date information about the dig, lots of photographs, a few sounds and a certain amount of foolishness.  There is also a history section, where the references quoted here are reproduced in full.

Like everything on the web, the website will sooner or later vanish without trace.


"If more interest were taken in this dig, another Cuthbert's could well be the reward" .

Jim Giles. Caving Log. Belfry Bulletin No 157, March 1961, p2.


Sima Pumacocha 2002 Expedition Survey and Photographs

(see article in BB No 515)

by Peter “Snablet” and Mark Hassell



Nick Hawkes on the entrance pitch of Qaga Mach’ay (alt.4930m) – a 50m by 20m entrance over 50m deep to a 20m high passage with two un-descended, ice coated leads


Ed. – In addition to these photographs I have also received a copy of the Sima Pumacocha Presentation given in May of this year by Nick Hawkes to the Peru Geological Society. It is planned to include sections of it in the next issue of the BB.


Fun in the Sun and a Lark in the Dark - Meghalaya 2003.

by Tony Jarratt



Once again February saw an invasion of the Indian hill state of Meghalaya (the Abode of the Clouds) by a bunch of scruffy Europeans (and Michael) intent on discovering many kilometres of huge cave passage and having a great time.  By the end of the month we had over 25km surveyed and at least one Mahindra pick-up jeep full of empty beer bottles - the mission had been accomplished in style!  On the down side Jayne had a broken leg, Dr. B was bankrupt and Brian's only caving day resulted in a badly bruised back from falling rocks, though a bit higher up and it would have also been his last caving day .... A great deal of hard work had been done in both the Garo and Jaintia Hills and many leads had been opened up for next year. Herewith the details of the Shnongrim team's exploits. Tony Boycott wrote an article on the Garo Hills part of the expedition but left it on a boat in the Red Sea!

The Shnongrim Camp, Nongkhlieh Ilaka, Jaintia Hills

This year 15 Europeans and a host of locals were based at Ratapkhung, on the top of the Shnongrim ridge and near the village of that name.  Accommodation was provided by local character, entrepreneur, folk musician and part time were-Tiger Carlyn Phyrngap and his stepfather Pa Heh Shor Pajuh - another great character and decimator of the area's wildlife.  Their farmhands and the Meghalaya Adventurers' team from Shillong had built a superb 'camp' consisting of thatched bamboo bedrooms, dining room, food store, kitchen, bogs and shower units just off the road and with glorious views of the Letein valley below.  Being slap in the middle of this extensive caving area we were able to walk to many sites and saved lots of uncomfortable hours of driving from the Sutnga LB. as was done last year.  Shaktiman lorry loads of wood provided both fuel for cooking and evening bonfires where Haywards 10,000 (8% ABV) was copiously imbibed to replace lost body fluids evaporated underground and in patches of spiky jungle (where our previously nonchalant evening strolls became more wary after we were informed that a potentially man-eating tiger had just been shot nearby!).

Work commenced with the rigging of Krem Ryman, top entrance to the 12km Umthloo system, and the bottoming of Krem Myrliat 3 at 17m - a promising lead from last year which failed to deliver.  The Ryman rigging also added c.100m to the system as a separate entrance was found to connect and was tied into the main survey.  Half of the Garo team had corne over for the first few days and spent these completing the survey of Krem Iawe and connecting with the newly discovered Krem Iawe Barit to give a total length of 3.398kms.  Krem Korlooheng, adjacent to Ryman, had half a jar of flourescein tipped into it but due to low water levels this was not detected in the main Umthloo system.  We also missed the side passage in Ryman which Raman, a minister of an ancient Jaintia king, used as a shortcut to Jaintiapur, now in Bangladesh.  Like our friend Carlyn, he was able to turn into a tiger at will and would not have been nice to meet in a squeeze!  Other projects started were the resurvey of Krem Labbit (bat) by our German colleagues and recce in the adjacent Krang (sloping land) area, mainly by Robin and leading to some great discoveries.

On Feb. 9th Annie, Andreas, Peter and Shelley rigged Krem Krang Moo 0 (cave of the rock or monolith in the sloping ground) to a calcite choke at 57m depth and l34.55m length. Robin and I, meanwhile, pushed a 30m deep draughting boulder choke in the nearby Krem Krang Moo 1 to the head of the 5m deep Beast Pot - named after a survey leg of 6.66 metres.  Returning with a ladder we had to extend the name to cover the 45m deep black void just beyond!  Next day Peter and Andreas dropped this into 80m of ongoing, crab-infested streamway which was pushed another 200m on the 11th. 300m more was added next day while the Mendip/Clare trio clocked up 250m of well decorated inlet and a 100m oxbow.  Meanwhile Michael and team were surveying many hundreds of metres in the enormous Krem Liat Prah - his baby - and incidentally finding an apparent modernist sculpture newly deposited right in the centre of the gigantic main drag. This was actually a heap of expensive drill steels and steel sleeving lost by an Indian Geological Survey borehole prospecting team last year!  This cave was eventually to finish at a length of 8.296kms.  A girlies team of Annie, Nicky and Fiona attempted to join Krem Urn Im to this system by pushing an obviously short connecting duck.  This was not to happen as the passage went BELOW the huge cave above into new river passage ongoing up and downstream!  It was left for a wet suited team to survey next year and a link to Liat Prah would obviously be very acceptable if getting more and more unikely.  It was left at 1.267kms. Roger, Dan and Fiona were pushing another pot - Krem Krang 1, nicknamed " Raining Out Cave" for its condensation and draught.  The 60m pothole of Krem Shrieh (monkey) was also receiving the attention of Derek, Rhys, Shelley and Nicky.

We pressed on in Krang Moo 1 on the 13th but soon reached a deep canal.  To avoid this I doffed my slippery wellies and pioneered the "hairy socks technique" to free climb up a calcite wall into a large, high level series with a long muddy inlet and eventual route back to the stream after several hundred metres.  Here we were prevented from rushing along a 20m high river passage by a large, fallen boulder needing a ladder to descend but we expected big finds next day. Robin, Nigel, Dan and Fiona had that day rigged down to a fine streamway in nearby Krem Synrang (shelter) Krang but were stopped upstream by a large fallen boulder needing a maypole to ascend.....  We had missed each other by half an hour or so but now had a connected system later surveyed to 2.668kms and ending in a sump.  This major success proved both the accuracy of the GPS entrance positions and the survey teams and was cause for celebration - as if we needed it! Apart from the ongoing Liat Prah project other caves being explored were Norman's Pot, Kseh Upring and Kneewrecker Hole plus surface recce and tourist, tidying up and video trips in the stunning Umthloo system. In the latter Annie and I, accompanied by the aptly named Bat, eventually pushed a three year old promising lead into c.lOOm of squalid and aquatic misery, thankfully left unsurveyed as your scribe had no lead in any of his three pencils - no change there then! Roger also earned the "free diver of the year award" for rescuing a sunken tackle bag in the same cave.

The next exciting find came following a recce in the previously out of bounds area around Shnongrim village.  Raplang Shangpliang (ace guide), Kai Shail Patwat and Heipormi Pajuh showed us various sites including the impressive pothole/cave of Krem Synrang Ngap (bee shelter).  Here the diminutive but hardy Raplang chopped down a tree, chucked it down an exposed 5m climb and scambled down to the pothole floor.  Next day the timid westerners rigged the drop with a ladder to find no way on but then surveyed the cave entrance above to emerge at a second entrance via a huge chamber with two deep pots in the floor.  One of these was later rigged for a total of 76m into a wet crawl developing into a fine river passage containing a possibly 100m high aven.  It was left ongoing at a length of 1.977kms.  In the same area the equally magnificent Krem Synrang Labbit (bat shelter cave) was surveyed to a length of 1.654kms and was also left wide open.  It is possible that this is the upstream feeder to Ngap, itself a contender for connecting with the superb river cave/resurgence of Krem Wah Shikar (Shikar stream cave) 1.323kms in length.  This would give a combined system of at least 6kms and probably very much more, especially if the Krang Moo system can be tied in. An extremely promising 30m+ pothole, Krem Bir (no, not beer cave - mud cave) nearby may also be part of this hypothetical system and blows out condensation which turns the otherwise dry soil around the entrance to mud.  This area will be the initial focus of next year's trip.

On a supposed "easy day" a large team took advantage of an invitation by Mulda Rupon, head man of Shnongrim, to visit the historic cave of Krem Kut S utiang (hill fort cave of the Sutiang people).  This is a site respected by the local people as the last stand of the "rebel" Jaintia King, U Kiang Nongbah, who in 1862 took advantage of a reduction in strength of the Sylhet Light Infantry Regiment to mount an arson attack against the local British run town of Jowai along with 600 tribesmen.  This was in protest against oppressive taxation by the Bengal Government and the general annexation by the British of the hereditary tribal lands.  Unfortunately for them the Regiment managed to scrape up 6,000 troops armed with muskets, cannon and war elephants and on the 27th December 1862 stormed the Kut Sutiang defences, capturing the King and hanging him in Jowai market place three days later.  An unconfirmed local story is that the British took the King's head back for display in England.  Strangely enough (!) it had taken us three years of patient negotiation and failed attempts to see this cave and even on this visit there was some doubt as to how many would be allowed in.  Perhaps realising that the mixed bag of English, Scots, Welsh, German, Indian, Austrian, Irish and Swiss present had all had a go at each other over the centuries, Mulda was not too concerned about the spirits of his ancestors being too upset and gave us the run of the place.

A lengthy downhill walk from the village saw us hacking through thick and steep jungle to reach the entrance, situated on top of a limestone outlier in the valley bottom. A very pleasant 109m section of fossil tunnel was surveyed, photographed, sketched and videoed to death while the locals sat biri-smoking and bemused on a large stalagmite boss. This was reputed to be the old King's seat, but they didn't worry too much about using it for an ashtray!  The only evidence left in the cave of these troubled times was broken pottery and possible hearth sites.  Carlyn, of course, knew of the hidden real cave - blocked off with a stone slab and only disclosed to a select few.  He may well be right as this murderous patch of the jungle covered pinnacle karst could conceal anything.  The trek back out to the paddy fields put paid to the "easy day" theory!

Back at Krem Labbit, Shnongrim, Michael and Thomas were convinced that they had connected with the underlying Krem Shynrong Labbit via a 50m pitch but were prevented from physically doing the trip due to the horrifically unstable nature of the pitch head. The total length of this system is theoretically 6.1kms.

In Umthloo several hundred metres of inlets and side passages brought the total up to l3.413kms with a very good lead (needing a small amount of bang) for next year. Here a calcited hanging rock at stream level prevents access to ongoing, 10m high inlet passage.  Krem Wiar-bru, a 200m long pothole was rigged down to a sumped area at Umthloo river level.  Krem Korlooheng, not far away, also sumps at this level.  One or two rebreather-owning divers are needed for next year to connect these to the main system and add another 0.5+kms.  With plenty of possibilities for further links to known caves located in all directions there is every chance that this could be a contender for India's longest - it has to beat the 21km Kotsati/Umlawan system only a few kms to the south at Lumshnong.  There are also many more potholes above the system awaiting our attention.

Other caves surveyed were the impressive Krem Labbit near Daistong, across the Letein valley.  This huge but short (451 m) system is one of the few visited here there are at least 13 more to be looked at!  The 44m long Krem Phlangmet (grass body cave) was not a record breaker but notable for the stunning examples of phototropic stalactites in its very majestic entrance, possibly the first recorded in India.  They grow in the direction of sunlight due to moss and algae growth on this side.  Krem Shrieh Khaidong reached 1.048kms, Krem Kseh Upring made 577m, Norman's Pot - 244m, Kneewrecker Hole - 810m, Krem Langshreh - 172m and Krem Ynram Blang - 80m.  Many other sites were recorded but not explored.

Sign at Krem Mawsmai Show Cave, Cherapuniee

Apart from exploration and surveying several people took some high quality photographs of most of the caves visited and Fraser continued with his ongoing video footage, assisted by Nicky who also took a video camera.  Fraser also filmed an active coal mine near Sutnga, both underground and on the surface.  The immigrant Nepalese colliers were friendly and helpful and their hospitality has ensured that this almost mediaeval industry has been recorded for posterity. Dan and Fiona worked hard on their continuing speleobiological research throughout the area while the writer made every effort to note down some of the extensive cave folklore of the Jaintia (or Pnar as they prefer to be called) people.  This has rightly become an established part of recce and everyone made an effort to collect folk tales with the aid of our guides and translators.  Carlyn was a rich fund of information and went to great lengths to ensure that our understanding and spelling of Pnar words was correct, the Khasi spellings sometimes used being subtly different. To compliment this Thomas did some fine pencil sketches of local thatched houses, barns etc. and Annie delineated the scenery. Andreas seemed to be permanently glued to his laptop, inputting survey data and Peter L. laboured heroically with the generator and assorted battery chargers as well as keeping an eye out (snigger) for faults in the electric supply.  This was a great team with everyone contributing to the cause in their own way.

Needless to say it was not all work and our evenings were spent eating the excellent food cooked by Addy and his team and assisting Ba Bung to reduce the mountainous alcohol supply. The "Shnongrim Combo" were in action most nights with guitars, mandolin, tin whistles, ksing (a local drum donated by Pa Heh) vocals and a selection of weird percussion instruments brought from Shillong by Gareth. Daytime sightseeing was limited but the spectacular monoliths and stone cremation vaults above the camp were regularly visited and photographed.  To conclude - a great time was had and the results were very satisfying.  All Meghalaya visits are great value and this was one of the better ones!


U.K: Simon Brooks (O.C.G./G.S.G.), Annie Audsley (B.E.C./S.U.S.), Nicola Bayley (R.F.D.C.C.), Tony Boycott (B.E.C./G.S.G./D.B.S.S.), Jayne Stead (G.S.G.), Peter Dowswell (G.S.G.), Roger Galloway (G.S.G.), Dan Harries (G.S.G.), Fiona Ware (G.S.G.), Tony Jarratt (B.E.C./G.S.G.), Derek Pettiglio (G.S.G.), Nigel Robertson (G.S.G.), Fraser Simpson (G.S.G.), Rhys Williams (S.W.C.c.). Ireland: Robin Sheen (RC.C.C.). Germany: Georg Baumler (H.H.L.), Daniel Gebauer (H.A.G.), Andre Abele, Herbert Jantschke, Michael Laumanns (S.C.R), Thomas Matthalm (K.H.F.M.), Katrin Zipfel. Austria: Peter Ludwig (L.V.H.O.O.). Switzerland: Andreas Neumann (O.G.H.). India: Brian Kharpran Daly (M.A.A./G.S.G.), Neil Sootinck, Lindsay Diengdoh, Shelley Diengdoh, Ronnie Mawlong, Batkupar 'Bat' Lyngdoh, Dale Mawlong, Gareth William Lyngwa, Toki Franklyn Dkhar, Denis Rayen (all M.A.A.).

Organisers, drivers, cooks, guides and other invaluable help

Bung Diengdoh, Adison 'Addy' Thaba, Shamphang War, Carlyn Phymgap, Pa Heh Shor Pajuh, Mulda Rupon, Raplang Shangpliang and a host of others from Shillong, Nongkhlieh Ilaka and the Garo, Borsora and Laitkynsew areas - without whom these expeditions would not be so successful.  Maureen Diengdoh and the Ladies of Shillong once again deserve our highest praise for their endless patience, good humour and hospitality.


Morton's Pot Update - July 2003.

by Sean Howe

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell and Graham 'Jake' Johnson continue the work in Eastwater Swallet at the bottom of Morton's Pot. Recent additions to the team include Paul Brock, Pete Hellier and Sean Howe (when he's not away with the Shepton).

Pete standing in the bottom of the dig.

Pete working hard – hauling up the skip containing another bag of soil

A considerable amount of engineering work has been carried out over the previous months. Any existing 'Seilbahns' (suspended cable runways) have been renovated or replaced. An additional 'Seilbahn' was recently added for the disposal of spoil at the head of the 380 Foot Way to avoid filling up the Traverse.  At the other end, near the dig face, scaffolding has been used to create a spoil retaining wall at the Drain Hole.

The skip being hauled up the 380 Foot Way on the ‘Seilbahn’

On Wednesday 16th July 2003 we passed all previous digs and are at the deepest point ever.

(Ed.  Unfortunately soon after the dig flooded once again.  On the 6th August the water level was only one foot beneath the top of the highest scaffolding and some three to four feet below the bolt and hauling pulley)


Club News.

Well, it's coming to you sooner than you may think! What? You may ask ...

Hurrah!  It's the Annual General Meeting and we need your nominations for members who wish to stand for election on to the committee. All prospective nominees should be aware that there is a requirement to attend meetings held on the 1st Friday evening of the month at ‘The Belfry’.  I would like to remind everyone that the club does not run Itself and relies on those members who are willing to volunteer their services and time.

All nominations to be sent to me:

Vince Simmonds (Hon. Sec.)
West Harptree,
Bath & North East Somerset

Please remember that I need to receive nominations before the AGM on Saturday 4th October 2003.

On a lighter note and coming up before the AGM and dinner you should all be aware that this year is the 50m since the breakthrough into St Cuthbert’s Swallet on September 4th 1953. By way of a celebration there will be a BBQ at the Belfry en Saturday 6th September 2003 everyone will be welcome. We hope that as many people as possible will venture down to Cerberus Hall to drink a toast to Messrs. Coase and Bennett.   To those who cant make it underground there will be plenty of opportunities to raise several glasses to ail those people who worked so hard to open up such a magnificent system as the one on our doorstep.

See you at the Belfry,

Vince Simmonds


Note from the Librarian

Three new cabinets have been purchased with the money raised at the last Dinner, from the auction of Dave Yeandle's kit.  They will soon have plaques fitted, they house, amongst other publications, Dave's collection of books and can be identified as such by a stamp inside the front cover (thanks Mac).

The cataloguing continues and has uncovered quite a few missing items, can any members help fill the gaps from the list below?

BEC Caving Reports:



S.J. Collins



S.J. Collins



R.H. Bennett



Burrington Cave Atlas



PSM Expedition Report

Belfry Bulletins:

Any from the following volumes: 17 & 19.

Missing Books:

Darkness Beckons (Farr) - missing since the 1990s.

Grandes Traversias (out of print) - Jim Smart swears that he gave it to a BEC member in the Hunters' (February '02).

Dates For Your Diary.

5th September: Committee Meeting.

6th September: St. Cuthbert's Anniversary - trips and BBQ.

6th - 7th September: Working weekend.

3rd October: Committee Meeting.

4th October: AGM and Club Dinner - the Bath Arms, Cheddar.

4th - 5th October: BCRA Conference - somewhere in that popular caving area of Worcestershire - but sod that, its Dinner weekend.


Notes from the Logbook.

23/04/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: 'MadPhil'

Went to clean up Morton's on my own. Removed old sacks, refilled bags etc.  Needs clearing.  Dig was well dry, lost c.3m over the two years.  Maybe have a play there this summer if stays dry.  Any volunteers?

14/05/03: Charterhouse Cave: 'Tangent', Rich Blake, Henry Bennett and Mike Willett

Another visit to this fine cave, although Speleotechnics LED caused a few problems for Henry whose lamp kept shorting out, and my lamp died in the Citadel.  Return to the surface was made even more enjoyable by this lack of illumination.  Investigated the side passages this time, and also spotted the miners' stemple high up in the wall of Splatter Chamber. J W

31/05/03: Eastwater Cavern, Tooting Broadway: 'MadPhil' and Alison Moody

Went to look at lead left last year. Sump goes, but squalid. Possible bypass a no go.  Muddy trip!  7 hours.

04/06/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: 'MadPhil' and Graham

Headed down with scrap heap challenge pulley system for 380 Foot Way.  Installed wicked, big improvement.  Headed to dig.  Dug in water and had to use dam technique to continue digging.  Now at 5m.  1m to pass our last attempt.  Pete Hellier and Paul Brock turned up at 20.00 and moved all the bags Paul dug last week from dig site to top of380 Foot Way.  Easy money. (Money? What money??)  ££.

22/06/03: Diccan Pot, Ribblesdale: Pete and Paul

Early start to avoid the masses!  Wet, draughty and a classic  Yorkshire rope trip.  De-rigging was a bit of a pain by the time we made our way out due to triple rigging techniques of others!. ... Blah, Blah, Blah.  Ace trip.  Missed dragging bags out of Morton's!!  Honest. P.B.

28/06/03: Daren Cilau, Through Trip: Vince Simmonds and Peter Bolt

In through Price's Dig to have a good look around Busman's Holiday - some interesting leads. (Price's Dig is a little mucky). Then passed choke into Antler Passage, There are some rope climbs but nothing too difficult although ropes are rather slippery.  Passed the Antlers and White Company (nice formations) and then into Big Chamber, Jigsaw Passage and Daren entrance - what joy!  Doesn't get any shorter or easier but at least we only did it one way.  5¾ hours.

23/07/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Pete, Sean and Paul

My first night as foreman, overlooking my two main employees.  Sean main digging contractor unable to do his job due to high water levels, so we had to drag bags up to the 380 Foot Way.  Good boys! P.B.

Ed. 90%+ of Logbook entries are by only six or so members.  This does not accurately reflect caving and digging trips by members. Please use the Logbook - it is Club history and a vital reference for future projects.