Local Services

Search Our Site

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams


I have included the reports at the front of the issue so that those of you that can't be bothered with them can skip through to the articles.

Please also note the dinner booking forms at the back.  Please complete these asap and return them if you are coming. I know from my experiences last year that the organisation is a nightmare only made worse by late returns.

Anyway I hope this issue gives you all some suitable early morning, small room reading pleasure.

If not. .. you can always use it to w*** your a-*!!!!


So the last BB of the Club Year, and my last one too!  See my report for further details of this.  Things have been a bit slow at the Belfry of late, the same crowd of regular members has been around but there’s a lot of people that we haven't seen for some time .... what has happened to you all .... you are missed.

I know that Andy and Ange Cave have departed these shores for France on a permanent basis, I don't think for a minute that it's the last we have seen of them though.  I am sure you'll join me in wishing them all the best in their ventures over there.  Various members have their address details should you wish to contact them.

For my sins I will be moving back up to London shortly for Career reasons .. (yes even I have to work from time to time).  This probably means that you will see more of me on Mendip as since I have been living in Gurney Slade my visits to Priddy have become fewer.  Funny old world innit?

I know that our regular diggers have been active recently and that J-Rat continues to unearth artefacts (alien or otherwise) from Five Buddies Sink.

I have also finished my diving project in St Cuthbert’s.  Thank you to those that helped with this .... and to my critics ... I suggest you learn to read because then you would understand why I was doing it!!!

I will write up a full report of my activities for a future BB.

Also in this issue you will find Dinner Booking forms.  Thanks must go to Nigel Taylor for organising this again this year.  I did it last year and it is bloody hard work.  I hope that the attendance is worthy of the effort he has put in.

Lastly I am sorry to see Jeff Price, Mike Wilson and Hilary Wilson standing down from the committee this year.  They have all been keen and valuable members for some time and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.  I am sure the membership would echo my sentiments and thanks to them all.

Anyway that's the lot from me.  Hope to see you all soon.  Regards and Good caving ..... Jingles.


Membership Secretaries Report

I will not be as verbose this year, mainly because I do not have much to report.  The sending out of addressed envelopes to all last years paid up members worked really well, with a plethora of returning to me before the end of the year and then the usual dribble for months after that.  Ah well I suppose nothing is perfect.  I propose doing the same again with the first issue of the as after the AG.M.

Just to remind you all that the cut off date for memberships is the end of December so you will receive no more gratis copies of the as after that, if you have not paid your subs.

On an actual membership front this year has been very disappointing with only a total of five new members joining the club, 3 in January of this year and two at the last committee meeting in September, I would like to formally welcome you all to the club.

I still have not found an effective piece of software to manage the names and addresses yet, even after trying various routes; perhaps someone will finally suggest a package that will do the job.

I am standing again for re-election to the committee and hope to be re-elected to the post of Membership Secretary as I'm fairly sure no one else wants to do it!

See you at the AG.M.

Richard Stephens (Dick-Fred)
Membership Secretary.


From the Belfry Table Number 21

Don't forget, the A.G.M and Annual Dinner, Saturday 4th. October 1997.

The Dinner will be held at Bristol University Veterinary School at Langford House, Langford, Somerset, details appear in this BB with the booking form.  A 53 seater coach will leave the Hunters Lodge at 7.00pm, book with your dinner bookings, but as always, pay on the coach, cost will be £2-50 a head, which after drivers tip deduction will leave a sum towards the Post Dinner barrels at the Belfry!

The Club extends its' deepest sympathy to Carol and the family of Life Member Alan Sandal (240). In keeping with the feelings which prevailed at his funeral on Friday 15th August, I will simply wish his spirit excess wherever it may be.

Alex Gee, Rich Blake and Quackers have just returned from a fortnight in Austria where they holidayed and caved with Mr. & Mrs. Snablet et All!  All very brown, rumours of caverns discovered measureless to man have not yet been heard on the hill, is that why they are so brown?

Talking of Caves, Angie and Andy have bade farewell to the UK and emigrated to a fine caving area of France.  Bob & Maryika Hill and family send greeting from Gabon to all, in a recently received letter.

I have designed new BEC Tee-shirts and car stickers, and in the first instance these are available from Tony Jarrett at Bat Products {Thanks Tony!] or directly from me in case of difficulty, though please remember Postage will be extra!

Tony Boycott tells me that recent CO2 readings were again high in WHITE PIT.  Take extreme care if you visit this cave at present.

A new borehole drilled this week from the base of Westbury Quarry encountered a possible cavity with water at 240 feet, but sadly unless you are an aggregate producer, no indication of other cavities before that depth.  Drilling started at 170.29 m(Above Sea Level) circa 562 feet.  The borehole is for ground water and scientific monitoring so may yield interesting information in the future.

The EXPLOSIVES USER GROUP will run the first officially accredited training weekend on the 24th/25th/26th. October 1997 on Mendip.  Primarily for existing licensed holders across the UK it is intended to expand this training for potential and would-be licence holders at a later date.  The group’s action is intended to forestall future legislation that may well be brought in for mandatory training for all such handlers of explosives.  At present explosives handlers in the quarry industry are the only persons who by law must have detailed training and examinations, however it is known that the Construction Industry is soon to be brought into a similar scheme, so hopefully the Caving world will be ahead of such legislation and have their house in order, enabling exploration with the 'gentle art' to continue for years to come!.

Goodbye from the Table, ... see you at the AGM?

Nigel Taylor, Hon.Sec.
Friday 29th August 1997.


Report of the Hon. Secretary 1996/7

Let there be no pretence, I am very concerned about the state of the Club.  An independent observer might draw the conclusion that apathy rules!  Did anyone read the minutes of last years AGM published in the BB last December, did or indeed does anyone care?

I should love to paint a glowing portrait of the state of the BEC, but this would be false.  Akin to most clubs, general interest from new blood in joining clubs is diminishing.  Whether this is due to lack of interest or finances, or a general fall-off in society in general - in a need to belong to a body or club, - I cannot but surmise.  What I am concerned about is the general interest in the state of the club by existing members.  Are we getting it wrong?  Surely at £24 per year, indeed at £20 if you pay early, it cannot be the costs that are putting members off.  Try organising a function and support is less than worth the effort, with the exception of the Annual Dinner.  Perhaps we are not giving you the member what you need, .... but are you telling us what you want.  It is no good some individuals saying:  "We do all the hard caving for the club, why should we have to do anything else!" What makes a club, 'The Club', is the spirit generated by the varied mixture of persons who make up the membership, the variety of individual characters, skills, sense of humour or lack of such, or whatever.  Surely it was that essence that made you the member join the club in the first place.

Thus, as human beings we have all the frailties and faults of any other human beings, and as club members we differ in our abilities and characters.  So then why, oh why has this last year seen the intense bickering and sometimes vicious back biting that seems at times ready to cause rifts within the club.  It is most sad that this is most evident within the committee.  Work has not been done by some for various reasons, others can be critical of this, but let us keep aggro out of this please.

As Secretary, I feel that my role is often to sit-on-the-fence, not to negate standing up and being counted, but rather to prevent discord in the club.  I try to put my personal views to one side and take the view of what is best for the club.  I certainly 'Ain’t no angel' if you'll excuse the language, but I try, and trying is what being a member, and most especially a committee member is all about.

Attendances at meetings are often arduous, especially after a long weeks work, but they are part of the role.  So is playing your part in being a member of a committee, being prepared to make and agree on decisions and stand by the agreed policies of the Club.

Because of the errors made in our electoral process last year, the AGM brought all candidates onto the committee.  Such an action, gives a committee position with no responsibilities for some. Please do not draw the inference that I am criticising any such individual, but, perhaps future AGM's might consider giving back up roles to the 'floating members' so that certain heavy workload positions are supported by deputies, thus giving such a floating member a role and actual responsibility, which hopefully in turn will give them pride and pleasure in playing a part in the running of their club. In practice I feel that the smaller the committee, the easier it is to obtain constructive agreement on decisions, and to ensure work is effectively tackled.  Set against this is the argument that I have put forward myself in the past, that if someone is keen enough to stand for election then especially if they are younger or new members, then let them stand and be given a chance.

I especially wish to make a point of thanking on both my beha1f, and also that of the club, three people who have decided to step down from the committee this year.  Mike and Hilary Wilson and Jeff Price have served for several years on the committee, always giving much support and time on behalf of the BEC. often with no praise for their unstinting efforts.  They have worked quietly away in the background, and could always be counted upon to 'produce the goods' be it by way of their attendance at meetings, working weekends or as part of the organising team for functions.  To my view they epitomise the spirit of being a club member, and their intended departure is to the detriment of the club.  I hope they may still reconsider and remain as candidates for the committee.

To those members who are saddened by my views, I offer no apology.  I will not gloss over a situation which at present is far from healthy. I have said in several "From the Belfry Table" articles in the BB. it is your club, play a part in it, please!!!  Introduce a new member, help run a stomp or a barbecue, organise an away meet, offer your services, just please .... whether you are an old timer who already 'has done your bit' or a new member don't just sit there, ...... we need you, and hopefully you need the club.  That way we can look forward to an even brighter next sixty plus years, we will keep the name of the BEC in a state to be proud of and an envy of many other clubs. Only together with effort and your support do we go forward.

Nigel Taylor
Member 772.
Hon. Secretary Bristol Exploration Club, 1996/7
28th. August 1997.


Belfry Bulletin Editor's Report.

John Williams.

This has certainly not been the best year I have had as Editor.  I have exceeded the number of issues that I promised to produce at last years AGM but there have been problems with the distribution - for which I will take responsibility ­and I know some of you have felt let down by this. I can only apologise to you - I have done the best I could under extremely difficult circumstances. Thanks must, however, go to J-Rat who has been invaluable in the distribution of the BB.

There has been much local criticism of the BB this year and surprisingly little support from the membership both in terms of articles and help offered but never received.  This has to be the slowest year I have had in terms of articles from the membership.  I thank those of you that have written something, and remind the rest of you that it is very easy to sit in the pub and criticise the BB for being too thin or lacking in interesting articles .... but what have YOU done about it recently??? I know for a fact that there are several members sitting on articles at the moment and would predict that the next editor will receive a sudden rush. Personal??? .. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Alfie told me that editing the BB is a thankless task - I am inclined to agree with him.

I was in two minds about taking the editorship on again this year anyway but was swayed at the AGM, maybe I should have stuck to my feeling, who knows.

I will not stand again as editor this year as my heart is no longer in it and I know that there are others who are keen to have a go.  I will not stand in the way and would wish the next editor every success with a difficult and demanding task.

It seems to me that there has been great division within the committee this year and I would personally question the motivation of some of the members.  I urge the membership to think carefully about voting this AGM as it is my opinion that the club is in grave danger of taking a dive and that very careful action is required on the part of next years committee.  The committee are the representatives of the club and not there as individuals, personalities should be kept out of club business, this has patently not been the case in the past year.

For my part I wish to take a step back from all of this.

Should the club wish me on the committee again this year I am happy to stand but I do not wish to take on a major office ....... perhaps a floating position.

I have put in much over the last four years and have largely enjoyed the responsibility and duty but I feel it is time for a change.



Tacklemaster's report.

Mike Wilson.

Tackle users this will be my last report as Tacklemaster.  I have decided to stand down!!  My hope is that a fresh look at the job will improve the poor ladder and rope state of the store!!

I would like to thank all the club members who have booked tackle out and returned it after use!! To the unknown persons who remove tackle - don't book it out and retain it - I would say that your selfish actions cause a great deal of hassle to other club members. - YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!

This year has been quiet, the store has averaged 2 - 3 ladders in stock plus 4 spreaders and one lifeline - this is a parlous state for stock.

On the plus side - the Cuthbert's ladder has reappeared after a 4 month absence (I found it in the drying room - where it had mysteriously materialised! - ed!!) and we have managed to fabricate a steel ladder for Ogof Draenen.  This has been delivered and left in the cave ready for installation at Balcony Pitch.

The rung stock is down to 6 ladders worth and there is enough wire and crimps ditto.

My thanks to Jeff Price for drilling the Daenen ladder sections.  This was a great help.  Rich Blake has expressed interest in the position of Tacklemaster next year and I feel his pugnacious style would suit the job.

For inventory see below.

Tackle Inventory 1997.

Total previous ladders:                21
Total Scrapped                          4
New Manufactured                     0
Total 1997-09-07                        17

August stock count                    3
Accounted for (digs)                   6
Ladders missing                        8
Spreaders                                 3
Wire belays                               4

Stock lifeline count at August      1 x 75m Dyn

All other ropes have been missing for several months.  This means they were NOT BOOKED OUT!!

Exploration Stock.

Stock ladders                0

(One transferred to St Cuthbert's)

Ropes                1 x 18m Static
                        1 x 20m Static
                        1 x 36m Static
                        1 x 35m Static
                        1 x 33m Static
                        1 x 67m Static
                        1 x 54m Static
                        1 x 40m Static

N.B. To my knowledge all these ropes are over 7 years old and untested!!

I feel the club should invest in some new ropes and ladders!!!!


Caving Secretary's Report.

Jeff Price.

Members have been active abroad in the past year in France, Germany, Austria, India and diving in the Philippines.  (Don't forget to write up articles for the BB please).

The year has also seen a different approach to the meets list.  As requested there was a Mendip Diary, aimed at new and prospective members. Thanks to everybody who showed willing with this.  I also added several Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales dates.

Some of the Mendip meets were poorly attended - so maybe next year we should have a rethink!!!

Pen Park Hole is still hugely popular.  If you wish a trip get in touch with either myself or Trebor - it is excellent.

Midweek digging has been, as ever, popular - Barrow Rake, Five Buddies Sink and White Pit yielding more passage.  Several members are digging and resurveying Eastwater Swallet.

St Cuthbert’s trips calmed down during the summer - that is usual.  Winter is on the way so it should get busier from now on.  There is still some cleaning to be done - so if anyone wants a trip I am sure a leader will oblige.  We still have to fix a permanent ladder in the entrance for insurance reasons.

I.D.M.F. Report.


Mike Palmer.


Bobby Bagshaw.

And the current Caving Secretary.

No applications were received ...... See accounts for balance.


1997 Annual Hut Wardens Report

Compiled by Rebecca Campbell

This final report follows the interim report written in March.

The remainder of the year has indicated little upturn in the hut's affairs.  Very few guests have stayed on the Mendips in general and the continued lack of residency by members has only served to exasperate the situation.

The collapse in hut income has not been as recent or sudden as indicated in the figures above.  It was noted by Ivan Sandford in his 1996 Annual Hut Wardens report that residency was dropping off alarmingly.  This trend has continued and the hut remains relatively unused at weekends for overnight usage.  I would be grateful if more people paid day fees for general use of the hut, such as day time visitations or post-public house gatherings.

As mentioned in my interim report I do have a strategy for increasing hut usage by visiting groups. I have obtained a list of university addresses to whom I intend to send information on Mendip opportunities and the Belfry.  My main concern at this time is that there has been a considerable time lapse since many university caving clubs visited the Mendips.  As a result it may be assumed that any students who came with those previous parties have now left to follow their careers. This will mean that some clubs may have grown ignorant to the absolute splendidness of our pleasant climate and awesome speleological challenges.

In terms of general day to day maintenance the hut continues to be supported by a diligent minority. Thanks go to the guardian angel of the oil tank, the Friday afternoon gardener and every caver who takes the time to swab the decks of the changing room after a caving trip.


Hut Usage


% of HuUTotallncome

% (Decrease)lIncrease
























33.11 %






















 Day Fees









 Hut Totals









 Hut fees as % of total income









 Other Income









 Cuthbert’s Fees









 CCC Permits









 Cuthbert’s Reports



























 T-shirts & Stickers


















Total income









The projects mentioned within the interim report have not been put into action as yet.  This is primarily because every member of the core team worked so hard in the first few months of the year, that I haven't had the heart to ask people to give up their summer to continue the Belfry refurbishment. Besides which, both myself and the hut engineer have been noticeable by my absence this summer due to business and social commitments.

In the circumstances we remain in need of the following:

Kitchen work surfaces for completion of the kitchen cupboards - wall mounted Microwave

Shelving wood for constructing a large rucksack/kit storage unit in the bunkroom

Dry stone walling stone

Large wall mounted water heater

Please contact Glenview if you have any of the above and we can arrange collection, if necessary. Suggestions by all members for improvements to the hut are more than welcome. (Tel: 01749 xxxxxxx - answer machine).

As many of the local members are aware, I have left Glenview and now reside in Wells.  I have maintained regular contact with the cottage and recommend that it continues to be used as the hut booking line, with the blessing of its current residents, Ivan Sandford and Nick Mitchell.  This continuity will reduce any communication problems as Glenview has remained the abode of the Hut Warden for several years.


Club Rescue Team Leader.

Things have been very quiet rescue wise (hooray).  I have been bullying people to attend the MRO lectures organised by Dany and these are due to start again shortly.

I am in the process of compiling a rescue list of personnel to hand to Brian Prewer, if you wish to be included on this please contact me on 0976 925 307.  Since becoming team leader in March I have not had time to organise a rescue practice because of business commitments but I am organising one for October as I now have more time.

I wish to continue in this post if the membership re-elect.    Cheers Alex.


The End of an Era?

John Buxton.

Editor's Note:

Although not a BEC member Rob Palmer was known to many of us and had been involved in projects with various Club members over the years.  Not least his involvement with the Cheddar Pushes as well as the Andros project.  It seems appropriate to include this article by John Buxton - still an active member of the BEC as well as the COG.

When I came back to active diving and read the literature 'The darkness beckons' etc. I started to daydream as I read about the Blue Holes of the Bahamas.  Later we inherited some money and diving holidays became a possibility.

I saw an advert from an address in Somerset about a blue holes foundation organised by the same Rob palmer I had read about. With some nervousness I rang the telephone number and an American lady answered.  (Stephie Schwabe ... Rob's wife).

I explained my geriatric age and was told no problem, the magical ‘DQ' apparently worked.

Eventually I arrived at Nassau airport 4.8.95 and after collecting my luggage a very fit looking man I immediately recognised as Rob collected me and carted me off in a huge taxi. We travelled around the town and more diving gear was collected en route.

The next morning the boat 'Ocean Explorer' was full of gear and bodies and we set off South.  As we went about the unpacking of gear, Rob came round and without too much emphasis explained I didn't really want to use an ABLJ ... 'Try out these "Wings"'.  These were carefully assembled and explained to me and indeed they did work well.

This year was my third expedition and again the magic was working well.  Rob, besides being an extraordinarily capable diver was also a very good judge of other divers' capabilities.

I now had my own wings ... suitably modified to accept side mounted cylinders.  Rob suggested dives I could do with other people or even by myself. I was doubtful about some of them but he was right.  I did do most of them.  The one I turned down I later regretted as I did a more difficult one subsequently. When I hoisted myself aboard the RIB for a deep dive with three large cylinders round me, Rob was quite happy when I told him I had indeed practised swimming with such a load, but he did meet me at -60m on the way back just to make sure.

On his third trip due to the cancellation of my second week on the boat, Rob invited me to accompany him to Grand Bahama.  He organised digs and we dived each day in the Owl Hole - Mermaid Hole complex. This is a marvellous system of decorated chambers and passages. During this period we developed a rapport and discussed each dive before and after, and talked frankly of shortcomings ... mine of course!!

We did a longer dive with a stage bottle on the last day.

Rob left on Thursday 24th for the Red Sea.  He was to be away from home for five weeks and was not really looking forward to it as he had so much BHF work to do at home.

When I heard the news of his death I had a great feeling of sadness for Stephie, followed by a hollow feeling that summers will not be the same any more.

JSB 22.5.97.

Editorial Comment - Rob Parker.

The sad news of the death of Rob Parker reached us a short while ago.  Like Rob Palmer he was not a BEC member but was known well to many of us and his involvement on projects on Mendip is legend.  Anyone who has seen the 'Nosey Parker' video will attest to this.

Many of us also used his climbing facilities in Bristol .. a warm welcome was always there for fellow cavers and divers.

Like Palmer, Rob parker was at the cutting edge of cave diving and had been for many years.  He was involved in international projects such as the Blue Holes and the Wakulla Springs project.

To me he was something of an inspiration ... indeed like John Buxton it was in reading of the exploits of people like this that I became interested in caving and cave diving in the first place.  I was lucky enough to meet and spend time with some of my 'heroes in print' and Rob was one of them.

I am sure the club will join me in passing on condolences to his family.

The Cave Diving fraternity has suffered a doubly tragic loss .... two of the foremost divers have passed on.

May they be remembered fondly ..... their exploits certainly pass now into the realm of caving legend.



Librarians Report

This is my first year as librarian and I wish to continue in this post, if I am re-elected.

I have examined the library contents and have identified the following problems that I have started to tackle.

Lack of cupboard space:- The cupboards are now full and there is no more room for the storage of new acquisitions.  I have been trying to source some free or cheap upright drawing chests for the storage of surveys, as this would free up floor space for the installation of some more cupboards.  So if any you work in drawing offices etc and can help to obtain some please do so.

Deterioration of the old Logs and Journals:- I was dismayed to find that a lot of the old logs had started to rot because of the damp conditions, so I have started to leave the heater on in the winter and this seems to have dried them out, I have also found the log for 1947-50 in a right shit state, and it is currently being rebound and photocopies made.  This is being carried out by Jeff Price who has kindly arranged to have it done for nought, thanks Jeff.

In addition there have been several acquisitions for the Library this year.  Two books that have been purchased :- Sheck Exleys "Caverns Measureless to Man" and Dave Irwin’s et al "The Mendip Cave Registry".  We have also received several book donations from Jim Smart, Jeff Price, Jingles and Dave Turner.

We have also been given a Computer by Henry Bennett and this has been upgraded by Estelle.  Thanks Again.

That's all Folks.

Cheers Alex.


Supping Tup's Arse in Dentdale!

The weather the week before Whitsun was terrible, more like April showers than May Sunshine.

In spite of the poor omens Hilary, Babs, Jeff, Rob and myself decided to carry on with the now semi permanent 'old codgers' charabanc trip to Dent in Yorkshire.  Estelle arrived early on Friday and met up with John Christie and BOB the belfry boy on Saturday. They all managed to slip a trip into Red Moss cave.

The B team did a circular walk up Funters Gill around to Nun House arriving back in Dent in bright sunshine.

Sunday we all teamed up with 'Dobber John' Christie and the Craven group.  Birks Fell was the objective and after a lengthy walk from the busy car park, we managed to go as far as cascade pitch.  I managed to get jammed in a tight slot just before cascade.

We exited and walked down to Buckden Zoo car park complete with 1000 grockles.

Drove off to the George and Dragon in Dent for beer and food and a boasting session.

We all checked Clive's wrists for handcuff marks then IDNA tested the digs on his back to Estelle’s nails!!!

Tuesday ... good weather ... walked from Horton to Ling Gill and High Birkwith Farm circular route - 11 miles!  Plenty of wildlife including the Lesser Spotted Purple Headed Red Peeker (?) Usually found behind a wall!

Again returning on bloody stumps for beers and brags at the Sportsman's.

We also decided that Grolsh lager stubbies should have a new logo .... "Take my top off and give somebody one!!"

Weds ... Jeff and Babs with Hilary and Mike 'portering' pottered up to the GG Bradford meet in glorious sunshine - I was relegated to carrying a rucksack with food and beer. Said hello to Whitemeg who was suffering from an acute case of knackered tentitis.

Back at Dent - alone at last - we kept falling over Willet and his Wifelets.  This huge rooster with several hens put Mike Willet to shame.

Finally the grouse moors walk to Coverdale was the height of the week's walking.  An excellent bird watching walk of 11 miles or so over two moors and taking in the Coverdale valley.  The weather was hot and sunny ... if anything .. too hot!!

Hilary caught the sun and was dubbed 'Rudolf the red necked rambler!' 

AHH well back to the Sun Inn for B&B (Beer and Bullshitting)

Friday .. pottered around then trundled back down the motorway in an empty charabanc to Keynsham.

P.S. Tup's Arse is the local brew ... Ram's Bottom!!!

Mike Wilson.


A Fortean experience in Assynt

As we rolled up the drive to Taig na Faimh there seemed to be an ominous number of cars already present. Yes, you've guessed it, the hut was double booked again with every inch of bunk and floor space taken up by climbers cavers and walkers.  After a meal at the Alt at which Eric was presented with a photographic record of his Waterslide trip last year (as well as one of a zonked-looking J-Rat wielding a Bosch drill at the sump) we decamped to the old hut for a tolerable night's snooze with the mouse turds.  Sunday dawned sunny and the BEC/GSG contingent consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Snablet, Graham Bromley, Tavand J-Rat headed for East Block in Claonite while Julian Steve Cuddihy and I after a call to Jim Crooks took the Lochinver run.  Pete Rose Trevor Knief and Andy Tyler did what everybody else wasn't!

At Lochinver we did a passable Steptoe imitation along the harbour front pitching timber into Pete's trailer - sufficient for the entire week.  Jim, looking not a day older, had re-stocked his shed with more junk than last year and after brushing out several gallons from the floor inside grumbled about the state of the roof as did I after emptying a gallon of water over myself from the fireman's helmet which had lain just under the leak. After a verbal trot through the immune system as derived from a recent Horizon programme he'd seen he told us the tale of the dead colonel, the moose's head and the 'Del-boy' diver. Apply here for further details as well as the one about the yuppie rat catcher.  All slightly Fortean.

The pie shop has increased its range of pies but the proprietor didn't know whether to look disgusted or pleased with a recommendation from Michael Winner who had passed through last year.  He was feeling sulky that Winner could conclude he ran a chippy from looking at the bistro's exterior.  I also discovered he (the proprietor not Michael Winner) used to go caving on Mendips. For all I know he might be a BEC member ­perhaps he could be persuaded to join the GSG and we'd get a pie discount. One can dream!

After this it was time for caving and Steve's introduction to Claonite and bottle carries. This was probably a bad idea as regards persuading Steve he could manage sump 3 and beyond.  I was so un-together I nearly managed to free dive sump one instead of doing the by-pass. After dumping the bottles (which we never used and I only got back from Simon two months later) we crawled into East Block for photography. On the way I realised why I hadn't been there for 7 years and that the French caving term 'penible' sums it all up very nicely. Bumped into J-Rat's team exiting the other way muttering about fumes.  Inside East Block Julian failed to find the start of Infinite Improbability while I started the photography.  Three failed slave flashes later I was far from gruntled but eventually I got it mostly together and retreated with some reasonable shots of East Block and the passage leading to it.  We even managed some photos on the exit to add to the collection.

Down at the Inch J-Rat was busy in conversation with a fat American (if that isn't stating the obvious I don't know what is), a man from the Outer Hebrides and others.  He was the only one who seemed to know the words to the songs!  Before we became totally incapable we returned to the hut and a soya spag bog.

The next day the diggers i.e. Julian, J-Rat and co headed for Damoclean while Pete persuaded Steve to sherpa for him in the Waterslide on the promise of a sea dive later.  The carry up the hill and down to the sump went like clockwork.  Pete was full of confidence armed with Pete Mulholland's lucky line reel and a 50 watt mega light. ‘45mins maximum' he said before submerging leaving Steve with a loaned nicad and Steve's spare.  Steve after a few minutes of listening to the roaring stream and watching the line twitch started playing with his spare light - which failed to work.  A few minutes later the light Pete gave him started to go dim ......

Meanwhile Pete was forging his way into the sump confident that his sherpa retention system would work.

At the constriction a bit of thrashing soon got him through and rather than fiddle with the belaying in the poor vis (his megalight failed when it saw the constriction) he stomped (no fins this year) up the large ongoing passage beyond the narrows to quickly surface in ongoing dryish thrust plane - Straight Flush - which clearly acts a flood overflow.  A quick belay of the line was performed and he was back into the sump finding the constriction as usual to be a doddle on the exit although the line was a bit tight at this point.

He emerged to greet a relieved Steve who groped his way out behind him to the welcoming sight of day. A kit sort out at the hut saw our heroes reassembling at the Kylesku ferry slip for Pete's first sea dive of the season.  Needless to say there were lots of kit cock-ups with feed hoses not fitting etc. and Pete was not a happy man when he found his flash gun lead was in Somerset - so no underwater snaps.  We dived at slack water and after passing some surprisingly recent car wrecks steamed over to the wall and along for a couple of hundred metres or more.  A good fun dive.

After a phone call from the bar of the Kylesku Hotel in order to get my daughter to post my flash gun lead we had the usual dive debrief to the customers in the bar with an update from the bar staff on what vehicles had currently been dumped. Apply here for the Fortean tale of the car unintentionally push started into Loch Glencoul by a passing Dutch tourist. I then returned a pint mug to the bar found 'en dive' and now home to some wee encrusting beasties.  We settled down to an excellent meal of moules for me while Steve continued his assay of Scottish curry making skills.

The diggers had plodded on at Rana Mole Hole and Damoclean.  Poor Tav and Graham struggled to the end of Infinite Improbability only to find a miserable 10 feet of passage beyond the banged boulder whereupon it closed down irrevocably.

The next day dawned damp again.  The Damoclean diggers dug Damoclean while Pete Rose, Tav and Trevor headed north to the Allt a something Gaelic area to look at something Tav thought might be something diggable.  Steve and Pete decided to go diving again, this time at Achmelvich on Malcolm Stewart's commendation.  If the sea temperature had been 10 degrees higher it would have been like the Caribbean but it wasn't and it wasn't.  A surprisingly short and painless swim on the left of the bay to the far side of the inlet which is crossed by a wire led to the start of the dive.  Following the kelp festooned wall and swimming over pure white sand we slowly gained depth and at 9 metres Steve spotted a lovely red and orange lump sucker guarding its nest.  Their other name is 'sea hen' and certainly with its reluctance to move an inch from its nest it lived up to its name.  Slightly deeper we found a young angler fish before leaving the weed zone and swimming over boulders before turning back at 21 metres.

The next day Steve Pete Trevor and others went to Sandwood Bay while feeling guilty that I had not done any digging I decided to join Julian and Tav up at Damoclean.  The proceedings began with a lamp pox farce which ended in me having to go back to the hut from the trout farm to get a battery which was charged then finding the cable burned through when I got back. Eventually I cobbled together a working light and met them at the dig.  After 5 minutes of sack hauling I crawled into the dig whereupon all present announced the end was undiggable and that was it for the day.

Still I got some nice record shots of Tav the dig and the usual apple cake shot.  On the way down we did our bit for the Millenium dig on the rising.  I am sure if a team tried for a day you could get somewhere here provided Scottish Heritage did not mind!

Peter Rose and co saw mysterious and Fortean lights in the sky on their return from the north.  We also heard about the cow which sank the trawler.  And so ended another day.

High water levels thwarted attempts on the Traligilliink up so instead the digging team continued work on a piece of the jigsaw known as Birthday Hole which lies upstream of Tree Hole on the way to Flood sink.  Steve and Pete took advantage of a weather window to walk up Quinag while Trevor Knief tried Ben More Assynt.  The Quinag pair were rapidly overtaken by two older walkers wearing running gear but plodded on in dignified fashion to enjoy the view.  The sun was out but as we reached the first summit the wind speed seemed to have risen.  We started cautiously along the ridge and descending into the next col the wind roar had reached the intensity of a large waterfall.  Pete snapped a ptarmigan pair huddled to the ground and very unkeen to take flight however closely we approached.

I had never walked in such a high wind and on the next section of ridge found it a frightening experience.  Meanwhile on Ben More Trevor had turned back from the summit repelled purely by the violence of the wind.  We drank our coffee and watched the walkers we had seen earlier bounding across the northern arm of Quinag propelled by the wind.  When we came to do the same section we found, with the wind behind us, we had to lean backwards to make stable progress!  A couple we met on the summit were decidedly anxious.  She was small and seriously concerned about being blown off.  The views onto Kylesku and to the north were superb and the sun still shining but ominous cloud was building in the south and west and we were glad to descend to the small lochan which nestles beneath the northern crags where downdrafts created spectacular short lived water spouts.  We walked back to the car periodically violently buffeted by the wind and headed for Kylesku and a relaxing (?) dive to round the day off.  That's what I like about the area; long days in which you can do lots of different things fairly easily.

Entering the water we found a fair outward current was running so descended cautiously to the car wreck zone.  This time I had my camera so an assortment of shots of Steve with car interiors and exteriors was rounded off with a visit to the near end of the wall now that the current had switched off.  A recently dumped blue Montego currently rests on the bottom parallel to the end of slip looking for all the world as if it had been driven there and parked - very Fortean.  Look for the article on the site in a forthcoming edition of SportDiver.

In the bar we met the couple we'd encountered on the ridge.  They turned out to be divers - from Plymouth!  They were on their way to Scapa Flow and reluctantly turned down our invitation to dive with us in the Summer Isles - something I had promised Steve to lure him up north.  We had another excellent meal (Steve had the balti and I the langoustines) while having an interesting chat to the pilot and navigator of the helicopter parked by the bar.

Simon Brooks arrived in the early hours raising hopes of a visit to Northern Lights but meanwhile Steve and I were planning to do a boat dive from Achiltbuie.  We rendezvoused with Andy Hobrow of Atlantic Diving Services on Badentart Pier and had a pleasant trip to the site of the Fairweather with just Andy and his dog for company.  Andy had a fund of diving yams to keep us amused and if you get the chance to go out on his boat I can recommend it (see article in Scubaworld magazine July this year - Summer in Scotland).  The Fairweather is a trawer which sank in 30 metres after being holed on rocks.  It settled flat on the bottom and none of its gear was salvaged.  Now covered in a cloud of plumose anemones it provides opportunities for cave divers to do some wreck penetration including the wheel house and cabins.  If I do it again I will take side mounts but no way was I swimming about in there with a back pack even if the open water lads think nothing of it!

After a pie cash and petrol stop in Lochinver Steve and I then went looking for Uamh an Tartair behind the hut.  After a spell thinking it had upped and gone on vacation I found it where it always had been.  I told Steve it would be a dry trip because there was a sump by-pass.

Fortunately for him the canny blighter had been on enough trips with me to wear his wet suit.  The 'dry by pass' was a body soaking crawl in the stream.  The base of the dry shaft is spectacular and it's a shame the cave finishes so rapidly in the rift beyond.  More slides have been added to my Scottish cave collection. Meanwhile most of the rest of the team including Trevor 'the brewer's friend' Knief and Pete 'twittery old git' Rose were going great guns at Birthday Hole.  A breakthrough was made into some stream cave through a grovel dubbed 'a Wok on the Wild Side' after the unorthodox digging implement used. Pete Mulholland watch out.

Simon was persuaded that evening that we ought to attempt a trip into Northern Lights the next day. Fraser Simpson made up the team and we managed to self sherpa down the sump.  We were determinedly armed to the teeth with megalights and cameras. Nothing was going to stop us this time! As it happened I decided to let Simon and Fraser through first and had an embarrassingly endless 3 minutes trying to get through the constriction with an irritatingly over buoyant kit bag. The others waited patiently as I humped my way down Straight Flush in arthritic seal mode.  Although the line was out in the next very spacious and straightforward sump (voice link through it) the one beyond still had its line in place suggesting that in high water turbulence is moderated in the Straight Flush area.

Once out of the water we de-kitted although as you can see from the slides Simon in commando mode kept his weights on so it wouldn't be too easy.  We soon left the stream running in the lower part of the thrust plane and followed an elliptical switch back tunnel which eventually ascended to pop through the floor of a much older passage which clearly flooded only very rarely - Northern Lights.  The stalactite formations here are incredible and would stand out anywhere in Britain. Mostly pure white calcite they consisted of small forests of straw pillars and zones of stal bosses with in places helictites and superb curtains.  Progress can only be made haltingly with instruction from those before and behind.  One noteworthy feature of the tunnel is the number of broken and re-cemented stalactites including a bizarre formation I called the Skean Dhu (spelling I suspect is suspect).  We sent Fraser down one side passage Pete and Tony had avoided for fear of damage using the Golden Shot technique ('left a bit down DOWN! that's better now forward WHOA! etc etc) but it turned out to be an oxbow.

A low roar ahead suggested we were re-approaching the stream and after passing some false floor we arrived at the top of Royal Flush, a descending potholed thrust plane down which the stream thundered excitingly exiting through a small watery and decidedly uninviting hole.  We crossed the plane for the time being to a small hole at the top which seemed to close down.  However peering through a gap at the top of the plane I could see a well decorated chamber. Fraser looked skinnier than me so I sent him through first before following leaving Simon who modestly didn't want to strip.  The chamber we entered (Pillars of the Establishment - an ironic reference to the recent General Election result) contained a number of massive stal columns and at the top a grotto off which a stal encrusted crawl could be seen leading. This is probably the last chance of a dry link to Lower Traligill and I think it will be worth sacrificing some straws to push it.

On the way out we took the time to photograph as many features as we could.  Some of them you may have seen and hopefully further visits will add to the collection.  Future visitors will have to be careful and it is not a place for large parties. Some tape judiciously placed must also be taken.

Getting out was uneventful and sealed the end to one my red letter days of Scottish caving.  Fraser, for somebody relatively new to cave diving, had no problems at all and did really well.  The GSG cave diving team is expanding fast!

Sadly the last day had arrived.  It was foul and plans by Pete Dowswell and co. to visit Claonite 7 were soon aborted in favour of more hut maintenance/construction. Steve and I decided to go diving at Achmelvich.  I wanted to photograph the lump sucker having marked its position in the sand under Steve's sceptical eye.  Entering the toilet at Achmelvich in perve mode (2 men, rubber suits and KY jelly) we emerged cocooned in our dry suits and made for the sea.  The lump sucker was there as I had expected and after several snaps and a poke around we returned to the surface.  It was chucking it down so keeping our dry suits on we drove to Kylesku where we had heard you could get scallops if you knew where to look. Andy was right - there were scallops galore and after getting 3 or 4 dozen we surfaced to sort them out and chuck back the little ones for another day.  We watched them hurtle over the head of yet another diver staggering ashore with a full bag so how long the 'secret site' will yield them in these numbers is debatable!  The weather had really gone down the tube by this time so it was back in the car with the suits on and off to the Inch.

The petrol attendant at the Inch accused us of cruelty as she filled the tank!  We decided to push the 'where can you wear a dry suit' lark further by entering the bar where we were served without question.  The trouble is after the second pint the lack of what is known as a courtesy zip on my suit helped me discover whether Steve was a true friend (my suit zips at the back).

Back at the hut a long session of scallop gutting ended in a truly fitting climax to the trip with a mega scallop meal.

Who's for the next trip? Next year weather permitting, an attempt will be made to dive the links in the Lower Traligill Traverse and revisit Northern Lights to push downstream.

Peter Glanvill August 1997

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Acknowledgements: Chas for cartoon and Bat on front, Tony Jarratt and Andy Sparrow for the diggers page, Chris Smart for details of the mines lectures, Mike Wilson for Balch's potted history, Andy Farrant and the Union of Bristol Geological Department for the Geological report of St Cuthbert’s, Roz Bateman for the membership stuff and Andy Thomas for the caving secretary's notes.


Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee



Hi and welcome to my first Belfry Bulletin as editor.

For those of you who are not aware, the Belfry Bulletin is now a team effort with Tony Jarratt, Alex Gee, Mike Willett, Andy Sparrow, Dave Irwin and myself all giving assistance in the production of the BB's for the next year.  Hopefully with six of us to nag you all on a regular basis we might get a few more articles!!!  Seriously, we need articles, any length, any format (band-written, typed. fax, e-mail, disk), any subject vaguely related to exploration, caving, climbing, etc., so come on guys (and girls) get writing.  Any news and views are also welcome.

We can take just about any format of file, either on disk or to my e-mail address as above.  I have a program for my scanner, which can read. Typed or faxed documents onto file and also a program that I can talk to my computer and it will convert into words. Technology ebb!!!

Any real editing beyond spelling and basic grammar (and changing swear words for ••••'s) will be returned to the contributor for checking before publishing.

Please feel free to send or ring me with comments on the BB; any ideas and suggestions for layout, general pages, etc. would be more than welcome - I'm no expert, I've never edited a journal before???!!!

Cut off date for submission of articles for the next BB is 6th Dec.

A suggestion: As a way of trying to cut costs in postage of the BB, I would like to be able to e-mail to as many people as possible, their Belfry Bulletins.  It would be in HTML format, which means that you would be able to read it from any Internet browser (Internet Explorer/Netscape Navigator). It would be set up so that you can print it out in the same page format as the posted copies.  Please e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are prepared to give this a try.  (The best thing about doing this is, you can have your BB the same day I send it to the printers!!!)  Why not try it, if you don't like it, let me know and I will get a copy posted to you.


Note for speleobibliophiles: BB 483 should also be numbered as Vol 49 no2, BB 484 was misnumbered as 483, BB 487 is also Vol 49 no 6, and this sequence should be followed through up to BB 492 which is also Vol 49 no 11, making this one Vol 49 no 12. Apologies for the cock up!!!

Also note: At the time of printing most of the BB, there were no minutes for the AGM.  There mayor may not be minutes with this BB. Nigel has apologised if there isn't, as he is very busy at work at the moment.  Many thanks to Nigel if there is.


Caving and Belfry News

The Wigmore Report is out now, and is available from Bat Products.  Priced at £4.50 to members and £5.50 to non-members.  Written by Mike 'Trebor' McDonald, Tony Jarratt and Keith Savory, this report covers detail on the digging, diving, geology and hydrology, with some 'interesting' digging shots by Pete Bolt. (Can someone please review this report for the next BB - Ed)


Wanted: Photos for the Photo-board at the Belfry. We are after caving photos from anywhere in this country/the world.

Please Note: Can you send copies not the originals, as we cannot guarantee being able to return the photos.  Also when we have finished with the photo on the board we would like to be able to put them in a photo album in the library.  Can you please send them to the Belfry.


On Friday 17th October, there was a rescue in Dallimores Cave, in the Oxford Extensions. A young man from Southampton University was stuck in the tight bits.  (Fortunately it was the weekend of the Wessex Dinner, so there was no shortage of anorexic dwarfs.  After a couple of hours the victim came unstuck and came out under his own steam, none the worse for wear.


There are plans afoot for the BEC to have an actively updated web site (rather than the advert we currently have).  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on this please contact either Andy Sparrow or Estelle Sandford.


For those of you who don't regularly read" The News and Sun" newspaper published in Waukegan, Illinois then you may have missed the August 8, 1997 issue!


Bats attacked a military patrol in Ecuador's Southern Amazon rainforest, injuring 17 soldiers, health officials said Thursday. Health director Jorge Murillo told a news conference eight children died of rabies and 24 needed medical treatment after a similar bat attack several days earlier in the region, known as El Tigre."

Makes you wonder, eh.


There are also plans for another attack on Cuthbert’s Sump 2.  Alex Gee is working on the plans for this.  Anyone interested should contact Alex.

Thanks to Nigel Taylor for organising a brilliant Annual Dinner.  A Vets college was probably very apt for the BEC!!!  (Just -don't ask where the beef and chicken came from, particularly as their incinerator had broken down!!)

Now for a whinge, the cut off date for this dinner was a week before and Nigel had 34 paid by then - less than a fifth of the membership.  63 phone-calls later and there were 95 at the dinner.  A major thanks to Nigel for all this extra hard work and a thanks to Langford Veterinary College for extending their cut off date to the day before the dinner for us.  From this poor initial response, do you as the membership; really want a dinner next year??


Andy Sparrow has set up a 'Mendip News' web page (see diggers page for extracts) which contains up-to-date caving news.  The address is: www.ascavingservices.demon.co.uk

If you have anything to add or update please contact him at: [removed]


Mendip Technical Group?

Many Mendip systems are in urgent need of rebolting, (11) but currently no dedicated body assumes responsibility for this.  One way forward would to be to form a Mendip Technical Group under the auspices of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs (CSCC).  This will be proposed at the next CSCC meeting on Saturday December 6th (10.30, Hunter's Lodge, all cavers welcome). The group could work along the following lines-

* open to all interested cavers

* under the direction of CSCC training and equipment officers

* assess all current anchors

* prioritise new placements

* organise training

* install and maintain anchors

These are just suggestions and further input is requested, either bye-mail to Andy Sparrows web page, or by representation at the meeting.


A caver training facility for Mendip Wells community education have been successful in their lottery bid to finance a new sports hall which includes a climbing wall and specially designed caver training facility.  This will consist of a balcony with rigging points where local cavers can practice SRT, ladder and lifeline or rescue techniques.  Completion is due in early 1999.


Diggers Corner

Hazel Nut Swallet:

A BEC dig in the Biddlecombe valley just outside Wells.  There has been a recent small breakthrough into short length of decorated passage. A way on is visible and work continues enlarging the low and squalid passage.  Cave is about 35ft long at present. See Mike Willett or Nick Mitchell for details.

Five Buddies: (second entrance)

Progressing downwards through mixed debris. (mostly old garage and domestic rubbish and old drums and buckets).  Depth 5.8m below manhole entrance to rocky infill immediately below and hence to the horizontal passage entered from the other side of the road once this has been cleared. (The hedgehog crossing is nearly complete!!!)

Barrow Rake:

In temporary abeyance.

White Pit:

Bad air (4.3% CO2!!) continues to be a hazard below Prophecy Pot and the area should not be entered without consulting BEC diggers.  Recent work has entered 100 feet of large passage below Prophecy Pot.  This terminates in a sump which will make future digging a problem.


Swildon's Entrance is now apparently stable after the series of collapses that began a few years ago. Following the stream now provides a safe route between a solid roof and floor which bypasses the 8­foot climb. The Z bend route to the Dry Ways remains closed.

The Mud Sump drain hole is still blocked and the recent wet weather has reduced the airspace. Bailing is now very difficult from either side and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.

UPDATE - Mudsump is currently sumped.  It has been free-dived by groups attempting reverse­round trips but this is VERY DANGEROUS as the sump is getting gradually longer with rising levels.

Also in Swildon's Sump 12 has been revisited and the underwater passage has been enlarged.  It is hoped that a route can be forced up towards airspace very soon.

Hunters Hole:

There is a massive digging operation in the bottom by a BEC team, and much equipment left in situ. Progress is slow but ongoing.

Cairo Shaft: (WCC dig)

A new dig in a partly natural lead (??) mine at Fernhill Farm near Compton Martin. 120ft of passage rediscovered and ending in a possible sump.  Named after Rich Blake's present location as they didn't want to name it after his underpants!!!  (That's what they told Tony Jarratt - honest!!)

Frog Pot:

Kate Lawrence and WCC dig at Chancellors Farm, Priddy.  The team is 20ft down in a promising water worn rift. Imperial College CC dug this in the 60's.

GB: (WCC Dig)

Les Williams and co. are digging a draughting tube on LHS - 3ft in so far.  Visitors, please mind the formations.

Dave Mitchell's dig: (WCC)

This dig at Charterhouse is progressing well.  This depression was opened with a Himac and work continues between stal cemented boulders.

Gruffy Field Mine Shaft: (CCC dig)

Graham Mullan, Tony Boycott and co. are digging this.  It is draughting well and may be a future connection to Charterhouse.

Tyning's Farm:

The owner has requested NO night-time parking at the stables please.  Daytime parking is still available at £1 for those who want a bit more safety for their vehicles for GB and alike.

Bolting Update:

Bolt Update Resin anchors have been installed on the Entrance, New Atlas and High Atlas pitch heads in Thrupe.  The climb to Ladder Dig in GB will be resin anchored very soon, and work will begin on Rhino Rift in the autumn.  There are two stripped spits in Hunter's Hole one over the main pitch and one above Far Right Pitch.  Coral Cave has recently been SRT bolted.


From the Log Book

From the Five Buddies Log Book: (Lives in the Hunters, should anyone want more information)

28/8/96 Estelle, J'Rat, Trevor, Nick, Mike

Lots more clearing of slag, earth and rocks.  Five van loads were taken and dumped by Trev, who was questioned by the local policeman as to what he was up to (as if a large, hairy, overalled figure dumping heavy sacks in a remote location at night could be at all suspicious!) Another 3" nut and bolt were found but nothing else of interested.  The place was infested with tiny frogs. (J'Rat)

29/12/96 Estelle, Trevor

It has collapsed!! approx. 8ft from the road.  Everything beyond the false roof has come in.  It's frozen solid, inside and out.  No digging or even bucket emptying possible.  Heaven help when it thaws!!  We now have cones and scaffold frame to stop people from parking there. (Estelle)

30/12/96am Trev, J'Rat, Quackers, Martin, Roz Bateman, Phil Collet

In the morning J'Rat phoned Mr Harris of the C. Council, who was grateful for the collapse information, but not too concerned.  He asked to be kept informed.  Phone number in back of book.  We then dug and cleared rocks and spoil from the choke and filled the two collapses with assorted bags of frozen debris, etc. (J'Rat)

9/6/97am J'Rat BREAKTHROUGH!

Filled about 20 buckets at the end (which were later taken to the surface and dumped) and heaved out a huge pile of rocks (which were later dumped in the hole below the miners wooden beam).  After an hour or so I opened up a hole straight ahead giving a view into a narrow, tall chamber under the road.  A lot of time was then spent making it safe enough to gently creep through (at exactly noon) keeping a very wary eye on the 'hanging death' above!!  The chamber was the start of 50ft of dry, apparently natural stream passage possibly modified by the 'Old Man' in places and ending in a mud/rock choke which looks relatively easily diggable.  'Old Man' timbers littered the floor and in places protruded from the walls.  No other artefacts were seen, apart from a small amount of black lead slag.  Several small phreatic passages were noted at roof level with layers of sediment showing that the place has been flooded in the past.  There are dodgy looking boulders in places - beware.  The entrance needs concreting ASAP.  We are now behind the main choke, which can be made safe.  The road will now not fall in!!  Some underground and surface tidying before I returned, suitably smug, to the pub. (J'Rat)

NB The half bore of an Old Mans shothole near the breakthrough point indicates that the cave passage was enlarged TOWARDS the entrance.  Did they get in via the filled shaft across the road?

From the BEC logbook - From the few that have been written up!!!

18/5/97 Trebor and Barnsy 7hrs

Continued digging in Swildons sump 12.  Making progress widening the tight squeeze at - 6m, 25m in.  This is to make digging/banging the rift beyond safer so that falling debris does not block the retreat.  Bale-out tanks left at 9 to ease the carrying.

(See logbook for sketch)

Cowsh Avens smelling a bit more than last time.  On exit we wandered into a thunderstorm blitzkrieg with lightning crashing around us. We had to lie in the field and wait for it to pass.

To date there are no trips in the log since 5/7/97.  Come on everyone, you should be writing up your trips; it's part of the club's history. (And it gives me something to put in the BB!!)


Mining Lectures

The following are a selection of lectures and courses put on by the Universities of Bath and Bristol and available to the general public.  Unfortunately you have missed one of the best, which included an excellent afternoon's guided tour of the workings of Monk's Park underground quarry after a morning session on the geology of Bath Freestone, but here is a selection of the rest.


A free lecture by Richad Maggs at the University of Bath from 5.15pm to 6.15pmon Wednesday November 5th 1997 in Room 8 West 1.1

Drawing upon contemporary achieves, photographs and artefacts, the lecture will map the rise of the Somerset coalfield and illustrate life in the communities it supported in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Richard Maggs is Chairman of the Radstock, Midsomer Norton and District Society.


A Mathieson BSc Wednesday 3 and 10 June 1998 from 7pm to 9pm at Abbey Church House, Hetling Court, Westgate Buildings, Bath and outdoors on Sunday 7 June 1998 from 10am to 1pm

Tel 0117 xxxxxxxx Fee £16 Course reference S97COO5SIA

Bath Stone forms the landscape of the surrounding flat topped Downs of the University, where it was quarried and mined.  Most of the rocks in the Bath originated beneath the Jurassic Sea, but there were also local mines with evidence of earlier rain forests and traces of volcanoes.


J M Day FSA 8 meetings weekly on Wednesdays from 7.3Opm to 9pm starting 8 October 1997 at the Faculty of Law, Room 3.33, Wills Memorial Building.

Tel 0117 928 xxxx Fee £32 Course reference B97H002RC.

Mendip Mining of Lead and its use in the Roman Baths is well known, but Bristol methods of lead production pioneered locally and later adapted to copper in the late seventeenth century lack proper appreciation in their history and archaeology.


Joanna L Wright BSc PhD. 6 meetings weekly on Thursdays from 7.3Opm to 9pm starting 15 January in the Department of Geology, Room G25, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol.

Tel 0117 928 xxxx Fee £24 Course Reference B97FOO5S1.

Caves can be very interesting sources of information - they can preserve evidence of ancient climates, they act as sediment traps, with rare fossils, and they are also important in the water cycle, acting as underground reservoirs.  This short course will explain some of their mysteries.


Peter Stanier Day-school in Salisbury 29 Nov 1997 Fee £20 Tel. 0117 9287153 Course Reference W97D014SIA Sorry I haven't got any more details at present!

Might see you at one of more or these?

Chris Smart


Joke Page

A vampire bat came flapping in from the night covered in fresh blood and parked himself on the roof of the cave to get some sleep.

Pretty soon all the other bats smelt the blood and began hassling him about where he got it.  He told them to go away and let him get some sleep but they persisted until finally he gave in.

"OK, follow me," he said and flew out of the cave with hundreds of bats behind him.  Down through a valley they went, across a river and into a forest full of trees.  Finally he slowed down and all the other bats excitedly milled around him.

"Now, do you see that tree over there?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, yes!" the bats all screamed in frenzy.

"Good," said the first bat, "Because I didn't!"

After Christmas Sales

A young man wanted to purchase a gift for his new girlfriend, and as they had not been dating for very long, after careful consideration, he decided a pair of gloves would strike the right note: romantic, but not too personal.  Accompanied by his girlfriend's younger sister, he went to Nordstrom and bought a pair of white gloves.  The sister purchased a pair of panties for herself.

During the wrapping, the clerk mixed up the items and the sister got the gloves and the girlfriend got the panties.  Without checking the contents, the young man sealed the package and sent it to his girlfriend with the following note:

"I chose these because I noticed that you are not in the habit of wearing any when we go out in the evening.  If it had not been for your sister, I would have chosen the long ones with the buttons, but she wears short ones that are easier to remove.

"These are a delicate shade, but the lady I bought them from showed me the pair she had been wearing for the past three weeks, and they were hardly soiled, I had her try yours on for me and she looked really smart.  "I wish I was there to put them on for you the first rime, as no doubt other hands will come in contact with them before I have a chance to see you again.

"When you take them off, remember to blow on them as they will naturally be a little damp from wearing.  "Just think how many times I will kiss them during the coming year.  I hope you will wear them for me on Friday night.

"All my love.

"P.S. the latest style is to wear them folded down, with a little fur showing,"


Q: How does a woman hold her liquor?

A: By the ears.

Q: What's the difference between men and jellybeans?

A: Jellybeans come in different colours.

Q: What's the difference between American beer and making love in a rowing-boat? 

A: They're both f**king close to water.

Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes?

A: No idea.

Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?

A: Still no idea.

Q: What do you call a dear with no feet, legs, torso, neck or head?

A: A hat rack.

Q: What have Soya beans and a vibrator got in common

 A: They're both meat substitutes.


If you have any better jokes for this page then please send them to me.  If the general consensus is you don't like this page, I'll ditch it.  (Anything I put in is an experiment at this stage)


Caving Secretary’s Corner

From Andy Thomas,
Tel: 01749 xxxxxx

I am compiling a list of meets for 1998.

If anyone would like an away trip, would they please get in touch so I can arrange it?

Also anybody wanting Mendip meets, please contact me so I can compile a rolling calendar.

Finally I would like to hear from anyone interested in leading any Mendip trips for new and prospective members.

For those who have time off on a Monday, Tony Jarratt is always looking for assistance with digs. (he might even go caving if you ask nicely).

One other question: Is anyone interested in a Berger trip sometime in the next couple of years? Let me know and dependent on numbers we can plan accordingly.


The Exploration Club Song

Owing to the lack of people at the hut, after the annual dinner, who knew the words to the clubs anthem, here they are.  Read, practice and prepare yourself for next time - no member of the club has any excuse!!!

(Sung to the tune of the Red Flag)


We are the Exploration Club
We roam around from pub to pub
To die of thirst we have no fear
As long as we have lots of beer
So raise your foaming tankards high
And drink them down 'til they are dry
We are the Exploration Club
We roam around from pub to pub

If you hear a tally ho
In the middle of the night
Don't take afright
Dear Belfryites
For it's only a drunken mountaineer
A bar room mountaineer

We are very seldom sober
We are always half-seas over
And when we've had enough for four
You'll never find us on the floor
It's up to the bar and shout for more
We're the bar room mountaineers


A Potted History of H. E. Balch 1869 -1958

For the younger members of the BEC-

by Mike Wilson

Herbert Balch lived in or around Wells for the most of his life.  He started work as a post office messenger boy and finished up as Head Postmaster in Wells!

He was mainly an archaeologist and became Honorary Curator of Wells Museum for 62 years! His main interest under­ground was Wookey Hole, the secondary one Lamb Leer.  Balch was the first person to float upstream, with his friends, to the Fifth Chamber in Wookey.  A 60 feet fall in Lamb Leer Main Chamber rendered him unconscious and nearly ended his career in caving.

In 1901 Balch and some friends had a look at St Swithin's Stream on Mendip (Swildon's) unfortunately he did not join the group on 16th August 1901 who were the first to enter the cave. Three cavers; Roger Troup plus Harry and Frank Hiley from Wells had the honour.

Balch made contact with a Dr Baker after reading an article in the climbers' journal by Baker.     They subsequently did some Mendip exploration including Eastwater Swallet.  In 1907 Balch and Baker published 'The Netherworld of Mendip', the majority being written by Baker the padding by Balch.

Balch subsequently made a few trips in Swildon's to the Forty Foot Pot.  But in a dry spell in 1921, while his friend Baker was in the Alps, Balch and 14 others managed to reach Sump 1.  This became the natural barrier for the next 15 years.

On a personal note, Balch was lucky in having a base on Mendip near Rookham.  His friend Mr Powell, the headmaster of the Blue School in Wells, had some railway carriages moved by teams of horses to a field near Rookham - a pretty spot.  The carriages were 26 feet long and had been moved from the Somerset and Dorset line at Binegar.  Balch bought one of these carriages from Mr Powell, called it his Summer Palace, and used it as a base for digging and caving on Mendip.

The coach formed a section of a bunga low with a corrugated iron roof and porch. The family carried on using the coach every summer, even after his death in 1958. It was eventually bought by a local vet who used it as his home.

He has now offered the carriage to the Somerset and Avon Railway Company because he is building a new bungalow on the original site.   The Balch carriage is now at The Forge Exhibition Centre, Marcroft Wagon Works, Rad­stock.  SARC transported the carriage from Rookham.  Their intention is to restore it and keep it as a historic piece.


Unfortunately I cannot find any relevant information regarding the second carriage which was rented out to cavers and. walkers.  I believe it will be possible to view the Balch coach in the future by applying to SARC in writing.  Anyone who wishes to take a stroll and discover the original site, now a bungalow at Rookham, the map reference is 550448 sheet ST44/55 Wells and Wedmore.

The only other coach of this type in the South West is somewhere in Cornwall.  Let's hope that this piece of caving history remains in good safe hands, it is in amazingly good con­dition for its age.



St Cuthbert's Swallet - young or old?

As you may be aware from the article I wrote in the BB last year, myself and Pete Smart have been working on a project, one of whose aims was to estimate how old the Mendip landscape is.  Studying cave deposits provides one of the best methods of obtaining a handle on the age of the surface topography, as caves are protected from the effects of erosion and weathering, can be related to surface topography and water-tables, and contain datable material in the form of stalagmite.  Dating stalagmites from caves in the Wookey Hole catchment allowed us to estimate the age of these caves, and to determine whether caves such as Swildons Hole and St Cuthbert's originally drained to Cheddar or Wookey. This project hoped to resolve a long running debate which Derek Ford initiated back in the 1960's after his ground-breaking studies in the major swallet caves.  He originally suggested that Swildons Hole drained to Cheddar. However, dye tracing of Swildon's to Wookey by the MKHP, seemed to rule this hypothesis out.  However, as I explained in the previous B.B. article, some of the high level passages in Swildons Hole may have originally drained to Cheddar, with the stream subsequently being captured to Wookey. In St Cuthbert's, the lack of distinct groupings of high level abandoned passages at certain elevations suggested that there was no former drainage to Cheddar, and that the cave has always drained to Wookey.  The only way to potentially resolve this debate was to actually try estimate the age of both Swildons Hole & St Cuthbert's by dating the stalagmites within it, as they provide a minimum age for the cave.

In order to do this, a careful sampling program was undertaken with the help of Estelle Sandford and Chris Castle.  Most of the samples were obtained in Pillar Chamber and the Rabbit Warren area, from suitable un-anaesthetic flowstone.  These were dated using Uranium series dating methods at Bristol.  The sample locations and ages obtained are shown in Fig. 1.


As is shown in Fig.1, most of the ages are relatively young (geologically speaking!) nearly all are less than 120,000 years old, which is the time of the last interglacial.  By comparison, the oldest stalagmites in G.B. are over 780,000 years old.  The bulk of the dates occupy (within 2 sigma error) the Middle Devensian interstadial, a warmer interlude during the last glaciation, between 25 and 60 ka (ka = 1000 years).  No particularly old stalagmites were found, even though a concerted effort was made to only sample those stalagmites which appeared from their location or relation to gravels deposits to be the oldest.  This suggests that St Cuthbert's is relatively young when compared to other swallet caves such as G.B. Cave.

Also of note is the evidence of an almost total sediment fill in St. Cuthbert's.  A broken stalagmite within the gravel fill gave a date of 41 ka, thus implying the gravel is younger.  It appears that much of the cave was infilled with gravel during the last (Late Devensian) glaciation.  Thus, much of the early phreatic network was modified following gravel influx, under paragenetic conditions.  Paragenetic development occurs when sediment deposition within a phreatic passage smothers the passage floor, preventing dissolution by the stream. Instead, dissolution only occurs on the passage roof, thus the passage enlarges upwards, forming a phreatic rift or half-tube.  Alternatively, if other routes are available for the water, perhaps along suitable bedding planes, an interconnected maze of passages with phreatic half­tubes in the roof will result.  This is exactly the case in the Rabbit Warren, where there is still evidence of a total sediment fill, such as in the Railway Tunnel.

From this, I would suggest that St Cuthbert's is a relatively recent cave system, which has always drained to Wookey Hole.  Its large size and big chambers result from several factors.  The first is the large catchment, which may have been substantially larger in the past.  Secondly, the cave is developed on a plunging anticline which has open joints suitable for cave development along its axis.  Thirdly, this anticline has been fractured by at least three thrust faults (one can be clearly seen in the Rocky Boulder Series - ask Chris Castle or Dave Irwin!) as well as the major Gour Hall Fault, allowing rapid penetration of water and cave development.  In addition, the stream has sunk in several places around the depression, thus forming a complex of vadose shafts (which can develop very rapidly, c.f. Thrupe Lane) and phreatic tubes at depth.  These routes were then subsequently modified, enlarged and choked during the Late Devensian under paragenetic conditions.  Finally, enlargement of this passage network has caused extensive collapse, aided by the numerous fractures and bedding planes.

All these factors helped create a large cave system in a relatively short space of time.  Swildons on the other hand appears to have some old stalagmites (>350 ka), although a much larger sample collection is needed before we can reliably demonstrate that Swildons is indeed older.  The lack of suitable datable material in the upper levels such as S.E. Inlets doesn't help.

It is at Wookey Hole where the most interesting results were obtained.  Here, a comprehensive suite of samples was collected from all the dry parts of the cave, plus some from Wookey 21, thanks to Keith Savory. Uranium series dating has revealed that the upper parts of the high level passages above Chamber Nine are older than 350 ka.  By calculating the average rate of base-level lowering at the resurgence (12 cm per 1000 years) from U-series dates of stalagmites, the age of each passage can be crudely estimated.  The earliest passages (above Ch. 9) had developed at 'around 350-400 ka, but these passages are relatively small and cannot have drained a large area.  It is possible this was the resurgence for the early St Cuthbert's system.  It wasn't until much later (c. 175-200 ka) that the main show cave passages developed, possibly following the capture of the Swildons Hole water.  The modern river passages have developed subsequently, and are in the process of being captured to Glencot Spring today.

The data suggests that St Cuthbert's is probably too young to have drained to Cheddar, and the water has always resurged at Wookey.  The upper levels in Swildons may yet prove older than Wookey, but the lack of datable material in this key region prevents us being able to draw any definite conclusions. I hope I have shed a little light on the age and origins of the St. Cuthbert's and Wookey systems.  Some of this may be a little contentious, but hopefully it'll stimulate a bit of debate!  Although this dating project suggests some ideas, it by no means proves that Swildons Hole originally drained to Cheddar.  To prove it right or wrong, we've got to find the passage - get digging!


Thanks to Chris Castle and Estelle Sandford for showing me around St. Cuthbert's on often slow and tedious sampling trips; the BEC committee, Wookey Hole Show Caves and English Nature for permission to sample, and to Keith Savory for obtaining the Wookey 21 samples.





Age & Error



Wookey Hole


New Grottoes.  Balch’s Trench




Detritally Contaminated



New Grottoes.  Balch’s Trench




Unreliable, sev U bkthru



New Grottoes.  Stal. grill







New Grottoes.  End of path







Ent. Series. East passage







Chamber 21 half way along




U Breakthrough, low yields



Resample of WH-05-06




To be dated



Ent. Series. Far bedding plane




To be dated



Passage dir above Ent. series







Passage dir above Ent. series




Unsuitable for dating



Ch.9 taped grotto base







Ch.9 top level far choke







Ch.9 Alcove top climb




Det cont, uncorr.



Ch.9 base top climb







Ch.9 lower level












Rhino Hole


Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

(Proctor et al.


Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

1997, UBSS


Top of layer 6



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates



Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates



Flowstone, layer 3A



c. 68











Long Dry Way




Low U Yields



SE Inlets, Keith’s chamber




Low U Yields

Dates only)


St Paul’s samples (average age)




Unpublished data; P Smart



Streamway (loose clast)




Det Corr. DC Ford et al








St Cuthberts


Wire rift, base upper false floor




Unsuitable for dating



Wire rift, base lower false floor







Mud Hall climb to Pillar Chamber







Mud Hall climb to Pillar Chamber




Unsuitable for dating



Fallen Slab near Quarry Corner







Entrance to Harem Passage


c. 5



(Odd ratios)


Climb into Long Chamber




Anomalous age? Unreliable



Climb into Long Chamber




Poor Yields



Upper Long Chamber




No date – anomalous ratios








Smart et al*


Continuation Chamber - base




*230/23, Det corr

unpub. data


Continuation Chamber – middle




*230/23, Det



Continuation Chamber – middle




*230/23, Det corr



Continuation Chamber – top




*230/23, Det corr



Dining Room middle (top)




*230/23, Det corr



Dining Room middle (base)




*230/23, Det corr



Dining Rm middle (rolled clast)




*230/23, Det corr








Det. Corr means corrected for detrital Th232 contamination





U breakthrough means contamination of U spectra by Th





Age is given in ka (thousand years) +/- 1 sigma error












FIG.1 Uranium series ages for selected samples from the Priddy and Wookey caves

FIG.1 Uranium series ages for selected samples from the Priddy and Wookey caves



Meghalaya 1995 - Or the 'Not another Puncture Trip

By Estelle Sandford

The state of Meghalaya lies in Northeast India, south of Assam and north of BangJadesh. Anglo-German teams had undertaken two previous trips.  These were very restricted, as Meghalaya had a Restricted Area Permit applied to it, which involved a lot of paperwork to get in.  A total of 23 km of cave had been surveyed on the previous trips.

We were advised that this permit had been lifted and we should have no problems this time.  Simon had also had contact from a group called the Meghalayan Adventurers, who wished to join our expedition this time.


British: Tony Boycott, Estelle Sandford, Simon Brooks, Jenni Brooks and Chris 'Blitz' Smart.

German: Daniel Gebauer.

Meghalayan Adventurers: Brian Kharpran Daly, Lindsay, Kaiman C. Hiwol Passah and George Lyngdoh.

Locals: Santu Bhattachmjee, Charles Slong, Spindro Dhkar, Roy, Oda.

Tuesdav 14th November

Estelle, Simon, Blitz and Tony met at Tony's house for the final re-packing.  Tony drove us to Heathrow during the night.

Wednesday 15th November

We arrived at Heathrow at 5 am, everything went very smoothly and we were soon on our Royal Jordanian Flight.

Thursday 16th November

After stops in Berlin and Amman, we finally arrived at Calcutta Airport at 7 am, only to find there was a taxi strike on.  This meant that we had to pay 4 x the usual amount in order to get into the city and to our hotel, the Astoria.  Jenni arrived from Sri Lanka and Daniel from Germany and met us at the hotel.  We went into the city and booked our flights to Guwahati, Assam and visited Mr Pattanailc at the tourist office; he confirmed that the restricted Area Permit (RAP) for Meghalaya had been lifted and we should have no problems.

Friday 17th November

Caught early flight to Guwabati. and then got 2 taxis to Shillong.  We arrived at the Orchid Hotel, then went to register at the Foreigners Office.  Brian and Lindsay met us at back at the hotel and we discussed the plans for the trip.

Saturday 18th November

Brian turned up with our tour bus; we were expecting a minibus not a big bus!  We loaded up and started the journey to Chenapunjee, which is in the East Khasi Hills; this was made more interesting by a landslide on part of the road.  It was fun watching the overloaded trucks attempting to slide across the collapse, and we had no problem with our very under­loaded bus!  Although we didn't need the RAP, it seemed that the local officials didn't actually realise this and we had to sign in with the S.P. at Cherrapunjee before going to the Circuit House, which was to be our home for the next few days.  (There are Circuit Houses in most large villages for visiting officials to stay in and they have what's known as a Choki Da to look after you and the house. These Circuit Houses cost a few pence to stay in plus the cost of food.)

Sunday 19th November

The Choki Da brought us 'bed tea' at 7 am, and baked beans and sausages appeared for breakfast at 9 am. (The first and last time we had an English style breakfast!!)

We loaded the kit up, and went down some very scary roads, with big cliffs on one side, to a village called Laitkynsen.  After walking for about an hour, with beautiful views over Bangladesh, we were shown three entrances by our guide before descending the fourth.  This was called Krem Japund (cave of the rice pond) it has two entrances, a stream sink and a big daylight shaft.  We went in the stream sink, thankfully, as when we got in the cave, we found that there was a krait: (a small black, very venomous snake) at the bottom of the shaft. 

There was also a large quantity of fat frogs (where there's frogs there's snakes!!), and we surveyed and photographed and came out.  The next cave was Krem Wah Sbnong (cave of the village stream) this turned out to be a riverbed with a roof of boulders, which reappeared about 10m away.  Next we went into Krem Wah Sang (cave of the forbidden water), this was a sloping cave which ended in a l0-15m pitch, which was very slimy with no decent places to hang a rope from, as the rock was very crumbly so we couldn't put a bolt in either.  We couldn't descend this pitch so we went and checked another entrance, which turned out to have a voice connection with Krem Wah Sang, but was about 25m deep shaft.  Went back to the circuit house for the Choki Da special- curry!

Monday 20th November .

'Bed tea' at 5:30 am. We had an early start to Mawsahew to look at a cave reported to have 9 entrances and also several other caves nearby. The Cave of the Nine Entrances had seven low entrances which all joined inside.  Simon Jenni and Daniel surveyed that one while Estelle, Tony, Blitz, Brian and Lindsay went to Krem Hidrum, which was a large resurgence entrance. The size soon diminished to a rift and then a crawling rift, so we surveyed from that point to the entrance. The total was 250m, and the cave had a good selection of hand-sized spiders, several bugs for Blitz to collect, and 2 bats, which the locals took back for dinner.  We went an interesting cross-country route back, where we had to cross a dry riverbed because they hadn't finished building the bridge!

Tuesday 21st November

We went to a village called Mawlong today, where we had been told there were several caves.  The first one, called Krem Lyngar, was next to coalmines. We went inside the entrance and decided we would come back later.  We were next shown a second cave, Krem Soyshympi, which had a wide, 15m deep shaft. We rigged the entrance for SRT, although it was mostly free climbable.  The cave opens up into a big chamber with three ways off.  We followed the main passage, which was 30m wide in places; unfortunately it choked after 250m.  There was a stream level below the boulders, which could be followed for 50m either way but sumped at both ends.  We split into 2 teams so one team could check out the other two passages at the bottom entrance.  Estelle, Tony, Brian and Lindsay went down the first of the routes, which had another entrance just round the comer (or rather a big hole in the roof).  This appeared to be an inlet passage and it continued for 400m until it got too tight to follow; the passage had lots of nice formations and also big spiders.  We went back to the main chamber and checked the other one out. This one went for 100 in a mainly boulder floored passage and ended in a big boulder choke.  We went back to where the others were just finishing surveying the big passage, and again split up, so one team could do some photography and the other could attempt to catch Cray fish using a tea strainer!  (The Cray fish are blind and transparent, so you can see what they had for breakfast!)  We finally caught one, using the lunch-box Chris had used to bring all his sampling kit into the cave.  Back out the way we had come in and back to the bus for the rough ride back to the circuit house.

Wednesday 22nd November

We had arranged to meet a guide at Wahlong today to visit several caves near to the village.  We descended a lot of concrete steps, which passed a grave-stone of a chief of the village, who rather than get captured by the British when they invaded, tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the cave near to the grave-stone.  He got caught up on a tree and was captured by the British; his skull was smashed on the spot where the gravestone is.  Our guide obviously didn't want us to go down that particular cave, but we threw rocks down it, which took 6 seconds to land, so it must be quite deep.

After some serious jungle bashing we were taken to Krem Sohshiat, which started off as an arch in a big doline.  We hunted around the doline for leads and Tony managed to find the only going lead. It started small, but before too long opened up into walking passage, with a lot of very beautiful formations and cave pearls.  The end was a stal-blocked wall, with no way past; we surveyed 100m and photographed some of the formations.  We also found a bear skull by the entrance and some relatively fresh faeces in the cave.

At the bottom of another doline, we found an entrance 15m wide and 3m high; this was called Krem Mawrandah.  The cave sloped down to a big chamber with a stream in the bottom and over a slope to another big chamber ending in another stal wall, after about 100m total.  Back up the steps to the road (the village's main orange plantation is at the bottom of the steps!) and after some 'cockroach crunchies' and tea, went back to Cherrnpunjee.

Thursday 23rd November

We went back to Wahlong to pick up our guide, then on towards SheIla (border post) and stopped at Icchamati, where we took the bus up a really interesting track, where we continued until the bus driver found a spot where he could turn round.  It didn't look as though many buses use that track! This area proved to have some very small caves, we surveyed Krem Mawjapuh 1 to 27m and Krem Mawjapuh 2 to 50m. Back to the bus and back up the road to Wahlong, where 10 minutes walk down the steps, from the road, we were shown Krem Shlemkhla.  After the mornings caving, we were a little disillusioned, so we only put helmets and lights on and kept our walking clothes on.  That was a big mistake as this cave proved to be quite long with a streamway and some low passages to get past the formations.  Most of the cave was big meandering walking passages with lots of formations which couldn't make up their mind which way to grow, after earthquake damage, and it also had a higher level which we didn't have time to survey but was estimated to be 200m+.  (it's a shame the guide didn't show us this one yesterday, but we generally found that the locals showed us small caves first and kept the best for last. I guess we needed to find the Khasi translation for 'take us to the big cave first please’!)

Friday 24th November

We split up into 2 teams today, so Krem Shlemkhla could be explored further and a cave an 'hours' walk from Laitkynsen could also be explored.  Estelle, Simon, Chris and Brian went to Laitkynsen and after 1¾ hours walk, down 25,000 worth of steps, we arrived at Krem Synrnng U Jriem (bedding cave of 'Jriem' male's name).  Reasonable sized, well decorated, walking passage, led to a big chamber, where a river could be heard; we located the stream and while Chris and Simon surveyed the chamber and looked for ways on, Estelle and Brian investigated the stream. Downstream was choked with boulder, so we followed the upstream end.  The first part was knee deep in sand and waist deep in water so it was named Kalahari streamway (ask Simon if you want to know the other reason for the name!!) it continued in varying sized passageway, through very well decorated sections, with many inlet passages joining it.  Stalactites blocked the main way on, so we checked out what appeared to be an outlet passage, which got quite deep, then ended in a swamp. Collected Simon and Chris and we surveyed and photographed the streamway and the rest of the cave to 400m.  Walked all the way back up the steps; it was a long way, particularly once dusk and finally darkness set in.  The other team had surveyed and photographed the rest of the cave, but not actually found any more passage than yesterday.

Saturday 25th November

Simon and Tony did a quick tourist trip down Krem Mawmluh.  We finished packing up the bus and drove to Pynursla to the circuit house. A letter had not arrived, so we weren't expected, but after some discussion they let us have one room between the eight of us.  The weather was really miserable; rainy, windy and very cold, so our newly purchased tamocoles really came into their own.

Sunday 26th November

Packed up kit and started on the road to Nongri, where Brian and Lindsay had previously visited 2 caves, one of which was estimated to be over a km.  Unfortunately the bridge at Rana was out.  After this years monsoon and hadn't been rebuilt yet.  We went back to Pynursla for tonight as it was too late to get anywhere useful.

Monday 27th November

Early start and we were soon on the road to Dawki.  We had to stop at Muktapur to get a tyre mended, as we had had another puncture earlier. We got permission to travel along the Bangladeshi border road, and carried on to Pdengshakap, in the Jaintia Hills, where we stopped to ask about caves; we were told of several nearby. Eventually we got to Tarangblang, which was our main spot.  We were shown two caves; Krang Manik, which had a big boulder slope entrance and Krang Jawbaw which was a wide shaft, estimated to be 30m+ deep.

On the way back towards Pdengshakap, we tried to find a cave that had a signpost at the side of the road, Krem 'Pubon' Lashing, (pubon means limestone).  We couldn't find it, but when we asked in Pdengshakap we were told it was a big one, and Charles Slong (the headman) would guide us the day after tomorrow.  We continued to Jowai, to the circuit house there, via visiting George Lyngdoh who had arranged it for us.  We were fed copious amounts of whisky and beer, which after a mostly dry trip to date, succeeded in getting us drunk very quickly.

Tuesday 28th November

Late start this morning, partly due to hangovers and partly due to a broken bus, which needed repairing. Eventually we got away and went back to Tarangblang to explore the 2 caves we were shown yesterday.  Estelle and Tony took SRT kits to descend Krem Jawbaw, while everyone else, including most of the school children and their teacher went to Krem Manik.

Tony rigged off two trees, but the rope only went ½ way, if that so he rigged off the strongest looking one of the two, but the rope was still 15-20m off the floor.  Tony went down as far as he could, to try and get an idea of what the cave had to offer; it looks good, with two big passages going off in opposite directions.

Estelle and Tony joined the others in Krem Manik, which was surveyed to 280m and ended in a loose boulder pile, which was impassable.  We were shown to another cave, Krang Bheh which Tony descended on the rope; he descended about 5m, touched the wall and it fell down, so he decided not to proceed. As it was too loose.  We stayed at the S.D.O.'s house at Amlaran for tonight. An interesting night, the S.D.O. refused to let the boys sleep in the same room as Estelle and Jenni, but as he got more and more drunk, he didn't notice the boys creeping in one by one!

Wednesday 29th November

Went to Pdengshakap and picked up Charles Slong, who was to be our guide for Krem Pubon Lashing.  We climbed down a path in a depression and arrived at the cave entrance, which was big.  Charles had arranged for a water pipe to be put in at the entrance, so we filled up our carbide and went in.  We split into two teams: Estelle, Tony, Jenni, Kaiman, Lindsay and a local boy took the stream route which we were told was about 100m in. while Daniel, Blitz and Simon surveyed from the entrance.

The entrance opened up into a massive sloping passage, where you couldn't see the walls, or the floor at the bottom of the slope.  We went back up what seemed like a mountain, and back down the other side, where we came to a stream.  The 'mountain' was rumoured to have been caused by dynamite fishing in the streamway! We started surveying at the point where we met the streamway, and followed it to its bitter end, a total of 600m. The streamway passed through very friable sandstone, with many oxbows and inlet passages; there were also several dodgy climbs down and also a lot of false floors.  Eventually the stream disappeared into boulders.  We got back to the start point and assuming the others would have got to that point we followed where we thought they should have gone, until we started to run low on carbide.  It turned out they'd surveyed over a kilometre to our first survey station and not got this far.  The route we followed was a big breakdown chamber into a canal, which went into sharp limestone, and into a boulder choke, which is probably passable.  When we arrived at the entrance we were met by most of the village, who had brought us a feast; the food was much appreciated and also excellent.  Simon and co. were too late getting out so they had their feast back at the village, as the villagers had taken it back as it was going cold.  Simon and co. found a major passage on the left hand side of the entrance passage, which they eventually had to leave as a going lead as it was getting late and they were running out of carbide.

Thursday 30th November

We had a new bus driver today who had a major attitude problem and was reluctant to do anything we asked him, including actually drive us!  We had been told of a potential site at a village called Lumshnong, so after a long bumpy ride on the bus, we arrived in the village.  We were shown to a washing hole, known as Krem Kot Sati, which obviously had passage going off it.  There were two ways off the entrance, both involving swimming, but we were told that the downstream end has another entrance in Spindro's backyard. Tony, Simon and Chris went for the big swim upstream, while Estelle, Jenni, Lindsay Kaiman and Daniel went to the entrance at Spindro' s backyard.  Daniel and Jenni started surveying while the rest of us went downstream to photograph and explore.  Kaiman couldn't swim at all so wouldn't go out of his depth; Lindsay was an excellent swimmer, so he went off in front to investigate when we reached a point where we were getting well out of our depth.  Lindsay reported back, a small waterfall followed by what looked like a sump. We completed the survey by swimming the last bit and tying it in to where the other team had started.  Simon and co. had found over a kilometre of classic limestone passage, with two more entrances and many leads still going 'big­time'.  We have a mission for tomorrow!

Friday 1st December

Off to Lumshnong again, where the first place we went was an impressive looking sink called Synrang Taloo. The GPS told us that one of the entrances they had found yesterday, was 400m South of the sink.  We walked up the road toward the village and spotted a large steaming hole, 50m away from the road, known as Krem LaIut.  We entered this one, and it was confirmed as being the top entrance they'd found yesterday.  Just inside the entrance was a canal going north; our swimmers, Tony and Chris, swam about 300m using a robber ring and a blow up Dolphin, until the Dolphin went down on them!  They found an area with more inlets and outlets, but with the equipment we had with us, this passage was unsurveyable; boats or life jackets would be nice! Estelle, Daniel, Kaiman, Lindsay and Tony went downstream to survey the side passages; we surveyed 400m in two interesting shaped side passages known as the Western Inlets.  We didn't even explore passages we had to bend down in, as there was more than enough big passages to keep us going for today.  We abandoned one area where the water got too deep to survey in, particularly when there are non-swimmers around.  The water was very cold so after nearly 6 hours caving we came out.  Simon, Brian, Chris and Daniel had found another entrance, surveyed a big oxbow and taken lots of photographs.

Saturday 2nd December

We went to the village of Lakadong, where there was reputed to be several eaves.  Our bus driver with the major attitude problem was doing everything he could to avoid driving to Lakadong, including swapping a good tyre for a bad tyre so that we didn't damage the new one!  The road to the village was abysmal and we had to walk the last mile or so to the village.  We were just starting to think that Lakadong was a waste of time, because the headman told us there were no caves there but there were some at Umlat, which was the next village, but he'd show us an insignificant shaft anyway!  The shaft was 50-60m deep in limestone, and there was another one nearby.  After the walk back to the bus we found our driver drunk, we tried to sober him up a bit with tea, but he drove anyway, and it was actually better than when he was sober! It was definitely one of those bad days; we ran out of diesel on the way back and had to go and find some and then the bus broke down and we had to wait 2 hours while we got it repaired.  We eventually arrived back at Shillong at 3:30 am after spending 18 hours on the bus today!

Sunday 3rd December

We couldn't get our return tickets confirmed, as it was Sunday, so we had a lazy day in Shillong, followed by a nice meal at the Unicorn Hotel with several members of the Meghalayan Adventurers Association.

Monday 4th December

We still couldn't sort out our air tickets, so we left for Tura anyway.  The trip to Tura involved travelling along the border between Megbalaya and Assam, which bas a lot of problems with bandits, so we drove very fast without stopping until we reached a safe village for lunch.  We finally arrived at the circuit house in Tura at 3 am, woke up the Choki Da and he found us some rooms.

Tuesday 5th December

There was a bandh (strike) on in Turn today, so no vehicles could move and the whole of Turn came to a standstill.  We went and saw the Deputy Tourist Officer and his wife kindly sorted out letters to local officials and police for us.  We next visited a friend from the last expedition, Santu, where we had tea and chatted.  He arranged to get our tickets sorted out.  We had a bit of a party at the circuit house, with Santu and some of his mates.

Wednesday 6th December

We finally got out of Tura and off to Baghmara, and then onto Siju.  We arrived at the new I.B. (Inspection Bungalow) and made ourselves at home.  The I.B. was so new they had to unpack crockery and furniture for us to use.

Thursday 7th December

After breakfast, we ordered a bamboo ladder for Siju eave and went to look at some other sites at Middle Siju, until the ladder was built, we investigated several sites but there was nothing significant.  Back to the I.B. and then the 5-minute walk to Siju eave taking our newly made ladder with us.  Siju eave is an impressive resurgence eave with a lot of bats in the chamber just inside; you definitely don't want to look up with your mouth open, the ceiling moves and it rains bat guano.  We tried lowering the terminal sump by moving boulders, but eventually admitted defeat and went to the place we'd brought the ladder in for.  Tony and Simon surveyed the 200m of really sharp rift passage, while the rest of us did some photography.

We had a visit from a reporter, land surveyor and environmentalist; there is a conservation issue over the area around here.  As a company wants to build cement works, which will destroy the area for fishing and damage the cave life.  Many locals are trying to do what they can to stop it.

Friday 8th December

We walked up the track to the Chibenala river valley, where we already had caves known to the group. Simon Daniel and Brian went to Chibenala Dobhakol to finish off the survey and photograph.  While Tony, Chris, Roy and the two policemen (who had appeared to have taken the day off) went into one cave and Estelle, Lenni, Kaiman. Lindsay and Oda went cave hunting upstream.  We found four small caves, of which we surveyed three, two of which were very insignificant; the third was the longest at 150m long. Simon, Daniel and Brian had had Topofil problems but managed to survey 150m and take a lot of photos.

Saturday 9th December

Went to Nengkong to continue work on Tetengkol and Matchekol.  Daniel, lenni, Brian and Roy went to continue the survey in Matchekol. while Estelle, Simon, Chris, Tony, Lindsay, Kaiman, Oda and a policeman went into Tetengkol.  Tony didn't get very far; he was feeling really ill, so he went back out.  The rest of us continued up into the Planetarium, which should have been an easy climb but there had apparently been movement since last time and the 'Henries' looked a bit dodgy.  We managed to get up and continued to look at a pitch, which had been left last time.  Estelle abseiled down the 15m pitch, to a crawling sized, rift passage, which soon got too tight to follow.  Estelle rejoined the rest and we continued on into Paula's Parallel Universe where there were 2 unfinished leads.  Chris, Kaiman. and Lindsay surveyed one, while Estelle and Simon surveyed the other. The second was really gloopy mud with gravy like substance floating on the top; we surveyed 80m to a junction, but we'd run out of time and had to go back.  The villagers at Nengkong are insistent that we are back by dark.  So the elephants and tigers don't attack us! We found the others sat outside their 'frog'.  Matchekol was definitely no 'princess'; it ended in a boulder pile at 200m. (Chris and Simon have a saying with the caves, that 'if you kiss enough frogs you'll find a princess!')  We had a sample of the local rice beer, which tasted quite nice really.

Sunday 10th December

The bus driver had a nasty dose of gastro enteritis and was very ill (probably due to too much rice beer) so we had no choice but to cancel our Tetengkol trip for today.  At least we have Siju cave close at hand, so we spent most of the day in there, taking lots of photographs and had another attempt at lowering the sump, which still failed.  Chris and Simon went into a previously unsurveyed inlet in Siju and found 200m, which took our total cave for this trip to 9.003km.  As this was our last days caving, we sorted out our carbide sets that we were leaving and gave Brian a lesson on how to use them.

Monday 11th December

The driver was still sick, but just about OK to drive, so we packed up the bus and started back to Tura. The bus had a puncture, and also the fuel filter gasket blew so it had to be replaced!  We were supposed to be on local TV but due to the bus problems we were too late.  Tony was being ill again so he missed out on an excellent meal at Santu's.

Tuesday 12th December

Off to Guwahati to catch the flight home.  As a farewell gift to us, the bus had one more puncture!  Said farewell to Brian, Lindsay and Kaiman and caught our flight to Calcutta.  When Chris phoned home, he was told that Heathrow had been closed for the last couple of days due to snow and freezing fog.

Wednesday 13th December

Had a nice meal and chat with Mr Pattanaik from the tourism office, and then visited the Hogg market.

Thursday 14th December

Estelle, Chris, Tony and Simon left for Amman, while Lenni left for Sri Lanka and Daniel left for Thailand.  We get a night in the airport hotel, which is only 2 hours time difference to us, so it gave us a chance to get our body clocks back to normal.

Friday 15th December

Left Amman, and onto Berlin, where we were delayed for over an hour while they repaired a puncture on the plane!  Eventually we left Berlin and arrived at Heathrow, and once we'd finally got Tony's car going, and driven back to Mendip, we arrived in the Hunters for an evening session!


B.E.C. Membership List as at 26/10/97

1212 Julian Aburrow                  Southampton, Hampshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1150 (J) David Ball                     ConeyHurst, Billinhurst, West Sussex.
1145 Roz Bateman                    Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset.
1151 (J) Ruth Baxter                  Coneyhurst, Billingshurst, West Sussex
1227 (P) Anette Becher             St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire
731 Bob Bidmead                      East Harptree, Nr. Bristol, Avon
1125 Rich Blake                        Priddy, Somerset
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                  London
1196 Dave Bryant                      Salford, Bristol, Avon
201 John Buxton                       Flitwick, Beds.
956 Ian Caldwell                        Redland, Bristol, Avon
1214 Rebecca Campbell            Wells, Somerset
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1062 (J) Andy Cave                   Dordogne, France
1142 (J) Ange Cave                   Dordogne, France
1197 John Christie                     Brompton, North Allerton, North Yorks
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Draycott, Somerset
1204 Julian Collinson                 Pemboa, Helston, Cornwall
1175 Ali Cooper                        Ainsworth, Nottinghamshire
862 Bob Cork                            Pen Hill, Wells, Somerset
1123 (P) Paulr Craggs               Cullompton, Devon
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
1229 (P) Jeremy Dixon-Wright    West Pennard, Glastonbury, Somerset
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 (L) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
1218 Stephen Flinders               Burrington, Somerset
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Staffordshire
469 (J) Peter Franklin                Staffordshire
1159 John Freeman                   Upper Radford, Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1182 Alex Gee                          Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
1006 Edward Gosden                Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Draycott, Somerset
1155 Rachael Gregory               Pentir, Nr., Bangor, Gwynedd
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             Semington, Trowbrdge, Wiltshire
1186 (J) Helen Harper                Wells, Somerset
999 (J) Rob Harper                    Wells, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnett Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol, Avon
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet
952 Bob Hill                              Port Gentil, Republic de Gabon
373 (J) Sid Hobbs                      Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
736 (J) Sylvia Hobbs                  Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1221 (P) Mark Howden              Street, Sometset
1219 (P) Sean Howe                  Frampton Cotterell, Bristol, Avon
923 Trevor Hughes                     Holcombe, Bath, Avon
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Buxton, Derbyshire
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
667 (L) Tim Large                      Brislington, Bristol
1199 Alex Livingstone                Clevedon, Avon
1180 Rich Long                         Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1057 Mark Lumley                     Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jnr)        St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Brsitol, Avon
1195 Struan McDonald              Devizes, Wiltshire
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
704 Dave Metcalfe                     Whitwick, Leicestershire
1044 Andy Middleton                 Hardington-Mandeville, Somerset
1194 Nick Mitchell                     Priddy Somerset
1172 Sean Morgan                    Clevedon, Avon
1210 Guy Mannings                  Croydon, Surrey
1183 Andy Newton                    Shipham, Nr Cheddar, Somerset
1232 (P) Andy Nunn                  Cullomton, Devon
553 Bob O’Malley-White            Wells, Somerset
1228 (P) Ben Ogbourne             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset
1226 (P) Stephen Ostler            Nailsea, North Somerset
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                       Orpington, Kent
1134 Martin Peters                    Wells, Somerset.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1193 Emma Porter                    Witmore, Wolverhampton
337 Brian Prewer                       Priddy, Wells, Somerset
886 Jeff Price                            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
985 Phil Romford                       Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                          Hookway, nr Crediton, Devon
1208 Stuart Sale                       Romsey, Hampshire
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1173 Estelle Sandford                Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
1178 Ivan Sandford                    Priddy, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Cote D’Azur, France
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Taunton, Somerset
1036 (J) Nicola Slann                 Draycott, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          c/o The Belfry
1203 Bob Smith                        Havant, Hampshire
823 Andy Sparrow                     Priddy, Somerset
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Warkworth, Northumberland
1230 (P) Clive Stell                    Bathford, Bath
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens              Wells, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
1224 (P) Andrew Thomas           Catcott, Nr Bridgwater, Somerset
571 (L) N Thomas                      Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
1216 Martin Torbett                   Cheddar, Somerset
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Bognor Regis, Sussex
1023 Matt Tuck                         Plymouth, Devon.
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
635 (L) S. Tuttlebury                  Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen                Wick, Littlehampton, West sussex
887 Greg Villis                          Uphill, Weston super Mare, North Somerset
175 (L) D. Whaddon                 
1220 (P) John Walsh                 Glastonbury, Somerset
949 (J) John Watson                  Wells, Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Wells, Somerset
1185 Chas Wethered                 Axbridge, Somerset
1118 Carol White                      Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
1068 John Whiteley                   Heathfiled, Newton Abbot, Devon
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1087 John Williams                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chillington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     Eastville, Bristol, Avon

A Message From Your Membership Secretary

Please send any membership correspondence to: -

Roz Bateman,  Wookey Hole, Wells,  Somerset

Dear Members

A membership secretary for the 97/98 committee, I would like to welcome you all to renew your B.E.C. membership before 31/12/97.  There is an additional £4.00 payment for all membership fees, which reach me after 1997. The 1977 AGM resulted in a £2.00 increase in membership fees for 1997/98.  Please complete the form below and return all cheques/forms in the envelope provided with this BB.  Thank you.

We all hope you will enjoy your continuing membership of the B.E.C.



Rolling Calendar

09/11/1997        Pwll D CMG Meeting,     10.30am Gwetsy Bridge, Gwynmawr

14/11/1997        BEC Committee Meeting

15/11/1997        MRO Quiz Night, Priddy Village Hall, 7pm.  Teams of 6 Cash Prizes. 
                        £20 per team to include supper (Alan Butcher to register teams)

05/12/1997        BEC Committee Meeting

06/12/1997        CSCC Meeting

02/01/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/01/1998        Cavers Stomp, Priddy Village Hall organised by Axbridge Caving Group. Tickets from Hunters/Bat Products £5 in advance.  £6 on the door (Gwen Cindy Andrea)

06/02/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

07/02/1998        CSCC Meeting

06/03/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/04/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

01/05/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

16/05/1998        CSCC Meeting

05/06/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

04/07/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

4-5/7/98            Cavers Fair, Mendip

07/08/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

04/09/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/10/1998        BEC AGM and Dinner


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Front Cover: An Original Cartoon By Chas Wethered.


1995 - 1996 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Ivan Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Estelle Sandford
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Floating                   Hilary Wilson



Well here we are again, a new club year, a new committee and yet another issue of the Belfry Bulletin. Hopefully this will please certain members whose only criticism of the Bulletin is that there are not enough of them. (This one's for you Dan!)


Those of you who were present at the A.G.M. will know that it was the usual blend of hilarity, bullshit and boredom ... although as usual we did manage to sort out a few things somewhere along the line, including the election of this years committee, as you will see from the preceding page.  As is normally the case there was a degree of disagreement over certain issues but, being the diplomatic and democratic bunch we are, we managed to beat the crap out of the dissenters.  Oops, sorry, I mean come to a civilized agreement of course.  I'm not going to prattle on about it further here, you can read the minutes and make of them what you will.  Thank God there's only one of these a year is all I can Say.


The evening of the same day saw the 60th anniversary Dinner at the Bath & West Showground. Thanks must go to Mr 'N' who did a Stirling job in the organization of said event, indeed has done so for some years, and hopefully feels rewarded by the response of the membership.  Thanks Nigel...!!

There was a pretty good turnout with several generations of cavers being represented. For myself, I met quite a few people I had only previously heard of in name and who to me are luminaries of the Club from years gone by.  I assure you there was quite a bit of 'living history' there on the night.

The guest of honour, Harry Stanbury, member number 1, made an after dinner speech recalling days gone by and I feel sure he has a few more tales to tell .... perhaps I can persuade him to share a few juicy titbits with me for this journal. .. ?

One particularly touching moment was the presentation of bouquets to members 1a & 1000a (Mrs Stanbury & Mrs Dors respectively) ­this was quite emotional and there were lumps in more than one throat...!!

Entertainment was provided by The Belfry Boys, followed by Kangy King et al, then the Old Belfry Boys joined the 'new' Belfry Boys for a four part set.  This was rounded off with a rendition of the 'Exploration Club', which most of those present participated in.

'Alfie' set up a stall, stage left, and dispensed copies of his new book 'A Strange Device', complete with autographs from himself and his tame artist Robin Gray!  Having read the book myself I can say it is definitely up to his usual humorous standard and even includes translations of the Latin for those of us wot isn't ejercatid like wot he are!!

The socialising continued and there were many members who had not seen each other for a number of years so there was quite a lot of catching up to do.

I have to confess that I elected to escape at this point but I gather that the evening continued nicely on a downwards slope towards drunkenness and debauchery and that things were taken back to the Belfry (as well as people) until the wee hours. There was apparently more than one sore head the following morning. Gosh ... what a surprise .. !!!


A request from the editor ......

I am currently working on a project which involves a certain amount of research into the exploration of Wookey Hole.  Obviously there is a lot of information available on this subject, which I have access to through the club.  What I do need however is copies of previously unpublished material and/or photographs, particularly of the divers' extensions.  I'm sure there must be some of you out there who can help me, possibly with personal log entries or old snapshots etc ... I would be most grateful for any information, even to the extent that I'd buy you a pint when I see you. I'm interested in anything that has occurred this century basically - so if you can help, please get in touch ..... Ta.


So, as will now be evident, I have the dubious honour of being B.B. Editor for another year. Thank you to those of you that wanted me to continue and were kind enough to express your thanks.

As I have said before, the rag is only as good as the articles I receive and although I have one or two in hand I can always use extra material. I wonder if we can persuade 'Pooh' to continue with the saga of the Belfry Boy .... how about it Dave .. ? There are others who are always threatening articles .... well here's your chance to see your work in print.

Anyway I've filled the page so it must be time to shut up and get on with it.  I will try to bring out more issues, but I need the help of you, the membership, to do it.

Till next time ..... Good Caving.



'Alfie' asked me to do a review of his book, so here goes .....

Read Alfie's Book It's Good

Details In previous Column

I pride myself on my imagination ... !!!!



Odds 'n' Sods:

As you will see from the minutes of the A.G.M. Rob Harper has been elected as the Club Rescue practise coordinator thingy.

There are two weekends set aside for rescue practises: the first being January 27/28 and the other on June 29/30.  See also following page for further details.

All members are encouraged to attend whether locally based or not.  As I understand it from Rob the format will be a practical session as well as workshops on various techniques.  I daresay there's an outside chance of a pissup as well though quite what makes me think that about the B.E.C ............ etc!!


Despite the lateness of this publication, for which I apologise and make no excuses, the date for subscription increase will still be 31.12.95. Up until this time single membership will be £20.00 and £24.00 thereafter.  The committee was directed by the AGM regarding this - there is actually no change from the past couple of years.  All payments should be sent to Richard Stephens at the address on the contents page, NOT left in the pub or given to other people to pass on.


Andy & Ange Cave have now departed for Mexico and Ivan & Becca have moved into Glenview.  Full address is on the front page.  Ivan is Hut Warden this year and has asked me to point out that any club ladders etc may be left in his porch after use if you can't get at a tackle store key.  The tackle store key is now kept in the key cupboard, keys for which are held by committee members.


Adrian Hole has agreed to take on the job of librarian and is currently sorting through everything. Hopefully he will be purchasing some new books soon.  I understand we now have a copy of the new Caves of South Wales for anyone interested.  He is also hoping to get the Descents up to date as well as catalogue other club publications.


New passage has been found in Wigmore Swallet, above the sump 3 pool.  An aven was climbed and about 100' of passage found.  One passage heading back towards sump 2, the other leads presently ending in chokes.

Priddy Green Sink has yielded further passage as a result of J-Rat 'Helping' Mother Nature to take its course!  Along with the likes of Ivan, Adrian Hole and Mike 'Shut-up' Willet.  There are high hopes to connect to Swildon's Hole in the future.  When this will happen is anybody's guess, but watch this space.


If anyone is foolish enough to be interested.  'The Belfry Boys' are performing as part of a new act 'Cantoris' with Mick Ryan and Pete Watkinson and will be at the Bath Arms in Cheddar on 28.1.95.  The following week at the same venue sees a rare appearance of Kieran Halpin ....  Not to be missed.  For details contact Snab & Anita.

Blitz, Estelle and Tony Boycott amongst others are in India caving at the moment - hopefully they will produce something for this rag on their return.


Quotes of the month ...


"I've got this dig in Yorkshire but it keeps collapsing and it's full of shit!"

Pete Bolt:

"Just like a B.E.C. member!"

Paul Brock:

"To get in the Attborough digging team, I had to bite the head off a chicken !! "

Paul Brock:

" ... 'Ere ... Does 'E ever have Karaoke in the Hunter's ??"

Alex Livingstone:

(When informed that every time a full bag was picked up there were two more underneath ... )

'Just like Women ... !!'


Address Change:  Martin Grass, Draycott, Somerset.





From the Belfry Table

Well that was the Dinner that was!  Only 2 persons short of the magic 200, and I believe a very successful dinner was enjoyed by all.  To hear No.1 in his account of "Genesis" and to hear him being barracked by No.4!

Many of you will now join me in wishing a speedy recovery to Harry Stanbury who just a few weeks later is recovering from a serious operation to correct an aneurysm near his heart, at a hospital in Plymouth, and also that our thoughts are with his wife Glenys at this time.    Get well soon

Harry, its only 11 months to your next BEC Dinner, and you have to return the "Boar trophy", perhaps to Dan for his interjections? !

Congratulations are again due to Bob & Mariyka Hill, our Omani ex-pats, on the birth of another daughter, I await confirmation of her name and details!

Rumours are rife on the Hill, of the discovery of nearly 1,000 feet of new cave in the Thrupe area, it echoes well Fred Davis's "Caves be were you find 'em".

The Committee are planning a "Belfry Bash" at Priddy village hall in March of next year; further details soon, tickets will be around £3 in advance to include Bread & Cheese supper.

Hon. Sec asks if there is anyone out there who fancies the idea of a Burns Night Supper in January at the Belfry, nothing formal, but Haggis, Neepes and Whisky prior to the Hunters on a Saturday night?

COMMITTEE MEETING DATES for the next year, At the Belfry on Fridays at 8.00pm are:-

December 7th 1995. January 5th 1996.  February 2nd.  March 1st.  Apri1 5th. May 3rd.  June 7th.  July 5th. August 2nd.  September 6th.

AGM & DINNER Saturday 5th. October 1996.  SUBSCRIPTIONS, subtle reminder pay now and save yourself £4 off the £24 annual fee, by the 1st. January 1996 to the membership secretary Richard Stephens.

My Apologies in advance, but I shall be absent from the December Committee meeting, away in sunnier climes, Martin Grass has actually welshed out on caving with me this time!

Bye for now from the Belfry Table! , “Mr. N”  J. Nigel Taylor, Hon.Sec.

Some late in the day additions which arrived today (24/11/95):-

There is a letter in this bulletin concerning "The Wharehouse, Gloucester, proposed artifica1 cave system, and their request for NCA support" as I feel that the membership should be aware, and again, I feel that there are strong concerns over such an idea, please let me have your views!.

ANNUAL DINNER 1996: I think that it is time for a change, I have organised the last six or seven dinners, and I think someone else might care to have a go, PLEASE SOMEONE Volunteer and let the Committee know as a venue will have to be chosen and booked very shortly

That’s all from the Belfry Table postscript!

Lastly a Very Merry and Speleological New Year to you and your families,

Nigel Taylor,  Hon. Secretary.


Message From The Rescue Team Leader

Much to my surprise I found myself volunteering for the post of BEC rescue team leader at the AGM.

My remit as far as I can gather is to organise at least two practice rescues during the year.  So that BEC members have at least a vague idea of what's going on when/if they are called out to help with a real rescue. It would seem to make sense, at least to me, that since as a club we are responsible for St. Cuthbert’s we should hold one practice rescue there.

The system that I intend to operate will be to have "PRACTICE RESCUE WEEKENDS". The Saturday will be for theory and familiarisation with equipment.  On Sunday after an evening in the Hunters a realistic, i.e. with a raging hangover, underground practical session will be followed by a discussion over a pint or eight.

So note these dates for your diary ............

JANUARY……………27th & 28th.

JUNE…………..………29th & 30th.

This is aimed to be as much social as educational and it would be good to see some of the newer members as well as the usual crowd.

Rob Harper

Warning .....    (Vet Alert!)

This man has been known to impersonate a responsible member of society ... Do not be fooled!!!


Club Meets List

January             20           Lost John’s System                       Yorkshire

                        27-Aug    B.E.C. Rescue Practice                 Mendip


February           24           Long Kin East.Rift Pot                    Yorkshire

                        24           P8 & Giants Oxlow                        Derbyshire

                        25           Alum Pot & Long Churn                  Yorkshire

                        25           Peak cavern                                  Derbyshire


March               9            Marble Steps or Bull Pot                 Yorkshire

                        10           Thatham Wife Or Goyden Pot         Yorkshire

                        30           Link/Pippikin                                  Yorkshire


April                 6            G.G./Flood/Stream                         Yorkshire

                        6            Penyghent Pot                               Yorkshire

                        7            King Pot                                        Yorkshire

                        20           Mongo Gill                                     Yorkshire


May                  18           Washfold Pot                                 Yorkshire

                        19           Hagg Gill or Ibbeth Peril                  Yorkshire


June                 8            Gingling Hole                                 Yorkshire

                        9            Kingsdale Master Cave                   Yorkshire

                        28-Sep    B.E.C. Rescue Practice                 Mendip


July                  13           Little Hull Pot                                 Yorkshire

                        14           Chapel le Dale Caves                     Yorkshire


August              10           Birks Fell Cave                              Yorkshire

                        11           Simpsons/Swinsto Exchange          Yorkshire


September        7            Langcliffe Pot                                 Yorkshire

                        8            Sunset Hole                                  Yorkshire


October            26           Juniper Gulf                                   Yorkshire

                        27           Alum Pot – SRT Day                      Yorkshire


November          9            Quaking Pot                                  Yorkshire

                        10           Black Shiver                                  Yorkshire

                        16           Lanc./Easegill                               

                                      (Cow – County)                              Yorkshire


December         7            Notts Pot                                      Yorkshire

                        14           Dan yr Ogof/OFD                           Wales

                        15           Rock and Fountain                         Wales

N.B.  Some dates are double booked as certain people wanted these specific dates.  Further details from Jeff Price.  2 Otter Hole dates still to be announced.


Minutes of the 1995 B.E.C. Annual General Meeting, Saturday 7th October.

The Meeting was opened somewhat late at 10.45am, by the Hon. Secretary, and he called for the handing in of any outstanding Ballot Forms.  The Secretary then requested nominations for a Chairman, and Bob Cork was proposed [P] by Stuart McManus and Seconded [S] by Brian Prewer, there being no other nominees, Bob Cork was duly elected.  The Chairman then called for nominations for Ballot Tellers, Betty Dawes [P: Martin Grass, S: Stuart McManus], Brian Prewer [P: Martin Grass, S: Chris Batstone] and Chris Batstone [P:Chris Smart, S: Nigel Taylor] and there being no further suggestions were duly elected.

Mike Jeanmaire then proposed that all officers' reports published in the Belfry Bulletin were to be taken as read, this was seconded by Estelle Sandford and carried nem.con.

Apologies were then given from Hon. Sec as follows: Stuart Sale, Nicola Bone, Barrie Wilton, Nigel Dibben, Emma Porter and Jenny Sandicott.  The floor: Brian Murliss, Tony Jarrat, Graham Johnson, Jeff Price, Nicola Slan, David Irwin, Mike Barnes, Peter Bolt, Mike McDonald, Kevin Gumer, Joc Large, Ali Cooper.

Forty-one paid-up members signed the attendance sheet, these are recorded as follows: - C. Smart, A. Hole, G. Munnings, H. Harper, R. Harper, M. Jeanmaire, M. Grass, D Bradshaw, J. Buxton, P. Hellier, T. Large, P. Romford, A. Sparrow, M. Torbett, C. Duberry, L. Dawes, R. Wyncoll, G. Villis, R. Mathews, D. Ball, E. Sandford, N. Gymer, R. Stephens, A. Cave, B. Williams, J. Williams, A. Gee, T. Hughes, R. Gray, C. Wethered, I. Sandford, B. Campbell, H. Wilson, M. Wilson Snr, M. Wilson Jnr, R. Cork, N. Taylor, M. Willitt, D. Tumer, C. Batstone.

Item 5, Matters Arising from the minutes:- Tim Large asked about Practice Rescues, Nigel Taylor replied that the outgoing committee had no firm policy on these.

Item 6, Hon.Secretary's Report:- (Published)

Tim Large then asked about the situation with the St. Cuthbert’s lease, and Nigel Taylor explained that he had this already in hand as the lease has only some four years left to run. Stuart McManus voiced concern that perhaps the club should have a management plan for the site, and Nigel replied that he had advocated the same point in his "From the Belfry Table" Articles in the B.B.  He added that he had been in correspondence with English Nature over the site, and that he was concerned as they had obviously gone direct to Inveresk to find out the lessors' identity.  Tim Large stated that he was aware that English Nature maintained an active and ongoing interest in all S.S.S.I.

[P: Rob Harper, S: Tim Large, Unanimous].

Item 7, Hon. Treasurer's Report:- (Unpublished)

Stuart McManus queried the repayments' program for the St. Cuthbert’s loans.  Chris Smart explained that with the exception of one creditor, all had been repaid 50% of their loan.  Stuart McManus felt that this was not in line with the 1994 AGM directive to the 1995 Committee that all creditors should be repaid equally. Nigel Taylor interjected that as several members had contacted him directly and asked for a full repayment of their loans this year, then if the committee had followed the directive to the letter then the club would have gone into the red and the committee should not have acted responsibly, thus they had acted in good faith and within the best interests of the club Stuart McManus asked that the new committee bare in mind the likelihood that any failure to repay the Loaning creditors, could well lead to dissatisfaction and problems later on.  Nigel Taylor suggested that they were well aware of the situation and felt that it was under control.

Chris Smart informed the meeting that he was concerned that despite several requests Gary Jago had still failed to provide the Club with a report, a standing condition of the grant of an ''Ian Deer Memorial fund loan".  Richard Stephens pointed out that Derek Targett is offsetting his subscriptions on a reducing basis against his loan to the St. Cuthbert’s Publication. Several members agreed that this appeared a good idea.  Nigel Taylor expressed the view that it would be important to ensure that if several members wanted to do the same, then this would have to include any annual subscription increase otherwise the club could suffer in the long term if a set amount/time scale was agreed at the outset.

The Telephone Call charges were then debated at length, several members claiming that it was extortionate and that they would rather drive to the village green and use the public call box.  Stuart McManus suggested that perhaps the rate charged should be reviewed and lowered to attract greater use.  Nigel Taylor was concerned that this could then become a drain on the club again and urged caution, however the mood of the meeting prevailed and the 1996 committee was told to examine the charges and act to increase phone use. [P: Martin Grass, S: Dannie Bradshaw, this was carried with 1 Against and 2 Abstain.].

The Non-Domestic Rate was then discussed with many comments and concerned views, and Chris Smart advised the meeting that Mendip District Council had sent him a pro-forma requesting details re our usual claim for reduced payments.  Martin Grass, Mike Jeanmaire, Stuart McManus, Dave Turner all expressed views upon this generally all in agreement and concern. Mike Jeanmaire suggested that if the rate reduction application went against us, then we should make an official appeal, Stuart McManus advised the meeting that the Government was looking closely at "Charitable Causes" with fresh zeal, there ensued much talk upon the subject, and the Treasurer was instructed to complete the application pro-forma and monitor the situation.

British Mountaineering Council Membership (B.M.C.):- Chris Smart stated that the Secretary had had several requests from Climbers within the BEC to see if we could renew our membership to BMC, lapsed at the direction of a previous AGM on cost grounds. Nigel Taylor asked that the AGM favourably consider this request as he felt that we didn’t give much special value to our climbing members, and that he felt that this was a small price to pay for them.  Both Trevor Hughes and Rob Harper added that there was also a useful benefit for members in Foreign matters and use of Mountain huts etc.

A proposal was raised that "Members could elect the option of paying an extra £3.50 upon their subscriptions in order to cover BMC Charges on a personally nominated basis".

[P: Robin Gray, S: Rob Harper. 37 For, 1 Against.].

The St Cuthbert’s Report: - Stuart McManus, Martin Grass, and others then asked questions relative to this matter, regarding sales, stock in hand, and the matter of pledge repayments again.  Nigel Taylor and Mike Wilson both advised the meeting that they had both attempted throughout the last few months, to obtain an up-to-date position on this, and that they still awaited advice from Mrs. Joan Bennett as to the location of stored books, no firm position could be assessed until they were in possession of these details, and they both assured the meeting that the matter was not only in hand, but had been monitored well prior to the AGM.  The Vote was then taken upon the Treasurers' report. [P: T. Large, S: N. Taylor. 34 For, 5 Abstn'].

Item 8. Hon. Auditors Report:- (Unpublished).

Nigel Taylor told the meeting that he had a letter from the auditor confirming that he had inspected the records and found them to be a true and accurate record.

[P: S. McManus, S: T. Hughes, Unan.].

Item 9, Caving Secretary’s' Report:- (Unpublished).

Estelle Sandford then gave a verbal "Acting Caving Sec." report, due to the absence by suspension of the Caving Secretary.  Stuart McManus praised Jeff Prices' ability respecting the organisation of St. Cuthbert’s trips and leaders, but felt that it was high time another leaders meeting was arranged, this was turned into a formal proposal. [P: S. McManus, S: D. Turner, 22 For,7 Abstn, 0 against, (several non voting)].  The meeting went on to fix Saturday 4th. November 1995 as the set date, location and times to be arranged by the Caving Secretary.

Tim Large went on to ask re the BEC position regarding the NCA Bolting policy, this was explained by Nigel Taylor who had much correspondence upon the matter with NCA and others, and the relevant letters were shown to Tim Large to save the meeting time.  Tim Large also asked about the latest position on D.Y.O, and he was advised from the floor that it was 'Situation normal' again.  Stuart McManus suggested that even though the Secretary had been in contact with C.S.C.C re the "Bolting Policy", he should pursue them again, and try to obtain a written policy statement.  Brian Prewer suggested that in the light of a recent MRO Callout and abortive search in Redcliffe caves that the BEC should contact Bristol City Council to establish a BEC Leader for the system, then formally proposed, [P: T. Large, S: B. Prewer, 31 For, 2 Against, 3 Abstn].  (No formal vote was taken on the report).

Item 10, But Wardens Report. (Published.).

Tim Large raised the issue of a sign he had seen at the Belfry, showing hut debtors of £170, he pointed out that the 1979 AGM (when discussing the Hon. Treasurers Report of that year) had voted that no monies were to be owed for longer than One Month or by that persons' next visit to the Belfry, whichever was the shorter.  The meeting instructed the 1996 Committee to enforce this directive.  Martin Grass spoke on the subject of the Belfry long-term users' and he asked the committee look into this as he saw it could become a problem.  Stuart McManus was in accord with this, and much talk followed involving the above, Dave Turner and others.  Nigel Taylor spoke in defence of some of those people who were using the hut on an extended summer holiday basis this last summer, and that they had in fact kept the hut in a very clean and tidy state unlike some short term users or members visiting for St. Cuthbert’s trips, and he added that considerable exterior work had been done by at least three of these persons, and that in fact he believed they did not stay continuously throughout the period, but conformed to the principle as best they could, in any event they also paid up their dues on time and he saw them as worthwhile members of the club. Nigel Taylor then asked that future Hut Wardens reports contain actual facts as to type of users, bed nights etc. as in previous years reports, albeit he understood the novel intentions behind the Hut Warden’s prose this year.  Business moved on to a proposal that all "Official Mail" sent unsolicited by the BEC to individual members to the Belfry should be returned" Not known at this address". [P: D. Turner, S: S. McManus. 19 For, 7 Against, 11 Abstn.].

Brian Prewer complained that he had visited the Hut late at night on occasions, and found that mid-week overnighters were locking the main door from within, preventing key access, he was worried about MRO constraints that could be occasioned.  The meeting noted the concern.

A vote upon the Hut Wardens report was then taken, [P: D. Bradshaw, S: R. Harper. 34 For,6 Abstn. 0 Against].

Item 11, Hut Engineers Report:- (Published).

Virtually no debate, [P: John Williams, S: Mike Jeanrnaire. 30 For, 8 Abstn, 0 Against].

Item 12, Tacklemasters Report:- (Published).

Mike Wilson spoke upon his proposal as published in his report to restrict access to the tackle, Rob Harper suggested that some ladders be put by on open-access, and added that this discussion surfaced every year.  Stuart McManus suggested the club purchase its' ladders to make good the shortfall.  Chris Smart was against this as he had tried this proposal years before and it did not work. Andrew Sparrow reminded the meeting that St. Cuthbert’s required an available ladder, Bob Cork suggested the meeting vote upon the matter, [P: M. Wilson, S: Ron Wyncoll. 34 For, 3 Against, 2 Abstn.]  The Tacklemaster’s report was then voted on, [P: J. Williams, S: D.Bradshaw. Unan.]  A Vote of thanks to Tacklemaster was proposed by Trevor Hughes and seconded by Rob Harper.

Item 13, Librarians' Report:- (Unpublished).

This was presented verbally by David Turner, Martin Grass was critical that only £5 had been spent this year, and that was for a video. Dave Turner agreed.  Richard Stephens asked just how many reciprocal exchanges worked, no conclusive answer was available.  Stuart McManus queried the possession and location of library key holders.  Nigel Taylor read the full list to the meeting. [P: R Harper, S: Robin Grey. Unan].

Item 14, B.B Editors' Report:- (Published).

Andrew Sparrow asked why an article he had jointly submitted was not yet published.  John Williams replied that it would be, but stressed that he must retain "Editorial Override", Andrew Sparrow retorted that he was still accountable to the AGM.

[RHarper proposed Vote of thanks S: S.McManus].  Phil Romford asked if C.S.C.C material could be included if relevant.  Chris Smart, Nigel Taylor and John Williams all added that there was not much really available.  Andrew Sparrow insisted that we must obtain minutes etc for the BEC. P: R Harper, S: M. Grass. 36 For, 1 Against, 1 Abstn.].

Item 15, Membership Secretary’s' Report:- (Published).

Trevor Hughes asked when members would receive their membership cards; Richard Stephens replied that this was in hand.  John Williams proposed a vote of thanks, S: C. Smart. Voting on the report took place; [P: M.Jeanrnaire, S D. Bradshaw. 37 For, 1 Abstn.]

Item 16, Ian Deer Memorial Fund Report:- (Unpublished).

The only grant this year had been £150 to Garry Jago.  The debate on the floor suggested that no further transfer into the fund take place this year as a £500 bonus windfall had been gained by the C&G/Lloyds Bank merger. That No transfer be made: [P: D. Bradshaw, S: R. Stephens. 35 For, 2 Against, 2 Abstn.].

The meeting then adjourned for Lunch.

On resumption, the results of the 1996 Committee Ballot were announced: 67 Members had voted.  Nigel Taylor 65. Mike Wilson 61. Chris Smart 57. Jeff Price 57. John Williams 54. Hilary Wilson 44. Richard Stephens 44. Ivan Sandford 41. Estelle Sandford 41.

Three candidates were unsuccessful: Mike Willet 25. Alex Gee 23. Robin Grey 22.

Item 17, The Election of Officers to posts then was made as follows:-

Hon. Secretary:   Nigel Taylor.          Unan .                                                        

Hon. Treasurer:    Chris Smart.          Unan.                                                         

Caving Sec:         Jeff Price.              [P: Tim Large, S: Nigel Taylor]      31 Votes    Appointed

                          Estelle Sandford.    [P: Dave Turner, S: Dave Ball ]      4 Votes    

Memb; Sec:        Richard Stephens   Unan.                                                         

Hut Warden:        Ivan Sandford.        [P: Trev. Hughes, S: Mike Willit]   37 Votes    4 Abstn.

BB Editor:           John Williams.       Unan.                                                         

Hut Engineer:      Estelle Sandford.    [P: John Williams, S: Rob Harper] 18 Votes    Appointed

                          Hilary Wilson.        [P: Angie Cave, S: Babs Williams]                 7 Votes           

                          Ivan Sandford         [P: Tim Large, S: Rob Harper ]      5 Votes    

Auditor:               Barrie Wilton          [P: Chris Batstone, S: N. Taylor ]  35 Votes    4 Abstn.

Librarian              Mike McDonald      [P: S. McManus. S: R. Harper ]   30 Votes    Appointed

                          Alex Gee               [P: Angie Cave, S: M. Grass ]       4 Votes    

                          Mike Willit.            [P: J. Williams, S: Rebecca Campbell]           2 Votes           

The AGM Directed the 1996 Committee to look carefully at the position of Club Archivist, and to action accordingly.

Members of the New 1996 Committee were then asked to declare any Special Interests:-

a)        John Williams declared that he was "Descent Correspondent for Mendip."

b)       Chris Smart declared that he would be abroad caving all November/December.

c)       Nigel Taylor declared that he was now establishing his Explosives Demolition & Excavation Company "Mendip Demrock" and that this might involve some quarry work.  He assured the meeting of his strong conservation views notwithstanding.

Trevor Hughes was concerned at Nigel Taylor’s' activities.  The AGM however, accepted all of these.

Item 18, The Destruction of Ballot Forms:-

At the Direction of the Chair these were consigned to the Fire.

Item 19, Members' Resolutions:-

Andrew Sparrow proposed more practice rescues, and to re-institute a proper Team Leader for the BEC. Stuart McManus thought that it was necessary to balance these needs with conservation of St. Cuthbert’s. Considerable discussion took place, principally Rob Harper, Dave Turner, Stuart McManus, Martin Grass, Ivan Sandford making strong contributions. Martin Grass thought that it was important to remember that often Team Leaders were often later asked to become MRO Wardens, thus he felt a need for younger leaders should be remembered.  Andrew Sparrow asked how many MRO wardens had been BEC Team leaders, a show of hands revealed in excess of five.  Rob Harper called for a decision, a view echoed by Bob Cork as Chairman.

Several proposals and amendments rose and fell, Andy Sparrow: two practises a year, one to be in St. Cuthbert’s, [S; P. Romford] Stuart McManus amended: "To be held in any cave (Not specifying St. Cuthbert’s)" [S; M. Grass] 20 For, 9 Against, 2 Abstn.

A further amended proposal; "The club will carry out a minimum of two rescue practises each year" was passed 30 For, 4 Against, 3 Abstain. (As above P: & S:).

Nigel Taylor then proposed Rob Harper as BEC Team Leader, [S: Chris Smart]     15 Votes. (EI).

Stuart McManus proposed Alex Gee as a Team Leader,[S: Martin Grass]             11 Votes.

Babs Williams proposed John Williams, [S:Ivan Sandford]                                   2 Votes.

Nick Gymer was proposed by unknown P: & S:                                                  1 Vote

Tim Large then proposed that the 1995 Committee suspension on Jeff Price be revoked and wiped clean from the club records.  This was seconded by Trevor Hughes.

Nigel Taylor spoke upon this matter as he had been the last years' Secretary, and explained that much heart searching and agonizing had gone into the three suspensions.  He emphasised that though every committee member had their own personal feelings about the matter, they had all agreed to be seen as united in a firm response to the problem they were expected to arbitrate over, and that they would all have it only discussed within the BEC and not aired around Mendip and the Hunters.  They had been scrupulous about being fair and gave each member a full hearing at committee.  Personal feelings had been put to one side, and all three members had been written to by the Secretary and a full and frank explanation about their suspensions given to each, further he had advised all three of the right of appeal to an AGM, and none had decided to do so.  In fact all three appeared to him to admit their errors, and were all contrite and accepted their suspension, although not enjoying them.  Mike Wilson and John Williams supported this.

Considerable debate took place upon the matter, Rob Harper felt that Tim’s' proposal would place the value of one member above another, this he stressed was unfair.  Rob Harper felt that the AGM should ratify the committee decision, Dave Turner concurred.  Tim's proposal went to a vote, 4 For, 26 Against, 7 Abstain. A fiery debate ensued about Rob Harpers feeling that the AGM should ratify the decision, Stuart McManus strongly stating that he thought it unnecessary, as in fact that the last vote had effectively done this.  Several Committee members expressed their feeling that failure to support the committee made them feel that this was a vote of no confidence, John Williams and Nigel Taylor suggesting that they would probably now then resign on moral grounds.  The meeting was tactfully steered by Bob Cork out of stormy waters and no such vote was called for, on the grounds that the club had just re-elected those same people and that was the best show of support they could have.  Stuart McManus commented that since the Committee action there had been no further instances of violence or damage.

Nigel Taylor then Proposed "As a gesture of goodwill, all three members should have their bans actually suspended in a spirit of magnanimity in celebration of the Clubs' Sixtieth Year" [S: n/k]. 11 For, 21 Against, 4 Abstn.

Item 20, Any Other Business:-

Chris Smart as Treasurer proposed that there be no increase in Club subscriptions in the New Year. The meeting accepted this with great support.

Nigel Taylor as Secretary stated that the Next AGM would be at 10.30 am, Saturday 5th. October 1996, at the Belfry.

Bob Cork as Chairman then declared the meeting closed at 4.10pm.

Minutes recorded by, and later typed: Nigel Taylor Hon Secretary, Sunday 15th. October 1995


More Adventures of Another Pooh!!

When I read my article in the 60th anniversary BB, I could only think "Did I really write that Drivel."  I had liked it at first, but seeing it in print, somehow made me more critical. So, I was very chuffed, when just after Jingles had narrowly beaten me to some choice Albums, on sale by Andy and Angie Cave; he told me that several people had told him how much they enjoyed reading my offering. "Could I give him some more, within a week ?"

We left Pooh, at the tender age of eighteen, about to embark upon a rather disastrous academic career! We rejoin him ten years later; older, no wiser, but a seasoned World traveller! This is Pooh in his prime! .....

I returned to England; in the summer of 1978; after spending nearly three years working as a labourer in outback Australia.  I had managed to save up a bit of money.  Some of it already spent, wandering around South-East Asia on my way to England.  I was planning to stay in the UK for perhaps three months and thought I would fit in a few caving trips during this period, just for old times sake, of course, and nothing very difficult or dangerous.  I had almost convinced myself that I had no desire to do any more hard caving, and as for cave diving, well that was quite out of the question.  I intended to return to Australia and make a lot of money in business, although my plans were somewhat vague in this respect.

Up on the Mendips, I went into the Hunters on a Friday evening.  As I walked in the door, I was greeted by several of my old caving mates shouting, "It's the Boy!!" and demands for pints owed from previous years. Roger Dors, greeted me as if I had last been in his pub the weekend before.  It was good to be back and very soon Chris Batstone of the BEC had offered to accompany me to Swildons sump 2 the following day.  We had a lot of fun, splashing around the streamway, which was in a sportingly wet condition.  I decided to stay up at the Belfry that night as I was having such a good time.

In the pub that evening, I heard that the NCC had pushed King Pot, in Yorkshire, to a series of pitches and crawls, that lead, eventually to the East Kingsdale Main Drain (or Master Cave!!)  Getting quite enthusiastic about caving, after a few pints, I told everybody that I would descend this new find at the first opportunity.  Shortly after this decision, I was delighted to see that Pete and Alison Moody had arrived.  They told me all about how Pete was planning to Dive a sump in Lionel’s Hole, the following day, but they were in need of transport.  I offered to drive them over to Burrington, and well, I could even help carry the gear down the cave!  The evening continued in a jovial fashion, and then Pete announced, that perhaps he didn't really want to dive all that much.  Would I like to do the dive instead?

"Definitely not"

''You wouldn't have to carry any of the gear"

"No Way, Bugger off Moody"

"I'm sure this sump will go, it's nice as well"

"Ohh, all right!!"

Come Sunday morning, feeling unwell, I was appalled to discover that Pete and Alison were still very enthusiastic about the trip.  Very soon, accompanied by several other cavers we were forcing our way down a horrible, cold, tight, muddy cave.  Mercifully it didn't take very long to reach the sump.  As far as I was concerned, the one redeeming feature of this cave was it's short length.  Lying in a squalid pond being helped to kit up by Pete, I resolved to only go in for a meter or two and then pretend the sump was too tight, if indeed it wasn't anyway, as seemed rather likely.

I entered feet first, on a base fed line.  Once under water I felt more relaxed and even though the sump was tight I didn't stop, as planned, but kept going and passed the sump after 6 meters.  After only a few meters of cave passage I reached another sump and dived again.  After going down vertically for 3 meters, the way on was too small to follow.  To my surprise I realised I was enjoying all this!!

We emerged into bright sunlight in Burrington Combe.  A family was having a picnic, outside the entrance.  I think they were a bit shocked to see us seemingly appear from nowhere.  As cavers will, we started to peel off our muddy rags.  We had no intention of causing a fuss, but I think our antics rather put the picnickers off their lunch as they quickly relocated, further up the road.  I was having a lot of fun being back with these outrageous caving friends and I realised that I was very quickly fitting back in to British caving.  I now wanted to do some hard trips!

A few days later I went to Yorkshire.  I met John (Lugger) Thorpe and Derek Crossland in the Craven Heifer, and they kindly agreed to show me their exciting new finds in King Pot.

I really enjoyed the several sporting wet pitches.  I was elated to be rediscovering caving, and although King Pot is actually quite a strenuous cave I felt quite at home in this newly opened system.  The crawls didn't seem too arduous really and the squeezes not ridiculously tight.  The loose boulders, I didn't like at all.  When we popped out at last into the East Kingsdale Main Drain I was a bit disappointed as it was smaller than The West Kingsdale Master Cave.  I soon became impressed again when we reached the upstream sump.  I really wanted to dive it!  The water was very clear and I could see straight down a wide flooded shaft. There was an excellent place to tie off a line, and kitting up would be so easy at the spacious sump pool.  I immediately started to enthuse about the possibilities of this site.  My enthusiasm was met with a cool response from my companions, who informed me that Derek was planning to dive both the upstream and downstream sumps and I would have to wait my turn, should I have plans to dive!

Back on the surface I found that Geoff Yeadon was interested in these sumps too, and I offered my services as support diver.  We both accepted that Derek should have first crack at them.  A few NCC stalwarts were prepared to carry for Derek, but not enough, for such a hard carry.  We were prepared to help the NCC carry the diving gear, in order to get involved in the operation.  Our motivation was, of course, far from altruistic and we planned to get involved in the actual diving as soon as we possibly could.

Dave Timmins and Bob (Henpot) Emmet were keen to join Geoff and myself in helping the NCC dive King. This meant that Derek now had enough carriers.  The date was set for the dive and we vaguely arranged with Derek and Lugger to meet in the Craven Heifer the night before, to discuss our plan of attack.  Nobody from the NCC actually turned up to this so called "planning meeting".  To make matters worse Geoff, Dave, Henpot and myself, drifted into a heavy drinking session.  We ended up more or less collapsing into Henpot's ramshackle caravan, to awake Saturday morning, feeling very ill indeed.

We found Lugger, Derek and other NCC wandering around Ingleton.  They still intended doing the dive but had failed to organise any air supplies!  Fortunately, Henpot had two 50 cubic feet bottles available and after a greasy breakfast and several pints of tea in one of the cavers' cafes we set off to King Pot.

I suffered a lot on the way down the cave.  We were all carrying heavy and awkward loads through this tortuous system.  Dave, Geoff and myself had very severe hangovers and someone complained that the air in the cave smelt of stale beer fumes. Unlike me and in contrast to my continual moaning, Geoff bore it all in silence.  Years later Geoff admitted to me that he really suffered on this carry, saying, “King Pot carrying bottles is quite horrible enough, even without a hangover".  I just could not get myself going into a relaxed flowing rhythm; so essential on long caving trips, and I was wasting energy thrashing around.  Derek and Lugger, as usual were caving very powerfully and had great fun pointing out that I only had myself to blame for my pathetic state.  I was in a dreadful mess by the time we reached King Henry Hall.  I lay around amongst the boulders, groaning.  Vowing to lead a more healthy lifestyle I concentrated on not being sick.  The NCC loved this melodramatic performance and in their delight, started to throw rocks at me.  I thought this so outrageous that I just had to laugh, I immediately felt a bit better, got to my feet and started to cave properly.

We reached the downstream sump quickly and Derek kitted up.  The sump looked very uninviting and intimidating.  The walls of the streamway were covered in slimy mud and the water was dark and cloudy with peat.  The sump pool was covered in froth.  I was glad I wasn't doing this dive.

Upon diving, Derek discovered he was wearing too much weight.  Unfortunately this realisation came too late as he had already begun a head first fall.  The sump was steeply sloping and Derek tumbled down, rapidly gaining depth and bouncing off small ledges as he went.  At a depth of 15m he was stopped by a wider ledge.  Derek could see the shaft going on down, but wisely chose to turn back.  He returned to base by pulling hand over hand on the line.

I think most divers would have felt they had had enough excitement for one day after such a frightening experience.  Derek, dedicated and determined explorer that he was, wanted to continue with the diving and we helped him walk fully kitted to the upstream sump.  He entered with less lead than downstream and had a much happier dive in two meter visibility.

He found the sump pool to be 8m deep and the way on down a shingle bank to a depth 11m.  A horizontal bedding led after 70m to a large circular passage which started to decrease in depth.  Derek, who was wearing only one wet suit was by now very cold and turned back to base.

We were very excited when Derek told us of his dive.  The end sounded most promising.  I was feeling a little hungry and remembered that I had packed a Mars Bar in my ammunition box.  I opened up the box and was confused when I couldn't find the Mars Bar.  I noticed that the NCC were watching me and that Lugger was grinning.  I came to the conclusion that they had pilfered my rations and accused them of this theft!  Nobody owned up, I started to get annoyed and tell the NCC that they really should be more organised and buy their own food.  Lugger responded by pushing me into the sump.

We decided to leave most of the gear in the cave, to be used for future dives.  We stored this equipment on a ledge, high above the stream, as a precaution against flooding.  We were well pleased with our efforts and made a rapid and enjoyable exit from the cave.  There was much hilarious banter as we raced against one another, all trying to be first back to the surface, with everybody attempting to get away with carrying as little as possible of the remaining diving equipment.  It seemed likely that the King Pot sumps would turn out to be long dives and so we unanimously decided that Geoff should dive next, wearing his dry suit.  This meant that we would have extra gear to carry in.  However, interest in these sumps was growing and we had no trouble getting extra people to join our team.

The following Sunday the original team along with many others assembled at Braida Garth.  Most of us had spent Saturday night at a disco in Ingleton, so we weren't all in prime shape.  I had somehow managed to strain a muscle in my leg, while attempting to dance to the Stranglers, and had a bit of trouble walking to the entrance. Once underground I was OK as King Pot is mostly crawling.  A fresh cylinder and Geoff's diving gear were taken down very quickly, due to the large number of people available to carry.

At the downstream sump, Geoff kitted up very smoothly and disappeared, slowly and in perfect control. He went down the shaft to a depth of 24m in very bad visibility to a point where he perceived the sump to be complex.  Geoff now had to return to base as he did not have sufficient air for a long dive at depth. Cutting the line, he deliberately left the end free, as he suspected that the line had been pulled into tight spots and would perhaps be impossible to follow if tied off at the far end.  He surfaced after five minutes underwater.

We then helped Geoff to walk fully kitted to the upstream sump.  While I was tying off his line, I foolishly put my ammunition box down and while I wasn't looking the NCC stole another one of my Mars Bars.

There was only just room at the sump to comfortably seat the large numbers of cavers who had turned up on this trip.  Geoff made another professional departure and we settled down to wait.  After about five minutes some of the group announced that they had pressing business to attend to on the surface, and set off out. Over the next forty minutes several more people apparently lost interest in the fate of our diver and disappeared without a word.  After an hour only Derek, Dave Timmins and myself were left.  Another, fifteen minutes passed, Geoff was now overdue and we were getting cold and starting to worry.  I started to hold on to the end of the line, hoping to feel it twitch. We turned out our lights, so as to be able to see the first faint glow of our Geoff's lights as he returned.  We started to say things like,  "Well either he has surfaced or he is about to run out of air".  I hate waiting for divers to return to base.

We were very relieved when we saw light coming from the bottom of the sump pool.  Geoff emerged shortly afterwards, somewhat surprised by the lack of carriers remaining.  He explained to us how he had surfaced after a dive of 80m in an underground lake in a large chamber.  A clean washed walking size streamway wound on for 250m to another sump.  He had noticed a low wet inlet and a dry side passage but explored neither to any conclusion.  A superb find.  We stored about half the gear for future use and set off out carrying very heavy loads. We eventually emerged totally shattered after a twelve hour trip ...........

That's your lot for now! If you want to find out more about our adventures in King Pot you will have to buy the book.  I intend to use any money I make from the venture, saving Rain Forests and don't want to cut profits by giving everything away for free!!

Dave (Pooh) Yeandle


Streams Feeding St. Cuthbert’s Swallet

R.D. Stenner, Jingles, Estelle Sandford.

An article in the August 1994 B.B. explained how the latest stream studies started, and how the first analyses of the first set of samples had produced new information.  The article was low in actual data, and the aims of the studies were not explained.  This article aims to rectify these deficiencies.

Connections between surface sinks and inlets in the cave were discovered by a variety of methods between 1960 and 1972 (1). Until 1969, Plantation Stream sank spectacularly in Plantation Swallet (now filled in).  The streams were first studied intensively from 1965 to 1973.  From 1966 to 1968 a rectangular-notch weir was used in the old Plantation Stream (close to where the stream passed under the Ladywell Stream aqueduct).  Water samples were taken, and water temperatures measured.  The methods used have been discussed elsewhere (2).  A summary of the results is given in Table 1.

On 5 occasions, enough measurements were made between Traverse Chamber and the Entrance to work out the distribution of the streams in the cave, ignoring the small stream in Rocky Boulders series, which has no connection with the rest of the stream system (and which is thought to be joined in The Lake by minor seepage from the Main Stream at Mo's Dig).  The calculation of the distribution depended on two assumptions:

1.                    changes in the measured factors during the trip were negligible; and

2.                    that the discharge value of the inlet stream at P.1. was equal to that of Plantation Stream at the surface.

Evidence to support these two assumptions follows:

1.       On 26.11.67, the surface streams were sampled three times at four-hourly intervals. Temperature differences were 0.9T and O.TC, but salts showed no measurable changes.  This gave qualified support to the first assumption. In a 32-trip study in G.B. Cave in 1968, this assumption failed once, when there was a downpour during the trip.  Nevertheless, to maximise the chance of this important assumption being valid, it was recommended that stream surveys should be made in the shortest possible time, moving upstream (2).

2.       On 10.2.68, the size of Pulpit Passage East Inlet was measured directly, with a polythene sack, watch and measuring cylinder. Stream ratios along the stream passage to P.1. gave a value of 165 1/min for Plantation Inlet.  This was close to the value of 151 1/min given by the Plantation Swallet weir. Chemical changes between Plantation Swallet and P.1. were small (Table 1).

Chemical changes between the Pool outlet and Plantation Swallet were much greater (Table 1).  It was possible that somewhere in the marshy ground below the Pool, a separate stream was mixing with Plantation Stream. However, there was another possibility. The stream might leak into the marsh, become enriched with C02 from decaying vegetation, and seep back into the stream.

On 4.11.68, a change in the situation at Plantation Swallet was noticed.  Water was leaking to the Maypole Sink, which was unusual in relatively low flow.  But in addition, Plantation Stream was visibly shrinking in size between the Maypole Overflow corner and the weir.  Pulpit Passage East Inlet was again measured directly.  Stream ratios along the stream passage gave 140 1/min for Plantation Inlet at P.1., compared with 45 1/min at the weir, giving a measure of the leakage between the Overflow Corner and the weir; 95 1/min.

In 1969 and 1970, Dr. Tim Atkinson measured surface characteristics of Plantation Stream and St. Cuthbert's Stream weekly, part of a larger study of swallet and resurgence streams of Mendip.  His data (3 and 4) agreed well with those of Stenner.  During Atkinson's study, there was serious deliberate damage to the stream ways.  The leak through the stream bed increased, and much more of the water now sank close to the overflow corner.

In 1973, the bank at the corner was dug open, so most of Plantation Stream flowed down into the valley. The safety aspects of this action were discussed in an article in the B.B. of April 1974 (5), which contained the observation that the situation "need not be dangerous provided that it remains possible to put the stream rapidly back into Plantation if necessary."  But Plantation Swallet was filled in during the summer of that year.

For an uncertain number of years, Plantation Stream sank at the Maypole Overflow corner in dry weather, overflowing into the depression in normal conditions.  Dye tests proved that the stream still reached its old route through the cave.  At some date between 1978 and 1989, there was a major change.  At the site of old sluices which once fed water into the leadworks, the entire outflow of the Mineries Pool was diverted into the depression, joining the smaller St. Cuthbert's Stream to flow down the valley to the cave.












































































Plantation Swallet















Maypole Sink















Soak away Sink






























P.S. Weir






























Pulpit Pass. E. Inlet















Pulpit Pass. W. Inlets















Pulpit Pot















Disappointment Pot















Drinking Fountain















Old Route Stream















Maypole Stream















M.S. Traverse Ch. Choke















M.S. upstream of P.J.















Plant. S. upstream og P.J.















M.S. d’stream of P.J.













































Pulpit Pot : Old Route















M.S. :  Plant. S. at P.J.













































Pool Exit















Plantation Swallet















Plant. S. upstream of P.J.






























Pool Exit to P. Swallet















P. Swallet to P.J.















Table 2. The distribution of the streams on the surface and in St. Cuthbert's Swallet in 1994 and 1995; estimates of discharge at each site (l/min), and changes in Total Hardness between some sites (ppm CaC03).





















Pool Exit





St. Cuthbert’s










Maypole Sink





Soak away Sink















Pulpit Pass. E.Inlet





Pulpit Pass. W.Inlets





Pulpit Pot





Disappointment Pot





Drinking Fountain





Old Route Stream





Maypole Stream





M.S. Traverse Ch. Choke





M.S. upstream of P.J.





Plant. S. upstream of P.J.





M.S. d'stream of P.J.










Pulpit Pot : Old Route




1: 1000

M.S : Plant. S. at P.I.


1: 1.67







Pool Exit





St. Cuth's Stream Culvert





M.S. upstream of P.J.





Plant. S. upstream of P.J.





However, regular winter flooding (which had seriously hindered early attempts to enter the cave) has not returned as a result of this diversion, thanks to the effectiveness of the culvert.  Completed in 1965, the culvert vastly improved control over the drainage of the valley.  If it becomes choked, there will be a high risk of catastrophic flooding.

In spite of the complete diversion of the stream from its previous route, the stream inlet at P.J. continued to flow strongly.  There were two possible explanations:

1.       An unknown stream had indeed previously joined the old Plantation Stream, somewhere upstream of the Maypole Overflow comer. This unknown stream had in the past caused the majority of the chemical changes in the water between the Pool overflow and the Maypole Overflow pool, and was now the sole source of the P.J. Inlet.

2.       Under the new regime in the valley, Maypole Sink takes much more water than before.  Maypole Sink is known to be complex, feeding Maypole Series, Disappointment Pot, and Drinking Fountain inlets.  It is possible that the supply now swamps the previous routes, activating a new route intercepting the old Plantation Swallet to P.I. route, feeding water from the Maypole Sink to P.J.  This explanation looks attractive if the survey of the cave is looked at, noting the proximity of Disappointment Pot to Plantation Swallet.

The second phase of sampling started with the aim of describing the present hydrology of the major stream sinks, and to find out more about the present P.J. Inlet. Differences caused by the diversion would be quantified.  Sets of samples were taken from the cave, and from the surface streams.  The size of the surface streams was to be measured by salt dilution.  A standard KCI solution was added with a simple constant flow apparatus, and samples were analysed for potassium by Flame Emission Spectrophotometry.

Results from 1994 and 1995 are summarised in Table 2.  It was gratifying, and amazing, that the very first set of samples (25.5.94) gave results which were conclusive. The present P.J. inlet is indeed much smaller than in the first period of study. Its water is also much harder.  In its earlier state, the stream had been described as an over fit in the cave passages through which it flowed, and there was evidence of re-solution of stal. by the stream.   It was now often super-saturated with CaC03 at PJ. (capable of depositing stal).

The first set of results, shown in Table 2, eliminated the possibility that the present P.J. inlet might be flowing from the Maypole Sink.  The P.J. stream is much too hard to allow this possibility to be true.

However, the size of the inlet stream at P.J. is still a major stream.  Hardness measurements indicated a source which is much harder than the old Plantation Stream.  Furthermore, this previously unknown source had previously joined the Pool overflow stream ON THE SURFACE, somewhere upstream of the Maypole Overflow comer.

The old stream bed upstream of the Maypole Overflow comer was looked at regularly.  It remained suspiciously "soggy" in July 1994 (a hot dry month), and throughout the wet August and September of 1994. Then on 9.11.94, following a period of sustained heavy rain, a stream was seen flowing from a deep pool. Augmented by water overflowing from Ladywell Stream, the stream joined the former course of Plantation Stream a few metres upstream of the pool at Maypole Overflow comer.

On that first occasion, the flow was sufficient to overflow into the Maypole Sink, but it quickly shrank. On 12.11.94 it was still flowing, but no longer overflowed into Maypole Sink. By 28.11.94 the flow was reduced to isolated pools of open (but flowing) water, separated by stretches of marsh. After more very heavy rain, the stream was flowing strongly on 22.1.95, once again overflowing into the Maypole Sink. Still more heavy rain followed, and the stream was still flowing on 27.2.95 and 29.3.95.  By 30.04.95, surface water was no longer visible, and the stream bed reverted to a soggy marsh.  At the end of May 1995, more heavy rain increased the flow of the stream in the valley, but it was not enough to restart surface flow of the Plantation Swallet relic stream.

On 22.1.95, when the discharge value of St Cuthbert's Stream was the highest ever measured (it was certainly bigger after the great rainstorm of July 1968, but no measurements were made), two smaller intermittent stream were found, both of which flowed into the old Plantation Stream bed near the aqueduct.

Water temperatures on 22.1.95 confirmed that the newly found stream was spring fed ( Plantation stream 7.7oC, Pool Exit 5.00C).  This fact, together with the high Total Hardness of samples (145.7 ppm on 15.1.95), settled the matter beyond doubt. 

This stream was:

(a)     responsible for most of the changes in Plantation Stream between the Pool Exit and Plantation Swallet between 1966 and 1973, and

(b)     the main source of the inlet stream now entering the cave at P.J.

Stenner considers that water held in and underneath the marshy stream bed feeds water to the stream at P.J. when the stream has ceased to flow at the surface.  In this respect the situation is similar to that at Maypole Sink (where water held in an in filled depression under the sink continues to feed water to the Maypole Series many weeks after Maypole Sink becomes dry).

The suggested explanations are consistent with all the results of the previous water tracing experiments.

The results were examined for evidence of changes in temperature or solute concentrations during the flow of streams through the cave.  The conclusions were the same as those from G.B. Cave in 1968 (6):

Along Mendip-size streamways, significant changes take place in only four circumstances;

(1) In boulder chokes between the surface and inlets in the cave;

(2) At stream junctions;

(3) In percolation water trickling over flowstone formations;

(4) When the size of the stream is changing rapidly because of a rainstorm.

(Note; circumstances are different in the very long stream passages in other caving regions, where there is sufficient time for slow reactions involving humic acids to take place, as George Bray has demonstrated in O.F.D. (7)).

On 11.7.95, a sampling trip took place very soon after heavy rainfall.  Temperature and hardness changes were noted in the stream between successive sampling points, which were not caused by stream junctions.  They had been caused by the same exceptional circumstance that had been noted in G.B.  Cave, and warned about earlier.

For example, differences were found between the top of Pulpit Pitch and the bottom of Gour Passage Pitch.  However, the time taken to move between these two stations is much longer than the time taken to measure and sample at each stream junction.  For this reason, the stream discharge estimates for the trip are considered to be valid, except for the reservation about discharge values at PJ., for a different reason to be discussed later.

In a trip on 3.09.95, Estelle collected a set of samples when the cave was spectacularly dry.  The size of the surface stream at mid-day had been only 21 1/min, the lowest measurement of the summer.  Before the surface streams could be sampled by Stenner, there was a tremendous rainstorm, and by 7.30 that evening the stream size increased almost ten-fold to 204 1/lmin.  Fortunately, Estelle had made direct measurements of stream sizes, so the results of the sampling trip were not invalidated.  Instead, the results documented some of the effects of the storm. These will appear in a full report later.

Apart from the consequences of these rainstorms, no other instances of changes in chemical or physical changes along the stream courses were detected.  It is this stability which makes it possible to use solute or temperature changes at a stream junction to calculate stream size ratios. Beyond the present specialised application, the authors are confident that this discovery is of potential value in cave exploration, because:

If at any point in a streamway, a sudden change in temperature or water chemistry is measured, then that point marks a confluence of waters from different origins.

As the study progressed, it became clear that the rainfall pattern was very unusual.  In a secondary study, surface streams have been sampled regularly, giving data for comparison with earlier data, and with any future data. This study continued through the wet spring of 1995, through the unusually hot and dry summer which followed, and into the period of sustained wet weather that ended the drought.

In the summer of 1994, the bank of the stream entering the culvert was reinforced with mud-filled sand bags.  This prevented water sinking at the soak-away sink under the North bank, which was the main supply for the Pulpit Passage inlets and the N.E. Inlet in Arête Chamber (the last-named inlet sometimes split its flow between Pulpit Passage and the Showerbath at the Ledge Pitches).  Water from the Culvert flows via Arête Chamber to the Old Route Stream. Results from 11.7.95 confirm that the surface changes have changed the distribution of the stream between the Old Route and the New Route.  The effectiveness of the total drainage of the valley has been reduced, which must be weighed against any better control over the stream.

The prolonged period of unusually high flow in the winter and spring of 1994-5 had an unexpected consequence in the cave.  Water leaks from the Main Stream at Mo's Dig (just upstream of the Dining Room). During the earlier studies, the size of this leakage was assessed from the far side of the dig, under Cerberus Hall. It was (at that time) far too small to affect the stream distributions shown in Table 1.  Since the winter floods, a major part of the stream now leaves the Main Stream at this point.  By 23.08.95, the stream bed between Mo's Dig and P.J. was dry.  A small dam was built in September to encourage flow through Mo's Dig, which may assist future work at Sump 2.  There are three thoughts:-

(a)     it would be worth looking at the effects of the extra leakage from the other side;

(b)     it would be worth keeping an eye on the Lake - with a great deal more water going through, well you never know!;

(c)     although on 11.7.95, Estelle made an effort to divert all of the flow back into the Main Stream, the assumption that the discharges of the Main Stream at Traverse Chamber and at The Sewer are equal is no longer true.

Finally, on 3.09.95, Estelle noted that Pyrolusite Stream was flowing so strongly that it was making a significant contribution to the stream in Gour Passage.  Kanchenjunga Drip and Dining Room stream were also flowing well.  The three percolation inlets had continued to flow throughout an earlier period of major drought, from the summer of 1975 to the autumn of 1976.  Mineries Pool Outlet had been dry since 13.08.95, and on the same date flow from Ladywell had ceased.  Although the Pool Exit stream restarted on 8.09.95, Ladywell had still not restarted on 26.09.95, despite the heavy rainfall since the end of August.


1.                    Irwin, D.J., 1991, St. Cuthbert's Swallet, B.E.C., pp 82.

2.                    Stenner, R.D., 1971, The measurement of the aggressiveness of water towards calcium carbonate Parts II and m., CRG Trans 13(4),283-296.

3.                    Atkinson, T.C., 1971, Hydrology and Erosion in a Limestone Terrain, University of Bristol, PhD Thesis (unpub).

4.                    Atkinson, T.C., 1995, Personal communication.

5.                    Collins, S.J., 1974, Water into Cuthbert’s, BEC Bel Bul(318), 70-72.

6.                    Stenner, R.D., 1973, A study of the hydrology of G.B Cave, Charterhouse-on-Mendip, Somerset. UBSS Proc 13(2), 171-226.

7.                    Bray, L.G., 1975, Recent chemical work in the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu system: further oxidation studies, Trans BCRA 2(3), 127-132.


On Climbing in Rhino

Herewith a very short article to stop anyone else bothering to climb the aven above the last pitch in Rhino Rift.

This climb had fascinated me from my first view of it sometime in the early '70's.  At that time I was in the Wessex and in company with such luminaries as Rich Websell and Al Mills had done some climbs above the second and third pitches. I had one abortive trip to climb the aven above the final pitch when we failed to get significantly off the ground and my companion refused to prusik up a rope used around a boulder thrown up and "jammed" into the crack on the right wall.  Judging by the ease with which we retrieved the rope he probably had a point

However I finally got things togetherish in October of this year and in the course of two trips Rich Websell and I managed to reach the roof.  Encountering two pitons, an old bolt, an old tatty sling and some scratched initials en route.

Facing down the cave from the 4th pitch it is a relatively simple climb on the left-hand side. There are a couple of bolts and pegs for protection.  At the level of the first ledge the shaft splits into two.  The right hand aven becomes too tight and the left can be followed to the roof where it becomes a short choked rift passage above the 4th pitch.

Who is on for the dig at the bottom?

Rob  Harper – 30/10/95



From the bottom of the 4th pitch easy bridging leads to step left onto sloping ledge.  Go up the ledge to obvious crack at the right of the stal. Then traverse right into alcove/ledge. From here bridge up until it is possible to step left onto a small ledge on a corner and swing around into another alcove with a short, 2m, passage at the back.  From here move up left stal-coated rift passage with a boulder floor which closes down after approximately 9 - 10m.


A Day In The Life Of An Expedition


Beethoven's Emperor Concerto was playing at full volume somewhere inside my head as I struggled up the steep earth track through the undergrowth in the 90 degree plus temperature with the humidity hovering somewhere around the 99.999% level.  I find thinking of a tune helps to give a rhythm to walking when things start to get a bit grim.  But you have to get the right tune, I once made the mistake of mentally playing Bat Out Hell and got to the top of a hill with my heart threatening to burst its way out between my ribs.

I stopped and glared up the track at Snablet and Helen who seemed to be moving with metronomic case and barely a trace of perspiration.  Looking back down the track I could just make out the hairy mushroom which was the top of Tony Boycott's head.  He looked almost as bad as I felt.  It was mid-October 1994 and as the advance party of the BEC we had been in Sulawesi for nearly three weeks prospecting for caves so we should have been acclimatised yet here I was doing my amazing-melting-man impersonation.

The first ten days had been spent in an almost cave-free environment in the granite scenery of the Mamasa river valley following rumours of caves and underground rivers.  We had been suckered in by one small cave in a limestone outcrop at the top of a hill in Masawa on the first day.  Thereafter we had a great time trekking through the Indonesian jungles and staying with locals who were all mystified by our purpose but with gentle courtesy and much amusement were prepared to humour us. For anyone who is interested in piles of granite boulders I can thoroughly recommend the area.

After that we headed off to Rantepao in the Saadang river valley passing through spectacular karst scenery en route.  Here in only four days we investigated numerous caves as well as introducing Cossack dancing and Pogo-ing at the local disco.

As we had to liaise with the second party back in the capital ( Ujung Pandang), we decided to bead slowly back looking at some of the caves we had seen on the way up.  First we had to send some requests back to Mac and JRat in Britain.  Two hours of diligent searching by our driver located a fax machine at a large hotel where they agreed to let us fax home.  Two hours of diligent dialling got no response.  However the receptionist at the hotel remembered that there were some caves near his village and wrote us a letter of introduction to the Kepala Desa (roughly translated as headman).

Once we had overridden our driver’s objection and lurched up the track to this village, Pasang, we were made welcome in the K-D's house - a I5m square bamboo structure precariously balanced on stilts which swayed alarmingly at the slightest movement.  A large crowd assembled in the room oblivious to the ominous creaking of overstrained bamboo and Subhang, the local English teacher, was pressed into service as translator' and guide.   Plans were laid for an early start to try and look at three caves in one day.

We woke early.  The men all had to go to pre-dawn prayers at the mosque so the women all had to be up an hour or so earlier to cook the little sweets and coffee which start the day.  By the time water had been poured, wood chopped and an the local scandals thoroughly aired by the women behind the bamboo screen next to our bed we were wide awake.  In our innocence we gobbled down coffee and fried coconut doughnuts and got into "go mode".  Not so. We had to wait for our guide and our driver kept whittering on about how difficult it was and that we would haw to sleep in the hills.  Helen got so annoyed with him that she had to go outside to cool down.  She stalked up and down on the verandah.  If she had been a cat she would have been swishing her tail menacingly.  Eventually Subhang arrived and once again we were galvanised into activity.  Only to be called back in for breakfast.

Thus it was we were walking down from Pasang apparently vertically to the village of Labale at 9:00 am.  At Labale we collapsed in puddles of perspiration and drank pints of boiled water while Subbang found the man who knew the exact location of the cave. This elderly gentleman pressed chunks of palm sugar on us and then disappeared only to re-appear with his caving kit including a large metal helmet.  The cave, Lo’ko' Labale, when finally located was too extensive to do more than a cursory run around.  When we located the heads of two major pitches we realised that we would have to return to the area.  The epic nature of this exploration was somewhat diluted when we were joined by practically the entire adult population of Pasang who came in for a saunter around and then an impromptu picnic back at the entrance.

We were totally knackered and we had two others to inspect that day plus a waterfall.

These other two turned out to be at the village of Limbuang another two hours walk away and about 300m higher - just what you want at 2:00 pm when you are only a few miles south of the equator!  Somehow we got there all feeling ill to a greater or lesser degree.  Our speleo-enthusiasm revived somewhat after hot sweet coffee.

The first cave, Lo'Ko' Tapaann, would have been a pleasant ramble around a well-decorated little stream cave but for the large party that insisted on accompanying us complete with a gun for shooting bats.  It adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the low wet crawl when there is a loaded gun only a few centimetres behind.

Somewhere between the back entrance to Lokko Tapaann and the front entrance to the next cave, Gua Posolloa, Tony Boycott finally grasped what expedition caving is all about. Sitting on a convenient boulder he gasped, “You go in.  I'll wait at the entrance.  As long as one of us gets there we will have succeeded."  He did not actually say he was going outside and might be some time but the emotion was there.  All he lacked was snow!

Fortified by such selfless sacrifice the remainder of the party headed on in.  Tony had not missed much.  Big dry sandy-floored passages filled with bats, small children & graffiti were all rapidly inspected with varying degrees of interest.  We already knew that we had to spend some time in the area to get the other caves surveyed so it was a quick scamper round, then out.

Back at the village of Limbuang we settled down at the headman's house, washed and demolished an excellent meal under the impression that we were to spend the night there.  Somewhere along the line something had been lost in the translation.  Our guide waited until darkness was just about to fall before leaping to his feet to drag us back to Pasang in the, (relative) cool of the evening.  Even better the village headman knew a shortcut.  Thus it was that a weary and footsore party were to be found stumbling down an overgrown track through the jungle.  In and out of small steep slippery stream gullies in almost pitch blackness.  Someone - I suspect Boycott but he will probably deny it an - suggested that we should avoid putting on or Pertzl zooms too early to preserve our night vision as long as possible.

After what felt like a fortnight but which turned out to be only an hour we were back on the main track. From here it was only a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.  I tried to think of a slow tune -the best I could come up with was "Tubular Bells".  From tired little soldiers, each cocooned in a pool of light and lost in their own thoughts, plodded down a never-ending hill towards the light of the village way below in the valley.  As always seems to be the case these never got any closer until suddenly they were only a few yards away.

Everyone was stunned to see us back.  The KepaIa Desa had to keep squeezing Helen’s thigh and remarking that she was a strong woman!  However there was more caver-reviving coffee followed by a cool wash and another excellent meal.  Then the finale.  The villagers all crammed into the room to watch Snablet getting into his bivi-bag. Much amusement and comment along the lines of bringing his own cave with him.  When we returned the following week for a few days this became such a popular turn that we could probably have financed the entire expedition by selling tickets.

Overall the trip was Sulawesi was reasonably succcssful with 63 cave sites explored and over 6kms surveyed.  But if you want the full a.p. then buy the report.  Available soon from all good caving shops in Wells

Rob  Harper – 6/10/95


A BEC Practice Rescue in Rhino Rift.  24th September 1994.


Roz Bateman           BEC (casualty)

Chris Castle             BEC

Sean Chaffey           BEC

Steve Flinders          Hippos

Brian Murlis             BEC (MRO)

Phil Romford            BEC

Dominic Sealy          WCC

Andy Sparrow          BEC

Chris Tozer              BEC

Les Williams            BEC

Organizers:  Phil Romford, Andy Sparrow and Brian Murlis.


To extract a live casualty in a rigid stretcher, from the bottom of the third pitch, using vertical lifting techniques by a safe and easi1y rigged method.  An essential part of this exercise was to involve the above people in using methods that made use of modern equipment and techniques developed in recent years.  We consider this practice to be the first of a series, to both develop the theme, and to involve other club cavers in the technicalities of vertical rescue.  The methods used are a combination of old and new techniques, taking what we considered to be the best of both.

Rhino Rift has one particular hazard to be avoided at all costs; that being the unstable boulder slope at the head of the third pitch.  In order to avoid this hazard we chose to use part of the Right Hand Wall route, from the bottom of the third pitch to the head of the second pitch. The first pitch was hauled direct, via the standard route.  Speed, efficiency, casualty comfort and safety were our major considerations.

The right hand wall route was rigged for SRT down to the top of the second pitch, with a short length dropped down to the ledge on the normal route.  It was found to be a convenient route to get personnel up and down the cave without being in the way of the rescuers.


To assist in the understanding of this, please refer to the accompanying sketch.

The fundamental principle that we adopted was to attach two Blue Water static ropes to the stretcher, but, not to specifically designate one as hauling line and the other as life line. In this system, either rope can be hauled on or used as life line, or indeed both may be deployed in hauling and deviating simultaneously. Hence, it is essential that both ropes are securely tied to the head of the stretcher and, that one or both is extended down to the casualties sit harness, allowing a small amount of slack for comfort.

The casualty was stretchered in the standard MRO manner at the bottom of the third pitch.  One line was taken to the 'safe' area at the head of the second pitch, whilst the other was taken to the eagles nest, 3 way 'Y' hang, out from the top of the second pitch (main hang on right hand route). Both ropes were deviated down to the bottom of the third pitch, through pulleys.  The hauling party at the head of the second pitch used jammers on lanyards, as is standard practice. A counterbalance system and pulley/jammer were set up at the eagles nest, this being simple and very efficient, one average weight person can lift a 10 stone casualty.

The first part of the haul to what can be considered the top of the third pitch, was via two releasable deviations with pulleys for each rope (see sketch).  The lower deviation had approx 4 metres of cord attached using a locked off Italian Hitch; this being released to allow the stretcher to hang below the upper deviation.  The upper deviation had approx 7 metres of dynamic rope, again attached by a locked off Italian hitch.  To this point, hauling was done at the head of the second pitch via a Petzl Gri-Gri rigged as a back stop, the counterbalance system was operative.

 From the head of the third pitch traverse, the stretcher must be transferred laterally by approximately approx 9 metres, so that it is now directly below the counterbalance.  The upper deviation is slowly released whilst the second pitch hauling party act as life liners, and the counterbalance lifts the stretcher. Actually, this is a lot easier than it may sound.  However, there must be one person calling the shots.  The stretcher was then lifted to a point above the lip of the second pitch, from where the counterbalance stops lifting and allows the hauling party to elegantly land the casualty, releasing rope via a Petzl STOP, or similar device, as necessary.  At no time was the angle between the lines allowed to exceed 120 degrees, thus minimizing excessive Tyrolean loadings.

Time of haul 15 to 20 minutes.  Total time to assess methods and best rigging points, and to load/haul the stretcher approx 2 1/2 hours.


The basic system was virtually the same as used on the lower pitches.  The stretcher was rigged identically, one rope was taken directly to the back of the pitch head through a Gri-Gri back stop with 5 haulers using jammers.  A counterbalance and pulley jammer were set up at the pitch head 'Y' hang.  A third rope, used as a guide rope, was attached to the hang bolts and taken down to a thread belay point at the top of the stal slope at the bottom of the pitch.  This guide rope was tensioned up using an Italian Hitch, to ensure that the stretcher was kept well clear of the walls during ascent.  Using the Italian Hitch as an adjuster means that the tension can optimised at all times.

The stretcher ran vertically up the guide rope on a pulley fixed at the head.  As the stretcher neared the pitch head, the guide rope tension was released allowing it to hang directly below the counterbalance. At the pitch head, the stretcher was secured by a cowstail while the counterbalance rope was moved to another 'y' further up the slope.  This ensured double rope protection while manhandling the stretcher over the lip of the pitch.


MRO Mager stretcher and drag sheet

MRO pulleys, 3 off

Blue Water static rope.  2 x 60m + 250m for rigging 

Other rescue pulleys, 4 off

Petzl Gri-Gri

Petzl Stop

Slings, various

Hangers, 30

Karabiners, 20

SRT gear, all personnel

Various lengths of 10 or 11mm line for deviations etc.

11mm line for deviations etc.


The only part that was relatively hard work was, the haul at the head of the second pitch.  With limited hauling personnel, a 'z' rig would offer a 3:1 mechanical advantage.  There was also a good deal of friction on this line where it comes over the lip of the pitch.  It was suggested that a deviation with pulley may improve this, however, it would require further practice to assess this.


The participants were deployed as follows:-

Brian Murlis oversaw the rigging and procedures on the third pitch.

Brian Murlis and Andy Sparrow jointly oversaw the second pitch.

Andy Sparrow oversaw rigging and procedures on the first second pitches.

Phil Romford oversaw stretcher loading, line safety and general safety procedures.

Roz Bateman was a superb, uncomplaining victim.

All other participants were involved at various stages.

Third pitch haul.  4 in pitch head hauling party, 1 at counterbalance, 1 barrow boy, one at bottom of pitch, 3 stretcher  handling at third pitch.

First pitch haul.  1 at counterbalance, 1 stationed mid pitch, 2 at bottom, 5 hauling.


  1. The conventional route down the 2nd and 3rd pitches were avoided due to unstable boulders.  However, if an accident occurred on the 4th or 5th pitches, it may be deemed necessary to rig these pitches to speed up a rescue.
  2. A 3 metre long cowstail attached to the stretcher, with clip in loops every 30cm. would be very useful.
  3. Only a few local cavers are known familiar with the right hand wall route - their support would be invaluable.
  4. A barrow boy accompanied the casualty during the lift up the 3rd pitch only.  On a rescue proper, it may deemed necessary to use a barrow boy at all times.


It should now be clear why the two rescue lines are both static, and not designated for a specific task throughout the hauls.  We have demonstrated that the load is transferred from one line to the other during the haul on the second pitch.

Although our methods were relatively technical, the amount of equipment required is probably no more that required by traditional methods.  Furthermore, the techniques are simple to use, safe, and worked extraordinarily well on this exercise.

Everyone left the cave having learned a great deal, and were appreciative of having had the opportunity to take part.

B Murlis, P Romford, A Sparrow


Council Of Southern Caving Clubs

Minutes of the meeting of the Council Of Southern Caving Clubs held on Saturday 9th September 1995 at 10:30 am.

1.                  ATTENDANCE

a.                    Present: Nigel Denmead (CCG/Avens/Chairman), A. Summerskill (Treasurer/WCC), A Butcher (SMCC/NCA Rep), Les Williams (WCC/Equipment), D.G. Cooke (WCC/Secretary), G Price (CSS), S. Cottle (UBSS), Dave Tuffery (MNRC), J.C. Goddard (MCG), John Flauagan (ISG), John Dobson (ACG), Dave Morrison (WCC), Vern Freeman (WCC), D. Crossland (Avens), M.J. Nicholson (Avens), Debs Morgenstern (WCC), Paul Johnson (CCG/Avens), Mike Grenham (CCG/Avens), Lyn Yeatman (CCG/Avens),

b.                    Apologies: None

2.                  MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING

a.                    None available.


a.                    None.

4.                  OFFICER REPORTS

2.1.       CHAIRMAN

a.                    The BEC have reported that they have not received recent CSCC agenda and minutes: Dave Cooke confirmed that items for the BEC are now sent direct to their representative Nigel Taylor in Langford rather than the BEC hut.

b.                    Nigel Denmead thanked Dave Cooke for taking on the post of Secretary.  However this leaves the training post vacant.

c.                    English Nature are happy with the progress at Compton Martin Ochre Mine.  But not so happy about the two dead bats recently found in the entrance.  Dave Morrison has spoken to English Nature regarding the bats.  He also said that the dead bats could not be due to cavers since none had visited the mine recently.

2.2.       TREASURER

a.                    The CSCC has £408 in the current account.

b.                    21 members are paid up, 10 since the circular.

c.                    We have paid the NCA subs. and we are awaiting some money back.

2.3.       SECRETARY

a.                    The Loxton Parish Council have contacted the CSCC since they wish to put a gate on Loxton Cave and would like the CSCC to administer access. John Dobson said he would talk to Mr Popple (Clerk to the Council) about the matter.  An arrangement similar to Singing River was envisaged.  We do not want a combination lock.

b.                    The new CSCC Handbooks have been published.  They cost £ I and are available from the secretary (Dave Cooke, 33 Laverstoke Gardens, Roehampton, London SW15 4ffi) if you enclose an A5 stamped addressed envelope.  They are also available from Bat Products, Wells.

c.                    Dave Cooke said he would start keeping Club phone numbers to add to the next revision of the handbook.

d.                    The Southern Sports Federation AGM is on 1/10/95.  No one wished to attend.  Dave Morrison said that we should be more involved with the regional sports council and let them know we exist.


a.                    The Cavers Fair in June made £600 profit.  150 - 200 people attended.

b.                    The NLI Officer post has been filled by Bruce Henry, 19 Gaskell Road, Penworth, Preston PRI 9RJ

c.                    The NCA Conservation Policy is now being circulated.  Graham Price noted that there had been a very poor response from CSCC members.  A summary leaflet has been printed which will be circulated to the CSCC members, this will hopefully improve things.


a.                    Alan Butcher felt that conservation information was not widely distributed.  It was suggested that the Conservation and Access Policy should be advertised and local cavers be better informed, through the actions of local clubs' own Conservation and Access Officers. Alan also suggested there should be an open meeting on the C & A policy.

b.                    Dave Morrison proposed that each Club should nominate a C&A Officers by the next CSCC meeting.  A date will be set for those officers to meet.  That meeting will share out the task of producing management plans for the SSSI caves to the various Officers/Clubs.  If we don't produce these plans then English Nature will employ non-cavers to do them soon.  It would be helpful if the Club C&A Officers could attend the next CSCC meeting. The Cerberus expressed a wish to do Stoke Lane, the WCC Swildons and the MCG Upper Flood.

c.                    Dave Morrison formally requested the cave SSSI information from Graham Price.

d.                    Quaking House in Milverton is now gated.  Permission and keys can be obtained from Farthings Farm.

e.                    The UK Cave Conservation Emergency Fund loaned £300 for fencing around Triple Hole (Sandford) to the Avens.  Paul Johnson reported that the work was harder than predicted, but he expected it to be finished within a fortnight.

f.                      Graham Price reported from the Mineral Working Group that the Gerny Slade Quarry Company will not challenge any depth restrictions - a good result.  Mear Head Quarry's application to quarry an area that it previously agreed not to quarry has been passed.  This jeopardises the drainage lines of nearby swallets. Watley Quarry's application has also been passed - more bad news.  See Graham for details.

g.                    Somerset County Council are now producing a new Minerals plan.  David Seton attends, providing us with some input and feedback.

h.                    The NRA Lower Bristol Aven Management Plan has now been produced.

i.                      Bristol Water have started pumping the Swildons Stream again.  Is this causing the movement of the boulders in Swildons entrance? Dave Morrison will speak to Paul Hodge.

2.5.       EQUIPMENT

a.                    The latest draft of the NCA Bolting Policy is going to Council for ratification.

b.                    There are currently 3 resin anchors in Swildons and 12 in Thrupe.

c.                    CCC Ltd have asked for a proposal to bolt the Left Hand Route in Rhino Rift.   CCC Ltd to fund.

d.                    Hilti have discontinued the C50 resin used to fix bolts.  The new resin is being tested by CNCC. Verbal reports so far is that it isn't as good.

e.                    The NCA rope test results suggest that storage and treatment are more important factors to a ropes well being than age.

3.         TRAINING

a.                    A Training Officer is required. Can Clubs put an advert in their Journals?

b.                    The Gloucester Artificial Cave project has asked for NCA support. People’s views are invited. Please direct them to Alan Butcher. There was a general discussion with views in favour and against.

c.                    It was noted that Caving is now on the National Cirriculum.  This has to be bad for caves and caving in general.

d.                    The Young Persons Act in its current form should not affect Caving Clubs.  Clubs can still have under 18 year old members.  They can take parties of under 18s caving so long as it is informally.  The act is aimed at organisations operating for profit.


a.                    The Avens Cave Exploration Group were admitted as members of the CSCC. They have a membership of 10 and have been very active in some of the Councils conservation projects.

b.                    Les Williams visited the owner of Burrington Cafe Adventure Caving.  He reported that it seems well run, it will only operate in Goatchurch, it has the Commoners consent, and the leaders are LCA qualified. We should not be concerned.


a.                    The next meeting will be the 2nd December 1995 at 10.30 am in the Back Bar of the Hunters Lodge, Priddy.

b.                    The date for the rest of the year are 24/2/96 and the AGM on 18/5/96.


The Warehouse, Gloucester.


Some of you may have heard of the proposed artificial cave being proposed as part of the indoor climbing centre called The Warehouse in Gloucester.  The proposals involve the construction of a horizontal and vertical "cave" system behind the climbing walls. This will offer pitches up to 13 metres as well as horizontal/vertical combinations of varying degrees of difficulty.

John Cliffe and myself attended a presentation on the scheme at The Warehouse on 14th July, this was also well attended by local cavers and others.

The proposals are well put together and would offer, in the vertical context at least, good training facilities provided that any training was carried out by an appropriately qualified (CIC) instructor.  There is an acute shortage of good facilities for SRT training in the country and the NCA Training Committee can see no problem with supporting this side of the proposal.

It is the horizontal side of the proposal where we have difficulties.  With the main "target" market for this facility being stated as for youngsters in full time education, concern has been expressed by John Cliffe and myself, by local cavers and Gloucester Cave Rescue about the consequential effect on local caves and mines.

Whilst the proposal will offer an as realistic as possible "cave" environment it cannot duplicate the hazards found in "the real thing" and must, for safety reasons, offer easy access to all parts of the system which are not, of course, available underground.  With caving equipment easily obtainable the dangers are:

that youngsters having experienced one or two trips may be tempted to visit local caves with inadequate equipment lighting, etc.

that those having gained experience in an artificial environment may attempt trips which may be beyond their capabilities or without regard to flooding or other hazards.

that access arrangements may be compromised by such trips.

that conservation issues may be ignored by such trips.

Whilst any approval could be conditioned by a request that those seeking further "real" caving experience be directed toward local clubs, there is no guarantee that this would be effective. For instance, The Warehouse already offer "real" caving trips on a commercial basis and there is no reason to think that these would be deferred in favour of local caving clubs.

The NCA will receive shortly a request for support or otherwise from The Sports Council.  It does not wish to tread on local or regional toes on, what is, a complex matter where feelings may run high.

The NCA Training Committee on behalf of the NCA therefore seeks your views urgently on this matter prior to a final decision on whether to support or otherwise the application.

Please forward your comments either to me or John Cliffe at the addresses below.

Alan Butcher
NCA Training Officer.

John Cliffe,


Council Of Southern Caving Clubs

The next meeting of the CSCC will be held on Saturday 2nd December 1995 in the back bar of the Hunters Lodge at 10:30 am


1.                  Attendance.

2.                  Minutes of the last meeting.

3.                  Matter arising from the minutes.

4.                  Officers reports

a.         Chairman.

b.         Treasurer.

c.         Secretary.

d.         NCA Representative.

e.         Conservation and Access Convenor.

f.          Equipment.

g.         Training.

5.         Any other business.

6.         Confirmation of the date of the next meeting.

Please note:

The post of Training Officer is vacant.  If anyone wishes to apply for this job could they let one of the Council Officers know.

Management plans need to be produced for the SSSI caves by cavers before English Nature employs non-cavers to do them.  Could each Club nominate a C&A Officers by the next CSCC meeting.  A date will then be set for those officers to meet. That meeting will share out the task of producing management plans for the SSSI caves to the various Officers/Clubs. It would be helpful if the Club C&A Officers could attend the next CSCC meeting.  The Cerberus expressed a wish to do Stoke Lane, the WCC Swildons and the MCG Upper Flood.

The new CSCC Handbooks have been published.  They cost £ I and are available from the secretary (Dave Cooke~ 33 Laverstoke Garden, Roehampton~ London SW15 4JB) if you enclose an A5 stamped addressed envelope.  A 19p stamp is sufficient for one handbook.  They are also available from Bat Products in Wells.


Letter re: St. Alactite


With reference to the recent correspondence regarding this venerable Patron saint of Cavers, I was bitterly disappointed by the pitifully inadequate reference to some of the other Saints of Mendip.

It is all too easy to look down on the diminutive figure of St. Uckfast (who epitomises Wessex caving techniques so well)

What of St. Out and St. Rengbow those beloved, Saintly characters whose praises are reverently sung beneath the tables of Mendip alehouses?

Could the author not have enlightened his readers with the legendary tale of the union in the Belfry bunkroom of St. Onker  (otherwise known  as  St. Iffy the Upright)  and  St. Rumpet, resulting in the creation of that patron Saint of Seamen St. Ains?

The Shepton will no doubt be offended by the omission of their benefactors St. Upid and St. Ubbern the Illegitimate!

St. Atic and St. Agnant, the saints associated with water tables (and local brews!) surely deserve a mention.

The angelically heaving twin beauties of St. Unning and St. Upendous are another fine pair to keep abreast of !!

Perhaps other Belfryites could enlighten us further on this fascinating subject.

Yours irreverently Gonzo

Editorial Note:

It would seem that the possibilities here are endless ..... e.g. Patron Saint of Wessex Members ...... St. Unted.

The twin saints of speech impediment (Butcombe induced) ......... St.St.St.St. Utter and St. Am-Am-Am-Ammer.

And of course the Patron Saint of Caving Politicians ... Cupid St. Unts!!!

All contributions welcomed for the St. Ockpile of B.B. Articles & St. Ories


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover: Original Artwork by Robin Gray


1994 - 1995 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Angie Cave
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Andy Cave
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Floating                   Estelle Sandford



So here we are then, another club year comes to an end and this is the last B.B. of the present year and possibly my Swan song ... dependant on the outcome of the elections at the A.G.M.

The Sixtieth Jubilee is upon us and I wanted to make this somewhat of a souvenir/celebratory issue, hence as you will have noticed it is considerably larger than usual.  I wish I could always dedicate as much time to the B.B. and turn them out like this all the time but, alas, due to minor details like having to earn a living between issues, this is not always possible.

My thanks go to those of you who have provided articles for this, and other, issues and especially to those members who always manage to write up what they do ... it makes an editors life so much easier.  Robin Gray for the cover artwork.  J-Rat has provided me with some interesting historic stuff as well as self penned articles, Dr Newton is prolific (or is that prophylactic!!?) as ever and Tav let me have a copy of his Scottish article which is of interest due to B.E.C. participation.  Thanks are also due to Nick 'Chain Saw' Williams who managed to stop playing with his power tools long enough to type up Alex Smith's 'Vogi' article for me ... nice one Nick!  The accompanying photograph may give some of you ideas of how to deal with University Freshers caving parties!  (Not that we are cynical!)

Also included are articles from 'Pooh' and John Buxton recalling events from years gone by.

I have, by popular request, included the latest, up to date, membership list for reference purposes .... always handy to have each others phone numbers etc.

The B.E.C. has come a long way in 60 years both in terms of the size of the club and the degree of its members' exploits.  (Not to mention the trashing of the odd Belfry here and there!!)  It has seen the growth and development of serious international caving from Mendip, the birth of the Cave Diving Group (where the BEC is still very well represented), and also many 'characters' over the years, some of whom have passed on to the great pothole in the sky(?) and some of whom are still with us! (In body if not in mind .... but then a degree of insanity seems to have been a prerequisite for membership since the word go!).  The Club has always had a reputation for 'hard' caving (read into this what you will) and for my money is still right up there! There can't be many other organizations where the members go camping five miles underground for two weeks as their summer holidays!!!

There is a wealth of knowledge and experience within the club in just about every area of caving you care to mention, indeed some of our members' reputations precede them even on an international scale.

For my part I am now approaching my tenth year of membership and although in some terms this is a comparatively short period, I have gained much from the club in this time and partly due to this have been proud to serve on the committee, publish this here rag and represent the club at various functions.  (Although the MCG didn't seem to like me trying to set fire to the table at their dinner the other year - it can't have been that bad as they invited myself and Dick-Fred to sing for them this year).

So there we are, I hope that this edition is suitably celebratory, I think it spans the years quite nicely and seems befitting for this time, I only hope you, the membership, enjoy it.

As for me, it remains to be seen whether I shall be Editor again next year, I guess that's up to you ..... !

Thanks again to all those that have supported and helped me.

Good Caving .............. Jingles.


From the Belfry Table

The AGM and Sixtieth Jubilee Dinner is closing in on us at a fast rate of knots now, and at the time of writing (12/09/95) it is in fact under four weeks to go, so if you are going to attend as I hope you will, hurry up and submit your dinner requests as soon as possible, do not forget that I have to submit final numbers a week before the dinner this year.  One problem that you will all curse me for, is that the wine was not included as I had requested and thought negotiated, sorry, but that was beyond my control. Still at £16 it still is excellent value!

Well, about 160 of you missed last weekends "Working weekend'.  Where did you get to?  New plastic facia boards and much general work was again undertaken, but oh so few supporters!  Please remember it is your HQ, sorry to preach, but the club needs your effort as well. Never mind, there is always next time.

You will see by now that we are having an election, it is good to see that there are twelve keen candidates, it is perhaps a pity that with so many volunteers that only nine can be voted for, perhaps the fresh blood will get deserved support as well, or the AGM may even consider that if they were keen enough to stand, then the AGM is keen enough that they serve?  I make no apology for such heresy to the purists, but newer members must be supported as it is they who will run the club one day, and it is hard to get support if you are unknown to the club in general.  Remember to return your sealed ballot form with your club membership number on the open side, to me at my home address or bring it to the AGM by 10.30 am Saturday 7th. October 1995.

The B.E.C looks set to win the digging barrel this year, come on you diggers lets find those extra few passages to ensure victory is ours!

Response from the Life Members is coming in thick and fast, with a vast divergence of suggestions, roughly 25% have replied to a personal letter I sent to them.  All of you who have replied will receive a further reply from me in due course, (Election permitting?)  May I thank those whom have shown great kindness in sending donations to the club, and indeed who have bothered to reply so far.  Please remember we do not want you to resign your life membership, this will be honoured whatever the eventual outcome. I have received some very touching letters from far and wide, amongst these of particular note are those from Claire Coase, Peter Bloggs, Ken Dobbs, DaphneTowler, Alfie Collins, Bryan Scott, John & Val Ransom, Dizzie Thompsett-Clark, Stuart Tuttlebury, Kangy King and Tony Setterington.

The general suggestion that seems to be emerging is that the Life members might cease to receive a regular BB, and in its place receive an annual news-sheet or similar, perhaps I suggest, a bumper BB at Christmas time or thereabouts?  I also intend to pressure our insurers upon the ludicrous position of paying full rate per head on forty four not quite so active life members, sorry to any "Life Tigers" amongst you!

I also believe that we must now look at our overheads, and look to making economies where they can be made.  I firmly feel that there is a subscription ceiling that we cannot afford to break through, and at £24 per annum, we must be pretty close to that now!  It may be contentious, but we now regularly exchange "B.B"s with 29 other bodies.  If the "BB" only cost £1 each, which it doesn’t, and that included postage, it follows that it costs in excess of nearly £300 per year on the basis of ten issues.  In fact, the B.B often costs double that figure, so a sum of £500 - 600 is probably closer to the truth, and if you add the cost of the cheapest foreign postage at nearly £1.50 per issue, for the three foreign exchanges (Circa £45 per year postage) together with the cheapest postage rates for the remaining 26 exchanges (Although 50% are probably passed on by hand) you start to wonder if exchanges are really worth while.  My own personal view is that many of the UK club journals could be sourced by those who may want a particular article, having traced it through "CTS- Current titles in Speleology" or similar if required.  Is there really any solid financial point in keeping a full set of Wessex, Shepton, Axbridge, MCG etc journals in the club library when these can be inspected within a few yards or more from the Belfry at Source?  Please do not think that I have a down on the valiant efforts of those who arrange the exchanges, I just feel that the monies saved could be better employed in filling the library with some of the recent released and excellent books, instead of these journals, or saving costs altogether.

Anyway Food for Thought from the Belfry Table?   Very best wishes to you all,

Nigel Taylor, Hon.Sec.


The Return of 'Spike'

Hello again, bet you thought you’d heard the last of me eh??  No such luck, just because I decided to disappear for a few issues is no reason to think I was about to stop slinging the mud or stirring the Sh@t...(not that it needs stirring in these here parts!!)

So current affairs ’Chez Bertie’ ........ there was the working weekend recently where I am told a fair bit got done, food was consumed and people got pissed (most out of character I’m sure you'll agree.)  It would appear that this is the last one that will be organized by Andy Cave as he is off to Mexico with his good lady wife (DO WHAT??) and they are presently selling just about everything that they own in order to finance the trip. Somehow Mendip just won't be the same without them or their ‘laid back’ approach to life, the universe and everything.

Apparently there have been a few camps in Daren Cilau involving the aforementioned couple and also Ivan and Becca.  I have heard many tales regarding these latter twosome and I'm not sure what to believe at all, suffice to say I think Ivan now wants to sell a partly used Batman outfit!!  (Try singing the theme tune in his ear and see what happens!!)

I see Emma Porter (sometime scribe for this rag) managed to get a picture of herself in a compromising position at the cavers fair into the 'national’ caving press ...... I’m sure it was SRT - Em, but it looked very 'friendly' to me!!

Mike 'Mousetrap’ Willett has started gardening in Priddy.  Lord help us, not contented with digging in caves it seems he also has to try local gardens ..... no hope for the boy I am afraid.

There have been some interesting drawings appearing on the Belfry blackboard recently, seemingly on a weekly basis.  Far be it from me to name those responsible but I have to award ten out of ten for imagination (and Rhinoceros!)

Martin Grass seems to have bought himself a quarry to live in, arch conservationist that he is, though most people would settle for a house of some sort.  He has recently been seen trying to persuade anyone to partake of his home grown grapes.  (Yes that was GRAPES not Grass!!.. .. Geddit)

On a more serious front, there is soon to be an attempt on Wookey 25 by Mike Barnes, Pete Bolt et al. A team very well represented by BEC members.  A lot of preparation work has been done, including Mike practising emergency surfacing from -65m in Dorothea Quarry .... not really funny actually, but I can’t resist taking the P@ss out of him!!

Actually there’s tons more gossip to be had but I think I’d better leave it there as there are certain parts of my anatomy that I wish to remain connected to and I may be at risk if I continue further.  So I'll see you later .... but remember .... my eyes and ears are everywhere.



Extract From 'The Adventures Of Another Pooh'

By Dave Yeandle.

(coming to a bookshop near you soon.)

It began with a schoolboy trip to Burrington Combe, young lads wanting adventure, two or three of the boys had been caving before.  As i slithered through the muddy tubes of goatchurch and sidcot, i thought maybe i was going to be doing a lot of this caving.  It was as though something beyond my control wanted to draw me inwards away from the mundane world outside, and around the next corner, or through the next squeeze just to see what was there. But another part of me didn't want to do this new and frightening thing, in this strange world of total darkness and horrid mud; and wanted to turn round and hurry back to the warm sunshine. I kept following my friends though and when i was back home in Bristol, i was elated that i had overcome my fear and kept going. I knew that now i had an exciting world to explore.

My friend Russel Mines was a member of the Axbridge Caving Club and i joined too. Soon i was travelling over the Mendips with Stuart (Mac) Mcmanus and Tony Jarratt on motorcycles of dubious legality and mechanical soundness (Mac ran his on paraffin!!). We drank scrumpy and fell over a lot; which i suppose was a silly way to spend my paper round money.

One monday night in the Axbridge hut, Mac and i were without money and we wanted food and cider.  We were the only cavers left over from the weekend and we knew there was money in the little envelopes in the hut fees box.  I can't remember which one of us finally suggested that we borrow some hut fee money, anyway we rigged up a fishing device out of wire and a stick and soon became rich beyond measure!  We did write an iou on a piece of paper and posted it into the box. The club committee were very annoyed with us despite our owning up.

With Russel, Mac, Tony and other Axbridge members i did trips to most of the major Mendip caves. By now caving was the main thing in my life and i was getting ambitious.  I wanted to go to Swildons 12, to the bottom of the Berger and to go caving with my hero Mike Boon.

I heard that the BEC were the local hard men and so decided to join them to further my caving career. I had no idea how i was going to do this, though actually it happened very quickly.  My arrival at the Belfry was not auspicious.  I was dumped at the door, tied up and drunk, late at night by Mac, Tony Jarratt and other Axbridge members.  It seems that they got fed up of me always going on about joining the BEC and agreed that it was indeed a good idea.  Some say that i was tied up in barbed wire and minus my trousers.  I don't remember this myself and anyway Mac and Tony would not have been so mean.  (much!!) Another version of the story is that i was, in fact, tied to the milk churns at the end of the Belfry turnoff, i think this may have been on another occasion though.  I don't think the BEC liked me much at first and some of them wouldn't talk to me.  They let me make them tea in the Belfry and soon kind people like Alan Thomas, Chris (Zot) Harvey Colin Priddle, John Riley, Dave Irwin and Roy Bennett were taking me caving.  I became 'belfry boy'.

'The belfry boy'
Sung to the tune of sweet lorraine.
By pete (snab) mcnab.

Well i'm the belfry boy,
I'm every other bugger's favourite toy,
Oh how it always seems to give them joy,
To put me in bloody pain.

Oh how they treat me hard,
Kick me all around the belfry yard,
Lord, you ought to see how i am scarred,
From when they shoved me up the drain.

And when a member calls,
I dash inside so they can black my balls,
And splatter me around the belfry walls,
Till i've nearly gone insane.

They sit me in a chair,
Rub jam and marmalade in my hair,
I sit and smile as if i couldnt care,
But later hang my head in shame.

And then they all insist,
That i am something called a masochist,
Especially when they all come back pissed,
And want to play their silly games.

But now i sit and wait,
Because i'm glad to know that some day fate,
Will bring along a brand new inmate,
And then i'll kick the belfry boy.

Alan Thomas had been on expeditions to Greece with Jim Eyre, where they had bottomed the abyss of Provetina.  These were days of using ladders for big pitches and Alan ran BEC trips to Yorkshire where the objectives were usually pots with deep entrance pitches.  I was very excited when Alan agreed to take me on one of his northern trips.  I was piled into the back of his car with buster the dog and large tins of spam left over from some expedition.

Camping at Skirwith Farm we did Alum Pot, Marble Steps and Long Kin West.  I was very impressed with this Yorkshire pothollng, but my ladder climbing was abysmal and it took me more than 30 mins to be dragged up the 91m daylight pitch of Long Kin West.  Consequently i was banned from attempting the main shaft of Gaping Gill on ladders, which was the main objective of the visit.  I was very disappointed but managed to get to main chamber via Bar Pot.  I was awe struck by the huge dimensions of the main chamber area.  I decided i wanted to live in Yorkshire and do lots of this kind of caving.

Back on the Mendips in the Hunter's Lodge, i started to hear stories about the incredible revival of exploration in the Dales.  The relatively recent innovation of the wetsuit had enabled northern cavers to push the frontiers forward and Dave and Alan Brook were the most successful of a new generation.   Miles of new cave had been opened up by this legendary pair and members uf the University of Leeds Speleological Society (ULSA).   I had already decided that an academic career would best serve my caving amibitions; once i heard about ULSA my choice of universities was an easy one.

This did mean that i actually had to start to do some school work in order to get good A levels.  Zot had no faith in my plan.  “you are as thick as pig shit, how can you go to university?"  he had a point! I had narrowly avoided being kicked out of the sixth form for exam results worse than 10%.  I did start to work though and even topped caving for a few weeks prior to my a levels. To everybody's surprise and my parents' delight, i got into Leeds on a physics honours course.

Exams over, i settled down to a summer of caving in Austria and the Mendips with my BEC friends.  The Austrian trip was to the Ahnenschacht, lead and organised by Alan Thomas.  We explored several hundred metres of new cave, living mostly on spam and reconstituted mashed spud.  As usual, Alan didn't charge me for my share of the petrol.

I managed to combine moving north with a caving weekend.  There was a BEC trip to Lancaster Hole, so i threw in some extra clothes and one or two text books with my caving gear and got a ride north with Martin Webster. After the trip he dropped me off in Skipton and i travelled to Leeds by bus.  The university had arranged lodgings for me and the landlady was rather shocked at my appearance when i turned up, covered in mud with a dripping wet rucksack, at her red brick terraced house.  She let me in though and made me have a bath before feeding me with yorkshire pudding .

....... To be continued ... ????


Glaciation in the High Atlas Mountains.

By Mike Smith.

Glaciation in Africa is a somewhat obscure subject.  It was relatively late in the nineteenth century before the Royal Geographical Society would accept that Alpine Glaciers existed close to the equator on Mount Kenya and mount Kilimanjaro.  Early glaciologists confined their studies to the classic glacial areas of Europe and North America where examples were plentiful, obvious and accessible.  The major mountain masses to the south including the Atlas have remained something of a backwater to this day.

The Atlas Mountains were formed during the late Cretaceous Orogeny 65 million years B.P. (Before Present) since when they have been exposed to the elements.  Careful examination of the landscape indicates that like the better known areas to the north, the High Atlas became at least partially glaciated during the Pleistocene Ice Age 2.5 million to 10,000 years B.P.  This would be consistent with current thinking on the global climate during the Pleistocene.  As average temperatures fell by perhaps 10 - 12 degrees, climatic zones would become compressed around the equator.  High mountain masses such as the Atlas with 4000m peaks would exhibit strong Alpine climatic characteristics and at lower altitudes than is the case at present.

The Atlas are 31 degrees north of the equator.  At this latitude and proximity to the tropics, it is likely that the Atlas glaciers were somewhat short lived compared with those of Europe.  In developing later and decaying earlier there would be less time for glacial features to mature than in northern latitudes.  Examples of Atlas glaciation are therefore on a smaller scale and less obvious than those of, for example, the Alps.

Deposition features present problems when examining glacial features in the Atlas.  Good agricultural land is at a premium and it is not until the higher Alpine pastures are reached at an altitude of approximately 3000m that surface geology is likely to be undisturbed.  Additionally accessible surface deposits of sand and gravel have been exploited by the Berber people for construction.  The climatic regime of cold winters with a heavy snowfall, rapid thaw and Mediterranean summers promotes rapid weathering and dynamic erosion. Much of the surface geological material is of weathered rather than glacial origin and many of the deposits which were of originally glacial have been transfigured by later deposition.

In the Imlil valley above an altitude 2000m there are numerous signs of glaciation.  Here at around (Aremd) is a large terminal moraine up to 80m high and which curves across the valley for over 800m.  These deposits of ice eroded debris are normally found at the leading edge of glaciers and contain stones whose long profile has a common axis longitudinal to the valley.

Typically the long profile of a glaciated valley appears to look like a gigantic staircase of alternate depressions with attendant lakes or marshy ground and steeper rocky sections. During glaciation, ice flows rapidly over the steeper sections often as an ice fall causing little erosion when compared with the major erosion which develops in compression on adjacent level sections.

Above Around, the Imlil valley conforms to these characteristics.  The terminal moraine would have acted like a natural dam, trapping glacial melt water.  Today whilst an eroded channel flows through a gorge, the Plan D'Aremd still contains a seasonal lake filled when the winter snows melt in April and May.  Towering above the Plan D'Aremd lies a long steep curved slope approximately 3km in length and 1000m in height.  During the Pleistocene this would have contained a spectacular icefall below which ice would have carved out the lake on the Plan D'Aremd.

At heights above 3000m, erosional features become clearer.  There are several tributary valleys which show signs of glaciation. All are at an altitude of 3000 - 3500m, about 800 - 1000m in length and with a N.W. to N.N.W. orientation. Imouzzer contains some of these classic glacial features.  It has steep sides, a parabolic valley floor whilst the cirque at the head of the valley has a curved ice carved back wakk some 200m in height.  Irhzer Ikhibi (Soud) and Irhzer Ikhibi (Nord) exhibit similar features.  Irhzer Ikhibi (Nord) also appears to have an extensive medial moraine, indicating that it was one of the last glaciers to experience glaciation.

About 1km below the Neltner refuge the main valley contains good examples of Roches Moutonnes and ice carved cliffs, the height of which would indicate an ice thickness of perhaps 100m.  Although glacial ice with such a thickness is considerably less than the sheet ice over Britain (up to 1000m thick) it is sufficient for ice to assume the plastic flow characteristics which are required for erosion to take place.

Today the Atlas are unglaciated but there are numerous clues of their ice bound past.  Many of the Atlas peaks contain examples of aretes and gendarmes in addition to the cirques and moraines.  Some periglacial processes are still active, for example there are many frost shattered rocks at altitude.  Equally above about 3000m there are many nevee or snow patches which lie throughout the year.  Snow can fall in any month and snowfall is particularly heavy in winter when, at altitude, temperatures remain below zero for several months.  Given their height it would only take a drop in temperature of a few degrees for Atlas glaciation to recommence.

The author teaches geography at Bridgewater High School in Warrington.



Memories of a Cave Diver.

By John Buxton.

In 1949 I went to Nottingham University to study for a degree in horticulture.  While I was there I joined the Mountaineering Society and soon gravitated, if that is the right word, to the caving section. The leader was Vic Gates, an engineer, who is now retired and lives in Devon.  Amongst other activities was a weeks caving during the summer, on Mendip.  How we came to stay at The Belfry I am not sure. (Paul & Tessa Birt?)

I lived near Ashbourne in Derbyshire and I used to hitch - hike to Bristol and go on by bus to the end of the road (Hillgrove) and then walk.  When I got hooked on caving it seemed a logical move to join the B.E.C. and was allocated No. 201.  Later on I graduated to an auto cycle (98cc) and later still to the ex J. Ifold Royal Enfield 350cc.  (On the strength of the full motor-cycle licence for the auto cycle, Setterington lent us his Dougl to ferry about 6 people to Stoke Lane, an interesting experiment!)

The usual run of caves that were explored were Swildons Hole, Eastwater Cavern, August Hole, G.B. Cave, Lamb Lair Cavern, Stoke Lane Slocker and Goatchurch Cavern. Regular Belfryites I remember were Setterington, The Ifolds, George Lucy, Don Coase, Sybil Bowden Lyle, Paul & Tessa Birt, Alfie Collins and many others that time erases from my memory.  I brought my girlfriend, later my wife, Audrey to The Belfry (she came on a cycle master 28cc at first!).

We have a photo of No 1 and No 2 Belfries with a person holding a "Hanham" sign.  Older members will remember, perhaps nostalgically, the communal feeding systems and the festers that were knocked up in the old Belfry.

There was a very good team spirit in those days and while a caving party was away there seemed always to be a willing non-caving volunteer cook that day.  Tins of beans, soup, spaghetti, stewed steak, corned beef etc. were donated by the would be diners and joined the vegetables and potatoes in a large pot.

One good story about these communal meals concerns a tin of pemmican that one technical climber/survivor brought along and instead of a few spoonfuls the whole tin was added and everyone rolled and sweated with excessive calories in their pits that night.

The lighting in both Belfries was low voltage from batteries charged by a Cooper - Stewart generator. The system was rather temperamental and needed a gentle hand.  It was water cooled and I seem to remember that the hot water coming from the engine was used for washing up.

Activities in the Belfry often went on quite late and as soon as the 'gennie' had run out of fuel the lights soon began to get yellowish.

As many of the caves we visited ended in a pool of water, often with a wire or rope disappearing I began to question what happened beyond, only to be told the divers have been through.  So it was not long before I chased up the local CDG Rep in Sheffield, Jack Thompson and I eventually joined the group and started training.  I was so young that my parents had to sign my Blood Chit I believe it was one of the first times such a thing happened.

As I got more involved with diving, my caving trips got less frequent, but I still got to Mendip.  In 1957 I was asked if I would help in St Cuthbert’s Swallet (comparatively recently discovered) as a person who didn't mind getting wet was needed in getting through the first sump (now a duck.) .... Never volunteer!!!  My job was to kneel or sit in an old gour about 2' deep in water and hold a crowbar on my shoulder while a 15lb sledgehammer belted it at the base of a flowstone curtain that blocked the way on at water level.  The chamber had about 6 damp bodies steaming away in it and the vis became quite bad.  Eventually, inevitably, it happened ... the hammer missed the crowbar and thumped my helmet.  There was a deathly hush and a little voice said "Are you alright John?" and there was a great sigh of relief as I replied  "Yes!"

Eventually there was a body sized hole in the water beneath the curtain and there was a by play with Don Coase to see who was going to go through.  Eventually he was persuaded that he had done more than most and deserved the honour.  I rapidly followed behind him.

I satisfied my dive trainers that I was a suitable candidate for a leading (trainer) diver and Bob Davies checked me out on a dive in Clapham Cave. I had made my first trip in Wookey Hole in early 1953 and was on the photographic trip to the ninth chamber later that year.  After the infamous night of the 13th we began to consider using mixture breathing kits instead of the closed circuit oxygen gear used up until then.  The first successful dive, on mixtures, was in Hurtle Pot on 20th April 1957 with Oliver Wells.

In September 1958 I was in the party that got through to Swildon's 5 and found a way to float through the ducks, because I was the first they were named after me, 'Buxton's Horror'. Len Dawes nearly drowned himself trying to duck out.  After Bob Davies and Oliver Wells had left for America, we (Mike Thompson, Charles George and myself) found the way through the 'Slot' in Wookey 15, 70' deep, which eventually proved to be THE way on.  This was the end of my 'Sharp end' diving and I only did a bit of training after that.

I had an attack of financial cramp and resigned from the CDG.  In most of this account I have used the personal tense but in a lot of my latter diving I was with Oliver Wells and often at number 2.  Later as my financial situation improved I did a fair bit of air diving in open water but eventually retired from that.

While retired from caving and diving we occasionally acted as hosts to Pamela and Oliver Wells on their trips to this country.  Sometimes he had an air dive in Wookey Hole and I even went to carry his gear! Oliver persuaded me to have a go and in 1990 I was back diving in Wookey after a layoff of some 28 years. I was a little hesitant and nervous at first, but with a bit of encouragement I got fully equipped (over equipped, says my Wife).  I began to travel about the country ... Wales and Yorkshire and Derbyshire. My first cave dive was at Keld Head in August 1952 and have had an ongoing dive series here but despite having worked up to dives of 1hr 22mins I have still not managed to get to dead man's handshake.  (A notable constriction).

I went on a recent expedition to the Bahamas Blue Holes organized by Rob Palmer's Blue Holes Foundation.  On this expedition off the Acklins 8500' of guide line was laid in virgin passage mostly in the 25 - 30m depth range.  During this expedition I clocked a seawater cave dive in Dean's Blue Hole of 55.3m = 181' in old money!!  If one can call it such, the highlight of the expedition was being about 300' down a passage in Acklins No 2 about 30m deep in company with Jim King and Rob Palmer when we met 1 or 2 sharks about 5' long and impressively plump.  For some 30 seconds there was a turmoil of bubbles, lights, divers, mud and silt etc. off the walls and roof and the 1/2 sharks ... hence the doubt about the head count.

Over the recent bank holiday I went into Hurtle Pot and did a 34 minute dive doing some upstream and some downstream to a maximum depth of 29.2m.  This was 38 years after our mixture dives mentioned earlier and was witnessed by your B.B. Editor 'Jingles' - (Who would also have dived if he hadn't had to go to work at the Hill Inn!!.. .... ed.) - he seemed to get quite excited about it all and persuaded me to put pen to paper.

John Buxton.



"Une Petite Promenade Dans Les Hautes Atlas"

Following my previous expeditions to the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco I decided to return to undertake a circular trek through the Toubkal Massif.  Due to time constraints I only had one week available which had to include travelling time from UK.  On the face of it would appear unrealistic to attempt a high altitude trekking expedition in a remote mountain area with only such a short period of time available. Had I not had prior experience of the mountains I do not think I would have even given the project a second thought. However, safe in the knowledge that at the very worst I could rely on spending an enjoyable week with my friends in the village of Imlil, I decided to give it a go.  I hope that this report may serve as an inspiration to others wishing to travel in the direction of Morocco who find themselves constrained by time, funds or both.

Travel Arrangements

I took advantage of the new GB Airways Service which operates between London Heathrow and Morocco during the summer months.  Flights go via Gibraltar and are routed to Marrakech two days per week and to Casablanca three days per week.  This service is considerably cheaper than the alternative direct flight with Royal Air Maroc. GB Airways departures are also significantly more attractive to the traveller heading for the mountains in that they depart from Heathrow early in the morning arriving at Marrakech just after mid-day.

From Marrakech Airport it is possible to take a taxi into the centre of Town for 50 Dirhams (£3.50) where one can easily arrange onward transport to the mountains via bus or grand taxi (a shared taxi-cab in which comfort is sacrificed for economy and speed of transit).  Travel by bus from Marrakech to Asni costs only 80 Dirhams (£5 ) and takes approximately 1.5 hours.  From Asni one has to search out a taxi or a lorry which is travelling up the dirt road to the village of Imlil (this usually costs a further 50 Dirhams). Whichever method of transport is chosen it is entirely possible to arrive in Imlil by late afternoon giving plenty of time for accommodation to be found and trek arrangements to be made.


I used the Gite de Haute Atlas a small family run guest house on the outskirts of the village of Imlil.  The proprietor Jean-Pierre prides himself on the standard of his hospitality and the excellence of his cuisine (a single night stay with full board and lodging costs 150 Dirhams (£11.50).

For those searching cheaper accommodation, Imlil has a range of small guesthouses run by the Berber villagers and also boasts a Club Alpine Francaise hut where accommodation can be found for only 45 Dirhams per night (£3).

Trek Arrangements

Previous trekking experience in Morocco had taught me that a mule is a highly desirable addition to ones trekking group.  Accordingly I made arrangements on my first evening in Imlil (avoiding the use of the hustlers who tout for business in the early mornings and who extract a high negotiation charge for their services in arranging a mule for hire).  After protracted negotiations I obtained the services of Mohammed and his mule for five days for the cost of 300 Dirhams (£25). Mules will carry up to five rucksacks plus the necessary food and water for an expedition.

Description Of The Trek

Day 1. After an early departure from Imlil we ascended the main pathway leading up the Mizane Valley passing through the village of Aroumd to the Holy Shrine of Seti Chamharouch.  After a lunch break during which we managed to catch three respectably sized river trout in the river we continued into the upper Mizane Valley to arrive at the Neltner Refuge at 3,207 metres.  Where we made camp for the night on the grass plateau below the refuge.

Day 2. After a 5 o'clock start we ascended the Ouanoums Col (altitude 3,664 metres) before descending the long and arduous Ifni Valley to arrive at the famous Lac D'ifni.  The lake is famous as the only significant sized body of water anywhere within the High Atlas chain and is visited regularly by trekkers and more intrepid Moroccan holiday makers.  From the lake we descended to the small village of Ait Igrain where we passed the night in one of the local farmhouses (for the modest sum of 50 Dirhams per head which included a large evening meal comprising of Tagine, a local speciality, and fresh fruit).

Day 3. Once again making an early start with the first rays of the sun we descended the jeep track to the small market town of Amsouzart. From here we ascended the Ourai Col (altitude 3,109 metres).  This was an exceedingly long and arduous assent up a dry and rocky slope which being south facing took the full force of the early morning sun and being on the southern slopes of the mountains received the full warming effect of the Harmata wind which blows out of the Sahara Dessert during the summer months.  On the far side of the Col we descended into the Tinzer Valley, a very fertile high altitude valley renowned for the high quality of its grazing pastures.  After an enjoyable afternoon's descent through Alpine type surroundings we made our evening camp at the small summer herding settlement of Azib Likemt. Once again fishing in the local river proved fruitful and yielded up 15 fresh trout with which to supplement our evening meal.

Day 4. From Azib Likemt we climbed over the shoulder of Bou Iguenouane passing via the Likemt Col (altitude 3,540 metres) to arrive at the village Tacheddirt.  Tacheddirt is a characterful little village which is off the regular tourist trail although it does have a Club Alpine Francais refuge within the village.

Day 5. From Tacheddirt we descended back to Imlil using the main track via the Tamatert Col (altitude 2,279 metres).

Catering and Provisions

Throughout the course of the expedition we relied entirely upon local provisions.  The major villages within the Atlas Mountains all have small shops at which it is possible to purchase basic provisions such as cheese, tinned sardines, dried fruit, and tea and coffee.  During the summer months it is nearly always possible to trade tinned food for fresh bread and fresh fruit and eggs from small settlements along the way.  We also supplemented our diet by catching river trout in the mountain streams (a permit is needed for this and should be sought from the Authorities prior to departure).

It is normal practice for a mule driver to share all of his client's food so adequate provisions should be taken (re-payment in the form of regular cups of mint tea is usually forthcoming).

Environmental and Conservation Matters.

The High Atlas Valleys are exceedingly fragile and some areas are rapidly becoming severely damaged by the increased number of trekking parties travelling through them.  This is particularly obvious in the Mizane Valley leading from Imlil to the Neltmer Refuge at the base of Toubkal (the highest mountain in North Africa).  Unfortunately over use of the valley combined with the Berber's lack of consideration for the conservation of their own environment has led to a situation closely resembling that on the Everest base camp trail.  Lessons have been learned and it is encouraging to see steps being taken to remedy the problem, and to prevent similar disasters befalling some of the other Valleys which are only now starting to open up to trekkers.  The Toubkal area has been awarded National Park status and Wardens have been appointed.  However as yet they have little power, no adequate job description and unfortunately little respect from the local people as they are seen as interfering outsiders.

It is imperative that anyone visiting the area for trekking should do their utmost to take every opportunity to educate the local population in conservation matters.

Further Reading

The best available guide to the Atlas Mountains is that edited by Robin Collomb.  Entitled "Atlas Mountains of Morocco" this is both a climbers guide and a trekkers guide to the main areas of the Massif.  Detailed maps are hard to obtain as they are still classified as military secrets, it is however, possible to obtain the four maps covering the Toubkal area (these can be ordered via Stanfords in London or trom the map shop at Upton on Severn).

Andrew Newton FRGS - BEC member,   Habib Fouilloux
July 1995


A Chicken's Guide to Cave Diving.
(or 'One Man's Attempts to Drown Himself.)

By Jingles.

One lonely night in 1986 whilst working a nightshift at a computer agency in Russell Square in London, largely due to boredom, I started looking through the lockers for suitable reading material.  I happened across a copy of 'The Darkness Beckons' by Martyn Farr that had been lent to one of the operators by Seb Prince of the Chelsea Speleological Society (of which I later became a member for a short while before getting kicked out.. .. which I still feel is something of a character reference! ).

At first glance I could see that this was of interest to me and started perusing it.  About an hour later I had found out about Balcombe et al and their antics at Wookey hole etc .. and was at the point where I couldn't put it down.  Fortunately I had finished the workload for the night or it would never have got done.

I read most of the book that night.  I think it was the first time in my life that I had come across something that I knew I was going to do. The following weekend I found myself in Crickhowell at the Britannia arms, introducing myself to Arthur Millet and thus Martyn himself with the immortal phrase “I want to be a cave diver!'  God only knows what they must have thought of me ... and I think I'd rather not know.

Having never even been in a cave at this time it was gently recommended that I get some dry caving experience first before considering diving, hence my joining C.S.S.  I remember my first trip being with Duncan Price and Simon Abbot who were digging at the Snowboat in Agen Allwedd at the time. I did a fair bit of caving in the Llangattock area over the next year or so and got to know a few people.  I eventually persuaded my sister Babs that she was going to become a caver, in fact I took her to Bat Products and bought her a wetsuit I was so sure of this, poor girl had no choice in the matter whatsoever.  She also joined C.S.S. And for a while we caved in Wales together.  You'll have to ask Babs for details of how we came to leave that particular club as she tells it far better than I.

Having met Henry Bennett through C.S.S., I was invited to his 21st birthday bash at the Belfry (1987 I think) - it was a fairly standard night a la BEC and I was left with the firm impression that I had come home!   Soon both myself and Babs became BEC members, along with another friend of ours Garry Trainer who has since caught a terminal case of marriage, and enjoyed several years caving with other members who have since become firm friends. (At least they say this to people as long as we keep buying beer for them!)

I never let go of my ambition to become a cave diver but things got put on hold for various reasons for several years.  Last year my good friend 'Trebor' Mcdonald finally initiated me into the singular delights of subterranean aquatic activity in the confines of Swildon's Hole. Along with Dudley Herbert we negotiated our way to this side of sump 6.  I was very glad that Pete Bolt had insisted on me practising in the Minneries beforehand, where I got caught in the weeds and consequently had experience of what is still a bit of a problem for me in diving ... STRESS!  The Swildon's trip was a brilliant experience and although I now realised that there was an awful lot more to it than I had thought I was well and truly bitten by the diving bug.

In June 1994 I was accepted into the Somerset Section of the CDG with Pete Bolt as my proposer and Pete Mulholland as seconder, my grateful thanks go to both of these gentlemen (?). Sessions in Wookey Hole, Hopes Nose sea caves and the Minneries helped me to get to the stage where I actually trusted myself underwater in a cave environment.  (Advice given to me years before by Rob Harper when I sherpa'd on one of his Cheddar pushes but that I was unwilling to listen to at the time.)

A lifetime ambition was realised shortly thereafter when along with Trebor and Wormhole I dived through to Wookey 19.  I had a small epic under the large boulder just before the surface of 19 when I lost a fin, then the vis, became jammed as my ABLJ was over inflated and managed to let go of the line.  I surprised myself by remaining in control and sorting myself out, finding the line again, retrieving the lost fin, adjusting my buoyancy and making the surface. My first words when the gag was out of my mouth were unprintable here but began with 'F' and 'H'!!!  I was not a happy camper when I realised that I also had to dive back!  On this occasion we took the shallow route and although I was very tense Trebor's presence helped greatly and we returned without further incident.  I didn't dive for some three months after this as I had given myself a bit of a scare and realised just how risky Cave Diving can be. For me there is no room for complacency or over confidence in this pursuit.  I realised at this point that my motivation had to be seriously questioned if I were to continue.  Gone were the dreams of 'Having my name in lights' and a slightly more realistic perspective was put on things.

My colleagues at work ask me why I do these things and my reply these days is along the lines of.. ..’The fact that you have asked me that means that I could never really explain it to you' .... and I doubt that I could verbalise my reasons even now .... I just HAVE to do it!

I have been lucky enough to dive with many 'leading' cave divers and am always grateful that they are willing to take me under their (water) wings.

In the past year I have dived in Wookey many times though have not yet been any further than before, I seem to have a bit of a psychological hex on it at present and also firmly have learnt the lesson of when not to dive, something that is for me very important and conducive to my ongoing breathing.

I have spent quite a bit of time in Yorkshire in recent months the highlights of which have been dives in Joint Hole with Steve (from Preston) and Jonathon Simms, we even managed to video ourselves going through the squeeze into Aquaflash.  This squeeze really is just that and is quite a character building experience and I plan to go further in there soon.

Also John Buxton invited me to Keld Head (another personal Everest) and diving alone on three dives I got as far as the 100m air bell.  Keld excelled my expectation, the vis was superb and for me it is truly beautiful passage.  Had I realised that I was halfway round the short loop I would have continued, but there is always a next time.  I missed out on diving Hurtle pot that weekend but this will happen in time.  Also I suppose it would be apt for me to dive in Jingle at some point.

Although I am fully aware that in some terms my diving is limited and there are many capable of far more than I, one thing I have learnt is that there is no shame in accepting my own personal limitations and that I am capable of pushing these and doing more than I would have thought I could.

I have also met some excellent people through the CDG, far too many to mention here, but you know who you are anyway and my thanks go to you all.

There have been times when I have thought that I was not going to make it, like last week in Wookey when my mask flooded and I became tangled in the line whilst negotiating some squeezes in the 9 - 9a extension in bad vis.  It doesn't sound like much when I describe it here but at the time it seemed pretty bloody important I can tell you.  The mental discipline involved in not giving in to my natural instinct to panic and start scratching away at the rock with my fingernails is no small thing for me, and there are times when I seriously ask myself if I should be doing this sort of thing, am I really up to it?  Then again I could never have even contemplated doing it 2 years ago and it seems that good training and lots of practise has had a beneficial effect.

I think that a large part of it for me is actually subconscious and possibly even a part of my psychological makeup whereby I am dealing first hand with areas of myself that I was hitherto unaware; the 'Id' described by Freud as being the primordial drives of the human and being those of survival and procreation, or possibly, dealing with areas of my darker self that Jung would have called 'The Shadow Self'. So thus Cave Diving for me becomes to do with building my strength of character and sense of self esteem by pushing my personal boundaries and confronting my own deepest seated primal fears in order that I may deal with them on a practical level.

(Actually that’s a load of crap ... .ifs just bloody good fun and I love it!)

Jingles. 23.9.95 .


The Snake Pit Hole Dig - 1969-1995

Situated at an altitude of 810ft, at ST 5482 5145, just inside the Stock Hill Forest and opposite Wheel Pit, this short cave was dug open by the M.N.R.C. in 1969 and worked sporadically by them until 1972. About 40ft of passage in conglomerate was cleared of mud and rock in the hope of finding the source of a tantalising draught.  The diggers included C. Venus, P. Steward, R. Windsor, J. Letheren (bang man), "Bucket" Tilbury (later BEC), J. Lister, I. Hill, D. Jenkins, P. Walker, M. Kingdom, C. North, R. Wiltshire, R. Tucker and M. Collins.  Realising that the site was a long term project they ran out of enthusiasm and the 15ft deep entrance shaft was filled in. References:- M.N.R.C. newsletters Summer 1969 - Spring 1972.

The BEC interest arose in the spring of 1993 when Vince Simmonds, Rich Blake and Graham Johnson began surreptitiously excavating a blocked rift near the presumed site of the MNRC entrance.  The writer joined them as "bang man" and lots of large rocks were reduced in size in order to haul them up the rift.  A strong outward draught, obvious signs of phreatic development and the presence of small but colourful formations encouraged the diggers despite the awkwardness of excavating the rift.  Ivan Sandford constructed a lockable steel lid for the entrance and hawthorns were planted to assist in camouflaging the site.

On 25/4/93 RB, VS, GJ, AJ and Estelle Sandford broke through into the "MNRC Chamber" at a depth of some 25ft.  It was recognisable by the old buckets and tools lying about - a hammer handle inscribed "MNRC" later being mounted on a plaque and returned to its rightful owners along with a "Bertie" sticker!  A blocked rift in the ceiling was obviously the bottom of their entrance shaft.  Some 40ft or so of muddy but reasonably sized cave was inspected and two possible digs noted. These were temporarily left while we continued digging below the new entrance rift following small airspaces and a good draught.  MNRC had not entered this area.  By 10/5/93 this dig had lost its appeal and we were attacking the inlet passage at the end of the cave - an almost completely mud filled phreatic tube. Well over fifty skip loads of spoil were removed from this tube.  Below a fine sand deposit containing black sediment, Jake was amazed to discover a 21 3/8" long, 1" wide tempered wrought iron "crowbar". This was obviously not an MNRC tool but was assumed to have belonged to a lead miner and bore the engraved initials "W.A."  It was not obvious how it had reached this spot but it may have dropped down a rift from the opencast working on the surface above.  It was cleaned and presented to Wells Museum.  After several more trips this dig was seen to develop into a tiny tube, undoubtedly a surface inlet, and abandoned.  The "downstream" dig then became our main project. Diggers included Pete Hellier, Andy Sanders, Trev Hughes, Tony Boycott, Alex Gee, Martin Grass, Sean Chaffey, Hugh (LUCC), Steve (BUSS), John Ashton (Yorks.), Mike O'Driscoll (GSG), Dan Sullivan, Emma Porter, Nick Hawkes, Davey Lennard, Nick Mitchell, Henry Bennett, Al Bolton (YSS), Stu Sale and Paul Allen.  Several months of hard work, hundreds of bags of mud and a few tons of banged rock later resulted in the total passage length being in the order of 100ft.  The cave seemed to be developed in huge, loose boulders held together by clay and some dodgy moments were had when great lumps of "ceiling" or "wall" silently dropped off - narrowly missing the diggers.  It was not at all a nice place!  At the end a 15ft shaft had been sunk through the mess following a tiny, intermittent stream.  Conveyor belting and a short section of (useless) railway were installed to aid spoil disposal.

On 30/1/95, following heavy rainstorms, Wheel Pit was found to be a 100ft wide lake and Snake Pit Hole was flooded some 30ft below the entrance.  The nearby Five BuddIes Sink was taking a large stream (see separate article) and obviously held much more promise than Snake Pit which has now been temporarily abandoned.  If anyone wishes to continue digging they are most welcome!  At least sixty six trips have been recorded on this project.

Refs: - The Complete Caves of Mendip, Mendip Underground (3rd edition.) and the manuscript logs of A. Jarratt, V. Simmonds and T. Hughes.

Tony Jarratt     7/9/95

REMEMBER.  A.G.M. 10.30AM Saturday 7th October 1995.

60th Jubilee Dinner at 7.30 for 8.00 that evening, book NOW!

Details if required from Hon. Sec, address at front of this B.B.






Caving with Yogi and Spacemen

by Alex Smith
Bristol Exploration Club
Mendip, UK

On the 12th of December 1994 I entered Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico, USA for a planned initial duration of five days. My task was as an employee of the cave resource office at Carlsbad Caverns National Park to co-escort with assistant cave resource specialist Jason Richards a scientific research 'group to the western section of the cave.

This group consisted of three scientists from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), two Lech veteran cavers, a photographer and a journalist doing an article for the Smithsonian Institute's periodical.

The purpose of the trip was to further microbiological sampling and retrieval techniques to be employed on the planned Mars expedition (the crap people come up with to get into Lech!).

The whys and wherefores of my coming to be on this little jaunt are founded in circumstance, chance, luck and being completely pissed of with the onset of a British winter. After losing my job I grabbed my final pay cheque and completely out of the proverbial blue announced to all and sundry I was buggering off to the States, much to the consternation of Struan MacDonald and Nick Williams with whom I was lodging with on an alternating basis at this time pleading poverty and prostitution.  The United States was a country I never got to visit in my seven year sentence in the Royal Navy, hence Carlsbad Caverns, the Guadalupe Mountains and Lechuguilla Cave where just images constructed from articles, personal recollections and photographs from a rather well known Swiss bestseller.

So without further a do I cracked out Nick's Rand MacNally and all back issues of the NSS news he held, then using his office faxed, E-mailed and spoke to the world across the pond, notably without a great deal of success.  Vince Simmonds gave me information that was of the most value essentially who runs the show.  Relations with the park service that had been fostered on the 92 Lake of the White Roses dive in Lechuguilla by various BEC members were to ensure an initial rapport with various local cavers and personnel in officialdom.

After hitching to Liverpool to change my defunct British passport into a Euro techno you can't bend it pink affair and still with memories of the drunken escapade of chasing pissed off boars as big as your house around a shitty field in the fog with Vince and Rich Blake on the night of the Wessex dinner still very vivid, boarded a North Western Airlines DC10 at Gatwick on the morning of the 3rd of November (with a great deal of help from Struan).

Taking great advantage of the copious quantities of free alcohol on offer I arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA in fine fettle, proceeded to the Cheers bar (via immigration interrogation on video) and continued for the six hour wait for the Albuquerque flight.  Verging on coma I made my gate, my flight, my seat and promptly awoke rather the worse for wear with a decidedly dodgy landing in the place that no bastard can spell.

After spending the night in a fellow passenger’s house in Sante Fe I started to hitch the two week camel trek to sunny Carlsbad. Five rides and ten hours later I made it and phoned local grotto members from the ubiquitous Lucy's Mexican "restaurant" bar.

Rob Gillespie a caver presently of no fixed abode collected me and lent me the use of the floor of a house he was presently decorating.  In the morning before Rob ran me up to the park I encountered my first Carlsbad small town attitude in MacDonalds, a local redneck remarked, quote " Hell, you speak priddie good English for a foreigner" unquote.  I resisted the uncontrollable urge to grab him by the ears and throw his face into a rapidly rising right knee.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a good half-hour drive from downtown Carlsbad; situated at the end of Walnut Canyon the first thing to hit you is the aridity and thinness of the air, the altitude is near to that of shacking up on the top of Ben Nevis. There are two stone\timber huts on the side of the canyon controlled by the cave resource office that are intended for the Cave Resource Foundation, Lechuguilla Exploration and Research Network ( LEARN ), and private parties such as NASA caving within the jurisdiction of the park service.  It was here that I had my first stroke of luck, I was introduced to Michael Queen, eminent and nationally respected professor of cave geology also two other northern cavers, Ken Davis and Chuck Porter.  They were about to head for the wild caves of the Lincoln National Forest in the higher Guadalupe mountains some sixty miles away and they invited me along.  What followed was a week courtesy of Ransom Turner, National Forestry Officer guiding us to the wild country caves, issuing the permits and providing ropes. Hell Below, Pink Dragon, Cottonwood and Chimney ( CCNP ) caves ensued and were all bar Chimney twelve hour trips predominantly vertical with pitches averaging around 200 feet.  It was in Chimney cave that I confirmed a Petzl Stop does exactly that and will not move on dirty 11mm PMI rope, the all American favourite (actually 11.1mm) so I had to resort to borrowing a rack.

On returning to the park I was introduced to Dale Pate, Cave Resource Specialist and his assistant Jason Richards also Ranger Lance Mattson, a caver my age from Wyoming who was to be my house mate for the next three months.  Mike Queen recommended me as a volunteer worker for cave resource management to Dale. This proposal was mulled over the weekend by Dale who agreed to employ me commencing that Monday.  After a week on $5 a day working directly for the Park Dale decided to hire me for the duration of my stay in the US using the Student Conservation Assistant scheme to pay my wages, subsistence and contribute to flight expenses!  This essentially rendered me a federal employee for the Park Service.  In the weeks that were to follow I fully integrated with the community that lives on the hill.  There are around 25 rangers who actually live in quarters and probably around another seventy personnel who live in Carlsbad.  They accepted me and made me feel very welcome taking me into their homes, taking me out, inviting me to various functions and stuffing me with turkey on Thanksgiving.

My duties working for Dale and Jason were wide and varied but included surveying in Carlsbad caverns, processing raw Lechuguilla survey and mineral inventory data, coin retrieval from trail pools, rope cutting and labelling, visitor interpretation and demonstrations, tackle store management and caving!

I also accompanied two Texan cavers Jim Werker and Val Hildreth with Dale and Jason on numerous weekends to establish photo monitoring points throughout Carlsbad Cavern; this is a resource management attempt to finally study the rate of impact on specific areas in the cave by guided tours and cavers engaging in survey, re-survey, restoration and inventory.

The most memorable trip in Carlsbad itself must surely be to Chocolate High.  This is the highest point in the cave and next to the Spirit World most strictly guarded.  From the main trail a straight forward journey into the New Mexico room brings you to a corroded flowstone boss formation known as the chocolate drop, above which hangs the first rope to Chocolate High, after nearly 300 feet of sweaty ascent a change of ropes carries you the further 150 feet past the chenile basin to a world of awesome beauty, incredibly convoluted helictites adorn amongst the "chocolate" of corrosion residues.  Jason told me I was one of the very few people to have been there and the first Brit, so delicate is the area.  Speleothem sensory overload as it is known, is a real problem, you have to keep reminding yourself that you are not going to encounter this kind of natural display anywhere else in the world.

Access is usually the first point raised when contemplating a visit to the States caving.  Those caves which fall under the control of the US National Park Service are subject to exceedingly tight resource management guidelines, including the justification of access policies that British cavers are likely to encounter when making initial enquiries.  Basically you need a bona fide reason slanting towards conservation and restoration, or in the case of Lechuguilla, an invitation from LEARN or one of the private expeditions that enter to further the collection of survey data and mineral inventory.  Lechuguilla cave was everything I envisaged except for the physical conditions inside, with humidity in excess of 95% and a constant temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, plus the high altitude (4100 feet) coupled with my rucksack overloaded with supplies for a five day stay and NASA boffins equipment, it took a day for me to acclimatize.  Tortoise on its back impressions were quite prevalent while travelling to the deep seas camp as well.  Due to the make up of our party progress through the cave was very slow and tedious. After the queue to descend Boulder Falls myself and Jason kept catching the group in front resulting in several forced breaks.  9½ hours later we arrived at the campsite and I pitched my bivvy under crusty mammillaries which to the disgust of the NASA boffs I referred to as saggy tits.  I slept like shit in Lechuguilla and resented having to climb into cold wet clothes on awakening, trying to dump in a freezer bag is quite an entertaining pastime, thank God for Imodium as well, I was taking no chances!  The NASA people were not exactly the dome heads you would imagine however I think it's true to say they could indeed tell you the cube root of an orange but unfortunately non-plussed when coming to the actual peeling and eating part.

The next day as the space bods played chemistry with sterile limestone chunks (yes we carried rocks into the cave) we carried on along the trade route to the western borehole past Lake Louise down the Cornflake Climb towards the rope up to the Chandelier Graveyard and The Three Amigos further on.  Emily Davis Mobley infamous for her leg break and consequent epic rescue from Lech three years previous had informed the office on exiting the cave on the LEARN expedition a week beforehand that this rope needed looking at as it didn't seem to be in too fine a shape.  So Jason promptly sent the Brit up there.  Apart from being caked in Gorilla shit, a nice piece of sheath abrasion at a nasty rub point warranted a replacement.  Now at this time Jason’s lighting rig was at such a point of unreliability that one could distinctly hear " fuckin whore " from the top of the pitch.  After failed attempts to repair the dodgy lead in this modified wheatlamp and the rejection of a petzl mega, ("useless pieces of shit") Jason decided we would exit the cave and re-enter the next day.  We "hauled ass" and surfaced in less than 2½ hours later.

Events the following morning did not bode well for a good day either.  Two minutes short of the Lech parking area I asked Jason if he had remembered to bring the replacement rope for the Chandelier Pitch ........... about turn.  Two hours later with said rope now in tow and Jason adamant he had rectified his lamp problem I commenced the descent of the entrance pitch, I had rappelled two feet when I was to hear a by now familiar obscene reference to Jasons lamp, so back to the now very well trodden path back to the Lech parking lot and even more familiar drive back to the office to steal Dale's lamp much to his amusement.  Thus our planned re-entry into the cave at 7am turned into knocking on midday.

We steamed to the camp, ate lunch and then headed out to re-rig.  Having completed this task we backtracked after the obligatory been there photo shoot to retire to bed, I was to escort one of the NASA boffs out of the cave (at 4am!) so he could use the "scope" time he had booked in Albuquerque studying the corrosion residue slides he had sampled that day, they had a stringent incubation period so I finally exited at 2pm the following afternoon.

A curious Lechuguilla experience, after all I had caved the most but seen the least, however I was being employed and was paid EXTRA for suffering the ordeal of having to go to Lechuguilla Cave!

I finally left Carlsbad amid scenes of rowdy partying on the 19th January to head for Minneapolis to catch my flight.  I departed the US on the 1st February again making use of the much free alcohol.  Memorable questions and quotes while working for the US National Park Service:

In the My Way Saloon, Carlsbad at approximately 1am,

Waitress,          "Are you the English Guy?"
            "Well we don't care what you do, just don't start fighting."

Jason Deckert, graduate son of Park Superintendent Frank Deckert en-route to Chimney Cave,  Jason Deckert,        "So Alex, what's the fundamental difference between the upper and lower entrance to Chimney Cave?"
"One's higher than the other?"

A middle aged American gentleman in the visitor centre,
Hank the Yank, "Say son, can we drive through the cave ?"

A twenty something American "cool dude" from California to Ranger April Weitlauf in the visitor centre by the lifts, April, “Do you wish to descend to the Cave by elevator?"
Dude, “What Cave?"

Many thanks go to Dale Pate a) for hiring me b) letting me go to Lech and c) for having a big enough sense of humour not to deport me after various exploits.

To Jason Richards for the good times and your friendship.

To Mike (Doc Rock) Queen for the introduction to the American caving scene and your recommendations.

To Lance Mattson for tolerating my invasion of his house and life and the use of his banking services.

To Superintendent" Uncle" Frank Deckert and his family for their generous hospitality.

To Tim and Barbara Stubbs and family for Christmas and New Year.

And finally to all the Rangers and Cavern supply staff who have made my stay in the US enjoyable, memorable but all to short, there are too many friends I have made to mention them all individually; however I will return.

In the UK, immense thanks to Nick Williams, Struan MacDonald, Vince Simmonds, Rich Blake, Tony Jarrett and Jingles.  Without your help and support the outcome of this venture may have been completely different.

I hope that all I did and achieved will contribute further to the growing relationship between the Bristol Exploration Club and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

" A pint of Butcombe please Roger. "



Vale.  Graeme Robinson.

Following many years of ill health, Graeme Robinson passed away at Bodmin hospital on June 30th this year at the age of 69.

After serving in the Middle East during the war, he became a carpenter; worked for a time at Chubb Locks, and for Bristol Aircraft from which he retired when his health began to deteriorate.  He owned a shop for two years before moving to Cornwall to be near his sister.

Graeme joined the B.E.C. in 1961 and remained a member until 1972.  Apart from his interest in the B.E.C., he was an excellent photographer, winning many awards for his work.  As his health became worse he took up model making and again produced some excellent pieces.

His cremation, at Truro on the 5th July, was attended by his sister and family, friends from St. Issey and a number of B.E.C. members.

Arrangements are being made for his ashes to be scattered on Priddy Nine Barrows.

John Ransom.


A Son Of Mendip!

I am a son of Mendip
Not born in Somerset,
My accent is of London
But I'll move down there yet.

I am a son of Mendip
'Though I'm not from The Hill,
I live up in 'The Smoke'
But I'll move down I will.

I am a son of Mendip
I ignore the 'No you're nots'
I really am a son of Mendip
'Cos I fell into Double Pots!!

Chas Wethered.


A History of the 380 Foot Way and Morton's Pot Digs. Eastwater Cavern from 1903 to date.

" .... an upper way, which terminates abruptly in a choke of stones and gravel, holding up a little water, whilst allowing a considerable quantity to pass.  It is a remarkable fact that in all the labyrinths of galleries which we have explored in the profound depths of this cavern we have not yet alighted upon any portion which gives access to the continuation of this channel.  There, rendered inaccessible by the barrier of debris, is, without a doubt, a cavern as extensive as that which we have proved to exist in the sister watercourse hard by* and these two channels, starting from practically the same point, must diverge widely, and certainly do not unite again before the depth of 500 feet is attained."

E.A.Baker, H.E.Balch
Netherworld of Mendip (1907)
* Boulder Chamber - Hard Rain Aven - 13 Pots route.

EARLY DAYS - THE 380 FOOT WAY DIGS - 1903-1952

Discovered by digging in 1902, Eastwater Cavern has yielded major extensions over the last ninety years, generally in inconspicuous areas of the system.  It is therefore somewhat amazing that the main stream passage of the cave - found on the first trip - has still not broken into the "extensive cavern" prophesised by the early explorers despite continued but spasmodic digging over nine decades.  This system has, in fact, been entered from the bottom of West End Series and is the notorious Lambeth Walk, sumping downstream but ascending steeply upstream for over 250ft to too tight rifts.  It is here that the water from the 380 Foot Way is believed to enter as indicated by bits of wood, poly bag, etc. found in the mud.

The 380 Foot Way was originally named for the distance to it's termination from the entrance of the cave via all the windings of the route through the Boulder Ruckle - the climb down into the Dining Room not then being accessible - and on the discovery trip it took two hours to reach.  Considering the available clothing and lighting at that period, together with the horrific sharpness and instability of the newly entered Ruckle this was no mean feat.

The first diggers were H.E. Balch, E.A. Baker, H.J. Mullet-Merrick, H. Bamforth, H. Willcox, H.Y. Richardson, E.E. Barnes, G. Slater and R. Fairbanks on either the 18th or 19th-20th March 1903 when the gravel blockage at the end of the streamway was cleared - presumably to reach a further blockage some distance beyond. The above team set an early precedent for cosmopolitan digging parties being from Somerset, Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Oxfordshire.  HEB and HW returned on at least two other occasions that year.

Little then seems to have been done, or at least recorded, until 1910 when on 4th June the wet squeeze at the end was dug out between 10am and 9pm by HEB, R. Troup, H.E. Kentish, P. Sinnock and H. Savory (MNRC).  They pushed the passage to a right-angled bend followed by a narrow vertical descent some 15ft deep (later named Morton's Pot) which HEK descended on a rope to find the stream sinking in what appeared to be small, choked channels and as it was thought to be impassable the dig was written off.  The excavated squeeze later silted back up.

No information has been found on work here over the next thirty years but we can be sure that the site was occasionally visited if not dug.


During 1952 and 1953 D. Warburton, A. Surrall and friends (WCC) surveyed the cave and named the vertical rift Morton's Pot in honour of one of their number - Peter Morton - who once got stuck in it!  The squeeze must have been washed out or re-dug in the meantime.

In 1954 the site inspired AS, O. Wells, J. Hanwell and D.A. Willis (WCC) who installed wooden stemples in the Pot (the last one of which was recently presented to JH by the writer) and attempted to widen the south-facing rift above the Pot (see survey). Much debris was dropped down this open rift and it was abandoned after only two weekends work.  This may have been a source of some of the bits of bang wire etc. later found in Lambeth Walk.

The SMCC took up the challenge on 15th September 1955 when R. Carter, A. Lock, R. Frost and R. Taylor dug at the stream sink located on the left before the crawl leading to the top of the Pot and now known as Jepson's dig.

On 8th March 1959 K. Dawe (SMCC) and P. Davies (WCC) banged a constriction in the Pot.  PD and P.M. Giles banged here again on 24th September 1964 with the results being checked by R. and A. Lawder and PMG on 27th May 1966(!) when this dig was again abandoned.

The Wessex men then turned their attention to Jepson's Dig and on 12th, 13th and 26th November 1966 PD, DW, PMG, D. Drew and I. Jepson banged and dug at this site.  By 19th April 1967 they were losing hope and on 4th May PD, T. Gilbert and D. Alder opened up the bedding plane at the base of the Pot and left it to dig itself by the power of the stream.  Around this time A. Mills (SVCC) and L. Devenish (WCC) blasted the south-facing rift above the Pot.

All work was then curtailed by the entrance collapse of 1967 until an assorted rabble of "post Hunter's lunchtime" diggers from ACG, BEC, SVCC and EGONS re-opened the cave on 12th July 1969 - much to the chagrin and amazement of several local Eastwater "experts".  During the following month the 380 Foot Way was visited by several members of this team, including the writer, and the bedding plane below the Pot was found to be passable for some 20 feet, much of the infill having been washed through as a result of the intervening 1968 Great Flood.

On 7th and 8th February 1970 A. Finch (ACG) and R. Lewis (SVCC) dug in the bedding and built two rubble spoil dams at the end of the 380 Ft Way.  A third dam was built on the 15th by AM, RL and M. Bush (SVCC).  On 20th September 1971 A. Jarratt (then ACG) revisited the site and made plans to install a pulley system for dumping spoil from the bedding plane into the south-facing rift.  In the same year RL, P. Hendy, D. McFarlane, A. Peterson, G. Irving and two other SVCC men dug at the bottom and in Jepson's Dig but gave up due to lack of support despite encouraging draughts both underground and in the pub.

BELOW MORTON'S POT. 1980 - 1989.

The next burst of enthusiasm commenced on 30th December 1980 when AJ (now BEC), M. Duck and M. Bishop removed some 8 foot depth of in-washed spoil from the base of the Pot to re-enter the bedding plane.  During the next two months this dig saw more attention than ever before with at least 16 BEC trips being recorded by the writer and, as it was now a joint project, many WCC visits (sometimes assisted by Northants cavers).  Diggers included M. Grass, S. McManus, R. Cross, T. Hughes, J. Dukes, G. Wilton-Jones, D. Bradshaw, B. Wilton, C. Dooley, J. Clarke, T. Large, C. Batstone, M. Jeanmaire (BEC), G. Bolt, IJ, PH and others (WCC), P. Staal, Edmond, Frans, Josh (Speleo Nederland), C. Chester (Pegasus) T. Mintram (MNRC), D. Vosper, J. Miriam, G. Smith (MCG) and B. Cowie and friends (Orpheus CC).  Vast amounts of spoil were hauled up the Pot and dumped in the south-facing rift until it was almost full.  GB installed two steel dams below the Dining Room and most of the stream was diverted through four 2" pipes into the Upper Traverse making the dig relatively dry. A "staircase" of spoil bags was built up the nearside of the Pot.  The bedding was completely cleared out for some 25-30 ft to where it became too tight to dig.  TL began banging the constriction. A continuation of the south-facing rift, some 25 ft below its top, was noted on the LH side of the bedding plane with a vadose trench entering it but before this alternative site could be properly examined other projects lured the team away from Eastwater.  (See attached sketch survey).

On 26th September 1982 AJ, SM, TL, T. Humphries and I. Caldwell cleared lots of bang debris from the little changed dig and another charge was fired with AJ and TL repeating this on 15th October.  The discovery of West End Series then put paid to this project until 7th April 1986 when AJ and T. Chapman cleared silt from behind the steel dams in preparation for a summer digging project.  This was soon aborted due to the closure of the Priddy caves by the landowners following problems with the Nature Conservancy Council concerning SSIs.


The commencement of the latest phase of digging can be dated from 12th June 1989 when AJ and J. Stanniland found 10 feet of the bedding plane to be full of flood debris.  The tiny rift to the left was banged and later checked by G. Johnson who reported the results to have been a failure.

On 1st July 1990 AJ and GJ re-checked this rift to discover that the latter had looked in the wrong place and a year old heap of bang debris had to be cleared before using a brand new Bosch drill on its first assignment.  At least eighteen banging trips then took place over the next five months combined with concurrent digs in Boulder Chamber and Hard Rain Aven. GJ, TH, R. Blake and V. Simmonds in particular put in a tremendous amount of work at the site and other new recruits included L. Williams, A. Williams, A. Garwood, J. Evans, P. McNab jnr. (who re-excavated Jepson's Dig to reach an impassable 6" diameter tube), P. Romford, J. Smart, I. Sandford, A. Smith (BEC), A. Boycott, S. Cottle (UBSS), S. Adams (Australia), R. Farmer, S. Taylor, M. Hogg, M. Wright (Orpheus CC), R. Taviner, N. Pollard and N. Williams (WCC).  Good progress was made along and down the rift, which seemed to be open below, and from where GJ could hear the sound of flowing water - presumably coming in from Jepson's Dig.  The broken rock and spoil was dumped in the old bedding plane dig - the bigger lumps later being exhumed for use in cemented walls up the sides of the Pot. This burst of enthusiasm lasted until the end of November 1990 and the discovery of the Wigmore Swallet extensions which ensured that the mainstays of the team were either there or celebrating in the Hunter's!  A visit was made by GJ and AJ on 1st July 1991 when the place was found to be too wet to dig.

July 1993 saw the start of the next onslaught brought on by the bits of digging debris found in Lambeth Walk - possibly over 200ft below and less than 200ft horizontally away. With thoughts of big, open and wet pitches the BEC team dug furiously at the end, bang being unnecessary as the rift had opened up and a vadose trench full of gravel with a bedding plane above was the only obstacle.  At least eight trips were made this month by VS, PMcN, GJ, E. Sandford, GS, AJ, A. Gee, TH and Barbera (S African SA).  Much of the spoil was stacked in the side of Morton's Pot and cemented up.  The old steel dams were once again cleared of silt and the stream piped into the Upper Traverse.

During August and September some thirteen trips resulted in over 210 bags of spoil being dug and dumped in the Upper Traverse.  New devotees included D. Lennard, P. Evans, D. Shipton (Cotham SS later BEC), P. Hellier, R. May, A. Sandford and F. Simpson (GSG).  Visits in October revealed the dig to be sumped with water entering from the LH side - presumably from the diverted stream in the Upper Traverse. Much hard work was put in extending the pipes to Primrose Path and giving Primrose Pot it's first major waterfall in many, many years!  Another 40 or so bags were removed.  Some 55 bags came out during November but the team concentrated mainly on cementing up the sides of Morton's Pot.  Pumping out the flooded dig was attempted several times over the winter and a few tidying up trips took place before the last visit of the season on 16th January 1994 when the pipes were transferred to the 380 Foot Way in order to direct the stream into the dig in the hope that it would flush the place out.  Many of the regulars were sub-contracted by the Hillgrove Team to work on the remarkably similar and equally ancient Hillgrove Swallet dig, these two sites being amongst the longest ongoing cave digs in the world!

The 1994 season commenced in earnest on 11th July following a few preparation trips in the spring. IS constructed a magnificent double aerial cableway (the Seilbahns) to transport full bags from the top of the Pot to the Upper Traverse.  Much work was expended in clearing in-washed winter flood debris including a thumb sized brown and yellow leech and a selection of live woodlice that fell out of TH's helmet when he took it off to scratch his head!  Useful additions to the digging equipment were the modernised "plugs and feathers", used in conjunction with the Bosch drill for splitting rocks.  Useful additions to the digging team were C. Smith, A. Rarity, G. Strellis, A. Livingstone, K. Anderson, C. Duberry, R. Knight, M. Barnes, S. Sale, P. Allen, R. Lavender, T. Kerley (BEC and chums), T. Haynes (MCG), R. Warke, W. Samson and M. Ridgeman (Devon SS).  Between 11th July and 8th September over 300 bags were dug out and tipped either behind the Morton's Pot spoil wall or in the Upper Traverse.  It should be noted that the latter site is an obscure corner and that the dump will be neither unsightly or damaging to the cave after the dig is completed.

The final session of the season took place in October when, over the course of five trips, another 80 bags were removed.  We had now progressed some 30ft along a low and potholed mini-Canyon from the base of the Pot and had met a cross rift where the passage enlarged to some 10ft high. The floor had narrowed down to an impassable rift with a tiny open hole emitting a draught and allowing ponded water to drain away. Ahead the rift also narrowed but an in-filled phreatic tube some 6ft up was now the obvious place to dig.  The winter floods were now once again upon us and the team returned to the Waist of Thyme project in White Pit until the following summer.

In June 1995 Mrs. Gibbons again became plagued by hordes of scruffy sods bearing 50 pence pieces - almost on a daily basis!  The pipes were removed from the cave, the rift above Jepson's Dig widened and the Seilbahn cables tautened.  This year there was no foul mud bank at the end, the finer stuff having been flushed through the tiny hole.  Work commenced on blasting the rift below the phreatic tube to make digging feasible and the rock from this was used to continue with the cemented wall up to the top of the Pot.  Some 150 bags had been dug when Adrian Hole, working at the face, opened up a deep but narrow rift in the floor - obviously the downstream continuation of the tiny hole found last season.  A great burst of activity resulted and some ten trips and one week later this had been transformed into a 10 foot ladder pitch, aptly named by ES "A Drain Hole".  During this week over 300 bags were removed and several large boulders broken up and stashed.  By 13th August a further 80 odd bags had been filled and A Drain Hole deepened to over 12ft with a rabbit hole sized airspace leading on down at a steep angle.  The depth below the bottom of the 20ft deep Morton's Pot was estimated at 40ft to give the dig an altitude of 609ft. The estimated dug length from the Pot to this date was 60ft.  Work continues.

The latest batch of diggers has included J. Sillby, M. Lumley, S. Howe, C. Wethered, R. Gray, M. Torbett, E. Porter, A. Hole, M. Willet, P. Brock, D. Bryant, S. Flinders, K .Friedrich (BEC), G. Dunlop (GSG), H, M and A. Potzsch (Ziloko Gizonak, a Basque caving group), J. Haynes, A. Hamblin and P. Hartley (Burnley CC).  While clearing infill from a rift in the ceiling above A Drain Hole some animal teeth and the rubber base protector from a carbide cap lamp were found indicating flood water flow in, probably tiny, passages above the dig. The presence of a Peregrine Falcon, perched on a fence pole near the cave entrance, should also be recorded for posterity.

Obviously a vast amount of man hours has been spent on this site over the years.  The writer has personally recorded 122 working trips here to date.  It is only in these days of good transport, plenty of leisure time, the equipment available and the large number of willing helpers that a dig of this nature can be pursued.  On one Wednesday night nineteen people turned up, much to the curiosity of passing Wessex diggers!  Acknowledgements to all those involved over the years and to Dot and Ivor Gibbons for allowing us to carry on.

Tony Jarratt
Priddy, 27/8/95


"But to return to the '380-ft. way, "E" of the section.  We find no difficulty in locating the little chamber "G", which from its convenient position has been so frequently used for meals, that it has attained to the dignity of "the Dining Room."  It is not without an unpleasant drip on occasion. It belongs to some independent inlet in the field above, and not far from the cavern entrance.  Climbing down into the waterway, we follow it quite easily until we reach the old choke at "F", which was the limit of my older section.  Laboriously a party of us dug a way through in 1911, (actually 1910 - AJ) for it was always obvious that such a channel must have a considerable extension.  It was most difficult, from the total absence of dumping ground; but by bridging the channel behind us with the larger stones, we did find room for the excavated material.  Presently squeezing through, we entered the extension of the waterway shown beyond "F" of the section, but were disappointed to find that within, only a hollow in the floor, now disappeared, indicated where the water forced a way through choke material under pressure, and we could not pass. The usual result had followed; the accumulating water, rising high, had attacked a joint, and widened it.  There was a vertical pitch of six feet to reach it (now nearly disappeared through the washing down of our excavated material), which climbed, we entered a passage just the size and shape of a man's body when erect.  Shortly afterwards this terminated in a right-angled bend to the west, with an immediate, narrow, and vertical descent where a man might just pass, to a level fifteen feet below.  Mr. Kentish descended on a rope, and with difficulty found that the waterway broke up into small channels, turning first north, then apparently east, this evidently being the method adopted by the stream to reach the blocked '380-ft. way' lower down.  It is, however impassable.  No other explorer has descended to this low level, as to do so, appears to be useless."


H.E.Balch - Wookey Hole, its Caves and Cave Dwellers - 1914.


Baker E.A. & Balch H.E.: The Netherworld of Mendip - 1907 Balch H.E.: Spelunca No.39 Dec. 1904

Baker E.A.: Caving - Episodes of Underground Exploration - 1932

Balch H.E.: The Caves of Mendip - 1926

Balch H.E.: Mendip, its Swallet Caves & Rock Shelters 1937, 1941, 1948

Johnson P.: The History of Mendip Caving - 1967 Stanton W.I.: Pioneer Under the Mendips - 1969

Savory J.(Ed.): A Man Deep in Mendip. The Caving Diaries of Harry Savory 1910-1921 - 1989

Wessex Cave Club journals: 49 (1955), 143 (1972), 145 (1973), 146 (1973), 185 (1981)

Shepton Mallet Caving Club occ. pubs: 4 (1968), 5 (1970) Cotham Caving Group nsltr: vol. 3 no. 5 (1969)

Severn Valley Caving Club nsltr: Aug/Sept 1971

British Caver; vol. 81 (1981)

Jarratt A.R.: mss. log books

The early reports of the Wells Natural History and Archaeological Society and the Mendip Nature Research Committee are mines of information and an excellent bibliography can be "found in ( stanton - 1969).

My thanks to Dave Irwin for proof reading and helpful comments, the old git!




60 years of cave diving at Wookey

To celebrate 60 years of cave diving at Wookey – a selection of 1935 newspaper cuttings.




Mrs. Powell and Mr. Graham Balcombe rehearsing for their broadcast during the exploration of Wookey Hole. Caves, Somerset, which are under water.


Woman in Daring Exploit

A young man and woman set out last night to walk along the hidden bed of the underground river Axe in Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset, to discover, it was hoped, a vast series of caverns believed to have been hitherto unseen by any human being.

The explorers were Mr. Graham Balcombe. a post office engineer, who broadcast an  account of his experiences to listeners throughout the country, and Mrs. Powell, a late employee of the Wookey Hole Caves.

Their diving suits were specially constructed and a microphone was fitted inside Mr. Balcombe's helmet.

“Heave Hard on Pump"

They entered the water soon after 10.30. A few minutes later his voice came through:    “I have to go slowly as my ears are paining a little. I must go slowly to acclimatise them to the pressure. Heave hard on the pump.”

A dramatic moment came when Mrs. Powell was found to have developed a leak in her air pipe.  She was instructed to come back a few yards.

At first the officer in charge of the telephones could not get any reply from her, and he called her several times in an anxious voice until at last she replied very faintly. She reported that she was “O.K." and re-traced her steps as directed. The leak in her air-pipe was then rapidly repaired.

Later Mr. Balcombe reported that he had entered the sixth chamber, which he found to be smaller than he expected and with very' little air-space above it.

Seventh Cavern Found

Later Mr. Balcombe reported that he found the sixth chamber to have a large water space.

Shortly before he closed down his broadcast he was able to report that he had entered a seventh chamber. The water in it was clear, and he could see a good way ahead.

When they emerged from the water after about an hour, both Mr. Balcombe and Mrs. Powell were none the worse for their experience. The only thing that troubled them was the chill of the water.  The discovery of, a seventh chamber is a distinct achievement.




A man in a divers suit walked 168 feet further along the bed of the subterranean River Axe under the Mendip Hills, Somerset, on Saturday than anyone has ever been before.

He was Mr. Graham Balcombe, a London engineer.  A local woman, Mrs. Powell, went part of the way with him into the famous Wookey Hole caves.

They were attempting to find other great caves, but muddy water prevented Mr. Balcombe going further than the sixth chamber.

The river is 600 feet beneath the hills.

Part of the adventure broadcast.





(By the Leader of the Expedition, GRAHAM BALCOMBE.)

The story of the birth of the Wookey Hole 'Exploration Expedition is just another example of how chance can steer our courses for us.  It is, and always has been, the premier ambition of "cavers," or "pot-holers," as our Northern friends have it, to find new caves, or, just as important, to penetrate even further into those already known.

There is no need to try to explain why they will dig for months on end in the filthy red or black slime of the cave areas, nor why they choose to suffer the unpleasantness of such intimate and prolonged contact with the cold and relentless: waters of the nether world, any more than to try to explain why mountaineers and cragsmen are so devoted to the self deprivations of their own more noble ventures. That is far better left to the caving and climbing, literature of the last few decades.

My own attention was attracted to the caves of the Mendip Hills, where the, scientific interests are looked after in  the south by the Wells   Natural  History   and   Archaeological Society, and in the north by the Bristol University Speleological Society, while the Wessex Cave Club looks after the sporting interests of the whole area. They happened to be easiest of approach and interest centred in one particular cave terminating where  the steeply sloping roof and the floor meet in a muddy pool, so far the end to all exploration.


Here was a challenge, indeed, for, unlike the British cragsman, who must accept his playground as he finds it, and on no account may he cut a step, or drive a piton, or otherwise aid his progress, the caver is not so restricted.  No method of furthering his forward march is barred, unless it involves marring the beauty of the cave.  Ropes, ladders, picks, and crowbars are his legitimate tools.

The challenge was accepted, but so far the attack has been repulsed.  An effort to explore this water trap with homemade apparatus has so far failed.

Rather than proceed with the construction of more elaborate apparatus, the experts in such matter – Messers Siebe, Gorman and Co., Ltd.-were approached, and, through the kindness of Sir Robert Davill, we were offered the loan of the apparatus we needed for the work.

Now to get to the before-mentioned water trap unhindered by impedimenta is itself a severe expedition, and to get heavy tackle down is next to impossible.  Thus it came about that we turned to Wookey Hole Cave to make first use of our golden opportunity.


Wookey's cavern, with its three vast and. beautiful chambers, is known the world over. Mysteriously showing in the great cliff face at the head of the woody, gorge, it has figured in history throughout the centuries; in relatively recent times it was the home of the famous Witch of Wookey, who, so says the legend,  turned  to stone for her sins by the holy Priest of Glastonbury, is still to be seen staring over the green waters of the River Axe in the first chamber of the cave.

Clement of Alexandria wrote of it as far back as the second century A.D., but ages before that it had been the home of the Ancient Briton, whose story, written within and around its portals, has been so excellently reconstructed by that able archaeologist Mr. Balch, president of the Wells Society, with whom we are working on this expedition.


If the reader listened to the broadcast last Saturday night (August 17) and re- ported in THE OBSERVER, he will have a fair idea of the conditions of the undertaking; the" gang" to man the pump, to feed out or coil down the divers' pipes, to keep the log, and a host of other duties are stalwart volunteers from all the country round for a hundred miles or more, and six of them are now divers.

We found when we first took to the water that the art of diving is not so easy as we first thought it would be. It is not given to everybody to be a diver. For weeks we practised in a lonely pond on the top of the Mendip plateau, until, thanks to the first-class apparatus and tuition, we first essayed to probe the mysteries of the cave.

For the past six weeks we have been busy there, each week penetrating farther than before,  leaving behind us a rope,  weighted             down at intervals, to guide us on the journey out, for as the diver moves so he sends up a mass of fine sediment billowing like clouds and obliterating everything. He must move quickly to prevent it getting ahead if he is to make any progress.


Five seconds delay anywhere, and gone is that green vision dimly reflecting the rays of the torch; the rippling surface, or the ghostly rocks overhead, all swallowed up in the rolling mist. Lights are useless then, and it is usual to switch out the torches and grope one's way back in inky blackness along the guide rope.

So far we have passed the fourth and fifth chambers, which are accessible to a boat under favourable conditions and have entered a long sloping passage with an air surface above, which means the sixth chamber, and, we think, another, which means a seventh chamber.

Some doubt has crept in about the latter; it is possible that, lost in the blanket of mud, the sudden glimpse of rippling surface was in reality the sixth again, but by the time this is in print we hope to have settled that point.

We have penetrated some 180 feet so far, and can go, if fortune favours us, a full 400 feet. What we will find there no lone can tell: there lies the lure of The Unknown.  In a month or so, maybe, we can say; for the moment we let our imagination run riot; it gives incentive to aid us in our difficult task.




Last Sunday I spent the day exploring the infernal regions of the Mendips.

In a misguided moment I had accepted an invitation to join a pot-holing expedition. Led by Graham Balcombe, a rabid enthusiast familiar with the ways of darkness in the underground world of Somerset.


In the underground world of Somerset.

Eastwater Swallet, near the upland hamlet of Priddy, was the pothole chosen for our initiation and by 10 a.m. on the Sunday we were gathered there ready for the descent.

At the foot of a limestone crag abruptly blocking the valley of a small stream which disappeared in the ground, a small opening covered by an iron grid was indicated as the entrance to the water-worn caverns and channels far below.

That iron grating, which later in the day most of us were to loathe as the very gate of hell, was removed, and one by one we stepped into black mystery.  Groping and stumbling through cracks and crannies, we slowly descended.

At intervals we paused to pass from one to another the various items of equipment. including climbing ropes, rope ladders. bags of candles and food supplies.

Down and down we went into eerie, sable blankness, creeping through low tunnels, edging and scraping through narrow cracks and hurriedly stepping through showers of falling water, and by this time wondering what was coming next ..

One after another, more and more arduous trials were found, until it seemed it was impossible for any greater diabolical discomfort to be devised.

By this time we were well saturated with cold cave water, and were beginning to feel unduly conscious of the prominent parts of our anatomy which discovered every possible projecting piece of rock.

Wriggling and squirming through incredible crannies, lying full length in a pool of water and

trying to negotiate double corners which necessitated all kinds of fantastic contortions, I began to long for the girth and slippery hide of an eel combined with the resilience of a jelly-fish.

After interminable aeons of such progress, of trying to fold myself into the line of an "S"  or a "Z," it was an inconceivable relief to find a brief opportunity to stand upright and thank the stars I have not been condemned to earn my bread as a miner.

Another ordeal was the descent of about 50 feet on a rope ladder which itself seemed alive, twisting and swaying in the blackness of a deep shaft as one hugged it and stepped gingerly downwards towards the distant glow-worm representing the torch of a fellow lunatic.

More contortions and the descent of another ladder brought us to a cavity into which a waterfall crashed and roared.  Lunch was suggested, but unfortunately the food bag had suffered a fall, and the sandwiches had been pulped into an unwholesome mess.

For the final pitch we had to lie on our backs on a steep bank of wet clay and slide, regulating our velocity by pressing the hands against the rock a few inches above our noses.

About 500 feet below the surface, after four hours of cold, dripping darkness, we were faced with the return journey.  To start with, this meant climbing up the course of a waterfall and then repeating in reverse all the twists and turns of the descent.

After some hours of such purposeless misery we were a cold, famished and weary band, bruised and sore and feeling vastly sorry for ourselves when we stepped into the sweet-smelling freedom of the outer world .

There and then I vowed I would never again so much as peep into a pothole.  Next morning I felt as if I had been drawn through a key-hole and then dragged along the full length of the Bath road and run over by every passing car.

But in the party there was one enthusiast who described the grandeur of the Yorkshire Cave, and now I think I would like to descend Gaping Ghyll.  I that immense pot-hole on the slopes of Ingleborough.


Just Another Swift Half

by Rob Taviner

'The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction' WILLIAM BLAKE

'Go up, thou bald head'  II KINGS

'There's a problem, you might have to give Scotland a miss'.

Potential sprogging complications threatened to put the knackers on Sutherland '95.

'Of course dear'  I said. 'Not bloody likely'  I thought.

Fortunately the problem of how to get to Sutherland without proving I was a complete bastard were avoided by a last minute all-clear and I was on the phone to Jake.

‘I’ll pick you up at 5.30' he said, 'You won't have to drive at all'.

Sounded good.

'Oh, by the way, are you in the AA.


Jake shows up at 7.30.

'We'll have a swift half in the Hunters and then hit the road'.

Where have I heard that one before?

'Just another swift half ... '.

I pull out of the Hunters car park at 9.30 placating the remonstrating Jake only with ready access to the on-tap cider. Estelle takes over at Preston and heads north with the Talking Heads at full volume and the cold fan at full blast.  Dawn breaks and Jake surfaces.

'Where are we ?'.

' Glasgow'.

'Terrific, I'll drive'.


We blow away Jakes' strange taste in German stomping brass band music on the swing bridge above the Corrieshalloch Gorge. Jake tests the swing part just as I'm taking a photo - I always wanted a shot of that particular piece of sky. Ullapool follows swiftly, the Canadian flag flying from every trawler.  I try not to look Spanish.  After 650 rain free miles we pull into the Grampian hut at 10.00 a.m. It's a glorious day with deep snow on the peaks.  Perfect.  The hut is full with a motley crew of climbers, cavers and hydrologists (Expert Quote - 'The water goes in at the top and comes out at the bottom).

’A quick breakfast then we'll shift a load of scaffolding up to Damoclean Dig'. OK.

'We'll have a quick one in The Alt before we go'.


The Alt has a new landlord - Eric - he opens all day and serves food.  Four hours and numerous pints later the plan is abandoned.  With just two hours sleep in 48 an early night is called for - oh, with just time for a swift half.

Sunday sees us dumping five scaffold bars into Damoclean, 2.5 knackering miles up the side of Breabag Mountain.  After a quick tea and brevil break we're off up Traligill to try and locate the long lost Blar nan Fiadhag Pot.  This small open pot, discovered in 1970, lies in the middle of a featureless moor and has a potential on-going rift.  Frustratingly it has never been relocated.  We prospect the two distinct grid references quoted for this site but apart from some fine limestone pavement there's no depression and no cave. We poke about in one or two minor sinks before heading back to the hut where the Tonys' Jarratt and Boycott have arrived.  Later that night Mike O'Driscoll invites a couple of Knockans finest back to the hut to sample the scrumpy.

'Looks like piss' Ian ventures disdainfully. 'Tastes like piss' agrees Hughie.

The atmosphere is aggressive.  J-Rat tries his 'hands across the ocean, we're all brothers together' routine. Hughie steadies himself searching for profound words of wisdom.

'Piss off, ye baldy-headed Sasunnaich bashturd'.

Gradually the deadly nectar works its magic.  By the time they crawl from the door at 3.30 a.m. they're convinced it is piss.

Mayday breaks gloriously.  A session in Tree Hole is planned.  Most of our work in Sutherland has been concentrated on linking together the known sections of the underground Traligill.  We had pushed downstream Tree Hole for 70m, practically connecting it to Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile ( Disappointment Cave) another of our discoveries.  The largest gap however, not much more than 100m on the surface, lay between upstream Tree Hole and Lower Traligill CavelLower Traligill Flood Sink.  In '94 we'd pushed a grim wet and muddy crawl for 15m to a wide flat out section with a howling draught, since pushed by Grampian members Goon, Martin Hayes and Roger Galloway for a further 5m.  We were absolutely certain it would go.

'Let's stop in The Inch for a quick one' says J-Rat.  The Inch also has a new landlord - Derek - he also opens all day and also serves food.

Twenty-four hours later we follow the Two-Tones' into the cave.  They've cleared four skiploads in twenty minutes.  'It's about to go' shouts J-Rat.  With difficulty we manoeuvre a couple of larger boulders away down the crawl. As Tony digs his way through the rest of us follow.  A couple of squeezes under roots and streambed boulders see us sliding down to a small muddy chamber with the roar of water visible but not attainable through an eyehole at the top of a low bedding crawl.  However a squeeze to the left enters a big scalloped bedding, 4m wide and a metre high, which meanders via an entertaining roof-level squeeze to a boulder choke and short section of streamway.  Upstream looks hopeless but downstream can be seen to continue through a low fast-flowing duck for at least 10m.  Nobody fancies it in dry kit.  The 'Swift Half Series' had gained us 60m and closed half the gap to Lower Traligill Cave in one hit.  With time to kill we wander up-valley, first building a dam to divert the surface river into Lower Traligill Cave and open the Flood Sink, before looking at Uamh Cailliche Peireag, an impressive arched sink/flood resurgence and old battleground of J-Rats.  Something very dead and very smelly blocks the main stuff off to the left but a trongly- draughting crawl to the right is noted for later attention. A quick trip down the Waterslide in Cnoc Nan Uamh to check on the state of the divers line and another promising lead bagged and it was off to The Inch for a celebratory impromptu ('be there at 8.30 sharp') Ceilidh.  Celebration proves a fine mix of beer, whisky, bagpipes, drums, crash-barriers, vomit and blood.  Simply magnificent.

Wake up with a mega hangover and a mouth like a vultures crutch.  J-Rat looks like he's had the shit kicked out of him.  Half a bottle of paracetamol later I've got kidney failure but the hangovers fading fast.  We watch the worlds worst sheepdog herd his flock straight down the middle of the road to the consternation of two coach loads of tourists and one despairing owner. Funny, I've never heard those commands on One Man and His Dog.  It's turned really hot, just the sort of a day not to carry 13 scaffold bars up to Damoclean, so we carry 13 scaffold bars up to Damoclean - or rather carry 9 and watch Gadge dehydrate his way up with 4 strapped to a mountain bike. Two hours digging see a further 3ft depth gained in this classic swallet which promises another Claonaite.  For Wednesday night digging we take a look at a flood rising behind Elphin, to verify reports that stones can be heard rattling down 8-10ft.  They can, but fifteen minutes boulder rolling reveal it to be a long-term dig.

Thursday and we're back in Tree Hole, pushing, photographing and surveying.  Little progress is made in the choke at the end of the dry stuff leaving the low streamway which J-Rat pursues tenaciously for 20m past the other end of the impassable eyehole to a sump.  The survey totals 80m from the start point of the '94 dig, taking the length of the cave beyond 200m - the 5th longest in Assynt and in excess of 500m once the sumps downstream separating it from Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile and Traligill Rising are connected.  The photographic trip is abandoned due to a broken cable.  Afterwards, whilst the Two-Tones begin a much-needed surface survey I take advantage of the dam to dig open the rarely visited Lower Traligill Flood Sink, the next cave upstream and one we'd always been hopeful of extending. A quick trip reveals a fairly uninspiring hole with one possible lead - a boulder preventing access to a small streamway which can be seen to sink in gravel a few feet downstream, but upstream appears to continue - albeit with an apparent potential of only a few feet. Still a lead is a lead so we apply some rock-remover for a follow-up trip the
following day.  Whilst J-Rat and Estelle play in Waterfall Rising, Tony Boycott and I transport some of the digging kit further up the valley, attacking the promising lead in Cnoc Nan Uamh en route.  The Waterslide drops very steeply and dramatically for 75m to a sump, passed the previous year by Tony and Pete Mulholland to 500m of excellent passage. An inlet, so small that none of us had ever noticed it before, debouches directly into the sump pool. Investigation revealed a low pebble-filled crawl leading to a water-filled but on-going and apparently roomy passage.  We felt that by removing the rock-lip at the entrance to the pool we may be able to drop the water level sufficiently to pursue this passage further.  It was just possible that it could provide a sump bypass, or at that depth, at least a decent inlet.  Jake and Gadge spend the day expanding the bedding in Uamh Cailliche Peireag which looks long term but draughts well and is heading straight into the large blank area housing the Upper Basin sinks.  Just for a change we rounded off a productive day in The Inch.  At the bottom of Traligill, a big house which had stood empty for years and had recently been bought by some enterprising lads from Aberdeen for conversion to a Geology lecture centre~ had been the scene of some excitement.  During the course of the day they had uncovered some interesting war relics, including a live hand grenade and concerned at the prospect of nutters roaming the hills laden with explosives, had called the army to dispose of it. Later we're entertained by a group of drunken bikers serenading some lads from Gloucester with Wurzels songs.

'Where are you lot from' they ask.

'Somerset'. Silence.

After a week of fine weather, things finally deteriorate and despite fortification in the Culag Hotel in Lochinver enthusiasm is low for a return to Flood Sink.  Whilst the Tonys' and Simon Brooks complete the surface levelling from Glenbain Cottage, I grovel back in to check that things have rearranged themselves satisfactorily.  They have, but with a gain of all of 2m prospects look between grim and nil. Upstream, the water enters from a very low pebble-filled crawl presumably entering from a sinkpoint only a few feet from the entrance.  Interestingly only some of the water sinks in the bedding to the right, most of the water disappearing through a tiny hole straight ahead.  We now believe that most of the water in upstream Tree Hole derives from the water sinking in Flood Sink, with the main underground Traligill travelling through a flooded loop from Lower Traligill Cave to enter Tree Hole at one or more points downstream, in particular at the old upstream sump and the impressive waterfall discovered in 1991.  To finish we give Simon a guided tour of the Upper Basin, clearing out Uamh Cailliche Peireag en route. The draught has diminished but the low and undulating bedding can be seen to continue behind a big boulder, so we fire and retire.  Jake and Gadge spend the day constructing the scaffold frame in Damoclean to facilitate a push ahead.

By Saturday, an influx of Grampian regulars swells the numbers sufficiently to enable us to concentrate on specific projects. Tony Boycott and Simon plan a lengthy trip beyond the sumps in Cnoc Nan Uamh whilst Jake, Estelle and Gadge headed back up to Damoclean, which is now in full swing.  The rest of us return to Lower Traligill to try and tie up a few loose ends.  Leaving J-Rat to organise his diving kit outside Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile, I guide Goon & Co through the delights of the various Tree Hole extensions, culminating in a little progress beneath the upstream choke and another failed photo session.  A potential way on is noted and we head out to assist J-Rat into Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile to investigate both the downstream and upstream sumps for the first time.  Only 15m of approach passage separates the entrance from the downstream sump but it proves to be 15m of extremely tight and muddy thrust plane which takes an interminable time to negotiate and where the limitations of certain items of kit designed for more spacious occupations become only too apparent.  Still it helps to take J - Rats mind off the dive and he pursues a large descending and fast-flowing thrust passage beneath fine roof pendants for 10m until concerns about line belays force a retreat.  The sump continues in fine style, heading straight for Traligill Rising the upstream point of which can only be a few metres away.  We quickly ferry a single kit the 100m up toward the upstream sump where a connection with Tree Hole appears a certainty but disappointingly we're repelled at the Compass Sucker by a mixture of boulder rearrangement and high water conditions.  None too enthusiastic to repeat the bottle carry immediately; we abandon the kit on a ledge and head out for a well-earned bath.  Goon, chuffed at having propelled his 46-Inch chest through the inaptly named 40-Inch squeeze, confesses his delight at a having visited more virgin Sutherland cave in one day than for some time, although with some reservations as to the general dimensions.  Despite fine diving conditions further boulder rearrangement and cut line also defeat Tony and Simon at Cnoc Nan Uamh and they are unable to locate the underwater squeeze into Northern Lights.  Progress at Damoclean Dig has fortunately been more forthcoming and hopes are high that the swallet will soon begin to open up.

For three of us, Sunday is our final day and whilst Gadge goes off to try and remove a large offending and rather public boulder plugging The Elephant Trap and the divers head for Claonaite, most of our party return for an all out session at Damoclean.  It's been a hard weeks digging, drinking, sherparing, drinking, scaffolding and drinking so I decide to take a day off wandering the sizeable and relatively untouched limestone plateau behind Elphin, taking in Cold Water Cave and some interesting localised sinks and risings on the Southern shore of Loch Urigill.  A mellow spot.  Packed and ready to go we wander over to the Allt Nan Uamh to pick up Estelle and J-Rat who have been killing time waiting for the divers listening to Tony Boycotts' car radio.  With perfect timing we materialise as one, only to spend the next twenty minutes bump-starting Tonys' not unexpectedly flat battery.  Safely ensconced in The Inch the divers reveal that they've finally located the contentious main flow in the terminal Sump 6 complex.  Further trips are planned.  A swift half, a quick bite to eat and farewells all round see us on the road before midnight, arriving after an uneventful journey - bar an entertaining police chase and a pathologically high rabbit count - on oh so green Mendip by mid-morning.

The late arrivals stayed on for an extra week to pursue a whole mess of leads.  An attack on the new terminal choke in Tree Hole was begun - to be continued next year - and further attempts were mounted on downstream Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile. Mike O'Driscoll eventually managed the furthest penetration yet but reported it to be getting too tight, although there was a feeling he may have missed the main way on.  Damoclean developed into a relatively solid rift pursued for 20ft into an area of loose bedding planes.  Only time prevented more substantial progress but at least the game is afoot.  Uamh Cailliche Peireag was pursued but continues to keep a firm lock on its secrets and would appear frustratingly long term.  Bad weather threatened to prevent a return to the Waterslide dig in Cnoc Nan Uamh but relented long enough to reveal a powerful air current above the newly broken sump.  This will prove difficult to pursue but is potentially an exciting site which could go just about anywhere.

A fortnight later an inspired Simon Brooks returned with a second wave of Southern invaders to achieve Sutherlands' discovery of the decade.  Diving with Mike O'Driscoll he continued the passage investigated with Tony Boycott in the Claonaite Sump 6 complex, surfacing to 300m of stream passage and 'The Great Northern Time Machine', a huge chamber.  Follow up trips revealed numerous avens, fossil oxbows and inlets taking the total discovery beyond 800m, restoring Claonaites' recently usurped position at 2.5km as Scotland’s longest cave.  Many leads remain and the big stuff lies tantalisingly close to a number of
known caves.  It is likely that future work will concentrate heavily on the Allt Nan Uamh whos' remote boulder-strewn crags and dark brooding flanks doubtless harbour many a secret yet.

So another successful expedition has flown by and as in previous years the main aim had been achieved only for yet more leads to reveal themselves.  The combination of more and more cavers seeking success north of the border coupled with the discovery of two 'big ones' in consecutive years suggests that it is only a matter of time before Sutherland takes its' rightful and inevitable place amongst our major caving regions. Whether this will be a good thing or not remains to be seen.  The attraction, at least for this over-crowded Sasunnaich lies in its' unspoilt remoteness. For some reason the prospect of hordes of tourist cavers stomping around Sutherlands' wild mountains and glens fills me with trepidation.

Ah well ..... best have another swift half.


1.                    Blar nam Fiadhag Pot (C Jeffreys) G.S.G Bulletin 1st Series 4(4) p. 11 (1970)

2.                    Some Wanderings - 10 Or More Years Ago (B. Mehew) G.S.G Bulletin 3rd Series 1(4) p.23 (1990)

3.                    Tree Hole (T. Jarratt) Belfry Bulletin 45(3) No.460 p.28 & G.S.G Bulletin 3rd Series 2(1) p.12 (1991)

4.                    The Dig At Uamh Cailliche Peireag (T. Jarratt) G.S.G Bulletin 2nd Series 1(4) p.19 (1976)

5.                    Progress At Uamh Cailliche Peireag (T. Jarratt) G.S. G Bulletin 2nd Series 1(5) pA5 (1977)

6.                    The Lower Traligill Flood Sink (S. Elwell-Sutton) G.S. G Bulletin 1st Series 5(3) p.20 (1973)

7.                    Recent Discoveries At Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile And Tree Hole (T. Jarratt) G.S.G Bulletin 3rd Series 2(5) p.16 (1993)

8.                    Highland Fling (P. Glanvill) Belfry Bulletin 44(3) No.455 p.4 (1990)

9.                    Assynt Antics (P. Glanvill) Belfry Bulletin 45(3) No.460 p.24 (1991)

10.                 Elphin Epics (P. Glanvill) G.S.G Bulletin 3rd Series 2(5) p.26 (1993)

11.                 Assynt - The Big One (P. Glanvill) G.S.G Bulletin 3rd Series 3(2) p.ll (1994)

12.                 The Slanting Caves (R.M. Taviner) W:C.C Journal Vo1.21 No.230 p.66 (1991)

13.                 Assault On Anus (R.M. Taviner) W:C.C Journal Vo1.22 No.240 p.68 (1994)

14.                 Valley or The Trolls (R.M. Taviner) W:C.C Journal Vo1.22 No.243 p.122 (1994)

15.                 Elvis Found By Alien Divers In Worlds Deepest Chasm - Is That So ? (R.M. Taviner) W:C.C Journal Vo1.23 No.245 p.20 (1995)

16.                 Mega-discoveries in Assynt - Claonaite 7 is here! (I. Young) G.S. G Newsletter No.85 p.1 (1995)


In search of Thomas Bushell's Lost Swallow

- a proposed dig at Five Buddles Sink.   Chewton Minery.

On 14/8/95 a meeting was held between representatives of the Somerset Trust, BEC and a group of mine archaeologists from Bristol. Our intention was to gain permission to begin a combined industrial archaeological/cave dig at the above site, situated in a S.S.I.  Following a most informative hour or so at the site it seems likely that, pending acceptance of all the relevant paperwork, permission will be obtained.

Situated at ST 54815138, this site is an intermittent swallet at the east end of a line of four small and one large "buddles"/settling pits some 200ft south of Wheel Pit.  It was dye tested on 7/2/79 by Willy Stanton and supposedly traced to Cheddar Risings after a 55 hour period.  Unfortunately a similar test was in operation at Longwood Swallet at the same time so a measure of doubt must be applied.  The nearby caves of St. Cuthbert's Swallet (tested to Wookey Hole) and Waldegrave Swallet (theoretically to both Wookey and Rodney Stoke) would seem to give the lie to this, as would supposed historical traces from the adjacent Wheel Pit to Rodney Stoke.  Incidentally, Willy, who named Wheel Pit for " Complete Caves of Mendip", is now of the same opinion as the writer in that the name may have originally been applied to Five BuddIes Sink - also named by him.

This inconspicuous grassy hollow, with a lime-mortared stone wall on one side, has attracted only a small amount of attention over the years but suddenly became prominent earlier this year when the writer noted that it took a large stream when the surrounding area was flooded almost to road level (see Snake Pit article).

For many years work has gone on in this area in search of a lost cave explored by lead miners in the pay of Thomas Bushell between 1657 and 1674.  At a depth of some 96ft they commenced driving an adit from this cave up towards the deep and flooded Rowpits lead mines, some 900ft away in what is now Stock Hill

Forest.  This project was eventually abandoned due to industrial strife.  It is possible that Five BuddIes Sink may give access to this cave and if so would be of immense interest to both mine historians and cavers. The surface layout itself and the possibility that the sink was used as a waterwheel pit (similar to that found by Willy at Waterwheel Swallet, Charterhouse) is also fascinating.  Very little industrial archaeology has been attempted in this area so the proposed investigation would be of some importance.

It is proposed that, should permission be granted, a trial surface excavation will be carefully carried out to determine the extent and nature of the mining remains.  John Cornwell's team of enthusiasts are at present working on the site of a local 18th century colliery and are amongst Britain's foremost experts in this field, with over twenty years of experience.

The advice and assistance of Somerset Trust members and officers has also been offered and will be gratefully accepted: the three groups - cavers, mine historians and naturalists - working together and learning valuable techniques and information from each other.

As this is such a sensitive site it is essential that any work is done carefully, discreetly and safely and is also fully documented.  All available information must be logged such as thickness and nature of sediment infill, full measurements of revealed stonework and any artefacts found.  The latter will hopefully be presented to Wells Museum for preservation and display.

Anyone wishing to assist with this project will be welcome.

Specialists will be needed for surveying, photography, fencing the site, engineering the cave dig itself, restoration of remains uncovered and documentary research.

It is unlikely that permission will be granted before the end of the year so next spring may be our starting date. In the meantime, see you down Eastwater!

Tony Jarratt


St. Alactite‘s Hall

On the next page there is a rare print from the archives of the Rathaus. Here we see the Blessed St. Alacitite being comforted with strong drink as he prays for a breakthrough in his latest drink.  Note that his assistants (mainly Wessex and MCG) appear not to be taking the matter seriously.  Bertie, the B.E.C. representative (centre) is about to make a contribution).

I was interested to read in BB478, Tony Jarratt and Vince Simmond's article on St. Alactite's Hall - particularly the bit about naming this chamber and the suggestion that I might be able to provide further details of this Patron Saint of cavers.  However, as an ex-editor of the BB, who was thrown out for making the club's journal a laughing-stock, it is with some trepidation that I submit this short treatise in hagiography.

Little (or to be exact, nothing) is known of the early life of the brothers Alactite and Alagmite, whose claim to fame began when they arrived on Mendip at some time during the Dark Ages.   Appalled by the high sickness rate amongst the local cavers due to drinking the native brew made from apples, dead rats, wasps and the like, the brothers resolved to devote their lives to improving the wretched condition of these unfortunate drinkers, most of whom were, of course, cavers.

To this end, they founded a religious order of monks (some of whom were of great renown) dedicated to producing a more wholesome beverage and, after much labour, they invented a drink which they made by fermenting malted barley. They called this new drink Bar (short for Barley) but the locals pronounced it as 'beer'.

Such was the excellence and potency of this new drink, that Alactite could often be seen hanging happily upside-down from a rafter in the roof of their monastery, while Alagmite lay in an untidy heap below him on the floor.  As the reputation of their new drink grew, they came to be jointly thought of as a pillar of the local society.  After their untimely death, by falling into a vat of their brew, the grateful drinkers of Mendip got up a petition and in due course of time, they were canonised and became known as St. Alactite and St. Alagmite, the Patron Saints of cavers.

For some obscure reason, it was St. Alactite who came to be remembered while his brother got forgotten.

This sort of thing often happens (Who can remember Muller, of the Geiger-Muller Counter, for example?). St. Alactite's Day falls on the fifth Tuesday in February - an event which only occurs once in every twenty eight years.  For many centuries, this day was celebrated on Mendip with various forms of, revelry, obscenity and general debauchery, which culminated in the performance of the Mendip De-floral Dance.



B.E.C. Membership List as at 24/9/95

1212 (P) Julian Aburrow             Southampton, Hampshire.
987 Dave Aubrey                       Salisbury, Wiltshire
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1201 (P) Chris Baker                 Lisleard, Cornwall
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1150 (J) David Ball                     ConeyHurst, Billinhurst, West Sussex.
1220 Mike Barnes                     Butleigh, Somerset
1145 Roz Bateman                    East Harptree, Bristol Avon.
1151 (J) Ruth Baxter                  Coneyhurst, Billingshurst, West Sussex
1079 Henry Bennett                   London
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
1191 (J)  Lorna Berrie                Clevedon, Avon
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire
731 Bob Bidmead                      East Harptyree, Nr. Bristol, Avon
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Glamorgan
1205 (P) Nicola Bone                 Illogan, Redruth, Cornwall
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
1206 (P) Henry Bradley              Illogan, Redruth, Cornwall
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Wells, Somerset
1217 (P) Paul Brock                  Easton, Bristol, Avon
751 (L) T.A. Brookes                 London
1196 Dave Bryant                      Salford, Bristol, Avon
201 John Buxton                       Flitwick, Beds.
956 Ian Caldwell                        Redland, Bristol, Avon
1214 (P) Rebecca Campbell       Frome, Somerset
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1062 (J) Andy Cave                   Priddy, Somerset
1142 (J) Ange Cave                   Priddy, Somerset
1184 (J) Sean Chaffey                Banwell, Avon
1197 John Christie                     Brompton, North Allerton, North Yorks
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Litton, Somerset
1204 (P) Julian Collinson            Pemboa, Helston, Cornwall
1175 Ali Cooper                        Brighton, Sussex
727 Bill Cooper                         Totterdown, Bristol, Avon
862 Bob Cork                            Pen Hill, Wells, Somerset
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
815 Nigel Dibbden                     Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 (L) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
1038 Alan Downey                    Luton, Bedfordshire
1207 (P) Chris Dubbery              Street, Somerset
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                        Wylye, Warminster, Wiltshire
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
232 Chris Falshaw                     Crosspool, Sheffield, South Yorks
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
1218 Stephen Flinders               Burrington, Somerset
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Staffordshire
469 (J) Peter Franklin                Staffordshire
1159 John Freeman                   Upper Radford, Paulton, Bristol, Avon
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport,
1098 Brian Gilbert                     Cheshire
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chingford, London
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Chard, Somerset
1006 Edward Gosden                Basingstoke, Hampshire
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire
1009 Robin Gray                       Wookey, Somerset
1155 Rachael Gregory               Cheddar, Somerset
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Pentir, Nr., Bangor, Gwynedd
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1186 (J) Helen Harper                Semington, Trowbrdge, Wiltshire
999 (J) Rob Harper                    Somerset
4 (L) Dan Hassell                      Somerset
1160 Nick Hawkes                    Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset
1078 Mike Hearn                       Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Wells, Somerset
974 Jeremy Henley                    Nempnett Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol, Avon
691 Dudley Herbert                    Shepton Mallet
952 Bob Hill                              c/o The Belfry
1105 Jo Hills                             Port Gentil, Republic de Gabon
905 Paul Hodgson                     Wisborough Green, Billingshurst, West Sussex.
1215 (P) Adrian Hole                 Burcott, Wells, Somerset
1219 (P) Sean Howe                  Stockland, Honiton, Devon
923 Trevor Hughes                     Frampton Cotterell, Bristol, Avon
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Bleadney, Wells, Somerset
1141 Gary Jago                         Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Farrington Gurney, Avon
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Priddy, Somerset
995 Brian Johnson                     Paek Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
1111 Graham Johnson               Ottery St. Mary, Devon
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Wells, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Priddy, Somerset
884 John King                           Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
316 (L) Kangy King                    Wisborough Green, Billingshurst, West Sussex.
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
1162 Joc Large                         Yelverton, Devon
667 (L) Tim Large                      Brislington, Bristol
1129 Dave Lennard                    Brislington, Bristol
1199 Alex Livingston                  Wells, Somerset
1180 Rich Long                         Clevedon, Avon
1057 Mark Lumley                     Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1071 Mike McDonald                 Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1195 Struan McDonald              Knowle, Bristol, Avon
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Devizes, Wiltshire.
725 Stuart McManus                 Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Priddy, Somerset
1044 Andy Middleton                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
1194 Nick Mitchell                     Hardington-Mandeville, Somerset
1172 (J) Sean Morgan                Ash, Aldershot, Hants
1210 (P) Guy Munnings             Clevedon, Avon
1176 Brian Murliss                    Croydon, Surrey
1183 Andy Newton                    Weston-super-Mare, Avon
936 Dave Nichols                      Weston-super-Mare, Avon.
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Western Australia.
1045 Rich Payne                       Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1188 (J) Sharon Penny              Orpington, Kent.
1134 Martin Peters                    Banwell, Avon.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Wells, Somerset.
944 Steve Plumley                    Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1193 Emma Porter                    Burrington, Bristol, Avon
1209 (P) Martin Postlethwaite     Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
337 Brian Prewer                       London
481 (L) John Ransom                 Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1126 Steve Redwood                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
986 (J) Lil Romford                    Draycott, Somerset
985 (J) Phil Romford                  Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                          Shepton Mallet, Somerset
1208 (P) Stuart Sale                  Crediton, Devon
240 (L) Alan Sandall                  Isleworth, Middlesex
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                   Nailsea, Avon
1173 Estelle Sandford                Peasdown, St. John, Bath, Avon
1178 Ivan Sandford                    Wells,  Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Crewkerne, Somerset
78 (L) R Setterington                 Ferrat 06230, Cote D’Azur, France
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Taunton, Somerset
1036 (J) Nicola Slann                 Harpendon, Herts.
915 Chris Smart                        Wookey, Somerset
911 Jim Smart                          Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
1213 (P) Alex Smith                  c/o The Belfry
1203 (P) Bob Smith                   Devizes, Wilts.
1192 Carmen Smith                   Camborne, Cornwall
823 Andy Sparrow                     Milborne Port, Sherborne, Dorset.
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Priddy, Somerset
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Bude, Cornwall
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Warkworth, Northumberland
1084 Richard Stephens              Weston super Mare, Avon
1187 Mark Tanner                     Wells, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                      Fishponds, Bristol, Avon
772 Nigel Taylor                        East Horrington, Wells Somerset
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Langford, Avon
571 (L) N Thomas                      Priddy, Somerset
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk
1216 Martin Torbett                   Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Cheddar, Somerset
1023 Matt Tuck                         Nyetimber, Bognor Regis, Sussex
382 Steve Tuck                         Yelverton, Devon
1066 (J) Alan Turner                  Yelverton, Devon
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
912 John Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
1179 (J) Kirsten Turner               Tavistock, Devon
635 (L) S. Tuttlebury                  Bath, Avon
1096 Brian van Luipen                Buck Hors Rd., Farnham, Surrey
887 Greg Villis                          Wick, Littlehampton, West Sussex
175 (L) D. Whaddon                  Weston super Mare, North Somerset
1185 Chas Wethered                 Welling, Kent
1118 Carol White                      Pateley Bridge, North Yorks.
1068 John Whiteley                   Newton Abbot, Devon
1202 (P) Mike Willett                 Brislington, Bristol, Avon
1190 Chris Willey                      Gosport, Hants.
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1087 John Williams                   Weston-super-Mare, Avon, Somerset
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
1153 Mike Wilson (jnr)               Whitchurch, Bristol, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
721 Graham Wilton-Jones          Watton, Thetford, Norfolk.
1211 (P) Michael Woolnough      Hornchurch, Essex.
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chillington, West Sussex
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     Greenbank, Eastville, Bristol, Avon.



Press Release

International  Society      for Speleological Art

Contact: Robin Gray, Cheddar, Somerset

The International Society for Spelaeological Art Is a group of keen cavers & artists including a number of full time professional artists.

Until recently all worked on their cave subjects in isolation, some with great success, unaware that there might be others with a similar interest.

Contact has recently been made with like minded artists in America, Australia and Europe, some of whom have already become members, making the Society truly international.

A dramatic spectacle

Personal styles differ dramatically, ranging from highly representational and academic works to stylised and the almost totally abstract.  Yet all portray the atmosphere of being there and when exhibited together, the pictures form a cohesive collection harmonised by the subject matter, exuding a compelling enthusiasm and knowledge of what caves and the sport of caving are all about.

Members regularly meet to go drawing and caving together and are active and regular club cavers as well.

Now, working as a group in order to promote their work to a wider public, one can imagine the excitement when artists with similar interests make themselves known.

Great Public Interest

Just one year after the formation of ISSA, interest from the general public and galleries far outstrips the considerable attention and acclaim shown by the 'caving crew', however, it must be said that the caving enthusiasts have welcomed the greater prominence of cave art warmly and a painting comes nearly as high on the list of requirements as a new wetsuit!!

Exhibitions by individual members at the annual conference of the British Cave Research Association have produced a wave of interest and excellent sales as have the two previous group showings, one in Wales and one in Yorkshire (both major caving areas).


October- December 1995

An exhibition of the groups' finest work, together with a series of workshops will take place in the Bar Gallery of the Kings of Wessex Leisure Centre, Cheddar from Saturday 28 October to Friday December I st., from 10am to 9pm daily.

The private viewing will take place on Saturday 28th October 11.30am to 2.30pm.

The exhibition, in the heart of the South of England's finest caving area is bound to generate even more interest. It is anticipated that this interest will extend to the art centres of Bath and Bristol.

Pictures exhibited will include drawings and paintings in a variety of media depicting cavers in caves and potholes in the UK & overseas.

Several very well known names from the art world will be represented as well as a variety of well known and 'colourful' characters from the sport of caving.

Author and caver Alfie Collins will be signing copies of his latest book at 12am.

A weekend to remember.

Running alongside the ISSA event will be an exhibition of cave photography at the Cheddar Library and an exhibition of caving cartoons.

In addition to the three exhibitions ISSA is organising workshops on drawing and painting both above and below ground on the Sunday and anybody is welcome to join in (only cavers on the underground workshop).

The Underground Press!!

If you would like an interview or a demonstration of how we work underground this can be arranged by contacting either: Robin Gray. Cheddar, Somerset. or, in the daytime contact:

Mark Lumley (Gonzo) at the Creative Edge, Bath

For a moment your light is the only light in the World ...

Your light is the World!

Bruce Bedford

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Front Cover: Original Artwork By Robin ‘REG’ Gray.

1995 - 1996 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Ivan Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Estelle Sandford
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Floating                   Hilary Wilson



Hello again and welcome to the first BB of 1996.  This one is a bit of a rush job as there is, for good reasons, a deadline to meet. The first of which is to announce:


A 60's Disco at Priddy Village Hall

This will take place on March 9th from 8.00 onwards.  There will be food and a bar provided along with a disco and live music from the backroom band.  Tickets are £4.00 each and are available from any Committee member.  Hilary Wilson is organizing the event and also has extra tickets.  It is hoped that the membership will support this function as well as invite their friends/relatives/pets etc.  Should be a good night.


Congratulations are due to Dr Andy Newton and his wife, who have recently been blessed with a Wessex Member, oops sorry I mean small child, of the male category - whom I gather they are naming Thomas.  (Doubtless!)


There have been quite a few new members to the BEC over the past couple of months - some of whom have paid their subs, some not - I will publish another address list in the near future, but nobody gets further BB’s till subs are paid.


I have had communications both from Trebor, in the Philippines - and from Andy & Ange Cave, in Mexico - these are published in this issue, so we have a bit of an international flavour at present.  I know Treebs is back in the country but is being replaced in the Philippines by Mike O'Driscoll (or 'Blubber - the bush Kangaroo' as he is otherwise known) the latest BEC joining.


More on 'Blubber'.  He being also a Grampian member.  Himself, Pete (Fat Boy) Mulholland and Jingles, both also G.S.S., have been diving in lake Chamber in St Cuthbert's Swallet.  There is a line rigged through to the 2nd Chamber, which is accessible in dryer weather.  This is NOT a free dive and leaders should be aware of this.  The dive, although fairly straightforward is deeper and longer than it looks and it is easy to become disorientated.  The line is not a permanent fixture and will be removed in due course.  The object of this exercise will be made plain in time.


Work continues in Priddy Green Sink.  It has been suggested that the Priddy Green Sink Song be resurrected so possibly I will publish this in a future issue - or maybe we should write a new one?  Adrian has promised me an article chronicling recent events and I know the Wig has more than a little info on this site so hopefully an article of interest will be possible.  It has been said that there are individuals involved in the digging there who smell better AFTER a trip down there - worrying isn't it???


Thanks to those of you who responded to my request for info on Wookey Hole - I still need more, so if anyone has anything I might be interested in, please contact me.


Roger Stenner has offered to demonstrate his water sampling and testing techniques, currently being applied to St Cuthbert's and Wookey Hole, for anyone interested.  This aspect of hydrology is particularly interesting - the information fills in many parts of the story of the development of a cave as well as how it is being affected by the present water levels and chemical content.  Roger is happy to demonstrate this at the Belfry one Sunday Afternoon or some such. I know there are several members who have expressed interest in this.  I'll sort out a date with Roger and publish it in the next issue.


Adrian Hole, our 'Trusty' librarian - has been working hard in his new found vocation (and I don't mean the Yogurt factory) and will be preparing a list of what we have for general consumption.  He will be purchasing new publications and trying to bring other serial publications, such as Descent, up to date.  I will print the new list as soon as it is ready.  There is a wealth of information there and it is for the membership's use.


There is a lecture on 23.2.96 by Chris Howes (Descent) on photography.  This is at the Kings of Wessex leisure centre in Cheddar at 7.30p.m. Tickets are £5.00 from Robin Gray.


M.R.O. lectures in the back bar of the Hunters are coming up ... Notices are up in the Belfry and the Hunter's. Saturday 23.3.96 is Oxygen and sump rescue, to be presented by Dany Bradshaw and John Hills.


That's about all for now, keep the articles coming in, they are always welcomed and at the moment I only have a few for the next issue. Next ish should be in about six weeks or so. Hope you enjoy this issue ... Hopefully the next one will be a bit bigger. I never know whether to try to bring them out smaller but more often or to go for bulkier issues less regularly .... any thoughts????

Good caving ---------



An Open Letter from the Club from the Committee.

Many of you will no doubt recall the last AGM, and the issue of damage and unacceptable behaviour within the BEC during the previous year.  Three members were dealt with by the Committee and were banned for varied periods for their actions.  Happily now, two of these bannings have expired, and the individuals have a clean slate.  Hopefully the third person will also be reinstated if he so applies at this years AGM.

It is with great regret therefore, that the Committee met in January 1996 and had to deal with a very serious allegation by a member, (Staying with his wife and two young lads at the Belfry).  The member alleged that a large amount of burning newspaper was deliberately thrown into his bunkroom during the night, to the terror of his group.  It was later found that with the exception of the Belfry Table, every item of furniture had been carried out of the main room and piled up onto a bonfire outside.  Further, those responsible then removed the interconnecting main room fire-door, and placed this upon the bonfire.  Three persons were identified as the sole alleged culprits and these were summoned before the Committee.  Unfortunately only one of these members could attend the meeting at which they were to appear.  However this person agreed that he was also their representative.

After consideration of the allegation and upon hearing the representative, all three persons were suspended from the BEC until the October AGM.  The Secretary was instructed to write to each of these persons and advise them of this decision and he has effected this.  The Secretary also advised them of their right of appeal either by calling an E.G.M or to the A.G.M if those persons feel aggrieved with the committees' decision.  All three will have to re-apply to the AGM if they wish to rejoin the club.

This Committee fully accepts its responsibilities, and further the feeling of the last AGM in this regard.  The Committee will not shirk: from this position, in which all members are united. It is also obvious that certain members are unaware of the full facts, and seem committed to washing the clubs' dirty linen in public, most especially in the Hunters.  A large amount of vindictive and petty sniping and backbiting is being directed by a small minority at members of the Committee.  No member of the Committee will now discuss this further, other than at an appropriate meeting at the Belfry, to which any member with a point of view is most welcome.  To put it very bluntly, either put-up, or shut-up!  It is not the Committee or the AGM that is currently bringing the club's name into disrepute.  Other clubs have actually considered banning the entire BEC from their premises as a result of this.  The Secretary has had to write apologies to two sister clubs recently, as a direct result of the behaviour of some members who have the self-inflated opinion that only they represent the true spirit of Exploration and the BEC.  Indeed, one could be excused for asking them "Just exactly what is the colour of the sky on their planet?!

In future, any such serious breach of behaviour or bringing complaint against the club will be dealt with most harshly.  Permanent lifetime banning may well be enforced.  To the small minority to whom this may apply, you have been warned. This Committee is not prepared to have members and guests frightened away, and it will act in whatever way it deems fit to reinstate the former good name of the Club both on Mendip and elsewhere.

"The Committee".


A Letter from Treborus Pbillipinus.


Heavy rain in December obliterated many of the trails and tracks so on several occasions we've had to use Caribou - Water Buffalo - to transport our gear around.  Good fun but O so slow!!  One particularly large, belligerent, ugly and smelly Caribou was immediately nicknamed 'Henry'!

The first few days in this area of Tumbali have been spent sussing out the geology, hydrology and general layout of the land.  The immediate vicinity of Tumbali is set below a curve in a plateau area.  The plateau drops quite steeply down a heavily wooded and bambooed slope, with various ravines, creeks and dry river beds. This opens out to various benches, cultivated with corn and rice paddy, levelling out after a few Kilometres into a river flood plane.

The caves that undoubtedly exist, including the c8km Odessa system discovered in 1992, resurge in a series of 'spring lines' along the base of the plateau.  Numerous, stonking resurgences have been looked at, but they all sump or choke a short way in.  They are all obviously below a line of total saturation and it is expected that the sumps will be long.  A few fossil caves have been found a little above these resurgences but they too close out. It was hoped that these would drop down behind the sumps.  Extensive mud and flood evidence suggests that the cave water within the active system rises up into these old fossils.  The next step is to stop looking at all these resurgences and concentrate on the plateau above to look for sinks.

Trebor's lesson for the day ....... Stay clear of poison ivy.  Everything in the Phillipines is designed to zap, bite, sting or poison you, or get you drunk!!!


A good day prospecting, the 'jig saw' of this pace is beginning to fit together.

Great hilarity this evening, as during a Ginebra (Gin) session, a lad spotted a snake up a mango tree with a torch (what the snake????) and ten minutes of fun were had trying to shoot it down with an air rifle.  Since the gun had a barrel shaped like I-Rat's elbow, needless to say they missed.

A local farmer said he had a cave on his land where a stone dropped for 20 minutes.  He was a bit unsure when I asked how he heard the stone hit the bottom!

Found a lovely looking cave today - a slightly smaller version of Alum Pot.  However - rotten rock, no trees overhanging and no nice cracks for a piton prevented a safe descent.  Probably about a 50m shaft.  We will get a piece of hose to put the rope through for some protection, so we can just abseil over the side.  I hope it doesn’t end like Alum!!!


Great excitement today. Caving was delayed as we had to search for our host's pig which had gone walkabout.  It was pregnant and had probably wandered off to seek a comfy nest. We found it in a thicket, the proud owner of 7 piglets.  3 were still born.  He will fatten the survivors for 2 months then sell them at 500 pesos each, an enormous sum for him.  Needless to say we celebrated all day on gin and Tanduay rum and ended up senseless.

In the morning we went back to survey a cave Richard and Henry looked at, believing it to be the downstream continuation of the Odessa water.

The passage looked similar to the sewer in Odessa which Snablet reached in 1992.  Unfortunately it sumped immediately.  After surveying it we went outside and followed the dry river bed down for 50m to a 10m diameter depression and a big sink choked with logs and bamboo.  Ten minutes of log chucking dropped us 5m into a superb section of cave, obviously a continuation of the cave just looked at. Flood debris on the roof suggested caution, so - as it had rained the day before - we decided to leave pushing and surveying until the morrow.

I had a heart attack in the next little hole we poked at when I put my hand on an Ahass - snake - luckily it was only a discarded snake skin, but several palpitations were experienced.

Later we went to look at a 12m pitch Richard and Henry had found during Speleo Philippines 1995, dropping into a large stream way. This was significant as it dropped in behind a sumped major resurgence.  I reached Richard's limit but could not get down the pitch safely. The rotten rock wouldn't take a bolt and there was no belay within 300 miles.  Tape, tethers, belts and condoms all strung together still wouldn't reach a safe belay.  Frustrating is not the word!!  The only consolation, as Richard said, is that there is no draught whatsoever and there is every likelihood that the big passage sumps upstream immediately.

A shame, the resurgence is bigger than Odessa's so there has to be another big system in there somewhere.  It's just getting into the sod!!

Jun-O says 'Hi' to Jake, Snablet, Richard & Henry.        Regards Trebor.


An Epistle From a Mexican Cave.

Dear Jingly,

By the time you get this you might , (just might) have received a postcard ­anything is possible! But if not.  Hi, we're doing fine, still hoping that you are coming out. Ange has got used to eating chillies (toilet paper in the fridge ... Ed).  Big mountains etc ... Luv A&A.

Since I've taken the day off from the speleo things I thought I might chronicle some of our more tasteful/less experiences for the BB - assuming that the club has not yet been disbanded! (Oh the cynicism of an ex committee member .... Ed!!)

The story so far .....

We left Mendip cold, wet and miserable (and horrendously early so's I could get them to the airport on time .... Ed),  but arrived safely at the Mongo residence in N. Carolina.  With his assistance we bought a small car, and stuffed it with a large pile of kit and a certain Henry Bennett.  We then set off south westwards on what was quickly dubbed ‘The road kill tour.’  The best way to see a large interesting selection of the local fauna is to watch the hard shoulder.  We ourselves nearly added a rather sleepy vulture, but perhaps its as well that we missed as he was wider than the car!!  After various adventures involving Gin, people in large hats and an unfeasibly large shooting star ... REALLY ... we reached Guadalajara and the home of Chris Lloyd.  After we had spent two days picking lemons from his veranda, he showed up, accompanied by Rich Blake, Vince Simmonds and 'Skippy' - they had been checking out another area for the weekend.  We also had an introduction to some Mexican Caving Politics ..... Yes Bollocks is universal.

Now read on .....

In due course we tore ourselves away from the bright lights and expensive bars of the big city and drove down to Cerro Grande which is about 150 miles SW of Guadalajara and about 30 miles south of the Volcan de Colima.   This massif is about 100 sq k of limestone which is 1500 - 1700 metres thick and only a few of the innumerable holes in it had ever been investigated.  One of these, the Resumida del Paso Blanco, is a single shaft 240 metres - the sixth deepest underground pitch in Mexico. Sadly it’s blocked with mud which was spewn out once upon a time by the aforementioned volcano.  (I thought he meant Mr Spock ... Jx) - or by its still active neighbour Volcan del Fuego - and so are all the others.  Our mission of course was to find one that wasn't. Despite the inevitable loss of narrative tension I'll tell you ..... we didn't.

Here, however, a bit of local colour.  As you travel across from Guadalajara the terrain is mostly scrub desert and seasonal lagoons/salt flats, but in due course the road winds through an Army roadblock.  (It's a dope growing area and they insist on a monopoly apparently) and up a green and craggy valley, and then the dirt road winds up even more enthusiastically from about 1500m to the plateau on top at about 2400m. You then spend a while greeting some of the locals, because like most remote parts of Mexico, it’s only remote if you don't happen to live there!  It is a poor community - like a lot of Mexicans they live in simply built shacks with daylight shooting through them, but in contrast to most places - almost no one has satellite TV and thus have to put up with the awful trash on ordinary broadcast.  (As opposed to the awful trash on satellite ... ??? ... Ed).  It was obvious that we were the proud owners of the largest stash of Booze on the hill, although I noticed that over Xmas and the New Year the locals spent a lot of time driving slowly along the forest tracks whilst singing and shouting inanely ...... For some reason we fitted right in!!

The top of the plateau is covered in enormous depressions, full of smaller depressions and covered smothered with mixed forest, mostly pine and oak.  In January its T shirt weather during the day (if the sun shines) but drops to several degrees of frost at night.  Since we were camping this meant ever larger evening bonfires and sleeping in all our clothes.  Anyone who imagined us swanning about on the beach can think again!  On Xmas day it distinguished itself by raining all day in a dismal manner that made us all feel quite at home.  My Xmas present was the first descent of a 50m shaft about the size of Alum Pot.  It was, of course, full of mud at the bottom.

Nick & Sophia Hawkes joined us for the festivities, and together, over 10 days we descended, or at least looked into, a large number of holes - I wasn't counting.  They were almost all vertical and varied from 2 - 135 metres deep, sometimes down 3 or 4 pitches.  They were almost all bone dry in a fetching pale grey limestone with occasional re-dissolving stal.  Unless they carried a good draught they were also full of gnats, which were extremely unpleasant to inhale.  Needless to say there were also large numbers of bats, crickets, beetles, centipedes, millipedes, spiders etc.

We found these holes either by wandering about waving machetes or we were shown them by Oscar, our local guide.  Everyone in the village was his uncle (apparently) and they all had a pet draughting hole that we just had to be told about, but in truth - the wandering about method was just as effective.  Some of the holes did blow mightily (and some of them sucked!!) in a manner suggestive of many miles of cave below, but all ended with the air whistling through a tiny crack or through the mud itself.  If we had been there for six weeks with a few shovels, the story might have been very different.

Eventually we decided that we were wasting our time and that we should go and look at one of the resurgence areas (very little known about the hydrology of the region) but we were destined never to reach the Systema Toxin, as the largest known cave is called, since the track up there proved to be too severe even for Chris's pickup, which broke down just as we started to retreat.  However its worth noticing that at Toxin there are few access problems (unlike the top of the plateau which is largely ecological reserves) and that Toxin has been surveyed for 3km and left going, with many unsurveyed side passages. If we return to the area that’s where we'll go as there are reputed to be other, un-entered entrances nearby.

The trouble with the truck and the dwindling number of days left to most of the team, forced a return to Guadalajara. Most people walked up the two volcanoes previously mentioned but Ange and I wimped out and did a little shopping. Some friends of Chris's showed us a nearby Qanat.  For the benefit of the ignorant, this is an underground aqueduct - in this case 7km long, from the nearby hills, where the water table is higher, to supply a small town. (After a recent dispute it has unfortunately become blocked by a large fall.  A nearby explosives company knows nothing about it - of course!)  It was dug about 1900 and obviously something was miscalculated as the passage is 10 - 15m high, rather than 2m as is normal. It was dug more or less simultaneously along its entire length from a series of some 70 access shafts, which were then capped - most of the capping stones have long since gone and at the right time of day sunlight beams down at regular intervals.

A few days later, the others left and Henry, Ange & I set off across the country to join a mad team of Derbyshire persons here at Cuezetlan, which is 150 miles E.N.E. of Mexico City.  The caves here are NOT blocked with mud - we've found & surveyed 4km this week!!

........... to be continued.

Right, that'll do for a first instalment - after this (next week) we have an invitation to join some Canadian friends of Chris's in Chiapos (the South.)

Needless to say there are already a thousand anecdotes from .... 'How Rich broke the nightclub window' to 'The tale of Henry's leg ulcer ... Ugh!' and we look forward to telling them to you in due course.  Suffice it to say that we have not regretted coming for an instant.

In due course I shall get on to phase 2 'The Cuezetlan Connection.'

See ya ...... Andy (Cave).


Letter from The Philippines.


We have moved a few klicks north east from our base at Tumbali to the neighbouring barangay of Nangaulitan.  The barangay captain, Edmundo Ramas, visited us in Tumbali and said he had lots of caves in his area.  As it turned out the caves were not far from our base in Tumbali and there was no need to hump all the gear over to Nangaulitan!!

The first day here we looked at a very impressive rising - clear blue, cold water stonking up out of a hole in a very picturesque spot.  This was clearly the water coming from PT7 - looked at by Richard and Henry last April.

This has an impressive river at the end, sumping downstream (the rising) and upstream after a 100m or so. A shame - a big cave in there somewhere. The place had a lot more water in it than when Rich and Henry saw it; the heavy rain in December must have substantially filled the whole cave.  I'd like to know why Rich named it Desert Cave!!!?

We then had a look at two hole about 100m up the forested hillside above PT7 to see if they might drop in behind the upstream sump - they didn't!

Then it was a 1km trek through scrub and forest to a 'bito' (shaft) known by the locals.  As we wandered up a dry river bed it looked promising.  We came to a c60ft shaft, 2m wide and 10m long, with running water audible at the bottom. We'll abseil in tomorrow.  On the way back to base we were shown the rising for this cave - a nice amount of water about 0.5km away.


Abseiled into shaft looked at yesterday, using a totally monstrous and outrageous deviation.  A nice 60' hang straight into waist deep water in a large lake chamber with an absolutely ridiculous amount of water welling out of a very large, forceful, blue upstream sump.  Downstream went silly also. The whole flow running through a 0.5m wide tunnel full of bamboo!  A nose-roof kissing job in 100mph water with sharp bamboo 6" below the surface did not look too inviting.  This is where we needed someone disposable like Henry.  As we knew the resurgence was only 500m downstream, we didn't push the matter.  It was a disappointment that the upstream didn't go; that's what we were looking for to get into the mountain.  You'd need cave diving gear with extra sized fins, each with an outboard motor mounted on them to progress against the flow.

In the pm we hiked up the nearby mountain, through dense jungle, in sweltering weather, to look at a few high level caves we were told existed.  Halfway up the arduous going I hoped it was going to be worth it.  One cave was an old fossil (Just like Treebs .... ed!) with impressive chambers, beautifully decorated but closing down. Traversing along the forested slope led to numerous cave features - exposed limestone, dolines, shelters, small caves etc.  One huge doline was a hideout for NPA Guerrillas until recently.  Another cave looked interesting as it had a shaft some 20m deep but with no draught.  This closed down also.

We decided that there was not much prospect here so we slogged back to Tumbali.


Today is the last day in this area, so we wandered around the various sinks, resurgences and cave features to see how water levels had changed after three or four days with no rain. Quite interesting observations were made to add to the jigsaw of the area.



A Letter From The Hut Engineer.

Dear Jingles,

Please can you publish in the BB the following ...

Having been elected to the committee as hut engineer for this year I feel I must state that I need the support of the membership in order to accomplish the tasks that need doing.

There is a lot of work to be done on the Belfry and this will require the efforts of quite a few people. I am not capable of getting this work done by myself and am thus appealing to members for their help.

The Belfry is a communal property belonging as much to the club as to each individual in it and thus it is in our own interests to main tin it to an acceptable standard, sadly at present this is not the case.

I have set aside some dates for working weekends as follows ....

9.3.96.                Cleanup day (prior to disco at village hall)

13&14.4.96.        Working weekend

22&23.6.96.        Working weekend

31.8 & 1.9.96.     Working weekend.

I aim to have specific tasks in mind for each weekend so that the pressing jobs get done.

If anyone wants details of this, please contact me.

With a bit of work we can make the hut highly functional again, it is the club's hut. ... and you are the club .... so please come and help

Estelle Sandford.

......... High time a bit of work was put in, I can remember working weekends where a lot got done and bloody good fun was had.  Lets hope we can do this and support Estelle in her efforts .......... .Jingles.